South Jersey Roundup, August 24

Today’s headlines included a whole lot of depressing economic news stemming from the publication of Stockton University’s biannual review of the local economy. That was topped off by the news that Atlantic City Electric won approval to hike rates. Among brighter topics, however, there was a glimmer of hope for Atlantic City’s Revel (timeshares, anyone?) and a group of volunteers on Absecon Island is planning on clearing up the back bay area.  

Only Stupid People Pay Taxes

Donald Trump got an 83% ($25 million) discount on his tax bill after “longtime friend” Chris Christie graduated from U.S. attorney for New Jersey to governor of the state, the New York Times reports, citing public records. Christie and his big mom pants are now top advisers to the Trump campaign, which as we all know is a false-flag operation to drumpf up publicity for the Trump TV media empire, meaning we may see Christie in the barber’s chair at Wrestlemania 2018. A Christie spokesman said the small matter of $25 million, which the state had been fighting with Trump over for years, was too inconsequential and “routine” for Christie to have even noticed at the time. The Times says Christie has known Trump since 2002, Christie was invited to Trump’s third wedding (2005) and that, “They have double dated with their wives.”

… The Atlantic City airshow happened Wednesday.

True urban trees: tree-themed street art in Snake Alley (Westminster Ave), Atlantic City

Atlantic City’s Trees Battle Hostile Conditions

Atlantic City’s trees, which already contend with hurricanes, salt water, pollution, icy winters and scorching concrete, are now also showing wear and tear as a result of the city’s financial crisis and its haphazard patchwork of planning rules.

Since the Public Works department’s budget was slashed amid city-wide cuts, there are fewer people on hand to prune, water and care for the city’s greenery. Now, damaged trees are causing hazards and few replacement trees are being planted.

Bob Essl

Weekend business picking up for Essl’s Dugout

Essl’s Dugout on the Black Horse Pike has served five generations of families breakfast and lunch. The Dugout’s owner, Bob Essl, has seen the highs and lows of the Atlantic City area and believes the faded resort needs an image change to help it turn around. “For a resort to be as popular as it was and then to lose that….That image has been tarnished. They’ve got to bring that back,” Essl said. The positive news for his business is that weekends have been looking up.

The CRDA logo

State begins audit of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority

The Office of the State Auditor has begun scrutinizing the books and records of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, an official told Route 40 on Tuesday.

CRDA, an Atlantic City-based government agency responsible for investing casino taxes and other government funds for economic development, has spent $2 billion on state-wide projects since its 1984 inception but it has rarely been put under the microscope. A spokeswoman for CRDA declined to comment on the audit.

The CRDA-owned Wave public parking garage

You’re a sucker if you’re paying more than $1 for year-round AC parking

A law firm is paying the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) just $1 a year for 10 sweet parking spaces in the Authority’s swanky gated lot in Atlantic City, according to a document released to Route 40 as part of a freedom-of-information request.

The lot abuts Gordon’s Alley, an historic Atlantic City retail lane, where businesses and workers said they’ve been adversely affected by the lack of convenient parking.

An Ocean City Home Bank branch in Ventnor

Toms River thrift snaps up Ocean City Home Bank

OceanFirst Financial Corp, a Toms River-based bank, on Wednesday said it will buy the parent of Ocean City Home Bank for $145.6 million, building on OceanFirst’s South Jersey buying spree after it swallowed up Cape Bank earlier this year. The deal, which will likely close at the end of this year or in the first few months of 2017, will make OceanFirst Bank New Jersey’s No. 4 bank by deposits, according to a press release. The newly combined bank will have $4 billion in loans, $4 billion in deposits and 61 branches from Middletown to Cape May. It was not clear whether there would be branch closures or layoffs as a result of the deal.

The pumpkin lives there year-round, apparently.

A surreality tour of Atlantic County

Living around here can be a surreal experience at times, so we decided to photograph a few of our favorite surreal places in the county. Do you live or visit this area? Do you drive by or live near a bizarre building or abandoned lot? Do you want to know more about it? We’d love to hear from you by email on Twitter or Instagram – we’d be surprised if we couldn’t add more to this list and we’re up for some local research. We’re pretty sure there are some crazy stories behind these crazy places.