For the second meeting in a row, the Jersey City Council opted to pull an agenda item supporting the Liberty State Park Protection Act, a piece of state legislation to protect the park from private development that died in lame duck session earlier this year.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I’m asking you kindly because there’s nothing on the assembly floor to vote on right now, there’s nothing on the senate floor in reference to Liberty State Park and I don’t want to rush this through,” said Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson.
“[That’s] the reason I asked to have it pulled two weeks ago, so we could have a community conversation, not just a conversation with the state, so I was asking if you would be able to pull this … until July because I was planning a large Zoom meeting for the entire community.”
Earlier this week, Robinson participated in a call with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, along with Ward E Councilman James Solomon, who said he doesn’t view the related state legislation as a hurdle to clear.
“I don’t view the state legislation as contradicting or preventing us from following up on any of those things, stopping the community conversation that you correctly are seeking to have. For me, if anything, the protection act helps that and gives us greater strength to make sure that the park is as opening and welcoming a place a possible.”
The primary sponsor of the resolution, Solomon said it was his preference to keep the measure on the agenda this time around.
Robinson responded by making a motion to table the item, reiterating that it was his preference to wait until hearing robust community feedback before casting a vote.
Jersey City Clerk Sean Gallagher indicated that since the resolution in question was one of four late additions to the agenda, the council would have to first take a vote to see if any of them would officially make the cut.
Councilman-at-Large Rolando Lavarro made a motion to add them, which was seconded by Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh.
In the middle of the vote, Boggiano questioned why Robinson would vote against adding the LSP Protection Act resolution.
“Liberty State Park is open to everyone and anybody, whether you live in Jersey City, the state, the country: what is the problem? The park’s open, it’s there, it’s open to everyone,” he exclaimed.
Robinson responded by saying that people, such as Boggiano, have been talking about adding new amenities to the park for 20 years, but no changes have actually occurred.
Boggiano said he agreed that he would like to see more activities available for the youth.
The LSP Protection Act measure was added to the agenda by a vote of 8-1, with only Robinson opposed.
During the public portion of the meeting, dozens of people spoke about the value they get from being able to utilize LSP, including Jersey City Parks Coalition President Steve Krinsky.
“As a parent and as a teacher, and now as a retiree, I care a lot about the parks. Parks are super important if you raise a kid in an urban area. My kids love the parks in Jersey City … but no park was more important to us than Liberty State Park,” he began.
“That’s where my kids learned to ride bicycles, that’s where we went, and still go, on family outings. That’s where we walk and bike admiring the view and learning to appreciate nature. Even though my kids are now grown, we still spend time at Liberty State Park.”
He also urged the council to do everything in their power to not let anyone destroy this destination.
As the public portion went on for three hours, Bike JC President Patrick Conlon was another resident who threw his support behind the local legislation.
“You guys were all elected to represent the will of the people and the overwhelming popular opinion, and will of the people, has always been that Liberty State Park should remain free and open to the people – and not be sold off piece by piece to private development.”
Five-and-a-half hours into the meeting (which lasted almost another hour), Boggiano said he would be open to tabling the LSP-related legislation.
“We all know we’re going to pass this: nobody’s going to touch Liberty State Park. There’s no way in hell anyone is gonna touch that park or that area and I can guarantee you it’s gonna be a nine to nothing vote next month. Can we hold this off until July 17th?,” Boggiano asked.
Solomon stuck to his guns and declined to remove the agenda item outright, prompting a motion to withdraw from Boggiano, which was seconded by Robinson.
That motion was approved 7-2, with Solomon and Lavarro voting no.