The USS New Jersey is in the middle of a battle — this time to pay off its bills and avoid being moved to northern New Jersey. The most-decorated battleship in U.S. history is now a museum, but its operator, the Home Port Alliance, is struggling to repay $900,000 of a $1 million bank loan taken out in 2003, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer
The alliance is also fighting back against the USS New Jersey Battleship Foundation, which wants to move the ship from Camden, N.J., to Liberty State Park, where it will dock between the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, and Ellis Island.
“She’s not going anywhere,” said Philip Rowan, CEO of the Home Port Alliance. “I’ll use the line that Charlton Heston used: ‘They’ll take it from my cold, dead hands.’ “
Rowan said the U.S. Navy is happy with how the alliance is running the ship, which is open to the public. However, Battleship Foundation President Christopher von Zwehl said his group is working to raise $15 million to dredge a site at Liberty State Park so it can dock the ship.
The alliance has been fighting against the state’s declining economy to keep the ship in Camden. It received $1.7 million from New Jersey in 2010 and only $32,500 last year.
Meanwhile, the Delaware River Port Authority decided not to renew its loan for the Camden group, extending it only to mid-April. The authority’s inspector general is also performing an internal investigation to determine if the loan was properly guaranteed.
Von Zwehl has initiated an inquiry with the state Office of Consumer Protection. The alliance has not registered as a charity with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs in recent years, but still receives contributions and grants.
The N.J. Attorney General’s Office is also investigating the financial ties between the ship and the Delaware River Port Authority, after von Zwehl wrote letters to Gov. Chris Christie and others last year.
Rowan said visitors still come to see the ship’s 16-inch guns, and that it should not be moved.
“We have a beautiful location on the Delaware River near the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where the USS New Jersey was built,” he said.
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