The recent domestic attack at a U.S. military installation has reignited the national discourse on gun violence and security, and U.S. Steve Israel (D-Melville) is highlighting an apparent greater need for security at some of the city’s more vulnerable spots, including Fort Totten.
Israel was joined by several city leaders Monday at Fort Totten to call on the U.S. Department of Defense to upgrade security at the fort as well as at other unarmed forts in the city.
Since the shooting attack at two U.S. military installations in Chattanooga, Tenn. July 16, the Defense Department has ordered a review of security measures at many of the country’s 1,100 Armed Forces Reserves locations.
But 583 of those locations, like Fort Totten, have no armed security according to Israel, a member of the Congressional Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
Israel is calling on the Department of Defense to consider upgrading to armed security personnel at those locations during its review.
In addition to employing armed guards and installing more secure infrastructure at the entrance to Fort Totten, Israel suggested the need to review photo identification of anyone driving in and out of the fort grounds, as well as to observe and monitor pedestrian traffic in and out of the fort for parks and recreational use.
In addition to Fort Totten in northeast Queens, Fort Hamilton in south Brooklyn and Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island are other unarmed military reserve bases in the city, which Public Advocate Letitia James said are vulnerable to international and domestic terrorism.
“We really need to secure the safety of our reserve bases, so we must call on Congress to review security measures in place, but we must also call on Congress to review the major contributor to these kinds of attacks, and that is guns,” James said.
Israel made reference to not only the four Marines and one sailor who were killed earlier this month at the Tennessee Armed Forces recruitment station and Army Reserves training center, but also to 2009 and 2014 shootings at Fort Hood in Texas and the 2013 massacre at the Washington Navy Yard
“At one time the security was adequate, but what we have learned over the past several months and years is that times have changed,” Israel said.
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) pointed out that the federal government and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg left the fort without the resources it needed to provide full-time armed security in 2009.
He said what security is in place is thanks to the volunteer men and women of the FDNY, which is stationed at the 128-acre base along with the NYPD, U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Reserves, the city Department of Parks and Recreation and the Bayside Historical Society.
About 250 full-time employees of those organizations are on the base every day, in addition to up to 2,000 Army personnel, who use the site for training and drilling exercises at least twice a month, Israel said.
Fort Totten FDNY Director of Operations Mack Harris said Fort Totten is unique in its need for more protection because there is a heavy public presence.
“There is an Olympic-size swimming pool, soccer and baseball fields. All these recreational venues are used by the public on a daily basis during the summer months. This makes it very difficult to secure.”
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb