ATLANTIC CITY — Residents and business owners in the city's 1st and 2nd wards voiced concerns and offered solutions on topics ranging from crime to poverty to better communication from City Hall during a community town hall Tuesday evening.

The event at the Uptown School Complex drew nearly 75 residents and mirrored similar town halls that have taken place in the city in the past 12 months. Moderators oversaw breakout sessions and recorded ideas as residents discussed jobs and vocational training; local government; public safety, police and community relations; public health; land use and affordable housing; arts and culture; and pathways to success for youth.

Since Gov. Phil Murphy's administration released its report on returning the city to local sovereignty in September 2018, the state has held several community town halls in an ongoing effort to elicit ideas from residents. The state Department of Community Affairs and the Atlantic City Initiatives Project Office organized a citywide town hall in January at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall and a Spanish language town hall in June at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church.

Atlantic City has been under state control since 2016. Oversight is expected to last until at least the end of 2021.

Jim Johnson, special counsel to Murphy and co-author of the state’s transition report on Atlantic City, said each town hall makes the state "sharper, smarter and more responsive" to the community and the people.

"The point of this gathering is to learn from you," Johnson said. "The way we move forward is together."

Those who attended the town hall — and others before it — expressed gratitude for the opportunity to have their voices heard, but some questioned whether it was having any impact or whether officials were focused on the issues that truly mattered.

Based on the results of previous town halls, Johnson predicted a few of the ideas presented by residents Tuesday night would be implemented.

Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr., who spoke briefly before the breakout sessions began, said the "survival of Atlantic City is going to take all of us."

The mayor listed several projects underway in the 1st and 2nd wards. The Caspian Point bulkheads would be completed in 2020, as would those at the end of Magellan Avenue. The mayor also said new bike lanes, LED lights and ramps on the new inlet Boardwalk section and the Maine Avenue promenade widening project were all in the works.

Pacific Avenue also is going to have "blue boxes" that will connect directly to the Atlantic City Police Department, Gilliam said. The emergency boxes, identifiable by their prominent blue light, are common on college campuses.

Contact: 609-272-7222

ddanzis@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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