SANDY HOOK – Plans are moving along significantly for the acquisition and restoration of two buildings at Fort Hancock and their conversion to facilities that will meet the Naval Science program needs of MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology, a jubilant Freeholder Director Lillian Burry announced yesterday.
Burry said Monmouth County officials had “a very productive meeting” with the National Park Service last week, and decisions have been made on the materials to be used in the rehabilitation and restoration of two buildings adjacent to the current MAST campus on the historic army installation. The material selection is significant, she said, to maintain the Park Service’s commitment to the history of the entire army base, the primary defense for New York Harbor since the 19th century.
Building 23, once an army barracks and now in shambles with a collapsed roof and extensive interior damage, will have four Naval Science classrooms, offices for Naval Science instructors, lockers and showers to accompany the drill hall. The building will be expanded to increase the square footage needed to accommodate the drill hall, using the original materials. The original yellow brick used as a veneer over the interior red brick walls in the 19th century building has been tested. All parties involved in the construction are in agreement with the soundness of the materials.
Building 56, a smaller building in front of Building 23, is considered to be structurally sound and suitable for reuse, the Director said, indicating 56 will be used for equipment storage, including NJROTC uniforms and supplies. There will be no exterior changes to that building, Burry continued, but the structure will be stabilized and renovated as the storage facility. Currently, MAST rents trailers to house all their supplies and uniforms.
The plans agreed upon at last week’s meeting will now be forwarded to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) to determine the impact of the project on the cultural resources of the army base as a whole. Some Park Service officials have indicated its support for the proposal, and school officials hope there will be no objections from the Council. Plans will also be reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consider the degree of environmental impact the project may have. “The proposed addition to Building 23 for the Drill Hall is relatively small,” Burry said, “so the impact on the environment is minimal.”
Total cost of the proposal has not yet been determined. “However, the cost of the overall project reflects the assurance the Park Service goal of restoration and reuse of historical buildings rather than new construction is protected,” the Freeholder said. “We wholeheartedly endorse them in their commitment to preservation of the buildings that have played such a significant role in not only Monmouth County’s history but that of the nation’s defense system as well.”
Currently, MAST students, all of whom are members of the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC), a requirement at the award winning County-run facility, have no gym or drill hall and conduct all their exercises and marching drills on Pershing Field, in front of Building 23, regardless of weather.
Eric Wagner, AIA, of Kellenyi Johnson Wagner, architectural firm in Red Bank, is the principal architect for the restoration for the Monmouth County Vocational School District. Following this last meeting and agreement, he will continue to work on more detailed drawings for the buildings and a firmer estimate of the overall cost.
“The Park Service continues to be outstanding working with our County Board of Education to bring this much needed facility to reality,” Burry said. “The cooperative efforts between our County officials and Park Service personnel have moved along a dream that will become a much needed indoor space for the cadets who each year continue to bring honor and awards back home while achieving their own success not only while at MAST, but onto college and their professional careers.”
Earl Moore is principal of MAST, one of the five career academies in the Monmouth County district. The district accepts students for the four-year high school without discrimination of the basis of race, creed, color, orientation, religion, disability or socioeconomic status. Students are required to be active members of the Navy Junior ROTC program during their high school years, though there is no recruitment nor requirement for military service after graduation.