Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Now you see it

Vacant and abandoned properties have been a burden on the city of Trenton for decades.

This building, near the intersection of Market and Jackson Streets in Mill Hill has sat vacant for over twenty years. The owner wants to make it a multiple unit dwelling...which is against the current zoning for the area. Until he can get his way, he has vowed to let it sit.

Meanwhile, the same property owner maintains a business and rents apartments in the building to the left of it. And he completed renovation of a couple of other nearby properties with financial assistance from the State of New Jersey and the Trenton Downtown Association, even though he removed the original facade and left those buildings boarded and vacant for several years in the interim.

At no time has the City ever approached this property owner with demands to put this highly visible building back to productive use. And when the neighborhood association has raised the issue of this eyesore, it has been all but ignored.

A few years ago, the Palmer Administration announced it was compiling a list of all the underutilized buildings and lots in the city with an eye towards using the State of New Jersey's Abandoned Property Act to get them onto the tax roles and into productive use.

The act was signed into law in January 2004 and to date, the city hasn't published a list of properties.

An election cycle has come and gone and no list has been provided.

Various community groups and leaders have continued to ask for this list, only to be told that the Department of Housing and Economic Development is "working on it" and it should be ready "soon."

So we wait.

And buildings like these, abandoned so long that the boards are literally falling off the windows, deteriorate further with each passing month.

Well, we're waiting no more. Thanks to the efforts of the Trenton Council of Civic Association (TCCA) the community is taking an inventory of the vacant lots and abandoned properties around the city so that a list can be presented to the city.

While citizen action is to be encouraged and applauded, it is pretty telling that it is only through this type of citizen action that things might get done.

Why can't the city of Trenton come up with a list of these properties on its own?

Every workday, there are scores of Public Works, Water, Police, Fire, and Inspections employees traveling all around town. What would it take for them to take a minute and jot down an address of an abandoned property and turn it in to a central place?

That's the very method the TCCA is employing. Each neighborhood group has been asked to inventory their home turf and send the information (street address and basic description like "empty house" or "vacant lot") to TCCA President Patricia Stewart. (You can email your list to

Mrs. Stewart and the TCCA are to be applauded.

Trenton's Administration is to be booed.

Once again, the taxpayers are voluntarily doing the work the public servants are paid to do.

Go figure.


Glennard said...

One question. Why if the citizens have to do everything do we still pay these Trenton City Employees? It is like when I hear, "If the citizens really cared they would come to the meetings. Where are they for most of the meetings?" This quote applies to members of council and that stupid piece of crap appointed school board.

Let me tell you this. We should not have to come to all the meetings. You were elected/appointed to do your jobs. When we start coming to the meetings, it is only a sign of one thing. Trenton City Council, Trenton School board, are not doing their jobs very well. Eventually we will tire of coming to the meetings and then we will elect people who can and will do their jobs so we can get along with our lives and enjoy the city of Trenton. *@#** you very much.

Old Mill Hill said...

Local radio host Calvin Iszard (weekedays, 1 - 2 pm on WBCB 1490 AM) has dubbed Trenton "the city of neglect."

This is a perfect example of how dysfunctional our city government really is. said...

I have immense admiration for this blogger, but I feel the criticism of the city's Dept. of Housing & Economic Development is somewhat unfair. It is my understanding that TCCA & the dept. agreed to compile the list of unoccupied properties as a joint project. The dept. understandably does not have the personnel to undertake the project on its own and the delegates know which are the offending properties in their neighborhoods. So much good can come from this cooperative effort. It seemed unfair to criticize the relatively new dept. director, who is sincerely trying to work with the community to lessen the number of unused, boarded up properties that were in this condition when she took the helm of the dept.
Also, it should be considered that successful municipalities are the ones where the public gets involved to serve its interests. In this case, once the many offending properties are identified with the assistance of the community, the dept.'s feet can be held to the fire to do something about the situation.

Bea Scala-Fischler

Old Mill Hill said...

Ms. Scala-Fischler's comment and admiration are much appreciated.

While we did reference the city's department of Housing and Economic Development in our post, we did not single out for criticism the "relatively new dept. director."

The points of our post are:

1) The city has repeatedly dragged it's feet on this matter, prefering to tell people the compiling of a list was "in progress." Never once were we told there weren't the resources to get it completed.

2) There are ways to enlist the aid of all city workers who are out and about on a daily basis to report the abandoned properties they encounter. For example, every time a Housing Inspector orders a vacant property secured against vagrants and vandals, why not shoot the address over to someone designated to compile a master list?

3) Citizen involvement is good and necessary for a "successful municipality" but it does not make up for an administration that can't or won't make the effort to take care of its business.

From what we hear, this initiative was taken on by the TCCA out of frustration with the city's inability or unwillingness to get it done. Our understanding is that only after TCCA determined it's course of action was an offer forthcoming from the city to "partner" on the project.

As we see it, the TCCA is holding the Administration's "feet to the fire" by stepping up.

And we agree that it is a good thing.

Nicholas Stewart said...

Where did you purchase your crystal ball? I've been looking for one for years. Please let me know. Thanks.

Old Mill Hill said...

Well, sir, when one is "mysterious, wise and elderly" one learns how to read the signs that abound.

No need for a crystal ball, just an unblinking eye capable of fixing a cold hard stare on the realities of the recent past and an agile mind capable of applying what one observed to the present.