Jeffrey Trzeciak Appointed as Jersey City Library Director

After many months of interviewing and meeting highly qualified applicants, the Jersey City Free Public Library has selected Jeffrey Trzeciak as its new director.

Trzeciak will be replacing the library’s previous director, Priscilla Gardner, who held the position since 2002 before retiring in September 2019. Mayor Steven M. Fulop decided to honor Gardner by rededicating the downtown main library building as the Priscilla Gardner Main Library.

“I am extremely excited to join the Jersey City Free Public Library at this point in its history,” said Trzeciak.

As director, Trzeciak will be responsible for six regional branches of the library system located all around Jersey City: Five Corners (678 Newark Ave.), Glenn D. Cunningham (275 Martin Luther King Dr.), Miller (489 Bergen Ave.), Earl Morgan (1841 JFK Blvd.), Heights(14 Zabriskie St.), and the Pavonia (326 Eighth St.). He will also oversee neighborhood branches in Lafayette (307 Pacific Ave.), West Bergen (546 West Side Ave.), and Marion (1017 West Side Ave.), a bookmobile, and a large digital collection.

Library suggestion board at the Community Open House. Photo by Jersey City Times.

Trzceiak hopes to develop a strategic plan with the assistance of a consultant and input from staff and community leaders. He would like for all interested residents to feel part of the process as well and will be establishing methods in which their feedback can be taken into account.

“A critical piece of any strategic planning process is listening to all stakeholders,” Trzceiak said. “I am excited to get started in Jersey City by engaging residents, community leaders, and especially library patrons and staff.”

Trzceiak’s goal is to have this new strategic plan in motion by fall 2020.

Trzeciak brings with him 30 years of experience in library administration and a track record of successful fundraising. From 2017 until his appointment in Jersey City, he served as director of the Newark Public Library, establishing and overseeing a strong, multi-racial senior leadership team. Grants Trzeciak wrote increased that Newark Public Library’s revenue by almost $2.5 million in 2018. In honor of these accomplishments, Trzeciak received the Director Recognition Award from the New Jersey Association of Library Assistants in 2018.

Trzeciak also left his mark in academia. From 2012 to 2016 he served as University Librarian at Washington University in St. Louis.  While there in 2014 he founded “Documenting Ferguson,” a digital repository chronicling protests and other events that cropped up throughout the country in response to the shooting of Michael Brown. So groundbreaking was the collection, Trzeciak received the Innovation Award from the National Digital Stewardship Alliance in 2015.

Trzeciak raised significant sums for Washington University’s library as well. The capital campaign he ran there raised $30 million for critical renovations. This was $10 million more than his goal.

“This marks an exciting new chapter for the Jersey City Free Public Library,” said Curt Harris, the library’s board president. “The case for Jeffrey’s candidacy [is] quite compelling because he is truly invested in social equity and diversity and inclusion issues in all areas rather than paying mere lip service.”

New Jersey State Librarian Mary Chute has also expressed her support for Trzeciak. “This is an excellent selection, and we congratulate both Mr. Trzeciak and the Jersey City Free Public Library Board of Trustees,” she said. “We look forward to witnessing what they will accomplish together on behalf of the city.”

Following is a Q&A with our new director:

Jersey City Times: What are you most looking forward to as Jersey City’s new library director?

Jeffrey Trzeciak: My husband (Michael Sieveking) and I are looking forward to becoming part of the Jersey City community. We look forward to moving there soon and learning more about Jersey City, its residents, their needs, and how the library might help to address those needs.

JCT: Do you plan on extending hours or services?

JT: My first task will be to work with the community in a strategic planning process. I want to learn more about the expectations of the community. Residents will be seeing a lot of me in the coming months!

JCT: You were the library director in Newark, NJ, for two years. Why did you not serve longer?

JT: My husband works at the New York Philharmonic. He and I decided to move to the area to advance both of our careers. I am proud of the work that I did at Newark Public Library, particularly our programs aimed at reducing homelessness and joblessness, helping Newarkers [sic] to attain their educational goals, highlighting the contributions of Newark’s diverse communities, and elevating the profile of the library. But we are not moving far from Newark, and I will look for ways in which the JCFPL and NPL can collaborate.

JCT:  What instilled in you your appreciation for libraries?

JT: I come from working-class roots, and I was fortunate enough to find an evening job at the Dayton (Ohio) Metro Library that allowed me to work full time evenings while also going to school full time during the day. It was that experience of working in an urban public library that instilled in me the value that libraries bring to the communities we serve.

JCT:  What do you plan on doing differently than former Library Director Priscilla Gardner?

JT: Director Gardner leaves a great legacy behind, and I wish her well in her retirement. I look forward to building on her legacy by working with the staff, the board, and the community to enhance services, collections and facilities. My focus will be based on community need.

Restored historic Tiffany glass window at the Jersey City Free Public Library. Photo by Jersey City Times.

Header photo:  Angelo Estrada with Jeffrey Trzeciak (right) at the Community Open House.  Photo by Jersey City Times.

Dear reader: For the cost of a "tall" drip coffee at Starbucks, you can support local journalism! Please consider signing up for a recurring monthly payment of $2.99. Thank you!

Sign up and support Jersey City Times!

8 Places to Volunteer Over the Holidays

If you want to give back to your community, volunteering is a great idea. From providing meals for children to saving animals to improving the lives of those less fortunate, the opportunities are vast. Consider volunteering for one or more of these organizations this holiday:

Grace Van Vorst Community Services, an arm of Grace Church Van Vorst, offers breakfast for those in need on Saturdays and Sundays and meals in the church on Christmas Day. They are also interested in offering a class for senior citizens on English as a second language and on how to use basic technology such as smartphones.

Volunteers are needed to:

  • Help prepare and serve these meals
  • Teach English as a second language
  • Teach a course on basic technology

Grace Community Services
39 Erie Street
Jersey City, NJ. 07302

York Street Project weaves together various programs that shelter, feed, educate, and counsel women struggling with poverty and homelessness —and their children — in an effort to break the cycle of poverty. Kenmare High School provides secondary education and practical work skills for women 17 and older;  Joseph’s Home and St. Mary’s residence offer shelter for single women with children; The Nurturing Place provides day-care for children two months to five years old from low-income or homeless families; The Summer Program runs field trips during the summer for homeless or impoverished children.

Volunteers are needed to:

  • Drive to pick up donations around Hudson county (primarily in Jersey City)
  • Run their in-house clothing boutique (sort through donated clothes, put together packages for the needy, and manage inventory)
  • Perform administrative tasks such a entering information into their database an sending out thank-you letters
  • Help with children in classrooms and during unstructured time such as lunch time throughout the day

York Street Project
89 York Street
Jersey City, NJ. 07302

Liberty Humane Society is a no-kill shelter that contracts with Jersey City, Bayonne, and Hoboken. Stray dogs and cats are sheltered indefinitely until they are adopted.

Volunteers are needed to:

  • Foster animals in their home
  • Bathe, walk, and socialize dogs on site
  • Assist with care of cats on site
  • Serve as “animal visibility ambassador,” “humane education ambassador,” and “special projects ambassador

Liberty Humane Society
235 Jersey City Blvd.
Jersey City, NJ. 07305

St. Lucy’s Emergency Shelter provides shelter, meals, showers, and clothing for single men and women. They also meet with clients individually and refer them to local welfare and Social Security disability offices and to counseling programs in mental-health, substance abuse, and job search and training.

Volunteers are needed to put together meals and to sort and distribute food.

Jersey Cares
619 Grove Street
Jersey City, NJ. 07310

Women Rising runs a variety of programs to help women suffering from domestic violence or substance abuse: They help families on welfare understand their rights and make full use of the welfare benefits; they teach women how to use Microsoft Office; they train women for jobs in the hospitality industry; and they arrange apprenticeships for women with the carpenters union.

Volunteers are needed to:

  • Join their domestic violence response team where they will educate victims on domestic violence laws, provide emotional support and help victims with a safety plan
  • Host events or drives to raise money for its programs and spread awareness

Women Rising
270 Fairmount Ave.
Jersey City, NJ. 07306

Final Hope Animal Rescue provides temporary shelter, socialization, and medical care to stray animals. They have an active trap-neuter-release program in which they trap stray felines, neuter them, and release in order to minimize future unwanted litters.

Volunteers are needed to:

  • Feed their furry friends, clean cages, and help socialize the animals
  • Transport the animals and participate in adoption events
  • Help with vet visits and with their trap-neuter-release program

Final Hope
201-725-2044 (text preferred)

New City Kids is an after-school sanctuary for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. Teens teach the younger children music and help them with homework. Adults are on hand to supervise the music classes and provide further help with homework. The organization is faith based but open to all children.

Volunteers are needed to serve meals during rehearsals for the kids’ music performances as well as help paint and decorate their common areas on Saturday mornings.

New City Kids
240 Fairmount Ave.
Jersey City, NJ. 07306

Fountain of Salvation Church — together with Freeholder Bill O’Dea, Rotary Club of Plainsboro, the National Honor Society of McNair Academic High School, Phi Theta Kappa chapter of Hudson County Community College, and Mercy Coop and Café — will be providing 600 meals to seniors and others in need on Thanksgiving day from 9am-12pm.

Volunteers are needed to donate turkey and pumpkin pie and to drive meals to home-bound recipients.

Fountain of Salvation Church
324 Communipaw Ave.
Jersey City, NJ. 07304


Header photo: Courtesy Grace Van Vorst Book Sale Facebook page.

Dear reader: For the cost of a "tall" drip coffee at Starbucks, you can support local journalism! Please consider signing up for a recurring monthly payment of $2.99. Thank you!

Sign up and support Jersey City Times!

Art Review: The Hudson County Post-Industrial Style

The rough places have been made smooth. Most of our old factories are long gone: ringed with cyclone fences or converted into condominiums or grocery stores or artist’s studios. Yet we all know that Jersey City was once major manufacturing territory. We know our forerunners made stuff here and that that stuff was rock solid and consequential, loud during and after its assembly and sometimes even beautiful. And we know that this version of the city — the city that was — can’t be erased entirely no matter how many smokestacks succumb to the bulldozers and no matter how many tall brick walls are tattooed with murals.

Artists are well attuned to this, better attuned, I believe, than the politicians who’ve occasionally made preservation a part of their platform.  Art shows in Hudson County are frequently repositories for our cultural memory — places where a visitor can catch the echoes of the Jersey City that was and hear some of the tales that the bricks and stones and dirty strands of fiber tell. It’s meaningful that MANA, the town’s largest arts institution, is located inside a warehouse built in the 1920s. It’s doubly meaningful that the city chose the disused Hudson and Manhattan Railroad Powerhouse as the visual anchor of its designated arts district. We can turn our faces to the gleaming towers on the other side of the river and call ourselves a sixth borough, but we’ll never get away from who we really are.

All of the art shows I’ve seen lately bear the firm and grimy imprint of Hudson County’s industrial history. It was visible in the resin paintings now hanging at the Art House, the fabric webs and bunched cloth flowers at Drawing Rooms, and the hollow stump made of glued books at Mapping Life at the Lemmerman in NJCU. But nowhere have I caught the echoes any louder than at a pair of exhibitions in a part of town where the developer’s hammer hasn’t fallen quite as hard as elsewhere: McGinley Square.

‘‘Reprocess,” which is curated by Beatrice Mady and will be up at the Fine Arts Gallery at Saint Peter’s University until Dec. 13, and Bayard’s enveloping installation “Theme M Purr Purse Knew Close Or He Nay Kid Mother Far Curr” at Eonta Space, different as they are, both feel like strong examples of what I’ve come to understand as a specifically Hudson County post-industrial style. I think it’s the dominant style in town, and it’s one in which history keeps bubbling through the surface of the contemporary.

What do pieces in our local post-industrial style look like? Usually, they’re large. They impress with scale, and energy, and brightness, and they wear their ideas without intent to conceal. Even when the artists don’t operate on a grand scale, there’s a rough-hewn quality to the objects they’ve made. There’s a sense of chaos and kinetic energy bordering on clutter — collage, tangles, clumps. Materials are made manifest, and often, they’re ones with industrial applications: glue, grit, fibers, resins, threads. Post-industrial art isn’t always pretty; in fact, it’s sometimes downright dirty.

What truly characterizes the Hudson County post-industrial style, though, is a particular mood. This kind of art is playful, open handed, thoroughly comfortable with the occasionally soiled stuff it’s composed of. It challenges the viewer to locate the whimsy inside the heavy metal — and that challenge carries a message of quiet defiance. Our post-industrial art insists on the dignity of these materials, and, by extension, the people who’ve handled them. Theses object might be obsolete; they might even be, if viewed from a certain perspective, garbage. It doesn’t matter. From this trash, we can assemble a different world.

Eonta Space as outfitted by Bayard

I doubt Bayard was thinking about local history when he transformed the Eonta Space (34 DeKalb Ave.) into a Seussian playground.  Nevertheless, this great bear hug of an art show might be the quintessential Hudson County post-industrial exhibition. Out of humble materials, Bayard has fashioned friendly giants. He’s made massive sculptures — some twice the size of a person — out of linked frames festooned with thousands upon thousands of strips of fabric. Some of these have the quality of the business end of a janitor’s mop, others are reminiscent of the fuzz atop McDonald’s fry guy characters, others look as if they’d been torn from your great aunt’s frumpiest dress, others look like they’ve been snipped from the ribbon on an unloved Christmas present.

Swatches hang in great drapes, textile fronds trail on the floor and tickle the walls, they’re matted down to form a comfy bed for the gallery cat, they fray and twist like tangles of angel hair on the fork.  More than a dozen of these stand at strategic spots on the Eonta Space floor, overlapping, commenting on each other, poised to come shambling toward you. You’re encouraged to touch these sculptures: You can run your fingers across dangling orange strands in the same way you might set a wind chime in motion, or you can rough them up a bit. Everything about this show is meant to be tactile and fully sensory. Entering the space gives the same thrill as the approach of the giant soapy pom-poms of the car wash do.

‘‘Theme M Purr Purse Knew Close Or He Nay Kid Mother Far Curr” spills out into the backyard of the gallery where a lone statue stands sentinel against any incursion from the graveyard next door and across the street, where a clique of three vertical cloth sculptures cut a mischievous figure against the backdrop of a brick building. They’re a burst of color, a visual insurrection on a shrouded stretch of DeKalb Avenue. They’re polite neighbors, too — they weather the winds and rains cheerfully. In a statement about impermanence and in a refusal to be too precious about the art he’s made, Bayard leaves them to the mercy of the elements. He’s also managed to reaffirm the sturdiness and resilience of cloth. These scraps, cut roughly, have their own gravity, their own weight, their own specific beauty, and their own stories of perseverance to tell.

Tucked at the end of a cul-de-sac, Eonta Space seems like a secret; by contrast, the Fine Arts Gallery at Saint Peter’s University (47 Glenwood Ave.) feels as public as a train station. The gallery is located in a wide corridor on the fifth floor of the Mac Mahon Student Center, a big, square, modern building with campus foot traffic on all of its floors. Yet the spell cast by the “Reprocess” installation isn’t so different from the one at Eonta, and I reckon that Bayard would consider Robert Lach and Jodie Fink fellow travelers. They’re singing a similar tune, albeit in a lower key.

“Nest Colony II” by Robert Lach

Much like Bayard, Lach and Fink take industrial materials that might have been cast into the dumpster and give them new life. Lach uses the foam rings from packing tape, cardboard, glue, and wire to create sculptures that mimic biological forms. These honeycombs, shells, aggregations of barnacles, and broken wings hang on the student center wall like a beachcomber’s collection. The colors evoke the shore; the tone is hushed and maybe even reverent. He’s presented these manufactured fossils alongside photographs of cars abandoned deep in the woods — doors loose amidst the bramble, leaves blown on to floor, chassis exposed, windows long gone.

Jodie Fink’s assemblage of artifacts feels like a specimen drawer, too. Her small mixed-media sculptures are made from long-unused tools and kitchen implements, many heavy with oxidation, some broken altogether, others functional but bearing the damage of heavy use. Yet Fink manages to find the joke underneath the patina of rust. She’s turned these junked objects into expressive, downright talkative little fellows: A sawblade, for instance, when turned at a particular angle and slotted into a flattened can, becomes a shy but determined turtle. An old potato ricer is given cold-water buttons for eyes, and the ringed pattern of holes in the object’s ‘‘face” positively smiles back at the viewer. A protractor and a wooden clothespin becomes a “Pregnant Woman Walking;” a horseshoe affixed to a metal plate becomes the upraised arms of a “Strong Woman.” These are object-narrators in the truest sense.

These pieces go beyond personification. It’s more accurate to call them a sort of revivification and maybe even a resurrection. There was a bright and freshly minted spirit in these materials, this art suggests, and although that spirit can’t find expression in the same manner it once did, it can still be located, redirected, and honored. Objects carry the tales of the people who may have handled and possessed them, and in Hudson County, industrial materials whisper tales of our shared heritage. Bayard, Fink, and Lach are playing with ghosts, channeling spirits that lurk just beneath the Jersey topsoil, engaging in quiet, playful protest against amnesia, insisting on the dignity of labor, and reminding us of a town that’s disappearing from sight but which still hangs like smoke in the air around us.

Header: “Turtle” by Jodie Fink

Dear reader: For the cost of a "tall" drip coffee at Starbucks, you can support local journalism! Please consider signing up for a recurring monthly payment of $2.99. Thank you!

Sign up and support Jersey City Times!

Slowly but Surely, the Poured-in-Place Concrete Skate Park is Coming

For transplanted New Yorker Brian Locastro, Berry Lane Park in Jersey City is practically a dream come true.

Locastro moved July 1 from Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen to the city’s Greenville area – and here, he says, he’s found a pastoral oasis between industrial Garfield Avenue and residential Woodward Street.

Typically, every morning he takes Gronk, an American bulldog- pit bull-mix, for a stroll along the paths and greenery of the park – the biggest in the city’s portfolio – and both revel in the natural surroundings … here and at Liberty State Park just a bit further south.

“Gronk goes off into the brush where there’s different smells,” Locastro says, “and the paths are clear, and you don’t worry about broken glass. It’s nature. Everything doesn’t need to be flower beds and mulch.”

Actually, there is a small section of the park near the corner of Bramhall Avenue reserved for colorful flower beds, but a visitor can also find in close proximity outdoor gym equipment, an enclosed basketball court, tennis courts, soccer field, playground and splash area and a baseball field.

And now there’s even more coming. Rest assured, it won’t rival the American Dream complex in the Hackensack Meadowlands, but then again, it won’t be a massive parking lot for hundreds of itinerant parkers.

Instead, what the city and Jersey City Redevelopment Agency have billed as the last piece of the sprawling $40 million, 17-acre recreational space in Greenville had an official groundbreaking on Nov. 8.

Photo by Jennifer Brown/City of Jersey City

According to JCRA project director Danny Mazario, in six to eight months (– barring any debilitating snowstorms) – city residents should see the completion of a nearly 12,000 square foot skate park that – the  city says, will be “the largest in the city and the first poured-in-place concrete skate park in Hudson County” – along with “a 2,113-square-foot one-story masonry pavilion and covered exterior terrace” that will contain bathrooms, changing rooms, utilities, administrative offices, and eventually a food concession area.

Around the pavilion will be a concrete walkway and lighting, concrete curbing, a patio, picnic tables and chairs, benches, bike racks, and landscaping. Beyond the pavilion will be a lawn.

Mazario listed the pavilion contractor as ML Inc., a Passaic-based construction firm, whose website lists among its projects, the Weehawken 9/11 Memorial, the Cedar Grove High School Stadium, the Boverini Stadium in Passaic, the Dayton High School auditorium in Springfield, and the Polish & Slavic Credit Union Bank in Wallington. The Jersey City job will cost $2.8 million, he said.

Mazario said the skate park is being built by Tsivikos Enterprises Inc., of Neptune, at a projected cost of $250,000. On its website Tsivikos says it has a history of doing construction projects for municipal, county, and state government and has developed a specialty in public and private aquatic construction jobs. Whether the firm has done any prior skate parks couldn’t be readily determined.

For the park’s future skaters, here are some features that are to be incorporated into the design: a lay-back bank, hipped quarter pipes, a roller, an A-frame ledge combo, a split-level A-frame with gap, a three-stair rail, bump to ledge, kicker gap, flat rail over gap, clam shell, quarter pipe extension, pump bump. It will also include a backyard bowl at a 6-foot maximum depth with a 3,600-square-foot circumference.

Development of the overall park didn’t happen overnight.

Mayor Steve Fulop recalled that the property “was once filled with old rail lines, junk yards, and auto repair shops” and JCRA Executive Director Diana Jeffrey elaborated, saying that the city responded to pressure from community groups in the ‘90s to clean up the area and build a park — no easy undertaking.

As part of the remediation, Jeffrey said, the city removed underground tanks and disposed of 50,000 tons of soil containing hexavalent chromium along with “historic fill” and then capped the area with clean fill –— all before securing designs for what Fulop called “the area’s premier park as we remain committed to invest in the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood.”

For Bergen-Lafayette Councilman Jermaine Robinson, the transformation is a sight to behold. “I grew up on Randolph Avenue, and as kids we played on those empty lots that were occupied by closed factories and old junkyards. We jumped the fences and played baseball there.”

At the time, no one warned kids or parents about the presence of toxins in the soil.

And, Robinson said, “there were thousands of kids using that land.”

Meanwhile, the city is trying to make up for lost time, having secured a ton of grant money, including funding from the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund and from the Tony Hawk Foundation. The foundation picks locations across the nation to invest in building high-quality public skate parks.

Since the park’s official opening three years ago, the Friends of Berry Lane Park has introduced ecological programs like birder visitation, a “weed of the week” cleaning effort, and memorial plantings, along with weekly summer concerts.

Steve Parness, president of the Friends, said the group plans to follow up with activities like local artists’ painting the old coal silos still standing (empty) near the skate park site. “And we hope to present the Harriet Tubman Memorial Garden in 2020,” he added. “With the new pavilion and skate park, Berry Lane Park will become the area’s premier park as we remain committed to invest in the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood,” Fulop said.

Dear reader: For the cost of a "tall" drip coffee at Starbucks, you can support local journalism! Please consider signing up for a recurring monthly payment of $2.99. Thank you!

Sign up and support Jersey City Times!

Greenville Gets Public Safety Support

Once an area of disinterest and neglect, Jersey City’s Greenville ward is getting more attention from the city’s current administration in the area of public safety.

On Nov. 7, the city rolled out its latest addition to the municipal fire department arsenal with a blessing by the city fire chaplain, Rev. James Pagnotta, of the newly-acquired 100-foot E-One Metro aerial ladder truck.

Jersey City Fire Chief Steven McGill said the brand -new rig is being assigned to the 2nd Battalion firehouse at Bergen and Van Nostrand Avenues and will replace a 2004 aerial ladder truck that now will be used as a spare. Fifteen years is considered the typical life expectancy of a fire rig in an urban environment, he added.

Photo by Jennifer Brown/City of Jersey City

“This is the first vehicle we’ve replaced since 2015,” McGill said, when the city shelved Tower Ladder 6 from the firehouse at Newark Avenue and Merseles Street. In 2013, Ladder 12, also from the Newark Avenue facility, gave way to what the chief called a “demo” model; and, in 2008, a new ladder truck originally destined for the Chicago Fire Department arrived in Jersey City as a new Ladder 11 at the Kearny Avenue firehouse in West Side.

Mayor Steven Fulop said his administration “has tried to invest in public safety resources in the last few years,” – and the new apparatus represents “another step in that direction to get the fire department needed resources.” Two more rigs on order are now being built, and their arrival is anticipated by summer 2020.

Acquired from a Florida manufacturer under a lease-purchase arrangement through the Houston/Galveston Cooperative, the new ladder truck took eight months to build. The city has 10 years to complete the payments.

McGill said the new 38-foot-long rig’s front-end suspension and low center of gravity will allow for better maneuverability through the ward’s narrow streets and tight intersections while responding to emergencies. A larger cabin, improved emission controls, and carcinogen-free interior make the apparatus safer for firefighters, he added.

The new vehicle is being placed in Greenville, according to a city announcement, because that ward “has been identified as an area of the city in need of updated fire response tools.”

According to the JCFD’s Fire Analysis Report for 2018, of the 27,172 fire incidents citywide reported, 9,579 occurred in Greenville — by far the most among the city’s four battalion areas. (The others are listed as Downtown, the Heights and Bergen/West Side.)

Those stats showed Greenville fared slightly better than the year prior when the JCFD logged 9,684 fire incidents for the ward — again the highest among the 27,628 citywide.

Figures for 2019 are not yet available.

Greenville can benefit from the new aerial ladder rig, said Councilman Jermaine Robinson, because “there are a lot of new buildings in the ward that are 50 to 200 feet high,” including a 10-story Public Safety headquarters the city has planned for Martin Luther King Drive and Kearny Avenue and a 16-story mixed-income residential tower with close to 300 units that is “in the works,” he said.

Another JCFD infrastructure shot in the arm upcoming for Greenville, according to McGill, is the renovation of the century-old firehouse at Ocean Avenue and Dwight Street housing Engine 22 and Ladder 4. “The front façade is falling apart, and brickwork needs fixing,” McGill said. The city has advertised for bids, and once a contract is awarded, the work should take “a few months” to complete, he said.

A new firehouse is on the drawing board for the Bayside community, north of Society Hill, “on the fringes of the 2nd Battalion, to keep our response time to three to four minutes,” the chief said. “Our goal is to have a developer [pay for] that.” But that facility could be “three to five years” from completion, he acknowledged.

JCFD personnel got a morale booster with the recent promotion of Firefighter Enrique Vasquez to the rank of fire captain. He replaces Capt. Brian Lowery, who retired Nov. 1. McGill said the move ensures that the department maintains its ordinance strength of 140 captains “to maintain 26 fire companies.”

A fire captain’s annual base pay is $109,815 in Jersey City, but since he has 15 years of service with the JCFD, Vasquez will earn $116,404 with longevity added on, according to city finance records.

Vasquez, who grew up on Danforth Avenue, went to Public School 20 and then Marist High School before enrolling at New Jersey City University where he graduated with a fire science degree in 2003.

The 42-year-old, who has served as a lifeguard for the city’s recreation department, credits his mother with putting the idea of a career in firefighting in his head. “After I finished high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and my mom said, ‘Why don’t you take the [Civil Service] test for firefighter?’ She said it would be a good fit for me.”

Vasquez followed her advice and was hired by the department in January 2005.

He’s actually the second member of his family to be a uniformed employee as his dad served in the army for a decade.

Vasquez and his wife, Jennifer O’Neill Vasquez, have two sons, Gavin, 8, and Declen, almost 3.

His fellow firefighters from Ladder 12 on Newark Avenue were on hand at the city hall promotion ceremony to celebrate his good fortune.

Header: Photo by Jennifer Brown/City of Jersey City

Dear reader: For the cost of a "tall" drip coffee at Starbucks, you can support local journalism! Please consider signing up for a recurring monthly payment of $2.99. Thank you!

Sign up and support Jersey City Times!

Jersey City Comedy Festival Returns! Submissions Open Now

The most prestigious comedy event of Jersey City, the Sixth Borough Comedy Festival, returns this coming summer for the third successive year with a new name: Jersey City Comedy Festival. The event will showcase a diverse range of talent representative of the second most diverse city in the nation, according to

Comedians perform at the 2019 Comedy Festival. Photo by Miguel Aviles.

“Not to rail against white men,” said Meredith Burns, executive director of Art House Productions, which organizes the festival, “but diversity in the festival is important.” Burns is a comedy festival veteran herself who has performed with the group The Executives at almost every sketch fest imaginable in the US and Canada. She noticed that festivals seemed to showcase mostly performers from one demographic and wanted to rectify that. So, the festival will include a “wide variety of ages and abilities,” Burns reported. “We wanted to make it representative of Jersey City,” she said.

The comedy festival has been around since 2013 in fits and starts. Originally produced by Art House and comedian and artist Craig Mahoney, the event was called “Jersey City Comedy Festival” and lasted two years.

In 2018, it was resurrected. This time around, though, the festival’s management would change.

Art House (now being run by Burns) tapped Jersey City comedian Rich Kiamco to curate the show.  (Burns had been impressed with his long-running comedy show “The Laugh Tour.”)  Then-Jersey City comedian Ari Miller was asked to co-produce, too.

But the festival also got a new name. Turns out the URL “” was already taken; so rather than use a different URL, Burns and company decided to rebrand.

“We had to get creative,” Burns explained. The name “Sixth Borough Comedy Festival” was a little tongue in cheek, and we liked the ring of ‘6BCF’.”  So “Sixth Borough Comedy Festival” it would be.

Xavier Hernandez (co-producer of 6BCF 2019), Mayor Steve Fulop, Rich Kiamco (co-producer 6BCF and JCCF), Meredith Burns (Director of Art House, co-producer of 6BCF/JCCF). Photo by Miguel Aviles.

This past year’s 6BCF, the second and most successful 6BCF, featured more than 140 comedians over the course of four nights. In addition to stand

up, sketch, storytelling, musical comedy, a podcast, and improv, it culminated in a roast of Mayor Steve Fulop.

“Getting roasted by Jersey City’s funniest residents was just as enjoyable as it sounds,” the mayor reported.  “As much as I loved being subjected to jokes at my own expense during the last Comedy Festival, I’m happy to pass the baton to the next guest of honor,” the mayor said.

“As for suggestions of who should be next on the hot seat,” Fulop added, “I know of some people who could use a good laugh after [last Tuesday’s] Election Day.” Nonetheless the mayor did not give any names.

According to Burns, there were over 600 people in attendance throughout the 2019 festival, up 20% from the previous year. “It was interesting,” she said. “Gilbert Gottfried performed [in 2018], and while we certainly had great names this year, none of them had that nostalgic value,” Burns said while considering the increase of show goers.

“There were so many people there it was almost a fire hazard!” said Kiamco, referring to the “Friday Night Roast Battle” at the Newark Avenue club FM.

The 2020 Jersey City Comedy Festival is scheduled for June 10-13. It will feature stand-up, sketch, improv, musical comedy, maybe storytelling, and podcasts.

Comedians will have the chance to compete for prizes — and the festival may include panels and workshops (to suggest a topic for a panel or workshop, contact

Finally, the group Character Assassination may headline the event with a theatrical roast.

Submissions for the Jersey City Comedy Festival are open through February 29, 2020.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the many budget-friendly underground comedy shows you could see right now in Jersey City.

For more information on the 2020 Jersey City Comedy Festival, visit

Header: From left: Xavier Hernandez (co-producer of 6BCF 2019), Mayor Steve Fulop, Rich Kiamco (co-producer 6BCF and JCCF), Meredith Burns (Director of Art House, co-producer of 6BCF/JCCF). Photo by Miguel Aviles.

Dear reader: For the cost of a "tall" drip coffee at Starbucks, you can support local journalism! Please consider signing up for a recurring monthly payment of $2.99. Thank you!

Sign up and support Jersey City Times!

Neighborhood Restaurant Gems

Finding the right place to eat in Jersey City can be a daunting task. In almost every neighborhood there’s a spot that showcases the best of flavor and preparation, a culinary gem. For me, a restaurant qualifies as a   “neighborhood” gem when it’s not widely known outside its environs; when, despite its modesty, its food and flavors can compete with anyone’s; and when you are made to feel welcome the minute you walk through the door. I consider these restaurants neighborhood gems:

15 Fox Place
Neighborhood: Journal Square
Cuisine: Italian

Perhaps no restaurant in Jersey City fits this bill better than 15 Fox Place. The Journal Square-based restaurant is located inside a residential house, so don’t be alarmed when you pull up and wonder if Apple maps has suddenly gone awry. Once inside, you’ll immediately think “dinner at grandma’s house,” which is exactly how owner Rich Budnich and his son, Chef Marc Budnich, want you to feel. Fair warning, this is not a place where you’ll be in and out in an hour. Prepare to be at 15 Fox Place for at least 2.5 hours as you enjoy a six-course prix-fixe menu at a family-style table. You’ll most likely spend a little over $100 a head, so think of this spot for a treat than a regular night out. Fifteen Fox Place requires reservations, so make sure you call ahead to book a seat for either Friday, Saturday or Sunday, 7pm to midnight. And if you’ve been there before, there’s reason to go back: There’s no set menu due to Chef Budnich’s desire for patrons to have a different experience every visit. (15 Fox Place)

Rizzo’s Bakery
Neighborhood: The Heights
Cuisine: Pizza and Italian

If you’ve ever been to Washington DC, you know the District’s culinary calling card is the jumbo slice. Now imagine taking this famous export, bringing it up I-95, and infusing the dough of those cheesey-tomatoey triangles with the New York area’s famous water. That’s exactly what you can expect when you grab a slice at Rizzo’s Bakery. The restaurant has all your classic Italian deli favorites (Italian bread, cured meats, specialty cheeses, butter cookies), but make no mistake: Its pizza is the reason locals keep coming back. At $2 a pop for a slice as big as your head, the trek to traffic-clogged Central Avenue is worth it. (208 Central Ave.)

Taqueria Viva Mexico
Neighborhood: Paulus Hook
Cuisine: Mexican

Tucked away on a side street in Paulus Hook, Taqueria Viva Mexico has outstanding tacos, a plethora of burritos and huaraches, succulent homemade tamales, and even Mexican-style breakfast specials.  While the postage-stamp-sized eatery lacks the bar and liquor license of its neighbor (and competitor) Taqueria Downtown, its selection of fourteen tacos gives you a huge choice and come with their own superb flavor combinations. Don’t miss the carne enchilada taco: Its peppery, slow-cooked saucy flavor coupled with the restaurant’s sides of salsa will make your mouth water. (133 Morris St.)

Samakmak Seafood
Neighborhood: West Side
Cuisine: Seafood

We all know how the story can go when it comes to seafood: One undercooked piece, and you might wind up clutching the toilet for days. But have no fear because Samakmak Seafood, located between McGinley Square and the West Side, is first rate. The menu is Mediterranean inspired and features a large range of fresh fish including tilapia, salmon, barbonia, orata, branzino, striped bass, and perch. While the ambiance of the restaurant evokes comparisons with your local diner more than a Michelin-star restaurant, you’ll sacrifice that for some of the best fish in Jersey City. Their prices are affordable, and they also offer a surplus of side dishes. (77 West Side Ave.)

Neighborhood: Greenville
Cuisine: Italian

Another destination for your inner Magellan, Laico’s has been a staple of Greenville since 1972 when owners Lou and Felice Laico opened the spot as a brick-oven pizzeria and bar for locals—in their aluminum-sided and decidedly unflashy, unyuppified house. The brick-oven pizza is still a staple, but for years now Laico’s has had a full menu featuring northern Italian specials as well as southern Italian stalwarts. Go for the complimentary salad with its homemade creamy, tangy dressing that comes with every entree; go for pork medallions with hot cherry peppers; go for tender fish cooked every-way-imaginable-and-if-you-don’t-see-the-preparation-you-want-just-ask-for-it; but most of all go for the huge portions, old-timey feel, convivial bar, and celebrity spotting (local pols love the place). Don’t worry too much about parking in a residential neighborhood: Laico’s offers valet parking daily from 5pm to closing; on Sundays valet park as early as 2pm. (77 Terhune Ave.)

Neighborhood: Van Vorst Park
Cuisine: Australian

A restaurant that finds itself smack-dab in the middle of Grove Street doesn’t really have any place to hide. However, Frankie is in the shadow of Cool Vines and does fly under the radar in comparison much-hyped neighbor Razza. And for no good reason: Its Australian beach house ambiance featuring brightly colored walls, wicker furniture, seashells, and surfboards is quirky and fun; its menu (“modern Australian”) blends British, Asian and Mediterranean influences to produce dishes like coconut green curry (with seafood), pea and chive dumplings, and tempura zucchini flowers; there’s a full bar featuring over 80 bottles of wine; and perhaps best of all, for an extra $4 at breakfast they’ll infuse any one of their many fresh-pressed juices with Rosebud CBD. Frankie ‘s style is unique and unlike what you might think of for your night out, but stop by when you can because it’s well worth it. (264 Grove St.)

Harry’s Daughter
Neighborhood: Bergen-Lafayette
Cuisine: Caribbean/West Indies

If you’re looking for authentic Caribbean cuisine served in a warm, mahogany-filled, botanically-inspired room, then Harry’s Daughter in Bergen-Lafayette is for you. Opened in 2017, the attractive spot boasts a wide range of Caribbean favorites like jerk chicken, curried goat Roti, stewed peas, and braised oxtail stew—along with whole red snapper and peri peri shrimp for those seeking lighter fare. For brunch, indulge in fried chicken and banana waffles, jelly pork belly bao egg and cheese, or poached egg avocado crush toast. Harry’s Daughter has a full bar—mahogany, remember?  During the summer, kick back at the restaurant’s pig roast for your fix of fresh pork. (339 Communipaw Ave.)

Dear reader: For the cost of a "tall" drip coffee at Starbucks, you can support local journalism! Please consider signing up for a recurring monthly payment of $2.99. Thank you!

Sign up and support Jersey City Times!

Is a Settlement Near for the 6th Street Embankment?

When advocates for Jersey City’s Harsimus Cove/Sixth Street Embankment look up at the old rail structure, they see the prospect for a West of the Hudson High Line – albeit with nuanced ecological features – but after more than a decade of court battles and an estimated $1 million in legal fees expended by the city, is that vision doomed to be pie in the sky?

The City of Jersey City and the nonprofit allies marshaled alongside it hope that’s not the case and remain guardedly optimistic that the goal of preserving much of the overhead infrastructure as public open space can be achieved.

Here’s an update on that situation as best we can piece it together.

After the annual meeting of the locally based Embankment Preservation Coalition  held last month, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop offered a glowing forecast about the project.

Fulop tweeted, “Imagine an eight-acre elevated park in #Jersey City like the #HighLine in NYC. Well, after 15 years of litigation, at tonight’s annual Embankment Coalition meeting I had the privilege of sharing with a packed house that we’re at a settlement. A big win for Jersey City.”

For a fuller explanation, we requested an interview with the mayor, but in an Oct. 28 email, mayoral spokesperson Kimberly Wallace Scalcione said, “We’re holding off on press for the time being. We expect to schedule a news conference in the near future when everything is completely finalized.”

Jersey City Times file photo

So, we asked coalition president Stephen Gucciardo to outline the status of the longstanding litigation that pits the city and its allies – the Coalition and nationwide nonprofit Rails-to-Trails – on one side against Conrail, the Hyman estate that purchased the property from Conrail and from various LLCs associated with the estate, and the Albanese Organization, a developer based in Garden City, N.Y., on the other.

Gucciardo, a local realtor and longtime Downtown neighborhood advocate, said Jersey City, the Embankment Preservation Coalition, and Rails-to-Trails have agreed on a term sheet setting forth the “objectives and responsibilities for each of the partiesassociated with the embankment project. The terms and conditions outlined in that document, he said, should serve as a model for an eventual legal settlement.

“We are actively reviewing drafts of a settlement,” Gucciardo said, “but we have some ways to go before a signed settlement is reached. I imagine it will take another couple of months to complete.”

Gucciardo said the Hyman estate and Albanese are “actively participating” in settlement discussions. “Everyone is pursuing a solution. We’re optimistic but cautious going forward.”

Meanwhile, Washington State-based attorney Charles Montange, who is representing the city, the coalition, and Rails-to-Trails in the litigation, cautioned that any settlement announcement at this point would be at best premature particularly since the term sheet agreement was non-binding on the litigants.

“The parties are still in negotiation,” Montange said. When might talks be concluded? “It’s an ongoing thing, a moving target. No one’s decided on a schedule.” Montange said the document amounted to “a couple dozen sheets” but suspected that a final settlement agreement would be “a couple hundred” pages.

Neither Gucciardo nor Montange would discuss the contents of the term sheet; however, The Jersey Journal has published a report about that based on information attributed to Fulop.

Jersey City Times file photo

A source familiar with the term sheet proposal told Jersey City Times that under that proposal, Jersey City at no cost would get ownership of five of the six blocks traversed by the embankment, from Marin Boulevard west to Brunswick Street, all to be converted to a public park – plus two at-grade parcels terminating at the N.J. Turnpike plus potentially the rest of Harsimus rail branch extending to the rear of the Harsimus cemetery and north to the Bergen Arches.

At the same time, Albanese – after paying the Hyman estate a financial consideration for the property – would be permitted to build two large-scale residential developments on parcels between Marin Boulevard and Manila Avenue: two high-rise towers, 45 and 35 floors, with a combined total of up to 875 units.

However, because the city’s current redevelopment plan for the area provides for only 400 housing units and 200 hotel rooms, the city council would have to approve an amendment to that plan to clear the way for the increased volume of units. A city ordinance passed in 2012 in anticipation of a settlement cleared the way for residential structures up to 45 stories but left open the issue of density.

As a concession to the city, Albanese would provide public access to the eastern embankment block by installing a staircase and an ADA-compliant elevator at Marin Boulevard along with public bathrooms, a land bridge linking the first two blocks of the eastern embankment between Manila Avenue and Erie Street, and a section of parkland.

In 2012 Jersey City approved a $7 million bond ordinance in support of efforts to develop a park and pedestrian/bike path with a 30-foot-wide right-of-way atop the embankment that could hook up with the Hudson River waterfront and offer a mass transit corridor link for a possible expansion of the NJ Transit Light Rail. It’s expected that the city would use part of the bond money for an environmental cleanup of the top of the embankment and for land bridges and public access facilities such as stairways and/or lifts.

The mile-long Harsimus rail branch – extending from the waterfront to Waldo Avenue, accommodating seven rail lines – was developed by the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1870s. In the early 1900s, the railroad built the sandstone embankment as a more stable replacement for the original structure, which was iron and timber. Freight service ended in the 1990s.

As part of the litigation, Jersey City has alleged that Conrail failed to file an application for an “abandonment” of rail property – the Harsimus branch including the embankment – before selling it to a group of LLCs affiliated with Steve and Victoria Hyman in 2005 — and that this failure was a breach of federal railroad law. The Hymans initially wanted to build townhouses then later high-rise towers on each of the six blocks traversed by the embankment. A few years ago, they brought Albanese into the development picture. Steve Hyman died earlier this year.

Asked for comment about the lawsuit’s status, Conrail Vice President of Corporate Development Jonathan Broder said, “This is an exciting time, and we are pleased that all parties including the Embankment Preservation Coalition, Rails-to-Trails, Jersey City, and Conrail are all very close to an agreement in principle.

“Now we just have the hard work of finalizing the details, so the Harsimus branch embankment can once again serve as a major connector bringing communities together in a green space in the heart of Jersey City.”

Jersey City Councilman James Solomon, whose ward encompasses the embankment, said he remains “hopeful that this effort has progressed to this point, and my goal is to ensure the city has a credible plan to turn the embankment into an accessible, vibrant public space. That has to be in the forefront of any settlement agreement.”

The coalition has been pitching an ecological concept for the embankment since its formation some two decades ago. For more details about that concept, visit its website at

Jersey City Times file photo


Dear reader: For the cost of a "tall" drip coffee at Starbucks, you can support local journalism! Please consider signing up for a recurring monthly payment of $2.99. Thank you!

Sign up and support Jersey City Times!

Art Review: Slow Art

So how long does it take you to see an art show, anyway? Do you linger in front of each canvas, or do you jet through the exhibition with a tail wind? Since there’s no clock at a gallery presentation, you’re free to set your own pace. But if it’s a really engaging experience, the art has a way of establishing its own rhythm—and if you listen carefully, you may slip into time with the beat.

The participants in the “Slow Art” show at the Village West Gallery (331 Newark Avenue) have done quite a bit of thinking about time and speed and the peculiar velocity of perception. This lovely, temperate, occasionally apprehensive show introduces those reflections politely. That stands to reason: Slow art ought to be soft-spoken.

The artists approach the theme with the quiet reverence it deserves. Painter Anki King represents time as a dark substance, something slippery as oil, seeping through interlaced fingers at the end of a pair of frail and ghostly arms. In “Gather,” the painting that welcomes visitors to the gallery, time threatens to escape from the clutches of its possessor in a great black rush. Other works in the show cushion that same anxiety through repetition. Megan Klim’s dense folds of gauze, Patricia Cazorla and Nancy Salerme’s shaded, near-oceanic waves of blue ink, Jimbo Blachly’s strata of thin horizonal lines in watercolor, and co-curator and gallery owner Robinson Holloway’s elaborately decorated sofa: These artworks radiate diligence, accomplishment, time logged, a tough job well done. Meticulousness, they seem to suggest, is a response to the tick of the clock. If the artist can get properly lost in her task, she might be able to still those hands.

“Slow Art” asks the viewer to pause and reflect, respect the inner rhythms of the works on view, and indulge in the luxury of contemplation. But if you want to follow the call of these works and others like them, you’ll have to make an appointment to see the exhibition. The Village West Gallery—which is itself an elegant space and one that prompts quiet reflection—doubles as the ground floor of Robinson Holloway’s home. (Ms. Holloway’s cats are part of the permanent collection here.) It’s as big and bright as many of the dedicated exhibition spaces downtown, and it demonstrates again that anybody with the taste, a coherent aesthetic sensibility, and a few wide, white walls can put on a show worth seeing.

Holloway and her co-curator Diana Schmertz have attracted twenty artists to the “Slow Art” show, which will be on view until December 6. That’s a “JC Friday,” and the gallery will be open for a reception that night.

If you’re a Downtown resident or a rock fan, there’s a decent chance you’ve stumbled upon a bit of this exhibition already. Village West is just a stone’s throw from White Eagle Hall, and concertgoers waiting in line may have noticed David Baskin’s assortment of 160 oval-shaped containers in the gallery’s street-facing window. “Dove Bottles” turns the front of the house into a great abacus: The bottles are candy colored and easy to count, and if you surrender to the piece (recommended), you’re likely to find some intriguing patterns amidst the plastic. Like much of “Slow Art,” Baskin’s installation is a quiet charmer—it’s quirky and homespun, but it isn’t overly ingratiating, and it doesn’t lead with cleverness. The same might be said for Sharela Bonfield’s hand-embroidered “selfies” rendered on ten inch pieces of felt. These images of the artist, assembled stitch by sedulous stitch, glow with quotidian beauty.

Selfie by Sharela Bonfield

Dove Bottles by David Baskin

They’re also a commentary on the immediacy of digital reproduction and a challenge to those who might call art-making a waste of time and energy. Yes, says Ms. Bonfield, I will indeed take three months to a year to capture my image in thread; you go ahead and settle for your crude and cold assembly of pixels. The artist’s subtle defiance is a figure for the entire show and a shorthand version of its theme. Some worthwhile effects can only be produced slowly, and certain powerfully expressive mediums should not be overlooked in the rush to make an immediate impression.

Other works in the show practically demand close reading. A painting like Alexis Duque’s stuffed and teetering “Truck” can’t be appreciated at a single glance. The artist has simply loaded too much detail onto the canvas: rooms upon rooms and houses upon houses like a trash-compacted Santorini. He’s given the viewer twisting staircases to navigate and windows to peer into and objects crammed into every corner, and he’s put the whole thing on a pair of wheels. Where is this rolling citadel headed, and who are its inhabitants? How fast is it traveling? Does it move at the speed of the viewer’s apprehension?

Slow art, by definition, lacks the urgency we’ve come to expect from modern visual entertainment, and it does run the risk of offering comfort at a time in history when nobody ought to be comfortable. Joshua Mintz’s “Untitled (Bunker),” a piece that’s simultaneously adorable and terrifying, plays with ideas of ease, intimacy, welcome, and the all-too-seductive power of relaxation. This sculpture is a tiny replica of a rumpled couch in suburban-den green, with cushions in a slept-on mess, and the seat sagging treacherously in the middle. There’s even a pair of well-worn miniature sneakers on the floor. Here is the sofa as the hungry eater of hours: a dangerous place, a lure to the tired and unwary.

My favorite piece in the show confronts the notion of misspent time head on. On a rough sheet of cotton and wool paper, Jeanne Heifetz has drawn a partial globe of small interlocking quadrilateral shapes, each one distinguished from its immediate neighbors by minute differences in ink color and shading. It’s all gorgeous and painstaking and viewed from one uncharitable angle completely purposeless. She’s named her work Mottainai after the famous Japanese admonition against waste. Certainly it is impractical to spend our time like this—brightening the patterns on the sofa upholstery in house paint, folding and gluing gauze, crosshatching little squares on canvases, assembling hundreds of colored plastic bottles in a Newark Avenue window. But as Anki King’s painting demonstrates, the minutes are going to slip through our fingers no matter how tightly we try to hold them. How better to spend them than in the pursuit of beauty?

Header: Untitled (Bunker) by Joshua Mintz

Dear reader: For the cost of a "tall" drip coffee at Starbucks, you can support local journalism! Please consider signing up for a recurring monthly payment of $2.99. Thank you!

Sign up and support Jersey City Times!

Education: “We Want to Go Home!”

Despite months of back-and-forth discussion regarding the future of Jersey City’s A. Harry Moore Laboratory School, located at 2078 JFK Blvd. opposite New Jersey City University, a long-term solution to the school’s shuttering remains up in the air.

During the Board Of Education’s meeting November 1, A. Harry Moore School was discussed with parents, teachers, and administrators giving their opinions regarding the Jersey City school whose entire operation was recently relocated to Regional Day School after its ceiling partially collapsed in September.

“We are, right now, in a very challenging setting,” Patricia Holzman, teacher at A. Harry Moore school said, referring to the lack of space for their student population at Regional Day School.

“We want to go home,” pleaded A. Harry Moore’s principal, Steven Goldberg, to the BOE.

The A. Harry Moore Laboratory School has been a learning institute for children and adults with physical disabilities ages 3 through 21 since 1931. The school offers an “employment opportunities workshop” an “adapted” physical education program, and a preschool while also offering physical, occupational, speech, and music therapies. Although operated under the College of Education of New Jersey City University, it is funded by the board of education.

In early September, A. Harry Moore’s roof partially collapsed, but before repairs could begin, further inspections deemed the whole building unsafe for students to return, leaving the school’s future  uncertain. Board President Sudhan Thomas stated the school will remain under the Regional Day School until a better solution comes along, declaring they are searching for a fully utilized space for the school to accommodate staff, students, and the equipment the school will require.

Thomas had disclosed four possible options for the future of the school: refurbishing the entire facility, which may cost up to $25 million and take about five years to complete, purchasing a new building altogether, keeping the program at Regional Day School, or renting a space within New Jersey City University.

“We have collectively, with NJCU, decided that that program will continue at Regional Day School for the interim until we find a proper solution,” he added.

In recent months, there was some speculation regarding NJCU’s discontinuing the program and the Jersey City Public School district’s taking over. Superintendent Franklin Walker addressed this rumor at the BOE meeting. “It’s never been our intention to take over the A. Harry Moore program,” he said. “It’s A. Harry Moore Laboratory School that’s been sponsored by New Jersey City University as a part of their college education program.” Walker went on to say they are still viewed as district students and will be provided for.

Both Goldberg and Holzman explained why providing adequate space is of the utmost importance for these students. “This is not only an academic and therapeutic setting for many of these medically fragile students; this is their lives.”

Thomas addressed the situation by announcing the BOE will be creating an ad hoc committee following the board meeting, which will consist of two board members, a couple of A. Harry Moore parents, and appointees from the board and NJCU’s side and that will meet monthly to devise a solution for the school’s permanent — or possibly temporary — location.

Regional Day School is located almost two miles away from the original site of A. Harry Moore School and is home to about 100 students of its own.

Goldberg urged the board to understand the urgency of the situation, explaining the students thrive in this program. “That’s what happens at A. Harry Moore. They live.”

Dear reader: For the cost of a "tall" drip coffee at Starbucks, you can support local journalism! Please consider signing up for a recurring monthly payment of $2.99. Thank you!

Sign up and support Jersey City Times!