The MWA is a network of community activists, organizations, and concerned individuals with the shared interest of reconnecting the urban landscapes of New York and New Jersey to the waterfront. The MWA works through education, grassroots organizing, and media advocacy to lobby government and industry decision-makers when it comes to matters that affect the harbor, rivers, and estuaries of New York and New Jersey. The conference consisted of several paneled discussions and lectures on topics such as, "How Clean are Our Coasts and Shores?," "Restoring the Natural Edge," and "The Hudson River Waterfront Walkway."
In his speech, the governor noted the important link between the success of the metropolitan area and its waterfront. "New Jersey's urban waterways need to be the centerpiece of smart growth," said McGreevey. "The waterfront is an essential component of New Jersey's economic, environmental, and transportation infrastructure, as well as a key element of our commitment to provide safety and security for all of our citizens."
McGreevey said that he is committed to three major aspects of waterfront utilization and revitalization. First, he said, he is committed to improving public access to the waterfront and recreational and cultural sites. Second, he stressed the need to promote the maritime economy while simultaneously taking steps to protect New Jersey's environment and natural resources, especially the Meadowlands. Finally, McGreevey's plan calls for the expansion of ferry and rail transportation to reduce congestion and pollution.
The governor especially lauded the city of Hoboken for its efforts at Castle Point Park. The waterfront park was established through a unique public-private partnership involving the Department of Environmental Protection's New Jersey Coastal Zone Management Program, the city of Hoboken, and Stevens Institute of Technology.
On January 4, 1995, according to Stevens officials, the school leased the land for what is now Castle Point Park to the city. The city leased it from Stevens for 50 years at $1 per year and got funds from the state DEP for a park. According to Stevens, the school intends to allow them to keep it as a park indefinitely.
"Castle Point Park is a good example of a public-private partnership that has yielded results," said McGreevey in his speech.
McGreevey also said that the state is committed to improving access to the waterfront through projects such as the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, an 18.5 mile promenade that will provide commuters with access to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, PATH and ferry boats, and an uninterrupted recreational trail. "To ensure the success of the waterfront area, we must treat the region as one singular, interconnected network," he said. "Decisions should not be made without understanding the impact upon the entire region."
Time for maritime
The governor then moved from issues of waterfront access to those of maritime industries and growth. According to state figures, the maritime economy has a total annual economic impact of $29 billion on New Jersey's economy through cargo, cargo handling, and transportation and related jobs. "Our administration is working on a comprehensive port improvement plan for developing the port of New York and New Jersey over the next 60 years," he said. "Through a consortium of state, federal, and local agencies, we're putting together an economically viable and environmentally sound blueprint for the future."
The governor closed his speech by discussing environmental issues. He chose to focus on the state of the Meadowlands and outlined plans to protect and enhance the New Jersey Meadowlands area. "The 32-square mile Hackensack Meadowlands District contains a significant portion of the open space remaining in urbanized northeastern New Jersey," he said. "The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission has pursued an aggressive policy designed to protect as much of that undeveloped acreage as possible."
Roberts' opening remarks
While McGreevey gave sweeping statewide goals, Mayor Roberts focused squarely on Hoboken in his 10-minute discussion. He talked about his desire to reconnect with the river and fully explore scientific and commercial opportunities presented by the Hudson River.
"Over the last 15 to 20 years, many residents in our community fought to ensure that our waterfront would be accessible, and ensure that the waterfront walkway from Bayonne up to the George Washington Bridge would be a reality," said Roberts. [As mandated by state law, developers building along the Hudson River are currently adding portions of this walkway.] "I would like to commend these concerned citizens for their efforts over the years for fighting the good fight," Roberts said. "However, the challenge of the next generation is to recapture the romance of the Hudson River and its maritime history."
The mayor then moved on to discuss commercial opportunities and the possibility of bringing a cruise ship to the mile-square city. "About 1,000 feet from where we are now, tens of thousands of US soldiers departed for Europe to fight in World War I in the early part of this century," he said. "Today, there is a cruise line that is interested in restoring this grand room and operating mid-sized cruise ships. Clearly, sound urban planning is needed to ensure the accompanying parking and traffic needs are properly addressed. But the prospect of bringing back to life the Lackawanna Terminal, tied to a thriving cruise line that is synergetic with a planned hotel for Hoboken, is an opportunity that we must explore."
Roberts also talked about several projects Stevens is planning on undertaking to utilize the "scientific" aspects of the Hudson River. "[Stevens President] Hal Raveche and the Stevens Institute of Technology have been very helpful to Hoboken," said Roberts. "Stevens is planning a new Center for Maritime Systems which will conduct critical scientific research on issues related to marine transportation, marine environmental engineering, and naval architecture. In conjunction with the Hoboken-Stevens Partnership for Public Education, it is a real possibility that Hoboken middle and high school students can board and research vessels at the Center for Maritime Systems, venture out into the Hudson River to perform estuary science experiments, and then return to a technologically advanced Hoboken-Stevens Lab School to analyze the data for the school project."
On the same day that Gov. James McGreevey was giving a state of the waterfront address at the 95-year old abandoned Hoboken Ferry Terminal, NJ Transit was busy announcing plans to fast track the renovation and restoration of the historic ferry slips.
The NJ Transit Board of Directors announced Wednesday advanced plans to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to restore six original ferry slips at the Hoboken Erie Lackawanna Terminal.
Also at the meeting, the board set aside an additional $2.95 million, funded by the Port Authority, to allow the STV Group of New York City to perform preliminary engineering services for the restoration of the ferry slips, part of NJ Transit's overall restoration of the Hoboken Terminal and yard.
The Port Authority hopes to have ferry service operating from the restored ferry slips within the next four to five years.
Wednesday's announcement is part of an initial $8 million commitment by the Port Authority to design the ferry slip restoration project. Construction of the permanent ferry terminal is estimated to cost up to $65 million, which is part of the overall restoration of the Hoboken Terminal.
"The Historic Hoboken Terminal is gradually getting back to its early 20th century roots, providing a key transfer point for New Jersey residents traveling to the Big Apple," said Jamie Fox, NJ Transit Board Chairman and New Jersey Transportation Commissioner. "Thanks to the support of the Port Authority, thousands of NJ Transit rail, light rail, and bus customers will be able to take advantage of this expanded ferry operation."
The original ferry slips at the Hoboken Terminal were built in 1907 by the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad. The renovations include reconstructing a portion of the building's substructure and superstructure, constructing a ferry service ticket office, restoring the building's roof and Tiffany skylights, restoring the copper fascia on the exterior of the building and waterproofing, insulating the exterior walls near the ferry slips, restoring the interior finishes of the ferry terminal area, and performing utility and marine work to support the new ferry operation.
Since Sept. 11, use of New Jersey ferries has skyrocketed. According to numbers supplied by the Port Authority, the average number of daily rush hour ferry trips on all routes between New Jersey and Manhattan has increased from 17,000 to 28,000. The increase is mainly due to the loss of PATH service to lower Manhattan and vehicular restrictions in and out of New York.
"Since Sept. 11, the Port Authority has used its transportation expertise and financial resources to develop new ways for people to get to and from work," said PA Chairman Jack Sinagra Wednesday. "The ferry has since become a lifeline for thousands of New Jersey residents who previously took PATH trains to the World Trade Center. By improving the historic Hoboken Terminal, we will provide the infrastructure necessary to increase service to and from Manhattan."
Another reason the Port Authority gives for the need for renovations is that in September a new stop for the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail service will reach the Hoboken Terminal, which will provide another key transportation link to the ferries. Currently, according to NJ Transit, the Hoboken Terminal is served by more than 280 daily NJ Transit train trips, 546 daily PATH trips and more than 3,000 daily NJ Transit buses, in addition to other private bus carriers serving Hudson County. - Tom Jennemann