Councilman Kaleem Shabazz, of Atlantic City’s third ward, stoops to pick up a piece of litter and brush away a weed that’s obscuring a memorial plaque. No one else in the park – and there are about two dozen people hanging out under the large shady trees – seems to notice the councilman’s effort.
Atlantic City’s government has secured the bulk of the funding it needs to transform the park from a stopping-place for drug users and homeless people into a recreation area for the hundreds of kids living on the neighboring blocks. But the city is seeking about $100,000 from Atlantic County’s open spaces fund for so-called ‘gap’ funding, to allow the city to officially start the project and release the funding from the non-profits and other organizations that are contributing most of the cash.
The problem is that Atlantic County has not approved any open-spaces funding requests in the last two years. County Executive Dennis Levinson said the county needs to save that pool of money – which comes from county-wide taxes and is earmarked for open-space projects or debt servicing related to those projects – because of the county’s own uncertain finances. Levinson noted that the county has its own parks and recreation spaces to care for.
“Atlantic City is not being singled out. They are being treated like every other municipality,” Levinson said in a phone interview, noting that the county’s fund has contributed in the recent past to other open-spaces projects in Atlantic City.
Shabazz is handing out paper petitions to anyone that would like to sign their support for his request that Levinson release funding for the project. Route 40 has put that petition online at Change.org and you can sign it here (or via the widget below). (Shabazz told us that he had some very competent interns from Stockton College helping him with “technology” stuff, but since their stint of work experience ended, he hasn’t been able to keep up.)
About one in two children under the age of 18 live in poverty in Atlantic City, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There are hundreds of children living around Brown’s Memorial park who could benefit from having a nearby recreation area. Shabazz said that he has talked with the city police department, who would implement a special policing plan in the area in order to maintain the park once it is rebuilt.