Board’s Site Plan Review Committee will consider application on April 11

FBW | April 7, 2023

On Tuesday, April 11, the Site Plan Review Committee of the Hoboken Planning Board is scheduled to review NY Waterway’s (DBA Port Imperial Ferry Corporation) application to use the Union Dry Dock site for a diesel ferry maintenance facility. The company is seeking preliminary and final site plan approval for a conditional use and site improvements at this waterfront location.

Last November, the City of Hoboken acquired the property from NY Waterway through an eminent domain action. In mid-February, in accordance with a consent order filed with the court, the City Council approved a 5-year lease. Objectors speaking at the Council meeting expressed fears that NY Waterway would attempt to remain beyond the 5-year term and sought answers to how the terms of this lopsided agreement were reached.

NY Waterway is proposing to use the site to maintain and repair its ferry fleet, store 20 ferry boats along the 3 piers and refuel vessels when the fueling station in Weehawken is not available. They are also proposing a sullage system for pumping sanitary waste from the ferries. About 45 employees, working in shifts, will be able to drive to and park at the site.

On April 6, the Fund for a Better Waterfront wrote to the Hoboken Planning Board asserting that the application was deficient for a number of reasons as follows:

  • The applicant has proposed to use a portion of the site that falls outside the boundaries of the lease agreement approved by the Hoboken City Council on February 15, 2023 and conflicts with current plans for Hoboken’s Sinatra Drive Project that includes a two-way protected bicycle pathway, a landscaped area and expanded pedestrian sidewalk.
  • The applicant has failed to show the boundaries of the approved lease for 5.6 acres of this 8.2 acre site.
  • The plans fail to show the proposed roadway traversing the site.
  • The applicant has not provided a Neighborhood Impact Report despite the significant impacts that the diesel ferry maintenance facility will have on the surrounding neighborhood. The extended period of time for the 5-year lease is not “temporary” and does not warrant waiver of the Neighborhood Impact Report requirement.
  • The applicant’s proposed removal of trees should be reviewed by the professional team designing the park at this site, as they may recommend that the trees NOT be eliminated.

The lease gives NY Waterway control of 68 percent of the site. 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 to start building the promised park.

In June of 2021, Governor Murphy and Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced with great fanfare that an agreement had been reached and the City of Hoboken would be able to acquire the dry dock site from NY Waterway for $18.5 million. 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 most 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. Recently, the Weehawken Township Council passed a resolution to explore possibly taking the NY Waterway property in Weehawken by eminent domain.

Governor Murphy, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and NJ Transit continue to stress the critical role that ferries play in the regional transportation system. Yet nothing has been revealed to the public about where the ferry facility might be located if Weehawken declines to accept the facility. Alternate sites such as the Hoboken Terminal just for the storage of the twenty ferries could have made the Union Dry Dock lease far more palatable to Hoboken residents.

The Union Dry Dock site would complete one of the final missing links in Hoboken’s waterfront park. The idea for a continuous park along the Hudson River was first proposed by FBW with its 1990 Plan for the Hoboken Waterfront. FBW’s 32 years of advocacy has transformed Hoboken’s former industrial waterfront into a beloved public space stretching for most of the city’s 1.5-mile long coastline.