7, 1998 |
battleship to Camden an uphill battle
By JENNIFER GONZALEZ
reverse a decision that might permanently dock the battleship
USS New Jersey on the Hudson River in Bayonne, state Sen. John
Matheussen and Camden Mayor Milton Milan are aggressively campaigning
to bring the warship to South Jersey.
Matheussen, R-Gloucester, and Milan have sent
letters to every municipality and freeholder board in Camden,
Gloucester, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem and Atlantic
counties asking them to support the docking of the 887-foot ship
on Camden's waterfront.
The New Jersey is the most decorated warship
in naval history and there are plans to make it into a museum.
It was built and launched at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
into the Delaware River 56 years ago.
Matheussen and Milan argue that the USS New
Jersey Battleship Commission, a state body created to provide
for the battleship's preservation, has never given them the opportunity
to make a case for docking the ship in South Jersey.
'We appreciate the commission's effort to
bring the battleship back to New Jersey, but we believe the best
location for our battleship is her home turf of South Jersey,'
said Matheussen. 'We have been dismissed in the past when we
have approached the commission with the idea of bringing it to
The Battleship Commission, which has been
working since 1980 to bring the ship to New Jersey, maintains
that Bayonne's Military Ocean Terminal is the best site for the
battleship. The New Jersey, one of four original Iowa-class battleships,
served in World War II during assaults on the islands of Iwo
Jima and Okinawa, and in the Korean and Vietnam wars. It was
decommissioned in 1991 off the coast of Washington state.
Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, the
commission's chairman, said places such as Atlantic City, Cape
May, Long Branch and even Camden were considered.
'The commission has looked at other sites,'
Azzolina said. 'It wouldn't work in the Camden area. The tourist
population is not as high in the Philadelphia region like it
is in New York City.'
Gordon Bishop, the director of fund-raising
for the Battleship New Jersey Foundation, said it's hard to reverse
progress. The foundation already has raised about $3.5 million
to bring the ship to North Jersey.
'This is an 11th-hour attempt to undo 18 years
of work by the Battleship Commission,' said Bishop.
He said about 35 million people visit New
York City each year. And that means lots of tourists who would
trek to Bayonne to visit the USS New Jersey.
Resolutions in the state Senate and Assembly
call on the secretary of the U.S. Navy to release the battleship
USS New Jersey to the state of New Jersey. Bayonne was mentioned
as a possible site for it to be docked, but the resolution is
A spokesman for Gov. Christie Whitman said
the governor is 'willing to live with the commission's decision,'
adding she is happy the battleship is coming to the state.
'Between Camden and Philadelphia waterfronts,
we get over 3 million tourists,' said Milan. 'Bayonne gets zero.'