Public shaming campaigns aim to protect the Jersey Shore

LIfe's being made difficult for those who won't let the government build protective dunes on their property

By Lindsay Abrams
September 5, 2013 12:12AM (UTC)
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Jersey Shore residents with oceanfront homes are facing a heated dilemma: They can either sign easements allowing the federal government to build protective sand dunes in front of their homes, or face public shaming at the hands of their neighbors. Their names are posted on websites, dog poop is left in their mailboxes and on their porches and they're receiving threatening phone calls. They've even been blacklisted from patronizing local businesses.

Mostly, the people who've refused to sign on to the plan don't want to give up their ocean views, The New York Times reports. It would seem a small sacrifice to make for the public good -- not to mention their own safety. Some, though, say what's really at stake is their right to private property.


Without dunes, experts say it's "only a matter of time" before the next superstorm wipes out seaside communities. The holdouts have lost the support of Governor Chris Christie, who said he has "no sympathy" for their concerns, and of the state's highest court, which ruled that towns can just take the land that's needed by eminent domain.

Those suffering the abuse complain that their neighbors are taking things too far. But their resistance, experts counter, puts everybody at risk. When Hurricane Sandy hit, areas that were already protected by dunes suffered minimal damage. But wherever there were gaps in the barrier, the waves got in. Houses with dunes built in front were nonetheless destroyed because their neighbors had none.

The rhetoric on both sides is ramping up. “If we thought marching on them would make a difference, we would,” said Bill Kunz, who's pro-dune. Said Tom Cangialosi, who's anti: “It almost sounded like by signing the easement, you were giving all the rights to your private property.” The Times describes it as "a bitter neighbor-versus-neighbor ground war." But if the next storm hits hard, they're all going to go down together.

Lindsay Abrams

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Chris Christie Hurricane Sandy Jersey Shore Private Property Sandy Aftermath