|Scandal At Fort Totten:
82-Year-Old Historian Charged With
Sex Abuse Of 10-Year-Old Boy
By TAMARA HARTMAN
The man who has spent the past 33 years of
his life educating visitors about the officers who were stationed at Fort Totten was
arrested last week on a charge that he sexually abused a 10-year-old boy.
Jack Fein, who will turn 83 this week, was
charged with the following three misdemeanors: sexual abuse in the second degree,
endangering the welfare of a child, and sexual abuse in the third degree. He was also
charged with the lesser violation of harrassment in the second degree. The most serious
charge carries a possible maximum sentence of one year in jail.
Fort Totten historian Jack Fein was arrested last week
on charges of sexual abuse of a 10-year-old.
Tribune Photo By Dee Richard
Police sources said that the young
boy claims Fein repeatedly hugged him, kissed him on the face, and rubbed his hands
against the boys buttocks while they were alone in the Fort Totten Museum in the
afternoon of Feb. 22. The boys father, who reportedly new Fein from Fort tours, was
waiting outside for his son to return from talking to Fein when the alleged incident
Fein was taken into custody on Feb. 24 and
arraigned before Judge Stephen Painter. Since he has no prior record and he does have
strong ties to the Bayside community, Fein was released on his own recognizance and will
have a hearing on March 22. He is currently being represented by Legal Aid Attorney Don
Morrison did not return calls from the Tribune
for comment and Fein told the Tribune that he would be issuing a statement
"explaining everything" within a few days, but that he was prohibited from
saying anything about the events at presstime. He did not deny nor explain the charges nor
would he clarify what was prohibiting him from offering comment on the arrest, however
officials from the District Attorneys office said they were unaware of anything that
would prohibit him from commenting. The officials also confirmed that an order of
protection had been issued by the judge for the 10-year-old boy, which, the officials
said, is standard procedure.
The historian accepts a certificate of merit,
signed by Governor George Pataki, for his work at the fort.
Following his arraignment, Fein was
suspended from giving tours at the Fort and the Parks Departments Urban Park
Rangers will be taking up the tour giving as of this coming weekend.
But since 1967, Fein has walked visitors
through the passageways, turrets, and beautifully constructed archways of the original
section of the Fort, built in 1870. He also offered for adults and school groups
tours of the museum building that has accumulated under his care, the winding rooms
of which are filled with newspaper articles, memorabilia, and honors for the historian
laying out on make-shift tables and covering the walls.
The Old Fort is currently in the process of
being transferred to the ownership of the New York City Parks Department and over the past
few months, Parks workers have been busy cutting back the overgrown trees and grassy
areas which had turned the Fort into a near jungle area considered by some Fort officials
as possibly dangerous.
In August of 1999, Fein, who had been a
volunteer working at the Fort before it was put up for sale by the Army, became a City
Seasonal Associate with the Parks Department a position for which he was paid about
$70 a day to offer tours and maintain the museum area.
He was known to practically live on the old
Fort grounds offering for groups to arrange tours for any day of the week. Within
the basement area where he kept his desk there was an old army cot with a bare mattress
squirrled away behind some cardboard dividers to create a make-shift bedroom, the Tribune
has confirmed with Fort officials.
The Bayside Historical Societys
President Geraldine Spinella told the Tribune that at least one class a month would
come to their building on the Fort grounds, receive a tour from one of the Societys
members, then be escorted by the member to Feins gate, where he would take over the
tour and the class. She added that this has been the practice on the fort for at least the
past two years, especially since the fourth grade curriculum has included the study of
Local civic leaders and elected officials
declined to comment on the charges, saying that they were "shocked," and
stressing that they were awaiting a full investigation. A Fort official commented on the
condition of annonymity that "there was no indication that this guy was anything but
a crusty curmudgeon, completely and totally committed to what he was doing here."
Queens Parks Commissioner Estelle Cooper
added that she was "saddened" by the charges and that "we dont know
till it comes to trial whether it happened or not."
Man Behind The History
According to the printed
flyers piled high on the tables of the museum and often distributed at fort events, Fein
is originally from Springfield, Mass. He entered the army in 1936 and was sent to Fort
Totten and Fort Slocum with other enlistees, then sent to Panama to Fort Amador to a
16-inch gun battery.
He received various kinds of military
training, including military intelligence, communications, chemical and small arms. While
in the Army school in Fort Monroe, Va., Fein married his first wife, with whom he had one
child, according to a recent article in the New York Times about the much-honored
Fort Historian. In 1949, he met his second wife in Japan, the article stated.
In 1952, the Chief Warrant Officer returned
to Fort Totten and spent the next 15 years as the adjunct to the post commander, learning
the fort history. In 1967, he took over the old fort museum. When he retired from military
life, he had served over 30 years in the Army with an additional five years in the Army
Reserve during the Vietnam era.
Jim Driscoll, vice president for history of
the Queens Historical Society, described Fein as "more than anyone else" being
responsible for the old Fort being landmarked and said of his walking tours "he took
you places you never even knew exisited."
Fein was the grand marshall of the 1999
Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, was honored in December by Borough President
Claire Shulman for preservation of Queens history and in November by Comptroller Alan
Hevesi for his service as a veteran. His list of honors also include honorary Captain in
the Fire Department and certificates from Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Governor George Pataki.
A statement written by Fein for one of his
numerous ceremonies said the following: "To this very day, for seven days a week, I
still perform historical tours eight days a week, maintain the museum which is considered
the heart and soul of this remarkable fort, that has served the country so very well, with
tens of thousands and more that trained here and some who never come back.
"With over 60 years of acquaintance of
Fort Totten, that I am willing to share with all, word has been passed on to me that no
other fort can compare itself in reference to the East End of tunnels and granite
blocks, passages, etc. let me prove it to you by your appearance. I loved my
commanders, my officers, my enlisted men and civilians, they taught me many areas and
events and it is in this zone that tours are made to memoralize them and the past history
of the Fort. God bless all of us and teach us how to live and pray and let us know thy
mercy and thy love. Each night before I fall asleep, I read both the Old Testament and the
New Testament and always with an annoucement to bless the 77th Regional Support
Dee Richard contributed to this
Protecting Your Child
Because children cannot look out for themselves, it is our responsibility
as parents to foresee problems they might encounter.
The most important key to child safety is an open, effective
communication with your child.
Establish an atmosphere in your home in which your child feels truly
comfortable in discussing sensitive matters and relating experiences in which someone may
have approached the child in an inappropriate manner or in a way that would have made your
Children can be raised to be polite and friendly, but its OK to
say NO to anyone who tries to touch him or her in a way that makes them feel frightened,
uncomfortable, or confused. Have them get away and tell a trusted adult.
Allow your child to develop a sense of authority early on by not
forcing him/her to kiss a grown-up or sit on a grown-ups lap if they dont want
to. This gives the child control and teaches them that they have the right to refuse.
Children should not be asked to keep special secrets from their
Children are naturally trusting, especially with adults. Its
difficult for parents to teach children to balance this trust with caution. Today,
children need to learn how to react to dangerous situations using common sense to keep
them safe. They should be reinforced in a gentle manner and be provided with effective
rules to avoid some tough situations. This will build the self-confidence they need to
It is important to realize that when developing personal safety skills
in your child, they must be taught as you would teach other subjects.
Tell the basic rules.
Show how to do/say the rules you are
Practice how your child should react and
what they should say.
From an early age, children should be taught
their full name, the name of their parents or guardian, their address, and telephone
number with the area code.
Teach them how to use the telephone to call 911 or "0"
if an emergency occurs, and how a public phone works. Practice periodically on a
Children learn best from good examples; lock doors and windows,
always identify your caller before opening your door.
Keep open communication with your children. Listen to their
feelings and fears about people and places with which they feel uncomfortable. Help them
to learn to trust their instincts.
-information courtesy of the New York Police Department