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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.

 

 

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.”

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.

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. 

Township police offer remedies for dog-parking problems

in Pedestrians/Streets and Roads/Township Council

Township Police Lt. Stephanie Egnezzo, right, commander of the department’s traffic bureau, discussed her recommendations to alleviate parking problems, caused by dog walkers, on Mount Vernon Road at Tuesday’s council conference meeting. Residents have complained that patrons of the dog park at Brookdale Park are jamming their dead-end street with their vehicles. Deputy Police Chief Tracy Frazzano, left, was also at the meeting. LINDA MOSS/STAFF

By LINDA MOSS

moss@montclairlocal.news

The Township Police Traffic Bureau has delivered its recommendations for alleviating problems caused by dog-walkers illegally parking on Mount Vernon Road, seeking quick access to Brookdale Park and its canine facility. But residents aren’t happy about the suggestion that parking be limited to one side of their street.

Police Lt. Stephanie Egnezzo, the traffic bureau commander, went through her recommendation list — which includes barring parking on the south side of Mount Vernon — at the Township Council’s conference meeting on Tuesday night. Her report also suggested that there be no parking permitted at the easternmost end of three dead-end roads that are adjacent to Brookdale Park,  not only Mount Vernon but also Chester Road and Gordonhurst Avenue.    

Egnezzo’s other recommendations were that there be no parking from west of Mount Vernon’s dead end to the first driveway on the street’s north side because there’s a fire hydrant there and responders need access to it; and that parking be barred within 4 feet of driveways in the affected streets.

The lieutenant has been working for months with Mount Vernon residents to address their concerns about people speeding down their short street and blocking their driveways when they visit Brookdale’s dog park, accessing it at the end of the dead-end street. Essex County officials are considering modifying the dog park entrance, which could solve some of the issues that Mount Vernon residents have faced. But those possible changes are just pending at this point.

After Egnezzo went through her list, several people who live on Mount Vernon Road told the council they didn’t want parking barred on one side of their street, that such a change would create even more problems for them.

“By and large we’ve been very pleased with the response [from the township],” Rich Boniface said. “The thing that is making people nervous is the no-parking on one side, on the south side of the street.”

The dog-park people are taking up half the parking on the street, according to Boniface, and “it seems like the answer now is to take away the other half of the parking.”

His wife Shana Boniface told the council that limiting parking to one side of Mount Vernon Road would pose a safety threat, because people visiting residents on the street might be forced to park on Grove Street and fight its traffic to get to their destinations on the dead-end street.

“Mount Vernon is a small street,” she said. “There’s no place for overflow parking except on Grove Street.”

“The safety issue is more getting a fire truck down there,” Mayor Robert Jackson told her.

As part of her report, Egnezzo said that she had consulted with the Montclair Fire Department and asked it to evaluate Mount Vernon Road in terms of getting emergency vehicles down the narrow street. Fire officials said they were concerned because when cars are parked on both sides of the street, emergency vehicles don’t have the necessary clearance, according to Egnezzo. Mount Vernon is only 25.9 feet wide, which doesn’t allow the 15-foot clearance that emergency vehicles need if cars are parked at both sides of the street, she said.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville asked that the township research state laws that may set requirements regarding parking for streets that are 25 feet wide or narrower.

Third Ward Councilman Sean Spiller told the Mount Vernon residents that if state law mandates that there be parking on only one side of their street, the municipality’s hands will be tied.

“I’m fine with parking on both sides, if that’s legally allowed,” he said. “But if we hear back that you can’t do that, we’re going to vote, I think, to not allow it.”

Residents on Chester and Gordonhurst need to be notified of the police department’s recommendations, added Deputy Mayor William Hurlock.

Montclair-based doctor dies in pedestrian accident

in Essex County Prosecutor's Office/HackensackUMC Mountainside/Law and Courts/Pedestrians/Police/Public Safety/Streets and Roads
Dr. Jan Huston-Pryor. PHOTO COURTESY OF HACKENSACKUMC MOUNTAINSIDE

by ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Authorities are investigating after a Montclair-based doctor was killed in a pedestrian accident this week.

Jan Huston-Pryor, 66, is believed to have been struck by a motor vehicle near her home in Essex Fells on Tuesday morning, according to Katherine Carter, spokesperson for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. The incident happened about 9:25 a.m. in the 200 block of Devon Road.

“The driver, who is not being identified at this time, remained at the scene. No charges have been filed at this time,” Carter said in an announcement to the media on Tuesday.

Huston-Pryor was taken to HackensackUMC Mountainside, where she was pronounced dead at 9:45 a.m.

Huston-Pryor was the medical director of Mountainside’s Breast Health Program and a doctor with Mountainside Medical Group, according to a statement from John Fromhold, the hospital’s CEO.

“Dr. Huston was a beloved colleague and a strong advocate for women’s health throughout the community. Among her many attributes, Jan was kind-hearted and enthusiastic, always bringing laughter and a smile to those around her,” Fromhold stated.

“Jan’s immeasurable commitment to her family, to her patients and to the community at large ensures that while she will be greatly missed, she will never be forgotten.”

The investigation is ongoing.

Montclair pursues SAFE Streets program

in Bicycles/Pedestrians/Streets and Roads/Transportation
Pedestrian sign in Montclair. PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL

by ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

A long-term project in Montclair to make more of the township’s streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as motorists, could be taking a few more steps forward this spring.
Montclair is getting ready to present a draft version of its Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE) Streets plan. The plan would involve setting up a network of existing streets that pedestrians and bicyclists can use to get from one place in town to another, and to come up with ways overhaul high-capacity streets to make them safer for pedestrian use.
The township and the New Jersey Department of Transportation were to host an open house event on March 8 to ask residents for feedback on the draft plan.
A survey that the township conducted last fall found that the two biggest obstacles to bicycling in Montclair were concerns about traffic collisions and the lack of bike lanes and other infrastructure.
Township Engineer Kimberli Craft said that after the open house, the next steps would be for the township’s consultants to work the public’s feedback into the draft plan, and then present a revised version to the township council for review and adoption.
The plan includes a Complete Streets network: a map of local streets that pedestrians would use to get to key places around town, such as schools, parks, business districts and the train stations. The survey also identified several major streets around town that could receive upgrades if the funds ever became available.
There are also several “priority corridors”: roads that need to have upgrades and improvements done before they can be included as part of the Complete Streets network.
The priority streets include some county roads such as Watchung Avenue and Grove Street, as well as high-traffic local roads as Claremont Avenue and North and South Mountain avenues.
For a street such as Upper Mountain Avenue, which is considered a minor arterial road, one idea would be to narrow the travel lanes and put stripes for bicycle lanes on either side of the street. Another idea would be to mark off a bicycle lane on one side of the street with steel bollards, or to put sharrow, or shared-lane, markings on the pavement.
“We believe that having such a plan is critical: first to provide the blueprint for a multimodal network of roads, paths, sidewalks and transit that connects people to places in Montclair,” said Bike&Walk Montclair trustee Laura Torchio. “Second, it will enable us to identify the resources that will be needed to improve our streets so that they truly reflect our belief that streets are for everyone.”
There wasn’t one particular element of the plan that Bike&Walk Montclair felt was more pressing than any of the others, Torchio said. Rather, the goal was to have a street plan that took all varieties of transit users into consideration.
“I believe that if our 8-year-olds and our 80-year-olds can use our street network safely and comfortably on foot, on bike or in a car, then we’re doing OK for everyone in between,” Torchio said.

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