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Thousands Sign Up to Save Fort Hamilton Army Base From Closure

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Nearly 15,000 petitions affirming support for Fort Hamilton remaining an active military base are on their way to Washington, D.C. A week before the federal Base Closure Commission is due to report its recommendations as to which U.S. military installations should be shuttered, Congressperson Vito Fossella accepted the stacks of petitions from the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee, in front of the main gate to the fort, at 101st Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway. Fossella promised to deliver the petitions directly to the Pentagon. The recommendations will be released on May 16th. “I’m going to proudly take these petitions to Washington,” he told the committee members. Calling the stacks of petitions, “A successful completion of a great grass-roots effort,” Fossella emphasized, “We all want to see Fort Hamilton remain open. It’s the only active military installation in the city of New York, and we want people to know that everything possible was done.” The effort to save the fort was more than a community-wide effort, pointed out William Guarinello, the chairperson of the committee. “In the last week, another 5,000 petitions came in,” he noted. “This really has been a groundswell in the New York area, not just the Fort Hamilton area. It’s the five boroughs, Long Island, upstate.” This, he continued, sends an important message to the Pentagon. “We hope we are not on the list,” remarked Guarinello, “but if we are, we are saying, we are here to stay, we’re ready for you. We know the value of our fort, and we are ready to fight.” The fort provides many benefits, added Fossella. Citing a report put together by the Citizens Action Committee, Fossella pointed out that, “A wonderful relationship has existed with Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights. Thousands of veterans rely on this fort, and, above all, Fort Hamilton is integral to our national security.” Asked about a report in the May 7th New York Times that estimates of the number of bases to be closed have been revised downward, Fossella stressed, “We just have to be prepared. Whether it’s 25 percent, 22 percent or 18 percent, it’s always possible that this base could be on the chopping block. It helps our cause, but we can’t leave any stone unturned.” The Fort Hamilton task force was formed by Fossella in 2001, well before the formation of a base closure commission was announced. That, noted Guarinello, allowed the community to get a jump on organizing. Earlier this year, as it began its petition drive, the task force released a 100-page report detailing the importance of the fort locally and nationally. “If we got in this late,” he added, “we wouldn’t have been in the hunt.” Michael Long, the chairperson of the New York Conservative Party, agreed. “One of the important points is that the congressman was proactive,” he said. “He didn’t wait to hear what the base closure commission was going to say. He got us active early on.”

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