'We're so used to losing, I can't believe we've got it,' says freeholder
By HAROLD NEDD and KATHY HENNESSY
BRIAN PORCO/Courier-Post Celebrating are (from left) Reps. Rob Andrews and Jim Saxton, state Sen. John Matheussen, labor official Donald Norcross adn Freeholder Pat Jones.
South Jersey swelled with pride Thursday.
And leading the cheers was Camden, which beat Bayonne in a hard-fought battle to host the USS New Jersey.
"If the Navy has enough faith in the city that the battleship will be taken care of here, it gives you hope," said Lisa Carpenter, a 34-year-old security guard who lives in South Camden.
Across the region, the Navy's decision to place the historic ship here was greeted with excitement, pride and relief.
"Finally Camden gets something of value," said Camden County Freeholder Pat Jones, county liaison to the coalition that fought to bring the battleship to the Waterfront. "We're so used to losing, I can't believe we've got it."
Former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard workers were elated by the news.
"Oh boy!" said William R. Wyatt Sr., 85, of Winslow. "I've been praying for that for a long time. It gives me a chance to take my wife over to see some of my handiwork."
For months now, former shipyard workers and veterans have closely followed the campaign to bring the ship to Camden.
John Horan of Cherry Hill, a signalman on the battleship during World War II, said he worried that North Jersey would come out on top because it has more political power.
"I always had hopes, but there was so much politics," Horan said. "These politicians should do something to help Camden. Finally, they've come around."
Bayonne Mayor Joseph P. Doria groused that New York and Pennsylvania congressmen had ganged up with South Jersey congressmen to defeat the Bayonne proposal. New York officials opposed the Bayonne site because it would have put the New Jersey in competition with the USS Intrepid in New York Harbor.
Retired Navy Capt. David McGuigan, president of the Home Port Alliance, the coalition that submitted the Camden application, said there would be little time to celebrate.
"Now with the same commitment we move to implement the Home Port Alliance's plan to establish a fitting memorial for this great ship on the Camden Waterfront."
Staff writers Angela Rucker, Gene Vernacchio and Carl A. Winter contributed to this report.