Monthly archive

May 2017

‘Real Housewives’ husband OK to build house, Valley Road medical turned down

in Land management/Zoning Board
Joe Gorga, husband of Melissa Gorga of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” will be able to build a house on Stonebridge Road after revising his plans. LINDA MOSS/STAFF


The husband of one of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” is clear to build a house in the township, but zoning officials turned down another real estate developer’s application regarding a medical-office building on Valley Road.

Joe Gorga, whose reality-TV star wife, Melissa, owns a boutique in town called Envy, was before the Township Zoning Board of Adjustment earlier this month seeking several variances to construct a four-story house, which is slated for a half-acre site sandwiched between Stonebridge Road and Valley Way. Gorga, a Montville resident who has developed other properties in Montclair, plans to sell the four-bedroom residence, not live in it.

Gorga’s initial application sought variances regarding the height of the house, which will be on a sloped plot of land, as well as the height of the retaining walls by its driveway. But zoning board members raised a number of objections to Gorga’s plans, and he submitted a revised application that incorporated some of their suggestions. For example, the updated plans brought the house down to 3 1/2 stories from four, by moving a sub-basement garage to ground level.

With those revisions, Gorga no longer needed any variances from the township.

In another matter, at its meeting on Monday, May 22, the zoning board voted 5-2 to turn down an application filed by David Genova of BG Holdings LLC to convert a medical-office building at 87-89 Valley Road to use for neurology and orthopedic practices. The developer also unsuccessfully sought a variance to provide only about half the parking spaces required by township ordinances.

“We were surprised by the decision,” said Alan Trembulak, Genova’s attorney. “We thought we had addressed all of the issues and the concerns that the board expressed. We expected a different result.”

The lawyer said that Genova is weighing whether to appeal the zoning board’s decision to the state Superior Court or to file a new application for the property.

At an April hearing, Genova testified that his group is under contract to purchase the two-story, 10,000-square-foot medical-office building, which was built in 1954 in a residential area. The seller is Dr. Vincent Giampapa, who has approval to house plastic surgery and skin-care practices in the building. When the sale is complete, Genova said, Giampapa will stay and occupy 1,000 square feet for his medical practice.

Genova wanted to expand Giampapa’s nonconforming use for the property to medical practices beyond plastic surgery because he has negotiated a seven-year lease for Summit Medical Group to occupy 9,000 square feet of the Valley Road building. Summit was slated to relocate a Montclair orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Gary Rombough, and a Glen Ridge neurologist.

The developer also wanted a variance to provide 36 parking spaces instead of the 67 required by the township.

At the most recent hearing, Trembulak presented testimony from Summit Medical Group about its anticipated patient volume, which is not more than 20 patients an hour visiting the building and having 17 to 20 staff members and doctors at the site at any one time.

The zoning board, however, was concerned that the developer had not factored in the parking needs of the patients and staff that Giampapa would have coming into the building.

PHOTOS: Montclair Early Music presents May Faire at St. James

in Arts/Community/May in Montclair/Music

Montclair Early Music presented Robin Hood at the May Faire on May 20 on the front lawn of St. James Church.

Robin Hood (Jake Parker) and Maid Marion (Wren Delp) were crowned at the event. This is symbolic of crowning of the May queen and king, explained Julienne Pape of Montclair Early Music. Children danced around giving the audience pink carnations and a marigold plants.There were also Medieval-era instruments, including a harpist.

Henry VII, performed by Phil Delp, narrated the story of Robin Hood. Robin Hood’s Merry Men included Friar Tuck (Jackson Pagliaro) and Little John (Edwinn Knapp), and Simon Park assumed the role of the Hobby Horse. Fairies were Kira Hirsch, Bryony Halbert and Jasmine Halbert. Performers included Montclair Early Music Recorder Consort, Ring A-Bell Morris Dancers, Musica Tramontano – a consort of early instruments, Madrigal Singers, the St. James Shakespeare Company, and harpist Christa Patton, who was the event’s music director.

DeSalvo exiting Township Planning Board

in Planning Board
Jason DeSalvo

Courtesy of Jason DeSalvo


Jason DeSalvo is stepping down from the Township Planning Board, where he is vice chairman, when the body completes its review of the Seymour Street redevelopment site plan.

DeSalvo, who joined the planning board about two years ago, said that he expects to participate in one, or possibly two, more meetings that will deal with Seymour Street, a mixed-use redevelopment that is supposed to help create a downtown arts and entertainment district for the township.

“I’m really only staying on to work through that because because I was integrally involved in it,” he said.

DeSalvo said that he is resigning for personal reasons, to fulfill his obligations to his family at this time. His mother is ill, his daughter will be going away to Tulane University in New Orleans, and his son is graduating from the University of Delaware, where he studied hospitality management, according to DeSalvo.

“Family needed more dad than they were getting,” he said. “I love the work on the planning board, but it’s far second to my family. That’s really all there is. … I thoroughly enjoyed it. If it weren’t for so much going on personally I would very happily still be there.”

The planning board’s action on the Seymour Street application may be completed at the board’s June 12 meeting, according to Township Planner Janice Talley.

Carmel Loughman is a potential replacement for DeSalvo as vice chair. But right now she is an alternate board member, and the board’s bylaws do not permit alternates to serve as officers, Talley said. And Loughman can’t be named a full board member until DeSalvo resigns and the Township Council moves her from an alternate to a full member, according to Talley.

35th annual Montclair Run set for June 4

in Community/Sports - General

Courtesy Montclair YMCA

by Wilma Hurwitz

for Montclair Local

One way to start the summer in Montclair is with the YMCA/MRCA 10K/2-mile run. Always the first Sunday in June June 4 this year this annual tradition draws participants from all over New Jersey and beyond.

Since its inception in 1982, the race has been managed by Pat Brechka, Montclair’s Recreation and Cultural Affairs director and, until her retirement earlier this year, Carol Kearney, YMCA program coordinator.

Brechka wrote in an email, “The first run was the brainchild of Perry Doerr, Parks & Recreation Director at the time and Dave Hardtop of the YMCA. Both of these organizations were committed to providing leisure programs and activities for Montclair to meet the mental, physical and social needs of residents while enhancing their overall quality of life.”

Brechka believes this year’s run will meet or exceed last year’s 1,400 runners, walkers and volunteers.

For more serious runners, the 10K Run is a flat course that runs through two scenic parks. The 10K is a USATF Certified Course that this year has one minor change the start and finish lines will be at the same spot, on Park Street in front of the YMCA. “Since we had it re-certified, the 10K race will draw more serious runners who need to qualify for marathons,” wrote Brechka.

The number of runners for the Fun Run continues to grow every year, Brechka said.

The 2-mile walk/run is ideal for adult speed walkers, young children and families that want to “race” together.

“In the early days of the race we would see only serious runners and never any walkers,” said Brechka. “Now we seem to get about the same number of participants in each race.”

This event appeals to all ages and levels.

“We’re getting more children and seniors involved,” Brechka wrote, adding that registrants now include people well into their 80s and children as young as 4.

“We had to increase the age level of our awards the senior category was originally for participants 60 years of age and over; now we offer awards to a 70 years and over category,” Brechka wrote.

Jo Ann Short, the CEO of YMCA, said, “This was already a hugely successful event when I joined the Y in 2010. Pat Brechka wears the MRCA ‘township’ hat – coordinating the police, closing roads, designing T-shirts and so much more.

“This year Washima Redding, the Y’s Senior Health and Wellness director, will coordinate 100-plus volunteers to help direct runners on street corners, hand out water at the water stops, set up the food tent or work on preregistration,” Short said.

Rhonda Silver of Bravitas, an event co-sponsor, said, “The YMCA of Montclair, the YMCA of Greater New York and YMCA Camps are key forces in the well-being and happiness of children and families today. Because the YMCA of Montclair is there to serve the needs of this community, we want to be there for the Y so they have the resources to do just that.”

Also sponsoring is Fleet Feet Montclair, a Bloomfield Avenue athletic shop specializing in running apparel, owned by John Fabbro.

“This event shows the vision of Montclair’s Recreation & Cultural Affairs and the Y in bringing us together in a fun way,” Fabbro said. “Whether a spectator or a participant there’s something for everyone.

“We established our business here in 1987 and participated in our first Montclair YMCA/MRCA Run in 1988. In the last 15 years Fleet Feet Montclair has been involved with everything it takes to put the event together from packet-pick up the day before and ‘behind the scenes’ organizing,” he said.

This YMCA/MRCA event also receives kudos from runners.

“I’ve been an avid runner for many years and the YMCA 10K is a once-a- year ‘checkup’ to make sure I’m staying fit and healthy,” said Dean Chapman. “It’s a great distance, tough and not too long.”

Robert Babboni, a graphic designer from Montclair, is a longtime Y member and ran the 10K race for the first time last year.

“Since I’d never run a 10K before, I participated in the Y’s ‘Ten Weeks to the Ten K’ training,” Babboni wrote in an email. “…You meet with other runners 3 times a week and are guided by Y personnel in warm-up exercises followed by a run from the Y to Anderson and Edgemont Parks and back.

“This year my sons Noah 10 and Leo 12 will join me. Great for the children they are running a lot farther than they’ve thought of doing before.”

Sunday, June 4, rain or shine

Starting at the YMCA, 25 Park St.

Registration/check-in, 7 a.m.

2-mile fun run/walk, 8:30 a.m.

10K run, 9:30 a.m.

Register by May 29 at

Early entry fee: $35 adults, $25 youth (10K); $30 adults and $23 youth (2-mile)

Packet pick-up at Fleet Feet, 603 Bloomfield Ave. (June 2 or 3) or at the YMCA (June 4)

Early Packet Pick-up at Fleet Feet, 603 Bloomfield Ave. Montclair Fri., June 2, noon-7 p.m., Saturday, June 3, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Packets can also be picked up at the YMCA on race day.

Montclair assistant superintendent being considered for Teaneck job

in Education/Montclair Public Schools
Kendra Johnson, the Montclair Public Schools’ new assistant superintendent for equity, speaks during a board of education meeting on April 12.


Montclair’s assistant superintendent of equity is reported to be in the running for the superintendent position in Teaneck.

An announcement on that district’s website indicated that Kendra Johnson is one of the two finalists for the position, the other being Edwin Acevedo.

Montclair Board of Education member Joe Kavesh indicated that the board was aware of Johnson’s candidacy, and that she had given the board advance notice.

“I’ve definitely enjoyed working with her over the past year,” Kavesh said, noting that he was speaking from his own perspective as a board member.

Montclair created the position of assistant superintendent of equity last year to help oversee topics of equity and diversity in the schools, including the achievement gap, and Johnson was tapped for the position in August.

Kavesh said that Johnson had met with the Montclair Civil Rights Commission, of which Kavesh is also a member, on two occasions. “In both instances I was very impressed.”

He continued, “Dr. Johnson is exceptionally qualified and well-versed in many areas, especially in respect to equity and civil rights,” Kavesh said. He indicated that she was well-qualified to serve as superintendent should she be hired for that role.

Teaneck was scheduled to have a meet-the-candidates forum at Teaneck High School on June 14, in order to introduce the community to the candidates.

Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Johnson has a Ph.D. in urban education and leadership from Morgan State University in Baltimore, a J.D. in public interest and business law from the University of Baltimore School of Law and a master’s in educational administration from Johns Hopkins University.

In April, Johnson delivered a presentation to the board on various aspects of the district’s equity plan, including a status update on how the district was implementing recommendations that an advisory board had made on equity issues in the schools. Some of the key points of her discussion included professional development programs for teachers, including the in-progress Undoing Racism program; curriculum development that was sensitive to the diversity and backgrounds of the student body; and ensuring that students are ensured equal access to honors and AP courses and other educational opportunities.

Father-son duo graduate from William Paterson University together

in Community/Education/Fourth Ward/Montclair State University
Duvinson Jeanty, left, and his son Benjamin graduated from William Paterson University last week in a commencement ceremony at the Prudential Center in Newark. COURTESY OF WILLIAM PATERSON UNIVERSITY


Like father, like son.

Duvinson Jeanty, a 63-year-old Haitian immigrant and Montclair resident and his son Benjamin, 27, are living the American Dream. Both men graduated from William Paterson College last week, the first in their family to earn college degrees. The father, who majored in finance, and the son, a psychology major, were among the nearly 2,300 people who received their diplomas at a commencement held at the Prudential Center in Newark.

The family celebrated the double graduations with a lunch at the elder Jeanty’s favorite spot, Noches de Colombia on Elm Street in Montclair, which about 30 people attended.

“It was a big crowd,” Jeanty said.

For the Jeanty men, perseverance paid off.

The elder Jeanty, who retired as a full-time NJ Transit bus driver in 2016, took years to obtain his degree. He came to the United State in 1983 without much, but said that his parents had instilled in him the value of an education, which he never forgot. But he had to settle in before he was able to afford to go to college, and was caring for his bedridden elderly mother at home, as well. He spoke Creole, French and Spanish, but not much English when he arrived in the states.

Jeanty recalled his first job at the Friar Tuck Inn, now The Grove, in Cedar Grove, taking home less than $100 a week as a dishwasher. He took a second job at a factory in Newark, so he was working 80 hours a week and barely making $200.

In 1986 he took some classes at Essex County College but couldn’t keep it up because of his two-job work schedule. But Jeanty’s financial situation improved in 1991 when, “with the Lord’s blessing,” he got a job as a bus driver for NJ Transit.

In 2007 Jeanty decided to go back to college part-time, attending Passaic Community College in Paterson. He finished his studies at the school in 2015, and in 2016 retired from NJ Transit as a full-time bus driver and started going to William Paterson.

He still has to take several classes this summer to fulfill his degree requirements. The university allows students like Jeanty to participate in the May commencement ceremony if they document they will finish their courses by August, according to a university spokeswoman.

Jeanty said he was never daunted by being surrounded by younger students.

“I’ve always been the oldest student in the classroom,” he said. “Sometimes I came across students who could have been my grandchildren. … I was highly motivated. I just pushed it aside.”

His son, Benjamin, also took a somewhat roundabout path to get his sheepskin, and like his father ultimately ended up at William Paterson. When he was at Montclair High School, Benjamin said, he had a lot of reservations about going on to college, because he wasn’t sure if he could afford it or what he wanted to study.

“My father, despite all the challenges that he up against him — taking care of my grandmother and providing for us, working full-time — he decided to go to college,” the younger Jeanty said.

“That was my junior year,” he said. “It was a lot on the family. … But he still saw the need to pursue an education for himself. And that marked me. So because of that I started to develop a desire, a passion, to go.”

Duvinson Jeanty, left, a 63-year-old Haitian immigrant, and his son Benjamin, 27, relax in their Montclair residence a day after both graduated from William Paterson University. LINDA MOSS/STAFF

So in 2008 when he graduated from high school with several scholarships, Benjamin went to Rutgers University in Newark. But after a year and half, he said, “This is not for me.”

He went to work full-time at the Smashburger on Bloomfield Avenue in Glen Ridge in 2010, starting as a dishwasher. Within eight months, he was a manager and was making good money. But, he said, it wasn’t enough.

“Money comes and goes, but what am I doing for my community?” he said. “What am I doing for myself? What’s my long-term goal? How can I achieve that through Smashburger? I really can’t. I really have a heart for people and a heart for service.”

So he went back to school part-time, starting at Rutgers again and last year transferring to William Paterson while working full-time as a teaching assistant at the Therapeutic School and Preschool in Belleville.

Both the Jeanty men plan to continue their education and obtain master’s degrees. The elder Jeanty, who is working as a real estate agent at Realty Executives International in Fairfield, said he plans to get an MBA from William Paterson and wants to start his own business. He is interested in investing in real estate, and sees the problems people have obtaining housing in this economic environment.

“I got so much from this country so I want to give back by helping families,” Jeanty said.

Benjamin hopes to get an advanced degree from the New School in Manhattan, where he wants to study urban policy.

Next month Benjamin is going to Haiti for 13 days with the Vital Foundation, which serves orphans in Haiti. The group will be building a cafeteria and recreation center for kids.

The Jeanty family is still has an undergraduate at William Paterson. Claire Jeanty, 22, Duvinson’s daughter and Benjamin’s sister, is studying physical therapy at the college. She will be a senior this fall.

Like father, like son, like daughter.

Preservationists rally to protect historic Lackawanna train station

in Community/Fourth Ward/Pinnacle Cos./Seymour Street redevelopment
Preservationists argue that the two four-story buildings proposed for the redevelopment of Lackawanna Plaza will overshadow the site’s train station, which was built in 1912 and is a national and state historic landmark. COURTESY TOWNSHIP OF MONTCLAIR

Historic preservationists are rallying to oppose the proposed redevelopment of Lackawanna Plaza, which they claim will “dwarf” and diminish the site’s landmark train station.

Members of the Township Historic Preservation Commission, local historians and at least one group, SaveMontclair, argue that the mixed-use development now planned for the property on Bloomfield Avenue is too massive in size and too dense in residences — about 350 units — for the former train station area. Lackawanna Station, built in 1912, is both a national and state historic landmark, and in its day was lauded as the best-designed facility of its kind in the nation. But it will be virtually tucked away in a corner, hidden by the proposed redevelopment, opponents of the Lackawanna Plaza plan say.

“It was a mini-Hoboken, the transportation hub for the town,” said Mark Schmitt, director of the Jersey Central Railway Historical Society. “When the railroad arrived in 1855, Montclair up to that point was a rural farm community.”

Because of the station Montclair’s population increased and it became a bedroom community of Manhattan, hence its importance, he said.

The station was designed by architect William Hull Botsford, who died on the Titanic in 1912. Preservationists fear that some of Lackawanna’s elements — such as its train sheds and platforms, and horse trough — won’t be preserved. The Pig & Prince restaurant is located in the station’s restored waiting room.

Some residents argue that a line must finally be drawn to protect the township’s most cherished structures and to put an end to what they consider overdevelopment in Montclair. They also say they don’t want township officials to be rushed into granting approvals for Lackawanna Plaza, even though some community members in the Fourth Ward are clamoring for a supermarket to be quickly built as part of the redevelopment, replacing the Pathmark that closed at the site in November 2015. Some design-minded citizens warn that Valley & Bloom, the massive mixed-use building at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Valley Road, is an example of a mistake that they don’t want repeated: A looming structure that they maintain doesn’t mesh with the local streetscape.

David Greenbaum, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, sympathizes with the Fourth Ward community but said that long-term goals for that area of the township must be paramount.

“This is an opportunity to create a tremendous jewel in the Fourth Ward and to invigorate the commercial district and residential district between the Bay Street train and the Lackawanna train station,” he said.

Pinnacle Cos. of Montclair and Hampshire Cos. of Morristown have proposed a mixed-use development for Lackawanna Plaza anchored by a large grocery store, with ShopRite a prospective tenant, as well as 350 residential units and parking. Kathleen Bennett, chair of the Historic Commission, has voiced her opposition to the proposed plan to Mayor Robert Jackson and the council.

“This can be an adaptive reuse in a very cool, edgy industrial setting,” Bennett said, adding, “This is a very, very crucial time right now.”

When Bennett went through the proposed redevelopment plans for Lackawanna Plaza, she said, she was “appalled” and described them as “ludicrous.”

Greenbaum also expressed his dismay.

“You have third-party developers who have purely financial interests and no concern or consideration for the context of the township,” he said.

Critics of the proposed Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment say they don’t want another project with the mass and bulk of Valley & Bloom, on the corner of Valley Road and Bloomfield Avenue. LINDA MOSS/STAFF

He suggested that the developers put the ShopRite on the east side of Grove Street, which is now a parking lot, rather than in Pathmark’s former space in the Lackawanna shopping center, which is on the west side of Grove. Having the grocery store on the eastern parcel makes more sense in terms of traffic circulation, and its lower topography offers the opportunity for “less invasive construction,” according to Greenbaum.

With the supermarket moved off the western parcel, the density of development on that land can be reduced and the parking lot there could be used for green space, Greenbaum said.

“There’s a lot of pressure to get this done but we should not rush through it,” said Linda Cranston, the founder of SaveMontclair, whose mission is to stop overdevelopment.

The group circulated a detailed letter around town detailing its objections to the Lackawanna redevelopment, a proposal that it claims will “dwarf and disregard elements of the venerated historic train station.”

In addition, several local historians have roundly panned the Lackawanna redevelopment’s design, including Frank Gerard Godlewski, a Montclair native and architect who has written about the more-than-100-year-old station’s history.

“It’s all wrong, totally out of character, totally substandard to what should be Montclair,” he said.

Schmitt offered his own perspective on Lackawanna Plaza’s relevance to the township.

“It stands as a symbol for what once was,” he said. “Thousands and thousands of Montclair residents, residents from all over west Essex, for that matter, used it to come and go to work daily. Their sons departed for World War I and World War II out of it. It was a major public improvement project funded by a private enterprise at great expense to themselves.”

Mary Delaney Krugman, a Montclair historic-preservation consultant, also weighed in.

“Our historic buildings are really under siege,” she said. “Every development that comes along is huge and out of scale, and in this case it completely cuts off the public view from the gateway of Montclair to the historic building that’s supposed to be the centerpiece of that gateway.”

Track and Field: Mountie girls sweep to Essex County Title

in High School Sports
Coaches Pelli (left) and Wilson (right) flank the three Mounties discus winners (left to right) Zelided Castillo, Shelby Bigsby and Jane Carino.

by Andrew Garda

The wins just keep on rolling along for the Montclair High School girls track and field team, as it added the Essex County Meet Championship title to the SEC title it won last week.

The Mounties finished the day with 104 points — far above the West Essex Knights at 76 — during a two-day stretch featuring a complete sweep of the girls discus event and stellar performances by sprinter Nyjah Young-Bey, distance runners Amelia Lufrano, Meghan Hessler and Matilda Ferguson, and hurler Shelby Bigsby.

Bigsby and Ferguson were two of the more interesting stories of the weekend, which was filled with great performances by Mounties.

Bigsby kicked things off Friday when she won the girls shot put with a personal best 45-09 feet. That distance actually would have put her in sixth place with the boys, a strong showing for a young woman who is only getting better each meet.

She then cleared 106-05 feet in the discus throw to take that event as well. Bigsby was joined by teammates Jane Carino (05-09) and Zelided Castillo (101-06) in second and third, respectively.

That domination was a big reason why the Mounties not only won the meet, but won it by such a large margin.

“For us to finish 1-2-3 in the disc? That’s 24 points,” Coach Sophia Wallace said about the showing. “That’s an amazing feat and that’s a wonderful thing.”

Wallace has been impressed by Bigsby in particular, all season long.

“Every day she comes it’s ‘I’m here to do work.’ She’s not sitting here, sitting back,” Wallace said after the meet. Wallace also had a lot of praise for the coaching staff, which has helped Bigsby improve her discus throws, as well as those of her teammates.

“One thing I’ve asked for this year is to put more focus on the discus as well, and not totally rely on the shot,” Wallace said. “We’re seeing the development in how [Bigsby] is becoming a top-notch athlete. And it’s making a huge impact for us.”

So did the discus sweep as a whole, because it gives the rest of the team some breathing room.

“We want to be running, jumping, throwing. If everyone puts in their little bit and makes a difference, then that makes a difference in the scoring,” Wallace said. “No, we didn’t score in the high, long and the triple jumps, but we got something in the shot and the disc and that helped us tremendously.”

The Montclair Girls Track & Field team won their second big meet in row, taking home the Essex County Tournament title.

Ferguson had run the 1600-meter on Friday afternoon, along with Hessler and Lufrano, but fell during the initial 100-meter. According to the rules, when that happens, the judges are to stop the race and reset — in fact, that had happened moments prior to Ferguson’s fall when several runners caused a pile-up almost at the exact same spot the Mountie runner fell.

The judges apparently didn’t see the tumble, though, and Ferguson became frustrated when it was clear she could not make up the ground and stopped running.

“In that moment, her emotions got the best of her but it showed me how passionate she is to do well,” Wallace said about Ferguson. “And yes, emotions are flying high and everybody is upset, but because it wasn’t her fault she was given another chance.”

After a post-race discussion, it was determined that the race should have been halted and that Ferguson would be allowed to run the 1600-meter by herself on Saturday.

The result? A personal best time of 5:25.18 and third place overall.

“Heart is something I can’t teach,” Wallace said. “I tell [the team] that all the time. Either you have it or you don’t.”

Ferguson then also ran the 3200-meter later the same day, ending that race in fourth.

Wallace said it’s one thing to see a senior bounce back like that, because they’ve been through a lot more. From a sophomore, it’s especially impressive, and Wallace is excited to have Ferguson a lot longer.

“I’m looking forward to the next two years of that size heart and showing everyone else there is no ‘I can’t.’ There is ‘I can’ and ‘I will’ and ‘I did.’”

MHS sophomore sprinter Nyjah Young-Bey was one of the stars of this past weekend’s Essex County track and field championships, winning titles in the 100 and 200 meters, while taking second place in the 400.
Wil Young/For Montclair Local

Finally, Young-Bey continues to generate impressive performance after impressive performance during sprints. Another sophomore, Young-Bey won the 100-meter dash over West Essex’s Hailey Blum by a split second as well as the 200-meter dash with a time of 25.61 before finishing second in the 400-meter.

The Mountie boys didn’t have the strong field and sprinting finishes the girls did, and finished the day in 15th place. The boys’ weekend featured a third-place finish by Charles Murphy in the high jump, and a fourth-place finish by Mekki Wilson in the long jump.

Now the team looks toward competing at the state level. For Wallace, it’s a matter of making sure her athletes don’t approach this any differently than they did previous meets.

“Don’t freak out and think you can’t do, know that you’ve done this already. Now you just need to build on it,” Wallace said. “We want them to believe in themselves and their ability, trust in the process and trust us as the coaches. They’re doing that and now they’re seeing the results of it.”

That said, Wallace knows it won’t be easy as the state level will bring even tougher competition.

“It’s gonna be a fight all the way around.”

Even when that is done, MHS have a good chance to send players to the Meet of Champions on June 10. The way Bigsby, Young-Bey and distance runners Lufrano and Hessler have been performing well enough to find themselves on the big stage in just a few weeks. Wallace said their approach should stay the same, though.

“Each practice we’ve had each competition, has prepared us for where we are.”



Montclair High School Sports: AD Gannon gets support from Mountie Athletic community

in High School Sports
MHS Athletic Director Jeff Gannon talks to Mountie Tennis coach Andrea Noyes during Montclair’s NJSIAA semi-final. “He’s been very supportive and an excellent advisor when needed for myself for Boy’s tennis,” says Noyes.

by Andrew Garda

Reaction to the Montclair Board of Education’s decision not to renew the contract of Montclair High School Athletic Director Jeff Gannon was met with swift and negative reaction from the community at large. First, students, coaches and parents showed up in force at the Board of Ed meeting to voice their displeasure. Next, one of the individuals who spoke at the meeting, Walter Springer, launched a campaign on demanding “a complete review of the Job Replacement process for Jeff Gannon and Kim Westervelt.”

Westervelt, assistant principal in charge of English, was also informed the board would not be renewing her contract.

“My most concerning issue is with the way the process was done,” Springer said. “Did the AD receive a documented evaluation that detailed a poor job performance?”

Mary Kate Mellow, whose son Sam went to Atlantic City to wrestle in the New Jersey State Tournament this winter, was equally concerned.

“I find it alarming that no procedure is in place requiring the Board of Education and the superintendent to notify parents and students in a timely matter when major staff changes are made,” she said.

If you ask the athletic community, Gannon has done a difficult job well.

“Jeff Gannon has one of the hardest jobs around,” head football coach John Fiore said.

He shows up to sports that normally don’t see an athletic director, save for the biggest games and matches. Ask members of the tennis, golf or crew teams or their parents and you’ll hear the same story, that Gannon had shown up on a regular basis where other athletic directors had not.

“Jeff Gannon has been nothing but supportive to me and the student-athletes in both of our volleyball programs at Montclair High,” head volleyball coach Pam Reilly says. “I truly appreciate seeing him at our matches and love the fact that he shows up for all of our teams’ competitions at some point.”

Boys tennis coach Andrea Noyes agrees.

“I have found Mr. Gannon’s support of MHS tennis to be exceptional,” Noyes said. “Personally, he has been very supportive and an excellent adviser when needed for myself for boys tennis. He comes out, watches and supports our boys when [he’s] available.”

“A lot of coaches have horror stories regarding their AD,” said golf coach Kenneth Schnitzer. “I’m lucky in that I don’t have any. I coach two sports and Jeff has been very easy to work with and for. He’s been extremely supportive of both my teams. We’ve been on the same page, doing what’s best for the teams and the athletes.”

Schnitzer says there have been times Gannon has even tried to help other coaches who have not had as much support from their athletic directors.

Some of the affected MHS coaches are in their first year, but despite that, they found Gannon to be just as supportive and helpful as if they had been in their positions for years.

“He was a part of that support system, and always positive about doing what he could to help our team,” said fencing coach Ed Chang. “As a lesser known and often less respected sport, we always supported his attitude toward fencing.”

Parents feel the same.

“Through my involvement with the wrestling, cross-country, track and football booster clubs as well as several committees for Project Graduation, I have come to know Mr. Gannon as an outstanding athletic director as well as a director of student activities who goes above and beyond for the students at MHS,” said Mellow in an email.

During an overall successful first season, boys basketball coach Gary Wallace’s team had a few bumps in the road. Gannon allowed him to work through them, Wallace said, and didn’t interfere.

“A lot of times early in the season, he could have pulled the plug on some things but he trusted me to do what I wanted to do and with this program.”

Wallace’s concern — one shared by many coaches — is what changes a new athletic director might bring, especially for smaller, less well-known sports.

“I hope [the people making the decision] understand the ripple effect this is going to have in years to come,” Wallace said. “Not just with the basketball program — but with ice hockey, golf, swimming, football, tennis. I’ve seen him in one day be lacrosse then at baseball. He’s everywhere and the kids love seeing his face. So you have a guy that is committed to the kids and coaches. That’s a diamond in the rough.”

Like Springer and many other people around the MHS athletic programs, Wallace is concerned that the decision not to retain Gannon was made by people who do not seem to have been around that program.

How can you make such an important decision without seeing what Gannon does on a daily basis, Wallace wonders. How can you make that decision without any input from the coaches and players he deals with on a daily basis?

“I only worked with Mr. Gannon for one season, but in that season it became apparent that his primary concern is the students,” boys lacrosse coach John Scanlan told Montclair Local in an email. “Let there be no doubt — Mr. Gannon really acted as an advocate for the students and student-athletes of Montclair High School.”

Scanlan shared something he once witnessed that left an impression on him. The sentiment was echoed many times by individuals in talking about the athletic director.

“One time, I saw [Gannon] go out and buy a kinda shoddy-looking cupcake,” Scanlan wrote. “He didn’t eat the cupcake. He bought it because he saw that a bake sale for a club with really small membership hadn’t been well attended. He wanted to give them some business. I dunno. I kinda get where he was coming from right there. Kids first, as far as I’m concerned.”

The year isn’t over, but time is ticking and both coaches and students are concerned that without Gannon as athletic director, the more than 30 programs that were under his watch will struggle.

Or, as Noyes put it earlier this week when talking about the future of her tennis team, “The program will lack without the direction of Mr. Gannon.”


Tikkun for Erev Shavuot to be held at Temple Ner Tamid

in Holidays/Religion/Spirituality

Temple Ner Tamid will host this year’s Tikkun for Erev Shavuot on Tuesday evening, May 30.

For more than 20 years, four synagogues — Bnai Keshet and Shomrei Emunah in Montclair, Temple Sholom of West Essex in Cedar Grove, and Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield — have gathered together for an evening of study, meditation and song.

This year’s visiting scholar is Rabbi Aaron Panken, president of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. The evening begins with Erev Shavuot worship at 7:30, immediately followed by a dairy-based nosh and social period.

Panken will offer his keynote address at 9 p.m.: “How True is True? True Lies, Alternative Truths and the Value of Veracity in Jewish Law.”

At 10 and 11 p.m., clergy and lay-leaders of the congregations will offer a variety of one-hour learning sessions.

At midnight all will gather to hear the chanting of Aseret Ha-Dibbrot (The 10 Commandments), and the Tikkun will conclude with Panken offering a final session titled “Seek Peace and Pursue It.”

The Tikkun will offer sessions for elementary age children at 7:30 p.m. and for teens at 10 p.m.

The evening is free and open to the public. All are invited for part or the entirety of the Tikkun.

Temple Ner Tamid is at 936 Broad St., Bloomfield.


Panken’s presentations:

“How True is True? True Lies, Alternative Truths and the Value of Veracity in Jewish Law”: Jewish texts have clearly privileged speaking the truth over propagating false information, with certain fascinating exceptions.There are definite examples where the truth must be shaped or altered in its presentation for various reasons. Philosophical texts, likewise, sometimes require lies when the truth may cause certain or potential damage. This session will explore a few of the core texts that define this conundrum in Jewish thought, along with a few philosophical responses, sketching the boundaries of shaping the truth and providing guidance for reacting to untruths we encounter. It is not entirely impossible that this discussion will be relevant to contemporary politics and situations that take place in community settings.

“Seek Peace and Pursue It”: Jewish tradition holds as one of its highest ideals the making of peace between parties who disagree. In a world that is profoundly more divided and polarized than in the recent past, how should Jewish people of good intention act in the world to make peace between the various parties they encounter? In this late-night shiur, we will explore the surprisingly relevant guidance offered by biblical and rabbinic texts for making peace in difficult situations.

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