Home Essex County 19 News Stories You Missed This Week in Montclair + Beyond

19 News Stories You Missed This Week in Montclair + Beyond

by The Montclair Girl Team
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The spring equinox has come and gone, but the chilly weather is still here for now. 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: a Montclair High School student-athlete is selected for the US National team; a Newark woman is honored for her contributions to the deaf community; and Essex County will host a food giveaway for the community. Read on for all the news in Essex County for the week ending March 24th, 2024.

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

Montclair Native Makes American Idol Debut

Team Behind Laboratorio Kitchen Opening New Maplewood Restaurant Soon

The Ivy at Chatham

Bloomfield Animal Shelter Accepting Pet Food Donations

‘Plant Based for the Planet’ To Return to Montclair in April

New Indian Fusion Restaurant Opening in Montclair

A Montclair Fifth Grader’s Non-Profit Has Successful Third Year in Business

Newark Airport Workers to Win Back Wages

Cheerios Puts Brookdale ShopRite’s Workers’ Faces on Cereal Boxes

Montclair Announces Fourth of July Celebrations + Honorees

Newark Woman Wins National Award for Giving Back in Hearing Loss Community

Newark Woman Wins National Award for Giving Back in Hearing Loss Community


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A post shared by Dr. Latisha Porter-Vaughn, PhD (@hearing_gains)

It was announced late last month that Newark native Latisha Porter-Vaughn won a first-place award in the annual Oticon Focus on People Awards. According to Patch, the national awards program “honors advocates, hearing care professionals and everyday heroes making a real difference for people with hearing loss.” Latisha was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss as a teenager and became the first African-American president of the Hearing Loss Association of America for the New Jersey Chapter. She also aims to improve education and employment for students as a researcher for the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes and has written two books in the field.

Bloomfield Laundry Business Relaunches Under New Management


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A post shared by Fresh Scent Wash N Fold (@freshscentwashnfold)

Fresh Scent Wash ‘N Fold, located on 137 Franklin Street in Bloomfield, recently held a grand opening ribbon cutting. The business has re-launched under new management with co-owner Hans Augustin at the helm, per Patch. The Suburban Chamber of Commerce was also in attendance to grant some well wishes.

Montclair Seniors Get More Free Transportation Options Through Township

Senior citizens and residents with disabilities who live in Montclair now have the option to receive 20 free rides a month through the town’s transportation service, EZRide. According to MontclairLocal, the rides are available on demand, have to start or end in Montclair and can go throughout Essex County and Clifton for any needs. The director of senior services for Montclair, Judy Hurley, reported that service participation is significantly increasing, and Montclair and Essex County want to expand the senior bus service in the future. Residents must have a disability or be 60 years old or older to sign up for the program by calling (973) 509-4974.

Montclair Native Makes American Idol Debut


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A post shared by Conall (@conallgorman)

Conall Gorman, a freshman at Belmont University in Nashville and Montclair native, took to the national stage as he auditioned for American Idol on last week’s episode. He performed an original song, Backseat, while playing his guitar as well as Freebird per the judges’ request before getting a unanimous ‘yes’ to go to Hollywood. According to MontclairLocal, Conall credits his upbringing in Montclair and taking some classes at the School of Rock Montclair for significantly influencing his musical journey.

Newark Airport Workers to Win Back Wages

It was announced on March 14th that more than $2.2 million in wages will be given back to 811 workers who were “shortchanged” by Swissport USA Inc., an international aviation company that provides services at Newark Liberty International Airport. State officials said the investigation was launched after NJDOL’s Division of Wage and Hour Compliance received a handwritten letter signed by 19 Swissport workers who alleged they were not being paid the wages or supplemental health benefits rate they were entitled to under the law, in addition to improper payment for all hours worked, per Patch. It is also the third-largest back wage settlement for NJDOL.

New Indian Fusion Restaurant Opening in Montclair

Dhamaal, an Indian fusion restaurant, is opening in Montclair at 11 Fullerton Avenue. According to its latest Instagram post, there is no official opening date set yet. Its slogan reads, “Where Spices Sing and Flavors Never Fade.”  Stay tuned to MG for more. 

Team Behind Laboratorio Kitchen Opening New Maplewood Restaurant Soon

Laboratorio Kitchen has effectively won over the hearts and stomachs of Montclair residents since first opening in 2014. Popular for its Italian-inspired, New American cuisine, this upscale eatery is now expanding its Essex County influence with a new restaurant in Maplewood called Osteria LK. Chef James shared with MG that it’s slated to open sometime this spring. Click here for more. 

Essex County to Hold Food Giveaway for Families in Need


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

Essex County will host a Spring Food Distribution Event at Branch Brook Park on March 28th to help families in need. The park – which is located in Newark and Belleville – will have 1,000 boxes of non-perishable food to distribute on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 9AM, per Patch. The event is a result of rising food insecurity among families due to inflation and “the rising costs of food and energy.” Buses will not be permitted to enter and residents walking to the entrance are recommended to bring a cart.

Montclair HS Student Joins U.S. Field Hockey Team 


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A post shared by Montclair Field Hockey (@montclair_fieldhockey)

Ceci Cowart, a sophomore at Montclair High School, scored a spot on the select US U16 field hockey team that will compete overseas. The team will start competing in the Four Nations Tournament on March 29th against Belgium, France, Germany and Holland in Valkenswaard, Netherlands. Ceci is in her second season playing for the MHS Mounties, was named to the All-Super Essex Conference American Division (the top division in the county) first team, and the New Jersey Group 4 third team, per MontclairLocal. Her stats helped the team reach the Essex County Tournament final. She credits her Centercourt Field Hockey Club coach, Brett Clay, for helping her lay the groundwork for her success at the training camp in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Montclair Announces Fourth of July Celebrations & Honorees

The Montclair Celebrates July 4th Committee has announced that this year’s parade will be its “biggest ever” with more marching bands participating in its parade as well as more food trucks, music, and activities for kids being available at the Edgemont Park picnic. According to a press release from the committee, five senior citizen organizations have been named the Grand Marshals of the parade: Montclair Gateway to Aging in Place, Aging in Montclair (AIM), Lifelong Montclair, AARP West Essex #131, and the Do Drop In. The parade is set to take place on July 4th for an 11AM start.

Luxury Apartment Complex Opens in West Orange

Stonehill, a new community of sophisticated rental residences located at 1000 Executive Drive in West Orange, is now open for leasing from BNE Real Estate Group. There are 424 rental residencies and 44,000 square feet of amenities throughout three buildings, per a press release.  Prospective residents can choose from a variety of one or two-bedroom layouts, along with premium homes featuring an additional den and private outdoor space. Monthly rental rates start from $2,630/month with the earliest move-in date being April 1st. Grand opening leasing specials are available for a limited time. For inquiries or to schedule a private tour, please visit www.LiveAtStonehill.com or call (973) 567-3553.

Newark School Recognized with ‘State School of Character’ Title

Newark’s Board of Education announced John F. Kennedy School in Newark has been recognized for being a “State School of Character.” Each year, Character.org certifies schools and districts at the state level that have developed and implemented an “intentional, proactive, and comprehensive approach that embeds character into all aspects of the school life,” per Patch. The initiative led by principal Jill Summers-Phillip has “shown exemplary efforts in instilling core values, such as respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship, in its students.”

Montclair Township & BOE Settle Baseball Field Dispute

A legal battle between Montclair Public Schools and the Township of Montclair surrounding the Woodman baseball field has come to an end. According to MontclairLocal, a joint settlement was agreed upon on March 13th to rescind all stop work orders, permitting work to continue. Per an email to the interim town manager Michael Lapolla, the judge encouraged both sides to sit down and try to settle the matter before “good faith negotiations” took place. Moving forward, the Township and BOE will collaborate on necessary land use approvals and processes before any work on a project. Both the BOE and the Township have agreed not to enhance or alter the scope of required approvals in the future.

A Montclair Fifth Grader’s Non-Profit Has Successful Third Year 


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A post shared by Jayla Marie (@jaylamarie_projectbeautiful)

Jayla Pitts, a fifth-grade student at Montclair Kimberley Academy, has found a third year of success in her non-profit organization in 2023. Project Beautiful creates “beautiful bags” filled with beauty and hygiene products for women and children in shelters. Last year, the nonprofit raised $12,500 and delivered over 600 bags of products to local New Jersey shelters, per MontclairLocal. In addition to receiving donations from those in the community, Project Beautiful partnered with brands such as Unilever, SkinSplendid, and Jones Road Beauty to give back. Jayla has already had a successful year as she gifted over 500 “beautiful bags” and boxes to various shelters as well as received a donation of over 850 pounds of beauty products from Supergoop! Check out the article for more information on how to donate or contribute to the organization.

Cheerios Puts Brookdale ShopRite’s Workers’ Faces on Cereal Boxes

An annual tradition has continued at the Brookdale ShopRite as a team of employees earned the unique honor of getting their faces on a box of Cheerios. According to Patch, the grocery store unveiled a special-edition Cheerios box featuring winners of the annual ShopRite Partners In Caring Cheerios Contest – a “friendly” inter-store competition sponsored in partnership with General Mills. The yearly event recognizes employees for supporting regional food banks and fighting hunger in their local communities. The Brookdale ShopRite raised more than $11,000 for area food banks this year.

‘Plant Based for the Planet’ To Return to Montclair in April

Montclair will host the second annual Plant Based for the Planet initiative in partnership with 12 local restaurants. Throughout April, Humane Montclair and the Montclair Township Office of Sustainability– co-sponsored by Planted Society– will highlight the impactful role of “our food choices in addressing climate change” as well as motivating patrons to opt for plant-based meals to help the environment, per its website. Events will include webinars, a free screening with an accompanying book showcase, and participating restaurants will introduce plant-based dishes along with their existing eco-friendly offerings.

Montclair Board of Education Approves Budget for 2024-25 School Year

The Montclair Board of Education unanimously passed a landmark $147 million operating budget for the 2024-25 academic year on March 18th. According to MontclairLocal, Superintendent Jonathan Ponds described the budget as a victory for the community, and the budget, presented by Business Administrator and Board Secretary, Christina Hunt, now awaits county approval. The District received $1.46 million dollars in debt service aid, and an increase in state aid of 6.40% for a total of $9.3 million. Due to the increase in state aid, Superintendent Ponds said the district will be able to devote $1 million toward executive coaching to support academic programming. The Board has scheduled the final budget adoption for May 13th, following a public hearing on May 3rd. This gives the community an opportunity to learn more about the budget and its implications for the District’s future.

Bloomfield Animal Shelter Accepting Pet Food Donations

The Bloomfield Animal Shelter is now collecting donations of dry dog and cat food in support of the Manna Food Depot. Since the start of 2023, the Manna Food Depot has been providing pet food to local families in need weekly; since then, it was able to supply 968 pounds of cat food and 2,240 pounds of dog food to local families, per Patch. Donations labeled as “pantry” can be brought to the shelter, located at 61 Bukowski Place, daily between 8AM and 6PM.

Missing Montclair State Student Found Dead in Bayonne

A Jersey City teen who was reported missing in December 2023 has been found dead in Bayonne. A body floating in the Bayonne Bay was an 18-year-old female, presumed to be Hayley Erin “Lee” Avestruz Alvarado, per Patch. Lee was a student at Montclair State University and a graduate of BelovED Charter School in Jersey City.

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