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Testimony given by the HRWC President to the Jersey City Planning Board on 6/22/2020, re Le Frak's private park proposal

My Name is Don Stitzenberg and I am President of the Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy.  The Conservancy is a volunteer organization that works with the NJDEP to oversee the construction and maintenance of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway which runs for 18.6 miles from Bayonne to the GW Bridge.

As I am sure everyone on this call knows, the Walkway and the public parks it connects have become a vital recreational asset for the general public of the waterfront communities in NJ. The Walkway has risen “from the ashes” of industrial ruin that dominated the Waterfront in the 1970’s.

The Walkway now connects public parks in all 9 municipalities along the Hudson.  In this time of extreme social and public health emotional and physical stress, these public parks are the number one outlet for the general public of Jersey City to safely escape the boredom and isolation imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

As for the proposal by LeFrak before you tonight, I am pleased that the the LeFrak organization has voluntarily met all of the requirements of the NJDEP for piers that border on the Hudson River. As such, the NJDEP has issued an appropriate Waterfront Development Permit to LeFrak.

However, meeting the requirements of the NJDEP should not make this proposal acceptable to Jersey City.

First, unlike similar sized Pier A, Pier C and Maxwell parks in Hoboken, this proposal has only one escape exit for the public from the waterfront.  A second Walkway path along the southern border of the pier seems mandatory from a public safety perspective when evacuation of the Pier becomes necessary. There is plenty of space on the pier to add a Walkway section on the Southern side of the pier that provides a second exit for the public.

More disturbing, however, is the proportion of the proposed pier park that will be set up as a private enclave for Newport members of the 1% elite and exclude access by the general public of Jersey City.  Considering today’s social, environmental, and public health issues confronting Jersey City and the nation, I do not believe that Jersey City, in good conscious, can approve this private enclave for the 1% as proposed by LeFrak.

The Conservancy respectfully urges the Planning Board to require at least 75% of the pier park be open for public access and enjoyment as is the case in the eight other municipalities along the Hudson River. I am sure you will do the right thing for Jersey City and the public.

I thank you for the opportunity to address the Planning Board and I happy to answer any questions.


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