Only 393 of the piles holding up Pier A on Hoboken’s south waterfront – or 29 percent – are functioning as designed and pose no immediate concern, according to an engineering study commissioned recently by the city of Hoboken.
When a portion of Sinatra Drive North, a county road, collapsed into the Hudson River on Oct. 8 of last year, it prompted concern in Hoboken about the stability of the city’s waterfront. Now, after an inspection of properties public and private, a “surprising” discovery shows Pier A Park, only 10 years old, is in need of $3.6 million in repairs. And that’s not all.
“The deterioration on these pilings is significant and requires immediate attention.” – Joseph Pomante
Despite these new concerns, Mayor Dawn Zimmer said residents should not worry about another collapse.
“I want to assure the public that Pier A is fully safe at this time,” Zimmer said. “But in order to ensure that it remains safe going forward and to prevent costs from rising significantly, we will need to move quickly to rehabilitate Pier A.”
In the engineering report from Boswell to the city, Joseph Pomante, city engineer and Boswell representative, recommended urgent action. Boswell performed a structural analysis of the entire pier, and said the pilings are capable of supporting the loads imposed on the pier.
“However, the deterioration on these pilings is significant and requires immediate attention,” Pomante said. “Choosing to do nothing now will not only exacerbate the situation but also ensure that future repairs become even more costly, since all beam exposure and sectional loss will only worsen with time.”
Examining the Pier A damage
Pier A Park sits on 1,354 pilings. Sixty seven of the pilings were not inspected for reasons that include severe corrosion or inaccessibility.
Of the 1,354 piles, 894 have an exposed I-beam, meaning the mud line has receded, putting the piles in danger of exposure to the river waters which can cause deterioration. As an example, each I-beam should have a thickness of 0.615 inches, but on 45 of the piles, the thickness ranged from 0.240 inches to 0.582 inches.
“Our cost estimate for the construction work to repair the piles is $3 million, with an additional $600,00 estimated for design, construction inspection, and permitting, bringing the total for all the work to $3.6 million,” Pomante said.
Zimmer called the news about Pier A the “most surprising part of Boswell’s findings,” and asked Boswell to create specifications for the repairs so the project can be put out to bid.
The city is currently operating with a cash surplus of approximately $10 million, and Zimmer said some of the funding for this repair will come from the city’s “bonding capacity and/or surplus.”
Rebuilding Sinatra Park and Castle Point; other areas
Ever since a portion of Sinatra Park collapsed in 2009 and part of the pier at Castle Point gave way in 2007, those areas have been closed to the public. Under the new recommendations from Boswell, Hoboken will have to spend even more than the $12 million raised by bonding in 2010.
“Based on our revised engineer’s estimates the city should budget an additional 25 percent, or $3 million for both projects, primarily due to increased piles and platform costs at Sinatra Field given the more accurate shoreline/bulkhead information,” Pomante said.
In December, Zimmer proposed re-building Sinatra Park on land, instead of on the piers, because of additional costs and maintenance. Last week she stated that it may be too complicated to re-draw the designs because permits have been filed to rebuild the park as it stands. But with the new information, she is revisiting the on-land park idea, saying in an open letter to residents that the city should “seriously consider the alternative of rebuilding Sinatra Park on land, instead of building on piles over the water.”
The recommendations from Boswell also call for $550,000 to be spent on sea wall/steel sheet pile bulkheads from south of Sinatra Field to the Hoboken Terminal area, as well as $137,500 to rehabilitate the existing sea wall north of Castle Point.
The full information for the private properties under inspection was not released in the report. Pomante said in the report that inspections had been done near Stevens Institute of Technology, Maxwell LLC, the New York Waterway Pier, and the Tea Building, mostly uptown properties. Still left to investigate is the area near the Shipyard, the uptown area where Sinatra Drive North collapsed.
“Due to the nature of the properties, Boswell will reserve comment on the specific condition of the individual structures until all data is evaluated,” Pomante said. Since the properties are private, the city will not foot the bill for rehabilitation of these properties.
However, the report does not show anything to be optimistic about once the individual findings are released, as the conditions of the private properties vary from “fair to poor,” according to Boswell’s findings.
What causes the problems?
While many of the problems facing Hoboken’s waterfront stem from erosion and regular wear and tear, one major problem stems from “shipworms,” a kind of underwater parasite that burrows into wooden structures, including pilings. The shipworms have been around for centuries, but are making a return due to reduced Hudson River pollution.
The creature burrows into submerged wood, and lives inside, leaving wooden structures riddled with holes. They can live up to six weeks sealed in the wood. The individual shipworms typically live between one and three years.
The city appears to be more reluctant to build on piers, as Zimmer said in her letter to the public that “maintaining parks built on piers over the water will continue to be very expensive for the City of Hoboken.”
Zimmer said a community meeting will be held once the full evaluation of the waterfront is complete, and the full results will be made public.
Sinatra Drive North road collapse update
The impetus for the waterfront wide inspection was the road collapse on Oct. 8 of Sinatra Drive North near 13th and 14th streets. The Hudson County Board of Freeholders voted on Jan. 13 to approve a $2.1 million contract to Sparwick Contracting, Inc., of Lafayette, N.J., for the repair of the road.
The work stabilizing the section will be completed by May, according to officials. They said the work has been ongoing even during the recent snowstorms in order to make sure the area is stable. The work will cause a high level of noise.
The county has applied to the State Department of Transportation for aid to pay for the repair, but if this is not granted, officials say the county will use aid it gets from the state, diverting it from other projects.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com