HOBOKEN, NJ - A forsaken flotilla of scuttled sailboats may finally be scrubbed from the Hoboken seascape, as tandem initiatives are underway to get support and funding for their removal. 

Over the past few years, the waters off the northern end of Hoboken known as Weehawken Cove have been littered with sunken and semi-submerged sailing vessels. The murkiness of maritime jurisdiction, combined with the fiscal responsibility of removing the boats, have created a situation where everyone knew something needed to be done but genuinely didn't know the best way to go about doing it.

In 2015, the City of Hoboken passed an ordinance granting the Director of the Department of Transportation and Parking the power to declare any vessel abandoned or illegally moored off Hoboken to be a public nuisance, "and thereupon order the same to be removed, abated, altered, or repaired as such order may specify." Such vessels present an obvious danger to other boats, as well as the marine environment—not to mention the aesthetics of the otherwise scenic views from the west bank of the Hudson. The costs of removal, however, have made such actions prohibitive to date.

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Earlier this week, Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla and Hoboken Fire Chief Brian Crimmins announced the City’s intention to apply for a grant to help fund the removal of sunken sail boats in the Hudson River. The City has submitted a letter of intent to prepare a grant application to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the project, and is requesting support from Hoboken residents. If successful, the City could be awarded more than $104,000 from NOAA.

"As you may know, currently there are 17 boats that have been abandoned in the Hudson River. This is of concern to our community, as not only are the sunken boats an eyesore for residents and visitors, but they are contributing to pollution in the Hudson River and adversely impacting marine life," reads a letter to NOAA signed by Bhalla, Crimmins, and Hoboken Director of Environmental Services Jennifer Gonzalez.

"The City is partnering with Riverkeeper, a 53-year old non-profit organization whose mission is to protect and restore the Hudson River, and is seeking funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to remove these 17 sunken vessels from Weehawken Cove and the Hudson River. Removing abandoned and derelict vessels will eliminate the potential release of harmful metals and chemicals, such as oil and mercury, as well as plastics and fiberglass as they deteriorate, thereby reducing the harm caused to the Hudson River."

The action by the City comes just days after another petition was launched by a "Concerned Resident," looking for immediate action to remove the vessels.

"Boats tend to sink in the winter months when the cove freezes and ice cracks the hulls," reads the petition on Change.org, which has secured over 700 signatures over the past week. In addition, there are calls for continued enforcement and coordination to protect Weehawken Cove and encourage a safer marine environment.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, whose ward includes the cove, has been a loud proponent for better protections.

"This is such a great opportunity and I want to thank Chief Crimmins and Director Gonzalez, for working together with Riverkeeper to find and pursue this amazing grant," said Fisher. "There’s so much potential for our historic Weehawken Cove and removing the boats is a critical and long overdue step, one that would not have been taken without the advocacy of Hoboken residents.”

The City of Hoboken has asked residents to sign their petition as well, as they make a case to NOAA for the FY2021 Marine Debris Removal Grant. The area around the cove will soon be transformed into Cove Park—part of the City of Hoboken's ambitious Rebuild By Design flood mitigation initiative.

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