The troubled waters between the City of Hoboken and New York Waterway have been roiled yet again, as Hudson County Superior Court dismissed the lawsuit filed by ferry company against the City over its imposition of a stop work order on the Union Dry Dock property back in February.
New York Waterway hoped to begin building a heavy refueling station at the 3.5-acre property on the Hoboken waterfront without obtaining approvals from the City. New York Waterway purchased the property in 2017, and has been at loggerheads with the City ever since.
In his ruling today, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Jeffery Jablonski stated that New York Waterway’s claim of a pending regional transportation crisis would occur, as “unsubstantiated.”
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 New York Waterway.
“Hoboken is appreciative of the Court’s sound decision on this matter of critical importance to our City,” said Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla. “It affirms that no one is above the law, and the rules apply equally to everyone including New York Waterway. As we’ve said all along, New York Waterway manufactured the claim of a ‘regional transportation crisis’ without Union Dry Dock and I’m thankful the Hudson County Superior Court characterized the claim as ‘unsubstantiated.’ Hoboken remains committed to acquiring Union Dry Dock for public, open space, and I’m thankful this decision puts us one step closer to making this a reality.”
As if the relationship between the ferry and the city wasn’t acrimonious enough, an attorney for New York Waterway reportedly referred to the Hoboken Police Department as the “Gestapo,” during oral arguments at the hearing this morning.
“It’s abhorrent that New York Waterway’s high paid attorney would equate the Hoboken Police Department as the ‘Gestapo,’” said Lt. John Petrosino, President of the Hoboken Police Superior Officers Association. “Any comparison between the hardworking men and women of the Hoboken Police Department and the Nazi regime is offensive and insulting. We demand an immediate and unequivocal apology from New York Waterway.”
“I strongly condemn the sickening comparison between Nazis and the Hoboken Police Department,” said Mayor Bhalla. “This inflammatory language has no place in a court of law or anywhere else in society, and [New York Waterway President] Mr. Imperatore owes the Hoboken Police Department and our City an apology.”
Immediately after the hearing, Hudson County View reports that Imperatore said, “the court has spoken and we will comply,” and declined to comment further.
This comes just days after New Jersey Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver said she felt the Union Dry Dock site would ultimately be utilized by New York Waterway.
“I am [confident]. It is getting increasingly difficult for people to travel and to commute, and having the opportunity to do this through Hoboken, it is going to happen,” said Oliver at a New York Waterway event, according to Hudson County View.
“I think that compromise can be had, and I think that with all sides sitting around the table, we will come up with something that works for everyone,” she maintains.
Meanwhile, numerous Hudson County dignitaries have put pressure on Governor Phil Murphy to intervene and relocate the ferry fueling facility.
Union Dry Dock opened in 1908 in Weehawken (even serving as a setting for a music video by the band Blondie in 1979). The company bought the Hoboken property in 1976, moving operations there in the 1980s. Previous efforts to sell the land have fallen through. In 2001, the Stevens Institute of Technology planned to construct a soccer field on the site. In 2005, there was a $15 million contract for the property, but the buyer backed out. In 2009, a developer hoped to build residential towers on the land, but local zoning didn’t permit it. And in 2012, New Jersey Transit considered obtaining the land for NY Waterway’s ferry maintenance and refueling.
Boswell Engineering released a report, commissioned by the City of Hoboken, 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.
“Hoboken’s waterfront has been transformed over the past several decades. It is no longer an industrial waterfront,” said Fund for a Better Waterfront’s Ron Hine. “Nearly all of the waterfront in Hoboken is now a recreational resource enjoyed by joggers, strollers, cyclers, toddlers and kayakers. Thousands of residential units are within several blocks of [Union Dry Dock]. It is absolutely the wrong spot to concentrate scores of diesel operated ferries for maintenance and refueling.”
Taking to the water today in the Hoboken cove. Tell us, @GovMurphy / @PhilMurphyNJ , does this look like the right place to put NYWaterway’s diesel depot? The answer is clear. And it’s past time. RT if you think Governor Murphy should do the right thing and stand up for Hoboken. pic.twitter.com/xP09XOgOVs
— Hoboken, Inc. (@HobokenInc) July 28, 2019
(Jack Silbert contributed to this article.)