The Hoboken City Council voted to approve a settlement with the owners of the Monarch property along the waterfront, as well as voting on a first reading of an ordinance to begin eminent domain proceedings on the Union Dry Dock property.
Before the council voted on both issues, many Hoboken residents had their say during the public portion of the meeting.
Some residents said they approve the Monarch settlement with the developer, Shipyard Associates, while others said that the city shouldn’t settle because the developer is allocating only $1 million towards cleanup and remediation of the property.
While many speakers expressed wanting the city to use eminent domain proceedings to retake Union Dry Dock from NY Waterway in order to preserve it for a public parkland, a couple of residents were opposed: saying that New York Waterway provides vital transportation services for commuters and therefore needs Union Dry Dock to maintain its ferry fleet.
As HCV previously reported, the settlement agreement for the Monarch property is the first part of a two-step process: the council must next approve a redevelopment deal that would give the city ownership of the Monarch property and also give Applied the ability to renovate the area surrounding the Department of Public Works garage.
The current settlement prevents the developer from building two, 11-story residential towers along the waterfront.
Phil Cohen, a 5th Ward council candidate, was one of the speakers who spoke favorably of the settlement agreement.
“This is a great deal. We’ve been tied up in court and on the losing end in court on the Monarch Project for five years. We’ve spent $1 million dollars at least fighting them, and it’s been a great fight. It was worth every penny in my opinion because instead of having two 11-story residential towers, we’re going to have open space instead,” said Cohen.
Cohen’s remarks seemed to go over well with the council, with the exception of 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, who also took the opportunity to criticize Bhalla for not sharing the settlement agreement with him until yesterday.
“This council did not see the deal until yesterday. Let’s process that for a second. One of the largest redevelopment deals in the history of Hoboken, and this council did not see the deal. This mayor did not invite my subcommittee to see the deal,” began DeFusco.
He then directed his ire towards Cohen.
“It’s great to hear Mr. Cohen talk about how we should take the deal when he along with this mayor and the previous mayor got into a fool’s lawsuit that cost the city $1 million dollars, and time after time we put more and more money behind a lawsuit that we knew was a losing battle.
“So it’s great to hear a lawyer like Mr. Cohen and a lawyer like Ravi Bhalla change their tunes, but now we have to work together to get this project done and connect our waterfront,” said DeFusco.
Cohen spoke again, without replying to DeFusco’s comments, on the Union Dry Dock issue, criticizing what he said are strong-arm tactics deployed by NY Waterway to hold onto the Union Dry Dock property.
“I think that the [Monarch developers] have been boy scouts compared to the way we’ve been treated by NY Waterway. For them to go in front of a judge last week to refer to the Hoboken Police Department as acting as the Gestapo, this is not the way a decent corporation deals with people in court,” said Cohen.
Nevertheless, Hoboken resident Dan Tumpson followed Cohen to tell the council that using eminent domain is a bad idea.
“The Union Dry Dock site was purchased by NY Waterway because it is the right location to provide NY Waterway’s trans-Hudson ferry service with needed maintenance and refueling,” Tumpson said.
He added that because Union Dry Dock is adjacent to NY Waterway’s trans-Hudson routes, it minimizes unnecessary ferry transportation and pollution to the maintenance site; it has safe and adequate road-access for refueling, as well as being established by the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection as environmentally safe for refueling and maintenance.
Additionally, Joshua Sotomayor Einstein, who spoke in favor of property rights, said that he came “to speak on the immoral expropriation of NY Waterway’s dry dock.”
“Can we, Hoboken, do better than engaging in the totalitarian language of my way or the highway? Can we do better than the inane rhetoric our honorable mayor has used that NY Waterway will keep their land ‘over my dead body?,” he questioned.
In a statement, Bhalla thanked the council for their approvals, as well as the public for voicing their support for the mayor’s initiatives to reclaim the waterfront for open space.
“Hoboken is one critical step closer to preserving the Monarch site and Union Dry Dock for public parkland. I thank all members of the public for voicing their support at the Council meeting last night and appreciate the Council’s authorization on both waterfront initiatives,” he said.
“I am also confident Governor Murphy will support our position on Union Dry Dock.”
Furthermore, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who recused herself from the Monarch vote, expressed great satisfaction with the outcome on both matters.
“Last night, Hoboken residents watched as their elected representatives voted unanimously to protect our waterfront from being commercially developed and to create more affordable housing options for our neighbors,” she said in her own statement.
“Having advocated on both of these important issues over the last eight years, I am proud to have been part of this effort and even more proud to be part of our special Hoboken community.”
The measure regarding Monarch passed 7-0, with the first reading of executing eminent domain on Union Dry Dock passing 8-0. 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo was absent.