Below the surface

Hoboken seeks grant funding to remove sunken boats

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Below the surface
Seventeen boats litter the floor of Weehawken Cove and the Hudson River.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla and Hoboken Fire Chief Brian Crimmins announced the city’s plan to apply for a grant to help fund the removal of sunken boats in the Hudson River.

Several boats rest at the bottom of the Weehawken Cove between Hoboken and Weehawken.

People have moored their boats for free in the cove over the year only to have them capsize when a big storm rolls through.

Some of the boats have been submerged since Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Removal has proven difficult because owners are not always identified, and the vessels are expensive to remove; a barge with a crane must be hired to have them hauled from the cove’s floor.

The city submitted a letter of intent to prepare a grant application to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the project on Sept. 17. Its asking Hoboken residents to sign the letter.

The letter will be part of the city’s application to NOAA.

If successful, the city could be awarded more than $104,000.

Letter of intent

The letter signed by Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Chief Crimmins, and Environmental Services Director Jennifer Gonzalez is addressed to Assistant Secretary of Commerce for NOAA Dr. Neil Jacobs. It states that by removing the boats, the city will create a safer, cleaner, and more beautiful shoreline.

According to the letter, there are currently 17 boats that have been abandoned in the Hudson River.

“This is of concern to our community, as not only are the sunken boats an eyesore for residents and visitors, but they are contributing to pollution in the Hudson River and adversely impacting marine life,” the letter states.

The city is also working with Riverkeeper, a 53-year-old nonprofit whose mission is to protect and restore the Hudson River, to seek funding.

“Removing abandoned and derelict vessels will eliminate the potential release of harmful metals and chemicals, such as oil and mercury, as well as plastics and fiberglass as they deteriorate, thereby reducing the harm caused to the Hudson River,” the letter states.

In June of 2018, officials were concerned about a potential fuel leak of a sunken boat. A contractor placed a plastic boom around the vessel to prevent potential spillage.

That previous May, Hoboken removed two boats from the area for $15,200, which was charged to the owners of the vessels.

According to the city’s letter, removing sunken vessels is part of the city’s overall initiative to improve Weehawken Cove, which will abut Cove Park, a resiliency park with flood mitigation infrastructure. It will be constructed as part of the city’s and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Rebuild By Design project.

The city also hopes to install a living shoreline to support the growth of marine mollusks that naturally filter water and attract a more robust marine habitat.

The city states that Weehawken Cove could be used for educational activities and volunteer opportunities to restore and maintain critical wildlife ecology. The city could even install a reef in or near the cove.

Resident support

“This is such a great opportunity, and I want to thank Chief Crimmins and Director Gonzalez for working together with the RiverKeeper to find and pursue this amazing grant,” said Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher who represents the Second Ward where Weehawken Cove is located and has advocated for the boats’ removal in the past. “There’s so much potential for our historic Weehawken Cove, and removing the boats is a critical and long overdue step, one that would not have been taken without the advocacy of Hoboken residents.”

Residents have circulated an online petition on Change.org calling for the boats in Weehawken cove to be removed.

While it calls on the city to remove the boats before the winter, it also goes a step further requesting immediate regulations be adopted to prevent the mooring of boats in the cove.

As of Sept. 17, the petition had 564 signatures.

To sign the petition, go to Change.org.

Residents can show their support for the grant application by signing onto the letter from Mayor Bhalla, Chief Crimmins, and Director Gonzalez by clicking here or by visiting http://www.hobokennj.gov/boatremoval.

 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

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