The Weehawken Township Council has adopted an ordinance amending a Lincoln Harbor Redevelopment Plan, deleting a proposed hotel from the “Other Lots” Redevelopment Plan and allow for redistribution of residential units as part of the final Estuary project.
The Estuary is a 589-unit residential complex in Lincoln Harbour, which is owned and has been redeveloped by Hartz Mountain Industries.
Mayor Richard Turner said that the area was better suited without another hotel.
“The Estuary, which is a three-building complex, the plan always had a fourth building,” Turner said. “They were going to do away with the fourth building and put a hotel there. I think part coronavirus, and part us lobbying them that with shared parking now, we got a lot of things going on. I don’t know if a hotel will work. So they scrapped the hotel and they’re going back for the fourth Estuary.”
Back and forth between plans
Turner said that Hartz officials have been deciding on a final plan for some time.
“They go back and forth,” he said. “The original plan was for a fourth Estuary building, then they decided a hotel, then they went back to the Estuary… Finally, we said the hotel is not going to work. You’re going to have 280 or 300 units, and you’re going to need more parking and it’s too tight because it’s all shared parking. They got plenty of parking for what they have now and plenty of parking with the fourth Estuary going in. But when you add the hotel, it gets a little tight.”
There are already other hotels on the waterfront in Weehawken, including the nearby Sheraton Lincoln Harbour Hotel, according to Turner.
“The Estuary is a very nice complex,” he said. “It’s laid out nice so we always preferred the fourth building as opposed to another hotel. We have two already on the waterfront and they are just starting to get back to normal.”
And while the hotel was removed from the redevelopment plan in favor of a fourth Estuary building, Turner, who sits on the Weehawken Planning Board, said there has not yet been final site approval for the final part of the Estuary project.
“They have to come back for final site plan review,” he said. “The redevelopment plan is all done. It was a simple amendment. We didn’t really have to do it, we just wanted to document the fact that the hotel is gone. You don’t really have to eliminate something if they don’t come in for it, but this way now they know, we know, everybody knows the hotel is gone.”
Proposed ferry facility expansion?
Speaking of final site plan review, Mayor Turner also talked about New York Waterway and the plans that have recently been made public regarding their intentions to upgrade the pre-existing ferry facility in the township.
The plans for the expansion include the construction of a two-story building on a new approximately 44,000 square foot pier, allowing approximately 30 ferries to berthed at the facility. Parts of the Hudson River would have to be dredged in an approximately 276,000 square foot portion of the site, making the water just 10 feet deep at high tide. The plans also show the expansion would also include the construction of a support wall that juts out nearly 700 feet into the Hudson River.
Turner said that NY Waterway has not yet submitted anything to the board for final site plan review. Meanwhile, the plans have already faced backlash from residents, leading to NY Waterway defending the proposed renovations. Turner cautioned against rallying against plans before there are before the board.
“I tried to explain this to some of the residents down there, you really are not supposed to prejudge an application. You don’t want to give anybody a legal standing to say that it was prejudged. But I can say, since we have nothing submitted yet and nothing official, over the past 30 years I’ve probably seen 300 different plans from NY Waterway. They always come up with something different in different locations and everything because we always say to them that we would prefer if the existing facility could be relocated someday.”
And while the relocation may not happen any time soon, neither will the expansion, Turner said.
“The expansion is probably never going to happen,” Turner said. “They haven’t submitted. The board members are not happy with it. The council is not happy with it. Weehawken doesn’t want to pick up the burden for the whole NY Waterway system. We already have a major terminal and we don’t get any tax revenue from it. We don’t get any tax revenue from the existing maintenance facility, so we’re definitely not happy about any expansion.”
Infrastructure money dreams
Turner called for a statewide solution utilizing some of the $1.2 trillion in federal infrastructure funds that New Jersey received.
“Now we have infrastructure funds,” he said. “It was always a lack of money right? Everything was a lack of money. Now the state has infrastructure money and it has to come up with a shared system. No one town should take all the burden. So they have to come up with a system.”
With that same money, Turner hopes that the township can further advocate for cleaner ferries.
“We are hoping that with the new infrastructure bill, and everybody trying to get ahead of carbon emissions, they’re going to use electric ferry boats,” he said. “We’ve been pushing for that for years.”
But when it comes to the proposed facility expansion, Turner said: “They’ve always floated a plan someplace along the Hudson River. This has been going on forever and there’s always a logistical problem one place or another. I doubt they’ll ever submit formal plans on this.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.