Liberty State Park: A History Of Broken Promises
Liberty State Park (LSP) was originally meant to be more accessible to the local minority community and include a variety of activities that would make the Park more enjoyable for everyone. Those activities were supposed to go on the Interior portion of the Park, but the Interior is still polluted and has never been properly cleaned up. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is now proposing a plan that would leave contamination at the Park, avoid a full clean-up and continue the long history of broken promises at LSP. Understanding the broken promises of Liberty State Park – and why it is critical that there be a plan that fully cleans up the Park and creates a real process for minority communities to be heard and listened to – means understanding the vision that was first developed for the Park, why it hasn’t happened, and why minority communities have been shut out of the process.
The western edge of Liberty State Park was once the waterfront home of the Lenape and later Dutch settlers of New Netherland, who started a ferry service to Manhattan in 1661. The northern edge of the park follows the line of the old Morris Canal whose barges carried Pennsylvania coal to the expanding industrial and urban markets surrounding New York Bay in the early nineteenth century. The eastern edge of the park was filled in by the railroads starting in the mid-nineteenth century as the tidal flats along the Jersey City waterfront were transformed into vast expanses of railroad yards, and passenger and cargo transportation facilities.
Starting in the late 1800’s the shallows/mud flats of Liberty State Park were covered over by dumping of fill. Over the next several decades the area was completely covered over with debris, excavated soil from other construction projects, demolition debris, blasted stone from construction sites, obsolete wooden barges filled with stone and coal ash and sunk in place. Eventually the filled in area extended outward over one mile from the historic shoreline. The dominant activity on this filled in area was railroad. There were locomotive repair shops, fuel oil storage tanks, rail sidings, docks for rail ferries to New York City and a passenger terminal. In the early to mid 1900’s quantities of chromium laced waste tailings, from nearby chromium (chrome) ore processing plants, was used as fill. This fill was subsequently built on by the railroads. In the mid to late 1960’s railroad activity ceased and the site evolved into an abandoned area.
Click here to read about how the industrial past of the property left contamination of chromium and other toxic hazards at LSP.