Great Neck Cemetery Renovation

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The Allen Family Cemetery, as seen from the rear of the Gussack Plaza parking deck, in its current state. The gravestones (some hidden) can be seen leaning against the white picket fence.

With a seven-page document clearly listing the responsibilities for both the Town of North Hempstead and Great Neck Plaza for the restoration of and access to the Allen Family Cemetery, which sits on a small lot behind the houses at 15 and 17 Pearce Pl., now in place, there’s still a matter of a $500 mystery that needs to be solved.

In 1861, Daniel K. Allen willed the farm that contained the approximately 20-foot by 10-foot burial grounds to two of his nephews but stated that the cemetery, where six family members who died between 1810 and 1861 were interred (including Daniel), must remain in the family. The agreement between the Town and the Plaza, signed recently by both Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Mayor Jean Celender, specifically refers to a $500 deposit that “may have been deposited with the Nassau County Treasurer for the upkeep of the cemetery.”

It’s known that Richard E. Allen, the son of one of Daniel’s nephews, made that bequest for perpetual care in his 1938 will filing and it was supposed to go into an interest bearing account.

“We did some checking with the county,” said Howard Kroplick, the town’s historian, who first learned of the deterioration and neglect of the Allen Cemetery through an anonymous phone call in July of 2012. “But it seems that the money (for ‘maintenance, preservation and protection from invasion, desecration or otherwise’) was never put into an interest bearing account and no one knows why. That $500 bequest is the equivalent of $10,000 today.”

As an example of how clearly the two municipalities have divided responsibilities for the restoration project, North Hempstead has agreed do the research regarding the existence of that $500.00 and interest that should have accrued over the years and whether or not it can be claimed by the Town or Village. The agreement also states that any money that might be claimed will be used only for maintenance of the grounds.

The Plaza has agreed that it will clear the overgrown lot and plant sod. The town will erect fencing and a gate around the cemetery and restore and place the headstones back at their original locations.  The existence of the graves was confirmed by the use of ground penetrating radar in July 2013. North Hempstead will also install an historic marker on Pearce Place.

The Plaza will be responsible for ongoing maintenance of the burial plot and will be responsible for developing a method for public access to the gravestones.  Should a visitation request be made, the Plaza has accepted responsibility for informing the owners of the adjacent homes on Pearce of the date and time of the visit.

“I am very pleased that we were able to finalize the agreement to restore and maintain this important historic site,” Kroplick added. “Preservation of the Allen Family burying grounds honors and pays respect to the Allen Family who were one of the original settlers of Long Island.”

“We hit the sweet spot,” said Kroplick, referring to how satisfying the working out of the agreement between the town and village was. “Everyone understands exactly how this will be done, even the neighbors who live there.”

Celender was similarly pleased. “The village would like to thank Supervisor Bosworth and her staff for all of their efforts. From the very beginning of this process, the Village and the Town have worked diligently and cooperatively in addressing the unique circumstances posed by this site. We’re very happy that all of the details have now been worked out.”

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