CAMDEN, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a senior member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Congressman Donald Norcross (N.J.-01) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge announced today the awarding of a $35 million federal Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant to the City of Camden to revitalize the city’s Cramer Hill neighborhood, upgrade public housing, and expand access to job and economic opportunities for residents.
“This $35 million award we’re announcing today will help Camden realize its plan to replace distressed housing in the Cramer Hill neighborhood and ultimately improve the quality of life for the residents of Ablett Village,” said Sen. Menendez. “The City and Housing Authority have put forward a visionary plan that includes building 350 new, energy-efficient units, including 21 additional low-income apartments; improving pedestrian infrastructure and access to mass transit; providing recreational opportunities, including a new community center, playgrounds for children, and walking trails; and even creating a garden for locally-sourced produce. These are exactly the kind of investments that will attract more businesses to the area and connect the residents of Cramer Hill to greater job opportunities.”
“Today’s announcement is another example of our shared commitment to helping strengthen Camden as this great city continues down a path of resurgence,” said Sen. Cory Booker. “Lifting our most vulnerable families and creating opportunities through federal investments like this is the key to strengthening our neighborhoods. By increasing access to safe, affordable housing and creating jobs, this federal funding will help expand economic opportunity across the Cramer Hill neighborhood.”
“Since its creation, the Choice Neighborhoods initiative has transformed communities across the nation,” said HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge. “Today’s announcement will support the local vision for reinvigorating communities and increase opportunity—whether it be with regard to housing, health, education, childcare, or jobs. I applaud Camden for its commitment to ensuring affordable housing serves as a platform for community innovation and individual advancement.”
“Today’s announcement highlights our collective commitment to ensuring residents of Camden not only have affordable, safe places to call home but have access to jobs, quality education and economic opportunities,” said Rep. Norcross. “Urban communities like Camden City have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and these vital funds will go a long way to ensure that Ablett Village can provide the services that residents need and transform this neighborhood for generations to come. I was glad to work with community leaders and residents to support this grant and congratulate the city on this major achievement.”
The neighborhood plan incorporates redevelopment, rehabilitation, and infill housing strategies as the basis for overall neighborhood transformation with a focus on creating new connections along key corridors that link residential areas with schools, open space, transit, and retail amenities.
At the heart of the revitalization is the redevelopment of Ablett Village, the last of the city’s original public housing complexes. With the grant, the Housing Authority of the City of Camden (HACC) will create 350 energy-efficient, mixed-income housing units to replace the current 306 units. The plan also includes a community garden with locally sourced produce, a walking trail, community center, playgrounds, and expanded transit and pedestrian infrastructure. In 2018, the lawmakers announced a $350,000 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant for this project.
“Today’s announcement of HUD’s major investment in the Cramer Hill neighborhood is welcome news and complements the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ own continuing work in rehabbing vacant properties, repairing homes, and improving parks, business districts, and community centers in Cramer Hill,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA). “DCA has long valued how a thriving Cramer Hill community uplifts the City of Camden as a whole and we appreciate HUD’s contribution to the neighborhood’s revitalization efforts. With all levels of government and stakeholders moving in the same direction, the future of Cramer Hill is extremely bright.”
Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen, Camden County Commissioner Al Dyer and HACC Executive Director Victor Figueroa also attended today’s announcement, which took place outside the Ablett Village community center.
“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Secretary Marcia Fudge to the City of Camden, and to celebrate HUD’s decision to invest in Ablett Village and the surrounding neighborhood of Cramer Hill,” said Mayor Carstarphen. “We are also thankful to Senator Bob Menendez, Senator Cory Booker, and Congressman Norcross for supporting our vision of a stronger community fabric here, one that includes beautiful homes for residents, safer and friendlier streets, and exciting economic opportunities for all. On behalf of all residents here in Ablett Village and Cramer Hill, I am incredibly honored.”
“Growing up in Ablett was challenging when I was younger, the environment was tough and across the street from the complex was a landfill that was a stain on our neighborhood. Now, with the $35 million investment by HUD to improve and enhance the housing and the state’s investment to turn the landfill into a waterfront park the impact on the community will be immeasurable,” said Commissioner Dyer. “I want to take this opportunity to thank Senator Menendez, Congressman Norcross and the Secretary of HUD for what will be a life changing investment for our residents here in Ablett and East Camden.”
“It’s moments like this that remind us what is possible when we come together,” said Executive Director Figueroa. “For years, HACC, the Cramer Hill community, and our many partners have been working around a shared vision for a more equitable future in Ablett Village, one that especially benefits its low- to moderate-income residents. And now with HUD’s generous support, we are excited to put our carefully developed plan into action."
In 2016, Sens. Menendez and Booker and Rep. Norcross announced a $13.2 million Implementation Grant to revitalize Camden’s Mt. Ephraim neighborhood after the project initially received a $300,000 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant in 2012. Asbury Park, Newark and Jersey City have also previously received Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants.
Sen. Menendez is the lead sponsor of the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Act, legislation to make the initiative permanent and to ensure that it is adequately funded.
In 2016, Camden was also awarded a $16.2 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant awarded from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and $1,469,347 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to fund street improvements in downtown Camden, provide connections to the region’s major transportation center, revitalize the area, and support initiatives that expand the competitiveness of the existing industrial clusters.
“Today is a great day for the residents of Ablett Village and Cramer Hill, and for all of Camden, for that matter,” said Deborah Polk, Chairperson of the HACC. “In fact, it was the longtime participation and perseverance of the community residents that especially made the approval of our HUD CNI grant application possible. And now we look forward to making their dream for a better place to call a home a reality.”
“We’re incredibly proud to have partnered with the City of Camden and HACC over the years to replace much of Camden’s affordable housing stock, and now we greatly look forward to transforming Ablett Village with the help of this HUD CNI grant,” said John J. O’Donnell, CEO of The Michaels Organization. “We have extraordinary plans for Ablett Village. These homes are going to be beautiful, modern, and energy-efficient, specially designed to meet the needs of all those living here. But our plans include more than just brick and mortar; we intend to offer advancement opportunities consistent with those of our other housing communities, where we offer robust scholarship programs and professional development programs. And needless to say, we can’t wait to get started.”
“Since the early 2000s, when developers wanted to build a marina and a golf course here, the residents of Ablett Village have lived in fear of being displaced,” said Tracey Powell, President of the Ablett Village Residents Council. “This is our home. This is where we want to be. But up until now, we were never 100 percent sure that we couldn’t lose our homes. But thanks to this grant, we will finally have the housing security that we so desperately crave.”
“For too long, Cramer Hill was known for the landfill, the sewer plants, everything that nobody else wanted to deal with that they put over here,” said Mike Hagan, a historian and member of the Cramer Hill Residents Association. “We’ve been forgotten and sort of kicked to the curb. It’s about time we got back up to where we belong. And this grant will certainly help us do that.”
State Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez and Assemblymen William Spearman and Bill Moen also attended today’s announcement.