ATLANTIC CITY — A show of union support for the city’s police officers and firefighters Friday caught the attention of visitors and residents, many of whom were concerned layoffs could threaten the public’s safety.
“Obviously, we’ve read and heard what’s going on,” said Jim Smith, of New York. “Why, I don’t know, but I do believe you have to support your Fire Department and Police Department.”
A news conference at City Hall attacked manpower and spending cuts in the city’s two public safety departments that are proposed under the state takeover of the city. Afterward, a handful of police and fire union members walked to the Boardwalk, handing out “Don’t Gamble on Safety” fliers.
One of them ended up in the hands of Smith and his wife, Antoinette.
“I would not feel safer, that’s for sure,” she said.
Even before the campaign officially kicked off Friday, residents and employees of the city discussed the possibility of budget cuts to the city’s po-lice and fire departments.
At Lenox Cafe, across the street from the Public Safety Building, owner Dan Caldwell stood behind the counter, where he serves many city police officers and firefighters.
“It’s unfortunate,” Caldwell said, “There’s a lot of good people who will be hurt by the cutting of police and fire department personnel.”
Andrea Ospina-Torres lives in Egg Harbor Township but works in Atlantic City.
“We’re supposed to take care of each other. We’re a community,” Ospina-Torres said.
Down Atlantic Avenue, resident Mike Lopez started his day at Tony’s Baltimore Grille, a favorite restaurant for locals and visitors.
“Atlantic City has 39,000 residents, but more than 25 million come into the city every year,” Lopez said. “We’re not like any other town.”
Lopez, who is also the president of the Atlantic City Republican Club, attended the public-safety press conference and took “Don’t Gamble on Safety” fliers to distribute in his own neighborhood.
During Friday’s press conference, New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech said community involvement and legislative measures will be what helps the city’s police and fire unions’ campaign be successful.
“The community is going to make sure that the people that stand up with us will have support, and the people who don’t stand with us won’t have support,”