The CRDA, community meetings, and the future of Atlantic City and its visitors AND residents.
ATLANTIC CITY — I have attended almost every community meeting concerning Atlantic City’s new “tourism district” (TD) and I listened time and time again to Susan Ney-Thompson (interim director of the CRDA) summarize the main points of the master plan “dropped into the lap of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority [CRDA],” as Atlantc City Mayor Lorenzo Langford put it.
Langford explained how the CRDA did not ask for this and how Thompson has always been an “accessible and amenable” professional to work with, so I was not surprised to find her voice mild and very non-threatening as she described future plans to frustrated city residents, most of whom live in neighborhoods outside of the planned TD.
When Thompson stood in front of that map, which was part of all of her presentations, the bright yellow boundaries of the TD shocked me every time. For all of her talk about cooperation and collaboration, and at a time when so many residents are talking about unity and one Atlantic City community, the TD map represents almost the exact segregated “Southside” and “Northside” of decades past.
Long-time elderly and retired residents at these meetings explained that Atlantic City “has always been a city within a city, so all we want to know is who’s paying for all of this and if our property taxes will be higher, because we’re on a fixed income.”
Hearing their concerns reminded me that, as elsewhere, the African-American community in Atlantic City, which still largely resides on the Northside, is not a homogeneous group. Different segments of our community have different concerns.
Another outspoken group was young men who are looking for work, have skills or own businesses. They said they’ve complained for years to anyone who would listen about the number of out-of-town men working on construction sites around the city while locals find themselves “shut out of work at every turn.”
The CRDA claims it cannot require unions or private companies to hire local laborers, craftsmen or contractors, but it has some state and federal mandates to train and hire certain populations for any CRDA-funded projects.
These young men assured everyone that their employment is essential to a positive partnership with city residents.
Then, there was Natalie, a young woman who works for the ACUA and sends letters to the casinos every month reminding executives of their “green” responsibilities, for which she said they are constantly out of compliance.
Mr. Cheatham, a city resident since the 1920s who has also attended many of the recent town-hall meetings, said his street on Maryland Avenue is the only one in the city where a casino has crossed over into a neighborhood. He asked over and over again about clean-up enforcement and Natalie also wanted to know who, when and how the CRDA was going to enforce already-existing laws for casino recycling, refuse disposal and energy.
According to Thompson, fees paid by casinos and other entities will keep city residents’ taxes from paying for any of the TD projects.
Mayor Langford, however, wants assurances that any potential increases in property taxes “will be picked up by the state,” since this is the state’s plan.
One of the biggest bones of contention right now is whether or not the city’s Zoning and Planning Board, one of Atlantic City’s best services according to everyone concerned, will soon be under CRDA’s authority.
More than once Langford, city residents and Z & P Board representatives said, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
Plus Bob Dylan's recently discovered 1963 concert at Brandeis finally released, and find out about the upcoming RNS Amazing Taste event.
"For blocks and blocks, I would hear no other language spoken but Spanish. Then, there would be blocks and blocks where occupants spoke a different language at every house: French, Wolof, a Haitian patois, Ghujurati, Arabic, Bengali. One house would have a Virgin Mary statue in the front yard and next to it, there’d be a house with verses from the Qur’an on its front door."
"By the 1950s, Wash and Sons’ Seafood Restaurant was a full-service place seating more than 100. Among our guests were celebrities, like Redd Foxx, Sammy Davis Jr., Nipsey Russell, Moms Mabley and Count Basie, who were featured at nightclubs on Kentucky Avenue."
It’s been very weird. When I decided to self-publish my book in Dec. 2009, I did it because an agent in New York told me — and this is pre-Obama — that nobody’s interested in black history now. I said, ‘What?’ And she said, ‘Nobody is interested. That’s just the truth.’ Then, I think it was in April, HBO calls me.
With the new TV series based on early Atlantic City, Boardwalk Empire, coming this fall to HBO, I was glad when I received Turiya Raheem’s book Growing Up In the Other Atlantic City: Wash’s and the Northside. Finally there is a book that researches and documents the sights and sounds of A.C. from the African-American/Kentucky Avenue perspective. In other books and TV specials, places like Chicken Bone Beach, Club Harlem and the Wonder Gardens are footnotes to stories about places like the 500 Club and/or the Steele Pier. In Raheem’s book these places are more than just background. The long-gone...
Jacob Lawrence Day in Atlantic City
Black History, Jazz and Poetry