Stronger Than the Ocean?

Text & Photos by K. Cecchini

If going down the shore is a rite of passage in New Jersey, then owning a piece of it is a dream. So how do you convince homeowners to return their seaside fantasy to Mother Nature before she sends the repo man?

The Jersey Shore After Hurricane Sandy
Stairs separated from a boardwalk on the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy was the most devastating storm to lick away at beach front zip codes since 1962 from the Highlands to Cape May. With its winds and rains, Sandy also brought questions about the Jersey Shore’s future. And, although many homeowners rally to rebuild, Dr. Ben Horton of Rutgers University’s Marine and Coastal Sciences Department warned that the Jersey Shore’s vulnerabilities are increasing.

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated a global mean sea level rise of over three feet by the end of the century. This change will largely be due to the greater volume of a warming ocean and melting glaciers. However, Dr. Horton said, sea level change is not uniform and New Jersey has other factors biting at its shoreline.

For instance, most of the shore’s real estate is low-lying and Dr. Horton said that the land’s height continues to decrease because of freshwater removal below the land’s surface. This allows the sea to overtake more of the land.

Of course, there are many ways to mitigate the impact. In response to Sandy, Governor Chris Christie called for sand dune construction and the nourishing of beaches with additional sand. 
But John A. Miller of the New Jersey Association for Flood Management (NJAFM) warned that these efforts are only a short term fix; he said it’s “a speed bump for energy coming off the ocean”. Furthermore, in municipalities like Sea Bright which has the Shrewsbury River on its western border, Miller said, “it doesn’t matter how big the sea wall is, it doesn’t matter how big the dune is, it doesn’t matter what width the beach nourishment is, the water’s going to flank the town.”

On the other hand, Mr. Miller said he was pleased at how well Governor Christie implemented NJAFM’s recommendations around the Raritan and Passaic Basins.

The first recommendation? Blue Acres.

Miller calls the voluntary Blue Acres program “a restart on life”. Through federal and local fund matching, Blue Acres offers to buy property in flood zones at pre-damage value. The land is then designated as a natural buffer for their communities in future flooding. Although it can be a difficult choice for most homeowners, the program has proven to be particularly successful in river communities. In fact, Miller hailed Mayor Verango and Consultant Jeff Ward for having made Wayne Township “the champion for buyouts in New Jersey”.

After Sandy, the state successfully promoted buyouts in inland towns like Woodbridge and most recently, Manville, but the program is still virtually nonexistent in coastal communities. Why perpetuate temporary fixes like sand dunes instead of removing people from vulnerable areas? Miller said that he believed the reason the state administration avoids the coastline is because of its perceived economic value as a vacation and investment community.

However, Blue Acres‘ Communication Director Andrea Friedman said that she believes that for the last two years while some seaside homeowners are interested, their municipalities have resisted the program. Union Beach is one such town; Sandy flooded more than half of its 2,200 homes and some families have yet to return, but Blue Acreshas made no inroads.

On April 8th, (name of publication) spoke with Union Beach Mayor Paul Smith, after Governor Christie and Army Corp of Engineer officers delivered news that they would be fulfilling Union Beach’s 20 year old request with a $202 million network of safeguards that includes levees, pump stations, dunes, beach nourishment and much larger flood gates. The elated Mayor said of the project, “I think this is truly going to help people make their decision to come back home.”
When it comes to Blue Acres, Smith said that he would support the program in his bedroom community “if it helps people get back on their feet”.
Then why have Union Beach homeowners not been able to opt for it? The mayor contends, with residents, that he has considered it but tells them that “they’re not going to buy your home, they want the whole block” so Union Beach has not made use of the program.
A major factor in rejecting Blue Acres, according to Friedman, is that governments are concerned that they will lose tax revenue if the compromised properties are sold back to the state and Mayor Smith confirmed the fear, “in a small town like ours, we really can’t afford to lose those (blocks of homes), their revenue.”
But NJAFM’s Miller disagrees. He thinks these properties may actually be revenue negative, “The services provided and the risk to first responders and debris removal and all the costs around these chronically flooded properties are increasing all the time with climate changes.”.
So is Blue Acres revenue positive or revenue negative? The Regional Plan Association is now studying the economic and health impacts of buyouts. In the meantime, another flood could change minds. Miller, who emphasized that he has no desire to see more flooding, calls it “giving people religion”.

Are buyouts a ‘managed retreat’? They are often denigrated with this defeatist connotation; it’s something most Americans would call ‘un-American’. But Jerseyians might not take that for an answer. Perhaps handing the keys over to Mother Nature before she takes them is really ‘Jersey Strong’.

Christie Brings Good Tidings to Union Beach

Photo from NJ.com, Union Beach Home after Hurricane Sandy
Photo from NJ.com, Union Beach Home after Hurricane Sandy

Text by K. Cecchini/Photo from NJ.com

Mayor Paul Smith said Hurricane Sandy was “…like a tsunami; it came in, it kicked ass and then left in 45 minutes”.  He believes it flooded at least 50% of Union Beach’s 2,200 homes and the Asbury Park Press reported that as many as 85% of its homes were affected.

As part of my research on the Jersey Shore’s vulnerabilities and disaster mitigation options, I had the fortune to speak with the elated mayor after Governor Christie and ranking Army Corp of Engineer members delivered affirmative news on a shore protection project. The bedroom community has waited 20 years for implementation, and now they can expect its completion in 2020.

Hopefully the program will be the fix Union Beach needs because, as I said to the mayor, you can’t fight nature. He laughed, “(Governor Christie) mentioned that also”.

Please look for an extended piece on the Jersey Shore. In the meantime, we would love your input:

What do you think about post-Sandy efforts along the Mid-Atlantic?

What is the future of our Jersey Shore?

Mad Men Approved

Text and Photos by K. Cecchini

“Mad Men” make fantastic matchmakers. While browsing a Time magazine today from 11.24.14 (slim pickings at the gym), I took note of their skills.

Laying next to the article, “New Energy” about the GOP Senate’s debates on the Keystone Pipeline and the President’s “all of the above” energy plan is an ad with a young boy representing his ocean view on a Light Brite. The heading reads, “Let’s light up his future with bright ideas offshore”.

It’s an ad for Shell.

In the copy, Shell brags about its 30 year presence in the Gulf of Mexico and speaks about how they would like to “safely” and dig deep for more black gold to “power lives for years to come”. It cheerleads their goals, “The Olympus platform is a key part of the Mars B project, the first deep-water project of its kind, expanding on existing field with new infrastructure to maximize recovery with less of a footprint.”.

Although Shell & energy is the most obvious marriage of news & marketing in the issue, I noticed a few other pairings throughout the periodical; Kindle with an article on retiring authors and Capital One (“Nothing matches the first dollar you ever made…”) engaged to a piece featuring a young entrepreneur.

I can’t confirm that these are arranged marriages, but I do know that Don Draper would love it.

Time Magazine 11.24.14
Time Magazine 11.24.14
Time Magazine 11.24.14
Time Magazine 11.24.14
Time Magazine 11.24.14
Time Magazine 11.24.14

365 Dawns

Tonight at Dawn just reached its 1st year anniversary and 200th article on Sunday (2.22: “Tonight at Noon“). To celebrate, we are presenting our largest (& favorite) milestones from the last 365 days. Thanks for taking the ride and stay with us as we evolve!

Tonight at Dawn: Favorite Posts by the Month

2014
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February: TaD’s 1st live coverage “The Man Behind the Curtain: Covering the VH1 Superbowl Blitz”

 

Balloons released at start of Rainbow Fest
Shinjuku

March: Japanese rainbows  “Shinjuku, Block no. 2 (新宿二丁目)” 

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April: Live wire  Lews Black Rants On: 7 Pieces of Advice

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May: Get educated The Nigerian School Project

Julie Taymor & Stephen Colbert In Conversation, MFF14
Julie Taymor & Stephen Colbert In Conversation, MFF14

May (Indecision!Montclair Film Festival Series

Orange is the New Black Promo Shot
Orange is the New Black Promo Shot

June: What’s threatening our democracy?  Justice Reform Series

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July: International collaboration Economy Decoded: Kesariya Baalam, Padharo Mhare des!

 

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August: Give me the RED Light…District

 

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September: Eco-tacular Meeting the 1st female prime minister of Ireland at NYC’s Climate March

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September: (Indecisions, again!): Meeting Senator Cory Booker

 

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October: Music reviews from @kraltunes make our stats POP!  Pearl Jam (& my favorite @kraltunes piece)

 

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November: The doctor is in! One of Dr. Nina’s “What you to need to know…”

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 December: ART! Margeaux Walter Has Got Heart (or a FAMNIG HJÄRTA)

2015

One Less Flush by Nitesh Nagrath and Lizzie Reid http://dothegreenthing.com/posters/one-less-flush-by-nitesh-nagrath-and-lizzie-reid/
One Less Flush by Nitesh Nagrath and Lizzie Reid

January: “One small step for (wo)man” Peeing in the Shower (& Other Eco-Friendly Moves I’m Not Ready For)

#jeffwecan Last Week Tonight's Media Campaign for Anti-Smoking
#jeffwecan

 February: Armchair activism via John Oliver: #Jeff We Can! #Jeff We Can! #Jeff We Can! 

 

What’s next for TaD? More of everything! More @kraltunes, travel, Dr. Nina, live event coverage and real, current social and environmental issues. The next interview piece will be a sobering but hopeful conversation with a TED Talks speaker.

 

 

 

 

 

Home. By Design.

Introduction and Interview by K. Cecchini

After my husband and I purchased our condo, we were hard pressed to find affordable furniture made of, as silly as it may sound, real solid wood. Why? Simply because we wanted pieces that we would not need to replace in a dozen years or so (or less).

Nightstand
Nightstand

After unsuccessfully scouring used venues for furniture to resurface and almost giving in to buying an engineered board living room set, I finally found Campion Table Company’s Etsy store and we have since populated our space with 7 pieces of furniture that Campion has designed or adapted to fit our needs.

Kevin Treanor -now Campion’s sole owner-is local, responsive, honest and, most importantly, a quality craftsman; we are truly pleased with our tables, nightstands and entryway bench. As we have been extremely satisfied with his work, I wanted to highlight Kevin’s work with an interview post.

Tonight at Dawn (TaD): How did you develop your interest and skills in woodworking?

Kevin: My father is a carpenter by trade so it is something that I have been around for as long as I can remember. My father’s workshop is located at my childhood home and I was always rooting around his shop as a kid. Those early experiences were definitely the leading factor for my interest today.

Growing up, there was always scraps of wood lying around and I just started working on small projects for myself, learning as I went along through trial and error. Luckily my father was always there to provide guidance and feedback, so I was able to get an understanding of the basics of woodworking.

The real way you develop and improve skills, however, is by doing the work itself. I started off making simple things like shelves, keepsake boxes and picture frames, and each successive project drew from skills I developed from my previous projects. I started using different tools for different applications, becoming more precise and advanced in my work as I put in more hours of practice.

Once you become confident in specific skills and applications, it really opens a lot of doors in terms of designing furniture because you can get a good sense of how hard to push the limits and what you can take from a sketch to a tangible object. I’m still working to grow and hone my skills today to continually broaden my capabilities.

TaD: Where does your name, Campion, come from?

Kevin: Campion is actually the name of my freshman year dormitory at Fairfield University. After graduating in 2012, I made several coffee tables for friends who were moving into new apartments. I decided I would start a small side project making and selling furniture to people on Etsy and the first piece that I promoted was a coffee table. At the time, I was living with two roommates who also lived in Campion Hall with me and we decided to go in together. Since we were just making tables at the time and all had a connection to Campion Hall, we decided on Campion Table Company.

This is an exciting time for me because I see a change in the furniture industry where customers are becoming more and more interested in buying custom furniture with a unique style as opposed to reproduction furniture from big-box stores that was commonplace a few years ago.

Nightstand
Nightstand

Both of my previous partners have since moved away to pursue other career goals and since I don’t actually specifically specialize in tables, I am currently considering a few new company names that I feel better match my direction and brand identity as a furniture designer. This is an exciting time for me because I see a change in the furniture industry where customers are becoming more and more interested in buying custom furniture with a unique style as opposed to reproduction furniture from big-box stores that was commonplace a few years ago. Designs and consumer preferences are constantly evolving but the quality of handmade furniture is hard to match on a broad scale, so I am working on ways to align my company name with specialized, high-end custom furniture.

TaD: How and where do you source your materials?

Kevin: I source almost all of the wood I use from a local lumber yard in White Plains, NY. They have a great selection of wood so I can generally find whatever I need from them. Like any lumber yard, they let you pick out the specific boards you want, which is very important because it lets you have full control over what the piece will look like.

For materials besides lumber, I use a combination of a few other places. My father’s workshop is down the street from a local hardware store, which is great for finishing supplies and is really handy for basic hardware. I like to give them the business when I can seeing as they are a local, small business like mine.

Sometimes, however, they don’t have very specialized things I may need so, in those circumstances, I use Rockler and Woodcraft, who both have anything and everything to do with woodworking.

NIghtstands
NIghtstands

TaD: Being that the tables we commissioned were built by you within a short drive of my home, it’s obviously fair trade construction and Eco-friendly because it was locally made and transported. Is there anything else within your process, from sourcing materials through to delivery, that can be considered fair trade or Eco-friendly?

Kevin: As previously mentioned, I source all my lumber locally and I use sustainable wood species, primarily Ash, Maple and Fir. I avoid using plywoods and veneers, which contain volatile glues and adhesives, and whenever possible, I prefer to use natural finishes such as raw tung oil or boiled linseed oil. These sustainable materials are much better for the environment than their man-made counterparts but also give each piece an authentic, natural feeling. To me, it’s a win-win.

These sustainable materials are much better for the environment than their man-made counterparts but also give each piece an authentic, natural feeling. To me, it’s a win-win.

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Entryway Bench

A vast majority of the furniture that people buy from big-box stores such as IKEA, Target, and even higher-end places like Pottery Barn, contain a surprisingly small amount of solid wood in their furniture. For the most part, they rely on engineered materials, such as MDF, covered with a thin layer of wood veneer. This is great for keeping costs down for the consumer but is unnatural to a degree and undermines the craft of woodworking to a large extent.

As I noted above, however, I think the average consumer is beginning to trend more towards natural wood products and begin to shy away from low-quality imitation furniture. There will always be a place for furniture that looks nice and is on the cheaper side, but I take pride in fully handcrafting each piece from solid wood and feel that it is a much better, sustainable market.

There will always be a place for furniture that looks nice and is on the cheaper side, but I take pride in fully handcrafting each piece from solid wood and feel that it is a much better, sustainable market.

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    Living Room Side Table-Matches Rustic Coffee Table

Peeing in the Shower

Text by K. Cecchini/Images by Do the Green Thing (Feature photo: Cut Your Shower by Michael Bierut

Peeing in the Shower & Other Eco-Friendly Moves I’m NOT Ready For…

While governments stall on true environmental reforms, there are a number of revisions we can make to our own lifestyles to reduce our “Eco-footprint”. But there are certain moves I’m admittedly not ready for, but I’d like to argue -or at least assuage my own guilt- that I do make smaller steps to be Eco-friendly.

So let’s get real…

One Less Flush by Nitesh Nagrath and Lizzie Reid http://dothegreenthing.com/posters/one-less-flush-by-nitesh-nagrath-and-lizzie-reid/
One Less Flush by Nitesh Nagrath and Lizzie Reid

Peeing in the shower. George Costanza may have been right after Elaine chastised him for his peeing in the locker room shower, “It’s all pipes; what’s the difference?!”. Although the Seinfeld cast never actually called the plumber to verify his claim, I am sure the urine ends up in the same place no matter which drain it goes down. Perhaps, though, it will take a constant drought in New York to make me multi-task in the shower. For now, I’d rather save water by shutting off the water while I shampoo my hair or shave. In addition, I embrace the use of “grey water”; I use water sitting in the sink to rinse other dishes or use excess water in the kettle or a cup to hydrate houseplants. Not for nothing, a shorter shower helps.

Green Commute I wish my day job was accessible by bicycle or public transportation, but it is not. Right now, my job is too

Zap by Sean Antonioli http://dothegreenthing.com/posters/seanantonioli/
Zap by Sean Antonioli 

far away for a bike ride (it’s already a half an hour drive) and it would take about 3 or 4 times as long to take public transportation as it is far from a direct route.  I cannot move closer at this time, but I try to make a better choice on weekends and holidays; I rarely drive on the weekends as I have chosen to live in a very pedestrian friendly neighborhood and so I take advantage of doing most of my errands and outings on foot or by public transport.

Tiny, Tiny Homes I don’t even know where I would build a tiny home in my crowded metropolis. Not for nothing, I can’t imagine my husband and I living together without a weeeee little space to ourselves at times as we are acculturated to having personal space. Alternatively, I suppose our footprint cannot be too much larger than a tiny home as we live in a condo. Although it is 900+ square feet, I believe we get some green credit for sharing walls and land space with other units; it reduces heating/cooling costs and our literal square footage on the Earth.

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Stich, Don’t Ditch by Karin Rubing 

Used Clothes I’ll admit, the one media scare that really got me was the bed bug invasion. The idea freaks me out and kept from actually walking out with a bag of fun thrift store items. However, I rationalized it this way; if I did pick up bed bugs, I’d have to throw away way so much that my impact on the environment would be way more than I purchased new clothes. Instead I donate clothing (a bit hypocritical, I admit) and try to salvage other clothes by mending or adapting clothing with my mediocre sewing skills. Since then, though, I have bought a few items from a more upscale consignment shop in my neighborhood. Hey, I’m trying…

Au Naturale It takes time to find alternatives to the products that have been integrated into our lives for years, but I am making progress. For cleaning, I mostly use vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide (but blue glass cleaners seem to be the only thing that works on mirrors). Although I use store bought make-up and there does not seem to be a safe, natural alternative to chemical sunscreen (I think nature’s version was the ozone and that’s not in my reach), but I do stick to basics like pure shea butter for dry skin, supposedly natural, unpackaged soaps, witch hazel for face toner, rubbing alcohol for pimples and homemade body scrubs or a simple wash cloth for exfoliating. Naturally, I’ve gotta hedge off aging to keep the skin I’m in…fresh.

🌏Visit Capitol Press for their Eco-Friendly Moves their NOT Ready For (with alternatives).

🌎Please share your own alternatives or expert information below.

🌏Read more on the Earth under our environment tab, including “Dear Climate…