Home Essex County 23 News Stories You Missed This Week in Montclair + Beyond

23 News Stories You Missed This Week in Montclair + Beyond

by The Montclair Girl Team
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The crisp air paired with snow flurries can only mean that the holiday season is in full swing. It’s been another busy week in Essex County and we’ve got all the news to get you caught up. Among the highlights: a Montclair middle school sets up a little free pantry to serve the community; a faculty strike at NJIT in Newark is averted; and a Nutley tradition of serving neighbors celebrates its 15th year. Read on for more news from Montclair, Bloomfield, and beyond for the week ending December 10th, 2023.

The Montclair Girl’s Holiday Shopping Deals Guide 2023

holiday deals guide

It’s that time of year again here in Montclair + Essex County — the holiday season is approaching and there’s no better way to cross some names off your gift-giving list AND get into the festive spirit than by shopping at local North Jersey businesses. To help make it easy, we’ve put together a holiday shopping guide so our readers can get acquainted with local businesses in the North Jersey area. Keep reading to find out more about where to shop for local gifts, support small businesses, eat, drink, be merry, and ring in the holiday season.

New Mexican Restaurant ‘Playa Taqueria’ Open in Montclair


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A new addition to Montclair’s dining scene in the form of a new Mexican restaurant has made its way to 206 Bellevue Avenue — enter Playa Taqueria. This eatery, led by David Feit, John Paul Valenti, Charlie Diehl, and chef Ricardo Camacho, emphasizes authentic Mexican corn tortillas. Playa Taqueria aims to deliver a true taste of Mexico by blending traditional flavors with some creative twists in its tacos, bowls, and burritos, to introduce authentic Mexican cuisine to the neighborhood. Read on for details about Playa Taqueria, a new Mexican restaurant located on Bellevue Avenue in Montclair, NJ.

Montclair HS Student Completes Eagle Scout Project

A Montclair High School senior has completed his Eagle Scout project, helping to beautify the school’s campus in the process. Per Montclair Local, Kieran McCann spearheaded the project for Troop 12. The goal was to improve a down-trodden hill that students use as a cut-through. Kieran led a team of other scouts and some adult volunteers to grade and pave a path for students to use.

Montclair Expands Public Pre-K Program

Montclair Public Schools has expanded its pre-K program, according to Montclair Local. The program has been renamed to Mini-Mounties and classrooms will expand from 11 to 19 students. The changes will take place in the 2024-2025 school year, and more information can be found on the program’s website.

Conviction in Newark Airport Bribery Case

Three defendants, one a Montclair resident, were convicted of charges related to a scheme at Newark airport to bribe airline workers, according to a press release from the US Attorney’s office. Alok Saksena, 45, of Montclair, pled guilty to conspiracy charges for his role in accepting bribes in his capacity as an airline employee. The three defendants were bribed by a contractor bidding on work at Newark airport, and over $1 million in cash, home repairs, and other items were exchanged.

Watchung Train Station Waiting Room Closed to Commuters

The waiting room for passengers at the Watchung Train Station is closed again, according to Montclair Local. The waiting room had been closed earlier this year, reopened, but closed again to complete repairs. Riders say there was no notice of the closure, which is expected to last through the winter.

Plans Approved to Expand NJPAC Facilities in Newark


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A recently approved proposal in Newark will see a new theater building in downtown Newark completed, per Jersey Digs. The proposal for 26-48 Mulberry Street will transform a 140-lot parking lot into The Cooperman Center, a theater facility that is part of NJPAC. The new building will include a black box theater and a training program for sound and lighting technical staff.

Botanica Boutique Opens in Maplewood


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The Botanica Boutique, a CBD and wellness store, has opened in Maplewood at 70 Taylor Place. According to a press release, the store’s founder, Kris Haas is a former public school teacher who started the business in 2020. Offering natural wellness products that rejuvenate and uplift one’s body, mind, and spirit, The Botanica Boutique offers a highly personalized experience, partnering with clients to find their individualized and harmonious balance in wellness.

Nutley Neighbors Celebrate 15 Years of Neighborhood Leaf-Raking

What started as a random act of kindness in Nutley 15 years ago has spread to a community-wide effort, thanks to the Random Acts of Kindness Extended to Seniors (RAKES) program. According to Patch, RAKES provides leaf-raking services to elderly and disabled community members, with the services provided by Nutley neighbors. This year, 75 residents’ yards were raked and tidied by 125 neighbor volunteers.

Newark Public Schools See Record-Setting Growth

Information shared recently by the Newark Board of Education revealed the district’s incredible growth. According to Patch, the district’s enrollment has been steadily increasing over the past five years, which goes against a national trend of decreasing public school enrollment. Over 1,000 students have joined the district since the 2023-2024 school year began.

Little Free Pantry Now at Montclair’s Renaissance Middle School

Through a true community partnership, a Little Free Pantry (LFP) and a compost system have been installed at Renaissance Middle School in Montclair, according to Montclair Local. The LFP operates similarly to a Little Free Library, and is stocked and used by community members. Local businesses contributed materials and other resources.

Newark High School Football Field Gets Pro-Tier Renovations Through NFL Partnership


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A partnership between the Newark Public School District, the Giants, and the National Football League Foundation Grassroots Program was celebrated earlier this month during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a newly refurbished high school football field. According to Patch, the field upgrades were paid for by a $250,000 grant from the NFL. A new synthetic turf field and track were built at Malcolm X Shabazz/South Side High School Stadium, in addition to a new PA system and other design elements.

Montclair Mutual Aid’s Adopt-a-Family Program Needs Donors

Montclair Mutual Aid is a local organization dedicated to bringing community members together to build trust and share resources. The organization hosts an annual ‘Adopt-a-Family’ event where supporters can provide wishlist items for local recipients. According to Montclair Local, donations are still needed. For more information or to sign up, visit Montclair Mutual Aid.

MTA Approves NY Congestion Pricing Plan, Public Comment Period Opens

The Metropolitan Transit Authority has approved New York’s congestion pricing plan after a vote at a board meeting on Wednesday, December 6th. According to the New Jersey Monitor, the vote now opens a 60-day public comment period. While the policy is set to take effect in Spring 2024, a federal lawsuit filed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is likely to delay that.

Volunteers Needed at Montclair Animal Shelter

The Montclair Animal Shelter has put a call out for volunteers. Per Patch, some of the tasks the shelter needs help with include cleaning the facility, doing laundry, and pitching in as needed. More information including a volunteer application are available on the shelter’s website.

New Jersey Devils Take Part in Historic Sibling Moment


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A trio of NHL of siblings took the ice earlier this week in Vancouver when the New Jersey Devils played the Vancouver Canucks. Two of the Hughes brothers play for the Devils, Jack and Luke, while Quinn plays for the Canucks. The Devils won, 6-5.

Montclair YMCA Board of Directors Adds Four


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Four community members have joined the board of the YMCA of Montclair, per a press release from the organization. Allyn Molina, David Seawell, Lauren Sylvain, and Shannon Siwinsk have signed on for three-year terms. Outgoing board members Risa Cretella, David Harrison, and Tad Roselund were recognized for their contributions.

Faculty Strike at NJIT Averted

A strike at NJIT was averted earlier this week, after a ten-hour-long mediation session between the the University and United Council of Academics at NJIT (UCAN). Per TapInto, the strike would have been the first in the institution’s history. UCAN represents adjunct faculty and researchers.

Part-Time Montclair Officials Receive Full-Time State Benefits

An in-depth investigation by NJ.com revealed that Montclair is one of several New Jersey towns that have given local officials in part-time roles access to benefits typically reserved for full-time employees. A state law passed in 2010 was supposed to prohibit the practice, but the investigation found eight Montclair officials in violation. The unlawfully distributed benefits were also part of the whistleblower lawsuit filed by former Montclair Chief Financial Officer Padmaja Rao.

Essex County Correctional Officers to Receive Raises

The Essex County Board of Commissioners has approved a new agreement with New Jersey State Policeman’s Benevolent Association Local 382 (PBA3820), the union that represents correctional officers. According to Patch, part of the agreement included a pay raise for officers, many of whom claim to have not gotten a raise in over seven years. The deal will also give retroactive raises to some members, going back to 2018.

New Jersey Devils Players Visit Hospitalized Children


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Per Patch, several NJ Devils players spent time off the ice last month visiting hospitalized children. Players and staff visited patients at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. Stars and brothers Luke and Jack Hughes were two of the many players who participated in the visits.

Two Lawsuits Could Slow Lackawanna Plaza Plans

Even though the Montclair Township Council has approved plans for the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment, two new lawsuits could delay the start of the project. According to Montclair Local, one of the lawsuits was filed by One Greenwood, LLC, which has previously filed a lawsuit against the town in 2019 about the plaza. The second lawsuit was filed by a citizen-led organization called Montclair Residents for Responsible Development (MRRD).

Seton Hall University Bus Stolen, Recovered

A bus belonging to Seton Hall University was recovered after being stolen from the Livingston Mall and then left at a local school. Per Patch, two suspects were arrested shortly after the bus was recovered. The bus driver had left the vehicle running while he went into the mall.

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