FBW | October 19, 2022
In June 2021, Mayor Ravi Bhalla, along with Governor Phil Murphy, made a dramatic announcement: an agreement had been reached that would allow the City of Hoboken to acquire the Union Dry Dock property from NY Waterway, settling a hard-fought, multi-year battle. That was 16 months ago and the long-anticipated Memorandum of Understanding between the City and the ferry operator has yet to be signed.
In response to this delay, the Mayor announced that the City of Hoboken would adopt an ordinance allowing the City to take the property by eminent domain. The Hoboken City Council approved the ordinance on Wednesday, October 19 in a unanimous vote. In the June 2021 settlement, the City agreed to acquire the site that includes 3.2 acres of land and 5.2 acres under water for $18.5 million. The ordinance sets the price to be offered by the City at $13.36 million, the fair market value determined earlier this year by the City’s appraiser, Lasser Sussman Associates.
The 2021 settlement involved NJ Transit providing much of the funding for a new facility in Weehawken, where NY Waterway would refuel, store and repair its fleet of ferries. Last year, when residents of the Weehawken waterfront saw plans for a greatly expanded facility near their homes, they pressured their mayor, Richard Turner, to withdraw his support for the project. The protracted negotiations over the past 16 months sought a resolution to rebuild the Weehawken facility within NY Waterway’s current footprint and allow for expansion elsewhere, most likely the Hoboken Terminal.
Through an OPRA request in 2018, the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) unearthed a 2009 study by NJ Transit that identified a number of sites for the ferry maintenance facility rated more favorable than Union Dry Dock. One such site was the Hoboken Terminal. FBW obtained additional NJ Transit documents that showed detailed plans at the Hoboken Terminal where ferries could be stored, repaired and refueled. FBW pointed out that the 80-acre Hoboken Terminal property, owned by NJ Transit and currently housing a new ferry terminal, was designated for transportation purposes and would also be acceptable to the Hoboken community for the ferry maintenance facility.
FBW has monitored the status of the Union Dry Dock site going back several decades as the company sought to find a buyer. When the asking price was reduced in 2016, FBW urged former Mayor Dawn Zimmer to have the City acquire the site for use as a public park, thus connecting a three-acre gap in Hoboken’s proposed continuous, public waterfront park. When the City failed to respond, FBW collected over 2,000 signatures on a petition asking the mayor and council to act. Again the Zimmer administration sat on its hands and in November 2017, NY Waterway purchased the Union Dry Dock property.