Environmental Park In The Meadowlands
Something big is about to happen, and it is about to happen in a place where many least expect it. Within the next ten years, I predict that the Hackensack Meadowlands (on land outside of the Arena/Giants Stadium property) will go from being written off as a swampy wasteland and garbage dump site to a nationally and even internationally renowned environmental park.
As a lifelong resident of Bergen County, a former Mayor of Englewood, Bergen County Surrogate, and now a third-term Congressman representing the region which includes the Hackensack Meadowlands, I don't take pride in the fact that Northeastern New Jersey is wrongly considered by some to be nothing more than an overcrowded urban/suburban landscape across from New York City, pockmarked with toxic Superfund sites and garbage landfills.
We remember that a century ago the Meadowlands was a vast piece of open space spanning 21,000 acres. Today, not too far from the Arena/Stadium property, only 8,400 of those acres remain undeveloped, keeping river water from flooding the streets of surrounding communities. That part of the Meadowlands still supports a diverse and growing concentration of migratory birds and is home to 65 species of nesting birds, and more than 50 species of fish and shellfish.
It is extremely important that the people of Northeastern New Jersey save this last, largest remaining portion of open space and wetlands in the area, clean it up, and turn it back into a magnificent natural, environmental park and quiet recreational preserve -- just a stone's throw from the arena and stadium. Establishing the Meadowlands Environmental Park will provide this and future generations with unparalleled opportunities for eco-canoe trips, nature walks, bird watching, other appropriate recreational activities, and an environmental educational center for our children. All of this will be in the midst of what was once deemed to be a poisoned marshland that was forever unreclaimable. Some may say that this is impossible. I could not disagree more.
It should be made clear that the area in which the environmental park would be located is separate from the the Continental Airlines Arena and Giants Stadium property. While, as of this writing, we do not know if the private owners of the New Jersey Nets and New Jersey Devils will move their teams from the Continental Airlines Arena, and while we hope they don't, we do know that these 8,400 acres of undeveloped open space outside of the Arena/Giants Stadium property are today being threatened with development. And so it is important to create this environmental preserve without delay.
These 8,400 acres are one of the last large and contiguous parcels of open space left in Northeastern New Jersey -- smack in the middle of the most densely populated region of the most densely populated state in our country. But this Meadowlands Environmental Park must and will happen.
This park will allow all of our
residents to not only enjoy this large expanse of open space that is so rare and precious
in our overcrowded region, but it will also give all of us a new and welcome sense of
identity. Northeastern New Jerseyeans and our neighbors will see us as proud
co-inhabitants and custodians of a multitude of plant, animal, and aquatic life in our
beautiful and fragile local environment.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have already secured funds for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study of the best way in which to save the Meadowlands. I have also received financial commitments for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act as an environmental consultant to the Army Corps as they undertake their study, and have already gotten $1.2 million for land acquisition in the Meadowlands, while seeking millions more in the 2003 federal budget. I am also working to secure resources from other existing conservation funds.
For the people of Northeastern
New Jersey, such a goal is worthy of our highest and best efforts. We can change
our destiny; how we live; how others regard us; and how we regard ourselves. We are
already on our way to making this magnificent vision understood and appreciated as being
eminently worthwhile and very much achievable. I will continue to work with local citizens
and elected officials at every level of government to ensure that this important and truly
historic Meadowlands Environmental Park will be a reality.
January 27, 2003
Plan For Meadowlands Environmental Park
Lyndhurst, NJ - In a landmark event that will ultimately direct the federal, state, and local governments on how best to save the 8,400 undeveloped acres of the Hackensack Meadowlands, Congressman Steve Rothman's (D-NJ9) longtime vision of a Meadowlands Environmental Park came sharply into focus today as the stakeholders gave the go-ahead on the federal-state study he has worked to put in place over the last two years. Rothman gained the official support of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) when it voted this morning to authorize the $5.2 million study, which it will conduct with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Today is a landmark day for those of us who have spent many years working toward the dream of having the 8,400 acres of the Hackensack Meadowlands become an environmental park, Rothman said. I want to congratulate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Governor McGreevey, Commissioner Susan Bass Levin, and the entire leadership team at the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission for all their hard work in facilitating this federal study. Now this three-year effort can proceed.
In the meantime, we expect
to be able, with a combination of federal, state, and local money, to purchase those acres
not presently owned by the Meadowlands Commission or the State within the next handful of
years. Beyond that, once the study has been completed, we fully expect to have the
considerable sums of money, estimated between $100-$200 million, to clean up, and to
remediate the landfills and other polluted sites in the 8,400 acres, with monies earmarked
for that purpose by the federal government, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,
the State of New Jersey, conservation trusts, and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission,
among many others.
For more than a year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission have worked together to set the parameters of the study, including which acres to remediate and to what extent, as well as other issues concerning the design and function of an environmental park. Rothman envisions the environmental park with opportunities for eco-canoe trips, nature walks, bird watching, other appropriate recreational activities, and an environmental educational center for children.
These 8,400 undeveloped acres warrant our preservation efforts because they are the largest contiguous parcels of open space remaining in Northeastern New Jersey, Rothman said. The Meadowlands Environmental Park will be an oasis for all of us to enjoy educational and recreational activities in what has become the most densely populated region of the most densely populated state in the nation. This park will be a legacy of conservation, in our role as stewards of our land for future generations.
A century ago, the Meadowlands
was a vast piece of open space spanning 21,000 acres. Today, just outside of the Arena and
Giants Stadium property, only 8,400 of those acres remain undeveloped, keeping river water
from flooding the streets of surrounding communities. That part of the Meadowlands still
supports a diverse and growing concentration of migratory birds and is home to 65 species
of nesting birds and more than 50 species of fish and shellfish.
February 14, 2003
Proposed Meadowlands Environmental Park
Washington, DC - Congressman Steve Rothmans (D-NJ9) plan for an 8,400 acre environmental park in the Hackensack Meadowlands took another major step forward late last night as Congress approved $3.28 million for land acquisition in the Meadowlands and for the federal government to conduct its study of how best to save those acres. Rothman, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, worked with budget leaders to secure the Meadowlands money, which constitutes the highest level of funding that Congress has ever appropriated for the environmental park.
With $3.28 million in
federal funds now on their way to save and preserve the Meadowlands, our dream of an
environmental park is on the fast-track to becoming reality, Rothman said.
Coupled with Wednesdays news that the precious 592 acre Empire Tract will be
spared from development by the Mills Corp./Mack-Calis designation as the Arena site
redeveloper, plans for the Meadowlands Environmental Park have advanced dramatically this
In June 2001, Rothman, a lifelong
resident of Bergen County, got the U.S. House of Representatives to authorize a formal
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study on how best to purchase, cleanup, and turn the 8,400
acres of undeveloped land in the Hackensack Meadowlands -- just a stone's throw from the
Continental Airlines Arena site -- into an environmental park. Then, as part of the budget
for Fiscal Year 2002, Rothman used his position as a member of the House Appropriations
Committee to secure $1.2 million for land acquisition, which was matched by the NJMC for a
total of $2.4 million. Additionally, he obtained $140,000 in federal funding for the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service to serve as environmental consultants to the U.S. Army Corps in
A century ago, the Meadowlands was a vast piece of open space spanning 21,000 acres. Today, just outside of the Arena and Giants Stadium property, only 8,400 of those acres remain undeveloped, keeping river water from flooding the streets of surrounding communities. That part of the Meadowlands still supports a diverse and growing concentration of migratory birds and is home to 65 species of nesting birds and more than 50 species of fish and shellfish.
The Meadowlands money was
included in the final spending bill for Fiscal Year 2003 that the House and Senate both
overwhelmingly approved Thursday night. The measure now moves to the White House where
President Bush is expected to sign it into law.
Funding Partnership Agreement From New Jersey Meadowlands Commission To Purchase 1,000
-- Congressman Steve Rothmans (D-NJ9) plans for an 8,400 acre Meadowlands
Environmental Park took a critical step forward today when he secured a funding
partnership agreement from the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) that will result
in the purchase of approximately 1,000 of the 1,800 remaining undeveloped acres in the
Meadowlands that are privately owned. NJMC Chairwoman Susan Bass Levin announced that the
NJMC will match the $3 million Rothman obtained for land acquisition as part of the Fiscal
Year 2003 budget, bringing the total funds available for land acquisition this year to $6
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission continues to demonstrate that it is a true partner in our effort to save, cleanup, and preserve the 8,400 undeveloped acres of the Hackensack Meadowlands in order to turn those acres into an environmental park, said Rothman, who had asked Bass Levin to continue to have the NJMC serve as the local matching partner of federal land acquisition funds. In agreeing to match the $3 million I secured this year from Congress, for a total of $6 million, Governor McGreevey, NJMC Chairwoman Bass Levin, NJMC Executive Director Bob Ceberio, Commissioner James Anzevino, Commissioner Michael Gonnelli, Commissioner Leonard Kaiser, Commissioner Mia Macri, Commissioner Eleanore Nissley, and Commissioner Arleen Walther are helping to make the dream of a Meadowlands Environmental Park a reality.
Source: Rep. Steve Rothman
Last weekend, just south of Philadelphia, a nifty but unheralded Earth Day celebration was taking place.
At a large nature refuge just off Interstate 95, more than 100 volunteers were cleaning up all sorts of debris along a creek. Several families were in the visitor's center, learning about the local wetlands. Other visitors were fishing, riding bicycles, looking for herons and warblers, or hiking in the preserve.
For North Jerseyans, the scene at the Heinz refuge was particularly noteworthy, for one simple reason: The metamorphosis of a bunch of clotted swamps and landfills near Philadelphia into the 1,200-acre John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge provides a great model for the Meadowlands of northern New Jersey, where a similar transformation is slowly under way.
The Heinz Refuge draws more than 120,000 visitors a year. Imagine what a resource the Meadowlands refuge could become when it is completed in five to ten years. It could well be seven times larger than the Heinz Refuge, and the metropolitan area it serves is four times more populous.
The 8,400-acre environmental park envisioned along the Hackensack River in 14 municipalities in Bergen and Hudson counties was scarcely imaginable as recently as three years ago. One key parcel of degraded wetlands, the Empire Tract, was on the way to becoming the site of a mega-mall. Other sites were toxic waste dumps and old landfills. Now the plans for the park have gathered so much momentum that it is considered by many to be a fait accompli.
Consider: At the start of the year, 6,600 acres of marsh, water, and landfills earmarked for the preserve had already been saved. Last week, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission agreed to spend $3 million to help buy another 1,000 acres. That would complete 90 percent of the land acquisitions.
Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, a member of the House Appropriations Committee and a leader of the efforts to create the huge park, has already obtained $4.5 million in funding for land purchases and environmental studies from Congress. In the coming year, he hopes to come up with enough federal appropriations and matching funds to buy the remaining 10 percent of the refuge.
At the same time, a multimillion-dollar federal study is under way to decide how best to restore the marshes, clean up the landfills, and turn them into a park that provides a haven for wildlife, an environmental education center, and a magnet for all sorts of recreational activities, including canoeing, fishing, hiking, and birding.
When the three-year study is completed, the hard work of restoring the site will begin. By one estimate, the upgrades will cost $100 million, but the congressman says he has already identified the sources of money needed to pay for it - including, notably, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which must spend $60 million on environmental projects to compensate for its dredging projects, which disturb marine life.
Parts of the future park would be so expensive to decontaminate that they may simply be made off-limits. But in other instances, long-degraded tidal marshes will be revitalized so they can again absorb some of the floodwaters that have plagued low-lying towns nearby.
The key to the progress so far has been the teamwork of Mr. Rothman, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, the U.S. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers, and non-profit groups, especially the Hackensack Riverkeeper.
Still to be determined is who will manage the park - the state or a consortium of state and federal agencies and non-profit groups. In any event, Mr. Rothman wants a governing board with strong local involvement.
But such decisions are a few
years off. For now, let's pause and savor the strides made toward turning old landfills
and tired swamps into a huge refuge and environmental park - not just in Philadelphia but
right on our doorstep.
Source: The Secaucus Reporter 2003, April 27, 2003
Meadowlands preservation funds OK'd
LYNDHURST - The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission on Wednesday approved paying half of the $6 million needed to protect 1,000 acres in the area.
Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, secured $3 million in February for preserving the open space, but the federal money would not have been released without matching funds from a local partner.
Rothman said that the eventual goal is to save about 8,400 acres in the Meadowlands as parkland.
He said that about 6,600 acres is owned by the state or conservation groups, and that it could take five to 10 years to complete the park, because some of the land contains contaminants that require cleanup.
"With this year's $6 million, we will be able to purchase approximately another 1,000 acres, bringing the total to 7,600 acres taken off the development rolls," Rothman said.
Developers are eager to build in the Meadowlands because of its proximity to New York, but environmentalists see the area as a natural jewel worth protecting. State officials agree.
"The combined funds will
allow the commission to continue in our new mission to acquire and remediate critical open
space, especially wetlands, in the Meadowlands District,'' said commission Chairwoman
Susan Bass Levin
Meadows preservation move progresses
LYNDHURST (AP) - Efforts to preserve a 13-square-mile zone along the Hackensack River progressed yesterday when the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission agreed to match $3 million in federal funds to buy undeveloped land.
The $6 million will buy about 1,000 acres of the remaining 1,800 privately owned acres, Rep. Steven R. Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, said yesterday.
Rothman, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, helped secure the federal money, which Congress required be matched locally. It follows $1.2 million secured in 2002, which the commission also matched.
The land is part of an 8,400-acre zone of wetlands, landfill, river and tributaries stretching from Little Ferry to Kearny that Rothman seeks to preserve as the largest open space in northern New Jersey.
The zone skirts the Meadowlands Sports Complex, home to Giants Stadium, but includes a stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike and other highways.
In addition to the 1,800 acres, the largest privately owned parcel in the area is the 600-acre Empire Tract in Carlstadt owned by the Mills Corp. of Arlington, Va. It has agreed to donate the land to the state because its proposal to redevelop the Continental Airlines Arena site was accepted by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.
That contract is being challenged in court by the losing bidder, Hartz Mountain Industries of Secaucus.
Source: the Jersey Journal,
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Study to look at turning wetlands into preserve
The Meadowlands Commission on Monday unanimously approved a $5.2 million study on the possibility of converting a sprawling patchwork of polluted and privately held land into a nature preserve.
The Army Corps of Engineers, with the help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will conduct the study over the next two to three years, Robert Ceberio, executive director of the Meadowlands Commission, said. Scientists will study the pollution in the area and the methods and cost of cleanup. Planners will propose locations of roads to and from the parklands and determine how the park would be governed, Rothman said. The Meadowlands Commission agreed to foot $2.6 million, or half of the bill. The rest will be covered by federal appropriations.
As the study gets under way, the commission plans to purchase 3,300 acres of privately owned undeveloped land, doubling its holding over the next two to three years. The timeframe accommodates any litigation that would result from lawsuits brought by landowners unwilling to sell their land. In this case, Rothman said, the commission would exercise eminent domain. Federal, state and private foundations will fund the purchase, he added.
A key acquisition for the preserve would be 600 acres in Carlstadt owned by the Mills Corp. The Arlington, Va.-based company has repeatedly failed to secure approval for the development of a mall there. The company has promised to donate its land to the Meadowlands Commission if it is awarded the contract to redevelop the Continental Arena. Mills is one of three firms vying for the valuable contract.
Rothman said the commission had already sent letters to the owners of 1,000 other acres indicating its desire for the land. The commission has identified as its highest priority 91 acres of wetlands in Secaucus and North Bergen owned by former U.S. Rep. Frank Guarini, D-Jersey City, and 150 acres in North Bergen owned by Eugene Mori, a Miami businessman.
Rothman said the federal government has freed up $1.2 million for the land, and that the commission expected to pay up to $10,400 for each acre.
"We're not taking something from people," said Bill Sheehan, head of the environmental group Hackensack Riverkeeper Inc., who has lobbied for the preserve for 10 years. "We're giving them something for the future."
The $200 million to $300 million needed for the cleanup will come from federal, state and private sources, Rothman said.
The Meadowland used to be pastures and wetlands that spanned 21,000 acres. Today, nearly all but the 8,400-acres sought for the preserve, have been developed.
Sheehan said the Meadowlands, the
Hackensack River and tributaries around them, continue to be home to 250 species of birds
and 60 fish species.
The sources for the money to pay for the bulk of the land purchase, which he said would cost between $100 million and $200 million, "have already been identified." He rattled them off: The Port Authority, the Meadowlands Commission, conservation groups, and the state of New Jersey.
"In the next two or three years," he continued, "we will own it, assuming that the 600-acre Empire Tract will be acquired by the state."
That Empire Tract is the key. It is owned by the Mills Corp., a deep-pocketed firm that has failed for years to get approval for its grand plan for building a mall there. Mills was selected to redevelop Continental Arena - virtually next door to the envisioned Meadowlands park. .
"There are," he continued, "20 million people around here, and if we can provide an environmental preserve, it will not only be a model for urban areas in this country, it will be a model throughout the world."
And after the announcements in
the next couple of weeks, he promised, it will be clear that "those 8,400 acres shall
not be developed. It will take another 10 years to do, but the tracks are laid down."
The New Jersey Meadowlands Data Book 2002 is now available for purchase from the Commission. The Data book is a compilation of frequently requested information about the Meadowlands District and the 14 constituent municipalities including census statistics on population and housing, employment data, land uses, transportation service and routes, community facilities/services, environmental information, and colored maps. The Data Book includes district-specific information as well as coverage of the 14 District municipalities, Bergen County, and Hudson County.
The book can be purchased at the Commission offices for $12.00. You can also order the book to be shipped to you for the addition of postage and handling (+$4.00).
For more information on purchasing the Data Book, please call (201) 460-4600.