Arnold Rothstein: A sound elimination is the basis of good health.
By: David A. Smith
Maybe print one of these for every home owner?
She won? Vera Coking in 1998, after winning
She lost? Susette Kelo in 2005, before losing
At the time nobody beyond the antagonists – and we have Donald Trump as the Eeeevil Developer, in fact as an Eeeeevil Casino Developer in a city known mainly for its sins – quite appreciated that Ms. Coking’s victory for property rights would be a defeat for Atlantic City, and for Ms. Coking herself.
The first rule of politics
If journalists did not invent survivorship bias, they are its most dedicated proponents, if only because the living give better interviews than the departed, and a lucky winner (or unlucky loser) makes for good storytelling, and even if the storytelling has to invert logic, as reported in The New York Times (July 21, 2014):
A Homeowner’s Refusal to Cash Out in a Gambling Town Proves Costly
Cue up the Kenny Rogers lyrics: You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em.
Now might be a good time to fold
Atlantic City — A stand of blossoming lilac trees and a fresh coat of white paint hardly hide the decrepitude of the three-story boardinghouse half a block from the boardwalk. Ripped screens cover the windows that have not been smashed or boarded up. In the kitchen, refrigerators stand open and empty in a row; dirty plates fill the sink. Some guest rooms look untouched, beds made, while bags of trash and piles of suitcases litter others. What appears to be a crack pipe sits on a dresser.
Not so long ago, this was the most coveted home in this city.
Coveted, as we will see, not for itself but for its land.
Sources used in this post
New York Times (October 4, 1994; blue font)
New York Times (August 11, 1996; violet font)
New York Times (March 22, 1998; green font)
New York Times (July 21, 1998; sky-blue font)
New York Times (July 26, 1998; red font)
Press of Atlantic City (August 28, 2011; brown font)
New York Times (July 21, 2014; black font)
Press of Atlantic City (July 31, 2014; orange font)
1. Start at the end
On the chessboard lies and hypocrisy do not survive long; the merciless fact, culmination in checkmate, contradicts the hypocrites. – Emanuel Lasker
In chess, if anybody claims he is better than I, I can checkmate him.
Law 7: Any damn fool can predict the past. – Larry Niven.
Law 1a: Never throw shit at an armed man
Though it is the future’s curse to be unknowable, it is the past’s curse to be unchangeable, and if we are to see the story of Vera Coking’s 127 South Columbia Place, we might as well start from the undeniable, with the property’s sale and likely demise.
On July 31, the property, at 127 South Columbia Place, will go up for auction. The reserve price, or the lowest the seller will accept, is $199,000, but brokers insist it will go for more.
[When this post ends – oh, so far in the future – readers will calibrate the veracity of the brokers’ claim. – Ed.]
In the distant future, brokers’ claims will be verifiable.
As recently as eight years ago [i.e. 2006 – Ed.], Donald Trump was willing to pay at least 10 times that amount so he could expand Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.
Shortly afterwards, seven years ago, Trump’s casino company went bankrupt for the third time.
I’m opening this hotel in 2008 …but not with my money
Now, as Atlantic City teeters under the weight of all of its opulence, Ms. Coking and her family may have lost their shot at a big payout.
“Donald Trump, who now only owns a 10% stake in the casino, reacted to the news exactly how you’d expect. ‘I got out seven years ago; my timing was tremendous,’ the Donald told the AP over the weekend.”
The building still has some admirers, who make the short detour from the boardwalk to take their photo with the famous property.
Not admirers, gawkers.
Oh, don’t be a gawking horse’s ass: Richard Lithgow etching
“All the years we’ve been coming here, we never stopped by, but when I heard about the auction, I wanted to see it before it was gone,” said Luanne Albertson, who was visiting from Egg Harbor, N.J., with her daughter and granddaughter. “I thought it would be bigger.”
It’s all in the perspective, isn’t it?
2. The unsustainable city along the Atlantic
Some cities have no business being where they are, and by all natural laws of urbanization, Atlantic City has no business existing, and its history is that of economic infrastructure creating a city and service economy built on the most shifting of foundations – America’s appetites and varieties of sin.
Some cities exist because they were outposts or ports; some because they were forts; some because they bestride rivers; and a few because they were built solely as a lure to get people to use new technology – like the railroad.
The railroad, in fact, was the world’s second disruptive transportation technology (the ocean-going sailing ship was the first); and just as the Duke of Wellington feared, the railroad ‘encouraged common people to move about needlessly’ – but that created a problem: why would people spend money on ‘cheap day return’ tickets if they had nowhere to go?
And they will ruin the role of cavalry
Nineteenth century flight attendants: the Harvey Girls
To the moon, or to Florida?
Ride me to adventure?
Until the railroad arrived, Atlantic City was empty:
William Trost Richards, Seascape, Atlantic City, 1873
It was built purely as a seaside resort:
The city was incorporated in 1854, the same year in which the Camden and Atlantic Railroad train service began. Built on the edge of the bay, this served as the direct link of this remote parcel of land with Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By 1874, almost 500,000 passengers a year were coming to Atlantic City by rail.
In conspicuous consumption reminiscent of Huxley’s Brave New World (centrifugal bumble-puppy, anyone?) once the destination was established as a railroad terminus, it needed hotels:
A railway straight to the hotel entrance, and then the Atlantic Ocean only two blocks away
After arriving in Atlantic City, a second train brought the visitors to the door of the resort’s first public lodging, the United States Hotel. The hotel was owned by the railroad. It was a sprawling, four-story structure built to house 2,000 guests. It opened while it was still under construction, with only one wing standing, and even that wasn’t completed. By year’s end, when it was fully constructed, the United States Hotel was not only the first hotel in Atlantic City but also the largest in the nation. Its rooms totaled more than 600, and its grounds covered some 14 acres.
The United States Hotel, Atlantic City, 1875
So Atlantic City, unlike many American cities, had hotels before it had housing – and thereby set its character for the next century and a quarter.
[Continued tomorrow in Part 2.]