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Fort Totten documentary may be headed for television

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Stay tuned - Fort Totten may be coming to a television near you.

That is the hope of the 77th Army Reserve's Regional Support Command, which premiered its recently completed documentary on the fort's history to an audience at the Bayside Historical Society last Thursday.

"This was the Army's last chance to take a snapshot of what would be considered a classic American fort," said Chet Marcus, public affairs director for the Regional Support Command.

The 14-minute film, "The Face of Freedom: The History of Fort Totten," contains historical photographs, drawings and current footage of the Colonial Revival buildings on the Civil War-era military base, which is in the process of being conveyed to the Parks and Fire departments.

"The Face of Freedom," commissioned to independent film producer Matthew Krick and completed in December, will be shown on the USS Intrepid, which is stationed in New York Harbor. A copy will also be sent to the Library of Congress.

"After that, we're going to try to get it on TV," said Marcus, who has sent the film to A&E Networks, which owns the History Channel.

Since the Army Reserve cannot profit from the film's sale, Marcus said the film's title and focus would have to be changed slightly, a project to be undertaken by the producer.

"We'd like to get a few more people to interview and get some personal stories to tell," Krick said.

"Hopefully, in the community we'll be able to find people who were stationed at the fort," he added.

The film contains interviews with Maj. Gen. Richard Colt, commander of the 77th RSC; U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside); and Charles Meyer Jr. of the Cord Meyer real estate firm, a descendant of the family whose farm was sold to the government to build the fort.

About 50 people came to watch the film at The Castle, Bayside Historical's home on Fort Totten.

"It ties into the fact that our vision was always historical preservation," said Geraldine Spinella, executive director of the Bayside Historical Society, of the film. "The history of Bayside is the history of the country."

After the film's screening, an audience discussion revealed deep concerns about the preservation of buildings on the historic fort.

A chorus of boos accompanied the mention of the proposed catering hall to be built as a Parks Department concessionaire near the waterfront.

The project is being spearheaded by Bayside restaurateur Dominick Bruccoleri, owner of Papazzio and a trustee of the Bayside Historical Society. Bruccoleri was not present at the screening.

A key dilemma in preservation at the fort is that many of the decaying, century-old brick buildings are landmarked and thus cannot be torn down; however, few non-profit organizations have the funds necessary to restore them.

"The cost alone in trying to get them in working order is incredible," Spinella said.

The Fire Department will restore some buildings on its portion of the fort, including an old theater it will use for training on weekdays, said Capt. Lawrence Connors, commander of Fire Department operations.

Connors said the theater could be used for entertainment purposes by the public on weekends.

Spinella said she would convene a town hall meeting to give the Parks Department community input on future uses of Totten's buildings.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda at timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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