DEP sued over refusal to release Liberty State Park report

A lawsuit filed against the New Jersey DEP seeks the release of a taxpayer-funded report that addresses how Liberty State Park can bring in revenue and that may shed light on privatization plans.  An OPRA request for the report has been denied on the grounds that it “is not considered a government record pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1, as the report has not been finalized, is in draft form and deliberative.”  Those arguing for release say the report is both final and paid for.  NJFOG president Walter Luers is one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff. -NJFOG

The Jersey Journal /
By Ron Zeitlinger
August 31, 2015
Full article here and posted below.

A Jersey City resident has sued the state Department of Environmental Protection over the agency’s refusal to release a report on how Liberty State Park can earn more money for the state.

William P. Berdnarz, who is described by one of his attorneys as a frequent visitor to the park, filed the 10-page lawsuit in Mercer County Superior Court last week after his Open Public Records Act request for a number of documents was for the most part denied.

At the crux of the lawsuit is a report created by the non-profit company New Jersey Future, which received a $120,000 contract.

Under the contract, NJ Future was to, among other things, “recommend activities that can produce revenue”; recommend strategies, updates and modifications to NJDEP’s policies … to draw interest from potentional developers/contractors”; and “assess/analyze the potential attractiveness of the Park to revenue producing developers, contractors and concessionaires …”

According to the lawsuit, Bednarz’ request for the report, which was filed July 1, was denied because the report “is not considered a government record pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1, as the report has not been finalized, is in draft form and deliberative.”

But the lawsuit points out that NJ Future has been paid in full, and that the “draft” report is the final report. Bednarz, who could not be reached for comment, is represented by Howard Moskowitz of Jersey City and Walter Luers of Clinton.

Earlier this year, state legislators passed a bill that merged the state Sports and Exposition Authority with the Meadowlands Commission, and gave the new agency the power to “evaluate, approve, and implement any plan or plans for Liberty State Park.”

A “fix” bill was later approved and signed by Gov. Chris Christie, but little in the original bill was changed except for the guarantee that there would be public hearings on any proposed changes at the park.

“No commercialization plans at all should be chosen from the NJ Future report and pushed forward by the NJDEP,” Friend of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin said. “This important lawsuit serves the public interest as New Jerseyans have the right to see the complete details of all plans from the tax-payer funded search.”

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, also lauded the lawsuit.

“The DEP has no business hiding this report,” Tittel said. “The report and information in it was paid for by the taxpayers of New Jersey and belongs to us.  … There are serious issues with attempts to privatize Liberty State Park. This report would shed light on the plans to privatize the park and that is why DEP will not release the report.”


Related article: