Hoboken’s Union Dry Dock is best site for NY Waterway refueling station, NJ Transit studies say


As the City of Hoboken moves forward to execute eminent domain on Union Dry Dock, two separate NJ Transit studies indicate that the waterfront property is the best site for a New York Waterway ferry refueling and maintenance station.

A rendering from New York Waterway of what their ferry refueling and maintenance site would like like at Union Dry Dock.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“A fueling and maintenance facility at Hoboken Terminal poses a Homeland Security and safety issue,” says an August 8th NJ Transit report evaluating the Hoboken Terminal as a possible home for NY Waterway.

“The fuel and chemicals that would be stored on site present significant safety and security concerns. Fire, explosion, or spill in the proposed location could have serious impacts to life and health,” noting that the terminal also serves as an evacuation point for Manhattan.

Other concerns mentioned in the report include that the location is not designed for regular truck activity, would require the full demolition and construction of the existing south pier and could take up to five years to complete, with “feasibility and exact cost unknown.”

Back in November, Hoboken officials presented the findings from a Boswell Engineering study that had rated the Hoboken Terminal as the best option for NY Waterway’s new location.

Clearly, NJ Transit does not agree with that assessment, based on the reports released today.

In a second NJ Transit study, prepared by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, WSP Inc. and KPFF Consulting Engineers, the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne would be far too expensive an option to consider.

Construction could cost between $34.3 million and $47.9 million and could take between six to 15 months to complete, according to the study.

Meanwhile, Union Dry Dock would only cost somewhere between $9.3 to $10.6 million a year, with no added operational costs to NY Waterway, the study shows.

Furthermore, the former MOTBY was utilized, it would also cost NY Waterway an additional $2.8 to $3.3 million a in annual operating costs.

“MOTBY is an inefficient location for relocating mooring, maintenance and fueling operations for NYWW’s ferries, although it may be useful in the future with expansion of other ferry services,” the report concludes.

Bayonne released a request for proposals for a ferry operator back in June of last year and then selected the Atlantic Highlands-based SeaStreak as their operator in October.

“These studies ignore politics and tell the truth, despite the lies and abuse our opponents have been spouting. They confirm what we have said for 10 years: Union Dry Dock is the only suitable location for a ferry repair and maintenance facility,” NY Waterway President and Founder Arthur Imperatore said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with the people of Hoboken to create an attractive facility at Union Dry Dock; to add amenities to make Hoboken Cove more welcoming to recreational boaters and to create a safe and beautiful walkway/bikeway next to the site.”

On August 7th, the Hoboken City Council approved a measure to begin eminent domain proceedings on the Union Dry Dock property, which many activists and officials have said they would like to see become part of a contiguous waterfront park.

The governing body will vote on the second reading of that ordinance at their regularly scheduled September 4th meeting.

The Hoboken council approved eminent domain on the property back in November 2017, but ended up rescinding that the following April after NJ Transit, on two different occasions, appeared poised to try to acquire the property.

“NJ Transit will continue to monitor the situation and work closely with all stakeholders as it progresses,” added NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder.

Predictably, Mayor Ravi Bhalla expressed disappointment with NJ Transit

“It’s disappointing that New Jersey Transit is producing reports to benefit NY Waterway’s corporate greed at the behest of their multi-millionaire CEO,” Bhalla said in a statement.

“Nonetheless, NJ Transit’s conclusion that Bayonne could support a ferry maintenance facility supports what we’ve said all along – that there are viable alternate locations other than Union Dry Dock, which we urge NY Waterway to consider. Since we agree that there are other viable locations NY Waterway could use, the only reason for NJ Transit to intervene would be to use taxpayer money to pad the profits of a private company that makes millions off of our commuters.”

Additionally, Fund for a Better Waterfront Executive Director Ron Hine said that nothing has changed from NJ Transit’s plans from 2009, stressing that Union Dry Dock is the wrong location for NY Waterway.

Finally, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher wrote off the legitimacy of both studies and said that she is in agreement with the mayor on this one.

“Both reports read like marketing materials for NY Waterway and seem to purposely ignore the Hoboken’s waterfont and the environment The outcome can’t be that only Hoboken loses,” she said.

“I echo what Mayor Bhalla said and encourage all stakeholders to take a step back and actually explore other alternatives, such as splitting NY Waterway operations where refueling remains in Weehawken. I’m hopeful we can identify a better outcome for all stakeholders.”


Editor’s note: This story was updated with new information.

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    • Because if something happened at the terminal you cripple the transportation system between NY and NJ. If something happened at 9th street, the transportation system is not effected. Think of the gas station on Willow. If something happened there the terminal is not effected either.

  1. NJ Transit may be more concerned with the negative effect NY Waterway’s proposed toxic refueling maintenance operation would have on their future luxury high rise development.

  2. “The fuel and chemicals that would be stored on site present significant safety and security concerns. Fire, explosion, or spill in the proposed location could have serious impacts to life and health. Other concerns mentioned in the report include that the location is not designed for regular truck activity.”

    THIS is EXACTLY WHY the UNION DRY DOCK is a terrible location for a refueling station!!

    Remember, NY Waterway HAD a refueling station in Weehawken; they chose to sell it for big bucks to developers to put condos there. Now they are scrambling for a replacement. Well, it’s not Hoboken’s problem. But Hoboken has graciously offered the downtown site which is spacious, industrial, and underused. And there are other alternatives.

  3. The word ‘toxic’ has been over-used in this debate. Many people live near gas stations in this country and that is legal. A ferry refueling center becomes truly dangerous when it it situated in a very high volume passenger terminal. If anything happened to that terminal, all transportation would be severely cut off between New York and Hoboken. I am not privy to Homeland security issues, but when Director Steven Marks brought it up at a city council meeting many months ago because Trenton questioned the idea of NY Waterway moving to the Lackawanna, I wondered about that for the first time. Then when our council said it was ‘a non-issue,’ the idea disappeared. Apparently the idea has not disappeared. I don’t foresee the Union Dry Dock property being a danger as it is a private property and will not have the public going through its gates without security. A passenger terminal is open to any and all people walking inside. No one can control a rogue nation of people from entering to possibly cause harm.

    NJ Transit is more concerned about NY Waterway functioning to help as partners in the transportation of commuters to New York. Thinking about luxury high rise development is not top on their list at the moment. I have no idea if that will even ever come to pass or the Hilton will ever really be built. We will see. Hoboken has reached a crisis with too many cars and over-built housing developments that strain our infrastructure of sewerage and water and roads. I just found out yesterday that the entire city has now a problem with sinkholes appearing everywhere on all streets in town. Perhaps we have reached the limit and the ground is giving way to the interference the city is involved in with the groundwater levels. Just look at the oblong holes they are cutting up on Washington Street. I saw two more on my way to work today. They are filling in sinkholes. One can not mess with mother nature and it will win in the end. Time will tell if we have screwed up the land that our buildings sit on and the roads are cars travel upon.

  4. To Connect the Waterfront: “Spacious” at the Lackawanna site? “Underused” at the Lackawanna site? Do you travel through there? I do everyday and it is crowded as hell. Plus have you looked at the September 2018 Boswell report the city commissioned that show actual aerial views of the Lackawanna? Quite a small area is visibly shown on that diagram in the report. Plus it is not the city of Hoboken’s land to “graciously offer” at the Lackawanna to use as an alternative place. NJ Transit owns the land just like NY Waterway owns the old Union Dry Dock land. I amazed so many people are confused about ownership of property here.

      • Hate to disappoint you Maxwell but I have been fighting this ‘lone wolf’ fight all by myself. Everyone else is too scared to speak up because of retaliation. I am just a very determined person who believes in complete rights of property owners, despises eminent domain for all reasons, believes in the facts in reporting and keeping emotion out of the equation. Plus the commuters have to get into New York.

        Hey, we want our cars, but don’t care that we burn gas to run them. You have to have a balance in this world. Nothing is perfect.

        I have one job in the city of New York. No one else pays me one single penny. Sorry to disappoint you but no one can buy me.

        • Mary, why didn’t NY WW just stay in the perfectly fine repair facility they used for years in Weehawken? Why does Hoboken now need to accommodate Them?

          • Greed. New York Waterway wanted to build luxury condo’s on their site in Weehawken and as they have shown making themselves more money is the only thing they care about. All the other reasons are use in their public relations campaign are bogus.

          • To Not Maxwell: Sorry I don’t go on the internet over the weekend and was not avoiding you. NY Waterway sold their land over 15 years ago and the area they did their work in is pretty pathetic with all the work being dangerously confined to a small area with very strong underwater currents in the water and they no longer have any upland to use anymore. The upland they had was tiny to say the least when they could use it. Take a look at google maps to observe if you doubt me. It was NEVER a perfectly fine repair facility. They are functioning on very small barges and physically closer to luxury condos than they would be at Union Dry Dock. With the advent of more and more people moving to the Hudson County area, transportation options are being strained and are busting at the seams. The ferry company has actually expanded with more ferries which means they need a much larger area to function plus believe it or not, they can not stay in Weehawken forever no matter what you think. Because we live in a country where one can buy property anywhere if someone has the funds to do it, we allow it in America. NY Waterway looked for ten years to find a suitable place and was having difficulty which is why NJ Transit did their original 2009 report because they were starting to worry themselves because they knew NY Waterway had to go somewhere to be able to survive and their survival is of extreme importance to NJ Transit. Please read the ten year report thoroughly. Union Dry Dock was not an option then because the sale price was 22 million and since NJ Transit owns the Lackawanna, they opted for that site although much has changed since then and the site is no longer viable. It took NY Waterway three years to actually purchase Union Dry Dock and it did not happen overnight out of the blue like some at city hall and Maxwell Place think as though NY Waterway was scoping up the land like thieves in the night. It was purchased fair and square like anyone out their purchased their condos or houses. Hoboken happened to be where Union Dry Dock had their property and it was for sale to only a maritime facility since Bob Burke who owned Union Dry Dock wanted it to remain a marine facility. That was his right and it was his right to sell it to whomever he wanted and he did not need anyone’s permission. Some of you people out there sure act self-righteous as though any sale had to pass by through you to allow the sale. It does not work that way. Everyone has a right to purchase land if it is FOR SALE in this country. No one has the right to seize someone else’s property because someone else has a different opinion about its future use. This is a good use and will benefit the entire region. I have always wanted a working waterfront and with the ferries and men and women working on the docks, that will be a wonderful thing to behold. There is no shame in that. Plus the city benefit’s from the taxes it collects from the ferry company.

          • Thanks, Mary. You know an amazing amount of detail about the history, working conditions and current situation of NYWW. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you acquire such a vast depth of knowledge about this relatively obscure company?

        • It is funny to read Mary O saying we should keep emotions out of the equation when she has long standing, well known and documented history of histrionics in front of the City Council.

          • Peter,
            Passion and emotion are two different things. By emotion, I mean that some people say that the children who live nearby the NY Waterfront property will ‘die’ because of the ‘toxic fumes.’ No one is going to die from a ferry site because Elysian Park and the cove are within distance. I believe even the Stevens Institute of Technology students were suppose to be at risk from something our mayor once wrote if a ferry repair site was in operation. That is emotional blather trying to sound a false alarm to rile people up.

            I at least go to the city council meetings to say what I think. Do you?

            I get frustrated at the stupidity of the council and their lack of being able to think for themselves and vote the wrong way. At least I go to the meetings to say my piece, do you?

    • Mary, can you answer my question: why didn’t NY WW just stay in the perfectly fine repair facility they used for years in Weehawken? Why does Hoboken now need to accommodate them?

    • If you were to lose a large percent of your property value you’d understand maybe ?

      Mary worry about yourself, or at the very least get Arthur to buy you a condo for lobbying on his behalf

      • SellOuter: Property value is not the most important thing in life. Plus you most likely purchased your property while Union Dry Dock was still functioning and they kept it quite filthy-looking. NY Waterway will definetly spruce things up quite a bit on that land with THEIR dollar, not the city of Hoboken or your tax dollars. Don’t be so concerned about something you need never to worry about. Property always sells in this town and waterfront property will always sell to someone. Always. You will make money on your condo when you sell it even if it is next door to NY Waterway’s land. Funny how people always worry about unnecessary things in life.

        I have never been interested in owning a condo. I have no reason to receive or accept anything from NY Waterway or Mr. Arthur Imperatore. I am fighting this battle because of my ethics and beliefs, and because we live in a democracy, I am free to do so.

  5. What if I care more about what’s best for the community over what’s best for NY waterway? What if I’m ok with a business being minorly inconvenienced so that a waterfront area could be revived for the community?

  6. Just because the refueling deport can’t be in the Hobooken Terminal does not mean it has to be at Union Dry Dock. It should be in Bayonne or somewhere away from People and Parks. Indeed if it was so vital that NYW be this close to the city why did they sell and move from Weehawken before they knew where to go?

    • People sell property for various reasons and do so with what is happening at the time. Their land was sold almost 17 years ago now. They had their reasons and much has changed since then. It is irrelevant to speak of the sale of their land since we living in the here and now. There is no way in an urban area that people and parks are completely isolated from the workings of a city. Be realistic or move to the country or suburbs. It is impossible in the very density populated areas of the New York area. There has to be a balance in everything. Hoboken has acres of park along the waterfront. There is ample parkland and walkway so it is not lacking. Remember that NY Waterway bought that land and that it belongs to them. They bought it to use for their maintenance and refueling depot. Bayonne is an 18 mile, round trip away, and it is illogical for the ferries to waste fuel going so far away and trying to go back and forth for their routes which are in the Weehawken and Hoboken area. NY Waterway does not own anything in Bayonne and there is nothing for sale in Bayonne. I fail to understand why people do not do the research to understand why and how all this has come about and why NY Waterway bought the old Union Dry Dock land. They need to use it and no matter what someone wants to imagine, they need it.