By Cleve Bryan

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CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Just a chest pass away from the basketball courts at Camden’s Whitman Park is a former chemical lab that’s become the city’s largest and most dangerous illegal dumping site.

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“Because it’s a lab there are sunken basements and we have homeless people in here, we had drug users in here, we have drug dealers in here, we had illegal dumping,” said Camden Police Department Lt. Zsakhiem James.

The property was so hazardous police worried about injury, yet children passed through.

“We used to cut through this piece right here to get to the basketball court and I wouldn’t let me sisters do it cause it was really dirty,” said Tiffani Queensbury.

But all that is about to change.

Demolition is underway to clean up the almost four-acre property known as Camden Labs.

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“Today marks what will be the start of a transformational open space project,” said Camden Mayor Frank Moran.

In the abandoned property’s place will be new ball fields and play space added on to Whitman Park.

“From a social justice standpoint nothing is more harmful to a person’s health, and to a person’s environment and to the general image than illegal dumping,” said Kris Kolluri with Cooper’s Ferry Partnership.

The Camden Collaborative Initiative is partnering with state and federal agencies to remove a thousand tons of toxic soil. They believe a cleaner environment makes a stronger community.

“This is an area that’s now going to be changed into a park and a place of happiness,” said James.

“So I’m just really happy that they are coming out and actually working in our community, trying to make it a better for my sisters and us so we can have a great environment to play in,” said Queensbury.

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With demolition already underway, Camden officials are hopeful in the next year all of this eyesore and environmental danger will be turned into a brand new, state of the art, 10-acre park.