Op-Ed: Thumbs-up for DEP plan for Liberty State Park

By Ed Potosnak

 

Liberty State Park, with its majestic views of the Statue of Liberty and the backdrop of Manhattan, is one of the most well-known and visited parks in New Jersey. However, this shorefront green oasis has for many decades attracted land-grab proposals from developers and special interests. These groups are willing to take away the natural beauty and greenery of the park in favor of privatization and commercialization, cashing in on the park for their own profit. The most recent proposal calls for the creation of an exclusive, members-only golf course that would not be open to everyone, and open spaces would shut out even local residents.

The park is surrounded by densely developed communities and one of America’s most diverse cities, Jersey City. With a limited amount of publicly available green and open space for local residents, Liberty State Park serves as an important place of refuge. If developer proposals — like building a 5,000-seat stadium and 7,000-seat entertainment complex, among other commercialization proposals — become a reality, Liberty State Park will be converted to yet another privatized and capitalized space, shutting down access to local, free recreational opportunities and snarling the park with traffic. We can’t let that happen.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has proposed a plan to revitalize the park and keep those special interest groups away from the natural greenery. The DEP’s plan includes incorporating large open spaces for passive recreation, dedicating 60 acres to active recreation, as well as utilizing revitalized rail terminal sheds for limited and appropriate commercial activities and festivals. Essentially, the DEP wants to bolster the quality of existing open spaces and event spaces in Liberty State Park, which will protect the environment while creating more ways for visitors to enjoy themselves. The DEP plan would allow for people of all ages, interests, cultures and backgrounds to continue using the park and keeping the much-needed green space open to all — free of charge.

Some of the strongest DEP proposals for amenities include flexible fields for football, soccer, baseball and track, as well as courts for basketball, tennis, pickleball and even beach volleyball. The proposals also include a skate park, splash park, beach and kayak launch; an outdoor, nature-based amphitheater, a shuttle service for people with limited mobility and bike/scooter rentals for increased overall park access. Passive recreation is woven in through the Grove of Remembrance and substantial DEP natural resource restoration plans for hiking, birdwatching and more — with nearly six miles of running and walking trails in the interior that doubles as storm and flood resilience protection for the community, complete with picnic areas, an outdoor classroom and stunning hilltop vistas overlooking the New Jersey-New York harbor.

The DEP plan would allow for people of all ages, interests, cultures and backgrounds to continue using the park and keeping the much-needed green space open to all — free of charge.

New Jersey LCV, together with almost 40 other environmental, social justice and Jersey City organizations, wrote to Gov. Phil Murphy to let their voices be heard. These leading organizations have and continue to show their support for the DEP’s plan, while actively discouraging developers and special interests from taking over and privatizing the park — and working hard to stop the spread of misinformation about the DEP’s plan. New Jerseyans have had a long history of caring for the environment. The DEP’s vision for Liberty State Park echoes what New Jerseyans want for the park and its vital open spaces.

To make your voice heard, I encourage you to write the governor to express your support for the DEP’s plan to keep the park open to the public and oppose large-scale commercialization of one of the last remaining open spaces in the area. Your voice is needed in this important fight to preserve the beauty of our state for our children and grandchildren.