Bart Blatstein’s Atlantic City

Philly developer Bart Blatstein has been playing real-life Monopoly, cobbling together parcels of property in Atlantic City — everyone’s favorite resort-town-slash-urban-metaphor. His snagging of the Pier Shops and Showboat made big headlines. And a recent set of acquisitions shows the beginnings of a plan to do, well, something in the city’s perpetually transitional South Inlet neighborhood. Blatstein is holding his cards close, so we asked Temple prof Bryant Simon, author of Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America, to evaluate Bart’s moves. “He’s buying stuff for 10 cents on the dollar,” notes Simon. “I think in the short term it might work, and in the long term it might be great. He clearly has something big in his back pocket.” Whether that something is geared toward tourism (beach houses? A water park?) or permanent housing (a Philly telecommuter suburb?) is the question for Simon, who’s cautiously optimistic that the urbanism-minded Blatstein could get something meaningful done. Read more »

The Trials of Tony Luke

Photography by Gene Smirnov

It’s Monday afternoon, and Tony Luke Jr. drifts just above the surface of the moon.

A woman speaks into his earpiece. 

“Anxiety is constant fear. Fear of your past choices,” she says.

Earth looms into view, blue and distant, and Tony Jr. whispers, “It’s beautiful here.”

The woman doesn’t hear. “Fear is a hummingbird,” she says. 

He gives a flick of his hand and plunges under the sea. Then into a cave. A jungle. The moon again. 

“Anywhere but here,” he whispers.

The virtual-reality goggles hug his head as he looks left, toward Saturn. He spent thousands of dollars on the technology to use it for games with his sons, but the oldest — Tony III — isn’t here, and never will be. He died in late March, at 35, of a heroin overdose. His demise will seem familiar, among the crowd of people shuffling daily into opioid addiction. But like each of them, to his family he was utterly unique: tender, conflicted, infuriating, afraid. Read more »

Hallelujah! Center City Is Getting New Trash Cans… And They’re Free

Photo by Peter Tobia/EPA

Philadelphia City Council approved a tentative deal to bring 275 new trash compactors to Center City on Thursday and all we can say is it’s about damn time.

Outfitted with foot pedals, the new garbage cans will be provided to the city free of charge in exchange for advertising rights under the yet-to-be-finalized contract, the Inquirer reports. The agreement also calls for the restoration of 125 existing solar-powered trash compactors already in place. Read more »

Deer Rescued From Delaware River Near Penn’s Landing

deer, delaware river

Photo via the Philadelphia Police Department

Philadelphia police rescued a deer in the Delaware River Thursday evening.

According to CBS3, officers with the department’s Marine Unit spotted the deer stuck in a mud flat near Penn’s Landing around 8 p.m. After about 30 minutes, they were able to pull it into the boat.

It’s not clear how or why the deer was in the Delaware (or that part of Philly). Maybe it was making a break for New Jersey (maybe, just maybe) and got a little stuck. Who knows.

Apparently deer are pretty good swimmers.

Police say the animal was determined to be in good health and released.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.

Wolf to Veto Bill That Would Keep Philly From Taxing Plastic Bags


Gov. Tom Wolf said he will veto a bill that would prevent Philly and other municipalities from taxing plastic bags.

The bill, which passed the state Senate last week in a 28-21 vote, would prohibit the regulation of plastic bag sales statewide. Supporters of the legislation say regulations could hurt the state’s 14 manufacturing facilities and the recycling industry. Opposers frame the bill as an anti-environmental measure and an overreach of state government.  Read more »

Sea Isle–Avalon Bridge Reopens Following Emergency Repairs

Photo: Google Maps.

Shore-goers rejoice! The Townsends Inlet bridge finally reopened today after undergoing emergency repairs on its foundation, the Press of Atlantic City reports.

Connecting Sea Isle to Avalon via Ocean Drive, the 77-year-old span was closed indefinitely in April after divers discovered a crack in a support piling while performing a routine inspection ahead of future substructure repairs. Cape May County Engineer Dale Foster said at the time that he hoped to have the bridge open prior to the July 4 weekend. Read more »

City Council Approves Major Reinvestment in Philly Neighborhoods


City Council President Darrell L. Clarke | Courtesy of City Council’s Flickr

Philadelphia City Council has approved Mayor Jim Kenney’s ambitious plan to reinvest in Philly’s public spaces.

Rebuild, also known as Rebuilding Community Infrastructure, would allocate $500 million over seven years to the restoration of the city’s parks, libraries, recreation centers and playgrounds. Through the project, the city aims to revitalize communities, improve diversity in the construction industry and foster economic progress and inclusion.

“Every Philadelphian deserves a recreation center, park and library that is safe, inviting and full of amenities, and because of the legislation that City Council passed [Thursday], we are one step closer to making these goals a reality,” Rebuild executive director Nicole Westerman said in a statement.

The Rebuild bill approved in a 16-1 vote Thursday would issue the first $100 million bond for the project. City Councilman David Oh was the only member to vote against the measure because he felt skeptical that it would live up to its diversity goals, according to

For months, council members had debated how exactly and to what extent Rebuild would actually diversify the city’s building-trades unions – a major goal of the plan. Over time, the city aims for minorities and women to comprise at least 45 percent of the workforce behind the project – a figure pulled in part from the 2016 Economic Opportunity Plan. In addition to other initiatives, the city expects unions to attain workers from PennAssist, a pre-apprenticeship program established between the trades and the University of Pennsylvania that helps provide a path to union membership for public school students.

The project – which would be made possible through a $100 million grant from the William Penn Foundation — is expected to revamp between 150 to 200 of the city’s 400 recreation centers, libraries, playgrounds and pools.

Some of the Rebuild funding would also come from soda tax revenue. The American Beverage Association’s lawsuit against the tax (which was struck down by Commonwealth Court this month) has stalled the issuing of bonds for the project. The ABA said it plans to appeal the court’s decision.

Kenney said he’ll sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.

The Atlantic City Saturday-Night Fireworks Seem Downright Dangerous

The Atlantic City fireworks display on June 17, 2017.

I’ve been to my fair share of fireworks displays. In addition to the usual holiday fireworks, I’ve seen fireworks at Phillies games, fireworks with Tchaikovsky at the Mann Center, the annual international fireworks competition in Montreal, backyard fireworks growing up in South Jersey. But last Saturday night’s fireworks in Atlantic City were the most … unusual that I’ve experienced. And in this case, that’s not a good thing. Read more »

OPINION: Why I’m Giving Up on “Allies”

Photo by iStock / prill

During this tumultuous political climate, no quote resonates with me more than this one from the late Black Panther Party leader Eldridge Cleaver: “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.”

Progressive values are at a crossroads, and those who are committed to preserving them must take a stand more visibly and ferociously. As tensions rise within our communities, now is not the time for the most privileged in society to tune out because they can afford to avoid conflict. Nor is it the time to act like Switzerland — neutral stances on issues that affect people of color, women, LGBTQ, the poor, and other marginalized groups either leave support for us in limbo or worse.

Many people champion allyship as an effective way to take that stand. In short, an “ally” is someone with privilege helping someone being marginalized with a problem. This approach might sound noble in theory, but in practice it has only added to oppression. Read more »

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