Albert J. Countryman Jr.
Gloucester City News
Gloucester City Democrats swept the recent General Election, despite big wins for Republicans nationwide. Also, Democratic state candidates in District Five won easily, and the party retained complete control of the Camden County Board of Freeholders.
All the candidates made campaign promises to help Gloucester City to develop its Delaware River waterfront as a way to attract tourists and new businesses, and to breathe life into a City that had started dying after the loss of industrial jobs in the 1960s and 70s.
Since that time, various development plans have been proposed – including Hollywood East and building more than 800 homes in Southport. But, the waterfront still looks a bit desolate.
Perhaps City Council, the Freeholders, State Senator Donald W. Norcross and State Assemblyman Gilbert L. “Whip” Wilson can come up with a plan together, apply for federal stimulus funds, and jump start waterfront development from Camden to Westville – but especially in Gloucester City.
“I see a rich economic history emanating from the waterfront,” Sen. Norcross (D-5) said. “Philadelphia, Camden and Gloucester City sprung up along the Delaware River, which drove the economic engine.”
In the early 1900s, the three cities were a bustling hub with plenty of jobs for everyone.
Norcross praised Gloucester City’s recent focus on Southport, and feels it can attract businesses and the accompanying jobs.
“When the economy turns around, I would like to see an expansion of shipping terminals in Camden City and Gloucester City,” Assemblyman Wilson (D-5) said, adding that he will do everything he can, including incentives, to bring businesses and jobs to Gloucester City.
Norcross, assistant business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 351, stressed the need for jobs – as people in his union are also hurting from the economic slowdown.
Wilson, a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, said jobs are desperately needed.
With unemployment close to 10 percent, the past two years have been difficult for families and small businesses. Waterfront de-velopment would create jobs, and a future tax base.
Gloucester City Mayor William James, in his Letter to the Editor before the election, praised the fact that the Freedom Pier at the old Coast Guard Base “will be open to the public at the completion of the continuous walkway along our waterfront.”
He also wrote that the City needed to do a better job marketing the waterfront and the City Marina.
These are first steps, but much needs to be done.
The idea to build homes in Southport was turned down due to environmental problems.
Now the City is being paid to bring “clean fill” from the Somerdale Wal-Mart, although some sources contend that this fill soil may have arsenic in it. Hopefully, that is not the case. Regardless, it is imperative to address all environmental issues along the waterfront.
This could be step one, hopefully with stimulus funds. Pay people to clean-up the waterfront.
Then, start working on the infrastructure – to attract new businesses and create more jobs.
I realize the economy is weak – but now is the time to get creative, and to help Gloucester and its residents who are unemployed.
In my opinion, Mayor James, City Council, the Freeholders, Senator Norcross, Assemblyman Wilson, and even U.S. Representative Rob Andrews (D-1) should all get together for a meeting, and come up with concrete ideas to make the waterfront more attractive for people and new businesses.
This is an opportunity for the Democrats to make a difference here in Gloucester City.