Liberty State Park projects would be subject to environmental agency approval under new bill

Associated Press

Any plans to commercially develop Liberty State Park would be subject to approval by New Jersey's chief environmental official under new legislation in the Assembly.

The development amounts to what Democratic leaders call a "fix" to legislation recently signed into law by Republican Gov. Chris Christie. It comes amid criticism from park boosters and environmental groups, who fear the legislation would lead to commercial development at the state park, which includes vistas of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline.

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That law established the Meadowlands Regional Commission and gave the new body authority to approve projects at the park. The law's opponents wanted authority to rest with the Department of Environmental Protection. Christie and Democratic leaders promised last month to address the issue in new legislation.

On Monday, the Assembly commerce committee approved new provisions aimed at changing the law. The new measures give final project approval to the environmental protection commissioner and require a public hearing at the park.

The bill heads to the full Assembly next.

Sam Pesin, president of the Friends of Liberty State Park, praised the development, saying the legislation will ensure public participation happens.

But New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel is concerned, saying it will still be possible for the land to be used commercially under the legislation.