Category Archives: Atlantic City

New York/The Guardian

The Arcaid architecture photography award gets a lot of media attention — showing the finalists — not just the winner, which will be chosen in November. Many of the websites that do features are architecturally oriented, but some general news sites take an interest as well. The Guardian did a really nice presentation the other day with comments from readers.


Someone said my photograph was only good because of the two shacks, which is true.

A lot of the discussion centered on whether these were photographs about architecture or photographs that utilize architecture for other purposes. My favorite comment was this one:

New York/Arcaid Shortlist


Atlantic City, Revel casino north wall (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

I’m pleased to announce that my photograph of the new, but empty, Revel casino in Atlantic City (above) has been shortlisted for the  Arcaid architecture photograph of the year award. Twenty photographs were selected, and will be exhibited in Berlin, London, and Beijing. The winner will be chosen at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin in November.

Here are the images.

In a contest like this you want an iconic image with a strong composition, play of light, color arrangement — all the elements. And wow factor turned up to 11. I’m not really that kind of photographer. I work in series rather than individual images, though I expect each image to have a purpose and an internal logic.

As followers of this blog know, I’ve been working on an Atlantic City series with a fairly straightforward political intent. To frame Donald Trump as the scam artist we have known about for years, and to place him at the center of the destruction of Atlantic City, a quintessentially American story of greed and (literally) casino capitalism. The image that was selected does not show a Trump casino, and in fact, the fall of Atlantic City is a complex subject, but I think it works to tell the story about as well as any one photograph can.

American values and idealism, however, survive somewhere between the crumbling houses and the monolithic glass wall of the casino — the little American flag in the vacant lot flapping in the sea breeze.

See my other Atlantic City images here.

New York/Atlantic City


Atlantic City (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

As I set up the composition above with its various interlocking pieces, I noticed that the LED sign at right center, just under the royal crest of Trumplandia, the former Trump Plaza, changed ads every 30 seconds or so. I made several pictures — one with my digital pocket camera — posted a few weeks ago, and one with my 4×5 view camera. All off a sudden an ad for the Miss America Pageant flashed on the sign, and then was gone, before I could get a film holder into my camera. Perfect! I wanted that.

So I waited for the ads to cycle through again, and I waited and waited, but Miss America did not seem to be getting equal time. Finally, she popped up on the screen, a beaming blond wearing a golden crown, adjacent to a royal crest with the words Miss America 2018, Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Miss America pageant has been associated with Atlantic City for as long as I can remember — much longer than Donald Trump’s casino reign — and it remains one of the few vestiges of the past glory of this storied beach resort.

Miraculously, at that moment, a group of people carrying shopping bags acquired from the nearby outlet mall walked into the otherwise vacant pathway leading one’s eye to the smiling face of the beauty queen and the royal escutcheons of Miss America and Donald Trump.


Miss America statue, Atlantic City (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

On the boardwalk, a statue of Miss America holding a crown to be placed on the head of the next winner stands in front of Boardwalk Hall, the historic venue for the pageant. Miss America absconded to Las Vegas in 2006, but has since returned to her rightful realm. A steady stream of tourists photograph themselves beneath the statue’s proffered crown.

The pageant was first televised in 1954, the year I was born, and every Fall my family would gather around the TV set to watch. There were only three major networks in those days, guaranteeing an enormous audience for any event shown in prime time. It’s embarrassing to think about it now, but I remember carefully scrutinizing each contestant for beauty, talent, and poise, as the judges whittled it down to to the final group of worthies. Always of great importance was how well contestants answered questions picked at random, and it was great fun to laugh at the word salad that predictably spewed forth.


Atlantic City (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Donald Trump, despite his dominance in Atlantic City, never got his hands on Miss America, literally or figuratively — he was the owner of the Miss Universe and USA pageants for over a decade. Miss America would have been far too cerebral. When he took over Miss Universe pageant Trump said of one of the pageant executives, They had a person that was extremely proud that a number of the women had become doctors, and I wasn’t interested.”

In the Miss America pageant just held in Atlantic City, Miss Texas was asked about Trump’s non committal response to the white supremacists who engaged in violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. She said, : “I think that the white supremacist issue — it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack, and I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact, and making sure that all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.”

 

 

New York/Atlantic City


Trump Plaza wall — © Brian Rose

I returned to Atlantic City to continue working on my project — Atlantic City: In the Wake of Destruction Left by Donald Trump. I intended to spend part of my time on the Boardwalk, which in mid-August is filled with people and activity. But I ended up mostly on Pacific and Arctic Avenues just to the west of the beach. Even at the height of the summer, the streets were strangely quiet.

The photograph above was taken in the area adjacent to an immense outlet mall and a large fishing and camping store — efforts by the city to generate tourism and commercial activity. The former Trump Plaza stands empty, a black and white shell, its parking structure denuded of the Trump logo, though its possible to just make out the letters to the left and right of Trump’s golden crest.


Caesars Casino Hotel — © Brian Rose

Next to Trump Plaza is Caesars, a casino still doing business on the Boardwalk, Atlantic City’s homage to the Roman Forum.


Pacific Avenue — © Brian Rose

Just a block or two from Caesars and Trump Plaza — the white tower in the background — it’s a different world. Junkies and alcoholics mingle on the corners while beach goers drift toward the Boardwalk carrying umbrellas and towels. The arched wall at center is the site of the former Trump’s World’s Fair, another failed casino.


Arctic Avenue — © Brian Rose

A vacant building and empty lot just behind the outlet malls on Christopher Columbus Boulevard. In the distance is the Sheraton Hotel, which primarily serves the Atlantic City convention center. A man approached from a shop just to the left of the pink structure and asked what I was doing. it turned out he was the owner of the place called The Fishmarket. I explained a little about my project, and asked him whether he thought Atlantic City was coming up or going down. He gave a thumbs up, and told me that business was good. I don’t know if I share his optimism, but I felt encouraged by his attitude, nevertheless.


White House, Arctic Avenue — © Brian Rose

Just in the next block, the neighborhood of Ducktown remains largely intact with densely packed blocks of row houses. On the corner is White House Subs, which was probably not Donald Trump’s inspiration to run for the presidency. It is, however, a wonderfully funky and happening sub shop, which was packed with a diverse melange of people at lunch time.


White House (Brendan and Renee) — © Brian Rose

My family came along on this trip — I deposited them on the beach while I was shooting — and we had lunch at White House Subs.


White House (with Jimmy Fallon) — © Brian Rose

Across from me in the booth a grinning Jimmy Fallon from 10 years ago looked me in the eye holding one of White House’s classic Italian subs. Yes!

New York/Atlantic City


Trump Plaza (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Most of the pictures of Atlantic City and Trump’s abandoned casinos I’ve posted so far were made with a digital camera. But I am actually shooting 4×5 film with the digital camera primarily for backup and preview purposes. It’s hard to appreciate at 72 pixels per inch, but these are scanned at very high resolution and worked up meticulously in Photoshop. Trump’s buildings have never looked so good — in a manner of speaking.


Trump Plaza (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

It is not merely the materialism of the 1980’s that Donald Trump embodies, it is the impatience, the insistence on having everything right now, all of it, the willingness to settle for appearance over substance. This is why it is hard not to sense, for all Mr. Trump has been identified with New York, that he is more at home in Atlantic City, where surface glitter is really all there is.

— Paul Goldberger, New York Times

My Atlantic City mini-website here.

New York/Atlantic City


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose (4×5 negative)

President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people, whether he is speaking to a room of three or an arena of 30,000. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor . . . and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.

— Hope Hicks, White House spokeswoman

New York/Atlantic City

We are barely two months into the Trump presidency and it’s been some scary ride. I have gotten a good start on my Atlantic City project, which highlights Trump’s bankrupt casinos as a jumping off point. I don’t know where things go from here — with my project, or with Trump’s reality TV show writ large. As the esteemed blogger Digby says, “He’s running the country like he ran the Taj Mahal.”

Most of my landscape projects have incorporated social/political issues, but this is by the most targeted, and the most connected to current events. So, in the interest of getting the work out into the world as soon as possible, I’ve taken the photographs I’ve run on my blog over the past few months and put them together in a mini-website. Please take a look — recommend to others. Resist!

New York/Atlantic City


Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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

 

New York/Atlantic City


(
Trump) Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

On January 24th this year, a northeaster swept up the coast eating away at the dunes erected along Atlantic City’s boardwalk. In front of the (Trump) Taj Mahal the waves nearly broke through the dune barrier leaving behind a sharp cliff of sand.

Maps provided by (Atlantic City Director of Planning) Elizabeth Terenik show why Atlantic City presents such a unique case study for what sea level rise can do to a city. The majority of Atlantic City’s casinos, four of which shuttered in 2014, along with the boardwalk, rest along the highest point of elevation, while the residential portion has a much lower elevation, putting the homes in harm’s way. Names like “Trump” and “Bally’s” dominate the skyline of a community that sees little of the industry’s profits.   — National Geographic

 

New York/Atlantic City


B
orgata and Harrah’s casinos, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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.

New York/Atlantic City


Golden Nugget, former Trump Castle, at left — © Brian Rose

Initially, most of the casinos were built on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Since most gamblers were not interested in the raucous entertainments of the boardwalk, nor were they likely to be found sunning themselves on the beach, several casinos were built on the other side of Absecon Island in a marshy area well away from the crime-ridden streets of the city. Trump Castle was the first to locate in that area.

Like a rat abandoning a sinking ship, Trump pulled out his interests in Atlantic City little by little. In 2011, the Trump Marina (formerly Trump Castle) was sold for about a tenth of what it was originally worth, and now operates steadily under new management as the Golden Nugget.
— Vox

Now he was looking for work as a livery driver. Brown also used to work in the casinos, at the Showboat, bussing tables, and at Trump’s Castle, stripping and waxing floors. “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor,” he said. “It was the eighties, I was a teen-ager, but I remember it: they put us all in the back.”
— The New Yorker

New York/Atlantic City


Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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.

New York/Atlantic City

Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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.

New York/Atlantic City


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

Now baby everything dies baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City

— Atlantic City, by Bruce Springsteen

New York/Atlantic City


H
ouse near Revel, currently empty casino — © Brian Rose

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 neighborhood, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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


Atlantic Avenue — © Brian Rose

Historic black church (Price Memorial AME Zion Church) on Atlantic Avenue with abandoned fire station.

During the early years, Blacks were integrated throughout the city. However, as their numbers increased they were forced out of White neighborhoods and into a ghetto known as the “Northside,” an area that was literally the other side of the railroad tracks that ran through that section of town.

The Northside became a city within a city. As Blacks encountered racial prejudice, they reached inward to construct a social and institutional life of their own. While White racism had created the physical ghetto, it was civic-minded upper- and middle-class Blacks who led their community to create an institutional ghetto in order to provide services that the White community had denied Blacks. The first major institution established by Blacks in Atlantic City was the church.

— Nelson Johnson (from his book The Northside)

 

New York/Atlantic City


Trump World’s Fair site — © Brian Rose

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

New York/Atlantic City


The Revel Casino, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

Back in Atlantic City for more pictures, Joshua Cohen writes in n+1 Magazine (http://tiny.cc/9oriiy):

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.