September 3, 1998 |
Jersey battleship panel set to visit Bayonne today
By CAROL COMEGNO
officials will host the USS New Jersey Battleship Commission
today in an effort to convince the panel that their city is better
than Camden or Jersey City as a future home for the state's namesake
It is the commission's last visit to any of
the proposed ports before it makes its site selection at a meeting
planned for next Thursday at the State House in Trenton, said
Commission Chairman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth.
"My administration has been working hard
to return this historic vessel to our community," Bayonne
Mayor Joseph Doria, also a Democratic assemblyman in Hudson County,
said of the USS New Jersey. "With our great naval history
and central location in the North Jersey-New York region, Bayonne
is well-positioned to attract thousands of tourists each year
to visit the ship."
Azzolina said all three cities would receive
Most of the 14 commission members are expected
to attend a presentation today in the Bayonne municipal building
and then tour the Military Ocean Terminal, where the New Jersey
would be docked as a floating museum if the Bayonne site is chosen.
The warship - the most decorated in U.S. naval
history - was stored at Bayonne twice when it was inactive between
wars, the first time after World War II. The commission plans
to tow the ship to New Jersey from the naval shipyard in Bremerton,
Wash., via the Panama Canal before the end of 1999.
On Wednesday, hundreds of 16-inch shells for
the ship's large guns arrived at the Earle Naval Weapons Depot
in Monmouth County from a Navy ordnance depot in Indiana. The
shells would be displayed on the ship if the Navy approves its
donation to New Jersey.
This year the U.S. Senate and House each passed
different versions of legislation that would release the ship
from the Navy's reserve fleet and make it available for donation
to a nonprofit group for a museum. When Congress returns this
month, the House-Senate Conference Committee is expected to resolve
While the House bill proposes the ship be
released to its home state, the Senate bill stipulated it be
released only if the state can meet the Navy's conditions for
docking the warship safely and meeting financial criteria.
Maj. Gen. Donald Gardner, director of the
USS Intrepid Museum, however, said he has major concerns about
having another major naval ship in the New Jersey-New York Harbor
that would compete with the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, which
is docked at piers in midtown Manhattan.
He has predicted that both ships would sink
financially if the New Jersey came to either Bayonne or Jersey
Camden City and Camden County agencies have
so far pledged $4.2 million to dock the ship in Camden. Neither
of the other two cities has pledged more than $1 million. The
commission said it needs about $7 million to $8 million to tow
the ship back, prepare dockage and convert the ship to a museum.
It has almost $4 million from special license plate sales and