Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this page.
A1 A1
breaking featured
'We have to do better': Atlantic City has 'Black Lives Matter' painted on MLK Blvd.

ATLANTIC CITY — Kenneth Lazan Faulk struggled to find the words to describe his day.

The 38-year-old owner of Lazan Design has been a resort resident all his life, and his family has been there for generations.

His mother grew up unable to use the same facilities as her white neighbors and watched the civil rights movement unfold with her own eyes.

On Friday, Faulk led a group of volunteers in the painting of “Black Lives Matter” along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The words were displayed in front of the city’s Civil Rights Garden and spanned the entire block between Atlantic and Pacific avenues.

“For her to be able to come see that her son did this, and she grew up in the same place where she wasn’t allowed to go to certain bathrooms with other people ... it’s hard not to get emotional.”

The painting and subsequent speeches marked the second of two demonstrations that took place here Friday. Before painting, local activist Steve Young held an hourlong protest outside Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.

Young spoke about the Black Men United Coalition, a group he to which he belongs, and how its members created a “Black Agenda” and have proposed a plan to uplift the Black community in the resort through education and health.

“We want to say this has been a hard road for the last 90 days,” Young said, a reference to the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody in May. “We felt that — and we felt it all the way here in Atlantic City.”

“We were saying to the world, ‘If Black lives mattered to you, why would you want to open a city and let the beach be open in which the majority of Black people live here?’” Young said. “You’re saying Black lives don’t matter — it speaks for itself.”

The group wanted “to shut Atlantic City down”

“Until we think about the solution and how we’re going to open it together,” Young said. “Because, after all, we are the majority here, and we’ve been oppressed the most.”

Levar Davis, 21, of Atlantic City, spoke about the need for peace, saying that “silence is beyond betrayal; it’s disgusting.”

“I will be damned if I let an officer that’s sworn his oath to protect me take my life because you feel threatened,” he said. “I will be damned if I sit here and let another fallen soldier be forgotten. There’s so many names that go beyond the list that it makes my skin crawl … It makes me want to get violent. But I know for a fact that’s not the answer.”

Davis, along with Young, were among the seven arrested during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in the resort on the Fourth of July.

Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after an officer put him in a prohibited chokehold during his arrest in Staten Island, New York, said that officers who commit crimes should be held accountable, just like any other citizen, she said.

“From that day on, it took a piece of my life with him,” she said. “As they say, they shoot our children, they choke our children, they beat our children and then they go on with their lives. But that shouldn’t be.”

Young originally wanted to paint “BLM” on the Boardwalk, but doing so would have violated local laws. For most of the week, it seemed Young would again be at odds with the city, until he accepted Mayor Marty Small Sr.’s invitation Thursday to take part in the painting on MLK Boulevard. Many of the Boardwalk protesters joined, too.

Lazan was first contacted by Young about the Boardwalk painting, but the plan was scratched when he realized the legal hurdles that could come with such a decision. Then, Small reached out and asked if he’d like to do the one on MLK Boulevard. Faulk accepted and got in touch with Dennis Badger, owner of Badger Painting, in search of volunteers from another local, Black-owned business.

“We’ve been looking at the drone shots, (and) it looks amazing,” Badger said. “Wait until you guys get to see the drone shots.”

Shortly after 2:30, Small said a few words before introducing Carr to speak again. Then, after acknowledging members of the community with plaques for their involvement in Friday’s demonstration, Small read a proclamation designating September as “Black Lives Matter Month” in the city beginning next year. It will be a month of celebration and education throughout the community.

“We can’t say ‘Black Lives Matter’ and then turn around and kill each other,” Small said after the speech. “That has to stop, the senseless violence, and my administration is taking a proactive approach to solve the violence in this community as we move forward.”

The volunteer painters intentionally left three letters unfinished so members of the community could pitch in after the speeches and finish it together. By then, Faulk had changed into a custom baseball jersey with the letters “ACNJ” on the front. To him, it has two meanings: Atlantic City, New Jersey and “Another City Needing Justice,” a phrase he uses often in his art.

“It warms my heart,” he said as he watched everyone painting. “It’s just more than I could have imagined. It’s community at its finest.”

GALLERY: Residents plaint Black Lives Matter mural on MLK Blvd in Atlantic City

breaking top story
Restaurant staff, customers excited as indoor dining resumes

Skip Speckmann, from Mount Laurel, Burlington County, ate his breakfast at the counter at Silver Coin Diner in Hammonton on Friday morning.

He stopped in on his way to play golf in Egg Harbor Township.

“I couldn’t wait,” he said of dining indoors. “I usually stop at a takeout place for breakfast, like McDonald’s or something. But today I said, ‘Let me treat myself. I can go inside and sit at the counter, first time in like six months.’”

After being closed since March for indoor dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants were finally allowed to reopen their dining rooms Friday at 25% capacity. Movie theaters were also given the green light from Gov. Phil Murphy to open on Friday at 25% capacity.

While an abundance of safety guidelines must be followed, most eateries were excited to welcome back customers to dine inside.

“It’s still not enough, but we’re excited to get at least a start,” said Chris Tzaferos, general manager at Silver Coin.

He added having people inside is very weird, given that dining rooms have been closed for almost six months. At 25% capacity, the diner can allow about 42 people inside, compared to about 160 patrons it can accommodate at 100%. It will keep outdoor dining until it gets too cold.

“We have to,” Tzaferos said. “Nobody would survive with just 25%.”

Annie Iuliucci, a server at Silver Coin, worked behind the counter Friday and waited on Speckmann.

“Come back and see us, we’ll be inside!” she said with enthusiasm.

In speaking with customers ahead of Friday, she said half were excited to dine indoors, the other half feel more comfortable staying outside.

“It’s strange,” she said of working inside. “We haven’t had it in a while. It’s odd, but we’ll pick it back up right away.”

Tzaferos said that it was too early to tell how the restaurant would fare offering both indoor and outdoor seating.

Silver Coin’s regular customers have been coming to some extent and dining outside. On Friday, some decided to eat in.

Some of those regulars who are at Silver Coin every morning include Joseph Campanella, George Dimatteo and another who claimed to be such a staple at the place that he has a mononym, saying, “I only go by Bullfrog.”

“This shouldn’t have happened,” Campanella, 75, of Hammonton, said of restaurants closing. “This should have been open a long time ago.”

He added that dining indoors isn’t fully back to normal.

“When you’re sitting here there’s X’s on tables all over the place,” he said, pointing out the tables that can’t be used. “It’s normal when every table is open (for seating).”

Roe Stephens, general manager of Phoenix Diner in Absecon, said indoor dining has been a long time coming.

“We’ve waited a long time for this,” she said. “It is really weird. We’ve been outside for so long we’re used to it now. The customers are used to it, so it’s weird for them to come back inside. Even they’re saying it’s strange.”

At 25% capacity, the diner can accommodate 80 patrons inside.

While customers were happy to dine indoors, she said some people refused to come in out of fear. For those customers, the diner will continue to offer outdoor seating.

Karl and Judy Nuebler, from Galloway, have been coming to Phoenix Diner for about 20 years. Before the pandemic, they came in to dine almost every Sunday, but only ate at the diner three times since it opened for outdoor dining.

They were excited to finally dine indoors.

“That’s why we’re here the first day,” Karl said with a laugh. “Outside is OK, but it’s just not the same.”

And while they’re happy to be back inside, Judy said it still felt odd.

“It’s very odd, the whole thing,” she said. “The whole experience is odd. You have to wear your mask coming in and then when you leave. That’s just the way it is.

“But it feels good,” she added about dining indoors. “It’s been a long time, since March, but who’s counting.”

GALLERY: Indoor dining resumes in New Jersey

GALLERY: Indoor dining resumes in New Jersey

breaking featured
Gov. Murphy bans smoking indoors at casinos

Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday ordered a ban on all smoking inside casinos, the same day it was to have been allowed to resume after more than five months.

“I am announcing we will take administrative action to prohibit smoking in indoor casinos. We have looked closely at the science and agree with experts that have concluded that allowing smoking is too large a risk to take,” Murphy said at his press conference.

Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, both D-Atlantic, welcomed the announcement.

“As we work to combat the spread of a virus that’s easily transmissible through the air, temporarily banning smoking in casinos is the best decision for the safety of workers and patrons alike,” the two said in a written statement.

“Prohibiting smoking will make it easier for casinos to filter clean air, which experts agree is key to slowing the virus’s spread in indoor spaces,” the legislators said.

Murphy on Tuesday issued an executive order that allowed the resumption of indoor dining as well as beverage services on casino floors and the resumption of smoking indoors at places it was already allowed. The decision on the smoking raised health concerns from employees and guests.

“I felt safe at first coming back with all the (security measures in place),” said a casino dealer who spoke on condition of anonymity because casino employees are not authorized to speak directly to the media. “Now, how is letting indoor smoking safe? Not only to us, but our families and our nonsmoking guests. ... I feel like no one cares about us.”

Per COVID-19 regulations before Murphy’s announcement Friday, guests had to wear a mask when not smoking or drinking on the casino floor and had to remain seated while doing so.

Now the masks can only come off for drinking on the casino floor.

By local ordinance, casinos are allowed to have smoking on 25% of the gaming floor at both table games and slot machines.

A 2008 Atlantic City visitor profile survey (no such study has been conducted since) performed by Spectrum Gaming Group for the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority found that 23% of casino customers smoke. As of 2018, the CDC estimated that less than 14% of Americans smoke.

Atlantic City casino dining guide, everything you need to know before Labor Day

Atlantic City casino dining guide, everything you need to know for Labor Day

FILE — In this Aug. 25, 2020, file photo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during his 2021 budget address at SHI Stadium at Rutgers University in Piscataway, NJ. On Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, the Justice Department sent letters to the governors of New Jersey and three other Democratic-led states, seeking data on whether they violated federal law by ordering public nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals, actions that have been criticized for potentially fueling the spread of the virus. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray, File)

Florida woman accused of 2018 murder of mother in Belleplain to be released from jail pretrial

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — A Florida woman accused of killing her mother two years ago to get a $90,000 inheritance has been ordered released from jail before trial.

Josephine A. Scheid, 37, of Sarasota, charged with murder in the 2018 death of Gabrielle Michaelis, 59, of Belleplain in Dennis Township, appeared virtually Friday morning before Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Bernard E. Delury.

During the hearing, her attorneys, John Zarych and Brenden Shur, successfully argued for her release pretrial, citing changes in evidence, including Michaelis’ cause of death.

“Detention is not appropriate here,” Zarych said. “ ... She’s been held in jail on a murder charge on a murder that she did not commit.”

Scheid is also charged with endangering, theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, hindering and obstruction. The Dec. 3 indictment on those charges still stands.

Michaelis, who was under hospice care for terminal cancer in October 2018, died of a lethal mix of prescription medications, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Zarych argued Michaelis died of cancer, citing a forensic pathologist who reviewed the case.

Evidence presented to the court during previous hearings showed that Scheid had researched on a computer about how to carry out a death by application of certain medications.

“It has now come to the attention of the parties that at least the computer that was analyzed — that evidence did not predate the death of the decedent, but rather was obtained or accessed after the death of the decedent,” Delury said while delivering his decision. “It’s an important point.”

In addition, there are concerns about the chain of custody of the blood drawn during the investigation.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Saverio Carroccia asked that Scheid remained detained, but also gave a list of recommended conditions if Delury decided to release her.

“In the grand scheme of the entire case, where we sit right now, it is a sliver of proof that the state no longer has,” he said. “Specifically, it is the drug research obtained from the forensic analysis of Miss Scheid’s computer post-dates the victim’s death rather than predates.”

As conditions of her release, Scheid must be fitted with an electronic monitoring device, which may not be available until Wednesday.

She must stay in Atlantic or Cape May county unless she is permitted to travel by the court, abide by a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew, is prohibited from contact with victims or witnesses in the case, and must report to court staff telephonically once every other week and in person once every other week, among other conditions.

Scheid was extradited from Florida in November.

Through a yearlong investigation, officials found Scheid, who had the power of attorney for her mother, contacted an attorney in the weeks before Michaelis died to find out how she could get a $90,000 inheritance from her grandmother’s estate, which was controlled by Michaelis, according to the affidavit.

Scheid “also sent a text message stating that she did not get paid until her mother dies and that maybe she should place a pillow over the victim’s face to suffocate her,” the document states.

She also told a friend she was thinking about over-medicating Michaelis, records show.

Scheid’s next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 18. She is currently held in the Cape May County jail.

GALLERY: A tour of the new Cape May County Jail

GALLERY: A tour of the new Cape May County Jail