ATLANTIC CITY – The bright yellow Black Lives Matter road mural painted in September on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard created such confusion for drivers who couldn’t tell where travel lanes were located, police had to close the block between Atlantic and Pacific avenues to traffic.

City Council voted 5-3 Wednesday night to spend more than $36,000 to remove the surface of the block and repave it, and some council members expressed frustration that taxpayer dollars were so misspent. Councilmembers Latoya Dunston, Jeffree Fauntleroy II and Moisse “Mo” Delgado voted against the measure.

“We’re going to remove Black Lives Matter, but we shouldn’t have done it to begin with,” said Dunston. “We’re going to waste taxpayer dollars because we didn’t know the laws.”

Acting police Chief James Sarkos said the street was painted in such a way that it violated state Department of Transportation regulations.

“Right after the street was painted we had a lot of confusion with vehicles,” Sarkos said, referring to drivers who didn’t know where to drive or which travel direction was allowed. “It was painted the same color as the yellow lines.”

Kaleem Shabazz, 3rd Ward councilman and NAACP chapter president, said the city hopes to reopen the street before the summer. The street is in Shabazz’s ward.

“We have to get that street open because the summer season is coming,” Shabazz said. “Many of my constituents have raised concerns about the street being open.”

Shabazz said the city had no choice but to go out to bid for the project.

“We wish we could have done it in house,” he said. “We don’t have another choice.”

Shabazz said he would be in favor of moving the mural to another spot.

Mayor Marty Small Sr. said after the paint was done, the Police Department knew they had an issue.

“We tried to work through the issue with the Department of Transportation. … The street was too big to make a one-way,” Small said. “It was an oversight on our part, and when we realized it, we fixed it. The words ‘Black Lives Matter’ will still be on the street.”

City Public Works Director Paul Jerkins could not provide information on how much money was spent to create the road mural but said much of the paint was donated.

Jerkins said the type of paint used cannot be painted over, because the existing paint will bleed through anything used to cover it.

“It has to be completely taken up, repaved and directional arrows added to it,” Jerkins said. The work will be similar to a regular repaving job, he said.

“We have got to do something better,” Dunston said, “especially at a time like this when we are dealing with the pandemic crisis. It’s ridiculous.”

Councilman Mo Delgado said the community is supportive of the message, so perhaps a mural can be created elsewhere in a way that does not violate DOT regulations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Michelle Brunetti
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