A local activist group that has been challenging the construction of the state’s 9/11 memorial in Liberty State Park is unsure of their next move now that their suit was dismissed last week.
The State Superior Court’s Appellate Division ruled on Monday that the Friends of Liberty State Park (FOLSP) should have filed their legal petition within 45 days of the state’s getting its permits in 2005 for the construction of “Empty Sky,” the proposed statewide memorial to the 744 New Jersey residents who died on 9/11. The memorial is being built at the former site of the park’s Public Plaza.
In their legal petition against the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), filed in March 2007, the FOLSP argued that the DEP, which issued the permit allowing for construction, should have allowed for more public meetings to view other designs. They said other designs might not have blocked the view of the New York skyline.
The state’s appeals court found that the FOLSP is a “sophisticated third-party objector.”
The FOLSP want the project move to another part of the park, preferably to an area near the existing 9/11 memorial in the park, the 750-tree Grove of Remembrance.
But members of the New Jersey 9/11 Memorial Foundation, who have been raising money for the $22 million memorial, are adamant that the memorial be built on the site chosen, and disagree with the FOLSP that the proposed memorial would block any views. They want to see the memorial completed by Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
The court ruling
The state’s appeals court in its ruling found that the FOLSP is a “sophisticated third-party objector, which, after observing the Memorial project move forward since 2003, raised deficiencies in the 2004-2005 permitting process only late in 2006 and 2007 after many months of trying to modify the Memorial design.”
The ruling continued, “We determine that appellant, having actual notice of the permit’s issuance, delayed too long without good cause in filing its notice of appeal.”
Sam Pesin, the president of the FOLSP, said in a statement last week, “The Friends of LSP’s Board will meet with our attorney, Cynthia Hadjiyannis, and listen to park advocates to decide whether to petition the NJ Supreme Court. We hope those judges will be more objective and fully consider the DEP’s wrong coastal permit and the public’s right to public hearings.”
Betzy Parks is a founding board member of the New Jersey 9/11 Memorial Foundation and is currently its secretary. She lost her brother Robert on 9/11 as he was trying to leave 1 World Trade Center, where he worked on the 105th floor. Parks commented on the appeals court decision.
“As co-founder and spokesperson for the NJ September 11 Memorial Foundation, I am indeed pleased to announce our group’s utter and complete satisfaction with the Appellate Division of NJ Superior Court’s decision in our favor,” she said. “The positive outcome defeats the Friends of Liberty State Parks’ frivolous lawsuit.”
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.