JERSEY CITY, NJ - The Jersey City council passed a resolution Wednesday in support of the Liberty State Park Protection Act. The Act, which has been on the New Jersey Legislature’s agenda for over a year, is intended to keep the park safe from private development.
The move by local lawmakers comes at a time when there is mounting pressure from the community to live up to past commitments, including having the park fulfill the terms of a 1997 master plan which would provide additional services to the park for local residents.
By passing the resolution, the City Council reaffirmed its support against intrusion on the park’s resources, especially in regard to development projects that have been proposed in the past. Most recently, Liberty National Golf Club owner Paul Fireman’s offer to purchase 22-acres of space to expand his course, a plan that he said ultimately would help right social justice issues impacting residents in surrounding neighborhoods.
Fireman noted previously that Superstorm Sandy left large sections of the park in disrepair and that some areas that have contamination need to be upgraded. The 22-acres he hoped to purchase are in an area that is used as a bird sanctuary but is also part of a contaminated area of the park.
Councilman James Solomon, the resolution's sponsor, said the purpose of the Protection Act is to keep the park open to all of the public, and not allow private development to intrude on public use. He pointed to proposals such as allowing the park to host Formula One races and the expansion of the luxury marina as recently threatened.
“We have kept the park free and open and that’s why the protection act is so important,” he said.
Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson, who is among those in the community seeking to have the park provide more services to the poorer people in the community, voted against the resolution.
“We need to create more active recreation in the park,” Robinson said.
After the resolution was passed, LSP For All Executive Director Arnold Stovell said the council’s vote did acknowledge “historic wrongs,” notably the fact that for decades minority communities have been excluded from the Liberty State Park decision-making process.
“The Liberty State Park Protection Act continues a legacy of excluding minority communities from the groups that make decisions about Liberty State Park,” Stovell said. “The legislation proposed by Sam Pesin and the Friends of Liberty State Park would lock in place plans to create a nature preserve instead of an active park in the currently contaminated 235-acre interior portion.”
“The Council’s updated resolution on the Protection Act noted many flaws in the Pesin’s legislation and urged action to fix them,” Stovell said. “Thanks to the community’s appeal, the resolution now calls for changes to the Protection Act so that the Advisory Committee includes local minority representatives. The resolution also calls for active recreation to be considered for the park. These changes were made because of the dedicated and vocal advocacy of community leaders in Wards A and F.”
“In order for progress to be successful,” he said. “We must work against this notion of legacy organizations deeming ‘what’s best’ for a community never asked the question. Inclusion brings options, opportunities, respect and real equity.” Stovell added that it is time for long-ignored communities to “take their place at the table rather than accepting scraps.”
Commending Robinson for “putting action behind the words of social justice,” NAACP NJ President Richard Smith agreed that the proposed state legislation is “flawed” in that it “discriminated against minority advocates and against minority interests.”
“We will not accept feel good representation while others enjoy greater representation. Let minority communities have equal input and only then should any decisions be made about the Park,” Smith urged. “The legislation should not be considered until the social justice issues are resolved to the satisfaction of minority community leaders.”
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