October 25,2014 - The Atlantic City Press is publishing a series of short stories submitted by readers describing their Sandy experience. Money Island's Tony Novak submitted a story that was revised by Press editors. This is the version that will appear in the newspaper:
"Money Island on the Delaware Bay shore is one of the state’s smallest and most remote communities. Full-time population is about 20, mostly those who make their living off the bay. Money Island is South Jersey’s second-most important commercial port with millions of dollars of oysters and crabs and other seafood products landed here annually. Its only retail business is Money Island Marina.
I knew that Money Island had been hit hard when we crossed paths with two watermen at Newport post office three days after the storm. They were able to drive to the island at low tide in an elevated 4WD truck just before officials closed the road. It would be three more days before I was allowed in to see the devastation. These guys, tough as nails from years of earning a living on the bay, had tears in their eyes and could barely speak the words, “It’s all gone.” I’ve never seen a waterman cry before or since.
The community pulled together and worked 14+ hour days, 7 days a week, without a break for more than a year to rebuild the docks and marina from the ground up. We worked through Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and every other day in 2013. We still have much work ahead.
Visitors today stop by to say “The place looks so great. I guess you weren’t affected much by Sandy.” Customers are slowly returning and the marina might manage a very modest profit in 2014 (if we ignore the ongoing costs of rebuilding).
All our insurance claims were denied. Every application for aid or loan was declined: FEMA, SBA, NJEDA and SeaGrant all proved worthless. Meanwhile, state government stepped up enforcement of new rules.
Two years after Sandy we know it’s not nature but government that we need to fear. We have confidence that our community can pull together to overcome nature’s worst, but it is even scarier knowing that our fate is now in government hands."
March 13, 2014 - South Jersey regional reporter Jason Nark and a photographer spent much of the day Monday (3/9) interviewing and filming for a series of stories about Money Island. Nark interviewed Downe Township mayor Bob Campbell on Friday and spoke with a handful of Money Island residents on Monday. Money Island accountant/activist Tony Novak had to cut end his interview shortly after noon because he had another meeting scheduled to a financing proposal for MI with Philadelphia area investors. Unplanned comments came from Bivalve Packing owner Steve Fleetwood who happened to stop by near the end of the interviews. Fleetwood says that Money Island is the second most important commercial port in southern New Jersey, second only to Cape May. Money Island is the state-designated oyster landing port for the millions of dollars of oysters harvested in the Delaware Bay. Yet none of this perceived importance translates to property value or tax revenue or local commerce. The news story ran on the cover of the Philadelphia Daily News on Wednesday March 12 and online at Philly.com. While most residents appreciate attention brought to our plight, at least one resident expressed concern over a published photograph.
February 11, 2014 - The listing of late Audrey Weber's cabin for sale sparked discussion among visitors to the neighborhood last week. The cabin is listed for sale close to the assessed price at $89,000. Two other habitable residential properties are available at $35,000 and similar cabins on the same block of Bayview Road have been unable to obtain any purchase offer after several years on the market. Part of the reason for the depressed prices is the difficult positions assumed by government with regard to rebuild permits. The general assumption is that a purchaser must install a well and a new septic. Permits for either may be difficult to obtain, according to two local contractors familiar with the property.
January 25, 2014 - The drunk driving conviction of Roger Mauro Jr., formerly of Money Island, remains under appeal in NJ Superior Court according to a January 22, 2014 letter from the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office. Mauro was indicted in Cumberland County for vehicular assault striking neighbor Tony Novak in a November 2006 incident but later convicted only of lesser offenses related to drunk driving. Mauro claims that his right to a speedy trial for drunk driving and seven other offenses was violated when his case was sent to trial following a voluntary but lengthy pre-trial intervention program for the assault charge. After he failed to meet the requirements of the intervention program, the assault charge was dismissed apparently due to some error. Eight other charges were remanded back to municipal court. At this time Mauro remains out of jail and apparently still holds a NJ drivers license despite three prior substance abuse convictions and his admission in court-documents that he has abused substances for virtually all of his adult life even after multiple attempts at rehabilitation. Mauro's attorney Vincent D'Elia argued in a 2013 court hearing that his client did not even remember being served by the Sherriff's office and signing important legal documents last year. Mauro's former spouse, when she still lived at Money Island, said "If he's behind the wheel, he's drunk driving". Novak's family and other local residents hope that by keeping public attention on this case they may help trigger some change in the way that drunk driving cases are handled for people with a history of multiple DUI incidents but no actual court convictions. The Novak family asks local residents to contact your county and state officials as well as NJ MADD, to let them know that manipulation of the legal system that allows DUI offenders to escape prosecution and remain on the roads will not be tolerated.
January 12, 2014 - NJ.com published a series of videos by Andre Malok titled "The Forgotten Shore". This video covers the town of Fortescue New Jersey and it's struggles over the past few years. Fortescue is a significantly larger fishing village about five miles to the south of us. Fortescue is the largest of the five communities that make up Downe Township, while Money Island is the smallest. Fortescue historically had a stronger recreational fishing industry and at one time even had a vibrant tourism economy and a beautiful boardwalk but that is all but gone. Now the businesses have dwindled to three charter boats and one restaurant. Unlike our tiny community of Money Island (5 miles to the north), Fortescue does not have a well-developed commercial fishing business and is therefore even more vulnerable that we are to the impact of sea level rise and climate change. The statements made by the residents in the video reflecting a "no retreat" mentality are typical but are not likely sustainable unless the state and federal government decides to invest heavily to preserve this bay shore community. My prediction (and IMO shared by the most informed policymakers) is that over the next couple of decades we will choose to preserve some of our bay shore communities by raising roadways and rebuilding infrastructure but that we can’t possibly preserve all of our shoreline communities. While it is clear that some communities like Money Island will likely be preserved for their commercial fishery value, other communities like nearby Bay Point will not. The future of Fortescue is still a large question.
January 8, 2013 - Today the Money Island Marina submitted an application to the New Jersey Green Acres program to sell its land back to the state. Other residents have also submitted similar applications. The 25 lots owned by the marina plus the 5 individual homeowners means that the state now has written offers to sell from a total of 30 lots on Money Island. This is about half of the total 'dry' land on Money Island.
December 8, 2012 - Money Island Marina reopened under new management, led by a team that includes local watermen and fishing enthusiasts. Bruce will continue as marina manager. Ron and his son Matt took over maintenance and repair responsibilities. The Pews will supply bait. Tristan will lead customer service and Tony handles management duties. A local couple will help with retail tackle and fishing supplies. The company is still looking for two associates to handle the soft-shell crab operation when the facility rebuild is complete later in 2013. The group held an informal open house today to meet with old and new customers. The unusually warm December open house finished with a barbecue at the bait shack. Members of the management team and a few customers noticed that the renewed energy and enthusiasm signaled a positive change for the marina and the year ahead.
October 28, 2012 - The morning full moon high tide inundated Money Island Road and Bayview Avenue to depths up to about 16 inches. The roads were impassible by car for about 3 hours but could be travelled with an elevated truck.
October 20, 2012 - A copy of the 2011 summary report of Money Island code violations was released to residents. Underwater septic systems appear to be at the top of the list of problem issues.
July 20, 2012 - The Department of Justice announced the convictions of multiple defendants on felony charges related to fishing operations that took more oysters from the Delaware Bay than allowed. The convictions followed an early morning raid on September 9 last year at Money Island with multiple arrests and the seizures of boats involved in the crimes.
Employees of Reeves Brothers and Shellrock LLC, all of Port Norris, N.J., were convicted following a 7-week trial in Camden NJ on charges including creating false records, trafficking in illegally possessed oysters, obstructing the Food and Drug Administration's regulation of public health and safety, and conspiring to commit those crimes and obstruct justice, federal authorities said.
Also convicted were officials from Harbor House Seafood in Seaford, Del. Prosecutors say Reeves Brothers over-harvested its quota between 2004 and 2009 and Harbor House helped hide the catches. Federal authorities say the extra oysters had a value of more than $600,000.
The oyster population is dangerously depleted in the Delaware Bay with less than 1% of the population of live oysters than once grew in the bay. Besides being a food source, oysters are one of two species that filter excess nutrient runoff from the water that results in depleted oxygen and "dead zones" in a growing portion of waters. Both the state and federal government consider oyster population management to be a high priority issue.
All of the companies continue to operate at Money Island.
December 13, 2011 - Over assessments continue to contribute to the local community's depressed property values. Current assessments are estimated to run 300% to 600% higher than actual property values, meaning that Money Island property owners pay a significantly larger portion of the township's taxes than if the properties were properly assessed. A typical property is assessed at $110,000, for example, has an actual current market value of about $22,000. No solution is in sight. (more...)