NY Waterway has obtained a Corps of Engineers permit to operate a repair and maintenance facility at the Union Dry Dock site, but city officials in Hoboken, N.J., are continuing to resist the plan.

“Union Dry Dock has operated continuously for more than 100 years as a marine repair and maintenance facility.  We will continue that great tradition, using this site to keep our ferries in top condition, operating safely, cleanly and comfortably,” Arthur E. Imperatore, NY Waterway president and founder, said in a statement after the Corps issued the permit.

Hoboken city officials have fought the plan, arguing that Union Dry Dock has ecological and quality-of-life attributes that would be lost if the site is put back into commercial use.

“We are 100% committed to redoubling our efforts to fight Union Dry Dock from ever becoming a refueling station,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla wrote in an online message to city residents Dec. 12.

“In the meantime, with NY Waterway in possession of the land at Union Dry Dock, they must abide by our local ordinances and acquire all permits and approvals necessary, some of which they have not done,” said Bhalla. “If they fail to do so, I will take appropriate measures protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents.”

Imperatore said the first use of the property will be to upgrade three NY Waterway vessels with new, lower-emission diesel engines.

“Our first project at Union Dry Dock will be to continue at an accelerated pace our ongoing environmental improvement program.  We will start by installing in three of our ferries new engines, rated Tier 3 by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. These are the cleanest marine diesel engines currently available in America,” said Imperatore.

“As we have proven with our ferry terminals in New Jersey and New York, we will be good neighbors and good stewards of our waterfront.  We will improve the Union Dry Dock site and work to increase waterfront access,” he said.

But in a Dec. 11 letter to NY Waterway, lawyers for the city contended any start of new activity at Union Dry Dock would require a new conditional use permit, among other approvals from the city.

“Please note that this is intended as a courtesy only, and is not intended to be an exhaustive list of potentially applicable local approvals and authorizations,” the letter added.

Having Union Dry Dock will help NY Waterway provide better daily service and respond quickly in emergencies according to Imperatore, who noted New Jersey Transit officials most recently called on ferry operators for help three times in November when rail or bus service was disrupted.

“In the Nov. 15 snowstorm, our ferries carried about 7,000 extra passengers, with added boats and buses running late into the night to make sure commuters got home to New Jersey,” Imperatore added.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.