Hoboken council OKs measure to potentially acquire Union Dry Dock, talks cannabis enforcement


The Hoboken City Council passed the second reading of an ordinance to potentially acquire Union Dry Dock and also discussed the enforcement of cannabis regulations at last night’s meeting.

Screenshot via Facebook Live.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

“This is Union Dry Dock? Wouldn’t it be nice if the public knew that?,” Mary Ondrejka asked.

“Am I to assume you still have the monies in the budget in for the purchase of this property? Some 17 million?”

Hoboken City Council President Mike Russo said all of her questions would be answered..

“This is an ongoing issue with a lot of money. If the cost is more than what’s in the budget, where is it going to come from. There’s a lot of problems in this town. That property over there can rot for a long time. We got plenty of problems that should take precedence. That’s my opinion and the opinion of a lot of other people,” Ondrejka added.

In June 2021, state and city officials touted coming to terms on an $18.5 million deal with New York Waterway for Union Dry Dock, but that apparently did not stand the test of time as the council was considering second reading of a measure to have the land appraised.

Estimated to be valued at $13.36 million, according to the local legislation, this could potentially lead to the fourth time the city attempts eminent domain on the waterfront 2nd Ward property – after unsuccessfully trying in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

“Why is this property still being looked at? What are we paying for? Is it we are allocating again the money … to make another offer? Are we paying for the assessment?,” Manuel Rivera questioned.

“The money was previously authorized by the council. Payment will be made to the current owner. This is authorizing an offer to be made and making bona fide negotiations for this. The offer will be made, and we’ll take it from there. We don’t have any numbers there,” Russo said.

2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who represents the neighborhood where the property is located, added further color.

“We already bonded for this a couple years ago. This is 13 and a half million, which we approved previously. If it’s 5 million … we’d have to increase the bonding,” she noted.

The second reading passed unanimously (9-0).

At the tail end of the meeting, Fisher noted the fifth and likely final planning board meeting on the controversial Story Dispensary will be on November 1st at the Multi-Service Center.

“I was hoping maybe Chief [Steve] Aguiar can come up and shed a little light on how public safety will approach enforcement,” she stated, expressing concern about drivers who have consumed alcohol and cannabis while partying.

Aguiar said the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission would handle many violations the way the state ABC liquor board does after they report a violation to the city.

“We would sanction the dispensary based on that,” he said, adding that he was under the impression it would impact their annual renewal.

“We don’t have the ability to renew annually,” Fisher replied.

Aguiar said the onus was on dispensaries to handle lines out the door, which are not allowed in Hoboken as a safety precaution.

“The City of Hoboken has handled queuing for decades. Do you foresee a difference?,” Russo said, alluding to their prominent bar scene.

“Cannabis dispensaries aren’t allowed to have that … don’t see that it’s going to be a major rush to have people lining around the corner for a marijuana dispensary,” Aguiar replied.

Fisher continued that wasn’t in the operational plans for Story, 1427, or Blue Violets and also asked about outdoor consumption. Aguiar said it was legal, with Fisher noting the council had passed a measure banning it from the parks and waterfront.

“Correct. There is specific guidance by the Attorney General, who is the highest law enforcement official in the state … that says you may not initiate a stop based on the odor of marijuana,” Aguiar explained.

“If we do that, we’re in violation of that guidance. If we conduct further investigation into a type of violation related to marijuana, law enforcement is under the penalty of law for violating civil rights violations.”

Aguiar later pointed out that local police departments are able to reimplement the drug recognition expert program – noting that the Hoboken PD already has an expert.

“We’re about to open the floodgates on something we told the community we’re not going to have outdoor consumption,” Fisher stated, again expressing that she felt Story would attract a high volume of customers.

“The floodgates are opening, and it would have been great to have known this last year as opposed to now.”

At that point, Russo, who is also the chair of the city’s cannabis review board, began to get visibly annoyed.

“70-plus percent of the city of Hoboken’s citizens voted to make sure this was enacted … This is your MO. You conveniently leave out facts when you talk about things,” Russo said, reminding everyone that consumption lounges aren’t allowed in Hoboken.

Fisher said she was specifically speaking about parks before Russo jumped in again.

“We as a city and a state … have put in many safeguards. I, for one, have the utmost confidence on how they will handle anything that is thrown at them as we have seen in the past,” Russo exclaimed.

“I understand there are many people in your neighborhood that are concerned about one specific dispensary. There are many people … in the City of Hoboken that are looking forward to having the ability to consume cannabis in a legal and safe fashion. We can’t continue with misinformation and half-truths.”

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  1. Do we need 6 dispensaries in order to satisfy the public’s desire to “consume cannabis in a legal and safe fashion?” Or, could we serve the public with 3 dispensaries in less congested locations?
    We have faith in our public safety team, but the state has, and our city may, put them in a tough spot.