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Liberty State Park’s Long-Awaited Face-Lift; The Revitalization Program



The third public meeting for the Liberty State Park Revitalization Program is approaching late next month. Spearheaded by New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the long-discussed face-lift is still ongoing. The possibility of a complete revamp of Liberty State Park (LSP) may have seemed unlikely for a long time, considering the nearly 230 acres that had remained off-limits for decades. But the program’s $450 million expected costs for change hint at a park that Jersey City residents could only dream of 10 years ago.

Since its opening in 1976, Liberty State Park has remained a vibrant and common attraction along the Hudson River for Jersey City locals and tourists alike. Talks regarding possible changes for the park go back as far as Gov. Chris Christie’s administration but nothing for LSP was set in stone until 2022 when Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Liberty State Park Conservation, Recreation, and Community Inclusion Act. The enactment is more than an affirmation as it acknowledges the importance of community input, which has manifested itself into the LSP-Design Task Force – commissioned by the DEP and the state to take Jersey City’s needs into serious consideration.

“There’s nothing more important to me than deep community engagement so that we could make sure that in this endeavor and others, we are being directly responsive to the needs of the community that we serve.” stated the DEP’s Commissioner Shawn LaTourette during an interview from his Jersey City office. The Task Force is responsible for accumulating local suggestions for the park’s future and incorporating these diverse needs into the program’s three-phase plan.

Phase 1A focuses on LSP’s most pressing dilemmas: cleanup and infrastructure. The park’s interior maintains a piece of New Jersey’s industrial legacy in the more than 200 acres too contaminated for public use. If any serious measures were intended to clean up the park in the past, they were bogged down by damage left by Hurricane Sandy. Landmarks such as LSP’s Central Railroad of NJ Terminal have been restored in the wake of the storm. However, Phase 1A takes into account the ecological resilience needed to weather climate events like flooding. Entire habitats of various plant life are planned for ecological restoration, but much more is being discussed for recreational additions.

Audrey Zip Drive leads visitors across the northern end of the park, passing by the local marina and Liberty House restaurant toward the Empty Sky Memorial. The road is the center for Phase 1B where the DEP hopes to add numerous recreational amenities and possible repurposing of the historic train sheds for public gatherings and events. Sketches show a skate park, an athletics hub, and even a community garden.

Ceaselessly thinking about the future, Phase 2 of the program will be an assessment of other opportunities for the rest of the park which would complement amenities and space made possible from the previous phases. Another athletics hub, being labeled as the “Southern Athletics Hub” is one such endeavor that has been constantly floated but other important aspects such as integrating a park-wide network and transportation/parking solutions are just some of what the DEP hopes to think about in the future.

With Phase 1A having started in October, that future may be closer than it feels for LSP’s admirers. In partnership with the US Corps of Engineers, the park’s cleanup is set for completion sometime after 2025. These first shovels in the ground appear to be the only concrete beginning, however. As far as the program’s phases go, the proposed amenities and sketches are just that – proposals. While uncertainty over what will be built lingers, the LSP-Design Task Force is still taking public input via an open survey and $100 million from polluter lawsuits is expected to be directed at the program. With a hefty price tag, it remains no surprise that the results for LSP’s future are still up for contentious debate.