Poverty and the Threat of Eminent Domain



Eminent domain, the process by which a government can take private property for public use, poses a unique threat to low-income homeowners across the state, but perhaps nowhere more than in the city of Camden. Factors such as a high poverty rate, state intervention in the early 2000s that enabled the city to declare the entire city a blighted area, and an ongoing financial incentive for expansion of waterfront businesses, hospital services, and the university campus make Camden a prime target for redevelopment. Interviews with residents of two different sections of Camden—Cramer Hill and Lanning Square—shine a light on the inherent unfairness of trying to remove entire communities against their will. These particular communities were successful, with the help of South Jersey Legal Services, in resisting the eminent domain designation and remaining in their homes, but the protections of the settlement only go so far. Additional redevelopment plans may be inevitable and, in the meantime, many residents believe the city intentionally ignores their requests for improvements and services in the neighborhood in an effort to eventually drive them out.

PINO, Camden: Spreading Hope One Flower Box at a Time
Pino has spent years trying to improve Camden, one neighborhood at a time. He began with his own Lanning Square block years ago and was later hired by a nonprofit housing organization to spread his idea in the North Camden area. Despite all the improvements he and his neighbors have made, he claims the city still won’t do their part.

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MARY, Camden: A Natural Lifelong Activist
Mary describes herself as “usually a quiet person,” but says “Cherokee and everything else has ruined me!” Her own Cramer Hill block wasn’t on the initial list to be taken, but she saw the struggle going on around her and was outraged by what the city was trying to do to the community. “These are people.”

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