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

November 12, 1999
McGuigan's vision of a battleship in Camden

On Nov. 6, 1999, Captain David B. McGuigan, USN (retired), president of the Home Port Alliance, gave this speech before the Summit on the Future of South Jersey conference at Rutgers-Camden.

The Home Port Alliance was founded in the spring of 1998 by New Jersey State Senator John Matheussen, Gloucester County; Camden County Freeholder Patricia Egan Jones; Mayor Milton Milan; Mr. Joseph Balzano, CEO of the South Jersey Port Corporation; and Mr. Tom Corcoran, President, Coopers Ferry Development Association.

In some cases, politically different, geographically dispersed, of and not of government, but committed bipartisanally to a regional project with historical, economic and social impact.

Today, the Home Port Alliance for the USS New Jersey is incorporated in the State of New Jersey and recognized by the IRS as a 501 3(c) not for profit organization. There is no paid staff. We are all volunteers.

The purpose of the alliance is to establish, maintain, and operate the USS New Jersey Memorial. The Battleship New Jersey will be the principal element of this self-sufficient museum, dedicated memorial and educational site located on the Camden Waterfront.

With the commitment of funding from both the Camden County Freeholder Board and Bryan Finnie's Camden Empowerment Zone Corporation, the vision of the battleship on the Delaware gained momentum.

The alliance was then able to secure funding and neutrality at the state level with the governor and Legislature approving nearly $10 million in funding to the site selected by the Navy, either the Camden Waterfront or Bayonne.

Our project boasts important support from 80 New Jersey municipalities; 30,000 petition signatories; four United States Senators and 22 U.S. Congressmen; veterans' groups, tri-state elected officials; and over 200 corporate and civic organizations. Congressman James Saxton has been most deliberate in various workings to support the Camden site as the final berth for the New Jersey.

We are on the brink of establishing a significant memorial that will have substantial educational and economic impact on South Jersey and the City of Camden. For the Navy to award a historic ship, the applicant must submit an application, more or less a proposal, outlining the technical, financial, and curatorial approach it will use to operate and maintain the ship.

We submitted a three volume, 1,700 page application to the Navy outlining our approach to establish the memorial. The majority of the work in developing this application was done by volunteers.

Our key ingredients to date have been dedication, commitment, and teamwork. The site of the memorial forms the southern anchor of an extensive Waterfront development project - the Camden Waterfront. This urban reconstruction is significant and pivotal in the rebirth of Camden.

Conceptually, it is similar to the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Pier 39 in San Francisco, and Bayside Market Place in Miami.

The alliance envisions the memorial as an added catalyst to the Camden development - a catalyst that will add jobs directly benefiting the City of Camden. A city long suffering from corporate relocations, downsizing, and suburban flight.

There is a golden circle, a regional circle, encompassing the development surrounding Penn's Landing and the Camden Waterfront. A tremendous forcing function on this development is the $550 million Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The Penn's Landing and the Camden Waterfront are integral. The Delaware River Port Authority's aerial tram, to be located south of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, with the capability of moving 3,000 people per hour, will bring the two waterfronts into a supportive relationship.

The proposed location is just 25 shiplengths north of where the New Jersey was built and adjacent to an active marine terminal which forms the conceptual entity in the memorial's experience - a live maritime setting exposing the visitor to a ship in an active waterway rich in naval history and Merchant Marine tradition.

The memorial will have a breathtaking view of the Philadelphia skyline. The view that this summer will be used to open the Year 2000 Republican National Convention with 10,000 people on the Camden Waterfront. Yes, perhaps the Camden Waterfront is in the shadows Philadelphia, but in reality Philadelphia, the birthplace of our nation, with its Penn's Landing and the Liberty Bell is a regional asset.

An asset which impacts positively on the long-term financial success of the USS New Jersey Memorial. The Conventional Center will help to bring the continuing influx of paying visitors required to sustain the financial viability of the Battleship New Jersey and its memorial. Not to recognize this and work with this in the planning process is to not recognize reality.

Regionality is not based upon some rather arbitrary geographic or political boundary markings. The creative interplay between planning and political subdivisions will always remain. However, the full range of planning objectives cannot be accommodated within most local political systems. We must look to the region.

The memorial's mission statement recognizes:

-- The New Jersey as the most decorated ship in the United States Naval History.

-- The New Jersey as a ship that must be preserved and remembered historically for posterity.

-- The New Jersey as a ship built, modified, and repaired on the Delaware by those from New Jersey.

-- The New Jersey as a ship on which those from New Jersey served all through active service.

-- The New Jersey that can have a tremendous economical, social, and educational impact on an area that needs assistance.

The alliance intends to develop a setting that will have a significant impact on the region's economic and educational base. The importance of Camden within a federal designated empowerment zone influences alliance planning and concerns. The memorial can be an essential contributor to Camden's economic progress.

There must be a social responsibility in the management of the memorial implying not only a concern for the memorial's health, but also the consequences of its actions on the Camden community. The alliance's board and its members, volunteers working long hours in project planning and proposal planning, view the New Jersey and its memorial as a source of direct and indirect jobs.

Of small and minority business, direct and indirect contracts, and as a forcing function for other initiatives and new starts. Perceived in the light of social action, the New Jersey has another important mission to perform. Her final mission is at Camden on the Delaware River, her birthplace, helping those who built and maintained her through her lifetime.

The alliance is a model for approaching programs regionally. It will be successful for it has the required inputs, volunteerism, commitment, dedication, and teamwork.

But, of course, the Navy must first award us the ship.

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