Hoboken Yard: A no-brainer for Gov. Murphy

Mark Longo. (File photo)

Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled his economic vision for the state. His plan includes the goal of driving faster job growth than any other state in the Northeast, adding 300,000 jobs by 2025. To jumpstart that effort, the governor should first unlock the opportunities that lie in waiting.

The Hoboken Yard redevelopment is an economic development home run for the state of New Jersey. Or it should be, at least.

The project has already been endorsed by Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and approved by the city council.

Its vast economic benefits are on par with or surpass that of the American Dream mall. The project would create tens of thousands of jobs — including middle-class, union construction jobs — here in New Jersey. It would also generate millions in annual tax revenues and billions in annual spending.

The project would help provide an answer to New Jersey Transit’s chronic funding problem by delivering more than $200 million in non-farebox revenue for the agency and $80 million in infrastructure improvements for Hoboken Terminal.

What is now an underutilized and dilapidated building with decades of deferred maintenance would become a world-class transit hub. Its historic spaces would be preserved and reactivated for public use for the first time in nearly 50 years. And the non-farebox revenue could be invested throughout the system.

The Hoboken Yard redevelopment is our chance to rejuvenate NJ Transit, restore Hoboken Terminal to its former glory as the icon and center of community it once was, and reimagine the site not only as an entry point to the city, but as a destination in its own right.

It’s also our best opportunity to amplify economic growth in the state and position New Jersey for the next Amazon.

The hang-up, it would seem, is the placement of a critically important project, the Rebuild by Design resiliency wall. Funded by a federal grant awarded in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the wall will help protect Hoboken from future storm surge and flooding.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is currently pursuing an RBD wall alignment that would eliminate all development at the site, now and in the future. This is entirely unnecessary and shortsighted. There are options on the table that allow the wall and the Hoboken Yard redevelopment to move forward.

It is paramount for the future of Hoboken, and New Jersey more broadly, that we choose both resiliency and economic development. The Hoboken Yard redevelopment can be advanced jointly alongside the RBD project. And if it can be done, then it must be done, as the project holds a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity for Hoboken, the state of New Jersey and NJ Transit that is far too great to pass up.

With the leadership of Murphy, and active participation by all stakeholders involved — this project can happen now.

It’s a project that deserves to move forward without delay and without bureaucrats standing in the way.

We’re faced with two choices: We can protect the future of Hoboken, while also creating an economic engine that will make future generations proud. Or we can squander this opportunity under a pile of red tape.

Murphy has the opportunity for a legacy-making public policy and economic development win at his fingertips.

Future generations will judge us based on this choice.

Governor: It’s time to make the right decision.

Mark Longo is director of the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative.