ATLANTIC CITY The view from John Dismans fifth-story one-bedroom apartment is picturesque, offering unobstructed sight lines of Brighton Park, the Boardwalk and the ocean.
In almost any other shore town, a beach-block rental would be about as close to living in paradise as one could get.
And yet Disman lives with black mold, roaches and bed bugs, heat that only works for part of the day, paid cable service that is not turned on, and a building where outside foot traffic often includes sex workers and drug dealers.
ATLANTIC CITY New regulations for short-term rental properties were adopted by City Counci
I just want some help, said Disman, a 65-year-old disabled union worker who lives alone. Im a sick man, and Im just trying to deal with it.
Attempts to get that help from the building manager, city officials or a low-income housing representative have not yielded results, he said.
A call to Dismans building manager seeking comment was not returned.
In a city where renters far outnumber homeowners and many are either senior citizens, disabled or low-income, Dismans experience is far from unique.
From the Boardwalk and beach blocks, to Back Maryland and the Westside, Atlantic City renters say they are being subjected to inhumane living conditions and targeted for retribution when they seek help.
At a recent City Council meeting, Stuart Sockol, a resident of The Ocean at 101 Boardwalk, characterized his building as a disaster, noting two fires and a flood in the past year. The building, an assisted living complex that houses more than 300 people, has been the subject of complaints in the past.
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Many people may die, unnecessarily, if conditions do not improve, Sockol told the governing body. Basic human needs are not provided for, or they are ignored for months. ... The owners criminal neglect of the laws governing their business and the neglect of our rights as tenants and human beings is beyond my explanation.
No one responded to a message left with the management office at 101 Boardwalk.
Some city officials, disturbed by the number of constituent calls regarding rental units, have recently started holding community meetings to inform residents of their rights, offer assistance where possible and encourage those with serious health, civil rights and discriminatory concerns to speak up. They have heard stories about excess mold, pest and rodent infestation, unannounced and intrusive in-home visits, harassing notices and revocation of resident amenities.
ATLANTIC CITY State lawmakers on Wednesday heard from advocates, community leaders and exp
We are not going to allow (landlords and building managers) to push you around, 2nd Ward Councilwoman LaToya Dunston told nearly 50 residents during a meeting in January. You have rights, and we want you to be empowered.
At-large Councilman Moisse Delgado said all too often, landlords and operators of subsidized and low-income housing act as though residents are less than, because of the assistance they receive.
Dunston and Delgado said they will continue to hold meetings and put pressure on those responsible until conditions improve.
We are hoping for remedies, Delgado said at one of the public meetings. We dont want anyone to be displaced.
But fear of retribution stops many residents from being vocal or filing complaints.
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A lot of people are scared, so they dont come forward, said one woman, whom The Press of Atlantic City chose not to identify, at a housing meeting Thursday night at the All Wars Memorial Building.
Sandra Robinson, a resident of the Shore Park Hi Rise on Virginia Avenue, spoke at a recent state Assembly Housing Committee hearing at Stockton University, where she told lawmakers that tenants need help because when they attempt to bring concerns about poor living conditions to their landlords, they are targeted for harassment and eviction. She said when issues with insects and pests or questions about unannounced changes to monthly rent are broached, tenants face retaliation. Since so many of them cannot afford to legally defend themselves, they are often forced from their homes.
All I want is to live in conditions that are feasible and are humane, Robinson said. And yet, when I ask questions about living in these conditions where Im at, Im being (labeled) as a threat.
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Atlantic City renters want 'humane' living conditions, turn to officials for help - Press of Atlantic City