Despite hearing from some 50 speakers urging the council to adopt a resolution supporting the Liberty State Park Protection Act (LSPPA), the council pulled it from the agenda for a second time, postponing the vote until July 15.
This was done primarily at the behest of Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson who wanted the opportunity to host a virtual meeting to listen to his residents before casting a vote.
Protect the park
The withdrawn resolution, sponsored by Councilman at Large Rolando Lavarro, Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey, Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano, Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh, and Ward E Councilman James Solomon, urged the state legislature to enact the Liberty State Park Protection Act which would protect the park from privatization.
According to the resolution, the LSPPA will also help establish a public process for any privatization lease of one year or more while allowing small park-appropriate commercial activities to flourish; reinstate and revise a Liberty State Park Advisory Committee of park stewards; and engage the public and the committee in the creation of a management plan for the park’s future.
“We have to continue to fight for Liberty State Park’s future and protect the park from developers who want to extort the people’s park for their profit,” said resident Eliza Wright.
Public speakers praised the parks many treasures focusing primarily on the 21. 5-acre Caven Point Peninsula which is under threat of privatization by the neighboring posh and private Liberty National Golf course. It wants to place three holes on the open space.
Resident Clara Richardson urged the council to “walk among the wild things,” discussing the importance of preserving Caven Point as a natural habitat which serves as a laboratory and teaching tool for hundreds of students and site for guided nature walks.
Caven Point is a salt marsh with tidal uplands, wetlands, a tidal creek, and intertidal zones in the Hudson River estuary with dry land and a beach, making it one of the two last intact salt marshes in New York Harbor, It’s a needed habitat for many species, including migratory birds that nest there as well as diamondback terrapin, harbor seals, horseshoe crabs, and beavers.
Speakers said the park was needed now more than ever to provide open space for mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual uplift during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boggiano motioned to pull the resolution out of respect for Robinson after Robinson first asked Solomon to postpone the vote because the Senate was not scheduled to vote on the act soon.
Solomon refused, noting that voting wouldn’t preclude Robinson from hosting a community meeting.
“We were screaming ‘black lives matter, black lives matter’ a week ago but now it’s like, I guess, black lives and black voices don’t matter no more because the councilman from Ward E pushes the resolution, and Ward F is telling me slow it down,” said Robinson, noting that no one “in their right mind” will vote to “hurt Liberty State Park” but that his community needed to be heard.
Robinson noted that members of his community want to see more recreational offerings for youth. Pulling the would not only allow his constituents to voice their opinions but provide leverage to get the community what they want.
“I think it’s been falling on deaf ears,” Robinson said.
Solomon said that an in-depth conversation should be had but noted that it could “take months.”
Though the majority of council people voted to withdraw the resolution with only Solomon and Lavarro voting against it, every council person verbally committed to approve the resolution at the July 15 meeting and support the LSPPA.
Solomon said that the council members were in agreement to protect the park, but “both the history of the protection act and a number of past fights tell us to be a heck of a lot more cautious and to be a heck of lot tougher when we are fighting a billionaire,” noting that golf course’ owner Paul Fireman had “extraordinary influence.”
Lavarro said that delaying the vote sends the message that there could be a “chink” in the city’s armor that could be construed as weakness.