Pro Bono Barrister: Will historic Ft. Hamilton shut down, opening a real estate bonanza?

Congressman Michael Grimm

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Property prices, like the stock market of late, are getting hotter, especially in Brooklyn. In keeping with the needs of the times, BBA CLE Director Meredith Symonds and her Brooklyn Bar Association  team have selected a timely subject  for their March 20 session: “Hot Topics IN NYC Land Use.”

The controversy swirling around the LICH “sale” has made many headlines, especially in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which presented the most consistent and informative articles written by over the past year or so by Mary Frost.

But there may be something new to add to Brooklyn’s property boom mix. Now, another choice parcel of Brooklyn land, the 180-acre historic Fort Hamilton, is being considered for closure by the Pentagon. The issue has been immediately accorded center stage by Republican Congressman Michael Grimm and his likely opponent, former Democratic Councilman Domenic Recchia.

For decades, developers have been eying the 180-acre installation resting on  super-prime real estate that tops the easternmost ridge of Bay Ridge. The surrounding communities have successfully lobbied to stymie the Pentagon’s base closure commission. But, with the recent announcement of drastic slashes in the Pentagon’s budget by President Obama, many fear that Fort Hamilton’s days are finally numbered.

Threats to Fort Hamilton have traditionally gathered opposition from both sides of the political aisle, and this year would be no different: Incumbent Republican-Conservative Congressman Michael Grimm has said he will do all he can to preserve the fort and its impressive battlements. (Earlier Fort Hamilton backers included Congrespersons Susan Molinari, Vito Fossella and Michael McMahon.)


Guarinello’s Committee Leads Efforts to Save Fort

Now, Grimm’s likely Democratic opponent, former Councilman Domenic Recchia, has pledged to fight to spare Fort Hamilton from the chopping block, so they will be on the same side. Who will have more clout?

Grimm can boast he has the ear of powerful House Speaker John Boehner, who wants to snuggle up with reasonable right-wingers – like the two-term Staten Island/Bay Ridge former Marine -- who have demonstrated their loyalty.

Recchia can counter with bringing in two Democratic senators – Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand. (Mayor de Blasio has apparently not yet weighed in on the Fort Hamilton Base issue, but some Republicans are saying he won’t fight to save it.)

Both may cite the warlike situation in Ukraine, where Russian President Vladmir Putin is exercising his muscle, as clear proof that this is not the time to be downsizing the Army, especially if it involves shutting the only military installation in New York City.  The longer the Ukrainian crisis lasts, the better are Fort Hamilton’s survival chances.

Leading any anti-closure attempt will be HeartShare Executive Bill Guarinello, in his civic role as chair of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee. This is panel of prominent local and countywide volunteers who have as their main goal the preservation of this installation, which has become a “vital part of Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst life,” according to one member.

In view of the crisis stirred by Russia’s intrusion into Ukraine, the base, which got its official start about 160 years ago, is now more likely to spared than it was a few months back.

There will be special problems for would-be developers when it comes to selling off the decommissioned property left when an army facility is closed. Some of these may be discussed when the BBA CLE panel which includes BBA Real Property Law Chair Mark Caruso and attorney Kevin Dwarka, convenes at 6 p.m. on March 20.

March 10, 2014 - 11:00am



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