MIDDLETOWN – “We’re a long way away from putting a shovel in the ground, but if we’re able to agree on a project plan that meets our needs, and is acceptable to all community stakeholders, it will be a huge step in the future of our program. We really can’t thank Ms. Burry and the Freeholders enough for recognizing our need for a gymnasium, and offering their support.”
That’s what Earl Moore, principal at MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology at Fort Hancok said this week when he learned the Monmouth County Vocational Board of Education and the National Park Service signed a Memorandum of Intent, paving the way for conversion of Buildings 56 and 23 at Fort Hancock into a new facility.
The announcement, which was signed by all parties involved on Thursday, was made at the Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee meeting at Thompson Park Friday.
STATEN ISLAND– Firearms experts believe the weapons seen being handled near the Gateway National Recreation Area Friday are paintball guns, the Staten Island Advance reported. “The preliminary opinion of these experts was that the weapons in the pictures strongly resemble replicas of firearms used in ‘paintball’ games,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner John J. Miller said in a… Read the rest of this entry »
So Francis favors transparency. Well that’s terrific. The first step down that long hallway toward redemption for Mr. Pallone you ask?
An article in the Atlanticville, interestingly enough dated for tomorrow, talks about how the public will be completely shut out of the decision-making process regarding the future of Sandy Hook’s Ft. Hancock. Perpetual “I don’t give a rat’s ass about New Jersey Forts” Congressman Francis “Waddles” Pallone weighs in on that process:
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th District), who has opposed Rumson developer James Wassel’s controversial plan to rehabilitate historic buildings at the fort, said Monday the park service should be “very transparent at every point” of the process concerning planning for the fort’s future.
Good start, right? After literally defecating on the bed for years when it came to saving Ft. Monmouth from extinction, all of a sudden Francis cares about what happens to Ft. Hancock, albeit when no jobs are at stake.
Wrong, of course:
What comes out of the meetings should be quickly announced, he said.
Pallone said that transparency was needed because of the “Wassel experience,” where “a lot of the decisions” were made “without transparency.”
Ah. Now I get it. “Transparency” means making huge decisions without being, ya know, “transparent”, and then delivering the goods to the unwashed masses “quickly”.
Thanks for the update big guy! Remind me to email whatever dictionary company is still publishing dictionaries. Do they still publish dictionaries?
I don’t have enough Scotch on hand tonight to chronicle Frank’s other myriad “definition malfunctions” throughout the years, but suffice to say the man has quite an issue with both ethics and simple English.
Pallone, Lautenberg and Menendez should put up. The Asbury Park Press should shut up
By Art Gallagher
In their editorial today, Sad chapter ends at fort, the Asbury Park Press editorial board demonstrates that their grasp of reality is insufficient for a newspaper of record for the Monmouth-Ocean region.
The press rehashes the sorry history of Sandy Hook Partners’ failed plans to redevelop Fort Hancock. They fault the National Park Service for granting the developer nine years of extensions to obtain financing for the redevelopment plans. They fail to mention that SHP’s ability to finance the project was thwarted by litigation and grassroots opposition to the commercialization of the park. The litigation and opposition was supported by the APP and by Congressman Frank Pallone.
Now the APP says,
Fort Hancock must be preserved for future generations. In order for that to happen, a developer or developers with both the money and sound plans need to be found. The park service would do well to heed the suggestion by Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, both D-N.J., that the historic buildings be leased to entities one by one, rather than as a package.
Clearly, neither the Neptune Nudniks nor the Congressmen have even an elementary understanding of how development works.
Where does Pallone, Holt and the APP think the Park Service will find a developer, or developers, with an extra $60-$100 million sitting in the bank who would be willing to commit it to Fort Hancock after what Sandy Hook Partners went through? James Wassel, the head of SHP is no slouch. His experience and personal committment to our community made him the right developer, if a public-private partnership was the best method to redevelop the fort.
Private partners were, and apparently still are, sought because federal dollars are not available to rehabilitate the park. Said another way, Frank Pallone, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (and Jon Corzine, as U.S. Senator before Menedez) either did not have the clout or commiment to secure federal funding to rehabilitate Fort Hancock.
The Pallone/Holt/APP idea of leasing the 36 buildings of the fort one by one, to non-profits, rather than as a package, is crazy. Even if 36 organizations “with both money and sound plans” on hand could be found, managing 36 separate projects with 36 separate project managers is not feasible.
Wassel’s plan to “commercialise” Sandy Hook would not have turned the park into Times Square or the Monmouth Mall. He would have developed the fort into an educational and cultural campus.
As a neighbor of and frequent visitor to Sandy Hook, I never understood how Wassel’s plans would have been commercially viable or returned the investment required for the rehabilitation, given the location and climate of the site. Yet, I supported the plan because the proposed usage would have been an enhancement of the park. If private investors or lenders were willing to risk their capital on a project that enhanced the park while giving the National Park Service control of what could be done with the site in the event of failure, there was no downside for the public. Yes, I read the master lease. The public was protected from turning Fort Hancock into an amusement park or shopping mall.
Now that Wassel’s is out of the picture, it is incumbent upon our federal representitives to secure funding to preserve the fort. Failing that, the Park Service should fence it off and install Keep Out-Hazardous signs like there has been for most of the fort’s ruins for decades.
Alternatively, the Park Service should either level the buildings and convert the land to a recreational use like a marina and camp ground.
Sandy Hook Partners, LLC has been evicted from the three buildings it retained control over after its MasterLease with the National Park Service to rehabilitate Fort Hancock was terminated. The former park headquarters, the theater and the chapel were subject to the separate lease that Sandy Hook Parnters defaulted on in October.
The park service changed the locks on the buildings on November 24, according to a report in the Asbury Park Press.
Sandy Hook Partners was chosen from a pool of 20 applicants to rehabilitate Fort Hancock in 2001. There plan faced strong opposition from the late Judith Stanley Coleman who formed Save Sandy Hookto oppose the private redevelopment of the fort. The Sandy Hook Partners master lease was terminated last year when the firm failed to secure financing for their plan after six extensions to the agreement.
Congressman Frank Pallone supported private redevelopment before joining the opposition. He and Congressman Rush Holt are now urging the Park Service to lease the 36 rundown buildings to non-profits on a building by building basis and not as part of an overall rehabilitation effort.
That won’t work either. If Fort Hancock is to remain a historic landmark and open to the public, federal funding is the only viable option to restore the buildings. Pallone did not have the clout to make that happen during the Clinton administration nor during the first two years of the Obama administration. Not only is it unlikely that he can get funding for it now that he is soon to be a minority member of Congress, he’s not even trying.
In the meantime the buildings continue to deteriorate. It is very likely that they will continue to decline, unless Pallone can prevail on Senators Robert Menendez and/or Frank Lautenberg to secure funding for rehabilitation.
As the Park Service seeks public input on the future of the fort, they should also consider turning it over to the military….either the adjoining Coast Guard station or to the Earle Naval Weapons Station.
Sandy Hook is a Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area (GNRA). The National Park Service of the GNRA will conduct a series of Open Houses in our area, as a way to solicit your input about the future of Fort Hancock, and the park in general. As they collect material to help formulate their General Operating Plan (GMP), which will guide the park for the next 20 years, your thoughts and ideas will make a difference. We hope you will attend one of the following Open Houses for an informal opportunity to meet the NPS planning team, get more information about Gateway, and share your ideas and comments.