by Ron Hine | FBW | November 15, 2017
Last Thursday, the City of Hoboken announced the distressing news that a subsidiary of NY Waterway had acquired Union Dry Dock for $11.5 million with the intention of using the property as a repair facility for its ferry fleet. That same day, New Jersey Transit advised the City that it will be entering into an agreement with NY Waterway for the option to purchase the property.
At the July 5, 2017 Hoboken City Council meeting, the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) submitted a petition with 2,174 signatures asking the City to secure the property at Union Dry Dock as public park space. Citizens and community groups from all over Hoboken joined FBW to express their support for connecting this important missing link in Hoboken’s waterfront park. FBW initiated the petition drive due to the lack of political will by the City to make Union Dry Dock a priority in its open space planning.
Five years ago, NY Waterway and New Jersey Transit announced plans to carry out the same troubling proposal, including refueling of the ferries and parking for NY Waterway shuttle buses. This new refueling/repair facility would have operated within a stone’s throw of thousands of units of new residential development at Hoboken’s north waterfront. At that time, Mayor Zimmer, joined by FBW, Stevens Institute and neighborhood residents, called and wrote to the Governor, the New Jersey Transit Executive Director and the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation vehemently opposing this proposal.
This concerted effort was successful. In October 2012, New Jersey Transit Executive Director James Weinstein wrote to the Mayor stating: “this is to confirm that New Jersey Transit is no longer exploring the acquisition of the Union Dry Dock property nor does the agency anticipate doing so in the future.”
Nothing has changed since the protests in 2012. The current NY Waterway/New Jersey Transit proposal is still an alarmingly dreadful plan, not only because of its immediate proximity to a residential community, but because it would be a crude blemish on Hoboken’s beloved waterfront that will prohibit access to an otherwise continuous, public park for its entire length.
On November 13, 2017, the Hoboken City Council passed an ordinance that would allow the City to use eminent domain to acquire the Union Dry Dock site. Clearly, the City has waited too long to take action for New Jersey statutes have vested in New Jersey Transit the power to condemn properties for its own use and prohibit municipalities from doing the same to state land.
Unless, elected officials, business leaders, civic groups and community residents can convince our present and newly elected Governors and the Executive Director of New Jersey Transit to locate the NY Waterway facility to a more appropriate location, Hoboken will be saddled with an industrial use that will be the source of a multitude of environmental and quality of life problems. The Bayonne working waterfront would welcome such a use and be able to provide a port at a far more affordable price. Besides Bayonne, there other options that the state should consider.
FBW is working with neighborhood residents and elected officials to organize a strategy and a campaign to thwart this effort by NY Waterway and New Jersey Transit to impose this deplorable facility on a waterfront, otherwise public, that has become such a treasure to the community.
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