September 4, 1998|
panel sees Bayonne
by Avi Steinhardt, Courier-Post
Battleship Commission member William Faherty (foreground) and
chairman Joseph Azzolina examine pier.
BAYONNE - The New Jersey Battleship
Commission was able to do something here Thursday that it could
not in similar visits to Camden and neighboring Jersey City.
Though haze and smog obscured a distant Manhattan skyline,
commissioners stood on the actual pier where the battleship USS
New Jersey would dock if they select Bayonne as the museum site
for the return of the ship to New Jersey from Washington state.
The commission meets Thursday at noon in Trenton to decide.
While most commissioners were noncommittal or declined comment
about their visit to the last of three proposed sites for the
ship, many were impressed with security at the Military Ocean
Terminal in Bayonne and with its newly renovated concrete pier
and its freshly painted, daffodil-yellow mooring posts.
"Security and location are the main considerations,"
said commission Chairman Joseph Azzolina, also a Republican assemblyman
from Monmouth County, who recently had endorsed a temporary mooring
"The three sites all have their pluses and minuses. We'll
do what's best for the ship and the public," he said after
a bus tour.
Some commissioners, like Joseph Dyer of Pennsville, Salem
County, and Eugene Simko of Middletown, Monmouth County, agreed
Bayonne did not have as beautiful a waterfront setting as either
Camden or Jersey City.
"The river aesthetics can't compare," said Dyer.
However, Simko said he prefers the landside dockage like Bayonne
has for security reasons and likes the idea of walking part of
the way alongside the ship to appreciate its length of nearly
three football fields - 887 feet.
Bayonne's mayor and state Assemblyman Joseph Doria,
D-Hudson, said the city wants the commission to bring the ship
back to where it was kept in Navy fleet storage twice since World
CRIES: Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria Jr. makes his pitch to the
Battleship Commission for bringing the USS New Jersey to his
"The first time it touched New Jersey was when it came
to the ocean terminal. We don't want to degrade any other city
in our presentation. We believe our military history here at
the Military Ocean Terminal and our proximity to New York and
its 53 million tourists a year make it the best spot for the
ship," said Doria, who offered no financial package to compete
with Camden's $4.2 million pledge.
He said channel and berthing dredging that would be required
will be done at no cost to the city by the Port Authority of
New York and New Jersey and New Jersey Department of Environmental
The site at North Pier at the end of the peninsula is more
than a mile's drive from the entrance to the military terminal.
Camden proposed placing the ship slightly into the Delaware
River to better display it and Jersey City suggested a similar
but longer T-shaped walkway and pier out into New York Harbor.
Both piers would have to be built.
There are no other tourist attractions adjacent to the more
industrial Bayonne site. The military terminal is filled with
old Army warehouses and other buildings, many of which the mayor
said have already been abandoned and eventually will be torn
Looking north at the ship from the dock is the distant Manhattan
skyline and a container cargo operation on the next pier. Staten
Island is to the southeast.
On the more desolate south side of the peninsula and close
to the now gated entrance of the terminal, bulldozers are moving
earth for a shopping mall and a golf course - the first in Hudson
County - is planned. An entertainment complex and business center
is also in the planning stage, but the public authority that
would operate the tract and enter into agreements with private
enterprise for development has yet to be created. A new light
rail system will have two stops outside the terminal but will
not extend to the peninsula waterfront.
The military will begin turning over the 437-acre terminal
- a victim of reduced defense spending - to the city next summer.
Most of the commissioners, including Azzolina, said they have
never seen the environmental reports on remediation plans for
hazardous wastes like PCBs, petroleum, arsenic and DDT that had
been dumped, spilled or stored at the terminal over the years.
However, Doria said there is little contamination and that
it is not near the pier.
Frank Perrucci, president of Bayonne for the Battleship New
Jersey Inc., said veteran's groups care about the ship and want
it back, but resident John Ormsby put a crimp in the Bayonne
presentation when he said the city's presentation was poor compared
to Jersey City's - a fact disputed by the commission.
"Bayonne can kiss the USS New Jersey good-bye,"
predicted Ormsby, chairman of the city Memorial Day committee.
Another Bayonne resident who attended, Paul Yuschak, said
he believes the North Pier should be used for economic development.
"What we need is tax revenue not a tax-exempt operation,"
TO ORDER: Joseph Azzolina (center), chairman of the Battleship
Commission, prepares to begin the hearing at which Bayonne made
its final pitch for the USS New Jersey. A model of the battleship
sits in the foreground.