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Overcrowding Forces Cops to Halt 'Stop FEMA Now' Meeting

The Saturday afternoon meeting changed venues once but was shut down by Toms River police after large crowds showed up.

A meeting by a grassroots organization dedicated to opposing the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) flood maps was shut down by Toms River police Saturday after being overwhelmed by large crowds.

The group, Stop FEMA Now, is hoping its unified voice will reach elected officials and encourage them to speak out against FEMA's Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps, which were recently adopted by the State. If the maps aren't changed, thousands of residents along New Jersey's coasts will be required to elevate their homes or face potentially financially-crippling flood insurance premiums in the years go come.

After its meeting last week saw about 25 people show up to Belly Busters Subs for a brief discussion, organizers were optimistic about the group moving forward, hopeful that it would gain more traction and attract a larger crowd.

They didn't expect this.

About 100 people crowded into the frozen yogurt shop next door to the sub shop, packing every inch of the place and forcing more still to be turned away at the door. With the parking lot full, residents from Toms River, Brick, and other coastal communities parked their cars in far away lots, making the dangerous trek along the road's narrow shoulders in the rain down.

Others ignored the boulevard's posted "No Stopping" signs and simply parked on the side of the road.

An apologetic Toms River Police Department Chief Michael Mastronardy asked the crowd to end the meeting quickly to ensure that the residents' safety wasn't compromised.

"We want you to meet safely," he said. "Let's get a safe location. Whatever information you have to get out, get it out as quick as possible.

Several officers were on hand helping direct traffic and even closing off turning lanes to accommodate the crowd. Police were patient and helpful, even offering residents a lift to their far-away parked cars, and organizers said they held no ill will for the shut down.

"We just need to get a safe venue for you and do this right," Mastronardy said. 

Stop FEMA Now organizer George Kasimos said the crowd was larger than anticipated. About 20 people RSVP'd, he said, with the majority showing up after learning about the meeting online and in a recent Patch article.

For the group's next meeting, one that has already been set for March 9 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., Kasimos said he plans on finding a much larger location to house the crowd. Now, he's just got to find it.

To stay up to date with Stop FEMA Now meeting times and locations, visit the group's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/stopfemanow or visit www.stopfemanow.com.

Milton R. March 02, 2013 at 04:23 PM
The revolt is starting. And with FEMA being federal, the threat of unafordable flood insurance rates will spread nationwide...the coasts, river areas, etc. The outcry will grow. In a way it amounts to a huge tax hike on working class and poor families living in affected areas...one they can ill afford. Building up dunes, sea walls, levees, etc. is the better way to go in many areas....but FEMA wants their pint of blood.
commonman March 02, 2013 at 08:37 PM
Hey how about don't live in a flood zone so nobody has to pay for ur arrogance
commonman March 02, 2013 at 08:38 PM
I don't want to pay with my taxes to protect ur house with sea walls levees or whatever u want to live on the water then you pay for it
Bill Heller March 04, 2013 at 07:34 PM
OK, everybody living anywhere near the shore or along rivers or marshes or the like - businesses too - abandon your properties and move inland NOW! We'll leave it up to the taxpayers to clean up the mess. And since the government will lose all the tax revenue we generate, they can borrow and hike taxes a lot to make up the difference. The "common man" won't mind.

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