Rendering Honors for Forgotten Soldiers in West Farms Square

Rendering Honors for Forgotten Soldiers in West Farms Square
by David Greene

Memorial day came and went and little honor or attention was paid to the 40 soldiers buried in the 200 year-old West Farms Soldier Cemetery, at East 180 Street and Bryant Avenue.

Situated between two building’s that make up part of the New York City Housing Authorities Lambert Houses. Today the nearly one acre parcel is the oldest public veteran’s burial ground in the borough.

Fallen headstones and headstones ready to fall as the West Farms Soldier Cemetery has been neglected for years.–Photo by David Greene

However, today the site is littered with overgrown brush, fallen branches and debris, as well as fallen and broken headstones. U.S. servicemen buried here have fought in the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War l.

Born and raised in the area, Essence Smith recalled, “When I was a little girl, I use to walk through the cemetery all the time and now year’s later, its like no one cares about it anymore. No one shows it any type of love or compassion for those resting there.”

On Saturday, June 2, retired U.S. Army Sargent John Perez joined Bishop Angel Rosario of Co-Op City and Community Board # 9 Chairman Nick Himidian at the site, where they would hold a brief ceremony.

During a belated Memorial Day service are (l-r): Bishop Angel Rosario, Ret. Sargent John Perez and C.B. # 9 Chairman Nick Himidian.–Photo by David Greene

After offering a brief prayer, Rosario stated, “The recognition of our solders and those that have come before us (and) keep us safe and (give us) liberty is one of the most important things in our history.”

Perez claimed he found the gates to the cemetery chained on Memorial Day, after having reached out to local elected officials and different veterans groups.

Speaking of the different veterans groups, who Perez claims were not interested in paying homage to those resting at the Soldiers Cemetery, he now says, “It doesn’t matter if they had just sent one representative, it would have been enough.”

Perez also claimed, “I brought this up to Ruben Diaz two years ago and he stood up there and said, ‘I found out today that this belongs to Parks Department, and I’m going to do something about it’, and we’re still waiting.” Perez also said that his recent calls to the Borough President went un-returned.

Perez added, “The gate should have been open just in case somebody wanted to stop by like I did.”

Community Board # 9 Chairman Nick Bitterman was outside of his district, but noted, “Since it falls under Parks and Parks falls under all of our jurisdictions, I think we should all just get together and try to do something with this place. Its a beautiful, historical site, you don’t find places like this anymore.”

Volunteers placed flags on the graves of members of the U.S. military as the forgotten soldiers were eventually remembered.–Photo by David Greene

Bitterman added, “In 20 years’s there’s a good likelihood that there’ll be a building on top of this… especially if the oldest tombstone here doesn’t have any decedents and there’s no one to reach out too.”

Perez says he is in the process of reaching out to the Bronx Historical Society as well as the Veteran’s Administration’s Cemetery Committee, that provides funding for such restorations.

Perez concludes, “Were going to get together and come up with a plan,” to fix the cemetery and return a missing bronze statue of a Union soldier from the Civil War, that was placed at the site in 1909.

A Call to the office of Borough President Diaz was not immediately returned before the publication of this article.

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