8, 1998 |
up the rigging to hail battleship home
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
'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,
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.