Tuesday, July 7, 2015

NJ Gov. Christie signs legislation paving the way for private development of Liberty State Park; park lovers concerned

"Governor Christie signed into law Monday night a bill intended to quell concerns over the future of Liberty State Park – but his signature did anything but that," Dustin Racioppi and Scott Fallon write today in The Record.
Instead, environmentalists and park enthusiasts say, the so-called cleanup bill would plot a course toward private development of the state’s most-visited park, despite its many changes the last several weeks. The sprawling park along the Hudson River has been eyed over four decades for private development but each proposal has been fended off by advocates. Christie, a Republican running for president, has viewed the park as a revenue generator and commissioned a report last year on possibilities for development there.
“It would be like a president privatizing the National Mall in Washington, D.C.,” said Sam Pesin, president of the Friends of Liberty State Park advocacy group.  
The law would allow the NJ Sports & Exposition Authority to review and possibly finance private development at Liberty State Park — a goal of the Christie administration, which has long seen the park, its 5 million annual visitors and its spectacular views of Manhattan as an untapped revenue source.  
The bill would give the final decision to the Department of Environmental Protection commissioner, who oversees state parks. Pesin said that was one of the bill’s positive changes, but Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter, said, “that’s not a fix because the DEP commissioner works for Christie.”

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