ENVIRONMENT

‘Secret’ marina plan riles Friends of Liberty State Park

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

There is a marina in Liberty State Park. It’s on the north side of the park. Most visitors to the park, who aren’t boating enthusiasts, tolerate it. Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin is one of those. He says the operators of the Marina — Liberty Landing Marina — have been good neighbors. But a proposal that would allow the marina operators to expand to the south end of the park has Pesin sounding the alarm.

“The DEP has a secret plan for a major privatization, second marina, a millionaires’ marina here at the south side of Liberty State Park,” he explained.

Since it opened in 1976, the southern part of Liberty State Park has always been the most popular. Forty-one years later and it’s still one of the most peaceful places in Jersey City.

“People deserve to have this land for future generations and this area, without several hundred boats infringing on their enjoyment and the connection that people have,” added Pesin. “This is the most sacred land in America, right behind the Statue of Liberty and we must have public hearings and we must protect this.”

According to a number of sources, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection is set to make a deal with Liberty Landing that would allow them to expand their lease to the south side in exchange for the marina operator taking over — from the state — maintenance of the bulkhead where the original marina has been built. They say the state will present the deal as a cost saver for taxpayers.

“What DEP is going to claim now is that they need money to repair the bulkheads and that the only way they can get that money is through this lease but, as has been pointed out by my colleague Jeff Tittel and others, is that they have been diverting funds for maintenance at the park that could’ve gone to the bulkhead, so, in essence they’ve created a need to justify the marina,” countered Greg Remaud, deputy director for NY/NJ Baykeeper. “If they really cared about fixing the bulkheads they would’ve never diverted the maintenance funds that were intended for that purpose.”

There is no evidence that such a proposal is in the works. The DEP makes no mention of it on their website and a statement Wednesday said, “Any significant proposed changes to operations at Liberty State Park or any of our public facilities would undergo a public process, as they always have.”

When we called the marina, the person who answered the phone there told us that a marina expansion was in the works but that it was a while away.

“If there’s a marina here, it’s going to take us away from here because they’re not going to let us, you know, get recreational fishing with the kids,” said Luis Acosta, a city resident fishing nearby. “The kids love to be fishing too. If they put a marina here it’s going to be devastating for the kids.”

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji is skeptical.

“Whether I’d be open to it in the future, I have reservations about it, so I start off probably with the approach that I’m going to oppose it,” said the assemblyman, “but I would hear them out and we haven’t been consulted. We have no idea what the plan is. It’s not transparent.”

Besides, critics say, why is an administration with 60 days left, proposing a major plan to change the face of the park for decades to come. It’s another good question that remains unanswered.