Home Essex County 22 News Stories You Missed This Week in Montclair + Beyond

22 News Stories You Missed This Week in Montclair + Beyond

by The Montclair Girl Team
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April has delivered with showers all week and even a 4.8 earthquake that shook New Jersey. It’s been another busy week in Essex County and we’ve got all the news to keep you up to date. Among the highlights: South Orange-Maplewood and Newark schools facing major budgeting issues; Rutgers University dismisses its COVID-19 vaccine mandate; and country artist Zach Bryan beats Bruce Springsteen’s attendance record at Prudential Center. Read on for all the news in Essex County for the week ending April 7th, 2024.

Have a news story or press release? Email it to hello@themontclairgirl.com.

Among the Headlines:

  • Newark’s Marcus B&P Transforms into Vibe BBQ
  • Essex County’s Hilltop Conservancy Celebrates 20th Anniversary
  • Montclair Task Force Presents Special Five-Year Plan to Eliminate Car Crashes
  • Iris Yoga Expands Sensory Series for Adults with Developmental Disabilities
  • Bloomfield Resident Shot in Montclair
  • Cybercrime Data Breach at Prudential Financial Impacts 36,000 People
  • Newark Named One of 30 Most Popular Cities for Renters
  • Montclair Township Hires for Three New Positions for Over $300k Annually
  • Yoga Berra Stadium Starts New Era with $5 Million+ Renovation + New Collaboration
  • Zach Bryan Breaks ‘The Boss’s’ Home State Record for Attendance at Prudential Center

Newark’s Marcus B&P Transforms Into Vibe BBQ


The Ivy at Chatham
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A post shared by Marcus Samuelsson (@marcuscooks)


Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson opened his re-vamped restaurant, Vibe BBQ, inside the former Marcus B&P space at 65 Halsey Street in Newark. According to Jersey Digs, this eatery will be more meat-focused but also stay true to serving a variety of local beers and ciders on tap. The Swedish-born chef’s famous cornbread remains on the menu along with a slew of newly combined meat platters, BBQ cauliflower, sandwiches, and more. The restaurant is closed on Sunday but is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Thursday from 12PM-9PM, as well as 12PM-10PM on Friday and Saturday.

The Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival Started This Weekend; Runs Through 4/14

branch brook park cherry blossom fest

The Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival, held annually at Branch Brook Park in Newark, started on Saturday, April 6th, and will run through Sunday, April 14th. In addition to gazing at 5,300+ cherry blossoms in 18 varieties, attendees can participate in various activities — including the Cherry Blossom 10K run, the Essex County One-Mile Fun Run, Essex County Family Day, and Bloomfest. Click here to read more about this year’s festival.

Newark Approves $1.5 Billion School Budget, Increases Taxes for First Time in 3 Years

The Newark Board of Education approved a $1.519 billion budget that increases the tax levy to $141.1 million — the maximum permitted under state law without taking the spending plan to a public vote — during a budget hearing on March 27th. School Business Administrator Valerie Wilson reported that a homeowner can pay up to almost $2,100 in school property taxes during the 2024-25 academic year, marking an increase of $30.74 over the prior year. According to TAPinto, state aid is increasing eight percent from last year which will include aid in equalization, special education, security, and transportation. The budget will also add almost 300 full-time jobs to the district, install air conditioning units, and resolve asbestos concerns.

2 Local Leaders Honored at Essex County Irish Heritage Celebration


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A post shared by Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. (@joedessexcounty)


The Annual Essex County Irish Heritage Celebration named its two honorees at last week’s event. Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. recognized New Jersey State Senator John McKeon as the 2024 Essex County Irishman of the Year as well as Kathy Ahearn-O’Brien, Executive Director of Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, as the 2024 Essex County Irishwoman of the Year. The event recognizes “the impact Irish men and women have had on the cultural, civic, political, law enforcement and economic history of the county,” per Patch.

Peter Shapiro, Essex County General Assemblyman, Has Passed Away at 71

The man who once made history as the youngest New Jerseyan to ever be elected to the General Assembly and served as the first-ever Essex County executive, Peter Shapiro, has died at the age of 71. The Newark-born, longtime South Orange resident was first elected at only 23 years old and made a significant and positive impact on Essex County. According to The New York Times, Assemblyman Shapiro reformed the county’s welfare program, refinanced the pension system, and lowered the county property tax rate while in his role. His obituary can be viewed online here.

Newark Providing Summer Jobs for Youth Program

The Newark Summer Youth Employment Program is now accepting applications for its 2024 summer job program. According to Patch, Newark residents between the ages of 14 and 24 can apply for placement in a job that can pay up to $15.13 per hour for 16 hours of work maximum a week. Employment will run from July 8th to August 16th. Interested applicants can apply and find more info here.

Montclair Task Force Presents Special 5-Year Plan to Eliminate Car Crashes

Montclair’s Vision Zero Task Force presented its first update regarding a plan to stop pedestrian crashes and make streets safer in front of the town council late last month. To achieve its mission, task force chair Laura Torchio said it will use the Vision Zero guidelines, Complete Streets guidelines, and the Safe System Approach in its plan. The plan is projected over five years and seeks to eliminate all traffic-related and pedestrian and bicycle crashes by 2028, per Montclair Local.

Essex County’s Hilltop Conservancy Celebrates 20th Anniversary


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A post shared by Hilltop Conservancy (@hilltopconservancy)


Hilltop Conservancy, the organization dedicated to taking care of the Hilltop Reservation that takes up 284 acres between Verona, Cedar Grove, and the Caldwells, is celebrating 20 years of work. The Conservancy thanked its donors, members, and more than 100 of its volunteers for their continued support. Over the last two decades, it has invested in major achievements in restoration, community outreach, and cleaning up trash, per Montclair Local.

Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair Increases Behavioral Healthcare Services

Montclair’s Mountainside Medical Center has obtained behavioral health providers from Envision Healthcare to the hospital’s employed physician enterprise, Mountainside Medical Group. Jonathan Hertz will continue to act as the medical director of Behavioral Health Services at the hospital. According to an announcement on the hospital’s website, this marks “a significant milestone in the hospital’s commitment to meeting the evolving needs of patients and the community” as the need for these services are on the rise in New Jersey and across the country. The hospital provides 24/7 access to emergency psychiatric services as well as various treatments for a multitude of conditions, including eating disorders, addiction, and more.

South Orange-Maplewood Schools Facing Major Budgeting Issues


The South Orange-Maplewood School District is struggling with its tentative 2024-2025 budget as a reported 11 percent increase in state aid “won’t be enough.” According to Patch, up to 40 positions may be cut due to a $2.7 million deficit despite a prospective $10 million state aid package. Acting Superintendent Kevin Gilbert requested an additional $4.2 million in front of the New Jersey State Assembly’s Budget Committee on March 20th. A public hearing and final vote on the budget is scheduled for April 25th.

Essex County Launches 2024 LGBTQ+ Health Survey

The 2024 LGBTQ+ Health Needs Assessment, which aims to better assess the quality of life for LGBTQ+ individuals living in Essex County, is now live. The Essex County Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr., and the Essex County Office of Public Health Management are partnering with the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS) at the Rutgers School of Public Health to better understand the needs of this community. The survey includes conversations surrounding quality of care, neighborhood safety, mental health regarding coming out, and experiences with health care and substance use, per Patch. Identifying persons can take the online survey here.

Iris Yoga Expands Sensory Series for Adults With Developmental Disabilities


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A post shared by Iris Yoga | NJ (@irisyoga_nj)


Bloomfield’s Iris Yoga, located at 383 Broad Street, announced a second weekly class of its sensory series for adults with developmental disabilities aged 16 years and older to be added to its lineup. According to a press release from the business, the class will start on April 17th and be held on Wednesdays at 5PM and Saturdays at 10AM for eight weeks. It will incorporate movement and meditative components tailored to the specific needs and pace of individuals in attendance. Potential clients have the option to self-pay for the classes or utilize their funding from the Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), as Iris Yoga is an approved vendor. For more information and to register, clients can visit its website or reach out via email to info@irisyoganj.com.

2 Home Intrusions Reported in Montclair

The Montclair Police Department announced on Tuesday that two home intrusions recently took place in the township. On March 31st, a resident living on North Mountain Avenue found a strange man standing in her bedroom at 2AM. Upon seeing her walk into the room, he fled the scene; nothing is reported to be missing and it’s unknown how he entered the home. Another incident occurred on the same night when a suspect entered a home on Braemore Road through an unlocked first-floor bathroom window. A glass jar containing $250 in coins was stolen from the kitchen. According to Patch, it is unknown who the suspects are at this time and if the two disturbances are related.

Rutgers University Dismisses COVID-19 Vaccine Policy After 4 Years

covid vaccine

As of April 1st, Rutgers University is not making it mandatory for students, faculty, staff, and university affiliates to be vaccinated against COVID-19. A Rutgers spokeswoman reported that this decision comes after being “committed to follow public health trends and adjust our policies as needed, as we have done,” per NJ.com. Before the decision, the only way students could be on campus without vaccinations was to request an exemption, which were evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The university was the first to require vaccines during the pandemic, which initially led to a federal lawsuit from an anti-vaccine group. It became one of the last universities in the state to still have a vaccine requirement.

Cybercrime Data Breach at Prudential Financial Impacts 36,000 People

Prudential Financial, which has its headquarters in Newark, announced that a data breach that took place on February 4th may have impacted over 30,000 individuals. According to Security Week, the company is sending written notifications about the incident. The stolen information included names, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and non-driver identification card numbers. The company says it has confirmed that the attackers don’t have access to its systems anymore, and claims to have implemented additional security measures to prevent another cyberattack from occurring. Prudential noted that the incident hasn’t had a material impact on its operations.

Newark Residents Can Get Free Tax Help

tax accountants north new jersey

The Newark Asset Building Coalition (NABC) has launched Newark Free Tax Prep — a service that provides free tax prep services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). Individuals with $66,000 or less taxable income on their tax return can receive free tax help from trained and certified volunteers, per an announcement from the United Way of Greater Newark. Each person’s tax information is only used in preparation for their tax return. Interested participants can file their taxes online for free or visit one of its locations at one of many locations in Newark or East Orange.

Montclair Township Hires For 3 New Positions for Over $300k Annually

Montclair has recently filled three township positions that are causing some controversy in the community. The hires include replacing the head of the Department of Community Services (DCS) with Austin Ashley, a new communications specialist in Ananmay Uttara, and placing longtime resident Norma Tassy in the new position of director of administration. According to Montclair Local, Austin was terminated in his previous position as the deputy administrator for the borough of Palisades Park while Norma has reportedly had no previous experience in municipal government.

Newark Named One of 30 Most Popular Cities for Renters


Newark has been ranked 23rd on a list of the most sought-after cities for renters. According to a February report from RentCafe, the city has had a 102% increase in page views compared to the same time last year and has had a decrease in apartment availability. It was also reported that North Jersey, including Newark, is the third-most competitive rental market nationwide and proves to be the trending spot in the Northeast per another survey from the site.

Newark Cheerleader’s Family Plans to Sue Up to $150 Million After Hit-and-Run

The family of a Newark Arts High School student, Chiara Jones, plans to sue the city’s board of education after she was critically hurt by a hit-and-run incident when she stepped off the school bus on February 4th. The family’s attorney, James S. Lynch, wrote in a notice that was sent to the district and bus company, “The school bus driver did not employ any lights, stop sign, or other safety mechanisms to protect its exiting passengers.” Neither the district nor the bus company has commented, per NJ.com. The driver, later identified as a Newark woman, was charged with multiple crimes and is being held in the Essex County Jail pending court hearings. Chiara was taken to University Hospital in Newark and transferred last week to Kessler Rehabilitation Center in West Orange where she remains and is “likely permanently disabled.”

Yoga Berra Stadium Starts New Era with $5 Million+ Renovation + New Collaboration


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Yogi Berra Stadium, home to the Montclair State University (MSU) Red Hawks baseball team, is ushering in a new era with a $5.3 million renovation as well as being the new home field for the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) sports teams. Montclair’s Capital Planning and Project Management team brought the vision for improvements to life, per an article released by Montclair State. Upgrades include new energy-saving LED lights, new turf, and other elements enhancing the look of both the locker rooms and the field. The stadium was originally built over 25 years ago along with the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in honor of the legendary New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher by the same name.

Bloomfield Resident Shot in Montclair

An 18-year-old male from Bloomfield was shot Monday night around Maple Avenue and Woodland Avenue in Montclair. Lieutenant Terence Turner stated that Montclair Police responded to a report of shots fired at 9:56PM as the first responding officer saw two males running to an awaiting vehicle parked on Woodland Avenue. The passenger in the front seat was shot but the two other males in the car were not injured. He was treated on scene by Montclair EMS and Medics and transported to University Hospital in Newark where he is reported to be in stable condition, per Montclair Local. Montclair Police Department said the investigation doesn’t currently have suspect information and anyone who may have information may call MPD at (973) 744-1234 and request to speak with the Detective Bureau.

Zach Bryan Breaks ‘The Boss’s’ Home State Record for Attendance at Prudential Center


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A post shared by Prudential Center (@prucenter)

Country artist Zach Bryan recently broke the record for attendance at Prudential Center in Newark when 19,151 people came to see him on his Quittin Time Tour on March 14h. According to American Songwriter, he broke Asbury Park native — and “The Boss” — Bruce Springsteen’s record from one year ago of 18,220 people. The tour is set to continue until December.

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