Problems with squatters discovered in the Atlantic City Tourism District on Thursday underscore the need for vigilance in tearing down blighted properties, officials said.
Tourism District Commander Tom Gilbert said employees of the Special Improvement Division were making their rounds Thursday morning when they spotted several squatters in an otherwise abandoned duplex about a block from the Boardwalk on South Texas Avenue.
A group of people who were not identified were found sleeping at the foot of the steps of the property. Further inspection of a set of nearby row homes on Stanley Court found that back windows of a property there had been broken open and the home was filled with debris and mattresses likely from other squatters, Gilbert said.
"One of the challenges is just figuring out where this is going on. As we're seeing, there's opportunity there for this to happen," Gilbert said.
Earlier this week, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority voted to allocate another $1.5 million to the city to tear down eyesores in the resort's Tourism District. Funding has been allocated twice before, bringing the total amount available to the city to $4.5 million.
Last year, the city tore down 23 blighted buildings with the funds, city officials have said. The city has a right to foreclose on and demolish properties after a series of actions are taken with no response from the property owner. The owner remains responsible for the expense, but recouping the funding can take an indefinite amount of time or in some cases never happens at all.
The CRDA has agreed to reimburse the city for those costs for buildings in the Tourism District
Gilbert said he was unsure whether the properties involved in Thursday's incidents were on a demolition list. A group of of city officials are meeting today to discuss what the city's most pressing demolition needs are.
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