AC Mayor Promises Trump Plaza Will Come Down

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. said the city is negotiating with Carl Icahn, owner of the shuttered Trump Plaza (l.), to demolish the abandoned property, and that the city is going to be “aggressive” in tearing down other eyesores.

Since Marty Small Sr. was named mayor of Atlantic City in October by City Council, he has cited the passion he has for his hometown—he grew up in Atlantic City, and still lives there with his family—in stating his desire to do all in his power to restore the city to status as a premier resort destination.

Small, 45, is serving the remainder of the term of disgraced former Mayor Frank Gilliam, who resigned in October after pleading guilty to fraud charges. The former president of City Council, Small will be mayor at least until December 31, 2021, and has pledged to set the resort town on the right path.

His first months in office have revealed what a daunting challenge that will be, as he has fielded complaints—the latest from Hard Rock International CEO Jim Allen—that the city is not doing enough to make the city a place tourists will want to visit. Complaints have centered on urban blight, from shuttered casino hotels and other dilapidated vacant buildings to unsafe neighborhoods and infrastructure problems, including broken streetlights that have gone unrepaired for months.

Last week, at a luncheon staged by the PR Council of Greater Atlantic City, Small laid out his comprehensive plan for Atlantic City, expounding on and adding to many of the elements he first noted in early January, but noting that the plan is a “working document” that will change as needs arise.

Under the tagline “It’s a great day to be in the city of Atlantic City,” Small went through many of the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office, such as increasing internal communications among city officials—he said every city employee now has an email address and easy access to him as mayor—and a new dedication to serving the public with courtesy and transparency. He described his monthly “Night Out” for city workers, an Employee of the Month program and his own open-door policy as creating a newly positive atmosphere at City Hall.

Small outlined initiatives now under way such as the Atlantic Avenue Task Force, under which the city has beefed up its presence on the city’s main street and described a plan to transform the avenue into an attractive two-lane promenade.

Small laid out his “Perfect 2020 Vision” program, which aims to lower taxes, increase law enforcement, improve infrastructure, implement new programs for youth and seniors, and above all, address the same concerns previously voiced by Hard Rock’s Allen that the city must be seen as “clean and safe” for tourism to thrive.

He said the city is working with officials from Atlantic County and the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority on a comprehensive infrastructure plan, with the assistance of retired Superior Court Judge Steven Perskie, the architect of New Jersey’s 1978 casino law who is now the mayor’s special adviser on policy. “Everybody needs to know your city is clean and safe if they are going to invest in it,” Small said.

Small also pledged an increased marketing effort, including a new effort in conjunction with national entertainment promoters to add events to the summer beach concerts and events at Gardner’s Basin that are already occurring. Also on the arts front, Small described the “KY & The Curb” program, which is transforming a building at the center of the historic African American entertainment district along Kentucky Avenue into the Kentucky Avenue Museum, which will share the building with state-of-the-art audio and video recording studios to serve local artists.

But the mayor’s biggest cheer from his audience came when he devoted a single PowerPoint slide to an image of the shuttered Trump Plaza surrounded by wrecking balls, with the caption “DEMOLISH TRUMP PLAZA.” He said the city is actively discussing a plan with billionaire Carl Icahn, who owns the abandoned and decaying center-Boardwalk property, under which the building—which has become a safety hazard as well as an eyesore, with debris falling from the structure to the street—will be demolished.

“The city of Atlantic City and Carl Icahn Enterprises are moving in the right direction to get Trump Plaza torn down,” Small said, adding, “We’re on the same page, and as long as we leave the politics out, this will be torn down sooner than we think.”

Asked following the event about the effort to repurpose the other vacant casino-hotel, the former Atlantic Club, and other general efforts to address the need to rid the city of vacant buildings by using eminent domain, Small said the city is going to be aggressive in addressing the concerns about the city’s appearance that were voiced previously by Allen and other business leaders.

“We want to be aggressive, and that’s why we’ll partner with CRDA, the Atlantic County Improvement Authority and other stakeholders that have the city of Atlantic City’s best interests at heart,” Small said. “We’re being aggressive with Trump Plaza. They don’t have to tear it down, as long as the building is up to code. But at the same time, they saw all the press coverage of our announcement that we want to take it down, and that’s a mutual interest. That goes for the Atlantic Club as well.”

Small’s assistant added that the new owners of the Atlantic Club have advised the city that a refurbishment plan is in place that will eventually allow the property to be reopened as a non-casino hotel.

“We’re going to be aggressive with any and every eyesore in the city of Atlantic City,” Small said. “Just because you’re paying the taxes and have the systems in the building up to code, that doesn’t mean it’s OK for debris to be falling on people. With our partners being on the same page, we’ll make it happen.”