Home Essex CountyBloomfield 21 News Stories You Missed This Week in Montclair + Beyond

21 News Stories You Missed This Week in Montclair + Beyond

by The Montclair Girl Team
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The unofficial start of summer has arrived once again on this Memorial Day weekend. 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 Newark native makes his boxing debut in Greenland; a new Iberian restaurant, Tasca, opens in Montclair; and the next phase of the Newark Symphony Hall Upgrade Project announces a starting date. Read on for all the news in Essex County for the week ending May 26th, 2024.

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

Among the Headlines:

  • East Newark’s Tops Diner Featured in Best U.S. Brunch Spots by OpenTable
  • Beloved Montclair Animal Control Officer Announces Retirement
  • Newark Native Makes Boxing Debut in Greenland
  • Black Bear Spotted in Montclair
  • New Iberian Restaurant, Tasca, Opens in Montclair
  • Montclair Center BID Seeking Artists for ArtCONNECTs Mural Project
  • Houss Freya Opening on Glenridge Avenue in Montclair This Week
  • New Contract for Montclair Superintendent Approved Through 2029
  • MFEE Amazing FundRACER 5.0 Raises $95K for Montclair Public Schools
  • Next Phase of $75M Newark Symphony Hall Upgrade Project Announces Starting Date

Nutley Store Sells $48k ‘Quick Draw’ Lottery Ticket

A winning Quick Draw Progressive lottery ticket was sold at Kaival Mini Store, located at 168 Washington Avenue, in Nutley on May 8th. The player won $48,162, per Patch Belleville-Nutley. The amount was 10 percent of the progressive jackpot.

The Ivy at Chatham

East Newark’s Tops Diner Featured in Best U.S. Brunch Spots by OpenTable

tops diner newark dinner

Tops Diner of East Newark made OpenTable’s annual Top 100 Brunch Restaurants list for 2024. According to NJ.com, OpenTable studied over 14 million diner reviews to compile the list which was released on April 30th. The diner was the only one from New Jersey featured on the list.

Montclair Township Settles CFO Whistleblower Suit for Over $1.2M

The Township Council of Montclair voted to settle the whistleblower lawsuit filed by its chief financial officer, Padmaja Rao, for $1,250,000 during a special meeting on May 13th. According to Montclair Local, Padmaja will be paid a quarter of that money by the township’s insurance and the town will then pay the remaining million dollars to her attorneys. Deputy Mayor Bill Hurlock has stated that the town was settling “strictly for business reasons” and to not inherit additional fees. Interim attorney Paul Burr commented that there was “no admission of any wrongdoing by the township” or former town manager Timothy Stafford. The settlement won’t be official until filed with the court, but the resolution does move the process forward. Padmaja will continue to work as Montclair’s CFO.

Beloved Montclair Animal Control Officer Announces Retirement


Montclair’s senior animal control officer, Michele Shiber, announced that she is retiring from her role after eight years of service in the town and stepping down from her seat on the NACA Board of Directors. She credited family commitments as her reason for retiring, per Montclair Local, but is open to what the future may hold. Michele was researching positions at zoos and wildlife rehabilitation centers before being recommended to be an animal control officer. Her retirement brings Montclair’s Animal Control Office down to three members. The officers are on call year-round 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Newark Native Makes Boxing Debut in Greenland

Carlos Lizardo, a 25-year-old Newark native, made a trailblazing appearance in Greenland when he scored a dominant knockout win during a boxing match at Godthabhallen in the capital city of Nuuk on May 4th. The eight boxers hailing from New Jersey and New York were the first American team to compete in the country, per Patch Newark. Trainers Ryan Songalia and Percy Gayanilo led the team, with trainer Jacklyn Atkins accompanying two of the boxers.

Local Grandmother Earns Degree from Montclair State After 5 Decades


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Rosalyn Coppola, a 72-year-old grandmother who has been taking college classes over the course of 53 years, walked across the stage to receive her diploma on May 13th at Montclair State University’s commencement ceremony. She also had the opportunity to commemorate her achievements with family and her four grandchildren at a send-off celebration held on campus for this year’s Degree Completion Programs’ graduates on May 4th ahead of the ceremony. According to a press release from the university, Rosalynhe is one of 18 students earning a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies through the institution’s Degree Completion Program — the program is a pathway for adults to return to school and earn their college degrees.

Montclair Introduces 2024 Home Improvement Program

The Mayor and Township Council of Montclair is inviting residents to apply for its new home improvement program. Eligible homeowners whose total gross annual household income falls below the income limit for their household size may qualify and can receive up to $24,000 in repairs, per a statement from the township. The Home Improvement Program was created to assist eligible low- and moderate-income households with repairs or replacement of major home systems to correct existing interior and exterior health, safety, and substandard code conditions. Interested applicants can submit a pre-application here.

Another Earthquake Shakes New Jersey

A 2.9 magnitude earthquake happened in New Jersey on May 24th centered in Somerset County. This follows the 4.8 magnitude earthquake that took place last month. Per the U.S. Geological Survey, the most recent earthquake happened at around 3:50AM about 3.7 miles west-southwest of Gladstone. Light tremors were felt in Sussex and Passaic counties to the north and in the Trenton area and Staten Island, New York. No damage has been reported.

Major Winning Lottery Ticket Sold at Newark Supermarket


Two tickets had winning numbers that matched all five numbers for the Jersey Cash 5 for the drawing on Saturday, May 11th. According to Patch Newark, the winners will split a $1,800,840 jackpot, making each ticket worth $900,420. They were sold at AJ Seabra Supermarket Inc., located at 260 Lafayette Street in Newark, and The Mart, located at 590 Shrewsbury Avenue in Tinton Falls, respectively. The retailers will each receive a $2,000 bonus check for each winning ticket sold.

Montclair Public Schools Approve 2024-25 Budget

The Montclair Board of Education approved the District’s budget for the 2024-25 school year on May 13th. The budget did not have to make any cuts for budgetary purposes, keeps a variety of programs including the arts across all schools, and provides for continued upgrades in technology infrastructure, per the District’s website. Professional development is supported by the budget, and mobilizing and training its partners in effective academic and social-emotional methods in order to provide enhanced tutoring and support.

Black Bear Spotted in Montclair


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A black bear was spotted on the morning of Monday, May 20th, in Montclair. The bear was seen on Edgecliff Road and Crestmont Road, per Montclair Local. The Township of Verona even put out a statement online about the sighting and warned residents to stay away if they see it. Montclair’s Animal Control office confirmed they had received calls about the sighting but could not provide any other information.

Couple Killed in Overnight West Orange Fire

An overnight fire killed an older couple that took place on the evening of May 13th in West Orange. Officials have not confirmed the victims’ identities or relationship, but neighbors have stated an older couple lived in the Northfield Avenue townhouse with their cat for at least 20 years. According to CBS News, firefighters arrived at the three-story townhouse where the residents were trapped inside. They pulled a man and woman from the home and were transported to Cooperman Barnabas Hospital but did not survive. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office is now investigating what caused the fire, which officials believe started in the basement. Investigators said smoke alarms were working.

Next Phase of $75M Newark Symphony Hall Upgrade Project Announces Starting Date

Phase Two of Newark Symphony Hall’s (NSH) four-part $75 million capital improvement program for its Arts + Education Lab is set to officially begin in June. The goal is for the work to be completed in January 2025  to coincide with NSH’s 100th anniversary. This phase’s goal is to “expand its production capabilities and community outreach programs through these updated resources,” per Patch Newark. The updates include the renewal of the historic façade along Broad Street, essential repairs to the building, and other brand-new features.

New Iberian Restaurant, Tasca, Opens in Montclair

tasca montclair

When an Italian-trained chef, Portuguese owner, and French pastry chef join forces, magic is made. This magic takes shape at Tasca, located at 377 Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair, which opened its doors on Friday, May 17th for the public to taste this labor of love and Iberian food experience by Chef Rob Santello and General Manager/Partner Sergio Moutela. Click here to learn more about what MG tried and recommended at Tasca.

Manufacturing Training to be Provided by Montclair Public Schools

The Montclair Public School District announced a partnership with the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP) to provide training for adults in the community who have an interest in the manufacturing and supply chain/logistics industries. According to Montclair Local, Montclair High School will hold classes for adults in the community interested in gaining knowledge of these industries free of charge starting this fall. Residents do not have to be parents or caregivers of a child in the school system to participate. Adults will also receive a scholarship to enroll in Essex County College to further their training. Montclair is currently the only district providing this experience for adults in New Jersey.

Montclair Center BID Seeking Artists for ArtCONNECTs Mural Project

pexels arts and crafts

The Montclair Center Business Improvement District (BID) is seeking artists for its 2024 ArtCONNECTs Mural Project as it will decorate the entire front of Pilgrim Medical Center at 393 Bloomfield Avenue. Artists are encouraged to take the sensitive nature of the location into account since the site of the mural is a women’s health clinic that provides abortions and across the street is the Wellmont Arts Plaza. It invites artists of all backgrounds and disciplines to participate and submissions should reflect “the themes of unity, inclusivity, and the vibrancy of Montclair’s artistic community,” per Montclair Local. The selected artist will receive a stipend and the opportunity to work with local stakeholders throughout the mural’s creation process. Interested artists can view guidelines and application instructions online. The submission deadline is 4PM on June 12th.

Annual Disability Parade Takes Place on Montclair Streets

The fourth annual Montclair Disability Parade recently took place on May 18th as hundreds of residents marched from Heningburg Field to Rand Park. According to Montclair Local, the parade was also followed by various speakers and advocates sharing messages of acceptance and inclusion. Two community leaders organized the event: Dr. Priya Lalvani, a professor of disability studies and the coordinator of the graduate programs in Inclusive Education at Montclair State University (MSU), and Alma Schneider, the founder of the Montclair Friday support group. Sponsors of the event included the Montclair Friday Group, MSU’s Disability Caucus, and the Montclair People with Disabilities Advisory Committee.

Montclair, Bloomfield + Surrounding Towns to Receive Funds for Seat Belt Enforcement Campaign

It was announced on Monday, May 20th that several towns in Essex County will be receiving funding to run a “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign in 2024. Among these municipalities includes Bloomfield, Maplewood, Montclair, Newark, and Verona, per Patch. The annual traffic campaign aims to raise awareness around the importance of wearing seat belts in the Garden State. The campaign, which will run through June 2nd, will provide 119 New Jersey law enforcement agencies $766,010 to help pay for increased road patrols, seat belt checkpoints, and other enforcement initiatives.

Houss Freya Opening on Glenridge Avenue in Montclair This Week

Previously located at 547 Valley Road in Upper Montclair, Houss Freya recently announced that its current space has closed and that the store will be moving to a new, larger space at 205 Glenridge Avenue in downtown Montclair. Now, we know that it will be opening up on Glenridge Avenue on Saturday, June 1st. Houss Freya is a local apothecary shop and is exactly what anyone would need to start making space for new intentions. It sells a variety of crystals, balms, candles, oils, stones, and so much more. Click here to learn all about the move, Houss Freya’s owner Daysi Dedios, and what you can expect at the shop.

New Contract for Montclair Superintendent Approved Through 2029

Five members of the Montclair Board of Education unanimously voted to approve a new contract for Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds through 2029 on Monday, May 20th. According to Montclair Local, this action came after parents spoke about preventing what has been a “revolving door of superintendents” in Montclair. Superintendent Ponds will earn $231,000 annually, with a 3% salary increase each year, starting on July 1st. The new contract extends through June 30th, 2029, and includes an additional $1,000 for professional development. The current average salary for school superintendents in New Jersey is $193,67, per the Department of Education annual Certificated Staff Database.

MFEE Amazing FundRACER 5.0 Raises $95K for Montclair Public Schools

The Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE) helped raise $95,000 for Montclair Public Schools at its “Amazing FundRACER 5.0” on Sunday, May 19th. The event had 72 FundRacers participating on 36 teams. It also hosted 30 sponsors, 70 volunteers, 916 donors, and 1088 participants, per Montclair Local.

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