September 11, 1998
Camden mayor, congressmen vow to continue fight
By FRANK KUMMER and HAROLD T. NEDD
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
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
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
''In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that indicates Camden
is the best location to attract the sought-after tourism dollars,"
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
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
"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
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.''
New Jersey Home Page