Demonstrators held a rally at Liberty State Park on Saturday to demand protection for the state park from privatization. Behind the rally was a counter-protest organized by a group called Liberty State Park For All, to voice support for recreation in the park and “to increase awareness about the broken promises of Liberty State Park and amplify Jersey City’s community voices,” according to the group.
The rally, organized by the Friends of Liberty State Park, was set against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline, and counter protesters nearby. Multiple officials and organizers spoke to a crowd at Flag Plaza.
“This is a major crossroads, as tens of thousands of people before you have, and many of you yourselves have done for many years,” said Sam Pesin, president of the Friends of Liberty State Park. “We’re putting democracy into action to protect the sacred and scarce urban open space and urban nature from privatizers.”
The rally urged Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature to pass the Liberty State Park Protection Act, which would protect the park from privatization. A version of the bill failed to pass in the previous legislative session, and a new version is currently in limbo because the legislature is out of session.
“We’re at a point today where we’re saying collectively, that we do not want to be here every single year, every single six months, fighting for what we know is the right thing to do,” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. “I am 100 percent sure that at the end of the day, we will prevail because our track record is undefeated, and we’re not going to change it now.”
The counter-protestors are backed by Paul Fireman, a billionaire and owner of the nearby Liberty National Golf Course. Fireman attempted to acquire the park’s Caven Point for a golf course expansion last year, but backed out of it for the time being.
Liberty State Park For All Executive Director Arnold Stovell denied in a phone interview with the Hudson Reporter that the group was tied to Fireman, although he admitted in an interview with the Jersey Journal last year that the group was financially backed by Fireman’s charity, the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation.