15, 1999 |
Jersey battleship plan filed with Navy
By CAROL COMEGNO
Home Port Alliance of South Jersey submitted a long-awaited plan
to the Navy Friday to use the battleship USS New Jersey as a
memorial museum and economic stimulus on the Camden Waterfront.
Ten members of the alliance delivered 30 volumes
10 copies of the 1,700-page report and briefed a Navy rear admiral
at the U.S. Ship Donation Office at Navy Sea Systems Command
(NAVSEA). The briefing lasted more than an hour.
"We have more than an application,"
said retired Navy Capt. David McGuigan, alliance president and
overseer of the report. "We have a detailed plan to implement
a concept for economic and social action that can generate jobs
and enhance the Waterfront in a federal Economic Empowerment
Zone in the city."
McGuigan and nine others who worked on the
report unloaded five cartons containing the documents at an outdoor
loading bay at the NAVSEA Building in Crystal City, Arlington,
Rear Adm. David P. Sargent, the Navy's principal
executive officer for expedition ary warfare, who will play a
key role in the decision to se lect the mothballed battleship's
future home, said he is encouraged there is so much interest
among New Jersey groups.
"Wherever it goes, it will do more for
the Navy on display," Sargent said.
The Navy expects to reach a decision by January.
The battleship the most decorated in Navy
history is to be towed from Bremerton, Wash., through the Panama
Canal in October and be moored temporarily at the former Philadelphia
Naval Shipyard, pending a Navy decision on its future home. The
ship was built in Philadelphia during World War II, across the
Delaware River from Camden, and was stored after the war in Bayonne.
The Navy expects another application from
the New Jersey Battleship Commission for a Bayonne site. Last
September, the state-appointed com mission chose Bayonne over
Camden and Jersey City berthing locations. On Thursday, the commission
voted to authorize its submission to the Navy.
Commission Chairman and state Assemblyman
Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, said the application was not ready,
but would be filed by Monday's deadline.
Joseph Balzano, a South Jersey commission
member and executive director of the South Jersey Port Corp.,
half heartedly voted for the Bayonne submission.
"I voted for it, but I told them I have
other desires that the ship would best be placed in Camden,"
Balzano said. He was not a member of the commission in September
when the panel voted for the Bay onne site. However, he says
he would not have voted for Bayonne had he been on the commission
Jersey City officials have said that if Bayonne
is approved by the Navy and the ship is not successful there,
they would push for it to be moved to their city.
Gov. Christie Whitman has signed a letter
stipulating that whatever site is approved will receive all donations
received through commemorative license plate fees or from state
income tax checkoff donations. So far, about $8 million has been
raised toward towing and maintenance of the ship.
The Navy has up to nine months to evaluate
the two applications, make a recommendation and notify Congress.
Camden County government still has a pending
law suit against the state commission challenging the September
decision as procedurally faulty and lacking merit.