Victory results, at long last, in destruction

Victory results, at long last, in destruction

Photos by James A. McBride

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Photos above: Children of St. Anthony of Padua School in the Cramer Hill section of Camden hold a sign that says Dream Playground, expressing their hope that a playground will be built on the property next to the school, now that an abandoned house has been demolished. Parish and local residents worked for nearly six years to have the vacant building razed; property before the demolition. In other photos: Father Jud Weiksnar gets into the cab of the demolition excavator.

ronshouse4-webCAMDEN — Cramer Hill is a step closer to eliminating abandoned buildings and reclaiming the neighborhood for its residents.

On Dec. 6 the demolition of a structure at 2842 River Ave., called Ron’s House, located next to St. Anthony of Padua School, finally began after five and a half years of waiting and red tape, said Father Jud Weiksnar, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish.ronshouse3-web

Carmen Stauffer, the school’s secretary, said, “Drug dealers and other squatters would come into the property during the school day. Now that the house is being demolished, our children will be safer.”

A press conference was held in front of the property prior to demolition, said Father Jud, who noted that Hargrove Demolition will be donating the demolition costs.

“Our dream is that by the spring we might have a playground on the site,” said the pastor.

The recent passage of the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act will now cut the time to take over abandoned properties from up to six years to under a year.

There are currently 20 abandoned properties in Cramer Hill that have been approved by the city council for demolition, according to Kristen Nalen, Hispanic outreach coordinator at St. Anthony and part of the justice ministry.

“Parishioners and Camden Churches Organized for People have been working for about a year and a half on these abandoned properties,” Nalen said. “We’ve been working with various city officials and attorneys, and we interviewed residents who live next to these abandoned properties to get their feelings.”

The Cramer Hill Community Development Corp. plans to buy the 20 properties, and either rehabilitate them or sell them to individuals or to groups for them to rehabilitate, and then they’d be offered for sale at fair market prices, Nalen said.

Father Jud said Ron of Ron’s House was a mentally-challenged person who owned the property and who used to volunteer at St. Anthony. He made a verbal agreement with the church to give them the house when he died.

“But Ron died before any legal arrangements could be made,” said the pastor. “The church had no technical claim on the property. But we got the house after the diocese and the church bought the outstanding liens on the property. One of the biggest delays in the process was caused by the Tax Lien Financing Corp., a quasi-state bureaucracy. It took over five years for the title to change while it would’ve taken only six months today.”

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