Unemployed State Residents Helping Rebuild Liberty State Park

Liberty State Park

Liberty State Park (LSP) is almost fully open and has seen great progress in its post-Sandy cleanup, along with other state parks, thanks to a fleet of previously unemployed residents hired by the Department of Environmental Protection to aid Sandy recovery, state officials announced last week.

Officials said last week that the DEP grants will allow the hiring of up to 78 unemployed state residents, in addition to 33 already brought onto the project, statewide to aid with cleanup. State Park Service Director Mark Texel and LSP Superintendent Rob Rodriguez hope to enroll about a dozen workers through the grant to help continue efforts to fully restore the park, which is the gateway to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

“The employees we are hiring…are helping clear debris, repair walkways, restore dunes, and remove trees that are blocking trails and many other important tasks,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said.

For the past four months, park staff and teams of state parks employees from across New Jersey, supplemented by inmate labor provided by the Department of Corrections, have worked to make repairs and clear away vast amounts of debris caused by the tidal surge that hit the park during Sandy.

Most of Liberty Walk (the Hudson River Walkway), which offers unparalleled views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline, has reopened. The Caven Point section of the park recently reopened, and some 300 of the park’s 343 public use acres now are accessible, state officials said.

Assessments are still being done to determine how to repair and restore the iconic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal Building, which sustained serious water damage as a result of Sandy’s nearly six-foot storm surge, and the bulkhead along the Hudson River at the damaged ferry slip, state officials said.

As for the footbridge connecting LSP to Jersey Avenue which was swept away by Hurricane Sandy, a plan for a replacement will be installed by the start of the summer, city officials said.

The new hires are working at cleanups at LSP, Island Beach State Park, Cheesequake State Park, Allaire State Park, Hacklebarney State Park, Washington Crossing State Park and the Round Valley and Spruce Run recreation areas.

The $15.6 million National Emergency Grant or NEG program already has been used to put more than 700 people to work on cleanup efforts on city streets and public properties across 16 hurricane-ravaged Garden State counties since the federal funds were first obtained by the Department of Labor just days after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey.

Job-seekers interested in signing on for this NEG employment should report to local One-Stop Career Centers or send e-mails to sandyhelp[at]dol.state.nj.us. They can also visit the Jobs4Jersey website or call 1-877-682-6238 or 1-800-233-5005 on weekdays between 9 am and 4 pm.

Matt Hunger contributed to this report.

JCI file photo courtesy of Gail Zavian

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.