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Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park Will Reopen on Sat., May 2


Lincoln Park will reopen on Saturday, May 2, however numerous restrictions on its use will apply according to the Hudson County Executive’s Office.

Open will be:

  • The dog run
  • The lawns
  • The ring road for bicycling
  • The jogging track (starting Tues., May 5)

Closed will be:

  • The basketball court
  • The tennis courts
  • The picnic areas
  • The bathrooms

In addition:

  • Face masks must be worn at all times
  • Users must remain six feet apart
  • Parking will be restricted to half the regular number of spots
  • Vehicular traffic will be banned Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For further details and for information on the visitation status of other Hudson County parks, click here HERE.

Also reopening (with restrictions) on Saturday, May 2 will be Liberty State Park.

 

Header: Lincoln Park by David Wilson/Jersey City Times file photo

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State Parks to Open

Liberty State Park Will Reopen on Saturday, May 2


Liberty State Park along with New Jersey state parks will reopen on Saturday, May 2.

Governor Murphy will sign an executive order today to reopen New Jersey’s state park and allow county parks and golf courses to reopen.  Information on Lincoln and Washington Parks will hopefully be forthcoming.

This order will take effect at sunrise on Saturday, May 2.

Social distancing will continue to be mandated.

See our opinion piece urging the reopening of Liberty State Park HERE.

 

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Lincoln Park

“Reopen Liberty State Park and Lincoln Park!”


Local Residents and Officials Petition Governor to Reverse Edict

Public outcry against the closures of Liberty State Park and Lincoln Park in Jersey City as mandated by Governor Phil Murphy has surfaced and is growing. The parks are closed as part of the governor’s edict that all state and county parks be closed to protect against the spread of Covid-19.

Hudson County Freeholder Bill O’Dea and Jersey City Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey have petitioned the state Department of Environmental Protection to modify the order in order to give residents a safe alternative to the “stay-at-home” anti-COVID-19 strategy.

While praising the governor for his leadership in taking steps to control the virus, the two officials suggest that some parks should be re-opened if local and county governments can enforce social distancing.

“In the case of Lincoln Park, a county park in Jersey City, we think that is the case,” they say in an April 8 letter to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe and Matthew Platkin, the governor’s chief counsel. “In fact, in Hudson County we have the capability in our larger parks to do so.”

The letter notes that in Lincoln and other like-sized parks, the county has already removed all picnic tables, soccer goals and basketball rims and closed all playgrounds, tracks and bathrooms and, where possible, locked playing fields in order to decrease opportunities for close proximity to someone else. Even tennis courts have been made off limits given players’ potential for proximity at the net and that “even a tennis ball … can spread the disease.”

Referring to Lincoln Park specifically, O’Dea and Prinz-Arey explain, “The park was now reduced to an area that allowed dog walkers and bikers, walkers and joggers around the ring road.” And the park is now closed to vehicular traffic for four hours a day to further minimize possible gatherings.

In the two weeks since the park was reconfigured, county sheriff’s officers assigned to patrol duties uncovered only two violations of the posted park restrictions — both on the first day of the new rules: one group playing volleyball and another, soccer, and both were peacefully dispersed, the letter related.

As a compromise, the officials ask McCabe and Platkin to set up “social distancing secure park criteria” that would allow counties to appeal to the state for an exemption from the governor’s executive order.

These criteria could be the very restrictions that had been in place before the wholesale park closures — plus, for Lincoln Park, new restrictions on park hours (such as being open only six to eight hours a day), deploying sheriff’s officers and new park patrol officers to enforce the measures, and monitoring activity via 24-hour-a-day CCTV cameras.

Failure to comply with these conditions or to prevent social distancing violations would compel a park closure, they suggest.

As things now stand, the letter says, “Many good law-abiding citizens are being penalized for a few [violators]. If we can show how to address those few, then let us open the park again.”

Asked how her west side constituents have reacted to the 270-acre park’s closure, Prinz-Arey said, “It’s been a mixed response, but I would say many more are in favor of keeping it open.” Park patrols and cameras should help deter would-be violators, she added.

For many Ward B residents without a front or back yard to enjoy fresh air, dealing with the stay-at-home edict is more challenging, Prinz-Arey noted. With municipal parks off-limits, “Lincoln Park and Liberty Park are the best options.”

Also voicing support for reopening Lincoln Park and Liberty State Park for outdoor exercise was Downtown Councilman James Solomon, who has also pushed for “opening streets to pedestrians, bicyclists and emergency vehicles only” to effectively create more space for people outdoors.

“There can be clear lanes for walking and running in the same direction to reduce the potential for passing each other. It is unlikely groups of people will congregate in the middle of a street as they might in a park. Denver and other cities have adopted the initiative seemingly to good effect. I asked Mayor [Steve] Fulop’s and our transportation team to review and I hope we will implement.”

Even regular citizens are organizing. Jersey City resident Rasika W. Boice started an online petition regarding Lincoln Parksaying this:

“To close the one place where we’ve been able to consistently go and maintain a safe distance from others seems counterintuitive at best, dangerous at worst.”

If the park stays shut, it continues, “it’ll be near impossible to go outside without breaking social distancing rules, particularly as it gets warmer. The sidewalks will become more crowded. And there will be more interactions — and risk — for law enforcement, who will be called on to manage that.

As of April 18, the petition had 198 signatures.

And let’s not forget about the kids. They’ve been away from their teachers and classmates for nearly a month now. They’re missing those interactions. And they’re losing the benefits of those interactions. But nature can help. … Seeing that turtle bask in the sun, quietly following ducks across an empty baseball field, watching a hawk glide through the sky — they are also a source of joy.

What we can’t imagine bringing those same benefits, or joy, is zigzagging around the face masks and disposable gloves littering the sidewalks.

And, last but not least, with the streets of Jersey City being as pedestrian unfriendly as they are — with recent spikes in traffic injuries and fatalities — the park is the safer choice for children riding bikes or scooters.”

The petition does endorse breaking up gatherings, “reprimanding” social distance violators and marking benches and potential high-congestion spots like the pond area off-limits. “But to generally close the park to everyone is not the answer,” it insists. “It will only lead to overcrowding on the streets and sidewalks. It will hurt the community’s mental and physical health. And then, it will help the virus spread.”

Of course, the 1,200-acre Liberty State Park in Jersey City’s Greenville neighborhood is now closed as well. But given that that asset belongs to the state, not the county, many state legislators in addition to county and city officials have weighed in. Their positions are mixed.

Democratic State Sen. Brian Stack, who is also mayor of Union City, supports full closure, according to an aide. State Sen. Sandra Cunningham, a Jersey City Democrat, declined to comment. Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber, from Morris Plains, has petitioned for reopening because he finds the state’s decision hypocritical and arbitrary.

“As you have repeatedly observed, access to fresh air and exercise for our citizenry, especially during this stressful time, is paramount,” the petition says. “For that reason, safely and responsibly using our state’s open spaces should continue to be encouraged, not prohibited.”

The petition says the governor should trust residents to make “common-sense and responsible choices” to comply with social distancing rules while continuing to use state recreational resources.

“Break up and prevent use of the parks that violate those guidelines, as you should. Keep state restrooms and facilities closed, we understand. But do not close the parks altogether,” it says.

The petition further notes that bordering states like New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware have all kept their parks open. “We live in the most densely populated state in the Union, and our open space is too precious to us to have it taken away arbitrarily, especially in a time of crisis.”

Jersey City resident Sarah Ordway takes Webber’s argument one step further. In an online petition to reopen Liberty State Park, she asserts that keeping public parks closed could worsen the pandemic:

“With all city and county parks closed in Jersey City, residents found solace and social distance in Liberty State Park’s 1,200 acres of open space. Now, the only green space we had left is closed, leaving those of us without yards to resort to streets or sidewalks — spaces unsuitable for physical distancing. This decision could actually make the spread of COVID-19 worse, as our large population becomes confined to narrow strips of pavement.”

Two Downtown Jersey City residents who signed her petition heartily concur. Christy Sayre wrote that the park offered residents “our best opportunity for social distancing out of doors,” and Joe Vita commented, “LSP was the only space we can escape to and still have plenty of room for social distancing.”

As of April 18, Ordway’s petition to reopen Liberty State Park had 236 signatures versus a goal of 500.

For more on Liberty State Park, see publisher Aaron Morrill’s April 7 op-ed on closing state parks during the coronavirus pandemic and his January 4 op-ed on saving Caven Point from development.

 

Header: Lincoln Park by David Wilson/Jersey City Times file photo

 

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Liberty State Park Bridge

Liberty State Park Bridge Construction Resumes


Ghost Crew in March Reappears in April

By the end of 2021, Jersey Avenue traffic will have a neat little shortcut to Liberty State Park thanks to the Jersey Avenue bridge and roadway that is now under construction just south of the Jersey City Medical Center. Or so it seems.

Under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA), building of the Jersey Avenue Bridge began in August 2019, and according to Tom Feeney, spokesman for the NJTA, is on schedule to be completed by late 2021.

Looking south towards the new bridge to Liberty State Park

But construction has been on again, off again. Jersey City Times visited the site three times in March, and all three times it was quiet. No crew was working on either side of the Morris Canal; there were two huge mounds of packed earth where the bridge will be, but no backhoe or excavator was in sight.

In early April, workers were back on the job. Several calls to Feeney to clarify why construction had paused went unanswered.

When completed, the Jersey Avenue Bridge will feature one lane for southbound drivers and one for northbound traffic and will allow park-goers to drive over the Morris Canal and onto a connecting roadway that will lead them into and out of the park. The bridge and roadway will also have bike and pedestrian lanes.

When Liberty State Park opened in 1976, the only way to get there from Jersey Avenue was by foot, bicycle or scooter. These days, many Downtown walkers and cyclists take the Ethel Pesin Liberty Footbridge, named in honor of the Jersey City resident who, together with her husband, Morris Pesin, advocated tirelessly for Liberty State Park for decades and who passed away in 2013.

For more on Liberty State Park, see publisher Aaron Morrill’s April 7 op-ed on closing state parks during the coronavirus pandemic and his January 4 op-ed on saving Caven Point from development.

 

Header:  In March, a ghost crew at the Jersey Avenue Bridge construction site, all photos by Sally Deering

 

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Governor’s Edict to Close Parks Well Intentioned But Misguided


Today Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order “closing all state parks and forests and county parks to further social distancing measures.” The governor explained, “We have seen far too many instances in our parks where people are gathering and socializing in groups and by closing these areas, we are further limiting public interactions to only the most essential purposes.”

We ask that the governor rescind this well intentioned but heavy-handed edict.

Jersey City is one of the most densely populated cities in the country and unlike the denizens of tony Monmouth County, where the governor lives, most Jersey City residents live in apartments. There are no backyards and just as few green spaces. If you want to stretch your legs, clear your mind, get some fresh air or exercise, the parks are it.  Thus, these outdoors spaces play a vital role in what will soon be New Jersey’s largest city.

There is no question that our residents have sought refuge in our parks during the Covid-19 crisis. But in our experience, few of those people have been “socializing in groups.” Joggers and walkers are using the park to burn energy and to stay fit — and have been consistently crossing the path to maintain distance from others who approach. Individual families are in the park so toddlers can roam around on the grass, so tweens can kick a ball outside, and so parents can push their infants — single file — in strollers.  But that’s it. In Liberty State Park, in Lincoln Park, residents are not “gathering.”

With all parks closed, however, restless families and exercisers seeking a break from work will spill over onto the streets — be it on the pedestrian plaza on Newark Avenue, on the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway and along Westside Avenue. This is a recipe for congestion, this is what to be wary of. Parks have become the new essential amenity. Not only are they not dangerous, they are needed for our collective mental and physical health.

Jersey City residents have shown their willingness to take all necessary steps to combat Covid-19.  Thus, it’s surprising that, before doing something draconian, the governor didn’t call for a smaller step. He could station one or two law-enforcement members throughout the parks to admonish socializers. At most he could require those who enter parks to wear face masks. Were he to do either of these things, we have no doubt that Jersey City residents would happily adjust.

We commend Governor Murphy for his strong leadership during this crisis. However, this step — one that not even New York has taken — is going too far. Please governor Murphy, reconsider, and open the parks.

 

Header: Distancing in Liberty State Park, photo by Jayne Freeman

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Community Rallies in Support of Liberty State Park and Caven Point


A rally against the expansion of Liberty National Golf Club drew hundreds to Liberty State Park on an unseasonably warm January morning. Led by the Friends of Liberty State Park and the NY/NJ Baykeepers, protesters called attention to the Liberty State Park Protection Act, which is currently stalled in the state legislature. The Liberty State Park Protection Act would limit development in the state park and protect Caven Point, a 22-acre salt marsh and migratory bird habitat.

Liberty State Park is frequently the target of privatization, most recently in 2018 when developers sought to build a second marina at the southern end of the park; the state Department of Environmental Protection rejected the plan. In the latest land grab, Liberty National owner, Reebok founder Paul Fireman, seeks to relocate three of the golf course’s holes and expand into Caven Point, seeing the expansion as a potential economic boon for region and the state.

Mayor Steven Fulop and Freeholder Bill O’Dea were among the elected officials who spoke in support of the bill at Saturday’s rally. FOLSP president Sam Pesin, Liberty State Park’s longtime advocate, reiterated, “The essence of our history is that people put democracy into action as you’re doing today and have fought for this people’s park behind Lady Liberty. We have the same message today from 43 years of battles, that the people own this land.”

Header: Photo by Joanna Arcieri

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We Must Save Caven Point


On January 11 at 11 a.m. the Friends of Liberty State Park together with NY/NJ Baykeeper will lead a rally to protect a magical piece of land at the southwestern corner of Liberty State Park called Caven Point.  At issue is a billionaire’s proposal to turn one of the last remaining salt marshes in the New York metro area into three holes of a nearby luxury golf course. If this sounds like a bad joke, it isn’t.  This proposal is deadly serious and it must be rejected.  We wholeheartedly support this grassroots effort to stop the wanton destruction of this precious natural habitat.

It was thought that this issue was settled in 2018 when the DEP rejected this privatization plan.  The Liberty State Park Protection Act, which has been under consideration by the legislature since January of 2019, would protect the park, and specifically Caven Point, from privatization and commercial development.   The Act is now finally coming up for a vote, but lobbyists for the golf course have asked that it exempt Caven Point.  Such an exemption would make it possible to destroy this one-of-a-kind habitat in order to provide multi-millionaire golfers with a better view of lower Manhattan.

In her stunning photos, local photographer and blogger Shayna Marchese (shaynamarchese.com) has documented the cornucopia of wildlife that calls Caven Point home.   According to Marchese, approximately one hundred species of birds make their nests at Caven Point; close to two hundred bird species have been observed there.  The profusion of wildlife includes falcons, egrets, herons, kingfishers, wrens, swallows, owls and seals, to name just a few.  As you stand on the boardwalk and take in the upland meadow, saltwater marsh, maritime forest, tidal pools, tidal mudflats, and the longest natural beach in Upper New York Harbor and the Hudson River, a visitor to Caven Point can only think, “This is what New York harbor must have looked like before it was settled.”  That it exists at all in 2020 is truly remarkable.  Yearly, Caven point serves as a living classroom for hundreds of local kids who learn about wildlife and the environment.

Alas, Caven Point has the misfortune of lying next to the most expensive golf course in history, Liberty National Golf Club.  Built in 2006 by billionaire Paul Fireman, the club boasts an on-site helicopter pad, yacht services, a spa, and a restaurant.  Should you have the $300,000 required to join, you may rub elbows with members Rudy Giuliani, Eli Manning and Mark Wahlberg.   It is a club by, for, and of the uber rich. It could be worse however. Fireman previously sought to build a gargantuan ninety-five-story Las Vegas style hotel and casino next to Caven Point.   A company called Suntex tried to build a massive marina a stone’s throw from Caven Point.   Fortunately, those potentially calamitous efforts were resisted and came to naught.

Now, in a cynical attempt to peel away opposition to his current proposal, Fireman has told State Senator Sandra Cunningham, “first prime sponsor” of the Act, that he will fund a golf school for disadvantaged kids if he is given the right to destroy paradise.  Senator Cunningham has said there should be room for “compromise.”   But there is no “compromise” short of allowing Fireman to bulldoze this priceless, unspoiled spit of land.   Simply put, his three-hole golf course and Caven Point cannot co-exist.   If Fireman is sincere in his concern for urban children, he can use the golf course as it exists for his school or build a facility somewhere else in Jersey City with his billions.   If he wants to move three holes of his golf course, he can ask Jersey City and the state to make other land available for his golf course expansion.    An unused twenty seven-acre parcel of land, owned by the federal government, sits idly next to the golf course.   There are options that don’t involve the devastation of this pristine habitat.

Caven Point is a small, ecologically sensitive twenty one-acre piece of land.  It is unique, precious and fragile.  There isn’t room on it for herons, falcons, seals and golfers.    It’s time for Governor Murphy and Senator Cunningham to stand up and affirm that Liberty State Park will not be sacrificed at the altar of the ultra wealthy.  They need to tell Mr. Fireman that if he and his fabulously rich buddies want good views on their golf outings, they can get them from their helicopters.

Details on the rally and how you can reach our elected officials can be found at: https://www.folsp.org/preservation/support_rally_governor.html

Header: Photo courtesy of Shayna Marchese

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