It looks like plans to preserve and restore the Allen Family Burial Ground located on Pearce Place behind two houses in Great Neck Plaza are finally moving forward with the unanimous approval through an intermunicipal agreement between the Plaza and the Town of North Hempstead by the town at its public meeting.
Over a year has passed since any real progress has been made. In July of 2013, ground-penetrating radar was used to confirm that six members of the Allen family were buried during the mid 19th century in the private cemetery that is approximately 20 feet by 10 feet. The lot is only visible from the back wall of the Gussack Plaza municipal garage by Village Hall. Access or viewing from Pearce is not possible. The gravestones are no longer in their original positions but currently propped up against a fence.
“I am proud to have reached an agreement in principle with the Village of Great Neck Plaza to restore and preserve the Allen Family Burial Ground, a process which has been spearheaded by Town Historian Howard Kroplick,” said Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth. “This is a perfect example of governments working together to achieve a common goal. We feel it is important to maintain historic sites in our Town, out of appreciation for the contributions of the people and families that have made North Hempstead so special, and in order to educate our future generations about our past.”
Added Bosworth’s Deputy Director of Communications, Ryan Mulholland: “This (the agreement) just underscores the Town’s commitment to the project. The terms are not finalized as yet but the town is committed and, obviously, the Village of Great Neck Plaza is committed.” Details have not been released, as attorneys for both parties have to work out specifics regarding responsibilities and time frames.
Plaza Mayor Jean Celender released this statement about the new partnership. “We are pleased to report that an agreement in principle has been reached between the Village and the Town that will provide for the future restoration and maintenance of the historic Allen Cemetery located within the Village,” she said. “Some minor details still remain to be worked out but, with the cooperation of the Town, we are confident that a final agreement will quickly be done. The Village thanks Supervisor Bosworth and her staff for their assistance on this issue.”
While both Bosworth and Celender were obviously pleased, Kroplick, who has worked tirelessly on the project for almost a year-and-a-half, expressed great satisfaction about the latest progress. “It’s a positive development because it pays honor and respect to the Allen Family who were part of the original settlers on Long Island,” said Kroplick whose knowledge of local history is voluminous. “It’s taken awhile to do it, but I’m very pleased. I think we’ve come to an agreement that is a good agreement for everybody who’s involved. I think the best thing is for the village and the town to work together and restore it.”
Skeptics who doubted that the graves were actually there presented a challenge to Kroplick. He found that there was technology available to prove that the caskets were still in place and arranged for radar to be used. At one time the Allen Family is thought to have owned one third of the Great Neck peninsula and the land around the parking lot was once part of the Allen farm. All six of those buried on the plot died between 1810 and 1861.
“And,” added a very delighted Kroplick, “I think Benjamin Franklin said it best: ‘Show me your burial grounds and I’ll show you a measure of the civility of a community.’”