The City also agrees to deed restriction language required by the City’s Open Space Trust Fund Ordinance

FBW | November 14, 2023

The latest dispute over the Union Dry Dock property was resolved last night when the Hoboken City Council approved a settlement agreement between the City and the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW). On October 3, FBW filed a motion to intervene in the eminent domain action, City of Hoboken vs. Port Imperial Marine Facilities, being heard by Superior Court Judge Jeffrey R. Jablonski. The pending resolution of the eminent domain action has allowed the City to acquire the former Union Dry Dock property for public purposes; but as part of the resolution of that action, to permit NY Waterway (DBA Port Imperial Marine Facilities) to occupy a significant portion of the property for a three to five-year period while the ferry company rebuilds its maintenance facility elsewhere.

Following the City’s approval of the lease that was part and parcel of the settlement between the City and Port Imperial last February, FBW wrote to the Mayor and Council stating its position that the City must comply with its Open Space Trust Fund (OSTF) ordinance. The OSTF ordinance requires that the sale or lease of properties acquired with OSTF funds be approved by the voters of Hoboken in a referendum and that language must be added to the deed stating that the property was acquired with OSTF monies and thus restricted for use as public open space.

Last November, the City of Hoboken deposited $13.36 million from its OSTF with the court in accordance with eminent domain law. Before a Consent Order for Final Judgment is filed by the court, the $18.5 million, the agreed upon purchase price, will be paid to NY Waterway from the $13.36 million, the balance coming from a bond ordinance passed by the City of Hoboken.

Renée Steinhagen, the Executive Director of New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, represents FBW in this matter. Shortly after filing the Motion to Intervene, the attorney representing the City in the eminent domain case, Kevin McManimon of McManimon, Scotland & Baumann reached out to Ms. Steinhagen to discuss terms for a potential resolution of our demands that would result in FBW withdrawing its Motion to Intervene.

Pursuant to the settlement, the City and FBW agree that the lease agreement is valid and enforceable. NY Waterway (Port Imperial) has also signed a separate letter addressed to FBW acknowledging that the lease is valid and enforceable. This means that once the lease term has expired, Hoboken has the authority to enforce the lease, and Port Imperial will not turn around and say that it is not enforceable against them.

The settlement with the City, however, goes further. It acknowledges that once the cloud on title is clear (i.e., final judgment is entered) any future sale or lease of the property is subject to the terms of the City’s OSTF ordinance. Thus, the City acknowledges that if a future administration decides to issue a new lease or sell the property that a referendum is required to approve such sale or lease of this property. In addition, the declaration of taking will be amended to specifically include a recognition that the property was purchased with OSTF funds and thus is dedicated parkland.

Some have claimed that NY Waterway will never leave the Union Dry Dock site now that they have a lease on 68 percent of the property. The Consent Order for Final Judgment clearly states if the ferry company refuses to leave at the end of its lease, the City may evict NY Waterway after serving a warrant of removal.

FBW has carefully reviewed the terms of the court settlement as well as the lease and is confident that the City of Hoboken has the authority to require NY Waterway to leave at the end of the current lease. If the City fails to enforce the termination of the lease, FBW, or other Hoboken taxpayers, have the option to go to court to compel the City to act. If the City, instead, chooses to issue a new lease to the ferry company, such lease would be subject to a referendum and a veto by the voters.

The current lease gives NY Waterway control of 5.6 acres or 68 percent of the Union Dry Dock site. A professional team has recently completed a conceptual design for the park at the site, which will be constructed in its entirety at the end of NY Waterway’s lease.

FBW urged the City to acquire the Union Dry Dock property back in 2016. After the City failed to act, NY Waterway bought the property in November 2017. Thus began a bitter, multi-year battle with FBW partnering with the City to prevent the ferry company and NJ Transit from making this property the permanent location for a ferry refueling and maintenance facility. The settlement which resulted in Hoboken’s eminent domain action was brokered in part by Governor Murphy.

“We thank the City for exercising eminent domain and look forward to working with this administration and future administrations to ensure the establishment of Maritime Park on the entire site sometime in the next 3-5 years,” stated Ron Hine, FBW’s Executive Director.