LETTER: ‘Eminent domain abuse’ is the wrong way to solve Hoboken’s Union Dry Dock issues


In a letter to the editor, Joshua Sotomayor Einstein says that “eminent domain abuse” is the wrong way to solve the City of Hoboken’s issues with New York Waterway over Union Dry Dock.

Dear Editor,

We need an open public discussion on taking NY Waterway’s dry dock to make another water front park costing tens of millions of dollars.

There are many of us in our town who are against the eminent domain ordinance authorizing the city to seize the land and more who take issue with the divisive tone and aggressive language being deployed by political operatives to go after those who dissent from the mayor’s perspective.

Regardless of where one falls on the issue, everyone believes Hoboken deserves a better public debate than threatening press conferences, angry rallies, and half-truth based sound bites.

After declaring, in May, that NY Waterway would get to keep their legally owned dry dock “over my dead body,” our Mayor, Ravi Bhalla, pretended to be a man committed to honest dialogue and invited them to a public forum hosted by a neutral third party.

Facing unprecedented hostile language and a public campaign of propaganda from the mayor, NY Waterway understandably declined.

With the second reading of the Bhalla administration’s ordinance for the expropriation of the NY Waterway dry dock scheduled unnecessarily soon, on September 4th, it is more important than ever that Hoboken be given the chance for a public discussion of property rights and the negative impact for the entire state of New Jersey that stealing the ferry company land will cause.

Having no financial relationship between myself and NY Waterway, no special interest allies, and no political considerations other than that our town deserves a better public discussion than the current my-way-or-the-highway messaging coming out of city hall, I invite Mayor Bhalla to debate the issue with myself prior to the second reading of the

Mayor Bhalla has an opportunity to step back from the divisive language and engage in a real discussion of the issues on a substantive level.

If he believes he can make his case to the people of Hoboken and not just his political loyalists, he should be unafraid to say yes.

Bhalla knows eminent domain abuse is wrong the same way every adult knows to tell children not to steal – because it is wrong, plain and simple.

Of equal moral importance and of impact in and beyond Hoboken, is the regional mass transit issues this will likely cause.

Not only will this cause New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy a headache as he tries to figure out how to save mass transit in NJ from crumbling further, but all of northern New Jersey’s commuters will face increased ferry prices and the taxpayer will be asked to bail out Bhalla’s mess as some of the mayors political retainers have advocated.

Though Bhalla and his special interests pretend there are other sites along the Hudson river
where NY Waterway can go, none exist that would not require between $50 to a $100 million dollars to renovate them to the current standard of NY Waterway’s Hoboken dry dock, let alone the site remediation and investment they have publicly planned to do.

It is my hope Bhalla will walk back from the edge and reign in the campaign of push poll tested counterfactual talking points and see the error of his ways. To err is, after all, human.

But to refuse dialogue and a debate that can flesh out the issues for the Hoboken community would be beneath the mayor.

If Mayor Bhalla truly believes in his cause, he will rise to the challenge and accept this invitation to have a public debate on taking NY Waterway’s dry dock to build another park before the 2nd reading of his ordinance.

Hoboken’s voters deserve an honest public conversation.

Joshua Sotomayor Einstein
Hoboken resident

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  1. The Eminent Domain process was created to be used when acquiring property for public use at a fair price.
    That is what is being done to acquire the union Dry Dock property for a fully public park.

    There will always be a small subset of the public who take an extreme view of the process.

    • The use of the eminent domain process has been abused and is now open to interpretation if some entity wants to covet another’s land for their idea of what they think the land should be used for. Once used for roads, hospitals, and schools, the use of eminent domain by governments have stretched the meaning of its power and claim the necessity of adding another park in Hoboken. A park is clearly not a necessity in this case when we currently have 23 parks (open space areas) in a one-mile town . The transportation that a ferry company provides is for a public use and more people need transportation than a small sliver of space that the city can not afford to create. We are in hock for $100 million for just one park–the Northwest Resiliency Park. And that price tag will continue to rise. We bonded for $54 million dollars just a few months ago for that. We are park and open-space debt-heavy right now and have to worry about our infrastructure. The streets have multiple sink holes and the city has no clue why. The streets are cracking due to the heavy salting that occurred this past winter because the city went overboard and kept salting so that the roads remained white for days and days. We need much money for the troubles the city is going to have down the road. We certainly can use the 13.1 million that Ravi wants to pay for NY Waterways land for our infrastructure.

      By the way, it is not extreme to not want your personal property taken. Many people abhor eminent domain. Shall someone try to take your property and you won’t have a problem with that?

      • You are wrong. The eminent domain was created to obtain land for the public good and that includes park space (i.e. NYC’s Central Park was created using it) at a fair price.

        One would think you would have done your basic homework before taking on this kind fringe public opinion.

        As with many of your City Council performances you stray from the matter at hand and go off on odd tangents that you hope will support your faulty premise.

        The eminent domain procedure by law does not take property, it insures a fair price is paid for that property. Again your facts are wrong and your response is based in emotion.

        • Because I do not believe in eminent domain is not wrong or right. It is my opinion and you have yours. I happen to not agree with its underlying premise. I realize that the process of eminent domain literally does not ‘steal’ the property because funds are offered for the land desired. but this is done under some sort of duress since the owner is obviously against selling the property in the first place.

          If my presence at the city council meetings and speaking and/or reading from a prepared statement that I have typed up disturbs you, then do not listen to me when I speak and turn away from your screen. No one is holding a gun to your head to listen to me. I certainly do not mean to annoy you by my public right to speak at a council meeting.

  2. “Though Bhalla and his special interests pretend there are other sites along the Hudson river
    where NY Waterway can go, none exist that would not require between $50 to a $100 million dollars to renovate them to the current standard of NY Waterway’s Hoboken dry dock, let alone the site remediation and investment they have publicly planned to do.”

    So why did NYWW sell the perfectly good repair facility they had in Weehawken in the first place? Why should Hoboken have to accommodate them now? Why doesn’t NYWW take the profits from selling their land in Weehawken and use it to built a repair station somewhere else?

    • Because there was another location where they could move: UDD. What is it with these Hoboken idiots? They don’t seem to understand that we don’t and have never owned the UDD land. We could have bought it, but we didn’t.

    • Greed. NYW sold their refueling, maintenance dock property in Weehawken to build luxury condo’s took a huge profit.

      I would never ascribe any higher motive to anything New York Waterways or their Public Relations firms and flacks do or say.

      • They cannot see their nose on their face. It’s a made up crisis by NY waterway. They can and have the money to spend to developed alternate sites. They just don’t want to. Hoboken deserves the public open space along the water front free from pollution and crooked political operatives in the pocket of corrupt corporations.

  3. The Mayor better rethink his position and fast – this guy is obviously gunning for him in 2021 and already has the pro NYWW vote locked up!

    What a missed opportunity for Fisher, Ramos and DeFusco.

  4. @Joshua Sotomayor Einstein

    Why don’t you move in next door to the proposed big giant refueling facility and be next to diesel and fumes and noise? And have your kids and grand kids play in soot and air pollution as they grow up? Get a clue you moron. A public open space and uninterrupted water front is a boon to the public. And a public resource that cannot be squandered in this age of mass development. What would of happened if NYC never allowed Central Park and instead sold it for a bus depot and refueling station? Or factories? For short term profits of a few developers?

    You are a fraud and in the pocket of special interests that have no concern for the public well being. You deserve to fail and fade away.

    • This has nothing to do with Central Park. This is not about short term profits for a few developers. You are assuring that someone is in the pocket of special interests. Why would you say this? Do you know something that the rest of us do not? There is a solid reason to side with the Ferry Company.
      The mayor of Hoboken has manipulated a false narrative about what is going on. Why do you trust him if he is just going cease his land through eminent domain for an expensive park. With all respect, it looks to me that you have not considered this issue in a thorough or thoughtful fashion. The ferry company owns the land. The dry dock owner who sold it to NY Waterway wanted the land to continue as a working dock. The city of Hoboken chose not to purchase this land when there was an opportunity to do so.
      We live in dangerous times with Donald Trump as our president and this mayor is acting in a ruthless, fashion.
      And if the Ferry is needed, I guess its ok for the fueling station to go somewhere else just as long as Hoboken does not have to deal with it. I have been surprised by how one sided, inconsiderate and thoughtless people who are insisting on this park have been. The facts do not seem to enter into coming to a solution in this issue. Is ignorance bliss? Think past your own needs and consider the situation for what it is. This is not a fantasy and a hardworking family’s business is at stake. What if this was your business that the mayor decided to grab by lying about you and bringing protested who are being conned with false information?

  5. “Our system was not set up to for the government to be able to do with a man’s kingdom what they want. It was set up to protect that man’s kingdom, to allow him to feel that his borders, no matter how great or small, would always be secure and that he would always be allowed to defend them. The Supreme Court took that right away with their eminent domain ruling back in 2005. The governments have taken advantage of that eminent domain ruling, and you, the media, have failed at protecting citizens.”
    ― Tit Elingtin, Eminent Domain