For Kyle Schuster, a 22-year-old studying marine biology at Stockton University’s Atlantic City campus, life is good at the college’s beachfront dorm.
But during the winter, he said, the resort seems to shut down with no tourists to serve. Sure, the casinos are still open, he said, but they don’t hold much appeal for a college student on a tight budget.
“It would definitely take more of the non-touristy lifestyle — like more akin to the people that actually live on the island,” he said of what he would need to stay in the city after graduation. “There’s not as much to do during the winter.”
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to improving a city, from crime rates and blight to access to health care and transportation. Day-to-day amenities, such as easy access to grocery stores, shopping and recreation, also make a city attractive to potential residents and businesses.
But defining quality of life is a fickle thing. It can mean something different depending on who’s asked; a college student making plans after graduation isn’t going to prioritize the same things as a retiree or a parent raising their children.
This month, The Press of Atlantic City is taking a look at what city leaders need to create or improve in the resort to attract new residents while keeping the current ones happy, involved and committed to their communities.
Jean Griffin, 81, said she doesn’t understand people who say there is nothing to do in the resort.
“There is more to do than I have time or money for,” said Griffin, who volunteers, takes jewelry-making classes, is part of a book club and more. “We go to the beach. My husband and I walk on the Boardwalk. We even spend $20 at the casinos, so there is always something to do in Atlantic City.”
Improving residents’ quality of life is one of the key recommendations of the state’s transition report on Atlantic City, co-authored by Jim Johnson, special counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy.
Many residents have only limited access to high-quality food, no access to a movie theater other than inside a casino and limited after school and summer programs for children, according to the report. Johnson called addressing these issues “pivotal to rebuilding community life, and some are essential to the health and safety of residents.”
Some parents aren’t waiting around for the state to improve their children’s access to programming, but are focusing on what’s already available.
Indra Owens, 37, a guidance counselor at Atlantic City High School, said she wished the public schools offered more structured sports for children younger than high school age, and she is praying for the school’s music and theater arts programs as they develop districtwide.
Owens said parents need to do more to help their children take advantage of what is offered.
“Overall, I want the parents to understand we cannot continue to blame local government or politics,” said Owens, who has an 8-year-old daughter, Journey. “Before we start to say what isn’t offered, we have to take more advantage of what is offered.”
Staff Writer Vincent Jackson contributed to this report.