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

Thursday, August 20, 1998

Museum ships shouldn't compete

The move to place the USS New Jersey on the Camden Waterfront has picked up important and knowledgeable allies - people who already operate Navy ships as museums.

One is the director of the organization which operates the USS Intrepid museum in New York City.

Like the battleship "Big J," the much bigger aircraft carrier, the Intrepid, has a distinguished service record, including duty during World War II and the Vietnam War.

And it has been drawing tourists to the pier at 46th Street and 12th Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

They pay $10 each to see the "Fighting I" and two other ships, but that does not cover all operating expenses. The museum gets the rest from parties and dinners, sometimes seating 2,000 people.

Retired Maj. Gen. Donald Gardner, executive director of the Intrepid Museum Foundation, says he thinks having the USS New Jersey in either Bayonne or Jersey City would hurt both ships.

"Anybody who makes a conscious decision to put two museums ships that close together is not making a sound business decision and is putting both ships in danger," said Gardner.

Bayonne and Jersey City might argue the Intrepid people just don't want any competition, but another ship museum director some distance away agrees with Gardner.

Guy Archambault, president of the Historic Naval Ships Association, said, "There seems to be a perception that if you get a ship, everybody will come, but that is not always so." Archambault operates the USS Massachusetts museum in Fall River, Mass.

It doesn't make good economic sense to us, either. We shouldn't force tourists to choose between great ships in the same area.

Should that happen, we suspect the USS New Jersey would be the loser. People are not likely to leave convenient Manhattan to try to find their way to Bayonne or Jersey City.

Camden is the better spot for so many reasons. Among them:

-- The New Jersey was built and launched nearby by people in the area. This is its home.

-- The Delaware River's fresh water will necessitate far less maintenance than the salt water Bayonne and Jersey City offer.

-- There is already more than $4 million available for situating the "Big J" here.

-- The expanding attractions on both sides of the river will attract large enough crowds to keep the battleship museum in the black.

Any objective review of the facts shows the Camden Waterfront is clearly the best choice.



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