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Pallone Assails Park Service for Signing Wassel Lease Agreement Before Monday Meeting

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U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) issued the following statement this afternoon after learning the National Park Service has signed a lease agreement allowing Wassel to redevelop Fort Hancock at Sandy Hook.

"I simply cannot believe the National Park Service went ahead and signed a lease agreement with Wassel before a scheduled Monday meeting with me and members of Save Sandy Hook to discuss the proposal.

"Since the National Park Service first began exploring the idea of revitalizing Fort Hancock, I've attempted to work with the agency to find an acceptable middle ground that would save the historic buildings, but not over-commercialize Fort Hancock. I'd hoped we could continue that work on Monday, but now the National Park Service has gone ahead and approved a lease without even giving me the opportunity to see its contents beforehand. I was not provided any information until the lease agreement had been signed today.

"Unfortunately, I have no other choice than to oppose the final signed agreement because it begins the dangerous course of commercializing Fort Hancock. The National Park Service repeatedly assured me that any revitalization would not interfere with its longstanding agreements to include nonprofits and education programs on its grounds.

"Despite those assurances, only one of the seven buildings included in the first phase will go to a nonprofit or education program, the Brookdale Community College's Oceanographic Center. According to the Park Service, all six of the other buildings will be restored for commercial purposes consisting of five bed and breakfasts and one cafe.

"I also object to the National Park Service's willingness to sign off on an agreement giving Wassel more than five years to complete its revitalization project. This long timeframe is a clear indication to me that Wassel is going to have a difficult time coming up with the resources to complete this project in a timely fashion.

"After two years of discussions, the National Park Service shut us out when it really mattered most. Unfortunately, I cannot support this final agreement."

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