October 22, 1998
appeals Bayonne ship site
By CAROL COMEGNO
The Camden County Board of Freeholders
has appealed the New Jersey Battleship Commission's recommendation
that Bayonne become the museum site for the historic USS New
In a petition to the Superior Court Appellate Division in
Trenton, county officials said the commission violated the law
that created it by voting Sept. 10 to designate Bayonne as the
site in an application to the U.S. Department of the Navy.
The appeal asks the court to bar the pending application and
criticizes the commission recommendation as "arbitrary and
capricious" and lacking "substantial evidence to support
Camden County freeholders favor a Camden City site on the
Delaware River near where the ship was built, but both Camden
and Jersey City lost the controversial commission vote last month.
Robert Millenky, counsel to the freeholders, said the law
requires approval from the Legislature and Gov. Christie Whitman
before the commission can formally vote to submit an application
to the Navy for a site.
"They do not have the power to select," Millenky
said Wednesday. "They forgot about getting specific authorization
from the Legislature and the governor designating the berthing
location through legislation. Instead, they focused improperly
on one provision that says they are authorized to submit an application
to the Navy."
The papers name the commission, its chairman Joseph Azzolina,
R-Monmouth, and the state Department of Environmental Protection,
the parent agency of the commission.
Gordon Bishop, a commission spokesman, said it is more important
to get the ship to a place in New Jersey than fight over the
specific site at this time. He declined comment on the petition.
Azzolina and DEP Commissioner Robert C. Shinn Jr. were unavailable
for comment, but DEP spokeswoman Amy Collings said the appeal
will be forwarded to the state attorney general's office, which
usually represents the state in legal matters.
Millenky said the commission's 1995 application to the Navy
touting Liberty State Park in Jersey City as the site for the
battleship also violated state statute. No Navy action was taken
on that request because the ship - which has fought in all major
wars since World War II and is the most decorated in naval history
- was not available for donation at that time.
Camden County Freeholder Patricia E. Jones said the county
wanted to challenge the Bayonne recommendation not just because
it was procedurally improper.
"The commission process in choosing Bayonne also was
outlandish for other reasons," she said. "There were
no professional reports or criteria. Instead, a lot of misinformation
was given. They dismissed our proposal before they started."
Jones is one of the founders of the Home Port Alliance, a
nonprofit group of South Jersey officials, labor unions, veterans
groups and businesses that plans to submit a separate application
to the Navy for a museum site for the ship on the Delaware River
At a hearing in Washington this month on the donation process,
Navy officials said they will accept applications from any nonprofit
group and that the acceptance and review process will take more
than a year.
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