Cunningham, Mukherji introduce bill to protect Liberty State Park from development

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After years of fighting off proposed development projects from multiple administrations, Liberty State Park would become a protected historic site if a bill introduced by state Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-31) and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) is approved. 
By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“It’s time we enshrined in the law the protection of Liberty State Park as a free, open, urban green oasis,” Mukherji said in a statement.

“A rare open space jewel in a densely populated urban county and one of only two places in the world from which Ellis Island and Lady Liberty can be accessed, she enhances the quality of life of urban families and visitors from everywhere. Future generations deserve to enjoy Liberty State Park as open space.”

The Liberty State Park Protection Act, bill (A-4903 and S-3357), aims to establish an advisory committee and requirements for the state Department of Environmental Protection to safeguard the site from privatization and “inappropriate” development.

Encompassing over 1,200 acres, of approximately 600 acres of land and 600 acres of water, where all but the interior’s 235 acres are open to the public.

As has been well documented, the park contains significant natural, historic, recreational, scenic, and cultural resources.

“Liberty State Park is a beacon of hope that represents all that America has to offer,” added Cunningham.

“Tourists are drawn to the beautiful markers and rich history but for Jersey City residents it is a plot of much needed green space in the concrete landscape. This legislation will ensure that the park remains a recreational area free for everyone to enjoy.”

In addition to the committee working in conjunction with the DEP with preserving the park, the legislation would prohibit the DEP from considering any proposal to commercialize, develop, or privatize Liberty State Park, except as provided in the bill.

Under these provisions, DEP would be allowed to the approve a concession, conveyance, lease, or other agreement with a private entity to provide small-scale commercial activities that directly enhance the experience of a visitor to Liberty State Park.

Examples of this includes a bicycle or kayak rental concession, food concession, temporary winter skating rink, commercial boat tour operating from an existing boat slip, and use of the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal (“CRRNJ Terminal”), and other uses identified in a management plan.

The bill also requires the DEP, whenever it proposes to enter into a concession, lease, or other agreement for a duration of one year or longer, to provide a full public process with public hearings and a public comment period.

Additionally, the bill specifically prohibits any concession, conveyance, or lease within the 235-acre natural restoration area in the interior of Liberty State Park, and at Caven Point Peninsula.

On top of that, the DEP would be required, within three years after the bill is enacted into law, to develop a management plan for Liberty State Park in consultation with the committee.

The bill comes after recent failed attempted to open a casino near the park in 2016 and build a “millionaire’s marina” last year.