Recently, the corner of Jerome Avenue and E. Gun Hill Road in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, came to life with passersby peering into a new storefront. What was the excitement about?
It was the grand opening of a new career center for the 105th Air Wing of the New York Air National Guard stationed at Stewart Air Force Base in Newburgh, NY, about 70 miles north of NYC. A separate unit of the U.S. Air Force, it’s the Guard’s first recruiting facility located outside an air base. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District Real Estate Division helped secure space and manage alterations, and will oversee lease administration and operations. Nearly one-third of the 105ths recruits come from the five boroughs of the city — Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx.
Joint Recruiting Facilities Program
The new facility is part of a larger initiative: The Department of Defense’s Joint Recruiting Facilities Program, where the NY District provides real estate support to 500+ recruiting facilities for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Army National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard. During the grand opening, Cartavius A. Whitehead, program manager and chief of the Metro New York-New Jersey Acquisition Branch, was recognized with a Challenge Coin for helping establish the station. The District also manages military installations within its jurisdiction, including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, an hour north of Manhattan; Fort Drum in upstate NY; and Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst in NJ, among others.
“It’s very satisfying to see the results of the District’s hard work benefit recruiting,” noted Mr. Whitehead, adding, “Real estate support for the military is an important mission of the Army Corps of Engineers that many may not be aware of.”
“The District is pleased to take part in this important event,” said Noreen Dean Dresser, chief of the Real Estate Division, adding, “It’s a great example of our support to all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces in NY and NJ.”
In an interview, Mr. Whitehead, a seasoned professional in Federal Real Property overseeing a staff of 12, spoke about the acquisition process. Beginning with a validated and funded recruiting program action, market research examines existing area businesses and gauges landlord interest. Sites are identified and potential tenants view them. Each party completes a 13-category rating sheet for each site and data is entered into the Rental Facilities Management Information System; the site with the highest score is the winning site. Whenever possible, branches of the military are co-located to save money, i.e., the Army and Navy working from separate offices at the same station.
Once a site is selected, renovation costs are negotiated to meet workspace requirements, a lease is signed, the District takes control of the space, and it’s prepared for occupancy. When asked what he finds most challenging about the process, Mr. Whitehead spoke about “getting the best value for the government’s money,” as the District often competes with private business that can afford higher rents. That said, hours in the field scouting potential sites, staff usually secure appropriate space.
Beyond recruitment, armed forces career centers often strengthen the neighborhoods where they’re located. Storefronts increase foot traffic creating more customers for businesses, helping the local economy. The federal government’s investment — including significant rent monies — stays in the area, something that’s not lost on Mr. Whitehead: “Observing neighborhoods over time, you can see how facilities benefit communities,” said Mr. Whitehead, adding, “I can see this facility having a positive impact.”
The Real Estate Division has a staff of 30 realty specialists, appraisers, and fiscal and audit control personnel working closely with federal, state and local agencies, including the General Services Administration. The Division also promotes the federal government’s interests in environmental protection of real property, land use planning, and cost-effective evaluation and action plans for project development in accordance with District goals.
Many other Corps of Engineers’ Districts provide real estate support for the military, providing a network serving the entire country. The next time you pass a military recruiting facility, know that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plays an important role helping attract and attain quality men and women to the U.S Armed Forces, maintaining a strong military and enhancing the security of our nation.