The Bethpage Cemetery, located directly across the street from an entrance to Bethpage State Park's golf courses and restaurant, has fallen into a state of neglect in recent years. Among the problems occurring at the cemetery are an uncontrolled amount of tree growth, and dead trees, plants, shrubbery and other foliage that have not been cleaned up and properly disposed.
The entrance to the Bethpage Cemetery, across the street from Bethpage State Park.
In addition to the various plant life which has not been looked after, the cemetery grounds suffer from a lack of mowing, trimming and general cleaning. There are also fences which are deteriorating and several gravestones which have fallen over due to improper care or vandalism.
Following a project done at the cemetery by Boy Scout Troop 604 of Bethpage, who had contacted the Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society (FBHS) looking for help in a cleanup/restoration project the troop wanted to undertake as part of its community service requirements, members of the society decided that the rehabilitation of the cemetery needed to become an ongoing project and one that they decided to undertake.
Currently, the cemetery has no board or management to look after the condition of the grounds, so the responsibility remains that of the Town of Oyster Bay. While town workers do occasionally come and clean up parts of the cemetery, major revitalization has to be done.
Dr. Benjamin Giminaro, president of FBHS said that although the Boy Scout Troop did only work on a part of the cemetery, in an area around a well-known shed on the grounds by the cemetery's entrance, their efforts initiated the plan to restore the entire cemetery.
"They did a lot [of work]," Giminaro said. "But there's still a lot more that needs to be done."
The FBHS supported the troop in their project over the summer by purchasing paint for the boys to use on the shed and providing them with refreshments following their work. This spring, the society engaged a professional arborist to clear tree branches, stumps and dense growth; all requiring special equipment.
"We want to get somebody to clean up the big stuff," Giminaro explained, adding that professionals need to be called in to take care of chopping down and removing dead trees, as well as mowing and cleaning around pipe lines at the cemetery.
Giminaro, together with Village Historian Bill Johnston, urged the importance of revitalizing this cemetery especially since many of the people who are buried there were residents of the Farmingdale and Bethpage area.
In an effort to help them pay for the restoration needed at the cemetery, the FBHS has launched an "FBHS Bethpage Cemetery Fund," asking local residents for monetary donations. In addition, the society is looking for anybody who has time to come to the cemetery and help with the cleanup process.
Much of the work requires the use of special equipment, Giminaro explained, therefore professionals must be hired, but there is also a significant amount of cleanup that needs to be done. Therefore, the society is looking not only for monetary donations but also for residents who are interested in helping physically, by donating time and energy to the revitalization of the cemetery.
Giminaro and Johnston stressed that such a project could be ideal for other local Boy Scout Troops who are looking to fulfill community service requirements. Those interested in making a donation anywhere between $25 and $500 may send a check to the FBHS Bethpage Cemetery Fund, P.O. Box 500, Farmingdale, NY 11735. Residents are asked to include their name, address and telephone number together with the tax-deductible check. Checks may be made out to the FBHS or the Bethpage Cemetery Fund. All donations will be acknowledged. For further information on the cemetery revitalization project, residents may call 249-3099 or 249-0863.