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

July 20, 1998

South Jersey gets a say in battleship destination

Now, South Jersey at least has a representative on the USS New Jersey Battleship Commission. Not that Joseph Dyer of Pennsville was welcomed with opened arms.

Commission Chairman Joseph Azzolina said, 'I don't even know how he got on the commission. I didn't ask for him.'

Somebody had better tell Gov. Whitman to stop conducting the state's business without approval from Azzolina.

Dyer, 69, a former Salem County freeholder, is a Navy veteran and regularly visits museum ships around the country. He's been out to Bremerton, Wash., to see the New Jersey.

What it looked like he wasn't going to see was a meeting of the commission. He was confirmed by the N.J. Senate in March. But he didn't get any information about the commission or its meetings.

Finally, Dyer took matters into his own hands.

'I called up there and said, 'Hey, the governor made this appointment in March. Here it is July. Aren't you guys having any meetings?' ' He was told someone 'dropped the ball.'

That would make the people running the commission sloppy as well as arrogant. When Azzolina was asked about the oversight he snorted, 'Is this guy trying to make trouble? We notified him by letter. If he wants any information, all he has to do is ask.'

Despite the commission's rudeness and snub to South Jersey, Dyer is determined to get the facts and make a decision on where to situate the grand old ship accordingly.

During an interview with the Courier-Post, he sat at a table near a plastic model of the New Jersey. Before him was a map of New York Harbor. Five possible berth positions were marked.

'I'm keeping an open mind on the whole thing,' he said. 'My personal preference is certainly closer to us, closer to South Jersey.'

An open mind is not what's been exhibited by Azzolina, who has insisted the ship will go to Bayonne, mainly because it is close to New York City's tourists. The fact that few would leave the Big Apple to go to Bayonne apparently is lost on him.

Dyer is aware of the realities. 'The bulk of the population of the state exists above Princeton, so that's where the people's decisions are going to be looked at,' he said.

Politics plays a major role. Azzolina is a Republican assemblyman from Monmouth County. Bayonne Mayor Joe Doria is the Democratic minority leader in the Assembly. Jersey City is fighting to anchor the New Jersey close by. Mayor Bret Schundler is an influential Democrat.

Pleading South Jersey's case are Camden Mayor Milt Milan, Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, and Camden County Freeholder Pat Jones, among others.

But they need help. Dyer says South Jersey people have to show support and say what they'll do to make the New Jersey a first-class attraction. 'Camden needs to give the commission an incentive,' he declares.

That's starting to happen. Tonight, the Camden Empowerment Zone Corp. will have before it a resolution to earmark $1 million in federal money to convert the battleship, built at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, into a museum.

We hope the resolution passes and others in South Jersey come forward with matching funds to show those folks up north we want to return our battleship to its real home - the Delaware River.

USS New Jersey Home Page

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