18, 1999 |
now neutral on site for battleship
By CAROL COMEGNO
- Gov. Christie Whitman has altered her position on a museum
site for the battleship USS New Jersey and will ask the Legislature
to set aside $7.7 million for towing and preparing the ship for
Rather than supporting the New Jersey Battleship
Commission's recommendation for Bayonne - as she has since last
year - Whitman said in a May 3 letter to the secretary of the
Navy that she now will remain neutral.
Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, called
this a "significant development" that is a boost for
the movement to bring the ship to the Camden Waterfront and a
blow to the state-appointed battleship commission, which recommended
the ship be berthed in Bayonne.
"While I am not going to express a preference
as to where the New Jersey should be sited, I know that the Navy
agrees that the applicants would provide the battleship with
a site that will serve as a home she so rightfully deserves,"
Whitman wrote to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig.
Also in the letter, the governor proposed
an additional $7.7 million in state money for the battleship
and said either applicant - Camden or Bayonne - may use this
figure in its Navy submission. She said she will ask the Legislature
for $1.7 million in the 1999-2000 budget to pay to tow the ship
from Bremerton, Wash., and another $6 million for site and preparation
Other funds earmarked statewide for the battleship
include a $2 million loan from the New Jersey Economic Development
Authority and grants of several million dollars from the collection
of battleship license plate and income tax checkoff donations.
The letter was part of the Home Port Alliance's
Camden application that was hand-carried Friday to the Navy in
Washington. Battleship Commission Chairman Joseph Azzolina, a
Republican state assemblyman, and three other commissioners delivered
their application for Bayonne on Monday, a Navy spokeswoman said.
Matheussen, a member of the Home Port Alliance
- a nonprofit coalition of South Jersey elected officials, labor
unions, businesses and individuals that submitted the Camden
application - were seeking such a letter from the governor since
"Navy officials have to make an unbiased
decision, but I think it would be uncomfortable for them to oppose
the wishes of the governor if she were pushing for Bayonne,"
Gordon Bishop, a spokesman for the battleship
commission, said he attributes the governor's neutral position
to the fact that she is now a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
"I don't think she wants to appear biased
toward any one sector of the state," he said.
Whitman spokeswoman Wendy Patella said at
the time the governor said she would support the commission's
recommendation, there was only one application before the Navy.
"Now that there are two formal applications
before the Navy, she believes the important thing is bring the
ship to New Jersey," Patella said.