September 2020 was the last we heard of the now-infamous sunken boats that have been floating in the Hudson River along the Weehawken and Hoboken shoreline, until July of this year when Hoboken residents received an update on the status of the abandoned boats. Now, on September 10th, a confirmed plan to remove the boats was announced.
The boats in question are mainly grouped in an area called Weehawken Cove. Over the years, everyone from residents to local pilots have captured photographs of what has become known as “the boat graveyard.” And though it has become the norm, many still want to know the story behind the boats as well as what can be done to remove them.
A Brief Timeline
On September 8th, 2020, Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher updated her constituents in a newsletter with the status of the boats saying, “It is difficult to justify incurring significant costs to remove the boats with the sunken boats costing much more than the ones abandoned and still floating.”
However, Councilwoman Fisher explained that Hoboken Fire Department Chief Crimmins has led a small group of representatives who have worked together to inventory and identify the owners of all the current boats and remove a few along the way.
At the time, the city was working with Environmental Services Director Jennifer Gonzalez to apply for a NOAA Marine Debris Removal grant to remove the boats. The status of the grant application is unclear at this time.
Just two months ago, Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher posted a video on Facebook on July 21st that two abandoned boats near the Hudson Tea building have been removed after being approved by the city to do so.
“Only the front end of the boat was taking on water, so we were able to reattach it to the wall to keep it from sinking,” Fisher told NJ.com. “However, the next day somebody cut the tie again which led us, with the help of the city, to move the boat ashore and remove it from the cove.”
On July 25th, the Councilwoman posted on Facebook, “This was the first of what have been five boat removals since 2015. I’ve been advocating for this since even before I was elected. I’m hopeful we will be awarded the NOAA grant and will be able to remove the rest of the sunken boats. I asked for a status update at last weeks Council meeting and will let you know when I hear.”
There has been no official update on the next big steps by the city to continue removing any remaining boats from the Hoboken shoreline as of yet. However, Councilwoman Fisher told the outlet, “My understanding is that within the upcoming month or two we should have an answer on whether or not we were approved for the grant. If we are approved the hope is by spring of 2022, we could see the removal of the boats in the cove.”
Removal Plans Announced
On September 10th, the City of Hoboken announced it had secured over $235,000 in grant funding to remove the sunken boats and marine debris from Weehawken Cove. The two-year project will remove the vessels and other marine debris. The project also includes plans for: a public education campaign to help prevent the future abandonment of marine vessels; creating a living shoreline; repairing existing bulkheads within Weehawken Cove; and helping to restore marine habitats in the Hudson River Estuary.
The City will begin removing the vessels in the Spring of 2022 once a qualified salver is selected. The $552,000 project will be funded by a $235,129 grant from the NOAA and matching funds totaling $316,906, leveraged from the City of Hoboken, NJDEP, HEP, and Riverkeeper.
“Removing the vessels will eliminate the potential release of harmful metals and chemicals, such as oil and mercury, as well as plastics and fiberglass, thereby helping to restore the local ecosystem,” the press release stated.
“These sunken vessels have polluted the Hudson River to the detriment of marine wildlife for far too long,” said Mayor Bhalla. “After years of attempting to identify the irresponsible owners of these boats and taking it upon ourselves to remove them at the City’s expense, I am pleased that now, with the help of our local and federal partners, we will be able to remove all the boats from Weehawken Cove. I thank the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Hudson County Board of Commissioners, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, the Hoboken City Council, Riverkeeper, and the New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program (HEP) for providing the City with the funds to restore this area of the Hudson River.”
The History of the Sunken Boats
The sunken and abandoned boats in Weehawken Cove have been gaining media attention as early as 2015, according to a piece published by CBS New York Local News that year. However, the story behind the boats might go even further back than that. Some seem to think that several of the boats were sunk as a result of Superstorm Sandy, which ravaged Hoboken in the fall of 2012.
The most well-known boat sunk by Superstorm Sandy, which was transported by the hurricane into town, has since been removed, painted pink, and placed outside of Surf City in Jersey City. While some of the boats may have been sunken or abandoned since as far back as 2012, others have capsized as a result of other storms.
Some are half-sunken boats, visually submerged in water, while others are simply abandoned boats that either haven’t been tended to or have washed up onshore. It’s important to note that while the half-sunken, submerged boats are very clearly not in use, a significant issue with both the submerged boats and the abandoned boats is identifying ownership.
Much of this derelict boat issue remains in murky waters, as in, it is unclear whose job it is to take care of the removal of the boats. As of 2015, the New Jersey State Police confirmed that each of the vessels were under investigation. Then in 2018, the City of Hoboken passed an ordinance, officially giving the City jurisdiction over the removal of the boats.
“The city passed an ordinance saying they would take jurisdiction over it,” City Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher told CBS2 at the time.
At the time, a spokesperson for Mayor Bhalla’s office also confirmed, “All boats will be removed as soon as possible, including any vessel that sunk and is out of sight in the cove.” The Office also said that each owner of the boats had been identified and that the City would begin removal in just days.
Some boats have been spotted still floating along the shoreline.
Sources agree the boats have not yet been removed mainly due to cost. Removal of each boat could cost upwards of $25,000.
Hoboken Girl reached out to local government representatives, the Mayor’s Office, a member of the Coast Guard (who would prefer to remain anonymous), and an ecological expert to examine the story behind the sunken and abandoned boats, as well as their impact. “The pollution risk that we in the Coast Guard focus on is the risk of oil products entering the water: fuel, oil, hydraulic fluid, and so on,” an anonymous Coast Guard source explains. “If there is any type of fuel onboard those vessels and an owner cannot be identified, we will work with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to arrange for funding to remove the product that is onboard. If the owner of that vessel can be identified, it is their responsibility to ensure the removal of the product and we work to ensure that it does.”
We will keep you updated as more details unfold in regard to the plan to remove any existing boats from the Hoboken shoreline.