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Thread: New Jersey Investing in Camden

  1. #76
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    In Camden, New Troubles on Top of Old

    By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA



    slide show

    CAMDEN, N.J. — This city closed its dilapidated central library in the 1980s and never provided the money for restoration or demolition. So the landmark building rots on its weed-choked lot, with most of the roof caved in and a large tree growing up through its middle. “It could be a metaphor for the city,” said Jerome Szpila, the city library director.
    If so, perhaps the tree is about to fall over. Last week, Camden’s mayor, Dana L. Redd, submitted to the state a plan to lay off hundreds of employees — possibly more than one-third of the city’s work force, including police officers and firefighters.

    Camden has long been a national symbol of urban blight and mismanagement, and for seven years was effectively run by a chief operating officer appointed by the governor, prompting cries of disenfranchisement. But when the state ended the arrangement this year, any sense of jubilation among residents was overpowered by bad timing.

    The state’s reign, which fell far short of its promises to improve this city, ended amid a deep economic slump, and was quickly followed by sharp cuts in state aid to municipalities. Navigating these stormy seas fell to a new and untested leader, Ms. Redd, who was elected a year ago, when the mayor was little more than a figurehead.

    Camden drew national attention recently, when officials said this city of 79,000 people might become the largest in the country without a public library — a threat that was put on hold, though one of three branches closed. But the distress goes far beyond libraries. Ms. Redd, 42, a former councilwoman and state senator, cut the city’s budget by nearly one-quarter, furloughed workers one day a week and warned that every department would send out pink slips in December.

    Ms. Redd has called city employees to what promises to be an emotional forum on Monday at City Hall. City officials refused to say how many layoffs were in the plan Ms. Redd sent to the state, in part because they were still trying to reduce the number by squeezing wage and benefit concessions from unions. Last month, the mayor suggested that she might cut as many as 500 of the 1,100 jobs in the city’s work force, including nearly half of its Police and Fire Departments, but officials now say the figure proposed to the state is lower.

    Even so, fiscal watchdogs and labor leaders say that layoffs would certainly be in the hundreds. “We have met with the unions about seven times, and we’re willing to meet with them as much as it takes,” said Marc Riondino, the city attorney. “If there’s concessions, we can back off the number.”

    Camden residents are particularly fearful that in a city with one of the nation’s highest crime rates, reducing the number of police officers would clear the field for gangs and drug dealers. “I already tell my kids to come inside to stay safe, and it’s just going to get worse,” said Mariel Sosa, who lives in North Camden.

    Helene Pierson, executive director of Heart of Camden, a housing group, said, “I had hopes that Mayor Redd could come into office and really tackle some change, but now it’s a huge challenge just to preserve basic services.”

    Mr. Riondino said the Police Department would be reorganized and some functions would be cut, but he insisted that the number of officers patrolling the streets would not decline.

    Other city governments in New Jersey are shrinking, but no other community is cutting as deeply as Camden, and none started with greater needs.

    New Jersey is among the wealthiest states, but Camden is, by some measures, the nation’s poorest city with more than 50,000 people. It has the lowest median family income, about $27,000, and the highest rate of families living in poverty: 36 percent. The landscape is pockmarked by thousands of empty lots where abandoned houses have been torn down, and by thousands of boarded-up structures awaiting demolition. Nineteenth-century sewers break regularly and need replacing, but the task is far beyond the city’s means.

    In January, with only a few months’ warning, the state relinquished control of Camden two years ahead of schedule, just as Ms. Redd, who declined requests for an interview, was taking office.

    Camden depends more heavily on state aid than any other city in New Jersey, drawing more than two-thirds of last year’s budget from Trenton. In June, as the state struggled to balance its own budget gap, Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature cut back on municipal aid across the board, particularly money earmarked for the poorest cities.

    In response, Camden adopted a $138.8 million budget, down $39 million from last year’s, and the mayor warned that even that figure might be too optimistic. Many city workers are fearful — and many spoke about it on the condition their names not be used, lest that put them higher on the layoff list.

    “How am I going to get another job in this economy?” asked a firefighter who believes he will be dismissed. “I can’t even move somewhere else because I can’t sell my house.”
    Connie Jackson worked for the city for 17 years before leaving to run a construction company. “These people are scared to death,” she said, pointing to City Hall. “There are people who might lose their homes just with the furloughs.”

    Richard Harris, a political science professor at Rutgers University’s Camden campus, called it “a fiscal calamity,” predicting that city functions including public safety and sewer repair would be undermined.

    But City Hall watchers also acknowledge that money is not the only problem in a place where, in the three years before the state takeover, two mayors were convicted of criminal charges.

    “There is a history of corruption, waste, mismanagement, incompetence and more corruption,” said Colandus Francis, who heads the Camden City Taxpayers Association. While the downsizing will be wrenching and some services will suffer, he said, the city could manage on its reduced budget if it were run well. “People got used to the idea that no matter what, the state was going to bail us out. Well, that’s over.”

    The takeover is now widely seen as a missed opportunity. The state invested $175 million in Camden, but most of the money went to a few big projects — like expanding a hospital and an aquarium, and building a law school — that were backed by leaders of the Democratic political machine that runs South Jersey. Much less went into neighborhood improvements like removing abandoned houses that shelter drug users and rats.
    City expenses rose under state control, but the tax base did not, and contrary to state assurances, the police force shrank.

    “It’s not that the things they did with the money were bad, and they did create some good jobs, though not enough,” said Stephen Singer, former executive director of CamConnect, a nonprofit group that collects data to track the state of the city. “But they hardly did anything about these massive needs that you have to deal with to create a foundation for everything else — the crime, the schools. Fixing the sewers alone would have cost much more than the state spent on the entire effort.”

    So far, community leaders and people who study local politics are unsure what to make of Ms. Redd. They call her smart and tireless, but they are wary because her political career has been sponsored by the machine led by George Norcross, South Jersey’s most powerful Democrat.

    “She was part of the system that put state control in place, messed it up and then took it away,” said Howard Gillette, a Rutgers-Camden professor of urban history. “But she took on an impossible job. We’ll see how she does.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/ny...1&ref=nyregion

  2. #77
    Jersey Patriot JCMAN320's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Pissing in the wind?

    Officials break ground on Camden medical school, state's first in 30 years

    Published: Thursday, October 28, 2010, 6:21 AM Updated: Thursday, October 28, 2010, 6:25 AM
    Kelly Heyboer/ The Star-Ledger


    Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger
    Seen through a tent is the lot which will be the site of the new Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, New Jersey's first new medical school in 30 years.

    CAMDEN — New Jersey’s first new medical school in 30 years began to rise on a muddy lot in downtown Camden Wednesday.

    Hundreds of people packed a large tent on the site as a group of politicians, education officials and local leaders helped break ground on the new Cooper Medical School of Rowan University after decades of political fights and closed-door funding negotiations.

    The new public medical school — due to enroll its first 50 students in 2012 — will be the first four-year allopathic medical school ever in South Jersey.

    The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey has always billed itself as New Jersey’s only health sciences university. The 5,600-student institution runs allopathic medical schools in Newark, Piscataway and New Brunswick, an osteopathic medical school in Stratford in Camden County, a dental school and other health programs.

    The new Cooper Medical School will be run by Rowan, the 11,000-student public university based in Glassboro, and Camden’s Cooper Hospital. The school will eventually enroll hundreds of future physicians who will be taught by Cooper’s doctors.

    "What’s going to happen here is going to enhance the quality of health care not only in New Jersey, but across this region," said Gov. Chris Christie, who kicked off the ceremony.

    The groundbreaking was more than three decades in the making. Generations of South Jersey politicians and hospital executives have been calling for a full-fledged medical school in the southern part of the state to help stop the loss of patients and research funding to Philadelphia institutions.

    In 2009, Gov. Jon Corzine announced a deal that would allow Cooper Hospital and Rowan University to partner to build the long-awaited medical school in Camden.

    The agreement drew immediate criticism from Essex County lawmakers who alleged Corzine made a deal with George Norcross — the South Jersey political powerbroker and head of Cooper Hospital’s board — for political reasons in the months leading up to the gubernatorial election.

    Essex County was considered a loser in the deal because Newark-based UMDNJ will be forced to close its Camden program for third- and fourth-year medical students once Rowan’s new medical school opens. The $28 million in state funding UMDNJ receives annually for its Camden program will transfer to Rowan to help fund the new school.


    Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger
    Governor Chris Christie (left) smiles and offers a handshake to Senate President Stephen Sweeney as the two sit on the stage waiting to speak at the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.

    UMDNJ officials declined to comment on the new Camden medical school Wednesday.

    All of the speakers at the groundbreaking paid tribute to Norcross, who skipped the event because he was home sick with a virus. Norcross pressured lawmakers for years to get the state to approve a medical school in Camden, as his father had before him, the speakers said.

    "It’s George’s passion that got us to this point," said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester).

    In addition to the $28 million in annual state funding, Cooper Medical School will receive a maximum of $18 million from Cooper Hospital and $20 million from Rowan to help fund its start-up, said Rowan spokesman Joe Cardona. Once students are enrolled, tuition revenue will help fund the school’s operating costs.

    Rowan will borrow money to buy the land and construct the new $100-million medical school building using $139.5 million in bonds issued through the Camden County Improvement Authority.

    Rowan President Donald Farish said he met Tuesday with representatives of Moody’s, the Wall Street bond rating agency. The financial analysts quizzed the president on whether the university was confident the new medical school will continue to receive its state funding given New Jersey’s budget troubles. Farish told the bond raters he believes Christie will financially back the school as it gets established.

    "Rowan University has put itself on the hook, quite frankly, for a $140 million debt," Farish said.


    Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger
    Overview of the lot at the corner of South Broadway and Benson Streets in Camden, the site of the new Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, New Jersey's first new medical school in 30 years.

    Cooper Medical School of Rowan University is one of nearly two dozen new medical schools due to open around the country as medical educators try to help curb a growing shortage of doctors. Philadelphia’s Drexel University recently opened a satellite campus at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick.

    Camden officials hope the infusion of money and students at the new medical program will help revitalize the troubled Lanning Square neighborhood that will house the school. The 200,000-square-foot, six-story facility will be located at South Broadway and Benson Street on property that once included a methadone clinic.

    "Today’s groundbreaking says very boldly that Camden is moving forward," said Camden Mayor Dana Redd.

    http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/201...tml#incart_hbx

  3. #78

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    What, heartened by the fact they dropped to # 2 in the Most Violent Cities in America list?


    Camden gets state OK to lay off 180 cops, 203 others



    STAFF REPORT • November 30, 2010

    CAMDEN — Camden City Council will meet Thursday to take action on a resolution approving the city's plan to lay off 383 employees from every department.

    The New Jersey State Civil Service Commission approved the plan today; it is slated to take effect Jan. 18 based on the anticipation of $54 million in state aid.

    From the fire department, 67 positions are to be cut. A total of 213 uniformed and non-uniformed police employees will be laid off. Notice of the layoffs will be in the hands of city employees by Friday.

    Financially strapped Camden was awarded $69 million last week. Camden initially requested $54 million in transitional aid, which is the amount anticipated in its introduced budget for fiscal year 2012. But the city eventually increased that number to $75.8 million.

    The city needed more money due to increased costs for pensions and uncollected taxes, Redd said in an Oct. 28 letter to a DCA official. She also cited a $4.2 million cash deficit from the prior fiscal year.

    Mayor Dana Redd requested an additional $8.3 million for "reduction in layoffs." Under an optimal funding scenario, $75.8 million would have helped drastically reduce the numbers of laid-off police, fire and other unionized employees.


    http://www.mycentraljersey.com/artic...ps++203+others

  4. #79

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    Camden and newark are the ones that need these cops more than anywhere else and they giving them layoffs what a shame

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    Plus I just found out that it's half the Camden police force.

  6. #81
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    So much for Camden.

  7. #82
    Jersey Patriot JCMAN320's Avatar
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    Camden is royally screwed. Any possibility of the dissolving or being broken up?

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    They may have to, & it may not be up to them to vote on it. Aside from the aquarium, I can't remember the last time they showed any signs of moving forward.

  9. #84
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    Quote Originally Posted by mariab View Post
    They may have to, & it may not be up to them to vote on it. Aside from the aquarium, I can't remember the last time they showed any signs of moving forward.
    It's just mind boggling to me that Camden isn't in a better place. I know that Philly isn't the economic powerhouse or engine that NYC is but Camden is in the exact same position geographically as JC is to Manhattan. JC has capaitalzed countless times on its prime location; yet Camden can't benefit being across from Philly with a subway line going into it with the exception of a few trinkets on the waterfront. I mean I'm not expecting anything on the order of what JC has done but maybe like Hoboken or Bayonne within the immedate area of the waterfront. It's just a sad state of affairs.

  10. #85

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    ^It is sad. I think there are people there holding the city back, like there was in Asbury Park. They started moving forward after a corruption sweep (probably the same dumbells who wanted to move the Stone Pony to the Casino). Still have to find that article. Bayonne's like the plucky, quiet little brother who you really don't have to worry about. You're right about JC, plus they're incredibly lucky being that close to NY.

  11. #86
    Forum Veteran Newarkguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mariab View Post
    ^It is sad. I think there are people there holding the city back, like there was in Asbury Park. They started moving forward after a corruption sweep (probably the same dumbells who wanted to move the Stone Pony to the Casino). Still have to find that article. Bayonne's like the plucky, quiet little brother who you really don't have to worry about. You're right about JC, plus they're incredibly lucky being that close to NY.
    Sadly for camden, its populated by people that cannot survive in a free society. They dont have the intelligence to lift themselves up. They are comfortable with the status quo, live off the taxpayers and will resist to the point of RIOTS to prevent "outsiders" from planting seeds of prosperity that eventually choke the thorns and weeds (them, mostly blacks) out. Further Philadelphia's skyscraper cluster is 1 mile inland from the banks of the Delaware river. No spillover effect will happen untill center city Philly fills up with towers the way Manhattan has. this wont happen in our lifetimes, because while Center city is similar to Manhattan in the sense that its bordered by 2 rivers, there is no river preventing center city downtown Philadelphia from growing northward along Broad street. The city has territory Newark, Camden,Trenton and even Prosperous Jersey City can only dream of.
    Last edited by Newarkguy; December 7th, 2010 at 08:43 PM.

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    [/LIST]
    Quote Originally Posted by JCMAN320 View Post
    Camden is royally screwed. Any possibility of the dissolving or being broken up?
    Nice question! I only see 3 possible outcomes...
    1. 1. Camden is dessolved. Camden ceases to exist. Its territory is split up and ceeded to the surrounding suburbs. But who will want the remnant lands? Pennsauken will refuse to annex thousands of north camdenites who will instantly put it and Cherry hill on the violent towns list. White flight will explode as soon as Pennsauken turns from a wealthy suburb to a poorer city with a violent Camden section...and Cherry hill falls next! Woodlynne,Haddonfield and Collingswood too, will be destroyed. This is because the population density in camden is such that these 1 family home suburbs will be overwhelmed by the ex.Camdemnites. No suburb will annex ghetto areas.
      1. 2. This option is for NJ and PA to come to terms for Philadelphia to Annex Camden. The State border is changed for Philly to take in Camden. This is NOT going to happen for 3 reasons.....1.States cannot alter their borders without American US Congressional approval. 2. Philly may not want Camden. Even if these obstacles were overcome, Camden will ALWAYS throw it in Philly's face that they are being ignored by Philly because ot the Delaware river. They will be a seccessionist threat that if allowed may trigger a break away wave that will reduce Philly to what Newark is....24sq. mile center city surrounded by new suburbs!!.3.NJ pride. New Jersey will never allow any of its territory taken. No matter how crappy and violent Camden becomes.
    This leaves one option......regional consolidation of Camden county. The new city-county of Camden will be rich overall and with a white supermajority. The new majority will work for the benefit of ALL camden. The ghetto lobby will fight this option. Also Jealousy from Newark and Jersey city(which would feel competitively threatened by new Greater Camden....would seek omnibus bills to Expand their cities. It would be great if these events also ended up with a Greater Newark, a Greater Jersey City.This is pie in the sky thinking. NO I see no solution to Camden.
    Last edited by Newarkguy; December 8th, 2010 at 05:15 PM.

  13. #88
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    Yes. The Philly towers can go towards Spring Garden, then fill in that entire street.

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    Question Camdens gets half

    South Jersey Port Corp. to pay Camden half of $8M it owes city
    Published: Wednesday, December 08, 2010, 8:59 AM Updated: Wednesday, December 08, 2010, 8:59 AM
    The Associated Press


    Google street view
    A street view of the South Jersey Port Company building on South Broadway in Camden.

    CAMDEN — The South Jersey Port Corp. has agreed to pay Camden half of the $8 million it owes the cash-strapped city.

    The port agency is a quasi-state agency and the biggest land owner in the city where it operates two large port terminals. Like many landmarks in Camden, it makes payments in lieu of taxes instead of paying regular property taxes.

    The Courier-Post of Cherry Hill reports it's not clear why the agency didn't make full payments to Camden or other government agencies in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

    But the agency agreed on Tuesday to pay Camden $4 million. Negotiations are under way for the 2011 payment.

    Camden's state aid has been slashed and the city is planning to lay off up to one-quarter of its workers.

    http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/201...rp_to_pay.html

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    Nashville police recruit Camden officers about to be laid off
    Published: Thursday, December 09, 2010, 9:00 AM Updated: Thursday, December 09, 2010, 9:00 AM
    The Associated Press

    CAMDEN — Deep layoffs are making police officers in New Jersey's most impoverished city a hot commodity.

    A recruiter from the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department met with about 20 Camden, officers Wednesday in an effort to lure them to new jobs in the South.

    The recruiter, Detective Leonard Keeler, told The Philadelphia Inquirer he expects other departments will try to hire Camden officers.

    Camden is planning to lay off up to 180 officers from its 370-member force on Jan. 18. Retirements and concessions from officers' unions could reduce the number of layoffs.

    The layoffs are a result of a budget crunch. But the police force in Nashville is expanding. Keeler is pitching job security and a lower cost of living.

    http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/201...uit_camde.html

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