Help save Black Tom Island, a local historic treasure
Jan 14, 2018 | 688 views | 0 0 comments | 75 75 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dear Editor:

The historic Black Tom Island site is now the southern area of Liberty State Park, along Morris Pesin Drive. It includes the area from the boat launch down to the great lawn at the southeast corner of the park beyond the flag plaza, and the 3 jetties in between. Black Tom Island has a significant place in history. Early in World War 1, the site was a large munitions depot and played a major role in the war effort, well before the U.S. entered the war. Many tons of munitions were shipped from these jetties to France and Britain, providing vital support.

On July 30, 1916, the Black Tom Island munitions depot was completely destroyed by a series of explosions and fire. Lives were lost, and property damage was immense. The destruction was the result of sabotage; bombs planted by German spies. Many consider the event to be the first terror attack committed by a foreign entity on U.S. soil. The buildings that stood on the site before the 1916 tragedy are long gone. But on the easternmost jetty there are still remnants of the original structure, which were left as a monument to the history of the site when Liberty State Park was created.

These artifacts serve to educate and remind us of the vital role of Black Tom Island during the WW1, and the tragic event in July of 1916. It’s important that these artifacts be preserved as a valuable historical resource. Black Tom Island is currently threatened by plans to develop a private marina along the entire southern shore of the site. The marina has the support of the outgoing governor and the commissioner of NJDEP If constructed, public access to the 3 jetties of Black Tom Island would be permanently cut off and more importantly, the historical quality of Black Tom Island and the jetties would be erased. The artifacts that remain on the one jetty, the only remaining physical, historical reminders of the destruction that took place here in 1916, would be destroyed. We must not allow this to happen.

A local group called Friends of Liberty State Park has a website, folsp.org. Here you can find information and links, where you can voice your opposition to the marina project. If you want to help protect Black Tom Island as a free, open space, and preserve its historic artifacts, please voice your opposition to the marina project.

Thomas Zalewski

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