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New Utrecht Reformed Church

328 Years

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Friends of 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 newutrechtchurch.org.

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 Liberty 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 repair and 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
July 2004


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