The Liberty State Park Protection Act, sponsored by Sandra Cunningham (D-31) and Loretta Weinberg (D-37), cleared the state Senate Budget Appropriations Committee in the midst of a potential golf course expansion plan.
“Moves to expand a nearby golf course into the park underscore the importance of this legislation in protecting Liberty State Park and I look forward to meeting with those who take issue with the bill,” Cunningham said in a statement.
“Ensuring that the park continues to remain as a recreational area free for everyone to enjoy is crucial. It is a much-needed green space in the densely populated, concrete landscape and offers unique educational opportunities to the community. It is imperative that New Jersey residents and tourists are able to enjoy it for years to come.”
Earlier this week, the Liberty National Golf Course released a proposed plan to expand into Caven Point Area of Liberty State Park as legislation.
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.
“Parks are bedrocks in the community, they give common space to neighbors and visitors regardless of class or social standing, and it is paramount that we preserve Liberty State Park for generations to come,” added Weinberg.
“It’s obvious why private entities are eager to develop and monetize the land. Liberty State Park encompasses over 1,200 acres of land in Jersey City, with 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.”
The bill would protect Liberty State Park from any future proposals to commercialize or privatize the state and national treasure.
In addition, 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 be required to develop a management plan for Liberty State Park in consultation with the committee within three years of enactment.
“I’m excited that the bill passed out of this committee despite the golf course lobbyist ignoring the irreplaceable ecological value of the Caven Point nature habitat and also the 40 years of grassroots opposition to privatization,” said Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin.
“Senator Cunningham gave an inspiring passionate speech about the importance of the park to the lives of urban people and that what kind of park we have should be up to the people. And people have spoken overwhelmingly and strongly on many battles for over 40 years against exclusionary privatization.”
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 8-2-3 and next heads to the full senate for further consideration.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a quote from Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin.