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Hoboken waterfront battle takes another twist

April 4, 2018

The battle between the state’s transit agency, a ferry company and the city of Hoboken over a waterfront property has taken another twist.

Hoboken’s city council is scheduled to vote Wednesday night on rescinding an offer to buy the land, which has been used for more than a century as a marine maintenance site, in order to convert it into a public park.

NY Waterway currently owns the property and wants to use it as a maintenance facility for its commuter ferries that run between New Jersey and New York.

In the middle is New Jersey Transit, which has postponed several votes on whether to acquire the property and lease it to NY Waterway, a move that would prevent the city from buying it.

Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla made an $11.6 million offer to NY Waterway recently as part of a move to take the property by eminent domain, then agreed to rescind the offer this week in an agreement with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

The latest vote was to be Wednesday but was postponed until Thursday. If the council votes to terminate Hoboken’s eminent domain effort as expected, Thursday’s vote would be postponed and the parties would try to reach an agreement on an alternate site, perhaps in nearby Bayonne.

“I am encouraged by the fact that despite a lack of communication in the past, there is a willingness to all parties to get to the table and find a way forward,” Bhalla said Wednesday.

It is the latest twist in a dispute going back to last year when NY Waterway bought the land and then-Republican Gov. Chris Christie authorized $12 million for NJ Transit to purchase the property.

Things reached a head in January when NJ Transit scheduled a vote on a Wednesday but not enough board members were in attendance to reach a quorum of four.

The vote was postponed for two days, and then again to the following Monday, which happened to be Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Christie’s last full day in office. Murphy criticized the holiday scheduling of the vote and urged a postponement, and the matter was not taken up at the meeting.

On Wednesday, Murphy spokesman Mahen Gunaratna said, “the governor’s office continues to coordinate with all parties involved to determine an ultimate solution that both respects the voices of the local community and the needs of one of our most vital transportation partners.”

An NJ Transit spokesman did not immediately comment. In a statement scheduled to be read at Wednesday’s council meeting, NY Waterway founder Arthur Imperatore said he would unveil a proposal in the coming weeks that would “permit the parties to peacefully coexist and provide Hoboken residents with a wonderful facility that meets the needs of both.” No specifics were mentioned.

In an op-ed piece in March, Imperatore wrote that the Hoboken location was the only site suited to NY Waterway due to its deep water, piers and heavy electrical power.

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