September 9, 1998
favors Bayonne for battleship
An internal report prepared for
the New Jersey Battleship Commission recommends Bayonne instead
of Jersey City or Camden as the site for the USS New Jersey.
Portions of the draft report were written before the commission's
visit to Bayonne last week and a revisit to Camden the week before.
The Courier-Post has obtained a copy of the report.
Commission Chairman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, denied the
report was intended as a final recommendation on where to relocate
the ship, now docked in Bremerton, Wash. He called the report
a "working document."
"No recommendation has been made by the commission,"
he said. He promised the commission would render a fair decision.
"This document says if we go to Bayonne, this is what
we will do. But we are not even using this because this is based
on prior information and knowledge," he said. "We are
also going to re-review other sites at our meeting on Thursday."
"Somebody is trying to stir up something" by leaking
the internal memo, he added.
Azzolina said he has chosen commissioner Eugene Simko of Middletown,
a professor of graduate programs at Monmouth University who wrote
at least some of the internal report, to present the pros and
cons of each site at Thursday's commission meeting at the State
House in Trenton. A site recommendation from the commission is
expected at that meeting.
Simko, who visited the ship with Azzolina last year, included
comments in his report about the advantages of docking the battleship
at a landside pier like the USS Missouri, which is a museum in
Pearl Harbor. He saw the Missouri during a personal trip to Hawaii
last month. Simko could not be reached for comment on the internal
The report concludes Bayonne is the preferred site and outlines
many advantages, including security at the site to thwart terrorism
and the ability of emergency and supply vehicles to easily reach
the ship from a landside dock.
"In light of the above analysis, we feel that it is in
the best interest of mooring, market feasibility and security
that the USS New Jersey be berthed at MOT (Military Ocean Terminal)
Bayonne," the report concludes. "The USS New Jersey
Battleship Commission, after detailed evaluation of alternative
sites within the state . . . has recommended Bayonne, a part
of the development of the Liberty State Park waterfront complex."
The Military Ocean Terminal is now operated by the Army, but
there will be no military protection after the Army turns the
property over to the city in the next two or three years. The
ship previously was anchored at the terminal when not in use.
The Camden and Jersey City proposals would situate the ship
slightly offshore at T-shaped docks that would have to be built.
Camden city and Camden County agencies have offered $4.2 million
to the commission to build the required pier and dockside facilities
and to tow the ship, which was built on the Delaware River, from
Bremerton. The other two cities have offered no public funds.
A number of other commission members interviewed Tuesday said
they had no knowledge of the draft report and expressed surprise
and, in some cases, chagrin. Others declined comment. "We
have not made a decision. This is premature," said commissioner
Leon Morrison, a representative of the Battleship New Jersey
Historical Museum Society.
Commissioner Stuart Chalkley said he does not approve of such
a conclusive report because the commission has not had a meeting
since early July. "We were waiting until Thursday to receive
more detailed engineering information for all the sites,"
Azzolina was planning an executive session before the noon
public meeting Thursday at the State House. After learning of
the document leak, he said was canceling the closed session and
would have deliberations in public.
Commissioner Joseph Dyer of Pennsville, the only South Jersey
commission member, said commissioners have not had an opportunity
to discuss all the proposals as a group. He also said some commissioners
appear hesitant to oppose Bayonne publicly for fear of offending
Azzolina, who has been a proponent of Bayonne for more than a
year, at least as a temporary site for the ship.
State Sen. John Matheussen, D-Gloucester, said he would be
disappointed if a commission report already had been drafted
endorsing Bayonne. "All we ever asked for was a fair hearing
and an opportunity to present a case for what we think is the
best site - Camden," said Matheussen.
"We can do a landside docking in Camden, too, if that
is what the commission wants, but I do not personally think that
is the best way to display the ship."
In other developments, the fund-raising organization for the
commission - the Battleship New Jersey Foundation - wrote in
the latest issue of its newsletter that the ship was coming to
Bayonne as a museum. Azzolina said he did not write it and was
disturbed that it indicated a decision already had been made.
Also Tuesday, state officials refuted contentions by Bayonne
Mayor Joseph Doria and Azzolina that there is a no-cost plan
for the required dredging of the north side of the Bayonne terminal
to accommodate the battleship.
"We (the Department of Commerce) and the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers are dredging the Port Jersey channel to 41 feet,
but this does not include either side directly along the piers.
That would have to be a private contract," said Frank McDonough,
state director of maritime resources and a member of the military
terminal re-use commission.
He also said the USS New Jersey would have to be berthed 300
to 500 feet back from the tip of the Bayonne pier to allow other
ships to enter the narrow shipping channel off the main New York-New
Jersey Harbor channel.
Radio Station WWDB-FM 96.5, is planning a rally at Wiggins
Waterfront Park in Camden from 5 to 8 p.m. today to generate
more support for the Camden site.
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