could put battleship in Bayonne
Gannett State Bureau
TRENTON - Several North Jersey
lawmakers have introduced legislation that they hope will wrestle
the mothballed Navy battleship USS New Jersey away from Camden
and have it docked in Bayonne.
Groups from both cities submitted applications
this month to the Navy, which will determine which side wins.
The secretary of the Navy will decide by January.
But legislation introduced in the Senate and
Assembly last week would give the state-appointed New Jersey
Battleship Commission a say in determining where the ship is
berthed. The commission wants the ship in Bayonne, where it would
be a dream come true for Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth,
who chairs the commission. Those who favor Camden are up in arms.
"(Azzolina's) upsetting the entire process
that the Navy has set in motion," said state Sen. John J.
U.S. Rep. James Saxton, R-N.J., said he does
not understand how the state can pass a bill that appears to
change federal law. Federal statutes say the Navy determines
where the ship will be berthed.
"I think Azzolina does great damage to
his cause to bring the ship to Bayonne by attempting to run around
the Navy," Saxton said.
Azzolina denies the legislation is intended
to bring the ship to Bayonne. He said the bill simply qualifies
how the commission operates and who should sit on it.
Azzolina, a former Navy captain who served
on the ship, said the Camden contingent is just trying to smear
him and the commission to sabotage their efforts.
"If they don't stop, I will really smear
them," he said. "I can get really dirty."
The bill's sponsors acknowledge that the legislation
aims to place the ship in the hands of the commission, and ultimately,
"The real intention is to move the battleship
up north and get it into Jersey City or Bayonne. That's the underlying
issue behind the mechanism set up," said Assemblyman Guy
F. Talarico, R-Bergen, a co-sponsor in the Assembly.
A Navy official said she had not seen the
proposed legislation, but reiterated that the ship was property
of the U.S. Navy and it is up to the Navy to determine where
it will be berthed.
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