Liberty National owner, Reebok founder, and billionaire Paul Fireman slammed his opposition this morning while announcing that he will put his golf course expansion plans into Liberty State Park on hold in hopes of social justice issues being addressed.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“This fight for social justice is the most important fight taking place at Liberty State Park today. Those who do not want to empower minority communities are using me in an effort to distract from the real issue of who gets to make decisions. If people are serious about listening to minority voices, then we need a new effort that lets those voices be heard,” Fireman said in a statement released minutes ago.
“I will not be used as an excuse for inaction any longer. That is why I am halting any efforts to pursue a public private partnership at Caven Point. I am doing this to force the supporters of the Liberty State Park Protection Act to address the social justice problems connected to Liberty State Park without using me as an excuse to keep ignoring minority communities.”
In recent weeks, a new feud was ignited between Fireman and the Friends of Liberty State Park after language in a state budget amendment opened the door for development at state parks.
While Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said days later that he would not allow any privatization at LSP, a social media campaign began pushing for amenities mentioned in a 1977 state master plan that never came to fruition – also asking for black and brown communities to have a seat at the table.
“A new effort must be launched on Liberty State Park that will allow Jersey City’s minority communities a seat at the table AND ensure no actions are taken until there is community say in the decision-making process,” Fireman continued.
“When the Park was created 40 years ago community leaders, faith groups, politicians and business leaders were brought together. Their recommendations, after a thorough process, became the Liberty State Park Master Plan. This plan remains active today and is still being ignored. Its principles and ideas should serve as the basis of a new effort and a new plan.”
Last week, a Zoom call promoted as a community meeting was panned by residents after only three people were able to speak, all of whom were open to privatization, despite over 200 people joining the event.
FOLSP President Sam Pesin was invited on as a panelist, but was only able to join the call as a casual observer and was not permitted to speak.
Fireman took some heavy parting shots at Pesin, claiming that he has “reinforced a do-nothing policy and shut out minority communities from the decision-making process” which would continue if the state legislature passes the Liberty State Park Protection Act.
He also accused Pesin of having no problem with portions of the park being contaminated, despite him recently making remarks to the contrary.
“Sam Pesin and the Friends of Liberty State Park do not support proper decontamination of the interior 235 acres of the Park, which sits next to a minority neighborhood. Pesin wants this land to be a preserve, not a park,” Fireman added.
“The toxic contaminated land currently sits behind a chain link fence where recreational opportunities – which were promised to minority communities – should exist. This contaminated land should be cleaned and converted into a swimming pool, arts and recreation center, ballfields, basketball courts, picnic areas and natural habitat restoration. There was also supposed to be a transportation system at the Park, which would help minority communities get there. That has not happened either.”
Pesin declined to respond directly to Fireman’s attacks, though indicated that his top priority right night is seeing the LSPPA approved.
“Without the Protection Act, Paul Fireman will come roaring back with his disinformation, political contributions, and lobbyists under a new governor for his ultimate goal of a land grab of Caven Point, he said.
“Minority communities and all park visitors would of course benefit from park improvements including active recreational offerings (which our group has always supported, and the NJDEP, which manages LSP, is open to collaborating on) and the Protection Act requires comprehensive public participation.”
Neither the state senate or assembly has reintroduced the bill yet in 2020, but the Jersey City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution supporting the legislation at tonight’s meeting.
The measure, sponsored by Ward E Councilman James Solomon, has been on the past two council agendas, but has been pulled due to requests from Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson, who said he wanted to solicit more community feedback on the park before voting.
He was one of the three people on the aforementioned Zoom call that many perceived as going off the rails.
“Fireman’s Caven Point takeover never had any support in Jersey City and his decision to drop it is welcome,” Solomon told HCV.
“Now, New Jersey must pass the Liberty State Park Protection Act to stop the endless parade of large scale privatization attempts over the past four decades.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin.