County: Atlantic County
The famous WPA Guide to New Jersey, published in 1939, called Atlantic City “a glittering monument to the national talent for wholesale amusement.” The city’s late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century heyday, its boardwalk, beaches, and hotels attracted millions of tourists each year. But as American vacationers found other outlets for their recreational dollars Atlantic City declined, along with other mid-twentieth-century New Jersey cities. In 1976, the city and state’s political leadership bet on legalized gambling to revive Atlantic City. The city reinvented itself to serve a different breed of pleasure seekers. While the grand hotels of the past were replaced with glimmering casinos, some landmarks survived from the first era serving the pleasure-seeking masses, including Gardner’s Basin, Boardwalk Hall, Absecon Lighthouse, and the Madison Hotel.
Once again Atlantic City faces a crisis brought on by the recent, vicious recession and intense competition from casinos in neighboring states. As casinos closed jobs were lost, buildings vacated, and property taxes increased. The casino-based revival in Atlantic City was broad but never deep. PNJ does not think a future turnaround can be based on a revived gambling industry. We think the city should look to its past to shape its future.
Atlantic City was the first city in the United States conceived to be a resort for the masses, providing leisure, amusements, and crowd-pleasing spectacles. The city should play to its strengths. It has a stable base of stores and restaurants, many travel options including an international airport, and a beautiful oceanfront. There is tremendous opportunity to create a family-oriented resort that can provide jobs to residents and pleasure to future visitors.