by Gabby and Christina
Fran, 75, resides on a quaint street in Ventnor, New Jersey, where she has lived in the same cozy home since 1974. She is an important and beloved member of her community, volunteering with organizations such as Jewish Family Services and the New Jersey Knitting Guild. In addition, she is a loving grandmother and proudly displays pictures of her “pack” in her home.
Fran feels that the best part about her community is the people. There are six families that live in the area year-round, in addition to the summer homeowners. Permanent residents or not, everyone in her neighborhood treats each other with respect. For example, the man who lives across the street phoned Fran to ask her to print out tickets for him so he could attend a hockey game the next day. His printer was not working properly. These are the kinds of friendly gestures the community members make for each other. In addition to the people, the location has its merits as well. One has a wonderful view of the bay right from their own home, and lives within walking distance from the boardwalk and a ballpark. Fran’s children as well as grandchildren were athletically involved, so she would watch them row crew on the bay or play baseball in the park. Fran also recalls how in the past, people would dress up to the nines and go out on their boats to enjoy fireworks from the bay.
Unfortunately, however, these good-natured people do not live in paradise. Fran keeps a book of dated photographs showing every instance of nuisance flooding since 2014. These floods mostly occur during high tide and full moons, although surprisingly nothing happened during the recent 2019 supermoon. In the past, the flooding wasn’t all catastrophic. Kids used to have a blast when the water came up and would row boats down the streets. A family of ducks, which Fran calls the “ Lucky Duckies”, has consistently appeared with the water; her photobook features several pictures of these cute little visitors. Yet over the years, the flooding has gotten worse. “It’s really strange how high the water is going,” Fran notes. Whereas the water used to stay up for one hour, Fran has noticed that lately the water stays up for as long as four hours. It gets higher and higher every year. The water now even reaches as far as the Atlantic City Expressway, several miles away. More and more frequently Fran has to cancel plans with friends because her street is flooded and she can’t leave. She even lost a car to flooding in November 2018, twenty-six years after her son lost his car when water came in under its doors. His girlfriend at the time (now Fran’s daughter-in-law) also had her car flooded with water so that the brakes were bad, but her insurance company would not cover the damages.
When Superstorm Sandy hit in October 2012, things got even worse for the neighborhood. The storm itself lasted from Monday through Tuesday, but when the water started coming up on Sunday morning Fran made the wise decision to drive to her son’s house. She returned to unprecedented damage to her sweet three-bedroom home. Her house had flooded due to water coming up through the ducts, and nobody could even walk downstairs without wading through a foot of water. Fran had just retired in 2010 and bought a new carpet and furniture to celebrate, but now these were all ruined. In December following the storm she had to leave her home. While her house was getting raised, Fran stayed with a friend who recently had surgery so she could help her around the house. At the same time, she made sure to check on the progress of her house every day. She was finally able to move back home in April 2014.
For Fran, the worst part of the experience was seeing the damaged belongings of hers and all her neighbors out on the curb, including a piano, various types of furniture, and a TV cabinet. Everything had been standing in water for a week and was consequently ruined. Despite all this, no one that Fran knows of in her neighborhood has had to leave the area because of nuisance flooding or Sandy; at least, not yet.
Recovery has not been a smooth process for Fran and her community. Fran had to purchase a higher car in hopes that this one would not get stuck and destroyed in flood water. Although Fran considers herself to be extremely lucky when it comes to her home recovery state and her ability to quickly obtain grants to raise her home, others haven’t been so fortunate. It only took four months to complete the process of raising Fran’s house, but not everyone in the area saw their homes renovated so soon. Some of Fran’s neighbors were denied grants from the government because their homes were not considered their primary residences.
Even with all the nuisance flooding and hardships Fran has had to endure, she insists that she would not want to live elsewhere. She believes she has the experience necessary to make a living in Ventnor work, and asserts that “it’s a beautiful area, but you have to know how to live here.” Fran acknowledges the truth that in the near future, everyone will be forced to move inland. She understands that if she lives to the point of seeing that day, she will have to leave her beloved home and wondrous memories behind.
In terms of how to improve the amount of flooding and how to prevent another situation like Superstorm Sandy, Fran firmly insists that Ventnor needs to “figure something out.” Although bulkheads surround most of the shore coastlines, Fran explains that there are some people who have refused to implement them in their own areas, leaving gaps and weak points for the water to get through and inflict damage to the nearby houses and streets. Yet it is understandable why people elect not to have bulkheads considering they cost approximately $1000 a foot. With the additional expenses for recovery and prevention, it is no real wonder why people would be hesitant. But Fran has her hopes up for the future of Ventnor and would love to see the flooding recede so she will be able to remain in her beloved town and community that she has nurtured and cared for since 1974.