National Park Service Director Mary Bomar months ago promised that the agency would improve its business savvy. And yet, her agency seems to be ignoring sound business judgment in its seemingly blind desire to see a developer who lacks deep pockets turn a portion of Gateway National Recreation Area into a commercial district.
After all, why else would the Park Service give James Wassel one more year to come up with the financing to fund his project?
Back in 2001, Mr. Wassel was awarded a 60-year-lease on 34 historic buildings in the Fort Hancock section of Gateway National Recreation Area, contingent upon him proving he had the financing to restore and operate the facilities. That was six years ago. Now he has another year to show the Park Service the money.
This isn't simply a paper chase, either, as Mr. Wassel has already started work on the project despite failing to demonstrate he's got the financing to get it done.
Think about it. If you wanted to buy a house and applied for a mortgage, how long would your lender extend the time limit for you to prove you had the down payment? And would the bank let you move into that house before you demonstrated the ability to afford it? Of course not; that'd be imprudent.
And yet, that essentially is what the Park Service is doing. And with Mr. Wassel's company already working on restoration of three buildings at historic Fort Hancock, what will the Park Service do if he never finds the financing and goes broke before he gets that work done?
The Asbury Park Press, which has been bird-dogging this story since the get-go, thinks things have gone so awry that it's calling for a federal investigation into the matter.
This project has had a foul odor from the beginning. The selection process was flawed. The commercialization aspects of the project are at odds with the Park Service's core mission. And the repeated extensions granted to Wassel are beyond absurd. It's time to cut this guy loose. And it's time for Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., whose district includes Fort Hancock, to demand a federal investigation.
You can read the entire editorial at this site.