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 firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.