Fort Hancock 21st Century Federal Advisory Committee
NPS photo by John Harlan Warren
Building a new community at historic Fort Hancock
The National Park Service intends to create a viable, vital community and save historic buildings at Fort Hancock by leasing them to organizations and individuals, who will restore them through adaptive reuse.
The National Park Service can do this, but not alone. It needs the expertise and advice of experts outside of government. The Fort Hancock 21st Century Federal Advisory Committee advises the park on the best ways to revive these vacant buildings for a new century of service.
What is Fort Hancock?
Historically, an Army community thrived at Fort Hancock. The buildings are still here. While their foundations reveal the skill of Army builders and engineers, the structures need extensive work to regain their former glory. Revitalizing Fort Hancock as a viable, vibrant community can provide additional services for visitors without impairing the natural, cultural or recreational resources of the park.
The Fort Hancock and Sandy Hook Proving Ground National Historic Landmark encompasses most of Gateway's Sandy Hook Unit. From the Spanish-American War through World War II and into the Cold War, the United States Army used Fort Hancock to defend New York Harbor from America's enemies. Today, dozens of historically significant buildings are themselves threatened by time and weather.
The enabling legislation that established Gateway as a national park explicitly charges the park with preserving the historic structures at Fort Hancock with their historic character.
The National Park Service adheres to the Interior Secretary's Standards on Historic Rehabilitation. These standards for historic structures require "minimal change to the defining characteristics of the building and its site and environment."
What is the Fort Hancock 21st Century Federal Advisory Committee?
In September 2012, the Department of the Interior announced the formation of the Fort Hancock 21st Century Federal Advisory Committee. Members were chosen from applications reviewed by the Secretary of the Interior in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972. As stated in the Advisory Committee Charter, the purpose of this group is to provide advice "on the development of a reuse plan and on matters relating to future uses of the Fort Hancock Historic District of Gateway National Recreation Area."
The Committee brings together experts from several disciplines and occupations, drawn mainly from the communities surrounding Sandy Hook, to study the historic district and make recommendations for its possible reuse. Members were drawn from the scientific, education, recreational, business, real estate and hospitality communities as well as local elected officials. They serve three-year terms. When terms expire, a call for nominations is placed in the Federal Register and announced by the park via press release. Anyone interested in membership may nominate themselves. (You may not nominate someone else.)
The Committee meets six or more times per year. These meetings are open to the public, with specific times scheduled for public comment. Written comments may be submitted to the Designated Federal Officer or emailed to the park. They are placed on the Committee's website without editing or comment.
How have other national parks preserved groups of historic structures?
National parks across the nation with large groups of historic buildings have used the NPS Leasing Program to encourage public-private partnerships, which in turn save historic structures through adaptive reuse. These include: Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which encompasses both the Presidio and Cavallo Point; Fort Monroe National Monument and Lowell National Historical Park. These PowerPoint presentations detail the successful experiences at Lowell and the Presidio. However, national parks have no monopoly on good ideas. This is why the FACA process is open to public observation and comment.