It’s been another busy week in Essex County and there’s plenty of news to catch up on. Among the headlines: universal preschool will be available for Montclair students again for the 2023-2024 school year; the Watchung Plaza intersection is flagged for traffic safety improvements; and a James Beard award-nominated chef opened a new restaurant in Montclair. Read on to see all the news you’ve missed.
MG Exclusive: Montclair’s Fresco Da Franco is About to Undergo a Major Makeover
Photo Courtesy of Franco Porporino
Rumor has it that Franco Porporino, owner of the local favorite Fresca de Franco will be enlisting the services of a celebrity chef to elevate the restaurant’s existing concept, turning it into a fine dining establishment. The Montclair Girl got the exclusive from Franco Poporino about what’s to come at Fresco da Franco and his new venture, Bar Franco, both arriving on Church Street this spring. Read on for more.
Montclair Fire Chief Asks for More Fire Fighters
At a Montclair Township Council Meeting, Fire Chief John Herrmann requested a budget increase to increase the department’s staffing, according to Montclair Local. The request would increase the department’s budget by 17%, but would also increase staffing to pre-pandemic levels by adding 13 firefighters.
Bloomfield Chorale Seeks Singers
The Bloomfield Chorale has been a part of the community for over 90 years, and more singers are needed to keep the tradition alive. In an announcement in Patch, the organization seeks new singers to join its ranks, whether they be alto, soprano, tenor or bass. For more information, interested parties can visit the Chorale’s Facebook page.
Buzz Aldrin, Montclair’s Moonwalker, Marries Again at 93
Buzz Aldrin, one of the first humans to set foot on the moon, was born and raised in Montclair. He married again earlier this week, on the same date as his 93rd birthday, per BaristaNet. His bride is Dr. Anca Faur, the Executive Vice President of Buzz Aldrin Ventures, LLC.
Out Montclair + Montclair Brewing Announce Beer Label Design Competition for Montclair Pride
Out Montclair, a community group dedicated to supporting the LGBTQIA community and the organizer of Montclair Pride, has teamed up with Montclair Brewery to host a beer label design competition. Montclair Brewery is making a special beer for the festival and the winning design will be on that special brew. The imagery will also be a part of the visuals for entire festival. Local artists are encouraged to apply. Read on for more details.
Former US Secretary of Homeland Security + Montclair Resident Honored with Portrait in DC
Current Montclair resident and former US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson was honored earlier this week with an official portrait. Per BaristaNet, the official ceremony took place in Washington, D.C. where Secretary Johnson was honored for his service. The portrait hangs at DHS headquarters in Washington.
Ribbon Cutting for The NOW Massage in Montclair
On Friday, January 27th, the NOW Massage opened in Montclair. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was hosted by the Montclair Business Improvement District. The NOW, located at 425 Bloomfield Avenue, specializes in affordable services in a relaxing setting. Services are available a la carte or customers can purchase a membership.
TV, Film, and Streaming Companies Break Spending Records in NJ
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy touted the economic benefits realized by the state’s efforts in attracting television, film, and streaming service productions. According to NJ.com, over $650 million was spent on productions in 2022, breaking the previous record set in 2021, of $500 million. At the same, over 8,500 New Jerseyians have been employed by these projects. Since more studios have committed to larger facilities here, it is expected that those numbers will grow.
Pasta Ramen Opens In Montclair
(Photo credit: @nj_native_photo)
James Beard Nominated Rising Star Chef and owner Robbie Felice opened his latest project right here in Montclair on January 28th. Pasta Ramen is a Japanese-Italian restaurant that features the best of both cultures’ cuisines. Read on for more of MG’s chat with Chef Robbie and to learn what diners can expect at this new spot.
Newark-Based College Makes US News + World Report List
Pillar College, headquartered in Newark with satellite campuses throughout North Jersey, was recently named to US News + World Report’s collegiate rankings. The school was recognized as a Top Performer on Social Mobility in National Liberal Arts Colleges, per a press release from the College. Pillar College was the highest-ranked college in New Jersey in Economic Diversity in the Liberal Arts category, and one of the top 10 in the nation.
New Initiative Launched Aimed at Supporting Local West Orange Artists
Opening Doors is a new initiative launched by Luna Stage in partnership with Valley National Bank to support West Orange artists in ensuring access to performance space, per BaristaNet. In addition to access to performance space, the partnership will support workshops, rehearsals, and other valuable resources for the artistic process. Artists interested in applying for the program can visit their site.
Gateway Junction Opens in Newark
Per JerseyDigs, the Gateway Junction in Newark is now open. The redevelopment project is part of a large project in downtown Newark, connected to Newark Penn Station. The Gateway Junction is full of new restaurant and retail locations, including the recently opened Chip City, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Jersey Mike’s Subs. Other restaurants coming soon include Uncle Willie’s Wings, Mokbar, and Brooklyn Dumplings.
Watchung Plaza in Montclair to be Modernized
Montclair’s Watchung Plaza will be modernized after Essex County announced plans to add more traffic signals and enhance traffic striping on the roadway, per BaristaNet. The intersection has long been a source of concern for both vehicular and pedestrian safety. West Orange-based Klein Traffic Consulting will complete the engineering plans for the project.
Newark-Based Non-Profit Celebrates 20 Years
Newark-based non-profit organization Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District (LPCCD) celebrated its 20-year anniversary earlier this week, according to Patch. The LPCDD hosted an event, called the Langiappe Experience, to celebrate its anniversary and kick off an 18-month fundraising campaign to sustain its efforts. The LPCCD is committed to advancing the Lincoln Park neighborhood through building affordable housing and cultivating civic leadership and providing year-round resident services.
Another Year of Free Preschool Available in Montclair
Universal free preschool returns to Montclair for the 2023-2024 school year. Students already registered will be automatically re-registered, and new registrants must register by February 10th. More information and application materials are available on the Montclair Public Schools website.
Newark’s Creative Catalyst Fund Awards 148 Grants
The Newark Creative Catalyst Fund was started in 2020 as a way to support local artists during the pandemic and has continued to support artists and creators through grants. The Fund recently made its 2022 awards, granting funds to 114 recipients, per Patch. The recipients are both artists and artist collectives, and the average grant is $3,200. Another 34 grants were awarded to small and mid-sized arts organizations with an average of $10,100 per grant.
New Art Fellowship Launched at Montclair Art Museum for African American Post-Graduate Students
The Montclair Art Museum and the African American Cultural Committee have launched the AACC Fellowship, which will begin in September 2023. The Fellowship will be awarded to an African American graduate of a master’s or doctoral program in the visual arts or art history. More information is available on the museum’s website.
Montclair Historical Preservation Commission Calls for Changes to Plans for Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment
The Montclair Historical Preservation Commission has made a series of recommendations in response to the plans proposed for the Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment, per BaristaNet. The eight-acre plaza is the most historical site in Montclair and is one of the largest parcels of redevelopment in the township. The Commission’s recommendations include both current historical elements and items that may be discovered during the building process.