30, 1998 |
continue fight for battleship
By CAROL COMEGNO
- Two South Jersey lawmakers proposed a Senate resolution this
week asking the Battleship New Jersey Commission to consider
recommending the ship be brought to Camden as a floating museum
instead of to Bayonne.
Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, and Sen.
Wayne Bryant, D-Camden, introduced the resolution Thursday in
the latest North-South controversy over the ship.
The USS New Jersey, built in 1942 and the
most decorated U.S. battleship, was the World War II flagship
of Fleet Admiral William F. 'Bull' Halsey, a native of Elizabeth,
Matheussen and Bryant said the battleship
makes sense for Camden in every way - tourist-wise, historically
and economically - and is the boost Camden needs to help its
'I want Camden to have a fair shot at being
considered. It is a very advantageous site on the Delaware River
across from attractions on Philadelphia's waterfront and the
place where it was built (the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard),'
Matheussen said, vowing the issue is 'far from dead.'
However, former state assemblyman and battleship
commission chairman Joseph Azzolina confidently predicted it
will never get through the Legislature.
'I commend the effort but it is for naught.
The commission made the decision on Bayonne,' Azzolina said.
'There is no way you would be in time to change positions because
anyone else can apply to the Navy for the ship and we could lose
He said that since Gov. Christie Whitman has
endorsed the Bayonne site, he doubts the Legislature would ever
challenge the site. 'It might get through the Senate, but I know
the Assembly will never get enough votes to get it through.'
In an interview, Matheussen raised the issue
of commission authority to decide on a specific site for the
ship when it submitted an application to the Navy for the ship
two years ago.
The commission's enabling legislation empowers
it to provide 'assistance and advice' in planning and fund raising.
'The commission never had the authority to
decide where the site was. It was only empowered to make a recommendation,'
'I don't know exactly who would decide since
the legislation does not say, but I would think it would be the
Legislature since much of the money was raised through state
motor vehicle sales of battleship New Jersey license plates.'
The Legislature passed resolutions in January
again asking the Navy to release the New Jersey for use as a
museum. It mentions the ship was placed in the master plan of
the Military Ocean Terminal Reuse Commission in Bayonne but does
not indicate who approved a Bayonne site.
Recently,Camden County freeholders also passed
a resolution supporting a Camden site and asked the Camden County
Improvement Authority and other groups to look into the financing
of the project.
Commission officials have said other sites
like Camden were studied but have been reluctant to release or
discuss those reports. The Bayonne site was a second choice to
Liberty State Park in Jersey City, where dredging bedrock would
have raised costs prohibitively.
Azzolina said the Bayonne site, a salt-water
port, was selected for several major reasons - easy access to
the New Jersey Turnpike and proximity to New York City, the largest
tourist destination in the Northeast.