Council tackles quality-of-life concerns

Hoboken approves Union Dry Dock contract amendments, adds bike stations, and battles skunks

The Hoboken City Council discussed Union Dry Dock, skunk infestations, and the bike sharing program at its bi-monthly meeting.
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The Hoboken City Council discussed Union Dry Dock, skunk infestations, and the bike sharing program at its bi-monthly meeting.

The city council approved more funds for the city’s ongoing fight to obtain the former Union Dry Dock property, and passed an ordinance for more bike share stations during a brief meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Councilman Ruben Ramos also discussed complaints he has received from unhappy residents dealing with a skunk infestation in western Hoboken.

Union Dry Dock expenditures

The council approved two resolutions amounting to $40,000 to aid the city’s fight to obtain the former Union Dry Dock property along the northern waterfront.

NY Waterway purchased the Union Dry Dock property in November of 2017 for $11.5 million to become the ferry company’s homeport for maintenance and refueling of its fleet.

The city wants to obtain the property for public open space, citing health, safety, and environmental concerns with the homeport operation.

The council approved a $15,000 contract amendment to Boswell Engineering, who originally reviewed NY Waterway’s permit applications for the property and conducted the city’s alternative site analysis released in November at a cost of $68,000.

The  site analysis identified 24 alternative sites south of the George Washington Bridge where the ferry facility could be located. The sites were graded on capacity, use compatibility, accessibility, public safety, environmental constraints, cost, and future expansion.

Of the top five, Union Dry Dock placed fourth. The top sites were Hoboken South at the Lackawanna Terminal in downtown Hoboken, followed by the Bayonne Peninsula in Bayonne, and 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.”

Council President Jen Giattino asked why the additional funds were necessary and asked if it stems from issues Homeland Security had regarding positioning of a ferry depot at the transportation hub of the Lackawanna Terminal.

According to Business Administrator Stephen Marks, the additional $15,000 is for additional investigative work needed to respond to questions from the governor’s office regarding the analysis. He said he was unsure of the specifics regarding Homeland Security, but would look into it.

Resident Mary Ondrejka questioned the city’s alternative analysis and the need for the city to continue to pursue the property. She said the homeport cannot be relocated to the Lackawana terminal because she feels there is no way for fuel or repair supplies to reach the ferries.

“The mayor’s quest to win will inadvertently cause irreparable damage to the company,” she said, saying the ferry company needs to survive to help transport the thousands of individuals who commute to and from Manhattan daily.

The council also approved a third contract amendment of $25,000 with law firm Maraziti Falcon, LLP to provide legal services related to the land acquisition of Union Dry Dock.

On Feb. 17, 2018, Maraziti Falcon was awarded a contract for $150,000, which was since amended twice for a new total contract amount of $220,000.

Councilman Michael DeFusco supported the contract amendments and the attempt to relocate the ferry homeport but said that he feels the council should start to question $20,000 expenditures.

Biking ‘boken

More bike sharing stations will be added to the city’s streets for residents to utilize after the council passed an ordinance. The bike stations will be located at Adams and Twelfth streets, Monroe and Fourth streets, Sixteenth Street and Park Avenue, and Third Street near River Street.

Director of Parking and Transportation Ryan Sharp said he expects the new stations will mean fewer bikes will be left on the streets and on sidewalks.

Councilman Peter Cunningham said this has been a consistent issue with the bikes as users are deciding to ride their bikes straight to their homes instead of dropping them off at stations.

Sharp said Hudson Bike Share, now called Jersey Bikes, actively monitors the bikes and typically picks up bikes and returns them to stations. But he said now that there are roughly 300 bikes in the system the company may be slow to respond at times.

He said if residents see that a bike has not been retrieved in a timely manner they should contact Jersey Bikes directly. They can be reached at 201-208-2913.

Councilman Jim Doyle said one of the benefits of the system was that if a station is full the user could leave the bike near the station without docking it.

Sharp said that those who do not leave them near the station are subject to fines, but he said that some people might be willing to be fined for the convenience of biking straight to their homes.

Unwelcome neighbors

During new business, Councilman Ramos reiterated communications he’s had with residents regarding a recurring skunk infestation.

He said he reached out to city directors in the fall regarding the issue which he says has been plaguing residents in southwest Hoboken, who have skunk burrows near 310 Jackson Street, First and Madison streets, and First and Monroe streets.

He said the Hoboken Housing Authority is attempting to curtail the issue by filling in their burrows.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said there is a family of skunks which moves into her ward every spring as well.

“It is still untenable,” said Ramos. “Residents can’t even open their windows. What can we do about this?”

According to Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Leo Pellegrini, skunks are considered a protected species in New Jersey.

He said because of this classification the city cannot have them trapped unless they are causing harm. He said if there is an increase in the skunk population it is key for residents to eliminate their feeding source, specifically trash.

He said that he will reach out to the Liberty Humane Society to see if there is something that can be done and that he will create an action plan to help deal with the issue.

For updates on this and other stories keep checking http://www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.