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“Save the waterfront!”

Hoboken residents rally to oppose a ferry maintenance and refueling site

Hundreds of residents marched along the Hoboken waterfront last weekend to urge Gov. Phil Murphy to protect it.

Hundreds of Hoboken residents and city officials gathered at Pier A Park and marched along the waterfront to the Hoboken Cove Saturday, March 9, to tell Gov. Phil Murphy to protect the Hoboken waterfront from industrialization.

The event, organized by local nonprofit the Fund For A Better Waterfront (FBW), aims to persuade Murphy not to allow NY Waterway to make the former Union Dry Dock site along Hoboken’s waterfront near Maxwell Place Park its ferry homeport for maintenance and refueling.

According to the FBW, the march and rally wanted to “send a message to Governor Murphy that this is absolutely the wrong place for this kind of activity at this unique, ecologically important site, especially given the fact that there are other far more suitable locations for this ferry facility.”

Members of the public and local officials hope to obtain the property and turn it into public open space.

“Let’s think about what’s at stake here,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “If we lose this property to a refueling station you can say goodbye to kayaking, you can say goodbye to playgrounds where kids can breathe fresh air, you can say goodbye to marine life that is finally making a comeback.”

The chronology

In November of 2017 NY Waterway purchased the former Union Dry Dock site to become its new maintenance and refueling facility.

In March of 2018, Hoboken offered NY Waterway $11.6 million for the property, then moved to acquire the site by eminent domain.

NJ Transit stepped in, vowing to purchase the property and lease it back to NY Waterway, arguing it’s an integral part of transporting people to and from the city.

The city, at that point, chose not to pursue eminent domain because the state’s power of eminent domain supersedes that of the city.

In July, hundreds of residents attended a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hearing concerning NY Waterway’s permit application, the majority of whom were Hoboken residents who spoke against it.

In the fall the city released an alternative site analysis, which 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 Binghamton Ferry in Edgewater.

In December, the US Army Corps of Engineers granted NY Waterway permits.

In response, county and state officials including Hudson County Executive Tom Degise, state Senators Nicholas Sacco and Brian Stack, and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop sent a letter to Gov. Murphy asking him to prevent Union Dry Dock from becoming a ferry maintenance and refueling facility.

During this time NJ Transit and Gov. Murphy’s office were reportedly conducting their own alternative site analysis although the results of this study have yet to be released.

Bhalla said, “Hoboken was promised an analysis to be completed in September 2018. As of today, we have not been provided that document. I reached out to Director Corbett [Executive Director of New Jersey Transit] to ask for an update, and I did not even receive a response.”

“It would mean exponentially more pollution in the area.” — Shannon Beck

‘Our voices need to be heard’

During the march Hoboken residents carried signs reading “Don’t pollute my playground;” “Roses are red, violets are blue, save our waterfront because we elected you;” “Governor Murphy Save our Shore;” and “Save the waterfront I play here.”

Hoboken resident of four years, Shannon Beck, said if NY Waterway relocated to Union Dry Dock “It would mean exponentially more pollution in the area. This is not a remote area. You’d get trucks driving around to refuel the station, you’ve got way more ferries coming in and out, and there is already space for that downtown at Lackawana. It doesn’t really make sense to cut the waterfront and put this in a residential area. It would mean a lot to be able to walk along the waterfront on a paved spot the entire way.”

“I voted him in. I’m one of his constituents, and our voices need to be heard,” said Beck of Gov. Murphy. “We are the people who appointed him.”

The well-attended rally included Council President Jen Giattino, Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, Councilman Michael DeFusco, Councilman Jim Doyle, Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, Freeholder Anthony Romano, as well as local activists Ron Hine of the FBW, Noelle Thurlow of Resilience Paddle Sports, Jennifer Cox of the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse, Sam Pesin of Friends of Liberty State Park, and neighborhood resident Leslie Florio.

“That is ugly. We don’t want it. This piece of the waterfront belongs to us.” — Annette Chaparro

Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro said the Union Dry Dock property is the last piece missing from Hoboken’s waterfront public open space and that she will fight to make sure it’s complete.

“This is our home, this is what’s missing, and we are going to fight all the way,” Chaparro said.

“We do not need that,” said Chaparro pointing to Union Dry Dock and the NY Waterway ferry docked at the site. “That is ugly. We don’t want it. This piece of the waterfront belongs to us. I will fight with Mayor Bhalla and the council, and I believe the governor is with us, and this is not going to end with that going to stay there.”

Thurlow who teaches children about wildlife in the Hoboken Cove said that the cove is unique because it allows the public to access the waterfront for recreational human-powered boating as well as an outdoor classroom where children can explore the ecosystem.

She said over the past six years she has conducted a biodiversity survey that identified more than 80 species in the cove including ribbed mussels growing on the Union Dry Dock, which clean the water and balance the ecosystem.

“If we put high-speed ferries in there … it would ruin the opportunity for restoration, it will make it far too dangerous for children or beginner paddlers in the area, and it would essentially block access to the water. The water belongs to all people.”

She said she isn’t against NY Waterway; she urges it to work with the city to find a better solution.

“You could be remembered as the governor who came up with a perfect plan that could be a model for other cities around the world.” — Noelle Thurlow

Speaking at the rally, Thurlow said, “This is a state issue at this point. We need the governor’s help to mediate the issue and bring all parties to the table and find a solution that works. I urge the governor to consider if you do nothing,Governor, you will be remembered for an issue that carries into the future where there is no water access, the water is polluted, and climate change creates other problems in a waterway that has no protection. Or you could be remembered as the person who creates a sustainable future for our children, as the governor who came up with a perfect plan that could be a model for other cities around the world.”

Bhalla said he has been in fruitful discussions with the governor’s office “to identify a path forward” and the governor “will have our backs in this battle, believe me” noting that Murphy has a longtime record as an environmental champion.

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




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