by

Though western Queens is well-known for its vast cemeteries, there are also a number of very small ones. A small section of Juniper Valley Park at Juniper Boulevard North and 81st Street in Middle Village is given over to the Pullis Farm Cemetery, once the property of farmer Thomas Pullis, who purchased 32 acres in the area in 1822. Pullis prohibited the sale of the cemetery in his will, and it continues to be marked and protected. A memorial marker has replaced the cemetery’s old tombstones.

Prior to the 1990s, this small patch had descended into obscurity and ruin. Fundraising efforts, led by Ed Shusterich, founder and president of the Pullis Farm Cemetery Historical Landmark and a Middle Village resident, resulted in the construction of a small memorial and a fence surrounding the cemetery plot. Much of Juniper Valley Park was located on what was the Pullis farm: the family cemetery contained five graves with three markers. By the turn of the century the plot was weed-choked and just one broken marker remained.

Juniper Valley Park itself dates only to the 1940s, when NYC acquired 100-acre Juniper Valley Swamp to settle a $225,000 claim in back taxes against gangster Arnold Rothstein, who, it’s believed, had the Chicago White Sox in his back pocket in 1919 when the Sox threw the World Series against Cincinnati. The old swamp is now one of Queens’ most beautiful parks.