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

Fort Totten Gate Security: An Ever Changing Story

A protest rally still remains a very real possibility.

A protest rally still remains a very real possibility.

At a meeting held on Tuesday, February 17, 2009, Fire Department Chiefs and Unit Heads decided to completely eliminate gate security at Fort Totten. This is contrary to earlier reports from official FDNY sources that the security would be provided by light duty fire fighters.

At this time attempts are being made to obtain copies of the conveyance agreement, which some interested parties believe call for FDNY to maintain gate security. As expected, FDNY is reluctant to make the documents available for review. Efforts are underway to obtain the documentation elsewhere.

A protest rally still remains a very real possibility.

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.

A Tree Once Grew in Queens

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Much of Fort Totten’s landscape is now scarred with the remains of what were once large, majestic trees. According to Parks’ Forestry Division, the trees could not be saved. Random observers have described the wood and stumps as appearing to be healthy. In all fairness to Parks, those were not expert opinions.

Everyone seems to be in agreement that the Fort looks bare. Parks is encouraged to replace any trees that became victims of their chain-saw.

The pictures which can be seen by following the link below, require no captions. As you’ll notice, much of the evidence is being pulverized. Also shown is some of the demolition work taking place on the Fort.

A TREE ONCE GREW IN QUEENS

World’s Fair map could be in peril

Benepe viewing World's Fair Map

Benepe viewing World's Fair Map

From NY Daily News


The city has let ice blanket a faux-marble road map from the 1964 World’s Fair multiple times this winter instead of dishing out $20,000 to protect the cartographic curiosity, Queens News has learned.

Preservationists fear frost will dislodge or fracture panels on the 9,000-square-foot map in the New York State Pavilion, a crumbling, yet iconic, relic of the fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Even more galling to preservationists is that conservators devised a shelter plan for the map just last year — to bury its panels under fabric, sand and gravel, blocking water and sunlight that feeds crack-widening weeds. But the city still hasn’t carried it out.

The interior of the New York State Pavillion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park where a giant roadmap of New York State from the 1964 Worlds Fair is in danger of cracking due to extreme weather conditions.

The interior of the New York State Pavillion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park where a giant roadmap of New York State from the 1964 Worlds Fair is in danger of cracking due to extreme weather conditions.

“I don’t understand why it’s taking so long,” said Professor Frank Matero, a preservation expert at the University of Pennsylvania, who helped develop the never-implemented program.

John Krawchuk, historic preservation director for the Parks Department, said the city bought enough fabric and some sand for Matero’s plan, but stopped $20,000 short of paying for all the required materials.

He admitted the city has the cash but decided to direct it elsewhere. “We have many needs throughout the entire parks system that are always competing for funds,” he said.

Instead, the city is hoping Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Administrator Estelle Cooper can raise $20,000 through a park-oriented nonprofit she runs, before springtime sun nourishes the weeds, Krawchuk said.

But preservationists wondered how the city undertook a project to remove and restore parts of the 567-panel map in 2007 — through a $40,000 grant and $80,000 in city funds — with little foresight for the rest of the map.

The city’s refusal to foot the $20,000 bill reminded history buffs of how the once-grand pavilion was allowed to deteriorate for four decades after the fair closed in 1965.

“It really shows neglect is a theme with this structure,” said Greg Godfrey, president of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park World’s Fair Association.

“If their end result was to preserve [the map], why would you start ripping out parts without having a strategy for the entire?” Godfrey asked.

Contractor Vincent DeLazzero, whose late father, Robert, built the road map while heading Bronx-based Port Morris Tile & Terrazzo, also blasted the city’s disregard for the panels.

“It’s a treasure,” said DeLazzero, adding he would have helped raise $20,000 if the city had contacted him. “There’s never been anything like it.”

Meanwhile, the city is reviewing the results of a $200,000 study on the stability of the pavilion’s Tent of Tomorrow rotunda — the columns and cable-suspension roof that surround the map.

“Demolition is always a possibility,” Krawchuk warned