By John Burton
FORT HANCOCK – Brookdale Community College has decided to walk away from its longstanding use of a facility at Fort Hancock.
Linda Milstein, the college’s vice president for outreach, business and community development, said as things currently stand, plans call for the college to leave its facility at Building 53, probably at the end of the summer.
While the college appreciates what the unique environment at Fort Hancock and at the Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook has to offer students, “the building that we’ve been in up to now is in need of major renovations and it really does not have the spaces that would be ideal for us,” Milstein said. “So it doesn’t make sense for us to invest in renovating that building.”
College representatives have “explored other buildings with the [National] Park Service and right now, there is not a facility that works well with us,” she said.
Peter McCarthy, unit coordinator for the Sandy Hook recreation area, acknowledged Milstein’s and the college’s concerns adding, “At this point we’re sorry to see them go, but we understand.”
Brookdale is Monmouth County’s community college, with its main campus in the Lincroft section of Middletown and satellite locations around the county. The college has been using the building and the national park grounds for its environmental science, marine science and similar programs.
“They’re important programs to us,” Milstein said.
The college expects to transfer those classes and programs to its Northern Monmouth Higher Education Center in Hazlet. Plans call for the continuing use of Sandy Hook for field trips, she said.
The 6,180 square-foot building, dates back to 1900, McCarthy said.
“The exterior needs some work,” he acknowledged. “The interior, for a modern educational facility, that would be a significant investment.”
Park representatives evaluated the space and its infrastructure and determined that to make if functional for a continued or another use would probably mean investing between $150,000 and $450,000, McCarthy said.
The park historian’s records say Brookdale has been out at the fort since about 1968, first at the visitors’ center, and then at this building since 1976, according to McCarthy.
The college paid $15,295 from July 1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2011 for a special-use permit to use the location, Avis McMillon, Brookdale’s interim director of marketing, said.
“We will continue to discuss and explore other opportunities to relocate there,” Milstein said.
Fort Hancock is a former U.S. Army artillery installation located at the northern tip of Sandy Hook, designed to protect New York Harbor. It was decommissioned in 1974. Since then it has been part of the Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook.
The fort is home to a handful of other not-for-profit organizations, such as the environmental organizations Clean Ocean Action, the American Littoral Society and the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium; Sandy Hook Child Care Center; AIDS Research Foundation for Children; and the Marine Academy of Science and Technology.