Although there is nothing official proposed at this point, Pesin appears to have gotten wind of an ongoing discussion to revive a part of a plan the DEP aborted late last year.
Pesin said a reliable source in a position to know alerted him and the Friends of Liberty State Park about discussions that would lease the south end of the park, possibly to the same vendor that currently operates the marina on the north side of the park.
Some believe that this new plan is designed to resurrect part of the plans Pesin and his group derailed.
“I know this is moving forward,” he said. “This would go to the same company that operates Liberty Landing Marina in the north end of the park.”
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who supported the position of the Friends of Liberty State Park in last year’s protest against development proposals, said his administration also opposes the marina development.
“We are adamantly opposed to this and intend on organizing aggressively to oppose it,” Fulop said. “We feel that Liberty State Park doesn’t need another marina and the fact that these proposed changes are being done in secret speaks to the integrity of the process and people pushing this bad plan.”
Pesin said he has submitted an open public records request and should know more information by the middle of the next week.
“This is one of the plans they had for the park last time,” he said. “This was also proposed in 2005 and we stopped it.”
He said public hearings are essential for any project like this.
“The south side of the park is non-commercial, where urban families can go to picnic and relax away from the concrete of this city.”
Gov. Chris Christie – struggling with huge state budget deficits – has been seeking ways to make state parks generate revenue to help offset the cost of maintaining them.
They tried it once before
In 2016, Pesin led the charge against the Christie DEP’s plans, based on a study the administration commissioned, that would have expanded development inside the park and shifted oversight of the park from the DEP’s Parks and Forestry Division to a revamped Meadowlands Regional Commission. Pesin and others feared that a change of control would reduce the ability of the public to respond to future schemes. Park advocates feared the change would expose Liberty State Park to commercial development.
Christie has been promoting a “Sustainable Parks” initiative hoping to generate private investments in parks.
Because Liberty State Park’s location gives it remarkable views of New York Harbor and relatively easy access, advocates fear the state under the new Meadowlands Regional Commission will be unable to resist proposals to develop.
When it faced stiff opposition from the public as well as numerous public officials throughout the state, the DEP withdrew plans that could have seen the construction of a hotel near the historic train station and other amenities in the south, including the construction of a second marina located near the Statue of Liberty.
“This marina will destroy the use and spirit of the priceless area behind Lady Liberty.” -- Sam Pesin
While many other aspects of the original plan have been scrapped, the Friends of Liberty State Park were informed that the new marina may still be an option.
Calling this the result of “public-be-damned destructive backroom plans” that would lease the park’s entire south side for a second marina, Pesin is once again rallying opposition from the public.
Although there is nothing current on the DEP’s agenda regarding Liberty State Park, except for seeking new vendors for food and other concessions, people with knowledge of the situation expect the DEP to seek proposals for development within a week.
Pesin in a letter said the DEP commissioner must have public hearings and a public comment period if it intends major privatization and commercialization plans.
The area in question runs along the south end of the park where three or four dilapidated jetties stretch out into the cove just east of Liberty National Golf Course and where the public pedestrian walkway is located. The piers are currently used by fisherman and small boaters.
“This massive south side marina plan would ruin LSP’s Central Park,” Pesin said, and would stop people’s “enjoyment of the peaceful openness of our urban waterfront haven for picnics, jogging, walking, bicycling, fishing, relaxing and taking in the expansive open harbor views looking southward toward the Verrazano Bridge.”
A new marina where proposed, he said, would “radically wreck the deep American connection to the South Overlook Lawn with its Flag Plaza, the original picnic area and the jetties. This marina will destroy the use and spirit of the priceless area behind Lady Liberty.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.