NATIONAL GAMBLING IMPACT STUDY COMMISSION
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: Mr. Hollingsworth.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Thank you very much.
I'm Pierre Hollingsworth of the NAACP of Atlantic City and also a former city commissioner when gaming was passed in the City of Atlantic City.
This year represents 21 years since the passage of gaming in Atlantic City. Many of the residents of Horace Bryant, Jr. Drive, the West Side, Monroe, Venice Park, this same lagoon area supported and voted for gaming for the job opportunities and economic development that was presented.
Organizations throughout this threatened area have adjusted to the traffic down Ohio Avenue, construction of the Convention Center, and increased fumes from Route 30, which is Absecon Boulevard traffic.
Now, because environmental laws have given greater protection to birds and wetlands and due to the fear of lawsuits by environmental groups, New Jersey state government and an unlicensed casino who left town years ago because of strict government regulations have turned to abandoning their support of this neighborhood and to uproot families from their homes.
What has changed since the unanimous no vote to the tunnel that was supported by the mayor and all of city council? Many were wined and dined in Las Vegas. They returned to Atlantic City and changed their vote.
Clearly, it appears that an effort has started to buy out families and intimidate those who oppose this program by labeling them as people who are opposed to jobs and economic development and growth.
What is actually being said is that a choice must be made between wetlands and birds first and people and their families and neighborhoods last. Do we have laws on the books that say all other plans must be exhausted, including moving families, before the wetlands or birds can be disturbed? It appears that this is the easy way to move out the black community.
Just as roadways throughout the 1960s trampled through urban communities, state government and the mirage is saying, "Let's continue to do that. Why change?" It takes more than effort to be sensitive.
This connector tunnel, cut-and-cover project, or whatever you want to call it, will destroy a very stable residential community.
The population of Atlantic City has been reduced to 35,000, and it used to be 48,000 in 1976, and for many years there have always been discussions to build across the wetlands, but now because Steve Wynn said that he would not build in Atlantic City unless he has a road to his casino, government puppets have changed their mind.
This is not about nine homes. It is about a community.