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Update from Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla regarding a public, waterfront park at Union Dry Dock

Below is an update from Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla provided to residents today regarding the creation of a public, waterfront park at Union Dry Dock.

Dear Resident,

I write to provide an update on the Union Dry Dock property. As you may know, transitioning the former Union Dry Dock site into a public, waterfront park has been one of my highest priorities as Mayor, and we have made critical progress to that end. Last month, I was pleased to share the news that Hoboken had deposited the appraised value of the land of $13.36 million with the courts, and has officially taken title to the Union Dry Dock property.

We are fully committed to the next step in the process of building out Maritime Park at the formerly known Union Dry Dock site, while also ensuring that we are supporting New York Waterway’s mass transit infrastructure as they undergo a transition. To that end, my office requested proposals from professional firms to help guide the public process to design a waterfront park that is reflective of the needs of our community. We have evaluated 17 responsive proposals from highly qualified firms and will soon be deciding, through the evaluation process, the firm we believe is best suited to be awarded a contract for the concept design of Maritime Park. We will be placing a contract for this firm on the next City Council agenda on February 15, and soon after, conduct our first public meeting to solicit community input on potential park designs. I envision a similar public process that we undertook for other open space projects, which includes the soon to be completed Northwest Resiliency Park.

On a parallel track, we have worked diligently with New York Waterway to provide the parameters of a lease for their interim use of the former Union Dry Dock site, so they can conduct temporary ferry operations while the process of building out an alternative permanent site, outside of Hoboken, continues. I am pleased that my administration has negotiated this lease, in cooperation with NYWW and their legal team, that is acceptable to both sides, which was adopted on first reading (two readings are required) by the Hoboken City Council last night. Thank you to the eight Councilmembers who approved the lease on first reading.

The lease currently includes the following provisions and allowances:

  1.  A period of approximately three years to conduct temporary ferry operations. This time period can potentially be extended by no more than two years at the request of NYWW.
  2. The lease conditioned on NYWW receiving all building and zoning permits from the City of Hoboken, which we anticipate they will receive given the existing zoning that allows for industrial uses, as well as permits from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to temporarily utilize Union Dry Dock, both of which we have full confidence will be granted.
  3. Storage of approximately 20 ferry boats onsite overnight, with maintenance and repairs of the boats as the primary use of the site.
  4. Operations between the hours of 6 am and 10 pm, with starting, operating and moving ferryboats permitted outside of these hours.
  5. On-site parking and access to the site of employees of NYWW.
  6. Construction of temporary improvements to the bulkhead and piers, to allow for various ferry maintenance and repair operations, as well as other site utility upgrades.
  7. Limited secondary refueling operations, which are only permitted when its current primary fueling station outside of Hoboken is not available for use and are anticipated to take place for a short time when the primary fueling station is upgraded. All limited secondary refueling operations are required to take place by land with fuel trucks, unless there is an emergency.
  8. NYWW’s operations will be concentrated on the southern end of the Union Dry Dock land, with no operations on the north side of the north pier in Hoboken Cove. This will also allow the City to begin the process of expanding Sinatra Drive, as a part of the Sinatra Drive redesign project to revitalize the waterfront roadway.

NYWW has indicated that boats will primarily be moved offsite during early morning hours, and returned to the site during the later evening hours.

While I know that NYWW temporarily utilizing Union Dry Dock for various operations is not what everyone wants to see at the site, and it may have some inconveniences  in the near future, I truly believe this compromise is in the best interests of both Hoboken residents who want to see a permanent park at this site, and ensuring NYWW’s ferry operations are able to continue functioning at a high level, and at the very least, functioning at all. At the end of the day, this compromise and lease is the fastest, most convenient, and cooperative way to build out a park without additional delays and minimizing risks of further litigation.

If NYWW’s temporary ferry operations are needed beyond the time Hoboken takes to design the park and begin park construction (and within the terms of the lease), we will construct the park in phases beginning with the buildout of the park on the portion of the property that NYWW is not utilizing. We will then proceed to build out the remaining site that will have previously been utilized by NYWW when they have vacated the property.  

I believe that this approach, of planning for a public park with a public process and a professional firm to help guide us while NYWW temporarily uses the site, will allow both Hoboken and NYWW to achieve their ultimate goals: for Hoboken, to utilize the near future to plan for the design of a public park and ultimately build it out through a phased approach, and for NYWW, to utilize this time during the design process and for a short time after, to transition their ferry operations through the temporary use at Union Dry Dock to an alternative location.

I greatly appreciate members of the Hoboken Community Cove Boathouse, as well as other waterfront advocacy groups who have reached out to me regarding their concern for aspects of the temporary uses of the site. I completely understand these concerns, and I have confidence that we will be able to work cooperatively with NYWW to help minimize these impacts. To that end, the lease requires NYWW to undertake all efforts necessary to ensure the health and safety of recreational users of the Hudson River. This includes following all required rules and regulations as required by law, such as communication guidelines for boat safety, giving way to human powered boaters, and limiting waking when near Union Dry Dock and paddling/boating activities. The lease agreement also requires regular meetings with the operations team at NYWW, so we can review safety and discuss any community concerns.

I also offer my sincere thanks to NYWW Chairman Armand Pohan and his team for working with us on the terms of this lease, and for their partnership over the past two years. We look forward to working cooperatively and in partnership with NYWW in the months and years ahead.

After five long, hard fought years, I’m excited for what is to come for Hoboken at this site, with an eventual beautiful waterfront park generations of Hoboken residents will be able to enjoy for many years to come.

My office will be sure to notify residents on the date of the first public meeting regarding the park design, and I look forward to engaging with the community on this topic. I hope this update has been helpful, and thank residents once again for making their voices heard and for helping us get to this point.

Sincerely,

Ravi S. Bhalla
Mayor

The Hoboken City Council approved a lease agreement with New York Waterway on first reading by a 7-1-1 vote. Councilmembers Mike DeFusco, Mike Russo, Ruben Ramos, Phil Cohen, Emily Jabbour, Jim Doyle, and Joe Quintero voted in favor. Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher abstained. Councilwoman Jen Giattino vote against the first reading ordinance. The ordinance will come before the Council for second and final reading on Wednesday, Feb. 15.  

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