SANDY HOOK – While the National Park Service continues its study into whether the Stillman Development International company will receive approval to convert 21 dilapidated Officers Rows homes into apartments, at least two other leases are forging ahead and are nearing completion with the improvements and rehabilitation they are making in two different sections of Fort Hancock.
Barney Sheridan of Summit Hill, Pa., a restaurateur, has already received a certificate of occupancy for a new lunch dining spot in the former Post Exchange (building #53) situated next to the former gas station (Bldg #60)in the parking lot near the Sandy Hook Light House.
McFly’s on the Hook opened its doors briefly several weeks ago when warm temperatures and sunny skies brought thousands of bikers, birdwatchers, hikers, beachgoers and motorists to the Fort Hancock Historic Post area of the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreational Area, and many stopped in to purchase hot and cold beverages and packaged snacks.
“They were happy I was here” the cheery Sheridan said, “many said they can’t wait until the warm weather when they’ll also be able to get sandwiches and even ice cream at McFly’s.”
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Sheridan said he first decided to sign on to one of the 60 year leases required of any tenant on Fort Hancock, when he saw a sign announcing the building was for lease.
“I wouldn’t say it was meant to be,” he explained earnestly, “ but it was rather strange how it came about.”
The businessman said he and his wife were in Sea Bright visiting friends three and a half years ago when he decided to go cycling at Sandy Hook. “I cycled for a while, and thought, gee, there are a lot of bike trails here and it’s a long way to go to the end.” Tiring and trying to decide whether to stop and rest or turn around and head back off the Hook, Sheridan said he decided to go “just a little further.” That’s when he saw the For Lease sign and decided to investigate further. “It’s such a beautiful, fantastic area,” he said, “who wouldn’t want to have a business and come to work out here every day?”
PHOTO: Interior view of McFly’s on the Hook
It then took the next three and a half years for Sheridan to secure all the necessary permits, review all the requirements for a lease, contract with all the approved builders who could rehabilitate the building to the NPS’s stringent historic regulations, and build an ADA accessible ramp for the facility which is located up a double set of steps.
“Seeing all the people who came that one sunny weekend restored my faith in local history and in restoring history,” Sheridan said.
Although he has completed the renovations to the interior of the building, including new floors, numerous repairs and paint throughout the high ceilinged two room complex, Sheridan said he is putting off regular open hours and service until April 1 when more visitors are expected on a daily basis.
Although he declined to say how many tens of thousands of dollars it was necessary to spend to bring the building to the Park Service’s stringent historic preservation standards, Sheridan shrugged and said, “It is what it is. This is a piece of history and I am able to help keep it here. I know all those visitors who walk through Fort Hancock and appreciate the beauty here will also appreciate a place to stop for a snack, a soda, or a sandwich as well.”