© 2019 by the Trenton Neighborhood Restoration Campaign.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

I GOT A LETTER THAT SAYS I HAVE TO PAY VACANT PROPERTY FEES, BUT MY PROPERTY ISN'T VACANT!

The City of Trenton's amended Vacant Property Registration Ordinance took effect on January 1st, 2015. This ordinance requires owners of vacant properties to register them and pay an escalating annual fee. The City of Trenton used our database (see the interactive map here, or download the data here) to send preliminary notifications to owners whose properties were noted as vacant in the database. You can read more about the data and its limits here. 

 

We are happy to correct and update our data wherever there's an error, omission, or change - just let us know here, or call the City of Trenton's hotline at (609) 989-3513. This is a large project, and despite our best efforts, we know we got some wrong during the initial survey, and other properties have changed since we surveyed them. Note that when we get a request for a correction, we always double-check it first, so it may take a bit of time for your requested change to appear on this site. We make sure to let the City know when we make a correction as well.

 

WHO RUNS THIS DATABASE?

This database is maintained by Isles, a local non-profit with over 30 years of experience, on behalf of the Trenton Neighborhood Restoration Campaign (TNRC)

 

SO THIS ISN'T A GOVERNMENT DATABASE?

No. Isles and the TNRC began creating this database independently in early 2014, building on earlier community-driven efforts, because vacant and abandoned properties are such a critical issue in our city. We weren't commissioned, contracted, or paid to do it by the City. While we regularly request data from the City, and the City may use our data after doing internal verifications, this database is an independent project for now. We're working on figuring out how it might become better integrated with the City's systems, though.

 

HOW DO I GET MY BUILDING FOR A DOLLAR?

The initiatives the City of Trenton recently announced are not yet operational. The City is working to hire a Vacant Properties Coordinator to oversee them, working with City Council to pass some legislation, figuring out the detailed procedures, and identifying the actual properties. Use the City's official registration form if you would like to tell the City you're interested in getting a "Dollar House" once this program is .  

 

WAIT, AREN'T YOU THE CITY'S "GET A BUILDING FOR A DOLLAR" PROGRAM?

No, but our data is helping the City create and target its Homesteading Pilot program and other initiativesWe will update this site with more information once it becomes available. 

 

SO WHAT IS THIS PROJECT?

See here. Prior to this project, there was no data on where all the vacant properties in Trenton are located and what condition they're in. There was no comprehensive count of the vacant properties, no data on the scope of the problem, and no data on clusters or particularly hard-hit blocks - just anecdotal evidence. So a group of non-profits and community members, led by Isles, conducted a citywide survey in the summer of 2014. Since then, we've been continuously updating the data based on info we get from the City and from you. Let us know about any issues here, or by clicking the "Report an Issue" link in the info-window that pops up on a vacant property on the actual map.

 

WHO WAS INVOLVED IN THE VACANT PROPERTY SURVEY?

 

  • Isles, Inc. took the lead on fundraising, organizing, and managing the survey effort.

 

 

  • The Rutgers Center for Urban Environmental Sustainability (CUES) provided data collection, mapping, and field expertise, as well as geospatial analysis and modelling. We have been working with CUES for over two years, in particular on an ongoing project - into which this vacant property survey feeds - on finding ways to repurpose vacant sites into assets for a better food system.

 

  • The survey team:

    • 11 interns from Rutgers-CUES

    • 2 interns from the Isles Youth Institute Americorps program

    • 5 high school volunteers through the Center for Faith Justice

    • Over 30 community volunteers

 

  • The hosts: Our survey team was hosted by 17 organizations, businesses, and individuals as it moved around the city, with support offered by many others. Special thanks to:

    • The NJ State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs at the Carver Youth and Family Center

    • Mercer Street Friends

    • The Greater Trenton YMCA

    • The College of New Jersey (TCNJ)'s Bonner Center for Community Engaged Learning

    • The East Trenton Collaborative

    • Habitat for Humanity

    • The Habitat ReStore

    • Living Hope Empowerment Center

    • Chester and Jazmyn Jones at the Melrose Ave. Civic Association

    • Bethany House of Hospitality

    • Westminster Presbyterian Church

    • Samaritan Baptist Church

    • TerraCycle

    • Princeton Homebrew

    • Championship Bar and Grill

    • The Riverside Nursing Center

    • Trenton Social

    • ...and numerous other community members, civic associations, friends, and supporters.

 

HOW MUCH DID THE SURVEY COST AND HOW WAS IT FUNDED?

This project cost approximately $75,000 in grant funds from the Rita Allen Foundation, which covered data and equipment, staff time at Isles and CUES, and supplies.

 

HOW LONG DID THE PROJECT TAKE?

With the help of smartphones, the field survey was completed in just seven weeks. It has taken us another couple of months to clean the data and bring it to you. 

 

WILL THE DATA BE UPDATED?

Yes. While we have no plans at present to repeat the citywide survey, Isles will update the baseline data between weekly and monthly (depending on traffic) based on information from stakeholders, the City of Trenton, and you. A number of you have already gotten in touch to flag errors, or to note that a building has recently become occupied - we really appreciate this. Keep in mind, however, that we actually do check out every request for corrections -- so please don't ask us to take your property off the vacant list if it is, in fact, vacant. 

 

WHAT DO I DO IF I SEE AN ERROR OR WANT TO REPORT NEW INFORMATION ABOUT A PROPERTY?

This website is a work in progress. For now, please use the reporting form here for comments and suggested edits. We will periodically verify the information we get and ensure that necessary edits get reflected. In the near future, we will expand the capabilities of the site to allow comments to be added to the map, and create a smartphone app to report issues.

 

YOU MARKED MY HOUSE AS VACANT, BUT IT'S NOT! 

With over 24,000 properties (and 31,570 tax lots!) in Trenton, we know we got some wrong. Don’t get upset – get involved. Contact us here.

 

MY PROPERTY IS VACANT, BUT I LOVE IT / MEAN TO FIX IT UP. CAN YOU TAKE IT OFF THE LIST?

Sorry, no. If we've made a mistake, we'd be happy to correct it -- but if your property really is vacant, it'll have to stay on the list. We know a lot of people's situations are complicated, and we understand that you're not one of the "bad" owners. But to keep the data consistent, we can't selectively hide your property. Contact us here if you still think there's something we should know.

 

SO, YOU'VE MADE THE COPPER-STEALER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. THANKS.

The experience of other cities that have published this sort of data is that it has zero effect on break-ins. We understand your concern -- but we also know that the copper-stealers in Trenton haven't been sitting around waiting for this site to go live. They actually have much better ground-level knowledge than we do -- we heard from one woman whose house got stripped the day she was taken to the hospital.

 

In actual fact, the Fire Director and the TPD welcomed our data and have reportedly started to use it. What this site does is to put information in the hands of "the good guys" -- law enforcement, diligent neighbors, and you. And we're tougher than the copper crew.

 

WHAT DO I DO IF I CAN'T DOWNLOAD INFORMATION?

Let us know, and we'll send you a file.

 

WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP?

Isles and the TNRC will continue to work in partnership with the City of Trenton and other stakeholders – including you – to turn vacant properties from problems into opportunities. Isles has a number of initiatives ongoing or planned, including our community gardening program, a Clean and Green program we will be piloting next year, and a range of community-driven neighborhood plans.

 

In the meantime, we're relying on you to help us keep our data updated. Contact us here if you see a property become vacant, if a vacant property becomes unsecured, etc.