Murphy: 'Irresponsible' ferry vote is proof NJ Transit wants overhaul

Governor-elect Phil Murphy has demanded that NJ Transit postpone a vote scheduled for Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday on the controversial purchase of Hoboken waterfront property for use as a ferry maintenance yard.

Murphy, who due to be sworn-in Tuesday to replace Gov. Chris Christie, issued a statement blasting the proposed purchase as “irresponsible” in light of the transit agency’s struggling finances, and insensitive to Hoboken residents and officials who want the property for a new Hudson River park and the last link in the city’s waterfront walkway.

“This deal, being rushed through on the last day of the Christie administration – and on a federal holiday, no less – is emblematic of everything the public has come to loathe about NJ Transit and another reason why it needs a complete overhaul,” Murphy said in a statement Friday.

“Giving away millions of dollars on the way out the door, when the current system isn’t even adequately funded, is simply irresponsible,” Murphy added. “Out of fairness to the taxpaying public, this vote must be postponed and NJTransit’s board must follow a more thoughtful approach that listens to all voices, including those of local residents and elected officials.”

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, the first Sikh to be elected mayor in New Jersey, said in a tweet that the timing of the meeting was “disgraceful.”

The measure being considered by NJ Transit’s board of directors would authorize staffers to purchase the 3-acre Union Dry Dock site from New York Waterway, then lease the site back to the company for its use as a ferry maintenance yard. New York Waterway purchased the property in November for $11.5 million from the company that formerly operated the dry dock — Hoboken’s last working shipyard — and NJ Transit was expected to pay about the same price.

New York Waterway says it ferries about 30,000 daily commuters between New Jersey and New York, and NJ Transit says the ferry system is a key component of the trans-Hudson transportation network, both on a regular basis and during emergency situations like last year’s “Summer of Hell” rail service restrictions at Penn Station New York. 

Purchasing the dry dock and leasing it back to New York Waterway would ensure it is used as a ferry yard by protecting it from seizure by Hoboken, where last fall the City Council authorized acquiring the property from its private owner, if necessary by the city’s power of eminent domain. New York Waterway needs a new maintenance yard because the owner of its current location on the Weehawken waterfront is developing the site as housing.

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