The coalition argues that now is the perfect time for New Jersey to accept the proposed gift from Citgo Petroleum, because a North Carolina company that had proposed a major redevelopment project on the island recently dropped its plans, citing poor economic conditions in the national housing market.
In addition, the state is in such dire financial straits that it is considering closing some state parks to save money, which means there's scant funding available to acquire new open space.
Citgo, the American subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, offered the 392-acre Petty's Island, which sits in the Delaware River between Camden and Philadelphia, to New Jersey in 2004. At the time, Gov. Jim McGreevey declined the offer. Environmental groups claimed the state was simply pandering to a politically connected developer, Cherokee Investment Partners of Raleigh.
"We should be celebrating today the fourth anniversary of Petty's Island as a park and nature preserve," said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the state chapter of the Sierra Club. "Instead, we're asking Gov. Corzine, 'When are you going to step up and save Petty's Island from development?' "
Well, part of the reason he's waiting is that Pennsauken isn't ready to give up hope of redevelopment yet:
Pennsauken Mayor Jack Killion could not be reached for comment yesterday. In an interview in the Courier-Post , township Committeeman Rick Taylor said Pennsauken hoped to find another company to redevelop the riverfront.
The reason cited by Cherokee Investment Partners for dropping their plans is a declining real-estate market. However, as the township is hoping, markets are cyclical and there will once again be a demand for luxury waterfront housing in the Philly metro area. We can only hope that they decide to renovate the mainland real estate instead, the land that will have a beautiful, priceless view of the nature preserve that Petty's Island should be.