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By CAROL COMEGNO
The Home Port Alliance has apologized to USS New Jersey volunteers because they were not told in advance of Sunday' s move of the ship and could not ride it to the downtown Waterfront.
Some of the volunteers have returned to the retired battleship but not all.
Volunteers and the ship's former crew were upset because they had been promised the ride in return for the many hours of service refurbishing the nation's most decorated battleship.
The ship is expected to open as a museum on the Camden Waterfront by early October. The alliance is the nonprofit group in charge of the museum project.
In a letter to the volunteers, volunteer director Joe Fillmyer said the Coast Guard decided the circumstances of the move and has been tightening port security since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Volunteer Steven Borkowski of Collingswood walked onto the ship Tuesday and told alliance co-chair Patricia Jones that "nothing could keep him away" despite his disappointment. However, the first volunteer to sign up to help repair the ship in November 2000, Tony Altadonna, 79, of Pennsauken, went to the ship Monday to turn in his volunteer badge.
Said Altadonna: "One of the staff asked me to take a few more days to think about it, but I don't think I'll go back. The least they could have done was to tell the volunteers that the ship was to be moved and why we couldn' t ride on it."
Jones hoped the volunteers would understand the security concerns.
"We have only gratitude for our volunteers and most are still coming," she said. "I hope those that may not have understood the reasons behind how it was moved now will come back. The Coast Guard had said if we told anybody and it got out beforehand, they wouldn't move the ship."
Commander Liam Slein of the Coast Guard in Philadelphia said the Coast Guard did not specifically restrict personnel but did want to keep it to essential personnel. He said he could not speak to the publicity issue.
Slein said the ship's move was coordinated and timed so the Coast Guard could use a minimum number of its vessels but still "minimize the potential threat to port safety and security."
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