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.
SUMMARY OF TALK
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: tonynovak.com