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Company Scuttles Plan to Moor Commercial Barges off Liberty State Park

Public outcry and official condemnation help deep-six plan to develop mooring within hailing distance of most popular park in state system

liberty park skyline
The view of the New York City skyline from Liberty State Park in Jersey City.

Amid an outcry from the public and officials, the developer of a plan to establish a mooring for commercial barges off Liberty State Park has withdrawn the proposal.

The proposed site off the Ellis Island Flats would have been only hundreds of feet away from the park and Ellis Island. It was under review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a plan to create four new commercial moorings in the Hudson River and Jamaica Bay.

When it became public, the proposal quickly came under harsh criticism from conservationists, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, state legislators, and the two U.S. senators from New Jersey.

They all argued that the five barges, carrying gravel for construction projects, would mar the historic views from the park of Ellis Island and of the Manhattan skyline. The project also drew opposition from Statue Cruises LLC, which ferries tourists to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

“We didn’t realize it was not a good place,’’ explained Rob Goldman, a partner in New York State Marine Highway Transportation Co., which submitted the application to the corps. “It is not appropriate.’’

The company notified the corps it is withdrawing the proposed site and will begin discussions with the agency about where the mooring should go, Goldman said. “It will be in one of the designated anchorages in New York Harbor.’’

The mooring would have been capable of holding up to five 195-foot barges at a time just off the park, the most popular in the state system with more than 5 million visitors a year.

Sam Pesin, president of the Friends of Liberty State Park, was elated about the company’s decision. “It was people’s power protecting the people’s park,’’ he said, referring to the groundswell of opposition to the plan.

“The public pressure worked,’’ agreed Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. He said the stand taken by the public may bode well for efforts to fight a proposal to privatize parts of Liberty State Park, a plan still under development by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

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