Jersey City City Hall
Jersey City City Hall

It was ferries, fireworks and firearms at this week’s caucus and full meeting of the Jersey City Municipal Council.

Recently, Mayor Fulop and Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley have made improving ferry service from Greenville generally, and Port Liberte specifically, a priority.

NY Waterway has signaled its intention to resume passenger ferry service from the Port Liberte dock in so, starting this summer.

On Wednesday, the  City Council voted to acquire the dockside property at the foot of Chapel Avenue from the private landowner, Liberty National Development Co., LLC, for one dollar “for the purposes of reinstating ferry service to the public,” according to the ordinance adopted by the council.

LNDC, which operates the nearby Liberty National Golf Course, “has no need of the property and wishes to dispose of it for minimal/nominal consideration,” the ordinance reads.

Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley said that ever since NY Waterway discontinued the Port Liberte-to-Manhattan and return service with the onset of covid in 2020 and a decreased ridership, her constituents in the city’s southern section have been reaching out to have it restored. “When it was operating full-throttle,” Ridley said, “it was one of the best in the city.”

The city taking ownership of the dock site “is a step in the right direction,” Ridley said.

And now the city administration is committed to doing what it can to support the revived ferry venture, short of subsidizing the operation, Barkha Patel, the city’s director of infrastructure, said at last Monday’s council caucus. A service that began, essentially as a transportation amenity for Port Liberte residents, is now regarded as part of a city-wide transportation network, she said.

There are also plans for a ferry service that would operate out of the city’s Bayfront Redevelopment Area soon to begin construction on the city’s West Side, off the Hackensack River.

Because of the costs involved in running a ferry line, the city is looking to a private operator to run the service but, by taking ownership of the terminal site, Patel said the city is hoping that under a lease agreement with the operator, it can exercise some measure of control over how it’s run, possibly by setting up a performance matrix, comparable to the criteria the city sets for Via, the privately-operated shuttle van service.

In this way, she said, the city could aim for optimum service by establishing parameters for the ferry operator to maintain specified ridership goals, keep a certain number of boats available at all times during “peak” service times and possibly keep fares within fixed limits.

Another variable the city is exploring, Patel said, is providing a mass transit link that would get commuters back and forth between the dock and inland connection sites since there is currently no direct public transportation to get people to and from the ferry site.

No municipal funds are budgeted to provide such a service, Patel said, but, instead, the city is considering tapping a grant program offered by NJ Transit that could provide a shuttle bus to provide that connection.

One possibility, though, Patel said, is applying to NJ Transit for a grant program that would pay for a shuttle bus connecting residents with the ferry dock.

“This proposed ferry expansion with transit connectivity is fully consistent with our federally required long-range transportation plan and would provide more options for travelers,” said David Behrend, Deputy Executive Director of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. “Ferries play a key role in trans-Hudson transportation and provide redundancy for disruptions of bus or rail service to and from our region.”

NY Waterway’s website–nywaterway.com—says the Port Liberte ferry site is “scheduled to open Aug. 1, 2022.”

Ferries travel between Port Liberte and Pier 11/Wall Street in Downtown Manhattan, with travel time each way listed as 17 minutes, Transfers are available at Paulus Hook to Midtown/W. 39th St. and Brookfield Place/Battery Park.

It lists a one-way fare of $13 for adults; seniors, ages 62 and older, will pay $9.75 but that is “currently only available on mobile app”; children ages 5 and younger ride free; kids ages 6 to 11 are charged $8.75.

There is a “bike surcharge” of $1.25 and a “bike and ferry pass” is available for $448.50.

Among other business, the council voted to introduce the 2022 municipal budget which calls for total spending of $695 million, of which $324 million must be raised in local taxation. A fuller explanation is expected when the council convenes a public hearing on the budget before adoption on July 18.

The council voted to expand the boundaries of the McGinley Square Special Improvement District to include Summit Avenue, between Baldwin Avenue/Clifton Place (Miralla Triangle) and Vroom Street, Montgomery Street between Baldwin and Florence Street, and the south side of Bergen Avenue/Fairview Avenue intersection. A total of 20 commercial properties and one industrial site were added to the SID as a result.

The council also awarded a $157,320 contract to Fireworks by Grucci, Inc., based in Bellport, N.Y., to provide a fireworks display on July 4 near the Exchange Place coastline. The display is described in Grucci’s bid package as a “state of the art twin theatre,” featuring 20-minute-long “Grucci high aerials and grand illuminations produced from two fireworks barges.” The fireworks is priced at $115,000; marine services, $48,070; minus a “Grucci discount” of $5,750.  Ward E Councilman James Solomon dissented, telling Jersey City Times, “We’re raising taxes significantly on homeowners (primarily due to rising school costs). We’ve got to cut back on non-essentials.”

Also over Solomon’s objections, the council renewed its contract with Donohue Gironda Doria & Tomkins LLC, of Bayonne, for accounting services for one year at a cost of $322,920 with an option for further renewals. The firm’s price was listed as the lower of two bids received.

In a prepared statement, Solomon said the firm “has been routinely delinquent in turning around their audit of the city budget” and “has made several donations to political candidates and super PACs throughout Hudson County and the country. Because they are required to be independent, nonpartisan auditors, a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest puts the integrity of their work into question.”

The Jersey City Times emailed the city spokeswoman for comment but received no reply.

The council adopted a resolution co-sponsored by Ward F Councilman Frank Gilmore and Solomon honoring National Gun Violence Awareness Day in Jersey City and citing the work of Pamela Johnson as executive director of Hudson Partnership CMO, a Jersey City-based grassroots anti-gun violence group which connects victims of gun violence to resources and services.

Said Gilmore: “I think this resolution is a step in the right direction with regards to highlighting gun violence in our community. It’s also important to acknowledge that this resolution doesn’t just speak to mass shootings but also includes the everyday gun violence that plagues our city.”

And Solomon added he was “proud to honor those members of our community working relentlessly to combat gun violence and its effects. It is the most pressing problem facing our city and it is my moral obligation to do everything in my power to combat it by funding and supporting the communities that are harmed by it.”

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Ron Leir

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...