Jersey City knit chart

By now you may have seen the Jersey City hats I’ve been constantly shilling every chance I can get. If not, behold!

c1q9ejdxaaa8ogj

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):

stitch-fiddle-2

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:

stitch-fiddle-1

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!

Talking to: Ellen Simon

dsc_5777
Ellen Simon – wearing a blue top – and friends, and the kickoff of her school board run, in 2013. All pictures in this article are courtesy Ellen Simon. 

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.

So it’s probably not a surprise that getting elected to the school board is such a contentious issue. This past election cycle, we saw things devolve to the point where grown men were breaking out into physical altercations at debates (seriously! If you click on no other link in this entire post, click on that one – it includes mention of face licking!). Even more troubling, outside groups poured nearly $600,000 into their candidates, the only school board race in the state to attract such money. The school board is a big deal.

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.

– Amy


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.”

READ MORE


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.

READ MORE


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.”

I said, “Of course I am.”

We did not become friends for life.

READ MORE


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.

READ MORE


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.”

READ MORE


What was serving on the Board like?
I thought I was cynical when I got into this. As it turns out, I wasn’t cynical enough.

READ MORE


While on the Board, did you notice any long-time practices in the district that hold schools back?

I heard a retired administrator speak who talked about how he brought his friends and relatives to the former superintendent, and how they all got hired.

When I mentioned this to an old-timer, the old-timer told me that the speaker had 50 relatives on payroll.

Fifty.

READ MORE


Was the BOE a well-functioning body?

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

pullq


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.

READ MORE


What role can the community play in creating better schools? 

There’s so much the community can do.

READ MORE


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.

READ MORE


Prefer to read it all at once? Here’s the interview in full. 

Meeting with Chris Gadsen

Yesterday, there was a raid on a corner bodega down the street from me. This is after last week’s craziness, so people in my neighborhood are definitely on edge.

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:

img_6118

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:

img_6116

Free yoga on the West Side!

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.

Follow up

As a follow up from yesterday’s post, here’s an article in the Jersey Journal about what happened:

http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2017/01/jersey_city_cops_assaulted_while_issuing_tickets_l.html

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.

 

Jersey City, goddamn.

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:

img_6054

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?