Imagine sitting on the steps of your urban row house and watching every fifteen minutes while two 50-ton, 90-foot long “light” rail cars roll past, about fifteen feet away. That’s what awaits the residents of the five-block-long Cooper Street Historic District if New Jersey Transit gets its way when it builds the South Jersey light rail project from Trenton to Camden. The residents of the district are right to protest this intrusion along with some demolition and the loss of on-street parking.
To its credit, the New Jersey Historic Sites Council has already denied Transit permission for this alignment—twice—but there are concerns that Transit might try an end run around the Council by seeking permission from the state DEP commissioner directly. There are better alternative alignments, but each requires buying some land from the bi-state Delaware River Port Authority. Transit can’t condemn this land, and the DRPA does not seem willing to cooperate.
– Cooper Street Citizens group is launching offensive against NJ Transit to block the construction of the light rail
– application denied unanimously by SHPO review board twice but overruled by the commissioner
– motion unanimously denied by city council but the mayor supports it
6 blocks of mixed use; Federal and 19th-century houses
3 threatened by light rail construction
11 buildings demolished since 1990 (for federal courthouse)
approved by DEP, although Historic Sites Council recommended against it
5/00 groundbreaking for light rail transit line
– Key players include Rutgers, which is expanding its campus to the south and acquiring properties on Cooper St. Planning to construct a symbolic entrance to the college on the light rail route, so they are an obvious proponent. Red Cross is also a player, and they wish to demolish a building to increase parking capacity.
– Market Street, rather than Cooper is the more logical choice for the light rail because it is a commercial district which at the height of Camden also served a trolley. Cooper street, on the other hand, is historically residential, and its integrity will be compromised with the inclusion of light rail, while market streets’ would be supplemented.
Ed Teitelman, Chair, Historic Preservation Commisison 609 964-9649
3 buildings scheduled to be demolished for light rail construction (which broke ground in 2000). The integrity of historic district under greater threat by other local institutions.
Bob Thompson, Camden Preservation Officer
Historic Review Comm. Room 409, City Hall
Camden, NJ 08102