Michael White's Nicoletta Expanding to New Jersey
White's East Village pizzeria is getting a suburban sister
A sign announcing the upcoming Nicoletta hangs in the restaurant's window.
Chef Michael White is expanding his restaurant empire with an upcoming New Jersey outpost of his popular East Village pizza spot, Nicoletta.
The news was tweeted by radio host Anthony Scillia, who also goes by Tony Mangia. He spotted the announcement sign hanging in the window of the upcoming restaurant in Bernardsville, N.J.
"Alta Marea Group and Chef Michael White are pleased to welcome you to Nicoletta," it said.
The new spot will occupy the restaurant space next door to the Bernardsville outpost of White's Osteria Morini, a casual Italian restaurant White originally started in Soho, which opened its outpost in New Jersey last year.
The original Nicoletta in New York's East Village is just more than a year old, having first opened in June of last year.
In an interview not long after Nicoletta opened, White told The New York Times that he hoped to replicate it in different places. Changing an earlier Bernardsville restaurant into an Osteria Morini had worked very well for Alta Marea, and White said the company intended to continue expanding the brand with more Osteria Morini branches in the future.
"It makes sense to create a brand," he said. "We’re not like Mario Batali’s Babbo Group, with a collection of restaurants, each one different."
Cooking a great steak can be tricky. High heat is needed to develop a crust and beautiful flavors (via The Maillard reaction). At the same time, the steak needs to be cooked as evenly as possible without overcooking, something that is usually achieved with slow, low temperature cooking. Successfully marrying both of these somewhat opposing requirements is the key to making a great steak.
Inevitably, the sides of a steak are going cook more than the center. In an oven, or closed grill, heat enters the steak through its entire surface (shown right). At the center, heat enters from the top and bottom. However, around the edge of the steak, heat not only enters from the top and bottom, but also from the sides. The result is that the sides take on more heat and cook more than the center.
Fortunately, some cuts have natural defenses against overcooked edges. The steak with the best fortifications is the Bone-In Rib Steak (pictured right). The ribeye is protected on all sides from overcooking. The rib bone, fat cap, and ribeye cap all do a fantastic job of insulating the ribeye from the heat coming in through the sides. This makes it much easier to get even cooking throughout the entire ribeye. The ribeye cap will cook a bit more than the ribeye itself. However, the cap is very fatty and benefits from the extra cooking. In fact, for many the cap is the best part of the steak.
Not only is the Bone-In Rib Steak easier to cook, but it’s also the cut with the most amount of fat. As we always say “Fat is flavor.” For these reasons, we prefer to cook rib steaks over other steaks. Of course, any bone-in steak with a good fat cap will also give you great results. For other cuts, the cooking may be more uneven, but there are some techniques to help minimize this. More on this in future posts.
Grassi acquires GCS in New Jersey
Grassi, a Top 100 Firm based in New York, has expanded its footprint in New Jersey by acquiring Gramkow, Carnevale, Seifert & Co., effective March 29.
The deal is adding four partners to Grassi’s leadership team from GCS: Ted Carnevale, who was also appointed co-leader of the New Jersey Market, along with Francis Shovlin, Dino Rizzo and Bob Carpenter. With 25 other staff members from GCS, they will continue to serve clients from their current location in Oradell, New Jersey, before eventually relocating to Grassi’s Park Ridge, New Jersey, office later in the year. Grassi has 353 employees, including 37 partners.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Grassi ranked 64th on Accounting Today’s 2021 list of the Top 100 Firms, with $77.68 million in annual revenue. Grassi, like other CPA firms, is making more M&A deals as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic and looks to expand their presence. GCS was the largest independent accounting firm in Bergen County, New Jersey, prior to joining Grassi. In addition to expanding Grassi’s count of professionals in the Garden State, the acquisition increases Grassi's service capabilities in some of the market sectors that GCS has also served, including health care, real estate, manufacturing and distribution, professional services and nonprofits.
“For the past 37 years, we have had the privilege of serving the businesses and residents of New Jersey and growing alongside them,” said Ted Carnevale, founder of GCS and a new Grassi partner, in a statement. “As our clients continue to grow and evolve, joining a regional leader like Grassi was a natural choice in our ongoing mission to provide them with the expanded resources and services they need to succeed.”
GCS offers advisory, tax, audit, accounting and payroll services to family-owned and privately held businesses. It also provides estate planning, concierge services and valuation needs for business owners and individual taxpayers.
“Helping businesses grow in New Jersey and throughout the tri-state area has always been a priority for our firm,” said Grassi managing partner Louis Grassi in a statement. “The addition of such an established and reputable New Jersey firm to our team not only deepens the pool of talent and experience we can provide but also demonstrates our unwavering commitment to the state’s business community and vital industries.” New Jersey is one of Grassi’s seven locations. Other offices are in Jericho, Ronkonkoma and White Plains, New York Needham, Massachusetts and Palm Beach, Florida.
Last October, Grassi & Co. expanded to the Boston metropolitan area by acquiring Levine, Caufield, Martin & Goldberg PC, a firm in Needham, Massachusetts.
Chefs on the Move
CHLOE COSCARELLI, a founder and partner in the crowd-pleasing vegan restaurants By Chloe, is no longer with the brand that bears her name. From the start, the restaurants were developed and owned by ESquared Hospitality with Samantha Wasser working on the brand. Ms. Coscarelli, who could not be reached for comment, left the company last year. Recent arbitration ruled that ESquared could terminate Ms. Coscarelli’s partnership and continue to finance and run the rapidly expanding By Chloe group without her involvement.
Meet Murphy and Guadagno (Tammy and Michael), the candidates' spouses
One has been a constant presence on the campaign trail in the race to succeed Chris Christie as New Jersey's governor. The other has been far less visible — but with good reason.
Meet Tammy Murphy, the wife of Democratic nominee Phil Murphy, and Judge Michael Guadagno, the husband of Republican nominee Kim Guadagno.
One of them is poised to become the first spouse of the Garden State. If the Democrat wins Tuesday's, Tammy Murphy will replace Mary Pat Christie as first lady. If it's the Republican, Michael Guadagno will become only the second first gentleman in state history.
Here's a closer look at them both — including the unusual story behind the Murphys' marriage and why you might find Michael Guadagno sporting a bass guitar:
Photo by Andrew MIller | For NJ Advance Media
If you've ever been to a Phil Murphy campaign event, chances are you've seen her.
Tammy Murphy, 52, has been a fixture of the campaign, appearing alongside her husband at countless events, delivering speeches, raising money — even proofreading news releases. After all, she majored in communications and English at the University of Virginia.
"If somebody else is going to say something on our behalf, I want to make sure it’s in our voice and using our grammar," Tammy Murphy told NJ Advance Media in an interview. "You only get one chance to meet people. First impressions mean so much."
Tammy said she and Phil have been "inseparable" since they married 23 years ago. Those who know the Murphys say she's his top adviser. Phil also calls her the "de-facto finance chair" of a campaign that has outraised Guadagno 3-to-1.
"When one of us does something, the other is right by their side," Phil Murphy said. "It’s incredibly rewarding."
"She brings a bunch of different weapons to the campaign," he added.
Tammy Murphy, like her husband, worked in finance, before leaving the industry after they were married to focus on philanthropy. Over the last three years, she's chaired New Start New Jersey, a think tank that she and her husband founded.
She isn't from New Jersey, either
Neither of the Murphys hail from the Garden State. Phil is from the Boston area, while his wife grew up as Tammy Snyder in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Her husband has made a point to say he grew up "working poor." But Tammy said she grew up middle class. Her father is still a car salesman.
"Growing up, I was certainly better off than Phil was," she said.
She ended up graduating from the University of Virginia, where she was the college's vice president. She still serves on the board of trustees there.
The Murphys have advice for their four children: Don't get married the way we did.
Phil and Tammy met in 1987 and spent a few years working together at Goldman Sachs, but not closely.
Eventually, they both ended up in Europe, separately — Phil running Goldman's operation in Germany and Tammy working in London. By then, they had lost touch.
But they had mutual friends. And one night, Phil ended up having dinner with Tammy and her friends in London. He paid. She wrote him a note thanking him and promising to repay the favor.
Months went by. But then, Murphy's brother died unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 49. Tammy reached out.
They met for dinner in the winter of 1993.
"Sure enough, 18 days later we were engaged," Tammy recalled.
And they were married only six months after that.
"We decided we better wait at least six months so we can pick our families up off the floor," Phil explained.
"It’s funny," Tammy said. "When you meet somebody, you have to have a lot of people meet that person to make sure they don’t have some serial personality trait that’s gonna be a problem down the road. In fact, with Phil and me, we knew one another and we had a lot of the same friends. It wasn’t as thought I had to meet X, Y, or Z to find out what they thought of Phil or learn more about his background. I really knew who he was and I really respected him as a person."
"I hope our kids don’t do it, but we lucked out," she added with a laugh.
The couple moved to Middletown in 2000 but later spent four years in Germany, where Phil Murphy served as the American ambassador to the country.
Photo by Ed Murray | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Jon Bon Jovi, Tammy Murphy and Phil Murphy sit together at an event in 2014.
She was once a Republican
The Murphys spent years as major donors to the Democratic Party, giving millions to candidates across the country. And from 2006 to 2009, Phil Murphy served as finance chair of the Democratic National Committee.
But Tammy Murphy was once a registered Republican and has given thousands of dollars to GOP candidates over the years — including to George W. Bush, state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, and the New Jersey Republican Party.
She said the reason is simple: "Having grown up basically on the Mason-Dixon Line, the people in the area in which I was reared were largely Republicans. Originally, that was my inclination."
But Murphy said eventually, that changed in the mid-2000s.
"Over time, in talking to people, they would say, ‘What concerns you?’ Or ‘What are you passionate about?’ And I would say: Well, I’m pro-choice, I’m anti-guns, I’m pro-environment," she said. "It was pointed out to me along the way, ‘You know, if you want to find a label, you are in fact a Democrat.’ And I said, ‘Oh, OK.’"
Al Gore picked her to help fight climate change
Over the years, the Murphys have befriended many big names in the Democratic Party — including former Vice President Al Gore.
In fact, Gore — a noted environmentalist — chose Tammy Murphy to become a founding member of the Climate Reality Project, a group that tries to educate the public about global warming and enact policy related to the problem. Tammy is secretary of the organization.
When Gore came to New Jersey last month to speak at a rally for Phil Murphy, he called out Tammy by name.
"Tammy is one of the smartest, most articulate, most committed environmental advocates that I’ve ever run across," Gore told the crowd in Ocean Township. "Just imagine what a first lady for New Jersey she will be to protect your clear air, your clean water, and to clean up all the disasters that nature is throwing at us these days."
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution consists of only 27 words, yet arguments over their meaning fill volumes that cause bookshelves to groan under their load of legal argle-bargle. A reinvigorated era of assault on firearms encouraged by President Biden is already worsening the weight. The outcomes of numerous legal challenges are likely to determine whether owning and carrying a gun remains an American right or is reclassified as a wrong.
In trendy times such as these, words the Framers used to spell out the right to firearms read like a foreign language. “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It’s really not that complicated.
Closest to a conclusive ruling is a challenge of states’ authority to restrict a citizen’s right to carry a concealed firearm, a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in late April. A pair of New Yorkers brought to the forefront a regulation that requires them to show “proper cause” of a special need for the personal protection that a concealed weapon would provide.
In addition to New York, states with similar “may issue” restrictions on eligibility for a concealed carry permit include New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and California. States employ a wide range of discretion for determining who gets a permit. Applicants in Delaware and Connecticut are generally successful, and those in New Jersey and Hawaii, like New Yorkers, are often out of luck.
Even states with “shall issue” rules frequently require applicants to pass concealed-carry classes, during which they must demonstrate competency in the safe handling of their firearm, including the ability to shoot accurately.
Gun-control groups cite data they interpret to imply the stronger the limits on concealed-carry permits, the better. The Giffords Law Center claims that violent crime rates are 13-15 percent higher in states with weaker concealed-carry rules than those with stronger ones. Correlation doesn’t equate with causation, though, and it could be more logically argued that high crime is the cause of concealed-carry concentrations, rather than the result of it.
Indeed, it is not permit holders who wreak havoc on their communities, but those who carry with no permission but their own. Those authorized to carry a concealed weapon accounted for about 0.7 percent of all firearm-related homicides between 2007 and 2019, according to the Heritage Foundation.
With homicides rising 30 percent across the nation thus far in 2021, “proper cause” for requesting a concealed carry permit is simple. Some Americans need to defend self and family from those who would do them harm. The Framers believed the means to do so “shall not be infringed.”
Law-abiding citizens have every reason to expect the Supreme Court to affirm the clear meaning of the Second Amendment and order states to issue concealed-carry permits on a “shall issue” basis.
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New South Jersey veterans center named for Medal of Honor war heroCLOSE
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LINDENWOLD — People often thank military veterans for their service when they meet them, but a South Jersey couple wanted to do more.
Kathleen and Michael Van Stine of Blackwood started the nonprofit Spectracare Foundation a few years ago to create programs to aid veterans, raise donations for those efforts and offering needed services like legal help on Veteran Administration claims and appeals.
Recently, their foundation expanded the Carlton R. Rouh Veterans Center in the office building on Blackwood-Clementon Road.
The Van Stines call the center "a warm, vibrant place where South Jersey veterans can relax, socialize, learn, share, teach, inspire and mentor."
The center is named for Lindenwold’s most celebrated veteran, the late 1st. Lt. Carlton R. Rouh. A U.S. Marine, he was wounded three times during World War II and a recipient of the both the Silver Star for bravery and the Medal of Honor — the military’s highest combat recognition for heroism and risking his life for others. The center’s opening was on what would have been Rouh’s 102nd birthday during National Armed Forces Week.
Carlton R. Rouh wearing his Medal of Honor. (Photo: Provided photo )
Already wounded once in the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific, Rouh was wounded again in 1944 on the island of Peleliu, but insisted on remaining in combat. He threw his body on an enemy grenade to save his platoon. He survived but suffered major chest and abdomen injuries that required a long recovery.
“We could not have done this by ourselves. We had many veterans, businesses and others pitch in and help to get the center renovated and open,” said Kathleen Van Stine, a medical social worker who serves as the volunteer senior director of community services.
She and her husband both volunteer their services for the foundation and its new center, open to veterans regardless of their home county.
Spectracare Foundation's Senior Director for Community Relations Kathleen Van Stine hugs Rev. William Hamilton, Cpl. (Ret.), as Spectracare Foundation's Executive Director Michael Van Stine looks on after Hamilton made the benediction during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Carlton R. Rouh Veterans Center in Lindenwold on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Photo: Chris LaChall/Courier-Post)
They have said one of their major concerns has been prevention of veteran suicides.
“Veteran suicides are up to 22 a day nationally,” said Michael Van Stine, foundation executive director, “and we have 80 to 100 annually here at home in New Jersey. They are overwhelmingly caused by PTSD and inadequate resources and care (to address it).”
The center offers veterans recreation, socialization, a food pantry and kitchen use, tele-meetings, counseling, healing programs in music and dancing and therapeutic programs in art, culinary arts and with horses at Forgotten Angels Equine Rescue in Medford. There are plans for a gardening program this summer as well.
The building also adjoins open green space, a freshwater creek and a Walk of Honor memorial.
At the opening ceremony, Rouh’s daughter, Jackie Govan, spoke to the crowd of about 200 people, including veterans and their families, members and leaders of the VFW and Disabled American Veterans (DAV), area officials, Warriors Watch Riders, Rolling Badgers and other motorcycle clubs, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Military veterans of various services provided patriotic music and a color guard.
Jackie Govan, daughter of Carlton R. Rouh, speaks during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Carlton R. Rouh Veterans Center in Lindenwold on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Photo: Chris LaChall/Courier-Post)
“This is just a tremendous honor and he would have been very proud today,” said Govan, a psychiatric nurse at Jefferson Cherry Hill Hospital.
She called the center “a fitting tribute” because her father was always reaching out to help other veterans, especially those who served in Vietnam. Rouh enjoyed inviting veterans over for dinner and service members would often stop by just to talk with him, Govan explained.
“I hope those type of experiences will occur here,” Govan told the crowd.
Her father became a mayor of Lindenwold and last worked at the Veterans Administration helping those who had served in the military. He also was a member of the VFW of Blackwood and, according to Govan, was there the night before he died in 1977 at the age of 58. He is buried in Berlin Cemetery.
Disabled Vietnam veteran Robert Kotter of Gloucester City already has been helped by Spectra Foundation’s volunteer lawyer advocate, Sally Stenton, and has been giving back by helping to prepare the new center.
Bob Kotter of Gloucester City, a disabled U.S. Marine veteran who served in Vietnam, salutes the American Flag as he attends the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Carlton R. Rouh Veterans Center in Lindenwold on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Photo: Chris LaChall/Courier-Post)
“I was seeking a 100 percent disability from the VA and was having problems with that, but once Sally got involved, I got it seven weeks later,” said Kotter, who uses a cane and said he has metastatic cancer from Agent Orange exposure. “When I came here, it touched my heart to see what was going on for veterans, so I pitched in to help.”
The center is awaiting delivery of new TVs Kotter is donating and a pool table donated by Govan.
Camden County Commissioner and Gold Star mother Melinda Kane said Rouh was willing "to place sacrifice over self,” and serves as an example to follow.
“I know healing will take place within these walls,” said Kane, whose father was a Marine during World War II, was married to a U.S. Army physician and whose Marine son Jeremy was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 while saving 11 other men.
"I also know that after more than a year of isolation due to COVID, opening these doors is needed now more than ever and that this center will provide tremendous support not only for the veterans who enter, but for the friends and family who love them.”
Visitors tour the Carlton R. Rouh Veterans Center in Lindenwold on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Photo: Chris LaChall/Courier-Post)
Burlington County veteran Tom Polino of Riverside, who retired as an Army sergeant major after combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the center serves a critical need. “It will be a one-stop shop for vets,” he added.
One of the few others in the region is another nonprofit, Fairhaven in Gloucester County, which also is expanding and has transitional housing and also an equine program among its services.
Blackwood VFW Auxiliary member Camilla Albano came to the Tuesday event and unexpectedly donated to the center an album she kept about Rouh and a photo of him in his white Marine dress uniform and wearing his medal.
Retired Marine Lt. Col. Al Bancroft of Voorhees, 81, came on a walker with his wife by his side.
He said he joined the Marines because he was inspired by Carlton Rouh, whom he met as a boy. He called the new center a tremendous place that undoubtedly will help more veterans.
Patrick Watson, commander of DAV Chapter 4 of Camden County, brought his buddy, 95-year-old World War II and Navy veteran Waddell Artie Tidwell of Camden.
"Carlton Rouh was the epitome of sacrifice, so let’s show our own sacrifice by helping out,” Watson encouraged.
Blue Stone = Copper Sulfate and does help with algae control and foot rot.
going to step out on a limb here and expose my ignorance yet again. this recipe sounds very good to me except that I do not know what is meant by burned diesel oil.
Is this used oil like from the tractor oil changes? If not what is it?
One thing to consider when "treating" wood anything. A commercial treatment plant takes kiln dried wood (posts, boards), puts it into a tank filled with a treating solution, and brings the entire content of the tank up to a predetermined pressure. The solution is forced into the wood and the pressure drops. The whole process is repeated until the pressure holds for a predetermined amount of time, thus indicating that the wood is saturated.
The only thing that would be the equivalent for a non-commercial operation is to allow the treatment solution to wick up the bottom of the post, thereby saturating at least the part that is in contact with the ground. There is no good way to completely saturate a board unless you allow it to soak long enough to "water log" it with your treatment solution.
Here are two solutions worth looking at as both work well.
Option 1: Copper Sulfate is as good as it gets without using exotics. Best way to buy the CS is to buy it in bulk as granules or liquid. Or go to home depot and buy septic root killer in plumbing section, add some water to make a strong aquas solution that can be used as a dip, painted on or injected. It makes a good "dip" for poles, but the best way is to get the stuff into the wood, not just laying on top of the wood.
It paints like water so be prepared to be turned green. Old clothes, rubber gloves, etc.
For injection, (actually a fluid transfer using pressure differential), make a simple vacuum chamber out of a piece of 10" pipe with one end capped and the other threaded, or both threaded. Drill one end, the top end and thread in a 1/2" M.P.-1/2" F. flare fitting to a put a threaded vacuum hose on it you can have made up with a flare, swivel and reducer to 1/4". 1/2" works fine as it is easy to work with and allows no restrictions back to the pump where it should be reduced to pump inlet size/ If you want to be fancy, add a 2" ball valve drain to the vacuum pipe chamber at the bottom. You need a larger drain line to handle debris coming off the poles.
Load the pole in the pipe, add solution to cover and pull a vacuum on it for a few minutes with the poles in solution. (if you could see inside you would see a million tiny bubbles come out of the wood. Once the bubbles stop, about 5 minutes, then release the vacuum and let it sit at atmospheric pressure for about 10 minutes. You need to know that deep penetration into the wood is only possible under a differential pressure (high pressure or vacuum). Vacuum is far easier and simple to do than pressure, safer too. A 110 VAC vacuum pump from harbor freight works fine.
You can also do this with a vacuum bag technique, and I have done it, but it takes some skill to set it up, but you can do large batches in minutes. We used a 4 x 10 tank with a strong sealing lid and plastic inside. Worked well.
Option 2: If you let them dry out after dipping and are really concerned about rot, I use a paint called "coal tar epoxy." It fairly cheap stuff, made for the bottom of boats and ships and is easy to come by. Sherwin Williams is a good source, but they may need to order it in. It is a two part paint so get your poles all laid out in mass on 2x4's and be ready to roll the stuff on while rolling the poles to paint all surfaces. Coat the bottoms or the whole pole. Best stuff known to man for making a barrier from water, rain and insects. Mix in small batches and use only what you need at one time. Best to buy it in 5 gallon buckets. It comes with a catalyst, but store it in a frig to stay good for years.
CTE gets fairly hard and does not transfer easily once cured which takes about 2 hours or over night. Hotter the better in the barn and it can be sprayed by a 2 gallon spray rig.
You can do option 2 only and it will work for about 8 years. Doing both is about forever.
Kushners buy another N.J. property. What else is in their Jersey portfolio?
After selling off many of its New Jersey apartment properties as part of a shift in focus on Manhattan more than a decade ago, Kushner Companies—once a major landlord in the state's rental market—has slowly been returning to the place it once called home.
Last week, the real estate development company—whose former chief executive officer, Jared Kushner, is now a member of the administration of his father-in-law, President Donald Trump—announced the acquisition of its fourth New Jersey apartment complex since 2012.
Prospect Avenue in Hackensack. (Google Maps)
The company said it closed on Prospect Place, a 360-unit multi-family rental property in Hackensack.
"We are excited about this submarket of multifamily in New Jersey that has great employers, top institutions, an educated workforce, and easy access to the New York City metro area," said company president Laurent Morali in a statement.
The company said the takeover of the two buildings “entails a significant renovation of units and amenity spaces,” including lobbies, corridors, a kid's play area, a dog park, and a new resident lounge.
The company said it would not disclose details of the acquisition, but sources said it was a $100 million deal with Greystar, a Charleston-based real estate company that manages more than 420,000 rental units across the country, and was financed through New York Community Bank.
Jared Kushner (Olivier Douliery | Abaca Press/TNS)
An expanding footprint
The company's real estate ventures and search for foreign investment have come under growing scrutiny, especially in connection with some of its heavily leveraged projects, since Jared Kushner joined the White House staff. His high-profile position has led to questions over potential conflicts involving his family's wide-ranging business interests.
Much of that attention has centered on 666 Fifth Avenue, a 41-story skyscraper acquired for $1.8 billion in 2006. Purchased at the height of the real estate boom, many analysts say the company vastly overpaid for the property and Kushner Companies faces a $1.2 billion mortgage on the building due in February 2019.
While it has backed out of some other New York projects, the firm has been moving to again expand its footprint in the state where its apartment portfolio once generated millions.
Among its current real estate properties and project proposals in New Jersey:
The Millennial Restaurant
Not long ago, in the brown dawn light of the western Paris suburbs, three Americans could be seen taking a mildly illicit walk through the Rungis wholesale food market. The three Americans—the California chef Alice Waters, the vegetable scholar Antoine Jacobsohn, and me—all had something on their minds, and all were in a heightened emotional state that had its origins in something more than the very early hour and the very chilly weather.
Alice Waters was in a heightened emotional state because, as many of her friends believe, she is always in a heightened emotional state, particularly when she is in the presence of fresh produce. Alice, who was wearing a wool cloche, is a small, intense, pale, pretty, fiftyish woman, with a quiet, satisfied smile and a shining, virtuous light in her eye—the kind of American woman who a century ago would have been storming through saloons with a hatchet and is now steaming fresh green beans, but with similar motives. Her vision is rooted in the romantic Berkeley politics that she practiced before starting her restaurant, Chez Panisse, with a ten-thousand-dollar loan twenty-seven years ago. She believes in concentric circles of social responsibility, with the reformed carrot in the backyard garden insensibly improving the family around the dinner table, the reformed family around the dinner table insensibly improving the small neighborhood merchants they shop with, the reformed neighborhood merchants improving their city, and so right on, ever upward and outward, but with the reformed carrot always there, the unmoved (though crisply cooked) mover in the center.
Earlier this year, Alice was invited to open a restaurant at the Louvre, by Mme. Hélène David-Weill, the très grande dame who is the director of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs there. An enthusiastic article in the Times gave the impression that this was a fait accompli, or nearly so. In fact, in September it still existed essentially only as an enthusiasm in the eye of Alice Waters, Mme. David-Weill, and Richard Overstreet, an American painter who lives in Berkeley and Paris, and who has been the go-between since the beginning. (Francis Ford Coppola was the first person to suggest Alice to Mme. David-Weill.) Alice had come to Paris to move the project along, and Richard had brought her together with Antoine as a possible “principal forager,” on the lines of a principal dancer, for it. Rungis was the setting for their long-awaited meeting.
Antoine Jacobsohn was in a heightened emotional state because he is in a heightened emotional state whenever he visits the Rungis market. Twenty-nine years ago, Rungis replaced the great Les Halles complex, which had dominated central Paris from the fifteenth century until after the Second World War, and which Zola called, in a novel he devoted to it, “The Belly of Paris.” For Antoine, Les Halles was not just the belly of Paris but its heart, and for him the replacement of Les Halles by Rungis is the primordial sin of modern France—the destruction of Penn Station, Ebbets Field, and B. Altman’s combined.
“When the market moved out of Les Halles,” Antoine was saying, as he led our little party—it was illicit because, strictly speaking, you need a permit to shop at Rungis—“it effectively changed the relationship between pleasure and play and work in all of Paris. For centuries, because the market was at once a center for restaurants and for ordinary people, a whole culture grew up around it. Shopping and eating, the restaurant and the market, the stroller and the shopper, the artisan and the bourgeois—all were kept in an organic arrangement. And, because many of the goods couldn’t be kept overnight, it meant that what was left at the end of every day was given to the poor. But for trivial reasons—traffic and hygiene—they made the decision to move the market to Rungis, and left a hole in the heart of Paris. There was no place allotted here for the small artisan, for the small grower, or for the organic market.” He shook his head in disbelief. Antoine was raised in North Plainfield, New Jersey, by a French mother he has a research fellowship at the Museum of Vegetable Culture, in the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, a degree in agricultural sciences from Cornell, and a perfect, crisp, contrary French mind trapped in an American body and voice box. Antoine has been known to give his friends an idealized poster of the twenty-four cultivated radishes—some lost, some extant—of the Île-de-France, and he has written beautifully, not to say longingly, of the lost monstrous spinach of Viroflay and the flat onions of Vertus.
We had been joined by Sally Clarke, of Clarke’s restaurant, in London, who is one of Alice’s many spiritual godchildren. The two chefs seemed torn between delight and surprise—delight in the freshness and green beauty of the vegetables, surprise at the lack of variety.
“I’m going to show you the space left for the local growers,” Antoine went on. We walked through the aisles of the vast, chilly airplane hangars of vegetables: bins of girolles, crates of shiny eggplants. It all looked wonderful but remarkably standardized, which explained the standardization of what the average Paris greengrocer sells.
“Imagine,” Antoine said. “So many radishes gone the artichokes of Paris, almost gone the turnips of Vaugirard, gone. There’s a variety of beans that one reads about all the time in nineteenth-century texts. But gone! We’ve kept some seedlings of the plants in the museum, and they could be revived.”
“We’ll plant them in the Tuileries,” Alice said softly, but with determination. One of her dreams for the restaurant is to raise a vegetable garden right outside the door.
Antoine walked along, greeting old friends and growers. “This man has excellent tomatoes,” he now whispered to Alice.
“Does he grow organically?” she asked urgently. In recent years, Alice has become a fanatic of organic growing.
Antoine, who had been telling Alice how the French sense of terroir—of the taste and traditions of a local region—was more important to authentic produce in France than the precise rules of organic growing, asked the grower. The man shrugged, and then explained his situation. “He says he’s giving up the business, in any case, as it happens, since it’s becoming hopeless,” Antoine said to Alice. (He failed to add that every French merchant, in every field, will always tell you that it’s hopeless, he’s going to give up the business when French weapons salesmen go to China to sell missiles, they probably shrug when the Chinese start to bargain and say, Well, it doesn’t matter, we’re giving up the business anyway, it’s a hopeless métier.)
Alice gave the grower a steady, encouraging look. “We just have to get the suppliers to adapt,” she said. “That’s what we did at Chez Panisse. You have to let them know there’s the demand. You have to bring them along with you.” In the early-morning light, you could sense Alice Waters’ eyes radiating the spiritual intensity that for so long has startled and impressed her friends and admirers, and has set her apart from other chefs, making her a kind of materfamilias to a generation of chefs ranging from Sally Clarke to Michel Courtalhac, in Paris. (He keeps a photograph of Alice in the window of his restaurant.) Aubert de Villaine, who is the co-director of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, the greatest wine estate in France, speaks of her in hushed tones, less as a superior hash-slinger than as a kind of cross between Emily Dickinson and La Pucelle. “There’s something crystalline about her—an extraordinary purity of spirit,” he said not long ago. “She’s one of les vigiles en haut, the watchman in the crow’s nest, seeing far ahead. The thing I most admire about Alice is the sense that the sensual is not really sensual if it is not, au fond, spiritual.”
Antoine nodded at another merchant across the way. “Now, this man grows excellent asparagus,” he whispered. “It’s interesting. Two hundred, a hundred and fifty years ago, it was always green asparagus now the demand is for white asparagus.”
He went up to the grower and said, in French, “Why is it that no one any longer grows green asparagus—when was it that people went over to white asparagus?” The man gave him an incredulous look, and then said, in the beautiful clear French of the Île-de-France, “You know, I would say that what you’ve just stated is the exact contrary of the truth.” It was a perfect Parisian tone of voice—not disputatious, just suggesting a love of the shared pursuit of the truth, which, unfortunately, happens not to be in your possession right now.
Antoine made the right response. He raised his eyebrows in polite wonder while smiling only on the left side of his face, an expression that means, How greatly I respect the vigor of your opinions, however much they may call to mind the ravings of a lunatic. “What do you mean?” he demanded.
“Well, it is my experience that everyone grows green asparagus now. It’s all you see for decorative plats, that touch of green. In the magazines, for instance, among the fashionable chefs, it’s all you see, green asparagus. It has a much greater decorative effect. It’s obvious.”
“Ah, yes, for decorative effect,” Antoine agreed calmly. Everybody won.
As they were speaking, I was poking a pile of girolles nearby, and wondering if I had made a mistake in not planning to serve some kind of autumnal mushroom plate for dinner the next night. I was in a heightened emotional state because I had offered to cook dinner for Alice Waters, and I had spent most of the summer worrying about what I would cook and how it would taste. I had decided to try and sneak in a little serious shopping while I was observing Alice and Antoine. I had also decided to go out later that day and buy a new set of dinner plates. I had come to both of these decisions more or less in the spirit of a man who, having in an insane moment invited Michael Jordan over to play a little one-on-one, decides that he might as well use the occasion to put down a new coat of asphalt on the driveway.
I had made up my mind to do a lamb braised for seven hours—a gigot de sept heures, as it’s known—which would be cooked in the Provençal style, with eggplant and tomatoes. But to be in Rungis at dawn with two such devoted terroiristes as Alice and Antoine, for whom cooking is meaningful only if it is an expression of the place where the things are being cooked, made me feel a little guilty. I was going to have to get the tomatoes out of a can, and though the canned tomato is absolutely typical of my own terroir, I somehow felt that they would disapprove.
Nearby, Alice had found frisée and watercress and was looking at them raptly—not with the greed of a hungry man seeing dinner but with the admiration of William Bennett looking at a long marriage. “There’s nothing so beautiful as French watercress,” she said. “I can recall walking down the Rue Mouffetard in 1965, my first year in Paris. I was a girl from New Jersey who’d grown up on frozen food, and to see the baskets and baskets of greens, so many shades of green and red!
“I walked up and down the street, my eyes unbelieving,” she went on. “I had never tasted an oyster. I went through Normandy, eating eighteen at a time, and drinking apple cider, and it was so wonderful that I was just carried away, and I would fall asleep by the roadside. When I got back to Berkeley, I thought of opening a crêperie, and I tried to import some of the cider and found out that there was alcohol in it. That was why I kept passing out! I thought it was just the oysters and the apple juice and France.” She was lost for a moment.
“You know,” Antoine said, coming over, “there used to be asparagus grown in Argenteuil, just down the river from Paris—great asparagus. And they used to have figs in Argenteuil, too. The white figs of Argenteuil, they were called in the nineteenth century. The trees were bent over with weights, so that the branches could be buried in the ground, to protect them all through the winter. Yet we think of figs as a southern fruit.”
“Oh, we have to have them,” Alice said, her eyes moist with emotion. “The white figs of Argenteuil! We’ll grow them again. It can be done, you know.” We had been wandering through the airplane hangars, and were standing among towers of carrots and leeks, mountains of haricots verts. She looked upward and, Pucelle-like, seemed to be seeing before her—in a vision, as though they were already tangible, edible—the white figs of Argenteuil: an improbable Berkeley Joan, imagining her France restored to glory.
I had been thinking about various menus ever since I’d had the idea of cooking dinner for Alice, and for a while I’d thought I might do a four-hour braised leg of lamb that I had found the recipe for in the Sunday magazine of the London Independent. Unfortunately, I had lost the issue of the magazine. I had the phone number of the editor, but I thought that it was unprofessional journalistic practice, in this day and age, to call up a fellow scandalmongering cynic and ask him if he would mind thumbing through his back issues for a recipe. Then, this summer, I came upon a copy of a twenty-five-year-old recipe book written by the wonderful (and blind) food writer Roy Andries de Groot. The book was called “The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth.” Half cookbook, half “Lost Horizon” remake, it tells about a little inn—the Auberge of the Flowering Hearth—which the author discovered in the French Alps, while he was on an assignment to write something on how the monks down there make Chartreuse. The menu called for mussel soup, poached pears, and a gigot de mouton de sept heures—the same slow-cooked lamb that I had lost the recipe for but, in this case, given the whole, classic nine yards, or seven hours. Sounded great, and was in the right spirit for the occasion—part of the history of the American love of French cooking.
Then I had another inspiration. As Alice Waters would have wanted, my childhood had been a series of intense family dinners, evening after evening, with their own set of “social protocols,” and one of the most cherished of these family dinnertime protocols was known as Getting Someone Else to Do the Work. I decided to call Susan Herrmann Loomis, who lives in Normandy, and ask her to come to Paris to help me cook. Susan is the author of books on French and American country cooking, and has a C.I.A.-worthy gift for going into deep cover in a strange region and coming out with its secrets. She cheerfully agreed to help, and after much discussion—she felt that the mussels would be too similar in color to the gigot, a feat of pre-visualization that increased my respect for the things a professional cook knows that an amateur doesn’t—we decided that we would cook together. We scoured markets and arrived at a menu: steamed autumn vegetables with aioli, or garlic mayonnaise the seven-hour lamb with eggplant and tomatoes and an apple tart with rosemary. I went out and got the best bottle of Chartreuse I could find, to keep it honest to de Groots memory.
While we prepared, Alice continued her tour of Paris. The idea of a restaurant turned out to have been something of an afterthought at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, which is an annex of the Louvre, out on the Rue de Rivoli. For many years, it had been a sleepy, unattended institution, filled with old clocks and settees. Mme. David-Weill’s reign devoted a recent exhibition to the Tati stores, a kind of French Woolworth’s, and has promised in general to be much more swinging. Still, the space that had been put aside for eating, though it looked out from the back of the museum onto the Tuileries gardens, lacked some of the amenities of modern restaurants. “It’s all those kinds of basic things,” Alice explained after she had seen it. “Where do the employees wash their hands? Where are the umbrellas for the rainy days? It’s only ninety covers, which is even fewer than Chez Panisse.” She went on, diplomatically, “It’s really more of a tearoom size than anything else. I worry that the space is too small to express what we’d like to express.” In a kind of mission statement, she has described the restaurant as she imagines it:
A platform, an exhibit, a classroom, a conservatory, a laboratory, and a garden. It must be, in a phrase, an art installation in the form of a restaurant, expressing the sensuousness of food and putting people in touch with the pleasures of eating and with the connection between those pleasures and sustainable agriculture. . . . All the elements of the collaboration, from the menu to the décor, will clearly demonstrate where the food comes from and how it was grown. The emphasis is going to be on the food, the kind that makes eating a soul-nourishing experience. Amidst the grandeur of the Louvre, the restaurant must feel human, reflecting the spirit of the farm, the terroir, and the market, and it must express the humanity of the artisans, cooks, and servers who work there.
Yet Alice seemed unperturbed by the difficulties she has the sublime California confidence that all physical problems are susceptible to a little intense spiritual pressure. “I’m not worried,” she said. “If we can solve the space problem, everything else will fall into place. I don’t really want it to be an extension of Chez Panisse in Paris. There will be a vegetable garden, but more important will be establishing a relation to a whole network of suppliers. I’m going to work with Eiko Ishioka, the great Japanese designer, who will do an inspired job. And now I’ve found my forager, in Antoine. This restaurant could be the next step, it could be a statement about diversity on so many levels. It could be the next part of an effort to keep people from perceiving life in the unified way that the mass culture demands.” (When she’s asked if her daughter, Fanny, has ever gone to a McDonald’s, she answers, carefully, “She may have. During a soccer match or something. But I’ve told her that while she’s free to do it if she wants to, I would rather not get involved in that kind of activity.”)
Alice is acutely aware that there are people who see something hypocritical or unreal about a woman who presides over an expensive restaurant preaching against commercial culture. This is silly, of course—if there’s going to be a faith, somebody’s got to live in the Vatican—but it is also false on its own terms. She has scrupulously kept Chez Panisse out of mass merchandising of any kind. There are no Chez Panisse frozen foods, no Chez Panisse canned sauces, no Chez Panisse pasta. There are only cookbooks and a line of granola. Alice Waters is in every way the anti-Wolfgang Puck. (People who know insist that the restaurant still makes remarkably little money for such a famous place.) In a speech she made recently to teachers involved with the “garden in every school” project, in California, she pointed out that “all too many kids—both rich and poor—are disconnected from civilized and humane ways of living their lives,” and then added the Berkeley Basic Truth: “The sensual pleasure of eating beautiful food from the garden brings with it the moral satisfaction of doing the right thing for the planet and for yourself.”
Most people feel that Alice is the figure par excellence of the great Berkeley Transformation, in which the wise children ate the revolution before it had a chance to eat them. Kermit Lynch, the wine importer, who has done more than anyone else to bring the organic revolution to French winemaking (and has been called a “hopeless romantic” for his efforts), is a product of the same history. “Alice and I both started our businesses around the same time,” he recollected recently. “She started cooking for an underground newspaper in San Francisco, and I was working for the Berkeley Barb—and there we were. Who could have imagined that we’d end up this way? It was very political what she was doing then, and it still is.” Alice herself traces the crucial moment for the creation of Chez Panisse to the defeat of Robert Scheer, now a well-known journalist in Los Angeles, whose congressional campaign she had worked for in 1966. “I was so crushed, and I thought, I’m just going to start my own world,” she says.
It may be this reconciliation of utopian politics and aristocratic cooking, more than anything else, that has divided the cooking cultures of France and America. The soixante-huitards were as disappointed in France as they were in America, but they drove their political disappointment into more political disappointment. The culture that the French radicals were countering, after all, was already epicurean—there was no cultural space to be found in expanding it. The counterculture in America had just the opposite situation—it was Nixon who ate cottage cheese with ketchup—and, anyway, the counterculture in America liked pleasure its anthem was “Feed Your Head,” not “Clear Your Head.”
Over time, an obsession with sex and drugs slid imperceptibly into an obsession with children and food. This obsessiveness is what separates Alice Waters from all the other “Anglo-Saxon” restaurateurs who have arrived in Paris recently to open restaurants. (Sir Terence Conran, the London food lord, has just remade an old cabaret on the Rue Mazarine, for instance, bringing the new English style to Paris.) For Alice, the idea of making the millennial restaurant in France is a way of closing a romantic circle. Like de Groot, she sees France as the cradle of organic culture in every sense: “The restaurant I imagine is a way of repaying that debt to France, of Americans taking the best of ourselves, instead of the worst of ourselves, to help recall the French to their own best traditions, a way that my generation can repay the debt we owe to France.”
On the day of our dinner, Kenneth Starr’s report had just appeared, and all afternoon friends from New York were calling me about it. Susan Loomis and I ran back and forth from the study to the kitchen, doing a lot of “Can you believe what he’s saying?” (and also a fair amount of “Can you believe what they were doing?”). I was trying to adjust the heat on the lamb when the phone rang, from my little boy’s school. Once again, as he often had since the term began, he had refused to take a nap, and the school wanted me to bring him home. I sighed, forgot about the report, checked the lamb, left Susan in the kitchen, and raced off with my wife to pick him up. (I thought ruefully that you could bet a million dollars that, if he were in a school in New York, there would be a Nap-Averse Support Group, a special room for the dormitively challenged, and a precedent-setting lawsuit launched by the attorney father of an earlier child, guaranteeing the right of every child to refuse a nap. But this was Paris: strictly no nap, no school.) I hesitated about leaving the lamb in the oven untended, but then decided, well, seven hours. . . . Throughout the afternoon, instead of feeling, as I had hoped, like Roy de Groot luxuriating in the Alps, I felt a lot like Ray Liotta spinning in the last reel of “Goodfellas,” when he’s cooking veal for his crippled brother, and the police helicopter is circling overhead, and he and the mule who’s carrying the cocaine have to go and get her lucky hat.
How was the lamb? The evening went well, though all through dinner the Starr report was being faxed to us by a friend: pages—four hundred of them—kept churning out of the machine, just a room away. You couldn’t help hearing them as they arrived, and every now and then I would go in and peek at the latest revelation. There was an odd symmetry: on the one hand, at our dinner table the high priestess of the American generation that has come to believe that only through refined sensual pleasure can you re-create an ideal America on the other, page after page of legal detail documenting the existence of those who believe that talking about ideals while pursuing sensations is just what makes this generation such a bunch of louses. It was a kind of two-course meal of radical hedonism and extreme puritanism, both as American as, well, apple pie.
But how was the lamb? Alice spoke freely about the problems that the space at the Louvre represented. Listening between the sentences, you could deduce that, if she had not lost heart, she had, at least, a larger sense of how vast and difficult a project it promised to be. Susan Loomis’s aioli was fabulous. People talked, as they do everywhere, about Clinton and Monica.
But how was the lamb? The wine was excellent. The tarte aux pommes was fine.
And the lamb? Well. The lamb had a strong resemblance to a third baseman’s mitt—if I had Antoine Jacobsohn’s gift for precision, I would compare it to Buddy Bell’s glove, circa 1978—with interesting hints of Naugahyde, kapok, and old suède bomber jacket. There were plenty of white beans, though, and some sauce, so everyone pushed it around politely on the plate. I think I know now what went wrong: after three years of a French oven, I realized that it was easy to forget that American cookbooks were still written, so to speak, in Fahrenheit. De Groot’s two hundred degrees was almost half as hot as the two hundred degrees of my Celsius oven.
I also saw that Alice Waters didn’t notice. If you are playing tennis with Martina Hingis, she does not notice when your backhand is off, because she does not notice when your backhand is on. What you have is not what she would call a backhand. At least I was able to explain to the company that the lamb came from Roy de Groot’s book, and talked about what a haunting image it gave of a now vanished French cooking culture: the iron pots on the hearth, the shy Provençale lady in the kitchen, the daily bounty from the farms and the hunters. Alice got that look in her eye. “I love that book,” she said. “And I went on an expedition to the Alps just to find the auberge.”
Did that perfect auberge really exist? I asked.
“Well, no, not really. Not exactly,” she said, in a tone that sounded like “not at all.” “I mean, yes, it didn’t, not like that.” She thought for a moment. “Of course, it existed for him. It still exists for us, in the minds of the people around this table. Maybe that’s where the ideal restaurant always will be.”
Postscript: After Alice Waters left Paris, Le Figaro published an interview with her in which she gently reviewed her concerns about the Rungis market. “THE MARKETS IN PARIS ARE SHOCKING!” was the headline on the piece, whose effect, from a P.R. point of view, was that of a Japanese baseball manager who after a trip to Yankee Stadium is quoted in a headline saying, “YOU CALL THAT A BALLPARK?” Alice Waters is learning that the real France is an inscrutable, hypersensitive place.
I have come to suspect that what is called a seven-hour lamb was really meant to be seven-hour mutton. I am aware, of course, that there may be other, better recipes for this dish, and other, more careful cooks who have prepared it. (The four-hour lamb was great.) But it is also my suspicion that, like so many vanishing things in French cooking, the seven-hour recipe was actually made for harder sheep in tougher times. In the late-modern world, where we get all the pleasure we can as soon as we can get it and on any terms we can, and none of us want to take a nap, for fear of missing some pleasure we might otherwise have had—in a world like that, as I say, there may just be no place left for the seven-hour gigot. ♦
Jersey City library director fights racism, broadens library’s reach
What’s new at the library? Plenty if you ask Jersey City Public Library Director Jeffery Trzeciak.
It’s amazing that in the 21 century, libraries, the repositories of all knowledge and print, have still managed to sustain themselves in the digital age. But, from fighting systemic racism to expanding offerings, the library even in this time of COVID has grown to help better serve the Jersey City community, Trzeciak said.
Trzeciak became director of the Jersey City library in November 2019, and moved to the city a year ago with his husband, Michael. Born and raised in Dayton, OH, Trzeciak attended a small public school that didn’t have its own library. So, the teachers from the school would walk the students a few blocks over to Dayton’s public library.
“I was in awe of all the kinds of books you could get there and they were all for free,” said Trzeciak. “That library was always closely connected to the community and it ended up being where I got my first job out of high school.”
From that first time walking in to Dayton’s local library to that first job after high school, being a librarian was always the plan for Trzeciak.
“I’m one of those few people you’ll meet that wanted to be a librarian all his life,” he says. “That first job helped me afford college and when I got there, I realized I had all the basics for working in a library and went ahead to get the Masters degree I needed to make a career out of it.”
Trzeciak spent time working at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, after leaving Dayton. It was there that he recognized in order for libraries to succeed, they should have workers who represent the communities they serve. This has become one of the larger topics that the Jersey City Public Library has been tackling: fighting systemic racism.
“When you hear the word ‘librarian,’ you think of the little old lady with glasses. That has been largely true,” he says. “It’s still very much true where librarianship is largely white and largely female, although that’s beginning to change now.”
The Jersey City Library has a staff that speak Hindi, Arabic, Spanish, Greek, and Russian just to name a few.
“With a city like Jersey City, where there’s a large population of immigrants, the best way to serve them is by speaking their language,” he says. “When I was in Detroit, I did a lot of minority recruitment for positions and getting people from underrepresented groups to become professional librarians. I had money through federal grants that I was able to use to offer scholarships and internships. There’s now about 30 librarians of color at work in the field because of that.”
After Detroit, Trzeciak spent some time in Canada before settling in St. Louis, MO. He was working at Washington University during the time of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson. That prompted him to start the project “Documenting Ferguson.”
“That came about as a way of working with the community to document what was happening and to give them an outlet on how they were feeling,” Trzeciak recalls. “We were looking at what libraries could do for communities in times of crisis.”
“When it comes to fighting systemic racism, one of the important things to know is that we have to get our own house in order by looking at the barriers that exist within libraries and staff being able to move around, getting promoted, and advancing their careers,” he says.
The Jersey City Library recently removed all of its fines and fees. That means no more overdue books and no more fees for videos or internet hotspots. Trzeciak was also behind this same move during his time at the Newark Public Library, where he worked before coming to Jersey City.
“This was part of a larger initiative with libraries around the country,” he says. “We’re not the first to do this by any stretch, but we did it to acknowledge that fines and fees impact communities of color, children, and individuals who can least afford it. When that happens, they just stop coming to the library.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Jersey City Public Library saw how it highlighted the digital inequalities in the community. Not everyone had internet access, which is vital in the latest health updates during the pandemic as well as getting a job or applying for college. The library, along the Jersey City Housing Authority and Department of Health, distributed 300 wireless hotspots to communities in need.
The pandemic hasn’t made life easy, but the library has tried to adapt. This past year the library received its 1 millionth book, 50 percent of which are e-books. Streaming media and e-book use has also seen a significant increase. Online programs include tutor.com, where students who are having trouble with their homework can log on and receive assistance from live tutors. There’s also live story time, and the STEAM program Fun Fridays.
“We have more people in our virtual programming than we did when we were doing this face to face,” says Trzeciak. “I think it’s not just the convenience. Once the programs are done airing live, they’re still recorded, so people who miss it live can still check it out. We had a program that one of the librarians ran a few weeks ago that saw almost 1,000 kids logged in.”
Trzeciak admits that libraries really haven’t changed in the role they play in the community. “We continue to support people the same way we always have, but we’ve been focusing more on e-resources than print,” he says. “We’ve moved away from just being repositories of information and more on being active community centers.”
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