If negotiations and a voluntary purchase don’t work, the city can move to condemn the property and acquire it through eminent domain.
According to Council President Ruben Ramos, the council will not hold a final reading and vote on the ordinance during next week’s regular council meeting, but will hear it at a later special meeting.
The city wants to buy the privately owned land not only to continue the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, but for public open space and recreation.
NY Waterway purchased the site from Union Dry Dock & Repair Co. in November, to move their ferry repair operations there from Weehawken. They stated that they serve over 30,000 commuters a day and the Hoboken location is ideal for fueling and maintenance.
Arthur Imperatore, president and founder of NY Waterway, said, “Moving boats into position for service can be very costly, time-consuming and disruptive to the quality of our service, hence, we strive to create the most efficient conditions possible,” in December.
The owners of the Weehawken site have decided to develop the property into residential units.
The City of Hoboken doesn’t have a need for the land they just want it.” –Mary Ondrejka
The council does not typically comment on introductions, but several members of the public spoke at the meeting.
“Since, 2012 I have been very involved in this and I can’t implore you enough how quickly we need to move,” said resident Tina Hahn. “My ask is that you do everything you can to work with the state and the county to find other solutions for New York Waterway.”
She added that she had environmental concerns with the company using the site, citing a Jan. 26 incident in Weehawken in which a refueling truck spilled hundreds of gallons of oil onto the street and into the Hudson River. The truck had been there to deliver diesel to storage tanks for the ferries.
Ron Hine of the Fund for a Better Waterfront said that the opportunity to create open space in town is diminishing and that he knows there has been concern with the cost of acquiring the land. He said he doesn’t believe it will be a burden to taxpayers as the city can utilize the Open Space Trust Fund, state and federal grants, and private developers’ help.
While 10 public speakers spoke in favor of acquiring the land for open public space, three spoke against it.
“NY Waterway has a legit need for this land, a need to fulfill a necessary public purpose,” said Mary Ondrejka. “The city of Hoboken doesn’t have a need for the land; they just want it… the city doesn’t believe in the right of ownership.”
She said she also doesn’t think it’s fair to offer the company only $130,000 more than what they originally paid, and demand that they remediate the land.
“I think in this situation the use of eminent domain is probably not going to be appropriate,” said resident Daniel Tumpson. “NY Waterway is serving a public purpose to provide the ferry service which as our population grows we need.”
He added that he sees a compromise: ferry maintenance, plus a pocket park and walkway.
“I know it is not popular here to speak against this, but I think eminent domain should only be used when it’s really, really necessary,” said resident Barbara Gross. “We need the money for other projects.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.