A crowd of more than 100 people cheered yesterday as a backhoe tore into a rundown twin home well known to neighbors as a problem spot for drugs and prostitution on Camden's Marlton Avenue.
The home is the first of about 80 abandoned buildings owned by the city that will be demolished over the next several months, thanks to a joint effort by the city and the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA).
State Attorney General Anne Milgram said state and Camden police had identified the properties as sites of criminal activity.
"Demolishing these buildings is essential to the revitalization of Camden," Gov. Corzine said. "Today, we are continuing our efforts to bring about meaningful change by taking a significant step to curtail violence and unlawful activity. While this project is about tearing down, New Jersey remains steadfast in building up Camden."
Among the others at the event were DCA Commissioner Joseph Doria, Camden Mayor Gwendolyn A. Faison, State Sen. Dana L. Redd (D., Camden), and City Council President Angel Fuentes.
"Abandoned homes serve as magnets for illegal activity," Milgram said. "The goal of making Camden's streets safe demands that we use all available enforcement powers, whether they are law enforcement or code enforcement. These demolitions show the potential when we use all available tools to improve the safety and security of our streets."
Raul Guadalupe, who lives in the neighborhood, attended the ceremony with his wife and young son.
He said that neighbors frequently called police about illegal activity at the house and that he was glad to see it being torn down.
"It's the best thing for Camden," Guadalupe said. "I see the governor trying to better the future of Camden and trying to revitalize Camden."
Later in the afternoon, a little over a mile away on State Street, Corzine and many of the same officials attended a ribbon-cutting for a $20 million project led by Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey to rehabilitate 89 homes throughout North Camden.
The homes, currently in default, are to be turned into affordable housing.
The project, expected to last 18 to 24 months, will be a joint effort of the DCA, the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, and the City of Camden.
The DCA approached Lutheran Social Ministries in September 2006 about managing more than 100 homes in default. The organization immediately began repairs using funds provided by the DCA.
Once the homes are rehabilitated, Lutheran Social Ministries will accept applications from potential residents.
Corzine made a third stop in Camden yesterday at the swearing-in ceremony for Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk. Camden County had an interim prosecutor for more than two years. The Camden prosecutor also oversees Camden police.