ATLANTIC CITY - In the latest episode of “As the Boardwalk Turns,” tensions mounted in a three-way tug of war for control of the northeastern corner of Absecon Island, as Bart Blatstein angled for Garden Pier, two South Jersey somebodies saw their South Inlet strategy snuffed out, and Revel owner Glenn Straub, feeling encircled by would-be redevelopers, accused the city of harboring “a rotten egg.”
Atlantic City Council on Wednesday named Bart Blatstein’s company redeveloper of Garden Pier and rescinded a December decision that put a pair of influential businessmen in charge of the adjacent South Inlet neighborhood.
Last year the city named M & J at Melrose LLC the official redeveloper of the South Inlet, which, despite offering some of the most striking vistas on Absecon Island, and dirt-cheap waterfront land, has been virtually undeveloped for decades, and remains a scattering of grassy lots and modest low-rise housing.
In December, then-council president Frank Gilliam Jr., a staunch supporter of M & J, described the redeveloper designation as a gambit to pressure Straub into opening Revel, which sits in M & J’s redevelopment zone.
An officially-designated redeveloper typically submits a redevelopment plan outlining its long-term vision for a tract of land. The designation allows the redeveloper to work with city officials to rejigger zoning in the redevelopment zone. The redeveloper can also push to condemn property within the zone.
M & J is owned by Joseph Jingoli Jr. and Jack Morris. Jingoli runs an influential construction firm that builds large infrastructure projects, including Revel’s power plant, which Straub wrested control of after a bitter dispute with a Jingoli-affiliated power supplier over energy costs.
Straub suspects both men have eyes on his casino-hotel. “They want the pressure on me to sell them the property,” he said Wednesday.
In a written statement, M & J spokeswoman Liz Thomas said the firm is “somewhat confused.”
“We have an executed Memorandum of Understanding with the City as of December 4, 2015 and we have dealt in good faith since then.”
Neither Jingoli nor Morris will comment on their plans for the South Inlet, she said. In December they had yet to submit a redevelopment plan. Thomas said she does not know whether a plan has been submitted since.
Atlantic City Planning Director Elizabeth Terenik did not return a call for comment Wednesday.
She was also unavailable to explain what will happen to Garden Pier, which the city gave Blatstein’s Tower Investments control of on Wednesday.
Tower submitted a Garden Pier redevelopment proposal to the city, but a staffer at the city clerk’s office said she could not immediately access the document, then hung up on a reporter.
Blatstein already controls another Atlantic City pier – Playground Pier, where he runs a retail-entertainment complex. He also owns Showboat Atlantic City, the former casino-hotel that neighbors Garden Pier and Revel.
Straub and Gilliam, who do not share a warm and fuzzy relationship, were both unsettled Wednesday at what they perceived as a dearth of transparency in the Atlantic City planning process.
“I need to know what’s going on around me,” Straub said.
Gilliam, who voted against the Garden Pier resolution, said the process had deteriorated into an opaque and shambolic mess.
About fifteen minutes before Wednesday’s meeting, Gilliam wasn’t sure what, exactly, was being proposed for Garden Pier, home to the Atlantic City Historical Museum. “There are a lot of things that are very unclear.”