The largest ferry operator in the New York region is looking to build a new refueling and maintenance complex they say will better serve commuters, but some locals and officials have already begun early pushback against the proposal.
Jersey Digs has learned that NY Waterway is looking to significantly expand an existing maintenance facility they operate on land within Weehawken’s Port Imperial neighborhood. The stretch of property the company owns falls between the Molos restaurant and 1200 Avenue along the township’s waterfront.
Leaked plans obtained by Jersey Digs detail a proposal to build a two-story refueling and maintenance building that juts out along a pier-like structure. The facility’s blueprint would give NY Waterway the ability to house 28 ferry boats at the property, a significant expansion from the current capacity.
The entirety of the complex would span about 675,000 square feet and would require building a support wall into the Hudson River that stretches out 700 feet. The Weehawken plans come on the heels of a failed proposal from NY Waterway to build a maintenance and refueling facility at Hoboken’s Union Dry Dock site, a proposal that also drew significant public pushback.
A lengthy legal battle over the Hoboken scheme ended earlier this year with a settlement agreement that saw NY Waterway sell the land to Hoboken for about $18.5 million. The city plans to convert the three-acre parcel into open space.
Unlike the once-envisioned Hoboken facility, NY Waterway’s Weehawken proposal would still allow for a current pathway and greenspace along the Hudson River to remain. But some locals are nonetheless concerned about the plan and have started a Facebook group called Weehawken Residents Against Ferry Pollution.
“There are several environmental and human concerns that arise after reviewing these plans and it’s evident that no environmental and pollution study has been done by the decision makers,” the group’s mission statement reads. A flyer put together over the proposal also claims NY Waterway intends to dredge a significant amount of polluted soil as part of the potential facility’s construction.
Despite the leaked plans, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner told Jersey Digs in an interview that the township has not received an official application from NY Waterway. Any expansion of the existing facility would need planning board approval and Turner doubts that a green light is in the cards.
“I can’t see the expansion going forward at all,” Turner said. “It will be a very difficult sell.”
While the current Weehawken maintenance facility was always envisioned as temporary, it has nonetheless been in operation for over 20 years. Turner says that any acceptable complex or relocation from NY Waterway needs to be a statewide solution and is hopeful that the federal government’s recent $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill could assist in financing a solution.
Locals now await the next move from NY Waterway, a company that has been plagued with controversies over the last few years. Besides the contentious Hoboken land fight, two former employees blew the whistle to The New York Times last year by detailing how the company allegedly dumped unfiltered waste from their boats into the Hudson River over the course of several years.
Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard took almost two-thirds of the company’s ferry boats out of service in 2019 after inspections revealed the boats to be “operationally unfit.”