During a flood this summer, a large pickup truck plowed down Broad Avenue in Brick Township’s Normandy Beach section – with a child on a surf board in tow at the end of a rope – and flooded the homes of residents in its wake.
Though the towing of surfers has waned in the winter months, the flood waters haven’t, nor have the wakes created by large vehicles that have sent waves crashing into the doors of cars, flooding their interiors, and ruining items in garages, said Richard Marano, one of about a dozen residents who spoke at a township council meeting this week, pleading for flood relief and enforcement against vehicles creating wakes that can damage property. They say their neighborhood floods almost daily – and at especially high tides or during storms, the water can be measured in feet.
Township officials say they are working on a comprehensive plan to raise streets in the neighborhood, hired an engineering firm to make large-scale recommendations and have begun placing check valves on outfall pipes to prevent backflow. The township also installed cushion-like devices in part of the neighborhood that stopped flooding, but ultimately led to new flooding elsewhere, necessitating their removal. The biggest concern, apart from the flooding itself, is preventing vehicles from speeding through the salt water, neighbors told council members this week.
“They think it’s fun,” said resident Robert Palmissano. “They’re driving business trucks – for them it might damage the boss’s truck – but for us it’s no fun. It’s costing us a lot of money and aggravation, and at some point the residents are going to take this into their own hands.”
Residents said the culprits are mainly work trucks operated by contractors, but township vehicles, such as an OEM Humvee, have also traveled too fast through floodwaters. In one case, a truck created a wave so powerful that a home care nurse providing a resident with an infusion treatment had her vehicle ruined.
Mayor John Ducey said the township erected signs over the summer that warned of flooding, but residents asked them to be removed since, they said, it detracted from property values. The residents at the council meeting said the signs simply stated that the road may flood and did not warn of fines or enforcement when vehicles create wakes.
“No Wake Zone” ordinances for terrestrial roads have their roots in Florida, but in recent years have gained traction in Shore towns. Seaside Heights adopted such an ordinance last year, as did towns on Long Beach Island and in the Wildwoods. Brick does not have a “No Wake” ordinance on the books, Ducey said. The group who spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting said police officers regularly enforce traffic regulations on Route 35, but should switch their focus to speeding on local street during flood conditions.
Residents also asked for streets to be closed to all except local traffic during floods. Ducey said there could be issues with restricting access to public streets, and such actions could create even more problems in the summer since some homes are rented or occupied part-time.
Jim Muller, a Normandy Beach resident, said the situation is “urgent.” In recent weeks, there has been a flood not just during storms, but at nearly every high tide cycle. Indeed, when a Shorebeat reporter went to the neighborhood Wednesday of this week an hour before the PM high tide, salt water was already rising through the sewer grates and beginning to envelope a portion of Broad Avenue.
“These last two days, unless you’re driving an SUV, you can’t even drive in and out of Broad Avenue,” said Muller. “My wife drives a Honda [car] and she cannot gain access to our home.”
Residents decried the speed at which the township was working to solve the flooding issue, but officials said they are working with Toms River and jointly received a grant from the state Department of Transportation to undertake a major project in the neighborhood, which stretches between the two towns.
The primary source of concern this week – especially as winter temperatures set in and could create ice issues – for residents is the speeding traffic, they said.
“The damage is overwhelming when these trucks come through the neighborhood and disregard everything we’ve done as a neighborhood to try to slow people down,” said Katherine Banucci.
“If there was someone who could just stop some of this traffic, our neighbors would be fine,” said resident Jeanne McCurdy. “We’re talking about commercial vehicles – we’re not trying to stop contractors from doing their work, but if someone’s landscaping needs to be held up a day, hold it up a day.”
Ducey told residents to call the police department to report speeding traffic. He also said he would discuss the matter with the police chief. Chief James Riccio, as the population grew, recently made the barrier island its own police district and an officer is now permanently assigned to patrol there.
“We had signs up and we had so many calls from people who didn’t want them saying ‘this affects our property values,'” said Ducey. “Unfortunately it’s a no-win situation for the police.”