Liberty State Park by Jayne Freeman

Environmental organizations are calling on Governor Murphy to reject billionaire Paul Fireman’s proposal to install huge sports and entertainment arenas in Liberty State Park. They are also calling on the governor to reschedule the NJDEP open house he cancelled earlier this month at which the DEP was to have unveiled its plan to protect the park from large-scale commercialization.

“Governor McGreevey had the courage to rid Liberty State Park of the former LSP Development Corp.,” said Greg Remaud, NY/NJ Baykeeper. “It’s high time for Governor Murphy to stop catering to Fireman and start living up to his responsibility to protect public trust resources at Liberty State Park on behalf of the people.”

DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette had been scheduled to publicly unveil the department’s recommendations for the park, which include 165 acres of passive greenery for wetlands, grasslands, meadows, forests, walking and running trails — as well as 61 acres for active recreation (such as ball fields). The design took over one year to develop and was based on thousands of survey responses from the public.

The DEP report would also have shown the competing plan being pushed by Fireman and his group “Liberty State Park for All,” which calls for a 5,000-seat lighted football stadium, a 2,000-seat hockey rink, and a 7,000-seat performance arena.

“Governor Murphy is facing a fork in the road with Liberty State Park — Central Park or the Meadowlands Sports Complex?” said Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director of Clean Water Action.

“He must reject a billionaire developer's plan to build several commercial venues that displace Jersey City youth and increase traffic and pollution.”

Fireman is the founder of Reebok and the owner of Liberty National Golf Course, which is adjacent to Caven Point Wildlife Refuge at the park's southern end.

Echoing Goldsmith, Sam Pesin, founder and president of Friends of Liberty State Park, predicted that, should Murphy side with Fireman, he’d become a “forever enemy” of the park. He also said permanent large-scale entertainment venues and stadiums would bring “unpreventable” traffic jams.

Though Commissioner LaTourette has stated that there are regulations that would preserve Caven Point, there are processes that can un-protect this urban nature sanctuary and education resource. To save the area, which Fireman reportedly wishes to transform into additional golf holes for his club, Tom Gilbert, Co-Executive Director of NJ Conservation Foundation, said the state should designate Caven Point a “state natural area.”

“It's the last beach and tidal wetland ecosystem on the Hudson River in heavily-developed northern NJ and, like the rest of the park, must be protected from privatization,” Gilbert said.

Disseminated to the media by Anjuli Ramos-Busot of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, the letter’s other signatories included Ed Potosnak (New Jersey League of Conservation Voters); Doug O’Malley (Environment New Jersey); and Nicole Rodriguez (NJ Policy Perspective).

Photo courtesy of Jayne Freeman