Troublesome Atlantic City Report Card. CRDA Blamed Again.

AC Mayor Frank Gilliam

Atlantic City has battled blight for decades. It has one of the worst foreclosure rates in the nation. Managing these twin problems requires a map reflecting the status of property owned in the city. At the start of this review, neither CRDA nor the City could produce a single map that showed all of the property that was either abandoned, in bank or tax foreclosure, condemned, or owned by CRDA, the city or some other state agency.

The City report, along with the recent CRDA Audit basically says Atlantic City is still not capable of managing itself, and the CRDA is an outside bully stealing AC’s lunch money.

Mayor Frank Gilliam thinks all is well and remains ‘hopeful’. City Council President Marty Small says this is a CRDA problem. He’s not gonna lift a finger?

Atlantic City ignored warnings. Ballooned municipal payroll; they continued substantial reliance on Casino gaming

CRDA made investment choices that had little to do with the core interests of the city.

Atlantic City suffers from a lack of responsiveness to citizen concerns, poor service delivery and ineffective stewardship of city assets and revenue streams.

There is a strong historical sense that municipal officials often acted in their own self-interest rather than the interests of the community. That perception affects views of the City and its prospects today.

With just 48 blocks, Atlantic City is home to some of the largest social service providers in the State. Median family income is $27,000, more than 33% of its children live in poverty and the community faces significant public health challenges.

The CRDA exercises broad authority over the Tourism District, and soon, the Stockton District. It reinvests its revenues in businesses, property and amenities in the Tourism District and, to a surprising degree in the past, around the State.

CRDA invested little money outside of the Atlantic City Tourism District.

Since 2010, CRDA has made the following investments that did not help the average citizen of Atlantic City.

  • $14 mil for observation wheel on Steel Pier
  • $6 mil for an art installation on former SANDS CASINO.
  • $174,000 to have that art installation removed
  • $4,000,000 per year for the Miss America Beauty Pageant.

CRDA and Atlantic City have never worked well together.

Atlantic City residents and stakeholders raised serious concerns about the capacity and the willingness of City Hall to serve the needs of the community. Longtime residents raised concern about basic services and poor enforcement of housing and other regulations.

Some complained of how they were treated when they had conducted business at City Hall.

Large and small business owners expressed strong dissatisfaction about the level of assistance provided when they attempted to build businesses and they were routinely critical of the coordination between City Hall and CRDA.

Concerns about integrity at City Hall were pointed and had a long historical precedent.

The Federal Reserve confirms criminality of some Atlantic City leadership and shady ethics at very top.

In 2009, the Federal Reserve noted that four of the previous eight mayors had landed in prison, while many members of City Council had faced a similar fate.

The history and perception of corruption in Atlantic City is a drag on its turnaround.

The recent CRDA audit noted significant issues with internal financial controls. Editors Note: That’s code for the CRDA is a complete cluster-f. The CRDA wasted money that should have helped citizens of Atlantic City, not just casinos and grubby insiders.

PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT

The Planning and Development Department in the City has withered and the neighborhoods outside of the Tourism District reflect the fact that there has been little energy devoted to their revitalization.

CRDA, under the guidance of Lance Landgraf, developed a master plan only for the Tourism District; not the City.

Atlantic City and CRDA share planning responsibilities for some parts of the City. This has led to duplication of effort, inefficiency for property owners and developers and the failure to develop an overarching vision of the City’s future. As an important step to address these issues, City and CRDA planners should be located in the same office rather than blocks away.

Editors Note: Multiple sources have confirmed that CRDA Planning & Zoning Czar, Lance Landgraf, is often unprofessional, rude, and dismissive to City employees and property owners. Ex: the recent CRDA land auction was not pleasant for those who were forced to deal with Landgraf.

Crime rates are not low enough to change perceptions. Gangs remain a prominent concern. Few in the community or visitors report a sense of safety and order in many neighborhoods as well as parts of the main commercial avenues. For example, Atlantic Avenue north of the main entrance to the City often shows the human impact of the opioid crisis.

CRDA has too much reach within Atlantic City. Should we abolish the CRDA?

CRDA was conceived to drive economic development, support the community and reshape land use in much of the City. It is the largest landholder and has an annual budget of approximately $100 million. There has been no clear strategy for CRDA activities within recent memory.

The Federal Report reads like a dire warning that was ignored. In 2011, Governor Christie signed amendments to the Casino Control Act with the assurance that the amendments would transform Atlantic City and the gaming industry. Rather than providing mechanisms to better coordinate all government resources, S-ll arguably contributed to greater fragmentation.

The bill significantly expanded the powers of CRDA and created the Tourism District, an area that includes approximately one third of the City, including all of the casino hotels, the boardwalk, all major commercial districts, CRDA-owned properties and Bader Field, a former general aviation airport.

CRDA exercises broad authority over various issues, including: land use control; oversight over roads and highways; development of a Tourism District Master Plan; Tourism District development and design guidelines; variances; redevelopment; restrictions on city code enforcement; planning and zoning; penalties for violations of code, zoning and development and design guidelines.

Where the Fed recommended greater coordination, CRDA and the City have exercised authority separately. Property owners, real estate developers and small businesses have had to contend with two sets of planners and regulators which, by 2018, were in two separate buildings. Applying for permits in Atlantic City, developers, entrepreneurs, homeowners and other property owners often started at City Hall and, if they were unfamiliar with Atlantic City, were given a map to help them find CRDA.

 

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