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Why Is The Park Service Bending Over Backwards For Developer?

Why is the NPS so determined to help a developer who lacks financing?

Why is the NPS so determined to help a developer who lacks financing?

National Park Service Director Mary Bomar months ago promised that the agency would improve its business savvy. And yet, her agency seems to be ignoring sound business judgment in its seemingly blind desire to see a developer who lacks deep pockets turn a portion of Gateway National Recreation Area into a commercial district.

After all, why else would the Park Service give James Wassel one more year to come up with the financing to fund his project?

Back in 2001, Mr. Wassel was awarded a 60-year-lease on 34 historic buildings in the Fort Hancock section of Gateway National Recreation Area, contingent upon him proving he had the financing to restore and operate the facilities. That was six years ago. Now he has another year to show the Park Service the money.

This isn't simply a paper chase, either, as Mr. Wassel has already started work on the project despite failing to demonstrate he's got the financing to get it done.

Think about it. If you wanted to buy a house and applied for a mortgage, how long would your lender extend the time limit for you to prove you had the down payment? And would the bank let you move into that house before you demonstrated the ability to afford it? Of course not; that'd be imprudent.

And yet, that essentially is what the Park Service is doing. And with Mr. Wassel's company already working on restoration of three buildings at historic Fort Hancock, what will the Park Service do if he never finds the financing and goes broke before he gets that work done?

The Asbury Park Press, which has been bird-dogging this story since the get-go, thinks things have gone so awry that it's calling for a federal investigation into the matter.

This project has had a foul odor from the beginning. The selection process was flawed. The commercialization aspects of the project are at odds with the Park Service's core mission. And the repeated extensions granted to Wassel are beyond absurd. It's time to cut this guy loose. And it's time for Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., whose district includes Fort Hancock, to demand a federal investigation.

You can read the entire editorial at this site.


The entire scenerio surrounding this proposed plan for Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook Unit is totally suspicious to me. I believe that the ultimate goal of the National Park Service is to divest itself of this property at a huge profit to private developers. This is a tiny National Park that that just happens to have magnificent oceanfront & riverfront land that overlooks New York City, which is just 22 miles across the water. Can you imagine what the value to the elete, monied Wall Streeters (or any other super rich clientele) to own this real estate would be??? Why can't it be left for its intended purpose--the recreational use of the public?
Why should the public allow the NPS to lose our incredibly soul pleasing National Park to a corporate/business park????

I think that once lost to the public it will become an extremely exclusive enclave for the extremely wealthy. The ordinary citizen will be excluded from this oasis of peace & serenity in New Jersey. This land was set aside for the public because of its unique situation & the desire for it to be in the public (not private) domain.

An Act of Congress set this land aside as a National Park. The National Park Service has neglected it rather than act as its steward. The NPS does not own the park, the public does. Perhaps the public needs to fire the steward.

Tied to this scenerio is the proposed replacement of the Highlands/Sea Bright bridge with a 65-70 ft. high bridge that, in my estimation, is a very dangerous height in this environment--especially in the winter. The approaches and related road building would enhance the development on Sandy Hook. Gee, isn't that convenient. This would seem to fly in the face of the endangered species and environmental issues. The bridge forms a part of the scenic view of the Twin Lights light house. If the bridge is really unrepairable why not replace it with a copy of the original. If some folks are dismayed with having to wait for a sail boat to go through the drawbridge in the summer, perhaps the ire should be directed to the sailboat owners rather than the bridge. Make the sailboats conform to the height of the bridge, or moor at another marina where they are not the cause of such friction. I, personally, find waiting for a sail boat to regally glide by a thing of beauty. The few minutes of wait are a pleasant opportunity to enjoy the scenery.

There is, in Federal District Court in Trenton, a lawsuit involving the propsed developer. That the NPS appears to be trying a backdoor approach to forcing the developer on the public is unconscionable to me. The questions that come to mind are: what is really going on; why is this being allowed to proceed: who has what on whom?

This is a serious inroad to the National Park system. If this NPS plan is successful it will be the trendsetter for other National Parks. We, the public, stand to lose a tremendous asset here in NJ to greed. Where will it go next?

Is this a case of damn the public, full speed ahead for developers?


I am against developers commerciallizing our historic sites by turning old buildings into commercial use like B & B's, restaurants, etc. But, let's face it, I see so many buildings neglected due to lack of finances that they deteriate with little or no maintenance.

The only way to safe the structures is more funding, which has been lacking in the NPS, or turn them over for economic gain.

So much money goes to defence contractors than education, preservation, etc.

That is how I feel.


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