New Utrecht Reformed Church
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Historic New Utrecht
Eds: Photos available from Robert Buonvino at 1-718-234-9268.
BROOKLYN - Places like Fort Dodge, Sioux City and North Omaha are more familiar
than Canarsie, Sheepshead Bay and Bensonhurst to the most recent batch of
volunteers working in Brooklyn's old Dutch cemetery near 16th Ave. and 84th St.
About 30 young people from Iowa joined with members of the New Utrecht High
School's Key Club to
cut the grass, clip around headstones, and trim bushes and trees so the national
historic burial ground, dating from 1654, "never looked better," according to
David Elligers, the local historian who headed up the project.
"Members of the Key Club have helped us in the past," Mr. Elligers said. "But
this time they were assisted - all working on a number of different days - by
youth groups from Rock Valley and Hull, Iowa, about 1,400 miles away." The
volunteers were in the East to work with
Project Hospitality, the
need-based service organization headed by the Rev. Terry Troia on Staten Island.
Rev. Troia also is minister of the New Utrecht Reformed Church in Bensonhurst. The cemetery, which is still in
use for burials as well as tours given by the
Friends of Historic New Utrecht,
is the oldest operating cemetery in the region, including Brooklyn, Queens,
Nassau and Suffolk counties.
"We're urging residents of the area, particularly those with an interest in the
history of Brooklyn, to sign up for work in the cemetery," Mr. Elligers said.
"The cemetery is one of the very few historic sites left in the neighborhood."
The telephone number for volunteering is 1-718-256-7173. Additional information
can be found at www.historicnewutrecht.org and
The Rock Valley group was from the Carmel Reformed Church, led by their pastor,
the Rev. Mark Heijerman. They also volunteered in mid-June to paint and work on
the grounds of the New Utrecht church at 18th Ave. and 84th St. A few weeks
before that time, volunteers from the First Reformed Church of Hull helped
prepare the cemetery for the New Utrecht
Weekend in early June. Dozens of students from the Key Club worked on the
grounds after school for five days in May and June.
"The young people - some of them from many miles away - are setting a wonderful
example for all of us," Mr. Elligers said. He added: "We need more regular
community help in doing this."
Elligers said some of the young people from Iowa are of Dutch descent and so
they found it especially interesting to be working at such a historic site.
Among the names of families buried in the cemetery are Van Pelt, Cortelyou,
Cropsey and Nostrand. Also there are remains of veterans of the War of
Independence, the Civil War, World War I and World War II.
The New Utrecht Reformed Church, within the mainline
Reformed Church in America (RCA), has a long
Dutch history. It was founded near the burial grounds more than 325 years ago.
At its present location, where it was rebuilt using some of the original stones,
the sanctuary has been closed since shortly before last Christmas. Extensive
restoration is needed for the 1828 building at a cost estimated at $1.8
million. Educational and cultural programs that had been offered to New York
City school children and other city residents in the church building now are
being given in the adjacent Parish House as fund-raising continues.
bhpr especially for churches