FBW | February 17, 2023
The lease gives NY Waterway control of 5.6 acres – or 68 percent – of the 8.2-acre Union Dry Dock site for the next five years. The ferry company would occupy all of the piers, 85 percent of the water area and nearly all of the land at the water’s edge, leaving the City with less than an acre (one-third of the land area) to start building the promised park.
Monthly rent for the first three years is $4,573, comparable to renting a 2-bedroom unit in the Skyline located in southwestern corner of Hoboken. The permitted uses under this lease include storage of twenty ferries, maintenance of the ferry fleet, removal of sanitary waste and refueling. The operations would be conducted 24/7 and the lease provides no restrictions on when ferries can enter and leave the site.
At the February 15 City Council meeting, a number of speakers critiqued the terms of the lease and pointed out the lack of transparency on the part of the City.
“The terms and conditions of this lease are egregious, totally in favor of NY Waterway and highly detrimental to the City and its residents,” stated Ruth McMorrow, a Maxwell Place resident living next door to the leased property. “The stated rent levels do nothing to incentivize NY Waterway to leave at the end of either the initial term or the extension.”
Ron Hine, Executive Director of Fund for a Better Waterfront, reminded the council that “the whole community came together to prevent NY Waterway from locating there with its ferry maintenance and refueling operation. When we looked at this lease we saw that this is exactly what we are getting for the next five years.”
At the conclusion of the public hearing, the Hoboken City Council approved the lease in a 7 to 2 vote, with Council members Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher providing the sole dissenting votes.
Governor Murphy helped to broker an agreement — announced with great fanfare in June of 2021 — between NY Waterway and the City of Hoboken, which permitted the City of Hoboken to acquire the Union Dry Dock property for $18.5 million, $7 million more than what NY Waterway paid to purchase the property in November of 2017. This settlement agreement has not yet been made public nor has it been approved by the Hoboken City Council.
The agreement was based on elaborate plans to rebuild a ferry maintenance facility in Weehawken where NY Waterway has operated since it was founded in the 1980s. Today much of Weehawken’s waterfront, all formerly owned by NY Waterway founder Arthur Imperatore, Sr., has been developed. The new waterfront residents, who have experienced firsthand the negative impacts of living next to a diesel ferry refueling and repair operation, have been vehemently opposed to rebuilding the facility there. For the past two years, Mayor Turner and the Weehawken Planning Board have refused to approve NY Waterway’s plans.
In August 2009, NJ Transit conducted an alternative site analysis that ranked nine locations for a ferry berthing and maintenance facility. The top ranking was given to the Hoboken Terminal followed by two Weehawken locations. Also in 2009, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection granted a waterfront permit to NJ Transit, the owner of the 80-acre Hoboken Terminal property, a major regional transportation hub, to locate the ferry facility there. The permit approvals included detailed plans for where the refueling, berthing and maintenance activities would be located. These plans, however, were never realized.