Sweeney Quietly Abandons His Clean “Repair” Bill
Sellout Promotes Commercialization of Liberty State Park
Will Gov. Christie Sign A Bill To Commercialize A National Icon?
Liberty State Park was sold out (again) during back room legislative maneuvers in yesterday’s hectic last minute budget session.
We need to rehash a little recent history in order to make this maneuver understandable.
Recall that last year, the Legislature rammed through a bill to consolidate the Hackensack Meadowlands Commission with the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority.
Despite the fact that Liberty State Park (LSP) is not located in the Meadowlands, that bill included a provision that would give the new Meadowlands Commission jurisdiction over Liberty State Park, including a new role in developing the park.
LSP supporters, who successfully have fought privatization and commercialization projects in the park for decades, cried foul and mounted an effort to urge Governor Christie to veto the bill.
We tried to explain why that effort was useless, given Gov. Christie’s own Parks Privatization policy and his DEP’s secret promotion of commercialization plans, including masking them via a $120,000 park development study conducted by the private planning group NJ Future and a New York City development firm.
After the Gov. signed the bill into law, in an embarrassing sequence, Democratic legislators initially denied knowledge of the LSP amendments, then they said they had no intent to commercialize or develop the Park, and then they promised to fix the problem.
Assembly Speaker Prieto then sponsored a bill he claimed would repair the damage that he claimed was inadvertently caused by the Meadowlands consolidation bill he sponsored.
I explained why Prieto’s bill would not solve the problem, which could only be solved by a “clean” bill that simply deleted LSP from the Meadowlands Consolidation law and eliminated any role for the new Meadowlands Commission at LSP, see:
- Liberty State Park “Cleanup” Bill Fails to Correct The Problem
- Prieto’s Straw Man On Liberty State Park Does Not Pass The Straight Face Test
Senator Sweeney stepped in to save the day.
Sweeney’s bill – the introduced version, that is - proposed to solve the problem by simply deleting LSP from the Meadowlands Consolidation law and eliminating any role for the new Meadowlands Commission.
Under this bill, the entirety of the provision regarding Liberty State Park would be removed from the law, leaving the commission with no authority or responsibility with respect to the park.
Sweeney got good press for this, see:
a bill by Senate President Stephen Sweeney would return all development powers at the park to the Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the state park system. Although Governor Christie would be likely to veto it, Sweeney’s bill could disrupt the administration’s goal of helping to finance private development at the park in Jersey City.
Park advocates welcomed the new legislation.
The Sierra C lub praised Sweeney in a May 21, 2105 press release:
Sweeney Bill Protects Liberty State Park
Senate President Stephen Sweeney is sponsoring bill S2866 that would remove jurisdiction of Liberty State Park from under the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. This bill would delete the section that gave the power to NJSEA and return power to New Jersey DEP Division of Parks and Forestry. The bill would also require any leases or concessions to go through appropriate public review. The Christie Administration’s goal is for private development in the park. The Sierra Club supports this new bill to remove the park from private control. We support bill S2866 because it helps to protect Liberty State Park.
Well, Sweeney may have wanted to protect Liberty State Park back in May, but yesterday, he sold LSP out by amending his bill to reflect the sham Prieto bill.
Despite enormous public opposition and a ton of media coverage, the Legislature has now explicitly sold out Liberty State Park TWICE, and lied about it both times.
There must be a powerful deal in the works to drive these kind of corrupt legislative maneuvers.
The Prieto bill passed both houses and is on the Governor’s desk.
Will Gov. Christie, in the midst of a Presidential campaign, sign a bill that would promote privatization and commercialization of a national icon?
I thank Howard Moskowitz, Esq. for bringing this to my attention. I was focused on yesterday’s Clean Energy/Climate Coalition event.