January 8, 2015
The Honorable Chris Christie
Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Re: Hackensack Meadowlands Agency Consolidation Act, A3969/S2647
Dear Governor Christie,
We the undersigned community and environmental advocacy organizations of New Jersey are writing to urge you to reverse course and remove any language from A3969/S2647, the Hackensack Meadowlands Agency Consolidation Act (the “Act”), which transfers authority for Liberty State Park to the newly created autonomous agency, the Meadowlands Regional Commission (the “Commission”), and away from the State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Such a change is sure to decrease oversight and accountability for Liberty State Park’s natural resources while leaving the park’s future more susceptible to political whims and private development. Any proposal to shift oversight and management of a public park as important as Liberty State Park should have been fully disclosed in an open and transparent public process. Since that process did not take place here, it is incumbent upon you to use the power of conditional veto to strike any language impacting the park from the Act and secure its future as a public natural resource.
As originally drafted, the Act simply addressed a tax issue and established the Commission as a regional redevelopment agency for the Meadowlands. The final version stretched the Act well beyond the original legislative intent. It was not the legislature’s goal to open Liberty State Park to privatization or redevelopment, but as passed by the Assembly and Senate, it does just that.
The problematic language was added at your administration’s request at the eleventh hour before the holidays and without meaningful legislative debate or public input. It allows the newly created Commission to “evaluate, approve, and implement any plan or plans for the further preservation, development, enhancement, or improvement of Liberty State Park.” By removing oversight and direct control of the park from the DEP, the Act makes it easier for this autonomous agency to take actions impacting the park without public scrutiny, an ability which opens the door to allowing private developers access to park lands. Given that DEP’s management of the park has been effective and that DEP has built strong relationships with local stakeholders like the citizens’ advocacy group the Friends of Liberty State Park, we have serious questions about the motives behind the changes in the Act.
Often called a “jewel” of the State of New Jersey, Liberty State Park is one our most important public assets and belongs to the citizens of the State, who have consistently expressed opposition to private development in the park throughout its history. As stewards of New Jersey’s public lands and open space and advocates for environmental protection and conservation, we object to the policy change inherent in the language inserted into the Act and will continue to stand with the citizens of the State against any efforts to privatize or redevelop Liberty State Park without full public input.
We are confident that you will consider our views regarding this unprecedented change in the oversight of Liberty State Park. We urge you implement the power of conditional veto to remove language that transfers Liberty State Park from the State DEP’s purview and to the Meadowlands Regional Commission.