Once again, Liberty State Park is under threat. A bill making its way through the legislature and on for a hearing in the state Assembly tomorrow would open the park up to commercial development and forever damage the storied urban oasis.
The bill being rammed like a Russian tank through the halls of the statehouse is the work of the shameless billionaire owner of Liberty National Golf Club: Paul Fireman.
Since 2017, Fireman has had his eyes on a 22-acre piece of the park called Caven Point, a spectacular wetland sanctuary for migratory birds and wildlife and a gorgeous and unique area for pedestrians to stroll through. Fireman wants to plow Caven Point under and replace it with three more holes for his golf course.
To accomplish his land grab, the Boston-based Fireman has stooped to new lows in a county known for sleazy politics. With the help of a politically connected lobbyist, mountains of cash, and a diabolical disinformation campaign, Fireman has slowly coopted numerous legislators who previously claimed to be the park’s protectors.
Let’s start with the bill which, as described by Jersey City Ward E Councilman James Solomon, came “seemingly out of nowhere.” Last week, it was rushed through a Senate committee at Fireman’s behest. Now the same is happening in the Assembly, where it will be taken up tomorrow by the State and Local Government Committee. Said Solomon, “The bill would provide millions of dollars in funding and add much needed active recreation for Liberty State Park, but as you probably already suspect, there’s a catch.”
And indeed, there is a catch. The bill would cast aside a plan recently developed by the Department of Environmental Protection with the input of thousands of citizens that carefully balanced the dual needs for more natural park space and active recreation. This plan was carefully crafted over years and calls for the DEP to add over 60 acres for active recreation. Yet all the work that went into it — and the will of thousands of people who contributed to it — will be shunted aside if this new bill orchestrated by Fireman passes.
Dressed up in the language of open space and habitat restoration, the new bill would actually reduce the DEP’s plan for natural outdoor space, allow for the building of massive permanent commercial structures and stadiums, and create an oversight committee stacked almost entirely with Fireman supporters.
And then there are Fireman’s tactics. With the help of his paid consultants, Fireman created and funded a front group to promote a Trumpian lie that people of color had been excluded from matters involving the park. A 2020 article evicerated the claim. Last week, a group of Black and Hispanic Jersey City activists published a letter supporting the Protection Act, condemning “the falsehoods attacking the LSP Protection Act by billionaire Paul Fireman and his funded group.”
A group of local legislators, including Senators Brian Stack of Union City, Nick Sacco of North Bergen, Sandra Cunningham of Jersey City along with Assemblywomen Annette Chaparro and Angela McKnight have apparently been seduced by Fireman’s money and the false claims of his front group. They refuse to commit to supporting the Liberty State Park Protection Act, which would protect Caven Point and render the park off limits to commercial development, legislation that is backed by virtually every environmental group in New Jersey.
Disappointingly, Mayor Fulop, who declared 2022 “the year of open space” is sitting on the fence, refusing to take sides on Fireman’s legislation. Last week, it was revealed that Fireman’s Liberty National Golf Course conveyed the Port Liberte ferry terminal to the city “for nominal consideration” as part of the mayor’s plan to “lower costs and creating a more accessible terminal.”
Thankfully, one local legislator, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, refuses to back down when it comes to Liberty State Park. He is committed to seeing that the LSPPA and the DEP plan become reality. He deserves our tremendous thanks and support.
Councilman Solomon is asking residents to call the Assembly and voice their opposition to Fireman’s plan to convert this precious outdoor refuge into a scene of noisy, around-the-clock sporting events and the traffic jams that will go with them.
The toll-free phone number is 800-792-8630.
Opponents to the bill can also email the Assembly bill’s sponsors at ASWMcKnight@njleg.org and ASWChaparro@njleg.org.
Residents shouldn’t accept that Liberty State Park’s beauty and tranquility can be destroyed forever and a wildlife refuge plowed under because a billionaire wants to give ultra-wealthy golfers a better Manhattan view.