In Atlantic City's Tourism District, they stand like crumbling monuments to the gap between ambition and perception, between the exciting resort the city strives to be and the negative impressions that greet visitors.
They are the decrepit properties, trash-filled lots, boarded-up buildings and broken sidewalks that stubbornly hang on, despite a consensus that has existed for years that cleaning up the city's eyesores should be job one in revitalizing the resort.
The eyesores persist even as other improvements have been made since the creation of the Tourism District in 2011. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is in charge of planning and zoning within the district - but not code enforcement.
When the legislation to create the Tourism District was being written, city officials lobbied to retain authority over code enforcement. But budget constraints - officials say they have only half the inspectors allowed by city ordinance - continue to hamper enforcement efforts. More recently, Hurricane Sandy, which damaged properties and destroyed some of the vehicles code enforcement officers use, didn't help.
Now, the CRDA is contributing $130,000 so that the city can hire more inspectors. The money will be used to bring on two full-time and four part-time inspectors who will be assigned to the Tourism District.
We sympathize with people who think this shouldn't be necessary, and it is certainly not ideal. But something has to be done, and the CRDA deserves credit for putting some money where its concerns are. The agency has identified 150 properties within the district it says are in immediate need of repairs or demolition.
Some disagreements and a certain amount of tension are to be expected as the people in charge of the Tourism District and Atlantic City officials figure out how to work with one another. This is, after all, an unprecedented situation. But the bickering over blame for the pace of building code enforcement isn't helpful. Nor are some of the excuses. It just seems silly that a lack of vehicles is getting in the way of inspections. How about using the cars issued to City Council members?
No one should forget: Atlantic City is on the clock. Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic leaders in the Legislature made a commitment to give the city five years to turn itself around before they considered allowing casino gambling in other parts of the state. That was two years ago.
The time for arguing about Atlantic City's dilapidated properties is over. The time for fixing or razing them is now.
Everyone involved must work together so the Tourism District can present to visitors an image that matches its potential.