Hoboken Authorizes Use of Eminent Domain for Union Dry Dock

union dry dock
Union Dry Dock. Image via City of Hoboken.

From the days of heavy industry through its redevelopment into a modern metropolis, the Mile Square City’s waterfront has gone through more than its fair share of drama.

Current issues along the Hudson River include a derelict pier on 15th Street and litigation over a hotel project, but residents could be getting clarity around the future of a 3.15-acre parcel at 901 Sinatra Drive very soon.

On September 4, Hoboken’s council unanimously approved a final ordinance that authorizes the city to use eminent domain as part of their efforts to turn the property into a park. Ferry company NY Waterway had purchased the land, known as the Union Dry Dock, back in November of 2017 for $11.5 million.

NY Waterway gained approvals in December from the Army Corp of Engineers to build a refueling, maintenance, and repair facility at the site based on the Hudson River being a federal waterway.

But the company never submitted an application or gained approvals from Hoboken’s planning board to move forward with the project, which caused the city to issue a Stop Work order for the property in February.

The specifics of the project were finally revealed in April when renderings of the proposed facility were leaked to Hudson County View. An old-school brawl reminiscent of the “On the Waterfront” days broke out between city officials and NY Waterway in the following months.

Union Dry Dock Ny Waterway Plan Hoboken 1
NY Waterway plan for facility at Union Dry Dock, Hoboken. Rendering via NY Waterway.

Still without local approvals, NY Waterway sued Hoboken in June as part of an effort to restart construction at their property, stating they had “the necessary state and federal permits and the site has the proper zoning.”

Hudson County Superior Court Judge Jeffery Jablonski disagreed with NY Waterway the next month, ruling that New York Waterway’s claim of a pending regional transportation crisis was “unsubstantiated” while throwing out their lawsuit.

Following the legal victory, city officials have been taking steps to acquire the land for themselves. Integra Realty Resources appraised the Union Dry Dock property on July 1 for $13.1 million and the ordinance authorizing eminent domain reserves funds from the city’s bonds and notes toward purchasing the land.

“Today, Hoboken is one critical step closer to achieving our decades long dream of a public, waterfront park at Union Dry Dock,” said Mayor Bhalla in a statement following the vote.

“We cannot and will not give up this opportunity to create a contiguous waterfront our children can enjoy for generations to come. I look forward to beginning good faith negotiations with New York Waterway to acquire Union Dry Dock in a process that is fair to both parties.”

Union Dry Dock Park Plan Hoboken 2
Waterfront park plan for Union Dry Dock, Hoboken. Image courtesy Fund for a Better Waterfront.

NY Waterway is still looking to relocate from their existing Weehawken refueling facility, which they recently profiled on CBS New York. The company claims everything runs on a generator at the outdated facility, which is located in Port Imperial at property the company owns.

New Jersey Transit could still acquire the Union Dry Dock property on behalf of NY Waterway, as their state authority would supersede Hoboken’s. A plan to do just that was tabled last year, but Governor Phil Murphy stressed last week his desire to find “common ground” on the Union Dry Dock debate.

There has been no timetable announced as to when negotiations with the city could begin, but NY Waterway has repeatedly stated that they will fight to keep the property.



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