A federal grant providing $35 million to redevelop substandard housing in Camden’s Cramer Hill neighborhood could prove a boon to Mayor Vic Carstarphen’s bid for a full term.
The announcement brough U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge to Camden just six days before a primary election that will effectively decide who’ll hold the city’s mayorship.
“Since its creation, the Choice Neighborhoods initiative has transformed communities across the nation,” Fudge said. “Today’s announcement will support the local vision in Camden for reinvigorating the community and increasing opportunity for its residents. I applaud Camden for its commitment to ensuring affordable housing serves as a platform for community innovation and individual advancement.”
Carstarphen is one of four candidates seeking the Democratic nod to run for mayor in Camden. The incumbent is making his bid on the Camden County Democratic line, while Camden School District advisory board member Elton Custis, Councilwoman Felisha Reyes-Morton and Camden Housing Authority Commissioner Luis Quiñones will each appear on the ballot’s fifth column.
Some of the speakers acknowledged the award and the visit could prove advantageous for Carstarphen, though a Democratic source familiar with the event’s planning insisted it had not been scheduled to lend the incumbent a political boost.
“Mayor Carstarphen, let me just say it’s nice to start off in office with just a few weeks with a $35 million grant with millions coming from the federal government that Congressman Norcross and I voted for that you’ll put to good work for the city of Camden outside of this and to get a secretary’s visit right off the bat,” U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-North Bergen) said from the lectern.
Rep. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) said city residents and elected leaders helped bring the award to Camden.
“It didn’t happen accidentally,” he said. “It happened because the residents, the elected officials, and yes, our country, can come together when we want to.”
But aside from some scattered praise for the incumbent, the event stuck mostly to governmental affairs, with speakers plauding federal investment in Camden’s oldest public housing community.
“Today is a great day for the residents of Ablett Village and Cramer Hill, and for all of Camden, for that matter,” Camden Housing Authority Chairwoman Deborah Person-Polk said. “In fact, it was the longtime participation and perseverance of the community residents that especially made the approval of our HUD CNI grant application possible. And now we look forward to making their dream for a better place to call a home a reality.”
Reyes-Morton was present at the event, though she did not speak from the podium. A van bearing flyers and posters for her campaign drove through portions of Ablett Village within throwing distance of where the announcement was made.
Some nearby cars had her campaign flyers posted under their windshield wipers.
Camden’s City Council appointed Carstarphen, an accountant at Cherry Hill-based Holmes & Company, to the seat in May, not long after Mayor Frank Moran stepped down from his post at the end of April.