TRENTON, NJ (May 5, 2021) – The Murphy Administration released a report from the Atlantic City Restart and Recovery Working Group that Governor Phil Murphy and Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver convened last summer to examine the post-pandemic reality of Atlantic City and provide recommendations for how the city can economically and socially recover from COVID-19. The report will help guide the continued work that the State of New Jersey, City of Atlantic City, and stakeholders are doing to revitalize Atlantic City and improve its quality of life for residents, businesses, and visitors.
The Working Group, which continues to regularly meet, includes five subcommittees that cover the areas of restart and recovery; workforce development; economic diversification, public health and wellness; and community outreach. Each subcommittee worked to create solutions to issues exacerbated by the pandemic as part of a unified strategy to move Atlantic City into a successful future. Each section of the report details the recommendations put forth by each subcommittee. The report also includes guidance for six industries the Atlantic City region should target and information on the Blue Economy, which involves the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic and job growth.
“This report represents my Administration’s commitment to helping the Atlantic City community come out of COVID-19 stronger and more resilient than when this public health emergency started. It also demonstrates our determination to build on the great progress that was being made pre-pandemic to address the economic, local government, and community wellness issues facing the city,” said Governor Murphy. “We are facing a recovery challenge unlike any Atlantic City and the state has faced. But every challenge also brings with it opportunities. The Working Group’s report has identified many of these opportunities and we intend to move forward on a number of them as we emerge from the pandemic.”
“Atlantic City and Atlantic County have felt the economic impacts of the pandemic perhaps greater than any other region in the state. The thoughtful, viable recommendations outlined in the Working Group’s report will greatly assist us in turning the COVID-19 setback into a triumph,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA). “I thank all the Working Group members who have stepped up to the challenge and continue to provide their expertise and time while juggling so many other personal and professional obligations. Their dedication and passion for Atlantic City makes such a difference and they should be commended for the ideas in this dynamic report.”
The report provides a number of recommendations, including the following examples:
- Rebuild the Atlantic City boardwalk to withstand future severe storms;
- Refresh the structures and appearances along Pacific Avenue by demolishing deteriorated buildings, adding greenery, improving lighting, rehabbing storefronts, and relocating service yards and dumpsters;
- Continue with the redesign and repurposing of Atlantic Avenue that is currently underway;
- Achieve 100 percent Internet connectivity by using grant funding such as federal dollars;
- Reconvene the Atlantic City Jobs Council to assess employer needs, create training and apprentice programs, establish a jobs database, and hold job fairs;
- Develop the Blue Economy as a solution to lessen the city’s dependence on casino gaming and tourism, while building on the city’s greatest asset: the Atlantic Ocean. The Blue Economy includes the areas of renewable energy, coastal resiliency, fisheries, eco-tourism, grey water recycling, smart technology waste management, and marine-based drones;
- Coordinate economic development among the State, City, Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and Atlantic County Economic Alliance and streamline the permitting and approval process for businesses;
- Create an early pregnancy outreach program that focuses on communities of color to educate mothers on critical health issues such as pre-natal vitamins, pregnancy complications, and premature labor delivery;
- Develop a remote care monitoring program for pregnant women with a focus on hypertension, gestational diabetes, pre-term labor, tobacco cessation, alcohol and drug use, and other high-risk pregnancy concerns;
- Establish a short-term/transitional housing solution for homeless individuals and families;
- Build an online community collaboration database that lists all community services and citizen-led initiatives available in Atlantic City. Find an anchor institution to support and maintain the database so that it is kept up-to-date;
- Expand the Atlantic City Police Department’s Neighborhood Coordination Officer (NCO) community policing initiative; and
- Create more recreational programs for city youth and provide more sports fields/facilities.
The Working Group noted that Atlantic City has an abundance of assets that make it a great place to live and work – clean and free beaches, over 30 parks, cultural and historic attractions, restaurants, live entertainment, public transportation, high walkability, the arts, strong civic associations, deeply-rooted neighborhoods – but must increase homeownership rates, encourage development of vacant lots, strengthen code enforcement of blighted properties, and move high visibility social services out of the tourism areas.
“The Atlantic City Restart and Recovery Working Group and this resulting report is a testament to the Murphy Administration’s commitment to revitalizing Atlantic City’s economy,” said Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director Matt Doherty, who is co-chair of the Atlantic City Restart and Recovery Working Group. “The report provides valuable insight and tools that can be used to move Atlantic City forward to a healthy and vibrant future post-COVID-19.”
“The pandemic has hit the Atlantic City area hard, but it is undeniable that the City is incredibly resilient,” said Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey President & CEO Christina Renna, who is co-chair of the Atlantic City Restart and Recovery Working Group. “The dedication of the Working Group members, and their strong commitment to seeing Atlantic City prosper, has led to the release of many achievable recommendations that, if enacted upon, will make a significant impact on the City and the surrounding area as it continues to rebound and recover in the coming weeks and months.”
“Atlantic City has bounced back from adversity time and time again, and it will be no different with COVID-19,” said City of Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, Sr. “Since the start of the pandemic, the City took swift action with aggressive COVID testing and extensive feeding programs for our seniors and hard-hit families. We appreciate the recommendations of the Atlantic City Working Group, which included many City senior staff, and we look forward to collaborating to put these ideas into action. Make no mistake: Atlantic City is coming back for everything and more that the COVID-19 pandemic took away.”
The Working Group report acknowledges and advances many of the recommendations from the Atlantic City Transition Plan, which is commonly referred to as the Johnson report, that was issued in September 2018. Many of the Transition Plan’s suggestions had been or were being implemented before the public health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic changed the state of affairs for the state, nation, and world. The State intends to utilize the Working Group report alongside the Transition Plan.
The entire report is available on the DCA website at https://www.nj.gov/dca/home/ac/index.html.
DCA oversees the City of Atlantic City municipal government and finances under the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act signed into law in 2016.
DCA offers a wide range of programs and services, including local government management and finance, affordable housing production, fire safety, building safety, community planning and development, and disaster recovery and mitigation.
For more information about DCA, visit https://nj.gov/dca/