Home Essex CountyBloomfield 20 News Stories You Missed This Week in Montclair + Beyond

20 News Stories You Missed This Week in Montclair + Beyond

by The Montclair Girl Team
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Sunnier, longer days are a sure sign that spring is around the corner. 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: the township of Bloomfield adopts two sustainability-related measures; a Montclair native sees his professional soccer contract extended; and a Newark hospital is noted for its strong marks in patient relations. Read on for all the news in Essex County for the week ending March 17th, 2024.

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

Among the Headlines:

  • Confirmed: Eataly is Coming to Short Hills Mall
  • Montclair’s Kevin O’Toole Extends Contract with NYCFC
  • Palato Caffe + Cucina Closes in Montclair
  • Celebrity Chef Morimoto to Open New Restaurant in Former Maddox + Musuko Space
  • Out Montclair to Host Annual Transgender Day of Visibility Celebration
  • Milk N Cookies to Open Next Month in Montclair
  • Montclair Fire Chief Announces Retirement for End of March
  • Two New Event Spaces, Palmetto Venues, Opens in Verona
  • West Orange Community Member Praised for Inspiring Others
  • Space Issues at Bloomfield Animal Shelter

Confirmed: Eataly is Coming to Short Hills Mall

Short Hills Mall Directory w Eataly

The Montclair Girl confirmed on March 10th that Eataly, the internationally renowned Italian franchise, is now listed in the Short Hills Mall directory. Eataly provides a variety of dining options like a pizzeria, a pasta bar, a meat and cheese counter, and a gelato shop. Aside from dining, Eataly is also a retail market that has Italian groceries, cookware, and tableware. Read more about the recent discovery here.

The Ivy at Chatham

Montclair’s Kevin O’Toole Extends Contract With NYCFC


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Professional soccer player Kevin O’Toole has signed a contract extension with the New York City Football Club. According to Montclair Local, the 25-year-old Montclair native’s contract goes until 2025 with an option for 2026 with the club that won the 2021 MLS Cup. After winning the MLS Cup in 2021, NYCFC handpicked Kevin in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft.

Montclair Police Notices Increase in Home Break-Ins

According to Montclair Local, the Montclair Police Department has responded to ten burglaries of which two occurred at businesses. Among the incidents included a ransacked home in January, followed by burglaries at three homes along with a business. In February, a resident was reported to have spied on three men trying to break into his neighbor’s home while making his morning coffee. Lieutenant Terence Turner encourages residents to lock all doors and windows, use an alarm system, take extra steps to keep their vehicles safe, and stay vigilant.

Palato Caffe + Cucina Closes in Montclair


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A post shared by Palato Caffe & Cucina (@palato_caffe_cucina)

Dubbed the “little slice of Italy,” Palato Caffe + Cucina on Bloomfield Avenue announced on March 10th that it would close after one final week of business. The hiatus comes after its team put out a social media post describing how it’s time for them to take a pause and consider the eatery’s future, per Patch. The statement included, “With dreams of maybe one day opening a larger space to better serve you, we’ve decided to close our doors for the time being.”

Livingston Schools to Close Before Solar Eclipse Due to ‘Concern’

In a letter sent to parents from Superintendent Matthew J. Block on March 6th, Livingston schools will close early on Monday, April 8th to avoid any danger from the solar eclipse. The town’s four schools will dismiss at noon or 12:45PM instead of their usual dismissal time so they aren’t tempted to look directly at the sun without protective eyewear. Any outdoor school activities will be canceled from 2:30PM-4:30PM as well. According to NJ.com, the sun will be 90% blocked by the moon at about 3:25PM and parts of the moon’s shadow will cover the sun from 2:09PM-4:35PM in New Jersey.

Celebrity Chef Morimoto to Open New Restaurant in Former Maddox + Musuko Space

Morimoto Headshot

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Elkashab, @nj_native_photo

Earlier this year, MG shared the news that Maddox and Musuko, located at 193 Glenridge Avenue in Montclair, closed less than a year after its opening. Now we know what’s coming to the 12,000+ square foot space, and it’s a treat for Essex County locals and visitors alike. Internationally renowned Chef Masaharu Morimoto, known as The Iron Chef, will open a new concept right here in Montclair. It is expected to open this summer and the menus will showcase Chef Morimoto’s modern take on classic Japanese cuisine, bespoke cocktails, and an extensive wine, sake, and beer list. Click here for more about the new restaurant, MM by Morimoto.

‘Mastermind’ of $9M Amtrak Health Care Scam Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges

A New York acupuncturist admitted participating in a $9 million health care fraud scheme to defraud Amtrak on March 7th in Newark federal court. A press release from the US Attorney’s Office identifies the defendant as Punson Figueroa, aka ‘Susie,’ a 57-year-old resident of Long Island City, New York. An undercover agent posing as an Amtrak employee met with her as she continued to use the agent’s personal and insurance information to submit dozens of fraudulent claims to the Amtrak health care plan. She is one of four co-conspirators involved in the crime, with two other defendants based in Essex County.

South Orange-Maplewood High School Principal Arrested for Alleged Assault

Authorities have arrested a principal in the South Orange-Maplewood School District after he surrendered to detectives from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office on March 11th. Frank Sanchez, principal of Columbia High School in Maplewood, was charged with second-degree endangering the welfare of a child and simple assault for an unknown incident that occurred last year with, reportedly, a female student per NJ.com. Principal Sanchez has been on administrative leave since early January.

Out Montclair to Host Annual Transgender Day of Visibility Celebration


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Local organization Out Montclair will host its second annual Transgender Day of Visibility Celebration on Saturday, March 23rd, at Mountainside Medical Center. The celebration will include speakers, panels, and workshops led by transgender leaders, professionals, and allies in law, health, and advocacy, per Montclair Local. Speakers will include keynote speaker Attorney General of New Jersey Matthew J. Platkin; President of the Dover Board of Education, Daniella Mendez; CEO of Mountainside Medical Center, Tim O’Brien; founder and CEO of Bridges4Life, Tahtianna Fermin; and Director of the Essex County Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs, Reginald Bledsoe. Danielle Dais — creative, model, and advocate for the Trans community — will be the emcee. For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Montclair Fire Chief Announces Retirement for End of March

Montclair Fire Chief John Herrmann has notified the Township of Montclair of his plans for retirement, effective March 31st. According to Montclair Local, Chief Herrmann has been Montclair’s fire chief since November 2014 and has served the community for over a collective 43 years. No permanent fire chief is to be sworn in before a new town council is elected on May 14th. It is unknown if Deputy Chief Robert Duncan will step in as acting fire chief in the interim.

Milk N Cookies to Open Next Month in Montclair


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Earlier this year, Chip City Cookies officially opened in Montclair on Church Street. Running the risk of sounding cliche, it looks like the Montclair cookie jar just keeps growing, as another new cookie chain is joining the Church Street lineup. Milk N Cookies, a cookie cafe and cereal bar is slated to open this April at 43 Church Street, serving up a decadent menu of stuffed cookies, milkshakes, ice cream, and other dessert vehicles for cereal. Click here for more.

Accused Essex County Doctor Settles Case

Prosecutors announced on March 12th that Marc Watson, a vascular surgeon who practiced in Cedar Grove, has agreed to permanently give up practicing medicine in New Jersey as part of a settlement with the state. According to Patch, he was accused of ‘indiscriminately’ prescribing high volumes of regulated drugs to patients he treated for addiction, including benzodiazepines, stimulants, and narcotics. Dr. Watson — who had been practicing addiction medicine for almost 20 years — has also been accused of performing ‘inadequate’ physical examinations, patient monitoring, and record keeping.

Newark Hospital Receives Award for Patient Care

Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark was among 11 hospitals in New Jersey that earned a “2024 Patient Safety Excellence Award” from Healthgrades, a database of ratings and comparisons for physicians, hospitals, and healthcare providers. The award recognizes hospitals nationwide for “high-quality care and prevention of serious safety events during hospital stays,” per Patch. The Patient Safety Excellence Award was presented to the top 10 percent of hospitals based on an analysis of required data reporting in 13 patient safety measures.

Montclair Schools Under Investigation for Use of Seclusion + Restraint

Montclair School District’s use of seclusion and restraint is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR). According to Montclair Local, OCR is investigating allegations that the Montclair School district discriminated on the basis of race and disability when placing African American students in the Montclair Achievement Program (MAP) at Charles H. Bullock School. MAP is a behavioral and therapeutic educational program at the school. The investigation comes two years after OCR received a complaint with the allegations from Susan Magaziner, a board-certified education advocate and civil rights education consultant in February 2022. OCR is also investigating the use of restraint at Edgemont School.

Mayor Celebrates West Orange Fire Department’s 130th Anniversary

During West Orange’s town council meeting on March 12th, Mayor Susan McCartney read a proclamation in honor of the fire department’s 130th anniversary. According to TAPinto, West Orange’s police department was founded before the fire department due to Orange’s fire department responding to the West Orange fires. Chief Anthony Vecchio mentioned that a suspicious fire destroyed the West Orange police department building and some other structures, and township officials realized that they needed their own fire department. There are also some current members of the department who are related to the original founders, making four generations of firemen exist in West Orange.

Bloomfield Bond Rating Increased

Moody’s Investors Service released an update on Bloomfield’s bond rating analysis in February. The company gave an Aa3 rating to the township’s proposed $24.2 million General Obligation Bonds, and $5.7 million Parking Utility Bonds, per Patch. In addition, Bloomfield’s $7.7 million General Obligation Notes received a MIG 1 short-term rating — all of which add up to good news for the town’s financial status. Councilwoman Jenny Mundell thanks strategic planning and resilience for setting a good foundation for the town’s future.

Bloomfield Town Council Passes Two Measures to Encourage Sustainability

During the town’s bi-monthly meeting on March 11th, Mayor Ted Gamble of Bloomfield and the town council advanced two pro-environment measures aimed at improving sustainability and assisting native pollinators. According to Patch, the first measure expresses support for the town’s participation in the Sustainable Jersey Municipal Certification Program. The certification program is for municipalities in New Jersey that want to go green, control costs, save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life. The council also advanced the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, a proclamation that encourages residents to plant native milkweed and nectar and pollinator plants to provide habitats for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

West Orange Community Member Praised for Inspiring Others

Daniel Cunningham works with the Downtown West Orange Alliance to pick up litter throughout the town, and he has been sparking townwide pride in his civil service. People who frequent Main Street have likely seen Daniel at work as he spends about five hours every shift hunting for wayward garbage in the township, putting in about 100 hours total a month, per Patch. Township officials credit him for raising awareness around the importance of waste reduction, recycling, and responsible consumption as well as supplying a bigger sense of community pride.

Space Issues at Bloomfield Animal Shelter

Bloomfield Animal Shelter announced on March 12th that it is temporarily halting the acceptance of new cats or large breed dogs due to lack of space. New intakes will be accepted once the shelter can adopt out some of its current residents, per Patch, adding that adoption fees are being waived for the rest of this month. The shelter has had to pause animal intakes in recent times as similar advisories were sent out in July, August, and November last year. Statistics from the New Jersey Department of Health show that this is an ongoing problem throughout the state and intake numbers keep increasing across many shelters. Any potential adopters can fill out an online application, and see a list of available dogs and cats on the Bloomfield Animal Shelter’s PetFinder profile.

Two New Event Spaces, Palmetto Venues, Opens in Verona

Palmetto Venues is set to host its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 17th at 2PM at 546 Bloomfield Avenue. The spaces, both across the street from Verona Park, are designed to cater to a diverse range of events as it provides both flexibility and privacy, per a press release. The Palm Royale, one of the sites located at 10 Park Place, hosts a spacious 16-foot-high ceiling and is an ideal setting for wedding receptions, banquets, corporate events, and other larger events as it can accommodate approximately 110 guests. The other location, Royal Grove, shares its address with where the grand opening is taking place. It provides a secure and inviting space where families, friends, business associates, and community members can gather and celebrate special occasions as it is a more intimate setting with seating for up to 50 guests.

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