Tony’s personal letter of support and small financial contribution for Dr. Jeff Van Drew’s campaign.
Tony’s personal letter of support and small financial contribution for Dr. Jeff Van Drew’s campaign.
If you landed on this page because you offered to contact a government official on our behalf, THANK YOU! Most government officials are not aware of the actions on NJDEP here at Money Island New Jersey. Please let them know that it is wrong for the State of New Jersey to sue the individuals and businesses at Money Island New Jersey simply because they are unhappy with the pace of post-Sandy recovery.
The following eight New Jersey state officials control much of the future of Money Island and the bayshore recovery issues. They are directly responsible for the decision of the State to sue Baysave, its officers and affiliates. Our three federal official are also included only to the extent that they have offered statements of support but they are not empowered to take direct action to stop the state’s lawsuit against us.
Web form (although his office has never responded to any of my requests): https://www.nj.gov/governor/contact/all/
Phone: (609) 292-6000
Mail: Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
My message: “Please support me and other Sandy victims here at Money Island being sued by the NJ Attorney General simply because some officials in government are unhappy with the slow pace of post-Sandy financial recovery and permitting. We are working as hard as we can to rebuild our lives after losing our homes and businesses and receiving no help from government in the recovery process. It is WRONG for the state to be using the massive power of the AG against poor rural citizens suffering in a depressed post-Sandy community making it even more difficult to rebuild our lives. Pease put an end to the legal prosecution while we continue to work on our financial recovery and land use permitting issues”.
Same other contact information as the Governor
Mail: Office of The Attorney General
RJ Hughes Justice Complex
25 Market Street, Box 080
Trenton, NJ 08625-0080
Phone: (609) 465-0700
Mail: School House Office Park
211 S. Main St. Suite 104.
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Same mail address and phone as Van Drew
Same mail address and phone as Van Drew
Mail: 401 E. State St.
7th Floor, East Wing
P.O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402
Phone: (609) 292-2885
Fax: (609) 292-7695
Mail: One Gateway Center
Newark, NJ 07102
Phone: (202) 224-3224 or 973-639-8700
Email of helpful Aid: Zach_McCue@booker.senate.gov
Mail: One Gateway Center, Suite 1100
Newark, New Jersey 07102
Tim Hillman Aid Direct: 973-645-6640
Mail: 5914 Main Street Suite 103
Mays Landing, NJ 08330-1746
Phone: (202) 225-6572 or 609- 625-5008
I had an interesting meeting with a well-connected civil engineer on site here at Money Island yesterday afternoon. Hours earlier, I had a long telephone conversation with the Money Island project manager for The Nature Conservancy. Both conversations added valuable insights.
The TNC official echoed an opinion that I hear often from environmentalists: although they personally support Money Island’s sustainability plan, they believe that certain people in mid-level state management at NJDEP do not. Some state employees would prefer that people abandon Money Island to nature. This is commonly referred to in environmental discussions as a “retreat strategy”. The retreat strategy is certainly worth full consideration. Eventually, with three feet of sea level rise, our town and millions of acres of shoreline will be gone. My response is always the same two points:
The engineer had more pragmatic comments:
(An electronic version of this message was submitted through the nj.gov web site on July 20, 2018).
July 18. 2018
Governor Phil Murphy
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Dear Governor Murphy:
According to the most recent census data for the year 2016, the median household income in Cumberland County, NJ declined to $49,537. That compares to over $76,000 average in New Jersey where the average household income is growing at a healthy 5.5% rate overall. Our local property values continue to fall year after year, and are now less than half of the state average. A 2016 study by Rutgers showed that the poorest and most rural areas of New Jersey get the least support from state government. I didn’t need the study to know that; we are still waiting for telephone lines, internet cables, public sewer, waste management solutions, water, police, etc. Yes, we are hurting and the economic gap continues to widen.
Many of us have not yet recovered from the “disaster after the disaster” of Superstorm Sandy where not only did state government exclude our county from essential recovery assistance, but then came in with increased regulation, enforcement and prosecutions of citizens that made our existing struggles much worse. The combination of incompetence and corruption that we saw join forces in post-Sandy governance devastated many of my neighbors. Many of my neighbors have given up and moved away.
Yet we continue to build toward a better future. This week I met with the president of a local federal savings bank on behalf of a small business client. I mentioned that our local government is concerned that there is no bank in our township and this is hurting our chances at economic recovery. His response was clear: there isn’t be a bank here because “there isn’t any money”. It’s true. We don’t have much money. Yet our people are extraordinarily resourceful. We’ve been described as a “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps crowd” that can overcome any challenge except the ongoing oppressive force of government corruption and shortsightedness.
Yesterday I struggled to find the money for a small business state permit application fee. The permit application fee is greater than the annual gross revenue of the project requiring the permit! While the fee would be manageable in other parts of the state, it is an economic deal killer here in rural Cumberland County. During my 20+ years of working here I have come to conclude that our largest problems are excessive taxes and over-regulation. Our property tax rates – measured as a percentage of property value – are perhaps the highest in the country. The percentage of gross revenue our small businesses pay to government is astronomically high. Despite this, we struggle without basic government-supervised services like telephone lines, internet, trash disposal, or public water and sewer. We pay the same but get far less in return. On a daily basis, we suffer the effects of bad public policy and ongoing unreasonable government harassment.
As long as the state government continues to use a “one size fits all” approach and continues to treat us in Cumberland County the same as the rest of the state, we will be locked in this downward spiral. Continuing to use the same failed government tactics will not work! Our county is packed with innovative hard-working citizens who only need the chance to be allowed to crawl from beneath the weight of onerous state government burdens. We can and will rebuild our Cumberland County communities. We simply need to get state government to stop holding us down.
I urge you to immediately empower your administration to fast-track an alternate resolution procedures to allow our citizens to address our struggles with state government in a fair way that considers both the goals of your administration and the reality that is Cumberland County today. Please immediately stop the prosecution of local businesses like our that are trying to cooperate with the state. Please recognize that the overwhelming majority of local government officials and business leaders here are not OK with the state’s current policies toward Cumberland County.
Tony Novak, CPA, MBA, MT
Money Island, New Jersey
Today is the scheduled hearing in New Jersey Superior Court for the state’s motion to show cause in State of New Jersey vs. Novak, et. al. Following is a summary of my defense:
STATE OF NEW JERSERY VS. NOVAK, ET. AL.
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT AGAINST MOTION FOR ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE
by Tony Novak, Controller, Baysave Association
1) This is a case of government behaving badly. The state is asking for a court order after having unilaterally broken two agreements with Novak over the past six years after Novak performed in good faith. Then they denied three separate requests for problem resolution in the past year where all of the parties could have sat down and worked on a solution. The state is not entitled to behave this badly and then come into Superior Court to enlist legal muscle in its actions.
2) This is an unreasonable request. There is a coalition of government agencies, private businesses, nonprofit agencies and industry leaders – more than 20 in all – working on the sustainable and fully compliant redevelopment and compliance of Money Island Marina. Collectively, we have more than 70 active community redevelopment projects under development with more than 30 of them including land use permitting. It is unreasonable to think that any one person or entity can bring the transformation to a sustainable environmental future for this community, let alone develop those plans within a 30-day time frame requested by the state. Novak does not have the legal authority or capability to act unilaterally to take the actions requested.
3) The facts are in dispute. The state’s filed complaint and supporting certifications are so riddled with errors that it is impossible for us to know what the prosecution intends. We need a process – whether ongoing community-based planning, alternate dispute resolution process or discovery in this ongoing legal action – to determine the facts in this matter.
4) The admitted responsible parties are not involved yet. In this same Superior Court, before the same Judge, during questioning under oath, another person testified about her willingness to accept the legal and financial responsibility for the NJDEP violations to these properties. We expect that the responsible parties and local government will step forward but the legal process is expected to take another one to two years. It will likely take even longer for government to act on its already approved resolutions that will address compliance issues.
5) Other parties were not notified. It appears that all pre-hearing notices were sent to Novak’s home address in Money Island New Jersey despite notification that the other parties are not here. Novak is the only resident of the western half of Money Island and there is no indication that any other parties are aware of the State’s legal action. The state is required to make reasonable efforts notify parties before it takes legal action against them.
6) No environmental damages. The prosecution has presented ZERO evidence of any environmental damage or immediate threat to the environment. We have a stellar reputation and track record for best operating practices and environmental test results. What they are saying is that their paperwork trail wasn’t documented for decades, and internal management process has been flawed for many years before any of us were on the scene. A failure on their part does not equate to a crisis on my part. We all agree on the goal of working toward full land use compliance under new regulations that the NJDEP admits are not even promulgated yet. But this ‘crisis action’ and legal threats are not the way to do it.
7) A new master compliance plan of action is already underway. The NJDEP Acting Director of Coastal Land Use Planning has already announced the department’s intention to “work closely with this Money Island project to promulgate new regulations that are effective for the bayshore region of Cumberland County”, per our mayors in the past month. Last week the news was released that our new NJDEP Commissioner’s Office had fast-tracked and approved funding for the #1 environmental entanglement: public sewer systems for the nearby towns. We know that we will be included in the next phase and that all parties are working as quickly as possible. There is no need for this current legal action and, in fact, the legal action is slowing down the progress toward full compliance by causing some key stakeholders to remain uninvolved until after the legal action is resolved.
We have recently crossed the five and a half year mark since superstorm Sandy devastated our community and much of the damage has not yet been repaired. Fraud, mismanagement and red tape within the government systems that administer post-Sandy rebuilding programs are mostly to blame. We have plans and funding ready now but lack government approval to proceed. Many of the local people who initiated the “No retreat – Save the bayshore communities” campaign have sold their properties and moved out over the past year. Those who remain are deeply entrenched in a battle with government to negotiate a plan for recovery and sustainability.
Some of the issues that specifically hamper Money Island, New Jersey recovery are:
Given the history of what we call “the disaster after the disaster” I am not optimistic about any immediate change in government’s role in our future recovery. We will continue to push for our recovery and long term sustainability at a grass roots level for years to come. We are able to rebuild under the various regional and local recovery plans but we need government permission and cooperation to do so. We also need funding for those aspects of the recovery projects that benefit the public interest rather than just private businesses and homeowners. Virtually all government cooperation is still lacking at this point five and a half years after Sandy.
I anticipate at least two more years will be required to settle existing litigation and appeals and then return to the process of rebuilding. The legal battles are a waste of time and money that only enrich the lawyers on both sides but we don’t think that it is likely that government will act responsibly or come to our aid anytime soon.
Baysave was named as a defendant along with its controller Tony Novak in a lawsuit filed May 4, 2018 by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. The lawsuit focuses on properties acquired for stabilization and sustainable aquaculture redevelopment after Superstorm Sandy under a gift/sale to the state. The State does not allege that Baysave, Novak or our associates did anything wrong, but rather that we are the current titleholders of the distressed properties after the state decided that it did not want the properties. The stabilization, recovery, transfer, sustainability planning and compliance phases are taking much longer than expected and the issues are proving more complex than anyone had hoped.
The underlying issue is that the entire Money Island Marina campus, and in fact most of the small rural port community of Money Island, was built more than a half century ago without building permits, water well or septic system permits, land surveys, tideland leases, etc.
Before Superstorm Sandy, we agreed with the state on a solution to these issues. We assumed these properties would be acquired by the state like other local working waterfronts and that would transfer these issues to the state to deal with (as happened with other local marinas like neighboring Fortescue). Our verbal and written communications indicated that the state would acquire these properties at our cost and lease them back to local watermen just like Fortescue State Marina. But in the years since Sandy, none of this has actually happened. The state switched from being a cooperative partner with Baysave in our restoration efforts to being an unreasonable adversary. We don’t know why. We suspect the action is not taken in good faith.
The lawsuit comes down to this: the government has declined at least 15 permit applications, license applications or pre-application inquiries since Sandy and is now suing us because those same permits are not issued. It is, in our opinion, unconscionable for the state to be both the denier of permits based on false assumptions and simultaneously bring charges for failure to have permits that should have been addressed decades ago.
Most significant in this matter is the observation that the NJDEP abandoned its normal problem-solving mechanisms (pre-permit planning meetings, application review and comment and alternate dispute resolution) to opt for decline of applications and direct to lawsuit with no attempt at resolution. One NJDEP program director said that this was the first time in her career that she saw this pattern of action by her department and so she did not know what to advise.
Public officials like State Senator Van Drew wrote letters on our behalf to urge the state to act reasonably to communicate and negotiate a solution. Public support and political endorsements have had minimal impact.
We are asking the State to the legal prosecution of this case to allow time for consideration of the issues in dispute. We are asking the Governor’s office to force the NJDEP to discuss the errand assumptions underlying their complaints and discuss ways to resolve the problems that does not include suing the people trying to recover from Superstorm Sandy.
Here are the legal documents: