Historic water tower demolished

Makes way for industrial warehousing on MOTBY

Big plans for MOTBY
Big plans for MOTBY

A historic 150-foot water tower and a 175-foot smokestack on the former Military Ocean Terminal Base were demolished in a controlled implosion on Friday, November 30, to make way for 1.6 million square feet of industrial warehouse space.

The tower supplied water to the base in 1942 when it was a repair port for the U.S. Navy in World War II. The base was used by the U.S. Military in 1967 until it closed in 1999, and was then transferred back to the city of Bayonne in 2002 for future development.

Since then, the water tower has fallen into disrepair. The rusty, old tower with “U.S. Army MOTBY” written in military green is a symbol of Bayonne’s industrial past and has become a landmark visible from South Cove Commons, Lefante Way, and the Bayonne Golf Course.

Tower down, warehouses up

Now, the 153-acre waterfront site where the tower once stood is being redeveloped to house 1.6 million square feet of industrial warehouse space. Lincoln Equities Group (LEG) purchased the site from Ports of America in the spring of 2018; the deal was brokered by Cushman & Wakefield.

The existing World War II-era warehouses once stored missiles, tanks, and all kinds of cargo to ship abroad to support war efforts throughout the 20th Century. Then, in 2007, Ports of America purchased the land and buildings where it has been ever since. Those old warehouses will be demolished, and the land raised by six feet, which will require two million tons of fill that will pave the way for “the next generation of industrial warehousing,” according to Joel Bergstein, President of LEG.

“This needs to be preserved. Take it down but don’t destroy it. It’s been there for ages.”–Rosemarie BonD

“As the e-commerce industry and same day-delivery services expand, the demand for industrial warehousing near ports and major metropolitan areas will rise,” said Bergstein in a press release about the closing. “We see tremendous potential in this underutilized waterfront site.”

Bayonne benefits

“The City of Bayonne worked closely with various agencies to make this coordinated implosion a safe event for credentialed attendees and onlookers,” said Mayor James Davis. “Construction at the site underscores Bayonne’s standing as one of New Jersey’s growing economic and transportation centers.”

The site’s proximity to Newark Airport, NYC and the Global Container Terminal in Jersey City were a primary factor in LEG’s decision to redevelop it. LEG expects the warehouses to service e-commerce, last-mile delivery, and imports of food, retail, and consumer products.

In the coming years, the military functions once performed here will be a dim memory. Thousands of units of residential housing, as well as a Costco and a ferry terminal are either planned or in various stages of construction.

While residents welcome MOTBY into the 21st century, some wish the water tower were preserved.

“Clean it up and put it in the museum,” said Bayonne resident Bob Singer on social media.

“Why can’t they repaint it with the symbol of Bayonne, and the terminal logo and keep it as a historical site,” said Kevin Orlik.

That water tower is a symbol of years past at MOTBY. I still drive down the old MOTBY and that water tower stands there as a symbol of what what went on down at that base,” said Rosemarie Bond, who worked at MOTBY for 20 years. “Take it down but don’t destroy it. It’s been there for ages.”

Local government considered preserving the tower, according to the Bayonne spokesperson, Joe Ryan, but the tower was too rusted to preserve.

“It would have made a great thing to put on the ground at, say, an entrance to one of the new neighborhoods at MOTBY, ut it was dilapidated,” said Ryan. “If this were 20 years ago, it would have been in better shape.”

Rory Pasquariello can be reached at roryp@hudsonreporter.com