Home Essex CountyBloomfield 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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Temperatures went back to (somewhat) normal to ring out the month of June and ring in the true beginning of summer. 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: JAZZ HOUSE KiDS announces its full 2024 lineup for the 15th Annual Montclair Jazz Festival; Governor Murphy officially signs a bill overhauling OPRA; and a Belize toddler travels to Newark for a life-saving heart surgery at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. Read on for all the news in Essex County for the week ending June 30th, 2024. Note: The Local Girl will be closed the week of July 1st, and there will be no news roundup on July 7th, 2024.

Have a news story or press release? Email it to [email protected].

Among the Headlines:

  • Executive Director of Montclair Center BID Announces Resignation
  • JAZZ HOUSE KiDS Announces Full 2024 Lineup for 15th Annual Montclair Jazz Festival
  • Glen Ridge to Begin Monarch Butterfly Initiative
  • New $11M Irvington Park Community Center Unveiled
  • South Orange-Maplewood Pen Pals Meet In Person After One Year of Writing to Each Other
  • Short Hills Native Makes Team USA Rowing for Summer Olympics
  • First Ever Food Tour of South Orange Launches Next Week
  • Incarcerated N.J. Students in Essex County Earn Their High School Diplomas
  • Belize Toddler Travels to Newark for Life-Saving Heart Surgery at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey
  • N.J. + N.Y. Soccer Players Headed to 2024 Summer Olympics

Executive Director of Montclair Center BID Announces Resignation

Jason Gleason, Montclair Center BID’s executive director, has announced his resignation after five years at the organization, effective August 1, 2024. According to Montclair Local, Jason oversaw the BID’s commitment to the organization’s mission to ensure a “vibrant, clean, safe, and growing business center in Montclair.” The Board stated it would conduct a nationwide recruiting effort as Abhishake Shah, the BID’s assistant director + project manager, will serve as interim executive director following Jason’s leave.

JAZZ HOUSE KiDS Announces Full 2024 Lineup for 15th Annual Montclair Jazz Festival


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One of Montclair’s most lively events is returning for 2024. Hosted by local nonprofit Jazz House Kids, the first events of the 2024 Montclair Jazz Festival kicked off on Thursday, May 16th, and will continue throughout the summer leading up to the 2024 Downtown Jamboree on Saturday, September 14th. Click here to check out this summer’s lineup for the 2024 Montclair Jazz Festival which includes Lisa Fischer + Grand Baton, Steve Turre Sextet, and JAZZ HOUSE Legacy.

Glen Ridge to Begin Monarch Butterfly Initiative

Glen Ridge Mayor Debbie Mans joined Amanda McCabe, chair of the Glen Ridge Environmental Advisory Committee (GREAC), and Councilor LoriJeane Moody to plant butterfly milkweed (Ascelpias tuberosa) last week. This is to help the “Mayors’ Monarch Pledge” that Mayor Mans signed this past March. According to Montclair Local, the program encourages all American cities and municipalities to create habitats for monarchs and other important pollinators by “planting native plants, foregoing harmful insecticides, and providing citizen education about how everyone can make a difference in their own yards and gardens.” Residents are encouraged to plant native plants and register their yards online via the Pollinator Pathway.

Governor Murphy Officially Signs Bill to Overhaul OPRA

montclair lawsuit

Governor Phil Murphy recently signed a bill to officially overhaul the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). OPRA has regulated public access to government records for the past 22 years, thus causing an uproar from media organizations, lawmakers, and political organizations with the latest overturned ruling. Governor Murphy has since made a statement responding to the criticism, saying, “Perhaps the most troubling concern that I have heard is that signing this bill will both enable corruption and erode trust in our democracy… If I believed that this bill would enable corruption in any way, I would unhesitatingly veto it.”

South Orange-Maplewood Pen Pals Meet In Person After One Year of Writing to Each Other

Fifth-graders from South Mountain and Clinton Elementary Schools of the South Orange-Maplewood Public School District met for the first time on Flood’s Hill on Friday, June 21st, after corresponding as pen pals throughout the school year. Every other month, the students wrote to their randomly selected fifth-grade counterparts in handwritten letters, delivered via the District’s inter-office, postage-free mail system. South Mountain Elementary School Principal Kevin Mason had the idea to engage fifth-graders at both schools as pen pals in September, per Patch Maplewood. The initial mission was to give them a writing activity where they wouldn’t need their Chromebooks, and South Mountain ELA Teacher Rebecca Masters said she saw the exercise as a way to help students transition into South Orange Middle School.

Short Hills Native Makes Team USA Rowing for Summer Olympics


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Molly Reckford, a Short Hills native, has been officially selected to represent Team USA as part of its Rowing team at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. According to a press release, she reached this significant milestone by qualifying in the lightweight women’s double sculls competition at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Rowing Trials. Molly’s grandfather, Bill Spencer, was also a two-time Olympian and longtime coach for Team USA in biathlon.

New $11M Irvington Park Community Center Unveiled

Essex County officials recently held a dedication ceremony for an $11 million community center entitled the Bilal Beasley Community Center (named after a beloved local community leader) located at the Lyons Avenue side of the park adjacent to the tennis courts. According to Patch Newark, the 13,000 square feet of space in the building is almost twice as much as the old brown brick and cinder block community center next to the playground. The building features a 3,350-square-foot room with a capacity for 300 people, a classroom, a police substation, a conference room, office space for groups and organizations that utilize the park, a large kitchen area, and a covered outdoor patio space. The state of New Jersey funded the building with a grant.

Large Cargo Ship Gets $82M In Upgrades at NJ + NY Port System


The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently announced that its busy port system will be seeing upwards of an $82 million investment through an ongoing partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The port district — which includes the Port Newark–Elizabeth Marine Terminal on Newark Bay — supports over half a million jobs in the Newark and New York area. The new investments include more than $50 million through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the seaport’s berth maintenance dredging, berth rehabilitation, and berth reconstruction. A separate $32 million project will deepen and widen the Gravesend Anchorage outside the Kill van Kull waterway from its current depth of 47 to 50 feet in order to give large cargo ships a place to anchor between Ambrose Anchorage in the Atlantic Ocean and the seaport’s container terminals. The port moves more than $200 billion in goods every year, per Patch Newark.

Montclair Gateway to Aging in Place Awarded $20k Grant

Montclair Gateway to Aging in Place (mGAP) has been selected to receive a 2024 AARP Community Challenge Flagship grant for $20,000. According to Montclair Local, the donation will support the organization’s digital navigation program which directly benefits the community’s modern agers (age 50+ residents), facilitating access to digital communication, assistive technology, and emergency alerts. mGAP is one of 343 grantees selected out of over 3,300 applications from across the country, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

First-Ever Food Tour of South Orange Launches Next Week


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The Village of South Orange is launching its first-ever guided food tour on Saturday, July 6th. It will feature a 2.5-hour walking tour from 11AM to 1:30PM, bringing guests to some of the downtown commercial district’s premier eateries where chefs will provide exclusive tastings and an inside perspective on South Orange’s growing culinary scene. According to a press release, tours will also include visits to local landmarks and delve into the history of the community. The weekly Saturday tours will be hosted by local writer and Jersey native Max Gray, who owns Chow Town Food Tours. Tickets can be purchased now online

Clerical Error Recognized in Bloomfield Tax Bills

Some Bloomfield residents recently reported that their property tax bills increased by more than $500 than previously quoted for the third quarter of 2024. On Tuesday, June 24th, interim mayor Ted Gamble explained that a series of incorrect inputs from Edmunds GovTech, a financial technology firm that specializes in software and services for local governments, led to the error. According to TAPinto Bloomfield, these bills have since been corrected. Interim Mayor Gamble also mentioned the ongoing challenges with the next Township budget, and invites residents to a special town hall with Bloomfield’s finance leaders on Monday, July 1st at 7PM to answer questions. The next budget will be presented at the following Township Council meeting on Monday, July 15th.

Incarcerated N.J. Students in Essex County Earn Their High School Diplomas


A group of six students graduated from Sojourn High School, an alternative school for youth at the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center, last week. County and detention officials held a ceremony for the 2024 graduates on Thursday, June 20th, presenting six students with their high school diplomas. The school, located in Newark, provides young people a pathway out of the criminal justice system and a key to a brighter future. Students at Sojourn High also have the option to earn industry-recognized certifications that can help them nail down a job in the construction industry after they’re released from prison, per Patch Newark.

Newark Police Detective Arrested With Drug Possession + Intent to Distribute

Newark Police Detective Ricardo E. Garden was arrested around 8:30PM on Thursday, June 20th, and charged with multiple drug offenses. One charge was allegedly for selling more than 50 grams of marijuana on or near a school property or bus, while another charge stemmed from the sale of less than 10 ounces of marijuana within 500 feet of public property. Detective Garden is also charged with third-degree possession of heroin, fourth-degree possession of marijuana over 50 grams, and two disorderly persons charges of possession of drug paraphernalia and use of prescription medication without a lawful prescription, per NJ.com. Jail records show that he was booked at the jail on the evening of Friday, July 21st, and was released the next day. Newark Public Safety Director Fritz Fragé reported that the detective has been suspended without pay. Detective Garden has been a Newark police officer since November 2015.

N.J. + N.Y. Soccer Players Headed to 2024 Summer Olympics


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It was announced on Wednesday, June 26th, that several players on the New Jersey/New York Gotham FC soccer team are headed to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Rose Lavelle, Jenna Nighswonger, and Emily Sonnett have been named to the final U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) roster. Forward Lynn Williams was also named as an alternate. According to Patch Newark, the USWNT Olympic roster will play in two matches before departing for France, including a stop at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, where the National Women’s Soccer League team plays its home games.

Work Stops on 38-Story Newark Halo Building

Halo, a three-tower project located at 289-301 Washington Street that includes over 1,000 apartments and has been in the works for the last three years, has recently ceased construction. This comes amid a lawsuit, union protests, and apparent funding issues. In January, Dobco filed a complaint in Essex County Court against Hudson Meridian and Acier Holdings claiming, “a series of safety concerns” regarding the building that were impacting their nearby work at the Essex County Family Courthouse, per Jersey Digs. Other issues such as two pieces of plywood allegedly falling off Halo in December 2023 that caused damage to a nearby building and a metal shoring strut supposedly falling from the building and damaging Dobco’s construction site have also led to the construction halt.

Historic Newark Home With Sopranos Ties Hits the Market

Uncle Junior Soprano Home Newark

Photo Credit: Christie’s International Real Estate

If you missed out on buying the iconic booth from Holsten’s restaurant, another Sopranos-related item is now available. A home in Newark that was the setting for Corrado Soprano’s, known as Uncle Junior, home.
Click here for more.

Bloomfield + Newark Win Big at County Fishing Derbies

Several young anglers from Newark and one from Bloomfield recently gained recognition at a series of county-sponsored fishing derbies. Aharon Alvarez of Bloomfield earned a nod for catching the most fish in the boys’ ages 6-10 category at the Essex County Fishing Derby in Verona Park, per Patch Bloomfield. Niearelyn Frias of Newark caught the most fish in the girls’ ages 11-15 category and was the first fish in the girls’ category at the same Derby, per Patch Newark. Other notable winners from Newark included Khalil Abdullah, Immaculee Holland, Jesulayomi Bakare, Chad Samkaran, Zen Smith, and Michael Thompson, respectively. Essex County holds a series of fishing contests for local kids and young teens every year; this year’s derbies took place at Irvington Park Pond, Monte Irvin Orange Park Pond, Grover Cleveland Park Pond, Weequahic Park Lake, the Verona Park Boathouse, South Mountain Recreation Complex (Orange Reservoir) and Branch Brook Park.

4th of July Events in Montclair + Essex County 2024

The Fourth of July is just around the corner so its time to make plans to watch fireworks, eat hot dogs, and celebrate. There are several events taking place in Essex County and beyond, from musical performances to parades. Click here for more.

Belize Toddler Travels to Newark for Life-Saving Heart Surgery at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey

Doctors from the Children’s Heart Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center performed life-saving surgery on a two-year-old patient suffering from a rare congenital heart disease. Nyle Eck, a two-year-old from Belize, was born with a rare congenital heart disease called supravalvular pulmonary stenosis (SVPS), a narrowing of the artery located just above the pulmonary valve, which is the main artery that carries blood to the lungs. Nyle was first diagnosed in September 2022 when he was three months old. With the help of the Gift of Life, NJ, a charitable organization with a mission to help save the lives of children with congenital heart defects around the world by providing resources to treat them, he was able to have a cardiac procedure a few months later in Belize, but his condition soon required a second more and complex surgery not available in his home country. According to a press release from RWJBarnabas Health, the Gift of Life NJ sponsored Nyle to travel to the United States with his mother, Sheena Bernardez, while Dr. Emile A. Bacha performed the surgery after Nyle began treatment. In the Pediatric ICU, Nyle recovered as expected and was discharged in 72 hours while receiving one cardiac medication. He will have an outpatient cardiology evaluation as a follow-up. As his cardiac recovery progresses, it is anticipated that he will be able to return to Belize in the near future. The hospital is part of the Children’s Health Network of RWJBarnabas Health and is one of the leading heart centers in the United States and the only pediatric heart surgery center in New Jersey.

New Dispensary Open in Bloomfield

emerald tea dispensary exterior

Photo Credit: Emerald Tea Supply Co.

A new dispensary called Emerald Tea Supply has opened at 368B Broad Street in Bloomfield. According to a press release, co-owner Jason Leisey became aware of the healing power of cannabis after he was severely injured by a car bomb while serving in Iraq in 2005. The devastating effects of traditional physical and emotional pain medications on his fellow soldiers left him searching for a more effective and natural solution to treat pain and trauma. A visit to the dispensary is a fully immersive experience, inviting one to step through the bookcase and into a 1920’s speakeasy.

Montclair Public Library Director Announces Retirement for End of July

Janet Torsney will be retiring from her position as Director of Montclair Public Library at the end of July. She has been in the position since August 2022, following a nationwide search by the Board of Trustees and having served the prior six months as Interim Director. Janet has been a library professional since 2008 and has worked in leadership positions in New Jersey libraries for over a decade, per Montclair Local. She will be succeeded by Radwa Ali, currently the director of Roxbury Public Library in New Jersey, effective Monday, July 22nd.

Essex County Parks Hosts Swim Gear Collection Event

At three upcoming fireworks celebrations, the Essex County Parks Department will have collection bins on site for donations of swim gear. The effort is in collaboration with the NJSSA, NJRPA, and Dolfin Swimwear. Organizers are collecting new, unused boys’ and girls’ swimsuits and goggles to benefit swim programs in low-income areas.

Volunteer Fosters Needed at Bloomfield Shelter

Per a post on social media, the Bloomfield Shelter is in need of fosters. The shelter has experienced challenges with space to house all of the animals in need of homes, so it is launching an ongoing foster program for community members. Prospective fosters must apply through the shelter.

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