This report for donors explains why we paused the Philadelphia area oyster shell recycling program until we recover from 2020-2021 COVID shutdown period losses. We lost substantial revenue and also essential equipment and infrastructure required for the recycling and other envirnmental restoration programs.
I am posting this reluctantly because of the danger of racial stereotyping. But we are dumbfounded to explain why more than 4 out of 5 cars of visitors to Money Island this summer season (excluding residents, workers and government vehicles) are Asians from Pennsylvania. We’ve been tracking the state source of traffic based on video license plate data at the suggestion of a regional business development group since the spring. I prepare compilations of random sample traffic data in an attempt to quantify the total traffic and the trends. The original idea was that we might use increased traffic data to request additional state funding. However, the project seems to be back-firing on us as we’ve uncovered so much illegal or controversial use. I am on site daily and do interact with or at least see most visitors. A significant portion of these visitors seem to not understand English language. This complicates the issue. The transformation of visitor demographics and behavior came suddenly and unexpectedly.
While most visitors are good guests, some cause problems either intentionally or unintentionally. At a basic level, the state has not responded to requests to supervise their adjacent property, install trash containers or portable potties. The township and county have not responded to requests to replace road signs (like no parking on bridges) town down in severe weather. We’ve offered funding for replacement signs but still no response from local government. I’ve been physically assaulted by troublemakers twice in the past year here. One of those instances was when I was breaking up a house robbery. I’ve also reached a point of frustration with those who apparently do not speak or read English, thereby providing an excuse to ignore my verbal requests (like do not park blocking construction equipment), ignore the private property signs at the commercial spaces, and ignore a range of other ordinances – not just seafood harvest rules. The original community concerns focused on harvesting of illegal fish, crabs and oysters. But it’s gone far beyond that Fish and Wildlife issue. Apparently the troublemakers also have no reservation about dumping their trash and pooping in the open on the beach. I am not exaggerating when I say that it seems impossible for such a small number of people to dump so much fast food trash. In former years the primary trash on our rural beaches was beer cans an bottles apparently from local visitors. Now the trash is almost all fast food containers brought in be the long distance visitors. Police are not useful in this situation; that’s a whole different issue. Again, it’s only a minority of the visitors who cause problems.
This year I tried a program to allow guests who identify themselves and ask for permission to use my property. But today I lost my temper with a group who has strewn fast food litter all over the property, helped themselves to my fishing and crabbing equipment and pretended to not understand what I was saying (although later one did communicate in English). It’s disturbing. This weekend the problems worsened. Yesterday one of the Asian visitors tried to con me in a crab business deal in a text message conversation. In another unrelated incident Saturday, I reported an attempted financial crime (apparently some type of bank check fraud) to state police and they declined to get involved. I didn’t fall for either of the con game attempts but it was disturbing that this is happening when it never happened before. Overall, the strategy of being a good host for visitors seems to be failing.
I know that the respectful Asian guests are embarrassed by the few bad apples and they are aware of the risks they face in racial stereotyping. Two of the Asian guests are now friends who have been coming here for a long time. I plan to ask their advice this week since they seem to have insight into some of the possibly cultural issues. But at this point I’m leaning toward cutting off all property access except to owners, their guests, and Baysave members. Any other suggestions are welcome but we will not tolerate any discussion that is based on racial profiling or an “us vs. them” mentality.
UPDATE 7/21/2021: In the days following this original post I sought additional comment and advice from multiple sources. One Asian professional friend whose opinion I respect and value in past instances confirmed that much of what I report is a cultural issue and he clarifies this is different from a racial issue. This adviser plus a couple other Asian friends say that disrespect for the environment is actually a cultural thing in Asian countries and that it carries over to some of our country’s Asian people. While almost all of my cultural peers would be ashamed to dump trash on the roadside, apparently some in this culture are not. An example came up in conversation: overharvesting of small crabs was told to be commonplace in Asia (but I did not attempt to verify this outside of our conversation). Another Asian professional friend shows his personal embarrassment with the issue but offers no solutions except the phrase “a few bad apples”. We are all clear to point out that he problem is not limited to Asian visitors. It just happens that hey make up the majority of visitors this year. The primary local Division of Fish and Wildlife officer is clearly aware of the issue and we apparently share similar reservations. I exchanged text messages with our mayor but have not spoken yet. A county official offered empathy but no suggestions. Yesterday my one neighbor and I picked up a tremendous amount of trash from the one block in front of our houses. It filled up two construction bags; more than we’ve ever seen here before. The majority of the trash is fast food containers: Wawa, Burger King, Taco Bell, Dunkin Donuts, etc. My neighbor complained to me that his family is disgusted by the smell of human urine and feces on what used to be a pristine beach. Then, last evening Lance and I took a walk down Bayview Road, something that we usually do each day but stopped when this recent heat wave came. The amount of trash on the roadside and beach is more than I have ever seen before. There is additional beach erosion from vehicles getting stuck in the sand at two places. It really made me sad and angry that the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection purchased this beach and then did not take care of it and allowed our formerly beautiful pristine neighborhood to deteriorate to such a wrecked conditions. Late last night the security system showed that there was an additional trespasser on the boat yard who bypassed security barriers. I have had time to inspect for signs of theft, trash or damage yet. I’ve not made any decision on a course of action yet but am inclined to revoke all free access to our properties; limiting only to owners, members and their guests. That won’t help address the problem of those who trespass or those who trash the adjacent state properties, so we’ve made no decisions yet. I simply do not have the money required for upgraded live security (as we had for so many years when Bruce was alive). There is a possibility of increased automated security: drones, floodlights, sirens, etc. But that would be more expensive than Baysave can handle right now. We discussed the possibility of volunteers watching the properties. That seems unlikely from a practical perspective. We will continue to look for additional options.
On this day in 2011 – exactly one decade ago – the Novak family was on a spring break family vacation together in the Caribbean Islands. That was the last time we went away together like this. Shortly after returning home from this trip I agreed to have Baysave take the lead role in the financial and legal operation of the marina and the related research projects at Money Island. A former investor/owner was discouraged by inability to work with state government and the marina operator lacked the general capacity to deal with government issues. I had a strong track record in those days of bringing government and private sector investors together on environmental issues in earlier efforts in Ocean City. I thought I could do the same here. That’s why I was originally brought to Money Island by an investor years earlier in the 1990s. But my stabilization and recovery tactics drew the wrath of state and local governments that, so far, accrued hundreds of thousands of dollars legal expenses prosecuting me and required me to waste money on expensive defensive responses to counter them. I’ve lost count of the number of complaints and court cases I’ve had to defend that have little or nothing to do with me and everything to do with the history of Money Island. My family and community understands this as a significant career mistake, a point well documented in the recent book “The Drowning of Money Island”. I lost more than a million dollars defending Money Island over time – essentially all of my net worth. While our lawyers, consultants and engineers have repeatedly said that the government made mistakes and violated the law, there was little I could do against the unlimited power and open checkbook that paid for the high powered government lawyers in the Attorney General’s Office and local prosecutors. The government denied all requests for alternate dispute resolution, including a redevelopment plan widely endorsed throughout the region. An appeal by our well-respected environmental consultant directly to the governor’s office on Memorial Day weekend 2018 also failed.
I am grateful to senators Booker and Menendez, former Congressman LoBiondo, former state Senator VanDrew, the NJCPA, NJ Farm Bureau, the League of Municipalities, and many others who lobbied for a positive outcome here. But we were not effective. During that time I was unsuccessful in obtaining any of the required waterfront development permits that we applied for on key infrastructure projects. The plain truth is that we accomplished very little toward sustainability. It was an expensive failed effort. I never learned the names of the individuals who blocked my permit applications, sometimes in the 11th hour, that prevented us from making forward progress toward environmental law compliance and sustainability. I understood that former NJDEP Commissioner Martin had my photos* on his desk when our mayor arrived for a briefing and misunderstood their implication, complicating the discussion. My complaint over 2014 NJDEP interference in a scientist’s report were squashed. Former NJDEP Commissioner McCabe made at least one unannounced visit but did not stop to speak with me (the only person besides the DFW officer who was here that day). But she halted her department’s legal aggressions against the bayshore community that were based on decades-old permit issues. I wonder if my efforts to push our story to the attention of those handling the state’s environmental justice initiative had any effect. Newly appointed Commissioner LaTourette seems to have a more balanced and holistic approach but I remain concerned over the one-sided inputs in Trenton that do not expose the reality of what is really happening here. As far as I know, none of the post-Sandy reports of bad behavior within the department were properly addressed.
Yesterday my only remaining Money Island neighbor discussed that they are celebrating their success in an eight year effort to obtain a waterfront development construction permit to make their home sustainable for the decades ahead. They asked for my help in bridging the current labor shortage that is holding up work on issued building permits here. I expect to speak with the contractor today to discuss possibilities. (Affordable on-site worker housing is one of the key issues I’ve fought for unsuccessfully. Using a transient work force is still not effective for specific types of work in this remote location). This multi-generational family has substantial financial resources and effective personal relationships within state government. Many of the people who worked on their permit application project were the same as those who worked on mine. But this family built personal relationships over the years with specific key state regulators based on personal interests they have in common that have nothing to do with permits. The patriarch built a strong personal bond over time with one regulator who was a key prosecution witness in the false prosecution against me. That’s not the way government is supposed to work, but it did work. It was a smart and effective strategy.
So where are we now? I feel confident that after the state lost it’s expensive multi-year legal case against me last year – solely for not having permits that they failed to issue decades ago and they decline to issue now – their appetite to waste even more money in court on these old issues is faded. Maybe they are more open-minded to my mantra that we should focus on the future and not the past. Our sole problem now is a lack of money to rebuild sustainably. Much of that money was wasted in useless legal maneuvers. Meanwhile, my own operating strategy has shifted to actions that do not require additional government permits. I doubt there will be more litigation over old missing permits. I also doubt that the future will be anything like the past. The businesses that used to operate here – a marina, restaurant, boat rental, etc. will not return under my power due to the depleted financial resources. I endorsed the $30 million sustainable multi-use redevelopment plan led by the township. But that could be another decade in planning. I’ve recently stepped up my legal efforts to hold the state officials responsible for their past errors and crimes. Many of these cases are years old and so the outcome is uncertain. Years of new personal legal battles to recover from these losses is ahead but I’m certain that the government will eventually do the right thing (as we say, after they try everything else first). It’s unfortunate, but I see no other path forward. I will remain focused on probability of success when evaluating any future actions.
Economic momentum has turned and Money Island will clearly be a valuable part of New Jersey aquaculture industry’s future. My best strategy for me is to continue to tell the story – old and new – and continue to build support for a sustainable future here.
*I’ve compiled a collection of thousands of photos of Money Island that may be used in a future publication. I am grateful to former residents and supporters who continue to send photos to document our history.
Commercial crabbing is out third largest industry at Money Island with two to five commercial boats operating from here in parts of the season. Recreational crabbing is also of interest and this post is written at a very basic level for those who might not have a background in it.
This post is not meant to cover any of the regulatory issues. Please read the state official web site for that. This post only covers the practical or operational aspects that pertain to our local scene. Also please consider local laws like no parking or crabbing from roads or bridges.
First, the SEASON: recreational crabbing starts slowly for us. Crabs come up the bay in the spring and do not populate our backwaters in larger numbers until June. You can try earlier but do not have high expectations. The season increases each month until it peaks in September and dwindles away around the third week of October.
Second, the BAIT: Chicken or bunker are most common. We have plenty of crab bait frozen bunker available to anyone who asks to crab here.
Third, the TRAPS, LOCATION and TECHNIQUE: the type of traps that work best, the locations that work and the method depends on the tide cycle, the season and other factors. It makes more sense, in our opinion, to decide on a crabbing plan when you arrive at the dock. Some techniques require a license, others do not. Please make that distinction. We keep a variety of different type of crab traps, nets, boats, rafts, etc. at Money Island to accommodate a wide range of crabbing situations. All of this is available to borrow while you are here. If Tony is on site, he is pleased to share what’s been working best for recent visitors.
If you want to purchase your own equipment, we highly recommend two great local businesses. The links are to their Facebook pages becasue that’s how we usually reach them:
American Blue Claw (Dave)
In general, crabbing is better by boat that from shore here. We usually have boats that you can take out yourself or boats that can be chartered with a captain (and maybe crew). If you don’t have an operator’s license we can offer a training and single day license.
Fourth, we have shedding tanks (for allowing your shedders to become soft shell crabs), cooking tanks, picnic area, massive amounts of crab boil seasoning, ice, coolers, etc. that may be useful to handle your catch.
Last, in all cases, please follow the Money Island guest policy carefully so make it the best experience for all. All of our activities are supported by donations, so please make a generous contribution to keep these expensive services going. It is common practice to share extra crabs and bait. Of course that varies day to day, even hour to hour. There are no fees for anything related to crabbing at Money Island and we do not buy/sell/barter or trade any New Jersey fishery product.
At an early age, even before I turned 18, I recognized that the fear of liability often prevented good capable people from taking actions that would make the world a better place. I often noticed this theme coming up in family conversations with my future in-laws in discussions about their farm and factory family business. I vowed that I would not be caught in this trap. Yet, at that age I had no idea how that might be possible.
I had several eye-opening experiences with insurance companies that led to a conclusion that buying a policy means little more than paying for the right to be in a lawsuit demanding coverage in the event of a loss. This eventually led to my acceptance of a national board position on the American Policyholder Association. I have little faith in insurance companies to cover anything outside of a routine claim. Some of my organizations and activities are insured but many are not. I think it makes little difference.
I had the misfortune of stumbling into instances of government fraud and it seemed that one instance just led to another. Twice I accidently uncovered systematic fraud by large international companies. I’ve been threatened every possible way, sued more times than I can count, received death threats and survived an attempted ‘hit’.
Later, I read the biography of a New York City activist lawyer who intentionally made himself “judgement proof” by disposing of his material assets and working for a company – an entity that he did not own – that billed for most of his outspoken advocacy services. It set in motion a plan that I used over several decades. In my business and personal life, I often accept legal responsibility without the rights of ownership while acting as the authorized person for a business, individual or community project. Government and private parties often challenge this stance. I’ve been sued more times than anyone I know. I’ve been threatened by Fortune 500 companies to rural town politicians. I’ve received death threats and survived one assassination attempt. Now, decades later, I still often accept risks that most people would avoid.
I recognize that risk is the price we pay for opportunity. I recognize that the ability to accept risk is a personal freedom. The final chapter of the book “The Drowning of Money Island” covers my reflection of the measures I’ve taken to adapt to risks here. I refer to the lyric “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”. It’s absolutely true. I am free to promote environmental justice causes and talk about the past misdeeds of government only becasue I have nothing to lose.
The latest example of my willingness to accept risk for the sake of a larger positive action is the Money Island Marina Community guest policy. After many years and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent trying, I accept the fact that there is no financially viable way for members of the public to enjoy the resources of the bayshore under a commercial business arrangement. Most of our local marinas, including ours at Money Island, have gone out of business. We see that the future of the bayshore either belongs to the wealthy or the government. Ordinary citizens will not be able to afford to live, work and play here – at least not in the ways we have come to think of it in the past. For example, the cost of government permits to operate any aspect of a recreational marina – a dock, a fuel tank, a bait shop, for example – far exceeds the revenue that can be generated by that activity in our geographic region. That may not change for decades and so my effort to ‘be the change’ that the world needs is the focus of my life work now. As a result of this, the marina properties were donated to Baysave and became my private residence after the businesses closed. Yet I am still compelled as a steward of these resources to make them available to others. The new personal guest policy reflects these collective thoughts on government compliance, risk, reward and personal freedom to do what is possible and what is right.
It’s one small step, but a step in the right direction.
There’s a fruit store on our street
It’s run by a Greek.
And he keeps good things to eat
But you should hear him speak!
When you ask him anything, he never answers no.
He just yeses you to death, and as he takes your dough
He tells you
Yes, we have no bananas
We have-a no bananas today.
We’ve string beans, and onions
Cabbages, and scallions,
And all sorts of fruit and say
We have an old fashioned tomato
A Long Island potato
But yes, we have no bananas.
We have no bananas today.
I spent about an hour this morning on the web site of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority looking for applicable post-pandemic recovery resources (https://assistance.business.nj.gov/) that might apply to our rural Cumberland County businesses and, in particular, learning about the programs of the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act (https://www.njeda.com/economicrecoveryact/#Programs). TheNJEDA offers an “Eligibility Wizard” tool that is meant to help with this task. This led to the generation of a list of possible resources that warranted additional investigation but none of them turned out to be useful.
The businesses I work with, including my own businesses, are impatiently waiting out this period until after we have vaccinations and are able to safely resume operations. It makes sense to begin to address the labor and financial shortages that we anticipate when that happens.
This is what I found:
Many of the “resource” pages listed by the state have been removed after the programs were closed. None of the programs suggested by the NJEDA “Eligibility Wizard” were open or available. My conclusions are:
1) that the economic assistance programs meant to get us through the pandemic shutdown period are now exhausted,
2) the programs under the new state economic package aren’t likely to help rural areas like ours
3) that nothing is yet available for post-pandemic rebuilding and recovery that applies to us. In other words, it appears that we are in a dead space without plans in place to rebuild after the economy safely reopens.
I will confirm my conclusions with the Cumberland County economic development officer to see if I might be missing anything.
This post is adapted from healthebiker.com. When we’re faced with differing opinions, we feel like others are challenging our identity. Money Island has long been a focal point in the differences between individuals and government and differences between users of different backgrounds and interests. Yet we’ve also made significant progress in addressing these differences and look forward to more of this ahead. So first off, do what you can to make sure your conversational partner feels respected.
Tip 1: Listen to Understand, Not Respond
Most of the time when we argue, we listen to respond. If you’re planning your response while the other person talks, you’re listening to respond.
Instead, let your conversational partner finish their point. Then repeat their ideas to show you’re listening. Most likely, this action will catch them off guard. When people feel listened to and respected, they’re more likely to reciprocate.
Tip 2: Do an Activity
It’s easier to have hard conversations if there’s something we can do to distract ourselves. So when you want to talk politics, find something else to do too. Go Fishing. Go to a bar and play pool. Enjoy the health benefits of a boat ride. The point is, find a way to stay busy. Let the conversation have natural lulls and pauses. Incorporating an activity makes this easier.
Tip 3: Start With the Similarities Between Us
There are a lot of similarities between us, whether democrats and republicans. Here are a few of them. At the very least, there are some political topics where we already share similar footing.
Both democrats and republicans are worried about our deteriorating fisheries. They’re also worried about the rising cost of enjoying the bay. Try starting your conversation with questions on common interests like “What do you think would be the best way to restore our fish stocks?” Then hear your conversational partner out. Pick some points you agree on, and share your thoughts.
By starting on similar ground, you’re more likely to have a friendly, open conversation.
Tip 4: Don’t Try to Change Minds, But Promote Discussion
Of course, you want to get someone else to share your beliefs. That’s human nature. But remember they share the same desire. When you talk politics, don’t try to change their opinion.
Try to understand where they’re coming from. This will make you more informed about your own opinions, and it will open more space where we can share our ideas.
Tip 5: Planning A Meetup
Once public gathering restrictions are lifted and people feel safe, Money Island has a long history of hosting community get togethers. We plan to make the most of it.
Late in July (2020), U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Steny H. Hoyer, all Democrats serving in Maryland, announced almost $300,000 in federal funding for the University of Maryland for research into a new processing technology that could enhance the competitiveness of the domestic blue crab industry. The funding comes from the 2020 Saltonstall-Kennedy Competitive Grants Program through the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
The lawmakers’ joint press release said “Few things are as iconic as the Chesapeake Bay blue crab, and its harvest is a cornerstone of Maryland’s local economies. This grant will expand the competitiveness of domestically produced crab meat in the face of intense foreign competition, and will help unlock new markets for an important Maryland industry”.
In recent years the U.S. blue claw crab industry has faced increasing competition from imported products, especially Venezuelan fresh pre-cooked crab, which has a longer shelf life but doesn’t taste as good as our local blue claw crab. But this has still resulted in a major loss of market share for the regional seafood industry. This new high-pressure processing technology will extend shelf life of domestic crab products, while improving food safety and expanding market strategies among the seafood industry.
The lawmakers previously advocated for U.S. fisheries in their April letter to the Department of Commerce, urging coordination with states to quickly allocate assistance and inclusion of Maryland’s value-added seafood processors in relief aid set aside in the CARES Act for fisheries.
Seperately, Baysave advocates for additional research in aquaculture cultivation and enhancement of natural populations of blue claw crabs in the Delaware Bay.
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.
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.
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 all actual and potential conflicts of interest.
We recommend that all parties to an agreement adopt a conflict of interest policy that is at least as strong as ours.
A copy of Baysave’s conflict of interest agreement used by directors is available on request.