“National Geographic” Got It Wrong: Atlantic City Is A Cesspool

It may be time to break out the bulldozer

I don’t know about you, but I grew up with National Geographic. The little yellow magazine with the portrait-frame logo inspired me to, as an adult, travel to far-flung destinations around the world. I collected the maps. I giggled at the occasional breast shots. I paid 25 cents at yard sales for issues I was missing. But the 123-year-old Society’s reputation took a major nosedive last week when it declared Atlantic City’s Boardwalk one of the best in the nation.

Perhaps the judges got their information from watching the entire first season of HBO’s newest hit, Boardwalk Empire. Or maybe one found a 500 Club matchbook in her great aunt’s hope chest, from the night that Frank Sinatra sang “Too Marvelous For Words” there in 1960. Speaking of ancestors, I have a black-and-white photo around somewhere of my maternal grandmother, a triplet, in her bathing suit on the beach in Atlantic City during the multiple-births convention that the town used to host each year. My father, may he rest in peace, once did a magic show on Steel Pier in the late ’60s. That is all some wonderful nostalgia.

But those days are over.

Take, for example, a recent weekend trip I took to Atlantic City, one in which I strayed from the solace of the Water Club on the marina to visit a new seafront beach bar. The cab ride took me past the pawn shops, bombed-out buildings, hustlers, prostitutes, and drug dealers that make up downtown. After arriving at the bug-infested, litter-strewn beach, I cut my stroll short once I realized that the homeless man in my path was masturbating. In broad daylight. I guess this is why the Water Club shuttles sand-seeking guests to the beach in Brigantine.

After about five minutes on the Boardwalk, under a blazing sun, I witnessed a group of 10 or so African-American kids and teenagers on bikes (take note that bicycling was prohibited at that hour on the boards) surround an elderly Asian man, verbally torment him with racial epithets and mockery of his broken English, and, finally, throw things at him. With not a cop or any kind of security personnel in sight, I called 911. Ten minutes later, the police arrived. The kids had dispersed a bit by then, giving the old man a chance to make his escape, and the cops locked up the bikes for the rest of the afternoon. That’ll learn them.

“They’re a bunch of fucking punks,” said the one cop, who seemed to shruggingly acknowledge that Atlantic City was a no-win situation.





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  • ConnieT

    That’s pathetic. I, too, remember that town as clean, fun, and safe in the 50s and 60s. What happened to the pride AC residents used to have in their city? Don’t the casinos pay enough taxes to support a good recreation program for kids? Better police protection? Beach maintenance? I don’t get it. If Atlantic City is going to the dogs, it’s the residents and government there that’s the cause. If I lived there, I’d be screaming bloody blue murder!

  • Sean R.

    Actually, if you lived there, you probably WOULD BE bloody blue murdered.

  • Jack

    What a nasty op-ed. My trip was the exact opposite. In fact I was surprised by how nice Atlantic City seemed given the constant bad press. I checked into my beautiful hotel room at the Chelsea. The beach in that area of the city is beautiful with cabanas and beach chairs. I walked down to the beach bar at Bally’s and had a drink and listened to live music. My girlfriend went shopping at the Pier and we had a nice dinner at a new seafood restaurant in Ballys. I don’t even gamble, but any reasonably unbiased person would recognize that the Boardwalk at night is quite an awesome sight with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the casino lights on the other. The pool at my hotel was great. DJ’s spinning all day surrounded by attractive people having a good time. Sometimes I read reviews of Atlantic City online and wonder whether the people who write them are just looking for something to complain about or even whether they’re paid off by some competitor’s PR firm to trash the whole city. I’m sure there are poor sketchy parts of the city but unless you go looking for them you don’t see them. The Marina district casinos are nice but a bit generic. They could be anywhere. I think AC is sort of like a mirror, each visitor’s experience is a reflection of themselves. If they’re miserable and boring they’ll be miserable and boring in AC. Now that’s an interesting city!

  • Gary

    Sounds like you are crying spilled milk. If you recall Philadelphia has the grand award of being niminated the most toxic city in the nation. That was not to long ago and didn’t see anyone in Atlantic City pyblish anything about that. Before you start throwing stones, check your own back yard, do your homework on what is really going on instead of some mundane personal opinion, and lastly try to have some ethics as a reporter. Seems like all your interested in is sensationism.