How Christie's school-building plan is another swing on a yo-yo

Hilda Vera-Luciano stands in front of her home, now demolished, in Lanning Square. (David Swanson/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)


Politicians "do the bait-and-switch on you."

That's what Carlton Soudan, a third-generation Camden resident, had told me back in 2008 when homes were to be taken for redevelopment project that would bring a a new elementary school and a new medical school to his Lanning Square neighborhood. "Same old song," he had said.

I watched yesterday as Gov. Christie eighty-sixed (at least for the time being) dozens of school projects across the state - including three in Camden, and a long-promised one in Lanning Square. Click here for the full story.

The governor is revamping the process for building schools in struggling districts - a process that has long been plagued by mismanagement. So he's taking it slow, only allowing 10 that meet his criteria to continue this year. Camden's three schools will have to wait to reapply for funds in 2012.

As I listened to Christie, I thought about how back in 2008, I sat in Hilda Vera-Luciano's home in Lanning Square, which I can still picture in my mind - with its ornate masks and pictures of great-grandchildren on the walls. Hilda told me how she had packed up her home once before, five years earlier. At the time, the city had told her that her home was going to be knocked down for a school. Then it sent her another letter saying, essentially: no, never mind, we ran out of cash.

"We've been going through this for 11 years," Hilda had said, pointing out cartons that she still hadn't unpacked from the last time. "I'm just getting tired of going up and down like a yo-yo."

Hilda's home is now gone, a dirt field that acts as a staging area for the construction of the medical school - and maybe not now, not ever, the site of a future elementary school for the neighborhood's children.