I first want to thank The Reporter's staff writer Jonathan Miller for his excellent and fair November 5 front page story, "Battleground: Liberty State Park," about the current fight for the future of our free urban waterfront park, sacred public land next to Miss Liberty and Ellis Island. The park's public access and great potential is in danger of being destroyed by a summer weekend traffic jam, producing a commercial Waterpark plan being pushed by Mayor Schundler and the park's Development Corporation.
Last winter, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection set in motion an Interior Plan Committee and public hearing and comment process to create a wise plan for the park Interior Perimeter. At the Nov. 6 committee meeting, a tentative public hearing date was set for late January and it should be finalized soon.
Though I'm sure Mr. Miller will be writing stories in the coming months on all aspects of the proposed plans, I must correct, at this battle's start, the Mayor's total misrepresentation of the acreage which the Committee and public will primarily be focusing on. The approximately 185 acres which comprises the main part of the Interior, where a forest and wetlands are emerging, is already set to be a natural area. The amount of land, which the three alternative plans involve, is only the Interior's approximately 45 acre perimeter buffer. Therefore, the 20 acres which the Mayor wants (13 for the Waterpark and seven acres mostly for assorted privatized ventures) amounts to about one-half (of the 45 acres to be planned) not 10% as he claimed. Also, the Waterpark lease payments from the private developer might not even pay the salaries of the extra park staff which the NJDEP has said would be needed.
As your story reported in April 1995, Governor Whitman, after years of public comment, rejected the Development Corporation's golf course plan and stated "The 240 acre center portion (now minus the new 10 acre Millennium Park section) of the park will be left as a natural area and will not be developed in any way." She also declared that this unique urban natural oasis will have trails, boardwalks, and educational programs. Mayor Schundler probably wants to forget the Governor's decision because his representative on the Development Corporation's rubber-stamp "Working Committee" voted for the golf course in the park.
We urge the public to speak out for a free open space perimeter for unstructured recreation and to oppose the commercial Waterpark.
Friends of Liberty State Park