Local News

Audible says new facility symbolizes Newark’s history, company’s innovation

The grand opening of a new facility has begun a new chapter for Audible, its employees, New Jersey business leaders and the greater Newark community.

Audible founder and CEO Don Katz, elected officials, business leaders, employees and members of the Newark community came together Friday to celebrate the grand opening of the company’s Innovation Cathedral. Once home to the Second Presbyterian Church, a congregation founded in 1811, the cathedral will now serve as an office facility for 400 Audible employees.

Audible did not immediately clarify whether the employees would be new hires, or moved from another facility and where.

The Innovation Cathedral, aligned with Audible’s goals to support students, interns and entrepreneurs and grow a tech ecosystem, seeks to revitalize the growing Newark business community.

Katz said the Innovation Cathedral was a proud landmark for Newark and a powerful symbol of Audible’s commitment to the city for over a decade.

“We have defined ourselves by the strategic pursuit of what a successful company can mean in ways that transcend what it does — and today is proof that our efforts are yielding positive outcomes for business and invention culture, for the many talented people who want to work with us and for the comeback of this great American city,” he said. “Doing the right thing is a responsibility all corporations must take seriously — and that companies anchored in cities like Newark have an obligation to lead.”

Built in 1933, the 80,000-square-foot cathedral was reimagined to maintain its historical elements while also reflecting a modern and innovative workplace. Its distinctive stained-glass windows and organ pipes remain, but new additions include game areas, an auditorium, a refurbished bowling alley, an exhibit space, work cafes and lounges.

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said the cathedral embraced the future of Newark while also symbolizing its preserved history.

“Audible’s restoration of this historic landmark into a center of innovation and tech job creation — including jobs for Newarkers — is one powerful example of the over $4 billion in economic development occurring across the city today, but it is so much more,” he said. “It is emblematic of a company with a moral compass driving inclusive growth, elevating our students with educational tools and internships, and supporting the local economy by living local and buying local.”

When Audible’s headquarters made the move to Newark in 2007, it became the city’s fastest-growing private employer, with 1,650 full-time employees. The company’s mission seeks to catalyze Newark residents by offering jobs and training programs, as well as incentives including housing subsidies for employees who choose to move to the city from elsewhere.

Katz said that moving Audible to Newark was one of the best decisions the company has made.

“In addition to our growth, the economic impact and job creation catalyzed by Audible and Newark Venture Partners is a call to arms for other companies who are joining us and who should join us here to thrive as we have,” he said. “Continuing to invest in Newark is as important as anything else we do.”

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Pru names new chief information officer

Prudential Financial Inc. has named a new chief information officer, the Newark-based financial services giant said Monday.

Stacey Goodman will serve as executive vice president and CIO, starting July 15. In her new role, she will lead a strategic organization to deliver added value through the use of data, information and technology platforms, Prudential said in a news release.

She replaces Barbara Koster, who announced her retirement in December after 23 years with the company.

Goodman, who joins Prudential from Freddie Mac, where she was also CIO, will serve on Pru’s executive leadership team and report to Vice Chair Robert Falzon.

“Technology is a critical advantage, and Stacey is a purpose-driven leader and experienced technologist who has successfully guided complex, global companies through transformation to become leaders in their fields,” Falzon said in a prepared statement. “Her ability to unlock business value, realize better outcomes for customers and streamline operations — while also accelerating growth — will support a differentiated capability for Prudential.”

She has also served as CIO at CIT, and in positions at Bank of America, UBS and Salomon Bros., among others.

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Tattoo studio signs lease for Pennsauken property

A tattoo studio has signed a long-term lease for a retail building in Pennsauken, according to Vantage Real Estate Services.

Vantage said 168 Tattoo has leased the 3,700-square-foot property at 7017 Route 38. The upscale custom tattoo studio is owned and operated by Leah and Rick Fichter.

“I am absolutely in love with the new shop,” Leah Fichter said in a prepared statement. “It’s perfect in so many ways. I will be so proud once the doors open. This building need us and we need it.”

Marlton-based Vantage’s Monica Walsh, executive vice president, represented both the tenant and the landlord, Allen L. Gilber LLC, in the transaction.

“From the bottom of my heart, you have a special place in it, (Monica),” Fichter said. “You have been amazing.”

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American Dream Meadowlands Pushes Opening Date Back — Again

BERGEN COUNTY, NJ — The opening of American Dream Meadowlands has been pushed back — again.

Developer Triple Five announced the new opening date Monday, but the company did not immediately say why the date was pushed back.

The fall opening date is later than the anticipated late spring/early summer date given by Governor Phil Murphy and project officials earlier this year.

Dana McHugh, public relations director for American Dream Meadowlands, could not be immediately reached for comment.

And not all of American Dream’s 450 tenants will open their doors on Day 1 whenever it does open. They will continue to open through the holiday season and in early 2020, a news release from American Dream stated.

Luxury retailers include: Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Watches of Switzerland, Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci. Uniqlo, H&M, and Zara will open “expansive specialty stores” at the 93-acre campus.

“For over 35 years, Triple Five Group has embraced the concept that retail cannot exist without entertainment and experiential elements, and American Dream will further raise the bar,” said American Dream’s President and Triple Five owner Don Ghermezian. “Guests will experience something completely unique each time they visit — this project will be the realization of their wildest dreams.”

Previously unannounced attractions include Mirror Maze and ClimbZone, an indoor rock-climbing center.

The 3-million-square-foot facility will have six atriums, each one uniquely designed. One will have a garden with bird-filled aviaries and fields for rabbits. Another will host live entertainment. A 60-foot fountain in another can transform into a fashion catwalk in seconds, officials said. There will also be an entertainment atrium for live events.

Triple Five is pegging the campus as being Instagram-friendly with more than 75,000 LED lights and a tree-like sculpture that performs music.

The arts will have large presence at American Dream Meadowlands. Officials said there will be “museum-scale” interiors displaying artwork from area and international artists.

Some unique entertainment options at American Dream Meadowlands will include a Nickelodeon Universe theme park with the steepest roller coaster in the world, the world’s first MUNCHIES Food Hall, the first indoor ski and snowboard park in the Western Hemisphere with an 800-foot-high ski slope and an ice-climbing wall, and the first Sea Life Aquarium in New Jersey with a walk-through, saltwater tunnel.

American Draem Meadowlands is expected to generate $1.2 billion in income and 16,000 jobs in its first year of operation.

The long-delayed project was originally slated to open in 2017, but financing problems caused construction delays. The project dates back to 2003 when it was the ill-fated Meadowlands Xanadu project. Triple Five took it over in 2011. (See related: It Appears American Dream’s Opening Has Been Pushed Back (Again))


Email: daniel.hubbard@patch.com

Wyckoff Police Looking For Missing Teen

WYCKOFF, NJ — Police are looking for a missing runaway teenager.

Armani Torres, 16, was last seen Sunday afternoon at about 5 p.m., police said.

Torres was wearing a white long-sleeve shirt with navy blue sleeves, black sweatpants, and gray sneakers, and was carrying a camouflage backpack, police said.

Anyone who may know where Torres is asked to contact Detective Sgt. Kevin Kasak at 201-891-2121 or detectives@wyckoffpolice.org.

Email: daniel.hubbard@patch.com

Possible Severe NJ Weather: Hazardous Weather Outlook Issued

Strong winds and storms are possible as severe weather is again expected to hit New Jersey on Monday.

The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook for nearly the entire state, saying scattered thunderstorms with gusty winds and locally heavy rains are possible.

Michael Gorse, an NWS meteorologist, said the severe weather is mostly likely to take place in Burlington County and south, with damaging, 60-mph wind gusts possible.

In Bergen County, a few of the stronger storms could produce large hail and damaging winds. Locally heavy rain will also be possible, resulting in mainly urban and poor drainage flooding.

Here are the alerted areas:

Gorse estimated that there is a 50 percent chance of stormy weather in South Jersey. Much of that bad weather is possible after 5 p.m.

Temperatures are also expected to approach 90 degrees across the state on Monday.

Here is the forecast:

  • Monday afternoon: Partly sunny, with a high near 87. Southwest wind around 17 mph.
  • Monday night: Scattered showers and thunderstorms before 11pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 54. Southwest wind 8 to 10 mph becoming northwest after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
  • Tuesday: Sunny, with a high near 71. Northwest wind 13 to 15 mph.
  • Tuesday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 50. Northwest wind 7 to 10 mph.
  • Wednesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 73. North wind 7 to 9 mph.

Camden Celebrates Walt Whitman’s 200th Birthday

Poet Walt Whitman called Camden his home from 1873 until his death in 1892. His roamings around New Jersey included a day trip to Atlantic City, which inspired him with its “uninterrupted space.” Bettman/Getty Images

“I celebrate myself, and I sing myself,” Walt Whitman declared in Song of Myself, one of his earliest poems. Camden is taking that sentiment to heart with a celebration of the legendary poet’s 200th birthday on May 31.

“Camden gave Whitman an environment where he could reflect on the world,” says Leo Blake, curator of the Walt Whitman House, a National Historic Landmark. Born on Long Island, Whitman moved to Camden in 1873 at the age of 53, staying with his brother, George. He purchased his house at 328 Mickle Boulevard (now 328 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) in 1884 for $1,750. During his Camden years, Whitman published Specimen Days, a collection of essays that includes his observations about the Civil War, and updated his most famous collection, Leaves of Grass, three times.

Whitman also found time to explore South Jersey. Two of his poems—Patrolling Barnegat and With Husky-Haughty Lips, O Sea!—were inspired by visits to the Jersey Shore. He made a day trip to Atlantic City by train in January 1879. A horse-and-carriage ride on the beach left him marveling at “the uninterrupted space, shore, salt atmosphere [and] sky.”

The poet’s impact was international. Irish authors Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker visited him in Camden. Wilde, then 27, met with Whitman in January 1882, and the two discussed their craft over homemade elderberry wine. Wilde was unrestrained in his praise of Whitman. “Of all your authors, I consider Walt Whitman the grandest and noblest,” he told the Boston Herald.

The Camden celebration includes legacy tours of the Whitman house from May 22–June 8, and “Democratic Vistas: Whitman, Body and Soul,” an exhibit of photos, paintings, glassworks and sculptures that runs May 30–December 7 in the Stedman Gallery on the Rutgers-Camden campus. For a complete list of events, visit whitmanat200.org/calendar.

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Good Greek Fare, Lackluster Service at Olive & Ivy Mediterranean Kitchen

Octopus appetizer at Olive & Ivy. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Our meal at Olive & Ivy Mediterranean Kitchen, a Greek-inspired BYO in Eatontown that opened earlier this year, got off to a rough start.

I was meeting my good friend Julia, a native Jersey girl who grew up in Monmouth County but now calls Los Angeles home, while she was back in town visiting family. It was a Tuesday evening and the large, modern restaurant wasn’t even half-full. Yet we were seated off in a corner, away from the rest of the tables—and as such, out of the single server’s sight.

It took several minutes for him to greet us, and even longer before he poured us water. When I put our BYO bottle of wine on the table and asked for two wine classes, he demanded to see our IDs. I thought he was joking, as male servers sometimes do when you’re a table of two younger women. But he didn’t back down, not even after I told him I’d just purchased the bottle of wine down the road at Circus Wines in Red Bank.

Five minutes after being carded, which felt more like a way for him to learn our names or where we lived, he finally remembered to bring us wine glasses, disappearing before we could put in an order for appetizers. The exchange irked me, making me feel like an unwelcome guest. But I didn’t want to ruin the few hours I had to catch up with my friend, and so we delved into the food.

Olive & Ivy boasts a Mediterranean menu of mezze, mousaka, kebabs and seafood. There’s also more American items, like burgers, pork chops and steaks. We started with the saganaki ($12), flaming Greek kefalograviera cheese that’s lit tableside and drizzled with lemon olive oil; and the grilled octopus ($18). The cheese hadn’t fully softened before the flame went out, but it was still cheese, and so we devoured it. The octopus was slightly overcooked, chewy and tough instead of tender and soft.

Scallops and Shrimp Santorini at Olive & Ivy. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Our mains quickly followed. Julia ordered the scallops ($30), which came with five pan-roasted scallops over small rounds of polenta and basil. She remarked about how happy she was to be eating good East Coast scallops again, which you don’t find easily on the West Coast. But the entrée didn’t seem substantial enough, plated more like an appetizer than a main event. I opted for the Shrimp Santorini ($30). Served in a cast-iron dish, it consisted of prawns in a garlicky tomato sauce over rice, with crumbled feta on top.

Almost two hours had passed since we’d walked through the doors, and while the food was fresh and enjoyable, our hospitality experience hadn’t improved. We passed on dessert, and asked for our check, which was over $100. If that’s what it costs for an average dinner for two, with no alcohol included, a restaurant should really pay more attention to their guests, and treat them as such.

After settling up, we decided to continue catching up over a beer at an Irish pub in Red Bank, where we were greeted with a warm, friendly atmosphere and more.

Olive & Ivy, 78 Route 35, Eatontown; 732-389-0000. Open Tues-Sun for lunch and dinner.

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Lost Dog- Reward!

Please help find our lost dog, Sofie. Last seen on Walnut Street in Teaneck May 11th at 9pm. She is 15 years old and needs seizure medication. We miss her terribly. If you have seen her, please call 201-232-9959. Reward if found. No questions asked!

Case Of Caged Puppy Found In Pond Goes To Grand Jury

The case of a puppy that was found submerged in a Passaic County pond last month has been referred to a grand jury, authorities announced.

The woman charged in the case, Tonya Fea, waived her appearance at Central Judicial Processing Court and the matter was referred to a grand jury, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes said in a news release.

Fea, 47, of Jefferson was charged with two counts of third-degree animal cruelty and defiant trespass following an investigation by local and Passaic County officials.

The puppy was found in a submerged cage in a pond off of Bonter Road in West Milford Wednesday, Valdes previously said. The puppy was taken to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory and a necropsy was performed.

A complaint summons said the dog asphyxiated due to drowning. Fea faces possible jail time if found guilty of the charges filed against her.

Related: Dog Found In Submerged Cage In Passaic County Pond: Police

Nancy Warner, who operates Last Resort Rescue in West Milford, is fighting for justice for the dog, which was named Jenny.

“We would love to see the maximum punishment be applied,” said Warner. “We want to make sure she gets the maximum so that people out there abusing animals might think twice about doing things like this.”

Email: daniel.hubbard@patch.com