Bay Ridge

Fort Hamilton has civilians in its corner

Citizens Action Committee to hold fundraiser

September 30, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bill Guarinello (left), president of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee, welcomes Col. Joseph Davidson to Brooklyn after Davidson was installed as commander of the fort last year. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas

The U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton is a military installation, but it has plenty of civilians willing to fight for it.

Ten years ago, at the behest of then-Congressman Vito Fossella and state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn), a group of business and civic leaders from Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst came together to form the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee to fight any effort by the U.S. Department of Defense to close the military base.

Fort Hamilton, located on the southwestern shores of Bay Ridge, is the U.S. government’s only active military installation in New York City.

“There is always a possibility that it will be on a list and targeted for closure. That’s why we formed and that’s why we’re still in existence,” Bill Guarinello, president of the Citizens Action Committee, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday.

The federal government periodically forms a Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) to analyze military installations around the country and make recommendations on which to downsize or close.

“A new BRAC could be formed at any time,” Guarinello said. “And one time, before we formed our committee, Fort Hamilton actually wound up on the closure list. It was between Fort Hamilton and Fort Monmouth, and Fort Monmouth closed.”

To boost Fort Hamilton’s chances of staying open, the committee set out to prove that the base was important from a military standpoint.

“We issued a white paper. We pointed out that the fort would be vital to a rescue and recover effort if a natural disaster hit,” Guarinello said. “It has its own generators. That’s the argument we made. Lo and behold, a couple of years later, New York got hit with Superstorm Sandy.”

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A decade after it formed, the committee is still keeping an eye out for the fort. Over the past 10 years, the group has expanded its mission. Today, the committee not only advocates on behalf of keeping the fort open, but members also work to foster closer ties between military personnel at the base and the community of Bay Ridge.

On Oct. 1, the committee will host a fundraiser at the Bay Ridge Manor, 476 76th St., at 7 p.m.

The committee will present awards to the Bay Ridge Lawyer’s Association, Guarinello and Robert Sabbagh, the owner of Bay Ridge Auto Group, for their efforts to assist the committee in its work.

“We hold events but we really don’t do that much fundraising. But if another BRAC comes along, we estimate that we’ll need funds to operate as we prepare our arguments,” said Guarinello, who added that the committee is hoping the event will generate $10,000 to $12,000 in donations.

Guarinello said that the fundraiser will also serve another purpose. “It will give us a chance to say to the community, ‘We’re still here and we’re still fighting.’”

Grace M. Borrino, president of the Bay Ridge Lawyer’s Association, said the association is fully supportive of Fort Hamilton and of the committee.

“It is important for local organizations and associations to support one another within our community. The Bay Ridge Lawyer’s relationship with the Fort Hamilton Army base began many years ago when the association began its annual Toys for Tots program at our holiday party to benefit the children of the soldiers at the Army base. The [committee] is a local organization that does amazing work in supporting the military service members and their families of the Fort Hamilton Army base,” Borrino told the Eagle in an email.

“This year, it is truly an honor for the association to have been chosen as one of the honorees by the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee at its annual fall reception, and the Bay Ridge Lawyer’s Association will continue to support all the work done by the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee in the future,” Borrino added.

Fort Hamilton, which dates back to 1825, is named in memory of Alexander Hamilton. The fort currently serves as a military processing center, at which recruits from all branches of the military are processed.

The headquarters of the North Atlantic Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also located at the fort.

 

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