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MGM, Boraie announce deal for luxury housing in Atlantic City Marina District

ATLANTIC CITY — MGM Resorts International and Boraie Development LLC are planning to build 200 luxury condo units in the Marina District.

The project was announced Tuesday during a news conference at Golden Nugget Atlantic City.

“We believe there is strong demand in the high-quality primary and second home market, and Boraie is the best possible partner to execute this project,” MGM Resorts said in a statement Tuesday. “While we are very excited about this project and its potential positive impact on the city, at this time we have not yet established the project’s feasibility, and it is subject to extensive regulatory approvals.”

MGM Resorts operates Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and owns the land where the mixed-use project will be built. The 14.71-acre plot of land has an estimated value of $32 million, state tax records show.

Council President Marty Small Sr. said the project will expand Atlantic City’s housing stock and increase the municipality’s ratable base.

“To diversify our tax base, we need more non-casino gaming activities,” Small said. “My vision for the City of Atlantic City is to attract and bring the middle class back.”

Renderings of the project include retail and dining space as well as fitness and recreation areas. A multistory building will also be constructed for timeshares.

The project is contingent on approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which has zoning and land-use oversight of the city’s Tourism District, also needs to approve the plan.

“Atlantic City’s momentum in building a livable, workable and playable destination continues with the announcement of a new luxury housing development in the Marina District,” said CRDA Executive Director Matt Doherty. “MGM’s track record here with its ownership of Borgata, and Boraie Development’s success with the luxury housing development at 600 North Beach, makes this partnership a win-win for Atlantic City.”

Boraie recently completed construction of Atlantic City’s first market-rate housing development in a half-century, 600 NoBe, in the South Inlet. Wasseem Boraie, vice president of the company, said it was too soon to say when the project would begin.

“We’re honored to be partnering with an incredible company like MGM,” he said. “I think everyone in Atlantic City sees how we’ve kept our promises and we deliver.”

Earlier this month, the city Planning Board heard from MGM’s legal counsel about a redevelopment plan for the Marina District, but few details were discussed publicly. The redevelopment plan had already been in place but recently expired. The gaming company’s attorney alluded to the need to renew the plan in order for a housing project to move forward.

City Council introduced an ordinance in April to renew a redevelopment plan for the Huron North Redevelopment Area, which includes all of the Marina District. Small said the plan, which is on council’s agenda Wednesday night, will allow for residential zoning.


Science_nature
Fish fight: As striped bass numbers fall, Jersey Shore anglers split over new rules

On calm, sunny days, dozens of boats dock at Kammerman’s Marina in Atlantic City. Most set out to sea for one fish in particular: the Atlantic striped bass.

The popular recreational catch faced near extinction a few decades ago, leading to a temporary ban on capturing the species in the mid-1980s.

Now, striped bass are being overfished again amid a decades-long drop in their population, and new regulations are coming next year, leaving South Jersey fishermen divided.

The Atlantic States Marines Fisheries Commission, which manages fishing from Maine to North Carolina, wants to put more restrictions on the harvest. In an April memo, the commission said it was launching a study into how to reduce fish deaths by 17% by 2020.

“Striped bass are one of the most sought-after game on the East Coast,” said Max Appelman, fishing coordinator at the commission. “There are probably a number of other variables at play, but these (fishing and overfishing) are the only two we can put our fingers on.”

The total weight of all mature striped bass females has been declining since the early 2000s, after rebounding in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 2017, it dropped to 151 million pounds from more than 250 million pounds 10 years ago, stock assessments show.

New Jersey accounted for 8% of recreational landings in 2018.

But for some of the state’s anglers, more limits on striped bass catches are unwelcome. They worry it could hurt businesses surrounding the industry, at a time when fishers say the species appears abundant in New Jersey’s waters.

New restrictions may include increasing the minimum size of fish that can be legally netted and closing some portions of the season.

Currently, recreational anglers can land two striper per day during the season. One can be 28 to 43 inches and the other greater than 43 inches. And in New Jersey, the season closes from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 in the Atlantic Ocean.

“It won’t be popular, that’s for sure,” said Chris Kammerman, whose family has owned the small Atlantic City marina and fuel dock near Gardner’s Basin since 1961.

New size and bag limits, he said, will have a ripple effect on the entire fishing industry, from bait shops to fuel docks.

Tweaking the quotas may leave fishermen asking whether spending money on fuel, bait and gear is worth it when most striper they catch must be thrown back into the ocean.

“Fishing is expensive. It’s a labor of love when you go out there,” Kammerman said. “When (the commission) increases size limits, (fishermen) spend all this money to bring home one fish. ... A lot will just stay home.”

Another issue: Even after being caught and released, striped bass could die in the water anyway if the fishing hook punctures their organs. In 2017, 3.4 million striped bass died after being reeled in and thrown back into the ocean, according to the commission’s stock assessment.

The ASMFC may make a new, coastwide requirement to use special equipment known as “circle hooks” when fishing with live bait to reduce striped bass mortality.

The sharply curved circle hook differs from the traditional J-hook because fish are less likely to swallow them and suffer from organ damage as a result.

On Tuesday morning, Galloway Township resident Wayne Bennett strolled into the One Stop Bait & Tackle shop in the South Inlet showing off a massive striped bass he caught the day before.

For Bennett, it’s difficult to find a striper that meets the larger size requirement, he said. Last year, he said, he caught one striper that was above the 43-inch minimum.

And over the course of a week, he said, he could spend hundreds of dollars on fishing supplies.

“It’s tough to catch them,” he said. “This is my first one over 43 inches this year. ... You have to put your time in. ... I oppose (new regulations).”

Others, though, are on board.

Ron Alia, of Philadelphia, fishes off the jetties about twice a week and supports adding further protections to striped bass to ensure the harvest is still abundant decades from now.

“We need to make sure the sport is here for our families and our kids and grandkids,” Alia said as he left the Atlantic Avenue bait shop.

That’s the conservation mindset Jeff Dement, fish tagging director for the American Littoral Society, wants anglers to have.

Dement is a recreational fisherman, too, and says his peers should trust the detailed, 10-year stock assessment recently released by the ASMFC before there’s another striped bass population crisis like in the 1980s.

“If you keep depleting the stock, you get to the big ‘E’ word,” he said. “We want to prevent overharvest. ... We can’t keep fishing until they’re gone.”

A draft will be presented to the commission’s Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board in August. If approved, the board will consider its final approval in October for implementation in 2020.

PHOTOS: Catches from around South Jersey

Casinos_tourism
developing
Atlantic City casinos report 11th straight month of revenue growth

ATLANTIC CITY — The casino industry continued its winning streak in April, reporting a 16.9% increase in total gaming revenue.

The increase in gaming revenue is the 11th consecutive month of growth for the industry. Atlantic City’s nine casinos reported $250.7 million in total gaming revenue, according to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Casino revenue in the resort has increased by double digits every month since the opening of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort in June.

Through the first four months of 2019, the industry has generated $977.37 million in gaming revenue, an increase of 20.8% over the same period last year, when seven casino properties were operational.

“Gaming and leisure customers have many options, both online and on site, and Atlantic City is positioned for a great summer season with its addition of new sportsbook lounges and other exciting amenities,” said James T. Plousis, chairman of the Casino Control Commission.

Revenue from table games and slot machines increased by 8.4% to $207.6 million in April compared to the same month in 2018. However, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was the only existing to property to report an increase (0.5%). The two new gaming parlors accounted for $38.55 million in casino win.

Internet gambling revenue grew by nearly 60 percent, according to state gaming regulators. Online and mobile gaming generated nearly $36.6 million in April. Golden Nugget Atlantic City remained the top online gaming revenue producer, reporting more than $13.8 million for the month.

Online gaming has generated more than $141 million in revenue through the first four months of the year, representing a 52.4% increase over last year.

Legalized sports betting has been a major factor in the growth of online and mobile gaming, said Steve Ruddock, lead online gambling analyst for PlayNJ.com.

“Before online sports betting was legalized, it was thought that the growth of online casinos would begin to tail off,” Ruddock said. “The effect of online sports betting has been profound. It infused new energy in gamblers and new investment into online casinos. Because of that, growth has actually accelerated significantly.”

Online and mobile sports betting accounted for nearly 81% of all sports bets placed statewide. Last month, gamblers placed $313.7 million in sports bets.

“The April 2019 DGE numbers are a promising sign of Atlantic City’s continued growth as the summer season quickly approaches,” said Kevin Ortzman, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and regional president of Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s three Atlantic City casinos. “Sports betting without question has provided a major boost to the local economy, and we believe this excitement will translate into increased revenue and tourism throughout the summer.”

Sports wagering revenue generated more than $6.5 million for Atlantic City casinos and their online partners in April.

“Nearly a full year in, we are beginning to get a clearer picture of how New Jersey bettors react to certain products and sports,” said Dustin Gouker, lead sports betting analyst for PlayNJ.com. “While there are a lot of similarities between Nevada and New Jersey, the bettors of the Northeast behave a bit differently than in the West. For instance, New Jersey’s overwhelming preference for online betting has been obvious, and the region’s enthusiasm for college basketball and pro baseball are showing in the state’s handle.”

Debra P. DiLorenzo, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, said that the regional business community is confident that Atlantic City will continue to thrive and grow.

“Atlantic City was a key factor in New Jersey’s tourism boom in 2018, attracting new visitors to the Garden State,” she said. “The passage of sports wagering helped create new jobs, generated economic growth and provided an important boost to the casino industry.”


Atlantic
Philadelphia man alleges Camden Diocese failed to protect children from 'serial molester'

CAMDEN — A Philadelphia man who alleges he was sexually abused at St. James Parish in Ventnor from 1996 to 2001 claims the Diocese of Camden and then-Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio did not do enough to protect him or the children who were abused after him, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

The suit, filed on behalf of Justin Hoffman, 29, seeks damages and states the diocese demonstrated negligence, including failing to report abuse and protect parishioners from a “serial molester.” It also names Holy Trinity Parish in Margate, the “successor to St. James Parish,” the school for which was torn down in 2016.

Hoffman alleges the Rev. Brendan Sullivan abused him when he served as Sullivan’s altar boy as a student at St. James school. According to the lawsuit, the abuse increased in frequency and intensity over the five-year period and included indecent exposure, inappropriate fondling, groping and removing Hoffman’s clothes and underwear.

“I wasn’t in a position where I was making this conscious decision to hang out with this priest, this sex offender, every day,” Hoffman said Tuesday at a news conference in Cherry Hill. “He was like my best friend. It’s kind of embarrassing to say. … That’s not a healthy friendship. There isn’t a friendship between a 65- or 70-year-old priest and a 9-year-old boy.”

Mike Walsh, a spokesman for the diocese, said the first accusation against Sullivan was received in 2010. He was removed from ministry.

“As in all such cases, the Diocese will notify law-enforcement authorities of the accusation,” Walsh said, “and offer professional counseling and therapy to anyone who claims to have been abused.”

Sullivan served at St. James from 1987 to 2004. He was removed from the priesthood in 2010 in connection with another abuse allegation stemming from 1981, during his time at Assumption Church in Atco. The lawsuit states Sullivan acknowledged the incident before his death. Sullivan was later named in a list by the Diocese of Camden of clergy members who had credible allegations of abuse against them in February. DiMarzio, now bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, was bishop of the Diocese of Camden from 1999 to 2003.

Sullivan and Hoffman fell out of frequent contact before Hoffman’s junior year of high school at Chartertech High School for the Performing Arts in Somers Point, Hoffman said.

Attorney Gerald Williams said Hoffman’s lawsuit is the first since Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law Monday extending the statute of limitations for sexual abuse allegations from two years since realization of the abuse to seven years, or the age of 55, whichever comes first, plus a two-year window for victims blocked by the previous statute of limitations, effective Dec. 1.

Hoffman said he realized the extent of the abuse between 2016 and 2017.

“(Hoffman) told us that he wanted his name on the complaint that we filed yesterday for a specific purpose,” Williams said. “Because his lawsuit can be brought now, others under the new statute have to wait to bring claims in the court, to seek justice there. He wants other survivors to know that this can be done, that their voices can be heard and that they can seek remedies in court.”

Other children were present during some of the instances of alleged abuse, attorney David Cedar said.

The suit also says Sullivan engaged in a “calculated series of manipulations” that included taking Hoffman and other boys out on his boat, taking them swimming, taking Hoffman out to dinner and giving him random gifts of money.

The lawsuit states Hoffman experienced addiction and mental health struggles stemming from the abuse, and a loss of earning potential as a result. Hoffman said he’s been sober for one year and nine months. He believes Sullivan’s abuse played some role in his substance-abuse issues.

Hoffman said he began considering that what had happened to him was abuse after going to addiction treatment meetings and meeting with LGBT people and hearing their discussions of trauma.

“I found myself identifying with them more and more,” he said, “and I think that was right in the wake of the whole #MeToo movement.”

At the time of the alleged abuse, Hoffman was living in Ventnor, where his family still lives.

The lawsuit says Hoffman “suffered a severe disruption of his enjoyment of life, as well as his relationship with members of his family, fellow Catholics, and others.” He is no longer a practicing Catholic.

“I identify as an atheist,” Hoffman said. “And I think the best way to come to that conclusion is to have an understanding of how religion works.”

Hoffman, who spent two years in the Navy and now works as a chef in Philadelphia, said he remembers reading the news of Sullivan’s defrocking and attended his funeral. Sullivan died in 2011 at 76.

Sullivan graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1955 and was ordained in 1960, serving in 10 parishes in South Jersey.

Along with St. James, the other South Jersey churches he served in included Blessed Sacrament Church in Margate from 1965-75 and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church in Absecon from 1976-78.

After two years on the faculty of Camden Catholic High School, he served as vice principal of Holy Spirit High School in Absecon between 1964 and 1973, and as principal from 1973 to 1978.

But it was his time at St. James that Hoffman said has left him with issues that last to this day. He explained the blind spot children have in the presence of authority figures, which was compounded by the reverence the Catholic Church was shown in his family and community.

“When you’re with an authority figure when you’re young, you don’t know if something that they’re doing is right or wrong,” he said. “And I certainly shouldn’t have been expected to know.”