LETTER: Murphy, NJ Transit shouldn’t interfere with Hoboken acquiring Union Dry Dock


In a letter to the editor, Fund for a Better Waterfront board member Nicholas Borg says that Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and NJ Transit shouldn’t interfere with Hoboken’s process to acquire Union Dry Dock.

A Union Dry Dock rendering released by New York Waterway.

Dear Editor,

I am writing to publicly appeal to Governor Murphy and the Board of New Jersey Transit (NJT) not to interfere with the City of Hoboken’s (City) acquisition of Union Dry Dock (UDD) for a public park.

I urge them to objectively consider the facts of the matter and then make the right public policy decision: locate this facility to a site that has been vetted and clearly shown to be the most cost-effective option by far.

In doing so, they will be acting in harmony with over-whelming public sentiment, and preserving, as public open space, a very special place on Hoboken’s magnificent shoreline.

As a professional policy analyst, I have spent a good part of my career in the public service analyzing policy issues that have had significant impact on local communities.

When creating good public policy, the political aspect of a decision (which typically benefits an entitled few) is only one measure among many that helps the policy maker decide the best choice among competing alternatives.

In making the UDD decision, cost to the public (our tax dollars), overall feasibility, environmental impact and community sentiment are significantly more important than political considerations.

NJT and the City both funded independent site analyses to identify the most appropriate location for the NY Waterway (NYWW) refueling and repair facility.

After identifying a number of potentially viable sites and weighing each against similar sets of objective criteria, UDD ranked lower than six other sites; in other words, two independent site analyses identified six other locations more suitable than the UDD site.

Both studies showed that the most cost-effective choice, hands down, is located adjacent to the Erie-Lackawanna terminal at the south end of Hoboken.

That site is already owned by NJT, thus: no acquisition costs; it will require little work or money to adapt it to NYWW’s needs (it’s already set up for ferries); it is environmentally friendly (little or no addition damage to Hoboken’s delicate and vulnerable marine eco-system, especially the eco-rich Hoboken Cove, which includes the UDD site); it will allow public access to this important segment of the waterfront; and, perhaps most important, the city’s elected officials and public sentiment are overwhelmingly in favor of relocating the repair and re-fueling facility to the Erie Lackawanna site.

As a lifelong resident, the waterfront has always been a special part of my Hoboken experience.

As a child, I remember “the Hoboken docks” being alive with a bustling commerce all along River Road (now called Sinatra Drive).

The memory of its cobblestoned, pot-hole rutted surface with train tracks in the middle, often crowded with lengths of box cars, has been indelibly imprinted onto my memory.

The amazing transformation from this uninviting gritty maritime corridor along the eastern edge to its current splendid state of publicly accessible parks and walkways is a true demonstration of rational public policy making in action.

Nicholas Borg
Hoboken, NJ

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  1. According to this guy, there’s no cost involved in ejecting NY Waterway using eminent domain.
    Why don’t I believe that number? Because he’s full of crap.

    • Eminent Domain was created for public use works and is cost effective for municipalities. That is why New York Waterways is trying to avoid it including paying for a very expensive public relation campaign.

  2. This is such a useless fight. Legal precedent for eminent domain is crumbling. Hoboken will waste $10mm in legal fees over another 5 years to fight this in both state and Federal courts. I don’t get how Ravi views himself as such an environmentalist when based on rising water levels he should be sanctioning a lot more ferry terminals and a lot fewer sub-sea level hotel projects because the PATH will be unusable in another few years. Thank God runoffs will get rid of him soon

    • H Kevin. You seem confused by the ED process, perhaps because much misinformation about how it works has been spouted in recent years, including by various Hoboken City Council people. It’s pretty simple and doesnt involve significant time to acquire the property or much in the way of legal fees. The only litigable issue is the price to be paid.

      The only real obstacle to the City’s ability to aquire the property would be if the State of NJ stepped in to buy the land, and that will either happen (in which case the city “loses”) or it won’t (in which case the City “wins”). My guess is that it won’t happen because NYWW’s claim that a transportation crisis would result from Hoboken taking the property has been pretty conclusively been shown to be bogus.

      In no case will it cost “$10mm in legal fees over another 5 years to fight this in both state and Federal courts.” That’s just ignorant nonsense.

  3. Obviously this writer did not read the Boswell report of September of 2018 which our mayor and council paid quite a bit of money for them to come up with a list of places for NY Waterway to go. They only came up with a pathetic amount of 5 possiblities which two are basically a joke even to mention. The report lists the capacity, zoning/use compatibility, accessibility, public safety, development timing, environmental constraints, future expansion, and cost. Many people did not read and analysis this report as I have. It would take two years and 3-5 million dollars to try and adapt the Lackawanna terminal to the ferries. The ferry slips that are there are just for those five ferries. The report states there is no additional berthing or landward capacity because of the tight space at the Hoboken Terminal. Local and environmental approvals would have to be required to develop an adequate upland and the installation of a barge would be required because there is no dock there anymore. It fell into the river years ago or was taken away due to decay. The site cannot immediately provide the required berthing capacity or upland capacity as the Union Dry Dock site. They could move into their property tomorrow to use it if the city allowed it.

    And by the way lindalou, how would you know that it would not cost $10 million dollars? I am banking on it costing the city much, much more than that amount. I certainly don’t know for sure, but you certainly do not know for sure. Anything is possible. NY Waterway is a very important entity in the transportation world. They can sue for more than their property value.