The Hoboken City Council voted 9-0 to authorize the use of eminent domain and acquire Union Dry Dock from NY Waterway for the purpose of a public park.
“Today, Hoboken is one critical step closer to achieving our decades long dream of a public, waterfront park at Union Dry Dock,” said Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “We cannot, and will not give up this opportunity to create a contiguous waterfront our children can enjoy for generations to come. I want to extend a special thank you to the many residents and community groups who have made their voices heard throughout the process, as well as the City Council for their unanimous support. I look forward to beginning good faith negotiations with New York Waterway to acquire Union Dry Dock in a process that is fair to both parties.”
The 3.15-acre parcel of land known as Union Dry Dock & Repair Company—the last functioning maritime business on Hoboken’s once-bustling industrial waterfront—had been on and off the selling block since 2000.
In 2001, 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 reportedly 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 initially considered obtaining the land for NY Waterway’s ferry maintenance and refueling operations.
In October of 2017, the City of Hoboken reached out to discuss a possible purchase of the land. Following the meeting, Union Dry Dock sent a letter stating that it is not legally able to discuss a sale of the property to the City of Hoboken at that time. Weeks later, NY Waterway purchased Union Dry Dock in November of 2017, with the hopes of converting the longtime maritime repair facility into a ferry fueling and service dock.
Hoboken advocacy group Fund For A Better Waterfront had long been urging the City to act on obtaining the property, which remains a central piece in the effort to create a contiguous public waterfront along Hoboken’s Hudson River shoreline.
“Mayor Bhalla and the entire City Council are to be commended for their leadership,” said Ron Hine, of Fund for a Better Waterfront. “They all recognized that this is a legacy issue, connecting and completing a waterfront park for our community that will benefit generations to come.”
The City of Hoboken will now begin negotiations with NY Waterway in what has already been a contentious battle. Should those negotiations fail, the City can purchase the property through the use of eminent domain for the price of $13.1 million. However, New Jersey Transit could still acquire the property on behalf of NY Waterway, with their state authority superseding that of Hoboken’s municipal claims.
NY Waterway, which has sold its longtime facility in Weehawken to real estate developers, maintains that Union Dry Dock is the only place that will accommodate the regional ferry service provider’s needs, per a study by NJ Transit—a claim Hoboken has refuted with its own study.
“On behalf of the 32,000 New Jersey commuters we carry every day, and the thousands of
additional commuters we carry in emergencies, NY Waterway will continue to fight for Union
Dry Dock,” said NY Waterway President & Founder Arthur E. Imperatore. “This site is critical to our ability to provide the safe, reliable, environmentally-friendly service on which New Jersey commuters have come to depend—and to our ability to respond in emergencies.”
A judge recently tossed NY Waterway’s lawsuit over a stop work order issued by the City of Hoboken, stating that the ferry’s claim of a pending regional transportation crisis was “unsubstantiated.”