For quite some time now, the Hoboken, N.J. waterfront has been in the press with talks of eminent domain and whether or not the northern waterfront property owned by NY Waterway would be taken and turned into a park. NY Waterway bought the longtime Union Dry Dock ship repair property on Sinatra Drive in November to use as a place to repair its commuter ferries. The ferry serves over 30,000 commuters each day.
An unscientific online survey posted on the Hoboken city website had 2, 447 respondents, with 75 percent saying that they would prefer that the property be converted to open space, even if doing do would cost the city “tens of millions of dollars.” Those answering the survey did not have to live in Hoboken, although 77 percent said that they lived within 10 blocks of the site.
Hoboken’s mayor, Ravinder S. Bhalla, has been enthusiastic about preventing a commuter ferry service from moving its maintenance operations from its longtime base in Weehawken. NJ Waterway left the old site because it had to make room for residential development. At one point the Hoboken’s City Council approved the use of the power of eminent domain to take the property from the ferry company if a deal could not be worked out. The city has offered NY Waterway $11.6 million for the site, but of course no press has reported on the outcome. We’re assuming it’s a no-go.
Naturally, these stories have twists, turns, and thickening plots. This issue is no different. To counter the efforts of the Council, New York Waterway persuaded NJ Transit, the state-run operator of commuter trains and buses, to buy the Hoboken site and lease it back to the ferry company. This would have stopped eminent domain proceedings in its tracks as the city would not have been able to force a state agency to sell the land. In the end, Governor Chris Christie, on his last day, was not able to get the vote passed and incoming Governor Philip Murphy didn’t want to get involved in the matter. Murphy is calling everyone back to the drawing board.
Fast-forward to April 2018 and the Hoboken City Council is not longer wishing to use eminent domain to take the property. It’s back to talks as Governor Murphy is pushing Mayor Bhalla to work with NY Waterways, and Bhalla called on Murphy to cancel a special NJ Transit Board of Directors Meeting that was scheduled where a vote was expected to vote on whether to purchase the land.
Rumor has it that a join solution will include both a ferry maintenance facility and a public space on the 3-acre property. Time will tell. This blogger thinks a few more stories will come from this project!