Craft Breweries and a Distillery: Tour the Tasting Rooms of Jersey City


Alcohol tourism is a serious industry. Jersey City may not be wine country, but in just the past four years, it has become home to a craft brewery and a distillery, and another brewery is on the way.

Could Jersey City become a highbrow booze destination? Quite possibly (though the parking alone is enough to drive you to drink).

Drinking habits in Jersey City have changed since I was a kid. Instead of drinking a 40 of malt liquor at a construction site on the waterfront (and there’s nothing wrong with that), you can now drink a barrel-aged limited release bomber from the brewery down the street.

Brian Kulbacki, owner of Departed Soles. Photo by Melissa Surach

“We get tourists from out of state, people staying at hotels,” said Brian Kulbacki, owner of Departed Soles Brewing Company, which opened in downtown’s Power House District in 2015.

The brewery is the first to open in Jersey City since the Lembeck and Betz Eagle Brewing Company closed on the eve of Prohibition in 1920. Coincidentally, it’s is a few blocks away from the site of the forgotten Lembeck and Betz Historic Brewing District (on Marin between 9thand 10thStreets), which was added to the National Historic Register in 1984. The last vestige of the brewery was demolished in 1997.

Departed Soles’ bright taproom showcases local art, shoes, and skateboards in addition to beer, a pretty good sign that it’s not your grandpa’s beer joint. Indeed, the whole point of the enterprise seems to be to be small and bespoke. They source barrels from local distilleries and have acquired some Jersey artisan distilling sorghum whiskey barrels specifically for aging gluten-free beer (of course). They are also going to attempt a rudimentary hard seltzer that would be available in the tap room only.

Meanwhile, 902 Brewing is on the verge of opening in Bergen-Lafayette.

“We have the brewhouse installed, fermenters installed, walk-in installed. Waiting on the utility hookups and a certificate of occupancy from Jersey City,” said 902’s COO and founder Colby Janisch. “Hoping that can happen before the New Year,” he added.

Originally a homebrewing experiment that began in his apartment at 902 Washington Street in Hoboken, since 2012, 902 has been “gypsy” brewing at other local breweries including New Jersey Beer Company in North Bergen (with which they expect to finalize a merger soon). The company decided to open a brick and mortar location in Jersey City rather than Hoboken, its first choice, because the former proved easier and more accommodating.

“Space, availability, and affordability in Hoboken, along with traffic was a serious issue,” Janisch said. “We tried in multiple places, but the zoning office was literally no help. They made it seem like a burden every time we tried to realize our dream.”

Ultimately, he said, it was “the mentality of being wanted versus being put up with” that helped 902 decide to break ground in Jersey City.

Janisch still homebrews, and when asked what his favorite 902 beer is, he proudly responded, “Call me lame, but Heaven Hell or Hoboken IPA is probably my favorite,” he said. “It’s one of my original home brew recipes that I tweaked over and over, and I think it’s a fantastically balanced American IPA. It’s not a trend chaser by any means, but it’s enjoyable to drink any day of the year. I’m proud of it.”

But he’s most proud of Brady’s Nightmare, he ranted, “We bragged about the Giants’ beating the Pats in two super bowls on a beer can and made a national ESPN article for it. I’ll tell my kids about that when they hear of the legend of Tom Brady. Tom, if you’re reading this, come try one at the new facility. It’s on me even though you’re unfathomably rich.”

Janisch also has reason to be proud of his congeniality. 902 has a great relationship with Departed Soles, he said, and the two businesses “definitely want to collaborate” and “build JC as a beer destination.” Likewise, Janisch is fermenting wild ale in gin barrels procured from another startup alcohol manufacturer down the block.

That manufacturer would be Corgi Spirits.

Photo provided by Corgi Spirits

Corgi Spirits was founded in 2018, and specializes in potato-based gin.  It is the first and only craft distillery in Hudson County. Housed in a converted warehouse dubbed the “Jersey City Distillery,” it’s even got a street named after it: Distillery Way.

Corgi’s flagship gins are Pembroke and Earl Grey. In terms of flavor, both products tend to be a little floral and citrusy. They are highly accessible even to people who dislike gin.

The distillery, which features a tasting room, also specializes in barrel-rested gin comprised of smaller batches that have rested in whiskey barrels for eight months. Corgi produces vodka and whiskey as well.

Aside from the booze (and site tours that are available on weekends), there are plenty of reasons to visit Corgi Spirits: They offer live music, a monthly comedy show, and craft markets throughout the year. In the summer, visitors can enjoy a large outdoor patio and regular food trucks. There are also dog costume contests, including the annual Pride with Your Pup event in conjunction with Hudson Pride in August (although dogs are not permitted inside the distillery).

“Spend the day at Liberty State Park, stop by 902 for a pint, close your night with a cocktail here,” said Sara Healey, Corgi’s tasting room and events manager. “That’s a good day.”

Departed Soles: 150 Bay Street (Grove Street PATH/Harsimus Cove Light Rail)

Corgi Spirits: 1 Distillery Way (Garfield/Liberty State Park Light Rail Station)

902 Brewing: 101 Pacific Avenue (Liberty State Park Light Rail Station)

 

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Joan Terrell-Paige Should Resign


Joan Terrell, courtesy Jersey City Board of Education website

Nothing could be sadder than the firestorm unleashed by an incendiary Facebook post from board of education member Joan Terrell-Paige following last week’s killings at a kosher market in Greenville. Governor Murphy and Mayor Fulop have called for Ms. Terrell-Paige’s resignation. Because Ms. Paige has refused to apologize for and disavow the post’s contents, we must join in that call.

Ms. Terrell-Paige’s now deleted post was rambling and lengthy. But, if you haven’t read it, here’s how it begins:

“Where was all this faith and hope when Black homeowners were threatened, intimidated and harassed by I WANT TO BUY YOUR HOUSE brutes of the jewish [sic] community?”

Ms. Terrell-Paige goes on to blame Jews for a litany of misdeeds including threatening to bring drug dealers and prostitutes to Jersey City, evicting blacks from Jewish-owned buildings, producing and funding a one-million-dollar ad campaign designed to bring Jews to Jersey City, ending the “Friends of Lifers” and “Second Chance” programs, and destroying community gardens in black neighborhoods. She offers no evidence for any of these claims. She goes on to suggest that Jews should be blamed for the crimes of convicted fraudster Solomon Dwek and the infamous sale of body parts by six rabbis.

Ms. Terrell-Paige concludes by asking whether the perpetrators of last week’s kosher market attack might have had something meaningful to tell us in their decision to kill a police officer and three civilians.

“Mr. Anderson and Ms. Graham went directly to the kosher supermarket.I believe they knew they would come out in body bags.  What is the message they were sending?”

One can assume that Ms. Terrell Paige believes that correct answers would be “they deserved it” or “they brought it on themselves.”

Asked by Politico whether she regrets the post, Ms. Terrell-Page said, “no.”

As an African-American who knows first hand the devastating effects of racism, Ms. Terrell-Paige should have been wiser; she should have known that her stereotyping of Jews is no different than the stereotyping of her own community: cruel, dehumanizing and ultimately dangerous. In a recent article in The Atlantic describing the use of propaganda to ready his society for genocide, Kennedy Ndahiro, the editor of the Rwandan newspaper The New Times, wrote:

“Today, the leaders of powerful nations use dehumanizing language in describing certain groups of people. In mass-shooting incidents, people die because someone has deemed them subhuman on account of their race or religion.”

Such dehumanizing language has been used for centuries against African Americans, Jews, Tutsis, Armenians, Muslims and Catholics, just to name a few. Always, racists use the deeds of a few bad actors to justify their hate of the larger group to which they belong. One need only survey the history of the 20th Century to know the terrible results of scapegoating.

Ms. Terrell-Paige can’t be blamed for her anger. The injustices visited on the black community are shameful and long standing, and her concern about the changes that a new and insular group of settlers might bring to her community is entirely legitimate. But she can and should be blamed for falling victim to the very same prejudice that so hurts her own community. As an educator, she has an obligation to educate. This could have been for her a “teachable moment,” one where she brought people together to fight the scourge of prejudice. Instead she gave a lesson in hate. Moreover, when given the opportunity, she refused to retract her poisonous tirade and acknowledge the pain she had caused another minority, one that has suffered too. Such a person has no place on the board of education.

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Jersey City Weeps for Detective Joseph Seals


This story originally appeared on ThePauwWow.org, the student newspaper of Saint Peter’s University.

http://www.thepauwwow.org/news/jersey-city-weeps-for-detective-joseph-seals/article_f13aa3fa-2123-11ea-9beb-338a7e807750.html

On Dec. 17, St. Aedan’s Church on Bergen Avenue was filled to the brim with family members, friends and police units to mourn Detective Joseph Seals, who was slain in the line of duty on Dec. 10.

Presided over by Cardinal Joseph Tobin from the Archdiocese of Newark, the funeral was attended by U.S. Attorney General William Barr, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, among other civic and religious leaders from all denominations from around the country.

Photo by Daniel Levin

The weather, which was cold and rainy, reflected the solemn sentiment on the inside of the church. Blue and black ribbons lined the pews, and Seals’ casket, which was brought from McLaughlin Funeral Home in a police-escorted procession, was adorned with an American flag.

Throughout the service, Seals’ honorable character was consistently brought up. The eulogizers praised his work as a police detective who worked to remove guns from the streets of Jersey City and who loved his job and the city that he served; they noted that he died a hero far too soon.

Seals, 40, was killed on Dec. 10 in a confrontation that began in the Bay View Cemetery in the Greenville section of Jersey City and that led to the deaths of five others, including the two assailants that killed him. Officials are now labeling the crime an anti-Semitic attack on the kosher grocery store.

In McGinley Square Pub on Montgomery Street, Angelo Hatziptrou stands by the belief that the violent incident does not represent Jersey City as a whole.

“Shootings can happen anywhere,” he said behind the bar of the pub he’s owned for five years.

Despite the rain, which did not let up at all during the service, bystanders stood behind the barricades to watch the funeral procession and wait until the casket left the church.

Due to the procession, streets such as Bergen Avenue were closed to accommodate the throngs of civilians and police officers in attendance.

“I think it’s going to affect the community in a large way, I think it’s going to affect the country in a large way,” said Haytham Elgawly, owner of The ClearPort clothing store in McGinley Square.  “I think it’s going to influence us bigger than what we think, but time and patience, see how it changes us.” Elgawly has lived in Jersey City his entire life.

On Friday, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a charity whose mission is to assist firefighters, police officers, and members of the military who have sustained critical injuries or lost their lives while serving their country, announced that they would pay off Seals’ mortgage. An official GoFundMe campaign for Seals’ family has raised $575,000 as of Dec. 17.

Seals leaves behind his wife, Laura and five children.

 

Adrienne Romero, Neidy Gutierrez, Victoria Bishop-Smith and Diana Paredes contributed reporting.

Header: Photo by Alexandra Antonucci

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Green Villain: #LightOverDarkness


Green Villain, a creative platform that uses public art to drive community engagement throughout Jersey City, has partnered with Rabbi and artist Yitzchok Moully, a New Jersey-based artist, and with Rabbi Shmully Levitin of Chabad Young Professionals of Hoboken & Jersey City to produce an interactive public art project located outside the Buy Rite Liquors store at 575 Manilla Ave, Jersey City, NJ.

#LightOverDarkness, a 2018 project established by Yitzchok Moully, invited local community members to write positive messages, mitzvahs (Yiddish for “good deeds”), and prayers onto a mobile mural of a menorah traveling around New York and New Jersey throughout Chanukah last year.

Days after the Dec 10 anti-Semitic attack on the kosher store in the Greenville section of Jersey City, Rabbi Shmully Levitin connected Gregory D. Edgell, founder of Green Villain, and Yitzchok Moully to see how they could bring the project to the streets of Jersey City.

Photo by Jayne Freeman

Within days a location was procured, and a menorah mural was painted in memory of Det. Joseph Seals, Leah Mindel Ferencz, Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, and Moshe Deutsch, all of who died in the attack.

Starting Wednesday morning, Dec 18, everyone is invited to come by and write his or her own message, prayer, or name on the Buy Rite mural and be a part of the project. Bright colored markers will be available, and everyone is encouraged to bring more supplies.

On each of the eight nights of Chanukah, which begins Sunday evening, Dec 22, different local artists and community leaders will paint a large flame on another branch of the menorah, thus completing the mural.

Positioned directly between the inbound and outbound lanes of the Holland Tunnel and across from the Port Authority Police Department, the artwork will be visible to the 42,000 vehicles driving by each day.

Over the past 11 years, Green Villain has created 53 public art sites and built relationships with hundreds of artists, business owners, landlords, city officials, and community members to show how public art can positively impact the lives of city residents and, in times of need, be used as a vehicle to get important messages out to people.

“I believe it’s the responsibility of every single individual alive today to take a part of the community they live in onto their shoulders and walk blindly into the light in the hope of improving a piece of their world,” said Edgell. “That is the spark that inspired me to bring this project to this section of Jersey City. Anyone with questions or interest in contributing, please contact me directly at 973-610-5145.”

Header:  Photo by Jayne Freeman

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Your Property Taxes and School Funding


Courtesy Brigid D’Souza / civicparent.org

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Cellar 335: Where Cocktails, Food, and Experience Flow


Make your way into Cellar 335 at any point in the year and you’re bound to see a difference in several variations of tiki vibe: During the holidays a sign outside will say “sleighs and leighs,” and the interior will be decked with all the boughs of holly people expect during the holidays; during the summer the vibrant smells and flavors of cocktails that you’d enjoy while sitting on a beach in Honolulu fill the space. However, no matter what time of year hungry and thirsty customers come to the restaurant, the one thing that they can rely on is an experience.

Photo by Julian Coltre

“It’s the name of the game for us. It’s what we strive for, and it’s what keeps us moving in the right direction for the way that we go about our business,” said Jaime Knott, executive chef and co-owner of Cellar. “I don’t really think we’ve even hit our stride yet, and in order to really hit our best we have to keep working to make people come and bring more people. That all starts with the way you’re treated here.”

While Knott might not believe that Cellar has “hit its stride,” professional critics and everyday diners disagree. New Jersey Monthly recently named the tiki bar, which opened in 2016 and is located below White Eagle Hall on Newark Ave., one of the “The 30 best restaurants in New Jersey for 2019,” and Yelp lists it as one of the “top 12 best tiki bars in the U.S.A.”

According to Knott, the idea for Cellar 335 started with a few drinks between him and co-owner Robert “Bob” Palmer. At first, it seemed like a unique venture. Not many people were bold enough to consider putting a tiki bar in the middle of a major metropolis. Furthermore, the location was in an area that did not get that much foot traffic when they purchased the spot.

“My father grew up in New Jersey, and he knows the Jersey City area,” Knott said. “When I told him I was going to open another restaurant, he thought I was going to go into another venture in suburbia. So, when I told him Newark Ave in Jersey City, he really looked at me and was rather confused,” he admitted.

Additionally, for a chef who had made his name in the fine dining industry (as the owner and chef of Saddle River Inn), going from offering foie gras and venison to chicken wings and bao buns brought challenges.

“I’ve worked in a ton of restaurants in a ton of different positions, but the fact remains that if you make good food people want to eat it. The only problem is that in fine dining you get you know what you are going to see price wise. Here, if I offer chicken wings, people want 20 of them, but they want them for half the price, and I don’t want to diminish the quality,” said Knott. “We try and find a way to give everyone the flavors and ingredients that work because our food needs to speak for itself.”

So, why then put yourself in a position where experience with a formal restaurant could conflict with a more casual spot?

“He loves this style of food, and I think he really loves the idea of creating these flavor profiles for a different audience,” said Peter “Tiki Pete” Arnone, the director of operations (and master drink maker) at Cellar.

Knott’s flavors fit into the Asian fusion category, but his menu is unique. The chef’s dishes include Udon chicken noodle, Wagyu sirloin, and avocado fried rice. All the food is locally sourced and delivered fresh.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say we have a guy for everything,” joked Knott. “I legitimately have someone I call up for bean sprouts. I call him our ‘sprout guy,’ and I’ll send him photos of some sprouts if I don’t think they’re looking as good as I want them.”

While the food at Cellar is sure to keep you in your seat, make no mistake, the MVP of the whole experience is one thing and one thing only: the drinks. Cellar 335’s vast selection of cocktails evokes the scene in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory in which (name of characters) enter the “world of imagination.” With over 300 different combinations of cocktails, it takes several trips just to find out which ones might be your favorite. (Might I recommend Tiki Pete’s Mah Tai? It just finished seventh in an international Mah Tai competition in Hawaii.)

“Between our normal drink menu, our secret menu, and our seasonal cocktail menu we’re bringing the fire when it comes to what people can order when they come,” said Arnone. “Hopefully someone comes the first time, tries a few and then realizes there’s a vast number of possibilities. Maybe someone around them asks for the secret menu, and then they get curious or they realize that we have different cocktails for every season, so they come to ‘sleighs ‘n’ leighs’ or our summer events. We also try and do a ton of local events with liquor distributors, so we always have something new.”

Ordering the drink of your choice also comes with its own adventure as different Cellar cocktails come in different tiki mugs. Perhaps you’ll be given your own mug shaped like an Easter Island head, or a copper mug in the form of a pineapple or your own miniature boat filled with booze.

Arnone explains, “I knew I always wanted cool mugs for the spot, so at first I just ordered a bunch on Amazon. The problem was after a while other bars in Jersey City started getting mugs like ours, so I knew that I had to go a step further.  I had been in contact with a lot of people who loved the tiki culture, and one guy made custom mugs. Him and I went through this really arduous process of designing and building these mugs until we were both satisfied and had a bunch of mugs like what we’ve never had before. Now we have one for different drinks and different seasons.”

Tiki Pete’s original mug dilemma exemplifies a conundrum facing other restaurants in the area so many refer to as “restaurant row”: With so many restaurants between the Grove Street Path and Cellar 335, how can a restaurant attract customers if there are other places doing similar things?

“We have really ramped up our presence on social media, but truthfully we’re confident in our ability,” said Knott. “When we first got wind of Talde opening up off of Newark Ave., we all kind of looked at each other like “uh, oh,” but then after we went there, we realized that they were nothing like us. Fast forward to now, and they’re closed.”

“Hospitality is honestly something we preach as much as anything, too, both for our customers and for our staff,” noted Arnone. “For the customers that come here, we are so trained to make sure they walk out of here and realize that they should tell a friend who tells a friend. As for our staff, you don’t just walk in and say “I want to be a mixologist.” I’d never hire someone like that. Instead we start people as bar backs, and they become bartenders; bussers become servers; or servers become bartenders. When you get a group that really gels, you can do amazing things.”

So, then what’s in store for a spot that still doesn’t believe it has hit its stride?

“I’m hoping one day we could maybe tap into the heart of this place and open up a location on a beach somewhere. Get down to serving people these really impressive cocktails and dishes that are from the “tropical” personality,” said Knott. “We’re going to keep grinding here and hoping to get more people to come by every night. What comes next is always what is most exciting.”

Header: Photo by Julian Coltre

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Candy Le Sueur: Reflections at Panepinto Galleries


Dream pop is all over the year-end top ten lists: blurry, gauzy, beautiful and melancholy, feminine, slow-paced, maybe a little intoxicated. That’s been the sound of 2019, and although there aren’t all that many Hudson County musicians who play dream pop, there’s a remarkable visual analog hanging in Paulus Hook. 

Candy Le Sueur’s “Reflections” exhibition features abstract expressionist oil paintings that feel like hallucinations. Figuration is dispensed with, in favor of broad washes of color on (usually) large canvases. Everything looks like a beach, or an ocean, or a cloud blurring the horizon line between the beach and the ocean, or a sunrise gracing the surface of the sea. Or perhaps none of it is meant to resemble anything in particular: It’s just a play of pigments and curved strokes, committed to the work with wonder and vigor but with no evident malice. No people or animals are depicted or suggested. Life for Le Sueur is but a dream, and her show is a solitary daylight idyll. 

It would be inaccurate to call “Reflections” anxiety free. There’s turbulence in the gray scribbles of paint that lurk in the clouded corners of her otherwise luminous pieces. If Le Sueur’s work is a response to the natural world, these aren’t perfect June days she’s depicting. Yet the fear of the inhospitable wilderness that drives so much American nature painting is completely absent. This painter is not worried about natural forces. She’s floating through them as a placid observer, one animated by candor but willing to drift through scenes of her own invention, taken by the wind like a kite. “Reflections” is, above all, accommodating — a generous bestowal of light. There’s not much agitation here, and no discernible argument is getting made. Hers is art that is content to leave the viewer be. It’s hard to believe that Le Sueur is from cantankerous, confrontational old Jersey City.

But she is indeed a Hudson County artist and an active one.  She’s shown her work at Drawing Rooms, the Windows on Columbus, Novado Gallery, the Santorelli Gallery in Hoboken, and other area spaces. “Reflections” is about as far east in town as you can go without splashing into the river: The show occupies the broad white wall spaces of Panepinto Galleries at 70 Hudson St., one of those two squat and squarish buildings on the waterfront boardwalk from which the smell of big money wafts. The members of the Panepinto clan are major players in local real estate: They’re responsible for the Marriott by the Grove Street PATH Station, 3 Journal Square, and nearly all of the imposing new glass and concrete residential towers on Columbus Drive; Stefania Panepinto, the operator of the Gallery, is involved in the family business.

Spear Street Capital, the national real estate investment firm that owns 70 Hudson, is listed as one of the sponsors of “Reflections.” Some local exhibitions go out of their way to disguise the mercantile nature of the art world. This is not one of those shows.

Panepinto Galleries specializes in work that a visitor might encounter at a Panepinto-made hotel or a building like it: art designed to soothe the jangled nerves of business travelers as they prepares for a meeting. The analgesic quality of Candy Le Sueur’s work does put it into that category. These paintings might fit neatly behind the front desk of a skyscraper’s atrium — a slice of natural wildness, taken, tamed, and framed by professional buyers. The first floor of 70 Hudson St. is just that sort of corporate space, and the pieces in “Reflections” do assimilate themselves into the tickertape rhythms of their surroundings with unnerving ease. That’s not exactly Le Sueur’s fault. Because of its inherent ambiguity, abstract expressionism has become the preferred style for purchasers at hotels and financial services companies. 

70 Hudson is a glass house, and I don’t mean to throw stones at the operation or its aesthetic priorities. The building might be imposing, but the gallery keeps some of the most accommodating — and democratizing — hours in town. It’s open to the public every weekday from 9 a.m until 6 p.m.  

Like every artist who is good at this style — and this painter certainly is skilled — Le Sueur’s canvases have a hypnagogic effect. Some of the wavy lines of paint are short and blunt, others are broad and borderline chaotic, but all of them feel like visual traces left by elegant movements of human hands and wrists, a somatic charm drawing bathers from the shallows into deeper waters. Le Seuer’s pieces give the impression that they were each completed during a single lengthy reverie. She carries that sense of unity from piece to piece, and it’s particularly impressive when she executes that vision on a large scale. In “Day Dreaming 3,” a warm smear of egg-yolk yellow enlivens an otherwise stony gray field; it could be a sunrise over a rocky coast, and it feels as complete a portrait as any landscape photograph might be. Often any sense of horizontality is deliberately lost as strokes swirl every which way. Yet this is not disorienting art. There is something about Le Sueur’s work that anchors the viewer: Magnetic north is always discernible. All of these paintings look like places (albeit lonely ones). Sometimes, they’re even places in the sky.

The most impressive part of this lovely exhibition is a wall full of haunted watercolors, a departure for the artist, we’re told. Stare at these, too, and they’re likely take on the appearance of distant shores, glaciers, vast lakes and huge swirly heavens. Yet the flatness of the watercolor medium and the smallness of each paper makes these dream landscapes feel stark, shadowed, and emotionally pained in a way that Le Sueur’s oil paintings never suggest. Art that reflects dreams, whether dream pop or dream painting or hallucinatory cinema can evaporate once the audience disengages; dreams after all are usually consequence free. But a few linger well into daylight. These watercolors do. They suggest a way forward for an artist as sure-footed as any in town.

 

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Jersey City Makes Us Stronger


On Tuesday afternoon I was scheduled to meet my friend Steve Cunningham in a Downtown Café.   Uncharacteristically, he arrived late.   As he took off his bike helmet, he explained that along with his students at the Jersey City high school where he teaches, he had been locked in, unsure of when they would be free to leave.  The shocking events of that afternoon that kept Steve and his students sequestered in their classroom are now well known.

I was there to hear about Team Wilderness, an after school program Steve founded which takes Jersey City kids on hiking trips to nearby forests and mountains.  There they learn to use a compass, rappell down cliffs and learn the value of teamwork.    Eighty percent of the kids in his program are eligible for free or reduced lunches, meaning they are poor.   Many of the kids have never been out in the woods on a hike, let alone bounced down the face of a cliff, secured only by ropes.   Steve takes them out of their comfort zone and introduces them to a new world where they are challenged.   They come back changed for the better.

As I thought about Tuesday’s tragic events, I realized how Jersey City functions much the same way for so many of us.   Wallet Hub has crowned Jersey City the most culturally diverse city in the United States.  We are home to a dizzying mix of peoples from around the world, be they Philippine, Pakistani, Korean, Ecuadorean or Egyptian.  The nationalities and cultures are endless.  Fully fifty-three percent of Jersey City families speak a language other than English at home.

We who are lucky to live in Jersey City are like Steve’s teenagers in the woods.  Whether we like it or not, every day we are dragged out of our comfort zone and must engage with people from cultures that seem strange and different from our own.  And, yes, sometimes, like staring down the face of a cliff, we feel scared and threatened.  We are human.  But then we strike up a conversation with that scary and threatening person and realize that they are just like us.  It’s these countless human interactions between people of different backgrounds every day in Jersey City that make it such a special and wonderful place.   Like Steve’s teenagers, we all emerge changed for the better.    In the wake of these terrible events, let’s not forget that.

Header:  Christopher Columbus Drive mural, artist: Gaia Street Art.   Jersey City Times file photo.

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Information on Gatherings, Fundraisers, and Resources


From the Office of Ward E Councilman James Solomon:

As the city grapples with Tuesday’s events, we want to ensure everyone knows about gatherings, fundraisers, and resources to grieve and giveback together.

Events:

  • Today, 12/12, 7-8pm: The City Council and NJCU organized a candlelight vigil on campus (2039 JFK Blvd).
  • Today, 12/12, 7-9pm: For a less formal gathering, Grace Van Vorst is opening its doors to all for mutual support, processing, and remembrance with food, music, prayer, and togetherness. 7-9 p.m. (39 Erie St.)
  • Tomorrow (Friday), 12/13, 4:30pm: Hudson County Students Demand Action will host a rally / vigil at the City Hall Annex (1 Jackson Square) at 4:30.

Resources:

  1. Go Fund Me for Det. Joseph Seals – https://www.gofundme.com/f/for-det-seals-and-his-family
  2. Go Fund Me for Miguel Douglas Rodriguez – https://www.gofundme.com/f/douglas-rodriguez-victim-of-the-jc-shooting?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet
  3. Go Fund Me for Michael Rumberger: (livery driver murdered on Saturday in Bayonne. The two suspects in the Tuesday shooting are also the suspects in his murder) – https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-me-give-my-dad-the-proper-burial?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=m_pd+share-sheet

Support:

  • If you would like a safe, trained counselor to talk to about what you or your children are feeling today, the toll-free national Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7 toll-free crisis counseling in multiple languages and Deaf/hard-of-hearing relay services at 800–985–5990 (for Spanish, press 2) or by texting ‘TalkWithUs’ or ‘Hablanos’ to 66746.
  • Some resources on talking to loved ones and taking care of yourself as we move through this together: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline/disaster-types/mass-violence

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Jersey City Books: A Buying Guide for the Holidays


Books have always made great gifts – they’re easy to personalize, relatively inexpensive, and can even flatter the recipient. But did you know how many critically acclaimed books have been written about Jersey City, featuring Jersey City, or by those who call Jersey City home?

Below is such a list — with genres ranging from history to generation-spanning novels; from cookbooks to chapbooks; and from memoir to mystery.  Each one should reward any reader on your gift-giving checklist (though there’s no reason not to pick up a copy for yourself as well).

The Life and Times of Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague (2011) by Leonard Vernon. Long regarded as one of the most powerful – and corrupt – U.S. mayors of the early twentieth century, Hague remains a mythic if divisive figure, a sort-of benevolent dictator who helped make Jersey City a modern and important metropolis. His progressive social reforms and his celebrated imperiousness (“I am the law,” he once quipped) get their due in this biography, which offers a balanced, even occasionally laudatory view of the iconic political boss. Vernon, a chiropractor from Laurel, N.J., has written a useful and highly readable overview of the man and the myth.

 

Lost in Jersey City (1993) by Paula Sharp. This novel, written by a former criminal investigator in the Jersey City Public Defender’s Office, chronicles the hard-luck adventures of a twice-married (and twice-disappointed) woman who moves herself and her two impish children from Louisiana to Jersey City with all the culture shock one might expect in such a jarring relocation. The novel, named a New York Times Book Review notable book in 1993, is by turns droll, tragic, and thoughtful, and protagonist Ida Terhune “in her mint-green pantsuit … and lopsided bouffant” is one of the more memorable fictional characters ever to traipse through Jersey City.

 

Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History (2001) by Helene Stapinski. This highly regarded memoir captures the gritty charm of Jersey City, which not coincidentally is the author’s hometown and the place where her writing career began (The Jersey Journal). Stapinski, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, New York magazine, and People, weaves a personal narrative filled with family members right out of central casting, living their lives in a city that emerges as perhaps the most distinguished, disreputable character of all. And you gotta love this for an opening line: “The night my grandfather tried to kill us, I was five years old ….”

 

Counting By Sevens (2019) by Ann E. Wallace. Some experiences seem to lend themselves more readily to articulation through poetry rather than prose. These are often intimate experiences, transactions among the mind, body, and soul. Wallace, a professor at New Jersey City University and a longtime Jersey City resident, has eavesdropped thoughtfully on the conversations we have with each other and with our inner selves, and the result is an astonishingly moving collection, poems that address the things that threaten the integrity of our bodies — politic and private. Her work addresses suffering and loss in their many incarnations, but this is no pity party in print. Wallace’s voice is one of defiance and ultimately triumph where years of pain and anger “gather into beads/of sweat wiped clear/with the brush of a sweaty/hand across my forehead.” The book is available at Word in Jersey City and online at the author’s website: www.AnnWallacePhD.com

Inspiralized: Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals (2015) by Ali Maffucci. One of the hottest food trends in the last few years has been to “spiralize” – that is, turn fruits and vegetables like zucchini, potatoes, and pears into noodles. And the Jersey City-based Maffucci has emerged as one of the most popular proponents of this latest culinary twist. Her book (as well as her newsletters and website) has helped an increasingly devoted readership venture beyond traditional pasta to create a tasty and healthful low-carb alternative. As she notes in her first chapter, “Inspiralized is what your meal and you become — a healthy and inspired version of the original!”

Mary After All (2005) by Bill Gordon. This novel is one of the most “Jersey City” pieces of fiction you’re likely to ever come across, a book set against the city during the 1970s and chock full of hyper-local landmarks: “I’d run into him at Al’s Diner on Communipaw Avenue”; “She went to night school — Jersey City State College”; “We met at Snyder High”; “I drove down to the administration building on Montgomery … a nine-story green monstrosity.”  Gordon, who grew up in Jersey City, knows the terrain and knows it breeds survivors. That certainly describes the titular Mary, a survivor who frees herself from her past life thanks to some charmingly ethically challenged characters.

 

Jersey City: A Monumental History (2007) by Randall Gabrielan. “Cities need room to grow, and Jersey City did grow.” That modest observation from this stunningly comprehensive book of annotated photographs is brought to life by almost 150 pages of beautiful and artistic shots of Jersey City’s architecture. Spending time with this collection will engender a deep appreciation for the city’s eclectic and energetic physical presence. The photographs are organized by neighborhoods (Waterfront, Downtown, Bergen, the Heights, et al.) for easy access to the houses, parks, churches, office buildings, and statues that populate the landscape. Jersey City native Gabrielan has compiled a masterful inventory of the granite and gilded glory of his hometown.

Clockers (1992) by Richard Price.  One of the most powerful explorations of life on the margins in an urban environment (in the opinion of this critic), Price’s brilliant novel focuses on a cat-and-mouse game between a street-level drug dealer named Strike and a cynical, burned-out detective named Rocco. The novel became one of the inspirations for the widely acclaimed HBO series “The Wire” and was also made into a feature film by Spike Lee. Price spent a good deal of time in Jersey City researching the book, and it shows. While the action takes place in a town called “Dempsey,” characters cruise up and down “Kennedy Blvd.,” visit warehouses on “Rt. 440,” and run from the cops during spot raids on public housing projects. The book is dark and tough, and its beauty is perhaps surprising given the grimness of the world under scrutiny.

The Detonators: The Secret Plot to Destroy America and an Epic Hunt for Justice (2006) by Chad Millman.  Numbed perhaps by the frequency and devastation of terrorist attacks regularly making the nightly news, few know of one of the most significant attacks on American soil that occurred during World War I; and fewer still know it happened in Jersey City. On July 30, 1916, an explosion caused by German saboteurs destroyed a munitions depot on an artificial island in New York Harbor known as Black Tom, that had been annexed by Jersey City and filled in with land and eventually made into Liberty State Park. The explosion destroyed millions of dollars worth of supplies and damaged the Statue of Liberty. Millman’s investigation traces the origins and aftermath of the attack, noting that “History is full of small sparks that become huge fires … whatever horrors had seemed impossible in 1916 were all too plausible in 1939.”

Young & Wicked: The Death of a Wayward Girl (2011) by Maureen Wlodarczyk. Anyone tempted to romanticize the past might want to spend a little time with Mary “Polly” Sexton, the tragic central figure in this compelling, fact-filled narrative. Wlodarczyk, an author, columnist, and genealogist with a deep knowledge of New Jersey’s past, traces the true story of one of her distant relatives who fell in love with Sexton and began a brief, tumultuous life with her that took the pair from Jersey City to Manhattan, where the 19-year-old Irish-American woman was found murdered in a Bowery flophouse in 1893. Wlodarczyk’s portrait of Jersey City in the nineteenth century is a vivid and bracing reminder that the immigrants who built the city were made of sterner stuff than we often recall in our gauzy, romanticized imaginings of life “back in the day.”

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