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Weehawken wants NY Waterway maintenance facility gone

The township council voted unanimously to oppose expansion of the 'temporary' operation

The Weehawken Township Council met in person but also offered virtual viewing options for its Jan. 12 meeting.

Weehawken has taken a stand against the planned expansion of the current New York Waterway ferry refueling and maintenance facility in the township. Mayor Richard Turner and the Township Council voted unanimously on Jan. 12 to approve a resolution opposing the “continuation and expansion of the NY Waterway maintenance facility.”

Turner read the resolution in full into the record at the meeting. The move adds another chapter in the years-long saga between Weehawken and NY Waterway.

Township officially opposes facility

NY Waterway’s existing facility in Weehawken has been designated for many years as  “temporary” until an acceptable permanent facility can be located, according to the resolution. In the meantime, NY Waterway wants to expand that maintenance facility.

The ferry operator had planned to relocate their maintenance operation to the Union Dry Dock site in Hoboken. Hoboken opposed that plan, leading to litigation and a settlement, causing NY Waterway to plan to expanding its Weehawken facility, located just south of the Port Imperial ferry terminal.

The resolution acknowledges that “is to the mutual benefit of many state and local agencies, and ferry commuters in the surrounding neighborhood, to find a suitable location for the NY Waterway maintenance facility.”

Just not Weehawken, according to the resolution.

“The township of Weehawken is opposed to any plans that would enlarge the existing maintenance facility and is opposed to the current maintenance facility in the township of Weehawken,” Turner said, reading the resolution aloud. “The Weehawken Township Council encourages all interested parties to work together to achieve a resolution to the maintenance facility operations and that these operations will not be in the township of Weehawken.”

Residents breathe a sigh of relief

Opponents of the expansion project thanked the council for acting. This included Cassandra Porsch, a resident and leading member of the group Weehawken Residents Against Ferry Pollution.

The local group has been vocal against the planned expansion since renderings of the planned expansion “leaked” in late 2021. As discussion of the proposed expansion carried on, the group also highlighted current issues with the maintenance facility, such as noise and air pollution.

After the meeting, Porsch told the Hudson Reporter: “Weehawken waterfront residents are extremely grateful to Mayor Turner and Weehawken Town Councilmembers for listening to our concerns about the ferry maintenance facility, taking a firm position against any expansion and calling on the State of New Jersey to move the current temporary facility out of our heavily residential area. We are now kindly asking the Governor for help in finding an appropriate industrial location for this facility, so taxpaying residents no longer have to listen to noisy generators and diesel engines running throughout the night, or deal with the air pollution caused by the multiple trips in and out and idling boats.”

Turner thanked Porsch as well as the other local representatives and community members he had been speaking with in recent weeks regarding the planned facility expansion, including many condo associations.

“It’s not an easy thing to relocate,” Turner said. “We will make sure, to the best of our ability, that the expansion does not take place.”

Alternate site located?

While the resolution does not indicate a replacement site, Turner said that the township has been pursuing a potential location. However, given roadblocks that have presented themself in the past, Turner said the township isn’t making any promises yet.

“We’ve been, for thirty years, actively seeking their relocation place,” Turner said. “We wind up with one roadblock or another. For the last year, in the middle of the pandemic, we’ve been working on another location, which we’ve seen them getting some traction for. But we can’t make any promises because everybody throws up an obstacle.”

Turner added that when and if a suitable replacement relocation is identified for NY Waterway, ceasing operations at the Weehawken facility wouldn’t come immediately.

“Even if we came up with a location, there’s a time frame of delay in moving the operation,” Turner said. “That is why they wanted to have to do some improvements to their current operation as far as noise and operations and maintenance.”

Addressing current operations issues

And while at first, the township officials were not in favor of the expansion, they grew to oppose the facility entirely after hearing from residents.

“We knew people would be opposed to the extension, but some of the items that were brought to our attention were a little more than we thought,” Turner said. “So we are actively working with NY Waterway to try and mitigate the negative effects.”

In addition to opposing both the continuation of the facility and the proposed expansion, the resolution also calls on NY Waterway to address other issues mentioned by the surrounding neighbors regarding its current operations.

“NY Waterway must make every effort to reduce the impact on the neighborhood of the current operations until such time as it is relocated by working in conjunction with township officials and neighborhood residents,” Turner said.”

NY Waterway ‘not consulted’

According to Wiley Norvell, a spokesperson for NY Waterway, the refueling and maintenance facility is key to cross-Hudson ferry operations.

“Our priority is ensuring the safe, reliable ferry service our thousands of daily commuters and the entire region depend on,” Norvell said in a statement. “We hope everyone grasps the importance of a nearby facility to berth, fuel and maintain ferry boats. We were not consulted on this resolution prior to its passage.”

NY Waterway had defended its plans for the expansion in the past, acknowledging it would be costly but ultimately necessary.

Norvell previously told the Hudson Reporter: “To operate safe and reliable cross-Hudson ferry transit, there has to be a facility to refuel and maintain boats. 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.”

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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