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.”

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

Mark Green Announces Candidacy For Public Advocate

From NY1

Democrat Mark Green, the city’s first public advocate, has told NY1 he will once again run for the office.

Green held the position from 1994 to 2001.

He says his experience is necessary during these tough times.

“Given the extraordinary economic crisis, it’s especially urgent that the person who’s the next public advocate,” said Green, “the number two citywide office holder, the investigator of city services, be a person who’s shown that he or she can get results and have innovative ideas, has a track record, and understands how to make New York a cutting edge, 21st century city.”

Mark Green Announces Candidacy For Public Advocate

Mark Green Announces Candidacy For Public Advocate

In 2001, Green was the Democratic nominee for mayor, but lost to Michael Bloomberg. He has also had unsuccessful runs for Congress, Senate, and state attorney general.

Green is also a former member of our NY1 Wise Guys, airing every Tuesday night on the “Road to City Hall.”

Green’s likely Democratic opponents include City Councilmen Bill de Blasio, Eric Gioia, and John Liu, along with civil rights attorney Norman Siegel.

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum is eligible to run for re-election this year. But after strongly opposing the term limits extension- Gotbaum said she would not run for a third term.

Queens GOP Got Screwed by Mike

The Queens Republican Party has finally realized they were screwed by Mike. Maybe this time they’ll have enough backbone to let Bloomberg know he’s not welcome in the GOP.

It's Time to Fix the Elephant

It's Time to Fix the Elephant

From the NY Post

OLD PALS STILL GOP’D OFF AT MIKE

By SALLY GOLDENBERG

Last updated: 2:22 am
February 9, 2009
Posted: 1:50 am
February 9, 2009

Mayor Bloomberg’s on-and-off courtship of Republicans was on again yesterday, but they were not returning the love.

He greeted winning essayists at an Abraham Lincoln bicentennial dinner sponsored by the Queens Village Republican Club, but got a tepid response from members still stung by his 2007 defection from the party.

“He has a lot of issues that he has to address,” said Queens Republican Party Chairman Phil Ragusa. “And I don’t think the regular Republicans are ready to endorse.”

Bloomberg was a lifelong Democrat before running for mayor twice as a Republican, then becoming an independent.

Republicans are also unhappy over his decision to raise property taxes and to trash term limits in pursuit of four more years in City Hall.

Club members grumbled about his appearance days before the event.

“You can’t disinvite a mayor,” read one e-mail. “Anyway, he’s coming only for the nonpartisan essay-contest portion and then leaving, thank God.

He’ll get the message that he’s not welcome.”

WINTER OF DISCONTENT LINDSAY’S SNOWSTORM, 1969

From NY Daily News

40 years ago, snow caught Queens – and Lindsay – by surprise

BY Owen Moritz
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Monday, February 9th 2009, 3:45 AM
Mayor John Lindsay touring Queens after the Blizzard of ’69. AP

Mayor John Lindsay touring Queens after the Blizzard of ’69.

The forecast was for flurries.

Just one day later, as New Yorkers dug out from 20 inches of snow, the reality set in: dozens killed, the borough of Queens crippled, the mayor buried beneath a blizzard of insults.

WINTER OF DISCONTENT LINDSAY'S SNOWSTORM, 1969

WINTER OF DISCONTENT LINDSAY'S SNOWSTORM, 1969

Forty years ago this week, New York City was pounded by the storm that nobody expected: 15 inches in Central Park and 5 more at Kennedy Airport, one of the worst on record.

Television meteorologists predicted only a chance of snow before the flakes began falling Feb. 9, 1969.

Instead, a ferocious storm blew in. Schools closed for three days, mail service disappeared and Queens was cut off from the other boroughs.

Forty-two people died, half of them in Queens. The snowstorm quickly became a political firestorm, with angry New Yorkers hurling insults like snowballs at beleaguered Mayor John Lindsay.

In Kew Gardens, Queens, the mayor was booed after exiting a city truck.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” a woman yelled. “It’s disgusting.”

In Fresh Meadows, a woman called the mayor a bum. On Horace Harding Blvd., Lindsay entered a pharmacy to call City Hall. When he exited, 200 people taunted him with a Queens version of the Bronx cheer. Lindsay listened, ordering “all available manpower and apparatus” sent to the borough for snow removal. And later that winter, at the slightest forecast of snow, crews were called out on overtime.

The storm exposed the sorry state of the city’s snow-fighting equipment.

For decades later, residents still remember the wicked winter blast.

“We tried walking up a hill on Henley Road and you couldn’t walk,” Tony Buflione, 87, of Jamaica recalled this week. “You walked up 10 feet and fell back 20 feet.”

Related Daily News Article published in 1998…………

Turf War Brewing in New York City Parks

Customers in the Cafe are starting to wonder if Parks & Recreation will ever get it right.

NYC Park - Use at your own risk

NYC Park - Use at your own risk

From 1010 WINS

Posted: Sunday, 08 February 2009 7:16PM

Turf War Brewing in New York City Parks

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — A turf war is brewing in New York City.

The city council will hold a hearing Monday on a bill that would ban new installation of artifical turf on city ballfields until all the fields can be tested.

Environmental groups say it’s because lead tests done on the turf in East Harlem’s Thomas Jefferson Park came back four times higher than previously disclosed.

But the Parks Department says new tests found no further evidence of elevated lead levels and rejected the call for a moratorium.

“The contaminated field at Thomas Jefferson Park is promptly being removed and replaced,” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “Thankfully, this appears to be an isolated finding.”

The council bill would mandate the removal of a controversial rubber infill which is made from recycled tires and a petroleum-based product containing more than two dozen different chemicals including arsenic, lead and zinc. These products have been known to be hazardous to people and the environment.