Although Hoboken officials and an engineering study say Hoboken South and Bayonne Military Ocean Terminal are ideal locations for New York Waterway’s new ferry homeport for maintenance and refueling, New Jersey Transit has released two reports that say otherwise.
The “Ferry Maintenance Facility Evaluation Hoboken Terminal South Site” finds three “fatal flaws” with the location that prohibits it from being an adequate site for ferry maintenance and refueling, including safety concerns.
“NYWW Ferry Maintenance Facility Site Feasibility Analysis – MOTBY and Union Dry Dock” compare the two site locations and favors Union Dry Dock over MOTBY, calling MOTBY “inefficient.”
The two studies are dated Aug. 8, the day after the Hoboken City Council introduced eminent domain proceedings for the acquisition of the former Union Dry Dock property.
The ferry company purchased the former Union Dry Dock at Sinatra Drive near Maxwell Place Park in 2017 for $11.5 million to become its ferry homeport for maintenance and refueling.
Hoboken wants the property for public open space and has pursued various ways of acquiring the land since NY Waterways purchase.
Last November, Hoboken released an engineering study that ranked alternative locations for the homeport.
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. Boswell frequently performs engineering services for the city.
Of the top five, Union Dry Dock placed fourth. The top three 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 2009, New Jersey Transit’s own analysis concluded Hoboken Terminal, as well as the Bayonne Peninsula, were more suitable locations for the facility over Union Dry Dock.
Hoboken also attempted to acquire the property via eminent domain last year, but NJ Transit stepped in, stating if the city moved forward, they would acquire the property and lease it back to NY Waterway.
Because NJ Transit is a state agency, the city would not be able to use eminent domain on the property, as NJ Transit’s authority of eminent domain supersedes that of the city’s.
According to the Hoboken Terminal South evaluation, the location has three fatal flaws that would prevent it from being a suitable homeport.
The first is “Significant Safety and Security Issues.” The report states all access through the terminal is also used by customers that will cause problems with deliveries of fuel, waste oil, and more.
It also notes the site is a Homeland Security risk because fuel storage and other materials would be in close proximity to the passenger terminal. Approximately 85,000 people a day pass through the terminal, a major commuter connection.
“Fire, explosion, or spill in the proposed location could have serious impacts to life and health,” the report reads.
It also notes Hoboken Terminal is listed by the Department of Homeland Security on the Top Transit Asset List, which is a list of the top mass transit terrorist targets in the US.
The final “fatal flaw” is the “limited to no space” for any landside operations such as a shop or administration building, storage, fuel storage, and parking.
Other issues with the site include truck routing conflicts with pedestrians, no employee parking, and the physical condition of the existing pier that is “unusable” and would require full demolition and reconstruction.
According to the MOTBY and Union Dry Dock analysis, done by WSP Inc. in association with KPFF Consulting Engineers under contract to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, MOTBY would be an “inefficient” and more expensive alternative site for NY Waterway’s homeport, although it is consistent with the industrial nature of the area.
Construction costs could range between $21.7 million to $32.6 million. A property lease would be an additional $12.6 million to $15.3 million, and the move would increase NY Waterway’s operating cost by $2.8 million to $3.3 million per year.
Comparatively, according to the study, the Union Dry Dock site would only cost an estimated $10.6 million in construction. That does not include the $11.5 million the company already spent in purchasing the property.
And while MOTBY is compatible with the industrial nature of the peninsula, “MOTBY is an inefficient location for relocating mooring, maintenance and fueling operations for NYWW’s ferries, although it may be useful in the future with expansion of other ferry services” states the report.
One reason they say it is inefficient is that it is not centrally located near the company’s current ferry routes.
NYWW Founder and CEO Arthur Imperatore hailed the studies and NJ Transit for their “diligence and honesty” in preparing the studies.
“These studies ignore politics and tell the truth, despite the lies and abuse our opponents have been spouting,” said Imperatore. “They confirm what we have said for 10 years: Union Dry Dock is the only suitable location for a ferry repair and maintenance facility. We look forward to working with the people of Hoboken to create an attractive facility at Union Dry Dock; to add amenities to make Hoboken Cove more welcoming to recreational boaters, and to create a safe and beautiful walkway/bikeway next to the site. If Hoboken politicians, however, persist in their ill-conceived plan to seize Union Dry Dock, they should know that we will fight for our God-given right as Americans to protect our property, our company and especially the 32,000 New Jersey commuters we serve every day.”
“It’s disappointing that New Jersey Transit is producing reports to benefit NY Waterway’s corporate greed at the behest of their multi-millionaire CEO,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “Nonetheless, NJ Transit’s conclusion that Bayonne could support a ferry maintenance facility supports what we’ve said all along – that there are viable alternate locations other than Union Dry Dock, which we urge NY Waterway to consider. Since we agree that there are other viable locations NY Waterway could use, the only reason for NJ Transit to intervene would be to use taxpayer money to pad the profits of a private company that makes millions off of our commuters.”
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher refuted the honesty of the reports calling them marketing materials.
“Both reports read like marketing materials for NYWW and seem to purposely ignore the devastating impact to Hoboken’s waterfront and the environment,” said Fisher. “The outcome can’t be that only Hoboken loses. I echo what Mayor Bhalla said and encourage all stakeholders to take a step back and actually explore other alternatives, such as splitting NYWW operations where refueling remains in Weehawken. I’m hopeful we can identify a better outcome for all stakeholders.”
“Nothing has changed from the plans NJ Transit drew up in 2009 for a ferry maintenance facility at Hoboken Terminal that included permits from NJDEP and Army Corps,” said Ron Hine, executive director of the Fund for a Better Waterfront. “We made requests for this most recent study but the State declined to provide to us or the City.”
NJ Transit’s Hoboken South analysis claims a lot has changed since 2009, including the impact Hurricane Sandy had on the pier in 2012, the continued degrading of the pier’s pilings. Since the 2009 study, objections have been raised by Jersey City that “it would adversely impact plans for residential high-rise development south of the site.”