Richard T. Smith NAACP President

NAACP about Liberty Park Recreational Opportunity – 

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People New Jersey Conference today called the state’s plan for Liberty State Park a missed opportunity that fails to meet the needs of the community, especially Black and brown families in Jersey City who have long been denied adequate recreational opportunities afforded to residents in other parts of the state. 

The plan unveiled by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in March calls for bringing water from New York Harbor into Liberty State Park’s interior to create 165 acres of marshland and locating some new ballfields on the park’s south end, which is farther away from community and transit access. State Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette last month said, “Liberty State Park will never be a youth sports complex,” and would not include a large community center or track and field complex the community has long demanded. 

“I can’t imagine a more blatant act of racism than flooding a huge part of the park where we envisioned recreational opportunities for Black and brown children,” Smith said. “The state is effectively telling our community that fish and birds are more important than our children. Further, introducing water into an area that has historically flooded and was devastated by Sandy not only puts at risk any improvements to the park, but also the homes and communities adjacent to the park where Black and brown residents of Jersey City call home. 

What we’re getting are swamps instead of athletic fields.” The People’s Park Foundation outlined a different vision for Liberty State Park that calls for a state-of-the-art community center with basketball courts, a swimming pool and an ice-skating rink, acres of world-class outdoor sports facilities, community gardens, an outdoor market, and a natural amphitheater for concerts. “We support the People’s Park vision for Liberty State Park that would create spaces that can be used by children in Jersey City,” said Smith. “While wealthier suburban communities have acres of athletic fields, communities of color often lack adequate green space and parks, forcing kids to play on crumbling asphalt basketball courts or, even worse, on busy streets and narrow sidewalks. 

Additionally, why should student athletes in Jersey City be denied basic facilities to practice and play when you consider that Newark has two separate sports complexes that each seat approximately 5,000 and Paterson has Hinchliffe Stadium, which seats 10,000?

The plan being put forth by the state does very little to change that.” NJ DEP’s Liberty State Park Plan Falls Short State plan ‘perpetuates the institutional racism and segregation’

Despite the pressing need for recreational facilities for Jersey City’s youth, nothing has been built in the park since it opened in 1976. A master plan released the following year recommended facilities in Liberty State Park to meet the recreational needs of the community, but few of its recommendations have been carried out and much of the park remains contaminated with toxic chromium, fenced off and closed to the public. “While investments have been made in other parts of Jersey City and Hudson County over the last 20 years, leading to historic growth and improved quality of life for many, why have leaders permitted more than half of Liberty State Park to remain fenced off, unusable, and threaten the community’s public health for nearly five decades,” Smith said. 

Last year, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Liberty State Park Conservation, Recreation, and Community Inclusion Act into law that sets aside $50 million to fund a two-year long Design Task Force to devise a master plan for the state park.

A date has not yet been set for a public meeting of the task force. Smith said Black and brown families like those living in Greenville are sick and tired of other people dictating what is best for them. “Listen to what the Greenville community desires,” Smith said.

“They want a safe, indoor place for children to play basketball, swim, and skate year-round. They want to be able to easily access a clean park filled with active recreational activities. They want Liberty State Park to be more than what it is, so it serves everyone’s needs. That’s not an unreasonable ask.” 

NAACP New Jersey State Conference 4326 Harbor Beach Boulevard P.O. Box 775 Brigantine, NJ 08203

P: (609) 310-0211 www.naacpnj.org 

Contact: Richelle Lee, Chair Communications, Press and Publicity info@naacpnjsc.org 

ABOUT THE NAACP Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can learn more about The New Jersey State Conference NAACP, the numerous local units throughout the state, the advocacy efforts, and the annual convention at www.naacpnj.org.

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