We realize we’re blurring Brando movie references here, but the City of Hoboken just made New York Waterway an offer they can’t refuse for the Union Dry Dock property On the Waterfront.
“On Friday, March 23, I made an offer to New York Waterway Chairman Armand Pohan to purchase the Union Dry Dock property for $11.63 million,” said Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla. “This purchase by the City of Hoboken would advance our collective vision to transform this property to an open public park for everyone to enjoy.”
On March 15, the Hoboken City Council approved a measure to acquire the property, which was purchased by New York Waterway in November for $11.5 million with the intention of using it for a ferry dock and repair station.
An appraiser working on behalf of the City of Hoboken determined the land’s value to be $11,630,000. Mayor Bhalla said in his offer letter that, “Because the City intends to utilize the property for a public purpose, it is empowered under the New Jersey Local Lands & Buildings Law to utilize its powers under the Eminent Domain Act of 1971 to acquire the property. The City will only implement this power as a last resort if voluntary negotiations fail.”
Since 2000, the 3.15-acre parcel of land known as Union Dry Dock & Repair Company—the last functioning maritime business on Hoboken’s once-bustling working waterfront, located on Sinatra Drive, between the Skate Park and Maxwell Park—has been for sale.
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, 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. The City of Hoboken then 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 this time—as we soon found out, it was already in discussion with New York Waterway.
NJ Transit subsequently advised the City that it would be entering into an agreement with NY Waterway for the option to purchase the property and leasing it to NY Waterway as a repair station for its ferry fleet.
NJ Transit then backed off its plans to purchase the property. Nevertheless, NY Waterway reached out to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permission to continue with its plans to use the location.
Hoboken wants the land for the purpose of completing the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway within Hoboken and for public open space and recreation.
“As both your Mayor, and a fellow resident of Hoboken, I see firsthand how beneficial NY Waterway is to our City and the region’s mass transit infrastructure,” say Bhalla. “However, I also firmly believe that the Union Dry Dock property is not an appropriate location for the use intended by NY Waterway, nor does it serve the greater public, regional interest in expanding mass transit options for New Jersey residents. I have made it clear that I will do everything within my lawful authority as Mayor to ensure this land is secured as open space for the public benefit, and my offer to purchase this property is a means towards this end.”