You will learn little from Rob Van Pelt’s Facebook page beyond the fact that he has five friends, comes from Columbus Ohio, and likes traveling, hiking, art and gardening. Yet when it comes to Liberty State Park, Van Pelt is expansive. He really likes a plan backed by former Reebok CEO Paul Fireman to take over much of Liberty State Park’s interior in order to build sports arenas, a large concert venue and multiple playing fields.
In a 600 word post with numbered paragraphs on The Jersey City Times Facebook page, Van Pelt laid out in detail arguments pushed by the “People’s Park Foundation,” the Fireman-created group that created the plan.
“From past postings on social media” wrote Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin, “it seems that ‘Rob Van Pelt’ is an alias for, or is someone probably getting paid – to do publicity for Fireman’s second front group, ‘People’s Park Foundation’ to push falsehoods for their LSP commercialization and privatization plans – and casting aside 46 years of the broad public consensus against such destructive plans.”
Van Pelt responded “You bully politicians. Go after locals who support changes in the park. Spread lies on Paul Fireman to peddle your propaganda. Take kids to Caven point and allow them to dig in the contaminated sand and soil. And you and followers target businesses such as 902 brewery that rented out space to the peoples park foundation on Thursday night.”
Judith Rahilly agreed with Pesin as to Van Pelt’s existence. “Sam Pesin that’s right, five friends and two posts, brand new, created.”
Critics charge that the People’s Park Foundation and its sister-group Liberty State Park for All were created and funded by Fireman, with the help of his politically connected lobbyist Eric Shuffler, in order to achieve Fireman’s ultimate goal of acquiring the Caven Point wildlife nesting area for his Liberty National Golf Club course.
Whether Rob Van Pelt is a real person or a Paul Fireman creation is hard to know definitively. However, the only Rob Van Pelt from Columbus found in a Google search, died in 1991.
Asked to comment for this article on the suspicion that he was merely a fake profile doing Fireman’s bidding, Van Pelt only responded “fire up the article. I look forward to reading.”