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Liberty State Park
On the New York Harbor, less than 2,000 feet from the Statue of Liberty, Liberty State Park has served a vital role in the development of New Jersey's metropolitan region and the history of the nation.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries the area that is now Liberty State Park was a major waterfront industrial area with an extensive freight and passenger transportation network. This network became the lifeline of New York City and the harbor area. The heart of this transportation network was the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal (CRRNJ), located in the northern portion of the park. The CRRNJ Terminal stands with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to unfold one of this nation's most dramatic stories: the immigration of northern, southern, and eastern Europeans into the United States. After being greeted by the Statue of Liberty and processed at Ellis Island, these immigrants purchased tickets and boarded trains, at the CRRNJ Terminal, that took them to their new homes throughout the United States. The Terminal served these immigrants as the gateway to the realization of their hopes and dreams of a new life in America.
Today, Liberty State Park continues to serve a vital role in the New York Harbor area. As the railroads and industry declined, the land was abandoned and became a desolate dump site. With the development of Liberty State Park came a renaissance of the waterfront. Land with decaying buildings, overgrown tracks and piles of debris was transformed into a modern urban state park. The park was formerly opened on Flag Day, June 14, 1976, as New Jersey's bicentennial gift to the nation. Most of this 1,122 acre park is open space with approximately 300 acres developed for public recreation.
Morris Pesin's Legendary Canoe
On the foggy, drizzly morning Of June 13,1958, Morris Pesin (1911-1992) made his historic 8 minute canoe trip to the Statue of Liberty with a Jersey Journal reporter to dramatize the close proximity of the Jersey City shoreline to Miss. Liberty. The newspaper story focused public attention on his ideas of public access from New Jersey to the Statue and of an open space family park rising up from the waterfront wasteland of decaying piers and abandoned railroad yards. Morris repeated the canoe trip on October 28,1961, the Statue's 75th birthday.
Morris Pesin, known as the 'father" of Liberty State Park, spent 18 years spearheading the crusade to create this urban state park, which opened in America's Bicentennial year on June 14,1976. He then continued to work with other park advocates for 16 years to guide the park's progress as a free and green park for people of all backgrounds to enjoy, within view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
A year before his canoe trip, Morris and his wife Ethel had arrived on Liberty Island from his hometown of Jersey City with their two children, after a frustrating three hour trip which included a Holland Tunnel traffic jam and a long wait in line for the Circle Line ferry in Manhattan. He looked to the west and was struck by two things. One was that the Statue was very close to Jersey City, and the other was that the desolate waterfront was a shameful background for the sacred Miss. Liberty.
A few days
after the 1958 canoe trip, he stated to the Jersey City Commission (the
forerunner of the City Council) "we have here at our doorstep, America's
greatest shrine - the Statue of Liberty - and we have failed to realize its
The plaque in the nearby Visitor Center leads, "A tribute to Morris Pesin whose imagination, dedication, and perseverance were prime factors in making the dream of Liberty State Park a reality." In 1985, President Ronald Reagan presented Morris with the Volunteer Action Award at a White House ceremony.