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In meeting, Chelsea neighborhood development nonprofit takes suggestions from residents

ATLANTIC CITY — Chelsea resident Joanna Sirotkin-Portock just wants to see that her neighbors care.

Litter covers the streets, she said, and careless absentee landlords have taken the place of single-family homes occupied by people invested in the neighborhood’s health.

“I feel that there needs to be more pride in this section and in your neighborhood,” the 61-year-old said. “Because we all matter, no matter who we are.”

In the Memorial Hall at Our Lady Star of the Sea School on Monday evening, residents of the Chelsea section of the city aired grievances, promoted ideas big and small and celebrated the potential of their neighborhood. Dozens of neighbors were on hand for the second meeting of the Chelsea Economic Development Corp., which was formed last year to boost home ownership and revive the area’s economic prospects. The nonprofit is looking to land a grant through the state Department of Community Affairs’ Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program.

One of the requirements to be considered for a grant, which can be as high as $1 million a year, is input from the community, said Elizabeth Terenik, the group’s president and a former city planner.

“We need to understand what the priorities of the neighborhood’s residents and businesses are, and from there we’ll create a plan that we will then apply for the funding (with),” Terenik said.

That input was collected through paper surveys available in a number of languages that reflect the diversity of the community, which has a sizable population of Southeast Asian and Hispanic residents. The neighborhood plan being put together covers blocks from Texas to Annapolis avenues, Terenik said.

Neighbors were also invited to share their ideas and concerns following a panel featuring board members and representatives for area stakeholders, including Stockton University, Tropicana Atlantic City, the Atlantic City Police Department, South Jersey Gas and the Hispanic Association of Atlantic County. Issues discussed included a lack of home ownership, a lack of lighting, a lack of after-school programs and crime.

The funding, if awarded to the Chelsea group, could be used for construction or rehabilitation of homes, job training, aesthetic upgrades, youth programs or business loans.

Some say there are already signs of revitalization even before a neighborhood plan has been drafted. Some 70 businesses have opened in the area since Stockton opened its Atlantic City campus in the fall of 2018, said Brian Jackson, the campus’ chief operating officer.

But Daniel Mittelman, 69, of Lower Chelsea, said businesses have gotten dirtier, and business owners need to recognize the greater significance of unkempt shops in a neighborhood. He remembered sweeping in front of his parents’ businesses in Atlantic City as a child.

“They shouldn’t have faded-out banners in their windows,” Mittelman said. “I think (CEDC) should put pressure on those businesses to make them look well, and that will, I think, help us.”

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