Atlantic City’s neighborhood civic associations, some of them more than 100 years old, are instrumental in the shaping community life and driving community engagement.
By fostering public and civic discussions, the associations have also helped community members rally for and against government initiations and have strengthened the community voice.
As the city continues to try to move forward, the groups, led by long-time residents may take on even greater roles under the Johnson report.
This year, as part of The Press of Atlantic City’s Reinventing AC project, our reporters will attend meetings and report on some of the concerns and issues being tackled by the community groups.
Boardwalk Association Meeting, May 8
The public brought up NoBe and how it was supposed to have more amenities like a movie theater that were promised. Apparently NoBe now calls this “phase 2” and all it is now is a parking lot.
Mayor Frank Gilliam said that he never supported NoBe because it had too many components. He said the city has had a lot of “pie in the sky” development without vetting developers.
He also said the city should not be owning “this many properties.” Because it hurts the tax base.
The city itself has been the nuisance. He said they also have to reach a population number to improve taxes, he said they have to get to 50,000 to balance the tax bracket.
Venice Park Civic Association, May 2
Members of the Atlantic City Fire Department came with employment applications, Atlantic City residents will get first preference.
Mike Johnson spoke about the Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, and said that most of the abandoned homes were damaged back in Sandy and residents didn’t have flood insurance so just walked away. Michael Epps, from the Office of Atlantic City Initiatives, gave them the name of New Jersey Community Capital, a company that helps rebuild communities. Ocean Inc., another company that works in developing housing is also working with them. They have a drafted proposal with these two companies that they plan to take to the CRDA; it’s a comprehensive study on which houses are rehab-able and ones that need to be torn down.
There was also a special “Meet the June Primary Candidates" portion.
Chelsea Neighborhood Association, April 18
During the meeting the association discussed the city’s and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority plan to build a new supermarket in the city. Carol Ruffo, president of the association, said the executive committee is looking to bring in a company with a history of opening up urban supermarkets.
Ruffo said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said that AC will be the model of how to bring back urban cities.
“Atlantic City is like the phoenix, it always comes back from the ashes,” Ruffu said. She said it is now time for Atlantic City to rise again.
“It’s going to be the queen of resorts and the playground of the world,” she said. “AC is on the rise again and I hope I’m here long enough to see it.”
Ruffu said she feels good about the future with the leaders currently in Trenton because they are listening.
She said Trenton representatives had a meeting at the All Wars building with all the social organizations “And they all talked to each other.” she said.
Bunglow Park Civic Association, April 11
Police Chief Henry White, Deputy Chief James Sarkos and Depty Chief Jerry Barnhart and Lt. Wil Santiago talked about the new community policing initiative. Barnhart said he started in the department in the 1990s on a community patrol, and the model was used a lot back then.
Sarkos also talked about a new program called Pathway to Change, to “sentence” people convicted of low-level crimes who have underlying addictions or other problems to drug/alcohol or mental health treatment. If they complete all requirements, record will be expunged and fines waived.
It’s starting in municipal and superior court, and will be overseen by county probation officers. It’s a pilot program one of first in nation.
“It’s going to be huge,” according to White.
Boardwalk Business Committee, April 10
Atlantic City Police Department Capt. Rundy Lushina discussed the 15 officers who are going to be hired in the resort, hopefully go through training in mid-May and on the street at the end of month. Twelve are going to be split up, two to a ward, one working nights and one working days, 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.
The plan is for them to take care of some of the stuff that residents have troubling navigating, reporting a building that needs to be boarded up, trash, quality of life-type issues, problem with neighbors. ACPD got it from NYCPD.
They are “designed to fix your long-term problems,” Lushina said.
Venice Park Civic Association, April 4
The association mapped out 55 vacant properties that need to be saved or demolished and has met with Dale Finch and CRDA.
They also talked about their community garden initiative which they will be doing with a new group of kids this year.
Next meeting will be themed “Meet the candidates” to talk to people running for City Council.
Chelsea Neighborhood, March 21
ACMUA Director G. Bruce Ward spoke about an effort he is pushing to develop solar power on Duck Island. He is proposing that the city of Atlantic City enter into a shared service agreement with the ACMUA to develop the solar, which he said would be done through a power purchase agreement. Ward said that the possibilities for Duck Island are so big because the island is so big, nearly the same size as Bader Field.
Atlantic City Police Lt. Mark Benjamin announced changes to community policing, which he is in charge of and that would include two assigned patrolman per neighborhood.
Sixth Ward Councilman Jesse O. Kurtz discussed the efforts to repair and replace bulkheads in the city, including Tallahassee Avenue, for a which a contract was approved at Wednesday's council meeting. He said that beginning the work in the public area will help the city apply for a receive grants to complete more work, which he said was desperately needed. Kurtz said the next target location was Annapolis Avenue. He said another project he is working on is the Kingston Avenue playground improvement.
Association Carol Ruffu discussed housing issues in the city, particularly related to flood insurance premiums, lingering problems from Hurricane Sandy and AirBnBs.
Bungalow Park, March 14
G. Bruce Ward, executive director of the ACMUA spoke at the meeting about the ACMUA’s attempts in complying with new state regulations perfluorononanoic acid, or PFNA, used in making plastics, Teflon and other products. Ward said it is going to cost $20 million for a new filtering system. He also said they authority will pursue litigation against manufacturers DuPont and 3M as a way to help offset the cost.
Police Chief Henry White answered questions from the groups and hinted at a new community policing initiative.
Councilman Aaron Randolph said each ward will be assigned two special officers who will walk on foot and be there throughout their shifts. They will not be called to other area’s 911 calls but will be spending all their time in one neighborhood.