Jersey gets a say in battleship destination
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
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
'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.
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