August 20, 1998|
Museum ships shouldn't compete
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
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
"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,"
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.
-- 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
-- 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.