Strike Force leaves, but visit to schools still causing controversy
Superintendent of Schools Marcia Lyles has sent a written apology to parents who were alarmed and concerned about a recent school security assessment conducted by a private firm hired by Lyles that, according to several witnesses, allowed armed security personnel on school grounds.
In a letter dated Sept. 25 that was sent to parents of Jersey City public school children, Lyles wrote: “In our desire to have a true picture of our ‘security readiness,’ we did not announce this initiative. We did not want or expect staff to prep for these visits. I apologize for any alarm this caused you in learning of this after the fact. However, prior to going to any school site, our chief of security called the school to introduce the observers and the services to the building administrator and provided notification to security.”
Three weeks ago, personnel from the private security firm, known as Strike Force, visited several public schools. Eyewitnesses (teachers, security guards, and other school personnel) claimed that some Strike Force workers were armed while on school property. As part of their security assessment, Strike Force personnel tugged on windows, gates, and doors. Because few school staff members had been informed of the visit, several people became concerned that the schools may have been under attack by strangers posing as visitors. The fact that some Strike Force personnel were armed only added to the fear.
Last week, NJ.com reported that Strike Force has terminated its relationship with the Jersey City Public School District.
Since these visits, angry parents are still asking why they were not informed, and the union that represents the school district’s security workers is disputing claims that security was informed of these visits.
The issue has also divided members of the Board of Education.
School Trustee Sangeeta Ranade, chair of the school board’s facilities committee, said in an e-mail sent to the media last week that, “after the Newtown tragedy I sat down with our interim business administrator to better understand what we could do ensure our schools were secure. We decided we needed to assess if our security protocols were appropriate and then determine if they were being consistently applied in our schools. We hired a third party contractor to do the assessment with the aim of understanding exactly what we’re not doing well so that we can fix it. The firm we hired is made up of retired police officers and we have an agreed protocol for conducting this perimeter assessment and handling security breaches that are observed while in the field. This assessment does not involve people prowling around schools or walking inside schools unannounced. Before anyone walks into a building they call a 24-hour dispatch service which then alerts the principal and onsite security.”
Lyles and Ranade have said repeatedly that other members of the Board of Education were well aware of the scope of Strike Force’s work with the school district and the nature of the firm’s work at individual schools.
But Gerald Lyons, another member of the school board, has said this is not true. In a statement that was read at the school board meeting of Sept. 19, Lyons said he was not informed of Strike Force’s work in the district.
Two members of the City Council – At-large Councilman Daniel Rivera and Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano – last week also expressed anger over the way in which the security assessment was handled.
Artist Studio Tour Weekend coming Oct. 5 and 6
The 23rd Annual Artists’ Studio Tour weekend will take place on Saturday, Oct. 5 and Sunday Oct., with a kick-off celebration on at the Tenmarc Building (430 Communipaw Ave.) on Friday, Oct. 4.
Hosted and organized by the nonprofit organization Pro Arts and the Jersey City Division of Cultural Affairs, the annual Artists’ Studio Tour is a free two-day self-guided walking tour of galleries, exhibitions, artists’ studios, and art in public spaces. The Hudson Reporter is a cosponsor of the tour.
The tour, which has grown in recent years, showcases the work of professional artists who live and create in Jersey City, but whose art may be unfamiliar to the larger community. While many sites along the tour route are located downtown, organizers said there will be several dynamic group shows in the Jersey City Heights, Greenville, and Bergen-Lafayette communities as well.
This year there are about 400 artists showing their work in roughly 75 different venues throughout the city.
Some relief in sight for north-bound Pulaski Skyway drivers during two-year closure
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has announced that it will open a lane to help alleviate northbound traffic on the Pulaski Skyway next year as work crews begin a two-year renovation of the bridge.
The Turnpike Authority has announced that it will open a shoulder along I-78 in Hudson Country beginning in March 2014. That shoulder will be used as a northbound traffic lane to ease congestion that many local officials believe could force more cars on local city streets, particularly along Jersey City’s West Side, during the renovation.
Work is already being done to convert this shoulder to a lane next year and the conversion is expected to be completed before the renovation project begins next year.
Beginning next March the Pulaski Skyway will undergo a major resurfacing of the 81-year-old bridge.
Jersey City Medical Center car seat inspection program to move
Jersey City Medical Center will move its free weekly car seat inspection center from its current home on Cornelison Avenue to its Emergency Medical Service building at 415 Montgomery St. in Jersey City, effective Thursday, Oct. 3.
The inspection is available the first and third Thursday of each month, October through March, and every Thursday April through September.
“The new address has a garage, where people can pull right in and have their car seat installed and inspected to make sure it’s being used properly,” Marissa Fisher, a trauma nurse at Jersey City Medical Center and Injury Prevention Coordinator for the hospital’s trauma division, said in a release recently. “It is fast, easy and free. No appointment is required. There’s always danger on the road, every time you leave your home. The best way to protect your child is to have him or her in the right seat for the child’s age and size and to use that seat correctly. Even if you think you’ve got it right, we’ll let you know for sure. All parents want to know their kids are safe, and this event will give them that peace of mind.”
For more information call (201) 915-2906 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayor Fulop encourages residents to be prepared for emergencies
In honor of National Preparedness month, which is held each September, Mayor Steven Fulop and representatives from the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Verizon on Friday held an informational press conference to remind residents that there are things they should do prepare their homes and families for natural and other disasters.
At the event the officials offered tips on ways residents can create a disaster preparedness plan and ways consumers and businesses can use technology to communicate in the event of an emergency. They also discussed the resources available for those interested in volunteering their time and talents in the aftermath of disasters or weather-related events.
Local residents call for new federal standards to protect against climate change
On Sept. 27, local residents and community leaders joined the Sierra Club and Environment New Jersey at Liberty State Park to support newly proposed federal safeguards to protect the climate and people’s health from carbon pollution.
According to environmental activists, coal plants are among the largest emitters of carbon pollution, but there are few federal limits on how much carbon they can emit into the air.
At the Sept. 27 event, activists highlighted how Superstorm Sandy damaged the Statue of Liberty, by engulfing a replica statue in black carbon balloons from a model coal plant.
Assemblyman Ruben Ramos drew attention to how climate change is impacting North Jersey.
“I am proud to stand up for the people of North Jersey in advocating for these new carbon standards,” he said. “New Jersey is already experiencing some of the preliminary impacts of climate change. Urban communities like Hoboken and Jersey City are and will continue to be hit just as hard as beach communities during severe weather events. We need to embrace a comprehensive approach to addressing climate change and the EPA's carbon pollution standard is a big step in the right direction which will protect the people of New Jersey.”
Jersey City has seen first-hand the devastating effects of out-of-control weather and runaway climate disruption, including storms and flooding which caused lengthy power outages and destroyed homes.
For more information regarding ways coal production can be better monitored, visit http://beyondcoal.org/dirtytruth/carbon.
The Iron Monkey kicks off month of seasonal events
Not that residents will be at a loss of things to do next weekend (see “Artist Studio Tour Weekend coming Oct. 5 and 6” brief, above), but here’s one more event to pencil into that packed calendar.
On Saturday, Oct. 5 and Sunday Oct. 6, The Iron Money will turn its rooftop into a pumpkin patch to kick off a month of Halloween and other seasonal events especially timed for the fall. There will be contests, giveaways, specialty cocktails, and specials on seasonal craft beers.
Sponsored by Jameson, Absolut, and Patron, more than 500 pumpkins from Ort Farms in Long Valley, New Jersey, will be available on Oct. 5 from noon till 4 p.m. The event, which will feature pumpkin picking, painting, face painting, goodie bags, and other activities for the kids, is free and open to the public.
In addition to the Saturday pumpkin patch, on Sunday, Oct. 6 the restaurant will feature a pumpkin carving contest. Participants must submit a carved pumpkin between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to be considered for the competition. Participation is open to three age groups: 5 to 11 years, 12 to 17 years, and adults 18 and older. Registration is limited to 24 people per age group. Participants must e-mail Joanna@ironmonkey.com to register.
The Pumpkin Patch Fest is the first event for a month of planned specials and giveaways, including a Halloween costume party and contest planned for Saturday, Oct. 26.
For more information call (201) 435-5756 or e-mail Joanna@ironmonkey.com.
Music at St. Michael’s
On Sunday, Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. St. Michael’s Church will host the first in a series of musical concerts. The first concert will be an organ recital by James B. McGregor, who will play the church’s recently restored E.M. Skinner organ. McGregor will perform selections by Johann Sebastian Bach, Charles-Marie Widor, Johannes Brahms and others, and will premier his own original composition “Fantasia on the Te Deum.”
From 1960 to 2008 McGregor served as the music director at Grace Church in Newark. A number of his compositions appear in The Hymnal 1982.
St. Michael’s Church is located at 252 Ninth St. Admission to the performance is free, but donations are accepted. For more information contact Roxanne Clark at (201) 653-7328.
Murder Mystery Luncheon
A crime has been committed and your neighbors at St. John’s Lutheran Church need your help to solve it.
On Saturday, Oct. 5 at 2 p.m., St. John’s Lutheran Church at 155 North St. will host a murder mystery lunch featuring a performance by members of the Attic Ensemble Theatre Company. Tickets are $22.
For more information or to buy tickets, call (201) 798-0540 or e-mail email@example.com.
Help foster children by attending CASA information session Oct. 8
Are you interested in helping children in the foster care system? If so, Hudson County CASA (court appointed special advocate) is recruiting volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children.
An information session to learn more about the program and the role of its volunteers will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 8 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Room #400 of the Hudson County Administration Building at 595 Newark Avenue in Jersey City.
CASA works through trained community volunteers to ensure that needed services and assistance are made available to children while helping to move them toward safe and permanent homes.
CASA and its volunteers speak for children in court, serve as fact finders for judges, and safeguard the interests of the children while they are in the foster care system.
Hudson County has nearly 700 children in foster care; most have been removed from their homes for abuse or neglect.
For more information, call (201) 795-9855, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.hudsoncountycasa.org.
Animal League holds wine tasting fundraiser
The Hudson County Animal League is inviting everyone to help them celebrate their 20th Anniversary of saving the lives of homeless and abused animals through a wine tasting event sponsored by Bridgeview Liquors of Bayonne.
The wine tasting will be held on Nov. 9, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Bayonne Museum, 8th Street and Broadway in Bayonne.
Tickets, at $15, can be purchased in advance by contacting Barbara at email@example.com or (201) 436-1848. You can also pay through PayPal by visiting the group’s “Donate” page. Tickets, at $20, can also be purchased the day of the event.
You can also help the Hudson County Animal League with the cost of caring for homeless felines by clipping cat food and litter coupons. Send them to P.O. Box 4332, Bayonne, NJ 07002 or P.O. Box 3589 Jersey City, NJ 07303.
People are being sought to foster an animal until their permanent home is found. For more information on this, call Kathleen at (201) 895-3874 or Charlene at (201) 200-1008.
Youth group members are also being sought. If interested in completing 20 hours of volunteering, contact Lorma at (201) 437-7263. Adults can call the same number to volunteer.