Imagine Liberty State Park having a 250,000-square-foot community center with an Olympic-sized swimming and diving pool, two ice hockey rinks, indoor basketball courts, pickleball courts, an indoor track, a community health center and community rooms.
Now, add outdoor facilities, such as a football and track and field stadium, multipurpose fields, an amphitheater and an outdoor marketspace with the flexibility to host any number of events.
If a nonprofit can fulfill its mission, that dream could become a reality.
On Wednesday, key Jersey City community leaders and stakeholders — including Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Hurley, former Mayor Gerald McCann, Hudson County Commissioner Jerry Walker and attorney Elnardo Webster — announced the creation of the People’s Park Foundation, which aims to create all of the above and more.
The 501(c)(3) group, which received funding and is backed by the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation, said it aims to assist the state and local government in revitalizing, improving and endowing Liberty State Park for generations to come.
“The goal is to create exciting programs for all ages, which will include building a world-class community recreation center that will enable youth, teenagers, parents and seniors to have their lives enriched,” Hurley said.
Community gardens are also a central piece of the restoration, with programming for schools and the community to learn about growing their own food, supporting local food pantries and taking care of the environment. The overall park plan calls for using only 15% of the 600 upland acres.
The team representing the foundation has been working together for over two years to make this possible.
Hurley said the group has researched top programs throughout the U.S. and has worked with renowned architects and urban planners, as well as a leading sports management company, to evaluate the best options for the Jersey City community.
Walker, who grew up in Jersey City, playing for Hurley on some of his top high school basketball teams, said the movement can help the next generation of kids in the city.
“As county commissioner, it is my belief this commitment is the best step moving forward in making Liberty State Park a destination park for everyone throughout Jersey City and the state of New Jersey,” he said.
“This is a great time for all community members to recognize we must be committed on all fronts in ensuring the People’s Park is accessible to all residents,” he said.
In July 2022, the New Jersey Legislature passed the Liberty State Park Conservation, Recreation and Community Inclusion Act, awarding the first $50 million, which will be followed by additional state funds as the project successfully moves forward.