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New Fort Hamilton chief wants to open the gates

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By Helen Klein

The new commander of Fort Hamilton plans to continue what his predecessor began, building bridges between the garrison and the community in which it sits.

Chief among these, said Col. Michael Gould, who took over from departing Col. Stephen Smith on June 29, is looking for ways to reopen the fort to neighborhood residents, who have been largely shut out because of security concerns since the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

In the halcyon days before 9-11, community groups held picnics on the fort, local theater groups used fort facilities and residents streamed in for such events as the Twilight Tattoo.

“We are going to do everything we can to do those sorts of things again,” Gould said. “We are looking at how we can make the post more open to the community in a way which maintains our security. If we are creative and energetic about it, we can find ways to do many of the things that historically were done here.”

Among Gould’s immediate goals is heading out into the community, to converse with residents, activists and government officials. The goal, he said, is, “To solicit their ideas as to what we can do to improve what is already a good relationsh­ip.”

That good relationship, he added, is beneficial both to military families living on the fort, and local businesses and residents. For instance, a coupon book for military families that was put together last year by Community Board 10 was something that not only helped the families living on the base, but aided merchants looking to drum up business.

“Any way we can do things like that, we will definitely look at,” Gould remarked. “We will pursue any opportunities to interact on any level, and aggressively put out information [about the community to residents of the base] so it’s well known.

“There’s no shortage of things families can be involved in, in the local community,” Gould added. “We have got to do the job of getting the word out.”

His outreach effort will not just be limited to military families living on the base and local residents and businesspeople. Rather, Gould said, he wants to “reach out to every family that has a military connection to make them aware of the services we have here.” Such outreach, Gould added, will not be restricted to Brooklyn but will encompass all of New York City.

In addition, said Gould, he wants to use the bully pulpit provided by his position as fort commander “To tell the Army story. I like to say we’re the face of the Army here in New York City. We have great soldiers, and we want Americans to know how proud they can be of their service and what they do every day.”

The fort’s best days are still ahead, Gould added. With a reserve center under construction at Fort Hamilton, the base is “growing,” Gould noted. “I think there is a lot of untapped potential here, to do more, grow more. The Army can certainly benefit more from what we have here, so I think the fort’s trajectory is upward.”

Nonetheless, Gould declined to express an opinion as to whether the fort would be safe from closure the next time a Base Closure Commission is convened by the Department of Defense, as it was in 1995 and 2005.

“I have no idea what’s in the future,” Gould said. “From my perspective, I see Fort Hamilton as thriving and on the cusp of realizing more potential, but those decisions are political in nature, way above my pay grade.”

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Reader Feedback

Susan Huizinga from Bay Ridge says:
Narrows Community Theater called the Fort Hamilton Army Base home until 9/11. Since then we've been "wandering minstrels" and have tried several times to get back into the Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater. As a matter of fact, our lights are still hung in the theater and we don't know what happened to our props, sets and costumes. If anyone can get us back in there, we'd be happy once again.

We are doing "Les Miserables School Edition" and would love to put the show on at our old home.

How do I get in touch with someone there?
Susan Huizinga
President, Narrows Community Theater, Inc.
718 482 3173
July 23, 2010, 2:13 pm
Betty Johnson from Bay Ridge says:
As a member of Narrows Community Theater we had a wonderful relationship with the Fort Hamilton Base for many years, until 9/11.
As of now we are homeless and would lov e to return. We also miss the community picnics and the famous Tattoo events.
July 23, 2010, 5:56 pm
Pat Knutsen from Bay Ridge says:
After 39 years as a theater group in Bay Ridge,it would be great if NCT could get back into the Fort to put on shows again. They have been "wandering minstrels" for many years, and it would wonderful if they could perform in that beautiful theater again!
July 23, 2010, 9:17 pm
Jay Casiano from Ann Arbor, MI says:
Hi Everybody,

This is a message for Col. Michael Gould -New Commander, Fort Hamilton: Back on June 1966, I volunteered for duty in the USAF. I was just a young kid of 18yrs from Bedford Stuyvesant, NY and Fort Hamilton was my induction center. I served my country for 8 years, with four of those years in Vietnam(1967-1971).

I join the Air Force for fear of going to Vietnam. After one year thru basic and flight training at Lackland/Kelly AFB, TX, I ended up volunteering for Vietnam. I am surprised that Fort Hamilton is still opened for business. I though the government was planning shutdown places like Fort Hamilton. Colonel, Fort Hamilton has special place in my heart. Good Luck on your new post. Jay
March 7, 2011, 3:53 pm

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