Environmental organizations are calling on Governor Murphy to prevent privatization at Liberty State Park and reschedule the NJDEP open house for their proposed plans of the park. Their letter highlights the need for government transparency, and assurance that Liberty State Park will be a fully accessible free park for the residents of Jersey City, Hudson County, Environmental Justice communities, and for all New Jerseyans.
For decades, Liberty State Park has been a focal point of major threats from private interest groups wanting to privatize and commercialize this priceless park behind Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. There has been one battle after another, from shopping malls, 18-hole golf courses, water parks to a second large private marina, and now, billionaire Paul Fireman’s golf course attempt to privatize Liberty State Park's Caven Point Natural Area. Though Commissioner LaTourette has stated that there are regulations that would preserve Caven Point, there are processes that can un-protect this urban nature sanctuary and education resource.
It is imperative that the NJDEP report describing its process, Design Task Force recommendations, and public input regarding its passive and active recreation proposed plan is shown to the public. NJDEP’s process included a year-long public participation initiative, including thousands of surveys completed by members of the public that ultimately drove the design plans for Liberty State Park. DEP identified the need for active recreation amenities, such as dedicated or multi-use sports fields, as well as passive recreation features, such as tidal and non-tidal wetlands, grasslands, meadows, forests, and hills with scenic overlooks and a walking and running trails network. Additionally, the report included the independently developed design plan for the park by Liberty State Park for All Coalition, to which a 5,000 seat lighted football stadium, a 2,000 seat hockey rink and a 7,000 seat concert and event venue are included. There is a clear contrast shown between both plans, one where commercialization and privatization are present and the other with the focus of making the park accessible to all
Liberty State Park belongs to all of us and is the gateway to New Jersey and the Statue of Liberty. The park itself is an oasis in one of the most densely populated areas in the entire country, being one of the most heavily visited green spaces with 4.5 million visitors per year, more than Yosemite National Park (3.5 million). The park must continue to belong to all of us and stay open as a quality of life and public health resource. Liberty State Park is owned by the public, for the public and entrusted to our government as its steward. This is our heritage, our legacy, and we cannot sacrifice that for commercialization. Too many people have fought too hard for too long to save our open spaces to lose them now to private interests.
“Liberty State Park must be protected from commercial and private interests, including Paul Fireman’s proposal to build a golf course for billionaires - full stop. This area is one of the only open, green spaces for residents in Jersey City, Hudson County, and surrounding environmental justice communities to recreate. These residents have a right to access this public health and natural resource, and that right should not vary depending upon your zip-code,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club. “We strongly urge Governor Murphy to protect free access to our public lands and the outdoors, especially given the cultural and historical significance of Liberty State Park which has stood as a symbol of inclusivity and welcomeness in New Jersey for generations. It should continue to do so for those generations to come free of charge and commercial development.”
“Governor Murphy, it is essential for you to finally show your true colors by supporting your own DEP's spectacular plans for LSP's future and by your finally rejecting the destructive commercial venues plans by your friend billionaire Paul Fireman and pushed by the falsehoods and smear attacks of his lobbyists, two front groups and other opportunists he's bought off. We urge you to respect the 46 years of the broad public consensus, the overwhelming majority, the many 10's of 1,000's who have put democracy into action for this urban park behind Lady Liberty and who clearly and strongly advocated against LSP commercialization and privatization,” said Sam Pesin, President of Friends of Liberty State Park. “We urge you to publicly support the DEP's plans for LSP's interior, fully funded and first envisioned by Governor Whitman, of what will be one of the world's greatest urban natural areas, now at 60% designed with165 acres of nature habitats, miles of paths and open space, and also support the Commissioner's democratic process of consultants making recommendations to the public for details of the DEP's promised 61 acres of free active recreation and other park improvements including small scale commercial activities. You will be a forever enemy instead of a forever hero of LSP, if you fail to reject Fireman's front groups's exclusionary, admission-fee, unpreventable traffic jam-causing plans for a sports and entertainment complex, replacing the DEP's plans with a 5000 and 2500 seat stadium, 7000 seat commercial concert venue and 2000 seat hockey rink. We urge you to break out of your Fireman/Eric Shuffler bubble and do the right thing!”
"Governor Murphy is facing a fork in the road with Liberty State Park -- Central Park or the Meadowlands Sports Complex? He must take the right path and restore nature and create recreational opportunities scaled to support local Jersey City youth. He must reject a billionaire developer's plan to build several commercial venues that displace Jersey City youth and increase traffic and pollution," said Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director of Clean Water Action.
“We oppose efforts to commercialize Liberty State Park. This park is New Jersey’s most popular park in our most diverse city, yet it’s being threatened by private developers. Many of the neighboring communities are historically underserved, and access to free public green spaces is desperately needed. We urge the Murphy Administration to make sure Liberty State Park doesn’t become a haven for the privileged few,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey LCV. “Many studies have shown the physical and mental health benefits, economic gains and crime reduction in neighborhoods with parks. For far too long, urban communities in the state were largely ignored by land preservation efforts, leading to a wide divide in who has access to welcoming parks. Let’s make sure Liberty State Park remains a place where everyone can go and enjoy open space and recreation.”
"We support the Friends of Liberty State Park, who have been fighting for decades to ensure the park is a resource for the public and not a source of income for private entities," said Tom Gilbert, Co-Executive Director of NJ Conservation Foundation. "The park's Caven Point Natural Area needs to be officially designated as a State Natural Area. It's the last beach and tidal wetland ecosystem on the Hudson River in heavily-developed northern NJ and, like the rest of the park, must be protected from privatization."
“Liberty State Park is the jewel of the New Jersey state park system. Since its founding, however, the park and its prime real estate have remained in the crosshairs for private development schemes. For close to a decade, the long shadow of billionaire golf course owner Paul Fireman has fueled the most sustained effort to develop the prime real estate of Liberty State Park for private gain,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey. “The remediation of Liberty State Park’s interior represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand natural recreation and recreation for all of the state’s residents – in Jersey City and beyond. The battle to protect Caven Point — which should remain forever as a natural bird sanctuary and not a golf hole to birdie – is indicative of a larger fight of who owns our public lands. Large-scale private commercial development with massive stadiums might be a developer’s dream for public lands but it is not what the public wants. We urge Gov. Murphy to reschedule both the NJDEP open house and commit to a vision of Liberty State Park that says no to large private commercial development.”
“Governor McGreevey had the courage to rid the Liberty State Park of the former LSP Development Corp. However, recent Administrations have enabled a more treacherous
privatizer - Reebok billionaire puppet master Paul Fireman - to thwart plans for a world-class urban natural restoration, bountiful passive and active recreation, and more small-scale concessions for park patrons,” said Greg Remaud, NY/NJ Baykeeper. “It’s high time for Governor Murphy to stop catering to Fireman and start living up to his responsibility to protect Public Trust Resources at Liberty State Park on behalf of the people.”
“The astroturf campaign to privatize Liberty State Park is a bad-faith movement funded by billionaires,” said Alex Ambrose, New Jersey Policy Perspective. “Lawmakers need to keep the best interests of the public in mind when deciding the fate of our public parks, particularly one that serves the most densely populated area of the most densely populated state in the country. Public parks should be just that—public.”
Since the organization’s founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking, and people power to the table. www.cleanwater.org