I've got a book title in mind : The Developer and Fort Hancock. This book would probably cover volumes by the time it was complete because the story is sooooo loooong. We've talked about the strange lease deal worked up for the old Army buildings (now managed by the National Park Service) at Fort Hancock before (Oct 12, 06; Nov 2, 06; Jul 3, 07; Aug 10, 07; Aug 22, 07; and probably more).
If you haven't read those other pieces, here is a super quick recap -
- In 2004, the NPS gave a 60 year lease to develop old army buildings in Fort Hancock
- A citizens group is fighting the plan (lead by a retired Superior Court judge)
- The developer can't find development money, so the Park Service grants extensions (5 so far)
- A New Jersey congressman called for an investigation into this "debacle"
- Many feel developer would over-commercialize property; plan would restrict access to recreation
- Many feel development would be inconsistent with traditional use of historic buildings
- Many see parallels with commercialized development of NPS buildings like those of the Presidio (a management trend?)
So, here is the latest: Last week, the District Court Judge says the Park Service hasn't done anything wrong by granting this developer the lease. "The decision to lease 36 buildings in the Fort Hancock Historic District to (Sandy Hook) Partners was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or contrary to any law."
Save Sandy Hook, the group fighting the plan, will meet to consider an appeal. In the meantime, they have suggested that even if this development plan goes through, it is destined for failure. In a recent letter to the editor of the Asbury Park Press, Peter P. O'Such Jr. points out that a larger, better financed development is planned only a few miles south of Ft. Hancock, and is also next to the ocean. Says O'Such of the other non-park affiliated development,
[The] complex will become the largest convention center and hotel campus between New York and Philadelphia. The plan calls for 275 residential condos, 200 condo-hotel units, 103,000 square feet of office space, 250,000 square feet of retail space and 2,300 parking spaces. The plan also calls for a 12- to 14-screen cineplex and a bowling center, all next to an art and theater district.
With a development like that, asks O'Such, what chance does the Ft Hancock developer have at success? It is suggested, that the developer's plan may be dead on arrival. Stay tuned for the next chapter in this continuing saga, sure to hit the virtual pages of the National Parks Traveler soon.
The NPCA produced a 40 page document in May called "Gateway National Recreation Area; A Resource Assessment" that may be worth the download if you are looking for more info about this subject.