VENTNOR — “Everybody has their guy,” Robert Lukasiewicz said. “There’s a trust. It took me a while to get known.”
NJ Transit will beef up service on the Atlantic City Rail Line for the air show later this month, according to an agency spokesperson.
The decision followed a conference call Thursday brokered by State Senator Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, between the agency, elected officials and South Jersey business stakeholders
That call was a follow-up to a June meeting between South Jersey representatives and NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett. After the meeting, participants said they planned to provide the agency with short-term, mid-term and long-term goals to improve the Atlantic City Rail Line, a line riders and officials have said often gets short shrift from the state.
"NJ Transit is pleased to continue collaborating with local elected officials and the business community to explore options to enhance the Atlantic City Rail Line," said spokesman Nathan Rudy.
Extra service for special events, like the Atlantic City Air Show, was one of the short-term goals. No details of the extra service were released.
According to Brown, the short-term goals discussed — to be implemented within a year, if NJ Transit signs on — include opening clear lines of communication in the run-up to large events in the resort should they require increased service on the line, marketing the line as a way to get to events in Philadelphia and down the shore, surveying workers from large Atlantic City employers to adjust arrival and departure times to their needs, and reducing travel time, cancellations and delays.
Since the line's reopening in May, after a protracted shutdown for the installation of federally mandated safety mechanisms, cancellations and delays have plagued commuters, reinvigorating longtime complaints that the agency undervalues its South Jersey line.
Brown, who has pushed for change on the ACRL, was pleased with the outcome.
“I am pleased by working in a bi-partisan manner with President/CEO Corbett and local stakeholders to achieve better rail service for Atlantic County working families and businesses, we have secured additional train service for the Atlantic City Air Show as a first step in helping the Atlantic City Rail Line reach its fullest potential," Brown said.
Representatives from the agency Thursday afternoon spoke with Brown, Mayor Frank Gilliam, CRDA Executive Director Matt Doherty and Chair of the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders Amy Gatto, among others.
Future conference calls will address the local officials' and stakeholders' mid- and long-term goals for the line, Brown said.
Among the mid-term goals, which stakeholders believe could be tackled within one to three years, are establishing shuttles from the stations in Atlantic City, Absecon and Egg Harbor City to the Atlantic City International Airport, identifying funding opportunities to build a Pomona train station, looking into discount ticket programs for casino employees or reduced fare for Stockton students, and encouraging the development of transit villages around existing stations.
A "transit village" status gives a town access to more state funding for streetscaping and other improvements to promote construction of higher-density housing and commercial space.
The long-term goals discussed, which stakeholders believe could be tackled within three to five years, include having hourly runs on the line, express trains to Philadelphia and Lindenwold, constructing double tracking where possible, and developing a way to quickly connect North Jersey and New York City to the ACRL, using as a blueprint the former "Blue Comet" right-of-way between Lakehurst and Winslow Junction and the former Atlantic City Express Service between New York City and the resort.
Rev. Janet Hewes Gasbarro, of Absecon, who was nominated for the NJ Transit board in March, participated in Thursday's call, and said it was productive.
"I think it was a good conversation ... It was a good follow-up to our meeting," said Gasbarro. "I think they're sincerely working with us to make this improve and make it accessible. That's the feeling that I'm getting."
Staff Writer Michelle Brunetti-Post contributed to this report.
UPPER TOWNSHIP — Koy Connors spends his days in a bathing suit, hat and orange sunglasses with a walkie talkie on his hip.
On this bright, summer Thursday, only the neon yellow-and-white Sea-Doo personal watercraft bop around more on the Beesleys Point beach than Connors.
“Want to get a picture together?” Connors said.
A father and two kids pose with him before Connors pushes their Sea-Doos into deeper water and they take off. Not even three seconds later, he twists to his left and helps an incoming couple off their adventure in Great Egg Harbor Bay.
Connors, 22, is the beach manager for Beesley’s Point Sea-Doo. The University of the Sciences student has worked there for four years, living in Ocean City during the summers with a co-worker.
“Being able to work outside on the water is my favorite part of working with Sea-Doos. Especially here, there’s a lot less boat traffic,” said Connors, who would like to be a doctor.
VENTNOR — “Everybody has their guy,” Robert Lukasiewicz said. “There’s a trust. It took me a while to get known.”
Connors said as summer revs up and comes to a stop, his job duties change like the waves on the bay.
“At the beginning of the season, we’re working in the back, doing sales. Once we get into June, though, it turns into rental season,” Connors said.
On a recent Thursday, Connors and the other beach managers took care of the more than 60 renters who came by to navigate the water.
“If you’re not on land, giving safety instructions and enhancing their experience, you’re out on the Sea-Doo, in the water, on patrol,” Connors said.
“When teenage guys start screaming, you want to be cautious. We’ll send three patrol boats out on the water,” said fellow beach manager Michael Harrer, 25, who is in his fifth season on the water.
Perhaps another downfall? The flies.
“The worst part of the job are the greenheads,” said Connors as one landed on him. He quickly hit it. “You get pretty good at killing them.”
Visitors wanting to tool around the bay here hop on Sea-Doo GTI-130s. The three-seaters are perfect for family fun.
“You definitely have families come here. We see the same crowd,” Connors said.
Bob Mathais, who was staying in Ocean City for the week and lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, rides yearly.
“Seeing the kids having a good time is my favorite part,” Mathais said.
The space the bay offers is perfect for his two daughters and son.
“It’s a nice spot to run. ... There’s very few boats. ... They only let eight out at a time,” Mathais said.
Of course, with any tourist experience, it all comes down to the hospitality.
“We’ve been switching rides all day, and they (Connors, Harrer and the other beach managers) have been very generous,” said Patrice Stillwell, an Ocean City vacationer from Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Property owners who rent their Jersey shore homes directly are no longer responsible for the so-called Airbnb tax under a new law Gov. Phil Murphy signed Friday.
Murphy signed the bipartisan bill as the summer season heads into its final few weeks and after a push from rental property owners to undo the tax that they said threatened the New Jersey's multi-billion-dollar shore tourism industry.
"Our shore economy adds tremendous vitality and dynamism to New Jersey," Murphy, a Democrat, said in a statement. "Access to affordable rental properties for visitors and income on rentals for homeowners are the backbone of that economy."
The new law means that shore homeowners who manage rentals themselves— through personal referrals, yard signs or newspaper ads, for example — are no longer responsible for a tax of at least 11.625%.
That tax went into effect late last year as part of the budget Murphy and lawmakers enacted, but the tax will still apply to other so-called transient accommodations managed through travel agencies or online marketplaces, like Airbnb or VRBO.
The new law resulted in a sigh of relief among a coalition of rental property owners, including some from New York and Pennsylvania, who said the tax was stifling business.
"By signing this bill into law the Governor is both proving New Jersey is a tourism friendly state and protecting the integrity of the business economy along the shore," President of the NJ Shore Rentals Coalition Denise Payne in a statement.
Just how many people the new tax affected is unclear. Payne said previously that the coalition estimates that it could be as many as 6,000.
New Jersey's tourism website estimates overall the shore saw 100 million visitors in 2017, and they accounted for about $43 billion in spending.
Murphy's administration previously defended the tax as a way to "level the playing field" among hotels, motels and accommodations offered through online marketplaces like Airbnb.
On Friday, the administration said the new law "more closely mirrors the original intent, which was to create parity throughout the rental industry."
Other states collect similar taxes. A 2018 National Conference of State Legislatures' report found 39 states collect some kind of tax on short-term rental accommodations.
For the first time in over a decade, Atlantic City High School students this year will no longer be required to wear uniforms to school, according to a notice posted to the district’s website this week.
Principal LaQuetta Small did not respond to a request for comment on the policy change, nor did Superintendent Barry Caldwell.
“The board believes school dress code can enhance the school learning environment, establish greater school pride and promote a safe and friendly environment for all students,” reads the new dress code policy posted online. “Proper grooming sets the tone for a respectable high school. Although it is not within the province of the school to dictate styles, it is our responsibility to strive for a positive learning atmosphere. Anything which might distract from that must, in fairness to all, be discouraged.”
In the mid-2000s and early 2010s, several area schools, including Middle Township, Vineland, Bridgeton and Atlantic City, began mandating uniforms, which were controversial among students, parents and school board members.
When the policy was first approved in 2006 at Bridgeton, some students there pleaded with school board members not to approve the uniform policy.
“It’s my last year in high school, and I don’t want to spend money on a uniform that I’m only going to wear one year,” said Tim Zoyac in 2006, then a rising Bridgeton senior who sported a handwritten sign taped to his chest that read: “We aren’t inmates. Don’t make us wear uniforms.”
In Atlantic City, when the policy passed in 2007, school officials said they hoped to provide a better learning atmosphere and believed the uniforms would help control violence related to gangs, many of which are identified by the colors they wear. While some students spoke out against the rules, others encouraged them and even suggested requiring clear backpacks.
Atlantic City’s dress code regulation, created in May 2002 and edited in July 2013, laid out uniform guidelines with younger students required to wear khaki-style pants and a polo or button-down shirt and high school students a choice of solid black and dark navy blue docker-style, corduroy or dress pants and solid white, solid black or solid navy blue collared shirts.
The new rules posted this week include keeping a clean and well-groomed appearance, avoiding extremes in appearance that are disrupting or distracting, and no tolerance for dress or grooming that jeopardizes student safety. The policy includes a list of inappropriate content for clothing that includes obscenities and vulgarities in pictures or words, hats or hoods, drug or gang references, midriff-baring clothes, clothes that are extremely tight or reveal undergarments, and spaghetti-strap or sleeveless tops, among other exclusions.
Atlantic City parent Gina Roche-Rosenberg said she was only recently informed of the policy change and was frustrated.
“Most of us are in distress,” she said. “We now have to buy different clothes other than the uniforms we’ve purchased for years. This makes no sense.”
Roche-Rosenberg said that the change will create a financial burden for families who cannot afford high-end clothing brands.
“This is going to stress out so many kids and parents,” she said.
Hassam Kaleem, 18, an incoming Stockton University freshman who graduated in June from Atlantic City High School, said he heard about the new policy through social media.
“It’s good that they got rid of it. We thought that was going to happen for a long time,” Kaleem said. “People are excited.”
Kaleem said that during his time at Atlantic City High, the dress code was only enforced randomly, and when it was, students, including himself, would spend the day in in-school suspension over their clothes.
“A lot of people I know, smart people, would get in trouble for dress code,” he said, adding he didn’t comply with the dress code because he didn’t own the proper attire. “I just don’t wear those clothes, I never had them.”
Matthew Buesing, 38, of Cape May Court House, was a member of the Middle Township Board of Education when it began requiring uniforms in 2003.
“Our motivation then was to improve the learning climate in our school. We recognized from the beginning that a uniform policy was not a silver bullet to solve all the problems of the school district,” Buesing said.
He said the district took enforcement seriously because the No. 1 reason school dress code policies fail is a lack of consistent enforcement. In the first year, he said, the district saw measurable success in student disciplinary actions and test scores attributable to the uniforms.
Since leaving Middle Township schools, Buesing is now vice president of consumer and digital marketing for a group called LP Apparel, which has its own schoolwear brand. He said the transition away from hard-and-fast school uniform policies has been underway nationally for the past few years.
“It’s kind of reached a middle spot,” he said. “The idea behind public school uniforms was that every year you revise that code. As the whole children’s wear and schoolwear market has evolved, these codes have been lessened. It’s still school-appropriate clothing, it’s just not your typical uniform piece.”
Middle Township has relaxed its uniform policies slightly since Buesing left the board, allowing students to wear a variety of shirt colors, among other changes, responding to students’ desire for self-expression and current trends. Buesing said school uniform policies shouldn’t cause strife or become just as controversial as not having a dress code in the first place.
“It is a balance,” he said.