The Port Authority of New York and the State of New Jersey agreed to purchase approximately 130 acres of property at the Marine Ocean Terminal at Bayonne, known as MOTBY, which it has been seeking for years as a site for expansion of port facilities, possibly as an auto terminal.
The Port Authority said the MOTBY property will add 4.5 percent to its total port acreage on both sides of the Hudson River, and represents a strategic move to ensure scarce waterfront land remains available for port commerce under public stewardship.
The Port Authority said no decisions have been made yet on how to redevelop the parcel, which represents nearly one-third of the total MOTBY peninsula, but the agency’s action will lock in the land for port use and preclude other development.
The property, which is on a channel that is being dredged down to 50 feet by the Army Corps of Engineers, would be an ideal site for a new container terminal because large post-Panamax ships would not have to pass under the Bayonne Bridge to reach it. But Bayonne officials previously insisted the site be declared off-limits as a container terminal, which they said would create too much noise and traffic, and the port had agreed to use it as an auto terminal.
The port authority tentatively agreed to pay the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority a total of $235 million over 24 years to obtain title to the Hudson River property together with permanent easements over the roadways on the MOTBY peninsula for operational and emergency use. The BLRA voted Thursday night to authorize the deal.
The port authority tried to buy 153 acres on the MOTBY site in 2008, but a Hudson County judge ruled that the BLRA was within its rights when it rescinded a contract to sell the property to the port authority for $50.5 million and then sold the land to Ports America for $90 million.
The port authority said in its announcement late Thursday that it “remains confident that the shipping industry will rebound and come back strong” from the recent economic downturn, and that it will make certain it has the capacity to meet future demand.
“Keeping New Jersey’s ports competitive is vital to the state’s long-term economic growth,” said Governor Chris Christie. “This acquisition will enhance future business opportunities and help spur job creation.”
Gov. Christie and the Port Authority are working together to bolster New Jersey’s port facilities. This week, the agency announced it is fast-tracking a review of environmental issues to help speed modification or replacement of the Bayonne Bridge, which is too low to accommodate larger vessels anticipated at the port after the Panama Canal widening is completed by mid-decade.
The Port Authority said both it and Gov. Christie are committed to finding a cost-effective solution to fixing the Bayonne Bridge to ensure the long-term health of Ports Newark and Elizabeth and Howland Hook on Staten Island.
Last month, the authority also approved a plan to purchase and redevelop Greenville Yards rail yard along the Hudson River in Jersey City, just north of MOTBY. With expected completion in 2013, the new facility will help remove as many as 360,000 trash trucks annually from trans-Hudson crossings and New Jersey highways by moving New York City sealed containerized solid waste and other commodities by barge and rail.
The port authority’s environmental engineers have reviewed environmental studies prepared by consultants for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the BLRA, and found there are no material environmental issues that would preclude future development of the tract. Attempting to create port property by developing underwater lands would carry significantly higher costs to the agency and bring up extensive environmental issues.
MOTBY is currently home to 38 different businesses whose lease payments and tariffs will cover all the agency’s operational costs on the peninsula.
The city of Bayonne created MOTBY in 1937 by putting millions of cubic yards of hydraulic fill from New York Harbor into bulkheads. In 1941, the U.S. Navy obtained the peninsula for use as a dry dock and supply base, before the U.S. Army acquired it in 1967. MOTBY was designated for closure in 1995 and the property eventually was transferred to the BLRA, which officially renamed it The Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor. The BLRA recently expressed interest in selling the 130-acre section to the Port Authority.
-- Contact Peter T. Leach at email@example.com.