Atlantic City’s longest-standing eyesores have started to disappear, nearly a decade after the local government started trying to shame property owners into taking responsibility for their dilapidated buildings.
City officials first polled residents on the worst eyesores in the resort in 2003, and released a list of the top 10 vote-getters in 2004 during Mayor Lorenzo Langford’s first term. The initiative was meant to shame landlords into addressing run down buildings. That didn’t work the first time or in 2005.
Langford tried again, releasing a new ranking a few months after being sworn into his second term in January 2010. And although it took until last spring, the owner of the Flanders — along with owners of two other sites on the list — started renovations.
Officials credit stricter local laws effective in October 2010.
Within six months, owners of the former Flanders hotel at 127 St. James Place started renovations. City construction official Wally Shields acknowledged the slow pace of the project, but said the activity is the only response in the 16 years since authorities first went after the building’s former owners for code violations.
Nearby Knights of Columbus owner Ned Sakhai started addressing issues with his property last spring, too. Work there has since ceased because Sakhai says he’s done enough to remove any physical danger to passers-by — enough to prevent the city from bulldozing his building, even if it’s not inhabitable or aesthetically pleasing.
Abbott’s Dairy on Route 30, a main artery into the city, is cleared of the former distribution center that sat vacant for more than 40 years, but no plans have been made public for the vacant land left behind. The same is true for most other sites cleared of dilapidated structures during the past year.
That’s progress — not perfection.
But the activity satisfied Langford enough that he said he did not feel the need for another eyesores list this year.
Not everyone is satisfied.
Bart Szkamruk, 23, of Czestochowa, Poland, is spending the summer working in Atlantic City on a student work visa. On a recent afternoon, he walked past the old Flanders building on his way back from the Boardwalk. He’d noticed the scaffolding and work crews there — as well as blight elsewhere in the resort.
“In Poland, there are places where it’s far worse than this. So it’s nothing new for me, I think it’s normal, but I thought it would be better here,” he said. “It’s too close to the Boardwalk to look like that, with these houses just collapsing. This is a tourist destination.”
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