Before taking this class, when I heard of an area being redeveloped I thought of it as a positive aspect for the area that was being redeveloped. I failed to take into consideration the negative aspects that could arise or the thoughts, feelings, or concerns of the people of the area undergoing redevelopment. Redevelopment happens then gentrification follows. While there are pros from redevelopment and gentrification such as better housing, more jobs, economic growth, and a different sense of culture, it comes with cons. The cons include expensive housing, difficulty to get jobs, closing of businesses, loss of culture, sense of displacement and feeling of powerlessness amongst residents. Atlantic City has gone through both redevelopment and gentrification. With the opening of casinos in the late 1970’s, business was booming. Now years later with the closing of casino’s and the takeover bill, Atlantic City must once again go through a stage of redevelopment to repair from the loss of industry.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Allen Maddox. Allen volunteers for Eastern Service Workers Association (ESWA). The ESWA provides advocacy, legal and health services to low-wage employees who feel they are marginalized. ESWA works with the Asbury United Methodist Church to provide weekly feeding services to people in need at the Asbury United Methodist Community Development Center. He described the changes in Atlantic City as “a disenfranchisement of the population of A.C by way of the Takeover Bill, which had no true interest of the residents at heart.” Because of the takeover bill residents were in a sense punished for policies that were beyond their control which resulted in the loss of jobs, homes, higher expenses and taxes. “Adjusting to the shifting economy because the collapse of a major industry”, Allen explains is the largest challenge of Atlantic County. Another challenge Allen states is “rethinking the economy.” Atlantic City is known for its casino’s and now that their losing them, the city is in a crisis. The economy needs to be diversified since they failed to do it when they had the chance. Allen believes retooling is the answer. Retooling the community through seeking different industries, providing trading opportunities, infrastructure, transportation, housing, jobs and training. The residents, local and state government must be involved for the idea of redevelopment to work. Even after everything that has happened in Atlantic City, Allen says “Atlantic City still has potential.” He hopes Stockton building a campus in the city can play a role in the retooling process. “It will raise the intellectual level of the community along with the addition of mind power.”
The disconnect between local and state government and the residents of A.C. shows an example of power. “Trillions of dollars came through A.C. but only a very small percentage stayed in the city.” Atlantic City was used as a cash cow for the state and now that the money train has slowed up, it’s almost as if the state forgot about the city. Now the city and its residents must find ways to rebuild their once thriving city.