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Northeast Queens community leaders said they were concerned Fort Totten could fall prey to vandalism and burglary after the FDNY announced last week that it would not renew a security contract at the Bayside fort amid budget constraints.
FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer said Fort Totten’s security will be handed over to Flushing’s 109th Precinct March 1, when the department’s contract expires. The fort is currently guarded by FDNY members, who occupy a booth at its entrance gate.
But Detective Kevin O’Donnell, a spokesman for the 109th Precinct, said police would not stand guard outside the fort. At most, the precinct would send a squad car to occasionally patrol the fort’s perimeters.
Warren Schreiber, president of Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said he was deeply concerned that Fort Totten would be endangered by the lack of security.
“We’re concerned about vandalism, arson and graffiti,” he said. “The buildings are not locked, so homeless squatters could get through the windows or doors. I realize that the police and fire departments have strained resources, but this is a major concern for the community.”
Community group Friends of Fort Totten Parks sent a letter to the FDNY to protest the budget cuts.
But O’Donnell said there are a number of other groups stationed at the fort aside from the FDNY. The fort, bounded by the Long Island Sound and the Cross Island Parkway, is also home to an Army National Guard unit, a Police Department K−9 unit, an emergency services unit, an EMS academy and the auxiliary Coast Guard.
“If [the FDNY] drops security, it would just become part of the regular patrol of that area,” he said. “We don’t do security, we patrol neighborhoods.”
Dwyer said the FDNY had spent $650,000 per year for security at the fort. The department did not renew its contract after Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced city budget cuts, he said. The FDNY booth has been providing round−the−clock security at the fort’s entrance gate since 2007.
In a statement, the city Parks Department said it was grateful to the FDNY for securing the park.
“We will continue to work with the relevant city agencies to maintain a safe environment at Fort Totten,” the statement read.
Schreiber said the community is still holding out hope that security would be provided at the fort.
“We hope they will change their mind because we think it’s a bad idea,” he said.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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