Liberty State Park advocates keep pressure on legislators, Gov. Murphy

JERSEY CITY — The city needs Liberty State Park, said Friends of LSP President Sam Pesin. Not “billionaires,” he added.

Hundreds gathered Saturday to rally in support of the Liberty State Park Protection Act, a 2019 bill that was never voted on. Pesin said if he and supporters continue to make noise, Gov. Phil Murphy will “do the right thing” and publicly back the bill.

“I do feel the governor will get the message,” Pesin said. “It’s a no brainer (to support the bill) to protect our great urban pack.”

Friends of LSP and the NY/NJ Baykeeper are continuing to fight for the state Legislature to pass a bill protecting the waterfront state park from privatization and overdevelopment. The legislation would stop the state Department of Environmental protection from considering any proposal to commercialize, develop, or privatize Liberty State Park other than small-scale commercial activities.

Liberty National Golf Club owner Paul Fireman has lobbied to lease a portion of the park to create three new golf holes because, to him, it’s important to attract major professional golf tour events. The golf club has hosted major PGA tours before.

Arnold Stovell, executive director of LSP For All, a new group that supports more active recreation in the park, said in a statement: If the advocates at today’s rally are truly concerned about the future of Liberty State Park and the community that surrounds it, they should demand the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection conduct a full clean-up, not a cover-up, of the contamination in the Park.”

Earlier the month, the DEP announced plans to clean up the contaminated 234-acre interior of the park, a massive project that will be performed in phases. The cleanup will involve removing contaminated soil, adding at least a foot of clean soil and then planting vegetation, the officials said.

“Capping is a minimum standard,” Stovell said. “Forty years ago the promise of the Park included recreational facilities and activities.”

Pesin said about 200 people showed up Saturday to the demonstration; many came with signs that voiced their support of the bill.

But attendees’ signs’ weren’t the only voices heard — several diverse speakers spoke at the event as well. Speakers like NJ Citizen Action Beverly Brown Ruggia, Assembly Act Raj Mukherji and Frank “Educational” Gilmore took the stage on Saturday.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop has also made his opinion publicly known.

“LSP is one of the most precious assets we have in NJ and we need to make sure that the park always remains a public place,” Fulop said in a statement.

Pesin said residents have described the 1,212 acre-park as a “haven,” “refuge” and “sanctuary.”

“Liberty State Park is so critical to the quality of life,” he said. “Especially during the pandemic — it’s a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual public health resource for urban people.”

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