By Brandon Goldner

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — The city of Camden received $3.5 million from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help revitalize Elijah Perry Park in the city’s Centerville neighborhood.

According to the EPA, the money will pay for testing and remediation of potential environmental contamination underneath the park’s soil.

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Mayor Vic Carstarphen said once the park is cleared of any contamination, the city will invest money into new playgrounds, picnic areas and basketball courts.

“We used to play basketball when I was in high school right on the basketball courts right off of Ferry Avenue,” Mayor Carstarphen said. “It’s been a part of my fabric.”

During a Friday event at the park to announce the funding, which included speeches by Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1), Darnell Drayton’s 2-year-old granddaughter, Katore, was playing on the park’s playground.

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“This park was filthy two days ago. Sen. Booker come, now you want to clean it up, make it look new,” Drayton said. “We come here every day. It’s crack vials on the ground. There’s dope bags on the ground. You got beer bottles, beer cans, broken glass all over here, and these kids play on this.”

Drayton emphasized he supported the mayor and the senator, but he wished political leaders will focus more on issues above-ground.

“You’ve got kids scared to stay in their house. They’re prisoners in their own house, and that don’t make no sense to me,” Drayton said. “I think you should concentrate more on the crime.”

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All environmental testing and remediation for the park is expected to be completed later this year.

Brandon Goldner