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

Wednesday, September 9, 1998

Panel favors Bayonne for battleship

By CAROL COMEGNO
Courier-Post staff


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 report.

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," he said.

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.

USS New Jersey Home Page



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