‘I will be a fierce defender,’ congressional candidate says
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Former Democratic councilman Domenic Recchia, who is seeking to oust Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm in November, vowed that if he is elected, he will fight to spare the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton from a Pentagon budget ax.
Recchia spoke out in the wake of comments made by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who outlined budget cuts to the US military last week. As the Brooklyn Eagle reported on Feb. 27, the cuts outlined by Hagel include a push to establish a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) to begin in 2017.
“I will be a fierce defender of Fort Hamilton to any threatened closure by a future BRAC Commission. Fort Hamilton is the army’s only active installation in New York City, serves as a vital asset to our city and region against terrorism, and was an important base of operations in the aftermath of September 11th and for Sandy relief efforts,” Recchia said.
Fort Hamilton is located in the 11th Congressional District, which Grimm represents and which Recchia would like to represent.
In 1995, the Department of Defense included the closure of Fort Hamilton among its recommendations, but it was eventually removed from the list and was spared. The military base, located in Bay Ridge, has been around since 1825.
Closing Fort Hamilton makes no sense, even if the government is seeking to cut military spending, according to Recchia, who said the fort provides important services for active, reserve and retired military personnel and their families. The fort also serves as home of the North Atlantic Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the NYC Recruiting Battalion and is a Military Entrance Processing Center for all branches of the service.
Under a process established by congress in 1990, a BRAC commission is a blue-ribbon panel that reviews recommendations by the Secretary of Defense for reductions or closures of military installations around the country. A round of base closures usually takes place once every five to seven years, although there hasn’t been a BRAC since 2005.
The commission, whose members are appointed by the president, reviews the Pentagon’s list and can make changes. The BRAC commission then sends its final list of installations to be closed or reduced to the president who can accept or reject the report in its entirety. If accepted, congress has 45 legislative days to reject all of the recommendations or they become law. More than 350 installations have been closed in the last five BRAC commission rounds.
“During the last BRAC commission round in 2005, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Brooklyn united to make a clear and convincing case of the importance of Fort Hamilton to keep it off the closure list,” Recchia said. “As congressman, I will lead the charge in congress and work with the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee to ensure that Fort Hamilton remains an asset to New York City and our region.”
The citizen action committee is made up of civilians who are business and civic leaders in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst who advocate on behalf of the fort to the federal government.
Fort Hamilton, which has survived previous base closure proceedings, could be in real danger this time, according to advocates.
“We’re going to have to start gearing up again to make our best argument for keeping it open,” Bill Guarinello, chairman of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee, told the Brooklyn Eagle last week.
Fort Hamilton operates under the joint command of the Installation Management Command and the Military District of Washington.
Recchia, who represented Coney Island, Gravesend, and parts of Bensonhurst during his 12 years of the City Council, left city government at the end of 2013. He is now setting his sights on the seat in congress held by Grimm. The 11th Congressional District covers the entire borough of Staten Island, as well as the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.
Grimm, a U.S. Marine and former FBI agent, was first elected in 2010. He was re-elected in 2012 and is now running for his third term in office.