LETTER – Liberty State Park Plan: Sell-Out

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The NJDEP just posted information on privatizing Liberty State Park and it only happened because of the lawsuit forcing DEP under OPRA to release documents. Some things in the report are from the New Jersey Future report that still hasn’t been released, but we expect it to come out in the next few days. Recently a secret plan to privatize the park has been initiated by the Christie Administration. They have deliberately withheld access to a public document that includes the privatization plan consulted by New Jersey Future. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club released the following statement:

 

“This report shows the DEP is trying to sell LSP to the highest bidder. Many of our biggest concerns of why they were hiding the New Jersey Future report were true: shopping center, indoor sports arena, an amphitheater, concessions, new boat house and marina, as well as an amusement park. This plan is well compatible park uses; it is really about commercial development and privatization in Liberty State Park. The report calls for developments within the park that would be broken down into zones. Near the terminal building it calls for an event and conference center, hotel, catering hall, and shopping center. These are the type of developments that we’ve been fighting for decades. The Administration wants to turn the area around the Jersey Central Terminal into another Penn’s Landing, South Street Seaport or Inner Harbor. We believe Liberty State Park should remain a place for the people of New Jersey to recreate and enjoy the outdoors. We don’t want to see Six Flags over the Statue of Liberty or Disney World instead of Jersey City.”

 

“Since Governor Christie came into office, the attempts to privatize the park have accelerated. In the past the Christie Administration tried to privatize the park and we have been involved opposing legislation that was passed by the state to make development easier. The result of privatization is often a decrease in services to the public, higher costs, and the proliferation of pay to play contracts.  Privatization often leads to higher rates worse quality for services and payments for access that was once free. Under the Meadowlands bill, development and leases at Liberty State Park are exempted from the Statehouse Commission. That means the DEP and the Commissioner can just be signed off this development without public input or the legislature.”

 

This is not a report, it’s a development plan. The park that’s named for the Statue of Liberty and which is a gateway to Ellis Island will still suffer from private commercial development if this plan goes through. The Christie Administration would rather limit the public access and turn it over to private vendors that will over charge the public rather than actually run the park like it should run for the people of New Jersey.  Governor Christie is following in lock step their plan to privatize state parklands and initiated New Jersey Future to conduct this report.  We believe the Governor’s plan calls for first privatizing a small group of parks with partners including non-profits, like New Jersey Future, which we will now see moving forward at Liberty State Park.  Then it could allow non-profits to be pushed out and to turn the parks into an economic growth asset under private control for corporate assets. We’ve actually turned our back on the Statue of Liberty with this plan.”

 

“The Governor is taking liberties with our state parks at the site that most represents liberty in New Jersey.  This national symbol of freedom will have its public access restricted and other parks could be following suite under Governor Christie. Something is wrong when we take New Jersey’s state parks and privatize them.  The Governor is giving away our most treasured assets. Parks have been the one thing that government does right and that people have enjoyed for years being above politics and commercialization. Now the Christie Administration is breaking the public trust and giving away our public lands to private corporations that only care about their bottom line and not the people of New Jersey.”

 

The DEP report is attached and can be also be found http://www.nj.gov/dep/sustainableparks/docs/dep-lsp-report.pdf.

 

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