NJ Transit: Union Dry Dock acquisition necessary for NY Waterway to continue operations

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NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett says that the agency’s acquisition of the Union Dry Dock property in Hoboken is necessary for New York Waterway to continue operations after June 1st. 

Photo via worldshipny.com.
Photo via worldshipny.com.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“With this authorization, we intend to allow NYWW to use the Union Dry Dock location
for ferry maintenance activities no sooner than June 1st, initially in the same limited
manner in which they conduct those activities in Weehawken currently,” Corbett said in a letter to Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla dated Saturday.

“We also intend to limit the use of any capital funds for landside alterations at Union Dry Dock until our review of Bayonne is complete and we determine the long-term solution for ferry maintenance. This is a necessary interim step while our investigation of the MOTBY
option continues.”

Corbett continues that as “the owner and landlord” of Union Dry Dock, NJ Transit will be in “the best position to safeguard the interests of New Jersey and its many ferry-commuting residents,” while also taking into consideration Hoboken’s plans.

NY Waterway is headquartered at 4800 Avenue at Port Imperial and has been for decades, but Corbett explained earlier in the letter that they have to vacate that facility on June 1st.

Late last month, Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis announced that the Peninsula City is moving forward with a commuter ferry plan, with a request for proposals expected to go out soon.

When Hudson County View asked a spokesman for Davis’ office last week if Bayonne would be considered as a ferry docking and refueling station for NY Waterway, he responded:

The RFP will be open to any responsible bidder and if New York Waterway has an interest in operating at the site they would be encouraged to submit a proposal.”

Then on Thursday evening, NJ Transit announced they would have on special meeting on Wednesday, April 4th where their board will vote on acquiring Union Dry Dock.

The move came as a surprise for most interested parties in Hoboken, given that the NJ Transit board pulled a nearly identical resolution off their agenda in January and the Hoboken council approved acquiring the waterfront property for $11.63 million before Bhalla made a formal offer.

Responding to Corbett’s letter, which Bhalla’s office made public, the Mile Square City mayor expressed disappointment – both with NJ Transit and Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) office – with the current set of circumstances.

“Last year, Governor Murphy called New Jersey Transit a ‘national disgrace.’ Unfortunately, in terms of transparency, actions like these demonstrate that the agency has yet to make the changes it needs in how [it] operates,” Bhalla wrote.

“It’s an insult to the public for NJT to be making such important decisions under the cover of darkness and with no meaningful opportunity for public input. While Director Corbett’s letter blames bad weather for our failure to meet regarding a Bayonne option in the month of March, the record reflects that my persistent attempts to have the meeting he refers to were hijacked by the Governor’s office.”

He also criticized Corbett for failing to address “the elephant in the room:” the fact that the City of Hoboken would no longer have the option to exercise eminent domain and turn the Union Dry Dock property into a public park that connects to the rest of the waterfront walkway.

When Hoboken spokesman Santiago Melli-Huber was asked if the city had considered rescinding eminent domain to help further negotiations, he reiterated his remarks from the other day, stating “we’re exploring all of our options.”

NJ Transit is currently set to convene a special meeting, where acquiring Union Dry Dock is the only agenda item, at their headquarters, One Penn Plaza East in Newark, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Murphy’s office did not return an email seeking comment.