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State Sen. Brian Stack. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

LD33 Dems fume over parks provision in three-month budget

Buried measure would force Department of Environmental Protection to seek private assistance for state park management

By Nikita Biryukov, June 30 2020 3:08 pm

Lawmakers in the 33rd legislative district are incensed over a provision in the three-month supplemental budget signed into law Tuesday that orders the Department of Environmental Protection to seek private assistance for New Jersey’s state parks.

“The irony of sneaking in language compelling the privatization of our state parks in a budget continuance amidst a global pandemic is that so many New Jerseyans have found relief in nature, including Liberty State Park and her sister state parks, during the pandemic,” State Sen. Brian Stack (D-Union City), Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (D-Hoboken) and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City) said in a joint statement.

A single paragraph deep in the 111-page bill says that the DEP must “issue a solicitation to engage the private for-profit and non-profit sector in reducing maintenance and capital investment backlog and environmental remediation at state parks in order to facilitate enhanced cultural, recreational and local economic opportunities for New Jersey residents through appropriate means including leaseholds” by Sept. 1.

The three legislators voted in favor of the measure, which only narrowly passed the Senate, 21-17.

During the last legislative session, Mukherji, Stack, Chaparro and a slew of other legislators from Hudson County and around the state pushed a bill that would bar the DEP from commercializing, developing or privatizing Liberty State Park.

The measure narrowly passed the Senate, 21-13, but did not get a vote in the Assembly.

The bill was reintroduced early this year but has not yet seen a committee vote.

“Now, more than ever, we must fight to ensure that Liberty State Park remains a free, open, urban green oasis protected from commercialization and privatization,” the three lawmakers said. “That is why we have sponsored the Liberty State Park Protection Act and call for its immediate passage.”

This story was updated at 5:30 p.m.

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