ATLANTIC CITY - The resort's Tourism District may be extended to include the entire length of the Boardwalk, the interim director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority said Saturday morning at a town hall meeting.
About 100 people came to the Enclave condominiums to hear CRDA interim Executive Director Susan Ney Thompson describe plans for the district and to offer their comments. Councilman Timothy Mancuso moderated the meeting.
The district's proposed boundary currently extends to residential housing along Kingston Avenue in the Lower Chelsea section, leaving a six-block Boardwalk stretch out of the zone.
But Thompson said Saturday it makes sense to include the entire Boardwalk to Jackson Avenue and all of Maine Avenue on the northern end, especially given that Gardner's Basin is a visitor attraction. The CRDA might also consider adding Albany Avenue and other corridors into the resort to the Tourism District.
"Through that, we would be able to manage our public open spaces and make them beautiful," she said.
State Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, said he realizes some people are unhappy with the creation of the Tourism District, but the Legislature had little choice.
Casino revenues fell by 27 percent last year due to a bad economy and competition from nearby states, Whelan said.
"That translates to a loss of jobs," he said.
The alternative would have been to allow slot parlors at other locations in the state, "which, very honestly, would have been a death knell for Atlantic City," Whelan said.
The CRDA has invested $1.5 billion in the resort, and "there isn't a neighborhood in the city that hasn't seen some sort of improvement" as a result, Whelan said.
The CRDA is slated to finalize the district's boundaries at a noon meeting April 19 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. Saturday's meeting was one of several held across the city this month addressing upcoming changes for the resort.
While there has been publicity about conflicts between the CRDA and the city, all parties agree on about 85 percent of the changes that need to be made, Thompson said Saturday.
"Let's not get hung up on the 15 to 20 percent of the things that we disagree on. Let's focus on the things we all know need to get done," Thompson said.
Except for planning and zoning, the CRDA will not take over city functions in managing the Tourism District, Thompson said. The CRDA plans to work with the Atlantic City Police Department, State Police and other agencies to curb crime in the resort.
For planning and zoning, the CRDA will follow the model used by the Meadowlands, and have one officer hear site plans and applications for variances and then have the approvals voted on at regular meetings, Thompson said.
In a question-and-answer session, residents expressed concerns about safety on the Boardwalk and beaches and abandoned buildings that are ugly and unsafe. Some said the Boardwalk is so poorly lit, it is dangerous for Enclave residents to walk to the casinos at night.
The CRDA has committed $2.5 million of grant money to install new lights on the Boardwalk, Thompson said. Atlantic City Electric has agreed to accept a higher tariff to include replacement of broken or worn-out lights in addition to electricity and replacing burned-out bulbs.
Resident Joe Ducato asked what will be done about the abandoned Seashore Gardens building that is next to the Enclave.
"You have the biggest eyesore in Atlantic City right here at your doorstep," and the Hard Rock won't want to build a $500 million boutique hotel next to it.
The CRDA can use eminent domain to acquire land only for approved projects, but it plans to ask for more money to demolish buildings that don't comply with the maintenance code, Thompson said.
Enclave resident Marcy Reese said the resort's beaches have become "unsavory," with homeless people using the showers to get clean. Perhaps requiring beach tags would help, she said.
"I'm thinking, if they had to pay to be on the beaches, we wouldn't have this problem," Reese said to the disapproval of many in the audience.
The problem is that other counties and towns send their homeless and people with mental problems to Atlantic City because the resort has good social services, Thompson said. Atlantic City has to tell them to put an end to the one-way tickets into town.
The resort has to have a zero-tolerance policy for homelessness, "but only when it's well-supported with social services in a compassionate way," she said.
Contact Elaine Rose:
on Tourism District
* Tuesday, April 12: 6:30 p.m. at the Atlantic City Convention Center, 1 Convention Blvd.
* Wednesday, April 13: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Atlantic City Investment Forum: Revitalizing the City, Repositioning the Resort, Atlantic City Convention Center, 1 Convention Blvd.
* Thursday, April 14: 6:30 p.m. at the Davenport Center, 600 N. New Jersey Ave.