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Luxury housing bringing 'new life' to Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — The opening of the Showboat hotel’s apartments has created another housing option for those seeking luxury in the seaside resort.

The Showboat Residences, Boraie Development’s 600 NoBe in the South Inlet and the proposed Marina District luxury condominium development project are all part of the new wave of luxury housing in Atlantic City that officials and developers believe can help make the resort a more attractive place to live.

Brandon Dixon, chief operating officer for Showboat’s property management company Tower Development, said the new Residences apartments are a continuation of an effort to bring “new life into the north end of the city” that started when the former casino property reopened as a hotel only in 2016.

“These apartments are the next phase and another step toward creating a complete community in the area,” Dixon said. “We are truly committed to the redevelopment and rebirth of Atlantic City.”

The Showboat Residences offer fully furnished studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom rentals with weekly rates ranging from $1,300 to $2,400, and include parking and gym access. Unfurnished apartments for annual leases are also available.

Dixon said the apartments could be occupied by any of the nearly 8,000 casino hotel employees that work in the area, as well as those who live outside the city.

“There are many who currently live on the mainland who would love to live on the island. There are also people in northern Jersey, parts of New York and, of course, Philadelphia that would love to have an apartment here at the shore,” he said. “These apartments fulfill that need, and those are the people we are targeting.”

Showboat Atlantic City is part of a larger commercial effort at the north end of the Boardwalk that includes Resorts Casino Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Ocean Casino Resort, Steel Pier, Absecon Lighthouse and small businesses on Tennessee Avenue called North Beach Atlantic City. The goal of North Beach is to foster economic opportunity through cooperation and collaboration while highlighting the amenities in that section of the city.

One block over is 600 NoBe, a 250-unit luxury development that opened in early 2019. Wasseem Boarie, vice president of Boraie Development LLC, said there are 200 people already living in the upscale complex, which is the city’s first market-rate housing constructed in nearly 50 years.

Boraie said the success of 600 NoBe was exactly what he and officials from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (the state agency with oversight of zoning and land-use regulations in the Tourism District) and the state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency had in mind when the project was first proposed several years ago.

Boraie, whose project, despite its proximity, was not included in the North Beach neighborhood concept, commended the efforts of other businesses and developers in the area while noting that “products like 600 NoBe are bringing in hundreds of people that have never experienced Atlantic City before.”

“We started this North Beach concept that I think others have now adopted it as well, which is only good for the Northside of the Boardwalk,” Boraie said. “Showboat’s extended-stay offering only enhances the experience people can have at the north end of the Boardwalk.”

Boraie and MGM Resorts International, the parent company of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, have proposed constructing a 200-unit luxury development in the Marina District, which they’re calling the M Residences. The project will target both primary and second-home buyers who are looking for high quality, according to a statement from MGM in May.

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

“My vision for the city of Atlantic City is to attract and bring the middle class back,” Small said when the project was announced.

CRDA Executive Director Matt Doherty said the M Residences project continued the city’s “momentum in building a livable, workable and playable destination.”

With a variety of luxury options currently available or in the planing stages, Atlantic City has created an alternative to other shore towns catering to a demographic seeking oceanfront living, Boraie said.

“Our market will vary,” Dixon said. “With a variety of floor plans and services offered, we believe we have something for everyone — singles, couples, families, roommates, from young professionals to retirees.”

Local leaders speak out about recent gun violence in Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — About 100 young people and their family members biked through Stanley Homes Village, Back Maryland and other neighborhoods in the city July 4th afternoon.

The community bike-out was already planned, but in the aftermath of the deaths of two teens and one young adult in three separate shootings, the ride became a release for a community shaken by recent violence.

“You got to get their minds off of the violence sometimes, especially when it’s plaguing the city as rampantly as it is right now,” said City Councilman Jeffree Fauntleroy, who pedaled along with the group.

Two of the killings happened on the same street, North Pennsylvania Avenue, and within three days of each other. The most recent victim, Katusca Robles, 18, was found shot in an apartment in the 800 block of North Pennsylvania Avenue on July 3rd.

After a violent start to the summer and a call from a top law-enforcement official for the community to act, local leaders are pushing for ways to curb juvenile violence that experts say has grown less predictable and more volatile, especially in the social media era.

In 2018, city police reported violent crime decreased by almost 30% and homicide decreased by 46%. But the recent homicides now bring Atlantic City’s total to eight, one more than police reported overall in 2018.

Officials are seeing an increase in juveniles possessing firearms and say those involved in violent crime are getting younger.

“What we’re seeing now is a frightening trend. It’s even getting younger,” Atlantic City Police Chief Henry White told The Press of Atlantic City in February; White spoke then about gun violence in the city as part of the Reinventing Atlantic City series. He said then that while most of the crime they typically handle dealt with youth aged 18-26, that was changing.

Sixteen-year-old Quran Bazemore was shot June 15 on Arctic Avenue by an assailant who was one year younger than him. He died from his injuries on June 25.

“Gun violence is a tragic reality in our society. However, when it affects our youth we sustain an incalculable loss of human potential,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said.

said in a statement released after Bazemore’s death. “My only question is: when will someone from our community stand up enough to give a damn?”

According to the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, there was a 26% increase in juveniles arrested with guns in the state from 2015 to 2017.

In a public hearing held by the commission in September 2018, retired Atlantic City police Sgt. Joseph Iacovone testified that between 2014 and 2017, about 46 gang-related shootings involved 36 juveniles.

But White, in his interview earlier this year, did not put all the blame on gangs.

“Most of the time we’re seeing that some of these shootings are just over a simple dispute,” White said, adding it could be over something personal such as respect or revenge.

Another factor affecting juvenile violence is social media. Disputes that once started and ended on the street are taking shape online.

Arguments, slights and even perceived slights are generated on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, making threats more complicated.

Part of that cycle of violence is the “race” law enforcement has to face when it comes to retaliation shootings.

Jordan Reaves was shot and killed June 30 on the 300 Block of North Pennsylvania Avenue. Reeves was a suspect in a June 27 shooting that injured two bystanders and was also the victim of a shooting on Dec. 5, 2018.

City Council President Marty Small Sr. commended the Police Department and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for recently launching a neighborhood policing program. The program assigned two officers to each of the city’s six wards who will interact with the community on a regular basis in an effort to foster better trust and communication.

But, Small said, curbing violence in the city has to include more than just police. He wants to see a community-based program introduced where regular citizens who have experience with inner city violence speak to Atlantic City youth about the perils of guns, drugs and gangs.

“We literally have babies walking around the city with guns and causing harm,” Small said. “And now, we need all hands on deck. Law enforcement can’t solve everything. It takes a whole community approach.”

For some residents that means more open discussion.

Sixty-five-year-old Valeria Marcus once lived on Pennsylvania Avenue, where Reeves and Robles were killed.

Marcus, who wants more police patrolling these areas on foot, said she’s afraid to walk down the street anymore and is “sick and tired” of the crime and gun violence.

She has relied on 911 calls and continues to speak out to improve her community, even when she’s faced backlash.

“If you have to speak up to help your community, you do it,” she said. “I want it to be written up. I want it to be exposed. It needs to be said.”

Staff writer David Danzis contributed to this report.

US to reconsider if 3 shore towns can stay without dunes

MANASQUAN — After Hurricane Sandy whacked New Jersey, most shore towns had to build or rebuild protective sand dunes. But three areas got a pass.

That could change soon. The federal government has agreed to reconsider whether dunes need to be built in places where they don’t exist now.

Nearly seven years after Sandy, Manasquan and Belmar do not have dunes protecting their coast. And a privately owned part of Point Pleasant Beach, owned by Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, negotiated a deal with state and federal officials to build a steel retaining wall just under the sand in return for not having to build a dune.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told The Associated Press this month it will begin a study in October, carrying out a request the state Department of Environmental Protection made in 2015.

“We’ll be looking at the entire project from Sea Bright to Manasquan to see where dunes are needed for additional coastal storm risk reduction,” said Hector Mosley, a spokesman for the Army Corps’ New York office.

The three beaches are notable exceptions to the dune rule that former Republican Gov. Chris Christie imposed after Sandy. He insisted that dunes be repaired in places where they were damaged or built from scratch in places that didn’t have them before the storm.

Where people balked, because their oceanfront views would be lost or their property be seized for what they considered inadequate compensation, the state either sued or was sued in dozens of court cases involving the dunes.

In Margate, the city sued to try to stop an Army Corps of Engineers dune project, saying its bulkheads were all it needed. But they gave up the suit in 2016.

A group of homeowners then sued to try to stop the project, arguing it would create a health hazard by allowing water to pool near the bulkheads. But the suit failed, and the dunes were built in 2017.

Unlike Margate, Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Environmental Protection on a dune project.

The plan was to have the Army Corps take significant portions of the beach from the southern end of the Wildwood beach and portions of the Wildwood Crest beach and use the sand to build a dune system for the entire island.

Troiano said the Army Corps has delayed the project. As of this date, Troiano said he did not know the start time.

Not so in Manasquan and Belmar. They, too, did not want dunes, but unlike the rest of the state were not required by the state to build them.

“They felt there were some beaches that were wide enough that they didn’t need dunes,” said Matt Doherty, who was Belmar’s mayor at the time and now leads the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. “We fit into that category.”

Doherty said that despite Sandy’s damage to Belmar, where the boardwalk was destroyed and flooding extended more than five blocks inland, he did not favor building dunes afterward.

“It would have altered the look of the beachfront in Belmar,” he said.

Less than 3 miles to the south, Manasquan also was given a pass on dunes after Sandy, though it, too, suffered major damage from the storm.

“It was because of the cost,” Mayor Edward Donovan said.

Manasquan had dunes that were wrecked in Sandy, with much of the sand winding up inside beachfront homes.

The dune project that was considered after the storm would have covered 65 feet of a 110-foot-wide beach, leaving much less space for recreation, the mayor said. And the borough would have had to pay for wooden stairs to cross the dunes at 17 points, at a cost of $3.4 million to $4.25 million. In July 2015, it voted against rebuilding its dunes.

Current environmental Commissioner Catherine McCabe favors an unbroken dune system along the shoreline. The decision to exempt Manasquan and Belmar, and part of Point Pleasant Beach, was made under her Republican predecessor,

“I think it’s necessary to have a steady line of protection down the length of the coast,” she said.

Elsewhere along the shore, dune opponents sued the state, including some oceanfront homeowners in Bay Head who insisted the $5 million they spent out of their own pockets on a rock wall offered better protection than the dune project. Like most of the other challenges, theirs lost.

“The whole process seems terribly unfair to me,” said Thacher Brown, one of the Bay Head homeowners. He bemoans the fact that Bay Head was forced to build dunes while others were not.

Environmental department spokesman Larry Hajna said Manasquan and Belmar’s beach work was authorized by Congress in the 1990s “as beach fill projects, not as storm-risk reduction projects” and therefore was not required to be included in the post-Sandy work.

Manasquan, in particular, has not wanted dunes, even before Sandy hit. Beachfront homeowners share a widely held belief that the damage was worse because of the dunes, not despite them.

“The damage we got was from the sand,” said John Kelly, who built his oceanfront home 20 years ago. “We had sand on the ceiling.”

Belmar, and to a lesser extent Manasquan, use what has come to be called “portable dunes” to protect the coast each winter. It involves bulldozing up walls of sand in the fall, then smoothing them back out onto the beach in the spring.

“It’s only modestly effective,” said Stewart Farrell, director of Stockton University’s Coastal Research Center and one of the state’s leading experts on beaches. “They’re just shoving it up into a big pile and saying, ‘Thank you.’”

Press staff writer Vincent Jackson contributed to this report.

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer  

Showboat Residences is renting luxury apartments on a weekly and annual basis. Nearby is 600 NoBe, a 250-unit luxury development that opened in early 2019, and a 200-unit luxury development is proposed for the Marina District.

Stone Harbor residents to DEP: Stop using snare traps to kill foxes

One late April day, a Stone Harbor resident posted a photo online of a dead red fox in a snare trap at Stone Harbor Point, a quiet conservation area at the southern tip of Seven Mile Island.

The picture quickly grabbed the attention of the small shore community, where the state has been capturing and euthanizing foxes to protect endangered piping plovers nesting there from predation. Now, some are questioning whether the use of snares is humane.

“The thought of an animal struggling in a trap for 12 or 14 hours, I have a problem with it,” Stone Harbor Mayor Judy Davies-Dunhour said. “I understand the ecosystem needs to be preserved. ... But isn’t there a more humane way?”

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection did not respond to a request for comment.

Piping plovers, tiny, sandy-colored birds, dig shallow nests near sand dunes and walk to the shoreline to feed. They are declining in numbers across the state and Stone Harbor, where there were 15 pairs in 2009 and below five in 2018, according to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. Of 34 nest failures in the state last year, foxes were behind at least seven — more than any other mammal. One or more American minks, opossums, crows, gulls and owls also destroyed nests.

The mayor said she has long been aware of predator control at Stone Harbor Point, but did not know until recently about the use of snare traps. In its 2008 Conservation Plan, Stone Harbor said it would work with the state to trap and relocate predators like red foxes, but DEP guidelines say relocation must be within two miles of the capture site. Stone Harbor is a little over one-square mile, and largely developed.

“Those guidelines make no sense here,” Davies-Dunhour said.

The state alerts the borough before setting up traps, the last time being mid-May, Davies-Dunhour said. It’s unclear how many red foxes live at the Point or how many have been euthanized.

A handful of animal rights activists have been outspoken at council meetings, urging the borough to persuade the state to either relocate the animals instead or use pain-free “box traps.” The mayor backs those ideas, while other council members want additional information from the DEP.

The borough is now asking state and federal representatives to give a presentation at a work session about why snare traps are used and whether alternatives exist.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Debbie Parkinson, a Stone Harbor resident who sees the state prioritizing one species over another. “There’s more money in birds than foxes.”

Ron Soldano, of Ocean View, voiced concerns at Tuesday’s council meeting that state wildlife officials are tampering with the environment.

Piping plover numbers have plummeted in Cape May County over the past two decades by 93%, and this year, Avalon was lost as a nesting spot. Development and habitat loss from storms also affect the population.

But reversing that downward trend shouldn’t mean killing another species, Soldana told council members.

“I have a problem with killing those mammals,” he said. “Natural selection allows for wildlife to find its path.”

Commercial trapping of red foxes is legal in New Jersey, though a bill in the state Legislature in 2018 sought to ban the sale and manufacturing of snare traps.

The controversial wildlife management plan is also used 45 miles to the north in Brigantine, where a petition in April 2018 against the strategy garnered over 100,000 signatures and media attention.

About 40 to 50 red foxes were brought to the island years ago to manage the rodent population, Councilman Vince Sera said, but the Public Works Department estimates there are only 10 left.

It’s been a highly emotional topic for the shore town, where foxes are the “unofficial mascot.” Sera said some residents have been fined thousands of dollars over the past year for cutting the cables on snare traps on the northern end of the island to make them nonoperational.

Now, the borough is working to draft a management proposal to present to the DEP looking at ways to protect both species. The state has said it already sets up fencing around plover nests for extra protection from predators, but foxes can dig under those barriers.

Sera said he is sympathetic to plovers too. The North Brigantine Natural Area once hosted 17 pairs at its peak in 2003, but now has only two pairs, according to a 2018 state report.

“I understand it’s a delicate balance,” Sera said. “We’re trying to put together a plan on how to protect piping plovers and foxes.”