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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesHANSEN SUIT CLAIMS FORT IS V.I. PROPERTY

HANSEN SUIT CLAIMS FORT IS V.I. PROPERTY

Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen’s efforts to prove that the Chrisitansted National Historic Site belongs to the Virgin Islands rather than the National Park Service has taken on a new target -– Fort Christiansvaern.
Hansen and her attorneys, Lee Rohn, Amelia Joseph and Michael Joseph, have long contended that the downtown historic site, which includes Fort Christiansvaern, the Scale House, Customs House and Steeple Building, belongs to the people of the Virgin Islands. Spurring her protests have been the Park Service’s unilateral decisions to replace parking lots with parks.
Last September, the Park Service began work to turn a 12-space downtown lot into a park. The agency contended that because the property is part of the Christiansted National Historic Site, NPS was within its rights to undertake the project.
Hansen and Amelia Joseph, however, disagreed and were granted a temporary restraining order by a U.S. District Court judge temporarily halting the project. But a few days after granting the restraining order, Judge Raymond Finch reversed his decision, noting that only the governor can take legal action on behalf of the V.I. government. The judge questioned whether Hansen, acting as a private citizen, had standing in the case.
But that hasn’t dissuaded Hansen’s team, said Michael Joseph, no relation to fellow attorney Amelia Joseph. He said Rohn has filed a new suit that will "prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these lands belong to the people of the Virgin Islands." The suit claims the fort is V.I. property.
In addition, he said, a legal technique will be used to force Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to become a plaintiff in the suit.
"We’re attempting to make Turnbull an involuntary plaintiff," Michael Joseph said on WSTX Friday.
The ownership dispute stems from when the V.I. government handed over management control of the historic area to the Park Service, Michael Joseph said. The land, which he said went to the local government after the U.S. bought the islands from Denmark, was never transferred through a deed or lease to the federal government.
"Under Virgin Islands law, you can only convey (government) property with the governor’s signature or approval of the Legislature," Michael Joseph said. "Nothing like that has been done."
Meanwhile, the Park Service has almost finished turning the former asphalt area between the Scale House and the wall that surrounds the Post Office into a 4,200-square-foot lawn with an information kiosk, benches and palm trees. The new park project completes the Park Service’s controversial move of April 1998 that turned the 70-space King’s Wharf lot into a grassy park.
That project spurred similar protests from former Gov. Roy Schneider, who also claimed the V.I. government owned the property. He later backed off those claims. But Hansen and her attorneys say the Park Service’s assertions that it owns the property haven’t been proved.
Neither Joel Tutein, superintendent of the Park Service on St. Croix, nor Government House spokeswoman Rina McBrowne could be reached for comment Friday.

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Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen’s efforts to prove that the Chrisitansted National Historic Site belongs to the Virgin Islands rather than the National Park Service has taken on a new target -– Fort Christiansvaern.
Hansen and her attorneys, Lee Rohn, Amelia Joseph and Michael Joseph, have long contended that the downtown historic site, which includes Fort Christiansvaern, the Scale House, Customs House and Steeple Building, belongs to the people of the Virgin Islands. Spurring her protests have been the Park Service’s unilateral decisions to replace parking lots with parks.
Last September, the Park Service began work to turn a 12-space downtown lot into a park. The agency contended that because the property is part of the Christiansted National Historic Site, NPS was within its rights to undertake the project.
Hansen and Amelia Joseph, however, disagreed and were granted a temporary restraining order by a U.S. District Court judge temporarily halting the project. But a few days after granting the restraining order, Judge Raymond Finch reversed his decision, noting that only the governor can take legal action on behalf of the V.I. government. The judge questioned whether Hansen, acting as a private citizen, had standing in the case.
But that hasn’t dissuaded Hansen’s team, said Michael Joseph, no relation to fellow attorney Amelia Joseph. He said Rohn has filed a new suit that will "prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these lands belong to the people of the Virgin Islands." The suit claims the fort is V.I. property.
In addition, he said, a legal technique will be used to force Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to become a plaintiff in the suit.
"We’re attempting to make Turnbull an involuntary plaintiff," Michael Joseph said on WSTX Friday.
The ownership dispute stems from when the V.I. government handed over management control of the historic area to the Park Service, Michael Joseph said. The land, which he said went to the local government after the U.S. bought the islands from Denmark, was never transferred through a deed or lease to the federal government.
"Under Virgin Islands law, you can only convey (government) property with the governor’s signature or approval of the Legislature," Michael Joseph said. "Nothing like that has been done."
Meanwhile, the Park Service has almost finished turning the former asphalt area between the Scale House and the wall that surrounds the Post Office into a 4,200-square-foot lawn with an information kiosk, benches and palm trees. The new park project completes the Park Service’s controversial move of April 1998 that turned the 70-space King’s Wharf lot into a grassy park.
That project spurred similar protests from former Gov. Roy Schneider, who also claimed the V.I. government owned the property. He later backed off those claims. But Hansen and her attorneys say the Park Service’s assertions that it owns the property haven’t been proved.
Neither Joel Tutein, superintendent of the Park Service on St. Croix, nor Government House spokeswoman Rina McBrowne could be reached for comment Friday.