The People’s Park Foundation, a group spearheaded by legendary St. Anthony basketball coach Bob Hurly that is seeking to expand recreation at Liberty State Park, has recently filed as a nonprofit.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“The goal is to create exciting programs for all ages which will include building a world class community recreation center that will enable youth, teenagers, parents, and seniors to have their lives enriched,” Hurley said in a statement.
“We will create a football stadium, track and field stadium, outdoor amphitheater, and convert the old train shed that is currently crumbling and in disrepair into a flexible market space.”
The community center will be 250,000 square feet and will include an Olympic sized swimming and diving pool, two ice hockey rinks, indoor basketball courts, pickleball courts, an indoor track, community health center, and community rooms.
All of these amenities were discussed during public hearings with the state legislature before Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Liberty State Park Conservation, Recreation, and Community Inclusion Act into law at the end of June.
The bill allows a 23-member task force to determine how to spend $50 million from the New Jersey Department of Protection (NJ DEP) on active recreation and other park improvements.
While those who opposed the changes, such as the Friends of Liberty State Park and the NJ Sierra Club, were concerned this could lead to development at Caven Point, since Liberty National Golf Course owner Paul Fireman had previously tried to expand there.
However, state Senator Brian Stack (D-33) subsequently introduced a bill to protect Caven Point, which cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in August.
“As county commissioner, it is my belief this commitment is the best step moving forward in making Liberty State Park a destination park for everyone throughout Jersey City and the state of New Jersey,” stated Jerry Walker (D-3).
“This is a great time for all community members to recognize we must be committed on all fronts in ensuring the People’s Park is accessible to all residents. We would like to thank the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation for providing the seed funding and guidance for this organization,” added attorney Elnardo Webster.
Other members of the People’s Park Foundation, who say they are separate from the Liberty State Park for All group (though they say they support his effort), are former Jersey City Mayor Gerry McCann, ex-Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson, and retired Jersey City Superintendent of Schools Franklin Walker.
On Thursday morning, Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin said that the amenities proposed here won’t come easily.
“There will be public hearings and open Task Force meetings on LSP’s future and grassroots condemnation of the billionaire’s paid and bought-off puppets’ sports and entertainment complex which casts aside the overwhelming broad public consensus against such exclusionary, admission-fee, privatized commercial venues for LSP’s 46 years!,” he told HCV in an email.
“The rubberstamp Task Force, created by Fireman’s June LSP law will be dominated by Fireman surrogates, and their meetings must be in the evenings! The phrases ‘People’s Park’ and ‘LSP for All People to Enjoy’ have always meant a FREE park behind Lady Liberty with FREE open space, recreation and nature and including small scale commercial activities.”
He added that commercial concert venue and stadiums that would host for-profit events don’t belong in LSP, claiming that those advocating for such “would be laughed out of Manhattan if they wanted these in Central Park.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Thursday morning with a comment from Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin.