(Camden, NJ) — On Monday, the Board of Commissioners joined elected officials and community partners to announce a $1 million grant being awarded to the Camden Redevelopment Agency to clean up the ground soil at Judge Robert B. Johnson Park in Camden City by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is a wholesale remediation of the site with funds from both the EPA and state Department of Environmental Protection totaling more than $3 million in grant funding.
The city will use the $1 million to clean up the 14-acre site, that was a former wetland where historic fill material was used to develop the site in the 1940s and 1950s. The site formerly contained residences, a junkyard and was also used by a youth football league and neighborhood schools. The now-vacant site is contaminated with semi-volatile organic hydrocarbons, PCBs, metals, and pesticides.
“This park is incredibly important to the city of Camden, especially the residents of the Liberty Park and Centerville neighborhoods,” said Commissioner Jeff Nash, liaison to the Camden County Parks Department. “This has long been a place for the community to gather and enjoy so ensuring that it’s safe and in the best condition possible, is a top priority for us.”
Congressman Donald Norcross discussed the importance of these cleanup projects.
“The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act continues to deliver for South Jersey through this Brownfield Grant that will create jobs, advance environmental justice, and spur economic revitalization,” Norcross said. “Protecting our communities from harmful waste and pollution and repurposing these sites has been one of my top priorities since coming to Congress. I’m proud to have helped secure this funding, and I will continue to fight to improve our quality of life, protect our environment and ensure a healthy and safe environment for South Jersey families.”
A brownfield is a property where the expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be complicated due to the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant Once these properties have been cleaned up, former brownfields can be redeveloped into productive uses such as grocery stores, affordable housing, parks or solar farms.
“Camden has such an impressive track record of success with its Brownfields program, which has helped address neglected local areas by providing a means to revitalize abandoned properties and promote environmental health, economic growth, and job creation,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “The Brownfields program transforms communities, and the new funding through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law gives communities like Camden an opportunity to continue to make a real and lasting on-the-ground difference.”
The grant comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is being funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. And thanks to the historic $1.5 billion boost from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the EPA’s Brownfields Program is helping more communities than ever before begin to address the economic, social and environmental challenges caused by brownfields.
“In communities across New Jersey, especially those that are Black, Brown, and low-income, residents live next to harmful contaminants, breathe in dirty air, and lack access to clean water and soil,” Senator Cory Booker said. “Thanks to the efforts of the Biden Administration, these communities are finally receiving the federal resources needed to remediate these environmental injustices. The grant funding announced today, made possible by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which I was proud to vote for, will continue this vital work by empowering the City of Camden to revitalize a former park that was polluted with toxic metals and pesticides.”
Camden City Mayor Victor Carstarphen discussed his gratitude and excitement over the grant.
“I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their continued support and recognition of our efforts. This grant reinforces our commitment to creating a sustainable and vibrant future for Camden. This funding will directly contribute to the remediation of Robert B. Johnson Park, an important community space in the Liberty Park neighborhood. By reclaiming this park and making it safe and accessible for our community members, particularly our youth and families,” Carstarphen said. “I would also like to acknowledge the collaborative efforts of our dedicated partners, including Congressman Donald Norcross, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Camden County Board of Commissioners, and the Camden Redevelopment Agency. Together, we are driving positive change and creating a stronger and more resilient Camden. As we move forward with this project, we remain committed to promoting environmental justice and sustainable development. Camden is a city with a rich history and strong sense of community, and this grant allows us to continue our journey towards a cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous city for all.”
Once the proper remediation is done to the site the Board of Commissioners will be investing $2 million to renovate and revitalize the park which is one of the anchors of the neighborhood. The project will create a field of dreams for the youth and residents in Centerville providing a state-of-the-art recreational facility.