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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Thankfully, late sunsets and a touch of summer graced the Garden State this week. 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 Nutley restaurant makes finals in national biscuit recipe competition; Newark Airport workers demand $25 wage at rally; and frozen yogurt spot 16 Handles opens a location in Montclair. Read on for all the news in Essex County for the week ending May 12th, 2024.

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

Among the Headlines:

  • Mother-Daughter Duo to Graduate from Rutgers Together This Month
  • Sorority Builds ‘Little Libraries’ in West Orange + New Brunswick
  • Nutley’s Queen Margherita Trattoria Makes Finals in National Biscuit Recipe Competition
  • Newark Approves First Cannabis Farm
  • Miami Dolphins Picks Newark Native in 2024 NFL Draft
  • Company Helping to Build Tech Startups Arrives in Newark
  • New Images Released of NJPAC’s $336M Redevelopment Project
  • Burlington Opens Location in Downtown Newark
  • 16 Handles Opens in Montclair
  • Montclair’s Watchung Booksellers Starts Podcast

Sorority Builds ‘Little Libraries’ in West Orange + New Brunswick

bookstore montclair book center new jersey

The Ivy at Chatham

Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority Inc. is building two Little Libraries to install in West Orange and New Brunswick. Chapters of the sorority across the country are starting local Little Library campaigns as part of its mission to “empower marginalized communities through literacy,” per Patch West Orange. The “libraries” consist of small, easily accessible book exchange boxes that resemble giant birdhouses to promote the “taking and leaving of a book.” The library outpost in West Orange is now available to the public at 125 Watchung Avenue. The sorority is also looking to collect monetary and book donations to help fill the libraries with diverse books for kids and young adults.

Mother-Daughter Duo to Graduate from Rutgers Together This Month

Mother Latonya Johnson and her daughter, Laila Birchett, are set to graduate from the Rutgers School of Social Work together later this month. According to Patch Newark , Latonya has been working toward this goal for 25 years and has attempted to go back a total of six times while being a divorced mother of six. The duo has only shared one class throughout their studies and both have similar grade point averages: Latonya having a 4.0 and Laila garnering a 3.9.

Nutley’s Queen Margherita Trattoria Makes Finals in National Biscuit
Recipe Competition


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A post shared by QUEEN MARGHERITA TRATTORIA (@qmargheritanj)


Queen Margherita Trattoria, located in Nutley, is a finalist in the second annual Biskies Recipe Contest held by General Mills Foodservice. The restaurant earned a spot in the finals for its recipe which consists of banana and chocolate pudding with biscuit and vanilla ice cream. According to Patch Belleville-Nutley, the contest “celebrates biscuits in all their flavors and forms” and has three other finalists from Florida and Wisconsin. Queen Margherita Trattoria and the other finalists have already received a $5,000 prize and are now competing for a $20,000 grand prize.

Optimum Starts Utility Work Throughout Montclair

Altice (Optimum) has begun its project of installing high-speed fiber optic lines throughout Montclair. According to a notice published on the town’s website, the initiative is to provide residents and businesses with improved internet access. The project consists of aerial installations on utility poles and wire splicing teams working on the ground which may affect some private properties. Workers will be identifiable by their safety clothing marked with the company’s name, CSI/Squan, and carry company identification. Each installation and construction crew will also be accompanied by a police officer escort for added safety measures.

Newark Approves First Cannabis Farm

kush connection

Canna P Farm, the first indoor marijuana cultivation facility in Newark, was approved by the Newark Zoning Board in March. Paul Sayegh, who was arrested three years ago for growing marijuana himself, is the owner of the farm due to the “legacy-to-legal pipeline,” per Jersey Digs. The proposal states the indoor farm will be three stories tall and 67,000 square feet at 171 Foundry Street in the Ironbound. It is only one of five cultivation facilities permitted within Newark’s borders.

Bloomfield Schools Granted $4 Million for Construction Projects

The Bloomfield Public School District will receive nearly $4 million in state grant funding to help pay for upcoming construction projects. The New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA) has awarded the grants through its $450 million grant funding in part with the New Jersey Department of Education in September 2023 per MSN. The grant is set to go toward window replacements and HVAC system upgrades at two elementary schools. The SDA has awarded nearly $23 million in grants to the district since the start of the state’s school construction program.

Miami Dolphins Picks Newark Native in 2024 NFL Draft


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Mohamed Kamara, a 2019 Newark Central High School alumnus, was selected by the Miami Dolphins as the 158th pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies from Colorado State University, where he is also currently enrolled in a master’s degree program, per PR Newswire. He earned second-team All-State in high school and the titles of 3-star recruit and Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in college.

New ArtsXChange Initiative Highlights Newark Arts Community

ArtsXChange, a collaborative effort between Clinton Hill Community Action and NJPAC, began Season 1 of its initiative to showcase local artists and musicians. It held a performance art presentation at the William Ashby Community Center on April 30th commemorating one year of Quality Arts Programming in Clinton Hill and the South Ward, per Patch Newark. The event featured local Newark artists including recording artist Gail Campbell, saxophonist Josue, nine-year-old poet Malachi Richardson, and performer Rhenotha Whitaker.

Verona Selected to Conduct ‘Complete Streets’ Technical Assistance

bike and walk

Verona was one of five townships selected to have a Complete Streets Corridor Assessment along a half-mile stretch of Linden Avenue through the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) Complete Streets Technical Assistance Program. According to Tapinto Verona/Cedar Grove, the township was selected through a competitive application process and will receive assistance in exploring potential improvements and recommendations to help improve health and safety for people walking and biking. The assessment will focus on Linden Avenue from Fairview Avenue to Wildwood Terrace as this stretch of road is near several public schools and the Bloomfield Avenue town center.

Company Helping to Build Tech Startups Arrives in Newark

The startup program HAX opened a 35,000-square-foot facility near NJPAC in the central business district of Newark and held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 30th. The new hub is an accelerator meant to fast-track technology startups with a product idea into profitable companies, per NorthJersey.com. Princeton-based global venture capital firm SOSV has committed to take 100 companies through the HAX program into 2029 and invest a combined $25 million in these startups, with an additional $25 million contributed by Governor Murphy administration’s New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Companies are expected to generate at least 2,500 new, high-paying jobs in the area and attract millions of dollars in new funding. HAX has partnered with several New Jersey universities such as Princeton University, Rutgers University, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

New Images Released of NJPAC’s $336M Redevelopment Project

njpac renovation rendering

Photo Credit: Future Green

Newark’s New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) has recently begun construction on the redesign of Chambers Plaza — the outdoor space in front of the complex — and new images were released of the imagined renderings of how it’s going to look. According to Jersey Digs, the work will continue through the end of this year as it’s the first phase of a three-year redevelopment project that’s costing $336 million to transform the Center’s 12-acre campus. Designed by Brooklyn-based landscape architecture studio Future Green, the reimagined space will include new rain gardens, lighting and seating, and a landscape that will enable programs, markets, and classes to be held year-round.

Lawsuit Filed Against Verona Public Schools

A lawsuit was filed on April 22nd against Verona Public Schools by the mother of an elementary school student alleging that her daughter was sexually assaulted by another male student more than 20 times. The assaults allegedly took place from October 2021 through January 2023 while in the first and second grades at F.N. Brown Elementary School, per NJ.com. The lawsuit claims a teacher the student confided in did not believe her and ordered the girl to apologize to the student for accusing him. A psychologist determined the young girl was showing “clear signs of sexual trauma” after showing changed behavior. She was removed from the school out of fear for her physical and emotional well-being.

Burlington Opens Location in Downtown Newark


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A post shared by The City of Newark, NJ (@newarknjblog)


Burlington, formerly called Burlington Coat Factory, opened its newest location in downtown Newark at 729 Broad Street on Friday. According to Jersey Digs, the chain said it will donate $5,000 each to two elementary schools in Newark and Clifton through its partnership with AdoptAClassroom.org. The launch follows the opening of a store in Clifton last month.

Grandfather + Infant Grandson Struck and Killed by Fallen Tree in Verona

A 61-year-old man and his six-month-old grandson were killed when a tree uprooted and fell on them behind a home in Verona on the evening of April 29th. Police were called right after 7PM to a home on West Lincoln Street on a report of two people struck by a falling tree, per NJ.com. The names of the victims have not been released. It is unclear how the tree uprooted but recent thunderstorms across Essex County may have been a factor.

16 Handles Opens in Montclair


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16 Handles opened in Montclair at 42 South Park Street on Saturday. Tamara Hamilton, the owner of the shop, shared more about the project in a press release. Click here to find out more about 16 Handles and its opening which featured free fro-yo and special discounts.

Bloomfield Township Employee Awarded ‘Clerk of the Year’ State Title

Bloomfield’s town clerk, Louise Palagano, received the 2024 Municipal Clerk of the Year Award from the Municipal Clerks’ Association of New Jersey. She received the award at a ceremony in Atlantic City last month. The selection of the annual honor is made by the executive board of the association and is announced at a meeting held during their Education Conference every spring, per Patch Bloomfield.

Team From Watchung Booksellers Starts Podcast


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Watchung Booksellers, located at 54 Fairfield Street in Montclair, has started its own podcast, The Watchung Booksellers Podcast. Staff members Kathryn Counsell and Marni Jessup are producing and it’s being recorded at Silver Stream Studio in town, per Montclair Local. Locals in the book industry will discuss all aspects of writing, creating, and selling books weekly. Interested listeners can check it out online.

BELA Summer Business Academy Returning to High Schoolers This Summer

The BELA Summer Business Academy, in partnership with the Feliciano School of Business at Montclair State University, is bringing its program to rising 9th and 12th graders. According to Montclair Local, Montclair State University professors develop and teach a curriculum that offers students the opportunity to engage in project-based learning, covering the areas of finance, accounting, marketing, real estate, architecture, and entrepreneurship. The program has two sessions that consist of two weeks of work ranging from June 24th to July 18th. There are 64 slots available for each session and acceptance is based on an application and interview. Interested participants and parents are encouraged to view its information packet to learn more about the program.

Giving Birth Was a Warm-Up For This Local Mom’s Dissertation Defense


Photo Credit: Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University

Tamiah Brevard-Rodriguez delivered her son, Enzo, in a car just hours before defending her dissertation at the Rutgers-New Brunswick Graduate School of Education. Per NJ.com, on the morning of March 25th, her water broke, and while on the way to Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, baby Enzo arrived in the car, right in the front seat. Tamiah, a local resident who grew up in Hoboken, felt well enough to proceed with the dissertation so she gave her defense with a Rutgers background screen. When she learned she had passed, she dropped the fake background, so that everyone could see her in a maternity bed, and Enzo in her wife’s arms.

Newark Airport Workers Demand $25 Wage at Rally

Dozens of unionized airport service workers affiliated with 32BJ SEIU banded together for a rally outside Terminal C of Newark International Airport on April 30th advocating for wages to be raised to $25 per hour by 2030. This comes from a rising cost of living in the area as well as minimum wage employees feeling overworked and underpaid, per Patch Newark. The Port Authority, which runs the three major airports in New Jersey and New York, greenlit a plan to increase the minimum wage at the airports over a five-year period — ending at $19 in 2023. Workers at Newark Airport also got help with defraying their healthcare costs and set a prevailing wage schedule when the state Legislature passed a law in 2021.

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