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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School Board President Thomas Charged in State Ethics Sting


New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced on Dec. 19 that five current and former public officials have been charged with taking bribes as part of a sweeping political corruption investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA), according to a news release from Grewal’s office.

Current Jersey City Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas is among those charged as a result of the investigation. Thomas is specifically charged with second-degree acceptance or receipt of unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior, according to Grewal.

According to the AG, between May and July of this year, Thomas allegedly accepted two cash payments totaling $35,000 from a witness who cooperated with the OPIA investigation. The first payment was for $10,000 while the second totaled $25,000. In exchange for the payments, Thomas promised the cooperating witness a contract to be a special counsel for the school board. As part of the scheme, according to Grewal, Thomas and the witness discussed specific assignments the witness could do on behalf of the school board as part of the contract. In a statement Thursday evening Thomas denied the allegations against him.

Among the details released Thursday by Grewal was a partial transcript of a conversation that allegedly took place between Thomas and the cooperating witness. According to the brief transcript, the witness said to Thomas, “Make me the special counsel for—” To which Thomas allegedly replied, “real estate.” The witness then added, “Yeah, real estate. That’s perfect.” Thomas responds, “Yeah, nobody questions anything. Nobody questions all of that stuff.”

Thomas ran for reelection last month but lost his bid to return to the nine-member school board. His current term on the board ends on Dec. 31.

Four other Hudson and Morris County officials were charged in the OPIA investigation, including former State Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, who also once ran for mayor of Bayonne; former Morris County Freeholder John Cesero; John Windish, a former council member in Mount Arlington; and Marry Dougherty, a former freeholder candidate in Morris County.

“We allege that these political candidates were all too willing to sell the authority of their public office or the office they sought in exchange for an envelope filled with cash or illegal checks from straw donors,” Grewal said Thursday. “This is old-school political corruption at its worst, the kind that undermines the political process and erodes public faith in government. We are working through the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability to create a culture of accountability in New Jersey, where public officials know they must act with integrity or else face the consequences.”

The OPIA investigation began in early 2018 and specifically targeted political figures in Hudson and Morris Counties. According to Grewal’s office, the investigation zeroed in on officials who had allegedly solicited illegal campaign contributions from the cooperating witness in exchange for promises of government work in the future.

“I am not guilty and will be vigorously fighting the charges,” Thomas said in a statement Thursday. He alleged that he was targeted by Attorney General Grewal because he exposed alleged mismanagement and misappropriation of money in the Jersey City Employment and Training Program, where he served as the acting executive director until last summer, following the messy departure of the previous director, former Governor Jim McGreevey. Thomas did not state why exposing the alleged mismanagement would make him a target for Attorney General Grewal.

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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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