Pedestrian bridge spanning Sinatra Drive, Community Hub building and two new piers account for one-third of total cost

FBW | February 13, 2024

Ayear ago, the City awarded a $1.2 million contract to a professional team assembled by Dattner Architects to design a park at the former Union Dry Dock property. Dattner and Scape Studio unveiled a final design last October, but the cost to build this project was not revealed until last week: a whopping $74.5 million.

The City’s ability to fund this elaborate park design is questionable. Nevertheless, the City Council, at its February 7 meeting, unanimously adopted the resolution approving the final design developed by Dattner and Scape.

Trophy Point Construction Services & Consulting prepared the three-page cost report. The report was included in Appendix D of a 363-page document entitled Maritime Park Framework and Concept Design Overview Report prepared by the project consultants. The $74.5 million number is an estimate and includes both direct and contingency costs. 

Although Trophy Point originally published the cost report on July 11, 2023, it was not made public until the February 7 Council meeting. This begs the question as to why this report was not revealed earlier in the process to help the City adopt a feasible budget and design that conforms to this budget.

The Introduction to Appendix D states: “The major drivers of the project’s direct costs are the need for in-water pier work, reconstructing the shoreline, and general upland sitework and preparation. Due to the site’s existing conditions, extensive sitework and shoreline reconstruction are required in order to prepare and stabilize the site for safe public use as well as ensure a resilient park.”

Direct costs to build Maritime Park total $47 million, which includes $11.7 million for upland site preparation such as demolition, grading and utility installation, and $22.8 million for pier and bulkhead work. An additional $7 million is required for “special” construction and demolition work related to the Community Hub building.

Some big-ticket items in the report include the pedestrian bridge spanning Sinatra Drive and connecting Maritime Park to Elysian Park ($4.7 million), as well as the Community Hub building ($6.87 million). The cost of constructing a new, smaller pier is estimated at $4.2 million and a larger one, $9.8 million. 

The Appendix D intro also states, “The reconstructed piers, Community Hub building, and pedestrian bridge included within these cost estimates are defining elements of the park’s layout and programming that were highly requested during the community engagement process.”

The park will be built in phases over a period of years. The three to five-year lease with NY Waterway will seriously delay the bulk of the park construction. But ultimately, the funds raised will likely fall far short of the estimated cost, thus forcing the City to make difficult choices about what components of the design can be retained. Or perhaps, the City will be required to start the design process anew.

Appendix C identifies possible funding sources for the park, including the leasing of the Community Hub building to a private commercial operator. Annual revenue from the lease of the community room would range from $57,000 to $111,000 and for the roof deck an additional $29,000 to $55,000. Such a lease, diverting a portion of the park from its intended use as public open space, would be subject to a referendum, requiring voter approval. The Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) reached a settlement agreement with the City last October that ensured any future leases of properties acquired with the City’s Open Space Trust Fund (OSTF), which includes the Maritime Park site, are subject to referenda as required by the OSTF ordinance. 

Although the all-volunteer Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse has run a highly successful and popular free kayaking program each summer adjacent to the Maritime Park site, the report in Appendix C proposes to “Capitalize on Kayaking” by charging an annual storage fee of $1,000 per boat indoors and $451 outdoors. The Community Boathouse supported the proposed kayak storage at the Community Hub building with the understanding that it would supplement its free program. 

Further suggestions to privatize and monetize uses of Maritime Park include charging fees for birdwatching, recreational uses of the lawn area and use of the beach. These revenues are problematic and would have an insignificant impact on the capital cost of building the park.
The public engagement process for Maritime Park was limited to three meetings, one in April, another via Zoom in July and the last one in October, where the final design was presented. The professional team also held stakeholder meetings with Stevens Institute of Technology, the Hoboken Historical Museum and the Hoboken City Council. Excluded from these meetings were the groups that spearheaded the campaign to preserve this site for a public park: FBW, Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse, Resilience Paddle Sports and Maxwell Place residents.

At this former Union Dry Dock site, FBW has consistently advocated for a passive park with generous plantings of canopy trees and expansive lawns that are included in the park design. For the relatively small land area, just 3.15 acres, FBW had urged that the park not be over-programmed, but instead be integrated seamlessly with Hoboken’s mostly contiguous, linear public waterfront park. Many supported this approach while others, as can be expected, urged for various active uses and more amenities. Unfortunately, throughout the public engagement process, the costs were not part of the discussion.