Eight months after a state Assembly panel cleared the Liberty State Park Protection Act, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee has followed suit for the legislation sponsored by Sandra Cunningham (D-31) and Loretta Weinberg (D-37).
â€œLiberty State Park is a beacon of hope that represents all that America has to offer. Ensuring that the park continues to remain as a recreational area free for everyone to enjoy is crucial, as it is a much needed green space in the densely populated, concrete landscape,” Cunningham said in a statement.
“This park is a priceless landmark to not only the area but the state as a whole, and it is imperative that New Jersey residents and tourists are able to enjoy it for years to come.â€
The bill, S-3357, would also create the Liberty State Park Advisory Committee which would assist the Department of Environmental Protections (DEP) in conserving, preserving, protecting, and improving the park.
In carrying out its responsibilities, the committee would give consideration to the natural, historic, cultural, recreational, and scenic resources and the local, State, and national significance of Liberty State Park.
â€œParks are bedrocks in the community, they give common space to neighbors and visitors regardless of class or social standing, and I believe it is paramount that we preserve Liberty State Park for generations to come,â€ added Weinberg.
â€œLiberty State Park encompasses over 1,200 acres of land in Jersey City, with its backdrop having views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Manhattan skyline. Its historical and cultural significance in Jersey City as well as New Jersey is something that must be protected at all costs.â€
The bill would protect Liberty State Park from any future proposals to commercialize or privatize the state and national treasure.
Additionally, 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 the bill, the DEP would be allowed to 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.
The DEP would also be required to develop a management plan for Liberty State Park in consultation with the committee within three years of enactment.
Expectedly, NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel applauded the measure.
â€œWe have been fighting against the privatization and development of Liberty State Park for over thirty years. There has been one battle after another, from golf courses to shopping malls, water parks to a private marina, and many more,” he said in a statement.
“There can still be leases or concessions that could take place at the park but there will be public oversight and public process and they will have to go to a committee for approval. This will help protect the park from abuse and projects that would hurt, rather than compliment it.”
The Assembly version of the bill, sponsored by Hudson Dems, cleared the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee back in March.