Armed with posters and refueled with donuts and coffee, a cheeky group of protesters gathered on Morris Pesin Drive across from Liberty National Golf Course earlier this morning. A contingent of Jersey City police officers stood nearby directing traffic as Northern Trust golf tournament fans wearing polo shirts walked to the gate across the street.
“We are here this morning to protest billionaire Paul Fireman’s efforts to privatize and demolish Liberty State Park’s Caven Point wildlife sanctuary to create stunning golf holes for his multimillionaire members. He’s been working with his lobbyists and his bogus front group and other proxies to attack the protection law, ”said Sam Pesin, president of Friends of Liberty State Park.
For several years, Fireman has endeavored to convert Caven Point, a 21-acre piece of land that park advocates and environmentalists consider an important nesting area for wildlife, into three holes for his own Liberty National Golf Club.
The Liberty State Park Protection Act, which has been under scrutiny by state lawmakers since January 2019, would protect the park, and Caven Point in particular, from privatization and commercial development. Pesin and FOLSP have launched an initiative to pass and implement the law.
Former Jersey City firefighter Rafael Torres said, “We love golf … just not in our park.”
The Caven Point debate reached its boiling point last year when Fireman enlisted the help of two local activists, Arnold Stovell and Bruce Alston, to argue that “minority communities have been systematically excluded from the decision-making process at Liberty State Park.”
FOLSP pushed back. Daoud David Williams, 77, a lifelong Jersey City resident, Army veteran and NAACP member, said at the time, “It is disgusting that they want to do this racist. They are co-opting Black Lives Matter. They want to pretend they are representatives of the community. “
Dana Patton arrived at the protest site at 5:30 a.m. Seemingly unimpressed by the early hour and when asked about Fireman’s offer to open a golf school for underprivileged urban youth, she replied, “Fireman has offered many things and done nothing since this golf course opened. He is one of the 100 largest landowners in the United States. We don’t have to give it a natural habitat for that. “
She went on. “It’s disgusting that we didn’t pass the laws to permanently protect this park.”
According to Justin Hopkins, an attorney with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, “golf course runoff is excruciatingly toxic because of the high levels of nitrogen and the pesticides used. Oysters used to be so common that you could pull them out of the water with your hands, which is why they became extinct in New York Bay. “
Patrick Conlon, President of Bike JC, said, “Cycling is something that happens and is encouraged through open space. Liberty State Park is the largest open space we have in this region, and we want to make sure it’s protected. “
In July 2020, Fireman issued a statement saying he is “ceasing any public-private partnership effort at Caven Point.”
But Pesin leaves nothing to chance. He said he hoped the protest would “send a strong message to Governor Murphy that he should say ‘no’ to his friend Paul Fireman”. Murphy, he said, “should campaign for the law publicly.”