It’s a bold statement to make, in Hudson County of all places, but Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla is looking to end a years-long feud. The city commissioned a study by Boswell Engineering to find an alternative ferry maintenance site to the one being eyed by NY Waterway. The operator last year bought a 3-acre shipyard property, known as the Union Dry Dock, for $12 million on the Hoboken Waterfront. But city leaders don’t want to re-industrialize the area, hoping instead to designate it as open space.
“This report essentially identifies what NJ Transit itself confirmed in 2009, that Union Dry Dock is not the appropriate location for this use,” said Bhalla. “NY Waterway is not going to locate maintenance operations and refueling facilities at Union Dry Dock. It will not happen during this administration, over my dead body.”
Actually, the report finds the best location is in Hoboken, just at a different site: The Lackawanna Terminal that already houses at least five mass transit operations. City leaders say this site won’t pose the same environmental risks. The Union Dry Dock, on the other hand, sits squarely in a residential and recreational area. They also see it as an opportunity to expand existing ferry service. NJ Transit toyed with the idea of buying the property and leasing it back to NY Waterway.
The engineering study also listed properties in Bayonne, Weehawken and Edgewater as other possibilities. But the biggest takeaway from the mayor Tuesday was that a previous NJ Transit study already concluded that the Lackawanna site was the best equipped.
“I can’t emphasize enough, South Hoboken is at no cost to NJ Transit. Why would they waste $12 million when they could fund engineers and conductors? There are people commuting this morning with a one hour delay due to a disabled train in the tunnels going to Penn Station,” said Hoboken resident Tina Hahn.
Opponents of the Union Dry Dock location say NY Waterway is lobbying the Governor’s Office with false narratives about being evicted from their current maintenance site in Weehawken and won’t make public their own feasibility studies on potential locations. City leaders say the ferry operator should look to all three of the top locations in their report.
“Maybe boats are stored at Lackawanna, fueled at Binghamton and maintained at Bayonne, or some other combination that involved even more sites,” said Hoboken Councilmember Tiffanie Fisher.
“The Governor’s Office is trying to independently identify what’s in New Jersey’s best interest from a regional standpoint. That study is being conducted by NJ Transit and its professionals,” the mayor said.
NY Waterway responded Tuesday saying, “Our comments regarding the alternatives analysis have been passed on to the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the normal permit application review process. We remain confident that Union Dry Dock is the ideal location for our maintenance facility from the logistical and environmental viewpoint and look forward to the ACOE’s decision and future utilization of the site.”
The Governor’s Office and NJ Transit did not respond to requests for comment. Meanwhile, Bhalla says the city is ready and willing to take any legal action necessary to prevent this from moving forward.