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

Friday, September 11, 1998

Camden loses bid for USS New Jersey

Courier-Post staff

TRENTON - The New Jersey Battleship Commission wanted the state's namesake ship docked near the Statue of Liberty in Jersey City but instead voted as expected Thursday to give it a permanent berth in Bayonne.

In a vote that left Camden a distant third, commission members chose to send the Navy's most decorated battleship to Bayonne because it is the only site with a pier already available. Eight of 14 battleship commissioners voted for Bayonne, but most said they did so reluctantly. Four voted for Liberty State Park at Jersey City.

The commission's only South Jersey representative, Joseph Dyer of Pennsville, Salem County, cast the lone vote for Camden's proposal to put the ship near where it was built on the Delaware River. One commissioner was undecided and abstained.

South Jersey officials vowed to challenge the decision and even take their case to court if necessary. The commission recommendation goes to Gov. Christie Whitman.

Dyer described the vote as a loss for South Jersey and the state. "Camden deserved a better shot," he said.

Paul Barrett, a Runnemede resident who attended the vote, did not submit another pro-Camden petition with 2,000 signatures.

"What was the use? This meeting was a sham," he said.

Most of the eight commissioners who selected Bayonne said they voted for it with reservations because they were uncertain an offshore dock at Jersey City would be ready by the end of 1999. That's when the ship would arrive if the Navy approves the commission's application.

Bayonne, where the ship was stored after World War II and the Korean War, proposes docking the ship along an existing pier on the Port Jersey Channel off the Hudson River.

"If the Navy disapproves of the site, we have two other sites," said commission chairman Joseph Azzolina, a Republican assemblyman from Monmouth County, who praised the plans of all three cities.

Conceding that Bayonne's industrial pier site "looks terrible," Azzolina said dilapidated warehouses would be torn down and pointed to plans to build an entertainment complex nearby as reasons for the approval.

"I would prefer Jersey City, but it's not what I like but what's practical, and they (Bayonne) have a dock there," Azzolina said.

Some commissioners criticized the vote.

"This is a muddy decision, and I am not happy about it," said commissioner Gloria Patrizio of Short Hills, who voted for Jersey City.

She said the USS New Jersey - which fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War - should be placed by the most visible site in the state next to another symbol of freedom, the Statue of Liberty.

Commissioner Walter Olkowski of Bridgewater said he "would like to see it have a place of honor in Liberty State Park, but I will vote for Bayonne - the only place that can take it right now." His sentiments were echoed by at least five other commissioners who voted for Bayonne.

In favoring the Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne, the majority ignored advice from one of its own experts - commission vice chairman and retired naval commander Thomas Gorman, who will prepare the application for the ship. He advised against berthing the ship directly alongside what will soon become a deep water port in the Port Jersey Channel.

Gorman, of Lincroft, also made a strong case for Camden, saying the Navy prefers freshwater sites for its ships. He also said a ship is safer docked slightly away from a landside pier than directly alongside it. Later, he voted for Jersey City as the most visible site but described Camden as a "strong second."

Commissioners praised Camden's aesthetic Delaware River view, but Azzolina and commissioner Eugene Simko, a business professor from Middletown, concluded tourism from the New Jersey State Aquarium and Philadelphia could not support the ship museum.

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