ATLANTIC CITY — Amanda Stevens and Michelle Dalpiaz were surprised to find the Boardwalk hardly damaged from Hurricane Sandy.
Stevens, of Glen Rock, Bergen County, and Dalpiaz, of Manhattan, heard through TV and word of mouth that the famous wooden walkway had been torn apart, a myth spread by misinformation.
“I thought it was going to be destroyed,” Dalpiaz said. “You can’t even tell [there was a storm].”
The friends snapped pictures of several hundred people walking by them Sunday who were trying to dispel that false rumor and spread awareness that Atlantic City actually lucked out.
The event, called the Board-WALK, attracted an estimated 600 people who wore pink, yellow and blue “DO AC” shirts while walking from Atlantic Club Casino Hotel to Revel to generate publicity.
At the start, performers from the Divas Do AC and Legends in Concert shows, impersonating Michael Jackson, Elvis, Joan Rivers and more, sang in front of the large crowd and a battalion of rolling chairs. After singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Under the Boardwalk,” the large group headed north.
They turned a lot of heads on their way. There was already a lot of foot traffic on the boards in the unseasonably warm weather.
Mark Kosuth, of Manhattan, asked what was going on as the walkers passed by. He also said that TV news reporters gave the impression that the length of the Boardwalk was wrecked on Oct. 29, but being familiar with the city, he knew it was only the northernmost inlet section being shown.
“Thank God,” he said, “considering when you look at Seaside (Heights) and everything else.”
Steven Rosenberg, president of Rose Communications Group, said he proposed the idea of creating such a promotion to Jeff Guaracino, spokesman and chief strategy officer for the Atlantic City Alliance.
Rosenberg wanted to do it in the spring, but Guaracino suggested doing it Sunday because of the expected nice weather and need to revive the city after the storm closed casinos for about five days.
“Why not do it now when Al Roker’s telling everybody the Boardwalk’s closed?” Rosenberg asked.
Roker, an anchor on NBC’s “Today,” was one of many TV reporters who visited Atlantic City and showed small portions of an already-crumbling section of Boardwalk that was washed away by the storm and onto city streets.
It was rarely, if at all, mentioned that the same section was already slated for demolition.
Whether these reporters were misinformed or misrepresented the news to hype the hurricane, it created an impression throughout the world that the city’s famous attraction was entirely gone.
Liza Cartmell, president of the Atlantic City Alliance, said the group has been aggressively targeting the national media it believes falsely portrayed the extent of the damage and could continue to damage the resort’s financial recovery by scaring away visitors.
“It’s always harder the second time around,” she said.
Jerry Goldberg, owner of The Wearhouse shirt and souvenir shop on the Boardwalk, was one of many merchants who cheered the walkers on Sunday and said word needs to spread that his and other businesses are open.
“All day people come in and ask, ‘Where’s the damage?’” he said.
Many of the people who came out to show their support heard of the event a day or two before through the radio or on Facebook and are hopeful to see the resort’s revival.
“We live locally and thought we’d come support our local city,” said Danielle Sheehan, of Egg Harbor Township, who was walking with her husband, Rick, and children Ben, Emily and Olivia.
Rick Sheehan said his son, Ben, plays in the Atlantic City Sharks Youth Hockey League, and when they travel to other states, people offer them food and hot showers, thinking the southern portion of the state was as devastated as much of the northern shoreline.
“That’s definitely the word out of town,” he said, “that Atlantic City’s trashed.”
At the end of the walk, Sheila Mussa, of Northfield, and Sandy Shipton, of Atlantic City, leaned on a railing out front of Revel, waiting to figure out what they were going to do next on the sunny afternoon.
Mussa said that as a local teacher with a husband who works in the casino industry, she felt she had to contribute to the effort because of what the city means to the region.
“We really want to have people know we’re back in business because this is our lifeblood,” she said.
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