Offer made for former Union Dry Dock property

Hoboken offers NY Waterway $13.1 million for waterfront site

Hoboken wants the site for open space.
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Hoboken wants the site for open space.

Hoboken’s move to acquire waterfront property owned by New York Waterway is moving forward, with the city’s official offer of  $13.1 million to purchase the property.

According to the city, this price is the fair market value of the property, which was determined by an independent appraiser hired by the city.

This offer marks the first step in “good faith negotiations” between Mayor Ravi Bhalla and NY Waterway for the former Union Dry Dock property in northeast Hoboken. The city has announced that it would pursue condemnation and acquisition of the property for public open space through eminent domain proceedings if its offer is rejected.

NY Waterway purchased the property in November of 2017 for its new ferry homeport for maintenance and refueling. Since then the city administration has opposed the plan, citing environmental and safety concerns.

“The offer we made today reflects Hoboken’s ongoing commitment to acquiring Union Dry Dock for a public waterfront park,” said Mayor Bhalla. “We will diligently continue the necessary steps of negotiating with New York Waterway to fairly compensate them for the land. I look forward to completing this process so Hoboken can finally connect our waterfront for all to enjoy.”

History

The ferry company purchased the former Union Dry Dock, at 901 Sinatra Dr. near Maxwell Place Park, in 2017 for $11.5 million to become its ferry home port for maintenance and refueling.

Hoboken first attempted to acquire it from NY Waterway in March of 2018.

At the time, the city council authorized the use of eminent domain, and Bhalla made an official offer of $11.6 million.

Then, New Jersey Transit said it would purchase the property and lease it back to NY Waterway, maintaining that New York Waterway plays an integral role in the transportation network.

The company ferries about 30,000 commuters to and from New York daily.

NJ Transit’s board was set to vote on the acquisition in April 2018, but the meeting was canceled after Gov. Phil Murphy asked Mayor Ravi Bhalla and the council to end eminent domain proceedings. They agreed and NJ Transit canceled the vote.

Since then the city has continued to pursue the property, and NY Waterway has received state and federal approvals for the site. It attempted to begin preparing the property, but in February Hoboken issued a stop-work order because the company had not gotten the appropriate permits from the city to begin construction.

NY Waterway filed a lawsuit against the city, but the case was dismissed in July, which means the company will have to go before the city’s planning board and zoning board for approvals.

In September, the Hoboken City Council authorized the use of eminent domain for a second time.

What’s next?

Spokesperson for NY Waterway, Pat Smith, confirmed that the company had received the offer.

“We are considering our response and will advise Mayor Bhalla of our position at an appropriate time,” he said.

According to state law, to pursue eminent domain and condemn the property and acquire it for public use, the city must first show it attempted to purchase the property “through bona fide negotiations.”

This offer is the first step. Condemnation can go one of three ways.

If NY Waterway agrees to the sale, the city will issue the payment. If it doesn’t agree to the price, the city and NY Waterway will have a hearing in which the “fair value” of the property is established.

If NY Waterway refuses to sell, the city can file a court action followed by a hearing in which the city will have to prove that it tried to negotiate the sale and that the takeover is for public use.

If the city wins, an appraiser will establish the fair market value of the property, the city will compensate NY Waterway this fair market value, and NY Waterway will be evicted, although it can appeal the decision.

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