Camden residents fed up with piling debris

CAMDEN, N.J. - September 27, 2012

Residents say several homes along Walnut Street were torn down, but the rubble was never taken away.

Some have mistaken the piles of debris for a dumping ground, and neighbors say enough is enough.

It is a 10 foot pile of rubble that residents say it is not only an eye sore, but it is becoming a public health problem, and they want the city to do something about it.

"I might be living in the ghetto, but I don't act like I'm ghetto, and I don't want to be ghetto," said Ollie Howell.

68-year-old retiree Ollie Howell has had enough.

In mid-August, two homes next to her on the 700 block of Walnut Street in Camden were demolished by the city but never cleaned up.

Now she and her neighbors say they have to deal with a stinking pile of wood and debris that is causing problems more problems.

"Now it is people throwing trash, roaches, and rats are running," said Ollie.

"The rats and mice just come out of there, so where are they going to run, into the nearest houses; roaches, everything," said Lonnie Howell.

"Overnight, I caught a total of 12 mice in my house. You cannot go food shopping. They will tear anything and everything they can get to, they would tear it up," said Esmeralda Rivera.

Neighbors say some are using the pile to dump their garbage, while others come by to pick through it for metal.

And this isn't the only site with the pile up.

Within a couple blocks of Walnut Street, there are three others exactly like it.

"Send somebody out here and clean up this crap," said Ollie. "You wouldn't want to live around it."

"They tear down buildings and then they don't come back to pick up the debris. If you wouldn't do that in Gloucester or Cherry Hill, why would you do that in Camden?" asked Brenda Simpkins.

A spokesman for the city says the Walnut Street houses are among 26 demolished recently because they were in danger of collapse or havens for squatters, prostitutes and drug users.

Camden is now in the process of seeking funds to pay for removing the debris.

"We understand there's a budget problem. Everybody has a budget problem, but that's not acceptable. Why knock down houses if you're not going to clean it up?" asked Lonnie Howell.

Camden city officials say they understand the residents' frustration, but they can't do the clean up until $2 million in state funding, already in the pipeline, is released.

And that means it may be the end of the year or the beginning of next year before all of the debris is cleaned up.

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