The Port Imperial Marina property owned by NY Waterway through Romulus Development Corp.

FBW | March 27, 2023

On March 22, 2023, the Weehawken Township Council approved a resolution laying the groundwork for condemning the 25.8 acres over the Hudson River owned by Romulus Development Corporation where NY Waterway’s refueling and maintenance activities take place and an additional 23-acre site on land, owned by Port Imperial Marina, LLC, that provides access to the water site.

In 1981, Arthur E. Imperatore, Sr., through Romulus Development Corp., acquired 342 vacant acres at the Weehawken and West New York waterfront from a bankrupt Penn Central Railroad. Impertore had grand, ambitious plans to develop this land and founded the NY Waterway ferry company so that its residents had a direct, speedy commute to Manhattan.

Since the 1980s, NY Waterway has operated its ferry maintenance and refueling facility at the Weehawken waterfront. Today, most of Weehawken’s waterfront has been developed and its new residents are not happy with the noise, pollution and boat traffic associated with the diesel ferry facility. Several years ago, when these residents saw plans for a greatly expanded maintenance, storage and refueling operation they pressed their mayor, Richard Turner, not to approve this proposal.

Mayor Turner told the Jersey Journal that the township could begin eminent domain proceedings to force NY Waterway out if another location could not be found to share the maintenance services. Turner told the Journal, “We’re hoping that we will be able to open the door for some form of regional solution.”

On February 15, the Hoboken City Council approved a three-year lease with NY Waterway to use most of the 8.2-acre Union Dry Dock property for maintenance, storage and refueling, with an option to renew for another two years. Hoboken acquired the site through eminent domain with the cooperation of NY Waterway who had purchased the property in November of 2017.

This lease was intended to be temporary while NY Waterway rebuilt its facility in Weehawken, part of an agreement negotiated between the City of Hoboken, the ferry company and Governor Murphy. At the February Council meeting, objectors to the lease agreement raised concerns about the uncertain future of a new maintenance facility at the Weehawken waterfront.

In 2009, NJ Transit conducted an exhaustive study entitled Ferry Berthing and Maintenance Facility – Alternative Site Analysis. The study identified five sites along New Jersey’s Hudson River coastline that were deemed more suitable for a maintenance facility than the Union Dry Dock site. The Hoboken Train/Ferry Terminal, owned by NJ Transit, was determined to be the optimal location. The two Weehawken locations — the Port Imperial Ferry Terminal and the Port Imperial Marina — were ranked two and three respectively.

In November 2017, Hoboken’s mayor and its residents were stunned when news broke that NY Waterway had purchased the Union Dry Dock site and that NJ Transit had plans to buy it and lease it back to the ferry company for refueling and maintenance of its ferry fleet. Mayor Bhalla and the Hoboken community fought back and after a fierce, multi-year battle reached the settlement in June 2021 allowing the City to acquire the dry dock property for a public park.

The City of Hoboken has utilized $13.36 million from the municipal Open Space Trust Fund (OSTFP) to acquire the Union Dry Dock property. The OSTF ordinance, approved by the voters of Hoboken in 2007, requires that Hoboken’s lease agreement with NY Waterway also be approved by the voters in a referendum.

In November 2020, Arthur Imperatore, Sr. passed away at the age of 95. Armand Pohan, Mr. Imperatore’s stepson, serves as Chairman of NY Waterway/Port Imperial Ferry Corporation as well as Romulus Development Corporation.

Richard Turner has served as mayor of Weehawken for more than 32 years, served as Congressman Albio Sires’ District Director from 2006 through 2023 and has been town manager for several other north Hudson municipalities.