Jersey City is may move forward with plans to use eminent domain to acquire the Sixth Street Embankment for a freight rail in Jersey City.
By Michael Shurin/Hudson County View
The city council is moving forward with plans to use eminent domain to acquire the Sixth Street Embankment for plans that could include a freight rail, according to city documents.
Ordinance 14.103 would authorize “relevant City departments to file for, and to pursue, a federal eminent domain remedy… to acquire an unused portion of a line or railroad called the Harsimus Branch (Marin Blvd to CP Waldo) which contains the Sixth Street Embankment, a City Historic Landmark.”
Eminent domain would be administered by the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) through an Offer of Financial Assistance (OFA), whereby “a community may purchase on terms set by the STB a line or portion thereof interconnecting to the freight rail system for, as construed by STB, continued freight rail and other compatible public purposes,” according to the resolution.
According to the SBT website, an offer of financial assistance is for “those who would like to purchase the line and assume the common carrier obligation to provide service (contract or non-contract) over the line, or who would like to offer the carrier a subsidy to continue to provide the service.”
Hudson County View reported on September 3, that Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro requested a closed caucus special meeting to discuss legal issues surrounding the Sixth Street Embankment.
The ordinance did not dismiss the concept of the embankment eventually becoming a park, only authorize the city to make an OFA application.
The ordinance states “to acquire title to the following property for purposes of continued freight rail or other compatible public purposes including passenger rail, open space, trail and historic preservation.”
Ironically, developer Steve Hyman, whose wife owns the property, has been lambasted online for saying he saved the property from becoming a park.
Now, instead of housing development or a park on the Sixth Street Embankment, it appears the site may head back to it’s roots.
Attorney Daniel Horgan, representing the owners of the embankment, said “If the City Council and the administration actually spend $5 million playing railroad with the taxpayers’ money, no one should ever again take these people seriously.”
Horgan claimed the city “looted every open space fund they could to pay for litigation and don’t belong in the railroad business,” and added that “they should start talking to us about a real plan for the Embankment.”
A Fulop supporter who lives near the embankment, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Hudson County View that “a freight train, or light rail, going through the neighborhood would be a disaster.”
They added “this is worse than Hyman building condos, and that’s what we’ve been fighting against.”
City Council President Ronaldo Lavarro did not return calls seeking comment and City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill did not return an e-mail seeking comment.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to explain the STB definition of an OFA, and acknowledge other language in the ordinance leaving open other options for the future of the Sixth Street Embankment.