FBW | September 30, 2019
Hoboken to offer fair market value to acquire Union Dry Dock site This week, the City of Hoboken will offer NY Waterway $13.1 million to purchase 901 Sinatra Drive, the waterfront parcel formerly belonging to the Union Dry Dock and Repair Co. Three weeks earlier, the Hoboken City Council approved an ordinance giving authority to the administration of Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla to acquire this property for use as a public park. If NY Waterway declines the offer or refuses to negotiate in good faith, the City can then deposit the $13.1 million with the court and take possession of the property through eminent domain.
By the spring of 2017, NJ Transit began developing plans to acquire Union Dry Dock & lease back to NY Waterway In anticipation of executing these plans, NJ Transit included the $12 million purchase price in its 2017 capital budget. After the proposed acquisition, NJ Transit would enter into an annual lease agreement with NY Waterway for $100,000. To facilitate these plans, Port Imperial Marine Facilities (doing business as NY Waterway) bought the Union Dry Dock site on November 3, 2017. Two weeks later, NY Waterway and NJ Transit signed an agreement giving the public agency an exclusive option to purchase the site. Subsequently, the two parties executed a Contract of Sale.
For the past two years, the fate of the Union Dry Dock site has been a battle royale It has pitted Hoboken and its elected officials against NY Waterway, NJ Transit, and the Governor’s office. NY Waterway has exerted its political influence and employed its lobbyists to pressure state officials to live up to its 2017 agreement. The City of Hoboken and the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) have enlisted the support of civic and environmental organizations, and the public at large to secure the Union Dry Dock site as one of the final links in Hoboken’s public waterfront park. Public pressure to date — as witnessed by the recent Hoboken City Council hearings, the waterfront march and rally on March 8, 2019, the Army Corps of Engineers hearing in May 2018, and a FBW petition signed by over 3,000 people — has prevented NJ Transit from executing its Contract of Sale with NY Waterway.
NY Waterway likely to challenge eminent domain authority The owner of NY Waterway, Arthur Imperatore, Sr., now 94 years old, relishes a good fight and is expected to challenge a “taking” in court claiming that his “public” purpose, providing a vital ferry service between New Jersey and New York City trumps the City’s need for a three-acre park. NY waterway, however, is a private, for-profit enterprise, not a public agency. But the City must prepare to engage in litigation with NY Waterway’s top-flight legal team. Moving forward with a landscape design, environmental clean-up and funding for park construction will be critical for the City to prove to the court its intent to make the park a reality.
NY Waterway attempts to scare Hoboken taxpayers citing overblown cost of remediation NJ Transit hired Roux Associates, an environmental consulting firm, to conduct an “environmental report for property acquisition.” On December 18, 2017, Roux submitted this report to NJ Transit detailing the environmental conditions at Union Dry Dock. The report also broke down the costs for the required remediation. No serious problems were identified and the clean up is what one would expect for a former dry dock/barge repair use. Although the total costs were redacted, sufficient information is provided to make a rough estimate that remediation would total several million dollars. There are state funds available for remediation of sites to be used as public open space. This report as well as an earlier one conducted in 2011 are linked below.
The current NJ Transit budget still includes the $12 million to acquire & relocate a ferry maintenance facility to Hoboken An appropriation line entitled “Hoboken Ferry Service Improvements” provides $12 million for the acquisition and relocation of facilities such as maintenance yards. An additional line “Capital Ferry Improvement Program” provides $9.35 million to date and another $6.5 million in fiscal year 2020 to acquire, replace and rehabilitate ferries. New Jersey’s statutes recognize the authority and importance for NJ Transit to support the role of ferries in providing transportation for the people of New Jersey and the region.
The Governor’s unfulfilled promise to fix a broken transportation system Before Governor Murphy took office in January 2018, he called NJ Transit a “national disgrace” and promised to fix it. But the Governor and this public agency have struggled throughout his nearly two years in office. They have been faced with angry commuters and critics who say the agency continues to be underfunded. Since the 1980s, NJ Transit and the Port Authority have spent several hundred million dollars to build ferry terminals in Weehawken, Hoboken and New York City. The current financial troubles at NJ Transit may cause the State of New Jersey to refrain from further financial commitments that would benefit a private ferry operator despite what’s in the capital budget.
Notice that contract of sale is being negotiated between NYWW & NJT
NJ Transit option agreement with NY Waterway
Roux Associates – Updated UDD Environmental Report for Property Acquisition 2017
Roux Associates – UDD Environmental Report for Property Acquisition 2011