By Sophia Chang
With the recent announcement that Fort Totten has been all but acquired by the city for use as a public park, area residents may soon be able to do the same.”It's hard to believe we're in New York City,” Bloomberg said after the tour July 28, with state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and city Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe.On July 20 the National Parks Service and the Department of Defense began the transfer of the fort to the city for use as a public park under the auspices of the city Parks Department. The fort had been commissioned in 1857 as a Civil War-era Army base and then as training grounds for the military, the Police and Fire departments, and as a site for various non-profits. Once the transfer is completed, the city will assume 49.5 acres, with an additional 10 acres to be handed over from the U.S. Coast Guard at a later date.”The city has 578 miles of shoreline that has been sadly long neglected,” Bloomberg said. “This part of the neglect is ending.” He added that with the transfer completed, Queens will soon be tied with Staten Island as the city's “greenest” borough. Parts of the park are already open to the public, including soccer fields and some of the restored buildings that house non-profit organizations like the Bayside Historical Society. Padavan said a visitors' center may be added to the park, and Benepe said that more non-profit organizations may possibly find a home in other buildings. Plans are on hold for a waterfront restaurant and catering hall to be run by Dominick Bruccoleri, owner of Papazzio restaurant and 39 East in Bayside.The 77th Regional Readiness Command, an Army Reserve unit that has used the fort for training, will stay at its 38 acres on the fort. Bloomberg said that although the fort will be open to the public, the 77th facilities will be restricted with a secure, fenced-in perimeter.Padavan said the Fire Department had kept the grounds in good condition during its stay at the fort. “The Fire Department made sure everything is taken care of and protected,” he said.Bloomberg praised the natural beauty of the fort and its location on the Little Neck Bay, with views of the Whitestone Bridge. “With a superb location and breathtaking views of the sound, it's destined to become one of the most spectacular parks,” he said. “What's not to like?”Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.