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Re: AGAIN! New sneaky' provision to turn over part of a Liberty State Park to the ultra-rich.
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Quote:

Monroe wrote:
It’s all on NJ Democrats. They’ll have to own this if it goes through.


Sadly true - we were happy to see Fulop and Solomon were both out front against this. We need to stop this!

Posted on: 7/4 16:03
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Re: AGAIN! New sneaky' provision to turn over part of a Liberty State Park to the ultra-rich.
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It’s all on NJ Democrats. They’ll have to own this if it goes through.

Posted on: 7/4 13:00
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Re: AGAIN! New sneaky
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NJ.com: Language in state budget reopens door for privatization at Liberty State Park.

https://www.nj.com/hudson/2020/06/lang ... t-liberty-state-park.html

Language in state budget reopens door for privatization at Liberty State Park

By Joshua Rosario | The Jersey Journal

Liberty State Park is again under threat of privatization after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a $7.7 billion spending plan Tuesday that could reopen state parks to private development.

Language tucked deep in the 110-page spending bill permits the state Department of Environmental Protection to solicit both for-profit companies and non-profit entities for investments in state parks.

Murphy signed the stop gap spending bill, which funds the state through Sept. 30, despite calls from legislators and advocates to veto the line item related to state parks.

Furious over the decision, Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin condemned Murphy for signing the bill, saying it “sells out” LSP and the 44 years of public consensus against its privatization. Pesin said Murphy knew he was approving LSP’s privatization on behalf of Liberty National Golf Course owner Paul Fireman, who for years has sought to expand his private course onto the Caven Point Peninsula – a migratory birds haven within the state park.

“Fireman has been opposing the LSP Protection Act because he wants to privatize and destroy LSP’s Caven Point Natural Area habitat and urban environmental education resource for golf holes for multimillionaires,” Pesin said. “The Governor collaborated with the devious subversion of democracy with the Fireman privatization land grab language which had no public notification or public discussion.”

Spokesmen for Fireman and the golf course did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Murphy’s Deputy Press Secretary Alexandra Altman said the governor’s office and the DEP will work together to evaluate all options and ensure state parks are accessible for residents.

“The language does not specifically refer to Liberty State Park. The Governor’s Office and Department of Environmental Protection do not intend to do a solicitation for Liberty State Park,” Altman said in a statement.

The controversial line item, which appears on page 95 of the bill, states: “On or before September 1, 2020, the Department of Environmental Protection shall issue a solicitation to engage the private for-profit and non-profit sector in reducing maintenance and capital investment backlog and environmental remediation at state parks in order to facilitate enhanced cultural, recreational and local economic opportunities for New Jersey residents through appropriate means including leaseholds.”

Sen. Brian Stack, who was among the nine Hudson County legislators who all voted in favor of the bill, released a joint statement with Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro and Assemblyman Raj Mukerji, saying the language was snuck into the bill.

“Now, more than ever, we must fight to ensure that Liberty State Park remains a free, open, urban green oasis protected from commercialization and privatization,” the legislatures said. “That is why we have sponsored the Liberty State Park Protection Act and call for its immediate passage.”

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, meanwhile, called the addition of the item a “sneaky, backdoor attempt to change important public policy.”

Kevin McArdle, a spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, said members of the state Senate added the language to the bill.

Senate Democrats did not respond to questions directed at Sens. Paul Sarlo and Sandra Cunningham, who sponsored the bill.

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight and Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, who represent the area surrounding the park, could not be reached for comment.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club was the first to raise the alarm on the language in the bill, which also cuts more than $80 million from the DEP budget. Tittel said the spending plan “will not only raid money for environmental programs, but let private and nonprofits lease our parks, forests, and open space and do what they want for capital improvements.”

Liberty State Park, which is consistently New Jersey’s most-visited state park each year, has been the subject of potential privatization for years.

In 2015, the DEP released an 18-page report outlining potential development projects – which included a hotel, amusement park and amphitheater – to be built on 38 of Liberty State Park’s 1,200 acres. But months later the DEP stepped away from its plans after intense opposition from park advocates and members of the public.

A Texas company then sought to build a marina at the southern end of the park, but the state denied the proposal in 2017.

Meanwhile, efforts to protect the park through legislation have failed in Trenton. The Liberty State Park Protection Act stalled in January when Assembly failed to hold a vote on the bill on the last day of the legislature’s lame duck session.

The absence of the law has left the door open for Fireman and Liberty National, which previously proposed leasing the Caven Point Peninsula from the state and building three golf holes on the land.

Representatives of the exclusive golf course have said the expansion onto the peninsula is needed to attract PGA Tour events to Liberty National, which in turn would help the local economy.

The golf course has also offered build a First Tee facility on its property for young golfers.

Michael Sol Warren of NJ Advance Media contributed to this story.

Posted on: 7/2 17:32
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Re: AGAIN! New sneaky' provision to turn over part of a Liberty State Park to the ultra-rich.
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The New York Times: Buried in N.J.’s Budget Cuts: a Break for a Billionaire.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/02/nyr ... y-state-park-nj-golf.html

A stopgap budget with $4 billion in cuts also includes an opening for private development in state parks, like a long-desired expansion of a golf course into Liberty State Park.

Resized Image

Developers have tried for decades to win approval for for-profit ventures within Liberty State Park, a 1,200-acre park in Jersey City, N.J., that faces Lower Manhattan.

New York Times
By Tracey Tully
July 2, 2020

New Jersey lawmakers passed a stopgap three-month budget this week that included $4 billion in cuts.

The temporary spending plan was described in news releases as “painful,” “austere” and “bare bones,” a bitter but necessary pill to offset the devastating toll the coronavirus has taken on the state’s finances.

It was fast-tracked to meet Wednesday's deadline, leaving watchdogs and advocacy organizations largely in the dark about key details during a time when most traditional lobbying and legislative activities at the State House have been sidelined by the virus.

Somewhere along the way a one-paragraph clause was quietly inserted.

The wording could clear the way for private development in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J., a crown jewel of the park system that has been eyed for decades by developers. Liberty National, an exclusive private golf club where the original initiation fee was about half a million dollars, has been pressing for years to expand into a nearby section of the park.

Owners of the golf course, which offers spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, want to create three new holes at Caven Point, a 22-acre outcropping of parkland that has been designated a migratory bird habitat.

Liberty National officials have said the extra space would help the club compete for future PGA Tour events, which they say generate significant revenue for the city and state.

Liberty National Golf Club, an exclusive private course, is adjacent to the state park and has hosted several PGA Tour events. Credit...Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
The budget provision, buried on page 95 of the 111-page document, encourages private ventures at any state park by requiring the Department of Environmental Protection, by Sept. 1, to solicit bids from interested developers to help pay for maintenance and improvements.

Key lawmakers said they were blindsided by the maneuver that would likely reward the wealthy at a time when the coronavirus is exposing the nation’s gaping economic and racial divide.

An assemblyman from Jersey City, Raj Mukherji, said inserting the privatization clause in the midst of a pandemic that has led more than one million New Jersey residents to apply for unemployment benefits was especially troubling.

“The notion that I have constituents whose unemployment claims haven’t been paid since March and who can’t pay for groceries — who would have their public parkland taken away at this moment — stinks,” said Mr. Mukherji, a Democrat. He said he was unaware of the privatization provision when he voted to approve the budget bill.

The Assembly and Senate passed the spending plan on Monday, and Gov. Philip D. Murphy signed it into law on Tuesday, over the objection of Jersey City’s mayor, Steven M. Fulop, and several lawmakers.

“It was put in there at the last minute and rammed through,” Mr. Fulop said.

Golf Club for the 1 Percent Wants to Seize a Migratory Bird HabitatJan. 9, 2020

Mr. Murphy’s office released a statement indicating that the governor did “not intend” to solicit bids from private developers for Liberty State Park. A spokesman for Liberty National, Chris Donnelly, could not be reached for comment.

“The governor’s office and Department of Environmental Protection will work together to evaluate all options and ensure that New Jersey’s parks remain an accessible resource for residents,” a spokeswoman, Alexandra Altman, said in a statement.

She also noted that the language in the bill “does not specifically refer to Liberty State Park.”

The privatization amendment was not listed among the changes included in a written briefing of the bill some lawmakers were given before the vote, according to a legislative official. How the provision was added and by whom could not be determined.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat who holds the No. 2 leadership position behind the Senate president, Stephen M. Sweeney, said she was not aware of the provision when she voted to approve the budget. She said she was “outraged” by the turn of events.

One of the golf course’s owners, Paul B. Fireman, the founder of Reebok who sold his company to Adidas for $3.8 billion, and his family are generous campaign donors, contributing about $420,000 to Democrats and Republicans in New Jersey between 2009 and last year, state records show.

“A couple of paid lobbyists along with a couple of legislators got in special language for a guy who owns a golf course,” Ms. Weinberg said in an interview.

Hours earlier, she had sent a news release urging Mr. Murphy to issue a line-item veto of the bill.

Activists, she said, had “worked far too hard to have their efforts thwarted by a few lines buried in an emergency, never-before-done budget at the crest of a global pandemic,” Ms. Weinberg said. “This was a sneaky, backdoor way to attempt to change important public policy.”

Others, however, questioned how Ms. Weinberg, the Senate’s Democratic majority leader, could have not known about the effort.

When asked who she believed orchestrated the last-minute bill language, she said: “The boys. What else is new?”

An official in the governor’s office said a veto would have delayed and possibly derailed the stopgap budget, which was due by July 1.

Liberty National opened in 2006 on a former industrial site that was once heavily contaminated.

Sen. Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said there are unmet environmental safety and financial needs within the state parks.

“Allowing the governor’s administration to explore and consider alternative revenue sources to meet these needs while protecting the environment is reasonable and responsible,” Mr. Sarlo said in a statement.

Everything within the bill, he added, “was agreed to by the legislative and executive branches and was public for anyone to read a day prior to its consideration.”

Liberty National is represented by Eric Shuffler, a lobbyist who has worked for two New Jersey governors and who served on Mr. Murphy’s transition team.

Mr. Shuffler’s firm, River Crossing Strategy Group, recently hired Kevin McCabe, the powerful Democratic chairman of Middlesex County, who is on the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and was the state’s former labor commissioner.

Mr. Shuffler declined to comment.

Because of the pandemic, New Jersey delayed final approval of its fiscal-year budget by three months; the bill approved Tuesday allocates spending through September. It does not raise taxes, but it does call for reduced funding in many departments, including K-12 education, agriculture and a tax rebate program for seniors.

Brandon McKoy, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a watchdog group, said the entire budget process was rushed, leaving the public unable to figure out how much had been cut from specific programs.

“It’s a shocking amount of lack of transparency. It’s a joke of a process,” Mr. McKoy said. “Legislators didn’t know what was in it. Staff members didn’t know what was in it.”

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, which was among the first groups to raise the alarm about the D.E.P. wording after the budget bill passed, said that while the clause was perhaps written with Liberty State Park in mind, it also had the power to affect other state parks.

“These parks are owned by the public, for the public and entrusted with our government,” Mr. Tittel said in a statement. “Commercialization of our parkland will mean the loss of public access to parks and historic sites.”

Golf Club for the 1 Percent Wants to Seize a Migratory Bird HabitatJan. 9, 2020

Reebok Founder Proposes 95-Story Tower With Casino for Jersey CityJuly 9, 2014

Now Hosting the Presidents Cup: A Former Polluted DumpSept. 26, 2017

Tracey Tully covers New Jersey. She joined The Times in 2018 as a senior editor. She previously covered city and state government at The Daily News, the Albany Times Union and the Jersey Journal. @traceytully

Posted on: 7/2 16:45
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AGAIN! New sneaky' provision to turn over part of a Liberty State Park to the ultra-rich.
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https://www.politico.com/newsletters/n ... -to-the-ultra-rich-489684

The 'sneaky' provision to turn over part of a state park to the ultra-rich

By MATT FRIEDMAN 07/01/2020 06:55 AM EDT
Everybody knows that in times of crisis, what the public really wants is for the Legislature to step up help the ultra-wealthy take over public park land for their exclusive use.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, yesterday protested a “sneaky, backdoor” provision on page 95 of the 110-page three-month budget that directs the DEP by Sept. 1 to solicit bids for leasing parts of state parks.

The intent is obvious. Billionaire Paul Fireman, owner of Liberty National Golf Club (Membership price: $450,000. Annual dues: $25,000), has been pushing for a couple years to lease part of Liberty State Park to expand the golf course there. A bill intended to thwart that has stalled. And now this, placed into the budget during one of the worst crises New Jersey has ever faced, and in a budget filled with cutbacks.

Weinberg urged the governor to line-item veto that provision, followed by state Sen. Stack and Assembly members Mukherji and Chaparro (they all voted for the budget). “Had I known about it yesterday, they wouldn’t have gotten my vote until they got it out of the budget,” Weinberg told POLITICO’s Samantha Maldonado. Weinberg said she also spoke to the budget’s top Senate sponsor, Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) about the provision. “Let’s put it this way: I wasn’t calm.”

Twelve minutes after Weinberg’s press release hit my inbox, another press release from the governor announcing that he had signed the three-month budget extension arrived. “I blame the governor. He know about it and signed it,” Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop told Maldonado.

But in a statement, the governor’s office said it doesn’t plan to solicit bids for Liberty State Park, even if it’s obvious that’s what the budget language is meant to do. “The language does not specifically refer to Liberty State Park,” Murphy spokeswoman Alexandra Altman said. “The Governor’s Office and Department of Environmental Protection do not intend to do a solicitation for Liberty State Park.”

Posted on: 7/2 15:53
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