In a letter to the editor, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla explains why Union Dry Dock is “critical” for preserving open space along their waterfront, providing an update on New York Waterway’s plans to use the land as their ferry refueling and maintenance site.
It is critical for Hoboken to preserve the Union Dry Dock property for public, open space along our waterfront.
A heavy refueling station run by New York Waterway would wreak havoc on our local environment, jeopardize the safety and well-being of our residents, and destroy Hoboken’s decades long goal of a contiguous public waterfront.
One thing is clear – residents are overwhelmingly supportive of preserving the Union Dry Dock site for a public park.
Hoboken has done so much to build out our waterfront for public, accessible space including the rehabilitation of Pier A, the creation of Pier C Park, upgrading our waterfront walkway, and much more.
Thanks to advocates like Fund for a Better Waterfront, Hoboken has transformed virtually all of Hoboken’s waterfront to publicly accessible open space – except for the Union Dry Dock property.
And, the City’s 2018 Master Plan identifies Union Dry Dock as an open space opportunity and states that the City remains committed to acquiring the site for a park and the walkway.
Unfortunately, New York Waterway’s plan for a heavy refueling station eliminates this once in a lifetime opportunity for Hoboken to connect its waterfront.
And, they’ve recently been spreading a misinformation campaign by distorting reality, disrespecting our residents, and spreading blatant mistruths in claiming they have no choice but to utilize Union Dry Dock for a refueling station.
While we’ve continued negotiating with Governor Phil Murphy and his staff in good faith and will continue to do so, it’s time to set the record straight.
The fact is, New York Waterway and its multi-millionaire President, Arthur Imperatore, manufactured this crisis in order to profit millions of dollars by selling its land in Weehawken to developers for a luxury residential development, all while throwing Hoboken under the bus to deal with the disastrous environmental impacts of a heavy refueling station.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. The Jersey Journal reported on the sale of two “adjacent upland properties,” in Weehawken “which tax records indicate were purchased for a combined $75 million in February  by a U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese real estate investment firm, [which] have been used for years as part of the maintenance facility.”
That’s $75 million for Imperatore and his partners, for land they should have kept for their ferry operations. And now, they want to make this Hoboken’s problem, eliminating any chance of a public park? Not on my watch.
Here are a few facts about New York Waterway’s manufactured crisis relating to Union Dry Dock, many of which are documented by the Jersey Journal:
FACT: New York Waterway sold the adjacent land to their ferry operations, enriching Arthur Imperatore and a private developer, without any regard for their ferry business.
FACT: New York Waterway themselves identified a viable alternative location at the “Port Imperial Marina site” for a ferry maintenance facility next to their current location, that they actually own. (see paragraph 20.1 in linked Marina Agreement)
New York Waterway attempted to hide this alternative site for ferry maintenance and operations, which only came to light because our Hoboken attorneys uncovered it.
FACT: The “eviction notice” New York Waterway references that is “imminent” is part of their manufactured crisis.
FACT: The eviction notice from the luxury developer, whom the land was solid to, isn’t signed or on letterhead, and has been “issued” in the past year – yet NYWW continues to operate without disruption.
FACT: There are many other suitable alternatives for a refueling station OTHER than Union Dry Dock, all of which would allow Hoboken to build a public park.
FACT: In 2009, New Jersey Transit identified several other suitable alternatives for a refueling station, as did the City last year.
NYWW identified an adjacent site in Weehawken they could use (which it hid from the public), while both Hoboken and NJ Transit concluded that a refueling station would be well suited at Hoboken Terminal, a position supported by County Executive DeGise, Senators Nick Sacco and Brian Stack, and Mayor Steve Fulop.
FACT: New York Waterway is attempting to build a giant, ugly wall on our waterfront, blocking waterfront views and access, without any public accessibility. See for yourself.
Despite the claim that New York Waterway will “help Hoboken” build a park, their renderings disprove that notion.
FACT: A large, heavy refueling station would ravage our environment and jeopardize the safety and operations of our recreational boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, and others.
This action would reverse decades of the rehabilitation of Hoboken’s waterfront and efforts to complete our public waterfront, all while threatening Hoboken estuary and the only sandy beach in all of Hudson County.
As if this wasn’t enough, New York Waterway appears to have zero respect for the residents of Hoboken, something we won’t tolerate.
According to Mr. Imperatore’s op-ed in the Jersey Journal, “We will not be pushed off the Union Dry Dock site by a handful of people who want to improve the value of their condos by blocking us.”
Besides being untrue, this is a slap in the face to the thousands of Hoboken residents who have come together to advocate for a public park and continuous waterfront.
This disrespect for Hoboken residents was on full display when Arthur Imperatore taunted a longtime resident and mother, stating “Sorry, you lose” on social media.
It’s not just recently that Arthur Imperatore and New York Waterway have abused the public trust.
While Mr. Imperatore on one hand claims to be there for the transit system during emergencies, stating to the Jersey Journal: “when stuff fails, when there’s a problem with Port Authority…when the summer of hell comes along and they have to shut down certain routes – we’re the go-to people.”
Yet, Imperatore left out the fact that New York Waterway was required to pay over $1.2 million as part of a settlement after it was charged by the federal government with overbilling for emergency commuter services in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as reported by the New York Times.
This statement from the United States Attorney’s Office on the $1.2 million payment sums it up:
“Federal 9/11 funds were allotted to help the city recover and build anew. This office is committed to recouping those funds from any company that took more than its fair share of profit from business it did as a result of those tragic events.”
Let me reiterate one more time – Union Dry Dock must be preserved for public, open space, and not a heavy refueling station.
At the end of the day, I’m confident that Governor Murphy will be on the right side of public policy, and will side with the public interest ahead of a morally bankrupt actor like New York Waterway.
Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla