Legislation Would Keep all of Liberty State Park in State Control, Advance DEP’s Stakeholder Planning Process for More Public Input, and Fund Construction of “Crown Jewel” of New Jersey’s Park System
Trenton – The State Senators representing Hudson County – Brian Stack (LD-33), Nicholas Sacco (LD-31), and Sandra Cunningham (LD-31) – have introduced S-2807, the Liberty State Park Conservation, Recreation, and Community Inclusion Act, which would establish the Liberty State Design Park Task Force within the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to solicit public input, develop plans to improve Liberty State Park, and appropriate funds to support park improvements.
“It’s finally time for Hudson County to get the park it deserves and establish Liberty State Park as the crown jewel of New Jersey’s park system,” said State Senator Brian Stack. “We need to clean up the contamination, add hundreds of acres of passive space and natural trails, and restore habitat and the ecology of the estuary to protect native species, fish, and migratory birds. We also desperately need new active recreation facilities so the kids and adults of New Jersey’s most densely populated county don’t have to compete over a handful of ball fields in our cities.”
The new, permanently established Liberty State Park Design Task Force would assume and advance the role of the DEP’s existing Liberty State Park Design Task Force and would be composed of a diverse set of environmental, recreation, and local stakeholders. The legislation would appropriate $250 million to support improvements to the park.
“We commend Governor Phil Murphy and Commissioner Shawn LaTourette for bringing stakeholders together through the Liberty State Park Design Task Force and gathering public input to develop a plan for the future of the park,” said State Senator Nicholas Sacco. “We are excited about early concepts that have come out of the task force, and our legislation would advance the process to the next level with additional community input while keeping the park in the hands of the Department of Environmental Protection.”
In addition to new passive and active spaces, the legislation requires planning for cultural and arts opportunities, community economic benefits and opportunities for local businesses with an emphasis on minority, women-owned, and small businesses, and improving transportation and mobility to and within the park.
“With more than a third of Jersey City residents not owning a car, a one mile walk from a light rail station is not accessible – it’s an unnecessary barrier,” said State Senator Sandra Cunningham. “Visitors drive to Liberty State Park from throughout the region, yet many of our nearby neighbors can’t easily access the park that should serve as our shared backyard. We must seize this opportunity to create a public transportation and mobility plan so the park is truly accessible for the entire community.”
Companion legislation in the Assembly is expected to be sponsored by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (LD-31), Assemblyman William Sampson (LD-31), and Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (LD-33).
“Our families love Liberty State Park and they continue to make cherished memories there,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight. “Taking steps to develop a plan for its preservation and potential expansion will ensure that the park will be enjoyed by Hudson County residents and families from all over the world for many years to come.”
During Superstorm Sandy, almost all of Liberty State Park was under 3 to 9 feet of water, and the adjacent low-lying neighborhoods are susceptible to flooding. The legislation would also require a resiliency and adaptation plan for future flooding and sea level rise, which could provide coastal flood protection for surrounding neighborhoods.
“Hudson County kids need ball fields to play and a park that’s actually accessible to them,” said Assemblyman William Sampson. “This legislation will help to create a park that truly meets the needs of our community.”
“I see the intense competition there is for recreation facilities in Hoboken, Jersey City, and other densely populated Hudson County towns,” said Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro. “There is an opportunity for Liberty State Park to be part of that solution, while at the same time expanding the natural areas and providing the quiet oasis that we sometimes need to escape from our busy urban environment.”
“It’s so nice to see that after all these years, the voices of our community are finally being heard and embraced,” said Richard T. Smith, President of the New Jersey NAACP. “I’m looking forward to seeing the remediation of land that has remained contaminated for too long, the creation of new passive and active spaces, and a park that is accessible to and serves everyone.”
“The Hudson County Building Trades supports legislation that will create new apprenticeship opportunities for Jersey City women and minorities in the building trades by amenitizing a limited amount of open space in Liberty State Park, while protecting the park from over development,” said Hudson County Building Trades President Patrick Kelleher. “The importance of maintaining Liberty State Park as a public park is critical but so is creating public amenities. Ensuring that all work is done with Union Labor (Project Labor Agreement) is paramount and any legislation must guarantee that.”