June 24, 2011 Conservancy letter to NJ DEP - Compliance and Enforcement
Assistant Commissioner Wolfgang Skacel
401 East State Street
Mail Code 401 40B Via E-mail
PO Box 420
Trenton, NJ 08625-0401
Re: Administrative Consent Order Bayonne Golf
OAL Docket No. ECELU 01158-2009N
Dear Assistant Commissioner Skacel:
The Administrative Consent Order (ACO) noted above represents a botched attempt by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to obtain enforcement of the Waterfront Walkway Rules and Regulations from a set of owners (Bayonne Golf Holdings LLC; Empire Golf Properties LLC and Mr. Eric Bergstol) who have consistently ignored and defied those requirements. It is distressing to see the agency that is supposed to enforce the law of the state entering into what can only be seen as a cowardly compromise that gives the owners of the Bayonne Golf property everything they ever wanted.
We use the word “cowardly” since the document itself notes that the Department wishes to “amicably resolve this matter without further delay, expense, or litigation.” (Pt. 10) We could also use the word “pandering “ as the so-called compromise shows the trend within the DEP (witnessed in the New Rules for Public Access to the Waterfront ) to benefit private, commercial and industrial owners along the waterfronts of the state to the detriment of the general public.
• This “compromise” deters the public, preventing its right to 24/7 access to the Walkway on the periphery of the Bayonne Golf course (Club). At least a mile on the southern edge of the 1.74 miles of Walkway will be off limits to the public, the very area upon which the developers illegally installed a spud barge and built and operated a heliport, all without permits and for which they challenged DEP violations and the resultant penalties. Now that the area will be closed to the public it opens the way for DEP acceptance of those facilities. We will be watching to see if DEP provides approval since the owners are specifically encouraged to obtain those approvals (Pt 21). These matters were at the core of the Club protests. The developers have attained everything they wanted.
• The rationale for closing this last mile is supposedly the result of a short visit by NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOSHP) that found an “unacceptable risk due to the proximity of the IMTT tank farm.” (Pt. 9) How is it that at other tank farms with pavements outside a fence, just feet from the oil tanks, that no such risk has been found? (Have we uncovered a secret plan that NJOHSP will soon require closing off all pathways, pavements and streets next to tank farms around the state?) Or is this just a special interpretation by a compliant DEP to justify the desires of wealthy corporations and a trust?
• No mention is made about the proximity of the heliport to the tank farm. Has NJOSHP already decided a helicopter flying low and frequently near the oil tanks as a “non risk”? Or did the DEP just not mention that to them or encourage a decision of non risk?
• The “compromise” asks the Club to install and maintain a camera for security reasons at the IMTT tank farm to focus on the newly abandoned Walkway segment. (Pt. 13) An examination of this southern portion of the Walkway shows that a five foot high hill rises on the golf course side of the Walkway; golfers can be seen at the very edge within yards of the tank farm (a well aimed ball could hit a tank) yet the Club has not been told to fence off this section so as to prohibit people from being so close to this “risk assigned” area. Will the golfers be required to go through magnetic screening before going on the course? What security measures have been employed to make sure an innocent-looking, rich golfer is not a terrorist? The prohibition of the public from its rights to the Walkway is an altogether inane decision.
• Among the most egregious favors the DEP offers is permission for the Club to destroy the rule for 24/7 public access to the Walkway. Due to the “compromise” the remaining .74 mile of Walkway will be closed from dusk to dawn creating a precedent without providing clear thinking as to the reasons. (Pt.11) A vague reference for the closing is noted as “paragraph 8 below” but there is no paragraph 8 below. This section goes on to make reference to police patrol access to the northern portion of the Walkway as abating “the threat” which is cagily inferred to but never defined. What exactly is “the threat”? The public deserves to know if it refers to criminal activity on the Walkway and if so, the numbers of incidents.
This so-called “compromise” is a give away to wealthy and politically connected people. The DEP which is given the job of protecting our rights to free public access to the waterfront 24/7 has become a wishy washy agency anxious to placate wealthy entities to the detriment of the general public. This ACO is a disgrace and an insult to the intelligence of the people of this state.
Helen Manogue, President
Don Stitzenberg, Esq., Vice President
Peggy Wong, Secretary
Edward H. Rogaski, Jr., Treasurer
William Neyenhouse PP, Trustee
Howard Singer, Ph.D., Trustee
Dorcey Winant, Trustee
cc: Assistant Commissioner Marilyn Lennon
Randy Bearce, Bureau of Coastal and Land Use Compliance and Enforcement