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New Jersey will be the recipient of $6.5 million in grants to clean up contaminated sites known as brownfields.
The bulk of the money – $3.5 million – will go to the Camden Redevelopment Agency. The state Economic Development Authority will receive $2 million to prepare plans to clean up and develop several sites across the state including in Atlantic City, Bridgeton, Millville and Trenton. Hamilton in Mercer County, and Asbury Park will each receive $500,000 in cleanup grants.
Federal and local officials touted the grants the Garden State received at a news conference Friday in Camden’s Centerville neighborhood at Elijah Perry Park, which will benefit the most. Camden Mayor Vic Carstarphen said the city, with Camden Community Partnerships, will undertake a $3.3 million construction project there.
“After the cleanup and the park improvements have been completed, Elijah Perry Park will be a signature public park with updated basketball courts … water spray areas, custom playgrounds, picnic gazebos, benches and other amenities that will enhance the quality of life for the surrounding neighborhood.”
He says other parts of the city will also benefit from the funding.
“It’s just good to be thought of as a community to get this funding to be able to make change,” he added.
The money to clean up the brownfields is welcomed news to Courtland Smith, president of the Centerville Youth Athletic Association. He said the money will help protect kids as they play, without fear of getting poisoned.
“Just pretty much trying to give them the clean slate,” he said. “Something they can see that they can look forward to that look [and] see better.”
Carstarphen played emcee for the conference that included U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, Camden County Commissioner Al Dyer, state Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette and EPA Administrator Lisa Garcia.
Booker reminded those in attendance that New Jersey has more superfund and more brownsites than anywhere else in the country, adding that most of these sites are close to communities of color. He said he made it a priority to get federal resources to clean these sites up.
“There was no caucus in the Senate about environmental justice. I joined with a couple of colleagues of mine, and we formed one of those caucuses,” he said. “We knew we wanted to get the federal government to focus on the sites that are poisoning our communities, our families, our seniors and our children.”