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NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL v. MARSH

July 21, 1983

NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, INC., THE PARKS COUNCIL, INC., HUDSON RIVER SLOOP CLEARWATER, INC., TERENCE H. BENBOW, ELEANOR TODD, ROSS SANDLER, PAUL REITMAN, WILBERFORCE D. SIMMONS, VIRDELL M. SANDERS, ANTOINETTE C. JACKSON, and GLORIA VERDELL, Plaintiffs,
v.
JOHN O. MARSH, JR., as Secretary of the Army, DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, JOHN LEHMAN, as Secretary of the Navy, WILLIAM J. RYAN, as Director of the Navy Resale and Support Office, DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY, and JAMES G. WATT, as Secretary of the Interior, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEAHER

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

EDWARD R. NEAHER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 Invoking primarily the Gateway National Recreation Area Act, 16 U.S.C. § 460cc et seq. ("Gateway Act"), plaintiffs brought this action against the Secretaries of the Army, Navy and Interior, and the Director of the Navy Resale and Support Office ("NAVRESSO", seeking to enjoin NAVRESSO's occupancy of federal buildings located in the Fort Wadsworth military reservation on Staten Island and to compel the Department of the Interior to accept custody of any portions of the Fort relinquished by the Army. The parties agree that no triable issues of fact are presented and each side has moved for summary judgment. *fn1" The Court also is of opinion that the controversy between the parties is solely one of law and that summary disposition pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 is appropriate. Mobil Oil Corp. v. Federal Energy Administration, 566 F.2d 87, 92 (Temp. Emer. Ct. App. 1977).

 Plaintiffs are organizations and individuals having a commendable interest in the preservation of the environment. *fn2" Essentially they contend that the military defendants thwarted the plainly expressed intent of Congress that all of Fort Wadsworth, totaling 226 acres, *fn3" should become part of the Gateway recreation area as soon as the Army relocated or phased out its existing operations there. The violation of legislative intent, they maintain, occurred in 1981 when the Army, after having transferred its last operational activity, granted the Navy a five year permit for the use of three buildings and ten surrounding acres of land in the Fort as NAVRESSO's worldwide headquarters, pursuant to directions of the Department of Defense (DOD).

 The principal issue to be decided is whether the Gateway Act was violated, as plaintiffs contend, by reason of that transaction. Since questions of statutory construction are raised, a brief discussion of the purposes of the Act and its expressed limitations is in order at the outset.

 At the time of its enactment in 1972, the Gateway Act was viewed by its Congressional sponsors as a new concept for the national park system. Noting that the densely populated New Jersey-New York metropolitan region included many beachfront properties in the New York Harbor vicinity which ought to be preserved for outdoor recreational use, Congress established a "recreation area" in the region. 16 U.S.C. § 460cc. The "area" as depicted on a boundary map was divided into six described "units": (1) Jamaica Bay, (2) Breezy Point, (3) Sandy Hook, (4) Staten Island, (5) Hoffman and Swinburne Islands, and (6) all adjacent submerged lands, islands and waters. Id. Within the boundaries of the recreation area, the Secretary of the Interior, who was designated as the administrator, was authorized to acquire lands, waters or interests therein by "donation, purchase or exchange," except that lands owned by New York or New Jersey, or any political subdivisions thereof, could only be acquired by donation. § 460cc-1, 2.

 Overall the designated recreation area comprised some 26,172 acres of land, waters, marshes and submerged lands in the New York Harbor area. Of those 26,172 acres, 22,000 were owned by the States of New York and New Jersey and political subdivisions thereof. Thus the creation of parkland utilizing that acreage depended wholly upon the Cooperation of the political entities in control of such property.

 In enacting the Gateway Act, Congress was aware that a number of federally-owned properties totaling some 3,737 acres were included within the boundaries of the recreation area, some of which were military installations. One of these was Fort Wadsworth located within the Staten Island unit, which is the focus of this controversy. During the House debate on the bill which, as amended, became the Act, a member of the House Committee on Armed Services strongly objected to a provision which would have immediately turned over military installations located in the Gateway area to the control of the Secretary of the Interior. Reading from the Armed Services committee report, the member noted that the Secretary of Defense had advised that Forts Tilden, Hancock and Wadsworth could not be released to the Interior Department, and that Fort Wadsworth in particular "will not become excess to military requirements within the foreseeable future." The member further pointed out that under House rules the Committee on Armed Services was given the authority to determine whether property under the control of the Defense Department shall be declared excess or not. *fn4" 118 Cong. Rec. H8754.

 To overcome the Armed Services Committee objection, the provision was deleted and replaced by the following limitation regarding federal property located within the area:

 With the concurrence of the agency having custody thereof, any Federal property within the boundaries of the recreation area may be transferred, without consideration, to the administrative jurisdiction of the Secretary [of the Interior] for administration as a part of the recreation area.

 § 460cc-1(b).

 Before considering the effect of the foregoing amendment, additional facts must be stated, none of which are in dispute. On June 5, 1979, the Army announced its decision to relocate the Army Chaplain School and close Fort Wadsworth; and in November it issued an interim permit to the National Park Service to occupy and use 81 acres of the Fort. Subsequently, the Army decided to retain 12 acres for an Armed Forces Reserve Center, and thereafter was directed by the Department of Defense to retain 28 additional acres, containing 116 family housing units, which were needed to house married personnel from all Services assigned to the New York area within commuting distance.

 The latter directive prompted the Department of Interior to notify the Secretary of Defense on June 24, 1980, that

 the National Park Service is not in position to assume jurisdiction of any additional lands at Ft. Wadsworth under these circumstances. It is our view that under these conditions the Army should retain all of the post in appropriate care and custody until such time as the entire site is available for transfer, as contemplated by the legislation and all earlier discussions.

 NAR Tab 2. *fn5" The Army nevertheless filed the necessary report with the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 2662, stating its intention to dispose of the Fort as excess except for the housing units and the ...


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