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Edward Lea  

Vineland’s Levi Manson #4 breaks free from Southern Regional JP Ricciardi #4 in the first round of the SJ Group V football playoff game at Southern Regional High School Friday Nov 8, 2019. Edward Lea Staff Photographer / Press of Atlantic City

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Hereford Inlet can be dredged, feds say. Coastal communities plan to take advantage.

NORTH WILDWOOD — There’s a makeover in store for the beaches of North Wildwood, Avalon and Stone Harbor.

Restrictions in the Coastal Barrier Resource Act kept the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from dredging Hereford Inlet to replenish the towns’ diminishing beachfronts for years. Those constraints have now been lifted, according to U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd, and the decision could save the municipalities about $6.5 million.

He called it a “plus, plus, plus.”

“This really truly is a win for the environment, it is a win for the economy and it is a win for the tourism,” Van Drew said. “And I would say it’s also a win for good government, good bipartisanship.”

Van Drew called Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and explained South Jersey’s position. Bernhardt was receptive, Van Drew said, and agreed to meet with local stakeholders, including Avalon Mayor Marty Pagliughi, North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello and Stone Harbor Mayor Judy Davies-Dunhour, all of whom stood behind Van Drew on a sand dune Friday morning to announce the change.

Rosenello pointed to the beach behind them to illustrate the former restrictions’ impact. What is just “bare sand” now was once acres of mayberry bushes and dunes populated with coyotes and foxes when he was a kid. Migratory birds stopped to feed there in the spring and fall, he said.

“It’s been wiped out since the Fish and Wildlife determined in 2012 that we could not use sand from Hereford Inlet,” Rosenello said. “There’s no way that we could move the sand from Wildwood quick enough to maintain this area.”

The Army Corps was first granted an exception that allowed it to mine sand from the inlet. The last time the Army Corps dredged the waterway was in 2012, following Superstorm Sandy, Rosenello said, as an emergency measure. A 2016 plan to move sand from the protected area to the beaches was quashed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which cited the CBRA in its decision.

The 2016 objection stopped the Army Corps from dredging, but a municipality or the state Department of Environmental Protection could theoretically have done so independently, Pagliughi said.

That made replenishment cost-prohibitive, Van Drew said this week.

In a letter to several members of Congress this week, Bernhardt said the restrictions were a misstep.

“Congress did not intend to constrain the flexibility of agencies to accomplish the CBRA’s broader purposes of protecting coastal barrier resources by requiring beach renourishment to occur ‘solely’ within the system,” Bernhardt wrote.

By 1990, Stone Harbor Point beaches had “significantly eroded,” said Davies-Dunhour. Because of beach fills in 1998 and 2003, a sand “spit” began to develop.

It’s now a mile-and-a-half-long migratory bird habitat with vibrant plant life, a “snapshot of what the Jersey Shore looked like many years ago,” she said.

“What is coastal resiliency? It’s the ability to bounce back once we’ve been hit,” she said. “It’s being proactive, not reactive.”

For anyone who believes in climate change and sea level rise, the decision to overturn the restrictions on Hereford Inlet is critical, Pagliughi said. The science is on their side, he said, and they’re prepared to meet any legal challenges.

“This is not about just getting a suntan,” Pagliughi said, quoting Van Drew’s predecessor, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd. “We’re protecting lives and property.”

SEEN at the Irish Fall Festival in North Wildwood

NJEA announces push for Amistad Curriculum in NJ schools, Cornel West encourages

ATLANTIC CITY — Using Pleasantville schools as a model, the New Jersey Education Association and the state Department of Education will work together on an initiative to better implement the Amistad Curriculum across the state.

“We all know the work of racial justice is hard,” NJEA President Marie Blistan said Friday after the announcement at the union’s annual convention. “We believe that there is more that can and must be done, and we are committed to elevating the importance of that curriculum.”

Legislation approved in 2002 created the Amistad Commission to study, develop and promote programming that would incorporate African-American history into the public education system year-round. The curriculum is named for the ship famously commandeered by African slaves.

Despite being a law for 17 years, many schools have not fully implemented a program, so the NJEA created a task force last year to address the lack of implementation and looked directly to the Leeds Avenue School in Pleasantville, where teacher Tamar Lasure-Owens has been pushing the curriculum in her district.

The announcement of the new partnership followed a keynote speech Friday from Harvard philosophy professor and author Cornel West during the second and final day of the NJEA’s 16th annual convention.

“He didn’t give us a lesson. … He has given us a call to action,” Blistan said. “He has touched on our moral and ethical responsibilities, on our responsibilities not just of being a citizen of the U.S. but of being a human being.”

Educators packed the hall inside the Atlantic City Convention Center where West sermonized about education and social justice.

“When you’re talking about justice, you’re not just jumping into public policy,” West told the crowd.

He said it is existential.

“What type of virtues will you attempt to embody?” he asked.

West spoke about his education, his mother — an educator — as well as race, free speech and the role of an educator. He emphasized the importance of love and tenderness, and a commitment to students over paycheck.

Nearly every seat was filled. Attendees stood lining the edge of the room to hear the provocative speaker who called upon the lessons of authors, musicians and activists before him, such as W.E.B. Du Bois, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Toni Morrison.

He advised the educators not to live in an echo chamber or look down upon people whom they disagree with or “who are not as woke as you would like them to be.”

“Lift every voice, not lift every echo,” he said. “When you lift your own voice, you learn how to live in the tension. … We’ve got to learn from each other, we’ve got to listen.”

But most importantly, he told teachers to be there 100% for their students.

“Their very presence requires us to give our all,” he said.

New Jersey Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet said West’s call to “lift every voice” was in line with the message of the Amistad Curriculum because African American history is American history.

“That story needs to be told, to be embedded in everyday discourse about our nation’s history,” Repollet said.

Atlantic City teacher and NJEA member Brenda Brathwaite chaired the NJEA’s Amistad task force and said they are developing a set of guidelines to help schools better implement the curriculum, setting aside funding for schools to do so and working with the Department of Education to make sure schools are held accountable.

Hispanic residents upset over layoffs at Somers Point schools

SOMERS POINT — Members of the Hispanic community told school board members they feel underrepresented in local schools after the layoff of three full-time teachers, including one Spanish teacher, was approved by the Board of Education last week.

Outgoing NJEA Executive Director Ed Richardson said the partnership between the NJEA and the state is being called the Amistad Journey and will start next summer with the first group of educators visiting sites in Africa and the United States.

The DOE’s role in the program will be to develop the criteria to apply for the travel opportunity, create an advisory committee to review proposals and host workshops to inform educators about the program.

“The model is to be more like Leeds Avenue School,” Brathwaite said.

Lasure-Owens said she was “past Cloud 9” after the announcement.

“I have energy, momentum, encouragement and support,” she said. “It’s an honor, and it’s a humbling moment.”

GALLERY: NJEA Convention in Atlantic City

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer 

Kathryn Crawley, 9, of Piscataway, shows Emma Stabile, 7, of Toms River, how to sew Friday on the convention floor.

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Mayor, Atlantic City police launch 'zero tolerance' policy on Atlantic Avenue

ATLANTIC CITY — Zero tolerance.

That will be the Atlantic City Police Department’s approach to dealing with the long-standing issue of criminal and nuisance behavior on Atlantic Avenue following a directive from the Mayor’s Office.

The increased police presence on one of the city’s main thoroughfares will be composed of full- and part-time officers who will focus on both enforcement and outreach, according to Mayor Marty Small Sr. and a Police Department spokesman.

Small, who took over as the city’s chief executive in October, often lamented the problems along Atlantic and Pacific avenues as a member of City Council.

“It’s not acceptable in any other community but Atlantic City,” Small said. “For a more prosperous city — because we want to be the No. 1 tourist destination in the nation — we have to clean up home first. And this is a step in the right direction.”

On more than one occasion, Small railed against what he referred to as “Greyhound therapy,” the practice of nearby municipalities sending residents in need of social services to Atlantic City with a one-way bus ticket, which he and other local officials believe contributed to an increase in people loitering, panhandling or engaging in other criminal activities in the heart of the city.

Sgt. Kevin Fair said the officers are trained and have knowledge of available resources for those in need, but will also be aggressively enforcing existing city ordinances and laws. He said officers are on the lookout for anything that reduces the quality of life for merchants, residents and tourists.

“The main goal, not only for Atlantic Avenue but for all of Atlantic City, is to provide the best possible service for all,” Fair said. “People shouldn’t have to walk on Atlantic Avenue and see some of the things they do. It shouldn’t happen.”

The initiative is the second major patrol effort to be introduced in the city this year. In the spring, the ACPD launched its Neighborhood Coordination Officer program, a community policing initiative that assigned 16 officers — two in each of the city’s six wards and four to outreach in the Tourism District — who are focused on improving communication and relationships between law enforcement and those who live and work in the city.

In a department impacted by significant personnel cuts in recent years, any shifting of resources could have an impact on services provided elsewhere in the city, something the head of the police union is keenly aware of.

“Through no fault of anyone in the department, we’re half of the Police Department we once were. We’re facing a complete shortage of manpower,” said Matt Rogers, president of PBA Local 24. “We’re asking a lot of our members, but they’re going to the job because that’s what they do. But we’ve always had a problem (on Atlantic Avenue), and it’s going to be addressed.”

In the past decade, violent and nonviolent crime in Atlantic City have been on a steady decline. In 2018, the city reported sharp decreases — nearly 30% for violent crime and almost 32% for nonviolent crime — from the prior year.

But the perception of an unsafe city continues to be a thorn in the side of local leaders and law enforcement.

“We didn’t get into these problems overnight, and we’re not going to get out of them overnight,” Small said. “But we have to be aggressive and not tolerate it.”

PHOTOS from Dancing Under the Atlantic City Stars at Hard Rock

Dale Gerhard / for The Press  

Jack Sullivan, right, of Ocean City, was presented with his Coast Guard graduation certificate Friday by his twin, Patrick Sullivan, 19, who graduated last year, at Training Center Cape May. Story on A5