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Montgomery News
A hometown paper
serving
Montgomery Township
and Rocky Hill, NJ

Monday February 19, 2018

 

Montgomery News Directory

New Mayor Mark Conforti, Jaffer Inauguration and Future Township HQ Highlight January Re-Org

 At the Township Committee’s annual reorganization meeting held Monday, January 8, Mark Conforti was appointed the mayor of Montgomery for 2018. He takes up the leading role after many years of local volunteer service as a school board member, Planning Board chairman, and over the last several years as the “numbers guy” on the Committee.

Conforti identified three quality of life factors that make Montgomery attractive for families to live in, now known as a “magnet community.” Conforti says it’s due to having one of the best municipally-controlled, professional police forces in the nation; having one of the state’s highest-performing public school districts, and 40% acreage of preserved open space as a driver of keeping a bucolic character across the township.

“There are towns that can claim one of the three factors, and some two, but I don’t there’s places that can claim all three. As long as we keep doing our jobs and administering the town properly this will continue to be a magnet community for years to come and we will be able to weather anything that the state or federal government ‘friends’ have to throw at us… I go into every year wondering what will go wrong to make life difficult for little municipalities in New Jersey however I am optimistic about the year ahead and for the future,” Conforti said.

The Committee welcomed its newest member, Sadaf Jaffer, victor of the November 2017 election and filling the seat previously held by Rich Smith. She was sworn in by Township Attorney Kristina Hadinger as her husband Daniel Sheffield and young daughter Zareen stood with her. They were joined by Jaffer’s mother and father, Batool and Mushtaq Jaffer, who flew in from Chicago for the ceremony.

Committeewoman Jaffer will be the liaison to the Environmental Commission/Sustainable Montgomery, the Shade Tree Committee and the Wildlife Management Committee. Although she is the first Democrat to serve on Township Committee since the start of the decade, Jaffer was adept in her first turn in local politics. At the Monday morning meeting she spread a message of unity among neighbors and across party lines.

“As a Committee member I will aim to serve all of the community with honesty and openness. I will strive to champion diverse perspectives, civic engagement and environmental stewardship. When I first considered running for office some friends were surprised and expressed their wariness about politics. It’s important that we stop discussing politics as a shadowy arena and understand that our elected officials are our neighbors who are representing us at various levels of government, whether it’s here in Montgomery, in Trenton or in Washington, D.C. and we should hold them to those standards. I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many inspiring elected officials, and I am grateful for their mentorship,” Jaffer said.

After a nomination from Committeewoman Patricia Graham, Christine Madrid was appointed as deputy mayor for 2018. Madrid last served as the township’s mayor in 2015 and on January 8 she was sworn in by Hadinger as she stood alongside her husband, also named Daniel, as well as her son Liam and daughter Cassandra.

This year Deputy Mayor Madrid will be the Committee’s liaison to the school board as well as the Board of Fire Prevention and the Budget and Finance Committee.

In January Madrid said two ideas worth exploring for the Committee are a municipal charity to provide tax credits for donations and a ‘Shop Local’ program similar to what Hillsborough has in place, “where residents can get property tax credits at the time they make a purchase at a participating local merchant.”

Over the past six years, Committeeman Ed Trzaska either served as Montgomery’s mayor or deputy mayor each year. Throughout 2017 Trzaska held a total of nine “Meet the Mayor” events with residents across the township. He tells the News in 2018, “I expect Mark to continue with such meetings and I will participate from time to time.”

Some residents believe Jaffer’s election represents a milestone for race, gender and political party representation in township government. Days before the meeting Trzaska was asked about the diversity of the Township Committee. In an email he explained that 31% of Montgomery residents are Asian (with Indian-Americans and Chinese-Americans each comprising 14% of the township).

“Having our elected and volunteer boards/committee represent the diversity of our community is very important. Obviously, my family is multi-racial, so I understand the value of this. We have worked hard to recruit a diverse range of residents to participate in township activities and will continue to do so,” Trzaska said.

At the January 8 meeting, Trzaska spoke about progress the township made in its planning and acquisition of a new municipal building at the former Convatec site off Route 206 and Orchard Road. He detailed the cost factor of renovating the existing municipal building and police station, and said after four years of evaluations and analyses the proper investment is being made.

“This was a big decision, but we could not spend the required $15 million to upgrade the current building, especially since even at that price tag, the final product would not fully meet our future needs.
We are working with Somerset County on the process and will know our construction options in the next several months. There are many benefits with the new location and building. Our police department’s facility will now conform to all state and federal guidelines and be located much closer to our schools,” Trzaska said.

Another key announcement from Trzaska’s January address relays a chance that the Mary Jacobs Memorial Library in Rocky Hill, part of SCLSNJ, has an uncertain future in terms of Montgomery Township usage and funding: “The new (former Convatec) building will also include enough space for a brand new library, which will be run by the county library system,” he said. The Committee previously heard a proposal from two residents, Jessie Havens and George Dorer, to study the potential dimensions and viability of a new library facility for the Orchard Road site.

Committeewoman Graham said she enjoyed working with the Veterans’ Memorial Committee for the first time in 2017 and she looks forward to their efforts this calendar year. She turned the audience’s attention to “dedicated endeavors” to preserve open space and the bucolic nature in Montgomery, in particular with a tract along Route 518 in Skillman that had been zoned for commercial property.

“I believe the continued acquisition of Montgomery’s open space is one of the most significant ways in which we can control the future of our town. I continue to be impressed by the work and dedication of the Open Space Committee. Some of the most recent acquisitions in the past year were, 15 acres from the Kehilat Shalom property in Belle Mead, a 35-acre tract added to the Cherry Brook Preserve and another 35 acres in a particularly significant acquisition off Route 518. That parcel was within the sewer service area and it was being marketed to developers. Instead of a development on that property we have open space, and that will be forever,” Graham said.

Following Conforti’s mention of the police force, Graham commented that Montgomery is fortunate to have such a high-caliber and professional police department. “The township works very closely with the police department and I appreciate the dangerous, difficult work our officers do every day to serve our residents. Thank you!” she said. In her remarks, Deputy Mayor Madrid also noted the promotions of several dedicated, highly-qualified officers into MTPD leadership positions in 2017. “I’m excited to see what they can do in their new roles and it was a pleasure working with the police command staff to make this happen,” she said.

Also affirmed by Committee vote on January 8, this year Mayor Conforti replaces Ed Trzaska as Planning Board Class I member while Trzaska will serve as a Class III member. The Committee also confirmed new Planning Board members Dave Campeas for a four-year term and Chris Confey to a two-year term. Steve DeRochi, chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, was re-appointed to the ZBA and confirmed for a new one-year Planning Board term. Former Committeeman Rich Smith was appointed to the ZBA, with a term set to expire at the end of 2020.

More Featured Articles

Montgomery Pathways

“When the path ignites a soul, there's no remaining in place. The foot touches ground, but not for long.”

Hakim Sanai, 12th Century Persian Poet

From Montgomery, a person could walk just about anywhere. There are miles and miles of pathways, some leading to the East Coast Greenway — which stretches from Maine to Florida. Another path leads up into the Sourlands and lends a view of New York City’s Freedom Tower. Make a goal to hike or bike them all.

These scenic byways are often quiet, and downright secluded in winter. If dressed properly, there is no reason to fear the cold. An advantage to winter walking: Frost kills mosquitos and deer ticks, and bare trees often reveal various sorts of hawks, woodpeckers, and even eagles.

Bring a loved one, or spend some solitary time with a camera or dog for company. Just be careful not to get stranded on the canal path or up in the Sourlands after dark. Leave plenty of time to get back in daylight hours. This can be easier said than done.

One of the benefits of living in a place like Montgomery, Hopewell, or Rocky Hill is the ability to walk out the door and enjoy the open space. Witnessing the ongoing large-scale building of row homes and multi-story buildings on large tracts of land, it is good to know organizations such as the Montgomery Township Open Space Committee and the Montgomery Friends of Open Space are in place working to preserve natural resources for generations to come.

“Montgomery’s population has doubled in the past 15 years,” according to the Friends. “By working hard to protect the remaining open land, we hope to achieve a better balance between growth and preservation.”

At least 7,000 acres of land has been preserved in Montgomery. Partnerships with the NJ Agricultural Development Committee, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Division, Somerset County, and the Delaware & Raritan Greenway have brought about creative funding strategies to protect our land and farms.
 

Something Is Different about The Montgomery News

The Montgomery News has a new owner, Mighty Oaks Media LLC. The principal owner of the company is Norman Silverstein, a resident of Hillsborough, who is married and has three children. Mr. Silverstein is a graduate of Rutgers College and Brooklyn Law School and has had a diverse and successful business career with a wide range of knowledge and experience in many fields.

Our staff had the opportunity to sit down with him and discuss his purchase of The Montgomery News:

Q: Did you ever read The Montgomery News before you purchased it?
A: I live in a section of Hillsborough that receives the paper every month and I always found the local community news to be engaging and interesting. It is the best place to read about local happenings.

Q: How did you discover that the paper was for sale?
A: The previous owner, Cliff Moore, ran a “for sale” ad in The Montgomery News, I saw the ad and decided to call him. So, I can testify that newspaper advertising is very effective.

Q: But, why buy a newspaper, when many people would argue that the Internet is replacing newspapers?
A: If you want to read about world or national news, you can go online and access hundreds of articles on these topics, however, for community news, there is absolutely nothing like the local paper. Incidentally, The Montgomery News will have a new web edition, which we are in the process of creating, or updating and modernizing, so readers can go online and will be able to see the photos that we could not fit in the paper. Look for the web version in March.

Q: Do you have any experience in the field of journalism?
A: Growing up my father was an avid reader and he would buy four papers every day (The New York Times, The Star-Ledger, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily News), so I developed a passion for newspapers at an early age. I have never changed a car transmission, but I know where to find the best mechanic, so although I have never been a journalist, I knew where to find the perfect editor in chief for our paper, namely Barbara Preston.

Q: What is your vision for The Montgomery News?
A: In my mind, community newspapers are not like other papers. The most important job for a community paper is to be an integral part of the community; we will be sponsoring various community activities, for example: a Little League baseball team, a UNICEF marathon at the school, and raising money for local charities. Our tagline is The Voice of Your Community; so there will be articles by our local politicians, our religious leaders, parents, and students . . . we want to be a catalyst within the community by encouraging community involvement and participation.

Q: Will the appearance and stories of the paper be changing?
A: We want to freshen-up the paper with a new look, to make it vibrant and enjoyable for our readers. We are in the process of planning new features and stories for the upcoming months and we can’t wait to hear the feedback from the community.

Q: Does Mighty Oaks Media own any other media properties besides The Montgomery News, and is there any significance to the name?
A: Mighty Oaks Media is a partner in a film production company, and we currently have two projects under development; a feature movie based on the Matt Christopher book catalogue of sports stories, and a TV documentary about El Padrino and the Cuban Mafia. However, The Montgomery News is our first newspaper and who knows, there may be more to come. The name Mighty Oaks Media is rooted in the phrase, “From little acorns grow Mighty Oaks.” Perhaps The Montgomery News will grow to be a Mighty Oak.

Jury Duty: A Lesson in Civic Duty

“When friends have asked me from time-to-time how they might get out of jury duty, my answer is always the same. We are lucky to live in a society that asks.” – Chief Justice Stuart Rabner

By Barbara A. Preston

A letter from the Superior Court of New Jersey recently appeared in my mailbox. My heart sank. I was about to start my new job as editor-in-chief of The Montgomery News and was not prepared to report for jury duty during what would have been my first full week on the job.

As a randomly selected member of jury Group 02, number 057, it was my civic duty to report, or be fined $500! I dialed the phone number provided on the form letter on a Sunday evening and learned I was indeed required to report for jury service at the Somerset County Courthouse in Somerville on Monday, January 8, at 8:30 am.

After standing in a long line on one of the coldest mornings I can ever remember, I transitioned through an airport-like security system. My pocketbook, laptop computer, and all my possessions went through an x-ray machine and I walked through a metal detector, down a hall, and into one of the most charming rooms I have ever seen.

Attached to the courthouse, the jury assembly room is located in the First Reformed Dutch Church, built in 1898, which has served as the county's jury room since it was renovated around 1985. The courthouse and church were added to the National Register of Historic Places in1989.

About 75 jurors and I sat for orientation and learned we would earn $5 for each day we served. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner described us as “lucky” to have jury service in a short video titled “You the Juror.”

“For some, the first reaction to seeing that summons is how inconvenient it will be to serve as a juror,” he said. “It conflicts with everyday obligations at work and home.

“For centuries all throughout the word, people have fought for one of the most fundamental rights known to all of us: the right to be judged by a jury of one’s peers…not by tyrants or dictators, or professional jurists, but by our fellow citizens, by members of our community.

“Even today, people in foreign lands strive for that basic element of any system of justice. We are fortunate to be able to take for granted the privilege enshrined in our federal and state constitutions,” Rabner continued. “Along with that right and privilege comes responsibility.”

Three New Retail Developments in Montgomery

Montgomery residents are eager to learn who will be leasing space in three new retail developments. Here is the scoop so far.

“Developers in town are being very careful with going public about possible tenants, mainly because there are three (retail developments) competing for leases — Montgomery Promenade, Village Shopper (redevelopment), and the (Montgomery Grove) Belle Mead/Pike Run retail,” according to Montgomery Committee member Ed Trzaska.

Montgomery Promenade, a specialty center set to open in 2019 at the intersection of Route 206 and Route 518, will have three anchors.

• Franks Multi-screen Theater complex and bowling alley will take 60,000 square feet in the building furthest from Route 206. It will include a sports bar.

• The second anchor will be LL Bean. The Maine-based company will occupy 17,000 square feet within the 270,000 square-foot shopping center

• The third anchor is still in process, but it is looking very likely to be completed soon will be a high-end grocery store.

Developer Madison Marquette, a private, real estate investment management and operation company that is active in Asbury Park and with the Princeton MarketFair, recently purchased three Montgomery liquor licenses for restaurants that will be located in the outdoor mall. There will be a one-acre public green space.

The Grove at Montgomery, on Route 206 by Pike Run in Belle Mead, is slated to open in mid/late summer and will have 29,353 square feet of retail space.

“What I know about Montgomery Grove is this,” says Trzaska. ”They are hoping to open in the mid/late summer. There are two merchandise stores and two restaurants signed or about to close to signing. It is also likely that the liquor store in Harlingen will move to the Grove and there has been interested from a medical practice to take space. I bet in April, public announcements on tenants will start being made. Please note, the CVS is not going into the Grove, that is going to be on the Pike Run side in the Montgomery Place section.”

Stay tuned for more information on the Village Shopper redevelopment.
 

Disaster Zone Clinic in a Car

We put the medical equipment in the back of a Toyota Sienna, and the doctors sat up front. Being a skinny
14-year- old, I found it easy to squeeze into the overcrowded eight-person SUV. Through a disaster relief organization called Humanity First, we were able to bring a team of doctors to Puerto Rico. Our goal was to start a medical clinic, but it was not your ordinary clinic. We were going to do it in a car.

The people of Puerto Rico were going about their lives as if nothing happened, but behind their smiles, there
was a state of calamity. I witnessed firsthand what I had seen on the television news during my stay in
Vieques, a remote, tiny island of about 9,000 residents off the main island’s coast.

Stray dogs roamed the streets and fallen trees and power lines obstructed the roads. Many houses were
leveled, and locals reported to us they were still without food, electricity, water, and medicines. Worst of all,
there was no hospital.

We went house-to- house, calling out to see if anyone needed medical attention. Since I was learning Spanish
at my school, Princeton Day School, this was my job. At first, people were shy. Soon patients surrounded us
and, I have to admit — it was utter chaos.

I was running around, passing out medicine, taking names and medical conditions of patients, and helping
with translations. And yet, during all the shouting and running around, I couldn’t help but smile at the spirit and resilience of the people.

One family in particular caught my attention. The hurricane forced a mother to live in a tarp-enclosed hut
surrounded by rows of water bottles. Her daughter explained that her mother was paralyzed, and she needed
at least three bottles a day to rinse her mother’s wounds, since there was no running water.

We take so much for granted. This trip changed my view on so many things. I urge others to step outside of
their comfort zone and help people in need.

Monty Student Wins Gold in 2018 North American Cup

May Tieu, a junior at Montgomery High School and a third-year varsity foil fencer, is the MHS Athlete of the Month for February. She began fencing at age ten after her older sister joined the sport, and currently fences at Premier Fencing Club.

Tieu is currently ranked No. 1 (Cadet or U-17), No. 5 (Junior or U-21), and No. 14 (Senior) in the United States. She is ranked No. 99 (Junior) in the world.

In 2018, she won Gold at the January North American Cup (Junior). In 2017, she won Gold at the Tauberbischofsheim Cadet European Cup, October North American Cup (Cadet), and USA Fencing Junior Olympic Championships (Cadet), and was a member of the US Cadet World Team. Also, the same year, she won Bronze at the 2017 Budapest Cadet European Cup and 2017 Pisa Cadet European Cup. Tieu won Gold at the 2016 Cabries Cadet European Cup (Team) and Bronze at the 2016 July Challenge (Division I).
On the school team, she won the Foil squad state championships in 2016 and 2017, alongside her sister, Lizzy Tieu, and her teammate, Laura Sun. The varsity squad also claimed the team state champion title in 2016.

Tieu reflected, “I really loved fencing with my older sister, Lizzy, because we were always seeing each other at school. There was a point in our lives when she was really busy with marching band and I was really busy with fencing, so only at fencing practices was when we saw each other.”

This season, the girls have won the third consecutive Somerset County Championships. Tieu won the individual Foil championship, as well as the Foil squad championship, with teammates Sun, Colleen McConnell, and Nina de Laperouse.

Despite her long list of incredible accomplishments, Tieu humbly noted, “I’m most proud of helping out at my club, because they are the younger generation and it is always nice to see them improve.”

Due to her demanding schedule with academics, athletics, and travel, Tieu has learned how to effectively balance her school work with fencing. She has been competing on the international level since middle school, which helped her develop time management and communication skills earlier on.

Likewise, she commented that her international travels have brought her to exciting places, such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a favorite local donut shop in Portland, and Aruba.

In addition, Tieu noted that fencing has taught her several life lessons, one being the ability to adapt and change in different situations: “Fencing is more strategy and I’ve learned how to change instantaneously. When I see something that’s not working, then I have to change. This has applied everywhere in my life.”
Head coach Johanna Snedeker expressed that “Her best quality is her passion and excitement for the sport of fencing. May competes in a grueling schedule but always has a smile and a fun story to share with me and her teammates.”

Her coach also stated that she demonstrates leadership in many ways, whether it be advocating for her team during competitions, requesting clarification from the referee, or helping her teammates improve their technique.

“Her skill level and knowledge of the sport is extraordinary. May brings a positive attitude and excitement to the competition. She is very passionate about the sport of fencing and that passion is shared with her team,” noted Snedeker.

Tieu also said that she recently developed a newfound respect and appreciation for her club coach, Tamer Tahoun: “My coach is from Egypt, and Egypt was not considered to be very good at fencing, but he changed that narrative. He’s a legend there. Last winter, I went to a fencing camp in Egypt and saw how everyone admired him.”

When asked about her experience in school fencing, she stated, “In school, teammates are amazing. The sport is definitely more team-oriented in school than in club, and to have people who support you and 40 girls behind you when you're fencing on the strip - that’s just totally different.”

“Her experience and talent is really valuable to the team. whether you are a beginner or have been going to club for three years, she knows what exercises to give you or what you need to work on. Her determination and resilience leads the team and I admire that about her. I also admire her ability to have fun and her passion for fencing,” commented senior teammate, Emily Kim.

In the future, Tieu hopes to continue her athletic career at an NCAA Division I college and aspires to compete at the Olympics. Academically, she is interested in pursuing an English major.

Montgomery High School February Athlete of the Month

May Tieu, a junior at Montgomery High School and a third-year varsity foil fencer, is the MHS Athlete of the Month for February. She began fencing at age ten after her older sister joined the sport, and currently fences at Premier Fencing Club.

Tieu is currently ranked No. 1 (Cadet or U-17), No. 5 (Junior or U-21), and No. 14 (Senior) in the United States. She is ranked No. 99 (Junior) in the world.

In 2018, she won Gold at the January North American Cup (Junior). In 2017, she won Gold at the Tauberbischofsheim Cadet European Cup, October North American Cup (Cadet), and USA Fencing Junior Olympic Championships (Cadet), and was a member of the US Cadet World Team. Also, the same year, she won Bronze at the 2017 Budapest Cadet European Cup and 2017 Pisa Cadet European Cup. Tieu won Gold at the 2016 Cabries Cadet European Cup (Team) and Bronze at the 2016 July Challenge (Division I).
On the school team, she won the Foil squad state championships in 2016 and 2017, alongside her sister, Lizzy Tieu, and her teammate, Laura Sun. The varsity squad also claimed the team state champion title in 2016.

Tieu reflected, “I really loved fencing with my older sister, Lizzy, because we were always seeing each other at school. There was a point in our lives when she was really busy with marching band and I was really busy with fencing, so only at fencing practices was when we saw each other.”

This season, the girls have won the third consecutive Somerset County Championships. Tieu won the individual Foil championship, as well as the Foil squad championship, with teammates Sun, Colleen McConnell, and Nina de Laperouse.

Despite her long list of incredible accomplishments, Tieu humbly noted, “I’m most proud of helping out at my club, because they are the younger generation and it is always nice to see them improve.”

Due to her demanding schedule with academics, athletics, and travel, Tieu has learned how to effectively balance her school work with fencing. She has been competing on the international level since middle school, which helped her develop time management and communication skills earlier on.

Likewise, she commented that her international travels have brought her to exciting places, such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a favorite local donut shop in Portland, and Aruba.

In addition, Tieu noted that fencing has taught her several life lessons, one being the ability to adapt and change in different situations: “Fencing is more strategy and I’ve learned how to change instantaneously. When I see something that’s not working, then I have to change. This has applied everywhere in my life.”
Head coach Johanna Snedeker expressed that “Her best quality is her passion and excitement for the sport of fencing. May competes in a grueling schedule but always has a smile and a fun story to share with me and her teammates.”

Her coach also stated that she demonstrates leadership in many ways, whether it be advocating for her team during competitions, requesting clarification from the referee, or helping her teammates improve their technique.

“Her skill level and knowledge of the sport is extraordinary. May brings a positive attitude and excitement to the competition. She is very passionate about the sport of fencing and that passion is shared with her team,” noted Snedeker.

Tieu also said that she recently developed a newfound respect and appreciation for her club coach, Tamer Tahoun: “My coach is from Egypt, and Egypt was not considered to be very good at fencing, but he changed that narrative. He’s a legend there. Last winter, I went to a fencing camp in Egypt and saw how everyone admired him.”

When asked about her experience in school fencing, she stated, “In school, teammates are amazing. The sport is definitely more team-oriented in school than in club, and to have people who support you and 40 girls behind you when you're fencing on the strip - that’s just totally different.”

“Her experience and talent is really valuable to the team. whether you are a beginner or have been going to club for three years, she knows what exercises to give you or what you need to work on. Her determination and resilience leads the team and I admire that about her. I also admire her ability to have fun and her passion for fencing,” commented senior teammate, Emily Kim.

In the future, Tieu hopes to continue her athletic career at an NCAA Division I college and aspires to compete at the Olympics. Academically, she is interested in pursuing an English major.

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