NJ officials push to extend freeze on NWS Earle public housing
COLTS NECK — Wednesday marked the end of a freeze for stopping developers from allowing developers to open housing on Naval Weapons Station Earle to members of the public. But with President Donald Trump's administration less than a month old, local authorities are hoping for more time to make the ban longer.
The base, which stretches from Colts Neck to Middletown and into Sandy Hook, provides ammunition and bombs to ships and personnel all over the world, raising concerns about the security of the equipment and personnel on base if regular citizens were allowed to live there.
State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, and officials at the county and municipal levels expressed their concerns about the plan as part of an effort to convince the Navy and the developer, Balfour Beatty, to cancel the plan and look for alternatives.
The freeze was implemented as part of a larger plan to fill housing on the base. Housing is initially offered to active duty service members, followed by retirees, veterans, and employees of the Department of Defense. At that point, citizens would be eligible to apply for housing, a practice that is done at bases around the country. Beck said earlier that the developer has gone through one cycle of attempting to fill the housing and was in the middle of a second round when the freeze was implemented.
With a new administration, the officials said they want to ensure the decision makers are as educated about the situation as possible.
"I am seeking that an additional stay be granted so we can bring Navy officials up to speed with the widespread public opposition to the incredibly serious safety issues associated with this proposal," Beck said.
Freeholder Lillian Burry, who has been involved in issues surrounding the base for many years, said this is a critical juncture for Earle.
"By virtue of the mission that Earle so aptly carries on the storage and movement of munitions, this thought should never be entertained," she said of having the general public living within the base's gates. "The recent events in our area at Seaside Heights and Chelsea in New York, serve to amplify the fact that this base should be secured for military use only."
A letter expressing their concerns was sent to Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy Steven Iselin with Tinton Falls Mayor Gerald Turning calling for a meeting with the military to discuss the status of this plan now that the freeze has ended.
"I am vehemently opposed to the current proposal to allow civilians to obtain housing at Earle and will work with my colleagues to explore all possible avenues to fight this proposal."
That includes Colts Neck Mayor Russell Macnow, who said the Township has "many questions regarding the viability of this proposal and the impact it will have on our municipality."
While any civilian residents who lived on the base would have to go through a thorough application process and be subject to the same screening process as guests on the base, Beck said that is not enough to ensure the security of not only people who live there, but also in the surrounding areas as well.
"In light of the nature of recent terror attacks, where lone individuals with no prior criminal history have completed, or attempted to complete heinous acts, it is inconceivable that this plan is being put into action," Beck said in the letter to Iselin. "If we are to learn anything from the attacks on Fort Hood, the Navy Reserve Center in Chattanooga, TN, and the 2007 Fort Dix plot, it is that our military bases can be targets for extremists."
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com