By Art Gallagher
Congressman Frank Pallone is continuing his decades long opposition to the rehabilitation of Fort Hancock, the historic and formerly picturesque military base on Sandy Hook.
Pallone initially supported the National Park Service’s plan to rehabilitate the fort in in the mid-1990’s through a public-private partnership ala The Presidio in San Francisco California. He flipped his position and joined the now deceased Judith Stanley Coleman in organizing opposition to Rumson developer James Wassel’s 60 year lease and proposed $100 million investment to rehab Officer’s Row while maintaining the historic nature of structures in the late 90’s.
This week Pallone spoke against a new proposal to allow private residential development at Sandy Hook, according to a press release by his office.
“The wholesale conversion of public lands and facilities to private residential use would alter the nature of Sandy Hook and would be antithetical to the National Park Service’s founding values and mission. Sandy Hook serves as an important place for my constituents and all who visit to learn about our nation’s military history, recreate, and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings,” Pallone said. “I am deeply concerned that the National Park Service’s plan would turn a significant portion of Sandy Hook into a place that only select permanent residents can enjoy. We must ensure that these places of beauty remain fully accessible to everyone.”
Pallone and Stanley-Coleman did Wassel a favor opposing his project 20 years ago. I don’t believe a private development is commercially viable on Sandy Hook. It is too hard to get to. It is too far from necessities and amenities. The climate is inhospitable 3-4 months per year. I expressed these reservations to Wassel and Richard Wells, the Park Service’s project manager at the time, who had previously managed the rehabilitation of the Statue of Liberty.
But if Wassel and his investors wanted to bring the deteriorating structures up to code and risk failing, leaving the Park with safe and beautiful landmarks, that would be a public benefit.
Here we are twenty years later and Pallone is recycling his statements opposing the rehabilitation. The structures are no longer deteriorating. With few exceptions, they are dilapidated and dangerous.
Fort Hancock should either be leveled or rehabilitated with government funding. Rehabilitation would be better. Pallone is one of the most powerful members of Congress and it looks pretty likely that he will be Chairman of a the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the next two years while there is also a Democrat President.
Pallone should get the funding to rehab Fort Hancock in the next two years. Doing so could establish a legacy for his career. If he pulls that off, there should a section of the Park named for Pallone and monument installed in his honor. The current state of Fort Hancock is a monument to Congressman Pallone’s ineffectiveness to date.