September 12, 1998
group will appeal to Navy for battleship
By CAROL COMEGNO
CAMDEN - A South Jersey coalition
said Friday it will apply directly to the Navy to bring the USS
New Jersey to Camden, across from the shipyard where it was built.
Although the New Jersey Battleship Commission recommended
Thursday the warship be berthed at Bayonne as a floating museum,
the Navy will have final say on where the ship will go.
Meanwhile, several members of the battleship commission said
Chairman Joseph Azzolina intimidated commissioners to cast votes
for Bayonne - even offering some members jobs on the battleship.
"People like him (Azzolina) can hurt you in financial,
political and other such ways," said one member who, like
others, asked not to be identified. "Many commissioners
were afraid to vote their real choice."
A majority said they favored Jersey City over Bayonne, but
felt pressured by Azzolina. Bayonne won the vote, 8-4. Camden
received only one vote.
"It was all political between him (Azzolina) and (Bayonne
Mayor Joseph) Doria,'' the commission member said. ''Joe (Azzolina)
called many of us night and day, sometimes at work, and tried
to intimidate us into voting for Bayonne. This was not a fair
Azzolina, a Republican assemblyman from Monmouth County, admitted
lobbying his colleagues on the commission, but denied exerting
undue pressure or offering jobs for votes.
"Yes, I talked to a few to find out how they would vote,
but I never pressured them," he said.
Despite the battleship commission's months-long mission to
recommend a New Jersey home for the state's namesake warship,
the local Home Port Alliance announced Friday it would venture
out on its own to bring the highly decorated battleship back
to the Delaware River as a floating museum.
Democratic Camden County Freeholder Patricia Jones and state
Sen. John Matheussen , R-Gloucester and Camden, said the alliance
will file an application with the Navy once the ship becomes
available this fall, as expected. Matheussen and Jones are founding
members of the alliance, a coalition of government officials,
veterans, businesses and nonprofit groups that put forth a proposal
this summer to place the ship along the Camden waterfront.
Matheussen said Thursday's disappointment has now turned to
"I think the commission has treated the people of South
Jersey poorly,'' Matheussen said. ''If it could have been judged
fairly on all of the merits, Camden is the pre-eminent site for
the battleship. Yesterday, we witnessed a public event that was
very carefully orchestrated to present misinformation and untruths
about the Camden and Jersey City proposals.''
Camden's only vote was cast by the commission's only South
Jersey member, Joseph Dyer of Pennsville.
Commissioner Joseph E. Gonzales, president of the New Jersey
Business and Industry Association, considered voting for Camden
but abstained. As head of a lobbying group that must deal with
state lawmakers like Azzolina and Doria once the Assembly reconvenes,
Gonzales chose to abstain rather than cast a controversial vote.
Asked about Camden's latest move, Azzolina said: "It's
a free country. Anybody can do whatever they want."
Michael Torpey, Gov. Christie Whitman's chief of staff, said
Whitman likely will abide by the commission's recommendation.
Matheussen and Jones pointed to Camden's many advantages:
a freshwater site preferred by the Navy because it minimizes
hull corrosion and maintenance, environmental soundness, financial
commitment of $6.8 million in money and land, and a shipbuilding
tradition linked directly to the battleship.
"With our total, including $3.2 million for a sophisticated
mooring system and the towing of the ship from Bremerton, Wash.,
we committed more money than any other site,'' Jones said, ''and
more than the $3 million to $4 million the non-profit battleship
groups have raised in the past 20 years."
She criticized the commission for choosing to put the ship
on an unsightly, contaminated hazardous waste site at the Military
Ocean Terminal in Bayonne, adjacent to a deepwater container
She called the decision an insult and criticized Azzolina
for saying Camden-Philadelphia tourism could not support the
ship and that the walk to the ship from the Waterfront would
take too long.
At a State House meeting Thursday, most commissioners said
Liberty State Park in New York Harbor at Jersey City was their
first choice because of its view of the Statue of Liberty and
But the majority voted for Bayonne.
They said Bayonne had the only existing dock and voiced preference
for a landside berth, rather than offshore docking the other
two cities proposed.
The commission ignored advice given by two commissioners,
a naval commander and a rear admiral whom Azzolina previously
touted as experts. The two praised the applications of Jersey
City and Camden, mentioning the freshwater advantage of Camden,
opposing the Bayonne pier adjacent to a planned deep water channel
for container ships and preferring an off-shore site for more
Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria, D-Hudson, said Friday his city
is excited at the prospect of hosting the ship and will prepare
for it to arrive in late 1999.
Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, on the other hand, declared
moral victory and said he expects the ship to eventually come
to Jersey City.
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