FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 18, 2023
Caryn Shinske (609) 984-1795
Lawrence Hajna (609) 292-2994
Vincent Grassi (609) 984-1795
(23/P056) TRENTON – The Murphy Administration today broke ground on the cleanup of legacy pollution that has long left approximately 235 acres of Liberty State Park inaccessible to the public, marking a significant milestone in the history of New Jersey’s most visited state park.
Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette was joined by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers District Commander Colonel Alex Young and other dignitaries to officially launch work to address a history of industrial contamination that has kept visitors from accessing nearly 40 percent of the land that comprises Liberty State Park.
Remediating the legacy pollution and restoring natural resources within the park’s interior section will ultimately open up more space for public enjoyment and unlock future phases of the park’s revitalization. Once complete, the Interior project will also provide critical flood and climate resilience benefits to the surrounding developed features of the park and the neighboring communities. Cleanup and restoration activities will unfold over the next several years, with land clearing activities beginning this fall and continuing through spring 2024.
The Interior work is one of three phases of a broader Liberty State Park Revitalization Program that the state is pursuing on parallel paths. Following the cleanup groundbreaking, Commissioner LaTourette welcomed the public to an open house and poster session intended to solicit feedback on alternatives for near-term development of public outdoor active recreation, athletics, arts, and cultural amenities at the northern end of LSP. Public feedback and design options will then be considered by the Liberty State Park Design Task Force, which was established to advise DEP on both short-term action items to improve public use and enjoyment of conservation and recreation areas and a longer-term master plan across the balance of the park.
Through the multiphase revitalization effort, the State aims to restore and enhance natural features; provide active outdoor recreation amenities, including athletics facilities; add arts, cultural, and community spaces; expand passive recreation opportunities; improve transportation to and within the park; and build resilience to flooding and climate change through nature-based solutions.
“Liberty State Park will remain the crown jewel of our state’s treasured park system as a result of our Administration’s responsible cleanup and visionary revitalization,” said Acting Governor Tahesha Way. “That vision has been – and will continue to be – informed by valuable community feedback and will ultimately result in new ways for residents and visitors to enjoy nature, play sports, and experience arts and culture. Together, the remediation of Liberty State Park and its new amenities will result in a park that is healthier, more resilient, and more accessible for generations to come.”
“Today’s groundbreaking is a critical step toward building a future at Liberty State Park that brings people and communities together to enjoy the environment we all share,” Commissioner LaTourette said. “Through the cleanup and restoration of nearly 235 acres, we will reckon with the industrial pollution of our past and from it, create a world-class outdoor urban environment that will be enjoyed by many future generations.”
During the groundbreaking, Commissioner LaTourette turned the first symbolic shovel at the heart of the Interior Area, which will be restored with native ecosystems, including a tidal wetland that will provide nature-based flood protection to neighboring communities from 500-year storm events.
“Revitalizing Liberty State Park is a testament to the strength of partnerships, vision, and commitment to both our environment and community,” said Colonel Young, Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, is proud to be part of a project that not only addresses historical challenges but also paves the way for future generations to enjoy a harmonious blend of nature, culture, and recreation in the heart of New Jersey. Together, we are crafting a legacy that is sustainable, inclusive, and truly world-class. As we break ground on this monumental endeavor, it is imperative to recognize that our efforts go beyond mere infrastructural development. Revitalizing Liberty State Park is a narrative of reconnection, rejuvenation, and resilience.”
In addition to reintroducing native tidal and non-tidal wetlands, meadows, and urban forest, legacy industrial pollution will be remediated at the future site of the proposed Southern Athletics Hub. Other interior restoration work would include ecological restoration and construction of nature-based solutions that address critical flooding and provide climate resilience functions; creation of scenic overlooks with New Jersey/New York harbor and skyline views; and development of a 5.6-mile walking and running trail network.
Following the groundbreaking, Commissioner LaTourette met with the public inside the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CRRNJ) Terminal building, where multiple poster-sized renderings were displayed with possible options for the next phase, or Phase 1B, to revitalize the park’s northern area. The open house was set up to be interactive, giving as many people as possible the opportunity to ask questions, explain what they want to see at the park and why, and submit comments on proposed design ideas.
“Today’s open house is a significant milestone of people coming together to shape the future of Liberty State Park, providing input on the next phase of development since the spring open house event,” said John Cecil, Assistant Commissioner for State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites. “Designs are advancing and will continue to improve as we gather and integrate additional public input towards the goal of making Liberty State Park not only a safer and cleaner place for people to enjoy, but truly one of the best and most inviting parks in the world whether your interest is in the history, marveling at the city skyline and Statue, viewing and appreciating nature or going for a run or group sports activity.”
“The DEP will continue working diligently throughout the fall, winter, and spring months to bring Liberty State Park revitalization plans to life,” said Elizabeth Dragon, Assistant Commissioner for Community Investment and Economic Revitalization. “We are excited to share this progress through our new video series, which is available by following us on social media and on our website.”
During the Phase 1B poster session, the public had the opportunity to comment on proposed ideas for transportation, recreation, athletics, nature, arts, a community center and more. Comments will also be accepted for 30 days at dep.nj.gov/revitalizelsp
Phase 1B is focused on enhancing the corridor from the Liberty Science Center to the Central Railroad of New Jersey Train Terminal, bringing active recreation, as well as arts and culture improvements. It specifically calls for the following:
The firm designing improvements for the park produced poster-sized renderings illustrating possible design concepts for a variety of park amenities, from athletics to gardens to transportation and more. The public was encouraged to write comments on note cards on the design concepts they found most appealing and share why.
Praise for the Liberty State Park Revitalization Effort
“Cleaning up Liberty State Park is crucial for preserving the natural beauty and ecological health of the park,” said Senator Brian P. Stack. “It serves as a recreational area for countless visitors and supports diverse wildlife habitats. Neglecting the cleanup efforts can lead to negative consequences such as pollution, habitat destruction, and the degradation of the overall visitor experience. Moreover, a clean and well-maintained Liberty State Park can attract more tourists and visitors, boosting local economies through increased tourism and recreational activities. It also enhances the quality of life for nearby residents, providing them with a beautiful and safe outdoor space to enjoy.”
“This is truly remarkable and a true testament that collaboration works. I commend the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for stepping in and working with the Jersey City community to find common ground in restoring and revitalizing Liberty State Park,” said Assemblywoman Angela V. McKnight, who introduced several bills to ensure community involvement in the restoration of Liberty State Park. “Liberty State Park has always been a source of pride for those of us living in Jersey City, as well as throughout the state of New Jersey. Through this cleanup effort, I’m encouraged to know that there will be even more available land for the park’s preservation and recreational use.”
“Through planning, community engagement, and conservation efforts we are proud to announce the groundbreaking revitalization of Liberty State Park,” said Assemblyman William B. Sampson IV. “This project not only aims to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the park, but also seeks to create a space that fosters connection, education, and recreation for generations to come.”
“For years we have fought to protect and maintain Liberty State Park as it is a unique asset to the Jersey City community, and I am grateful the DEP and Commissioner LaTourette also appreciate how important this jewel of a park is to our residents and the 5 million people who visit the park each year,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop. “These revitalization efforts serve as part of our broader efforts as we welcome a new era for our city. Within walking distance from here you can see SciTech Scity taking shape, where Jersey City will soon become a leading destination for innovation, inspiration, and so much more. We are excited to see our long-awaited vision for this area become a reality, and the DEP’s efforts play an important role.”
“This groundbreaking is a result of community and government working together for the good of all who love the park. The additions to the park will mean a lot, not only to Jersey City residents, but to all the visitors from around the globe to Liberty State Park,” said Jersey City Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley.
"It's very exciting that the Interior remediation will commence so that the fully funded and fully designed diverse and amazing nature habitats and paths will be created - after years of studies, public input and planning,” said Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin.
Pesin also expressed excitement that the LSP Revitalization Program will include 50 acres of free active recreation in the Interior, after this NJDEP changed its policy two years ago to allow active recreation in state parks. Sam Pesin, urging continuing public engagement, thanked LSP advocates who opposed Interior privatization plans for LSP's 47 years and who set the stage for great plans for free public access to uplift the quality of life of urban people and all who visit.
“As someone who has visited Liberty State Park thousands of times in my lifetime, I am glad to see that the DEP – after so many years –is finally cleaning up the contamination that has limited the use of the park to the public,” said People’s Park Foundation president and Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Hurley, a member of the Liberty State Park Task Force. “Today’s groundbreaking marks the beginning of Liberty State Park’s transformation into a modern, 21st century park that meets the needs of the community and provides residents with new recreational opportunities and art and cultural amenities to serve generations to come. It is critically important the public be able to help shape the future of this state and national treasure, and I will continue to advocate on behalf of the community to ensure their voices are heard at every phase of the revitalization project.”
Following the eventual Phase 1B restoration is Phase 2, which calls for developing a holistic Master Plan focused on the park’s southern and waterfront areas.
For more information and updates on the Liberty State Park Revitalization Program, visit https://dep.nj.gov/revitalizelsp/
Follow Commissioner LaTourette on Twitter and Instagram @shawnlatur and follow the DEP on Twitter @NewJerseyDEP