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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The first of three new ships the Navy is relocating to the First Coast is scheduled to arrive Friday.

The USS New York left Norfolk, Virginia earlier this week and is set to dock at Naval Station Mayport around noon.

A welcoming ceremony is planned for 1 p.m. that will be attended by key leaders like U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida).

It's unclear if U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) will be in attendance, but he issued the following statement:

"I am excited about the USS New York's arrival and welcome its crew members and their families to Jacksonville's military family."
About 350 sailors are on board the San Antonio-class wartime ship. Nearly all of them are expected to make Jacksonville their new home.

The commanding officer of the USS New York, Capt. Jon Kreitz, had nothing but positive things to say about Jacksonville during an interview with First Coast News.

"From the quality of life aspect and cost of living, the schools, just the whole environment and spirit of the area. It's a great place to work," he said.

But Kreitz admitted leaving Virginia was not easy.

"For many of us, we've spent large parts of our careers here and so there's a big part of us that doesn't want to leave Hampton Roads," he said in an interview with NBC News.

Sailors were allowed to put personal items like their cars on the ship to make the transition easier.

"This whole thing is making it a lot easier on families in general, but also as far as not having to worry about getting our cars down when the ship itself is relocating," said Lt. Charles Chambers.

Last year, the U.S. Navy announced plans to move the USS New York, USS Fort McHenry and USS Iwo Jima to Mayport.

The Navy said the moves are part of an Amphibious Ready Group that will strengthen its military presence in the Southeast.
Many contractors have also said the arrival of three new ships will bolster its industry.

The USS New York stands out because its bow stem is made of steel from the fallen World Trade Center in New York City.

There are also tributes to 9/11 victims within the ship.

It was commissioned in 2009 after construction began in 2003.
First Coast News' Andrew Capasso has been traveling with the ship and will have coverage of its arrival throughout the day.

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