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

Friday, September 11, 1998

Camden mayor, congressmen vow to continue fight

Courier-Post Staff

A dejected Camden Mayor Milton Milan and dismayed South Jersey congressmen in Washington vowed to fight a recommendation Thursday to berth the USS New Jersey in Bayonne - and bring the most decorated warship in American naval history home to Camden.

"There were signs of the whole process being unfair," said Milan. "There was lobbying for Bayonne within the (New Jersey Battleship) commission, and another authority should look into it."

U.S. Reps. Rob Andrews, a Democrat from Haddon Heights, and Jim Saxton, a Republican from Mount Holly, issued a joint statement opposing the Bayonne recommendation. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a Republican from Vineland, issued a statement through a press officer.

''We are considering whatever options we have under federal law to reverse this incorrect decision,'' Andrews said. ''We are committed to continuing our fight to bring the USS New Jersey back to South Jersey where she belongs.''

Andrews believes the ship, built across the Delaware River at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, should be moored closer to its birthplace.

He also was skeptical of berthing the ship in Bayonne, so close to another warship - the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid - docked across the Hudson River in Manhattan.

''It is not a wise business decision to place two floating museums that close together,'' he said.

Saxton said the commission's decision was based on flawed reasoning.

''In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that indicates Camden is the best location to attract the sought-after tourism dollars," Saxton said.

John Scofield, a spokesman for LoBiondo, said the congressman was dismayed by the news.

''He felt locating in Camden was the most appropriate place considering that's where the ship originated," Scofield said.

State Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, said he intends to ask Gov. Christie Whitman to review the decision and will ask the attorney general to investigate any possible legal problems with the Bayonne site.

Milan said the Home Port Alliance Inc., a group formed in late spring to spearhead efforts to bring the warship to South Jersey, will meet in a week to consider its options.

Camden County Freeholder Pat Jones, a key member of the group, attended the commission's meeting in Trenton.

"They clearly never intended to give the Camden site a fair shake," she said.

Jones said the commission ignored the 500,000 visitors the Camden site guaranteed and the fact the site would not have cost the commission any money.

Jose Nicholas Bello, a North Camden grocer, had envisioned the battleship being a landmark that would attract tourism dollars.

"But it doesn't look like anybody wants to do anything for Camden," said Bello. "It looks like everything goes to North Jersey and nothing goes to South Jersey."

Others like Leanna Brown, who lives five blocks from the Camden site proposed for the battleship, chalked up the vote as another letdown that comes with living in one of the poorest cities in the state.

"I do care. I live here, and would love to see Camden come back and be like it was, said Brown, a 30-year resident of Camden. ''Maybe this could have been one of those things that might have helped."

Michael Estes of Altamont City, Fla., served on the USS New Jersey in the 1980s and is planning to move back with his family to the state.

The 42-year-old retired Gloucester County sheriff's deputy hopes to volunteer in the restoration of the warship - so much so that the family's moving plans hinge on the New Jersey's future home.

Now he must decide whether to move to North Jersey, where the cost of living is higher.

''It would really help Camden and South Jersey,'' Estes said. ''I just really believe that's where she belongs. She was built right there. She deserves to be there.''

USS New Jersey Home Page

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