By CAROL COMEGNO
A targeted Labor Day weekend opening for the USS New Jersey museum is off because Tropical Storm Barry has delayed a crucial delivery of steel needed to anchor the battleship.
The grand opening date depends upon when the ship can be moved from its repair pier at the South Jersey Port Corp. Broadway Terminal, said Joseph Balzano, chairman of the Home Port Alliance construction committee that's overseeing the project. The battleship then will be anchored at its new $11 million Delaware River pier, behind the Tweeter Center and just south of the New Jersey State Aquarium.
The earliest the ship can be moved is Sept. 3 - Labor Day - and several more days will be needed to secure it to its new anchorage before it opens to the public, Balzano said Monday. That's about a week later than originally planned to move the Navy's most highly decorated battleship.
Balzano declined to predict a new opening date because of the possibility of further weather delays.
This delay occurred because Tropical Storm Barry forced a barge, which was carrying four steel pilings for the ship' s anchoring system, to seek a safe mooring in Mississippi, he said.
"The storm has created a little blip in our plans, like D-Day when stormy weather forced a postponement (of the Normandy invasion)," Balzano said. "We hope the barge will be able to leave Mississippi by Wednesday, but it will take 10 to 12 days for it to arrive."
The alliance had tentatively set Aug. 28 as the day to move the ship and Sept. 2 as the opening, but Balzano said that's now unrealistic.
But everything else, from the painting of the ship to to construction of the visitor center, is "on time," he said.
Don Norcross, vice president of the coalition of labor, government and business leaders on the alliance, praised Balzano's daily oversight and port expertise. Without it, he said, "we would not have gotten this far this quickly" on a project costing more than $20 million.
"It's literally an act of God that's keeping us from opening," Norcross said. "When the weather cooperates, we can focus in on an opening date."
The four steel pilings are part of the ship's 12-point anchorage system, which will enable it to withstand severe weather that meteorologists refer to as a 100-year storm.
Meanwhile, contractors continue to work on finishing the T- shaped steel and concrete pier that will showcase the ship almost 225 feet out in the river.
Balzano also said contractors will begin driving metal plates into the river bottom for other parts of the elaborate anchoring system. The ship's anchor chain will be connected to those plates at the bow and stern of the 887- foot-long retired warship.
Because the alliance knew Sept. 2 was a tentative date, Norcross said, it had not yet sent invitations for opening day. "That won't happen until the date is more certain," he said.