Murphy rips NJ Transit for land purchase vote on MLK Day

Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy on Friday urged New Jersey Transit to postpone a hotly contested vote on whether to buy land on Hoboken's waterfront, and criticized the rescheduling of the vote for the Martin Luther King Day holiday on Monday.

Monday is Republican Gov. Chris Christie's last full day in office. In July, Christie signed a measure that included $12 million for purchase of the land.

The vote was scheduled for Wednesday, but too few board members showed up to constitute a quorum. It was rescheduled for Friday, then for Monday, a federal holiday.

"This deal, being rushed through on the last day of the Christie administration — and on a federal holiday, no less — is emblematic of everything the public has come to loathe about NJ Transit and another reason why it needs a complete overhaul," Murphy said.

"Out of fairness to the taxpaying public, this vote must be postponed and NJ Transit's board must follow a more thoughtful approach that listens to all voices, including those of local residents and elected officials," he added.

Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla, who opposes NJ Transit's purchase of the land, on Friday called the rescheduling of the vote to Monday "shameful" and said the process has lacked transparency and public input.

An NJ Transit spokeswoman declined to comment on the rescheduling of the meeting. A Christie spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment.

The three-acre site has operated as a marine maintenance facility for more than a century and is a throwback to the Hoboken waterfront immortalized in the 1954 Marlon Brando film "On The Waterfront."

Bhalla wants the property to be an extension of the city's waterfront park. NJ Transit would lease it back to NY Waterway, a private ferry company that bought the property last year and would use it for maintenance and repair.

A NY Waterway spokesman said the company would spend about $10 million on improvements.

A board vote to approve the purchase may not be the final word, said Ron Hine, executive director of the Fund for a Better Waterfront, a nonprofit that opposes the NJ Transit purchase. The city could contest the environmental permits for the site, Hine said.