Historic cemetery rests in pieces within Van Cortlandt Park

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VAN CORTLANDT PARK -

Hidden away inside Van Cordlandt Park rests a relatively unknown and unpreserved plot of American history -- one of the Bronx's oldest burying grounds.

The Kingsbridge Historical Society says it's the final resting place of some of the Bronx's earliest European settlers -- and just steps away is another space for African slaves.

But the city hasn't done much to preserve the cemeteries, according to Peter Ostrander and Nicholas Demowski, members of the historical society.

"About 25 years ago, the Parks Department promised to put up signage in the park," Ostrander says. "But nothing ever came to pass."

Furthermore, he says, headstones that once marked the grave sites were picked up and thrown behind the Van Cortlandt House.

"They're cracked," he says. "They're broken."

Ostrander and Demowski are pushing to have visible markers placed in the cemetery.

"I feel like this part of the Bronx is actually a microcosm of American history," Demowski says. "I think the descendants of that family would really appreciate it, and I think that it would be an interesting vista for people walking by to see this 18th century remnant."

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