If the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) tries to yank its North Atlantic Division headquarters from the Fort Hamilton Army Base, it will be over protests from a number of Southern Brooklyn leaders, including Congressman Michael Grimm.
USACE — the world’s largest public engineering, design and construction management agency — is threatening to defect across the East River to rival borough Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood in a move that has got local pols and community leaders crying foul.
Grimm, joined at a press conference last Tuesday by a newly-assembled coalition of bipartisan leaders – including Borough President Marty Markowitz, Councilman Vincent Gentile, civic leaders and members of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee – expressed worries over the possible move, which he says would impose severe financial hardships upon borough residents.
While relocation to the trendy Manhattan neighborhood would make for a more convenient commute for ASACE’s 100-plus employees, it would also cost the borough’s taxpayers upward of $1 million, nearly 10 times more than the annual $130,000 fee that the federal agency pays the base for housing its two buildings. That’s got Markowitz saying, literally, “fort-gettaboudit.” Really, that was his quote.
Costs aside, Fort Hamilton Army Base’s very existence is put at risk if the Army Corps leaves. The agency serves as an anchor tenant, and some officials wonder whether it will survive the next round of base closures if it leaves.
“Fort Hamilton is an important part of the Brooklyn community,” Grimm said, “which is why we must fight to keep it here and to prevent a costly taxpayer-funded move that could put the army base’s future at risk.”
Justin Ward, a spokesman for the Corps, verified to the Brooklyn Eagle that a request has been put in for the move to the more posh headquarters on SoHo’s Varick Street, but explained that it was “nothing personal.”
“We like Fort Hamilton,” he said of the Bay Ridge base, where the Corps has been located for more than a dozen years at 302 General Lee Avenue. “They have been good hosts. But we are a business-oriented group, unlike other Army components.”
Nevertheless, Grimm insisted he “will do whatever it takes to keep the corps’s flag at Fort Hamilton and will not consider any conversation to the contrary.”