Today, scores of park lovers gathered in Liberty State Park to call for the New Jersey State Senate to pass the Caven Point Protection Act, a bill that would protect the peninsula’s 21-acre wildlife preserve from development by private interests such as the adjacent Liberty National Golf Club. The bill (S2956) passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 8, 2022. If passed by the full senate, it would still need to be approved by the state assembly and signed by Governor Phil Murphy to become law.
“The idea of this beautiful park becoming a golf course is honestly a waste of time … we have important wildlife that are here,” said Oden Joassaint, a student at McNair Academic High School, who attended the rally and brandished a banner saying, “Fireman Hands off Our Park!,” referring to Paul Fireman, who owns the golf club. Other McNair students protested as well.
Caven Point has been under threat for some time. This past June, the legislature killed the Liberty State Park Protection Act, which would not only have shielded from privatization all of Caven Point but would have strictly limited the extent to which the park’s remaining 580 acres could be transformed and commercialized. In its place on June 29 lawmakers passed a watered-down version of the bill. Signed by Governor Murphy, the replacement legislation leaves Caven Point vulnerable to purchasing; would allow for large-scale commercial development within the rest of the park (comprised of 600 acres of water and 600 acres of land); and doubled the acreage of undeveloped parkland the state could develop in the future.
“The act should’ve passed,” said Sam Pesin, president of Friends of Liberty State Park, in reference to the original, more environmentally strong bill that he and FOLSP had fought for for years. To Pesin, Fireman and politicians who have acquiesced to him reflect “private greed.”
“It’s simply money over nature,” agreed Bill Kadish, an FOLSP member who attended the rally.
Ward E City Councilman James Solomon, who attended the event, also saw money at play in the park’s fate although he appeared more optimistic than Kadish.
“Money can’t buy out a grassroots movement such as this one,” he said.
Ward F Councilman Frank Gilmore, who supported the Liberty State Park Protection Act and now champions the Caven Point Protection Act, was at the rally as well.
Caven Point is the longest uninterrupted stretch of natural beach in the upper New York Harbor and Hudson River. A sanctuary for wildlife, an educational resource for school children, a valued spot for birders, and an antidote to the harsh, noisy, cement-filled vistas of city life, the property is a verdant oasis for thousands of visitors per year.
“The idea that this last piece of nature is going to be quashed out just to add three golf courses is ridiculous!” added Kadish.
Wistful, Jersey City resident Kate Lester, who attended the walk with her mother, agreed. “I hope we can find a solution out of this, to protect this land which belongs to us,” she said.
Photographs by Jordan Coll