Discovery of old artifacts creates new costs for South Amboy ferry project


By Jacqueline Durett

SOUTH AMBOY—The discovery of historic railroad artifacts at the ferry site in South Amboy has driven the cost of the project up, but at this point, city taxpayers will not directly shoulder the cost.

Work stopped last month on the site when the project was just a week-and-a-half from completion because of the discovery of the artifacts, which related most likely to one of the historic railroads that once went through the site. The ferry would transport commuters to New York once completed.

Mark Rasimowicz, city engineer, said the estimates for the overall remediation work that was happening at the ferry site have been adjusted following this discovery. He presented his request for two change orders totaling nearly $130,000 for work at the site related to analyzing and unearthing the historical find.

Exactly what has been found has not been definitively determined yet.

However, Rasimowicz cautioned that the current figure is only an estimate based on the work required.

“It could be more,” he said.

The city was required to stop work once a potential historical discovery was made, as per the memorandum of agreement the city has with State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Work at the site cannot restart until the state allows it to do so, potentially delaying the overall ferry project timeline.

Councilwoman Zusette Dato asked if the city was required to approve the anticipated increase in cost.

“I understand the significance and importance of finding those … artifacts,” she said. “Are we compelled to do that?”

Rasimowicz and Business Administrator Camille Tooker said as per the memorandum of agreement with SHPO, the city was obligated to follow SHPO’s process for historical discoveries. The city must do so as part of receiving the multi-million dollar grant from the federal government for the project.

“That [agreement] was put in place by the SHPO in the event that they found something,” she said. “And they found something.”

However, the city itself will not be shouldering the increase cost directly. The additional funds will come from the federal grant. Tooker pointed out, though, that as costs related to this find add up, that does mean there will be less money to execute the rest of the project.

“The more we have to spend on one portion, the less we have for another,” she said.

Rasimowicz said the city is looking for additional grants to supplement the project and make up for additional expenses such as this.

Rasimowicz said what will happen to the artifacts is still unclear. What was discovered, for instance, may be unearthed and removed from the site or it may be extensively photographed and reburied.

“We don’t know what route yet until we unearth it all,” he said.