A discussion of Terry’s Serendipity Café was not a scheduled topic at the September 20 meeting of the Montclair Township Council, but its recent expulsion from the boathouse at Edgemont Park prompted students and adult staffers and volunteers to bring it up with Mayor Robert Jackson and the councilors.
The Montclair Township Council
Terry’s Serendipity Café, a non-profit, music institution run by local students, hosts monthly music shows and gives young people an opportunity to demonstrate their musical talents, was forced to relocate by recreation department staffers from its longtime meeting space at the Edgemont boathouse to a meeting room at the Clary Anderson Arena, which café supporters say is not easily accessible and is susceptible to loud noises from elsewhere in the arena. Many speakers noted how the café was instrumental in the growth of local bands which recently played the Clearmountain Festival in August. The café was organized after a carjacking and the Watchung post office massacre, both in 1995, to provide a safe space for young people under 21.
Students who spoke expressed dismay over the forced relocation. Rory McLeod said that the group went for over six months while the boathouse interior was being remodeled, only to be kicked out once the boathouse’s new amenities were installed. Lucy Albright said that Terry’s Serendipity Café supported her musical endeavors and gave her a place to play her songs in a safe environment. “It’s like an inspiration to improve my own music, and to practice for upcoming shows,” she said. She noted Pinegrove, a local band that played the Clearmountain Festival, made it a point to single out Terry’s Serendipity Café helped them attain their success. Pinegrove are now touring Europe and released their first LP on Run For Cover Records in January 2016.
“We still have spaces to do our concerts,” she said, “but what we really need is space to organize stuff.”
The most impassioned plea came from Troy Bynum, whose brother Terry Bynum-Copeland was a student founder of the café that assumed his name after Terry died. Bynum reminded the council of the café’s role in providing a safe place for young people, and how it encourages them to be themselves in a supportive, safe environment. Ed Carine, an adult adviser to the café, made it clear that the group members have always been respectful of the boathouse facility whenever they used it for meetings on Wednesday nights. He added that they never stole or damaged anything and would always replace something if it broke by accident.
Troy Bynum, whose late brother Terry Bynum-Copeland co-founded Terry’s Serendipity Café, speaks on behalf of the café at the Montclair Township Council’s September 20 meeting.
The council was overwhelmingly supportive. Councilor-at-Large Robert Russo lamented that the council couldn’t tell the staff that runs the boathouse what to do, but he said that the café has done great things in the past 21 years. Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville said it was important to keep the café meetings in the boathouse to provide a sense of consistency to young people at a time when their lives have little consistency. Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager, who worked in the music business and even toured with the Grateful Dead, said she wanted to work something out with the Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department to continue allowing the café to use the boathouse. (Edgemont Park is the Second Ward.) Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford said he would reach out to Recreation and Cultural Affairs Director Pat Brechka to find a solution. Continue Reading