JERSEY CITY, NJ - A dispute between the owner of Liberty Golf Course and Friends of Liberty State Park may have motivated the state to finally address the cleanup of contamination of the park. Although off the table, Liberty Golf Course had offered to help cleanup a portion of 234-acre contaminated area of the park in exchange for the purchase of 22 acres.
The conflict to prevent the sale, however, highlighted the fact that a section of the park – which is currently seen as a wildlife estuary – was in need of remediation.
Olivia Glenn, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s new deputy commissioner for environmental justice and equity, announced last week that the state would be opened to cleaning up a site whose toxins may be leaching into the New York Harbor. Glenn was previously the director of state parks and forestry which oversees the state parks.
If the state goes ahead with the project, which would include the removal of contaminated soil and capping the site with clean fill, the space, sitting near the Liberty State Park Station of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail and the Liberty Science Center, will become a passive recreation area accommodating bicycling, walking, wildlife observation, on newly developed trails easily accessible to the public, officials said.
The funding would be generated from the settlement of pollution lawsuits.
The vision for that part of the park would prohibit active recreation, and would coincide with arguments made by Sam Pesin, President of the Friends of Liberty State Park, that the area should be retained as a wildlife sanctuary.
Calling it “tremendously exciting” news Pesin also renewed his call for the state legislature to pass the Liberty State Park Protection Act – which would assure that the park would remain safe from future commercial development while NY/NJ Baykeeper Greg Remaud called it “a world-class” restoration project.
Response wasn’t all positive, however, with Liberty State Park For All Executive Director Arnold Stovell saying that “tt is disheartening to see the DEP is still playing from the same conservative playbook that was reviled and rejected when they first deceived Jersey City back in the 20th century. After thirty years of inaction they now decide to release resources and a plan?” he said.
Stovell is concerned that the yet to be scheduled public hearing may simply be a formality and that as in the past the state has already made up its mind what to do.
“The Liberty State Park for All Coalition will not support or accept any plan that does not include a full clean-up of the contaminated Interior portion of Liberty State Park and provide for active recreation – exactly what was promised to the community – at the Park,” Stovell said. “Any contamination left behind will be contamination affecting our children and community. The DEP’s short-sighted response is not acceptable. There is no precedent for capping contaminated public park lands in predominantly white communities. It should not be acceptable near communities of color either.”
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