Demolitions and construction side by side?

This article published last fall in North hints at the expansion of the oyster industry here at Money Island. Since then, we’ve seen the greatest expansion of oyster industry infrastructure investment here at Money Island ever with an elevated roadway and dock construction.

Indications are this is only the beginning of the expansion. Today it occured to me that we are likely to see some congestion of heavy equipment this coming year or two as demolition equipment arrives to tear down residential houses while planned expansion continues at the residential docks.

I do not have specific information on the scope or schedule of any project. I’m simply noting the possibility of contrasting images of demolition at some properties with simultaneous construction at other sites. It raises more questions.…/once-nearly-exti…/1459742002/…

Dealing with the accelerating pace of change

The world is changing at an increasingly rapid pace; a pace of change unlike anything our brains have processed before.

I notice that my friends and family who most highly value traditions, memories, law, the Constitution, etc. have the most trouble dealing with the mental process of accelerating change. I’m beginning to think that the fundamental divisions between people are those who are able to embrace change (progressives) and those who cling to the past (conservatives).

I’m not commenting on the value or merits of either mindset here, but rather just commenting on the mental ability to deal with the change happening around us. It is evident that some people are experiencing stress as the pace of change accelerates.

In my case, I find that a culture of “question everything” and large amount of deliberate ongoing education help ease the stress and conflicts related to change.

State government has been tough on South Jersey boardwalks

Late last year the NJ state government shut down the boardwalks at Money Island. This came as a shock to the local residents and commercial fishermen who relied on the boardwalk. Ours aren’t anything elaborate, just about 600 feet of elevated walkways between roadway and water. We already had financial support from private and nonprofit organizations to make the necessary repairs. The problem was that we did not have the money for permits that cost more than the repairs. The permits should have been issued decades earlier. The state admits that it knew the boardwalk lacked permits but permitted its use since the early 1970s. Baysave, a New Jersey charity that owns the local boardwalk, raised donations for repairs but did not know about the additional hidden costs of government permit fees.

Ironically, this past year the state spent more in legal costs fighting the boardwalk than it would have cost to pay for the permits. It was clear that the people in Trenton have no willingness to work with our local community for common sense solutions.

Now the boardwalk repair problem comes up again. The governor denied funding for necessary boardwalk repairs in Wildwood. It reminds me of the struggles we faced with the state in Ocean City when I was a member of the Chamber of Commerce there. The same battles persist.

Boardwalks are critical to our communities and a “one size fits all” budgeting and regulatory process is clearly failing us here in South Jersey.

Several people in local government joined Baysave in attempted communications with the Governor’s office. We tried multiple times by phone, email, online form and certified letter with no response to any of them. We met with State Senator Andrzejczak last fall and he said that he had little power to fight these bad actors within the NJDEP and Attorney General’s Office in Trenton.

Tony Novak is the speaker at Tri County Rotary, Vineland NJ, Tuesday August 20, 2019


Tony Novak is an activist at the Delaware Bay facing the challenges of bringing citizens, government, nonprofits together to agree that the old methods are not working and change in thinking is required to stabilize and restore the enormous resources of the Delaware Bay. His work in New Jersey focuses on Money Island in rural Cumberland County, the state’s #2 most productive seafood landing port. His story and the soon to be released in the book “The Drowning of Money Island” by New York publisher Beacon House. Novak is a sole practitioner small business CPA promoting sustainable business development for construction industry, farming and fisheries.


Thank you to Rotarians…

In 15 minutes total, I’d like to touch on three parts of this environmental justice story:
1) Where we’ve been and how I got to this position – (the unique combination of personal and circumstances that come together to create any good story. Mention Forrest Gump and the October book release).
2) Where we are now with the New Jersey bayshore – (it’s a story that even local community leaders are often not well informed, the reason Jerry invited me).
3) Where we are headed in the future and how we will get there.

– I was a farm boy; my first business was raising and selling vegetables; studied agricultural science and biochemistry, then business. Now I realize that combination of scientific curiosity and practical knowledge is rare and useful.
– Worked for a Wall Street investment firm; left to advocate for small businesses. Developed an early million dollar online business model. We served working class people no matter their national origin or citizenship.
– Worked primarily for construction contractors; was president of the local NARI contractor’s association whose members prosecuted Trump for fraud in the 1990s.
– Success with international wrestling up to age 40 came at a price; one clear impact of traumatic brain injury is lack of inhibition. The most recent injury was a deliberate planned attack (hit attempt) in 2006.
– It all ties into activism in small business; health, environmental and social issues here in South Jersey for almost 30 years. Somewhere in my 30s I traded a Porsche for a Civic and focused on activities like gardening as the key to my future. Started caring for Money Island properties in the early 90s; engaged for a community financial assessment in 2005.
– By chance, stumbled into the worst of crime and corruption. Was the primary whistleblower against a Fortune 500 internet company in 2003 when I caught them cheating on contracts. Avoided involvement in oyster industry prosecutions but dragged into crab industry mess. Gave statements on government corruption to federal and state investigators before and after Sandy. (mention the problem with giving witness statements)

– Right now relatively few mostly unnamed individuals within the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection control the region’s strategic retreat response plan. Whole towns are gone. You should be concerned! Money Island was the first, to my knowledge, with the financial backing to offer an alternative. The book covers the story of bad actors, mismanagement, corruption and prosecution in that path.
– Baysave formed in 2010 as a 501(c )(3) to pull together a strong team of advocates in industry, nonprofit and government, a written plan, and politically supportable action steps. The core focus was to address the needs of all stakeholders. The plan was on track until it was politically derailed by NJDEP in May 2019.
– NJ governments have sued me, my businesses and individual family members based on murky or manufactured stories in an effort to gain control over my actions to stabilize and restore the bayshore.
– I do comment on this ongoing litigation.

A soft footprint approach engages three strategies.
– Be open and patient – new ideas, new technology, new offers (mention the current offer). This is a long term problem that predates us and will outlive all of us.
– Be communicative privately but silent publicly – the hardest part; I was brought up in an ‘open books’ environment, i.e. lessons learned by aging hippies
– Be independent – do not expect support from government or big fisheries, emphasize use that does not require additional government permits (expand on examples)

We must change the thinking of our relationship with the bayshore. Change does not come easy.

I no longer hold the young activist’s belief that I will be able to change the world. I no longer have a high level of confidence that reasonable people will come together to form reasonable solutions. I doubt that those in power will agree on a basis of fact (as defined by statistical significance analytics applied to a common body of shared data) with the rest of us observing these phenomena.  (These are tough times for scientists).

But I will remain committed to be a strong and clear voice in the direction we must take. 
I welcome follow-up discussion and feedback. The easiest way to reach me is my personal web site that is the same as my name:

Goodbye JD

We said goodbye to JD tonight. Over the past ten years our cocker spaniel soaked up more love in our house than I knew was possible. Every day had to start with a full body massage and belly rub in bed. Early evenings and Sunday mornings he was riveted by his favorite animal TV shows. He enjoyed his last wild summer at the bay cabin but was showing signs of slowing down since spring. His last walk down Bayview Road on Friday morning was incredibly slow. He loved Money Island.

He came to us ten years ago through a rescue shelter. He was a foodie, and the extra weight contributed to his decline. This past weekend it became clear that he was suffering from a long term congestive heart condition or other internal fluid, making it tough to breathe.

I am also reminded of the other dogs of years ago who loved their life here at Money Island: Duke who ruled the island for so many years, Mollie the young terrier, Cricket Lor’s collie and Harley our loved white highland terrier. Mollie is the only one buried here, that I know, after she was tragically hit by an oyster truck years ago.

Tension over the Downe docks

It’s no secret that the marinas and supporting businesses all along the NJ bayshore are struggling. The classic predictable human response to environmental pressures is increased tension among members of the community. That’s not unique to us. It happens everywhere. But the environmental pressure is certainly increasing and tensions are rising. The watermen here, pushed out of their docks this year, are furious that another marina doesn’t face the same costs as they do here. The fact is that I echoed their complaints without knowing anything about the actual costs of either marina.

By coincidence, I talked with two other nearby recreational marina owners earlier in the day on other unrelated business. I feel for them. They are really working hard to make a sustainable future. I try to be supportive. I remind myself that I have a lousy track record of predicting the future so maybe my negative forecasts for the industry will turn out dead wrong. But to me, it doesn’t look good for recreational fishing as a business. The only bright spot I see is the local commercial fishing and aquaculture businesses.

Tonight a guy I really don’t know from Fortescue who is known by some of the other marina guys here, was outraged by something I said in the newspaper and put in writing about the tension here. He seemed ready to make a scene to call me out for not knowing the facts. He was right, I don’t know that facts. It’s not my intent to know the facts. We have a biographer for that and it’s just not my area of interest. My role, particularly right here, is to record the human struggles and response.

I hadn’t actually put together the face of this guy, a township committeeman, with the story until that moment that he was the guy that our watermen complain about. I should know the local committeemen but I don’t. My first thought was if he is upset by something this minor like a newspaper article and a blog post, then we could have an explosion when the book comes out. As far as I know, the publisher goes into much greater detail on the Fortescue marina finances and mismanagement. But other than these casual comments, I really don’t know much about the topic. I only know what the guys talk about, and lately that’s mostly complaints.

The mayor chimed in too with complaints. That’s nothing new and he is more tactful. The mayor knows that reporters deliberately play us against each other for the purpose of getting their story. They get statements from me and a statement from him deliberately because they know that we have conflicting opinions. That’s been going on for two decades. Normally a third community member, Meghan, who is better respected than either of us guys, offers a balanced middle-of-the-road opinion to wrap up the story.

The committeeman probably doesn’t know that I’ve been sued close to a dozen times for millions of dollars over my unpopular opinions. He probably doesn’t know that I have judgements from those lawsuits far more than I’ll ever earn or be worth, and that none of that intimidates me from continuing to express an opinion. He might not even know that I’ve received death threats and was almost killed in a shocking plot to “take me out” by a local politician in his same position years ago. He did not know about the organizational structure of Money Island or the history of Baysave. Again, it’s not my job to get into that. I just know that my opinions are not popular with local government. It’s always been that way and nobody expects that to change. Nevertheless, my opinions will always be easy to read.

Fortescue primarily serves recreational fishing while Money Island is moving toward serving large commercial operations. The shift is causing tensions among the former recreational boaters and small commercial boats that used to dock here.
Fortescue primarily serves recreational fishing while Money Island (shown) is moving toward serving large commercial aquaculture operations that will emerge over the next decades. The shift is causing tensions among the former recreational boaters and small commercial boats that used to dock here.

The new search for spiritual inspiration by spreading the story

I’ve been talking and writing about a lot of “new” stuff lately: new ideas, new strategies, new paradigms to stabilize and restore our bayshore. It’s clear that “same old” won’t work and we need to explore these new concepts for learning to occur that will break the cycle of failed past policies. This Saturday morning the first thing that caught my attention was this email excerpt from Kristin Lin, Editor of the On Being Project talking about new spiritual outlook:

“In 2005, Rachel Naomi Remen said something that may sound a little more ominous now:

“The world is made up of stories; it’s not made up of facts.”

A decade later, Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s book Strangers in Their Own Land, about her time spent living in Louisiana among Tea Party conservatives, offered a different articulation of this with the concept of the “deep story.” “You take facts out of the deep story. You take moral precepts out of the deep story,” she explained in her On Being interview. “It’s what feels true.” Hochschild says we all have deep stories, no matter our politics and no matter the facts.

While the truth of these observations has certainly revealed itself in contemporary American political life, we also need to examine the role that story plays in our personal lives. “Sometimes we need a story more than food in order to live,” Remen says. Stories touch “something that is human in us and is probably unchanging.” They can offer structure or sense, comfort or hope. They are also how we understand each other across time — what Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie describes, particular to Judaism, as a “relay race” of contemplation and interpretation over thousands of years. So if stories are both the bedrock to humanity and part of why we feel so divided right now, where does that leave us?

Maybe the way forward is in editing and reexamining what’s in front of us. “Not everything that we’ve inherited is worthy of being passed on, like trauma and memories and values that have evolved,” Lau-Lavie says. “We need to read some of those sacred words as metaphor, as bygone models, as invitations for creativity.”

For Lau-Lavie, this call to remix and reinterpret has led to initiatives like Lab/Shul, a pop-up synagogue with a tagline that includes the language “artist-driven, everybody-friendly, God-optional,” and Storahtelling, which combines sacred storytelling with contemporary theater to make Jewish tradition more accessible to younger generations.

And perhaps there’s solace in the idea that, as Remen says, “no one’s story is ever finished.” The passing down of stories across generations allows for constant reinvention, both on the page and off. Or, as Lau-Lavie says of Lab/Shul, “We’re finding the in-between. It’s how to be cheeky without being cheesy, and how to be profound.”

It’s clear that I need a spiritual refresher to keep moving forward in a ‘post-drowning’ world. I’m not the only one. It’s easy to see the effects of decades of environmental injustice in our community: depression, substance abuse, mental illness, engrained poverty. The evil, the incompetence and the corruption continue in wealthier government employees. The financial and psychological gap between these government and industry people and the people who pay their lifestyle grows wider each year. We can’t change that. What I can do is isolate and protect myself from this oppression to a limited degree. I can expand my circle of positive people and spread a positive story. We need a story of inspiration.

This week I heard from two people, one retired and one still in government, that the division of opinion within NJDEP is widening. That’s unconfirmed hearsay. Yet I have a new letter on the stationary of the NJ Attorney General, addressed to NJ Superior Court and signed by a state attorney stating that there office has no plans of further action here in the legal assault at Money Island after devastating our community and our local businesses. They are content to extort, pillage and plunder us for decades, sue us into extinction, then leave us to bleed to death on the battlefield. The final blow was when I heard a report, also unconfirmed, that government will step up its financial assault on the few remaining local marinas. Years ago the state took over the financial land use burdens of one marina (Fortescue) but refused to do it for others (Money Island). Now I’ve heard that local taxpayers will take over the financial burdens of operating the Fortescue Marina. The mayor has publicly favored the Fortescue Marina for financial support over the few other local marinas. We’ve known that for years and there may be legitimate (even if unfair) strategic reasons for that. Yet one of the Committee members has direct financial interests in the Fortescue Marina . Yesterday a neighbor called to ask if that member has a legal obligation to abstain from approving the new financial deal that benefits him directly. I replied that the problem is far worse than that; no procedural objection is going to stop the steamrolling of local government over its citizens.

There is simply no way that a private enterprise can compete with the unlimited financial resources of government. Our local marinas lose money, for sure, that is no secret. But ill-advised government strategies, corruption and mismanagement is making this problem much worse.

Yesterday I read a text message from a stranger; apparently I did not see it for several weeks after it was sent; talking about the need for a community group to support decency in our own local community best known for its lack of it. I know good people are out there. I just need to find a way to connect in this crazy world.

So this is where I am. Let’s figure out where to go from here.

New thinking required to cope with bayshore transition

The traditional type of thinking that brought us to this point of social, environmental and economic collapse at the bayshore will not serve to bring us out of it. Radically different strategies and leadership are needed for the coming decades.

While most of the country is in a period of economic growth, the NJ bayshore has been in decline for decades. Real estate values have dropped since a peak in 2006, some appraisals showing as much as a 95% decline. Some neighborhoods are not served by internet, public water or sanitation wastewater systems. Education and income levels trail behind other regions. Life expectancy is lower; substance abuse is higher; and access to basic services like medical care and banking is lacking within a half hour drive. Despite private sector efforts to develop businesses, state regulators impede most job growth.

Tony Novak CPA is available to speak with community and business groups on strategies for stabilization and recovery from our long period of decline. Novak is the primary subject of the soon-to-be-released book “The Drowning of Money Island” that shows how mismanagement of our bayshore resources led to the demolition of local communities. The documentary by New York nonprofit publisher Beacon House follows the path of Novak and others in the years after Sandy as they battled “the disaster after the disaster”. He makes a compelling argument that it is not natural conditions and disasters that are killing our communities but government mismanagement, poorly conceived strategies, corruption and sometimes even more shocking criminal behavior that compound the problem. Novak talks about the impact of the coming wave of strategic retreat in South Jersey in terms of environmental justice and the disproportionate burden on poor communities. Novak talks about new strategies being tested by his nonprofit organization Baysave that include ways to reduce the detrimental role of government in efforts to save our bayshore resources.