ATLANTIC CITY — John Palmieri stepped down Tuesday as executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority as the agency faces changes when it loses millions in casino tax funds.
The CRDA announced at a special board meeting that Palmieri will leave at the end of the year. Deputy Director Christopher Howard will replace Palmieri, CRDA Board Chairman Robert Mulcahy said.
A state law that takes effect next year will divert about $20 million annually in the casino Investment Alternative Tax to help pay off Atlantic City’s crushing debt. Palmieri said the authority’s new direction with the reduced funds played a role in the decision to step down.
“The authority needs to reconsider what it does with the resources available,” Palmieri said. “I’ve been here for five years and two months, which is a long time for any appointed executive to serve. And so with that in mind and in consideration of new initiatives and the completion of the final year of the governor’s term, I just agreed with the chairman it was time to move on. I’m looking forward to, frankly, some time off.”
Palmieri will get a $225,000 severance, which is equal to one year of his salary, Mulcahy said. Howard will earn a $175,000 salary under a two-year agreement with CRDA.
Gov. Chris Christie appointed Palmieri in 2011 five months after CRDA assumed planning and development powers in the Tourism District, the zone encompassing the beach, Boardwalk, casinos, Marina District, Gardner’s Basin, Bader Field and downtown retail and entertainment districts. The state also gave CRDA control of Boardwalk Hall and the Atlantic City Convention Center.
Palmieri has overseen $1 billion in redevelopment initiatives and investment, a CRDA news release said. Recent CRDA investments include Bass Pro shops, conference centers at Harrah’s and Resorts, the paving of Pacific Avenue and 30 Class II police officers on the Boardwalk. CRDA also paid for summer beach concerts and a Miss America deal that was supposed to include a nationally-televised New Year’s Eve concert. The concert plans recently fell through,.
More controversial were CRDA’s actions in the city’s Southeast Inlet, where the authority has land banked vacant properties that the city can’t collected taxes from. CRDA has also publicly battled a piano tuner over the authority’s attempt to use eminent domain to take his home.
“It’s important to keep in my mind we spent about $8 million or $9 million assembling parcels, demolishing property, clearing sites and creating development parcels within the South Inlet,” Palmieri said. “Now you might argue ‘To what end?’ I think we’ve laid the groundwork for some good development that will obviously require an improving economy to get done.”
Palmieri grew up in Hoboken but spent most of his career in New England. He was director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority for four years before leading CRDA. He has led development efforts in Hartford, Conn., and Charlotte, N.C., and Providence, R.I. He spent 18 years in Providence, most of the time leading the city’s department of planning and development