A Trip to a Very, Very Sandy Beach

If you were a pigeon and you lived at Grand Central Station in New York City, you’d only have to fly 20 miles south to get to a great New Jersey beach. Most of your flight would be over Brooklyn, but the last 5 miles would be over water. When you got to the beach, you’d be at the Sandy Hook Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Pretty cool, right?


Sandy Hook has been through some changes over the years. It was “discovered” by Henry Hudson in 1609. A lighthouse was constructed in 1764, which the British tried but failed to destroy in 1776. It’s the oldest working lighthouse in the United States. The army used the Sandy Hook Proving Ground to test weapons and munitions between 1876 and 1919. Now, the fort that sits at the tip of the peninsula belongs to the National Park Service and is mostly abandoned. But there are several nice beaches open to the public, including one that’s clothing-optional (obviously, the Republicans in Congress haven’t heard about it).

Anyway, the only reason I’m writing about this is that a friend and I visited Sandy Hook last week, before the summer crowds showed up. When we parked the car and made our way to the beach, I was amazed. It was the widest beach I’ve ever seen. We could hardly see the water. The few people who had crossed the burning sands before us were almost invisible. So I was moved to take this picture:

IMG_20150429_134012237If you look closely, you can see New York City off in the distance, on the other side of the bay, and a few tiny little people at the water’s edge. Considering that we were standing in the vicinity of 20 million other people who live in the New York-Newark-Jersey City Metropolitan Statistical Area, it was pretty darn lonely. And, quite appropriately, very, very sandy.

Evolution Of A Sunset

According to Wikipedia, “Barnegat Bay is a small brackish arm of the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 30 miles long, along the coast of Ocean County, New Jersey”. That doesn’t sound very inviting, but a talented photographer can make of it something like this.

(Note: the images look a bit sharper on Denise Bush’s blog, so please click on the link below, where you can also see some other views of the Garden State — which I don’t find uninviting at all! It was the “small brackish arm” that got me.)

Denise Bush's Photo Blog

As the sun lowered itself past the horizon a peaceful calm came over the bay. I could hear the sea birds and waterfowl calling to one another while settling in for the night. The sun painted the sky with a beautiful pastel gradient of color that deepened with every second. I used my 6-stop neutral density filter to lengthen my exposures and capture the passing of time. At the end of the light show the sky glowed with a brilliant warm red that made the scene seem surreal before passing into the night.

Sunset On The Bay I ‘Sunset On The Bay I’ © Denise Bush

Sunset On The Bay II ‘Sunset On The Bay II’ © Denise Bush

Sunset On The Bay III ‘Sunset On The Bay III’ © Denise Bush

Sunset On The Bay IV ‘Sunset On The Bay IV’ © Denise Bush

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Just Another Day in the Garden State

Ice Caves Photo GalleryNo, that’s not the Garden State, but it’s how New Jersey feels these days. Snow, ice, cold, snow, ice, cold, snow, ice, cold…. It’s actually a cave at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin. People there and elsewhere have it worse than we do – as humanity continues to screw with the world’s climate, causing extreme weather of various kinds, as predicted. 

Money: a Better Explanation for the NJ Bridge Scandal

The biggest mystery about the Fort Lee, New Jersey, bridge scandal isn’t whether our governor, who is well-known as a loudmouthed, hotheaded bully, was behind the whole thing. The biggest mystery is why Christie or his inner circle would bother messing with Fort Lee at all. Why was it “time for some traffic in Fort Lee”? Because the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee (population 35,000, the 23rd largest city in the state) didn’t endorse Christie’s reelection? It doesn’t make any sense.

No, a much better explanation is offered by Steve Kornacki, a journalist who knows New Jersey politics. He suggests that the reason for creating that massive days-long traffic jam may have been to interfere with a billion-dollar real estate development that just happens to sit at the Fort Lee entrance to the George Washington Bridge.

As Kornacki explains, the development is premised on excellent access to the bridge and New York City. With one access lane instead of three, the location would be significantly less valuable. If the closure lasted any length of time, the deal might have collapsed. If the deal collapsed, the lanes could then be reopened, allowing some other real estate developer to jump in.

Or maybe it was merely a way to extort some campaign contributions from the kind of people politicians love – in this case, rich people who develop real estate.

One way or another, those traffic lanes involve serious money!

On top of that, it’s clear from Kornacki’s report that Christie and his minions knew about the development and access to the bridge. They’re on record suggesting the access should be limited. That’s why they keep bringing up the “traffic study” nobody else knows anything about. 

But it wasn’t a traffic study at all. It looks more like a traffic demonstration: this is what will happen to your major real estate development if we cut access to the bridge by 67%. This would explain why they kept the traffic jam going for days. They had to show they meant business!

Of course, it isn’t clear yet why Christie or his pals would want to use their power this way. But it shouldn’t be surprising if it’s eventually revealed that the fate of a billion dollar real estate deal – and who will profit from that deal – had much more to do with it than some stupid revenge against a Democratic mayor who didn’t endorse the reelection of our Republican governor (even though our governor is known to be a especially vindictive).

Chalk one up for the freedom of the press, even if money had nothing to do with it.

The video with Steve Kornacki’s quite interesting report is here at the aptly-named Crooks and Liars site.

Update:  The New York Times reports that the Christie administration became very cooperative with Jersey City’s Democratic mayor, even setting up a whole day of meetings with top state officials, after Christie asked the mayor for his endorsement. When the mayor announced he wasn’t going to endorse Christie’s reelection, the state officials immediately canceled their day of meetings. So maybe Christie and his inner circle were just playing politics in Fort Lee (although playing it very badly).

Meanwhile, the Federal government is looking into Christie’s use of hurricane Sandy relief funds, some of which were used to run TV advertising encouraging tourists to return to the Jersey Shore. Two ad agencies bid on the project. Christie picked the campaign in which he himself would appear, even though it cost a couple million dollars more than the other bid. Christie was running for reelection at the time, so he must have figured it was federal money well-spent. 

Just a Picture

I took this last night, using the gadget that’s also handy for text messages and answering questions at dinner. 

There’s something about this picture I especially like. The softness of the colors. The peacefulness. The contrast between the ground and sky. It makes the most densely populated state in America look like a garden state.