Good morning, Chair Verrelli and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
My name is Alex Ambrose, Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective, and I am here in support of the amendments to A4264 put forth by Sam Pesin, President of Friends of Liberty State Park, and Greg Remaud, Chief Executive Officer of the NYNJ Baykeeper.
These amendments would create additional recreational opportunities and increase public access to Liberty State Park, all while protecting critical natural spaces and habitat areas, by:
- Protecting the Caven Point Natural Area Migratory Bird Habitat and Nesting Area
- Prohibiting large-scale commercialization or privatization of the park
- Designating 50 acres of the interior for active recreation, with no more than 62 total active recreation developments throughout the park, in line with the acreage development recommendations from the NJ DEP 2020 New Vision Plan
- Requiring that the $250 million appropriated in the bill can only be used for certain purposes, as outlined in the Liberty State Park Protection Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Raj Mukherji of Jersey City.
But I’m not here to explain the amendments, as many others here have done and will do, but to paint a picture of what Liberty State Park could look like with these amendments in place.
It’s a beautiful, sunny June day. You step off the shuttle into Liberty State Park with your little one. They run ahead, wanting to join the kids practicing on the new soccer field. Instead, you grab their hand, giving them your reusable bags you’re going to fill up with produce from the farmer’s market ahead. You pass a group of senior citizens chatting about the aerobics class they finished up at the new community center swimming pool.
Later, snacking on some fresh blueberries, you walk over to a giant field dotted with blankets, a few people leaning up against trees. A local musician has gathered a crowd singing Springsteen. You stay for a few songs even though you’re more of a Bon Jovi fan.
Your little one darts around the trees, playing an impromptu game of tag with a few other kids. You hear one of the other parents, who like you maybe got into birding during the pandemic, mention they saw a red knot — an endangered bird — flying near Caven Point just the other day.
There is no smell of asbestos. There is no worry about contaminants under your feet. There is just the wind whipping off the water, gulls circling overhead, keeping an eye on the new international food court to see if they can snag a chip from an unsuspecting visitor.
To support the amendments put forth today is to support a future like this. A future where the park remains open to the public, safe for children and wildlife alike.
I want to make this clear: this is not about being pro-development or anti-development. It’s about investing in Liberty State Park responsibly, and doing what’s backed by science and public input.
Assemblywoman McKnight, I thank you for your leadership on this and the Liberty State Protection Act. I know you want the best for this state. I ask you amend this bill with the four provisions to ensure that this generation and the next can have this kind of future.