Hoboken council unanimously approves measure to use eminent domain on Union Dry Dock


After over two hours of public comment, the Hoboken City Council approved a measure granting them the ability to use eminent domain on the Union Dry Dock property, a site New York Waterway is angling to turn into a ferry maintenance and refueling station.

“Governor Murphy, I ask you: have you gotten the message yet? We’re looking for your leadership on this issue. Don’t let a private operator dictate public policy,” Fund for a Better Waterfront Executive Director Ron Hine said at a rally hosted prior to the council meeting.

“That is no way to run our state government … Gov. Murphy: you can save $13 million by locating the maintenance facility at Hoboken Terminal because New Jersey Transit already owns that property.”

About a dozen residents, including a few other members of Fund for a Better Waterfront, urged the nine-member council to push ahead with eminent domain to keep New York Waterway out of the Union Dry Dock site – which they feel would be better served as a waterfront park.

As has been well documented in recent memory, Mayor Ravi Bhalla agrees with those advocates and reiterated his feelings in front of the governing body after speaking at the rally.

“Our predecessors fought tooth and nail for generations to make sure that Hoboken residents and the entire public can enjoy our waterfront … our purpose and our mission advancing forward is to acquire this property,” he said, noting that condemnation is a last resort and that NY Waterway “has been less than truthful” on the subject in the past year.

While there were no shortage of supporters who echoed this sort of sentiment, similar to previous hearings on the subject, there were more than a handful of opponents opposed to utilizing eminent domain this time around.

“We must address the ad hominem attacks from our honorable mayor’s camp that say that New York Waterway will create a post-apocalyptic seascape and waterfront destruction from which children will be poisoned and Ariel the little mermaid murdered,” Hoboken resident Josh Einstein said to some laughter in the crowd.

Einstein further argued that NY Waterway’s current site in Weehawken is adjacent to a restaurant where a barge sits, so a refueling and maintenance station could not possibly bring the level of environmental concerns others had stated.

Additionally, he made it clear he as not impressed with Fund for a Better Waterfront’s rally, calling it “kabuki theater.”

Another city resident, James Dickerson contended that just because something is legal does not necessarily make it morally and/or ethically correct, citing slavery as one example.

“If someone propositions you to engage in ‘adult behavior,’ and you voluntarily agree to it, that’s called having sex. If someone propositions you to engage in ‘adult behavior’ and you do not agree, but they force you any way, that’s called rape,” he stated.

“If some offers you money for a product and you agree to it, that’s called a sale. If someone offer you money and you do not voluntarily agree, and they take it any way, that’s called stealing. In each scenario, one interaction is objectionable and the other is not.”

Prior to the vote, Joe Maraziti, who is serving as counsel to the city on the Union Dry Dock matter, said that NJ Transit would not be able to attempt to purchase the property as they had explored back in 2017 after the council okayed eminent domain.

The reason being is that the NJ Transit board only has three members and therefore would not have a quorum to convene.

Each council member explained their vote, with 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco expressing dismay that Bhalla was not able to broker a better option, but felt that the process had already seen too many delays and he would therefore support it.

“That’s the option that we have today: to support the mayor or not support the mayor … I will support the mayor on this push but I will keep an eye on this project as we move forward in the next two and four years, beyond that I’m sure, to make sure that those are representatives in court, Joe, are doing the right job.”

3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo made it clear that he wholeheartedly agreed with Bhalla and the Fund for a Better Waterfront, calling the vote before the council a historic opportunity.

“Because one person [former Mayor Dawn Zimmer] made a mistake in the negotiation does not mean we should make a mistake now and ignore the facts: that we have the ability to create one contiguous waterfront,” he began.

“This is our moment, sitting in here as a councilperson now, rarely have I had the opportunity to cast such a deciding vote and make a huge difference, not only for the generation now, but for generations to come.”

The measure passed 9-0, allowing the city to negotiate purchasing the property at a value assessed at approximately $13.1 million.

In a statement, NY Waterway Founder and President Arthur Imperatore said that this isn’t the final round in this fight.

“On behalf of the 32,000 New Jersey commuters we carry every day, and the thousands of additional commuters we carry in emergencies, NY Waterway will continue to fight for Union Dry Dock,” he said.

“This site is critical to our ability to provide the safe, reliable, environmentally-friendly service on which New Jersey commuters have come to depend – and to our ability to respond in emergencies.”

Furthermore, NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder did not show her hand on what their next move is.

“NJ Transit will continue to monitor the situation and work closely with all stakeholders as it progresses,” she said in an email.

Murphy spokeswoman Alyana Alfaro for the governor’s office said that negotiations are ongoing in an effort to find the best compromise possible.

“The Governor’s Office continues to coordinate with all parties involved to determine an ultimate solution that both respects the voices of the local community and the needs of one of our most vital transportation partners.”

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    • Hush,
      There were not many people at the rally and not many people that spoke in favor of the eminent domain at the second vote. The room was less crowded than the first vote on August 7th.

      I never tire of fighting for what I believe is right. The people that are well-off and white are the loudest voices for the taking of someone else’s land in this case. They may or may not take the ferry to their jobs, if they work. Many of the FBW people are retired and have a group to get together to fight for their eminent domain ‘dream.’ It boils down to egos at this point in Ron Hine’s life. He has never looked at the situation logically or with all the facts. At least Jim Vance worried about the fate of the ferries and said early on that he could not support the seizing of the ferries’ land if it caused a problem with their functioning in the future, yet he has drunk the ‘Kool-aid’ too, and believes they will survive without the docks they purchased for their operation that they need to continue in the future.

      Throughout this process I have always been amazed at how selfish everyone was on the other side. They are not my enemies, but they view me as that. I am just a plain ole citizen who single-handedly fought for what I believed was the best for Hoboken, the waterfront and mainly the continuing of a key trans-Hudson transportation system. We all lose in this battle in the end.

      From my speech of September 4, 2019, one of many that I had given in the last year and a half at city council meetings in the defense of having a working waterfront:

      ATTEMPTING TO SEIZE SOMEONE’S PRIVATE PROPERTY IS SEVERE AND WRONG. The word ‘seize’ is ‘by force’ like a conqueror in a battle. Why did there have to be this battle?

      Why was there no negotiating about this issue? I guess that ended from the very beginning, when the city and the mayor found out the property was sold fair and square in November of 2017 to NY Waterway. There was outrage I remember,—-a “How dare they buy it” attitude from some in our government and from some in FBW and some certain select citizens. But it was really sold back in February of 2017, 9 months prior to it becoming public as per the February 27, 2017 letter the mayor released shortly before the day of the second vote.

      Where was the acceptance and the negotiation when in September of 2018, Mayor Ravi Bhalla said, “Over my dead body would NY Waterway ever use the Union Dry Dock land” that they had purchased. That sort of killed any negotiation right there because it was more like “put on your gloves NY Waterway, I am going to fight you with my legal skills, and Maraziti’s, as a lawyer and plan to win.“

      Win or lose?? Lose or win?? This is definitely not a game, and in this situation, EVERYONE LOSES.”

      I did what I could. I have tried hard to change this outcome. I still have hope somehow. It is not over until it is over.

  1. What ’eminent domain’ laws mean in practice is that politicians have a right to seize your property and turn it over to someone else, in order to gain campaign contributions and win votes.
    Thomas Sowell

  2. And while I am suggesting that this local administration is self serving, manipulative and bullying, How come we never found out who was responsible for the flyer suggesting that the Mayor was a terrorist?
    Why did the issue disappear.
    It is important for the public to know who was responsible for this because it speaks to the character of the person who did this.
    I believe the three suspects are still working in local government.

    • You’ll probably deny it but the (humorously) thinly-veiled, very strong implication of your “question” is that that mayor pulled a three-dimensional chess move and developed a flyer that accused himself of being a Muslim terrorist (even though he’s Sikh) in order to get sympathy from voters and create a backlash against a suspected opponent. Various law enforcement agencies found no absolutely validity to that theory, but hey, pizzagate is probably still a thing in some circles, as is Seth Rich, selling uranium to Russians and Obama’s birth certificate, so why not.

    • While we’re on the subject why did the pizzagate issue disappear? Why is nobody talking anymore about Hillary Clinton and Uranium One or Bengazi or Lois Lerner or fast and furious or Obama’s birth certificate?

      Find the answers to these and other burning questions on Hoboken Doofus.com.

  3. It is important to hear more about it to put the public discomfort that did not go away to rest. This recieved quite a bit of news coverage that many people viewed.

    If it was some nut other than the 3 obvious suspects I don’t see how the Hoboken Police could not have figured it out. If it was someone with some bit of local pull then they might be able to prevent the police from doing their jobs. I think it would have been easy to catch a lightweight just by the amount of flyers that were produced.
    I find the quick and similar response from SDA and lindalou in terms of the national conspiracy theories and the unkind mocking tone striking.

    Why so much response to this? I don’t consider myself to be a joker or a doofus.

    • Of course you don’t consider yourself a Doofus. That’s part of the job description of a Doofus.

      Please let us know when you’ve solved one of the many Doofus mysteries that keep you up at night.