JERSEY CITY (WCBS 880) – A rally was held at Liberty State Park on Saturday to keep private development out of the park, but the rally was met with some resistance from other protesters who say the local community is not being heard.
The message from the hundred or so people at the rally on Saturday was simple: protect the park from privatization and overdevelopment.
“This is my park. This is your park. This park belongs to all of us and it should be the community not billionaires who decide what we do with it,” said Shane Mitchell, legislative director to state Sen. Loretta Weinberg.
But the Liberty State Park Protection Act, which would do just that, has gotten nowhere in the state Legislature because some lawmakers see privatization as a way to invest in the park.
Assembly Member Raj Mukherji is among those who think privatization is a bad idea.
"You're taking that land away from the people, and as a consequence you're starting to take the state, the country, the democracy away from the people, and it is the beginning of the end of a democracy,” Mukherji said.
Saturday’s rally was met by some counter-protesters, including local activist Bruce Alston. The two sides can agree on keeping billionaires out, but that might be where their agreement ends.
“Friends of Liberty Park do not want to provide active recreation for Black and Brown children in the surrounding communities in an urban city,” Alston said.
He said there are no plans to clean up some 235 acres of contaminated land to allow recreation for nearby residents.
"It's going to allow this to be not Liberty State Park but Liberty State Preserve, and we believe that it needs to be a world class park," Alston said.
Mukherji, who is one of the sponsors of the protection act, said he strongly disputes that claim.
“There is not one line, not one word, that would preclude the cleaning of contamination. We would invite it. We would welcome it,” Mukherji said.