It may be off the beaten path, beyond a parking lot of a roadside diner, in fact, but this is where the USS Ling submarine has been a beloved attraction of the New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey since 1973.
Now, it’s turned into a 25-hundred ton problem.
The nearly 312-foot long World War II-era vessel remains berthed along the shore of the Hackensack River, and has served as a floating museum operated by a group of loyal veterans from the Submarine Memorial Association, a nonprofit organization, who have worked for decades to keep the sub's history alive. A small museum on shore has also helped to tell the tales of submarines and ships used in the U.S. Navy, which has drawn thousands of visitors through the years.
But new owners of the property have plans to redevelop the area and have served the museum curators an eviction notice, creating a troubling challenge for the museum and the sub.
Les Altschuler, vice president of the Submarine Memorial Association spoke with Fox News about the dilemma, saying, "physically yes, we can move, we don't have a place right now to move to. As far as the Ling, unless someone comes up with something we haven't heard already, as to how you can move it, out of the river here, to some other place, it’s going to stay in the river."
When the USS Ling was first commissioned in 1945, it was capable of being on war patrol for 60 to 90 days. Today, the vessel, which weighs 25,000 tons when submerged, is rusting and rotting in a river that is now filled with thick silt and only 3-feet deep at low tide. There's no way to float it, and it can't fit under the bridges nearby anymore because they don't open.
Then there was the problem of getting onto the sub itself. When Hurricane Sandy hit it 2012, the museum on land flooded and the sub floated. It took months for both to reopen. Visitors returned after the massive cleanup, but at the sub location, the piling support to the pier which held the gangway began to deteriorate, eventually causing the pier to break away in 2015. That led the museum and sub to shut down.
While this massive submarine doesn't technically have to go under the eviction notice because it’s not on the land that developers own, environmentalists say it should, and the only way to get it out is to dismantle it, piece by piece.
Capt. Bill Sheehan, the executive director of the Hackensack Riverkeeper organization, told Fox News: "unfortunately, the only thing I think we can do is bring in equipment and cut it up and take it away.”
He said when the boat arrived at the river, it was 30 feet deep. Now, at high tide, it’s 10 to 12 feet deep.
“As much as I feel for the people who want to keep it operational and keep the boat on exhibit, it is just not fit for it anymore," he said.
The Hackensack Riverkeeper group is recommending that the submarine be carefully dismantled and taken away in pieces, after trying to save some of the main parts of the sub that could be memorialized.
Members of the Submarine Memorial Association disagree that the sub should be destroyed, and say if they can get the developer to take a look at some of their designs and help pay for the project, there is a way the sub can be saved – and even incorporated into the landscape that is expected to be filled with condominiums.
When asked how he would respond to those who want the USS Ling to be carved up and hauled away, Altschuler said: "What I say to those people, is that the Navy has made it quite clear that as long as the boat is in the river, it cannot be cut up. The DEP (Department of Environmental Protection), the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and every other agency will not let a submarine be cut up sitting in a river. It's not a problem to the environment because it's contained, and the boat is not being cut up from what I know and that’s the last thing that any submariner wants to see."
For now, the eviction notice does not appear urgent, there are no bulldozers or construction crews on site, which means the USS Ling will stay in the silt for now, until a plan, or a project to keep the submarine afloat comes along.
To learn more or donate to the efforts to keep the USS Ling as a working museum, go to the USS Ling's Go Fund Me page: https://www.gofundme.com/uss-ling