NJ Transit responds to pressure from Mayor, FBW and others; abandons plans to buy dry dock

(October 17, 2012)

Persistent efforts by Mayor Dawn Zimmer have paid off. Over the past six months, she made repeated phone calls and sent letters to NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein, NJ Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson and Governor Chris Christie. Today, NJ Transit abandoned its plans to purchase the Union Dry Dock property for use by New York Waterway. Arthur Imperatore, Jr., the owner of the NY Waterway ferry company, sought to move his shuttle bus parking and ferry repair/refueling from Weehawken to this prime Hoboken waterfront site at 901 Sinatra Drive in Hoboken.

NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein wrote to Hoboken’s Mayor today stating, “this is to confirm that NJ Transit is no longer exploring the acquisition of the Union Dry Dock property nor does the agency anticipate doing so in the future.”

The Mayor was aided in her efforts by the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) and neighboring property owners, including Stevens Institute of Technology. On August 16, FBW wrote to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stating, “This proposal is ill-advised and incompatible with Hoboken’s vision for a public waterfront.” The letter also mentioned that the City of Hoboken is launching a redesign of Sinatra Drive to make it more pedestrian and bike friendly.

In her September 7, 2012 letter to Governor Christie, Commissioner Simpson and Executive Director Weinstein, Mayor Zimmer wrote, “Hoboken’s waterfront is the jewel of our City, a gateway to the region, and an incredible asset to the State of New Jersey.”

On July 18, 2012, Union Dry Dock attempted to up the ante on their waterfront parcel by sending out a Request for Proposals soliciting bids to purchase the property. At least two proposals were received, one from NJ Transit and another from owners of Maxwell Place, the luxury residential development directly north of the site.

In a June 1, 2012 letter, Mr. Weinstein acknowledged the potential acquisition and stated that state statutes authorize NJ Transit to construct, operate and maintain capital projects “that support robust ferry service in the trans-Hudson corridor.” In the past, NJ Transit has insisted that it is exempt from local zoning regulations. Since the beginning of the Zimmer administration, three and a half years ago, the City has sought to scale down a massive proposal by NJ Transit to develop the Hoboken Rail Yards.

Union Dry Dock

View of Union Dry Dock from Sinatra Drive south of Maxwell Place.

Union Dry Dock which currently operates a barge repair facility has been in negotiations to sell their property for the past ten years. At one point, the owners entered into a contract to sell the property for $15 million. The case ended up in court when the prospective buyers backed out of the deal and unsuccessfully sought to recoup their down payment. In 2009, a Hoboken developer, Lawrence Bijou proposed to build four 12-story towers at the site that is zoned for 2 stories. For that project, the price jumped up to $25 million. Bijou quickly backed down when community objections were voiced to the project.

The Hoboken City Council’s effort to chime in on this contentious issue at tonight’s meeting with a resolution opposing the purchase by NJ Transit turned out to be after the fact.

Related links

Ferry repair, fueling station and bus parking for Union Dry Dock site?
Hoboken Rail Yard Redevelopment plan fundamentally flawed
FBW letter to Governor Christie 8-16-2012
Mayor Zimmer-NJ Transit letters May-June 2012
Mayor Sept&Oct letters to NJT
NJTransit letter to Mayor 10-17-2012