Atlantic City’s Gleaming Vision Has Some Tarnish, Warns Mayor [AUDIO]
The hope of a revived, sparkling, safe and competitive Atlantic City embodied in the newly-approved Tourism District Master Plan is baseless if the city around it is neglected, says Mayor Lorenzo Langford.
After months of painstaking planning consuming lengthy days and interminable nights, repeated public comment sessions and hundreds of thousands of dollars in expense, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority late last week green-lit their plan to resurrect the fortunes of New Jersey's number-one tourism destination. Governor Chris Christie spearheaded it when he delineated his plans for New Jersey's fiscal future, placing the resort city ahead of New Jersey's race tracks and a failed entertainment venture in East Rutherford.
The CRDA vision is for a vibrant, family-friendly zone centered in the waterfront hotel-casinos, fueled by public-private partnerships and restoring the kinds of revenues that embellish not only the Boardwalk, but programs and services statewide, including those that cater to the elderly and those with physical and emotional challenges.
NOT INVITED TO THE PARTY
Langford says he isn't ungrateful for the attention. He just wishes he'd been a guest at the party, not a gate-crasher.
The Governor indicated that the Mayor would be a welcome addition to the team he was gathering to map out a tourism zone that would reverse the fortunes of the Boardwalk casinos that have been decimated by defections to Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. But Langford contends that the call never came - and that the Governor needn't bother waiting for his phone to ring, either.
"There's no point in placing itl," Langford bristles. "That horse has been let out of the barn, and the door's been closed. I'm not gonna kiss his ring, and I sure as hell ain't gonna kiss his ass."
Langford supports the CRDA's short-term and mid-range goals. He says they're "in keeping with the Mayor's Strategic Planning Committee." However, he sees some glaring gaps.
"There was no attention given to the Route 30 corridor," says Langford of the highway that offers entrance to the city's north end - an amalgam of casino billboards interspersed with motels, restaurants, small businesses and vacant space fronting marshland. "Certainly if you want to give the impression of being clean and safe and lively, then given the fact that the city has only three ways in and three ways out, and one of those corridors does not present a welcoming feeling...I think that was missed."
AGREEMENT WITH MOST OF THE CRDA PLAN
Langford says that the plan lacks provisions for turning certain vacant acreage, particularly in the center of town. But overall, he says, he agrees with the CRDA's objectives.
His overriding concern is the concentration of attention on a small part of Atlantic City at the expense of its struggling outskirts. "By erecting real boundaries in the place of what used to be artificial boundaries, plays on the psyche of local residents who have always felt that it was always an 'us-against-them' kind of dynamic," he says. Langford raises the spectre of more than a half-century ago, when racial undertones informed the habit of police asking people what business they had venturing into the two-block stretch from Pacific Avenue to the oceanfront.
The healthier choice, says Langford, is for state elected and appointed officials to consider the city as a complete entity. "I wouldn't have a line at all. It's one city," he says. "You can lend assistance, you can create programs that bring investment from the state to the whole city without the state creating an agency to oversee that."
Listen to a conversation with Mayor Langford.