In a recent letter to nj.com, First Tee director Ed Brockner publically referred to the proposal submitted by Liberty National Golf Course to lease the Caven Point natural area at LSP as a “proposed land swap.” That’s a very interesting choice of words that warrants exploration.
In November, Christie’s DEP administrators issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) to lease Caven Point. This RFP can be viewed if you Google “Caven Point RFP.” The RFP contains the conditions and requirements that a proposal to lease Caven Point would need to fulfill.
Page 6 of the RFP states the following:
Any use of the site that is determined to be inconsistent with “recreation and conservation” and/or “public outdoor recreation” is considered a diversion and/or conversion, respectively, requiring compensation.
… as compensation for a diversion, the [federal] Land and Water Conservation Fund regulations require compensation in the form of replacement land of equal acreage, fair market value and recreation usefulness for any conversion.
OPRA requests to the DEP for the details of Liberty National’s proposal have been denied, and the First Tee clearly knows more about this proposal than the public. But Mr. Brockner told us everything we need to know by stating that Liberty National’s proposal to lease Caven Point involves a “land swap”, and this revelation is supported by the RFP requirements.
Paul Fireman, Liberty National’s billionaire owner, suggested in January that his proposed relocation of 3 golf holes onto Caven Point is necessary in order to free up space for him to “serve the underprivileged children of Jersey City through the First Tee.” Since then, the First Tee directors have been lobbying for the approval of Fireman’s proposal, and trying to convince everybody that Fireman’s proposed land-swap plan is the only way the First Tee can have a home in Hudson County. That is blatantly false. Not only does Fireman own many acres of undeveloped vacant land within Liberty National’s borders, Mr. Brockner has now revealed that Fireman has “replacement land of equal acreage”, that he wants to swap with the DEP for Caven Point. Of course, Fireman can simply give THAT acreage to the First Tee, to satisfy his altruistic ambitions. But that wouldn’t satisfy his ambition to provide 3 holes worth of eye candy to his wealthy members. Brockner’s letter proves that Fireman’s reasoning that he needs Caven Point in order to “serve the underprivileged children of Jersey City through the First Tee” is false pretense, and bogus.
The top administrators of Christie’s DEP, who issued this misguided RFP, have been terminated. The new DEP administration is led by Commissioner Catherine McCabe, a long-time federal environmental leader. Some have suggested that the final decision on Liberty National’s proposal will be Governor Murphy’s. I would suggest that it’s time for the new DEP administration to step up, protect our environment, and reject the misguided proposal by Liberty National that would destroy the Caven Point natural area of LSP. Reject the land swap, prevent the land grab, protect the land.