The Hoboken City Council voted unanimously (9-0) to authorize acquiring the Union Dry Dock waterfront property for $11.6 million.
During the public portion of the meeting, resident after resident implored the council to vote for the ordinance, sponsored by Councilwomen Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher that would allow the city to begin negotiations with the Union Dry Dock site owner New York Waterway to find another location for its ferry maintenance facility – or acquire the land outright through eminent domain.
Several council members also spoke passionately about the need to acquire the site to conclude a 35-year endeavor to make the entire Hoboken waterfront contiguous for public access.
Council President Ruben Ramos, before informing the clerk to to commence the vote, reminisced about growing up in Hoboken when public access to the waterfront was limited.
“Today you see smiling faces and families enjoying themselves along the waterfront because of the hard work of the past 35 years by elected officials and concerned citizens, an activity that was denied me when I was growing up,” said Ramos.
“I think it would be a dereliction of our duty if we didn’t finish the job that was started 35 years ago to make the waterfront contiguous.”
Fund for a Better Waterfront Executive Director Ron Hine, one of the many speakers who spoke before the council to say that there are different locations in Bayonne, and even Brooklyn and Staten Island for NY Waterway to construct a ferry maintenance facility.
In an interview, we asked him if the preservation of open space at the Union Dry Dock site is more important than the transportation of many thousands of commuters daily.
“It’s not a choice of one or the other. NY Waterway can continue to operate as they have; there are different options for them to re-locate to different places with working waterfronts in Jersey City, Brooklyn and Staten Island,” said Hine.
“They can even refuel over the water. There’s a lot of options for them to relocate the activities that they’re proposing for this one site.”
But NY Waterway Chairman Armand Pohan implored the Council not to vote to take away the property from the company, reading a personal letter from NY Waterway’s owner Arthur Imperatore that the company will “fight to protect our right to operate a ferry maintenance facility on this property, which we purchased last year for $11.5 million.”
Pohan responded to Hine’s claim that the company can just as easily relocate its maintenance facility to another area.
“My response is that there is no other ferry service that puts its maintenance facility more than two miles from the heart of its operations,” said Pohan.
He noted that the council’s vote on Thursday may necessitate the intervention of leading New Jersey officials.
“If we can’t stay where we are, higher powers are going to have to intervene in this to assist us and the city of Hoboken to find another place for us to operate … if there is such a place,” Pohan said.