Camden City residents push for demolition of ‘imminent hazards’

CAMDEN — The City Council approved the demolition of 23 abandoned homes last week that were considered “imminent hazards” and awarded the project to Hargrove Demolition of Cramer Hill.

But no contract has been signed by either the company or the city and no date has been set for the actual demolition.

Pat Keating, director of public works for the city, said the properties must be presented to the local historic preservation group for “due diligence” to investigate their historic significance.

“Demolition of structures in the city must go through historic review,” said Franciscan Father Jud Weiksnar of Camden Churches Organized for People (CCOP).

“Some 30 ‘imminent hazards’ were cited by the council but 23 were chosen for total demolition,” said Father Weiksnar, who is pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in the Cramer Hill section of Camden.

One of the 23 was the abandoned house at 923 N. 27th St. in Cramer Hill which received the title of the Ugliest House of 2009. Father Weiksnar said it was a haven for drug addicts until it recently caught fire. Another house at 713 N. 10th St. was featured at the CCOP citywide meeting with Gov. Jon Corzine in September.

At the meeting neighborhood resident Shelly McCargo-Braxton said, “This property is so bad that our family does not feel comfortable cooking and eating in our own home for the bad odors, fleas, roaches and rodents coming from the trash-filled abandoned property.”

“The governor said that this house broke his heart and that the state needed to pay attention to the details that will give Camden residents hope,” Father Weiksnar said, who noted that both these houses have become symbols of state and city neglect.

“When we met with Gov.-elect Christie we were told that he wanted to get the city back to governing itself as quickly as possible,” Father Weiksnar added. “Taking care of the abandoned house problem was one way of doing that.”

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