NJDEP breaks ground on Liberty State Park interior clean up, unveils potential future plans


The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and local electeds broke ground on the interior cleanup of Liberty State Park in Jersey City and unveiled potential future plans last night.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Pollution has long left approximately 235 acres of the Liberty State Park interior fenced off for decades.

“It’s hard to believe we are standing upon what was once Communipaw Cove and open water,” NJDEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette noted.

He explained that while initially it was a cove, as the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century occurred, marshland that is currently parkland was filled in with debris by the Central Railroad of New Jersey for their use.

However, it was abandoned as cars became popular and the area became blighted.

“The New York, New Jersey estuary is designated a national area of significance,” he continued.

He explained they are working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redevelop the area. La Tourette said as part of the clean up, they will create natural barriers that will prevent flooding due to severe storms that are now more frequent due to climate change.

“We are going to clean up this mess. We are going to bring people back in touch with nature,” he declared.

La Tourette said southern and northern athletic hubs will be on both sides of the park and that they are covering the costs by winning lawsuits against state polluters.

“Those who poison the Earth should pay for its cure: We are bringing it home here in Hudson County in the shadow of that real emblem of liberty.”

“We are on a path to deliver. We’re here to deliver for the people of this country. This has been a long and winding road. We’ve wanted this project for a long time,” stated U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New York District Commander Colonel Alex Young.

He said that Congress authorized the clean-up project in 2007 but never received federal funding.

“We’ll clear vegetation in two weeks to allow 75 acres of wetland,” Young explained.

“Vision is one thing. But bringing that vision into reality is a whole different matter. It requires deep engagement,” La Tourette noted.

He said legislators appropriated $50 million for the Liberty State Park Task Force, which is working on the design.

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31), who is also the Democratic nominee for state Senate, noted the area has been closed off for decades.

“I use this park. I bring my grandson to this park. But this park needs more. 40 percent of this park isn’t even being utilized. Today, we change that. This park is for every human being and everything that can breathe,” she said.

“Liberty State Park has been a priority for me. I look forward to whatever the task force decides. This is a crown jewel. We have to continue to take care of it.”

McKnight also said that finding a sports practice facility is difficult for many youth teams and once completed, LSP will have plenty of space for it.

Her running mate, Assemblyman Will Sampson (D-31) said it was not easy to secure state funding for this project, making the occasion that much more satisfying.

“Through planning, community engagement, and conservation efforts, we are proud to announce the groundbreaking revitalization of Liberty State Park,” he added.

“This project not only aims to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the park, but also seeks to create a space that fosters connection, education, and recreation for generations to come.”

LaTourette thanked the Friends of the Liberty State Park and the People’s Park Foundation for their input. They have been on opposing sides on how the park she be improved.

“It’s very exciting that theiInterior remediation will commence so that the fully funded and fully designed diverse and amazing nature habitats and paths will be created – not admission fee stadiums and all that commercial venue monstrosity ideas,” said Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin.

“People should be able to reserve it (the athletic stadium) sometimes: churches, labor unions, companies, families. It shouldn’t just be for teams.”

He noted they wanted to create a vibe similar to Central Park with active recreation and a nature preserve, which is now being created, which he believes would make it “one of the greatest parks in the world.”

Pesin also thanked advocates who opposed Liberty State Park privatization plans for 47 years.

People’s Park Foundation President Bob Hurley also expressed enthusiasm with the outcome, though said remediation needs to begin as soon as possible.

“I’m glad to see it’s finally getting started. I wish it was starting tomorrow instead of two weeks from now. We need to clean up this entire area. Let’s start getting in practice fields for our kids because it’s sorely needed, ” he said.

“ … They pretty much decided, the Corps of Engineers and the DEP, have decided what the central part of the park is going to be. What we’re concerned with is the northern corridor and a potential community center… and the cleaning up of the shed.”

He wanted to see a track and field stadium, a football stadium, and a community garden built, which he said the community would express interest in at future meetings.

The People’s Park Foundation, funded by Liberty National Golf Course CEO Paul Fireman, claimed victory with the plan, which included no privatization, in the spring.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop arrived late since he had participated in a policy forum in Montclair, but still took a few moments to express the importance of this area.

“We have fought to protect and maintain Liberty State Park as it is a unique asset. These revitalization efforts serve as part of our broader efforts as we welcome a new era for our city,” he said.

“Within walking distance from here, you can see SciTech Scity taking shape, where Jersey City will soon become a leading destination. We are excited to see our long-awaited vision for this area become a reality.”

Following the groundbreaking, the public was able to see multiple poster-sized renderings with possible options for the next phase, or Phase 1B, to revitalize the park’s northern area.

The open house was set up to be interactive, where people could leave comments.

“Share your hopes for what this place can be. We have some ideas,” La Tourette said.

There were cards for people to comment at every poster.

“We are moving through three phases of this important project at the same time. This is the people’s park. It is for everyone,” La Tourette added.

The old Central Railroad of New Jersey terminal was dark as the public sought to examine the plans.

The plans showed designs for athletic fields, a skate park, a community center, a marketplace, a cafe, an amphitheater, and a beach.

Following the eventual Phase 1B restoration is Phase 2, which calls for developing a holistic Master Plan focused on the park’s southern and waterfront areas.

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  1. The State Park is a tremendous asset which saw neglect and lack of support. Appreciate Bob Hurley and others working so hard to keep it while making it a better park!

    Thanks to all for this long overdue improvement.