Pesin was referring to the announcement last week of the termination of the Liberty State Park Development Corporation by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The Corporation, founded in 1986, was meant to oversee park development, and fostered projects like the parking lot and marina. But it came under controversy in the last few years when it floated proposals like a water park.
"Many people fought to save the park from commercialization and privatization," added Pesin. "Both good and bad came out of this experience. On the good side, it showed how people can fight together for what they believe in. On the negative side, the fight showed the power of developers in politics. But now the Friends [of Liberty State Park] can work for the good of the park."
Located on the Jersey City side of the Hudson River, Liberty State Park is positioned across from Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Originally settled by the Dutch, English, and Swedish, the area served as a transportation point between New York and New Jersey since 1661 when the first ferry service was chartered. In 1889, the present Central Rail Road of New Jersey Terminal was constructed in the northern section of the park. The train terminal operated until the 1960s, when it was closed and turned into a historical landmark.
The park itself was established by Pesin's father, Morris Pesin, and other concerned Jersey City citizens in 1976. Almost as soon as the park came into existence, amusement parks and condo developments were proposed for the area, according to Pesin. In 2000, the administration of Mayor Bret Schundler and the state-created Corporation attempted to build a water park near Liberty Science Center. After much public controversy, the water park idea was abandoned.
"We wholeheartedly thank Governor McGreevey and NJDEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell for ensuring a positive future for Liberty Park," said Greg Remaud, president of the Liberty State Park Conservancy.
According to Remaud, the NJDEP decided to end the LSPDC's tenure at Liberty State Park after long-term public displeasure with their management of the park, which included a number of development plans. In the place of the development corporation, the NJDEP has called for the creation of an expanded public advisory committee that would review restoration of the park interior.
"I hope the Friends of Liberty State Park will serve as the nucleus of that committee," said Pesin. "There would be other people brought in from various parts of the Jersey City community. It is crucial for the committee to have knowledgeable persons on board who care about the park, and not a bunch of hacks."
Pesin and Remaud were also pleased with other facets of the new policy issued by the NJDEP.
"We are glad to see a call for the acceleration of the interior restoration," said Pesin, referring to the park's wetlands.
In November of 2002, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had the first of a planned series of public forums to show possible plans for the restoration of wetlands to the Park, which had been drastically reduced after years of industrial use in the area. The Army Corps proposed two plans for the wetlands restoration, both of which would include public nature walkways in approximately 251 acres of parkland. One plan would create a "cul-de-sac"-like inlet allowing water from the Hudson River to move in and out with the tides, leaving behind sediment that would help recreate the wetlands. A second plan would carve out a new pathway for river water to circulate through the new wetlands, serving the same function as the dead-end concept.
The Corps did not return calls about progress made on the wetlands restoration, but Pesin said he had heard that the Corps was leaning toward the "cul-de-sac" concept because it would be less expensive.
Trees added, music in the works
One of the latest additions to the park was the recent planting of 200 trees in the Grove of Remembrance on Audrey Zapp Drive on April 25. According to Lisa Simms, representative for the Community Forestry Program of the DEP, the trees were planted by 300 volunteers at an 8 a.m. ceremony.
"A variety of tree species were planted, including birch, dogwood and cherries," said Simms. "This is what is called a 'beginning forest' being introduced into an older growth area. The trees needed to be species that could survive in an urban area. They would have to tolerate pollution and nasty soil."
Simms added another 100 trees would be planted in the grove in the near future.
The new DEP policy also calls for the development of understanding with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra to explore creating a limited-seating venue for performances at Liberty State Park. Pesin said the Friends of Liberty State Park were largely in favor of such events in the park, so long as they were on a small scale and held on mid-week days in the summer.
"Events held on weekend days in the summer would cause traffic problems and people who wanted to use the park for other reasons would have trouble getting in," Pesin explained.
In a related matter, the new policy calls for improvements to the park's parking and transit services. Pesin noted that New Jersey Transit currently operates a shuttle service that runs the length of the park every 40 minutes, seven days a week.
"In the summer, the shuttle service goes to every 20 minutes," Pesin said.
Pesin added that there had been talk of creating a multi-deck parking facility by the Liberty State Park Light Rail Station. Pesin favored the construction of the multi-deck parking lot to provide parking for visitors and save on open space.
Remaud urged all people concerned about the fate of Liberty State Park to work for its preservation.
"Jersey City citizens must remain vigilant against special interests," said Remaud. "The park will reach its full potential through the cooperation and dedication of the public and all park partners."