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

May 15, 1999

S. Jersey battleship plan filed with Navy

By CAROL COMEGNO
Courier-Post staff

WASHINGTON--The 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, Va.

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 then.

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.



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