TRENTON – A bill, S-2342, sponsored by Senator Joseph V. Doria Jr., D-Hudson, to require the Department of Environmental Protection to hold a public hearing when the State plans a major change at a State park or forest has been approved by the Senate Environment Committee.
“People with good intentions don’t always agree and parks, especially those in urban settings, are very precious spaces,” said Senator Doria. “In my home county of Hudson, I am proud that Liberty State Park has a very loyal following whose patrons want to be a part of any modifications to the Park they love.”
The Senate panel unanimously back Senator Doria’s proposal on Monday and sent it to the full Senate for a floor vote.
Senator Doria’s bill is a response to the concerns expressed by local residents who visit Liberty State Park about the State’s construction of the memorial monument to those killed in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.
“There have been concerns expressed by those who know and love Liberty State Park that the State’s monument, while noble and much deserved and revered, could have been located in a different section of the Park,” Senator Doria. said. “Those voices of concern still may be relevant in the case of the 9-11 Memorial.”
The Doria bill would direct the Department of Environmental Protection to hold a public hearing in a host municipality where a proposed State alteration to a park or forest has begun, but has yet to be completed, as is the case at Liberty State Park.
“There was a legitimate concern expressed locally that the plans for the 9-11 memorial monument lacked sufficient local input,” Senator Doria said. “This bill would allow that those voices of concern still be heard in the case of Liberty State Park. And, it would insure that all future park alterations be carried out with maximum local input.”
In the case of the monument at Liberty State Park, many local residents believed it could have been located farther away from the waterfront overlooking New York Harbor and, thereby, avoid blocking the natural vista to the Manhattan skyline.
While site preparation for the memorial has commenced, its completion pace still could trigger the public hearing process should Senator Doria’s measure be enacted.
Under the bill, an alteration to a State park or forest would have to disrupt at least a half an acre of property to qualify for a public hearing.
Under an amendment approved today, the bill would require the DEP to notify the municipality where new plans call for a major alteration to a State park or forest at least six months in advance of site preparation. A public hearing would be mandated if requested by the host municipality.