by Jack Silbert
If you’ve walked along Sinatra Drive uptown, you may have wondered what’s behind the fenced-off area between Maxwell Place and the skateboard park. The 3.15-acre parcel of land houses the Union Dry Dock & Repair Company, the last functioning maritime business on Hoboken’s once-bustling working waterfront. Since 2000, the property has been for sale. Local grassroots organization the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) wants this land to become part of Hoboken’s continuous public waterfront park. On Wednesday night at an event held at City Bistro, FBW officially launched a petition to encourage City Hall to embrace this effort.
“Union Dry Dock represents one of the last missing links in Hoboken’s string of waterfront parks,” FBW executive director Ron Hine told hMAG. “It would be tragic if we missed the opportunity to secure it as public open space. It is a legacy issue.”
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.
A private buyer, who would donate the land for a public park, is currently interested. However, negotiations have dragged on for months. If this doesn’t happen, FBW is hopeful that public funding, such as the City Open Space Trust Fund or money from redevelopment plans, could be used to purchase the property. The petition will show that residents stand behind this idea. In July, the petition will be delivered to Mayor Dawn Zimmer, City Council President Jennifer Giattino, and the Hoboken City Council. FBW hopes to gather a minimum of 1,000 signatures by then.
“Thus far, the response to the petition has been remarkable,” Hine said. “People want this effort to be successful.”
To sign Fund for a Better Waterfront’s Union Dry Dock petition, click here.