In a letter to the Hoboken mayor and city council, counsel for the Fund for a Better Waterfront says Hoboken’s Union Dry Dock lease is invalid since property acquired through the Open Space Trust Fund can only be done so via referendum, though the city disagrees.
“Notwithstanding FBW’s misgivings about the terms of the lease, we are writing to you at this time to inform you that pursuant to Hoboken’s ordinance governing the use of, and
properties acquired with OSTFs [Open Space Trust Funds], the sale or lease of such property — i.e., a diversion of the property from its dedicated open space and recreational use — is not valid until approved by the voters of Hoboken in a referendum election,” Renee Steinhagen, of NJ Appleseed, wrote on Tuesday.
She cites municipal code S55-3, which specifically addresses the sale of property that was purchased via OSTFs, as her reasoning.
“No property acquired with funds from the Trust Fund shall be leased or sold, unless action has been authorized by the Mayor and City Council and by referendum in the manner prescribed by law,” the code says.
“The deed of any property acquisition with funds from the Trust Fund shall contain the specific notation reflecting that the property was acquired with funds from the Trust Fund, and are subject to the limitations contained herein.”
Steinhagen continues that the FBW would like to work with the city on presenting an accurate and easily understandable referendum in a timely fashion, as well as to collaborate on ensuring that the Maritime Park is built without a hitch.
” … We would welcome the opportunity to discuss with the City Council and the Mayor additional legislative and other actions the City could take to assure the public that this lease is in fact a temporary diversion, and that the City is committed to establishing, at the end of the five-years, the public park promised the voters of Hoboken and the court when it exercised eminent domain and deployed OSTF to acquire the property for public purposes.”
Last month, the Hoboken City council voted in favor of leasing Union Dry Dock to New York Waterway in hopes of connecting their waterfront and building Maritime Park.
At the same meeting, Dattner Architects received a $1,174,146.90 contract to create the design.
FBW members questioned the terms of the lease, particularly that NY Waterway would have nearly two thirds of the property to use as a ferry refueling and maintenance site, with the open space being less than an acre.
Vijay Chaudhuri, Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s chief of staff, indicated that the city is confident that the temporary lease, which is for three years with a two-year option, is up to par as is.
“We are confident that the interim lease for a portion of the property, required to balance the needs of Hoboken residents that rely on the ferry with the ultimate goal of a public park, has been fully vetted and is valid.”
On Wednesday, the Weehawken Town Council voted unanimously to begin preliminary studies to acquire a walkway at the site of their NY Waterway ferry maintenance terminal at 4800 Avenue at Port Imperial, making eminent domain a possibility, as HCV first reported.