According to Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla, the City is “100% committed to redoubling our efforts to fight Union Dry Dock from ever becoming a refueling station,” in light of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers okaying New York Waterway‘s request to begin operations at the the 3.15-acre parcel of land on Sinatra Drive.
In May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) have announced that they will scrutinize NY Waterway’s proposal for the Union Dry Dock facility based on “evaluation of the probable impact,” in light of the significant public interest.While the City of Hoboken seeks to make it a public park, New York Waterway bought Union Dry Dock for $11.5 million last November, and have since maintained that it is the only place for them to relocate—upon facing a self-inflicted need to vacate its current 25-acre ferry maintenance property in Weehawken, which is being repurposed for residential properties. That land is owned by Arthur Imperatore, Sr.—owner of New York Waterway.
Just last month, Boswell Engineering released a report examining the viability of the all potential sites for the ferry company’s repair and refueling station. Their study concluded that the “Hoboken South” location, located at the Lackawanna Terminal, was the “preferred alternative,” ranking higher than Bayonne Peninsula, Binghamton Ferry Site (Edgewater), Union Dry Dock and the existing location at Port Imperial—in that order. Criteria for these conclusions were Capacity, Zoning/Use Compatibility, Development Timing, Environmental Constraints, Future Expansion and Cost.
Nevertheless, USACOE give the go-ahead to the ferry company to proceed on Union Dry Dock. In turn, Bhalla responded with a not-so-subtle reminder that the location is, in fact, still in Hoboken.
Said Bhalla, “with NY Waterways in possession of the land at Union Dry Dock, they must abide by our local ordinances and acquire all permits and approvals necessary, some of which they have not done. If they fail to do so, I will take appropriate measures protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents.”
Furthermore, the Mayor continues to address the issue on social media:
As one of NJ’s coastal communities, we have an obligation to protect & preserve our waterfront. A diesel depot poses a real & substantial risk to the environment. Among those at risk of breathing toxic fumes include 600 preschoolers, 7,000 paddleboarders, thousands of residents pic.twitter.com/6JowvNqvWx
— Ravinder S. Bhalla (@RaviBhalla) December 13, 2018
Other Hudson County dignitaries have followed suit, putting pressure on Governor Phil Murphy to intervene and relocate the ferry fueling facility.
Today our office in #JerseyCity along with @TomDeGise , Senator Stack + Senator Sacco are sending a joint letter in support of Mayor @RaviBhalla position that @PhilMurphyNJ needs to intervene for Hudson. This is the wrong location for UDD + decisions like this impact all of us https://t.co/9MKgUd6mPM
— Steven Fulop (@StevenFulop) December 13, 2018
Union Dry Dock opened in 1908 in Weehawken (even serving as a setting for a music video by the band Blondie in 1979). The company bought the Hoboken property in 1976, moving operations there in 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.
“Hoboken’s waterfront has been transformed over the past several decades. It is no longer an industrial waterfront,” said Fund for a Better Waterfront’s Ron Hine. “Nearly all of the waterfront in Hoboken is now a recreational resource enjoyed by joggers, strollers, cyclers, toddlers and kayakers. Thousands of residential units are within several blocks of [Union Dry Dock]. It is absolutely the wrong spot to concentrate scores of diesel operated ferries for maintenance and refueling.”