Exactly one year ago today, May 7, 2022, it was a rain-soaked, blustery day.

Despite less than ideal moving conditions, Atlantic City, New Jersey Mayor Marty Small had Fish Heads Seafood Restaurant shutdown and towed away from Gardener’s Basin.

Owner Dredgie Wood had successfully operated his popular restaurant for decades. New Jersey Senator Vince Polistina had everything worked out with the state of New Jersey for Fish Heads to remain open for business.

Small instead opted to politically retaliate against Wood and unnecessarily destroyed his business.

Wood was the only African-American owned business in Atlantic City’s Gardner’s Basin marina district.

Below, is a photo of Fish Heads Restaurant, which Small directed to be towed and moved to the Atlantic City Police Department impound tow lot.

Don P. Hurley
Don P. Hurley

Note: The honorable Atlantic City Police Department should be held harmless in this matter. They were merely following a bad order from the civilian director of public safety (Mayor).

This left Wood officially out of business and forced to pay additional money to get his restaurant back. His restaurant was also damaged in the move.

Small had repeatedly placed all of the blame for the demise of Fish Heads on the state of New Jersey, and, in particular, the Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP).

We knew that this was a lie.

The lie unraveled when corroboration came from the Philadelphia Inquirer, who spoke with Caryn Shinske, a public information officer with the state DEP, which is responsible to manage the Green Acres program.

It doesn't get any more unambiguous then this:

"The issue was that Atlantic City is evicting Fish Heads," said Shinske.

"It is not the state that is evicting Fishheads. It is Atlantic City!" said Shinske.

Small next resorted to outrageously calling the highest elected state-level official in Atlantic County, Senator Vince Polistina a racist. He is not.

Small accused "Polistina, who is white, of playing reverse racism in the Black community. Vince Polistina voted against tax relief for Atlantic City, and now he wants to act like he's a champion," Small said to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

This was a blatantly false statement made by a Small about Polistina, who has a long demonstrated track record of supporting Atlantic City and its residents in many ways; financial and thorough excellence in constituent service.

In just a few months time (around this time last year), Small led the following retaliatory efforts:

  • Led a political stunt to remove John Devlin from his public position on the Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authority. It worked.
  • Coordinated with the Atlantic City Board of Education to kick out Stockton University from using the Atlantic City Boathouse. Stockton has invested more than $ 270 million in Atlantic City.
  • Political retaliation against Wood and Fish Heads restaurant; whereby Small had the business towed to the Atlantic City police impound tow lot ... On a Saturday, during inclement weather.

After getting caught in the act of unjustly closing Fish Heads, Small told The Philadelphia Inquirer that “it's a Green Acres issue," he said. "Look at the history of Green Acres with the city of Atlantic City. We're following the state laws," said Small.

Not true.

The state of New Jersey had absolutely no interest whatsoever in going after the small business owners like Wood, who were simply working hard, trying to earn a living, and providing a service to the public at Gardner's Basin.

Senator Polistina confirmed that the state of New Jersey DEP actually permits these types of food truck restaurants to operate on Green Acres sites.

The truth is that Small manufactured a dispute with a local business owner, that didn't exist in reality. Small then misused New Jersey Green Acres laws as the rationale to shut down Fish Heads Restaurant.

Exactly one year ago today, Wood had his ability to do business unjustly taken away from him. He had his physical business property towed away and damaged in the process.

It was a heavy-handed and disgraceful public display of raw political power at its worst.

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