IMAGE: Rendering of a rehabilitated Building 23 at Fort Hancock

SANDY HOOK – Progress and financing for the rehabilitation of two historic buildings on Fort Hancock are proceeding at a rapid pace, with the Monmouth County Board of School Estimates allocating $2.9 million to advance the first phases of bidding and construction for the additions to MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology. But the public will not be able to see any of the ongoing activity until the fall.  That’s because of the National Park Service mandate to protect the Ospreys.

On April 11, the Board of School Estimates authorized $2.9 million for the reconstruction of buildings 23 and 56 directly across from MAST Way, the road leading to the 11 buildings currently leased to MAST by the National Park Service.  The budgeted amount is part of the overall tax levy Monmouth County imposes to finance all the schools in the County Board of Education’s Vocational School district.

The authorization enables the district to continue the planning and initial work for demolishing portions of the building and reserving materials for its reconstruction ensuring it retains the historic integrity of the buildings built in 1900 and active during two world wars and the Korean conflict.

But back to the ospreys. Osprey, often referred to as fish hawks, are large migratory birds with bodies approximately 24 inches in length and wingspans of six feet or more.  They arrive annually at Sandy Hook in the spring and made their nests from twigs and branches in high areas, generally the tops of dead trees or the tops of building. This spring, a pair of ospreys built their nest at the top of one exterior wall still standing of Building 56, despite the building’s roof collapsing three years ago. Because ospreys are an endangered species, having been almost completely wiped out in the 1970s due to the use of the pesticide DDT, all exterior work, excessive noise and proximity to the nest must be halted until the eggs, generally two or three, have hatched, the babies fledge, and the family heads south for the winter, generally in the fall.  Once the ospreys have vacated their home, work can progress on the building for MAST.

“Everything will be in good order to proceed with the actual rehabilitation as soon as the ospreys leave, thanks to last month’s action by the Board of School Estimates,” said Collette Flatt, business administrator for the school district.

The Board of School Estimates is comprised of two representatives of the Vocational District and three members of the Board of Freeholders.  For this meeting, it was comprised of Board vice president Dennis Ingoglia and Board member Brian D. McAndrew, Freeholder Director Tom Arnone, Deputy Director Lillian C. Burry, and Patrick Impreveduto.   The buildings, when complete, will expand the MAST campus and include a drill area, four classrooms and offices in the Building 23, a former barracks, and storage and ancillary uses in Building 56, a former mess hall. The expanded storage area will enable the school to eliminate the three trailers currently on campus for use as a storage facility. Currently, there is no gym or indoor space large enough to accommodate drills for students, all members of the NJROTC program.

The County has a long-term lease for its buildings with the Park Service and is currently working on a letter of intent for lease of the rehabilitated buildings, according to Peter McCarthy, superintendent at Sandy Hook.  The approved funding enables the school district to continue to move forward with the project. The boards’ architects, Kellenyi, Johnson and Wagner, Red |Bank, have been working closely with all levels of federal government and historic architects in ensuring the integrity of historic design and preservation of materials for the reconstruction.

PHOTO: Building 23 with collapsed roof

Once the ospreys leave their nest for winter migration, work can begin on the actual demolition and restoration.

“This is a win win situation for everyone,” McCarthy pointed out. “It preserves historic structures on Sandy Hook, enables the school district to provide a drill hall for the cadets, and still maintains the historic integrity thousands of visitors come to see and learn from.”

“I couldn’t be happier about the approval of funds and the continued progress towards completion,” Freeholder |Burry said. Both as a freeholder and as a member of the Fort Hancock 21st Century Federal Advisory Committee, she has long been a staunch advocate and has led the fight to have MAST expanded and the buildings preserved.  “It is the mission of the committee to provide advice on the development of a reuse plan and future uses of the Fort Hancock Historic District, and rehabilitation these two all-important buildings facing both Pershing Field and McGruder Road is a masterful step in accomplishing so much for so many.”

“The design and adaptive reuse of the two buildings are aligned with the goals of both the school district’s and the Parker Services,” said MAST principal Earl Moore. The construction will meet present and future MAST program needs.”’