(ABOVE: Photo via Ravi Bhalla)
Hoboken residents noted a bit of activity at the Union Dry Dock site on Monday. Of course, two ferry boats unloading construction material at a spot along the scenic waterfront in this mile-square city of nearly 60,000 residents will hardly go unnoticed.
via “apolitical blog” @HobokenInc:
There’s now 2 ferries at UDD, a black tarp erected, and even workers unloading materials. They don’t have permits yet – they are disregarding Hoboken law! @RaviBhalla @GovMurphy @SenatorMenendez @CoryBooker @mike_defusco @Hoboken_FBW @HobokenEmily @MichaelRussoNJ Please help. pic.twitter.com/3pM3GQwPZS
— Hoboken, Inc. (@HobokenInc) February 13, 2019
To date, the battle for Union Dry Dock—the 3.15 acre parcel of land that housed the last functioning maritime business on Hoboken’s once-bustling working waterfront—has been contentious, to say the least. In November 2017, ferry company NY Waterway bought the property for $11.5 million with the intention of using it for a ferry dock and repair station. The City of Hoboken had eyes on developing the property as a park, making for contiguous public access along the entirety of the city’s waterfront.
The fight has gotten ugly since then, with numerous public rallies and calls to the Governor for intervention, as residents are concerned about “quality of life issues” stemming from a large diesel depot smack dab in the middle of the densely populated city.
Back in December, Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla stated that the City is, “100% committed to redoubling our efforts to fight Union Dry Dock from ever becoming a refueling station.” On Wednesday, sporting his embroidered Mayor’s tactical jacket and a roll of scotch tape, he followed through on that—affixing a “Stop Work” notice on the gates outside the former dockyard.
“Thanks to the assistance of Governor Phil Murphy’s office, NY Waterway agreed to temporarily cease ferry maintanance [sic] operations on the Union Dry Dock site in response to the stop work order issued today. We look forward to working cooperatively with the Governor’s team to find solutions that advance the best interests of Hoboken residents,” said Bhalla, in a statement on social media.
“I’ll continue taking all necessary actions to preserve Union Dry Dock for public open space. Hoboken residents deserve a park, not a ferry refueling depot,” he adds. “We need to do everything possible to protect our environment and our waterfront.”
The move should come as no surprise to NY Waterway or to Governor Murphy, as Bhalla alluded to this response back in December, after U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers gave the go-ahead to the ferry company to proceed on Union Dry Dock.
Said Bhalla, “with NY Waterway 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.”
The regional ferry service provider faces 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 NY Waterway.
Last Fall, 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, NY Waterway continues to maintain its insistence that Union Dry Dock is currently the best option for their purposes—presumably because they own it.
At this stage, it doesn’t look like the fight in Hoboken is going to end on either side any time soon.
— Better Waterfront (@Hoboken_FBW) February 14, 2019