Wednesday's tearing down of a fence to begin demolition of Riverfront State Prison will probably be one of the last ceremonial events for outgoing Camden Mayor Gwendolyn Faison and outgoing NJ Gov. Jon Corzine.
They're the two in the middle, watching the excavator's claw rip down a chain link fence inside the prison. I've been to lots of ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings where everyone holds the giant scissors or bronze-plated shovels and acts happy for the picture. The residents and politicians and officials here looked genuinely ecstatic. And I don't think it was just for television because most of the cameras were pointed at the loud rumbling heavy equipment excavator.
Residents of North Camden opposed the NJ State Riverfront Prison long before it opened twenty-four years ago. It has been long considered an impediment to the development of the city's waterfront - an area with easy access to Philadelphia and dramatic waterfront views - and planners hope to transform the 16-acre site into a mix of affordable and market-rate housing units along with commercial and recreational development.