The amphibious transport dock ship New York arrives in New York City in 2011 to participate in commemorations of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (Lt. Cmdr. Sarah Higgins/Navy)
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The amphibious transport dock New York will leave Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on Dec. 4 for its new homeport at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., and arriveon Dec. 6.
It’s the first move in the transition of the three-ship Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group to the Northern Florida port. The amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima and the dock landing ship Fort McHenry are scheduled to start calling the base home by the end of fiscal year 2014.
What’s not clear yet is exactly when the other two ships will make the move, though Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert told Navy Times Nov. 14 that the moves will happen on schedule. The money — which was allocated in the 2013 defense budget — won’t be impacted by sequestration.
These moves have been long anticipated in North Florida, which has seen its Navy population decline steadily over the past two decades. Currently, 17 ships and just under 5,000 sailors call the base home. In the 1980s, Mayport boasted two aircraft carriers, 28 combatants and nearly 30,000 sailors.
The arrival of the New York, with 31 officers and 326 enlisted sailors and their families, will be the first growth the base has seen since the destroyer Farragut arrived in 2005.
Mayport was slated to be upgraded to a nuclear homeport with the expectation of welcoming an aircraft carrier in 2019, but the move was delayed indefinitely due to budget constraints in February 2012.
As a result, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced in June 2012 that the Iwo Jima ARG would make the move to shore up the base and the local economy, both of which have taken hits as the base’s ships and sailor numbers have declined.
At the time, the Navy said it “remained committed” to eventually relocating a carrier to the Northern Florida base sometime in the future. The base is also expected to be the East Coast hub for the new littoral combat ship, but the first ship isn’t expected to even arrive until 2016 or beyond.