• What’s Going on With the Union Dry Dock in Hoboken? {An Update + Rally Info}

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    You may remember that back in 2017, NJ Transit and NY Waterway made a plan to acquire Union Dry Dock {in Hoboken} for the new location of a ferry maintenance and refueling facility. The plan has been met with local pushback ever since.

    With so much back and forth between Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, NJ Transit, and NY Waterway, it might be unclear what the latest development in the debate actually is.

    Hoboken Girl chatted with Ron Hine, Executive Director at the Fund for a Better Waterfront, to get an update and more info about the upcoming rally. Hine illuminated where the Union Dry Dock stands now and what the plan is moving forward. Read on to find out all about what’s been going on with Union Dry Dock, and how you can help on March 9th:

    hoboken waterfront boats

    Hoboken Girl: For residents that need an update, could you elaborate on the latest updates for the proposal for the Union Dry Dock?

    Ron Hine: Hoboken’s Mayor + City Council — with the overwhelming support of area residents and local civic groups are steadfast in their goal to make the Union Dry Dock site part of Hoboken’s proposed contiguous, public waterfront park. Fund for a Better Waterfront has been working toward that goal for a number of years. Recently, the City of Hoboken issued a “stop work order” to prevent NY Waterway from using the site to repair ferries, as it does not have local permits to do so.

    HG: Ultimately, Mayor Bhalla and Governor Murphy struck a deal that means a new site for the ferry operation. Could you explain the details of the deal?

    RH: In April of last year, over the strenuous objections of the City of Hoboken and its residents, NJ Transit was poised to authorize the purchase of the Union Dry Dock site and lease it back to NY Waterway for a ferry maintenance/refueling facility. The City of Hoboken had passed an ordinance to expropriate the site for use as a public park through eminent domain. State statutes allow municipalities to take such actions by offering fair market value for land intended for public use. In response, Governor Murphy struck an agreement with the Mayor that NJ Transit would rescind its acquisition proposal in exchange for the City withdrawing the eminent domain ordinance.

    The Governor promised to undertake an alternate site study for locating the ferry facility but has said nothing publicly about this since last April. In 2017, without consulting with Hoboken’s elected officials or residents, NJ Transit {NJT} and NY Waterway {NYWW} hatched plans to acquire Union Dry Dock for a ferry maintenance and refueling facility. In November 2017, NYWW stunned Hoboken with the news that it had purchased this site for $11.5 million. NJT had agreed to then buy the dry dock and lease it back to NYWW. In January 2018, NJT placed the acquisition on its Board agenda, but intense protests by Hoboken residents and elected officials, and support from Gov.-elect Murphy, caused NJT to remove the item from its agenda.

    HG: Which alternate sites for the ferry facility are being looked at, if any, have been already named?

    RH: In 2009, NJ Transit conducted an alternate site analysis that identified five sites as more suitable for the ferry maintenance/refueling facility, including two in Weehawken, one at the Greenville Pier in Jersey City, and another at the Bayonne Peninsula. A similar study completed last November by Boswell Engineering for the City of Hoboken identified three sites superior to Union Dry Dock. Both studies ranked the Hoboken Terminal, owned by NJ Transit, as clearly the optimal choice.

    HG: What was the “point” of the Union Dry Dock proposal for those, who do not understand the difference between it and a ferry terminal?

    RH: The proposed maintenance facility at Union Dry Dock would not provide additional ferry service. New Jersey commuters can ride the ferry to Manhattan from Edgewater, Weehawken, Hoboken {14th Street + the Hoboken Terminal} and various locations in Jersey City, plus Belford. The ferry maintenance facility would be an industrial operation used for repairing, refueling, and removal of sanitary waste of the ferry fleet. It would generate considerable ferry traffic that would pollute the surrounding area with diesel fumes. It also entails parking for 150 cars of ferry employees, working up to three shifts daily, thus generating considerable traffic through Hoboken to and from our waterfront.

    HG: What were the ecological and environmental concerns the UDD proposal posed for our surrounding area, if any?

    RH: It is important to understand that the Union Dry Dock site is unique. It is adjacent to the only natural sand beach along the Hudson River south of the George Washington Bridge. It is used by the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse, a non-profit volunteer organization that puts thousands of kayakers into this protected cove area each year. It is also adjacent to a public fishing pier, a skateboard park, and a children’s playground. Scores of joggers, cyclists, and strollers pass by the site each day. It is just a few hundred feet from hundreds of residential units. The Hoboken Cove is also an ecologically sensitive, intertidal zone where horseshoe crabs lay their eggs, diamondback terrapins can be found and scores of migratory fish have been identified. The proposed ferry maintenance facility places both people and wildlife at risk.

    HG: What were some of the other concerns the UDD proposal posed for Hoboken, JC, and beyond?

    RH: The State of New Jersey requires a 30’ foot public walkway along the Hudson River much of which abuts private development. Hoboken, however, has chosen to go far beyond that by creating a clearly defined public space at the water’s edge, a continuous park. By completing the final links in this park  the Union Dry Dock site is one  Hoboken will establish a model for waterfront planning and development that other communities will seek to emulate.

    HG: Could you explain eminent domain and how it was used by the City?

    RH: Eminent domain is a measure of last resort and should only be used for furthering a clearly defined public purpose. The action taken by the City of Hoboken last year was justified in that the ferry operator and NJ Transit made plans to locate the ferry maintenance and refueling operation at Union Dry Dock without consulting with local officials and despite previous commitments not to do so.

    HG: What do you want Hoboken residents/locals to take away from the UDD scenario?

    RH: It would be a tragedy to forever destroy Hoboken’s opportunity to finish the waterfront park that has been in the works for the past three decades and involves tens of millions in private and public investment. The industrial operation proposed for the Union Dry Dock site clearly does not belong there. Both NJ Transit and the City of Hoboken commissioned studies that found a number of far more suitable sites. The Hoboken Terminal, for instance, owned by NJ Transit, is designated for transportation purposes and does not conflict with residential or recreational uses of the waterfront.

    For those who want to get involved in helping save Union Dry Dock, be sure to join the Fund for a Better Water Front {FBW} for the March on March 9th to Save the Waterfront at Pier A Park — it’s a rally that will march from Pier A to uptown, starting at 10AM THIS Saturday. Get more information about the event here. All are welcome.

    What are your thoughts on the Union Dry Dock situation? Comment below!

    Have you joined our Facebook group yet? Request here to gain access to even more local tips, and connect with fellow Hudson County residents.


    Written by:

    Steph Osmanski is a freelance writer and social media consultant who specializes in health and wellness content. Her words have appeared in Seventeen, Life & Style, Darling Magazine, and more. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton and writing a memoir.


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