January 17, 2018

The Atlantic Club Is Crumbling. Who’s Responsible?

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Submitted by a reader

A large crack has appeared on the Boardwalk-facing side of the empty Atlantic Club casino.

Pieces of the empty Atlantic Club casino are falling onto Pacific Avenue and a large crack has appeared on the Boardwalk side of the aging property, recent pictures show. The building has been closed to the public for four years and this is not the first time that its condition has raised public safety concerns. But among Atlantic City’s jumble of overseers, who is in charge of getting the Florida-based owners to fix the hazard? And why isn’t it being fixed – or knocked down?

Back in September, a chunk of the ceiling over the former casino’s driveway collapsed and had to be repaired, according to Atlantic City’s inspections director. But on Tuesday, the public-safety Twitter account @AtlanticCity911 warned of debris falling from the building and littering the sidewalk of Pacific Ave.

A Route 40 reader (anonymously) sent us another photograph that shows a significant crack in the Boardwalk-facing side of the building.

No one should be surprised that a vacant property, built almost 40 years ago, is cracking and crumbling. There’s an absentee landlord and overlapping entities charged with overseeing the city. Although the Atlantic Club sits at a key entrance-way to the city, just two blocks away from the much-fanfared Stockton University development, it seems to be neglected.

The owner of the Atlantic Club, Florida-based TJM Properties, appear to be current on taxes and there is no lien or mortgage on the former casino, according to a recent review of the property documents. It should be a simple case of the city’s licensing and inspection department checking for any code violations and enforcing them.

But in Atlantic City’s Tourism District, which includes the casinos, it is not always clear who is keeping an eye on issues such as maintenance and construction. Since former Gov. Christie in 2011 signed the legislation creating the district, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has had to “coordinate and collaborate” with the city on code enforcement.

The legislation was important because it sought to stave off the kind of problems the city is now facing: that because of years of belt-tightening, it would lack resources to manage basic services in areas that are critical for tourism revenue. But in fact it created the possibility for standoffs between the city and CRDA over issues such as pruning trees,  cleaning up vacant lots, or, say, making sure a property owner doesn’t endanger tourists and residents. The state takeover of the city’s oversight at the end of 2016 further complicated the day-to-day operation of the city by demoralizing remaining City staff (who are not paid on the same scale as the overseers) and added other reporting lines into the mix for newly-elected Mayor Frank Gilliam.

Dale Finch, Atlantic City’s director responsible for licensing and inspections, said he has not had any problems communicating with CRDA. He said he received an email about the condition of the Atlantic Club on Tuesday and would send department officials to look at the building later on Wednesday.

TJM has been trying to shop the property, but two deals to sell have fallen through in as many years. In the absence of a buyer, the most likely future of the Atlantic Club would seem to be demolition. Further along the Boardwalk, billionaire Carl Icahn is seeking permission to put  $5.6 million in “investment alternative” taxes paid by the similarly shuttered Trump Plaza toward its $13.2 million demolition cost. CRDA – as the Tourism District Authority – gets final say on the use of those taxes and its board has not yet made a decision. The Atlantic Club does not have any remaining IATs to use to pay for demolition. TJM’s hotels director did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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