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Historic Allen Cemetery in Great Neck Plaza gains preservation plan

The historic Allen Cemetery in Great Neck Plaza

The historic Allen Cemetery in Great Neck Plaza is squeezed in between houses and backyards, seen here on Sept. 6, 2012. Credit: Nancy Borowick

The neglected Allen Cemetery, a 19th century burial ground in Great Neck Plaza, will be cared for and preserved by the village and Town of North Hempstead after a two-year effort to get the site properly maintained.

Six members of the prominent Allen family and an infant son from another family were buried in the 20-by-40-foot area on Pearce Place between 1810 and 1861.

Today, the site is wedged between two private homes and a small piece of land owned by the village. Several headstones remain in their original locations, but others are stacked against a fence. Bamboo plants that have shot up in the area would be removed as part of the restoration, officials said.

The tiny cemetery was part of a large plot of land owned by the Allens, who moved to the Great Neck peninsula in the late 17th century. Today, it can be viewed by the public only from the upper floors of an adjacent municipal parking lot.

North Hempstead historian Howard Kroplick started the effort to have the cemetery preserved about two years ago. While a detailed plan for its maintenance has yet to be worked out, progress has been made in having the town and village take responsibility for the upkeep, he said. The agreement was reached through a resolution passed by the town board at its Aug. 12 meeting.

The burial ground is one of dozens of centuries-old private cemeteries across Long Island that have fallen into disrepair. Scout troops and civic groups have made projects out of restoring or at least researching some sites. In other locations, historic preservation groups and municipal governments have started similar work.

Work on the Allen burial site in the past two years has included "establishing where the property was, who owns it, using ground-penetrating radar to find out where the grave sites are," Kroplick said. The effort "pays honor and respect to the Allen family, one of the original settlers of Long Island," he said.

Some of the Allen family's ancestors are said to include patriot Ethan Allen and Pyrus Allen, lord mayor of London in 1247.

Kroplick said that when he started the effort, he discovered some of the headstones had been moved and stacked against a fence. One of the Allen descendants, Bob Allen of Port Washington, said one of the adjacent property owners had built a deck over part of the grave site.

Bob Allen, 63, said he is happy someone has developed a plan to prevent further neglect and abuse of the site.

"I think somebody went to a certain amount of effort to put those graves there and have them taken care of, and this will look after those people's legacies and wishes," Allen said.

Town of North Hempstead officials said the owners of both private properties that include part of the cemetery are now on board with the preservation plan. Neither owner could be reached for comment.

"I think it's wonderful what they are doing to maintain our family history," said Bob Allen's sister, Nancy, 56, also of Port Washington.

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