The Hoboken City Council approved the first reading of a measure that gives the city the ability to use eminent domain on the Union Dry Dock property, which has an assessed value of $11,630,000.
The council voted unanimously (9-0) to move the project forward, with 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco calling in to vote by phone. After the vote, Council President Ruben Ramos opened the floor for public comment.
“I’m here, and I know this is not going to be popular, but I’m here to speak against this – and maybe I’m too late – I’ll tell you why. I think eminent domain should only be used when it’s really, really, really necessary,” stated city resident Barbara Gross.
“And I don’t think it’s really necessary to have a connection of that walkway. You have a very long, very beautiful walkway, with the exception of that one little area, and without it, I don’t think fewer tourists are gonna come, I don’t think fewer businesses are gonna be supported – if that’s not a thought.”
While Gross was not alone at last night’s special meeting, which lasted under an hour, she was in the minority as many speakers explained why they wanted the city to acquire the last piece of waterfront property in the Mile Square City.
“Since 2012, I’ve been very involved with this, and I can’t implore enough on how quickly you need to move having been at New Jersey Transit meetings and some other sessions, we know that New York Waterway is out there stating this will cause a transportation emergency,” said Tina Hahn, another city resident.
“And my ask, in addition to tonight, is that you do everything you can to work with the state, with the county and try and find other resolutions for New York Waterway.”
The council previously approved the ability to use eminent domain after the November municipal elections, but the matter was complicated by a subsidiary of New York Waterway purchasing the property for $11.5 million.
While it appeared that NJ Transit was poised to purchase the property for just $1 in one of the final moves of the Gov. Chris Christie (R) administration, the board pulled the measure in the eleventh hour at their meeting last month.
New York Waterway continues to search for a refueling facility for their ferries after losing their space in Weehawken.
Fund for a Better Waterfront Executive Director Ron Hine was thankful the council passed the first reading of the ordinance, explaining that the cost isn’t as bad as it may sound.
“I think it’s important to note that in 2008, the voters of Hoboken approved the Open Space Trust Fund by an overwhelming margin. And that ordinance that was ultimately passed by the city council allows for two cents per $100 dollars of assessed valuation – we dedicate to this fund on an annual basis,” Hine stated.
“So that’s a dedicated revenue stream specifically for this purpose: there’s no additional tax, it’s specifically for this purpose.”
On Twitter, Mayor Ravi Bhalla thanked the council and residents who supported the measure.
Thank you to the Hoboken City Council for unanimously passing an ordinance on first reading to allow for purchase of the Union Dry Dock Property. Also, thank you to all the residents and advocates who have fought so hard for a continuous walkway along #Hoboken’s waterfront. pic.twitter.com/zhJGDWpJPi
— Ravinder S. Bhalla (@RaviBhalla) March 1, 2018