Forefront Asks: “Has Atlantic City Reached the End?”

Next City’s journal Forefront came out this week with a story by Jake Blumgart titled “Has Atlantic City Reached the End?” Three years after Gov. Chris Christie called AC a “dying city” and vowed to turn it into the next Las Vegas, Blumgart paints a dark picture, examining the intersections between all the unpredictable factors the beleaguered city has to face, from gaming revenues to hurricanes to local and state politicians.

Unsurprisingly, Blumgart uses Revel as a symbol for so much of what’s wrong, but he also puts Hurricane Sandy at center-stage, ultimately weaving them together with the plight of an abandoned, decaying city like three fraying strands of a braid.

Blumgart isn’t interested in rehashing history, though he does an admirable job of that. Rather, he comes to some pointed conclusions: the casino-only model can’t work long-term; nothing can be solved without attention to the neighborhoods; the blame for the failures accrue both to the city and the state; tourism campaigns ignore the neighborhoods; crime, crime, crime.

If there’s a villain in the piece, it’s unquestionably the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the agency in charge of the casinos, the Boardwalk, the Tourism District–basically the parts of Atlantic City that tourism industry officials and politicians want you to see. By the end of the read, you come to feel nothing can be solved without an acknowledgement from the CRDA that they’ve been trying to isolate AC’s profit center from the rest of the city–and given that it no longer works, they’re open to new ideas.

If there’s one strange thing about the piece, it is Blumgart’s heavy reliance on Local 54 union boss Bob McDevitt, with whom he ate pizza. But one thing you can always say for the union boys–they bring the color:

“I don’t see the city as dangerous as other people do because, really, it tends to be criminals shooting criminals,” says McDevitt, who currently lives in midtown Atlantic City. “But… if that person with money in their pocket doesn’t feel safe, they’re not fucking coming.”

Has Atlantic City Reached the End? [Forefront]