Camden’s riverfront prison closing

News that New Jersey is closing a prison just north of the Ben Franklin Bridge has Camden leaders excited about redeveloping a prime piece of the city’s waterfront. The North Camden neighborhood resisted the prison’s construction in the early 1980s, and has been eagerly anticipating its end ever since.

Here’s a short radio piece I filed when the news first broke. I’m particularly proud of some deadline digging that found Tom Knoche, the urban planner/activist who started the neighborhood organizing about revitalizing the waterfront way back in 1978 (and who’s no longer involved in it).

Eventually, I got more information, and spoke to a few more people on the waterfront. You can listen to that story here; below is the script.

New Jersey officials say they are closing Riverfront State Prison to save money and to satisfy Camden’s requests. About 800 inmates and 400 guards are being transferred to other prisons. Riverfront could close by this summer, and Camden leaders can hardly wait.

Jeff Nash is a Camden County Freeholder and vice chairman of the Delaware River Port Authority.

“It’s monumental. The state, through the vision of Governor Corzine, recognizes that a prison on the most valuable property in Camden, inhibits and prohibits redevelopment of that property.”

Nash and other Camden leaders say the same economic crisis prompting New Jersey to close the prison makes it a perfect time to get started on what will be a big job. The recession could mean lower costs for everything from buying waterfront land to hiring crews to clean up polluted sites.
Denis Devine, WHYY News.

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