"I am a very blessed person that Liberty State Park is in my life," said Sam Pesin, son of late Jersey City councilman Morris Pesin, who is considered the "father of Liberty State Park," last week.
Pesin has continued following in his late father's footsteps by working with his Friends of Liberty State Park (FOLSP) to maintain the beauty of the state park that opened on June 14, 1976.Fundraising next week
Among the events is a fundraising luncheon on May 7 at Liberty House Restaurant on Audrey Zapp Drive inside Liberty State Park where several people will receive awards in honor of their contributions to the park's existence including U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez. That will be followed by the Walk for Liberty State Park on June 10, 2006, and future events yet to be scheduled.
Pesin said that FOLSP wants to do their part to make sure the park lives up to what Pesin calls it, "the people's park." Idea formed in 1957
One day in 1957, Jersey City merchant and lawyer Morris Pesin got into his car to drive to Manhattan to take his family to a ferry boat that would transport him to the Statue of Liberty.
The story often told is that Pesin realized how close Liberty Island was to Jersey City. But he also looked at Jersey City from the island and saw, on the waterfront, rotting piers, dilapidated rail cars, and garbage.
Pesin, along with other civic-minded residents such as Ted Conrad and Audrey Zapp, over the next 19 years crusaded to transform the urban area into a beautiful green park that would be a source of pride.
He created the Statue of Liberty Causeway and Park Association to further this cause among local and state officials.
In a June 17, 1958 speech in front of the Jersey City Commission (now the Jersey City City Council), Pesin exhorted the importance of establishing a park in the vicinity of the Statue of Liberty.
"We have here at own doorstep America's greatest shrine, the Statue of Liberty, and we have failed to realize its potentialities," Pesin said. "With proper planning and vision we can utilize this monumental symbol of freedom to make Jersey City take its rightful place among America's great historical cities."
Pesin outlined a plan for not only a park but also a causeway connecting Jersey City to the Statue of Liberty, the establishment of a museum in tribute to immigrants. The park then and now
When Liberty State Park opened in 1976, it was 35 acres including a 14-acre lawn, a picnic area, a flag plaza, and a concession area.
Now at 800 acres, the park includes a nature interpretative center, offices based in the former Central Railroad Terminal, the Liberty Science Center, a restaurant, a marina, and a road named after the late Morris Pesin.
It sees events from charity walk-a-thons to kite flying contests.
The park is expected to grow in the future with current plans to transform a 251-acre contaminated area into a nature preserve. At the present time, according to Pesin, there is $11 million in the bank, but another $25 million is being sought from the federal government.
And then there are other smaller projects under way.
Proceeds from the fundraising events will benefit including the creation of a group picnic area and planting of more trees and flowers around the park.
After his father's death in July 1992, Pesin stepped in to maintain his legacy and wants to continue to be part of a situation that has many ways changed his life.
"Through my involvement with Liberty State Park, I have been able to work with such a variety of wonderful people," said Pesin. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com Sidebar Fundraising luncheon
The Friends of Liberty State Park will be holding their First Fundraising Luncheon celebrating the 30th Birthday of Liberty State Park - 1976-2006.
The luncheon will take place at Liberty House Restaurant, 76 Audrey Zapp Drive, in Jersey City.
Awards will be given to several recipients including Rep. Robert Menendez, Audrey Zapp, Greg Remaud of NY/NJ Baykeeper, John Tichenor, FOLSP's co-founder, Richard Sullivan, first NJDEP Commissioner, the late Ted Conrad, and a surprise recipient.
There will be hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar from noon to 1 p.m. and a luncheon from 1 to 4 p.m.
The price is a $76 donation per person. RSVP by May 1.
After May 1 or for more information, contact Sam at (201) 792-1993. - RK