By now you may have seen the Jersey City hats I’ve been constantly shilling every chance I can get. If not, behold!
I made a bunch for our neighborhood craft fair and they were really popular so I made some more. And I’ve had a bunch of local knitters ask me where I got the chart from for the JERSEY CITY part. I made it, on graph paper, the old fashioned way that you make color knitting or Fair Isle charts – just by drawing it out and filling in the little squares.
To me, it’s a pretty easy and obvious chart. But I had so many people ask for a copy of it that I went on Stitchfiddle and made a real one nice enough to share.
This first one is perfect for hats – it’s the same one I used in the hat above. It’s only 5 stitches up and down, and 41 across. Working on size 5 needles, you could probably fit two repeats of it around if you’re making an adult-sized hat (obviously depends on your gauge and so forth, so these are just estimates):
If you want to print the chart out, just drag the image to your desktop and then open it there. You can resize it that way, too.
I also made this bigger one so that you could work your hometown into a sweater or larger garment. I’ve tried a version of this in hats, but it was a little big for my tastes. Maybe you can make it work:
Same as before, drag and drop to make it bigger or to print it. This one is ten stitches up and down, 60 across.
If you want to get really crazy, you can start doing stuff with fonts and multiple colors and so forth, but what I like about these two charts is that they’re easy to memorize and they’re good PATH train or evening knits.
And if you don’t knit at all and want a JC hat, hit me up!
Unless you have children enrolled in school – and even if you do – the school board might seem like some far-off, difficult-to-understand institution. We all know the importance of good teachers and principals, of smaller class sizes and good facilities, and yet the role of the board in delivering all this seems hazy and unclear to the casual observer.
So let’s start with the basics: the JC school board is a nine-member committee that is elected by the public. Each member’s term is three years; it’s an unpaid position. It is the final authority in the school district – the Superintendent answers to the board. If there’s going to be a new school built, the BOE must approve it. Rename a school? Again – that must be brought to the board. An addition to the holiday calendar? Talk to the board.
JC schools have over 28,000 students in forty different schools, so this affects a lot of people. And these days, it’s not just that schools teach reading and writing; they provide meals to students and can be save havens for kids with no place to go before and after school. Schools are now integral not only in giving children an education, but in providing important basic services communities have come to depend upon. If somehow all that isn’t enough, we know anecdotally that a good public school in your neighborhood can cause your property values to increase and overall crime to decrease.
Ellen Simon was a mom to a toddler when she ran for – and won – a spot on the school board in 2013. She chose not to run for re-election and her term ended in December. I conducted this email interview with Ellen last week, and I was curious to hear about her experiences. The interview is long – very long – so I’ve divided it up into sections below. If you’d rather jump to the full article, you can click on this link.
Her views are her own, and much of what she says below is controversial. While I wasn’t privy to many of the specific situations she refers to, I will mention that in the short period of time that I’ve known her, I have found her to be of the utmost integrity and passion when it comes to our schools. The first question I always ask myself when I meet someone running for elected office is, are they in it for the right reasons? Meaning, do they genuinely have a desire to serve their community above and beyond whatever their personal gain may be? To that, I can definitely answer that Ellen absolutely did when she was running, and does to this day.
Q: How did you first get involved with the public schools in JC?
ES: When our son was a baby in 2010, my husband and I ran into one of my old friends, who had older kids. He went on and on about how the schools were under state control, the size of the budget, how poor student outcomes were, etc.
I said to my husband, “Remember when we used to get pissed off by stuff like this?”
I had never been involved in politics at any level, but a couple months later, I was volunteering for then-councilman Steven Fulop’s slate of school board candidates. I became the mom with a diaper bag full of campaign lit, accosting strangers on the playground about the Board of Education election. I think our son’s first full phrase, as a toddler, was “School Board election.”
What was running for school board like?
I had the great fortune of running with Micheline Amy, who is a superb human resources executive, and Jessica Daye, an alumna of McNair and Columbia University and a professional special needs advocate. Both of them are women of great intelligence, calm, character and integrity. We spent so much time together that after we all got elected, Jessica’s husband, Paul, who makes jewelry, made us all really lovely rings. I plan to keep mine forever.
Running for office in Jersey City in 2013 was, in many ways, like running in 1913 probably was. There are still parades to march in, doors to knock, ward leaders to meet. It’s still very hard to win without the support of the city’s political bosses.
In general, what do you think of the public schools here? Where do they excel?
When my son was a toddler, I met someone new who said, moments after meeting me, “Of course you’re not sending your child to the Jersey City public schools.”
Where do they fall short?
One piece of data we got on the Board was about teacher absenteeism. While the vast majority of our teachers are hard-working and diligent, a few of our schools struggle with a handful of teachers who are chronically absent.
Specifically, do you have any particular experiences or anecdotes as they relate to the schools? Anything you’ve noticed as the mother of a kid in a public school? Or in visits that you made to schools while on the Board?
As one friend said, “We’re not religious people; we don’t go to church or synagogue. Our school is our community.”
A partial highlight reel of the last 13 months: A clip of a board member screaming at the Superintendent during a meeting. A clip of the board trying to name a school after a sitting board member when the community wanted it named after Pres. Barack Obama. An article about one board member suing the board president. An article about a board member resigning after a dunderheaded Facebook post. READ MORE
Why should people vote in the BOE elections? The answer seems pretty simple and direct if you have kids in the system, but what if you don’t? Why is it important for people without school-aged children to pay attention?
The Board of Education is one of the places in our democracy where your voice really can make a difference.
Your vote on BOE campaigns matters: Someone really did win by one vote once. I won by, if I recall, 189.
What did you learn over the last four years of your service? What would you do better, differently? And what are you most proud of?
I learned that with the right leadership, urban schools can change for the better, and real outcomes for students can improve dramatically. I learned that change doesn’t have to be glacial; real improvements can happen quickly.
What I’m most proud of are the tremendous strides the district has made and continues to make. I know I keep saying this, but it’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of staffers at every level, from security guards to senior administrators.
This afternoon, I got to meet with our councilman, Chris Gadsen. He and I (and his friend who – ack – I forgot his name! I wasn’t expecting this to be a blog post, so I was unprepared to take notes) walked up and down West Side Ave between Duncan and Gautier, talking to business owners about what they’re seeing. Chris offered last night to come and walk the block with me, as a member of the community concerned about this block.
There’s that saying that all politics is local. In Jersey City, I swear it’s hyper-super-local. Like, if something isn’t happening to you in front of your face, you don’t think it’s an issue – you don’t even know it exists. There could be a major problem occurring three or four blocks from where you live and it’s like you’d never even know it. In NYC, you might have a half hour on TV devoted to just local news, just within the city, bringing the issues of disparate neighborhoods right into your living room. We don’t have that kind of intense, breaking news media coverage. So it’s especially important for us to get elected officials out – in person – to see what we’re dealing with, first hand. They’re not going to really get it any other way.
In this visit, I felt like Chris got it. He immediately identified a problem that many of us have been talking about for some time – the poor street lighting. Fixing that alone would be an immense help. Yes, we need foot patrols and police to pay attention, but we also need something as basic as lighting, which will be a huge deterrent to crime.
Anyway, here we are talking to the liquor store owner:
It was a good start! There are many things in flux in the neighborhood right now, so it’s hard to say where it’s all going to go. But I was pleased with this visit, and with what I heard.
Lastly, we ran into Caitlin Mota, clearly Chris’ favorite Jersey Journal reporter (love you, Terrence! but I’m pretty sure Chris said this!) who gave him a hard time for his beloved Cowboys losing the game last night. I took the liberty of superimposing a tiny crown on her head because, well, she is the winner in this case:
Hey, there’s now three free yoga classes you can take in our neighborhood:
Wednesdays, 6pm (with Camelia)
Thursdays, 5:30pm (with Jessica)
Saturdays, 9am (with Camelia)
Located at the Gallo Center in Lincoln Park (the Gallo is that small, administrative building near the Harrison/West Side playground). Free parking! Beginners welcome! Please bring a mat. And yes, it really is free – the instructors are paid by the County of Hudson, so you’re all set. Classes are one hour.
I’m going to be really honest: yoga isn’t my thing. If there’s not music blasting and I’m not jumping up and down feeling like my heart is going to explode… well, it just isn’t my thing. I’m just not very good at relaxing – probably should work on that. But! I can say that I’ve taken Camelia’s class several times and she is totally terrific. Very sweet, genuine, and down to earth. And her class is really good. The people who attend are likewise very kind and welcoming, and it’s a really nice little community. This is not a Lululemon fashion show competition by any means; it’s yoga and gentle exercise for all bodies, ages, and levels. (I haven’t taken Jessica’s class but I’ve chatted with her and she seems equally lovely and supportive.)
If yoga is your thing, I think you really might like these classes. They’re a wonderful asset to our neighborhood.
I would have expected a stronger statement from the city – something along the lines of: “As a city, we are appalled to hear about this attack on two of our law enforcement agents. We are working as hard as possible to make sure that justice is served, and that this community can again feel safe and proud walking down its streets.” Something like that. Instead, we get “But the reality is, we also have to address problems in other parts of the district which require attention,” which really doesn’t do much to calm the very nervous residents who walk through West Side Avenue every day.
Words matter. I think most people are sophisticated enough to know that just because the mayor’s spokesperson doesn’t explicitly say that they support their officers, that they still do. But say you’re looking to open a business on West Side Ave, and this incident just happened. Would you rather read that a city is doing all it can to prevent future incidents, or would you rather read – eh, this whole neighborhood has a lot of problems? Which would make you feel better? What if you were a young family choosing between staying on the West Side or leaving? Which would you rather hear?
What can – realistically – a mayor’s office do in a situation like this? Can they instantly deploy dozens of cops to the scene? Can they immediately and definitively provide endless assistance to people who are marginalized and give them the help they need so they don’t strike out? No, of course not. But they can set a tone. They can draw a line in the sand and say this is what we stand for and what we will and will not accept, and we will do all we can to make sure we uphold that. Just sort of admitting that the problem is somehow too big and unruly to ever really fix – well, that doesn’t really help.
I had this great blog post all figured out in my head – really! It was going to be so cool. It’s all about how our two local colleges can help be better partners in our city and comparing how Antioch College is handing their real estate issues in OH and….
On my walk home from work, I stumble into this:
It’s a surprisingly warm Wednesday in January; I just taught a long day of classes, and I turn on West Side getting ready to turn off onto my block, and there’s a half dozen police cars pulling up with lights and sirens blazing. My picture sucks; I’m clear on that. There were a ton of people on the sidewalks being screamed at by the cops to clear the area, including some guys still in smocks from getting their hair cut at the nearby barber shop. Everyone was wrangling for a view; of what, it wasn’t really clear.
But to give you some background: we have a liquor store on this stretch of West Side, that a bunch of guys hang out at. It’s usually about 6-12 guys (sometimes more sometimes less), and they can get pretty unruly. “Pretty unruly” is a euphemism for “I’ve seen one of the guys try and choke out his girlfriend until I got in his face and screamed til he stopped” and “they yell obscenities at young women with children going grocery shopping during the middle of the day.” It’s a bad situation.
This area has had three councilmen in the last year (yes), and I have spoken to all of them about the problem. I also went to a Police Captain’s meeting and I’ve complained to the cops many times, as have countless neighbors and other community members. Nothing changes. Shopkeepers on the street will go out and ask the guys to move on, and the guys will scream racial epithets at them.
Now, as far as I’m concerned, no one wants to see the guys arrested, hurt, punished, or anything like that. If they need help – please! By all means, let them get help. Alcoholism is terrible, if they are in fact alcoholic. I don’t know! I just know that I’d like to be able to walk home without being harassed, and that the situation is rapidly escalating. I want it resolved as quickly but also humanely as possible.
Tonight, something happened. I don’t know for a fact that it was related to the guys in front of the liquor store, but I do know that right at the corner where they all hang out there were a ton of cops and a guy being led away in handcuffs while resisting all the way. I can’t help but think what we’ve all been complaining about for over a year has finally boiled over. How many times do you have to speak up and be ignored? At what point does it become serious enough to be addressed?
…or maybe #whyisjerseycitytrending would be better?
When I woke up this morning and saw #jerseycity trending on Twitter, I have to admit that my heart stopped for a minute. Small cities that rarely make the national news usually only trend when there’s a mass shooting or horrific hate crime, so I couldn’t help but fear the worse for a split second there. My concerns were quickly assuaged as I flipped through tweet after tweet with #jerseycity in it, only to realize that really no one had any idea why it was trending. Like, at all.
Some were a little quick to credit how “cool” and “hip” we are:
Some had, erm, a different view:
Naturally, some tried to make a buck:
Mostly we were just confused:
And then finally, a theory that actually makes sense:
Local politics has been a constant source of both amusement and frustration to me, but I’m mostly just surprised that anyone cares about my opinion at all. This is a densely populated area, after all, and I’m just one person out of very, very many. Is voter turnout so bad now that politicians now chase down every single last actual voter to try and convince them to turn out for their cause?
It sometimes kind of feels that way. For example, just the other day I tweeted:
That’s a not-too-veiled reference to the leading Democratic contender for NJ governor. That race is a long way away, and Murphy pretty much has it in the bag. It wasn’t too much that I thought about – I was on to tweeting about my impending trip to the dentist five minutes later.
But then I got this:
Dan seems nice. It was thoughtful of him to reach out. I genuinely appreciated it, as much as it surprised me. I mean, I never @’ed his campaign or named the candidate, or mentioned the words “governor” or “New Jersey” so it’s not like it showed up in a search, so it did seem a bit intense. Intense, but still nice. He gave me his email address and that evening I wrote out some of my questions and concerns about his candidate:
First off, thank you so much for reaching out via twitter. I genuinely appreciate your willingness to answer some questions regarding Phil Murphy’s run.
I have many questions, but I’ll keep this as brief as possible and narrow them down to three:
1. How does Mr. Murphy’s previous work experience prepare him for the job as governor? Coming from a background at Goldman Sachs and having been an ambassador – those are certainly impressive achievements, but how, specifically, do they qualify him for this particular job?
2. What are his plans for improving public transportation both within the state and to NYC?
3. I’ve been in NJ for many years, and as far back as I can remember, every candidate for governor has always – regardless of party/timing/etc – run on the idea of lower taxes and cleaning up corruption in Trenton. Over and over, through the course of at least 30+ years that I’ve been here, those same issues have been campaigned on with an eye to the idea that they are the “winning” issues. What new, innovative ideas does your candidate have? They need not refer to taxes/corruption specifically – I’m just asking what distinguishes him from prior candidates. Certainly lowering taxes and ending corruption are important, but I’m also eager to see NJ embrace an agenda bigger than simply winning the next election.
Thanks so much for your time. I look forward to reading your reply.
Look, I was on my best behavior because I genuinely wanted dialog. Part of me was screaming: post-economic meltdown, post-Occupy, post-Corzine, post-Trump as PEOTUS, in one of the most liberal states around, what on earth are the Democrats doing rallying behind a Goldman Sachs exec? Also, what does an Ambassador to a very friendly nation actually do (no seriously though)? The other two questions are super important too, but I’m still really stuck on question #1.
Couple of days later, i’m still waiting for a reply.
Still nothing. I was kind of hoping that after the big snowstorm today, Team Murphy would find themselves home with nothing better to do than answer my email, but oh well. I was never expecting a reply from my initial tweet, so it’s not like my hopes are totally tied up in this.
If I get anything, I’ll update this post.
Jan 10th – UPDATE!!!! He wrote back!!!!!
For the most part, the response was along the lines of “here are some links for you to look at and come to your own conclusions.” Which is fair. A little less than I was hoping for after the build up of all this, but fair.
The article reads a bit like an over-the-top press release for the Murphy campaign (for example: “Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, has jumped from the predatory ship and joined the ranks of the robbed and maltreated. Like Robin Hood, he’s a rogue nobleman, but unlike Robin Hood, who merely redistributed wealth….[etc etc].)” That’s downright nauseating, and really called into question the worth of the rest of the article.
Which is a shame, because the underlying premise – that Murphy is calling for a public bank in NJ – sounds really interesting. I’m going to be very, very honest and say that I don’t totally understand this idea – not at a comfort level where I feel as though I have enough information or expertise to really have a firm opinion about it. I’m not a finance person at all, and that is a world I absolutely don’t get. But for the first time, a candidate claiming Wall Street experience actually has a reason why and a specific example how that experience might be used for the common good – and I find that refreshing. (This is versus the usual strategy of “I made a lot of money on Wall Street and that means I’m a good businessman so vote for me because I know how to make money” – which, I don’t get how that’s a convincing argument at all.)
So, I have a lot more reading and research to do. In closing, I’m encouraged by their desire to engage me, and also by this “big idea” of a public bank. The election is a long way away, so plenty of time to look into this more. But they’ve gotten my attention.
McGinley Square Pub is where CivicParent and I go to talk about data and Jersey City. No really. By way of proof, I submit this random picture of a laptop with property tax data on it, with CP’s finger pointing to something:
Right? It’s not a terrible use of a Thursday evening by any means. Sometimes we wind up taking the data and making maps and charts out of it like this. We also drink.
But anyway, on this particular evening, the most amazing thing happened, which is basically that lots of people started showing up with dogs. So many dogs! Ok, there were like three of them. But it was still pretty terrific. It made me think of Yappy Hour in Asbury Park, only with like three dogs and we were all inside and mostly the dogs were ignoring each other. But I still got to pet them so it’s cool.
Here’s a pic of me drunkface with a completely terrified little dog:
Anyway. More dogs, more booze, more data in 2017. Please.