By CAROL COMEGNO
The Home Port Alliance has begun seeking bids for pier
construction and ship restoration in a $22 million project
to convert the battleship USS New Jersey into a museum and
memorial on the Camden Waterfront.
At a Wednesday night meeting, trustees of the nonprofit
alliance authorized publication of requests for proposals
to build a pier, fix the historic ship and remove hazardous
material from its interior.
"This is a significant milestone and an action that
needed to be taken as soon as possible to get the major
elements of the project going, because the community out
there wants to see the ship," said David McGuigan of
Haddonfield, a retired Navy captain and alliance
The board also set a goal of opening the ship by Labor
Day 2001, although plaza walkway exhibits and some of the
ship's interior may not be ready. The board already has
awarded a nearly $1 million contract for project management
to Hill International of Willingboro.
In other business, the board appointed trustee Norman
Sooycq as liaison to the USS New Jersey Veterans Inc., a
group of more than 1,200 former crew members who served
aboard the ship from 1942 to 1991.
"Unfortunately, most of this group only ever heard it
was going to go to North Jersey, and some are upset with
the Navy decision to put it in Camden. But they all have
their heart in this highly decorated ship and I am sure
they have some good ideas that can help us," said Sooy, a
Vietnam veteran who also is Camden County's director of
"The New Jersey is one ship and we all have one
objective, which is to make it the best it can be. I know I
can establish a good working relationship between our group
and theirs and allay their concerns."
Wednesday also marked the first meeting for the newest
member of the board, Frank Fulbrook of Camden.
Fulbrook, a city activist, was seated as president of
the Camden Empowerment Zone Corporation, which has
committed $1 million to the battleship project. It was
Fulbrook who spearheaded the financial commitment two years
ago - the first group to commit money to show the Navy the
area was serious about bringing the ship to Camden.
"I am very excited to have this responsibility. The
challenge for me at this point is to help to make the
battleship a successful urban revitalization opportunity,"