ATLANTIC CITY

In the Wake of Destruction
Left by
Donald Trump

A Work in Progress
by
Brian Rose



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BRIANROSE.COM
© Brian Rose


Revel Casino

I found myself— America finds itself now — at the very end of the Boardwalk. The very end of this immigrant’s midway lined with cheap thrills and junk concessions, pulsating with tawdry neon and clamoring moronically. The end of this corny, schmaltzy Trumpian thoroughfare that entertains us with its patter and enthralls us with its lies.

Down at the Boardwalk’s terminus, by Oriental Avenue, by night, the seagulls keep flying into the Revel and dying. Or they flap and limp around a bit before dying. You never see or hear the impact, you just get what happens after. Immense white gulls, flapping, limping, expiring. They fly into the Revel’s giant vacant tower of panes and break their necks, because without any lights on, the glass is indistinguishable from the sky.


Joshua Cohen, n+1 Magazine





Pauline's Prairie and Revel

1963: Pauline Hill becomes executive director of the Atlantic City Housing Authority and Urban Redevelopment Agency. Under her leadership, about 80 acres of South Inlet land were razed to make way for casinos and high-rises. The project displaced more than 1,500 residents, and development never came. The still-empty tract is known as Pauline’s Prairie.

Press of Atlantic City



South Inlet

It was poor before casinos, poor when it had them, and it’s even poorer now that five of them have been shut down. Most of the people you see in the South Inlet are people of color. Most of the businesses are run by ethnic minorities. The Alpha & Omega grocery is owned by Greeks and staffed by Oaxaqueños. Around the corner, the marquee of the Baba Jones Food Market announces you can buy baby food with your EBT card.

There’s also Mike Hauke’s pizzeria Tony Boloney’s, which sells tikka masala slices to intrepid hipsters, construction workers and the few remaining neighbors. In 2015 in a New Yorker article, Hauke described his patrons as a mix of “shitbags, crackheads, hustlers, and pimps.” These were happier times. Today even the shitbags seem few and far between.

Route 40



Revel Casino

In the 1980s and ’90s, the casinos with which Trump was associated comprised between a third and a quarter of AC’s gaming industry. The Playboy Hotel and Casino, which was founded in ’81, became the Atlantis in ’84, and went bankrupt in ’85, was acquired by Trump in ’89 and renamed The Trump Regency; he renamed it again as Trump’s World’s Fair in ’96, and it was closed in ’99 and demolished in 2000. Trump Castle, built in cooperation with Hilton in ’85, was rebranded as Trump Marina in ’97, sold at a loss to Landry’s Inc. in 2011, and is now operated by Landry’s as the Golden Nugget. Trump Plaza, built in cooperation with Harrah’s in ’84, went bankrupt and shuttered in 2014 and now just rots.

Joshua Cohen



Trump Taj Mahal

We are back in Atlantic City on a relatively balmy Friday in January, The Trump Taj Mahal may be closed, but a carved elephant still points the way to the “8th wonder of the world.”




Trump Taj Mahal

Kirkorov’s wide-eyed enthusiasm for the Republican candidate goes back 22 years, when Kirkorov performed at Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City.

Trump dubbed him “the Michael Jackson of Russia,” and the bro-mance has been going strong ever since.

“I hope that when the Donald becomes the president, our relationship will be much, much closer, and all American people finally understand — understood? Understand? — that Russia is a great country, Russian people is a great people.”

CBS News




Trump Taj Mahal

Back in Atlantic City on a bright, somewhat cold, February day. Earlier in the week, I read that the Trump name was being removed from the Trump Taj Mahal.I decided that I better go back and get some more photographs of the Taj before it was completely de-Trumpified. All traces of the name had already vanished from the Boardwalk. On the back side of the tower, however, workmen high on a crane were busy detaching the red letters from the facade. It was not something I could do much with using the view camera, so I moved on.

I walked out on the beach for an overview, stopping behind a restaurant, closed for the season, with some of its furniture shrink-wrapped in plastic, the bulbous shapes oddly echoing the onion domes of the Trump Taj Mahal. The casino, as i’d noted before, looks less like the Taj Mahal of India than it does a Russian Orthodox church. Despite all the Trump/Russian connections, that was probably not the original intention. But it’s one more thing that makes you go hmm.



Trump Taj Mahal
The Trump Taj Mahal appears from the boardwalk as a complex multi-leveled building festooned with towers, domes, and a grand staircase leading up to the sky. The reality, however, as seen along Pennsylvania Avenue — the Monopoly Pennsylvania Avenue that is, not Washington, D.C. — is a massive windowless box containing cavernous casino, restaurant, and entertainment spaces. Everything is internalized. Only the high rise hotel rooms offer views of the ocean and the New Jersey pine barrens to the west.



Trump Taj Mahal

As I walked along the wall of the Taj casino I came across the abandoned Human Resources Offices of Trump Entertainment Resorts. No jobs available here any more. Lots of smiling faces of fictional employees and a dead pigeon.




Trump Taj Mahal

And then, to my astonishment, a group of women came walking along Pennsylvania Avenue carrying “Make America Great Again” signs. Even here, at the epicenter of Trump’s business dissolution, at the nexus of Russian dirty money and the fleecing of gullible gamblers, there are, apparently, true believers.



Trump Taj Mahal

By the time I get back to Atlantic City, these images of Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza will almost certainly be gone. Workmen were busy removing any signs of Trump’s involvement in Atlantic City when I was there less than two weeks ago. But the evidence will not be easily erased.

In 2015, the Trump Taj Mahal was fined $10 million for money laundering.

“Trump Taj Mahal received many warnings about its deficiencies,” said FinCEN Director Jennifer Shaky Calvery. “Like all casinos in this country, Trump Taj Mahal has a duty to help protect our financial system from being exploited by criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors. Far from meeting these expectation, poor compliance practices, over many years, left the casino and our financial system unacceptably exposed.”

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
United States Department of the Treasury
Press release — March 6, 2015




Bogata and Harrah's Casinos

Atlantic City has seen five of its 12 casinos close since 2014 (two were Trump casinos) amid ever-increasing competition from gambling halls in neighboring states. That has caused the city’s tax base to crumble. It also led the city’s remaining casinos to file hefty tax appeals, claiming their property assessments were too high thanks to the downturn. In turn, that blew large holes into the city’s budget over the last few years, helping bring the city to the brink of bankruptcy.

NJ.com

So, in a nutshell, the Borgata, the most successful of all the casinos, bankrupted Atlantic City. It should be obvious at this point that the casinos were never really about the revitalization of the city. Atlantic City’s unemployment rate remains extremely high, and city services have declined. The casinos were, and are, about the transfer of billions of dollars into the pockets of people like Donald Trump, aided by politicians like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. And there is ample evidence that much of Trump’s money came from nefarious Russian sources to whom he remains indebted and obligated in unknown and potentially dangerous ways.



Pacific Avenue
Donald Trump came to Atlantic City promising glamor and untold riches. He left it in ruins — though there is still plenty of gold all over the city — like in the Gold Mine directly behind the empty and now de-Trumped Taj Mahal.