You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
ERIN GRUGAN / Staff Photographer  

The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel property has stood empty since 2004. Stockton University’s Board of Trustees will meet Wednesday in closed session to review and discuss concerns related to the authorization and execution of sale of the former Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, according to the board’s special meeting agenda. Wednesday, August 8


Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer  

Artist Mark Chu of Australia finishing his installation for Friday’s ARTeriors opening in Atlantic City. Nov. 29 , 2018, (Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer)


Blight
The story of blight in Atlantic City: Will it ever end?
Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer  

Atlantic City is filled with vacant lots like this one on Irving Avenue, as well as boarded-up properties scattered throughout the city.

ATLANTIC CITY — When the TV news show “60 Minutes” came to town on the 20th anniversary of legalized gambling here, Atlantic City was booming — beating out Las Vegas for gaming revenue.

But the show focused on neighborhood blight.

“The casinos are surely happy. But the business district has gone belly-up,” said Morley Safer in the episode called “Raking It In.”

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer 

An abandoned home on Riverside Avenue in Venice Park. Venice Park Civic Association Vice President Fred Granese says the neighborhood lost residents after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“No streets of gold, just seedy pawn shops catering to tapped-out gamblers,” Safer said. “Atlantic City is a mecca for gamblers, but a disaster area if you live there.”

More than 20 years after that 1996 show, which asked why the city remained plagued by poverty and urban decay in spite of casinos taking in $3.7 billion a year, the issue of blight is still dogging the city.

A combination of high taxes, dysfunctional government, entrenched poverty and large numbers of low-skilled residents has led to decades of neglected houses, empty lots and abandoned warehouses.

A supermarket had just been built in 1996, and city officials cited it as a big accomplishment that would improve life for residents.

That store closed in 2004, with owners saying theft and vandalism made it impossible to operate. The city has remained without one ever since.

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer 

An abandoned house next to a church on Arctic Avenue near New Jersey Avenue in Atlantic City. Jan. 15, 2019 (Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer)

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer 

An abandoned house sits next to a home on Arctic Avenue near New Jersey Avenue in Atlantic City. Jan. 15, 2019 (Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer)

In a moment of deja vu, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority said recently it is researching bringing another supermarket to town in the next two years.

Atlantic City first became nationally known for blight rather than beaches after the 1964 Democratic National Convention at Boardwalk Hall. Reporters from all over the nation and world told their readers the resort’s hotels were old, dirty and hot; the Boardwalk full of shoddy merchandise and businesses; and the city a dingy mess.

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer 

Joseph F. Greenidge Jr., vice president of Greenidge Funeral Home off of Absecon Boulevard, argues Atlantic City needs more home ownership to reduce blight and stabilize its fortunes.

Today, much of the city has been remade with new housing stock in many neighborhoods. A shopping center, The Walk, greets visitors as they enter from the Atlantic City Expressway, rather than the public housing complex that stood there until it was demolished in 1998.

But a new type of blight now also welcomes them — the shuttered former Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, which sits awaiting demolition.

Trash-filled lots and boarded-up homes: Living beside blight in Atlantic City

Edward Lea / Staff Photographer  

Mary Cotton says she’s constantly calling the Sanitation Department about trash and debris around her home on Grammercy Place. ‘You pick it up, and the next day you have more trash,’ said Cotton, who bought her three-story house in 1999 after moving to Atlantic City from Philadelphia.

And pockets of decrepit buildings and vacant lots still dot all areas.

Vacant homes remain in all of the city’s neighborhoods, complicated by the effects of a national recession, Hurricane Sandy, the casino implosion of 2014, the city’s continuing financial problems and deepening poverty.

“There needs to be more home ownership,” said Joseph Greenidge, 55, vice president of Greenidge Funeral Home in the Bungalow Park section.

That’s the only way people can have an investment in a city, he said, and the motivation to keep it clean and updated.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 2013 to 2017 only 26 percent of homes in Atlantic City were owner-occupied, compared with 67 percent countywide and 64 percent statewide and nationwide.

Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall brings craft beer and some serious grub to the Orange Loop

Of all the projects in Atlantic City’s Orange Loop, perhaps none was as highly anticipated as the opening of Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall. This brand new hotspot is the latest facelift to be given to Tennessee Avenue, a block that contained little more than urban blight just a few years ago. But lately it seems all anyone can talk about is the rebirth of this area, with its new coffee shop (Hayday), chocolate bar (MaDe) and yoga studio (The Leadership Studio). Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall sits as the crown jewel of these properties.

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer  

Joseph F. Greenidge Jr., vice president of Greenidge Funeral Home off Absecon Boulevard, argues Atlantic City needs more home ownership to reduce blight and stabilize its fortunes.

Twenty-three percent of the resort’s housing is vacant, according to the Census Bureau, compared with 11 percent statewide.

Poverty has also increased dramatically in the city in the past 50 years, according to Jim Johnson’s report “Atlantic City: Building a Foundation for a Shared Prosperity.”

Poverty jumped from 22.5 percent in 1969 to 37.6 percent in 2016, while the state poverty rate has remained relatively stable, moving from 8.1 percent to 10.4 percent.

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer 

About a year ago, Greenidge Funeral Home expanded its footprint with a new administration building on Delaware and Drexel avenues.

Greenidge’s funeral home was started by his parents in 1971 at Absecon Boulevard, Drexel and North Delaware avenues on the edge of Bungalow Park. About a year ago, he expanded its footprint with a new administration building behind it at Delaware and Drexel avenues.

He wishes more people would invest instead of leaving for other towns.

“People have moved out of the city,” he said. “Since Sandy, when you walk down most blocks of Atlantic City, a home or two has been left empty.”

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer 

A big open lot off of Arctic Avenue in uptown Atlantic City. Jan. 15, 2019 (Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer)

When his family moved into the neighborhood in 1971, the 700 block of Drexel Avenue was “a pretty block, where trees overlapped and people kept the sidewalks clean,” Greenidge said. Homeowners picked up trash and swept the sidewalks.

Now, the block, made up mostly of row homes, is stark and in need of repair, and Greenidge doesn’t even know who is renting most of the homes, he said.

Greenidge sees a lot of people trying to make a positive difference, including civic associations, he said. “But it’s a high hill to climb, at this point.”

The Venice Park Civic Association is one group trying to address blight in their neighborhood, to the south of the White Horse Pike entrance to the city on the bay.

Venice Park features waterfront properties on canals and the bay. About nine of its homes were lost to the Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector tunnel, finished in 2001, that links the expressway to the Marina District.

Homeowners fought to keep their properties in the 1990s, arguing the tunnel was disrupting one of the city’s most stable neighborhoods.

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer 

Augusta Garrett's Venice Park home is well kept and charming, but just one door down from her is a building that has been vacant for years and is falling down.

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer 

Augusta Garrett's Venice Park home overlooks the city's back bay, giving her an incredible view and water access. While her home is meticulously kept, even on her waterfront street there are some blighted properties.

But it was a triple hit of the national recession and falling real estate values in 2008, Sandy in 2012 and the closing of four casinos in 2014 that stressed the city to the breaking point.

The aftermath of Sandy is still evident.

“We had 5 feet of water during Hurricane Sandy,” said Fred Granese, a retired Atlantic City firefighter who lives in Venice Park and is vice president of the Venice Park Homeowners Association. “Charlatans rolled the older folks — took their money and ran — didn’t do the work (after Sandy).”

So a lot of people just walked away from their houses, he said.

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer 

Venice Park residents Augusta Garrett, left, Michael F. Johnson and Fred Granese show a map of abandoned houses, marked in red, in their neighborhood.

Now, the association has mapped out those vacant properties, trying to determine which ones are salvageable and which need demolition, said Michael F. Johnson, the Housing Redevelopment Committee coordinator for the association.

“It has to be done by the city and state in partnership,” said Johnson, who retired from Atlantic City Electric and has lived in Venice Park since 1973, of the actual demolition and rehabilitation and its financing. It is outside the reach of a homeowners association, he said, but the group is more than willing to help gather information.

The homeowners want the city and state to develop a plan to deal with vacant property citywide, not just in their neighborhood, and to finance needed demolition.

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer 

An abandoned house on Arctic Avenue near Houston Avenue in Atlantic City. Jan. 15, 2019 (Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer)

They also say they need regulations on short-term housing rentals, like Airbnb; the development of bike paths and other ways of connecting their neighborhood to the Boardwalk and other parts of the city; and relief from high property taxes that discourage people from moving to the city.

Greenidge also wants to see more business development in the city, so residents will get the advantages of an urban area. Right now, he doesn’t even consider the city a real urban area, he said, since it lacks basic services and businesses like supermarkets.

Before moving to Drexel Avenue, Greenidge’s family lived on Arctic Avenue, in a block that included about 10 businesses, he said.

“Now you’d be hard pressed to find 10 businesses in 10 blocks,” Greenidge said of his old neighborhood.

Reinventing AC: Moving the city forward

Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall brings craft beer and some serious grub to the Orange Loop

Of all the projects in Atlantic City’s Orange Loop, perhaps none was as highly anticipated as the opening of Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall. This brand new hotspot is the latest facelift to be given to Tennessee Avenue, a block that contained little more than urban blight just a few years ago. But lately it seems all anyone can talk about is the rebirth of this area, with its new coffee shop (Hayday), chocolate bar (MaDe) and yoga studio (The Leadership Studio). Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall sits as the crown jewel of these properties.

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer 

A big open lot off of Irving Avenue in uptown Atlantic City, where houses use to be. Jan. 15, 2019 (Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer)

Atlantic City report

Rac
Atlantic City's path toward reinvention

After the rapid loss of jobs in Atlantic City in 2014, officials and residents alike asked the same daunting question: How can the city rebuild itself?

The city’s casino market was shrinking, home foreclosures soared and thousands of people moved out of the area in search of a better life elsewhere.

At The Press, we created a project called Reinventing AC, suggesting 10 big ideas we thought could move the city forward, and asked readers to share theirs. We collected more than 400 thoughtful comments from folks, and published a two-page graphic presenting their ideas.

A year later, we followed up to see what action had been taken toward completing any of the ideas, which included suggestions such as building a water park, booking more conventions and introducing sports betting to the city.

Since then, Stockton University built its Atlantic City campus, South Jersey Gas and other smaller businesses have emerged in the city, and two shuttered properties have reopened as Ocean Resort Casino and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.

But challenges remain.

Jim Johnson, special counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy, released a report Sept. 20 outlining the ongoing issues and answers to this familiar question: Given its history of poverty, blight and lack of leadership, how can Atlantic City move forward?

Using the report as a guide, our Reinventing AC project will explore the proposed solutions and real obstacles to enacting the recommendations outlined in Johnson’s report. Over the course of 2019, we’ll try to address the complicated issues that have long kept Atlantic City from sustained success.

Every month, we will focus on a central issue: entrenched poverty, quality of life, job opportunities, education, diversity, infrastructure and more.

Our goal is to ignite a conversation among city residents — and those whose lives are impacted by the city’s success or failure.

— Kris Worrell, executive editor and vice president, news


Top_three
Atlantic City sportsbooks ready for Super Bowl

N.J. expected to see $100M bounty from Super Bowl bets

{child_byline}DAVID WEINBERG

Staff Writer

{/child_byline}

Atlantic City’s eight sportsbooks are expected to do super business this weekend.

According to estimates from PlayNJ.com and the PlayUSA Network, New Jersey’s sportsbooks will take in an estimated $100 million in bets related to Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots.

“We’re setting the line at $100 million in legal bets in New Jersey and $325 million in total bets placed on the game at legal sportsbooks nationwide,” PlayNJ.com lead sports betting analyst Dustin Gouker said. “The excitement of being able to legally place a bet for the first time in New Jersey, an intriguing matchup with two high-powered offenses and plenty of star power, and the proliferation of proposition bets, should all combine to make for an impressive total.”

Super Bowl LIII marks the first time Atlantic City casino patrons will be able to place legal wagers on what is the biggest football game — and one of the biggest betting events — of the year.

“Sporting events like Super Bowl LIII are a great opportunity to draw visitors to the Atlantic City region in the colder months,” said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University. “Atlantic City’s sports books are building a solid base of loyal consumers who now have another great reason to visit Atlantic City all year round.”

New Jersey approved sports betting last June, and Atlantic City’s first sportsbooks began operating shortly thereafter. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City opened its facility Wednesday, joining Bally’s Wild Wild West Sportsbook, Borgata Race & Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts Casino Hotel, Harrah’s Sportsbook and William Hill Sportsbooks at Ocean Resort Casino and Tropicana Atlantic City.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is building an $11 million sportsbook to replace the spot it currently shares with its horse racing betting parlor.

Sports betting already has had a significant impact in Atlantic City.

New Jersey bettors wagered $1.24 billion on sports in 2018, with Atlantic City casinos earning more than $50 million in revenue from sports bets, according to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Those numbers are expected to continue to increase this year. The Super Bowl and the opening rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are traditionally the biggest days of the year for legalized betting in the United States.

Until this season, sports fans would either travel to Las Vegas for those events or seek out other methods of betting.

“I used to go to Las Vegas twice a year,” Golden Nugget Sportsbook Manager Joe Nicosia said. “Every year, 12 or 13 of us would get together and go out for the Super Bowl and March Madness. There’s only four or five of us left, and we’ll be together in Atlantic City this year.”

The action in town has already started.

Nicosia and representatives from DraftKings and William Hill said betting started Monday and was expected to increase over the weekend.

Much of the early action has revolved around the various prop, or side, bets that accompany the game. Sportsbooks offer odds on side bets ranging from who will win the coin flip to who will score the first touchdown to the color of Gatorade that will be poured over the winning coach.

Some side bets incorporate other sports. Bettors can choose whether Houston’s James Harden’s total points, rebounds and assists in Saturday’s NBA game against Utah will surpass the total points in the Super Bowl, or whether Manchester United’s total goals Sunday will surpass Tom Brady’s touchdown passes.

There’s even a bet that predicts the number of tweets President Donald Trump will send during the game. The over/under is 9.5.

“It seems like a lot of people get excited over the prop bets,” Nicosia said. “It offers the opportunity for people to bet a little money and win a lot, sort of like the table games in the casino.”

Action will really pick up Sunday, however.

All of Atlantic City’s properties are hosting Super Bowl parties, and the sportsbooks should be packed all day. Besides betting on the outcome, gamblers will have the ability to place in-game wagers.

“I think the action on Super Bowl Sunday is going to be very robust,” DraftKings Sportsbook Director John Avello said. “You can expect people to be lining up at 9:30, 10 in the morning even though kickoff isn’t until 6:30 that night.”

{child_tagline}

{/child_tagline}


VERNON OGRODNEK / For The Press 

Sportsbooks at Resorts Casino Hotel and elsewhere in Atlantic City are expected to help New Jersey take in $100 million in Super Bowl-related sports bets.


Matt Rourke  

Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler speaks with members of the media during a baseball news conference in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)