“Over my dead body,” said Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla at a Nov. 13 press conference, regarding a ferry commuter company’s intent to put its maintenance facility on central waterfront land it bought in Hoboken a year ago. NY Waterway has been hoping to locate their ferry maintenance and refueling facility at the former Union Dry Dock site, which they purchased for $11.5 million in November of 2017, but the city of Hoboken wants the area to become a recreation site.
At the Nov. 13 press conference, Bhalla released the results of a study that ranks alternative sites where NY Waterway can house the operation.
NY Waterway’s ferries make hundreds of trips each day between Manhattan and the Hudson County waterfront. They said they want to move their repair and maintenance operations from Weehawken, where they are currently located, because Lennar Properties plans to develop the site into residences.
NY Waterway responded to the city’s new report in a press release on Nov. 13 , saying, “The announcement does not add anything new to the discussion.”
They added, “We remain confident that Union Dry Dock is the ideal location for our maintenance facility from the logistical and environmental viewpoint and look forward to the ACOE’s decision and future utilization of the site.”
ACOE refers to the Army Corps of Engineers, which is considering granting construction permits for Waterway to use the Union Dry Dock site. They decline only 1 percent of applications.
In March, Hoboken offered NY Waterway’s $11.6 million for the property, then moved to acquire the site by eminent domain.
NJ Transit then stepped in and said they would purchase the property and lease it back to NY Waterway as it is an integral part of transporting people to and from the city.
The city then chose not to pursue eminent domain. But they are hoping to influence the company and state agencies with their report.
Hundreds of residents attended a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hearing on July 18 concerning NY Waterway’s application, the majority of whom were Hoboken residents who spoke against it.
The engineering study, conducted by Boswell Engineering on behalf of the city, analyzed 24 sites south of the George Washington Bridge where the ferry facility could be located.
These sites were graded on capacity, use compatibility, accessibility, public safety, environmental constraints, cost, and future expansion.
Of the top five, Union Dry Dock places fourth. The top sites were Hoboken South at the Lackawanna Terminal in downtown Hoboken, followed by the Bayonne Peninsula in Bayonne, and then Binghamton Ferry in Edgewater in third place.
According to the study, Hoboken South is the number one location because of its compatibility with existing use, capacity, and “superior accessibility.”
“This report essentially identifies what NJ Transit itself confirmed in 2009, that Union Dry Dock is not the appropriate location for this use,” said Bhalla. “NY Waterway is not going to locate maintenance operations and refueling facilities at Union Dry Dock. It will not happen during this administration, over my dead body.”
Bhalla said that he wanted to be clear that this was not a “NIMBY” (Not in My Back Yard) issue as the city would welcome the facility at Hoboken South, owned by NJ Transit.
Bhalla noted that the city will use “any means available, any legal means necessary,” to ensure NY Waterway does not use Union Dry Dock as their maintenance site.
At the press conference, Hoboken resident Tina Hahn said, “I can’t emphasize enough, South Hoboken is at no cost to NJ Transit.” She questioned why NJ Transit would spend $12 million to buy Dry Dock from Waterway if they can host the maintenance facility free at the existing Erie Lackawanna train terminal on the south waterfront.
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said the top three choices are ideal options for NY Waterway.
“They’re either already existing transportation hubs or they’re commercial centers,” said Fisher. “Lackawanna terminal, rated first, is already one of the top transportation hubs in New Jersey, the Bayonne Peninsula, rated second, is positioned to be the next major hub and the Binghamton Ferry site, rated third, is effectively vacant, sits on a partial area near other New York Waterway operations and is already zone for a port.”
Bhalla said Gov. Phil Murphy wants to do the right thing but is under pressure from lobbyists to side with NY Waterway.
The mayor said he plans to meet with the governor soon to discuss the study and the city’s position.
To view the 24-page study click here.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com or comment online at Hudsonreporter.com