Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee
What is Fort Hancock?
The Fort Hancock Historic District stands at the northern end 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 at Sandy Hook 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 has rigorous rehabilitation standards for historic structures, which require "minimal change to the defining characteristics of the building and its site and environment."
Watch our podcast on Fort Hancock to see both the problems and possibilities of the buildings as they are today.
What is the Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee?
In September 2012, the Department of the Interior announced the formation of the Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee. Members were chosen from applications reviewed by the Secretary of the Interior in accordance with the FACA 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 beings together experts from several disciplines and occupations to study the historic district and make recommendations for its possible reuse. Members were drawn from the local community as well as the scientific, education, recreational, business, real estate and hospitality communities. The Committee will meet four to six times a year. Meetings are open to the public, with specific times scheduled for public comment. Written comments may be submitted to the Designated Federal Officer at Gateway Headquarters.
In her opening comments at the first meeting on January 23, 2013, Superintendent Linda Canzanelli charged the Committee to "look at the full range of possibilities for Fort Hancock," including leaving the buildings boarded up as they are now. She also stated that one of the few options that the NPS cannot live with includes any compromise to "the peace and serenity of Sandy Hook itself. Fort Hancock can flourish without disturbing Sandy Hook's beaches and wildlife habitats."
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 creative reuse. 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. As Superintendent Canzanelli stated in her opening remarks, "Ongoing dialogue with the local community is essential. We may not always agree on the details, but we need to at least agree on the goals."
Did You Know?
All of Gateway NRA's units include sites that defended New York Harbor from attacks from the sea, from the Revolutionary War through World War II. They are Fort Hancock, Fort Tilden, and Fort Wadsworth. Learn about the history of coastal defense by visiting any of these sites. More...