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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
South Jersey

May 8, 1998

Running up the rigging to hail battleship home

We're fed up with the attitude of the USS New Jersey Battleship Commission. Arrogant and misleading, the commission is attempting to make it appear that, when the Navy's most decorated battleship comes home, it can't be to anywhere but Bayonne.

'The commission has looked at other sites,' said Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth. '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.'

What a crock! Such a thin argument.

Does Azzolina really think a tourist from the Midwest is going to leave Manhattan and hail a cab, rent a car or find a bus to wind his or her way to Bayonne, a difficult trip even in the best of times?

We don't. New York has more tourists than Philadelphia, but it also has many more attractions within a relatively small space. If visitors to New York want to see a floating museum, they need only go a few blocks from Broadway, where the USS Intrepid is docked.

Camden and Philly are joining to promote attractions on both sides of the Delaware River - two cities, one Waterfront - making it a true tourist destination.

Beyond that, there are many logical reasons the Camden site makes more sense:

-- The ship was built in the Philadelphia Naval Yard by people in this area.

-- If any dredging were necessary, the Army Corps of Engineers has funds for use in the area. Dredging in Bayonne would cost an estimated $10 million.

-- The Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) has resources available that could be tapped to make the New Jersey an outstanding attraction.

It would blend nicely with the historic and other attractions in our area. There would be nothing else to see in Bayonne.

Gordon Bishop, director of fund raising for the Battleship New Jersey Foundation, is trying to make it seem as if Camden supporters are Johnny-come-latelys.

They include Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, Camden Mayor Milt Milan and U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli, who says, no matter what you may have read, he supports the Camden site.

'This is an 11th-hour attempt to undo 18 years of work by the Battleship Commission,' said Bishop.

'They may have been working a long time to bring the New Jersey home, but it was not site-specific,' responds Matheussen. In fact, the commission was talking about Jersey City until two years ago.

If it switched to Bayonne that easily, it can change its mind again for Camden. In fact, Camden makes so much sense, you wonder why there is any disagreement.

Part of the answer: No commission members live south of Princeton. Central and South Jersey are shut out.

The North-packed commission would have you believe the Legislature has passed a bill naming Bayonne.

Actually, says Matheussen, a resolution was introduced in March calling on Congress to decommission the New Jersey. Bayonne was mentioned as a possible site, but the resolution is not binding.

Mayor Milan said he would make the long trip to Bayonne once, but he doubts many others would.

The New Jersey is special to the mayor because when he was a Marine in Beirut, Lebanon, in the early '80s, the ship fired shells into the Syrian mountains to protect him and other members of the multinational peacekeeping force.

We bet there are others in South Jersey who helped build the honored ship, served on it or were protected by its mighty cannon. Matheussen would like them and area schoolchildren to help 'Bring Our Battleship Home.'

His number is (609) 228-8552; his fax is (609) 228-1925. His address is P.O. Box 8019, Turnersville, N.J. 08012. Or you can write to the Courier-Post, P.O. Box 5300, Cherry Hill, N.J. 08034.

This isn't a contest between North and South Jersey. When the facts are examined, there is no other logical choice but Camden's Waterfront.

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