In November of 2017, Hoboken was stunned by the news that NY Waterway had purchased the Union Dry Dock property at Hoboken’s north waterfront to be used as a diesel ferry repair and refueling facility. A protracted, sometimes bitter battle ensued, with the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) joining forces with the City, the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse and many other groups to secure this site for use as a key link in Hoboken’s public waterfront park, first conceived by FBW in 1990.
By June of 2021, Governor Phil Murphy, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and NY Waterway announced their “historic agreement to preserve Union Dry Dock for public open space.” The City agreed to pay NY Waterway $18.5 million to acquire the property, $7 million more than the ferry company paid in 2017. The agreement also allowed NY Waterway to lease back the site while it rebuilt its maintenance refueling facility in Weehawken; however, no details about the lease were revealed at the time. Indeed, the public received little information about the settlement agreement for months
Then in October 2022, the Hoboken City Council adopted an ordinance authorizing the acquisition of the Union Dry Dock site by eminent domain for use as a public park. A month later on November 28, 2022, the City of Hoboken recorded a Declaration of Taking with the Hudson County Register and two days later, filed a Verified Complaint with New Jersey Superior Court exercising its right of eminent domain. Superior Court Judge Jeffrey R. Jablonski has been presiding over this case, City of Hoboken vs. Port Imperial Marine Facilities.
As prescribed by eminent domain law, the City appraised the site’s value and deposited that amount — $13.36 million — with the court. The City utilized its Open Space Trust Fund (OSTF) to cover that cost.
On February 15, 2023, the Hoboken City Council approved the lease, thus fulfilling a basic requirement of the settlement agreement. During that Council meeting, many members of the public spoke in opposition to the lease, arguing that it heavily favored NY Waterway. The monthly lease payments were a mere $4,573 for control of 5.6 acres, or 68 percent of the site. The lease, termed “temporary,” was for three years with an option to renew for an additional two years. Permitted uses that will operate 7 days a week, 24 hours a day included storage, repair and refueling of the ferry fleet. Kayakers who used the beach area at the Hoboken Cove directly to the north raised safety concerns.
By March 6, 2023, NY Waterway (DBA Port Imperial Marine Facilities) and the City had worked out the details of their settlement in an Order of Settlement and Stay and a Consent Order for Final Judgment. The court will approve the Consent Order once all the terms of the agreement have been satisfied. This includes the transfer to NY Waterway of the agreed-upon purchase price of $18.5 million (the $13.36 million plus an additional $5.14 million) which also resolves all claims in connection with relocation obligations. The City will also assume all responsibility for site remediation except for any contamination that occurs after NY Waterway occupies the leased area. The City will finally have clear title to the Union Dry Dock property once all the terms of the Consent Order have been complied with and approved by the court.