Golf course owner halts bid to expand into wildlife area at Liberty State Park — for now

The Florida billionaire who wants to extend his luxury Jersey City golf course into Liberty State Park says he is halting that effort, just two weeks after New Jersey’s three-month budget legislation offered him a chance to revive the controversial plan.

Paul Fireman, the former Reebok executive and owner of Liberty National Golf Course, said in a statement Wednesday morning that he is pulling the plug on the expansion plan so the park’s advocates can address what he called the “social justice problems connected to Liberty State Park.” Fireman allies have alleged recently that the park’s keepers have not done enough to make it accessible to the largely Black neighborhoods that sit just outside of the 1,200-acre urban oasis.

It’s not clear Fireman’s plan was going anywhere. A spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Murphy said the administration does not intend to solicit a bid for the park, which is overseen by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Fireman had made an aggressive push in recent weeks to win the support of Jersey City’s Black elected officials and to promote his argument that Liberty State Park is not run with the interests of the Black community in mind. His charitable foundation gave donations to several politically connected nonprofits, sources told, including one run by a Jersey City assemblywoman and another headed by a Hudson County freeholder. A Fireman spokesman did not respond to questions about his foundation’s recent donations.

The golf course expansion would have targeted a 22-acre peninsula on Liberty State Park’s southern end, a wildlife refuge and beach that is adjacent to Liberty National. Fireman wanted to move three of the golf course’s holes to that spot, known as the park’s Caven Point section, saying he would transform the area into “beautiful green space.” His critics have noted that moving some of the golf course there would provide dramatic backdrops of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty during televised tournaments.

Fireman first attempted to lease the parkland in 2018, but the Murphy administration turned him down in the face of opposition led in part by Sam Pesin, who runs the Friends of Liberty State Park conservancy group. Pesin’s father, Morris, is credited with the park’s creation in 1976.

“All supporters of a free park behind Lady Liberty will be very glad to read about Fireman giving up for now,” Pesin said in a statement. Fireman’s comments, Pesin said, continue “to push his self-serving false narrative about LSP. His only goal has been to privatize and destroy the LSP Caven Point natural area to relocate golf holes right by the bay for millionaires.”

Fireman’s Wednesday statement targets Pesin directly. Pesin for decades has organized opposition to most commercial development inside the park, most recently organizing opposition to Fireman’s golf course expansion and a separate plan for a marina inside the park. The park,

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By: Terrence T. McDonald
Title: Golf course owner halts bid to expand into wildlife area at Liberty State Park — for now
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Published Date: Fri, 17 Jul 2020 15:12:07 +0000

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