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Fort swings open the gate to community events

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Locked down since 9-11, Fort Hamilton Army base’s new leadership has made good on its promise to open it back up to the public — and some say it has gone above and beyond the call of duty.

“The fort has been fabulous,” said Susan Huizinga, president of the Narrows Community Theater, which has been invited back to the base for the first time in more than 10 years, and will perform its rendition of “42nd Street” at the base’s theater in May.

Narrows Community Theater was the first group to be invited back onto the base after Col. Michael Gould, who took over in late June last year, promised to open the fort gates wider than they had been in over a decade.

So now, instead of just practicing and performing on the grounds, the Narrows Theater is also offering workshops for young performers there.

And, that’s just the beginning.

According to Gould, come spring, the public will get a chance to play on the fort’s two new sports fields, which can be use for baseball, softball and soccer, a deal he says will help ease the crunch on Bay Ridge’s and Dyker Heights’s other park facilities.

“They won’t be a panacea, but we certainly will be able to help,” he said. “The only thing we are trying to work through is the schedule.”

In addition, the Bay Ridge Community Council will be returning to the fort in May to hold its picnic, once an annual event that had not been held at the fort since 9-11, said Council President Alex Conti.

“It’s a fabulous event and we’re very excited to have it come back,” Conti said, pointing out that picnic will be open to the general public.

It’s also likely that volunteers from the Guild for Exceptional Children will be allowed to help out on the base at places like the library.

Fort personnel had analyzed where the volunteers would be most useful, said Gould, and presented the possibilities to Guild leadership last week.

“I’m all for it,” Gould said. “It existed in the past and I wanted to get it going again.”

Gould also said that the fort is trying to develop new overall access policies.

“We are going to allow people to come on as much as possible,” he said. “A lot of people in the community reminisce about movies on the fort, about carnivals that were held here. We want to get back to that point.”

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