In the future, visitors to Liberty State Park may be surprised that the splendid views at the popular recreational facility include a new mooring offshore where commercial barges are tied up.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing proposal to create a new buoy in New York Harbor off the Ellis Island Flats, a proposal critics say will mar views of the island, the Central Railroad Terminal, and the Manhattan skyline.
The application by the New York State Marine Highway Transportation Co. is one of four commercial moorings it hopes to build in the Hudson River. It would be capable of holding up to five 195-foot barges at a time off the park, according to the application.
But specific details on what types of barges would be moored there, if the facility is approved, were not included in the application. The Troy-based company did not return a call seeking information about the proposal. The Army Corps said it did not know what activities would occur at the mooring, but said it expected to learn more during the public comment period, which closes April 25.
Such moorings exist throughout the Upper New York Harbor, but none off the shore of Liberty State Park or the nearby national monuments. Commercial barges carrying shipping containers and occasionally garbage tie up at moorings waiting to be towed or guided by tugboats to their final destination.
The prospect of having a commercial operation located just off Liberty State and Ellis Island alarmed park advocates, conservationists, and others. Most are already embroiled in a bitter battle with the state Department of Environmental Protection over a still developing proposal to privatize some aspects of the park, by far the most popular in the state system with around 5 million visitors a year.
“It is up to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect these prized public resources by helping to locate these barge moorings away from national treasures to a more appropriate area,’’ said Sam Pesin, president of the Friends of Liberty State Park. “Mooring barges here, possibly garbage barges, in the path of this historic Ellis Island immigrant journey would mar the views of these great American cultural and historic landmarks.’’
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to us,’’ agreed Greg Remaud, deputy director of NY/NJ Baykeeper. Impacts could include rerouting ferries, which would limit and delay access to the historic sites, diminish visitor experience, and reduce tourism, he said.
The proposal also is opposed by Statue Cruises LLC, which ferries 12 million visitors to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island every year. The company sent a letter in opposition to the application to the Army Corps.