The fight continues between the City of Hoboken and area transit agencies over the acquisition and use of Union Dry Dock—the 3.15-acre parcel of land and last functioning maritime business on Hoboken’s once-bustling working waterfront, located on Sinatra Drive, between the Skate Park and Maxwell Park. But Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla looks to avoid any hasty decisions, agreeing to delay Eminent Domain proceedings until a compromise can be reached.
“After thoughtful consideration this weekend, I have decided to formally suspend the City of Hoboken’s legal effort to exercise eminent domain over the Union Dry Dock property in Hoboken, currently owned by New York Waterway.”
On Saturday, NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett sent a letter to Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla regarding the state-run public transportation corporation’s potential ownership of Union Dry Dock.
“With this authorization, we intend to allow [NY Waterway (NYWW)] to use the Union Dry Dock location for ferry maintenance activities no sooner than June 1st, initially in the same limited manner in which they conduct those activities in Weehawken currently,” said Corbett.
Hoboken strenuously objects to the use of the Waterfront property as a ferry maintenance site, suggesting NY Waterway utilize space in Bayonne instead.
“As you know, NJ Transit has been informed that the landowner in Weehawken at the site where NYWW currently conducts its ferry maintenance activities has directed NYWW to cease such activities by June 1, 2018,” said Corbett. “As NYWW is the principal provider of the critically important trans-Hudson ferry operation to our region, and NJ Transit is statutorily obligated to ensure ferry operations meet the needs of New Jersey and its many commuter residents, it is incumbent upon NJ Transit to assist in identifying a solution that allows NYWW to continue ferry maintenance activities necessary to support its ferry services to and from New Jersey, including while we continue our investigation of [Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne] as a possible long-term option.”
NJ Transit has scheduled a hearing for this Wednesday to vote on the issue.
“The elephant in the room that Director Corbett avoids is the fact that NJT’s acquisition of the UDD property will shield New York Waterway from the City of Hoboken’s ability to exercise eminent domain for the purpose of, in the long run, preserving this waterfront land as open space for the public benefit,” said Bhalla, in a statement on Sunday. “In other words, this acquisition by [NJ Transit] will deprive Hoboken and its residents from having its rightful seat at the table, and a legitimate local voice, in the larger regional planning process.”
In an effort to subdue the sense of brinkmanship in the proceedings, Bhalla has now announced that it is willing to suspend its pursuit of Eminent Domain.
“I am taking this action so that there can be no question that an ’emergency’ no longer exists, and to allow the parties, including Hoboken, to work cooperatively towards a solution that balances all valid interests,” says Bhalla.
“This decision is in direct response to a proposal Governor Murphy made directly to me last week: suspend or withdraw eminent domain proceedings, and the board meeting will be cancelled so we can all get in a room this week and find a way forward.”
In a piece published earlier today, Hoboken resident Carter Craft, an urban planner with close to twenty years of experience specializing in waterfront and transportation issues, detailed a list of possible compromises centering around utilization of space and facilities at the Hoboken Terminal—where NY Waterway currently conducts operations.
Hoboken wants Union Dry Dock for the purpose of completing the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway and for public open space and recreation. Union Dry Dock bought the Hoboken property in 1976, and have been running their operations there since the 1980s. Previous efforts to sell the land have fallen through. In 2001, the Stevens Institute of Technology planned to construct a soccer field on the site. In 2005, there was a $15 million contract for the property, but the buyer backed out. In 2009, a developer hoped to build residential towers on the land, but local zoning didn’t permit it. And in 2012, New Jersey Transit considered obtaining the land for NY Waterway’s ferry maintenance and refueling.
This past June, Fund for a Better Waterfront began an initiative to purchase the property, sensing the urgency of securing the land for public use.
Excerpts from a previous article authored by Jack Silbert were used in this story.