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A tale of two parklets

 

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Millburn will receive a Complete Streets Excellence award at Rutgers on October 24 for the changes made in Downtown Millburn,   The $8.2 million Complete Streets program was developed with traffic calming & improvements that include road-diets, curb bump-outs, bicycle parking, widened sidewalks and corners, high-visibility crosswalks, pedestrian lighting, signage and more.

According to town officials, positive changes have resulted. Speeds have decreased in the reconfigured areas of Millburn Avenue (average motorist now travels at 29 mph). Compared to the three years preceding construction, the Main Street intersections of both Millburn Ave. & Essex St. have experienced a 23% decrease in motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents.

A new app called mPay2Park makes paying for parking simpler allowing for mobile payments with no transaction fees. Zone C along Millburn Avenue now offers free 15 minute parking at the pay stations for those that just want to run a quick errand.  However, some residents have expressed concern about traffic during peak hours.

The parklet in downtown South Orange is also getting recognition. SO Environmental Commission receiving ANJEC award.  The scope and the budget of the project was a fraction of Millburn’s

Its the work of the S.O. Environmental Commission, Neil Chambers of Chambers Design, South Orange Village Center Alliance’s Bob Zuckerman, Matt Glass, Steve Pedigo, town trustee Walter Clarke, Village President Sheena Collum, South Orange Parking Authority, Essex County and donations from Tito’s Burritos, Yoni Kreger, Eventage and others.

According to Sheena, “A parklet is an emerging trend in public space design that encourages towns and cities to rethink auto-oriented concrete spaces into public, passerby-friendly ‘hotspots.’ So yeah, we gave up a couple parking spots temporarily from carbon producing automobiles (we’re promoting more sustainability in this town, remember? #ParisAgreement) and instead, created a new mini destination for all our residents, businesses and guests to use. This is called ‘tactical urbanism’ – and is very popular in the planning field.”

 

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Kari Capone, SOMA’s knitwear designer

 

SOMA’s knitwear designer is Kari Capone and she’s been knitting clothing for SOMA and beyond since 2007. To see her creations, visit her at Etsy (below), at the Bizarre Bazaar, or find her in action knitting while walking down Maplewood Ave or at the Able Baker.

Kari is not just about wool and needles; she recently set up a great event.  She will be hosting a dance/birthday party/Under the Sea-themed charity event to raise money for Parkinson’s disease at Maplewood’s The Woodland on Sunday, November 12, from 2-5 pm.  Here are a few questions and answers with Kari…

1 You are a prolific creator, were you always interested in knitting and sewing?
I learned to knit when I was about 21 years old from my great-aunt Mary. But I’ve always been crafty! Starting at age 6, I learned to crochet & needlepoint. I also loved to latch hook & made rugs for my two younger brothers. I was a rabid cross-stitcher (it used to be a thing) until knitting took over as my passion.

2 You’re staging an ‘ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA’ dance party and benefit for Parkinson’s at the woodland in Maplewood.   what’s the most important thing to you about it?  Not everyone knows this, but the Enchantment Under the Sea dance is also my 40th birthday party celebration. My dad died from Parkinson’s two years ago. He was only 66 years old. He and I LOVED the Back to the Future movies. One of his favorite lines was, “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” My goal is to raise $4000 for the foundation – it seems like a nice round number for my 40th birthday. 🙂

3 Who is the most famous person that you’ve knitted for?  I haven’t knit anything for someone famous (yet) but one fun fact… I knitted about 125 pussy hats in the year 2017!  I met Vanna White this year at a crafting conference and would love to teach her to knit. She’s more of a crocheter.

4 What’s the strangest thing you’ve knitted, sewn or created?  The strangest thing I’ve ever knitted would have to be a full-length body suit, for an interpretive dance costume. A close second was an extra-large, Pepto-Bismol pink, double-breasted sweater coat with white fuzzy trim.

5 What drew you to live in SOMA?   My ex-husband & I moved to South Orange and bought our first house here in 2005. We loved raising Andrew on a dead-end street; he could play with the other kids and we could walk him downtown to see the “choo-choos.”  Now, we all live in Maplewood. Andrew’s dad and I live only a mile away from each other, and we’ve had such great experience in the schools (Marshall, Seth Boyden, MMS, & now CHS).

6 Who’s your favorite musician/band/singer?  It’s difficult to choose my favorite musician. My favorite singer is Ella Fitzgerald. I also love Gillian Welch.

7 If you could have three people at a dinner party who would they be?  If I could have three people at a dinner party, I’d invite Marie Forleo (marietv.com), Tim Ferriss (timferriss.com), and Kanye West. That would be an epic party.

8 What’s your favorite place in the world? I love many places, but I must say the Able Baker is one of my happiest places.

9 What would you like to see more of in SOMA?   I used to own a cafe on Springfield Ave. I have a real heart for the neighborhood; I’ve lived there for ten years now. I’d love to see Julie Doran’s and Vic Deluca’s work on Springfield Avenue continue. I’m especially looking forward to the day when the vacant lot near my building is a public park, or a tea house, or an artist’s cooperative, or…

A brief Q&A with Sam Finlay

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Finlay & Gage, SOMA’s’ new ‘string shop’ will celebrate their grand opening on Sept. 16 (from 11 til 5) at 1677 Springfield Ave., #19 in Maplewood.  It will be such a convenience and pleasure to have a music center in town for string players from professional to beginner.  The shop will rent, sell and repair stringed instruments. Sam Finlay, the manager lives in South Orange and here is a bit of Q&A with the renaissance man himself!
1  were you always interested in music? what instrument(s) do you play?  I started on viola in Junior high, took up string bass in high school & studied it in college, too.  While in school & for a while after, I played bass professionally.
2  what gave you the idea to open the Finlay & Gage stringed instrument store locally?  When I moved here, I was inspired by the level of artistry in the people I met here. When I saw the quality of instruments that the kids had access to and the fact that adults couldn’t get a decent repair without driving a distance, it seemed like I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t offer them something better.
At first, I thought I would just bring instruments from NY, where we have a large store. And then my good friend Matt Smollon, cofounder of SOMa film fest, showed me a location in Maplewood & it seemed like too perfect an opportunity to pass up.


3  what drew you to live in south orange?   My wife, daughter & I came here for backyards, sense of community, & school system. I grew up in the city and was looking for something a little different for my kid. I didn’t want to give up the city altogether, so this seemed like the perfect place.
4  who’s your favorite musician/band/singer? Beethoven, Charles Mingus, The Clash, George Jones, Clutch, Tom Waits, Frank Sinatra, NAS and the Wu Tang Clan

5  if you could have three people at a dinner party who would they be?As a musical instrument nerd, many of these folks might not be familiar to every reader. I’d like to hear what it was like to invent the Violin from Andreas Amati, what it was like to run a busy store in a city like Milan from the young maker Carlo Antonio Testore. Finally, the French inventor-instrument maker-broker Vouillaume seems like he would have been a hoot. I’d like to finish a bottle of wine with him.

6  what does success for Finlay & Gage look like?  I’d like the store to be successful, but more, I’d like for it to work to support a thriving musical community here.

7  what’s the most recent concert/show you’ve attended? I went to see South Orange royalty Mandy Gonzalez in beginning of the summer & she blew my mind. Soon after, I saw Clutch and Primus in Asbury park and they were incredible.

8  what’s your favorite place in the world?  That’s tough, but I would have to say my house. I love to be here with my family. Every time I get home I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.
 
9  what would you like to see more of in SOMA?  I’d like to see more bike lanes, rehearsal spaces & schools in SOMA.
We all like to ride our bikes & bike lanes would make this area a lot less dependent on cars.  Rehearsal spaces for musicians make for excellent art communities – just look at Williamsburg in the early days. And as popular as this area I gets, it would be a shame if we forgot to build enough schools for all the kids who are bound to come with the families moving here.

Cat Fisher’s Theater in the Park in SOMA

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Theater in the Park will be on August 12 in Founder’s Park on Valley St., in South Orange.  This fun event will have short plays on the main stage as well as all-day long events and vendors throughout the park.  Stay tuned for more details.  In the meantime here is a short Q & A with Cat Fisher, who is bringing it to life.

1  what gave you the idea to do the Founder’s Park theater event? I wanted to help bring attention to the park by hosting an event that was different from any other event in town, I have a very good friend who works closely with InterACT and so, with the help of Meara Franowicz, Theater in The Park was born.  It will be an all-day event with short plays happening on the main stage as well as interactive workshops for all ages – some going on during the whole event and some during scheduled times.  The schedule will be announced mid July.
2  were you always interested in theater? what character did you play in a school production? Other then playing the lead in Stone Soup in 2nd grade I have spent most of my time behind the scenes doing costuming for productions in high school and college.  My involvement with Theater in The Park is more administrative – I am leaving the creative to the more creative people.
3  what drew you to south orange? My (now) husband Andrew Kit; he was living here when we met and introduced me to the town.  He has a real passion for the community and helping to make it a great place to live.  I was a bit of a transient, moving around a lot with my previous job which lead me to Montclair, NJ.  From there I met Andrew and fell in love with him and this town.
4  If you could have three people at a dinner party who would they be? That depends if they have to be currently living. if not Ray Bradbury, Bill Murray and Tina Fey, If they have to be alive then replace Ray Bradbury with Tom Robbins.
5  what is the most recent Broadway show you have seen?  It was the limited run of Oh Hello! staring John Mulaney and Nick Kroll.
6  have you attended any shows at the Papermill, Burgdorff and/or Luna stage since coming here? if so, what production?
I have seen The Little Mermaid at the Paper Mill and I have been to a few events at the Burgdorff (mostly fundraisers.) I have actually never been to Luna Stage but will check it out now!  InterACT performs at the Baird; they just finished Sister Act and Once Upon a Mattress and will be announcing next year’s shows at their annual fundraiser as well as the Theater in the Park.
7  who’s your favorite band/singer? This is always a hard question, there are so many to choose from and I have always avoided narrowing it down to just one.  For the sake of keeping it easy I will say Jenny Lewis because I find her so fascinating and her music always puts me in a good mood, and that would include her old band Rilo Kiley.
8  what’s your favorite place in the world?  This is a really hard question but I have to say my parents house – it is the house I grew up in and it will always feel great to go home. They live in Royal Oak MI a Suburb outside Detroit.

 

 

Loving the scenery & greenery

If you need a Spring, Summer or Fall fix of gardens, lush landscaping and two beautiful homes, there are two spots in Essex County that are definitely worth a stroll or two.

Greenwood Garden in Short Hills, NJ  Greenwood Gardens link

Greenwood pergola autumn10 18 2012 (2) photo Ken Druse

 

and Van Vleck in Montclair, NJ  Van Vleck link

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Q&A with MAPSO bookfest mastermind, Robert Lasner

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photo courtesy or Gregory Burrus

Robert Lasner is bringing the first ever Book Festival to South Orange & Maplewood on June 9th & 10th.  Please find a bit of Q&A and a link to more info at the website link to BOOKFEST website

1  what gave you the idea to do the MAPSO bookfest?

LSD. Actually, I was at Play Day in South Orange in 2015. Walking down South Orange Ave, which was filled with booths, games and people, reminded me of the set-up of a book festival. I have run my own press, Ig Publishing (www.igpub.com) for fifteen years, so I always have books on the mind.

2  were you always a writer and editor?

I started writing poetry when I was in high school, but wasn’t serious about it. I actually had a featured poem in the high school English yearbook my senior year, but to show how you little I cared at the time, the only reason it made it in was because they forced us all to write a poem for the yearbook because they didn’t have enough submissions.  I got serious about writing in college, after reading Yeats, Pound, and especially, TS Eliot. It was Eliot in particular who made me look at language in an entirely different way.  I didn’t get involved in the editorial side until 15 years ago, when I started my press.

3  name your three favorite books

Hard one, as books that were very influential to me when younger, like Tropic of Cancer or Ethan Frome, I haven’t picked up in years, so I don’t know how my older brain would feel about them. There are also the books I publish, which almost feels like shouldn’t count, or should count more, I don’t know. At this moment, I’ll go with Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Ask the Dust by John Fante, & Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsu.
4  if you could have three people at a dinner party who would they be?
I’m not a big fan of wanting to meet this celebrity, or this famous person from history, mainly because, while you might admire their work or accomplishments, you have no idea how interesting they would be to talk to, or how much of their public persona is real. I’ll go with Pete Townshend, because he seems quite chatty in interviews, any one of the Three Stooges except for Joe because he wasn’t funny, and Albert Einstein, not because of his genius, but because he used to do these public events where he would talk on stage to thousands of people, accompanied by a pretty girl, like a magician with an assistant, and one of those pretty girls was my grandmother. Einstein actually wanted her to go on tour with him, but my grandparents were engaged, and my future grandfather didn’t want her to go. A few years ago, before she died–my grandmother lived to be almost 100–she told me, I should have gone on tour with Einstein first, then married your grandfather when I came back.

5  do you read on kindle?

Only manuscripts for my press, mainly so I didn’t have to print them out. For “real” books, nothing beats holding paper in your hands.
6  what are your thoughts on Amazon in three words? Rules Don’t Apply
7  who’s your favorite band/singer?  The Who
8  what’s your favorite place in the world?  A place I’ve never been
9  are there any movies that you liked much better than the book? if so, which one?
Not really. The closest was John Huston’s version of The Dead, which matches the power and intensity of the James Joyce story on which it is based. I read the story first, and was amazed that the way I had imagined it in my head when reading matched the images on the screen. Perfect story, perfect film.

 

Founders’ Park South Orange

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2 ADDING ELECTRIC AND WATER (for park events and water fountains)

3  SIGNAGE – add park name, Founder’s Park to an attractive sign near entrance

4  UPGRADED FENCING

5  PARK CLEAN-UP & PLANTING – (year 2) taking place May 20.

6 PLAY AREA  – Add benches, tables for adults between swings and street and add more swings, slides & fun play structures to entice kids

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7  WALL OF BUILDING NEXT DOOR  – Paint a mural on the wall

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8  GAZEBO AND SHUFFLEBOARD AREA – Eliminate black top and replace with grass or matching cement.  Paint or re-stain Gazebo, Good spot for 2 large permanent flower planters or some landscaping to perk it up.

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9  VIEWS

Improve views  around side perimeters of park.  Add smaller trees and other flora and block out industrial views on either side of park (skip laurel, ground shrubs, etc.).   Have a small dedicated Garden area with a unique layout and flora that might attract people like Cherry Blossoms in Branch Brook Pk.

10  PROMOTIONS & EVENTS

Summer events – BBQ,  Arts, Sculpture, Theatre, Music, Movies, Foodtrucks, Picnics, Bocce and other games…

 

THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Those interested in joining the AHNA and volunteering at its second annual park clean-up and planting day on Saturday morning, May 20. Visit www.academyheights.weebly.com or find the AHNA on Nextdoor.com.

The AHNA was established in 2015 by local residents, David Kraiker and Ken Krasner. Andrew & Catherine Kit, Linda Cappaze, Robert Lasner and others have also contributed significantly to the mission of “preserving the integrity and serenity” and raising the profile of the neighborhood. It numbers more than 200 members. Although young, the AHNA has already made its mark, working closely with the town on projects like the proposed 4th & Valley development  and 320 Valley St. as well as Founders Park.


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