Trump wants to fund veterans cemetery in Queens
WASHINGTON – Tucked into President Trump’s budget is funding to construct a cemetery in Queens for at least 50,000 veterans as part of a new effort to expand burial options in densely populated cities for families of service members.
Unlike a traditional cemetery, the site in St. Albans would be an outdoor columbarium only for the cremated remains of New York City-area service members and their spouses.
Certain traditional VA cemeteries have columbaria, such as the one added in 2005 to the Long Island National Cemetery that had been at capacity. But the Queens construction would be among the first wave of columbaria-only veterans cemeteries in the United States.
The Department of Veterans of Affairs in 2015 had pitched constructing a unique cemetery for funeral urns in Queens, acknowledging the travel time to the Calverton and Long Island National Cemeteries on Long Island is a burden for the families in the city.
The first step of the project is demolishing two buildings on the VA’s St. Albans Community Living Center – estimated to cost $1 to $5 million.
Targeted for 2019 completion, the columbarium walls would initially have a capacity of 4,000 burial niches, each with enough room for the urn of one service member and spouse.
The master plan calls for 50,000 niches over a 100-year period, according to the National Cemetery Administration.
Rep. Gregory Meeks, who boycotted Trump’s State of the Union address, viewed the project’s inclusion as a bright spot in Trump’s budget request.
“The columbaria at St. Albans VA will allow the family members and friends of deceased soldiers to pay tribute to their fallen heroes without having to travel tremendous distances,” said Meeks (D-Queens) who hosted a town hall about the project in February 2016.
Trumps’ Veterans Affairs’ budget calls for nine new veterans cemeteries to be open in 2019 and 2020, including three columbaria-only locations in Queens, Indianapolis and Los Angeles.
A traditional gravesite cemetery would also be constructed in Western New York to serve Buffalo- and Rochester-area veterans, under the budget plan.
The VA’s goal is to provide 95 percent of the veteran population a burial option within 75 miles of their home.
VA’s National Cemetery Administration plans to maintain more than 3.8 million gravesites in 2019, up 88,800 from 2018.