Archive for the ‘Hurricane Sandy funding in Ocean Grove’ Category


Ocean Grove Fishing Pier. Date unknown. By Moe Demby, Blogfinger staff .© Ocean Grove Fishing Pier.   Date unknown.   By Moe Demby, Blogfinger staff .©  Click on image to enlarge.


By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.  2014.  And read the 19 comments below.

During the recent (2012-2014)   post-Sandy FEMA foreplay era, Blogfinger  went on and on ad nauseum about why our boardwalk deserved public money. The arguments presented by the CMA made sense to us and eventually prevailed, although the feds have yet to show us the actual boardwalk money. But they will.

During that period, the issue of the historic Fishing Pier was raised a few times. The OG Fishing Club members were upset that the CMA would not make a commitment to reestablish their club at the end of the pier.

You will see that FEMA also refused to pay for pier repairs after Hurricane Irene in the summer of 2011.  The boardwalk was not damaged then.  There was about $150,000 damage to the far end of the pier. FEMA said then exactly what they say now—- that the denial is because private non-profit groups like the Camp Meeting Association  cannot be compensated for recreational facilities  after storm damage.

But now, when both the boardwalk and the pier are damaged after Sandy (2012,) somehow FEMA has separated the two structures even though they are clearly attached at the hip, and the illogical distinction seems to be based on what?  It’s as if they are desperate to nail the Camp Meeting Association in some way .

But the situation is also odd because  FEMA has done a double about-face—first a denial, then promises to fund the pier, and now a denial. The CMA always plays “Mister Nice Guy” so their reaction is one of kindness tempered by the need to engage in yet another interminable appeal.   Herb Herbst, of the Jersey Shore Arts Center, said that the CMA should get more aggressive with demonstrations, picketing, pressure on politicians, and getting tough. But that’s not the CMA’s style.

Besides, what cards does the CMA hold? I can see their case that the pier is an extension of the boardwalk and does supply opportunities as a facility with some public safety attributes and potential, but they have to again make the case to a bureaucracy that has already ruled on one application and two laborious appeals resulting in a boardwalk award for $2.3 million.  FEMA has got to be sick and tired of hearing those two words: Ocean Grove.

So why did FEMA change its mind about the pier?  It smells like a political knifing—a blindside attack. If you want to hear one conspiracy theory, just re-read our piece about the editorial views of the Weekly Standard magazine.  (Weekly Standard link ) You can make up your own mind if you smell a rat.

And if you follow the money, you will find state funds (grants and interest free loans) to for- profit private businesses on the Seaside Heights boards given first for Sandy and then for a fire.

So help is there for their profitable private businesses, but not for our destroyed pier?  Who’s  to say which need is greatest—–quality of life for Grovers or for pizza operators in SH?

As for the historic Fishing Club, their  future is in the hands of the pier’s owners—the OGCMA—who are evidently still not going to make any commitments with the OGFC, because that carries a risk of a firestorm having to do with use of public money for exclusionary clubs, even if the Fishing Club says that they are not private.   The locks on the gates say otherwise to anybody who wants to stroll to the end.

Does the recent FEMA reversal on the pier have anything to do with the Fishing Club and the CMA’s unwillingness to make a decision?  I think not, because if that were true, a deal would have been already struck between FEMA and the CMA, and all hope for the Fishing Club would have been carried  away by the ocean fog.

Finally, there is one solid promise that was made last year by Interim Camp Meeting COO Ralph delCampo, and he made the promise several times when he said, “No matter what, the Fishing Pier will be rebuilt.”


VIVALDI  from The Four Seasons 





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Ocean Grove Fishing Pier, November 1, 2013. Paul Goldfinger photo.©

Ocean Grove Fishing Pier, November 1, 2013. Paul Goldfinger photo.  Click to enlarge


By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net      5/21/2014.


Just when the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA) thought that everything was going right, the local FEMA project office notified the CMA that the fishing pier was ruled ineligible for FEMA public assistance because it is entirely recreational (unlike the boardwalk) and it falls under the rules for nonprofit entities.  This notification was received on May 16,  2014.


At a meeting tonight with the Community Leaders Group, COO J.P. Gradone announced this disturbing news. He said, “It shocked and disappointed us.”


“However,” he said, “We have a positive working relationship with FEMA and we will appeal.” Once again, the Governor’s office will supply consultants to help the CMA navigate these suddenly stormy waters.  He also said, “We plan to pursue available assistance through other federal, state and charitable resources to complement potential FEMA funding.”


The CMA had attended several recent meetings with the local FEMA office regarding the three-phased project (1= middle beach; 2=North End; and 3=fishing pier,) and at those meetings the CMA received verbal commitments for all 3 phases. Mr. Gradone said, “There was no indication that there would be anything but total project approval for the 3 phases.”


However, in March, during the process of expediting the middle beach phase, the fishing pier phase 3 was removed from the project plan.   At first this just seemed like routine paper work, but it actually was the beginning of a broken promise. Unfortunately , none of the written communications from FEMA ever formally mentioned the fishing pier. The estimated cost of the fishing pier is $1.1 million.  


Attending the meeting this evening, besides the Community Leaders Group and  J.P. Gradone, were CMA President Dale Whilden and CMA official Bill Bailey.


The appeal process provides for 60 days to file an appeal to regional FEMA. The appeal will be similar to that for the boardwalk–to try to persuade them that the pier is more than just recreational. Meanwhile, the CMA has continued to place discussions about the private Fishing Club on hold.


Regarding the current status of funding for the boardwalk project (middle beach and North End), the $2.3 million has been allocated by Congress.  This is about 90% of the total needed for the Boardwalk. The rest will be provided with funds that were raised through the Ocean Grove Together Fund.


Neptune Township has issued a bond for $1.4 million to get things going at the Middle Beach, and it will be reimbursed by the CMA once the actual payment arrives from FEMA. COO Gradone said, “It’s a very complicated process, and we will work with the State while maintaining a positive attitude.”


Regarding the Together Fund’s $1.6 million, that will be used to pay towards the balance on the boardwalk, the Great Auditorium roof work (which will begin soon), and for a restoration of the Thornley Chapel. A full accounting of all these financial aspects will be presented at the Town Meeting on June 21.


Editor’s note;    3/12/23.    At Blogfinger, after Sandy, we were critical of Governor Christy for not visiting the Grove.  But it turns out that the Governor’s “people” were instrumental in getting FEMA to reverse its initial decision.  And the Governor came to the dedication ceremony.

The CMA was disappointed about the reversal regarding the pier and they could have tried another appeal, but the decision was made that another appeal may ruffle too many federal feathers.

And now (March 12, 2023)  9 years later, we see the pier about to be completed.

When the pier in the shape of a cross discussion kicked in a few years ago, some supporters said that no one could see the cross unless they were in an airplane, and it looks like they were right. It remains to be seen how the Camp Meeting will utilize the pier. Will there be fishing, and what will the rules be?   And will there be religious events there?


THE PEARLFISHERS.   “Is It Any Wonder?”    Album Across the Milky Way.


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4 degrees F. January 2004. Ocean Grove, New Jersey. By Paul Goldfinger © 4 degrees F. January 2004. Ocean Grove, New Jersey. By Paul Goldfinger ©  Click for full view
2004. Ocean Grove, NJ. by Paul Goldfinger © Left click for full view 2004. Ocean Grove, NJ. by Paul Goldfinger © Click for full view

By Paul Goldfinger, M.D.  Editor Blogfinger.net.   Re-posted.   Update 2021.

On May 2, 2013, we posted Part I of our piece about the Ocean Grove fishing pier,  “a historic landmark in a historic town.”  Here is a link:

What’s With the Fishing Pier? Part I: A citizen’s guide to the 2nd oldest structure in the Grove.

At the end of that part I article we discussed some of the more recent history of the pier and of the  Ocean Grove Fishing Club, also a historic entity dating back to the late 19th century.

We posted part II late in 2013.  That is below followed by an important 2021 update.

It would be best to pick up the story in December 1992 when a huge nor’easter destroyed most of the pier and some of the boardwalk. Only a small portion at the end of the pier was left, and the Fishing Clubhouse was carried out to sea.  The Club’s activities were curtailed until 1994 when the pier was rebuilt by the Fishing Club which obtained a Small Business Loan from the Government.  They borrowed $277,000 which was paid off by the Club members.

In exchange for that financial commitment, the only quid pro quo was that the Camp Meeting Association would grant them a 30 year lease extending out to 2024.

The mortgage was paid off a few years ago.  Note that the Club has always paid the property taxes for the pier, even though the property is still legally owned by the CMA.

Fast forward to August, 2011, when a hurricane named Irene damaged the fishing pier causing destruction of 9 pilings and 20 feet of pier. The boardwalk was not harmed.

The Camp Meeting Association applied to FEMA for $150,000 to make repairs to the pier, but the request was denied.

In a Blogfinger article  by Charles Layton (10/22/12)  about this matter, Mr. Ralph del Campo of the CMA is quoted as saying “The rejection was because the Fishing Club area is private.”

Once again the OG Fishing Club proposed to finance the reconstruction work if they could be granted an extension of the lease for another 30 years.

Link to 10/22/12 Blogfinger article about 2011 Irene damage to pier

Negotiations between the two sides moved slowly, and finally a decision by the CMA was to be presented on October 29, 2012, ironically the day that Sandy hit.  That meeting was never held.

Since Sandy, the Fishing Club has met with the CMA, but the CMA has not been willing to make a commitment regarding the future of the Fishing Club which still has 11 years on its lease.  The only thing that they will say with certainty is that they will rebuild the pier.

At this point  (2013,) the Fishing Club has lost some members, dropping down to 100.  Again, it has offered to finance the rebuilding of the pier, but the CMA has expressed concerns about that financing arrangement and will not agree to the proposal at this time. Mr. Del Campo estimates that the pier will cost between $750,000 to $1 million, although the Fishing Club members think it could be less.

Mr. Del Campo will not discuss the pier situation beyond what he has said already.  If the CMA has more specific plans for the pier, it has not revealed those plans publicly.

At a meeting of the Fishing Club Board of Trustees today  (May, 2013,)  we heard some frustration  expressed.  The members can’t understand why the CMA would refuse their offer to pay.  “Where is the downside of accepting our offer?” asked one member. “We are willing to foot the bill.”  The members pointed out that the 1992 nor’easter was a similar situation, and the club kept all its promises including paying off the loan   “There is a precedent,” said one of the trustees.

The Fishing Club views itself as being “good citizens” of Ocean Grove, always supportive of the town including a $5,000.00 donation to the Phase 1 rebuilding effort.   They say, “We want what’s best for the community.”  Their frustrations can be heard in their comments including: “We’re very disappointed.  We’re  saddened and perplexed.  What are their intentions? They don’t want to engage us. This is a stalemate.”

The Fishing Club trustees refuse to consider their organization as a private club.  They say that anyone can be a member, and the only reason for limiting the membership has to do with size—-“engineering and safety issues.”

Since 2011, the famous “teaching kids to fish program” has been curtailed. The group thinks that their history and their record of being a “community within a community” needs to be recognized.

What if the Fishing Club is not reinstated on the pier?  This is something they do not want to consider, but if it happens, they will continue as a surf-fishing club, but without the kids—it would be too risky and there would have to be lifeguards, rescue boats, etc.

President Al Dawson points out that Asbury Park and Bradley Beach have fishing clubs, but no piers.  However, continuing a fishing pier  tradition in the Grove that is at least 115 years old is the only way to satisfy these OG fishermen and fisherwomen.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  May 21, 2013.  Besides the members of the OGFC and the management of the OGCMA, I don’t know how many of you actually care about the intricate details of this situation.  However, after another interview with Mr. Ralph Del Campo of the OGCMA, I have to clarify a few points.

First, the FEMA denial for funds to restore the fishing pier after Irene (2011)  was not due to the presence of a private club at the end of the pier.  That is what the October article in BF said, but Mr. Del Campo believes there was a misunderstanding.

Instead, the denial in 2011 was because the pier was defined as a recreational facility owned by a private nonprofit organization.

The only difference now  (2013),  post Sandy,  is that financing for  both the pier and the boardwalk were denied by FEMA because they are deemed recreational and owned by a private nonprofit.

Second, regarding the OG Fishing Club, Mr. Del Campo says that he cannot accept an agreement now with the OGFC until he has “clarity” regarding the FEMA appeal.  He says that there are “four or five scenarios” which could develop regarding financing  which could  influence decisions about the Fishing Club.  He said, “Once we have clarity we will talk to the Fishing Club and entertain all options.”

He reminded me that in 1992, when the OGFC financed the reconstruction of the pier, the collateral for that financing was the Camp Meeting Association itself. This is the first time that fact has been mentioned in this dialogue.  So here is yet another variable to consider.

Mr. Del Campo says that he is working on “parallel sequential decision trees” which make a final decision impossible at this time. One variable that he acknowledges is that he has not seen a formal, concrete financing commitment  from the Fishing Club.  If one were to materialize now, he says that he would consider it. His working understanding, based on engineering analysis, is that  the job will cost $750,000-$1,000,000.

I think I have laid out the facts, so at this point, May, 2013, the two parties need to talk to each other.  Either party may, of course, comment below.—–Paul Goldfinger, Editor  @Blogfinger.

Editor’s note January 20, 2018:     *Eventually FEMA approved boardwalk funding in 2014, but they did not approve the request for public funds to rebuild the pier, and there was no appeal because the CMA did not want to rattle the cages in Washington once again.

The CMA has placed the pier reconstruction at the bottom of their priority list, and currently the North End boardwalk work is about to begin. At no time has the CMA bailed out on their promise to eventually restore the pier.

As for the Fishing Club’s current status, we have no information, but if that group still exists, they are welcome to comment below.

August 2021 update:   I may have missed something, but if you actually read Michael Badger’s welcoming statement on page 1 of the 2021 Summer Program Guide, he says, “Architects are drawing up the plans for restoring the pier so that the OGCMA can begin the process of getting permits.”

About a year ago a design for a new pier was publicized.  It was in the shape of a cross.  We don’t know if that is still gospel, but such a design could be practical in offering more space for fishermen. We had a discussion on BF about pier design. I’ll find the link.

But we must go back to the post Sandy era when FEMA refused to pay to fix the pier.  You will recall the “public vs private” debates as FEMA tried to figure out what to do.  And back in 2007 there were debates about discrimination on the part of the CMA.

So, when it comes to the pier, the 800 pound gorilla in the room  which has not been discussed publicly is whether OG will ever again permit a private fishing club at the end of the pier.

Our impression is that such a segregated concept will never happen again, because the pier is a public thoroughfare.    Add to the mix the agreement to lease the end for the Fishing Club extends to 2024.

As Uncle Milty would say,  “What the hey.”

JOHN COLTRANE  “Say It Over and Over Again.”

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New marina construction: floating docks, bulkheads June 9, 2013

New Shark River Municipal Marina construction: floating docks, June 9, 2013

New bulkheads, docking posts, water and electric almost complete

New bulkheads, docking posts, water and electric almost complete. Blogfinger photos.


By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.  This topic came to the surface after Sandy, but it was relevant before then and is relevant today.  Read it now in 2019 and you will see the similarities between Sandy and now.    Neptune Township has not changed its stripes—it takes from Ocean Grove but doesn’t give.

It is a bizarre relationship that should be subject to legal scrutiny, but that doesn’t happen.   We get minimal value for our tax dollars while other parts of town have favorite nation status.  It was unfair then, and it is unfair now, and the 800 pound gorilla in the Township, the OG Camp Meeting Association, is not interested in recognizing this conundrum.  (defined as “A paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma.”)


The Fairness Dilemma in Neptune Township: (June, 2013) on Blogfinger.net

There are two similar public recreational places in Neptune Township: The Shark River Municipal Marina and the Ocean Grove Boardwalk. The Marina is owned by Neptune Township, while the OG Boardwalk is owned by the OG Camp Meeting Association. Both places are open to the public and provide public services.

Neptune manages and maintains the Marina, while the CMA does the same for the Boardwalk. Supposedly the Marina is self- sustaining, requiring no taxpayer dollars for its routine functions. The OG Boardwalk receives no taxpayer dollars from Neptune Township either.

But along comes a massive storm called Sandy, and there is destruction in both parts of town. A cleanup ensues after the storm, and Neptune Township borrows a great deal of money and  quickly begins to deal with the mess at Shark River. It sends crews everywhere except the beachfront at Ocean Grove. Its workers do not step beyond the eastern curb of Ocean Avenue.

Marina building after post-Sandy demolition by Neptune Township

Marina building after post-Sandy demolition by Neptune Township

Ocean Grove embarks on a slow cleanup, mostly with the help of volunteers. A remarkable outpouring of support brings help from around the state and other states as well. While the CMA struggles with its oceanfront cleanup, it tries to figure out how to pay the bills for the boardwalk reconstruction. Because of the uncertainty of financing, a phased project is designed. Once FEMA rejects their initial application, they know that the boardwalk will not be done for this coming summer.

In February, 2013, construction work begins at the Marina to replace bulkheads, docks, electric and water systems. The Township is sure it can get funding from FEMA. Their confidence lets them issue bonds while they wait for FEMA to pick up 75-90% of the bill.

Now, June, 2013, expensive floating docks are arriving and being installed at the Marina along South Riverside Drive at the Shark River. There are plans to rebuild the Marina buildings which were demolished. The Marina will be operational this summer; boaters are already enjoying their new dockings. The Riverside Park across the street has already been rebuilt to help lift the spirits of the citizens who live near the river. The final reconstruction of the Municipal Marina will be expensive.

Riverside Park is across the street from the Marina.

Riverside Park is across the street from the Marina. Blogfinger photo June 10, 2013

In Ocean Grove, a part of town which is almost identical in population to Shark River Hills, minimal rebuilding of the boardwalk has occurred—paid for by the OGCMA. There are no  plans to reconstruct the entire middle of the Boardwalk at this time. No FEMA money is approved, and an appeal has been denied.

Not a dime has been paid by Neptune Township for the oceanfront cleanup, nor do they intend to help pay for the boardwalk. They have given some advice and moral support, but evidently, it appears that they are certain that it is not their business. The Mayor says that no money can come from NT because the Boardwalk “is private.” In fact the financial burden for that is all on the CMA, generous donors from outside, and the people of Ocean Grove.

Yet the citizens of both parts of town pay taxes to Neptune and the Federal Government. One part is being helped, but not the other part. The only difference between the two is that the owners are different. But in terms of public service, they are essentially the same. In fact Ocean Grove serves many more people on their Boardwalk than are served at the Marina.

Where is the fairness in that? The people who live by the ocean want access to their public place restored just as those who live along the Shark River do.

OK, the CMA owns the boardwalk, but it is used as a public facility and it has been recognized as such in the past by court rulings. (ref: State Sen. Jeniffer Beck) The CMA has acted in good faith all these years by maintaining the boardwalk so that it is accessible and free to everyone. I bet most of the boardwalkers never wonder who actually owns that wonderful place, and Neptune has not objected in the past to the public services provided by a private group. They were OK with the unique private/public relationship as long as they were getting, but not giving. But now, after the storm destruction, the boardwalk is recognized only as being private. They seem to have forgotten the rest.

Maybe the FEMA bureaucrats see a distinction according to their rules, but to the people of the Grove, it fails the smell test. The situation requires special consideration by Neptune Township because fairness is the American way, and, in our country, rules are often changed in the interest of fairness. Neptune needs to take down the smokescreen, start thinking out of the box, and try harder to find a way to help the taxpaying citizens of Ocean Grove.

2019 update:  A private fund raising effort by the CMA brings in over $1,000,000 (the Together Fund.)  The Township eventually issues bonds to help pay for part of the boardwalk, but that isn’t the same as free money provided by FEMA to the Shark River area.  Eventually FEMA did award some money after appeals, but not enough to rebuild it all in the Grove, and they denied payment to bring back the pier after initially promising  payment.  It took several years to restore the entire boardwalk, one of the slowest beach towns to recover.  Meanwhile, while the CMA had to beg for some FEMA money, parts of Seaside Park were rebuilt twice.

Today, Neptune Township continues to show little interest in its “historic district,” and it refuses to recognize the specific demographic of “OG residents.”

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Portion of the boardwalk from about Heck south to Bradley. Note new flower beds.  June 4, 2015. Blogfinger photo. ©

The South End wooden Boardwalk extends from about Heck  Avenue to Bradley Beach.  Note new flower beds, recently placed as an Eagle scout project. June 4, 2015. Blogfinger photo. ©

Repaired old boardwalk just south of the Pavilion.  6/4/15 Blogfinger photo

Repaired old wooden  boardwalk  just north of the Pavilion. 6/4/15 Blogfinger photo

By Paul Goldfinger,  Editor @Blogfinger

For those of you who don’t walk the boards in OG very often, especially since Sandy hit in October 2012 and then since the ribbon cutting in July 2014, you might be surprised to find out that there are significant portions of the old boardwalk still intact to the north and to the south.

Areas of boardwalk that survived Sandy  were protected by preexisting rubble and metal bulkheads.  At the North End, the original boardwalk remains, with some repairs, extending from the Pavilion north to Sea View Avenue where it meets the asphalt path that extends to the Casino. 

Wooden boardwalk meets asphalt at Sea View Avenue. (looking north) Blogfinger photo ©

Wooden boardwalk meets asphalt at Sea View Avenue. (looking north) Blogfinger photo ©

Another stretch of retained wooden boardwalk is at the South End.  You can see in the photo above that there is a nice 2 1/2 block run of traditional wood boardwalk that stretches from south of Heck Avenue to Bradley Beach.  

Those areas of original wood boardwalk did require some repairs, and now they are a monument to history.  

Sandy destroyed the Middle Beach area, and the region that had to be rebuilt extended north to the  Pavilion and south around the beach offices.  It was estimated at the time that 60% of the boardwalk was irretrievably damaged.  The first part that was fixed was near the offices and the pier.  The North End received a temporary asphalt path.

The severely damaged pier was repaired to a limited extent, and its recovery is enjoyed today, with wooden boards,  on a daily basis, although there is no fishing at the OG Non-fishing Pier.  Unfortunately, in an act of inconsistency and flip-flopping, FEMA refused to consider the pier as part of our Boardwalk Public Boulevard.

Once FEMA relief was approved and money raised by the Together Fund and by a Neptune bond offering, the new Trex Middle Beach  Boardwalk was installed in 2014.   It was built after careful attention to engineering challenges.  The OG Camp Meeting Association deserves praise for doing the job right, and we must specifically admire the fortitude and resolve of Dale Whilden, Ralph del Campo and Bill Bailey—CMA officials.

Along with the new Trex boards, new cement access walkways, stairs and other related structures were put in place. Sand dune reconstruction was started,  and now the new season has begun.

During the Memorial Day weekend, a delighted beach and boardwalk crowd enjoyed the reborn and still evolving Oceanfront.

The North End boardwalk work  is on the launching pad, and Neptune Township has provided temporary funding until FEMA writes their check.  That work will begin after the summer season when the asphalt trail will be replaced.

Major dune grass planting will be done this year. The CMA is seeking volunteers for that project.

South End island. Ocean Grove beachfront.  June 4, 2015. Blogfinger photo. ©

South End island in the sun, adjacent to the Boardwalk, at Broadway.     This “triangle” was saved by the Beautification Project after considerable Sandy damage.  Ocean Grove beachfront. June 4, 2015. Blogfinger photo. ©

Take a walk over to the Boardwalk this season and appreciate what was not destroyed by Sandy and the fine work which continues by those involved in all aspects of the rebuilding  at our beachfront.

In some ways, the Sandy devastation made Ocean Grove better; and especially we must recall and admire the spirit of volunteers, citizens, contributors, OG organizations, fundraisers, and those politicians in Neptune, Trenton and Washington who helped in the recovery.

It is said  that “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”  That idea holds true in Ocean Grove.

SHIRLEY MACLAINE:   Music by Cy Coleman; words by Dorothy Fields.

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Ocean Grove Fishing Pier.  November 2013. Paul Goldfinger photo

Ocean Grove Fishing Pier. November, 2013.   ©   Paul Goldfinger photo.   Click on photos enlarge them.  


OG pier far end.  By Paul Goldfinger. © July 9, 2014

OG pier far end. By Paul Goldfinger. © July 9, 2014


OG Fishing Pier near end. Blogfinger photo © July 9, 2014

OG Fishing Pier near end. Blogfinger photo © July 9, 2014

We have learned about this decision in an email from JP Gradone, COO of the Camp Meeting Association.  Here is the press release:

“As you know, we received written notification from FEMA in May that the OGCMA was ineligible for FEMA public assistance for the pier because the facility is a recreational facility owned by a private non-profit. At that time, we expressed our disappointment in the decision and indicated that we would proceed with an appeal within the required 60 days.

After a significant review of documentation and policies with our consultants and the State of New Jersey Public Assistance Office, the Executive Committee met on July 6 in light of the FEMA appeal deadline on July 12 and determined that we do not have the required justification and documentation to support a viable appeal to FEMA.

Therefore, we will not be filing an appeal to FEMA for a re-determination of eligibility for the Ocean Grove Pier.

We are currently focusing our attention on completing the North End Boardwalk in the off-season, as well as completion of the Great Auditorium roof and Thornley Chapel.

The Executive Committee will, in the future, be considering a variety of options for the pier and be in discussion with the Fishing Club. No final decision will be made regarding the Fishing Pier without the full Board’s discussion and approval.

Editor’s Note: After Sandy hit, it was determined early on that rebuilding the pier was not a high priority. It was considered to be Phase 3.  In the interim, volunteers built it out past 250 feet—the original length was 500 feet, and we currently have a place where the public can walk out, sit on benches and enjoy that special view.    But it is not out far enough for any fishing to occur.

There was considerable discussion after Sandy about the ultimate future of the pier.  The OG Fishing Club, a historic group, lost its private end section with the little building that we all recall.  The OGCMA promised with no uncertainty that the pier would eventually be rebuilt, but they would not say what the future of the Fishing Club would be.  The members of the Fishing Club were quite anxious about the situation because their lease is due to expire in a few years.  They even offered to pay for the rebuilding, but the CMA would not consider that offer.  So the CMA has remained noncommittal on the Fishing Club issue.

However, on May 16, when FEMA denied payment to rebuild the pier, the landscape changed.  FEMA has committed over $2 million for our Middle Beach Boardwalk, the South End is done, the beach replenishment is done, and FEMA will pay to complete the North End.  So now we learn the latest CMA policies re: the fishing pier.

In May, Mr. Gradone said that the CMA would pursue other sources of financial help for rebuilding the pier, including federal, state and charities.

Blogfinger will speak to Mr. Gradone to see if we can clear up some of these murkier questions.


Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net

Below is a link to an article about the pier which was quite good  from NJ.com below.



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Volunteers cleanup at the site of the former middle beach boardwalk.  Mary Walton photo.  Nov 3, 2012

Volunteers cleanup at the site of the former middle beach boardwalk. Mary Walton photo. Nov 3, 2012

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor  @Blogfinger

On February 27, an article*appeared  on NJ.com, a web site sponsored by the Star-Ledger.  It was based on a February 26 interview with J.P. Gradone of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. The piece covered some new information regarding the financing and planning of the Ocean Grove Middle Boardwalk.

We contacted Mr. Gradone, and he said that there were some “clarifications” required regarding the NJ.com piece which he discussed in an email to Blogfinger on March 2:

1.  He did not promise to have the boards done by July 4. Instead he says, “It is our hope to have it done by July 4, but there are no guarantees.”

2. The  NJ.com article said that Ocean Grove was turned down recently for a Small Business Administration (SBA)  loan, and that refusal was tied into the recent FEMA funding eligibility decision, according to an interview that NJ.com had with a FEMA official.   (see more details on this aspect in the link* below)  Mr. Gradone says, “The SBA loan was part of the many processes that we had to go through between the eligibility and the approval.”

3.  One of the huge talking points by the CMA had to do with how to define the Ocean Grove  boardwalk.  Was it strictly recreational or was it much more of a public service space?    NJ.com* acquired a FEMA  document that outlines their decision to provide funding to Ocean Grove.   It says:  “The boardwalk is designated by the state as a public highway, connects neighboring townships, supports the execution of mutual aid agreements, and is available at all times to provide health and safety services of a governmental nature.”   The FEMA document concludes, according to NJ.com, by saying that “the boardwalk meets the agency’s definition of an eligible nonprofit facility.”  Blogfinger has not seen that actual document.

About that FEMA document, Mr. Gradone says, “I cannot speak for the document that they are referring to, nor the official that gave them the information.”  He says that he can only go by the “information that we received from FEMA.”

4.  In another clarification, Mr. Gradone disagrees with the article’s assertion that the CMA would have to pay back the Neptune note before receiving FEMA public assistance funds. That made no sense to us, and Mr. Gradone now says,  “It is known by Neptune Township and CMA that we will pay the bond as we are reimbursed by FEMA.”  That does make sense.

5.  Regarding the construction at the North End and the pier, NJ.com said, “The Association plans to repair the north end of the boardwalk and the pier.. this fall. ”   Mr. Gradone says to BF, “We would begin that process in the off-season after we complete the middle boardwalk.”

6.  Recently the CMA  had told us  that the construction project was delayed because they had to “jump through some hoops” with DEP and SHPO  (State Historical Preservation Office).  The CMA was promised that those permissions would be expedited.

We learned today that the CMA  is still waiting for those approvals in writing, and once they are received, and once the bids are processed, and once the contractor gets his act together, then work can begin—hopefully very soon.

*NJ.com article discussed above:      NJ.com article about OG

JILL PHILLIPS     From Kissing Jessica Stein

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Ocean Grove, New Jersey  By Paul Goldfinger ©

Ocean Grove, New Jersey By Paul Goldfinger © Click left

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

In a huge announcement today, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association disclosed that  “we are now an official FEMA project.”  According to Camp Meeting COO J.P. Gradone, “The funding is there, and we will receive 90%”  just like all the other Jersey Shore towns who were given Sandy disaster aid.

A meeting was held today at CMA headquarters  which was attended by representatives of FEMA,  our 4th District Congressman Chris Smith, and state historic and environmental officials.

All in attendance agreed that there were some hurdles in the road ahead related to environmental and historic permits, but everyone pledged to “fast track” those barriers so that work on the Middle Beach phase one project could begin.  These permissions relate largely to the fact that the middle boardwalk has to be placed 30 feet to the west to get it behind the existing bulkhead as protection against future storms.

Most of the planning has already been completed thanks to the anticipatory work done by the CMA’s engineers and advisors.  Once permits are done and FEMA has approved the plans, bids will go out and a time-table set up.

FEMA will agree to the entire budget of about $3.2-3.3 million. Phase one will cost $1.4 million, and the CMA should be able to be reimbursed for at least some of the $500,000 already spent at both ends of the boardwalk.  Meanwhile, the Neptune Bond issue will be completed soon.

Down the line, the other phases will be implemented including the fishing pier and the north end accesses.

Mr. Gradone told Blogfinger, in an exclusive interview,  that everyone at 54 Pitman Avenue is thrilled, and certainly this result vindicates the persistent and optimistic approach of those at the Camp Meeting Association along with Neptune Township officials, Together Fund people, Governor Chris Christie and his staff, Rep. Chris Smith, State Senator  Jennifer Beck, State Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande and State Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini.

We wondered what all those political people were doing  and now we see the result 15 months after Sandy clobbered our beachfront.

This is the before picture of Middle Beach.  The after picture is in our minds.   PG photo

This is the before picture of Middle Beach. The after picture has suddenly materialized  in our minds. Paul  Goldfinger  photo, 2013.   ©

Some citizens in Ocean Grove thought that it was ridiculous to keep reapplying for help, but  acting COO Ralph delCampo, President Dale Whilden, and Director of Operations William “Bill” Bailey were steadfast in their persistence and positive approach. They refused to give up, and they just kept trying, along with the help of many consultants and experts guiding the way.

Mr. delCampo was a powerful leader for the effort, and his wonderful mediation and people skills kept the good ship “Ocean Grove” on course.   He was the John Phillip Sousa for our town marching band as they accomplished something that was so difficult—to change the mind of a huge federal agency, and they did it with intelligence, patience, good humor, and honesty, and perhaps some skid greasing by friends behind the scenes.

At Blogfinger, commenters berated us for repeatedly beating the bass drum to the rhythm of justice and common sense, but to be honest, we could not bear the illogic and unfairness of it all.

As with the recent FEMA eligibility decision, it will take the Camp Meeting Association some time to pull all the loose ends together, but victory is won, and the people of Ocean Grove are vindicated.  This is a great day for our little town.

JOHN PHILLIP SOUSA and THE MARINE BAND:  “The Stars and Stripes Forever”

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Middle Beach Boardwalk before Sandy.  By Paul Goldfinger ©

Middle Beach Boardwalk before Sandy. By Paul Goldfinger ©

By Paul Goldfinger. Editor @Blogfinger

After Sandy, most shore communities floated bonds to allow construction to proceed on destroyed boardwalks. The idea was to rebuild while awaiting FEMA payouts.  That plan worked out for many of the towns.  FEMA was supposed to pay 75% of the costs, but eventually they came up with 90%.

It is true that FEMA has been slow in reimbursing some places, and also that some towns are having difficulty because their reconstruction plans were not first approved by FEMA.

But, in the case of Ocean Grove, FEMA denied eligibility for the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA) to rebuild, so bond financing by Neptune Township was not possible.

On January 14,  the OGCMA and Blogfinger announced that FEMA reversed itself and approved the Ocean Grove Boardwalk as being eligible for disaster relief.

On January 25, the Asbury Park Press got wind of the announcement and they published a piece that mentioned a figure of $1 million as what we could apply for. According to the CMA, that factoid is wrong, and no specific number has been revealed by FEMA.  USA today repeated that number today, but they just got it from the APP  (both are Gannett newspapers)

Evidently the bond announcement came as a surprise to the CMA this past Saturday, January 25, when Committeeman Randy Bishop told the audience at the OGHOA meeting that Neptune Township now could legitimately issue a bond  to supply $1.4 million to be used to start the Middle Beach project, expecting repayment from the CMA once FEMA has come up with disaster funds.

Formal approval for that bond offering was passed by the Neptune Township Committee at their meeting on January 27, according to Committeeman Eric Houghtaling. A process will  now ensue that ought to supply the funds around late February or early March, according to J.P. Gradone, CMA  COO.

Mr. Gradone says that “FEMA is a reimbursement plan”  and that FEMA has given permission for this mechanism to take place.  Since the CMA has gone ahead with engineering plans, FEMA is aware of those plans, and they understand that two phases now exist.  The first is to rebuild the Middle Beach Boardwalk, while the second phase will include the North End access route and the Fishing Pier.

There are no guarantees, but Mr. Gradone hopes that Phase one construction could be done perhaps by July 4 or sooner.

But the news is thrilling, and Mr. Gradone says, “This reveals that  the light at the end of the tunnel  is not an oncoming freight train.”


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Unknown 3

For the second time in a week, a national publication has written about the FEMA reversal regarding funding for the Ocean Grove Boardwalk. In their “State-by-State” section, USA Today said, “After twice rejecting the request, the Federal Emergency Management Agency now said the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association can seek $1 million in federal aid for repairing a boardwalk that was damaged by Superstorm Sandy.”

The mention of a $1 million figure is surprising, because the OGCMA did not mention that number when the announced they ruling. I have contacted Mr. Gradone of the CMA for clarification.  Obvously, $1 million is not enough to provide the 90% funding that other towns have received for their boardwalk  (Seaside Heights and Seaside Park received money twice—for Sandy and then for the fire.  So far, OG has not received even a dime, although we now have renewed hope)

Thanks to Ernie B  (FOB) for alerting us to this article.

Here is a link to our recent exclusive coverage of the FEMA reversal:

BF FEMA reversal article

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You may recall the controversial article in Blogfinger describing the Weekly Standard’s startling conclusions about why FEMA turned us down.  Here is a link to that Blogfinger piece:       BF Weekly Standard article

Here is a link to our article about the FEMA reversal:    BF on FEMA reversal

Now, in a follow-up piece in their  January 27 edition “Scrapbook” section, The Weekly Standard describes the recent FEMA reversal regarding our boardwalk called “FEMA Backs Down?”    Thanks to Mike O. for alerting us to this item.

Jan 27, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 19 • By The Scrapbook.

In our November 25, 2013, issue, Jonathan V. Last chronicled the story of Ocean Grove, the New Jersey shore town which was being denied FEMA relief funds to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy. The problem was that Ocean Grove was originally settled as a Methodist campsite and that the town remains nominally Christian—which is to say that it is governed by a “Camp Meeting Association,” which has roughly the power of a garden-variety homeowner’s association. But which also happens to own all of the land.

Like many other towns along the Jersey shore, Ocean Grove had its boardwalk swept out to sea. FEMA stepped in to shoulder the cost of rebuilding the boardwalks in those other towns. But not in Ocean Grove. It said that since the boardwalk technically belonged to the Camp Meeting Association, that made it a private religious “recreational facility” and as such ineligible for aid. Never mind that FEMA had, after earlier storms, helped rebuild Ocean Grove’s boardwalk. Under the Obama administration, there would be a new precedent.

The most plausible explanation for the change in government policy was that Ocean Grove had been in 2007 the site of a minor skirmish in the gay marriage wars. And unlike President Obama, the Camp Meeting Association had not sufficiently evolved in its views.

The town was taken aback by FEMA’s denial. They appealed and were denied again. They then constructed a second appeal, in which they changed the rationale for the boardwalk. Instead of saying that it was a public accommodation (which it is), they claimed that the boardwalk’s essential purpose is to act as “a public thoroughfare in providing emergency access and life-saving operations.” The boardwalk isn’t there for people to enjoy it—it’s there for safety!

After months of dithering (and lobbying from New Jersey’s Democratic delegation in Congress), FEMA has relented. Last week FEMA announced that it now deems Ocean Grove “eligible” for aid. Whether it will actually dispense aid, of course, is a separate question. It’s not clear yet if this represents a genuine reversal by the administration, or simply the kind of empty “compromise” that President Obama has become known for.


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Dec 9, 2012. Haven't the people of  OG waited long enough?   Blogfinger photo ©

Dec 9, 2012. Haven’t the people of OG waited long enough? Blogfinger photo ©

In December, before Ralph delCampo, interim COO of the OGCMA,  led an Ocean Grove/Neptune Township delegation to FEMA headquarters in Washington, he said that finally we will get a yes or no answer and thus could move ahead with the boardwalk restoration project, “one way or another.”

When he returned, he felt that the meeting with top FEMA officials had been successful in explaining the importance of our boardwalk as a public thoroughfare and in convincing them of the unique relationship between Neptune Township and the OGCMA in terms of doing what’s best for the public welfare.

Well today, we learn that Mr. delCampo did succeed in “winning the appeal” because FEMA announced that the OGCMA is “eligible for assistance” in funding the boardwalk project.  This means that there will be no more talk about our boardwalk being ineligible due to a recreational designation.

However, it seems we now have a murky situation  instead of a definitive answer. In order to find out if any Sandy  “restore the shore” money will be earmarked for the Grove, the CMA will  need to obtain “clarification” regarding what additional steps might stand in their way.  So Mr. delCampo will not be getting the yes or no answer he sought.

Having gotten over a large hurdle, the CMA will probably be facing more  bumps in the road.  The CMA officials are pleased that they have “won” their second appeal, and they view it a positive ruling, but now they must reconsider their entire strategy, since FEMA sent that letter today without enclosing a check.

This new FEMA designation for our boardwalk  will set a precedent which will be helpful in the future if there are more disasters, but, for the short term, it might cut off some alternative funding ideas that could be short-circuited now that FEMA is still in the game.

Meanwhile, the OGCMA will do everything in its power to fulfill the promise to get the Middle Beach Boardwalk done by  summer.

As for the citizens of Ocean Grove, how about swamping the Governor, Rep Smith, our Senators and anyone else you can thing of with letters asking them to exploit this ruling and demand funding for OG.  We’ve been treated unfairly for too long.

Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

ROD STEWART with CHER:  “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”

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CMA logoNeptune Logo 2 

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor  @Blogfinger

The cooperative relationship between Neptune Township and the OGCMA on behalf of the people of Ocean Grove showed brightly  on November 7 when representatives of both groups  travelled to the  C Street  headquarters of  FEMA in Washington, DC to “have a face-to-face with high level officials .”

The Ocean Grove delegation consisted of Ralph delCampo (CMA board member and ex-interim COO,) Rick Cuttrel (Municipal Clerk)  and Mike Bascom  (Chief Financial Officer)  of Neptune Township.  And according to Mr. delCampo, the group “spoke as one for the benefit of the community and the whole region.”

Our supporters in the Governor’s office and U.S. Rep. Smith decided not to attend so as to avoid “politicizing” the event. These state and federal elected officials have been working in the background, pushing for action “in a quiet way.”

According to Mr. delCampo, in an exclusive interview today with Blogfinger, the FEMA representatives said that they have never seen such close cooperation between a private organization and a municipality.

The OG group made the case that our boardwalk is part of the fabric of Neptune Township, and the two groups work together to make sure that the citizens of Ocean Grove receive all municipal services that other nearby towns enjoy.

They explained the importance of our boardwalk as an economic engine/thoroughfare for the  town and for neighboring communities.   They covered ground heard before including the importance of the boards for public safety and rescue.  And they told FEMA that the potential consequences of not getting relief are significant.

Mr.del Campo said, “The meeting lasted one hour and went very well.”  He believes that FEMA now clearly understands the unique relationship that exists between Neptune and the CMA on behalf of the Grove. This second appeal is the final one, and we should get an answer by the end of this year. The delegation hopes that FEMA would treat us the same way that the Army Corps of Engineers is providing for beach replenishment.

Meanwhile the CMA continues to work with engineers and consultants to finalize the designs. They are ready to go to bid, but they really need the funding to be “lined up”  At this time there is no pressure to go to bid.

On another front,  the CMA has applied for federal aid which is distributed by the State of New Jersey through the Economic Development Authority. The answer on that applicaton should be  received by mid to late January.

If all that fails, other options will be considered. The CMA continues to be “totally committed “to have the Middle Beach boardwalk done by summer 2014.

Mr. delCampo continues to praise the ongoing fundraising efforts of the Together Fund which is now up to $1.6 million. He also cites  the “patience of the community and the backing of long-time supporters.”

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