Dead end at waterfront?

November 17, 2008 at 11:43 pm Leave a comment

People who like to stroll along the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway or launch their kayak in uptown Hoboken might have to find some other weekend hobbies if the New Jersey State Senate passes a controversial homeland security bill.

The statewide bill aims to protect New Jerseyans from terrorist attacks, but local critics say it could severely limit public access to the Hudson River waterfront.

The bill would block access to the waterfront around “critical infrastructures” – such as military installations, industrial facilities and commercial ports and harbors. The state Department of Environmental Protection mandates public access to the waterfront, but this bill would override that requirement.

“The bill is dangerous because it’s done in such a way that anything near what could be considered a security hazard would be blocked off,” said Helen Manogue, president of the Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy.

Manogue fears the bill would disrupt the planned Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, which is supposed to stretch, uninterrupted, from Bayonne to the George Washington Bridge.

Manogue worries that a one-mile stretch of the walkway will never be built in Bayonne, because it’s next to an oil tank storage area.

In Hoboken, she is concerned that a newly opened public boathouse could be shut down because it’s near a ferry terminal. Even parts of Pier A Park, located adjacent to the ferry terminal in Downtown Hoboken, might be blocked, said Manogue.

“I know this may seem far-fetched but the bill is so vague you don’t know how it’s going to be interpreted,” said Manogue.

State Sen. Nick Sacco, D-North Bergen, also opposes the bill in its current form. “I’m concerned that some businesses could use it as a dodge,” Sacco said. “Suddenly it’s ‘homeland security’ and now there’s no access to the waterfront.”

The bill was passed almost unanimously, with all of Hudson County’s Assembly members voting for it, except for 31st District Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, who did not vote.

Assemblywoman Joan Quigley, D-Jersey City, stands by her “yes.”

“I realize it’s an inconvenience for people not to be able to access the waterfront, but I’d rather protect them and inconvenience them than subject them to danger,” Quigley said. “When it came to choosing between the general public’s access to the waterfront and the general public’s safety, I chose safety.”

By CARLY BALDWIN

NJ.Com

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Entry filed under: Public Waterfront, Region. Tags: , , .

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