Horrors on Clarke! Haunted house display on the West Side

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A young admirer at Horrors on Clarke

People on the West Side love to decorate their homes for Halloween and Christmas (and any other holiday that has any sort of decoration – including Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day!), but a family on Clarke Ave takes it to a whole new level.

For the past 17 years, they’ve been decorating the entire front of their home (the yard, the front of their house, the tree in the yard) with motorized, light-up, human-sized figures and projections. The display is really turned on from 6:30pm-10:30pm once it gets dark; I arrived earlier because my nighttime photography skills aren’t so great. But this will give you a sense of it. It’s really worth checking out:

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The house is located on Clarke Ave between West Side and Mallory. Find them on Facebook as Horrors on Clarke.

More Ward B election resources

If you’re still undecided about who to vote for in the Ward B Council race, here are some more resources for you:

More to come! These candidates are working very, very hard for your vote. There’s lots of opportunities to get to know them.

JCAST in McGinley Square

Today was the second day of JCAST – the JC Artists’ Studio Tour. Several places in McGinley Square participated. Here’s a quick roundup of the ones I went to. Note that some of the shows continue on past the weekend, through the end of the month.

St. Paul’s Church: Loving Arms: Artists Explore Gun Culture (Sept 30 – Oct 26; more info stpaulsjc.org)

This is a sprawling group show in one of the small buildings of St. Pauls on Duncan Ave. It’s a mix of painting, drawinIMG_9128g, and mixed media works, with a few large installation/sculptures. One of the latter sculptures is pictured here, called Where have all the tissues gone? Homicides in Hudson County by Beth Bently, which wall text described as a “three-dimensional bar graph to memorialize those who were victims of homicide in Hudson County from 2015 to the present” with each tissue box on the totem representing a victim.

The show is a mix, with not all pieces necessarily being “anti-gun” or “activist art.” Painter Caroline Parks had a triptych of gouache on wood paintings of children’s toy guns that I especially liked (but was unable to get a good pic of).

I was impressed by the level of ambition that the curators had in this show. With well over a dozen artists and upcoming related performances in the mix, pulling this off and making it look as good as they did was no small feat. The space at St. Paul’s is not, by any means, a polished gallery space – it’s a multi-use, funky church space, after all (I’ve never been in this space before, but the entire feel of it reminded me a bit of Judson Church in the West Village, which has served as an incubator to the arts since the 1960s). But there was something very touching about this exhibition that felt very authentic to the environment and the surrounding community. I really hope they continue to put on more shows.


CremaJC: Lorenzo Irico (corner of Duncan and Bergen)

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The space that used to be Harry Street Coffee and is slated to open as ice cream parlor CremaJC  has a show of Lorenzo Iricos work. This is a pop-up, temporary space and I’m not sure how long the show will remain up – information about the show was scarce. The work was very pop-surrealist influenced, and well painted.

It was a really nice use of the space and it was good to see a solo show professionally displayed. I enjoyed the strangely ornate frames around some of the pieces in particular. There was an unfinished piece on display that I assume the artist was working on when he was  there, and it was helpful to see his work in process.


Clara Arts: Sisao Nabru: Tranquility in Retrograde; Patrick Eugene, Julian Rapp, Josana Blue; 709 Bergen Ave. (Sept 16 – Oct 21; open weekends 12-6 and weekdays by appointment)

IMG_9135McGinley Square has its own fully-dedicated, storefront art gallery now. The architecture of McGinley Square makes Clara Arts look more like an old-school Upper East Side gallery than anything in Chelsea (which in my book is a really good thing) – modest-sized and with a low ceiling, nicely lit. This three person show was all painting; mostly expressionistic abstractions, with influences ranging from Antoni Tapies to Matisse to Guston at mid-career.

The press release poses the question, Facing the demands  of modern day hyper-productivity, what does the urban oasis look like now that we’re more likely to stumble upon a fully packed subway car than an idyllic hillside? I’m not sure the exhibition quite answers that, but the it does highlight the work of these three painters and their well-executed paintings which are immersed in a dialogue of historical abstraction.

 

JC West Side Chili Cook Off winners!

It was rainy and gross last week (so we had to move to the Gallo Center), but the cook off went on and we had over 200 people in attendance. Here’s some pics and list of the winners below:

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The winners:

Judges’ Choice: Culver Ave Cajun Chili

People’s Choice: Plumber’s Dutch Oven Chilltown Chili

Thanks for all who came out!

JC West Side Chili Cook Off – update

In case you’re googling to find out info:

The JC West Side Chili Cook Off is ON – Sunday, Oct 8th at noon – 2pm, RAIN OR SHINE!!!

If it’s not raining, it will be outdoors, near the playground that is close to West Side Ave. If it is raining, it will be in the Gallo Center (right behind that playground).

Can’t wait to see you and bring your appetite! Don’t eat breakfast! 🙂

 

NJ Together action/mayoral forum

Last night, over 1100 church members, tenants’ rights groups, JC activists, and their guests packed the theater at NJCU for the NJ Together/JC Together annual “action” – a mix of their yearly meeting to discuss their successes and priorities, and a time when they call upon elected and appointed officials to commit to work with them on various causes they champion. The last time the group had their annual action, things got pretty spicy, with Mayor Fulop being called out repeatedly (and on widely circulated video) by Rev. Perry for delaying the reval and perceived economic injustices in the city.

This year – with the election about a month away and both candidates invited to the action – expectations were super high about what was going to happen. The meeting was largely shrouded in secret (I volunteered a bit to help with the setup, and even I had very little clue as to what was going to happen) but hotly anticipated. As I watched the crowd file in, I was amazed – it seemed that every single elected official in JC and candidate for office was in attendance, neatly spread out throughout the theater and each assigned to sit with a different congregation according to JC Together’s fastidiously planned seating arrangements. On stage, the two candidates – Steve Fulop and Bill Matsikoudis – were separated on opposite sides of the stage like two Siamese fighting fish (seriously, this is the image that came to mind) with a packed row of religious leaders separating them. The rumor was that the organization was going to unleash a “surprise” and there was a lot of nervous chatter as to what on earth that was going to be.

This blog post could easily go on for a year if I recapped everything that happened at this jam-packed meeting (including but not limited to: gospel music, multiple prayers in multiple faiths, and so much more), so I’ll just try to hit the highlights.

The candidates were asked to commit to affordable housing and safe streets (as in crime reduction). I filmed their answers. First up, Matsikoudis:

Response by Fulop:

Ok. Later, one of my favorite people, Pastor Willie Keaton talked about the importance of clearing outstanding warrants for people who had them for minor things (traffic tickets, failure to appear in court), and got a commitment from Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez to book two days in May to meet with people and help them through that process. So that’s really great.

Meanwhile, the big secret is still coming.

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Rev. Alonzo Perry took the podium and started talking about the Bayfront development and a second cleanup site in Bergen-Lafayette, which I’ve written about before. He stressed the need for affordable housing in JC and that JC Together was pushing for affordable home ownership on the site. It was compared to a similar site in East Brooklyn which has successfully built affordable housing in the midst of a very robust market.

As I’m sitting there, I’m thinking – “ok, this is all very good, but that’s a long damn commute to JSQ/NYC and how on earth are all these people supposed to get to their jobs without dumping hundreds/thousands more cars on our streets which are already completely snarled with traffic, or overloading our public transportation system that is barely chugging along already?”

Enter: the surprise. It’s at about the 12 minute mark on this video:

(My phone started dying around now so I’ll try and fill in what I couldn’t catch because I spent so much of my battery life taking videos of the awesome gospel singers earlier.) There is a THIRD site being developed, across the Hackensack, in Kearny. It’s directly across from Bayfront. And the point of this site is to build a commercial corridor (not more residential) with businesses and light manufacturing. They’ve already attracted a number of small businesses and are continuing to grow it – and the idea is that the Kearny site would have to jobs that the people in Bayfront and Bergen-Lafayette would be commuting to (via a “five minute ferry ride”). My interpretation is that they’re trying to build a whole middle class enclave here – jobs nearby, affordable homes, easy commute – that can exist where no such thing exists currently. It’s almost like building a company town within a city, except instead of there being one huge employer, there’s many smaller companies.

Ok, on the surface, this is pure genius, total urban planning at its very best. It sounds like a model for the kind of thing that can actually save this country and its loss of jobs and housing crisis and so many inter-related problems. But, I have some questions. I’m concerned about actually attracting the right kinds of businesses to Kearny and getting everything to line up. Like – there is no ferry; what does a ferry cost? That’s a very minor point in the grand scheme of things, but it’s one concrete question I have out of many. I want this to work and I’m stunned and inspired that NJ/JC Together even got this far and were this ambitious in putting together such a plan. I desperately want this to work. Please work. Please don’t get mired in bullshit NJ politics and poor management and weighed down by a thousand little things where it never happens. Please please please work.

After the presentation above, Mayor Fulop was called to come to the podium and asked if he supports the plan. He answered an enthusiastic YES and the crowd cheered. This felt a little weird to me for two reasons: 1. Matsikoudis wasn’t asked the same thing, which seemed unfair given he was sitting right there and also running for mayor; and 2. What the hell else was Fulop going to say in that situation? And I think we all know that when a politician running for office says “yes” about something, there’s a thousand nuances that can be added later, so the lack of specificity in what he was being asked felt a little off. But I also get that there were dozens of cell phones in the air filming the commitment, and the idea is to hold him to that YES as much as possible, should he be elected.

So I had some misgivings about that one particular moment. But the overall meeting was just stunning as an example of what a small grassroots organization can accomplish, and we potentially have an absolute marvel of urban planning waiting to happen in our part of Jersey City. In two short years, NJ Together has really made a name for themselves as a leader in our community in fighting for progressive values around a number of issues, and I can’t overstate how impressed I am with the tireless work they’ve done. As always with these things, there’s so much work still to do, and I just hope it all goes as planned.