Sunday, May 24, 2009

Help At Last for City Cypress Hills Police Burial Ground by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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The Boy and Girl scouts were on hand today at Cypress Hills Cemetary to pay their respects and to remember. Rosamilio/News

Better days are on the way for the Police Gardens, a longneglected police burial site at Cypress Hills Cemetery.

The cracked walkways are being dug up and replaced with smooth concrete. A group of active and retired police officers have promised to gather on the site on May 16 for a somber wreath-laying service in honor of Police Memorial Day.

They hope to festoon the small granite headstones with American flags.

But replacing the 6-foot bronze statue of a policeman and the plaques stolen from the grounds more than 40 years ago by vandals might be a tougher feat.

"I almost believed it was a lost cause," said retired cop Robert Berl, who lives near the cemetery and has been lobbying to get it refurbished. "I think it's great that something is finally going to be done."

Since the Daily News first wrote about the plight of the Police Gardens last month, dozens of people have contacted the cemetery to offer assistance.

Cemetery President John Desmond, a retired New York City police officer, was so heartened by the response that he donated the materials and labor to fix up the walkways.

"We are offering all our resources and will be ready to do whatever they want," said Desmond.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch is planning to attend the Saturday ceremony to show support.

"We certainly want to see it restored," said PBA spokesman Al O'Leary.

The cemetery and volunteers are limited in what they can do. The Police Gardens, also known as the Police Arlington, is technically owned by the NYPD Honor Legion, which controls who is buried at the site.

A call by the Daily News to the Honor Legion, a fraternal organization that recognizes cops involved in gun battles and other life-threatening situations, was referred to the NYPD's public information office.

The site, established more than 100 years ago, has a rich history, but there is no marker to show it is a police burial ground. The bronze statue, stolen in 1966, was never replaced and only its pedestal remains.

"These are officers who worked for the city," Berl said. "Their families thought that this would be a place of honor."