By Jerry McCann
Recent letters to the editor and guest editorials fail to get it right when talking about contaminants in Liberty State Park.
The contaminated area has been fenced off since 1980 when contamination was dumped on the state park by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Port Authority and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. They did it again in 1987.
Chromium waste was dumped before 1980 in at least three different areas of what is now the park. I was the person who, when I was mayor, discovered the chromium dumping in 1982 and successfully sued. (I also sued the Archdiocese of Newark for the fire at the PJP Landfill in the western portion of the city that burned for 25 years and resulted in the first Superfund site ever being cleaned up in the U.S.)
I was a councilman in 1980 and remember that the state told us that the dredge materials being dumped in Liberty State Park were only temporary and would be removed. I was not in office in 1987 and was unaware of that dumping.
During my tenure, I had developed the Light Rail through Lafayette, brought the Liberty Science Center here, actively participated with then-Gov. Kean to restore the railroad terminal (where I was inaugurated in 1989), built the Riverwalk, built the Interpretative Center, installed the Liberation Monument and named Zapp, Pesin and McGovern Drives. I was there when Ronald Reagan kicked off his election in 1980 and brought Stanislaw Walesa to greet the future president. He was the father of the future president of Poland and a resident here. On July 4, 1985, I had Hall & Oates give a free concert for over 300,000 people in the park.
I was appointed by Reagan to the Commission for the Restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The reason why the bridge to Ellis Island is still there is because I would not allow them to take it down. Morris Pesin sat in my place on that commission with Lee Iacocca and Bob Hope. I also sued the state of New York in 1984 and 1990 over the boundary of New Jersey as it relates to those islands. The governors did not join my suit. In 1995, then-Gov. Whitman refiled my complaint only about Ellis Island and won a Supreme Court decision.
All of this was before there was ever a Friends of LSP, an involved Sam Pesin, or a golf course.
I am in that park more than all these people. I was in the park four days for more than eight hours last week.
With respect to the DEP’s current plan for the 234-acre, fenced-off interior: I want the contaminants removed 100%. No state park has these toxins.
I am not a paid consultant for anyone. I have never played golf in my entire life. I was a Little League manager for the Max Lumber Mets in Bergen Lafayette for three years. I was a track coach at St. Paul’s in Greenville for five years. All of this was before I was able to vote. I volunteered for this because I genuinely care about the youth. I coached at Primary Prep, Hudson Catholic and St. Peter’s Prep for the past 15 years.
There is absolutely no reason why people should make false accusations about anyone who wants active recreation.
Attacking a billionaire is an easy thing. This entire issue is about the plan for the park not the plan for a golf course. By attacking the golf course operator, the Friends of LSP are diverting attention away from the faults of the state’s plan. No one should be for the contaminants staying in the park. No one should be against active recreation in the park. The park should be for everyone.
I am not opposed to the state’s plan in its entirety. I want the contaminants removed 100% like they told us in 1980. If the materials are no longer toxic and can be reutilized by developing adequate active recreational facilities, then I support the plan.
Almost 90% of those activists supporting the plan rarely visit the park. The bicyclists, the dog walkers, the walkers, the runners, the families who use the playgrounds and picnicking are in the park regularly. The visitors are there briefly. Many of the protesters on both sides are there for the moment in time.
Jerry McCann is a former mayor of Jersey City, where he still resides.
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