Yoga Takes Over Church Street Again at Yo-Tiki 2016

BY  |  Friday, Jun 24, 2016 3:45pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

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(Credit: Michael Stahl-Portraits by Michael Stahl)

Yogis of all ages did yoga together last night at the annual Powerflow Yoga Yo-tiki event on Church Street in Montclair. Local photographer Michael Stahl captured the community event. Continue Reading

News 12 Interviews Montclair Residents Wanting Answers About Investigation Into Assessments

BY  |  Friday, Jun 24, 2016 2:30pm  |  COMMENTS (1)

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Montclair BOE released a statement back at its April meeting regarding the investigation into assessments found online, but parents and residents still want answers about the costly investigation. Last week, News 12’s Kane in Your Corner did a segment on the investigation, interviewing some of the residents who made the “enemies list.”

In October 2013, days before Montclair students were supposed to take controversial assessment tests, 14 of the tests appeared on a now-defunct website, GoBookee. School officials said it was a deliberate leak and hired an international security firm to find out who was responsible. They also compiled a list of 27 suspects they wanted investigated. These suspects were by and large considered to be critics of some of the board’s policies.

Emails Paint Picture of Clandestine Operations and Confusion Over Montclair Assessment Investigation

News 12 reports that the investigation turned up nothing and shares findings from the Montclair police report, which states that the tests were stored unprotected, on the district’s web servers and were “easily accessible to web crawlers.”

News 12 attempted without success to interview then-district Chief Operating Officer Brian Fleischer, who as Baristanet has previously reported, wrote in an email that there was possibly no leak at all.

“It is possible … no one ever hit ‘send’ or otherwise deliberately uploaded (the assessments). But rather that GoBookee itself found and ‘stole’ (them).

Michelle Fine, among those interviewed for the story, characterized the BOE investigation as “an opportunity to launch an attack on critics.”

Montclair school officials refused to be interviewed. Montclair Schools Interim Superintendent Ron Bolandi only offered this written statement to News 12:

This controversy deflects from the work that this Board of Education and its administration needs to focus on, that being the education of the children of Montclair. Although I was not superintendent in 2013, it appears it was a difficult time.

Baristanet obtained the Montclair Police Department’s initial report and the Investigative Division Report on Assessmentgate. Based on his investigation, Detective Ricky Singleton cannot “attribute the accessing of the assessment exams to any individual.”

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Montclair High School Graduates Class of 2016!

BY  |  Friday, Jun 24, 2016 10:31am  |  COMMENTS (0)

Photo: Annette Batson

Photo: Annette Batson

Montclair High School celebrated its 149th Commencement last night. The weather held up and graduates and their families were able to sit outside in the MHS amphitheater, where they listened to U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and Montclair resident Jeh Johnson give a moving commencement address, sharing his own early struggles and addressing the bottom 50 percent of the graduating class.

“You know who you are — I was one of you. In fact, I was probably in the bottom 10 percent. The only time my mother used a four letter word was when she saw my report card. When I got a C, it was time for a celebration,” said Johnson.

“Early on, I had no role model I was tuned out and didn’t care. I compared to others and always came up short,” Johnson revealed, referencing how he always saw friends who were doing things, like track, better than he was. Then he spoke about what helped.

“For one thing, graduates, my parents never gave up on me. My parents never discouraged any ambition I had, no matter how crazy. I eventually I heard them, it took a while, but eventually I did hear my parents after years and years,” Johnson said.

Johnson addressed the parents, too. “Parents, rest assured, eventually your kids do hear you. Eventually they embrace your values. Eventually they even start to sound like you and act like you.”

Johnson also gave a shout to WBGO, mentioning his love for classic R&B.

 U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson gives commencement address.

U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson gives commencement address. Photo: Annette Batson.

Following graduation, it was on to Project Graduation, with cheering crowds lining Montclair streets to catch a glimpse of the happy Class of 2016 off to their special secret party destination, which took place this year at MetLife Stadium.

Project Graduation leaves Montclair to cheers all over town. Photo: Jen Grisafi

Project Graduation leaves Montclair to cheers all over town. Photo: Jen Grisafi

ALDI Supermarket Open in Bloomfield

BY  |  Thursday, Jun 23, 2016 11:00am  |  COMMENTS (14)

ALDI Supermarket

ALDI supermarket is now open in Bloomfield (244 Bloomfield Avenue), offering a unique shopping experience and discounted prices.

ALDI does things differently from your typical supermarket. The German grocery chain uses cost-cutting methods to offer discounted prices and sells mostly exclusive brands.

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American Iris Society Convention Iris Sale at Montclair’s Presby Gardens This Week

BY  |  Wednesday, Jun 22, 2016 2:15pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

Presby Memorial Iris Gardens

If you love the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens and wish you could replicate some of its beauty in your own backyard, this weekend is your chance. ​If you visited the Gardens in the past couple of years, you’ve seen the American Iris Society’s Convention Iris display. Many visitors have asked if they could buy one of these glorious irises. Good news! A selection of convention iris will be sold on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25 from 10 am – 3 pm at Presby. Continue Reading

Montclair Crime: Arrests Made in Delta Gas Station Robbery, Burglaries, and Theft

BY  |  Wednesday, Jun 22, 2016 10:15am  |  COMMENTS (3)

Montclair Crime: String Of Burglaries, One Seen by Homeowner on Remote SurveillanceThe week in Montclair Crime from D/Lt. David O’Dowd, Montclair Police Department:

Arrest:

On 06/11/2016 at approximately 1822Hrs, an armed robbery occurred at Delta Gas Station, 223 Harrison Avenue. Two suspects approached the gas attendant booth on foot, asking if he could sell them cigarettes. One of the suspects then grabbed the gas attendant by the throat and pushed him further into the booth. The other suspect then placed a gun against the attendant’s neck and demanded money. The suspects removed approximately $1000 cash from the attendant’s pockets. The suspects then fled on foot, east on Virginia Avenue. No injuries were reported. As a result of this investigation, Jamuga Wemusa (53yoa from Newark) and Ruben Tursi (44yoa from Elizabeth) were arrested and charged with Robbery, Assault, and Weapons Offenses. The Bloomfield Police Department Investigative Division was pivotal in bringing this armed robbery investigation to a successful conclusion.

06-19-2016 (Mission Street) Justin Davis (20yoa from Montclair) was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for engaging in tumultuous and violent behavior and kicking a marked police vehicle, resisting arrest by threatening and attempting to use physical force against law enforcement officers while they were attempting to make an arrest, and resisting arrest for flailing his arms attempting to prevent himself from being handcuffed. This arrest occurred after officers observed Mr. Davis involved in an altercation in the street.

06-20-2016 (Bloomfield Avenue) Jeffrey Ashe (60yoa from Newark) was arrested for open warrants out of Newark, totaling $7915. This arrest was the result of a motor vehicle stop.

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Montclair Council: Support For Baskerville on EDC, Superfund Site Near Reservoir, Zoning

BY  |  Wednesday, Jun 22, 2016 8:45am  |  COMMENTS (2)

The public gallery at the Montclair Township Council’s June 21 meeting, the last meeting before the current council is re-inaugurated, was packed with residents, and one could be forgiven for thinking that the reason was one or both of two controversial issues on the agenda – rezoning part of Glenridge Avenue or the possible closing of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic parish church.  In fact, it was an issue not even on the agenda.  Most of the residents who attended were there to express support for having Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville appointed to the council’s Economic Development Committee (EDC) for the 2016-20 council.

One Fourth Ward resident after another got up to the lectern and spoke in Dr. Baskerville’s favor, citing her commitment to Fourth Ward issues and the need for someone in touch with the residents who understood the implications of the major redevelopment the ward faces, like the anticipated redevelopment of Lackawanna Plaza and the need to secure a grocery store for the property.   Montclair NAACP Vice President Christine Samuels said there are many challenges ahead for Montclair, and the Fourth Ward in particular, and that Dr. Baskerville was the ideal candidate to ensure transparency and teamwork in economic development issues.  Several others praised her for her attention to the South End and its business district.

Montclair Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville, whose suggested appointment to the council's Economic Development Committee was strongly advocated by her constituents.

Montclair Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville, whose suggested appointment to the council’s Economic Development Committee was strongly advocated by her constituents.

Dr. Baskerville thanked those who came out and spoke on her behalf, and she also praised Mayor Robert Jackson, Councilor-at-Large Rich McMahon, and Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller for their service on the EDC and doing a good job.  She  expressed interest in serving on the committee because she thought she could provide a fresh perspective on development issues and her relationship with the people when she meets with developers.

“I can assure you that I will continue to have meetings and come to the community, come and find out what is the will of the residents,” she said.  “It’s not enough to have a meeting with developers and decide things, and come after the fact with the shovels already in the ground.”  She lamented that she was “not at the table in a timely matter” in earlier development projects, but she said she wishes to continue helping to keep the community involved.

Mayor Jackson sought to explain how he and the councilors are given committee assignments.  The council, he said, assigned liaisons to advisory boards prior to the current council’s election.  After the new council took over, five three-person committees having oversight over a number of related advisory boards; the committees were Economic Development, Services, Education Public Safety, and Finance, with the assignments decided mainly in executive sessions.  The mayor said the current compositions of the committees have kept the council solid, and while several members had wanted different assignments, the council decided on June 14 in a nonbinding decision that maintaining the current compositions of the committees was the best way to go.  The council cannot officially make new committee appointments before its re-inauguration on July 1.  Mayor Jackson did leave open the possibility that Dr. Baskerville could be on the EDC, and he said he appreciated the residents’ input.

Ringwood Resident Says Montclair’s Water Source Near Superfund Site

A bombshell of a revelation came from Ringwood resident Doug Ruccinone, who alerted Montclair residents that the reservoir they depend on for water, which is in Ringwood, is near a Superfund site of toxic paint sludge dumped by the Ford Motor Company in the 1960s.  Ruccinone noted that the site is only two miles from the reservoir, and part of the site could theoretically leak toxins into Montclair’s drinking water.  Although the Environmental Protection Agency recommended removing the toxic soil, the borough of Ringwood would prefer to cap the toxic waste – which amounts to four times the amount of waste found in the Love Canal in upstate New York – to build, ironically, a recycling center.  The EPA says this less costly option is an acceptable one, but Ringwood residents don’t trust the borough government due to the fact that the site has been listed, delisted, and then listed again by the EPA as a Superfund site because the first cleanup attempt wasn’t effective.  Ruccinone asked Montclair to pass a resolution to back Ringwood residents in their bid to get the site cleaned up.

Deputy Mayor Robert Russo noted an e-mail Ruccinone had sent him noting pressure from Ford not to pursue the cleanup that the EPA says it’s willing to do, and Ruccinone added at the meeting that Ford “has [its] foot on our borough’s neck.”  He added that the price for a complete cleanup is reasonable, and, “if it is handled properly, the true perpetrators will need pay for it, which is Ford.”

“You gave me a lot to think about,” Deputy Mayor Russo, a Ford owner, said.  “I’m thinking about what car to buy now.” Ruccinone promised to send more information to the council.

Council Passes Resolution To Support OLMC Church

Parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church advocated for the township to help preserve its predominately Italian-American parish, and the council passed, 7-0, a resolution supporting the congregation’s efforts to prevent the church’s closing.    Deputy Mayor Russo, a Catholic and an Italian-American, conceded that the Vatican makes decisions in an undemocratic way, but he was happy to join Dr. Baskerville, who read the resolution with great enthusiasm, in supporting the item. Dr. Baskerville later suggested that the parish could start a community center as a possible way to supplement and strengthen the parish’s role in the area around Pine Street.

Public comment and concerns voiced about Our Lady of Mount Carmel lasted over an hour, frustrating property owners who expected to be heard on the Glenridge Avenue zoning ordinance and also anticipated a long, drawn-out process.   Planning Director Janice Talley simplified things for them, listing the properties that owners wanted removed from the C-3 district, noting that most of the properties cannot be altered anyway due to lack of on-site parking.  The properties are the former Diva Lounge, several storefronts on Lackawanna Plaza, and the Hinck Building’s movie theater.  Real estate owner Dick Grabowsky,  who owns the Hinck Building, got what he wanted in terms of getting his property taken out of the zoning district,  but he remained opposed to the 37-foot height requirement, saying it was difficult for a developer to take down an old structure and put up a three-story building that could be economically viable.  The resolution passed 7-0 with the aforementioned properties but with the height restrictions intact.

Dick Grabowsky

Dick Grabowsky

The council also heard from people such as Maureen O’Connor, who organized the recent Glenridge Avenue street fair, and Merwin Kinkade  of Studio Montclair, who thanked Kensington for showing its community spirit by helping to fund the arts in town. Israel Cronk of the Montclair Business Improvement District endorsed the proposal by Kensington to build its assisted living facility at Church Street to bring more vitality and diversity into Montclair Center. 

The council passed a resolution directing the Traffic Parking and Advisory Committee to alternate regularly scheduled meetings between morning and evening start times to allow people to attend evening meetings, when they are likely free.  Councilor McMahon said that earlier attempts to have evening meetings met with little success in drawing people to them, and in many cases there was an absence of a quorum among committee members.  The council passed it 6-1 over Councilor MacMahon’s own negative vote.

Deputy Mayor Russo announced he would be stepping down from his duties as deputy mayor and would serve as a councilor-at-large in the next council term owing to personal obligations.

Montclair Families Host Foreign Exchange Students

BY  |  Tuesday, Jun 21, 2016 3:30pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

AFS Exchange Student.

Open your home to the world this coming school year and make a global connection:  Host an AFS Exchange Student.

Each year, AFS Intercultural Programs/USA, a leading international non-profit high school student exchange for more than 60 years, welcomes 2,500 high school students from more than 90 countries into communities like Montclair

Pich Wongpraya, an 18-year-old exchange student from Phayao, Thailand, is about to end her year as a foreign exchange student at Montclair High School.

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Exercise Your Mind: Montclair Public Library’s Adult Summer Reading Program

BY  |  Tuesday, Jun 21, 2016 1:45pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

exercise your mind - readMontclair Public Library gets grown ups involved in summer reading again this summer. This year’s theme is Exercise Your Mind–Read!

All you have to do is challenge yourself to read one book every week between June 24 and September 9. When you complete a book, submit a review to earn chances to win a new FitBit or one of many gift cards to Watchung Booksellers!

MPL joined forces with Bike&Walk Montclair to push the exercise theme.

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Clifton Sewer Line a Concern for Montclair’s Bonsal Wildlife Preserve

BY  |  Monday, Jun 20, 2016 2:30pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

bonsal cleanup

The 21 acre forest and wetlands of the Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve, established in the 1970’s, is located off Riverview Drive in Upper Montclair. The preserve is owned by the Township of Montclair, but also extends into Clifton. A sewer line over 60 years old, owned by Clifton, threatens to impact the nature sanctuary. Ruptures in the pipe and significant concerns regarding infiltration necessitated a $4.5 plan of removing and rerouting the sewer system.

In 2014, Montclair Township Council approved the plan to transfer an easement to Clifton’s control, which would allow Clifton to move the line out of the preserve, and then to repair it. The plan has not moved forward yet.

Jonathan Grupper, co-founder of the Friends of the Bonsal Preserve organization, shares some updates and frustrations:

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whatever they do, could they at least let us park there in the meantime?

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