No Man’s Land, Atlantic City

by longformphilly

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Brian X. McCrone | Philly.com | November 2014

Tucked into northeast Atlantic City, where ocean meets inlet, is a two-by-six block expanse of undeveloped land that in other shore towns would be carved up by wealthy outsiders to build $2 million homes.

Instead, the few surviving, decades-old houses dot hundreds of empty lots like jagged teeth at the mouth of a yawning ocean in this sleepy part of town. Some call it North Beach; others South Inlet. Bill Terrigino, 69, lives at one end, his home one of those visible teeth.

An empty Revel casino shimmers in the background, emblematic of the mirage Atlantic City has become. Terrigino, a laid-off casino banquet server who resembles a Jersey Shore version of Hemingway, has a two-story home on South Metropolitan Avenue.

His house boasts an unobstructed waterfront view – but not by design. It’s just that nothing stands between it and the Atlantic Ocean.

“There’s a lot of things in Atlantic City that we’ve neglected, badly, especially around this way,” Terrigino said, sipping from a can of beer, sitting on his second-floor porch across the street from Revel.

The hitch? Even if you wanted to build a nice home in North Beach next to Terrigino’s you can’t. Restrictive zoning prohibits it.

Atlantic City is once again in a bind: People can’t build single-family houses on prime seaside property because it’s reserved partially for hotels and casinos – but no one is building any more casinos or hotels there. Multi-unit residential construction is permitted, such as condominiums, but any new structures would have to house three or more units.

Rezoning the neighborhood is being discussed by the state authority in charge of Atlantic City’s waterfront, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA), according to a spokeswoman. She did not give a timeframe for such a change.

So Terrigino seems destined to live without neighbors — at least for a while — in the no-man’s-land that spans north from Revel to Absecon Inlet, and west from the Atlantic Ocean through to Oriental Avenue.

Terrigino once bought into the promise of Revel’s success.

“I was hoping the best for them. I mean, naturally, because they’re my closest neighbor,” he said wistfully.

Writer bio: Brian X. McCrone is a news writer, editor and producer for Philly.com. McCrone, a graduate of The College of New Jersey, previously served as a reporter for the Times of Trenton and City Editor for Metro Philadelphia before joining the local news website in 2012.

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