What a year it’s been. 2020 started off great, until we hit March and COVID-19 reared its ugly head. Hoping 2021 brings happier local stories.
Here’s a look back at the biggest local stories of 2020 brought to you by Baristanet:
Montclair Township held a meeting to address the relationship between its Jewish and African-American communities, after the President of NJ Association fo Black Educators made anti-Semitic remarks; A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the 45,735-square-foot state-of-the-art medical office building at the former School of Nursing site across from Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center; Mayor Michael Venezia began his third term in Bloomfield after being sworn-in by Governor Phil Murphy; A number of Montclair parents called for the resignation of Interim Montclair Schools Superintendent Dr. Nathan Parker after comments he made at a BoE meeting; Montclair Center was made more beautiful after the completion of four murals.
La Rocca Osteria (formerly Osteria Giotto) opened at 21 Midland Avenue and Montclair’s lasagna lovers rejoiced. Vanguard Theater Company had the best closing show ever, when Lin Manuel Miranda came to the matinee performance of The Wiz of Oz. Mayor Robert Jackson announced he will not run again for Mayor, but Sean Spiller and Dr. Renee Baskerville announce they will run. Not everyone loves the Clifton dentist’s Valentine’s display. Carmel Loughman announced she would run for Councilor-at-Large; Montclair Township Council introduced the 2020 municipal budget and for the second consecutive year, the budget has NO increase in the municipal tax rate. The Board of Directors of the Montclair Center BID names Jason Gleason as executive director. Former NJ Governor James McGreevey was appointed Chairman of the Essex County Civilian Task Force.
The first documented COVID-19 cases are reported in NJ after two Bergen County residents test positive. Whoopi Goldberg showed Montclair love again when she made a very special visit to the Lacordaire Academy. On March 9, Montclair Pubic Schools sent home a letter to parents regarding a staff member awaiting test results for COVID-19 and the cancellation of school tours and field trips. Dr. Renee Baskerville announced her team for the May 12, 2020 election. Montclair suspends senior-related programming due to COVID-19; Montclair Schools announced plan to close on March 13 to prepare staff for virtual learning and MSU follows. St. Patrick’s Day parades in West Orange and Newark were postponed due to concerns about COVID-19; Montclair Film announced it would reschedule the 2020 Montclair Film Festival due to COVID-19 and Montclair Art Museum closed on March 13. Montclair Department of Health starts announcing positive cases in town and Bloomfield does as well. Baristanet transitions its weekly events article to a social distance event round up. On March 16, Governor orders non-essential businesses to close at 8 pm and urges a statewide curfew; Montclair Municipal Elections go mail-in ballot only. NJ cases rise and Governor expands hospital capacity with order of beds.
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. tests positive for COVID-19; Emmy and Grammy winner Adam Schlesinger, songwriter, producer and co-founder of the New Jersey rock band Fountains of Wayne dies from COVID-19 at the age of 52. Gov. Murphy signs an Executive Order closing all State parks and forests, as well as all County parks in the state to further social distancing. The Montclair Township Council voted through an ordinance Tuesday night establishing rent control in Montclair; Montclair’s Jeh Johnson and Evie Colbert made Gov. Phil Murphy’s list for New Jersey Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission.
The Governor announces that all New Jersey schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year; Montclair Board of Education announces a new superintendent for Montclair Schools at Wednesday’s BOE meeting – Dr. Jonathan Ponds. Glen Ridge mourns the loss of beloved Officer Charles Roberts due to COVID-19. Montclair announces that Sean Spiller is the winner of its municipal election, but mayoral candidate Dr. Renee Baskerville says it’s not over. For the first time in over 100 years, Montclair’s annual 4th of July Celebration was cancelled. Hundreds of Glen Ridge residents, joined by a group of residents from Montclair, attend a vigil against racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death;
Montclair residents showed their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and protest the murder of George Floyd in the first of several protest this month. Montclair NAACP held a virtual meeting Tuesday with Montclair Police leadership, but many were angered by a “Thin Blue Line” Flag on display. Over a thousand people marched through the streets of Montclair to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and to protest police brutality. A student-organized Black Lives Matter Unity march drew an estimated 6,000 people. Montclair singer/songwriter Lily Vakili puts together “We Got Dreams” video to celebrate MHS Class of 2020. Bloomfield’s Mayor Michael Venezia orders all municipal offices closed on Friday, June 19 in observation of Juneteenth. Students organized a brief, peaceful protest on Marion Road, in response to a video showing a white woman calling police on her black neighbors, an incident that was later investigated by Montclair Police.
MHS Class of 2020 parents create “It’s Your Time” video for graduates. New Jersey decides to stop using term “Freeholder” from government, replacing it with county commissioner. Montclair housing market sees ‘Hottest Window In Over 20 Years’. Montclair Film announced that the 9th Annual Montclair Film Festival would be rescheduled for October. Montclair Public Schools share a proposed Hybrid Model. Skateboarders all over Montclair rejoiced at the opening of a temporary skatepark. Montclair mourns the loss of Barry Hartsfield. The Montclair NAACP calls for reforms in the Montclair Police Dept.; The New Jersey Senate passed S-2635.
Howling winds and heavy rain battered New Jersey Tuesday as Tropical Storm Isaias touched down, tearing down trees and power lines. Montclair Township Council launches a digital #LoveOurMontclair ad campaign and calls on community to support small businesses. Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds announced that Montclair Public Schools would be implementing fully remote teaching and learning in September. Mayor Sean Spiller announced appointment of Allison Silverstein to the Montclair Board of Education. Cuban Pete’s received several indoor dining violations.
An offensive video was shown at a Montclair Schools staff convocation, causing many to demand action against the principal who showed it. For the fourth straight year Standard & Poor’s Global Rating Services assigned a AAA rating to Montclair Township’s series general obligation (GO) improvement bonds and series GO school bonds. Susan A. Cole, Montclair State University’s president, announces her retirement. More than 300 Montclair parents signed a petition urging Montclair Schools to bring students in-person by utilizing outdoor space. MC Residences get approval, Orange Road gets 40 units, and Montclair gets $150K for affordable housing. Essex-Hudson Greenway Project takes another step forward. A group called Quiet Montclair makes some noise about gas leaf blower use.
Cuban Pete’s violates indoor dining restriction yet again. After 25 years, Montclair Public School says it will expand busing from 2.25 miles and 2.5 miles away, making South End students eligible. New Jersey warns of a second wave of COVID. Montclair families rallied at Edgemont Park in support of Montclair Public Schools bringing learning outdoors and moving quickly to offer a hybrid model. Glen Ridge cancels Trick or Treating citing it as an unsafe activity, but Montclair releases safety recommendations to keep it safer. Montclair mourns the loss of longtime resident and philanthropist Judy Weston. After repeated executive order violations, Cuban Pete’s gets shut down.
The former home of Montclair’s Man on the Moon Buzz Aldrin goes up for sale. Montclair Center is awarded a $100,000 grant from Main Street New Jersey for COVID-19 relief and recovery. Hillsong Church East Coast terminates the employment of Montclair resident Pastor Carl Lentz. Montclair celebrates the Biden/Harris election win with a victory party on Bloomfield Avenue. Montclair Public Schools announces decision to stay remote, scrapping plans to open for hybrid in-person instruction on November 16, citing rising COVID-19 cases. Toni’s Kitchen held its first-ever town-wide food drive and it was a huge success and The Silver Family Foundation/The Bravitas Group raises $222,583 in funds for the food pantry.
Glen Ridge High School reports an alarming number of COVID-19 cases. Montclair Public Schools postpone in-person learning to January 25 and February 8. It’s announced that one of four vaccination centers in Essex County will be located in West Orange, at the former Kmart site. Montclair’s annual tree-lighting festivities are canceled because of the pandemic, but Santa left goodie bags for local children at the Montclair Rec. Montclair’s new arts and entertainment development, the Seymour Street Arts District, announces its first three commercial tenants. Lights on Myrtle gives the town major holiday cheer. Glen Ridge has its first ever Menorah lighting in front of Borough Hall. Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center began administering the first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to frontline team members. Montclair’s beloved Watchung Delicatessen, first opened in 1926, closes, joining other Montclair businesses unable to survive the 2020 pandemic. New York Magazine follows up on the story of an incident involving a white Montclair woman who called police on her black neighbors. Montclair business owners are caught off guard by the Township of Montclair’s announcement to close the Midtown Parking Lot in January.
These stories are just SOME of the news items we covered in 2020. What other local stories of the year would you have included?