The Liberty State Park Protection Act to preserve the park free of corporate development and privatization cleared the New Jersey Senate Environment Committee today in an impromptu 3-1(1) vote though the future of the legislation remains unclear.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
The bill was posted without recommendation on just 12 hours notice and passed 3-1(1), with state Sens. Bob Smith (D-17), Linda Greenstein (D-14), and Kip Bateman (R-16) voting yes.
State Senator Kristen Corrado (R-40) voted no, while state Senator Richard Codey (D-27) abstained.
“Ensuring that the park continues to remain as a recreational area free for everyone to enjoy is crucial,” state Senator Brian Stack (D-Hudson-33), one of the bill’s two prime sponsors, said in a statement.
“It is a much-needed green space in the city’s 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.”
The bill would prohibit the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection from considering any proposal to commercialize, develop, or privatize LSP, with the exception of a few small-scale ideas approved by the LSP Advisory Committee.
The NJ DEP would be allowed to approve a concession, conveyance, lease, or other agreement with a private entity to provide small-scale commercial activities that enhance the experience of a LSP visitor.
Liberty National Golf Course CEO Paul Fireman had proposed expanding the course into the Caven Point portion of LSP, though quickly abandoned the idea last year.
Concerns that he’ll revisit the plan or something similar remain, as the other senate co-sponsor, Loretta Weinberg (D-37), alluded to.
“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,” she stated.
While Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin was happy it passed the Environmental Committee, he was pessimistic about its future.
“I’m not hopeful about the Budget Committee because Senator [Paul] Sarlo is chair,” he said.
He nonetheless praised Weinberg and the bill’s prime Assembly sponsor, Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson-33), for helping it pass the committee after sitting dormant since February.
Pesin expressed disappointment that the bill was added on such short notice, making it impossible to get a group of supporters together and head to Trenton. He
“We were glad it got posted. We’re disappointed it didn’t move out of committee favorably as it should have,” said New York/New Jersey Baykeeper Greg Remaud.
“Unfortunately, the Budget Committee is where it got railroaded last time and died. It’s not looking great. It looks like the fix is in: people took contributions from Fireman.”
The lack of active recreation in the park has been the rallying cry for the group Liberty State Park for All and community leaders from Ward F.
Pesin described the situation as a popular consensus on the one hand and “some people doing the bidding of a billionaire. They’re just doubling down on lies,” Pesin said.
Liberty State Park for All Executive Director Arnold Stovell could not be reached for comment, but Urban Concerns of Jersey City Director Bruce Alston slammed Pesin and the Friends of LSP.
“This is another attempt by Sam Pesin to undermine the State DEP, Commissioner LaTourette and Deputy Commissioner Glen who have formed a task force which brought all stakeholders together, to formulate 21st Century vision for LSP,” Alston said.
“I hope this shows the public, just when dialogue and discussions are being held to ensure a cleanup of LSP, and that Park offers at least 50 acres of active recreation, Sam Pesin’s Friends of Liberty State Park continues it’s illegal practice of lobbying while violating the not-fo-profit laws which forbids them from engaging in politics.”
He also mocked former Gov. Christine Whitman’s (R) recent editorial supporting the LSP Protection Act, claiming she was a failure running the Environmental Protection Agency between 2001 and 2003.
The bill’s prime sponsor in the Assembly, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson-33) called it said he didn’t know it was going to be posted today, also noting that his amendment simply sought to expand the advisory committee.
Mukherji noted he’s also collaborating Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson-31) “to ensure the ward in which the park is situated is represented.”
“The amendment was drafted months ago, but there was no committee meeting to drop them,” Mukherji explained.
“But it doesn’t change what the bill would do in terms of preserving the park that we will hope will be enjoyed by the future generations,” he said, indicating that he was not gotten a response after requesting for the bill to be posted.