Lights Across the Water


Julian Olivas/AIR-TO-GROUND

Earlier this month, NJ Transit threw a party to celebrate relighting the restored Hoboken Ferry Terminal, which lies along the Hudson River just across from Manhattan. The event marked the end of Phase Two of a three-phase, $115 million project to bring the Beaux Arts terminal back into working order. The first two phases involved rebuilding the facility’s 230-foot clock tower, which was demolished in the 1950s; refurbishing the terminal’s exterior; and implementing an exterior lighting scheme. The third phase will return passenger service to the terminal by 2010. New York–based architectural services firm STV managed the project for NJ Transit, Beyer Blinder Belle handled the restoration work, and Leni Schwendinger Light Projects and Illumination Arts provided the lighting design.

Designed by architect Kenneth M. Murchison and opened in 1907, the ferry terminal, also known as the Hoboken Terminal and Yard Complex, was one of the world’s first multi-modal transit hubs to combine rail, tram (later bus and light rail), ferry, and pedestrian services in one facility. With the construction of the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, however, commuter and freight traffic at the terminal declined and ferry service ended in 1967. Service returned in 1989, but has operated from a small, temporary facility located within the Immigrant Building, which has a ticket booth and an adjacent docking platform. The complex currently unites bus and light rail service in New Jersey with ferry service (run by the Port Authority) and the PATH system to Manhattan. More than 50,000 commuters pass through the hub each day.

In addition to lighting the tower, which was prefabricated in Kentucky, the exterior lighting scheme relit the terminal’s two main Hudson River–side elements: the globes that define the arches over the ferry slips and the giant “ERIE LACKAWANA” sign. The globes were originally lit with incandescent lamps, and the sign was red neon. In recreating these historical elements, Schwendinger and her team employed energy-efficient modern technologies. The sign’s neon was recreated with LED strips, while fiber optics were used to light the globes.

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