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By CAROL COMEGNO
The USS New Jersey will likely be moved to its new Waterfront pier on Labor Day, but won't open until later in September, the Home Port Alliance announced Wednesday night.
The nonprofit group's trustees cannot determine the exact date the ship will open as a museum, said co-chairman Patricia Jones. But officials hope it makes its debut to the public by the second or third weekend in September, she said.
The alliance originally hoped for a Labor Day weekend opening. It blames the delay on Tropical Storm Barry, which lingered in the Gulf Coast and forced a barge carrying four 110-foot steel pilings for the ship's anchorage system to seek shelter in Pascagoula, Miss.
The barge left Tuesday and isn't expected until Aug. 20, said Thomas Seigenthaler, alliance executive director. After the pilings are driven into the Delaware River, they will be filled with concrete that must cure for several days.
Then the ship will be moved two miles upriver from the Broadway Terminal to a site near the New Jersey State Aquarium.
"God willing, we will move the ship on Labor Day Monday," Jones announced Wednesday night at a public board meeting at Rutgers University. "If we can and don't have any other delays, we will have a better idea when we can have a grand opening to the public."
The alliance also wants to avoid conflicts with two Tweeter Center concerts. Thousands will be in the city for a Jimmy Buffet concert Sept. 6 and a concert two days later that will include rapper Eminem, Jones said.
In financial matters Wednesday, the alliance received a previously pledged $1 million grant from the Camden Empowerment Zone Corp., a federally funded agency, for ongoing construction of a visitor center.
"We were very proud to have been the first agency to commit money to the battleship project in 1998," said Frank Fulbrook, president of the empowerment board and now an alliance trustee. "This ship is more than a memorial and museum. It's an economic opportunity for revitalization in the city."
The alliance also voted to spend another $1.125 million to finish the surface of a walkway to the $11 million pier and to add a second pier elevator.
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