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Resistance continues over potential NY Waterway facility expansion

A "leaked" image of an aerial rendering showing the proposed NY Waterway facility expansion in Weehawken

In Weehawken, some residents who live near New York Waterway’s current maintenance and re-fueling facility are outraged over leaked unofficial plans by the company to develop the facility, and they take issue with the way the company describes its relationship to the facility’s neighbors.

Long-time resident Maj Moeller disagrees with a statement by NY Waterway (NYWW) in a previous article by the Hudson Reporter, specifically the quote: “We know our neighbors well and have always treated them with respect.”

“I am a Weehawken resident who currently lives right next to the NY Waterway’s temporary maintenance facility,” said Moeller. “Having lived right next to NYWW for almost 15 years, I am not aware of them knowing their neighbors. Nor have they ever tried to know us. Some board members from the neighboring communities have reached out to them to set up a meeting to discuss their plans, but they have not responded.

“NYWW claims they treat us with respect. Does blowing the ferry horn at 1 a.m. or 5 a.m. mean treating the surrounding residents with respect? Does leaving noisy and polluting diesel engines, generators, and or pumps running for an extended period of time every morning at 5 a.m. or in the middle of the night mean respecting your neighbors?”

Moeller said her family, as well as multiple neighbors, are awakened during the night and early morning by the ferries. She was also upset about allegations that NYWW was allegedly dumping sewage into the Hudson River.

‘Only temporary?’

Moeller said the current maintenance facility was only supposed to be a temporary site until the company found a more appropriate location. She referred to an Op-Ed in the Jersey Journal in 2019 by late president and founder of NYWW, Arthur E. Imperatore, that said the site in Weehawken was not intended to be a permanent refueling and maintenance facility.

The company was trying to construct such a facility in Hoboken at the time, but those plans fell through in the face of community and official resistance.

“Residents have put up with the current facility because we were told it was temporary,” Moeller said. “NYWW’s affiliated company made tens of millions of dollars selling the Weehawken waterfront land to developers and now they want to have it both ways by keeping an industrial operation in their location of convenience to help their profit margins after families have moved in right on the doorstep.

“When I moved here in 2007, I saw only a few ferries at the site. Neighbors tell me that in 2005, it was a small ferry terminal, not a maintenance facility. Over the years, NYWW has moved around their boats and equipment as developers were building and selling prime real estate on the waterfront so buyers wouldn’t see the industrial site right in front. Now they talk about having 25 ferries here during Covid, claiming this is what was here and should stay. Parking an inoperational fleet during the lockdown is not equivalent to running 30 noisy boats in and out every day, as they now wish to do. They also forgot to mention that at some point during the pandemic, they came out with a floating crane and added another pier to the facility, expanding it without our prior knowledge.”

According to Moeller, the facility does not suit the area: “The NYWW maintenance facility belongs in an industrial area, not a heavily residential one, as the Weehawken waterfront has become,” she said. “As a mother of three children, I worry about the diesel soot right outside our home, which has spread all over my outdoor patio furniture.”

NY Waterway again defends plans

NYWW intends to move forward with its plans. And it’s going to be expensive.

According to NYWW, the facility in Weehawken has been a refueling facility with some maintenance operations for nearly as long as the company has been in the township. Communities were essentially built around the ferry operations there, NYWW said, and being able to maintain the fleet of ferries means having a facility to do so.

Previously, NYWW discounted the expansion of the Weehawken facility as “cost prohibitive” because building over water is more expensive than doing so over land. Union Dry Dock in Hoboken would have been an opportunity for a facility that would have had some footprint in both the water and on land. But faced with the current scenario of settling with Hoboken, NYWW thinks they can take on the cost of upgrading the Weehawken facility even with an expensive price tag.

Locating the facility any further away would result in the ferries wasting gas in transit, according to NYWW. And even if it moved to Hoboken, the Weehawken site would have continued to be use for refueling because of its proximity to Port Imperial. Now, NYWW looks to build a “clean, modern, and very resilient” facility in Weehawken.

“To operate safe and reliable cross-Hudson ferry transit, there has to be a facility to refuel and maintain boats,” spokesperson Wiley Norvell said. “Refitting our existing Weehawken site is going to require NY Waterway to take on enormous expense and design challenges–ones that previously looked prohibitive–but it’s now our only alternative. We believe we can deliver a clean, modern and resilient facility that sustains the ferry service residents rely on and protects the waterfront’s public space.”

‘Not good for Hoboken nor Weehawken’

Moeller said NYWW should find another location for the refueling and maintenance facility.

“If NYWW would like to be respectful to their neighbors, they would relocate their entire maintenance facility to a non-residential area where no one has to live with the everyday exposure of dangerous diesel pollution and noise right outside their window,” she said.

Meghna Deva, another resident in the area, echoed Moeller.

“As a resident of Weehawken, I’m very concerned about the expanded maintenance site for NYWW,” Deva told the Hudson Reporter. “In their comments to the press, NYWW has admitted that they currently idle their boats and cause pollution from their current maintenance facility. Now they say things will be better for us if they massively expand their facility because somehow this will result in less pollution from less idling… NYWW needs to understand that as taxpaying residents we don’t want to be directly exposed to any of their concentrated diesel pollution as their fleet of boats pull in and out right in front of our windows and patios. Some of their more ancient boats send out plumes of thick black soot as they come in and out, not to mention the noise disturbance they cause.

“We now understand that NYWW doesn’t actually pay any taxes to be located in Weehawken, and instead are actually subsidized by the taxpayers. It is unacceptable that my tax dollars are going towards promoting these harmful effects on my home. NYWW needs to move to an industrial area and away from families and kids… If it’s not good for Hoboken than it’s not acceptable for Weehawken residents as well.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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