A Financial and Moral Failure, NJ’s Casino Authority Still Seeks to Bulldoze Home Just Because It Thinks It Can

John Kramer
John Kramer · September 3, 2014

Arlington, Va.—New Jersey’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) has proven itself to be a financial failure and a bureaucratic bully. If this weren’t a government authority, its leaders would be fired and the business would be shut down and sold for scrap. Consider these facts alone:

CRDA’s bonds risk being downgraded to “junk bond” status. According to the Press of Atlantic City, “Moody’s Investors Service has given [CRDA’s] bonds a ‘negative outlook’ and warned they are under review for a possible downgrade within 30 to 60 days. The bonds are currently rated Baa3, just one notch above noninvestment grade, commonly known as junk or high-yield status.”
CRDA is currently trying to condemn a group of properties surrounding the Revel Casino, including a set of low-rise units at Vermont Plaza. CRDA actually subsidized the construction of Vermont Plaza, and is now devoting public money to the partial destruction of that development.
The Revel Casino itself cost $2.4 billion (including significant public commitments from the State of New Jersey), and failed to attract even one qualified bidder at its recent bankruptcy auction, and so the casino closed its doors this past Monday, September 1.
Despite this history of failure, CRDA is hard-headedly continuing its effort to condemn and bulldoze the long-time family home of Charlie Birnbaum, a home in which he operates his piano tuning business and rents out flats to long-time tenants at below-market rates as a tribute to his parents, who once owned the home. CRDA has repeatedly publically stated that they have no particular use for Charlie’s property; it just feels it has the authority to bulldoze now and plan later.
“After years of half-formed plans and failed public subsidies, CRDA is once again wasting public money in pursuit of poorly defined projects that are doomed to failure,” said Bob McNamara, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represents Charlie Birnbaum in the defense of his family’s home. “This kind of ‘planning’ has led to financial bankruptcy, and this insistence on the destruction of Charlie’s cherished property is moral bankruptcy. Atlantic City has seen more than enough of both. It is past time CRDA simply left Charlie alone.”CRDA is a state agency under the supervision of Governor Chris Christie, who also appoints most members of CRDA’s Board of Directors. Two years ago, CRDA authorized itself to condemn a chunk of property in Atlantic City in the hopes of encouraging development that would “complement the new Revel Casino and assist with the demands created by the resort.” Now, even with no Revel to complement and no demands being created, CRDA continues to press forward with its condemnation claims.“When facts change, most people change their behavior, but not CRDA,” McNamara said. “It seems like CRDA has only has one response, no matter what is happening. When they expected the Revel to succeed, they wanted to bulldoze Charlie’s home. Now that the Revel has failed, they want to bulldoze the Birnbaums’ family home.”