The majority of speakers at the Debaun Auditorium at Stevens Institute last night voiced their disapproval about NY Waterway seeking a permit to build a ferry maintenance facility at Hoboken’s Union Dry Dock.
The hearing, organized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the latest action in the ongoing dispute over how to utilize Union Dry Dock, either in an industrial capacity to support transportation infrastructure or as recreational use – most likely a waterfront park.
The majority of people who spoke said that NY Waterway’s petition to setup shop along the Hoboken waterfront would be detrimental to nearby residents, wildlife along the shore and prevent contiguous access for recreational activity.
Many of Hoboken’s elected officials spoke early on, including Freeholder Anthony Romano (D-5).
Interestingly, when he walked up to the podium to speak someone in the balcony shouted out, “Stop taking ICE money, Romano,” drawing loud applause from the audience.
The comment was an obvious reference to the recent decision by the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders to approve a $22 million agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to detain immigrants at the Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearny.
Visibly annoyed, Romano simply said, “Whenever you’d like to discuss that at another time, in another venue, I’m always available.”
With that said, he went on to express his opposition to NY Waterway relocating to Union Dry Dock.
“The most important thing to me is the impact on our environment, what will that diesel fuel do to the people who live in the area and the children who play nearby. It’s important that these concerns be taken into account,” Romano said.
Additionally, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla stressed how the environmental permit sought by NY Waterway is flawed.
“There is not enough information within the application with respect to piling work. If piling work would increase sedimentation rates or impact aquatic functions, then what’s called a Section 404 permit under the Clean Water Act would be required,” Bhalla said.
“I would respectfully submit that this application does not contain sufficient information on piling work, and [therefore] a Section 404 permit should be submitted subsequent to this adjudication.”
He also noted that that the final decision on the fate of Union Dry Dock should not rest with Gov. Phil Murphy (D).
“This is a matter of public interest. The decision should not be made by the Governor. Democracy doesn’t work in a way where decisions by effect are made by one person, it should be made by the people through local democracy. And that’s what you are seeing here is local democracy, we have the right to be heard, our voices matter as a community.”
While the overwhelming majority of speakers were against the NY Waterway plan, there were still a couple of speakers who expressed support for the idea.
Nicholas Scotto, an attorney and the political and legislative director for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that NY Waterway employs nearly 50 union members being paid middle class wages.
“Our union represents 48 employees who are responsible for the maintenance of the ferries and buses that carry tens of thousands of passengers between locations in New York and New Jersey each day,” Scotto explained.
“In addition to our union members, NY Waterway employs another 303 individuals, many of them are represented by other unions. All of them have good-paying, middle class jobs. The development of the Union Dry Dock is critical not only to the well-being of the company, but to the continuance of the American Dream for those families.”
Scotto’s remarks mostly fell on deaf ears, as he was loudly jeered by the audience.
Representatives from NY Waterway in attendance declined to comment.
The majority of the nearly three-hour hearing streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below: