On this morning after the Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival I took time to reflect on the experience; the first virtual film festival I’ve attended. The festival is normally held in the spring but this year was delayed due to the pandemic shutdown that rocked life in Philadelphia.
Overall First, I note that the festival has been a powerful force in shaping my thinking and actions surrounding our local environmental issues over the past four years. Crisis response, environmental justice and community engagement are three areas significantly affected by the festival over the past four years. This year’s festival will continue that trend.
I saw fewer films through the online format this year than would have if I took three days away from home to spend at a live festival. Life at home is distracting compared to three days away at a festival.
Eventive.org The online platform sponsored by Eventive.org has a strict framework of when films can be “unlocked” and viewed, and I missed the email announcement on extending the viewing time until this morning when it was too late. I saw the films most closely related to my work but missed out on new ideas that would appear to be unrelated but can often prove to be surprisingly ‘mind expanding’.
Overall, I would say that this particular technology platform did not have the same effect of mimicking a live event compared to some of the live music festival platforms during this pandemic shutdown period. For example, compared to the technology platform of the Philadelphia Folk Festival last month that tried hard to recreate a live attendee experience.
Impact on local environmental issues Since the release of “The Drowning of Money Island” documentary book last November (2019), I see increased interest in a local film by filmmakers. I don’t have any specific information on progress or projects. I’ve been working on a collection of notes titled “After the Drowning” but haven’t made a deal to work with any publisher or producer.
The festival films generally highlighted that the pandemic shutdown has been a step backwards for environmental causes. Out local issues reflect the same trend.
The Delaware watershed has been featured in each year of the festival. I hope that continues.
Lead Sponsor Role I don’t see that the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University on-screen discussions added any value to the program compared to the live discussion programs we’ve had in past years. I’d like to see the discussion in a different interactive format. That should be easy in a ‘Zoom world’.
Finally, without any pocket full of business cards as I usually have on the Monday morning after the film festival, I will need to create an outreach and follow-up plan from scratch. I took a page of notes and have already looked up a handful of people. But it will be different without the lobby connections made in past years.
Baysave works in small communities where one person or entity typically serves multiple roles. Conflicts of interest are commonplace in this type of environment. For example, one person or business could possibly act as an investor, adviser, business owner and public policy maker in the same project.
We require that parties to an agreement disclose conflicts of interest as soon as they are recognized.
We recommend that business plans recognize and address actual and potential conflicts of interest.
We recommend that parties to an agreement adopt a conflict of interest policy that is at least as strong as ours.
Over our lifetime dietary advice has changed substantially in response to accumulated information. In a sense, it’s amazing how slow we are to learn about such an obvious relationship between the body and health. The latest accumulated recommendations are compiled in a federal report issued this summer. The full report is available at https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/2020-advisory-committee-report.
The report gives significant attention to the role of seafood in the diet and this blog post summarizes the findings and recommendations. As background and introduction, it may be helpful to emphasize that most research, discussion and publication of dietary impact of seafood over the past decade or more has focused on two primary issues: 1) the positive cognitive/neurological development impact of omega-3 fatty acids, and 2) the negative effects of toxins from human pollution referred to as heavy metals ling-lived organic compounds and that are absorbed in fish tissue and then ingested by humans who eat fish. Both are significant concern for seafood harvested locally in the Delaware Bay.
The latest report confirms that the scientific literature supports the health benefits of seafood consumption alone or as part of an overall dietary pattern across life stages. However, concern remains over ingestion of toxins contained in seafood. Earlier reports concluded that the health benefits from consuming seafood outweigh the risks associated with potential toxins, including exposure to methylmercury and persistent organic pollutants.
In the latest federal dietary recommendations significant attention is given to the relationship between seafood consumption at various life stages and the health risks associated with coronary vascular disease and cognitive/neurological development. The conclusion of the federal report is that there is insufficient evidence to establish the relationships – either positive or negative – with seafood overall. Specifically, “no conclusion regarding the relationship between seafood consumption during childhood and adolescence and academic performance, ADD or ADHD, anxiety and depression, and ASD could be drawn due to an inadequate number of studies and variation in outcome assessment and child age”. (Emphasis added)
The report does conclude that “Intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA from food sources such as seafood and algae, lowers blood triglycerides, and in adults, is associated with lower risk of CVD”. CVD is the abbreviation used in the report for cardio-vascular disease. In other words, the report confirms what we knew about omega-3s.
The report’s overall conclusion on seafood: “Choices of fish and seafood with emphasis on species higher in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and with low methylmercury and are advised, following Federal and local fish and seafood advisories”. The emphasis on local fish advisories is important; that’s been the focus of most of my reading and commentary over the years. I also want to emphasize two things:
Our primary local Delaware Bay seafood products – oysters and crabs – are not associated with the seafood products in the category of higher risk of toxins and are associated with the positive health benefits of seafood.
The three species harvested locally that are associated with higher risk of toxins – striped bass, bluefish and perch – do have dietary consumption recommendations and the risk can be reduced through cooking procedures. Specifically, the recommendation is to avoid cooking or ingesting the dark tissue areas.
There’s a concept among environmentalists described as “leave a soft footprint”. When we interact with nature we always affect it. The simple concept here is that it is better to minimize the human impact.
Here in Money Island we have strived for decades to build bigger, stronger and heavier to achieve sustainability. That hasn’t worked out well. Nature always proved more powerful.
Now the approach is “soft footprint”. Mobile tools and machinery. RVs, campers, and tents instead of buildings. Floating movable structures. Temporarily moored boats instead of hard docks. Boats on trailers instead of always remaining in the water. Lightweight, portable and replaceable.
The transition is already underway and may take years to complete the transformation. But the end result will be a more gentle relationship between humans and nature.
I spoke with the mayor when he called this week during storm cleanup and while I’m glad to hear from him, I was concerned with the amount of misinformation in the conversation. Today I followed up with this note:
“It was good to hear from you last week and I know you have your hands full lately after this recent storm. I’m glad to hear that there are still possibilities open for the township to be involved in redevelopment at Money Island. I am pleased to work with you on plans for Money Island but am concerned that you have received some misinformation on a number of issues listed below:
LEGAL STATUS First, the state dropped all complaints against me and Baysave on June 24, 2020. I then paid off all the tax liens for the dry lots. That was the plan as proposed more than two years ago when Dr. Mahaney was handling government negotiations for us. So far, so good – that part is working out as planned. Even if nothing else happens, the future of Money Island is financially secure.
LIENS FOR PREVIOUS UNPERMITTED DEVELOPMENT Second, all violations and liens remain on all the affected former marina properties covered under the scope of the township’s ordinance authorizing acquisition. You may recall several months ago that I passed on a request from the Attorney General’s Office that the township acknowledge that fact. You did not respond to that request except to tell me that it must be a “two-way negotiation”. I’m not involved in that negotiation and it does not concern me. Baysave continues to work on addressing these permitting and land use issues for the dry lots only. The cost of compliance exceeds the property value, but I am still willing to raise the funds for this cause. In general, we see a future of undeveloped land that does not require permits or redevelopment.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF FUTURE OWNERS Third, the Attorney General states their intention to resume litigation against the future owners. They refer to the Township and the former owners because the Attorney General apparently sees the lax former permitting enforcement and the Mauros as more directly culpable in the land use and permitting violations that may exist today. That is not my opinion, but rather the opinion of the Attorney General’s office as stated in Superior Court. It is my opinion that the Township did a disservice to itself by passing an ordinance to acquire the former marina properties. That makes you (the Township) a potential target of future state litigation.
MORTGAGE UNENFORCEABLE Fourth, Superior Court has already made a finding or fact that the Mauro’s mortgage is not secured by a note (a debt). That fact was also confirmed by the local attorney, a former marina client, who drafted the deliberately faulty mortgage document. In other words, there is no way that the Mauro heirs can foreclose now; the document was specifically designed by the makers to prevent that. It’s not a matter of getting a better lawyer to represent them as you suggested. Any further attempt at legal action on this previously settled legal matter would be met with my counterclaim for a frivolous action. The point is that you should not waste your time scheming with the Mauros. They will not play any significant role in the future here. If you want to plan for the future of Money Island, then you should be speaking with me.
REMAINING TAX LIENS Fifth, the Mauro heirs would be best advised to focus on the best course of action for the ten remaining tax liens on mostly submerged properties. I’ve offered to pay off the tax liens either now or at a future date even though there is no financial reason to do so. I know that the Attorney General will not sue me again if I continue to work through Baysave for resolution to open issues. The Mauros could foreclose on the liens for ten below-water properties but that would likely net them less than negotiating a settlement to relieve themselves of pending liabilities on the properties.
DREDGING Sixth, our understanding is that it is too late to exert influence on the dredging process in Nantuxent Creek. I agreed to delegate the activism responsibility on that project to the oystermen at least two years ago. I understand that Steve and others negotiated in good faith and worked out the best plan that was available under the circumstances and that the matter is now closed; that dredging materials will not go to Money Island. If that changes, I am open to getting involved in lobbying for a different outcome.
BLUE ACRES Seventh, there is no active negotiation with the state about acquisition of additional properties at Money Island. I last spoke with state Blue Acres officials several years ago. Again, I’m not opposed to it, just saying that the rumor you heard was false.
POSSIBLITY OF NO REDEVELOPMENT Finally, I do not necessarily agree that it is essential that Money Island former marina properties be commercially redeveloped. I believe they can serve as undeveloped space and that is what I see as a practical matter. My current plan is to keep the dry lots for a part-time personal residence. Some of the other private property owners here at Money Island have reached the same conclusion. All of the existing and proposed business plans here do not depend on redevelopment or the issuance of additional government permitting. While I am open to that possibility of redevelopment, it is not a required part of the plan for the future of Money Island properties. I’ve taken a “believe it when I see it” approach toward redevelopment here but am willing to join and financially support a community effort that seems reasonably possible.
I look forward to working with you on the future of Money Island and our township in whatever direction it may evolve. I’m grateful for the dedication and service that you have made to our township. I just hope that by setting the facts straight we can avoid any more missteps from misinformation”.
Edit: Shortly after the publication of this blog post the New Jersey bayshore was struck by tropical storm Isaias in early August 2020 that did more dollar damage than any other storm and wiped out 3 of the remaining 12 homes at Money Island. The storm brought unprecedented waves exceeding ten feet directly on the properties on the western creek bank that caused substantial damage to Baysave managed properties.
Storms are an important part of the New Jersey story, but not something that we’ve talked about much lately. In fact, its been a year since the last edition of “Great Storms of the Jersey Shore” with no need for updates. I recently purchased a read a book specifically about the tidal wave that hit the bayshore region back in 1950. The accounts of our history invariably center around the life-changing effects of storms.
“The reality is, according to numerous scientific studies, these types of storms are already becoming much more frequent and with greater intensity, due to rising global temperatures and climate change, and will continue on this pattern. In fact, one study determined the heaviest 1 percent of rain events in the Northeast region of the United States have increased by 42 percent since the 1950s.” – Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla in a statement following the city’s flooding last month.
In other words, normal weather events and minor storms will cause more damage in the future than in the past. These are not headline events, but powerful subtle forces at work.
This past year has been unusually calm; NJ weather seldom made the news. Unusually powerful weather events have not affected too many of us lately. This can lull us into a sense of complacency. But east coast shore towns are still facing more frequent flooding and other storm effects will return for the rest of us.
Here in our town of Money Island on the Delaware Bay, routine tidal flow – and not so much storm effect – is now causing more damage as the moving water carries more energy to higher levels. We will certainly see more destruction of infrastructure ahead as community rebuilding with new wet-flood-proof technologies does not keep pace with ongoing erosion.
May 2020 was the warmest month of May on record 1 with global temperature records going back to 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Of the 140 years of records, all ten of the warmest Mays have been in recent years. While it didn’t feel especially warm locally, most of unseasonably warm atmosphere and water this year was felt in Asia.
Locally here on both sides of the Delaware Bay coastline it felt like a cold, wet and windy month. We were wearing winter coats outside into the beginning of the 4th week of May. Other signs in nature, like annual crab migration, wild and agricultural plant germination and marsh grass growth, indicated a delayed or slower month of May than we’ve seen in other recent years.
1 Actually May 2020 is reported tied with May 2016 as the warmest months of May on record
A huge thanks to Seth Goldstein, Michele Harris and Joel Payton for generously offering their time yesterday for an impromptu master mind brainstorming session. Also thanks to the always amazing Ashley Owens standing in as coordinator for Powermatch to pull it together. We met on Zoom for an hour Friday morning to bounce around ideas for the re-opening of Baysave’s activities at Money Island, NJ (moneyislandmarina.com) in rural Cumberland County NJ. These ‘pop-up’ strategy sessions are just one of the many benefits of being a PowerMatch member. Obviously recent events have rocked our world but we see opportunities as well as challenges ahead.
Seth Goldstein run’s Goldstein Media (https://goldsteinmedia.com/), an influential small business in Doylestown Pennsylvania (my old hometown). His down-to-earth practical approach to marketing has always impressed me. His advice yesterday was spot-on.
Michele Harris runs Harris Investigations (https://www.harrisinvestigations.net/). Her ambition and managerial accomplishments are renowned. At this point, I’m just waiting for her firm to announce worldwide expansion. Michele has always been a great resource for no-nonsense advice.
Joel Payton is an insurance broker (https://paytonagency.com/) who developed a niche in regional farms and rural businesses and is now building a practice in Medicare related protection. He’s helped me many times; and god knows that my insurance issues are never easy!
Ashley Owens runs Ashley Assists (https://www.ashleyassists.com/). She’s the very definition of effectiveness and executive skill. (So much so that she sometimes intimidates me).
Powermatch (https://www.powermatchonline.com/) is originally Philadelphia area based organization that is now growing nationally. Powermatch, IMO, is the best in the industry at helping small business people to develop remote relationships. I’ve developed many great relationships through my long term membership. I’m proud to call it’s founder Sara Rosenberg a long time friend and adviser and wish her the best during this sudden unplanned period of homeschooling.
Just two more mentions: Norristown super-attorney Jim Monaghan (https://norristownbankruptcylawyers.com/) and painter extraordinaire Dan Collins (http://dancollinspainting.com/), both supporters of the marina community, spoke with me at length in telephone conversations this past week offering their help and advice. I’m grateful to all these successful small business owners.
Our local property values at the bayshore peaked in 2006 and took a big dive since then. (The chart produced by Zillow below doesn’t even show the largest declines before 2011). I’ve worked on a few projects for investors over the years and each is shocked to see the data.
Taking all the available long term data as a whole, it is clear that each event we’ve lived through: the financial crisis, changing government procedures, Sandy and buyouts have all had a clearly identifiable impact on property values here. The more recent sale data swings are interesting and not so easily explained.
The scariest part now is that over 40% of homes have negative equity (compared to 8% nationally), and that’s only on bank loan balances, not unrecorded environmental compliance liabilities that are HUGE in many waterfront properties.
Yet the many challenges bring just as many opportunities. I’ve found that some people are eager to tackle it and others just don’t want to talk about it and prefer to just deny what’s going on. But the smarter investors extrapolate the data to forecast other impact.