Dear friends and neighbors:
Mark Your Calendars! Earlier this week it was announced that the NJ Transit Board will convene for a special meeting this Wednesday, April 4th at 2:00 p.m. specifically to consider and vote on NJ Transit acquiring the Union Dry Dock site from NY Waterway and leasing it back to them. I spoke with Mayor Bhalla on Thursday and continue to stay in contact with he and both his COS’s while he is away and the key takeaway is they continue to negotiate with the Governor’s office to cancel the meeting. We should know more Monday morning. But in the event the meeting is not cancelled, we need to bring an army, again, to Newark that day. Like last time, the City will be providing buses for people to join that day. Details to follow.
What happened that triggered this?
Last week the City Council approved the Mayor’s submission of the offer letter to NYWW which starts the Eminent Domain process. Embedded in the letter is the statutory requirement that NYWW respond to the offer within 14 days. Apparently, this was misinterpreted to mean that somehow Hoboken could take ownership of the property in 14 days which isn’t the case. Eminent Domain is a lengthier process which involves a court decision, among other actions. As a result, NJ Transit, with Governor Murphy’s support, responded with what they felt was a similarly aggressive action. As mentioned, Mayor Bhalla is actively engaged with the Governor’s office to educate them on the process and also to work towards a potential solution. Possibly expanding the response date from 14 days to 45 or longer – to keep everyone at the proverbial table working on a solution.
Why are NJ Transit doing this at all?
It gives NYWW protection because NJ Transit has political jurisdiction that is higher than Hoboken – meaning they are immune to Eminent Domain by Hoboken.
Didn’t NJ Transit and Governor Murphy already say they weren’t going to do this?
Yes, and no. In 2012 NJ Transit issued a letter to then Hoboken mayor saying they would not pursue this site. On Martin Luther King Day this past January, NJ Transit decided not to vote on acquiring the site. This was in direct response to public outcry, and then Governor-Elect Murphy chastising NJ Transit for this last minute, Governor Christie led effort. But note that the recent actions were not a commitment to not act, just not yet.
This is bad for Hoboken. No question mark.
Irrespective of your view on whether New York Waterway should run its operations from the UDD site, this is bad for Hoboken because, as I said at the City Council meeting and to Mayor Bhalla on Thursday, it means we permanently lose the ability to influence what can be done on that site. This is the worst outcome. Any other outcome is better.
What is at risk to Hoboken?
Although NY Waterway are currently planning for it to be used as its operation hub for refueling, repairs, storage and pumping sanitary waste its ferries, and a parking lot for 150 employees, they can build as-of-right what it is currently zoned (see below for the actual zoning). Effectively an up to 35’ high ferry terminal, with a large parking lot for commuters and room for maintenance. Think Port Imperial Terminal in Weehawken, only shorter. But once NJ Transit owns the site, because they are a quasi-government agency, it could be even more expansive given they are better positioned than private property owners to be granted variances from our local zoning rules. Think about what that could mean in terms of pollution and erosion to our entire waterfront and congestion on our streets.
What about Bayonne?
Bayonne is in the process of seeking ferry service for their city. And like with all municipalities, there has to be a public, RFP process which has begun. NYWW are responding to the RFP, but their conversations are limited to date. This is happening in parallel, which is why we need more time to solve this.
What can you do?
Engage. Inform. Advocate. Those are my campaign slogan words from my election in 2015, they will probably be again for my campaign in 2019, and they continue to guide all of my actions on the council. And for any of you who wants to be a voice on this, or anything else, they can be your words too. How to do this?
- Attend the NJ Transit special meeting Wednesday at 2pm. We had almost 100 people attend the last one!
- Write your representatives - Governor Murphy, Senator Stack and Mayor Bhalla encouraging them to find a solution that benefits everyone. Tell them why the waterfront in Hoboken is important to you.
- Share your views (and others’ posts too) on social media
- Like / share / Retweet posts from HobokenRPW and ABetterWaterfront
- Use hashtags #SaveOurWaterfront #hoboken #heartbeatsinthemuck
- Tag @GovMurphy on all posts.
- Forward information to your friends. Use your own email distribution / friend’s lists to forward this email, and those from others so our community is best informed.
To those who are less supportive of this effort. Please note that I am not supportive of NYWW shutting down under any circumstances. That is not what this is about. This is about all of the stakeholders getting together and using all tools available to come up with the best solution for everyone. For Hoboken and protecting our waterfront for the best and highest use for Hoboken, it’s the public’s voice, eminent domain and a willingness to respect the need for ferry transportation. All of which we bring to this discussion.
I will continue to keep everyone posted as events unfold. Please feel free to email me or call me at 201/208-1674 if you have any questions of comments or want to discuss any of this.
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
Engage. Inform. Advocate.“More Voices are Better”
PS - Click here for the most recent article in the NY Times from yesterday
Current Zoning for the UDD Site - https://ecode360.com/15237942