By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Something good might come out of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, according to a civic activist who said the superstorm proved that the Fort Hamilton Army Base is a much needed facility.
Bill Guarinello, chairman of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee, said the quick response by Col. Eluyn Gines, the fort’s commander, to the hurricane, coupled with the fact that the base served as a staging and support area for National Guard troops in the wake of the disaster, should leave no doubt as to the fort’s importance.
It’s something members of the next federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) should keep in mind when drafting a list of military facilities to close, Guarinello said.
Fort Hamilton, located on the Bay Ridge waterfront, is the only active military installation in New York City.
“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.
While there is no word of when another BRAC process would begin, Guarinello said the committee is ready. The committee is composed of pro-military civic activists, business leaders, and elected officials. Guarinello, who is president and CEO of HeartShare Human Services of New York, is also chairman of Community Board 11 in Bensonhurst.
There have been five BRAC rounds of military base closures since 1989 and Fort Hamilton has dodged the bullet each time. The most recent round of base closures took place in 2005. There is a round of base closures once every seven to 10 years. The BRAC members are appointed by the president. Military bases are closed as a cost cutting measure, officials said.
Under the BRAC process, congress must vote the entire closure list up or down with no substitutions, meaning that if a military base is on the final list, the chances of it saying open are next to none.
The up or down voting rule was put in place in 1989 in an effort to avoid political horse-trading by congress members seeking to keep bases in their districts, and the jobs those bases provide, open.
Fort Hamilton, named after Alexander Hamilton, was built in 1825.