Talk about an engineering feat!
Language in the bill that allocates funding to the Army Corps ofEngineers (ACE) — which was anticipated to pass the House ofRepresentatives this week — seeks to make sure the group remainsat Fort Hamilton by preventing it from using the money involved torelocate elsewhere.
The wording was inserted in the Energy and Water AppropriationsAct by Congressmember Michael Grimm, who has been fighting tomaintain ACE at Fort Hamilton since learning earlier this year thatthe corps planned to relocate from the Brooklyn base toManhattan.
The relevant section of the legislation reads, None of thefunds made available in this Act may be used by the Corps ofEngineers to relocate, or study the relocation of, any regionaldivision headquarters of the Corps located at a militaryinstallation or any permanent employees of such headquarters.
According to Grimm, the move ties the Corps to the base, exactlywhat it is intended to do, because the funding that is appropriatedthrough the bill encompasses pretty much the entire ACE budget.
In addition, Grimm noted that he had had discussions with topbrass at ACE. I think they are going to look to work with us, hesaid. They may have some legitimate concerns for their troops, andthere may be ways to alleviate them, but leaving Fort Hamilton isnot one of those options. I am committed to making them ascomfortable and happy as can be as long as it doesn’t jeopardizethe future of Fort Hamilton.
The Corps began the process of getting approval to relocate allor part of its unit to 201 Varick Street in January, ostensibly tomake it easier to work with non-military clients, such as localgovernment agencies, on the civil works projects with which amajority of Corps employees are involved.
A key issue is that a move by ACE away from Fort Hamilton couldendanger the base’s future viability by weakening its importance, afactor that could come into play when the U.S. Army next looks toclose bases when the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commissionis activated in 2015.
Besides the potential threat to Fort Hamilton’s future, ACE’smove would be a costly one for taxpayers. The rent at ACE’s newManhattan digs could be $1 million annually. ACE pays no rent atthe fort, shelling out only around $130,000 each year in operatingexpenses.
William Guarinello, the president of the Fort Hamilton CitizensAction Committee, saluted Grimm’s efforts. The number one thing wehave to let the Army Corps know is that we love them to death, hesaid. They provide a very vital service. But, we love them so muchwe want them to stay, because they are vital to the health of thisfort as a fort. That’s why we don’t think they should move, becauseit would weaken our position in the next BRAC.
If the legislation is passed by the House, it must be approvedby the Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama. But,Grimm contended that getting the restrictive language into theHouse bill was the biggest hurdle. Even if the bill doesn’t moveforward in its present form, Grimm said he would make sure thelanguage is rolled over into whatever piece of legislationsupersedes it.
One way or another I am going to get this passed into law,Grimm added. Brooklyn has my commitment that, as long as there’sbreath in my body, I’m going to fight to keep Fort Hamilton rightwhere it is, and keep it as strong as it can be.
By press time, ACE had not responded to a request forcomment.