Lawmakers Pile Drive Liberty State Park over Protestations of Sam Pesin

Eager to stick a fork in mother nature even under the watchful mournful eye of Lady Liberty, the

State Senate President Nick Scutari sat in on the Budget Committee hearing earlier in the day.

Legislature this evening moved ahead with plans to privatize and commercialize Liberty State Park.

“It would be a money pit – $250 million is just the start,” protested Sam Pesin, president of the Friends of Liberty State Park. “We need the park to be protected. We don’t want the park to turn into a concert venue.”

But the Senate Budget Committee overwhelmingly gave the thumbs up on the amended bill.

“The legislature did not do the right thing…” said Pesin. “I was in Trenton from 11:30 to 6:30 and saw the death of the Protection Act and Fireman’s lobbyist Shuffler’s bill get passed out of the assembly and senate budget committee. [Assemblyman] Raj [Mukherji] gave a  passionate, inspiring speech before his no vote. He should be governor.“They passed a few of minor helpful amendments but didn’t put in the ‘small scale commercial activities only’ provision from the Protection Act and they didn’t protect Caven Point. I watched the live stream back at home when they took up LSP again after a long break, and they passed one more worthwhile amendment.“They refused to change the composition of the stacked task force and the governor has six damn appointments and I’m sure Fireman’s lobbyist and Cunningham and the lawyers Nevins McCann and Elnardo Webster Jr. will pressure the governor to make pro-commercialization appointees.” Amendments except the last one :

change to a temp task force that expires in 24 months

-change task force to 23 members and 6 public members

-change co-chairs to Asst Comm of state parks, & administrator of urban state parks (position that started a few months ago)

-remove mandate for revenue generation (same as from environment committee)

-no casino (same as from the environment committee though Fireman’s traffic-jam causing plan was to build a 90 story casino hotel on his property)

-task force only provides recommendations, not a master plan itself

-reduces appropriation to $50millon from the $250

-renewable energy can be on rooftops only“We need to watch the task force like a hawk,” Pesin said. “We will have the task force open meetings and will have three public hearings and the public comment to fight bad plans that they orchestrate through the committee.”

From Senate Bill 2807:

 This bill, as amended, would establish a Liberty State Park Design Task Force within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The task force would have 17 members, as enumerated in subsection c. of section 4 of the bill.  The task force would be charged with assisting the DEP in developing:

      (1) short-term action items designed to improve public use and enjoyment of conservation and recreation areas within the Liberty State Park; and

      (2) a long-term master plan that (a) improves park facilities, programs and amenities, (b) creates new transportation and mobility services to the park to ensure equal access for all community residents to the park and within the park, and (c) further preserves the park’s natural resources and wildlife and protects against climate change.

In carrying out its responsibilities, the task force would be required to give due consideration to the natural, historic, cultural, recreational, economic and scenic resources, and the local, State, and national significance of Liberty State Park.  The task force would also:  (1) reflect the diversity of the Hudson County and the Jersey City community; (2) give due consideration to the creation of recreational, cultural, and economic opportunities and access to the park for all residents; and (3) consider how the local community, especially minority and local small business owners can participate and benefit from the improved park.

The bill would direct the task force to present the DEP with immediate action items designed to improve conservation and recreational opportunities in Liberty State Park, including immediate plans to address:

      (1) the need for environmental justice and social equity to ensure equal access to the park for public use and enjoyment of conservation areas, open space, and recreational areas;

      (2) the preservation of natural resources through a resiliency plan that allows the park to withstand rising sea levels and future flooding;

      (3) wildlife management and habitat restoration planning for the protection of native and endangered species and migratory birds;

      (4) transportation and mobility planning to improve access for all community residents to the park and within the park;

      (5) upgrades to park facilities, programs, and amenities, and the development of new recreational and athletic facilities suitable for all age groups, provided that the task force would not recommend the construction of a casino in the park and that any recommendation for the construction of renewable energy facilities is limited to rooftops and parking areas; and

      (6) cultural and arts opportunities in the park.

The bill would also direct the task force, no later than six months after the bill is enacted into law, and after holding at least three public meetings at which members of the public may participate and submit written comments, to submit to the DEP, after consideration of the public comments, a master plan that outlines long-term plans and capital projects designed to address the aforementioned issues and provide for the continued maintenance of the park.

Lastly, the bill would appropriate $250 million from the General Fund to the DEP to support activities identified by the Liberty State Park Design Task Force to improve recreational activities and maintain and upgrade scenic and wildlife habitats and areas at Liberty State Park.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo.
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