After NY Waterway announced Friday that it’s suing the City of Hoboken over their imposition of a stop work order on Union Dry Dock back in February, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla has announced his intentions of resuming eminent domain proceedings for the property.
The City had initiated the eminent domain conversation in early 2018, stopping last April as New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy alluded to the likelihood of a more agreeable solution.
“Unfortunately, months have gone by without any movement on a compromise solution that would prevent a heavy refueling station at Union Dry Dock. At the same time, New York Waterway has broken a promise to hold back while negotiations continue, by putting forward meritless lawsuit against the City in an effort to immediately start building a heavy refueling station,” said Bhalla this afternoon.
“To this end, I believe that it is time to once again begin eminent domain proceedings. This morning, the City appraiser was granted access to Union Dry Dock to come up with an updated appraisal of the property. This is a necessary and required first step to bring back eminent domain proceedings before the City Council to directly acquire the land.”
To date, the battle for Union Dry Dock—the 3.15 acre parcel of land that housed the last functioning maritime business on Hoboken’s once-bustling working waterfront—has been contentious, to say the least. In November 2017, ferry company NY Waterway bought the property for $11.5 million with the intention of using it for a ferry dock and repair station. The City of Hoboken had eyes on developing the property as a park, making for contiguous public access along the entirety of the city’s waterfront.
The fight has gotten ugly since then, with numerous public rallies and calls to the Governor for intervention, as residents are concerned about “quality of life issues” stemming from a large diesel depot smack dab in the middle of the densely populated city.
Back in December, Bhalla stated that the City is, “100% committed to redoubling our efforts to fight Union Dry Dock from ever becoming a refueling station.”
In his statement today, Bhalla maintained, “While my preference is to accept a compromise solution that doesn’t jeopardize the health, safety and well-being of residents with a heavy refueling station, the lack of any real progress in negotiations with the Governor’s office, while New York Waterway engages in a propaganda public relations campaign and simultaneously suing the City, is discouraging. To be clear, Hoboken has made a number of good faith offers and concessions to Governor Murphy, including:
- Partnering with New York Waterway to identify an appropriate location for their refueling station
- Holding off on eminent domain proceedings to continue negotiations with the Governor’s office
- Purchasing the Union Dry Dock property for a fair price, saving New Jersey Transit over $11 million
- A lease to New York Waterway while they develop an alternate location
- Identifying a more suitable location, Hoboken Terminal for the refueling station through a study commissioned by the City (agreeing with a 2009 New Jersey Transit study)”
The regional ferry service provider faces what many claim is a self-inflicted need to vacate its current 25-acre ferry maintenance property in Weehawken. That land is being repurposed for residential properties, and was owned by Arthur Imperatore, Sr.—owner of NY Waterway.
Last Fall, Boswell Engineering released a report examining the viability of the all potential sites for the ferry company’s repair and refueling station. Their study concluded that the “Hoboken South” location, located at the Lackawanna Terminal, was the “preferred alternative,” ranking higher than Bayonne Peninsula, Binghamton Ferry Site (Edgewater), Union Dry Dock and the existing location at Port Imperial—in that order. Criteria for these conclusions were Capacity, Zoning/Use Compatibility, Development Timing, Environmental Constraints, Future Expansion and Cost.
Nevertheless, NY Waterway continues to maintain its insistence that Union Dry Dock is currently the best option for their purposes—presumably because they own it.
“We have the necessary state and federal permits and the site has the proper zoning,” said Imperatore in a statement. The company purchased the property in 2017.