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Rolling chairs, ice cream bikes create Boardwalk jobs for Atlantic City residents

ATLANTIC CITY — The Boardwalk’s iconic rolling chairs and ice cream bicycles could, once again, give locals a chance to financially benefit from tourism and improve their quality of life.

The Rev. Eric McCoy, in partnership with Boardwalk Rolling Chairs, Ocean Rolling Chairs and Casino City Water Ice, has launched a program designed to get people off the streets and gainfully employed.

The program is designed to provide about 45 jobs to city residents who are identified as being at-risk youths, jobless and/or homeless.

“It’s not a panacea, but we have to create some kind of employment opportunities for the people that do want to work,” said McCoy, founder of God is Reaching Out Ministries and Atlantic City Police Department chaplain. “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or have a master’s (degree) to do these jobs, you just have to have the will to want to work.”

Look back at Atlantic City's Boardwalk rolling chairs

On Tuesday afternoon, Anthony Smith was one of the program’s initial participants. Smith, 38, of Atlantic City, has a criminal record and works for a local linen company, which he did not view as a viable long-term job.

“It’s hard to get by out here because the jobs are limited,” Smith said.

Andre Vinson, owner of Casino City Water Ice, said he plans to make both ice cream bikes and stationary carts available for younger city residents who want to work.

Vinson said business and accounting classes also will be offered. He said he has about a dozen spots open for the summer, and his outreach is geared toward people ages 16 to 24.

“This is all about giving an opportunity to people in Atlantic City because there’s a real need for jobs right now,” said Vinson.

Between the two rolling chair operators, about 30 jobs will be made available for participants in the program.

McCoy estimated the funding required to launch the program will be $500 per individual, or $15,000 total. The figure includes the annual licensing fee, background check and drug test, as well as chair and uniform rental fees. Each participant will be obligated to contribute up to 10% of their weekly revenue to the project’s fund account until repayment of initial fees is satisfied.

Additionally, each participant will sign a contract with McCoy’s ministry, outlining their obligations and expectations to maintain active status in the program for funding purposes.

Ted Garry, co-owner of Boardwalk Rolling Chairs, and John Taimanglo, owner of Ocean Rolling Chairs, said they’ve had difficulty finding pushers because of how cost-prohibitive licensing has become.

The pair hope the pilot program will bring them more employees for the summer.

“The whole secret here is more employees, more locals,” said Taimanglo.

Garry said being a rolling chair operator was more than just pushing a wicker basket on wheels up and down the Boardwalk. He said operators need to be well-versed in the city’s history and current events so they can provide an invaluable service to riders.

“Rolling chair operators are truly the ambassadors of the Boardwalk,” he said.

Steve Young, co-founder of Black Men United, a coalition designed to promote equitable opportunities for blacks in Atlantic City, said the pilot programs will ensure that money created on the Boardwalk will return to the community.

“We’re going to tell these young brothers to get off the corners because we’ve got something for you to do,” he said. “You want to walk around all day? Go walk on the Boardwalk.”

Bikeway to new parkway bridge funded, but bikes on bridge may be years away

SOMERS POINT — The city will receive $130,000 to develop a bike route to connect the southern end of its existing bike path with a state-funded route over the new Garden State Parkway bridge into Cape May County.

But it will still be two to five years before cyclists and pedestrians can safely use the bike lane on the new bridge, since the state needs to build a way to access it from Route 9 in Somers Point, said Jim Rutala of Rutala Associates, who wrote the grant.

The bridge, on the other hand, is expected to be finished in May.

Rutala said the state needs to build a bike lane down the east side of Route 9 from Somers Point-Mays Landing Road and over the Exit 30 ramp, onto the existing bridge over the parkway, and then down past the toll booths and onto the new bridge.

The state has said that access route won’t be ready for another two to five years, said Rutala.

“We have been doing all we can” to get the state to move faster, Rutala said. “It’s a great plan, and it’s going to be beautiful when it’s done.”

The new bikeway will be painted on the shoulder of Somers Point-Mays Landing Road from MacArthur Boulevard to Route 9, said city Administrator Wes Swain.

The city also has a $200,000 Safe Streets to Transit grant to install sidewalks along the west side of Route 9 from West Laurel Drive to Somers Point-Mays Landing Road, where it snakes through Greate Bay Country Club, said Swain.

Between the two projects, Swain said the city should have its routes to the new parkway bridge ready sometime in 2019 or 2020.

The sidewalks on Route 9 will, in the meantime, make walking in the area safer for all.

“The city and the school board have been working together to pursue funding for sidewalks along Route 9 for many years,” said Mayor Jack Glasser. “Now, with this grant, we can provide a safe pedestrian walkway.”

A total of 1,500 linear feet of 4-foot-wide sidewalk will be installed. Guardrail and curbing will be installed to protect the users of the sidewalk. A split rail fence will separate the sidewalk from adjacent private properties. Twelve utility poles must be relocated to make room for the sidewalk.

The Safe Streets to Transit program is one of several safety initiatives funded through the state Transportation Trust Fund, which gets its funds from the gasoline tax.

The recent gas tax increase in 2016 more than doubled the overall amount of funds for the state Department of Transportation’s Local Aid programs to $400 million, according to the state.

The bikeway funding is part of a combined $1 million going to three municipalities for projects in fiscal year 2019, according to Gov. Phil Murphy, who announced the DOT grants Monday.

Lawrence Township in Mercer County will receive $370,000, and Garfield in Bergen County will receive $500,000.

Atlantic Cape tuition to rise, college looks to refine course offerings

MAYS LANDING — Enrollment continues to decline at Atlantic Cape Community College, and school officials are responding with increased tuition and a streamlining of courses instead of layoffs.

The college Board of Trustees at its meeting last week approved a $14 per credit increase in general education tuition and mandatory fees, bringing the average semester cost for 12 credits to $2,130. The board also eliminated and merged several programs.

“We’re actually in a very positive frame of mind, even though this is an increase (in tuition),” said college spokeswoman Laura Batchelor. “We’re seeing more interest in the college, and we’re trying to refine our offerings.”

Declining enrollment at community colleges is a national issue usually attributed to upticks in the economy as more people move into the workforce, but in New Jersey it also is due to an aging population.

“We’re seeing declines in enrollment across nearly all of our community colleges in New Jersey and nationwide,” said Aaron Fichtner, president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges.

Fichtner said it’s a balancing act for community colleges between tuition increases and budget reductions, but the two-year options are still the most affordable in the state.

Over the past several years, Atlantic Cape has raised tuition and sent layoff notices to more than 40 employees.

According to preliminary fall 2018 enrollment figures from the New Jersey Office of Higher Education, Atlantic Cape had a 10 percent decline in enrollment over last year. Total enrollment fell to just under 5,000.

But spring semester numbers are not as dismal as previous years’. The college had forecast an enrollment decline of 5% this spring but ended up with only a 2.4% decline. Batchelor attributed that to the free community college program being offered this year through the state.

“Of our enrollment for spring 2019, over 200 of the students came directly from the community college grant,” she said.

Fichtner said the other 13 community colleges in New Jersey that received the grant for the free college pilot also reported better enrollment.

“There were a good number of students who had to stop their education because of financial concerns who are now able to complete their education as a result of the community college grant program,” he said.

For next year, Atlantic Cape, which serves two counties, is following the recommendation of a recent report by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the national college accreditation organization, to transition to a “guided pathways” model, which responds to student needs based on data.

“The recommendation of Middle States as it relates to our academic programs is that we should continue to connect assessment results to budget and resource allocation decisions. The Guided Pathways model eliminates duplication of programs and refines what type of degrees are important and in demand to the local community,” Batchelor said.

At its meeting last week, the board eliminated the Geographic Information Systems Office Specialist Professional Series program, the Geographic Information Systems Option in Computer Information Systems, Computer Applications Option in Office Systems Technology, the Database Design and Development Option in Computer Programming, and the Paralegal Studies Certificate program.

Batchelor said there was very little enrollment in those classes.

The board also consolidated its Education Options in Liberal Arts into one program, and eliminated its four professional series programs under the Academy of Culinary Arts in Baking and Pastry Specialization, Catering Specialization, Food Service Management Specialization, and Hot Foods Specialization. Baking and Pastry was added as an option in culinary arts.

Batchelor said reduction in staff again this year was off the table, as the college does not want to increase its student-teacher ratio or impact the level of teaching currently available.

Long Beach Township police sergeant arrested this month was suing mayor, chief

A police sergeant on Long Beach Island arrested earlier this month and charged with illegal use of a law-enforcement computer filed a civil rights lawsuit against the department last year.

Gerard Traynor, 52, of Beach Haven, alleges Anthony Deely, chief of the Long Beach Township Police Department, and township Mayor Joseph Mancini violated his right to freedom of speech and retaliated against him during instances from 2013 to 2017.

Armando Riccio, the attorney representing the Police Department, township, Deely and Mancini, said he had no statement to make, but that the criminal charges could have an impact on the suit, including a stay, or suspension, of the proceedings.

Traynor’s lawyer, Peter Demkovitz, declined to comment Tuesday.

Mancini did not return a request for comment.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in April 2018 and which also named the township and the Police Department, asked for a jury trial and seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees.

Telephone and settlement conferences in the case are scheduled for July 31 and Sept. 10, respectively, court records show.

In November 2013, Traynor, who is also president of the Fraternal Order of Police Long Beach Island Lodge 5, spoke during a panel at Ocean County College about Hurricane Sandy as a representative of the union, according to the suit, and was reprimanded by Mancini after an article published from the event said the county was “underprepared” for the storm.

“You’re done. Your career’s over,” Mancini allegedly told Traynor.

The suit alleges Traynor was “isolated” from the rest of the department, didn’t receive the training he needed and then was disciplined for not completing tasks correctly.

In January 2017, Traynor was passed over for a promotion to lieutenant and instead a sergeant with “fewer years on the force, less education and who scored lower on the lieutenant’s exam” was promoted instead, according to the suit.

Then, in June 2017, Traynor, who is also a licensed attorney, “had a brief conversation” on his cellphone while on duty as a police officer to speak with a township resident and was charged with several violations, including conducting personal business while on duty.

The suit alleges the charges are “meritless” and “singled Sergeant Traynor out for behavior that is otherwise tolerated” by the Police Department.

In an answer to the complaint, Riccio denied Traynor’s allegations and said Traynor’s claims are “frivolous and warrant an award of costs and counsel fees against plaintiff and in favor of the defendants.”

Traynor, who has law offices in Surf City and owns a home in Galloway Township, was arrested April 1 and charged with two counts of criminal computer activity.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the investigation found Traynor accessed secure computer-based information for personal reasons, rather than for law-enforcement purposes.

Deely said in a statement Traynor was suspended with pay from the Police Department pending the conclusion of a criminal matter.

According to public pension records, Traynor’s salary is $139,180.

lcarroll-pressofac / Ocean County Prosecutor's Office / provided