The Troubling Implications of the Liberty State Park Problem

Friends of Liberty State Park.

JERSEY CITY – On Monday the state Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a bill that would designate Liberty State Park’s Caven Point Peninsula as natural habitat, but environmentalists worry that the amount of ongoing commercial speculative activity at the park signifies gloomy days ahead for New Jersey’s precious wildlife resources.

The Legislature already passed – and Governor Phil Murphy signed – the so-called “Liberty State Park Conservation, Recreation, and Community Inclusion Act,” which allocates $50 million in state funding toward billionaire Paul Fireman’s plan for a commercial concert venue and stadiums. The initial act included no specific protection for the environmentally sensitive Caven Point area.

Now, the Legislature is doubling back.

But the massive funding allocation – cut down from an initial $150 million – the legislature’s utter acquiescence in budget session stealth mode, no less – and the existing political structure that makes it all possible, suggest that similar plans could be coming to a state park near you.

Fireman employed Eric Shuffler’s River Crossing Strategies, which employs Middlesex County Democratic Committee Chairman Kevin McCabe, whose organization put Speaker Craig Coughlin in power. The Middlesex Dems have also contributed to keeping Murphy propped up during his most difficult days politically. Moreover, the organization has close ties to Senator Brian Stack (D-33), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a Liberty State Park point man on the legislative front.

“Never has the Legislature gotten so intricately involved in the potential for planning and running a park,” said Jeff Tittel, former executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The part that’s most outrageous about this is that a billionaire can spend billions to take over a park to decide a park’s future. That has never happened before – never happened in this country.

“It’s opening a Pandora’s box when it comes to managing a park in New Jersey,” the environmentalist added. “Fireman is taking over Liberty State Park; a massively rich guy who hired all the right, politically connected people.”

Tittel said Fireman’s designs on Liberty State Park differ significantly from Essex County developing the South Mountain Recreation Area. “That’s a case of county government bringing in concessions to do things.”

The larger implications trouble Tittel.

“We have over a million acres of publicly owned land and as New Jersey runs out of developable lands, developers will look more at public lands,” he said. “The fact that it came out of nowhere and passed so quickly should put a chill down the spine of anyone who cares about open space.”

Tittel said this case epitomizes New Jersey elected officials’ eagerness to talk about climate change in the broadest terms possible while doing nothing to halt the expansion of development in New Jersey, and even quietly facilitating it in Liberty State Park – and maybe beyond. “The environment is used as a bargaining chip in our pay to play system,” he said.

He criticized Democrats who fret about climate but then frontend load a disaster like Liberty State Park. “Murphy can do more damage [than former Governor Chris Christie, a Republican] because he talks about the environment. But remember, not one of Christie’s rollbacks on water quality has been restored [by the Murphy administration]. With Christie you knew there was a war on the environment.” Pesin, president of the Friends of Liberty State Park, said the task force created by the initial legislation will be dominated by Fireman’s appointees who, he surmises, will push forward architectural plans that include a 7k-seat commercial concert venue stadium. The scheme would eliminate nature habitats and paths.

“People will fight again in the coming months,” Pesin told InsiderNJ, as they fought to ensure that – at the very least – an embarrassed legislature secures Caven Point.

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2 responses to “The Troubling Implications of the Liberty State Park Problem”

  1. I live very close to liberty State Park,and I do believe it is Park should stay exactly as it is like any other national treasure untouched unmolested there are no traffic plans with this 7000 seat arena right now Which is just ridiculous I will destroy the people Park.JERSEY CITY Is lock in traffic from 4 o’clock in the morning until 8 Pm. In the Evening with traffic we don’t need more traffic on top of this Seven days a week

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