8, 1998 |
2 other cities in running for battleship
The Battleship New Jersey Commission
meeting today may become a battleground between three cities
vying to secure the famous USS New Jersey for a museum.
Camden, Bayonne and Jersey City officials
all want the most decorated battleship in naval history although
the commission most recently has been favoring Bayonne.
Mayors and others representing the three
cities are planning to attend the meeting in Jersey City to present
reasons why their sites should be considered. Now that the U.S.
Senate has agreed to release the ship with details to be worked
out with the House by the fall, the commission hopes to bring
to the ship from Bremerton, Wash., to its namesake state next
year if the Navy approves the site.
Camden Mayor Milton Milan and many other
South Jersey politicians believe the ship belongs in Camden across
from its birthplace in 1943 on the Delaware River at the former
Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Milan and state Sen. John Matheussen,
R-Gloucester, will make the bipartisan South Jersey presentation.
Keith Walker, an aide to Milan, said the
ship would foster further economic development along the Waterfront
in what is now an urban enterprise zone.
'Our Empowerment Zone board has $21 million
in federal money to use for economic development along the river
and some of that may be able to be put toward a tourism project
like this. We are hoping to raise enough money through a coalition
of groups that would include the South Jersey Port Corp. and
the Delaware River Port Authority,' said Frank Fulbrook, a member
of the empowerment board.
Battleship commission chairman Joseph Azzolina,
a Republican assemblyman from Monmouth County, said the Ocean
Marine Terminal in Bayonne has become the 'leading candidate'
because dredging and bedrock excavation at Liberty Park in Jersey
City would make that location too expensive to consider at this
time. In addition, the National Park Service and other agencies
would have to approve a Liberty Park site, which some say would
detract from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
He conceded last week, however, that the
Bayonne marine terminal could prove to be only a temporary site.
In a recent letter to Matheussen, Gov.
Christie Whitman wrote that Bayonne would be only temporary while
'a permanent site at Liberty State Park is being prepared.'
Azzolina also said he believes it makes
more sense to locate the ship closer to New York City because
it draws more tourists than the Philadelphia area.
'Frankly, I do not know how extensively
the battleship commission looked at any of these sites, but we
think we have the premier site,' said Matheussen, who expects
to invite commission members to visit the Camden Waterfront.
The commission has raised almost $4 million
through the sale of commemorative license plates to state drivers
and from private donations and a checkoff on state income tax
forms. However, no specific location was ever attached to those
South Jerseyans also have leveled criticism
against the commission because it has no members from their part
of the state.
Joseph Balzano, executive director of the
South Jersey Port Corp., has now been nominated by Whitman to
a commission seat but has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.
Balzano said the ship easily could be berthed
at the port's Beckett Street Terminal just south of the Sony
Entertainment Center on the Camden Waterfront.
'What we have to offer, Bayonne can't even
match - both docking and being directly across from Philadelphia.
It was built here and the Delaware Valley has more than 200 years
of shipbuilding history here - a connection that is more meaningful
than the fact the ship was in famous battles,' Balzano said Tuesday.
Gordon Bishop, director of the fund-raising
Battleship New Jersey Foundation, predicted that the ship will
go to Liberty Park or wherever else the public may want it.
'The people - not the politicians - will
prevail and right now the people think the best location is Liberty
State Park,' he said.