New Jersey

Jersey City’s brown and black communities deserve better Liberty State Park

By Richard Smith

From air pollution from dirty diesel trucks to proximity to polluting industrial facilities and toxic waste sites, black and brown communities like Greenville in Jersey City have borne the brunt of the environmental injustice.

While more affluent suburban communities have acres of sports fields, communities of color often lack adequate green space and parks, forcing children to play on crumbling asphalt basketball courts or, even worse, in busy streets and narrow sidewalks.

And that’s where the kids hang out. These days, many children in disadvantaged communities are locked indoors, sitting on couches, often strapped to violent video games. Childhood obesity is more common in black and Hispanic children, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The tragedy is that Liberty State Park borders the community of Greenville, but there’s really nothing to do there for our kids – no football fields, no basketball courts, no swimming pools, nothing, unless you want to walk or visit. they see every day.

While investments have been made in other parts of Jersey City and Hudson County over the past 20 years, resulting in historic growth and a better quality of life for many, why have leaders allowed more half of Liberty State Park to remain fenced off, unusable, and a public health threat to the community for nearly five decades due to toxic chromium and asbestos contamination?

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to clean up the hazardous waste and revitalize this land to create a bigger and better park that can offer something for everyone, including the kids of Greenville.

The People’s Park Foundation has proposed a vision that reinvents the park as a recreational oasis for the community. This plan aligns with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s climate justice mission to build resilience and livability in communities that have suffered the legacy of pollution and neglect. It’s a civil rights issue.

The People’s Park vision calls for a state-of-the-art community center with basketball courts, a swimming pool and ice rink, acres of world-class outdoor sports facilities, community gardens, an outdoor market and a natural amphitheater for concerts.

A revitalized Liberty State Park will serve as a model for other city parks across the country and be a catalyst for reinvestment in Greenville, one of Jersey City’s few communities that has been excluded from the same economic growth and opportunity. than other parts of the city.

Unfortunately, a small but vocal group of anti-park activists are fighting to protect a status quo that maintains Liberty State Park’s pollution legacy to the exclusion of black and brown communities.

But let me be clear, Liberty State Park is not their park and they don’t represent the people I represent.

Opponents of the Liberty State Park revitalization plan often point to a new 5,000-seat stadium that will finally provide local student-athletes with a spectacular venue for the Friday night lights. All seven public and private high schools in Jersey City currently share Cochrane Stadium at Caven Point, an aging 4,000-seat facility.

Compare that to Newark, a city only slightly larger with two larger sports facilities, including Newark Schools Stadium which seats 5,600 people, and Paterson, a smaller city where two high school programs will share the newly renovated Hinchliffe Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 10,000. .

Maintaining the status quo at Liberty State Park perpetuates the institutional racism and segregation that has plagued Jersey City’s black and brown communities. He tells the children and families of Greenville, “We don’t want you here. Go play in the street. This park is ours, not yours.

Black and brown families are tired of others dictating what’s best for them. Hear what the Greenville community desires. They want a safe, indoor place where kids can play basketball, swim, and skate year-round. They want easy access to a clean park full of active recreation, not a fenced off hazardous waste dump. They want Liberty State Park to be more than what it is, so that it meets everyone’s needs. It’s not an unreasonable request.

It is long overdue that we allow residents access to this great resource literally at the heart of our community.

Greenville residents are demanding justice. I am proud to be on their side and I hope politicians are listening.

Richard Smith is president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People New Jersey Conference and a member of its national board of directors.

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