Wendy Lau with the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse pointed out that “the kayak program is one of the neighbors largely impacted by this operation. Why are the kayakers not mentioned in the report, and how is safety being considered as part of the impact report?” Carter Craft agreed, cautioning, “I worry that the Board, in taking the strictest view of what this lease is and what it does, we run the risk of marginalizing some very legitimate human health and public safety considerations that have been brought up when I read the report, the cursory report, and with all due respect to the testimony, thank you for that, but to have vessels and their wakes, you know, not considered in possible safety hazards, I think that’s an egregious oversight, quite honestly.”
Along with paddler safety, several speakers raised serious concerns regarding any environmental damage NYWW’s facility could produce. Noelle Thurlow of Resilience Paddle Sports, who operates youth and other environmental education programs at the Hoboken Cove, recounted conversations with boat captains who run their boat propellers close to shore, a practice that while illegal, from Thurlow’s experience occurs nonetheless, forcing long-dormant contaminants out of the silt into open water. “My question is about compliance. How do we make sure that the boat captains are minimizing the use of the prop[ellers]? . . The legacy contaminants are broadly distributed through the Hudson River. But my question is specifically because it’s next to a place where people get into the water.”
NYWW’s attorney objected to many of these questions and insisted the company would follow all local, state and federal regulations, an assurance that did not satisfy many in the room. “I think the risk of oil spill and contamination is probably bigger than some people realize,” said Craft. “And as, with all due respect . . . the Coast Guard’s threshold for reporting an oil spill is actually pretty low. . . as we all know, that’s not a big beach, it’s not going to take much at all to contaminate that beach.”
Resident Roberto Verthelyi urged the board to wield their authority responsibly. “Our waterfront is one of the biggest and most precious things that we have . . . so I would tread this very carefully. I would make sure that if there is an approval, that the approval includes all kinds of mitigation, if there are violations, and real consequences, and a real action plan and real communication both ways so that we can communicate with both NY Waterway and the Hoboken government . . . to make sure that our voices are heard.”
After more than 2 hours of testimony, the board closed the public comments and opened its own discussion, ultimately developing conditions for approval that included NYWW providing a detailed schematic of where all 20 boats would be docked, a commitment from them that all active ferries would be held at Piers 2 and 3 – those farthest away from the Hoboken Cove – and that the ferry operator meet at least twice annually with the Boathouse. In addition, Liloia agreed to investigate utilizing a refueling boom that would mitigate spills, and a larger, permanent boom for Pier 1 that would minimize wakes.
Twenty minutes after midnight, the board unanimously passed the application. “I’m fully supportive of this,” said Doyle, “and I also think it’s a necessary step to have a beautiful park here, and five years will go by or three years, very quickly, I hope. “