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CAMDEN, NJ-The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and officials of this South Jersey city have jointly announced a $4.6 million building demolition program that will rid the state’s poorest city of more than 300 of its worst buildings, many of them residential. The three-year program will be funded by $3 million in city bonds and $1.6 million from the New Jersey Demolition Bond Loan Program.

The announcement comes quickly on the heels of the enactment by state legislators of a $175 million redevelopment effort for the city. First proposed during the last months of the administration of acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco, the program was picked up and moved through the legislative process by the new administration of Gov. James McGreevey. The program includes state oversight of how the money is used, and of certain functions of city government.

“Abandoned buildings are a major obstacle to Camden’s progress,” according to DCA commissioner Susan Bass Levin. “By tearing down these hazardous eyesores, we can clear a path for a better future for Camden.”

Besides contributing to the general urban blight that pervades many of this city’s neighborhoods, many of the buildings involved in the program are fire hazards or are on the verge of collapse, according to Levin. They’ve also become magnets for illegal activity, which is why the State Police will be actively involved in the program.

“Abandoned buildings function like drug houses with illegal activity of all kind,” explains New Jersey first assistant attorney general Peter Harvey. “That’s why we want them demolished as soon as possible.”

“We are working with the Camden Anti-Crime Partnership to move forward with badly needed demolition in the city’s neighborhoods to promote safety and clear the way for future development,” adds Mayor Gwen Faison.

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