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NEWARK TIES FOR TWO IN PITTSBURGH SYNAGOGUE SHOOTING

By Walter Elliott


 "In a real sense, all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. What affects one directly, affects us all indirectly." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." (1963)


NEWARK - The above quote, among others from the late human rights leader, were made by at least five of the 15 local, state and federal religious, governmental and law enforcement who came here to Cong. Ahavas Sholom Oct. 29 for what was billed as "An Interfaith Vigil in the Wake of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting."


Congregation President Eric Friedman made the closest reference, added that "What affects one affects us all and an attack on one is an attack on all."


New Jersey Attorney Gurbir Grewal, Mayor Ras Baraka, Metropolitan Baptist Church Senior Pastor/vigil moderator Dr. David Jefferson and NIA Masjid Imam Daud Haqq each referred to Dr. King's writings or addresses while presenting a united front against hatred in the wake of the Oct. Tree of Life - Or L'Simcha Congregation shooting Oct. 27 that left 11 people dead and six injured.


Jefferson, who was also serving as the National Action Network-Newark Chapter President, recalled Dr. King's statement that he will "remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our allies."


They, among the 20 speakers behind the Ahavas Shalom bemah or lecturn, told the sanctuary audience of 60 and the gathered media Monday afternoon that New Jersey has no place for the hate that prompted the gunman who perpetrated the United States' worst single anti-Semitic act.


Hate invoked on social or other media that produce violent acts, they said, will be pursued and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.


The NAN-Newark and Newark Interfaith Council joint effort was held 4:15 p.m. Monday - about the same time where families affected by the Tree of Life shooting were making funeral arrangements. Pennsylvania and U.S. prosecutors, that morning, levied 65 state and federal counts - including 22 homicide counts - against accused gunman Robert Gregory Bowers in an Allegheny County courtroom.


Most of the 80 who gathered in Newark's longest-running synagogue knew that their ties to the TOL-OLS massacre were more real than spiritual.


Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, said his nephew via Facebook page and mourners from the Maple Avenue School, came to Pittsburgh by way of Newark.


Rabinowitz likely attended the Kindergarten-Eighth Grade school, in the South Ward's Weequahic section, 1956-65. The years are based on Rabinowitz being part of Jonathan Dayton Regional High School Class of 1969. Rabinowitz and his family moved to Roselle, one of six towns served by the Springfield-based high school.


Rabinowitz earned his doctorate with the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center before setting up his family practice in Pittsburgh's Bloomfield section. The Edgewood neighborhood resident also practiced in UPMC-Pittsburgh hospitals.


"Dr. Jerry," during his 41 years' practice, was known for his upbeat manner and open door policy. He gave out his cell phone number and held Saturday afternoon office hours.


Rabinowitz was also president of Dor Hadash. It and the New Light Congregation uses TOL-OLS's building in the city's Squirrel Hill North section for Saturday Shabbat worship services.


DH Rabbi Cheryl Klein said that Rabinowitz was most likely in the building's basement study room, preparing for worship Oct. 28. Klein said she was in Philadelphia, visiting family Oct. 26-28.


Bowers, 46, according to witnesses, entered TOL-OLS at 9:50 a.m. The Baldwin resident - armed with a Colt AR-15 assault rifle and three Glock .357 handguns - shouted "All Jews must die!" before firing upon TOS members who had gathered in the street level sanctuary for a baby naming.


Witnesses and responding law enforcement said that between 60 and 100 worshipers among the three congregations were in the synagogue at that time.


Rabinowitz, said witnesses, heard some of the 30 shots from the upstairs lobby and ran out towards the basement's sanctuary. That was when Bowers felled him.


Rabinowitz's funeral was held in Pittsburgh Jewish Community Center Oct. 30. About 100 people walked behind the hearse the half-mile to Homewood Cemetery. About 1,000 people stood along the route in tribute.


Widow Miri, mother Sally, son-in-law Dr. Milton Kramer and brother Bill Rabinowitz are among his survivors. Memorial donations may be made to Dor Hadash, 5898 Wilkins Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15217.


TOL-OLS Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers, while surviving Bowers' onslaught, is most likely presiding over some of the other 10 funerals that have been or being held. Myers, 66, has taken in an Oct. 30 vigil in Pittsburgh and is trying to prepare for the Nov. 2-3 Shabbat service.


Myers, who made the first 911 call at 9:54 a.m. Oct. 28, was raised in Newark.


There are several accounts where parents Donald and Elaine Myers moved here from Brooklyn after their 1955 marriage. D. Myers was among Seton Hall University Law School's first graduating class.


Rabbi Myers and his family, however, moved to Roselle. D. Myers had a lawyer's practice in Linden and was an official at that city's Suburban Jewish Center Temple.


Myers, who graduated from Rutgers-New Brunswick in 1977 with a BA in Hebraic Studies, also earned a cantor's degree from New York's Jewish Theological Seminary. He returned for his rabbinic degree after seeing how many synagogues had been consolidating or closing.


Rabbi-Cantor Myers shepherded congregations in Ventnor, N.J. and on Long Island prior to his being hired Aug. 1, 2017 by TOL-OLS.


Myers shouted at his 12 congregation members present to hit the floor and stay quiet when Bowers burst into the room. From behind his bemah, he called 911; he just began carrying his cell phone on the Sabbath on the advice of a law enforcement agent.


Myers began leading his flock out of the synagogue once Bowers headed for the basement and third floor. He could not get eight congregants out of the sanctuary's doorway in time.


"There was no way for me to get back," said Myers. "One of the eight was injured and will recover; the remaining seven were slaughtered in the back of my sanctuary. I wish I could've done more."

ALL OUT OPEN RIVALRY BETWEEN TWO FACTIONS IN ORANGE

By Dhiren Shah


ORANGE - Not long ago, an organization called Committee to Recall Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren was formed. As I have mentioned before in my editorial, a likely impossible task was undertaken by the group. They have up to the middle of January to collect 4,053 valid signatures from Orange’s voters. In the last mayoral election, only 3,975 total voters cast their ballot.


Two days ago, the committee opened a place right on Main Street. They have also kept one table space on the busiest street in Orange. They use this table space between the hours of 10 am to noon and 4:30 to 6:30 pm to collect the signatures, as per Tyrone Tarver, chairman of the committee. 


As a community organization, they have no idea about permits. On Oct. 23, an Orange code enforcement officer went to that location and fined the landlord $4,000 for the table operating without the permit. 


From now onwards any community organization will have to be careful when working with any business location. Otherwise, they will be fined heftily without any warning.


Hopefully, every election campaign headquarters, including those for Mayor Dwayne Warren and Council Chairman Kerry Coley, must have taken permits according to one of Local Talk’s readers.


This might create some momentum within the community. Let’s see where this will take a turn in the future.

JUDGE OVERTURNS NEWARK’S MX-3 ZONE

 

By Walter Elliott


NEWARK - Building projects within the MX-3 zone, a half-mile radius around Newark Penn Station, have been frozen while Mayor Ras Baraka's administrators figure out how to respond to a New Jersey Superior Court judge's Oct. 12 ruling which overturns the master plan overlay.


Superior Court Judge Patrick Bartels, in his Friday ruling, declared the MX-3 zone "null and void." That nullification also voided any Central Planning Board and/or Zoning Board of Adjustment approvals of projects using that zone.


The MX-3 Zone, which the Municipal Council approved Oct. 4, 2017 in a 7-1 split vote, permitted increasing the height of housing and/or mixed use buildings a half-mile of Penn Station. MX-3. which replaced the Zone in Newark's Master Plan, increased the three story maximum building height to eight. Lots with five-story heights could now rise to 12.


MX-3, after five months' presentation, debate and amendment before the council and CPB, was a scale-back of what the Baraka Administration had introduced June 20, 2017.


The original MX-3 called for buildings and lots with three story maximum heights would have topped out at 12 stories. Those with five-story heights would have gone to 18.


The half-mile radius would fall within Newark's East Ward - and particularly in the low-density Ironbound neighborhood to Penn Station's north, east and south.


East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador, drawing from CPB's study recommendations, lobbied his council colleagues to add a list of amenities onto the MX-3 ordinance Sept. 20. Those features included wider building setbacks, LEED energy efficiency criteria plus provisions for bike racks, electric vehicle charging stations and pocket parks.


Amador, even with those add-ons, was MX-3's sole dissenting vote Oct. 4, 2017. Then-Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins was absent that session.


MX-3 proponents cited the ordinance's density as qualifying Newark Penn Station's quarter-mile radius for an NJDOT-recognized "Transit Village" designation. Transit Village citations, where denser projects are counterbalanced by proximity to commuter railroad stations, have been awarded to Orange (Main Street Center), Orange/West Orange (Highland Avenue-Valley) East Orange (Brick Church and City Hall) and Bloomfield Centre.


MX-3 was also passed in part because of a stipulation that building with 30 or more residential units have to set aside 20 percent of said units for low and moderate income residents.


Opponents' concerns, then and now, were that the taller buildings would wall off The Ironbound from the Passaic River waterfront and Minish Park. That neighborhood's character would be adversely changed.


PLANewark, which brought the suit to Judge Bartels, also asserted that residents were not given proper notice of the proposed zoning changes and were not allowed to comment thereof at a public hearing.


Bartels, Friday, agreed with PLANewark that MX-3's zoning proposal should have had a more open and transparent process.


PLANewark, in order to get Judge Bartels' attention, had to sue the CPB, developer 28 McWhorter Street LLC and J&L Companies. That board, under MX-3, had approved J&L's site plan application for a 12-story building to go up on a parking lot at 28-50 McWhorter St., 51-57 Union St. and 108 Hamilton St.


The three addresses are currently for a 1.25-acre, 158-space gated parking lot operated by J&L. J&L and 28 McWhorter LLC, as of May 1, 2017, shared the same Roseland address.


J&L assembled the lot in part from when the former Central of New Jersey Railroad's Newark Branch embankment and right-of-way, last used in 1967, was removed through The Ironbound in the early 2000s.


The City of Newark had temporarily closed the lot's McWhorter Street with concrete blocks Nov. 9. It was enforcing a Superior Court Appellate panel's August 2016 ruling that the Newark zoning board should not have approved the 2013 variance.


J&L had meanwhile demolished a one-story industrial building, which it had rented out to a church for several years, for more spaces. It had originally wanted to replace that structure with a seven-story mixed-use residential/retail/commercial building plus a parking garage in 2006.

PLANET FITNESS DONATES $10,000 TO NEWARK BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB

By Dhiren Shah


Kevin Caballero, Regional Manager of Planet Fitness said, “Planet Fitness internationally supports the Boys and Girls Club. The Boys and Girls Club has been established since 1867. Instead of sending our gratitude from a far, we want to get personal with the Boys and Girls Club of Newark. I hope this turns out to be a new relationship with the Boys and Girls Club of Newark. We support Newark’s Boys and Girls Club, because Newark is underprivileged.”


Rodney Fuller, CEO of BGCN, was happy that Local Talk is covering the Newark Boys and Girls Club event. As Mr. Fuller had to leave for another engagement, Ameer Washington, Director of Development of BGCN, showed me the facility. 


Washington said, “The Boys and Girls Club officially started in 1938, but unofficially started in 1906, which is 112 years. Boys and Girls Club serves in the United States and internationally where military bases are. We serve youths 5 to 18 across the country. Any kid can come and become a member here. We have our afterschool program at 3 o’clock until 7. Kids typically come in and do their homework first and get their meal and rotate in different program areas. 


“Our gymnasium, our STEM center, and our classrooms are where they do a number of different programs. Our five core areas are arts, academic enrichment, fitness, character development and career development. Our teenage population does activities more geared towards teens, like workforce development, SAT prep readiness, career readiness and applying for the school or university or military, or even directly into the workforce.”


Washington added, “Our staff is trained to respond to disciplinary actions. We have a dental clinic, vision clinic and health clinic on site. Historically, we’ve had sports programs. Dental pain is the number two cause of absences in schools. Parents usually have to take a day off at work. Parents can sign a waiver to be seen in their absence into the dental clinic.”


They have a beautiful junior size swimming pool. Also, they have a play room right at the entrance. There’s a music room, and students were learning according to their interests. It’s a really good program, and any students with a nominal charge can join the Newark Boys and Girls Club. They do not have transportation, but with a partnership in KIPP schools, the school bus drops off the children and picks them up as well.


Sometimes they have Saturday programs, which any registered member can attend. With a beautiful facility, they are right in the center of the neighborhood on 1 Avon Avenue off of Clinton Avenue.


Anyone interested in a quality fitness facility can contact Planet Fitness, and any child needed after school program facility can contact Newark Boys and Girls Club.

VOTERS SET TO DECIDE HISTORIC NOVEMBER BALLOT QUESTIONS

By Walter Elliott


NEWARK - Registered "Local Talk" area voters will have at least one statewide public question referendum plus a specific question among four of its towns on the upcoming Nov. 6 General Election ballot.


Essex County Clerk Christopher Durkin's Election Division employees have verified the five questions and appropriately placed them on ballots on or by Oct. 1.


Their placement on respective voting machines and paper ballots - along with applicable municipal, county, state and federal office candidates only leaves machine deployment, pool worker recruiting, and the actual voting left to be done.


STATEWIDE: Voters are being asked to endorse or deny the State Legislature's $500 million "Securing Our Children's Future Bond Act." The act calls for the state to issue 30-year general obligation bonds early next year.


$350 million of the raised money will towards improvements among the county-level vocational-technical schools or school districts plus for school security. Another $50 million are to go to related projects among the state's 19 county or community colleges. $100 million is included for water infrastructure projects.


The State Senate and General Assembly passed its authorization bill, S2293, in an emergency Aug. 27 session. The urgent session was in response to Gov. Phil Murphy's conditional veto, where he cut the original $1 billion issue in half.


The State Legislature originally passed S2,293, with bipartisan support, April 12. State Sen. M Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) was among its cosponsors.


NEWARK: Registered city voters are to decide what form its Board of Education will take; a Type One appointed or a Type Two elected panel.


The Newark Public Schools have had an elected - or Type Two board since during the N.J. Department of Education's 1995-2018 reign of direct control. Voters had annually selected three of the nine NPS BOE members every third Tuesday in April.


Selecting a Type One appointed board would mean that the mayor would appoint members for three-year terms.


Newark had an appointed board into Mayor Sharpe James' administration. There had been questions and controversies of individual appointments made by mayors Hugh Addonizio and Kenneth Gibson in the 1960s and 70s.


A Type One appointed board would also mean that NPS' nearly $1 billion annual budget would be decided by a board of school estimate starting July 1, 2019. The NSE is also a mayor-appointed board. Newark has never had its annual school budget put before voters at least during NJDOE's reign.


East Orange and Montclair are Local Talk's two mayor-appointed Type One Boards, with respective BSEs. They are among 15 such public school districts statewide.


Orange is in the midst of a three-year transition from an appointed board to an elected board. The unique South Orange-Maplewood School district has an elected board plus a two-town BSE.


This question is being bought before city voters as part of a 2018-2020 state-to-local control agreement process.


Newark's BOE public question referendum question does not mention any change to its current election date.


Whether NPS stays with Irvington in April or moves to the November General Election - like Orange, South Orange-Maplewood, West Orange, Belleville, Bloomfield, Nutley and Glen Ridge - may become either a moot question or the next question after Nov. 6.


Irvington's voters have an annual April say in its school budget. The other November school board election districts, by agreement with the state, do not put their budgets before voters except when they are set to exceed the two-percent property tax increase cap.


ORANGE: City voters are to decide whether to start a "Municipal Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund."


The said fund would set a maximum rate of three cents per $100 of assessed value of municipal property. This would be in addition of Orange's own municipal property and school taxes and Essex County's taxes. (Municipalities are collection agents for the county and local public school districts.)


The fund would allow the city to acquire, develop and maintain properties for recreational and conservation purposes. The fund would also acquire and preserve properties, objects and areas of deemed historic value. There will be a portion of the fund set for debt service.


Orange, should voters approve Nov. 6, would join Bloomfield, East Orange, Maplewood, Newark, South Orange and West Orange in having a municipal open space trust fund. Bloomfield charges a half-cent per $100 of assessed value; Maplewood one cent.


Essex County has its own open space trust fund.


Orange voters will also have a chance to make municipal history by selecting three Orange Board of Education candidates in that panel's first November General Election.


WEST ORANGE: Township voters are being asked to consider a non-binding question labeled as "Our Town, Your Choice" and "Participating Budgetary Program."


The program, pending approval, would set aside $400,000 towards one of four capital projects that would go before voters at a later election.


Those four prospective capital projects are: an emergency information AM radio station, repairing Pleasant Valley Way sidewalks between Mellon Avenue and Belle Terre Road, "Special Needs Playground of Inclusive Play" and OSPAC improvement and handicapped parking.


Creating the PBP, said its proponents, would allow residents to be directly involved in the township's budgetary process and foster civic engagement by submitting proposals that qualify as capital projects."


West Orange voters will also be making their own history by selecting a mayor and township council members in their first non-partisan November General Election Nov. 6.


NUTLEY: Township voters have a two-stage school budget question to decide Nov. 6.


Proposal No. 1 calls for a $56.825 million bond issue targeted for the Washington and Yantacaw elementary schools, the John H. Walker Middle School and Nutley High School.


Proposal No. 2 asks for another $10.15 million bond issue to fund more specified renovations and improvements at the said four schools.


Proposal No. 2, according to the Nutley Board of Education's September resolution they had approved, can only be considered if Proposal No. 1 passes.


Both construction bond issues exceed the two percent property tax increase cap. Nutley voters turned down a $70 million bond issue proposal in a special Dec. 12 election.


County Clerk Durkin (D-South Orange) reminds residents that they have until 4 p.m. Oct. 16 to register to vote or make a transfer of address. Oct. 30 is the last day to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot.

CARDINAL TOBIN ON ABUSE SCANDAL: NO MORE “BUSINESS AS USUAL”

By Walter Elliott


NEWARK - Those from within the Roman Catholic faith and outside observers may well see a combination of prayer and action coming from here and Vatican City as early as this weekend.


Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin has designated Sept. 14 as a "day of prayer, fasting and abstinence" throughout the 150-parish, four-county Archdiocese of Newark "in recognition of sins and crimes of sexual abuse against children and adults by members of the Catholic Church."


Tobin himself will officiate in a service "of prayer, recognition and hope" that night here at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge St. He and a sexual abuse survivor are to present reflections based on the theme, "Behold the Wood of the Cross" during the 7:30 mass.


"On this day we'll show our sorrow for what has happened and our solidarity with the survivors as well as our unshakable intention never to return our church to 'business as usual,' " declared Tobin in his Sept. 7 letter and video. "I expect all the priests in this cathedral that evening to beg God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of those who have been abused."


Tobin is far from alone to overlay a day of fasting and forgiveness over what has been called "abuse by predator priests" scandal on what would usually be The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. His fellow cardinals, archbishops and bishops statewide and across the U.S. have also called that Friday for similar petitions for forgiveness reconciliation and healing.


Two of Tobin's colleagues - Cardinals Daniel DeNardo and Sean O'Malley - have been excused from officiating Friday's special services in Galveston-Houston and Boston. The respective president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors are among a five-cleric delegation who are scheduled to meet with Pope Francis Sept. 13.


Tobin's call for prayer and forgiveness and Pope Francis' meeting with the five USCCB officials are in response to a summer of recent priest abuse allegations and actions that hit here and in nearby archdioceses.


Francis called the U.S. bishops meeting to discuss both the Aug. 14 Pennsylvania Attorney General's grand jury report on 70 years of church member abuse and what brought a former Newark Archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, to resign as cardinal July 28.


The 1,350-page Pa. report, presented by state AG Josh Shapiro, found "credible allegations" to over 1,000 child victims who accused 300 priests among the state's six dioceses of crimes going back to 1948.


The late Fr. Augustine Giella, one of four priests with New Jersey ties named in the grand jury report, had transferred from the Newark Archdiocese to the Diocese of Harrisburg in 1980. Giella, who was ordained here in 1950, had served in four Bergen and Hudson county parishes before moving to suburban Harrisburg.


While no abuse allegations have been filed against Giella among those parishes, a Dauphin County (Pa.) woman filed in 2002 that he had molested her as a girl in a church rectory, in a Harrisburg hotel and at a Manchester, N.J. retreat house 1980-88. She was one of five females who so accused Giella.


Giella was arrested in a Toms River retirement home in July 1992 on 11 counts of molestation and possession of child pornography. He died in May 1993 awaiting trial. The Harrisburg diocese made a $900,000 settlement with the first accuser.


The Pa. report prompted attorneys general here and in New York to launch similar investigations with the power to subpoena documents from the state's six dioceses.


New Jersey AG Gurbir Grewal named former Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino Sept. 6 to head up that task force. Looking at how well the dioceses have complied with its 2002 memorandum of understanding with the state's 21 prosecutors in forwarding any allegations of church member abuse. (Grewal and Gov. Phil Murphy have since promoted East Orange native Theodore Stephens II to acting county prosecutor.)


The 2002 diocese-county prosecutors MOU is patterned after the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. That charter, ratified during their Dallas convention that year, was in response to the covered-up abuse reports in the Boston Archdiocese. The resulting claims bankrupted that archdiocese and forced Cardinal Bernard Law's resignation.


Pope Francis and the USCCB delegation will also review and learn from the events that led to Cardinal McCarrick's resignation and retirement.


McCarrick, who was Newark's archbishop 1986-2000 and the Metuchen diocese's bishop 1981-86, turned in his cardinal hat to Francis July 28. The pontiff then instructed McCarrick, 88, to sequester himself in prayer and reflection in a Washington, D.C. home until his canonical trial comes up.


The former Washington, D.C. cardinal completely left his once high-profile public life after a June 20 Archdiocese of New York found "credible and substantiated" allegations that he had molested an altar boy while assigned as a St. Patrick's Cathedral priest 1971-77. McCarrick retired from Washington for health reasons in 2006.


The New York report and McCarrick's stepping into seclusion prompted other current priests and former seminarians to talk about his sexual misconduct against them while in Newark and Metuchen. Many of the accusations were while they were in seminary; one other accuser said he was abused while as young as 11 years old.


"The PA grand jury report's horrific charges and accusations against past Archbishop McCarrick have turned this archdiocese upside down," said Tobin Sept. 7. "This has provoked many parishioners to anger, shame and despair. I'm personally ashamed as archbishop."


Tobin said that he had talked with the US bishops delegation the week before their meeting with Pope Francis.


"As Chairman of their Committee on the Formation of Priests and Deacons," said Tobin, "I will assure the safety of seminarians with some concrete recommendations to be put forward to the full conference of bishops."


As archbishop, Tobin said he will continue to work with Gov. Murphy, St. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-W. Deptford), Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) and the 21 county prosecutors to bring allegations of church member abuse to them.


The cardinal also debuted an Archdiocesan pastoral council for greater participation for parishioners. These panels "where pastors will respectfully work with laity," would be found in each parish.


"Since I agree with the analysis of the Holy Father (Pope Francis) that clericalism is a principal cause of abuse in the Church," said Tobin. "I commit myself to a greater role for laity in the Archdiocese. I hear your call for a leading role in the flourishing of the Church; I hope to have established the council before the end of the year."

2017

HEAT PROBLEM SOLVED IN EAST ORANGE BUILDING

By Walter Elliott


EAST ORANGE - City officials, One Wall Management and the latter's contractor, who resolved a heating problem here at 75 Prospect St., Dec. 26, may well have tackled just one of several problems that nine of the 90-year-old apartment building's tenants brought before the City Council that Tuesday night.


Interim East Orange Director of Property Management Director Mark Barner told "Local Talk News" Jan. 1 that what it and the audience of 25 witnessed between the council's committee and regular meetings was rapid response in action.


Barner, some of the nine tenants, One Wall attorney Calvin Souder, First Ward Council Members Amy Lewis and Christopher James huddled with Police Chief Phyllis Bindi, Deputy Fire Chief/OEM Coordinator Anthony Williams and a code enforcement inspector for 15 minutes in a corner of City Hall's Council Chamber.


The group, except for the code enforcer and Souder briefly stepping out to call their respective colleagues, remained clustered until the pressing heat issue was on its way to resolution. None of the said tenants stayed for the council's regular meeting.


There is no telling, however, whether some or all of the said tenants will be back as public speakers at the council's Jan. 16 meetings. They may appraise the council's heating efforts and/or remind them of some of the other issues they had broached Dec. 26.


"We got the heat back on at 75 Prospect's tenants that overnight," said Barner in the Cicely Tyson High School of the Performing and Fine Arts' High School movie theater Jan. 1. "It was back up in a matter of hours."


Barner, who was among the roughly 1,100 people who saw outgoing Council President Ted Green become East Orange's 14th mayor, did not go into detail what those assembled at 75 Prospect St. did. He did add that a provision to bring in a mobile temporary boiler on or by Dec. 28 was not employed.


The main problem - as described by the tenants, Barner and Souder Dec. 26 - was that heat was somehow unevenly distributed for the last two weeks.


Some tenants on the upper floors were getting too much heat. Several of the public speaking tenants said they had to keep their widows open at night.


Others on the lower floors had little or no heat. Several, but not all, of those tenants took up One Wall's offer to accept space heaters as a stop-gap measure.


75 Prospect St. is a 10-story apartment building constructed in 1928. Its 43 units range from two to four bedrooms. Monthly rents, according to one real estate site, range from $2,195 to $3,000.


"The problem lies with the boiler," said Souder to "Local Talk" between meetings. "It needs to be replaced - but we can't do that in winter."


Souder said twice Dec. 26 that One Wall has been catching up with either deferred maintenance or neglect "by prior owners."


One Wall, of Newark, reportedly bought 75 Prospect for $11.25 million from Castle Property Management LLC May 31. The 2010-founded firm has 11 other residential properties here plus seven in Newark, two each in Orange and Irvington and single properties in Jersey City and West New York.


The other problems and complaints tenants brought up Dec. 26 include:


· A lack of communication between tenants and One Wall officials.
· The presence of a live-in building superintendent, or lack of an official one.
· Monthly rents rising more than the city's rent leveling board maximum of four percent.
· The lack of lighting in the underground parking garage.


Green, in his last meeting as Council President, first asked the tenants to consult with Barner, Jones and Lewis at the conference meeting's end. When the volume and diversity of complaints mounted, however, the Mayor-Elect called for a post-session huddle.


"We need to come to a solution right away," said Green. "We can't have people trying to sleep through what's to be one of the coldest nights of the year."


Dec. 26, indeed, was the first of 10 so far straight days of sub-freezing weather gripping the bulk of the country. "The Day After Christmas" also featured wind gusts that sent wind chill factors to near or below zero.


Souder and Barner told "Local Talk" Dec. 26 that the contractor would have inspected and bled heating pipes and radiators in all 43 apartment units either that night or daylight Dec. 27.


The contractor would have, if necessary, temporarily restored heat for the overnight. Heat would have been shut off during the following daytime to complete the bleeding. A temporary boiler would have been brought in on 48 hours' notice.


Some tenants, city officials and Council Chamber gallery audience members may have heard a variation of complaints at 75 Prospect some six months earlier.


The problems brought by tenants back then included the May 20 removal of a full-time security guard, peeling ceiling plaster in the lobby and a non-functioning smoke detector sounding off.


One Wall, according to city property records, is the sixth owner of 75 Prospect since 2002.

FORMER NEWARK EMPLOYEE ACCUSES MAYOR'S RELATIVE OF SEXUAL ASSAULT

 

By Walter Elliott


NEWARK - This season of allegations of sexual misconduct and/or assault, according to a former city employee's Dec. 9 Facebook page statement, may have reached the rooms of city governance here.


Dannisha Clyburn, in a Dec. 9 open letter video on her Facebook page, accuses Obalaji Baraka of molesting her in 2013 and attempting the same in 2015.


Clyburn, 38, said that she was a volunteer security guard during then-Councilman Ras Baraka's State of the South Ward Address at the Chancellor Avenue School Feb. 27, 2013 when Obalaji summoned her to a nearby room. Clyburn then said that O. Baraka reached into her pants.


O. Baraka, added Clyburn, tried to summon her into a room in the JFK Recreation Center in 2015 while she was tending to a children's event there. She did not say how she refused his alleged summoning.


"My brother Obalaji has a 23-year career with the City of Newark and other organizations in the recreation and youth services field," said Ras Baraka Feb. 14, 2015. "His appointment was motivated by that lengthy experience and institutional knowledge of Newark, its youth and its issues."


The Mayor, in 2015, had hired his older brother as Youth Opportunity Coordinator for an almost $74,000 annual salary.


O. Baraka's 2014 resume to the city included being a site director at St. Peter's Recreation Center. The Malcolm X. Shabazz High School Class of 1985 graduate has also been a community relations specialist for the city plus, at various times, a football and basketball coach.


The mayor, in 2015 was also defending his hiring of brother Amiri "Middy" Baraka as his Chief of Staff. A. Baraka, Jr. was the mayor's 2014 campaign manager, an aide to former Mayor Sharpe James and as a school teacher and public health administrator.


Both O and A. Baraka, said the Mayor, were hired for their experience, background and knowledge.


Clyburn, in 2015, was employed in the city's Health Department. Ras Baraka's older brother was Recreation Manager then.


"I was a die-hard supporter of Ras Baraka," said Clyburn on her Dec. 9 Hatari Queenbrim Clyburn Facebook video. "I pulled down Shavar Jeffries posters. I was very loyal to these people."


Clyburn said she left city employ to manage a local McDonald's. While she had been offered her old 2014-16 Health Department job back, she said she had been twice fired for speaking out on what she views as unethical conduct.


Since her Dec. 9 open letter video, Clyburn said she has had "Baraka allies" visiting the restaurant and has received on-the-street and online harassment.


"Your brother, Obalaji, he's a whole other monster," said Clyburn to the Mayor. "You taught us best: 'See something, say something.' I'm speaking for every person that can't come forward and are afraid to come forward."


Clyburn places her reveal in contest of the #MeToo movement that came in the wake of claims of inappropriate sexual behavior, misconduct, harassment and/or assault since September.


The first charges were made by women, 70 at latest count, against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and by men against actor/producer Kevin Spacey.


Weinstein has been fired by his own company and his awards revoked. South Orange native Spacey, also dumped by his "House of Cards" Netflix production, has entered a sex rehabilitation retreat.


Tamara Burke, who launched the #MeToo hashtag in 2007, suddenly found millions of other people, mostly women celebrated or common logging on, telling their experiences in reaction to the Weinstein accusations. Burke was among several "Silence Breakers" women whom "Time" magazine named "Person of The Year."


The concurrent tide of victims calling out their assailants have become daily news the last eight weeks or so. Justin Huff, of Maplewood, who lost his Broadway casting directorship over "allegations of sexual misconduct," is among those individuals who have been suspended or fired from their livelihoods.


Clyburn's coming out on and calling out O. Baraka may have taken an Election 2018 aspect six months before Newark's May 8 vote for mayor and the entire Municipal Council.


Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins, during the Dec. 4 Municipal Council conference meeting, put “the people of the City of Newark on notice.”


"If any harm comes to my husband or I," said Chaneyfield-Jenkins, "I want you all to understand that I've put it on record officially today."


The councilwoman, who may run against R. Baraka's mayoral re-election bid, said she had reported threatening text messages against her to the Newark Police Division. She said that the threatening messages were coming from Baraka administration allies.


"I'm not on Team Baraka for a number of reasons - one of them is abuse of power," said Chaneyfield-Jenkins. "I can't believe that any of my council colleagues . . . that none of these women haven't come up to you and told you what they've had to go through as far as having to have sex to get a job or they've been abused, talked about or ridiculed."


The councilwoman, in the Dec. 19 conference meeting, has proposed legislation to make city hiring more transparent.


Team Baraka 2018 has replaced Chaneyfield-Jenkins with LaMonica McIver as their Central Ward Councilwoman candidate Dec. 6. McIver, who is the Montclair Broad of Education's Personnel Director, is an officer in the Believe in Newark Foundation.

ORANGE COP SUSPENDED FOR MANHANDLING HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS BY HAIR

 

By Walter Elliott


ORANGE - City and county officials are investigating the actions of an Orange Police Department officer's rough handling of his detaining two Orange High School girls plus a vice principal after school here Oct. 12.


Both Mayor Dwayne Warren and Orange Police Director Todd Warren said that Off. Hanifah Davis, as of their Oct. 13th press conference, has been "relieved from duty."


"Whether the suspension will be with or without pay has yet to be determined," said T. Warren at Friday afternoon's press briefing in City Hall with selected media outlets. "The Essex County Prosecutor's Office has been notified and we're cooperating with them."


Davis' future with OPD, added the police director, "depends on the findings by our Internal Affairs investigation and the prosecutor's office; we will then take appropriate action."


Twin sisters Kyasia and Nyasia Sorrells, who said they were manhandled by Davis, are meanwhile facing a date with Orange Municipal Court's Juvenile Court. Davis has ticketed and charged them with aggravated assault and resisting arrest.


OHS Vice Principal Mohammed Abdelaziz also has a municipal court date. He was ticketed by Davis for interfering with police activity - the same officer who had him in a headlock.


There has been no investigation or charges, to date, against the second uniform OPD officer seen in the Sorrells' detainment video, nor of a uniformed Orange Public Schools security officer.


"We need to respect the process and let it work out," said T. Warren of the Sorrells' arrest and Abdelaziz's ticketing. "I know that, as a parent, I'm disturbed by seeing the officer's actions. The school official's ticketing is a breakdown in communication between the police and the schools that shouldn't have happened."


"This matter is being taken very seriously by the OPD and the (Mayor Dwayne D.) Warren Administration," said a joint Warren statement authored by city spokesman Keith Royster. "All the facts will be shared with the public as soon as they become available. OPD and (the) Mayor ask that citizens withhold judgement and act responsibly until all the facts are known."


There may also be more protests and denouncements like the one taken by most of the 800-student body here Oct. 13.


An estimated group of 1,000 marchers, including some OHS administrators and employees marched the 1.2 miles from the school at 400 Lincoln Ave. to the city's Freddie Pohill Law & Justice Complex at 29 Park St. Friday morning.


"Your issues, problems and concerns are real," said T. Warren before the crowd and at least one news helicopter during their hour-long rally. "You've the right to feel this way and protest. The same way you're upset, we are."


The director then repeated that the officer in question's suspension, that the county prosecutors are also investigating and that the process is working its way.


"I was proud of them," later said T. Warren, "because they were participating in a peaceful demonstration."


Many of the marchers, who practically emptied OHS that morning, chanted "Not Here, Not Now, Not Orange." Some carried signs the likes of "Justice for The Sisters."


(The mourning bunting seen on the Pohill memorial building was in honor of the late Det. Tyrone Grundy, 51. The Orange native, OHS graduate and 40-year OPD veteran died suddenly Sept. 18.)


"I'm pleased that our young people exercised their right to peacefully protest Friday over the incident with the OPD the day before," said Councilman Christopher Jackson in his Council Meeting comments here Oct. 17."


"What happened Thursday is a blemish on the community," said hardware store owner Jeff Feld at that Tuesday night meeting's citizens' comments segment.


Both Warrens happen to be absent from Tuesday's council meeting. Commanding Officer Vincent Vitiello, for the second straight meeting, presented Warren's police report to Council.


Mayor D. Warren was at Southern Comfort restaurant that night to hear residents' concerns and hot topics. He was at 501 Central Ave. as part of his "Taste of Orange" and "Door to Door All Over Orange" walking tours.


It is not known as of deadline whether the Davis/Sorrells incident and aftermath were asked of the Mayor.


An 80-second cell phone video of the incident, taken by a Tatee Santanna, touched off the outcry, suspension and protests. The clip starts with Davis at the door of GiCarli's Pizzeria, 408 Central Ave., shortly after OHS class dismissal. He was talking with one student at the door when Kyasia Sorrells approached him. He was talking with her when Nyasia Sorrells exited the restaurant.


"He grabbed me, put me in the pizza store and put my arm behind my back," said K. Sorrells. "I saw it through the window, came outside and, I'm like, 'What're you doing?'" said N. Sorrells. "He pushed me, I had a plate of food and it fell." The video showed Davis pulling K. Sorrells down to the sidewalk by her braided hair. Davis, while pinning K., first told N. Sorrells to back away but then pulled her down too.


"I'm trying to get him off her (K.)," said N. Sorrells. "He swung me by the hair and started banging her head on the floor."


The head-banging was when K. Sorrells was trying to push him off with her left arm. Davis had pinned both sisters with his hands and knees; the second OPD officer was on his knees nearby. Both then noticed the plain clothes Abdelaziz and a uniform OPS security guard approach. Abdelaziz was taking with someone on his walkie-talkie.


The officers got up, advising the vice principal to stand clear. Davis then subdued Abdelaziz, who doubles as OHS Athletic Director, with a headlock and a push to the wall.  


"He said, ‘Stop, you need to get off,’" said K. Sorrells.


"He (Davis) punched him, tried to mace him," said N. Sorrells.


Bystander shouts of "They're us," of the Sorrells turned to "He's (with the) school."


What brought Davis and his partner to the southwest corner of Central and Lincoln Avenues remains unclear. Students have congregated around the pizzeria after dismissal, among other nearby spots, since the place was Romeo's in the late 1960s. (It became GiCarli's early 2017.)


The Sorrells sisters said they were getting some pizza on their way to band practice when the altercation started.


"The officers were on a 10-73 call," said T. Warren at the briefing. "That's where they get out of their cars and walk through the school, interacting with the students and teachers. They may have wanted to disperse a crowd."


That video, originally posted on YouTube, was carried by other websites from The Giro to the London "Daily Mail." It was seen by 100,000 people worldwide by Friday night. Two more facts surrounding Davis also came out during that 24-hour period.


T. Warren acknowledged that Davis is also facing an IA inquest into his handling of a crowd at another city corner in late August.


A surveillance camera recorded Davis, while dispersing a crowd who were allegedly drinking and gambling, arresting a man. When others in the group approached them. Davis, on camera, drew his service pistol and waved it at them to ward them off.


It is not known whether Davis had any comparable incidents while as a Union County Sheriff's Officer. He took an intergovernmental transfer to OPD in July. T. Warren added that OPD and prosecutors are looking at other surveillance recordings of the Oct. 12 altercation.


The Sorrells family is meanwhile asking if an encounter with Davis the night before had a lingering influence on the officer's conduct.


The sisters said they and their cousin were taking an Uber ride home late Oct. 11 when the driver was stopped by Davis.


"He was looking at us in the backseat and asked if we were done 'working tonight,' said N. Sorrels. "I took it as if we were like prostitutes."


The sisters' parents said that they were coming from a college scholarship seminar at OHS that night and are honor roll students.


"They said they are protecting and serving," said father Michael Sorells. "Protecting who? What are they serving? He should be fired and jailed."