Behind a chain link fence in Astoria, Queens, in the shadow of the Triborough Bridge, sits a small cemetery. Some of the gravestones are toppled over, while others are still standing straight.
The land belongs to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, which long ago sat adjacent to the churchyard before moving up the street from its original home on what used to be called Emerald Avenue. It was located within the heart of a rapidly growing Irish community.
Many Irish immigrants arrived in New York during and after the Great Famine (1845 to 1849). Some settled in Astoria, where they worked as servants in the houses of the wealthy as well as in factories and greenhouses. Soon, the community grew so large that the Catholic congregation outgrew its church.
As the first generations passed on, they were buried in Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cemetery, which was used mostly from the 1840s through the 1890s. All the names etched into the gravestones, save one, are Irish. Also buried among the 150 or so graves is the church’s Italian gardener.
The cemetery is not normally open to the public, but in recent years, the parish has celebrated mass there on certain holidays. A small sign reminds people to curb their dogs. Another says that the plot is maintained by the Archdiocese of Brooklyn.
Know Before You Go
The closest subway stop is Astoria Blvd. on the N or W train. Or, you can walk up from the Astoria Ferry stop.