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

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.”

SARAH VAUGHAN:

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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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SCRAPBOOK-3.v19-19.Jan27.TWS_cover_Nov25

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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The Governor spoke at the Police Memorial Service 5/21/13. But he did not visit our damaged boardwalk.

The Governor spoke at the Police Memorial Service 5/21/13. But he did not visit our damaged boardwalk or make himself available to the press to discuss our funding issues.  Blogfinger photo.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

For nearly a year we have been hearing that the “Governor’s office” is working behind the scenes to get us some sort of funding to rebuild the Ocean Grove boardwalk.  His surrogates in the state legislature have told us that in person and so has the Camp Meeting Association.

But those reassurances strain credulity because he has come to the Jersey Shore to visit our neighbors on many occasions but he has never come to the site of our demolished boardwalk to speak to the citizens about our problems with FEMA.

Now an outsider at the Weekly Standard has raised the specter of anti-Christian bias on the part of FEMA, an idea that has already been considered on Blogfinger and at the Star Ledger.  If there is even the possibility of bias, shouldn’t Christie be addressing it publicly?   And maybe FEMA is being harsh towards us partly because of the gay rights issues that have been controversial in the Grove—issues that perhaps the Governor considers toxic.  After all, he has waffled on the subject of gay marriage.

Maybe he is afraid to even talk about such things for fear that it might tarnish him politically as a presidential candidate.  Maybe he sees the issues as  lose-lose propositions, and perhaps politics are his main consideration at times like this, to the detriment of our citizens.

The Governor has a reputation of being outspoken and courageous; to be willing to swim against the current. But in Ocean Grove, where it has been obvious that we the people of this town are experiencing some sort of FEMA discrimination, Christie has been missing in action.

So maybe our small population isn’t worth sticking his neck out for, but shouldn’t  great leaders step forward on principle without worrying about votes? If he had gone public standing behind Ocean Grove, then maybe FEMA might have been a little more sympathetic.

Ocean Grove will soon experience a turning point in our struggle.  Representatives of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association will soon be meeting in Washington for a final appeal to FEMA .

Perhaps it is time for Gov. Christie  personally to tell us something about our situation and step forward and publicly show his support.  And Governor, please bring Congressman Chris Smith with you.  Most of us haven’t heard of him or seen him in the Grove, and he also supposedly is behind our efforts.

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WS

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger  (Ocean Grove, New Jersey)

In a thorough and courageous cover story called “The Town FEMA Turned Down,” The Weekly Standard, a widely read political magazine with a print circulation of over 100,000 and 2.1 million visits to its web site each month, is featuring Ocean Grove and its difficulties persuading FEMA to provide funds for our rebuilding post-Sandy.

On Blogfinger we have been following this situation with great interest for over a year and we have considered and debated various reasons as to why FEMA has denied us, including the possibility of religious or political bias. (see BF links below) The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association has been avoiding any public speculation on the motives of FEMA.

Soon the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association will be taking its  last shot with FEMA by attending a face to face meeting with officials in Washington, probably next month, to try and persuade  them  to make a favorable ruling on our second appeal for disaster assistance.

The author of the Weekly Standard piece, Jonathan V. Last, a senior editor, explains why he believes that the explanation has to do with government’s current attitude towards religion in our national life. He says, “Yet the story of FEMA’s conflict with Ocean Grove is about more than just Barack Obama. It’s the story of modern America’s rebellion against its religious foundations, rendered in miniature.”

He also considers the history of gay rights in the Grove as a factor in our being singled out by Washington.  About that, Last says, FEMA’s decision was a remarkably tortured reading of both precedent and fact. So tortured that it suggests some deeper motivation on the part of the federal government. What happened between the storms in 1992 and 2013 to change the government’s mind about Ocean Grove? The answer is simple: gay marriage.”

He makes a strong case for his theories, but there are no smoking guns.  FEMA has been very secretive as to the dynamics of their decision vis a vis Ocean Grove, and the media has been AWOL in reporting our story which is an exceptional David vs Goliath saga worthy of national attention.    Last’s ideas about how gay rights issues in the Grove tie into FEMA’s decisions are highly speculative, but his suspicions are worth discussion.

The author also provides an excellent and  comprehensive review of our town’s history. It is an accurate and well- researched summary.

One thing which he left out is that the OGCMA has raised $1.5 million, some of which is earmarked to help rebuild our beachfront. We are not only the one beach town at the Jersey Shore to not receive FEMA help, but we are the only town to raise this kind of money on our own.

He also didn’t mention the New Jersey political establishment, including the Governor’s office,the state legislators and our Congressional delegation  which have tried to persuade FEMA to reconsider their unfair ruling.  I also question his assertion that Ocean Grove has an “upper class tax base.”  If he checks out the 2010 census report, that is clearly not true, unless he is speculating about the second-homer population which is not counted in the census.

Blogfinger has a search engine on its homepage where anyone can look at our many articles on this subject since October, 2012 when Sandy hit the Jersey Shore.

I encourage all of you to read this provocative Weekly Standard piece.  It will certainly help to get our story known nationally and in Washington.

Here is the link to the article:      FEMA OG article

Here is the Weekly Standard’s home page link      Weekly standard web site

Here is a Blogfinger post about possible FEMA bias:  BF bias link

Here is another  Blogfinger article about possible FEMA bias:    Blogfinger link

Here is a link to Steven Froias’ Asbury Park Pulp:    PULP link

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Bill Bailey (l) and Ralph delCampo in the Tabernacle organizing volunteers on Nov. 3, 2012.  Paul Goldfinger photo  ©

Bill Bailey (l) and Ralph delCampo in the Tabernacle organizing volunteers on Nov. 3, 2012. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

Wednesday, October 30, 2013.  Ocean Grove, NJ:    Ralph delCampo, the soon-to-be ex-COO of the OGCMA,  has been working for a year trying to obtain Federal funding for our damaged beach front, with the focus primarily on the Boardwalk which was wiped out except for some intact components at each end.

He and his colleagues, along with consultants who are experts at dealing with FEMA, are now preparing for an in-person conference in Washington, D.C. with FEMA officials regarding our second appeal which will probably be held in December, but could be sooner. Mr. delCampo says, “We need clarity.”

Last night, on the one year anniversary of Sandy, the fourth in a series of meetings was held at the CMA headquarters.  In attendance were representatives of all the major OG organizations who were there to hear the latest news regarding our Sandy recovery, presented by  Dale Whilden, Ralph delCampo, and Bill Bailey of the OGCMA.

Ralph (who always says, “Call me Ralph”) is a man who is used to dealing with big corporate issues and with one large Federal agency—the FDA. He has been supervising the complex FEMA paper work and talking with FEMA officials,  politicians at all levels of government, advisors, CMA trustees, citizens, the press, lawyers and others. He is a careful strategist who is perpetually confident, careful and cheerful. Those of us who know him realize that he will make no promises that he can’t keep, and he never says anything that is out of place.

So it came as a surprise last night when he  and Bill Bailey confidently agreed that their first goal will be achieved, i.e.  to complete the “middle beach” boardwalk  (from the beach office area to the Pavilion),  “one way or another” by Memorial Day.

Ralph also revealed that the CMA is seeking two major non-FEMA sources of Federal funding.  These grants are paid through the State of New Jersey. One is via the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT), and there is the potential for receiving about $300,000. He said, “We are optimistic.”

The other application is to the EDA (Economic Development Authority.)  Ralph says that the CMA has applied for a $3 million grant which is currently “moving along.”  Regarding their chances of success, he says, “We feel pretty good.”

Earlier in the process, it was FEMA 24/7, but now Ralph is looking in all directions. He says, “We will apply for all that we can.”

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By Paul Goldfinger, Editor  @Blogfinger

In December 1992, a vicious nor’easter destroyed the Ocean Grove Boardwalk and Fishing Pier. FEMA, understanding that the Ocean Grove boardwalk was owned by a private non-profit group (The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association,) readily agreed to pay for the reconstruction of those beachfront structures.

After that, FEMA regulations were changed, many times, over the ensuing years.  We don’t know exactly which/when regulatory changes affecting PNP’s  (private non-profits) were put in place, but OG ended up being rejected  by FEMA after Sandy, and we don’t know why those changes were made.

Ralph delCampo, interim COO of the OGCMA, in interviews with Blogfinger, said, at least twice, that we were suffering now because of rule changes made after Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005. New regulations were published in 2007.

Yet it seems that if we were eligible in 1992, then surely we should be eligible now.  If our boardwalk was understood to be for the public good then, so why is it now written off as a “recreational facility?”  Nothing has changed with respect to the Boardwalk’s functions.  If there were problems after Katrina, how could that have been something that would cause the rejection of  Ocean Grove now?

Consider this quote from the New York Times, last week;  in an article about how the Governor has been recently criticized regarding his failure to rebuild after Sandy in many parts of the Shore and to return thousands of citizens to their homes:

“Mr. Christie has blamed the slowness of federal agencies for delays in getting money to residents, and said that New Jersey was paying for the sins from Hurricane Katrina, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency put up hurdles to prevent fraud.”

Again a reference to Katrina, this time from the Governor, and it is about fraud after Katrina.   So how does Katrina fraud in New Orleans result in making OG ineligible for aid after Sandy?

Is it possible that Ocean Grove is being punished by being swept up in a storm of regulatory changes that weren’t meant to hurt places like the Grove?  Perhaps the issue was also one of cost cutting, but why cut out our boardwalk when it was equally as deserving as all other boardwalks back in 1992?  If cost is the concern, then why pay for every boardwalk except ours?

Here’s a quote from a FEMA regulatory statement dated 2007:

“FEMA policy 2007 ineligible PNP Facilities. ‘ Some PNP facilities that might have been assisted prior to 1993 are no longer eligible under the governing statutes and regulations. Examples include:  recreation facilities, etc.’ “

We have complained on Blogfinger that OG has been treated unfairly. BF is not the only source of such complaints on behalf of the Grove.  Below is a resolution from the NJ Legislature  (the link is below)

The synopsis says:   “…. urges the President and FEMA to ensure funding necessary to repair Ocean Grove’s boardwalk”

 

ASSEMBLY JOINT RESOLUTION

No. 103

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

215th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED APRIL 4, 2013

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  MARY PAT ANGELINI

District 11 (Monmouth)

Assemblywoman  CAROLINE CASAGRANDE

District 11 (Monmouth) 

 

njleg resolution

When I appeared on a panel   (BF Link to podcast  ) recently to discuss our situation, Mark DiIonno, a Star Ledger columnist who was nominated for a Pulitzer this year said, referring to our denial by FEMA, “Their reasoning was absurd regarding the designation of the OG boards as  ‘recreational,'”

He noted that every boardwalk in New Jersey was recreational in the same way that ours is.  He referred to the “skewed reasoning of FEMA.”

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The Great Auditorium on Oct. 28, the day before Sandy hit Ocean Grove. Photo by Eileen Goldfinger ©

The Great Auditorium on Oct. 28, 2012, the day before Sandy hit Ocean Grove. Photo by Eileen Goldfinger ©

We have received word from Margaret Cotton, co-Chair of the Together Campaign.

The Together Campaign has reached $1.5 million! 

Our sincere thanks to all who were a part of the amazing effort

–       those who gave the gift of their time,

–        the gift of encouragement, prayers, and faith,

–         and generous and sacrificial gifts of financial support

This week we received word of a grant from Samaritan’s Purse

 toward the repair of the boardwalk that sent us across the finish line.

 In the beginning we knew that gifts great and small would be necessary to reach this goal.

No words can express our gratitude for such overflowing blessings, but we are going to try.

Help Us Thank Our Donors and Volunteers

At An Ocean Grove “Together” Celebration!

All Are Welcome!

 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

3 pm to 5 pm

Ocean Grove Youth Temple

Congratulations from Blogfinger for the unique fund-raising success engineered by the Together Campaign in partnership with citizens and friends of Ocean Grove.  Nowhere on the Jersey Shore can you find an effort that comes even close to this accomplishment.

Here’s a musical tribute that incorporates sentiments of thanks, love, memories, and dreams come true.  It’s LOUIS ARMSTRONG with “Thanks a Million.”    —-Paul Goldfinger, Editor  @Blogfinger

 

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