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JC RESIDENT FINALIST OPERA COMPETITION – Xueyan Fan of Jersey City is a finalist in the New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera’s 29th Annual International Vocal Competition. Born in China, Ms. Fan finished her master’s degree at Shanghai Conservatory of Music and is currently studying PDPL at Mannes School of Music. (Photo courtesy of New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera.)
JC RESIDENT FINALIST OPERA COMPETITION – Xueyan Fan of Jersey City is a finalist in the New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera’s 29th Annual International Vocal Competition. Born in China, Ms. Fan finished her master’s degree at Shanghai Conservatory of Music and is currently studying PDPL at Mannes School of Music. (Photo courtesy of New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera.)
McGill named new JC fire chief

Mayor Steven M. Fulop and Public Safety Director James Shea announced on Jan. 11 that Steven McGill is the new chief of the Jersey City Fire Department.

“Chief McGill has served as an invaluable provisional Chief of the Fire Department, and I’m confident he will continue his commitment to guide the nearly 600 firefighters in providing the highest level of safety and service to residents citywide,” said Mayor Fulop.

“As a lifelong resident of Jersey City, I’m humbled and honored to get the position full time,” said Chief McGill. “I’ve always had a vested interest in the safety of my fellow citizens and the community.”

Throughout his more than 30-year career with the JCFD, Chief McGill has worked in every area of the city. Before being appointed as provisional chief last March, he served as deputy chief for approximately a year and battalion chief for the six years prior. He also held the titles of assistant fire director and the department liaison to the Office of Emergency Management.

“Steven McGill has proven he has the experience and judgment to be chief of one of the finest and largest fire departments in the state of New Jersey,” said Director Shea. “I’m confident his leadership skills will be utilized to continue improving services to the community and to the taxpayers.”

One of his priorities as chief will be community outreach, with a focus on involving local youth with the fire department through open houses and establishing initiatives to increase awareness about opportunities within the fire department. Chief McGill is also starting an aggressive inspection program, which looks to continue to drive down fire incidents and injuries.

“What we’ve found is about 80 percent of fires were in structures not inspected by the local fire bureau,” he said. “So we’re going to go to businesses and organizations normally inspected by the state to do a more thorough safety inspection and install free smoke detectors with a 10-year battery life. In other cities nationwide, these types of efforts have cut down the number of fires by about 50 percent.”

Chief McGill earned a masters degree in Fire Protection Management from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a bachelor of arts from Seton Hall University.

Art House ‘Snowball’ to be held on Jan. 27

In what many consider one of the social highlights of the year in Jersey City, Art House Productions’ Snow Ball 2018, a fundraising gala, will take place on Jan. 27 at the Cast Iron Lofts, 262 17 St.

The ball runs from 8 p.m. to midnight and is sponsored by Art House and Silverman, a local developer. Tickets are $110 at the door and $150 for the VIP reception.

The VIP reception starts at 7 p.m. and includes a champagne toast with Snow Ball honorees Lou Mont and Sandy Weiss of Manhattan Building Company, a first look at the silent auction, and an exclusive thematic performance.

This year’s Snow Ball features live music by Bryan Benninghove and The Hangmen, live and silent auctions including “Hamilton” tickets and an exclusive country weekend getaway. The gala also boasts a costume contest, raffle with cash prizes, and late night dancing with DJ George Soul.

Wine and beer willo be sponsored by CoolVines, specialty cocktails by Stateside Vodka, craft beer by NJ Beer Co. and light fare by Whealth and Milk Sugar Love.

Proceeds benefit an ambitious season of visual and performing arts and education, with another semester of the Stages! program offering new and innovative approaches to children’s theater education, and more original theater on the main stage this spring.

“We are so excited for the 12th annual Snow Ball. This magical, creative black tie event sells out every year, welcoming over 350 politicians, community leaders, area residents, and professional artists,” said Meredith Burns, Art House’s executive director.

In something of an ironic twist, in case of heavy snow, the Snow Ball will be held on Feb. 3 instead.

Tickets may be purchased at

For more information about Art House programs, visit their website at For additional accessibility requests and inquiries, please contact or call (201) 918-6019.

Lawyer convicted of bilking clients

N.J. Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino has announced that a lawyer from Ocean County who formerly practiced in Jersey City has been convicted on charges that he stole approximately $1.5 million from five clients over a period of more than a decade. Joseph J. Talafous Jr., 55, of Toms River, was found guilty Jan. 10 by a Hudson County jury of stealing from clients in Jersey City and West New York.

Talafous was convicted of using his power of attorney to make unauthorized withdrawals of thousands of dollars from the investment account of an elderly client who lived in Jersey City and from the client’s estate after the client died in 2010.

He was also convicted of stealing approximately $461,000 from a trust set up to benefit of a young boy in 2005 with funds from a wrongful death suit stemming from the death of his father. The father died in 2001 in a workplace accident when the child, a West New York resident, was still an infant.

Talafous was also convicted of stealing approximately $300,000 from the estate of an elderly Jersey City woman who died in 2009 without any immediate family. She had hired him to prepare her will and had named him executor of her estate.

Talafous was also convicted of stealing approximately $400,000 from the estate of a Jersey City man who died in 2012 and whose family hired Talafous as attorney for the estate, which included several life insurance policies worth a total of more than $870,000.

Talafous was also convicted of stealing $330,000 from 2012 to 2015 that was entrusted to him as counsel for the estate of a Jersey City woman who owned property in New York.

The verdict followed a six-week trial before Superior Court Judge Mirtha Ospina in Jersey City. The second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison. Talafous is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 16.

Hebron to head Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Mayor Steven M. Fulop announced on Jan. 9 the appointment of Soraya Hebron as the chief officer of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, a post most recently held by Rev. Reginald McRae. The office, which was created by Mayor Fulop in 2016, is aimed at enhancing workforce diversity and implementing important inclusion practices, including encouraging minority- and women-owned businesses to become partners in city contracts.

“Our focus on diversity and inclusion has never been more important, and I am fully confident that Soraya Hebron will help us in our mission to build an equitable and inclusive city,” said Mayor Fulop. “Soraya brings a new energy to connecting our diverse workforce with new opportunities, and I look forward to working together to expand on our progress.”

Hebron is a Jersey City native and longtime resident of Bergen-Lafayette. She has served as an aide in the mayor’s office since February 2017, where she worked on policy creation and implementation. During this time, she played a major role in the Municipal ID Program, as well as organizing city sponsored Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

Hebron previously served as aide to the mayor, a planning intern for the Hudson County Division of Planning, and a field manager assistant for the Fresh Air Fund. She also served as a public policy and advocacy intern for Women’s Way. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Urban Studies and African American studies, she has been involved in volunteer work as a Big Sister, a mentor and peer advisor.

She is currently pursuing a Master of City & Regional Planning degree at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. She is a member of Zion Baptist Church in Jersey City.

“I am honored to have been selected to lead the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and look forward to working with city staff and members of the community to make important progress on diversity in Jersey City’s workforce.”

Temple Beth-El to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Temple Beth El will hold its 33rd annual Sabbath service in tribute to the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Friday, Jan 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Guest speaker will be Dr. Elnardo Webster, director of the Center for After School & Expanded Learning at St. Peter’s University.

Temple Beth-El is located at 2419 Kennedy Blvd. in Jersey City.

For more information call (201) 333-4229 or visit

Jersey City Caribbean Carnival dominoes competition fundraiser

The Jersey City Caribbean Carnival dominoes competition fundraiser will be held on Saturday Jan. 20, from 5 to 10:30 p.m. at 453 Martin Luther King Drive in Jersey City.

A donation of $40 per pair is the cost of entry. Refreshments will be available. For additional information, please text (917) 495-0984.

HUD gives Hudson County $6.6 million to prevent and end homelessness

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Jan. 10 awarded $45.9 million to support to 248 homeless housing and service programs in New Jersey. Out of this, groups serving homeless in Hudson County received $6.6 million

“HUD stands with our local partners who are working each and every day to house and serve our most vulnerable neighbors,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “We know how to end homelessness. It starts with embracing a housing-first approach that relies upon proven strategies that offer permanent housing solutions to those who may otherwise be living in our shelters and on our streets.”

“Local organizations that serve the homeless in New Jersey assist individuals and families by providing food, clothing, shelter, financial assistance and supportive services,” said Lynne Patton, HUD Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey. “We’ve seen the results of the housing first model in the reduction of overall homelessness in the State. HUD will continue to support these evidence-based efforts to further the goal of eliminating homelessness both locally and nationally.”

The local groups funded include All Saints Supportive Housing, Collaborative Solutions, Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation, Hudson County government, the Hoboken Shelter Program, Home At Last, Homes for Heroes, Hudson CASA Coordinated Entry, Life Starts, Live United, York Street and other groups.

Legislation addressing student loan debt clears state senate

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Sandra Bolden Cunningham, Sen. Jim Beach, and Sen. Nellie Pou to help student loan borrowers, including those who are facing financial hardships, was approved by the full Senate last week. The legislation would create more oversight and accountability for student loans.

“Student debt is growing out of control and if we do not come up with options and strategies to help graduates manage their loans, this debt will follow these graduates well into adulthood,” said Sen. Cunningham (D-Hudson). “There is a growing need for repayment plan options, including income-driven options, and for additional assistance for borrowers who are having difficulty repaying their loans but feel they have nowhere to turn for help.”

One bill establishes the Office of the Student Loan Ombudsman within the Department of Banking and Insurance, and provides for the regulation of student loan servicers by the department. The ombudsman would be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, and would serve at the pleasure of the governor during the governor’s term of office. The ombudsman would have a variety of duties relating to the assistance of student loan borrowers with complaints and concerns regarding their loans, and would be required to make recommendations to the legislature and other interested parties regarding problems faced by student loan borrowers.

Another bill directs the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) to establish a repayment assistance program under the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) Loan Program for borrowers who experience a material loss of income during the period of loan repayment. The bill gives additional focus on borrowers who filed bankruptcy proceeding. HESAA would be required to notify the borrower of the repayment assistance program if a proof of claim is filed.

NJCU Announces spring 2018 arts events

New Jersey City University (NJCU) Center for the Arts, the creative umbrella for the university’s performing, visual, film, and literary arts public programs, has announced its spring 2018 arts and culture calendar.

Throughout the coming months, NJCU will present more than 30 performances, exhibitions, film screenings, artist talks, and readings on campus and at venues across the region. Programs feature accomplished guest artists and speakers in addition to student performances. All events are open to the public, and for most, admission is free.

Highlights of the spring programming include two keynote speakers. Originally scheduled for last fall, “An Evening with Icon Judith Jamison,” dancer, choreographer and artistic director emeritus of the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, will be the culminating event of the university’s Black History Month programming (Feb. 28).

As part of NJCU’s continued partnership with Liberty Science Center, David Leventhal, program director of dance for Parkinson’s Disease (Dance for PD), will present on this unique, internationally renowned program, using it as a case study for looking at the intersection of arts and science (April 17).

The Caroline L. Guarini Department of Music, Dance and Theatre presents the Broadway hit musical “In the Heights” (March 16-25) and hosts a number of guest artists: string trio Trifecta (April 8); the acclaimed West Point Band (April 30), and irrepressible Latin jazz from the Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, with master percussionist Hugo Alcazar (May 3).

In NJCU’s galleries, Joyce Yu-Jean Lee creates “State of the DysUnion,” a multi-media installation that gives a snapshot of current journalism, advertising, and the Internet (Jan. 25 – March 1). “The Otherness of Strangefruit” is a series of collages that reference the ambiguity of artist Shoshanna Weinberger’s mixed-race identity (Feb. 1 to Mar. 15). “Wonder Women 11: Eye of the Storm,” organized by Gaia, the Jersey City based artist collective, is a group show that urgently speaks to our changing earth (Mar. 21 to May 9).

The Black Maria Film Festival, an annual juried short film competition housed at NJCU, will show the 2018 winning films at theatres and organizations across the state, beginning with a premiere screening at the Hoboken Historical Society (Feb. 10).

Several guest authors will be on campus this spring: NJCU alumna Krystal Sital discusses her new memoir, “Secrets We Kept” (March 13); and journalist and Jersey City native Helene Stapinski shares her latest book, “Murder in Matera” (March 29). The university also honors NJCU alumna Margaux Fragoso, author of the international best-seller “Tiger, Tiger,” with an award that recognizes her extraordinary courage and achievement (April 18).

For the full spring 2018 calendar of events, visit For additional information call (201) 200-3426.

Reservations may be made in advance online, and tickets may be purchased in advance at or in person at the box office, which opens one hour prior to performances. For group sales and reservations, please contact the box office directly:

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