According to one local activist, Fort Hamilton has proven itself to be a vital facility for relief operations in the wake of Superstorm Sandy – leaving no doubt to the Army base’s importance during a future disaster or terrorist attack, as reported by Paula Katinas for Brooklyn Eagle.
Bill Guarinello, chairman of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee – as well as Bensonhurst’s Community Board 11, was paraphrased by Katinas as saying that the quick action and organization of base commander Colonel Eluyn Gines in the aftermath of Sandy – taken together with the fact that the installation served as a staging and support area for National Guard troops, should save it from the chopping block of the next Base Realignment and Closure Commission [BRAC].
The piece points out that the fort, which was built in 1825, remains New York City’s only active duty military base.
From Brooklyn Eagle:
“Part of our mission as a committee is to protect the fort from BRAC. We prepared a white paper and we’ve updated the white paper. What happened at the fort after the hurricane kind of affirmed what we’ve been saying. We’ve always argued that the fort is needed in the event of another terrorist attack or in the event of a natural disaster. We’ve always said that if a natural disaster happened, this is how the fort could play a role. Well, a natural disaster did happen and the fort was ready,” Guarinello said.
National Guard troops were stationed at the fort and were dispatched to hurricane-torn areas all over the city to assist with the recover effort.
“The colonel had administrative experience and knew how to coordinate all of the different units. The fort fed them, made sure they had gas, and worked with them,” Guarinello said.
“We came through this as a family,” Gines told business and civic leaders at a Christmas Party hosted by the Merchants of Third Avenue on Dec. 10.
“The hurricane demonstrated that you’d be crazy to close a fort at this location. The fort is a great staging area. It is adjacent to Bay Eighth Street and the ball fields. It’s near the Verrazano Bridge in case you have to send people to Staten Island. The fort gives you so much to work with,” Guarinello said.
Although it is not known when the next round of potential BRAC cuts could begin, Guarinello told Katinas that the committee is ready to convene.
There have been five rounds of BRAC closures since 1989, with Fort Hamilton dodging the proverbial bullet each time.
The most recent round of cuts took place in 2005.
Under the BRAC process, Congress must vote either for or against the entire closure list with no substitutions allowed. This means that if a military base makes the final list, the chances of it remaining open are almost nil.
According to Wikipedia, BRAC “was designed from 1988-89 to close excess military installations despite the political challenges which arise when facilities face activity reductions. Because a military base can attract millions of federal budget dollars to its locale each year, members of Congress often make closures difficult. Congress created the BRAC process in 1988 as a politically palatable method to pursue such goals.”
Fort Hamilton advocates received good news this past September, when it was revealed that the NY National Guard’s joint terrorism task force would remain in place at the garrison.