August 19, 1998 |
Jersey sites are opposed for ship
By CAROL COMEGNO
carrier Intrepid and the battleship USS New Jersey fought on
the same side in World War II. But they could sink each other
if the battleship ever comes to the New York harbor area.
That argument by retired Maj. Gen. Donald
Gardner, executive director of the Intrepid Museum Foundation
in New York City, could favor an effort to get the New Jersey
docked permanently in Camden.
Gardner said the competition in New York area
ports could hurt the finances of both ships' operations if the
New Jersey Battleship Commission tries to locate the battleship
in Bayonne or Jersey City's Liberty State Park when the ship
is moved from Bremerton, Wash.
"Anybody who makes a conscious decision
to put two museum ships that close together is not making a sound
business decision and is putting both ships in danger,"
said Gardner, hired several years ago to improve the Intrepid
museum's financial picture.
Battleship Commission Chairman Joseph Azzolina
disagreed with Gardner.
"Their ship is very richly run and they
need a bigger budget. I think he is wrong when he says there
will be competition," said Azzolina, a Republican assemblyman
from Monmouth County. "I think one will enhance or complement
the other, and I could see a discount ticket to visit both ships."
But Gardner said he would not like to see
another major naval ship museum within a 50-mile radius of the
Intrepid and the two other ships that make up its museum - the
destroyer Edson and the submarine Growler.
Falling within that distance are two of the
three proposed sites for the USS New Jersey - Bayonne and Liberty
State Park - that are being studied by the Battleship Commission.
The commission's recommendation to the Navy is expected next
Only the proposed Delaware River site in Camden
across from Philadelphia is beyond that radius - about 100 miles.
The man who represents the state chapter of
the USS Intrepid Association, a group of former Intrepid crew
members and other volunteers, also believes the battleship should
go to South Jersey instead of the New York harbor area.
"The USS New Jersey should come home
to where it was built on the Delaware River," said John
A. Simonetti of Collingswood.
The New Jersey - the most decorated battleship
in U.S. naval history and a survivor of four wars - was built
in the 1940s at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard by workers from
New Jersey as well as Pennsylvania. That site is just down and
across the river from the proposed Camden dock site at the South
Jersey Port Corp. overlooking Penn's Landing in Philadelphia.
Guy Archambault, a retired Navy captain and
president of the Historic Naval Ships Association, also said
the Intrepid and the New Jersey could harm each other financially.
"There seems to be a perception that
if you get a ship, everybody will come, but that is not always
so," said Archambault, who operates the USS Massachusetts
museum in Fall River, Mass.
"You get a mighty ship like the Intrepid
and just across the river you have another mighty ship; one may
detract from the other."
Gardner said the Intrepid, docked at a pier
at 46th Street and 12th Avenue in midtown Manhattan across the
river from New Jersey, has seen a 7 percent increase in visitors
this year and a 10 percent increase last year.
However, he said the admission of up to $10
per person does not cover all operating expenses - $9 million
yearly for his three ships.
"You can't pay for all your operating
expenses for a big ship with admissions. We make a lot of our
money from holding special events like cocktail parties and dinners,
sometimes for more than 2,000 people," Gardner said.
He also said he would prefer to have any ship
in fresh water, such as the Delaware, rather than the salt water
of New York area harbors.
All the sites face other hurdles, from Army
Corps of Engineers approvals to Coast Guard review.
Coast Guard Capt. Larry Brooks, stationed
at the Port of New York, said Army Corps and Coast Guard approvals
would be required at all three proposed sites for issues such
as dredging and proximity to shipping channels and tour boat
The Bayonne and Jersey City sites would also
be subject to National Park Service review because of their proximity
to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Frank Mills, deputy director of the Park Service
on Liberty Island, said his agency would be concerned with the
visual as well as the historical impacts of locating a ship anywhere
near those two monuments.
"We would review the impact on the historical
nature of the two resources of Ellis Island and the statue; like
what does this do to the experience on Ellis Island?" Mills
said. "Is the feel the same? Is the statue view changed?
Does it take away from the two islands?"