Lion Gate Environmental Advocates Fueled Acquisition
"For anyone who was proactive in making this happen, I give them all the credit in the world." -- Mayor Raymond McCarthy
When the township closed the deal last week on the Lion Gate property (formerly owned by Copeck/Ruvio/DeSimone) many residents were quick to point out that environmental organizations like the Bloomfield Third River Association deserved acknowledgement for its hard work leading up to the acquisition.
“The real heroes of the town's purchase of 5 1/2 acres of wetlands on Lion Gate Drive are the Bloomfield Third Riverbank Assn.( BTRA) and the Open Space Trust Fund,” said Bloomfield resident Jane Califf in a comment to Patch. “The BTRA, with its selfless and dedicated leaders, met and planned for many years to save this property from development and worse flooding.”
Indeed, by all accounts the NY/NJ Baykeeper organization also deserves acknowledgement for contributing $350,000 toward the acquisition, which will be preserved as a wildlife sanctuary with educational and recreational benefit to the community. According to Elizabeth E. Ruebman, Baykeeper Policy and Campaign Associate, the organization was able to contribute $250,000 from a Green Acres non-profit grant, as well as an additional $100,000 from a Passaic River environmental settlement negotiated by the State Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Division.
“We've been working with the Bloomfield Third River Association since 2002 to acquire this property that includes a lushly vegetated floodplain that will now be a public park and hopefully a key link to a larger Third River Greenway,” wrote Ruebman in an email to Patch. “We acknowledge Green Acres and the Attorney General's office for their invaluable assistance and long-term commitment to this project.”
Many residents also laud the efforts of Councilman Nicholas Joanow, who they say was instrumental in moving the acquisition forward.
“Kudos to Councilman Nick Joanow, who was the fuel behind this project,” commented Open Space Trust Fund Committee Vice-Chair Pat Gilleran on Patch. “Many people contributed and should be congratulated, as should all of the members of the Open Space Trust Fund Committee past and present and those who fought so hard to create the Open Space Trust Fund - Mary Shaughnessy, Lois Ross and Susan Hebert come to mind immediately!”
“This (deal) has been going on since 2001,” Joanow told Patch on Monday. “We’ve gone to Trenton and met with them twice, and also had a sit-down meeting.”
Though pleased with the Lion Gate acquisition, Joanow expressed concern that the land would be used properly to benefit the people of Bloomfield. “At the end of the day, what are the taxpayers going to get out of it?” he said.
One of Joanow’s main concerns was that the township would build on a parcel of land that is pristine wetland property. “As a liason to the Open Space Trust Fund, I would not support that,” he said. “It’s illegal to build a structure on that site once you accept Green Acres funding.”
But Mayor Raymond McCarthy, who originally announced the sale of the property on Patch, said Joanow has no cause for concern.
“All I want to do is preserve [the land],” he said. “I don’t care, as long as we don’t build any structures on it or parking lots.”
He added, “It will be a park. Nothing’s going to be there except trails and paths where people can walk.” He said he envisioned a scaled-down version of the Roseland Environmental Center, minus the buildings.
Joanow expressed skepticism of the mayor’s position, saying McCarthy had previously stated his intention to build on both this property and an adjoining property on Lion Gate Drive, where the former Scientific Glass building once stood.
“The mayor did a complete turnaround on this. He was undermining this whole idea,” he said.
McCarthy denies the claim.
“I haven’t said I wanted to build on that land in years,” he protested. “I have no intention of building on the Copeck property. But yes, I’ve been a big advocate of building on the Scientific Glass property. I disagree wholeheartedly with Nick on that.”
In the meantime, McCarthy, who stated last week that he was “ecstatic” about acquisition, is looking forward to May 29, when landscape architect Tim Delorm of Terra Noble Design will give a presentation to the town council outlining various options that will make the best use of the land while benefiting the town.
“Unlike George Bush, this really is ‘Mission Accomplished’,” he said, insisting everyone involved deserved the credit for making it happen.
“There were absolutely people who worked hard for this," he said, mentioning the work of BTRA and grant writer Barbara Lawton, who "started out with $400,000 and turned it into $1.84 million, with the help of Green Acres."
"For anyone who was proactive in making this happen, I give them all the credit in the world. Bottom line: We got the park.”