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Public Safety

Township seeks bids for flashing crosswalk lights

in Pedestrians/Police/Public Safety/Streets and Roads/Transportation
FILE PHOTO

Roughly two weeks after a resident was struck and killed while crossing Grove Street, the township is soliciting bids for six flashing lights for pedestrian crosswalks.

Montclair plans to purchase “six rectangular rapid flashing beacon (RRFB) units for installation at various pedestrian crosswalks as needed,” according to the township website.

The quotes are due on July 14 by 4 p.m. One of the conditions of the purchase order is that the lights be delivered within 60 days.

The request for bids follows the June 7 death of Mary DeFilippis, who was struck and fatally injured while crossing Grove Street at Chester Road while on an evening walk. That stretch of road is dark, according to residents, and the township has asked PSE&G to install more lighting there.

According to one resident, the driver who struck DeFilipios said she didn’t see her in a crosswalk.

Each of the lights the township is purchasing “shall consist of two self-contained solar engine assemblies (includes energy management system); on-board user interface; wireless communications; batteries and solar panel; four light bars (two mounted back to back for each post) and two side-mounted pedestrian actuation assemblies (one for each post),” according to the township website.

 

 

Vision Montclair group, fighting development, gets off the ground

in Business/Commercial development/Community/Fourth Ward/Pinnacle Cos./Planning Board/Public Safety/Seymour Street redevelopment
Adriana O’Toole

By LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news

Concerned residents have formed a new community group, Vision Montclair, that is circulating a petition opposing two controversial major redevelopments in the township.

The group has scheduled a meeting for Thursday evening, June 22, at 7, at 1 Cloverhill Place, which is on the corner of Cloverhill and Glenridge Avenue, said one of its organizers, resident and local real estate agent Adriana O’Toole. So far Vision Montclair has gathered roughly 140 signatures on the petition that was sent out by Beth Calamia Scheckel, another co-founder of the new group.

“I’d say that Adriana and I have been instrumental in organizing our own neighborhood group and trying to keep up the momentum, and then we recently connected with residents in the Cloverhill/Lackawanna area who have their own neighborhood group with a few community leaders, and it just seemed natural to bring ourselves together since we all are working toward the same goal,” Scheckel said in an email this week.

Both she and O’Toole have appeared at recent township meetings to raise objections to two mixed-use redevelopments, one at Seymour Street adjacent to the Wellmont Theater and one at Lackawanna Plaza, the site of a historic train station and a shopping center that once housed a Pathmark. The projects, both on Bloomfield Avenue and proposed by Pinnacle Cos. of Montclair, have significant residential components, 200 apartments at Seymour Street and 350 at Lackawanna Plaza.

Vision Montclair’s goal is to support “sensible development” and to rally opposition to the proposed redevelopments because of the traffic that they will generate and their impact on local quality of life, according to O’Toole. Traffic congestion in the midtown area is going to spill over and clog local streets, she said.

“We (the neighbors around Seymour Street) don’t see this as just a neighborhood problem but something that affects everyone in Montclair,” Scheckel said. “This is why we have come together with residents of other neighborhoods to protest these untenable developments. There are other groups in town with similar sentiments, too, like Save Montclair and the Justice Coalition (which is particularly interested in promoting affordable housing, which is a whole other unspoken issue with these plans). There is strength in numbers, and everyone’s voice should count.”

Last week the Township Planning Board, dissatisfied with what was presented, told Pinnacle to gather additional data for a traffic-impact study regarding Seymour Street. Scheckel was critical of the board.

“In our almost two years of attending Planning Board meetings, we have found that the board belittles and disrespects attendees during public comment, creating an atmosphere of intimidation,” she said. “Their meetings … often go on for five hours, with public comment sometimes starting after 11 pm. It should not be us against them. Because Montclair residents need to participate in municipal affairs but often can’t within the structure of board and Council meetings, we hope that through this and other Montclair-first groups we can allow everyone’s opinion to be heard and to count.”

Vision Montclair also claims that township schools can’t accommodate the influx of students these developments can bring, and that “Montclair is allowing Pinnacle to build on town-owned property.”

Defending the projects, Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson has cited a study done by township planning officials that found that dwellers in new apartments haven’t burdened the school district, averaging just six school-age children for every 100 housing units.

And Pinnacle President Brian Stolar said his company will be giving the township payments in lieu of taxes, known as PILOT payments, for both the Seymour Street and Lackawanna Plaza redevelopments that are more than the properties are currently generating for the municipality. In addition, Pinnacle will be paying to lease the Seymour Street land from the township, according to Stolar.

Montclair Council casts wary eye on drone use

in municipal government/Police/Public Safety/Renee Baskerville/Township Council
LINDA MOSS/STAFF
Third Ward Councilman Sean Spiller and Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville both voiced concerns about the municipality employing drones at Tuesday’s Township Council meeting.

By LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news

Montclair is considering adding a new device to its toolbox: drones. But not all the Township Council is on board yet.

Several council members reacted with skepticism and questions on Tuesday night when it was disclosed that buying drones was part of a $3.475 million bond ordinance that the local governing body was voting on at its meeting.

The council adopted the ordinance, which will pay for townwide capital improvements, but it remains to be seen if any drones are purchased in light of the issues raised at the session. For example, Councilman-at-Large Bob Russo said it should be a policy decision made by the council, not by any municipal department, whether or not the township should use drones.

Several New Jersey municipalities have taken action to restrict the use of drones within their borders, including Garfield and Toms River.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville, who abstained from voting on the bond issuance, brought up the drone issue after reiterating her dismay that the various municipal departments heads didn’t do individual presentations to the council this year about their capital-budget needs. The bond ordinance mentions the drones but doesn’t break out exactly how much would be spent to buy them. Baskerville wanted to know who had decided what was included in the bond ordinance and what the drones would be used for.

Mayor Robert Jackson said that the municipal public works department was considering using drones to inspect snow-removal sites in the winter to make sure that contractors were doing a good job. It would be “a more efficient way” of managing and seeing what a contractor is doing rather than sending a town employee out to check, according to the mayor.

“I also believe that the police department is looking at it for potential at a jazz festival, or some big event … as a way of monitoring events, again, more globally,” Jackson said. “It may or may not happen, but we include it [in the bond ordinance] just in case it does.”

Third Ward Councilman Sean Spiller joined with Baskerville and Russo in expressing concern over the drones. Spiller asked Township Attorney Ira Karasick if the municipality would need guidance for regulating the drones, saying that a lot of other towns are trying “navigate” their use.

“I think it’s very important that before we actually we start any serious use of drones, either by the government or by individuals, we do need to come up with some regulations,” Karasick said. “Many towns are already tackling this issue … There are a lot of ordinances being created now. Essentially there are privacy issues. There are issues of the drone actually hitting somebody, causing danger, etc. There are also federal laws that apply to the airspace. So all those things take into account, I’ve been working on that.”

Karasick said he would speed up his research if the township was contemplating acquiring drones.

Russo said if any town department is considering using the devices, “that’s somewhat of a policy decision.” He also recounted his experience with drones.

“I was recently on the beach in Asbury and a drone came right over, I don’t know what this drone was doing,” Russo said. “I had a big issue with the drone … It could have fallen and hurt people … It’s a whole new world of 1984. So let’s get more input on this before we do anything.”

 

 

 

Friends express heartbreak over death of Montclair State faculty member

in Community/Pedestrians/Public Safety/Streets and Roads/Transportation
LINDA MOSS/STAFF
The program for Tuesday night’s memorial for Mary DeFilippis at Union Congregational Church.

By ERIN ROLL and LINDA MOSS>
roll@montclairlocal.news
moss@montclairlcoal.news

This week still-stunned friends, family and colleagues continued to mourn and memorialize Mary DeFilippis, the Montclair State University faculty member who was struck and killed by a vehicle on Grove Street last week.

More than 400 people gathered on Tuesday night for what was called a celebration service for DeFilippis at Union Congregational Church in Montclair, where she was eulogized by her friends and colleagues as a warm, witty, whip-smart, professional and caring woman who made a mark wherever she went.

DeFilippis, academic adviser for the MBA program at the university’s Feliciano School of Business, was out for her evening walk last Wednesday, June 7, when she was struck by a vehicle at the intersection of Grove Street and Chester Road, according to Township Police Lt. David O’Dowd. DeFilippis was taken to Mountainside Medical Center, but died of her injuries. The incident happened not far from her home.

“Last Wednesday night our hearts broke,” said the Rev. David Shaw, pastor of Union Congregational, said at the memorial service. “I come here tonight in trust that God’s heart broke, first … Mary’s death is the definition of tragedy.”

At the service the speakers also included one of DeFilippis’ three sons, her childhood friend from their days of mischief-making growing up in the tiny country town of Wynantskill, New York, and Richard Peterson, a professor at the business school. They joined with DeFilippis’ other friends and fellow churchgoers who this past week expressed their grief and shock over her death.

Montclair State honored DeFilippis in a special way last Friday, according to Peterson.

“Something I do not remember ever happening on the campus as a tribute to a university staffer: Our flag [flew] half-staff in honor of Mary,” he said.

At the service DeFilippis’ husband, George, and her three adult sons sat in the front pew of the church. One son, John, briefly addressed the group.

“So, I don’t think I can stand up here for more than 30 seconds,” he said, trying to keep his composure. “If you knew my mom, you know she was always worried about how you’re doing, if you were happy, or not. And if you weren’t, she wanted to know what she could do to make you happy. She wanted to force you to be happy, sometimes.”

That comment prompted laughter from the audience. And while it was obviously a time of grieving, there was laughter at the service several times as the speakers related anecdotes about the deceased Montclair resident, who was 73.

Mickey Clement, in a sometimes halting voice as she grew emotional, said she had known DeFilippis “for a lifetime,” almost 70 years, and she had the most stories to tell.

“There may be people who know Mary better than me … but no one has known her longer or loved her longer than I have,” Clement said. “Picture this skinny little girl with Coke-thick glasses and sausage curls all over her head … Even then she was funny, smart and more importantly, kind … we bonded.”

Clement described DeFilippis as always the smartest girl in the room, but said that “she also had a little attitude going on. … She was a bit of an imp.”

For example, in elementary school DeFilippis found a sly way to stick her tongue out the side of her mouth at her teachers, so they wouldn’t see it.

“And she never got caught, or so we thought,” Clement said. “Years later my mother, who was a teacher in our school, told us that all the teachers knew what she [DeFilippis] was doing. … And they let it slide.”

LINDA MOSS/STAFF
People start to arrive for the memorial service for Mary DeFilippis that was held Tuesday night at Union Congregational Church, where she worshiped.

In fifth grade DeFilippis also decided she was going to marry Mickey Mantle.

“And for the next two years, and I’m not making this up either, she wrote ‘Mrs. Mickey Mantle’ all over her assignment papers and handed them in to her teachers,” said Clement, who noted that the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center was just “down the street” from lifelong Yankee fan DeFilippis.

Peterson said he met DeFilippis when he interviewed her for a job in 2002.

“Within 30 seconds into the interview I realized Mary had to become my secretary,” he said. “Yes, you are probably saying, why did it take you so long to figure that out?”

DeFilippis would eventually end up being an adviser to students at the business school, according to Peterson. Earlier in the day Tuesday, he said, several cleaning employees stopped by his office and asked him to convey their condolences to her family.

“She cared for the faculty, she cared for the staff, and most of all, she cared for the well-being of the students who needed our advice and counsel,” he said. “To say that she was loved and appreciated only begins to describe her influence. In the 15 years I’ve known Mary, there was never a harsh word, a raised voice, or a snide comment. Mary found, and brought out, in each of us the best.”

The university this week announced that it is starting a scholarship fund in memory of DeFilippis.

She lived in Montclair for 34 years, and had many friends in town.

“Mary was the kindest, most gentle lady,” Gregg Monsees said. “She was always upbeat, cheerful, and happy to see you. She always had a smile on, and a wonderful infectious laugh. A new grandmother, she loved to talk about her grandchild.”

Monsees, his family and his former spouse Polly Monsees are all members of Union Congregational, where DeFilippis worshiped. Polly Monsees said she had been friends with DeFilippis for 37 years, after meeting when their respective children were in the church’s nursery school. DeFilippis acted with the Union Congregational Players.

“Many people might find it surprising, she was quite a comedic actress,” Polly Monsees said, adding that DeFilippis could have the audience “in stitches.”

Gregg Monsees called DeFilippis’ death “horrible, an utter shock, senseless,” adding, “It is a tremendous loss to everyone: family, friends, church, work … and Montclair.”

Michele Trevenen was also shaken up by DeFilippis’ death.

“I will so miss catching up with her at church, our breakfast group, and chatting on Polly’s porch,” she said. “I almost lost it in ShopRite this morning as that was one of the places I ran into Mary the most.

DeFilippis began her career at MSU as the secretary of the Hispanic Institute for Applied Psychology in 1993, according to the obituary prepared by MSU. Over the past 24 years she worked in the Psychoeducational Center and the Educational Opportunity Fund Programs before joining the business school in 2002, the obituary said. Her first duty there was as Peterson’s secretary for the Department of Information & Decision Sciences and Management & Information Systems.

DeFilippis loved traveling to Paris and enjoyed summer vacations in Cape Cod with her family, according to her obituary.

“Above all, Mary adored spending time with her family, especially her grandson Dylan,” her obituary said.

After receiving her baccalaureate degree in history from Russell Sage, she studied for her master’s degree in international relations at Columbia University.

The online guest book for the Allwood Funeral Home in Clifton, which handled arrangements for DeFilippis’ burial, was full of comments, many from her work colleagues.

A number of her MSU colleagues posted condolences, including Olga Dembicki.

“I was shocked and saddened to learn of Mary’s passing,” she wrote. “She loved students and children, especially her grandson who she always spoke about so fondly. I was happy to catch up with Mary when we spoke for a short while at work the day she passed away. She was so excited that Mr. Softee was coming on campus, since she loved ice cream. I will truly miss Mary and I am so very sad she is gone.”

Montclair introduces draft of safe streets plan

in Public Safety/Streets and Roads/Transportation
Complete streets implementation plan presented Tuesday, June 13.
ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Pedestrian safety and more user-friendly streets were on the agendas of two township committees last week, especially in light of a fatal pedestrian accident on Grove Street earlier this month.

SAFE Streets Project
The Complete Streets steering committee — a group consisting of municipal staff, members of township commissions and private citizens  — unveiled a draft version of the SAFE (Streets Are For Everyone) project on Tuesday, June 13.

Kimberli Craft, township engineer, isn’t sure what the next steps will be but suspects the plan will go to the Traffic and Parking Advisory Committee.

The plan is a series of options that the township could use in the months and years ahead in order to make streets safer for all users, including bicyclists and pedestrians.

“SAFE/Complete Streets are streets that are focused on people not just vehicles, ” the plan states. “They prioritize pedestrian movement with improved pedestrian movement with improved sidewalks, safe intersections and crosswalks, ADA accessibility and bicycle facilities that enhance the safety and comfort of those who cycle.”

The plan includes two street network maps. One is the SAFE Complete Streets map: a map showing pedestrian-friendly streets that lead to key destinations in town, including schools, parks, business areas and train stations. The other is a map of so-called priority streets: high-traffic streets that should be recommended for upgrades and repairs as the funds are available. These streets include Grove Street, Watchung Avenue, North Mountain and Upper Mountain avenues, Valley Road and Park Street.

The SAFE project started in 2011. Its goals include setting up walking routes and bicycle paths, encouraging more people to walk or bike, promoting mass transit options, and making signage and infrastructure upgrades where applicable.

“We recommend this plan be adopted as an amendment to the Circulation Element of the Master Plan of the Township. It will serve as a guide for future improvements as funds are available and specific roads are evaluated/repaved,” the plan states. “As specific roads are evaluated for improvements, focused public outreach efforts will guide the decision-making on specific typologies and final options selected. This plan is a technical and policy research for that process.”

On Monday, Craft said that most committee members favored “moving the final recommendations to the Traffic/Parking Advisory Committee for further discussion. It would then be up to TPAC to determine how we proceed with implementation.”

Pedestrian Safety
The Pedestrian Safety Committee, a municipal advisory committee, met on the same afternoon as the Complete Streets committee, and the death of a Montclair woman on Grove Street earlier this month was fresh in everyone’s mind.

Mary DeFilippis was struck by a car on the night of June 7.

The current speed limit on Grove Street is 35 mph. The pedestrian safety committee planned to ask the Township Council to consider passing a resolution at its meeting Tuesday to lower the speed limit on that street to 30 miles per hour. The idea was explored some years ago, but did not come to pass; the council had weighed a 25 mph blanket speed limit for the entire town, but that did not go forward.

DeFilippis’ death is the first pedestrian fatality of 2017.

From 2003 to 2014, there were 476 pedestrian accidents in Montclair, averaging about 40 a year, according to a pedestrian safety committee report released in 2015. During that time, there were eight fatalities.

The report found that pedestrian accidents were most likely to occur between 3 and 8 p.m. on weekdays, during good weather and on straight, level roads.

In 2016, there were 49 pedestrian accidents in Montclair, none of which resulted in a death.

The Montclair Police Department is planning to do a traffic safety and pedestrian safety campaign later this summer.

At the pedestrian safety committee meeting, Lt. Stephanie Egnezzo said that as of last month, the police had responded to a total of 16 pedestrian accidents. By comparison, during that same five-month time period in 2016, there were 26 accidents.

Montclair’s Pedestrian Safety Committee was formed in 2013 to develop strategies to reduce the number of pedestrian and bicyclist accidents involving motor vehicles. According to its page on montclairnjusa.org, the committee is made up of representatives from the Montclair Safe Routes to School and Health and Wellness Partnership, Montclair police and engineering departments, Partners for Health Foundation, Bike&Walk Montclair, Essex County Community Traffic Safety Program and members of the community.

Township requests lighting upgrade at scene of Grove Street accident

in Community/Pedestrians/Police/Public Safety/Streets and Roads/Transportation
LINDA MOSS/STAFF
Mary DeFillipis was struck by a car and suffered fatal injuries at the intersection of Grove Street and Chester Road. This was the scene at the site on June 8, the day after the accident. 

BY ERIN ROLL and LINDA MOSS

roll@montclairlocal.news
moss@montclairlocal.news

The township has asked PSE&G to upgrade the lighting at the intersection where a Montclair State University faculty member was struck by a vehicle and sustained fatal injuries, according to the utility.

“We are working to facilitate that request as quickly as possible,” Brooke Houston, a PSE&G spokesperson, said this week, of the intersection of Grove Street and Chester Road.

The township has apparently taken the safety measure in the wake of the death of Mary DeFilippis, 73, who was killed last Wednesday night, June 7, when she was hit while crossing Grove Street at Chester shortly after 9 while on her evening walk. Township officials declined to comment, saying that the incident was still under active investigation.

DeFilippis’ death has renewed discussions in Montclair about Grove Street, an Essex County road, its hazards and who is responsible for making it safer.

Some residents are asking whether the death could have been prevented if their ongoing complaints and concerns about the street had been addressed by officials. And it’s debatable whose duty it should be — local officials or county officials, or both. It remains to be seen if safety hazards on county roads will be addressed in a Safe Streets study that Montclair, working with a consultant, is in the process of completing. The first draft of the study is done, with a final reported expected by the end of June, according to Township Engineer Kimberli Craft.

For some, last week’s incident is tragic proof that lighting along Grove Street is inadequate at night. Many also say that drivers often speed down the roadway, unchecked by police. DeFilippis was taking her usual evening walk and was not far from Carolin Road, where she resided with her husband, when the accident took place.

Township police and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office are handling the probe, which will determine if any charges will be brought against the driver, a 60-year-old Bloomfield woman, who struck DeFilippis.

Her death has also raised pedestrian-safety complaints about other county roads that traverse Montclair, not only Grove Street but also Bloomfield Avenue and Valley Road.

At least one former township official who has championed pedestrian and bicyclist safety in Montclair spoke out, laying blame squarely with the county.

“At some point you have to ask yourself are these accidents?” said Jerry Fried, a former mayor. “It’s a public safety issue, that’s what it comes down to. And that’s the responsibility of our county government, to protect us.”

Fried, an avid bicyclist, worked hard on traffic safety issues when he was mayor, and Montclair was the first place in New Jersey to implement a complete-streets safety policy. Roughly 10 years ago, Fried said, Craft drafted a safety plan for Grove Street, involving its multi-use shoulders for pedestrians and bicyclists. But her plan was ultimately “watered down by the county engineer,” according to Fried.

“Particularly at this time, where there is much more demand for accountability in government at all levels particularly since the election, I think it’s important to ascribe responsibility for pedestrian injuries and fatalities, particularly when they happen on county property,” Fried said. “If you look at crash data, you’ll notice that most of the crashes with injuries and fatalities happen on county roads.”

Said Fried, “These are not accidents. They are public safety hazards that have not been adequately addressed by the county engineering department.”

Like township officials, Anthony Puglisi, spokesman for Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr.; and Joyce Goldman, DiVincenzo’s constituent services director, also declined to comment, citing the active investigation. Freeholder Vice President-at-Large Brendan Gill, a Montclair resident, also declined to comment.

As to lighting local roads, Houston said, “The municipality or county determines the number and placement of street lamps. PSE&G’s role is to provide the town or county options for types of poles and light fixtures.”

SAFETY COMMITTEE

At a meeting of the municipal Pedestrian Safety Committee on Tuesday, members discussed possibly setting a 30 mph speed limit on Grove Street, instead of 35 mph, as well as painting a 2-foot-wide median down the middle of the street. Both ideas have been discussed for some time, but the county hasn’t responded yet to the idea of the median. The committee, which was created in 2013 to address the increasing number of pedestrian and bicyclist accidents in Montclair, plans to ask the Township Council to introduce a resolution supporting the speed-limit change at its June 20 meeting.

Police Lt. Stephanie Egnezzo said on Tuesday that “as of May,” there have been 16 accidents involving pedestrians this year. By comparison, there were 26 pedestrian accidents for the same period of time in 2016, she said.

A resident living at the corner of Chester and Grove, who asked not to be identified, said she was in her house Wednesday night when she heard “a sickening thump.” She looked out her window and saw DeFilippis lying in the middle of Grove, the vehicle that hit her, and the driver.

“I saw the poor driver get out and she saw what she had done, and she just looked like she was devastated,” the resident said. “You feel for everybody involved: the poor woman who lost her life, the poor woman who hit her. It can happen that fast.”

Julie Brinley also lives on Chester Road, near the accident site.

“My husband, children and I are all shaken up today,” she said last Thursday, a day after the accident. “We heard a loud noise last night and couldn’t believe it was from this tragic accident. My husband spoke to the driver and she said she didn’t see her [DeFilippis] in the crosswalk.”

The other resident who lives near the accident site complained about the poor lighting at night at the corner, where there is only one streetlight, as well as motorists speeding down Grove Street.

Resident Javier Guardo has been working on a project, through the Planet Civic website, to identify all of the burnt-out streetlights in town, as well as to map out corners and intersections that residents believe do not have enough lighting at night. He said that at least two residents participating in the streetlight project had raised concerns about Grove Street.

The county, in partnership with Montclair and five other Essex County towns, last month launched a safety program called Street Smart NJ to curtail pedestrian accidents on bustling Bloomfield Avenue. From 2011 through 2015 there were 256 pedestrians involved in crashes on that county road, with three fatalities and 226 injuries. The county is also seeking $5 million in federal funds to upgrade the traffic lights along Bloomfield Avenue.

Hundreds pay tribute to Montclair State faculty member at memorial

in Houses of Worship/Pedestrians/Police/Public Safety/Streets and Roads/Transportation
COURTESY OF MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY
Mary DeFilippis

By LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news

More than 400 people came to a memorial service on Tuesday evening for Mary DeFilippis, who was eulogized by her friends and colleagues as a warm, witty, whip-smart, professional and caring woman who made a mark wherever she went.

The celebration of DeFilippis’s life took place at the Union Congregational Church in Montclair, where she worshiped for years before sustaining fatal injuries after being struck by a vehicle while crossing Grove Street last week, June 7.

“Last Wednesday night our hearts broke,” said the Rev. David Shaw, pastor of the church. “I come here tonight in trust that God’s heart broke, first … Mary’s death is the definition of tragedy.”

The attendees at the hourlong service included a large contingent from Montclair State University and its Feliciano School of Business, where DeFilippis was part of the faculty as an adviser.

LINDA MOSS/STAFF
The program for Tuesday night’s memorial for Mary DeFilippis at Union Congregational Church.

The speakers included not only Shaw but one of DeFilippis’s three sons, her childhood friend from their days of mischief-making growing up in the tiny country town of Wynantskill, New York, and Richard Peterson, a professor at the business school.

Montclair State honored DeFilippis in a special way last Friday, according to Peterson.

“Something I do not remember ever happening on the campus as a tribute to a university staffer: Our flag flied half-staff in honor of Mary,” he said.

DeFilippis’s husband, George, and her three adult sons sat in the front pew of the church. One son, John, briefly addressed the group.

“So, I don’t think I can stand up here for more than 30 seconds,” he said, trying to keep his composure. “If you knew my mom, you know she was always worried about how you’re doing, if you were happy, or not. And if you weren’t, she wanted to know what she could do to make you happy. She wanted to force you to be happy, sometimes.”

That comment prompted laughter from the audience. And while it was obviously a time of grieving, there was laughter at the service several times as the speakers related anecdotes about the deceased Montclair resident, who was 73.

Mickey Clement, in a sometimes halting voice as she grew emotional, said she had known DeFilippis “for a lifetime,” almost 70 years, and she had the most stories to tell. In fact, Clement said, she arranged the blind date where DeFilippis met her future husband.

“There may be people who know Mary better than me … but no one has known her longer or loved her longer than I have,” Clement said. “Picture this skinny little girl with Coke-thick glasses and sausage curls all over her head … Even then she was funny, smart and more importantly, kind … We bonded.”

Clement described DeFilippis as always the smartest girl in the room, but said that “she also had a little attitude going on … She was a bit of an imp.”

For example, in elementary school DeFilippis found a sly way to stick her tongue out the side of her mouth at her teachers, so they wouldn’t see it.

“And she never got caught, or so we thought,” Clement said. “Years later my mother, who was a teacher in our school, told us that all the teachers knew what she [DeFilippis] was doing … And they let it slide.”

In fifth grade, DeFilipps started a “business” of selling “pin-up” drawings of girls to boys, charging a nickel for a girl in a one-piece swimsuit, a dime for a girl in a two-piece and a quarter for a bikini-clad girl, according to Clement. But DeFilippis was put out of business when a fifth-grade boy started selling drawings of girls with no bathing suits on, Clement said, prompting laughter from the group.

LINDA MOSS/STAFF
People start to arrive for the memorial service for Mary DeFilippis that was held Tuesday night at Union Congregational Church, where she worshiped.

In fifth grade DeFilippis also decided she was going to marry Mickey Mantle.

“And for the next two years, and I’m not making this up either, she wrote ‘Mrs. Mickey Mantle’ all over her assignment papers and handed them in to her teachers,” said Clement, who noted that the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center was just “down the street” from life-long Yankee fan DeFilippis.

Peterson said he met DeFilippis when he interviewed her for a job in 2002.

“Within 30 seconds into the interview I realized Mary had to become my secretary,” he said. “Yes, you are probably saying, why did it take you so long to figure that out?”

DeFilippis would eventually end up being an adviser to students at the business school, and she mentored many women, according to Peterson. Earlier in the day, he said, several cleaning employees stopped by his office and asked him to convey their condolences to her family.

“She cared for the faculty, she cared for the staff, and most of all, she cared for the well-being of the students who needed our advice and counsel,” he said. “To say that she was loved and appreciated only begins to describe her influence. In the 15 years I’ve known Mary, there was never a harsh word, a raised voice, or a snide comment. Mary found, and brought out, in each of us the best.”

The university this week announced that it is starting a scholarship in memory of DeFilippis.

In her remarks, Clement described DeFilippis as a good athlete who was a great ice skater, as well as being a talented actress and singer, nabbing her first role in fifth grade doing the part of Maria in the Nutcracker Suite operetta.

“She really had a beautiful singing voice,” Clement said.

And while at Russell Sage College in Troy, New York, DeFilippis “brought down the house with her hilarious performance of Miss Gouch in ‘Auntie Mame,’” according to Clement.

Shaw recalled running into DeFilippis at Sunrise Bagels with his children.

“She told me after we moved to Montclair and saw us in there early one Saturday morning that clearly, with a bright smile on her face, that we had excellent taste,” he said.

There was a reception after the service with refreshments and food, in a room where posters and stations with photos of DeFilippis and her family over the years were set up.

The family, including son John, were at the reception. Earlier during the service he thanked attendees and the community for the kindness they had shown after his mother’s death.

“Your generosity has meant a great deal to my family, and we would like to thank everyone for what you’ve done and for coming tonight,” he said.

Services, memorial scholarship planned for Montclair State faculty member

in Montclair State University/Public Safety/Streets and Roads
COURTESY MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY
Mary DeFilippis.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

A memorial service will be held tomorrow, Tuesday night, for Montclair State University faculty member Mary DeFilippis, who was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing Grove Street last week.

A celebration of DeFilippis’s life is set for 6:30 p.m. at Union Congregational Church, 176 Cooper Ave., where the 73-year-old township resident worshiped. Arrangements are being handled by the Allwood Funeral Home, Clifton.

The university on Monday also announced that it is establishing a scholarship fund in DeFilippis’s memory through the Montclair State University Foundation. Donors may make contributions through the university website, and should note their donations are being made in memory of DeFilippis.

DeFilippis was crossing Grove Street on the evening of June 7 when a motor vehicle struck her. The incident is under investigation by the Montclair Police Department and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

The guest book on Allwood Funeral Home’s website already had a list of comments from people grieving over her death.

“I know how much I’m going to miss Mary’s smile and laughter,” wrote Yawei Wang. “She’s been such a wonderful person, warmhearted and cheerful. I’m truly honored to be Mary’s colleague. Rest in peace, Mary. You will be missed tremendously.”

A number of her other MSU colleagues posted comments, as well, including Olga Dembicki.

“I was shocked and saddened to learn of Mary’s passing,” she wrote. “She loved students and children, especially her grandson who she always spoke about so fondly. I was happy to catch up with Mary when we spoke for a short while at work the day she passed away. She was so excited that Mr. Softee was coming on campus, since she loved ice cream. I will truly miss Mary and I am so very sad she is gone.”

Another MSU colleague, Faith Muriithi, also expressed her sadness.

“I would like to express my deepest condolences to Mary’s family,” Muriithi wrote. “I am still in shock and disbelief. It was just the other day that I meet with Mary in her office to figure out a fall schedule. Her commitment and dedication to what she did was exceptional. She took time to draw a schedule, on a piece of paper that I carried with me to revisit later in fall, which will be my keepsake to remember a dear friend, and adviser. Her gentle voice, kind words and warm welcome to her office was worth a thousand words. Rest in eternal peace Mary.”

“My prayers and condolences are with the DeFilippis family,” wrote a person who signed in as Patrali on the guest book. “I wish you strength and hope memories of Mary will help you cope with her loss. I am still trying to come to terms that I will no longer see her on all five floors at some time during weekdays — but also on weekends when she is ‘not” supposed to be at work! She was a skilled professional, reaching out to faculty, students, staff and industry guest speakers. Her ability to juggle multiple assignments, projects, and schedules with multiple participants was impressive. I will miss her advice and support dearly. Rest in eternal peace Mary.

The funeral home also posted DeFilippis’s obituary, whch says that she was born and raised in Troy, New York, and lived in Montclair with her husband and family for the past 43 years. She received her baccalaureate degree in history from Russell Sage College and studied for her master’s degree in international relations at Columbia University.

“Mary loved traveling to Paris and spending the summers in Cape Cod with her family,” according to her obituary. “She also enjoyed short excursions; whether it be shopping in Lambertville, exploring museums throughout the state, or gaining inspiration in landscaping at the New York Botanical Gardens. Above all, Mary adored spending time with her family, especially her grandson Dylan.”

Stunned friends, residents mourn Montclair State faculty member

in Bicycles/Pedestrians/Police/Public Safety/Streets and Roads
ADAM ANIK/STAFF
On Friday there were bouquets of flowers on the northwest corner of Grove Street and Carolin Road in Montclair, left by mourners, in memory of Mary DeFilippis. She suffered fatal injuries near the corner on Wednesday night while attempting to cross the road.

By ERIN ROLL and LINDA MOSS
roll@montclairlocal.news
moss@montclairlocal.news

Stunned friends are mourning the death of the Montclair State University faculty member who was killed in a car accident Wednesday, a crash that has township residents calling for action to address traffic hazards on county-maintained Grove Street.

The incident in which Mary DeFilippis, a 73-year-old Montclair resident, was fatally struck by a vehicle near the corner of Grove and Chestnut Road is still under investigation, by both local police and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. On Friday Montclair Police Lt. David O’Dowd said that authorities had not yet decided whether to file charges against the driver involved in the accident, a 60-year-old Bloomfield woman,pending the outcome of the investigation. Police haven’t released the motorist’s name.

The fatality has restarted discussions and complaints regarding several Essex County roads that traverse Montclair, not only Grove Street but also Bloomfield Avenue and Valley Road.  On Grove in particular, some residents claim that lighting along the street is inadequate at night and that drivers often speed down the roadway, unchecked by police. Township officials declined to talk about the issue on Friday, and county officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

But at least one former township official who has championed pedestrian and bicyclist safety in Montclair spoke out.

“At some point you have to ask yourself are these accidents?” said Jerry Fried, a former township mayor. “It’s a public safety issue, that’s what it comes down to. And that’s the responsibility of our county government, to protect us.”

Meanwhile, township residents who knew DeFilippis, who was fatally injured while out on her evening walk, remembered her fondly and expressed shock at her death.

ALWAYS CHEERFUL

“Mary was the kindest, most gentle lady,” Gregg Monsees said. “She was always upbeat, cheerful, and happy to see you. She always had a smile on, and a wonderful infectious laugh. A new grandmother, she loved to talk about her grandchild.”

COURTESY OF MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY
The death of Mary DeFilippis, academic adviser for the MBA program at Montclair State’s Feliciano School of Business, is still under investigation by local police and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. She sustained fatal injuries when she was struck by a car at the corner of Grove Street and Chester Road on Wednesday night.

DeFilippis and her family belong to Union Congregational Church on Cooper Avenue, where Monsees, his family and his former spouse Polly Monsees also worship. DeFilippis and her husband have three sons.

Polly Monsees had been friends with DeFilippis for 37 years. She said that she met DeFilippis when their respective children were in the church’s nursery school. DeFilippis was also a member of several church committees, and she acted with the Union Congregational Players.

“Many people might find it surprising, she was quite a comedic actress,” Polly Monsees remembered, saying that DeFilippis could have the audience “in stitches.”

She also recalled that DeFilippis was quite social, but it was sometimes difficult to make plans with her for an evening out because her family’s schedule always came first.

“Sometimes we would see each other in the parking lot at the Upper Montclair CVS, and we would be there quite a while catching up on our families,” Gregg Monsees said. “Mary was also a dog lover. ”

DeFilippis’s death was “horrible: an utter shock; senseless,” he said.

“It is a tremendous loss to everyone: family, friends, church, work, (MSU), and Montclair,” he said. “It is impossible to comprehend that this wonderful person is now gone from our lives. It was a privilege and honor to have known her.”

UNION CONGREGATIONAL TIES

Polly Monsees said that she had been spending time with DeFilippis’s family, and that the Rev. David Shaw, the pastor of Union Congregational, had been meeting with them. A service was being planned as of Friday afternoon, but that the details had not yet been finalized, according to Monsees.

On Facebook, Janice Arnold wrote, “What a horror. I taught Mary’s boys in elementary school here in Montclair. Such a terrible loss. My heart goes out to George, Stephen, John, and Michael, and all other relatives and friends. They are such a wonderful family.”

Michelle Trevenen was also shaken up by DeFilippis’s death.

“I will so miss catching up with her at church, our breakfast group, and chatting on Polly’s porch,” she said. “I almost lost it in ShopRite this morning as that was one of the places I ran into Mary the most. We take so much for granted.”

Karen Ermler had similar memories.

“I, too, always ran into Mary at the ShopRite,” Ermler said. “We would laugh about it and try to guess when we would see each other again … also loved sitting with her at church.”

DeFilippis’s colleagues at MSU also praised her in a statement on Thursday, the day after her death. Most recently, she was the academic adviser for the MBA program at the Feliciano School of Business.

DeFilippis began her career at MSU as the Secretary of the Hispanic Institute for Applied Psychology in 1993 and over the past 24 years she worked in the Psychoeducational Center and the Educational Opportunity Fund Programs before joining the business school in 2002. Her first duty there was as the secretary for the Department of Information & Decision Sciences and Management & Information Systems, according to MSU.

MUM ON PROBE

DeFilippis studied history and government at Russell Sage College in Troy, New York, and was from Wynantskill, New York, a suburb of Troy, according to her Facebook page.

The accident took place near in an area where the First Ward and the Second Ward border each other. Deputy Mayor William Hurlock, who represents the First Ward, declined to comment on DeFilippis’s death or safety issues on Grove Street on Friday.

“Because it’s an active and ongoing investigation, we can’t comment on it,” Hurlock said. “I am to refer everyone to the Montclair Police Department.”

Second Ward Councilwoman Robin Schlager couldn’t be reached for comment.

Several residents have raised concerns about low levels of street lighting in the area.

ONGOING SAFETY ISSUES

Javier Guardo is a township resident who has been working on a project, through the Planet Civic website, to identify all of the burnt-out streetlights in town, as well as to map out corners and intersections that residents believe do not have enough lighting at night. He said that at least two residents participating in the streetlight project had raised concerns about Grove Street.

Fried, an avid bicyclist, worked hard on traffic safety issues when he was mayor, and Montclair was the first place in New Jersey to implement a complete-streets safety policy. Roughly 10 years ago, Fried said, Township Engineer Kimberli Craft drafted a safety plan for Grove Street, involving its multi-use shoulders for pedestrians and bicyclists. But her plan was ultimately “watered down by the county engineer,” according to Fried.

“Particularly at this time, where there is much more demand for accountability in government at all levels particularly since the election, I think its important to ascribe responsibility for pedestrian injuries and fatalities, particularly when they happen on county property,” Fried said. “If you look at crash data, you’ll notice that most of the crashes with injuries and fatalities happen on county roads. “

Said Fried, ‘These are not accidents. They are public safety hazards that have not been adequately addressed by the county engineering department.”

The spokesman for Essex County Executive Joseph Joseph DiVincenzo Jr., Anthony Puglisi, couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday, nor could Freeholder Vice President at-Large Brendan Gill, a Montclair resident.

The county, in partnership with Montclair and five other Essex County towns, last month launched a safety program called Street Smart NJ to curtail pedestrian accidents on bustling Bloomfield Avenue.

Montclair State faculty member killed in Grove Street accident

in Community/Law and Courts/Pedestrians/Police/Public Safety/Streets and Roads/Transportation
COURTESY OF MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY
Mary DeFilippis, academic adviser for the MBA program in Montclair State’s Feliciano School of Business, was struck and killed by a car on Grove Street Wednesday.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

A Montclair State University faculty member was killed in a motor vehicle accident on Grove Street Wednesday night, according to a statement released by the university.

Mary DeFilippis, 73, was the academic adviser for the MBA program at the Feliciano School of Business. She was out for her evening walk when she was struck, according to a statement from Greg Cant, the dean of the business school.

Township Police Lt. David O’Dowd released a statement early Thursday that a female pedestrian was crossing the street at the intersection of Chester Road around 9:14 p.m. when she was hit by a Ford Focus traveling northbound on Grove Street.

The driver in the incident, a 60-year-old Bloomfield woman, remained at the scene. Her name has not been released. DeFilippis, a mother of three, was taken to Mountainside Medical Center. It wasn’t known if she was alive or dead on arrival at the facility.

Local police are working with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the incident, according to O’Dowd.

A resident living at the corner of Chester and Grove, who requested not to be identified, said she was in her house Wednesday night when she “heard a sickening thump.” She looked out her window and saw DeFilippis lying in the middle of Grove, the vehicle that hit her and the driver.

“I saw the poor driver get out and she saw what she had done, and she just looked like she was devastated,” the resident said. “You feel for everybody involved: the poor woman who lost her life, the poor woman who hit her. It can happen that fast.”

A young man who had been driving by stopped and began administering CPR to DeFilippis, according to the resident, and local police and EMTs arrived quickly at the scene and took over.

Julie Brinley also lives on Chester Road, near the accident site.

“The police were on the scene for a long time after the incident and I could see their flashing lights through my window. My husband, children and I are all shaken up today,” she said Thursday. .  “We heard a loud noise last night  and couldn’t believe it was from this tragic accident. My husband spoke to the driver and she said she didn’t see her in the crosswalk.”

LINDA MOSS/STAFF
Mary DeFilippis sustained fatal injuries Wednesday night when she was struck by a car near the intersection of Grove Street and Chester Road. At night the corner is dark, with only one street light, left, in the area. This was the scene June 8, the day after the accident.  

Brinley said that that portion of Grove Street is not well-lit.

“There is no light at this crosswalk and it’s so dark,” she said. “I truly feel sick and angry about the lighting and crosswalk situation in Montclair.”

The other resident who lives near the accident site also complained about the poor lighting at night at the corner, where there is only one street light, as well as motorists speeding down Grove Street.

MSU Provost Willard Gingerich announced DeFilippis’s passing in a statement emailed to the university community on Thursday. That statement was also shared on social media.

“I know you join me in sending Mary’s husband George and her sons Stephen, John and Michael our deepest sympathy,” Gingerich stated.

“Throughout her career Mary has been a tremendous contributor to MSU,” Cant said in his statement. “We could always rely on her to come to events, take on the extra responsibility, make thoughtful contributions, stay until the job is finished, maintain the highest standards…she exemplified the caring professional. Mary has had a rich and full life and would have turned 74 this December.”

DeFilippis began her career at MSU as the Secretary of the Hispanic Institute for Applied Psychology in 1993 and over the past 24 years she worked in the Psychoeducational Center and the Educational Opportunity Fund Programs before joining the business school in 2002. Her first duty there was as the secretary for the Department of Information & Decision Sciences and Management & Information Systems, according to MSU.

Follow Montclair Local for more information as the story develops.

Linda Moss contributed to this story. 

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