If this story sounds familiar to you, then you have been paying attention to our blog posts!
The big news is that, at long last, Hoboken has secured an agreement to acquire the final piece of its waterfront needed to create a city-long park. This was after an epic standoff with New York Waterway, the current property owner, who planned to use the land for boat repairs.
We can envision a park already! Although currently the 3.1-acre site sits unused, with abandoned machinery, vegetation growing through gravel, and gaps in the wooden piers.
It’s big news that the City and New York Waterway agreed to the $18.5 million sale which is halfway between the two parties’ valuations of the property. Hoboken appraised the property at $13.1 million and New York Waterways was at $24 million. The City will pay for it through its Open Space Trust Fund and a separate bond.
The piece of property being discussed in this post is the Union Dry Dock site which is located between Ninth and 10th streets. Acquiring it has been a steadfast city goal for years, because the fenced-off property interrupts the pedestrian green space spanning the length of Hoboken’s waterfront view of Manhattan. The argument by New York Waterway, and the ensuing fights, stemmed from the Waterway’s position that the site was an irreplaceable asset that was needed for a permanent ferry maintenance facility. The standoff led to the City starting eminent domain proceedings in 2019.
The site was part of land once bought by Dutchman Peter Stuyvesant in the 1600s from the Lenni Lenape tribe. Later, it was a shipping hub and a port of embarkation for World War I troops before being used as a ferry maintenance facility.
Where will the Waterway go? They are planning to create a permanent ferry maintenance and refueling facility in the Weehawken, which is actually what it has been informally using for years. Hoboken will launch into planning the park’s design while leasing the property to the ferry company until its new Weehawken station is finished, according to Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
As a bit of background, in 2017 Waterway paid $11.5 million for the property which Hoboken had been eyeing for a while. When the ferry company announced plans for a new boat maintenance and refueling facility, Hoboken officials said it pulled out all the stops to acquire the land.
Over the past few years, New Jersey Transit threatened to get involved and Waterway moved forward with the project by acquiring federal and state permits. The fight only seemed to escalate. It seems that the current status is with help from the state. “There were a lot of moving parts and it wasn’t a simple narrative, but I think the governor played an instrumental role a couple years ago making the policy decision that the state of New Jersey was not going to acquire Union Dry Dock and prevent the city from proceeding with eminent domain,” Bhalla said. “It changed the ground beneath us and changed the negotiating landscape.”
Planning of the future park and what will be included in it will be “resident driven;” and the City will hire a firm to help form the vision and will hold community meetings throughout the process.
We will keep an eye on this bit of news and hopefully will post pictures of the park one day!
The weather is getting warmer in New York and the flowers are blooming. That’s why we felt that now is the perfect time to post about a park! Or rather, the potential of a park.
A proposal is being discussed for a linear park in Jersey City’s Historic Downtown. As with most discussions related to eminent domain, it’s on again- off again - on again. Earlier this month a study was made public which states that Jersey City’s planning division determined that the Embankment-- a stretch of elevated land where officials hope to build parkland--could be designated for redevelopment. Eminent Domain is not off the table, if that is what is required to make this park a reality.
The study revealed the possibility that the City could condemn parcels of land as part of a plan to create a linear park-after negotiations with stakeholders fell through months ago. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop has said that he is committed to making it happen. For several years, Jersey City officials and open space advocates have been hoping to build a park on the Embankment.
Inspired by Manhattan’s High Line, Jersey City officials and open space advocates hope to build an elevated rails-to-trails park stretching from Marin Boulevard to Brunswick Street. City officials have proposed to build a light rail line atop the elevated segments of land in the more distant future. The area is a half-mile long stretch of abandoned rail track.
Under a proposed agreement, Albanese Organization, a New York City developer, would cover the costs of the property transaction in exchange for the right to build two market-rate residential high-rises on the easternmost section of the Embankment land. Albanese would also put $11.5 million toward developing a trail and parkland on the other blocks.
Negotiations have gone on for years between the city and Embankment stakeholders Victoria Hyman and the railroad company Conrail. Things were going well until Conrail “abruptly” pulled out of the deal. No one is really sure of the reason why.
But it isn’t’ over yet. In the study, the City determined that “a lawful basis exists for declaring” one segment of the Embankment land a “condemnation area in need of redevelopment” and the rest a “non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment.” That means that if enacted, those designations could allow the city to seize the westernmost section of the land through eminent domain and put in place development policies for other sections. It would include issuing tax abatements or a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program.
Mayor Fulop declined to provide a detailed plan for the land, saying he could not “get into the strategies of our litigation.” Apparently, U.S. Reps. Donald Payne and Albio Sires were involved “at the federal level,” and the City intends to use all the tools at its disposal.
Are there greener pastures for Jersey City ahead? We shall see. Keep following us for more eminent domain news!
Arguments at the Ohio Supreme Court-about the validity of an eminent domain case involving a golf course that houses age old earthworks-have begun. The case revolves around the Moundbuilders Country Club (the “club”), an 18-hole golf course located on sacred Native American grounds. The current owner of the property is the Ohio History Connection (“OHC”), a statewide nonprofit organization that contracts with the state to oversee more than 50 historic sites. OHC wants to acquire the property via eminent domain, by terminating its lease with the club and paying for its fair market value. OHC has leased the property to the club since acquiring it in 1933.
The club opened in 1911 and was designed by a noted golf architect, Thomas Bendelow, who designed America’s first 18-hole public golf course, Van Cortlandt Park, in the Bronx. The golf course’s topography is built around mounds (the “Octagon Mounds”) that were created by the Hopewell tribe approximately 2,000 years ago, as a way to measure the movement of the sun and the moon through the heavens. The Octagon Mounds will likely be named a UNESCO Heritage Site. The Hopewell culture at one point had built hundreds of major earthworks. The mound building groups of Native Americas lived from about 100 B.C.E. to 500 C.E, and the Octagon Mounds at this golf course are widely embraced as an astronomical and geometric marvel. Sadly, until recently the value of the mounds wasn’t recognized, and many have been destroyed.
Now to the issue of eminent domain. The club has leased the land for more than a century, and is now being asked to relocate so that the mounds can be properly embraced as an archaeological treasure. Moving the golf club, however, will require a tremendous amount of money, something that the 300 mostly blue-collar members says that they don’t have.
OHC, the nonprofit that has owned the site since 1933, is utilizing its powers of eminent domain in a lawsuit to buy back the club’s lease, which would hold another 57 years. The club disputes OHC’s right to break the contract. In January 2020, a state appeals court ruled in favor of OHC; and now the case is headed to the Ohio Supreme Court. OHC offered the club $800,000 to buy back the lease, based on its appraisal. But the OHC received a second appraisal of $1.75 million, which it did not disclose until a year later. Reports say that the club wants $12 million to relinquish its lease, which expires in 2078.
Joe Fraley, the attorney for Moundbuilders Country Club in the eminent domain proceedings, said the two issues are whether the OHC purchase offer was made in good faith, and if the trial court used the appropriate standard to determine the taking by eminent domain. He raised the issue of the two appraisals in his arguments. The Club has also argued that OHC’s public purpose (another pre-requisite for eminent domain) could be accomplished without eminent domain, by an expanded program of research, education services and preservation — and without ending the lease of a major employer in the area.
Unlike New York eminent domain proceedings (which are almost impossible to stop or challenge successfully), the validity of Ohio eminent domain proceedings appear to heavily rely on whether the Condemnor (here OHC) made a good faith offer. If they did, then the end result is a valuation trial in front of a jury (as opposed to New York, where eminent domain trials are only heard by a judge, without a jury).
This is certainly and interesting case and one that we are sure to follow. Stay tuned!