As the holiday spirit fills the air, Montclair local news stories are brewing a different kind of magic this season, and The Montclair Girl is here to unwrap the latest tales. It’s been an eventful week with noteworthy happenings, and we’ve gathered the latest local news roundup to keep you in the know. Among the highlights: a pizzeria in Morristown receives a surprise visit from Tommy DeVito; officials dismiss alleged ‘privatization’ rumors in Montclair; and Montclair’s Loopwell hosts its second annual ‘Mittens On Maple’ holiday drive. Read on for more news from Montclair, Bloomfield, and beyond for the week ending December 24th, 2023.
A Holiday Message from the MG Team
As 2023 ends, we want to take a moment to express our gratitude to you (and let you know our OOOs are up til the new year!). It’s because of you that we are still able to do what we love to do — write, inquire, share memes (truly!), and create community.
While the last few years have presented unique challenges for us and many others, we remain true to our purpose: to shine a light on the local small-owned businesses, people, organizations, and missions of all industries and backgrounds. We aim to uplift, inform, and encourage our readers to join us in celebrating how special our communities are. Click here to read the whole message from the MG team.
Giants QB Tommy DeVito Visits Morristown Restaurant
New York Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito paid a surprise visit to Coniglio’s Old Fashioned pizzeria at 11 South Street in Morristown on Tuesday night, after facing criticism for increasing his appearance fee, per Patch. Tommy DeVito spent several hours with the restaurant’s owner, Nico Coniglio, and local fans completely unpaid. Earlier this week, the controversy sparked when Nico had been informed by DeVito’s agent, Sean Stellato, of a proposed doubling of the quarterback’s attendance fee from $10,000 to $20,000.
Antisemitic Threat Aimed at Livingston Temple Investigated by Police
A Livingston temple was one of over a dozen temples targeted this past weekend for antisemitic threats, per Patch. Police in Livingston were alerted on Sunday morning about an email sent to Temple Beth Shalom, alleging the presence of multiple explosives in the building. Following a search by the Essex County Sheriff’s Office Bomb//K-9 Unit and police, the building was found clear of explosive devices. Upon investigation, authorities concluded that the same email was sent across the state and Essex County, with no credible threat found.
Paterson’s Hamilton Square Set to Undergo $7.5 Million Renovation
WinnCompanies and co-developers Daryll Tyson and Owen Tonkins have acquired Hamilton Square, a 68-unit affordable housing community in Paterson’s historic district, initiating a $7.5 million rehabilitation effort, per JerseyDigs. The renovation will revive residences and strengthen the city’s supply of affordable housing addressing building code issues, failing HVAC systems, and the refurbishment of all apartments, including 24 currently uninhabitable units. The mill-style property, established 26 years ago, is located at 20-21 Mill Street, compromising two low-rise buildings that include a section of the 165-year-old historic Hamilton Mill.
Loopwell’s Second Annual ‘Mittens On Maple’ Holiday Drive
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Loopwell, a Montclair community space promoting well-being, commenced its second annual “Mittens On Maple” community holiday drive, according to Montclair Local. Loopwell is collecting donations of mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves. The initiative, led by its founders Debbie and Sean Looney and family will feature a mitten wall displayed on the fence at Glenfield Park. These items will be available for free to the community on Christmas morning.
Officials Dismiss Alleged ‘Privatization’ Rumors in Montclair
Montclair officials have disproved the rumor circulating about the potential privatization of township services, according to Patch. Township manager Michael Lapolla dismissed these claims during the recent town council meeting, specifically, addressing unfounded speculation surrounding the privatization of trash collection and kennel services at the municipal animal shelter.
Inflatable Snowmen Spark Community Support in Montclair
Residents of Warren Place in Montclair have transformed the streets into a cheerful winter wonderland with a display of oversized inflatable snowmen, according to Montclair Local. Inspired by resident Ann McCarthy’s early morning idea to brighten spirits, the trend began with a simple search for a 20-foot-snowman. Collaborating with neighbor Amy Kopp, the ideas spread, resulting in 14 towering snowmen across the block. McCarthy pledged donations to the Montclair Foundation for each snowman, prompting similar displays on neighboring streets.
Montclair Resident + Baseball Pioneer Larry Doby Receives Congressional Gold Medal
Montclair resident Lawrence Eugene Doby, AKA “Larry” Doby, renowned for breaking the American League’s color barrier in 1947, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in Washington D.C., per Montclair Local. Doby, a Montclair resident until his passing in 2003, began his baseball career in the Negro leagues and became the second black player in Major League Baseball, following Jackie Robinson. During his nine seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Doby earned seven All-Star selections and notably hit the first World Series home run by a black player in 1948. At the ceremony, his son, Larry Doby Junior accepted the medal expressing his family’s pride in his father’s pivotal role in advancing civil rights and American greatness.
Newark’s Vailsburg Park Opens Dog Park + Restroom Upgrade Continues
A new 24,000-square-foot dog park recently opened at Vailsburg Park in Newark, with separate enclosures for small and large dogs, according to Patch. County officials announced that French and Parrello from Wall secured $124,500 for design services and Zenith Construction Services from Orange obtained a $1,994,950 construction contract – each funded through the Essex County capital budget and with a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. Simultaneously, renovations of the existing restroom building adjacent to the children’s playground are underway and will open this winter.
Sting Joins Christian McBride for Jazz House Kids Benefit Performance
Montclair’s Jazz House Kids presents an event featuring Sting and Christian McBride at the 8th annual Ralph Pucci Jazz Set on February 28th, 2024, per Montclair Local. The evening promises a unique collaboration between the 17-time Grammy-winner Sting, and 8-time Grammy-winner bassist Christian McBride celebrating Sting’s career. This intimate performance serves as a fundraiser for Jazz House Kids — a nonprofit empowering young talent with jazz education opportunities, featuring a special appearance by Jazz House students alongside the artists.
Bank Employee Charged with Stealing Federal Benefits
Former Nutley bank employee Jorge Nova, 35, of Passaic, was charged with one count of wire fraud for allegedly stealing $105,000 in Social Security benefits from a dead customer’s account over four years, per the United States Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey. According to a press release, he was able to accomplish this by issuing debit cards to himself in the beneficiary’s name because of his role as an employee at a bank in Nutley. The Social Security Administration was not notified of the beneficiary’s death, and continually added funds to the beneficiary’s account until October 2018.
Essex County Sheriffs Spread Holiday Cheer
Santa got an assist from the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. On Tuesday, December 19th, members of the sheriff’s office visited local schools, churches, pantries, domestic violence victims’ shelters, and homeless shelters to deliver toys, according to Patch. Officers also handed coats, in time for colder weather.
Remembering Acclaimed Actor + Essex County Resident Andre Braugher, Friend of Montclair’s Howe House
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Acclaimed actor Andre Braugher, known for his roles in Homicide: Life on the Street and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, passed away at 61 due to lung cancer. Andre, a devoted family man and resident of South Orange, was instrumental in preserving Montclair’s Howe House, contributing to the acquisition with the Friends of the Howe House group, per Montclair Local. His support, along with that of his wife Ami Brabson, helped secure the home’s purchase for $400,000 shortly before Christmas in 2022.
NJ Transit Launches Fundraiser to Support Ricardo the Bull
✨ Preorders are OPEN for the showstopping Ricardo the Bull plush at the Transit Shoppe! ️ A portion of the proceeds will be donated to support Ricardo! https://t.co/1VJueuRdW5 pic.twitter.com/Cfdi4ry4Bl
— NJ TRANSIT (@NJTRANSIT) December 18, 2023
NJ Transit has launched a fundraiser to help support Ricardo, the bull that escaped onto the Newark Penn Station train tracks earlier this month. According to a social media post, a stuffed animal in Ricardo’s likeness is sold in the agency’s online store, and proceeds will go to Skyland Sanctuary, the Sussex County animal sanctuary where Ricardo now lives. The six-inch stuffed animal comes adorned with an NJ Transit-branded bandana.
Rutgers Alum’s Donation Creates Endowed Research Chair
An endowed chair in LGBTQ+ Public Health will be established at Rutgers University School of Public Health thanks to a $3 million donation. The Perry N. Halkitis Endowed Chair in LGBTQ+ Public Health is named after the school’s current Dean, according to Patch. The chair is part of the school’s plan to create the Rutgers Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health. The $3 million donation came from Rutgers alum James F. Dougherty and an additional $2 million was donated by Rutgers Health Chancellor Brian Strom.
Yelp Names Top 50 Places to Eat in North Jersey, See Which Essex County Spots Made the List
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Popular review site Yelp has released a list of the Top 50 Places to Eat in North Jersey. Several Essex County spots made it onto the list, including The Corner in Montclair; Emilio’s Wood Fire Pizza in Nutley; and The Olive Bistro in Little Falls. To read the full list, click here.
Council Votes To Change Public Comment Procedure
Montclair’s Township Council will change its public comment procedure during meetings. According to Montclair Local, the new format includes two sessions: in the first session, community members are given two minutes each to comment on issues listed on the meeting’s agenda; and in the second session, community members are given three minutes each to comment on any other issues. The change comes as a response to large amounts of public comment that extend meetings to several hours. The goal is to help meetings be more effective.
Montclair Restaurant Fresca da Franco to Temporarily Close in January
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Montclair restaurant Fresca da Franco will close in January 2024 for rebranding. According to Montclair Local, the restaurant will be closed from January 7th – 21st. The interior will be revamped to match the next-door sister venue Bar Franco.
Livingston Mom Donates Kidney To Teen Daughter
15-year-old Kaitlin Siegel, who suffers from a rare nerve disease caused by a genetic mutation, discovered that her kidneys were only functioning at 10 percent during a doctor’s visit. Her mother, Jennifer, was tested to see if she was a compatible donor – luckily, she was a match. According to Patch, Jennifer and Kaitlin both underwent surgery at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center, which says it performs the most kidney transplants in the region. Kaitlin is now in the process of healing and is excited to be experiencing life with less pain and health issues thanks to her new kidney.
Montclair Foundation Grants $65K to Support 17 Local Groups
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Local nonprofit The Montclair Fund (TMF) has given 17 other local organizations an early holiday gift. According to Montclair Local, over $65,000 was distributed among the organizations. TMF’s goal is to support a variety of activities in the community, and this year focused on four categories: education; mental health and well-being; seniors and vulnerable communities; and arts, culture, and community service.
Newark School Advances to Final Round of National STEM Competition
Per Patch, a Newark elementary school is a finalist in a national contest. The Dr. E. Alma Flagg school has made it to the final round of the 14th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM competition. Student teams use STEM-based solutions to solve real-world problems in the competition.