Bayside’s Totten could host FDNY terror think tank

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The Fire Department, which took over part of Fort Totten after the base was decommissioned in 1995, has applied for a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to establish a “think tank” for terrorism responses at the Civil War-era fort, a spokesman said.

The Fire Department hopes its officers will formulate counter-terrorism strategies at the new readiness center, FDNY spokesman Michael Loughran said.

The proposed Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness is still only in the planning phases, with no projected opening date, according to Loughran.

The Fire Department’s EMS training facility is on the base, which it shares with the Department of Parks and Recreation and the U.S. Army Reserve.

But most of its training takes place at the Fire Academy on Randalls Island, where the Daily News reported the department’s top brass have been secretly studying how they would respond to hypothetical terrorist attacks on the city.

Findings from the Randalls Island courses will be used to revamp the city’s emergency terrorism responses at Fort Totten, the newspaper reported.

For the Fire Department’s lieutenants, captains, chiefs and paramedics, Fort Totten will be “a place where they can conduct tabletop exercises,” said Loughran, “not a full-fledged drill.”

“We’re not blowing things up out there,” he said.

For example, members of the Department of Homeland Security, the city’s Office of Emergency Management and even the military would come to Fort Totten for strategy sessions about which units would go where should there be an explosion in the subway, Loughran said.

The Fire Department years ago had planned to use part of the fort for controlled fires, but the plan was scrapped, possibly due to the presence of contaminants such as mercury on the fort.

The new center would use an existing building on the fort, Loughran said.

Firefighter and Community Board 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty, whose board covers Fort Totten, expressed concern over the space a new program would require.

“Where are they going to put this new training? It would’ve been nice if they had briefed the community board and elected officials,” Kelty said.

The chairman hoped fire marshals and hazardous materials teams would have a role in the new program. The marshals’ office at Fort Totten was closed due to budget cuts last year.

“We’ve been fighting for them to restore the fire marshals,” Kelty said. “Before we start new training, I think they should get back what we originally had.”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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