An Unguarded Fort, and Neighbors Who See a Risk

Protesters also chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, we say safety, they say no!”

Protesters also chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, we say safety, they say no!”

New York Times

March 22, 2009
Fort Totten

An Unguarded Fort, and Neighbors Who See a Risk
By JAMES ANGELOS

FORT TOTTEN in Bayside, Queens, sits atop a hilly peninsula near the Throgs Neck Bridge, where the waters of the East River meet Long Island Sound. The fort was built during the Civil War to guard the city against attack from the East River, but it closed in 1995, and since then, much of the land, along with many of its dilapidated Victorian buildings, has been handed over to the city.

A park now covers 50 acres of Fort Totten, and the Fire and Police Departments, as well as the Army Reserve 77th Regional Readiness Command and other groups, use some of the buildings on the remaining 100 or so acres.


Since the fort closed, the Fire Department has been in charge of security there, hiring private guards to patrol the fort and to staff a security booth at its entrance. But in February, the fort’s neighbors learned that the department would eliminate that security detail starting March 1, citing budget cuts.

The move has unleashed local fears that the park and its historic buildings, some of them abandoned, will be vulnerable to vandalism, arson and other crimes. Earlier this month, a few dozen residents held a rally at the fort’s entrance, chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, we say safety, they say no!”

At one point, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. spoke on a megaphone.

“During the toughest economic times,” Mr. Vallone said, “that’s when you have to keep the community and the people the safest.”

A group of security guards who had worked at the fort watched the protest.

“There will be a lot of chaos,” predicted one guard, Alexander Bolotinskiy, as he watched a car pass the empty security booth, where the sign still read, “Please Stop and Show ID.”

Steve Ritea, a Fire Department spokesman, said the change was part of a wider cut in security expenditures that would save nearly $1.2 million annually.

The Police Department, Mr. Ritea added, will continue to include the fort in its patrols. Fire marshals stationed at the fort will also provide an element of safety, he said.

But some residents are not placated. Among them is Carol Marian, president of the Bayside Historical Society, which is housed in the fort.

“This park is not a normal park,” Ms. Marian said, pointing out the many old buildings. “We have hidden corners where people can lurk.”

Bayside activists protest lack of security at Fort Totten

Rally organizer Warren Schreiber talks with a fellow Bay Terrace resident Rosemarie Brennan at a rally outside of the gates of Fort Totten in Bayside. Photo by Christina Santucci

Rally organizer Warren Schreiber talks with a fellow Bay Terrace resident Rosemarie Brennan at a rally outside of the gates of Fort Totten in Bayside. Photo by Christina Santucci

Times Ledger

Bayside activists protest lack of security at Fort Totten

By Christina Santucci and Stephen Stirling
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 4:37 PM EDT

Dozens of residents and community leaders descended on the security gates at Fort Totten Saturday morning to protest the recent termination of private security services in the historic park — a move they say could lead to a spike in crime in the area.

For the past two years, the FDNY has spent $650,000 annually to provide a 24−hour security detail for the fort. Due to budget cuts across the city, however, the FDNY recently announced it would not hire a private security firm to guard the area and instead turned over control of the fort to the 109th Precinct March 1. The 109th, which is based in Flushing, covers the adjacent Bay Terrace neighborhood.

The decision has not sat well with a number of residents and civic groups in the area, however, who contend the FDNY gave little notice of the decision and could unintentionally create a hotbed for crime that could spill into the surrounding communities.

“Shame on the FDNY,” said Kim O’Hanion, Parks Committee chairwoman of Community Board 7. “What they’re doing here is totally unacceptable.”

Though several of the buildings at Fort Totten are occupied by law enforcement agencies, some buildings have been long abandoned and fallen into disrepair.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said without security these abandoned buildings could become havens for vandals and vagrants who could commit serious crimes or start fires in the structures.

About half a dozen guards from PD Security in Bellerose lost their jobs at Fort Totten. Mandouh Elzab of Richmond Hill, who had been working at Fort Totten for about six years said that two to three weeks ago, at about 2 a,m. a man came to the guard station needing medical attention.

“He was in very bad condition. I called the ambulance and stayed with him. If nobody is here, who is going to help this guy?” Elzab asked.

Protesters also said they were miffed by the last−minute warning the FDNY gave before making the decision to halt security at the fort.

“They should have come to us, the parties that are interested and affected, and let us know and have a say,” Schreiber said. “There have to be ways to solve this situation. But they gave us no warning.”

Community Affairs Detective Kevin O’Donnell of the 109th Precinct recently told TimesLedger Newspapers that the precinct would patrol the area, but not provide a constant security detail.

“If [the FDNY] drops security, it would just become part of the regular patrol of that area,” he said. “We don’t do security, we patrol neighborhoods.”

The fort, bounded by the Long Island Sound and Cross Island Parkway, is also home to an Army National Guard unit, an NYPD K−9 unit, an emergency services unit, an EMS academy and the auxiliary Coast Guard.

Schreiber, who has been leading the fight against the cutbacks, said it is unbelievable there are so many law enforcement agencies present at the fort, yet no one manning the front gate on a regular basis.

“We feel they betrayed the community,” Schreiber said. “They made an agreement to provide security here. All we’re asking for is the status quo. We’re not asking for them to reinvent the wheel.”

Rally to Protect Fort Totten

PROTEST RALLY

PROTEST RALLY

*IMPORTANT RALLY*

PROTECT THE FORT!

ORGANIZED BY

BAY TERRACE COMMUNITY ALLIANCE

&

FRIENDS OF FORT TOTTEN PARKS

DATE: SAT., MARCH 7, 2009 AT 11:00 AM

PLACE: FORT TOTTEN FRONT GATE

CROSS ISLAND PKWY @ 212TH ST.

GUARD SERVICE IS GOING TO BE REMOVED FROM THE ENTRANCE TO FORT TOTTEN PARK DUE TO MAYOR BLOOMBERG’S BUDGET CUTS!

THE INCREASED POTENTIAL FOR VANDALISM, ARSON & BURGLARY OF HISTORIC

BUILDINGS AND SURROUNDING NEIGHBORHOODS, AND THE SECURITY OF OUR

HOMES AND COMMUNITY ARE SERIOUSLY AT RISK!

JOIN US IN PROTECTING THE FORT

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

rally-flyer

Cops: Queens Man Fatally Stabs Wife, Hangs Self at Baybridge Condominium Estates

crime-scene-tape

1010 WINS

Cops: Queens Man Fatally Stabs Wife, Hangs Self

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — A Queens couple was found dead Sunday in what police believe was a murder-suicide.

The woman, 57, had been stabbed to death inside the couple’s home at the upscale Baybridge Condominium Estates in the Bayside neighborhood, police said.

The man, 64, hanged himself from the second floor balcony of the home, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.

They were discovered by their adult son.

Neighbors said they were a quiet couple and couldn’t imagine why the man would have turned violent.

Relay to Fight Cancer

Relay For Life at Fort Totten

Relay For Life at Fort Totten

Queens Courier

BY VICTOR G. MIMONI

Thursday, February 19, 2009 6:08 PM EST
There’s a party on Bell Boulevard in Bayside, but it’s serious.

It’s a complimentary informational kick-off party, at the Outback Steakhouse, to spread the word for the American Cancer Society (ACS) 5th annual “Relay For Life,” scheduled for this June, at Fort Totten.

The Kick-Off Party will be held on Tuesday, February 24, from 8 to 10 p.m. at the steakhouse located at 23-48 Bell Boulevard, said event chair Stephanie Perger.

The overnight campaign will take place on Saturday, June 6 through Sunday, June 7, on the parade grounds of the historic fort, much of which is now a park and Fire Department facilities.

“We invite you to make a difference and help us provide hope to patients, families and friends coping with cancer,” Perger.

The event committee has been holding monthly meetings at the Chabad Jewish Community Center at 26-06 213th Street in Bayside. Their next meeting is scheduled on Thursday, March 5.

“All are welcome – bring a friend,” Perger said, adding two requests: “Please enter through the back door and please, no food or drinks.” She pointed out that at the party however, “Food and refreshments will be served.”

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the disease affects more than 8.9 million people nationwide – more than 1.2 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and a projected 555,500 will die from it this year, they say.

“Relay for Life brings the community together to remember those who have lost their battle with cancer, honor those who have won their battle and encourage those still in the battle,” Perger explained.

The idea was conceived in 1985 by Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma, Washington surgeon who wanted to boost his local ACS office.

He spent a grueling 24 hours circling the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma for more than 83 miles. Throughout the night, friends paid $25 to run or walk 30 minutes with him.

He raised $27,000.

While he was circling the track, Klatt envisioned the team-relay event – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Millions have joined the cause all over the world, making Relay For Life the largest fundraising event ever, according to the ACS.

Perger pointed out that party seating is limited, and asks those planning to attend to R.S.V.P. by noon on Monday, February 23. Call John Link at the American Cancer Society, 718-263-2225, Ext. 5538 or via e-mail at john.link@cancer.org.

“If you can’t attend the party but would like additional information, please let us know,” she said.

For more information, you can also visit www.relayforlife.org/forttottenNY.

Fort Totten Gate Security – Update

According to reliable sources, the FDNY has decided that terminating Fort Totten gate security is a bad idea. Light duty firefighters will continue to protect the Fort’s front gate. Fire marshals will share some of the responsibility.

BLOOMBERG TO FORT TOTTEN & BAY TERRACE: DROP DEAD

BLOOMBERG TO FORT TOTTEN & BAY TERRACE: DROP DEAD

Effective March 1, Fort Totten will no longer have gate security.

Effective March 1, Fort Totten will no longer have gate security.

BLOOMBERG TO FORT TOTTEN & BAY TERRACE: DROP DEAD

Gate security at Fort Totten will be discontinued on Sunday, March 1, 2009. Fire Commissioner Scoppetta is taking this action in response to the Mayor’s recently announced budget cuts. Termination of the security contract will threaten Fort Totten and the surrounding community.

Both FDNY and NYPD house units on Fort Totten which have high security needs. To go into detail would be irresponsible but suffice it to say that these units deal with matters pertaining to terrorism and criminal investigation.

Without security there will be burglary and vandalism concerns at night. In addition, the abandoned old buildings, many of which are part of the Historic Monument Trust, would be prime targets for arson once it gets dark. Night time criminal activity in the Fort will spill over into Bay Terrace.

Completely removing security guards from Fort Totten’s front gate is ill-advised and will eventually cost the city more in terms of increased vandalism, burglary, arson, crimes involving violence and police services. This action poses a real threat to the safety of our community.

Bloomberg has now told us to drop dead. The Bay Terrace Cafe will send him the same good wishes when election day rolls around.