A $50 million loan program aimed at helping resort homeowners and small businesses, and mixed-use affordable housing development are among the highlights of the Atlantic City government’s plans for the upcoming year.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford announced the loan program and addition of a housing component to a previously announced family entertainment project backed by Shaquille O’Neal partner Boraie Development during his official State of the City address at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting.
The city will partner with Amalgamated Bank on the loan program.
The bank’s last major initiative with a city appears to be its $6.25 million loan to Scranton, Pa., last summer two months after the city’s long history of financial problems forced pay for its 400-person workforce down to minimum wage, according to the bank’s website.
Besides that, the website mentions multiple initiatives through its Community Development Division focused on developing affordable housing. Those include a program providing mortgages for residential properties consisting of between one and four units, and financing for upgrading government-supervised multi-family housing in the New York City area.
None, however, seem to fit the homeowner and small business loan program first referenced by Langford during his 2012 State of the City address. Details about that initiative never went public. In December, however, Langford met with Amalgamated representatives, he said.
And by spring, the city will roll out the program, mayoral spokesman Eddie Lax said.
Lax, who is spearheading the loan program, declined to provide further details about the initiative, such as qualification guidelines.
Bank representatives did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment late Wednesday.
Representatives of Boraie also were unreachable regarding a proposed development in the city’s South Inlet section on the last remaining portion of the Uptown Urban Renewal Tract. The project would include a roller-skating rink, movie theater, shops, restaurants and parking on the long-vacant half-acre parcel.
Boraie hasn’t responded to multiple calls and emails seeking comment since Langford announced the project in September.
The housing part of it, however, wasn’t part of the plan discussed before — and didn’t make the mayor’s unofficial State of teh City address last week.
Langford also announced his re-election campaign Wednesday.
"If it's God's will, and with the people's permission, you haven't seen the last of Mayor Langford," he said.
Langford has been hinting publicly for at least a year that he’d seek a third term as mayor. His current one expires at the end of 2013.
For even longer, Langford has criticized the state government’s treatment of the city — particularly, laws that went into effect nearly two years ago establishing the Atlantic City Tourism District and transferring municipal development powers within it to the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
New Jersey NAACP Chapter representatives say they want to challenge the constitutionality of those laws, but won’t file a lawsuit until getting the green light from the organization’s national leadership now researching the matter. The potential lawsuit is expected to be discussed by NAACP leadership in South Jersey at a joint meeting Tuesday.
Langford didn’t mention that lawsuit, but opened his remarks talking about the “ugly truths” revealed during Hurricane Sandy nearly three months ago. Chief among them: the lack of state and county evacuation plans specific to Atlantic City, he said.
Langford and Gov. Chris Christie had sparred publicly in the past but renewed their bickering at the height of the storm.
After the floodwaters receded, Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno took damage tours of most of the New Jersey coastline, including Brigantine and all of Absecon Island except Atlantic City.
Langford reminded his audience of that Wednesday. He questioned the reasons for the snub.
“After all, we are the straw that stirs the drink, the goose that laid golden egg and an economic engine for the entire state,” he said.
Politics could be behind the Republican gubernatorial administration’s treatment of the resort, said Langford, a Democrat.
“Or is it because our demographic profile is predominantly poor and working class, and mostly minorities?” he said.
Regardless, the storm, Tourism District legislation and state financial supervision are among the most dramatic illustrations of what Langford described “attempt by outside forces” to control Atlantic City.
“Be forewarned: I and we will assist and fight with everything in our being to prevent that from happening,” he said.
While cooperation is critical to resuscitating the resort, the city’s partners “shouldn’t press their luck,” Langford said.
Despite that, he said he and his administration will “forge ahead” on the 2013 initiatives outlined Wednesday and continue with those proven successful during the past year such as Class II police officers and the citywide demolition program.
Langford also alluded to a three-point plan for minimizing tax increases for noncasino property owners whose payments will — assuming static assessed values — jump 25 percent this due to a multi-billion ratable base devaluation brought on by casino tax appeals. Although progressive, the declines were most pronounced during the past year.
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