The Liberty State Park revitalization of roughly 230 acres of land with include arts, culture, and athletics, but still no privatization, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I will not relent in the legal truth of the fact that the privatization of public land is not a thing, period, full stop,” LaTourette said in a virtual press briefing ahead of an open house at LSP last night.
“It’s in that spirit that we offer the options to the community that are based in what is provided by our institution, routinely, to communities all across New Jersey, and that we can certainly pursue here.”
His remarks are consistent with the DEP’s position on the project despite The People’s Park Foundation – who said they support the latest version of the plan – calling for a concert venue, sports stadiums, and a track and field stadium in recent months.
“We are pleased that it includes nearly everything that the community and The People’s Park Foundation has advocated for, most importantly cleaning up the toxic contamination that has left hundreds of acres of the park fenced off and unusable and adding new active recreational facilities,” People’s Park Foundation President Bob Hurley, Sr. said in a statement.
“We’re thrilled to see that this new plan contains a new community center for year-round activities, multipurpose athletic fields for soccer, football, baseball, cricket and field hockey, courts for basketball, tennis, and pickleball, facilities for track and field and swimming, and an outdoor amphitheater—all for the public to use and enjoy.”
The revitalization of the park will be in three phases, beginning with the cleanup and restoration of the park’s interior, which will include a 5.6-mile walking and running trail network, along with cleaning up the future Southern Athletics Club site.
The next phase will include near-term development of public amenities along the Audrey Zapp Drive, a community center, playgrounds, concessions, as well as rehabilitating and repurposing historic CRRNJ train sheds covered outdoor public community space and marketplace.
The third and final phase will southern and waterfront areas with recreation such as track and field center, integrated multi-use fields, basketball courts, racquet courts, skate park, and a community pool.
“Our administration is thankful to the Governor and Commissioner Shawn LaTourette for what appears to be a win for everyone with a balance between active recreation and preserving all the qualities that have made Liberty State Park special,” Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement this morning.
“Our administration is also in lockstep with the NJDEP in opposing privatization, and we are thankful to see such a strong statement from the state. Importantly, our team is also thankful for the state’s willingness to work with us on our concerns that we referenced in our letter last week around the specific proposed flood mitigation ideas as we want to guarantee we protect the park and SciTech Scity from water without sacrificing an unnecessary amount of acreage. Yesterday was a huge step in the right direction for Jersey City and New Jersey.”
Gov. Phil Murphy (D) also came out in favor of the plan last night, which was expected since the DEP is spearheading the effort.
“The proposal will also improve transportation to and within the park and include long-term improvements to enhance flood and climate resiliency,” he said in a statement.
“I would like to thank Commissioner LaTourette and his team at the Department of Environmental Protection for engaging in a robust and thorough public engagement process that puts the needs of the community first.”
Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin also spoke highly of the plan.
“The Friends of Liberty State Park praises the Murphy Administration’s Commissioner of the NJDEP Shawn LaTourette for his leadership in spearheading the visionary plans for an international model of transforming a former freight yard site into spectacular urban nature habitats and miles of paths, and also for his democratic planning process with maximum public participation for the design of 60 acres of free active recreation and other Central Park-type improvements for this American landscape behind Lady Liberty,” he said.
Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31), who is running for state Senate and has LSP in her district, said she’d like to see more athletic opportunities, as well as make some slight changes to increase the threat of flooding.
“I am excited that the Governor and Commissioner have included a community center and
fields, and I am encouraging them to also consider high school athletic facilities for track
and field meets and football games to accommodate parents, friends and classmates
who want to watch the kids play,” she said.
“After seeing the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, I would also urge the DEP to rework its plan to bring water into the heart of Liberty State Park and increase the threat of flooding to the park and surrounding neighborhoods.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31).