Port Authority Reneges But Park Going Forward

March 6, 2015
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Monmouth County has acquired an additional nearly 90-acre land parcel for a county park—no thanks to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, according to those working on the project for years.

The Monmouth County freeholders recently provided the needed $10.6 million to purchase the 87.88 acres of Aberdeen land that will be used as part of the planned 250-acre Freneau Woods Park in the county’s northwest portion.

But the county government’s share of the acquisition was initially suppose to be $5.6 million, with the Port Authority slated to kick in the other $ 5 million.

In the end, the authority failed to come through with its obligation, said Greg Remaud, conservation director for Baykeeper of New York and New Jersey.

Baykeeper, the Monmouth Conservation Foundation and Aberdeen Township had been working with the freeholders and state Senator Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr. (R-13), in whose district the park will be situated, and negotiating with the Port Authority for a number of years to secure the property, Remaud explained.

But in the aftermath of the “Bridgegate” scandal, involving Port Authority officials, the authority ultimately failed to follow through, he said.

“The reality is we’ve met with them (the Port Authority) for years,” Remaud said, “and there was every reason for the county to believe—they were told directly—they would be receiving the $5 million.”

Kyrillos, in a recently released statement, charged that the Port Authority “has once again demonstrated government at its worst and proved to be an untrustworthy public entity, reneging on its years-long obligation to fund about half of the project.”

Saturday In the Park

Kyrillos had initially approached the Port Authority to secure the funding, according to Remaud.

Port Authority representatives had told Baykeeper it never technically authorized the money, “And we just never heard back from the Port Authority,” Remaud said.

Calls this week to the Port Authority’s press office were not returned by press time on Wednesday.

Time was an issue for the nearly 90 acres, with Remaud noting the owners would sell it to be developed as 250 townhomes if they could not come up with the asking price.

“If we didn’t get the parcel it would have been a very different park project,” Remaud feared.

The property is the largest and of the greatest ecological value of the parcels being acquired for this park, he explained. It backs up to Lefferts Lake and borders the headwaters of the Matawan Creek, containing wetlands and a wide variety of birds and other wildlife.

While it was a large expenditure for the freeholders to make, Remaud acknowledged, “In the end it will be an extraordinary park and I don’t think anyone will question (the expenditure) in the long run.”

The Monmouth County Park System has yet to formalize its plans for Freneau Woods Park, “but at this time we’re looking at passive recreation,” for the site, said Karen Livingstone, a spokeswoman for the park system.

By John Burton

John Burton can be reached at JBurton@tworivertimes.com or at 732-219-5788

 

 

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