CAMDEN, NJ — The many threads that were unspooled during the Cooper Grant Neighborhood Association’s second meeting of the year Monday for the most part came back to two things: housing and quality of life.

The area is in the midst of market rate and affordable housing projects, including the 11 Cooper Street Apartments and a 14-townhouse development by DePetro. Improvements along the waterfront are also anticipated like 300 North Delaware Avenue factory and Rutgers Field, which will be constructed in the footprint of the old Campbell’s Field.

“This year, the development of housing is number one for us,” Cooper Grant Neighborhood Association (CGNA) President Jonathan Latko told TAPinto Camden after the meeting. “I think that's huge because it ties everything together. If we don't get people to move here and spend their dollars, then we can't open restaurants and the like. We need housing stock to do that.”

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Latko said he’s concerned with creating “appeal” for his neighborhood so residents stick around, but added that CGNA is also mindful of quality of life issues. 

Two recent examples include a Penn Street “party house” and a residence on North 2nd Street, known for illicitly disposing of trash around the property.

Regarding the former, Camden County Police Sgt. Dekel Levy said, “We are aware of the problem and spoke with two tenants there who admitted to what was going on. Apparently they were even selling tickets to get into the place.”

Levy said that the department does not foresee any more issues but have informed those in the area to reach out if any more problems come up.

Attempts to speak with residents at the latter property on 2nd Street, which bears against the Rutgers Camden campus, have been unsuccessful. Levy said he is aware of the public littering issue there and will loop in the city’s code enforcement division as well. 

“I don’t think either of those instances were people trying to be malicious....I would say it’s more of an overarching thing that we want people to be good neighbors,” said Latko. “It may not come to mind immediately for them what’s happening in the community and the impact that it has, but that’s where we come in.”

Opening the floor

During the Monday night meeting at the Pierre Building Community Room, a group of a dozen or so discussed the planned Rutgers Field, the city’s 5-Year Park’s Plan and public input for it, as well as initiatives by the Camden Special Services District (CSSD).

Raymond Romo, a project manager with Coopers Ferry Partnership, said the CSSD expects to introduce its budget at the next City Council meeting. So far, he said, ambassadors have canvassed neighborhoods in search of areas in need of cleanups, maintenance and opening themselves up to the community for anything they may consider noteworthy.

In addition to improving the business district and maintaining a welcoming neighborhood, another resident said that it would be helpful to meet early with the incoming chancellor of Rutgers-Camden University to establish a good relationship.

Chancellor Phoebe Haddon, who served in the role for the past six years, announced last week that she will be stepping down in July. No word yet from the university as to when the role will be filled.

“We should also have boards made up of people to focus on certain problems so everything is not falling on the main group,” resident Shawn Burke suggested during the meeting. “Whether it’s anything to do with green infrastructure, housing, [etc.]”

Ultimately, the CGNA president drew up a tentative list also consisting of a board for code, grants, and the group’s block party — with space to add more in the future.

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