Acting Governor DiFrancesco
Announces $30 Million Plan to Preserve
and Enhance New Jersey's Natural Resources
Directs Port Authority to Establish
Fund to Preserve Key Tracts of Land
Directs Port Authority to Establish Fund to Preserve Key Tracts of Land New Jersey Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco today directed the Port Authority to establish a $30 million fund to acquire and preserve ecologically valuable tracts of land around agency facilities in New Jersey.
"It is extremely important that we combine the economic development initiatives undertaken by the Port Authority with strong measures to protect the environment," Acting Governor DiFrancesco said.
"This program will allow the Port Authority to acquire undeveloped areas around its facilities to diminish their impact on local communities. The Port Authority plays an important role in creating jobs and economic activity, and I am pleased to see the agency balancing this with funding that will enhance the quality of life in New Jersey," Acting Governor DiFrancesco said.
Port Authority Chairman Lewis M. Eisenberg said, "Port Authority investments in New Jersey's fast-growing port and other transportation and economic development projects have helped bring new prosperity to New Jersey. But the agency also is committed to being a good neighbor to communities it serves."
Port Authority Executive Director Neil D. Levin said, "Economic growth must go
hand in hand with a concern for the environment. The Port Authority is embarking on an unprecedented $14 billion, five-year capital program that will improve customer service and strengthen the transportation network of the entire region. It is vital to ensure that ecologically sensitive areas are not overdeveloped as we carry out this program."
Mr. Levin explained that as the Port Authority delivers its record-breaking program of investments in bridges, tunnels, airports and seaports, the agency will be acquiring land to redevelop or expand facilities.
"This new fund means that transportation improvements can be made in an environmentally sensitive manner. The Port Authority will be able to increase the buffer area around facilities, which will benefit people living nearby. Open spaces near Port Authority facilities also can be preserved," Mr. Levin said.
The final selection of sites to be acquired and preserved will be made in consultation with representatives of New Jersey, natural resource agencies and environmental organizations. The sites could remain under Port Authority stewardship, or be leased on a long-term basis to non-profit organizations, natural resource agencies or municipalities that would be responsible for their upkeep.
In New Jersey, the Port Authority is considering sites located in Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex and Union counties. Discussions will begin shortly with the property owners.
Advocates for harbor preservation today praised the move to protect some of New Jersey's remaining wetlands, noting that the Harbor Estuary Program Habitat Work Group, which is comprised of the Environmental Protection agency, environmentalists and community groups, has long recommended that many of the sites under consideration by the Port Authority be preserved.
"The Port Authority's plan is an important first step toward saving wetlands in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area," said Carolyn Summers of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "These are rich ecological treasures we are at risk of losing forever."
The Port Authority also will establish a $30 million fund to preserve land around agency facilities in New York, bringing the total amount of the program to $60 million.