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South Jersey

August 6, 1998

Battleship panel plans return to Jersey City

Courier-Post staff

Members of the Battleship New Jersey Commission will meet again with Jersey City officials Friday to hear more about the city's recently unveiled proposal to place the USS New Jersey offshore in New York harbor.

It will be the second site visited in the past two weeks by the commission, which hopes to win Navy approval to bring the idle battleship here from Washington state and use it as a floating museum.

Chairman Joseph Azzolina said he expects the commission will decide on a site by the end of the month after several commissioners return from vacation. No meeting date has been set.

In order to decide which of three sites to recommend to the Legislature and Gov. Christie Whitman, the commission visited the Camden-Philadelphia waterfront last week.

Camden City and Camden County officials propose docking the ship at the north end of the Beckett Street Marine Terminal owned by the South Jersey Port Corp. and offered a $4.2 million financial package to help with the cost of towing and docking the most decorated ship in U.S. naval history.

'The Camden event was a wonderful event, I understand. Ours is just a briefing. It won't be as big a presentation as Camden gave last week,' said Neil Sheridan, an aide to Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler.

In Camden, the commission toured the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on the Delaware River where the ship was built. It also toured the bi-state riverfront via boat, and had lunch overlooking the waterfront.

'We think we have a strong proposal. Camden gave a strong presentation and I am glad the commission has it as an option,' said Sheridan.

Jersey City and Camden officials oppose a third potential site in Bayonne at the former Military Ocean Terminal, which the commission had more recently been favoring. No official vote had been taken, however.

Friday's briefing is set for 9:30 a.m. at Liberty Science Center in Liberty State Park and will end with a visit to the proposed site for the ship off the park in New York harbor.

Sheridan said city officials will propose a walkway be built to the ship for pedestrians - similar to Camden's plan - rather than ferry access. 'This is not really a change in our proposal, just a more detailed plan,' he said.

Sheridan said reports that the city would bar the media from covering the meeting were untrue. 'The press is being invited,' he said, saying there were some initial concerns about having enough meeting room space to handle what might be a flood of reporters and cameramen to cover what has become a statewide controversy.

Some commission members privately have expressed annoyance that Jersey City officials wanted yet another meeting and are changing their latest proposal.

At a commission meeting last month to which they were invited, the mayor and his staff made a presentation on a new placement plan for the ship. They suggested anchoring it 500 feet out into the harbor and ferrying tourists there from Liberty State Park.

Jersey City's long-standing proposal to place it at a shoreside dock at Liberty State Park met with commission resistance last year because of several factors - the expense of dredging and bedrock removal that a commission engineering study said would be required and the need for too many approvals from regulatory agencies like the Coast Guard and National Park Service.

Azzolina said he agreed to Jersey City's request for another meeting to be 'fair.'

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