Atlantic City reopened Friday morning after a five-day shutdown for Hurricane Sandy.
Cleanup efforts already had been in full swing to ensure the quick turnaround needed to get back to business — and capitalize on the international spotlight cast on the resort by the 900-mile-wide storm.
“Given the catastrophic nature of this event, I think we can all agree (that) Atlantic City was blessed,” Mayor Lorenzo Langford said. “But we’re not out of the woods yet. … Everyone’s really passionate about what’s going on here, and we’ll need everyone to sustain (that) effort going forward.”
With roads mostly clear of debris and test results clearing the local water supply, the city government’s focus will shift to supporting residents along their return to normalcy after flooding ruined many of their homes, cars and businesses, and to providing a safe, clean environment for visitors — critical to the city’s tourism industry.
“Our heart goes out to everyone affected (in other, harder-hit areas of the state), but we have to an economy here we need to support that employs 30,000 workers,” New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director John Palmieri said.
Atlantic City’s reopening was vital to South Jersey overall, Atlantic City Alliance President Liza Cartmell.
Cartmell announced plans to tweak the Alliance’s $30 million-a-year marketing campaign to promulgate an image of Atlantic City as a place where people can escape to and leave behind stresses brought on by the storm.
She also said the Alliance will start a #CanDoAC Twitter feed to reflect the resilience of the resort.
“We were blessed in Atlantic City — we still have the infrastructure in place to make a quick recovery,” said Casino Association of New Jersey President Tony Rodio, who is also president and CEO of Tropicana.
A few restaurants stayed open through the storm as per agreements with city police and fire officials to feed first responders during emergencies. After floods receded, convenience stores started opening up for those who did not evacuate.
Ten of the 12 casinos in the city reopened Friday. Revel plans to reopen at noon today, and the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel announced it would resume operations at 10 a.m. Monday.
Eight stores also opened Friday at The Walk Outlets, which should be fully operational by Sunday, general manager Donna Donnelson said.
Despite waist-deep flooding surrounding the popular outdoor shopping mall during the storm, stores reported little flood damage. Taping and plywood prevented debris from breaking windows. And just one store — Ralph Lauren — was burglarized.
“When I saw it on the news, I was really concerned,” Donnelson said. “But when I got here on the property two days ago, I was really excited that it was not what it appeared to be.”
Damages to houses and businesses won’t be fully realized until everyone returns to the city.
And power outages still affect 25 percent of the city. At night, blackness swallows blocks of some neighborhoods, including stretches of Atlantic and Pacific avenues. The only light in some places is blue, red and flashing from police squad cars —– twice as many as usual to discourage looting and other crimes encouraged by the post-storm disorganization.
Langford initiated a curfew to help police efforts during the storm. He lifted it Friday. Police Chief Ernest Jubilee, however, said 12-hour patrol shifts will continue indefinitely, at least as long as they’re needed to manage a city with fewer traffic and street lights.
Jubilee spoke after a press conference at City Hall.
During the briefing, Langford declined to comment on Gov. Chris Christie. Four days earlier, Christie’s harsh words about Langford’s handling of the storm evacuation introduced their feud to a national audience, culminating in the mayor issuing a “mano-o-mano” challenge to the mayor. on the Today Show.
Christie also lifted the evacuation order before alerting the local government or casino industry.
While Langford made it clear that he wouldn’t talk Friday about the governor – aside from thanking him – he also stressed that neither he, his Cabinet nor City Councilmen would remain forever silent about it.
The Rev. Elias Thomas of Community Baptist Church watched the press conference from the back of the crowd. Afterward, he spoke to City Solicitor Braun Littlefield about the storm
“God needed to get everyone’s attention – the mayor, the governor,” he said. “We need to slow down, we’re going too fast. … We need to work together.”
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