In midst of NY Waterway feud, Bhalla alludes to possibility of putting ferry service out to bid


In the midst of an ongoing, bitter feud with New York Waterway, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla is alluding the possibility of the city putting ferry service out to bid.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“This afternoon, I had a very productive conversation with the leadership of one of the region’s leading ferry operators,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla said in a statement.

“They assured me that if New York Waterway chose to no longer operate in Hoboken as they have threatened to do on numerous occasions, this ferry company would be willing to go through the process of becoming Hoboken’s ferry operator. This conversation is the latest proof that a ‘transportation crisis,’ as manufactured by New York Waterway, is nothing more than a blatant lie and intimidation tactic.”

The mayor continued that he is still committed to providing safe, reliable ferry service while still advocating to preserve Union Dry Dock for a waterfront park.

In his own statement, NY Waterway President and Founder Arthur E. Imperatore said that his company never threatened to halt service.

“We never threatened and never intended to withdraw from Hoboken, where we have the highest regard for our passengers. We intend to be in Hoboken serving the public for many years, long after Mayor Bhalla will have left office,” he said.

“This is just the latest example of Mayor Bhalla’s total disregard for the truth.”

In response, city spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri said that it was Imperatore who was lying, since he had previously stated multiple times that NY Waterway cannot operate without Union Dry Dock.

While Bhalla declined to mention which ferry operator he met with, his announcement comes six days after the Bayonne City Council approved a 10-year, $250,000 lease with the Port Authority to move their ferry service project with SeaStreak forward.

Earlier this month, NJ Transit released two studies that indicated that Union Dry Dock was the optimal location for a ferry maintenance and refueling station, writing off the Hoboken Terminal as a homeland security risk and the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne as too expensive.

Then last week, the Boswell Engineering released a study of their own that insisted that Union Dry Dock was not a viable option for NY Waterway, claiming that NJ Transit did not provide enough evidence to support their conclusions and that few facts had changed since the agency’s 2009 study.

The engineering firm had released a report last year that said that Hoboken Terminal was the optimal location for NY Waterway, position that Bhalla and many other city officials supported.

The Hoboken City Council is currently slated to vote on the second reading of executing eminent domain on Union Dry Dock at their September 4th meeting.

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  1. There’s nothing to come of this stupidity about an anonymous ferry company. It doesn’t change the right of NY Waterway to operate, the legal owner at the former Union Dry Dock. This is another sign of political stupidity that will lead to Hoboken paying for a needless lawsuit. He’s trying to pander for his done-nothing for Hoboken council ticket for November. Idiot!

  2. I do not understand why the mayor of Hoboken has never sat down to discuss ANYTHING with NY Waterway. I mentioned that to someone in City Hall on my way to work this morning and even he says he does not understand that either.

    I have always been of the mind myself that NY Waterway will not be able to operate without their property at the Union Dry Dock. I have been of that belief for a year and a half now. The mayor and others want them to go somewhere else but that is not an easy solution. This is a very complicated issue since there is not a plethora of docks anywhere anymore along the Hudson. Why do some people think that they can NEVER go out of business? Nothing is guaranteed in this life.

    On September 11, 2001 the attacks on the World Trade Center destroyed the PATH terminal located down there which greatly reduced and compromised the cross-Hudson River passenger capacity. The government invested in ferry service so NY Waterway could add new routes and did and increased the frequency of river crossings. The problem was that they borrowed heavily for the acquisition of more ferry boats. When the PATH service was restored at the World Trade Center their ferry ridership significantly declined, and with this loss of passengers it brought the company to the brink of bankruptcy. It takes a lot of money to run an operation like a ferry company. Who says they will always be around? When Mr. Arthur Imperatore said many times that he needs the land he bought in Hoboken at the Union Dry Dock, I believe that wholeheartedly. Has anyone seen their financial statements to honestly say that they are rolling in money? Nothing is ever what it seems. I believe the loss of their land with eminent domain by the Hoboken mayor will significantly damage them. The alternative sites the mayor believes are viable are limited in various ways and are extremely costly and unless the state of New Jersey steps in to shore them up, NY Waterway can not absorb the milions it would take for their organization to continue.

      • As I have said before, people sell property for a host of reasons. Since they sold it after 2001, perhaps they were in dire straits and needed the money to survive. Everyone assumes they are rolling in money. They did almost go bankrupt. It really does not matter at this point in time because they sold the property and at the time of their purchase of the Union Dry Dock in 2017, they said they sold the Weehawken property around 15 years before so that would mean they sold the land around 2002, which is a year after the September 11th catastrophe, hence they probably needed the money.

        Stop trying to correct what has already been done. They sold the land. That is the past and it can not be undone. We have to deal with the present with the here and now. They bought the Union Dry Dock land almost two years ago. It was for sale. Hoboken did not buy it.

        Hoboken is not bending to anyone’s wishes. Hoboken should respect the property rights of NY Waterway. It is as simple as that. The mayor has made this his obsession to covet and acquire another person’s land.

        • Sorry Mary, but what difference does it possibly make when they sold their Weehawken property? That’s entirely irrelevant to the discussion, not a factor in the consideration set at all.

          What matters is this is a problem entirely of their own making, and the people of Hoboken are under no obligation to bend over and accommodate them just because NYWW made a probably very profitable decision to sell their previous property.

          Also, it’s curious how you know such a great deal of historical inside detail about a relatively obscure transit company. Be careful who you snuggle up to, as mentioned about they aren’t choir boys (unless you’re ok with a company that was fined for defrauded the government after 9/11).

          • JA, one of the things I have a knack for is that i do excessive research in all areas of life that interest me and I ask a lot of questions. My father taught me that is how you learn things. NY Waterway is not an obscure transit company. I have been following them since the 1980’s because I wanted a ferry to run out of Hoboken and it did not start running out of Hoboken until 1992. I knew that a ferry had not run out of Hoboken since 1966 so I was pleased to have it finally happen.
            People at where I work consider me quite clever at finding out information so it is no surprise that I eventually find out things. I know how to go about it. Plus I am a voracious reader.

            I never have stated NY Waterway was perfect. Everyone has their faults and yes, unfortunately by selling their property when they did, it has caused problems in securing another place down the road since everyone just wants high-end residential buildings built along the waterfronts these days. Industries like ferries are not desired although one might want the ease of getting on a ferry to go into New York without the hassle of the PATH or bus. What happened to the company with their fine in the past I was not privy to all the specifics, so I can not judge and all anyone knows is what you have read in the newspapers unless you work for the government or was involved personally with the lawyers in that case. But that was in the past and has nothing to do with them owning the Union Dry Dock land today. Is your past so virgin?

            Everyone seems to forget that NY Waterway bought the land. It is not mine or yours or anyone’s at Maxwell Place. In this country all land is owned by someone even if that someone is a government. I believe wholly in property rights and it is not my place to covet someone else’s property just because I feel I have a different use for it. I keep saying we have to have a balance here. We need ferries to run and it has been overblown about their effect on the area located at the Union Dry Dock site. Yeesh! I cannot see into the future and say all the children will die who live nearby in Hoboken, but I can be rational enough to know that the people in Weehawken are still alive near NY Waterway’s little spot in the water. Have you seen it from Google? It is pathetic and I really do not know how they lasted that long under those conditions. I can understand completely why they need a bigger and safer place for their expanding fleet.

            I agree that it is entirely irrelevant WHEN they sold that property in Weehawken. I only brought up the timeline because everyone keeps bemoaning why did they sell it?? That is irrelevant too, because we are in the here and now and nobody can undo the sale of their Weehawken land. We have to deal with the circumstances we have today.

        • Mary, given you are the unofficial spokesperson for NYWW and Arthur Imperatore develops thousands of apartments, you really should parlay your support of his ferry for a sweet waterfront apartment

          • I have never been anyone’s spokesperson in my life. I speak for myself for what I believe is right. I have never done anything quid pro quo in my life. I regard myself as an ethical person. Besides why would I want a waterfront apartment? It is too cold and there is no stoops or backyards. I have never desired to live along any waterfront along the Hudson in Hudson County. Not my thing. Skylines never impressed me.

    • No worries. There is no other viable location but Ravi Bhalla will play to the Maxwell Mob. Then no matter the outcome, Hoboken will be out tens of millions.

    • Stephanie everyone has seen this. It is not as simple as Boswell tries to make it out to be. Boswell was paid by the city to make it sound favorable. NJ Transit is currently undergoing about a 16.5 million project to fill in the Long Slip Canal and put in six more tracks down right next to the Lackawanna terminal as I write. This is all because of the flooding of Sandy. The Lackawanna’s space is tight and NJ Transit had never intended it to be used for refueling in 2009 because they revised their report that was written that year with the intention of using the Lackawanna for the storage of ferry boats only. Union Dry Dock was still in business then and they were going to use their land for refueling and maintenance by renting Union’s space. Because the five original ferry slips at the Lackawanna were finally renovated and opened up in 2011 in ‘Brick Alley,’ the height to these openings limit fueling trucks from ever entering. Also the pier at the Lackawanna was destroyed in Sandy and what is left of it will have to be destroyed and another built. The cost is in the tens of millions. Just because Boswell says NY Waterway can move into the Lackawanna does not make it happen or make it possible. There are many constraints and one must look at all the specifics. I know some people like yourself want them to go there, but just because I want a Mercedes 450 SL does not mean one is going to magically appear for me to own. As of this moment it is virtually impossible to maintain any ferry boat at the Lackawanna. There is no upland. Jersey City has three huge condo developments going up on the old concrete company site right next to the Long Slip Canal and objects since they are inches away from the terminal. Maxwell Place is not inches away from Union Dry Dock. They have some breathing room. NY Waterway will pay for a park on one third of their land. If the city of Hoboken ‘steals’ it via eminent domain, the city will never be able to afford to put a park there and then someone like Ron Hine and FBW will probably find a developer to put a luxury condo building on the northern end of the property with the promise from the developer for a patch of green.

        • What an odd thing to say. Awkward? Everyone has a right to their own opinion and can still be friends and supporters of other who have different ideas of things. Everyone does not agree on the same things and I certainly do not agree with everything that Giattino and Fisher believe in. That is what makes a democracy–different strokes for different folks and in a civilized world people can disagree without hating each other. Wow. What an odd thing to say and think indeed.