This is the fourth profile in a series for the #dayinthelifejc JCI Instagram take over, brought to you by Honey and Moon Photography and the Jersey City Independent.
Meet Irene Borngraeber a local artist and animal advocate. Irene will be posting images of her #dayinthelifejc from April 20 through April 26. Be sure to follow her via the JCI Instagram feed (@jcindependent). Enjoy!
Irene lives and has a studio in the Jersey City Heights where she makes things, renovates, and gardens with her cat Espi. Irene moved to the Heights eight years ago from Wisconsin. to be an artist and work as an art writer, but she became involved in her neighborhood instead. She began working for local nonprofits (including the now closed Jersey City Museum) and in 2010 founded The Distillery gallery at 7 Hutton St. in the Heights. As an artist, Irene creates sculptures and installation pieces about the urban habitats that both confine and liberate us. Her writing has been published by the ArtSciencia, ArtVoices, Jersey City Independent and the University of Wisconsin-Madison among others.
Irene has been the Executive Director of the Liberty Humane Society since 2013, where she gets to use all her creativity, knowledge and passion to make things better for animals (and animal lovers) in our community. Liberty Humane Society (LHS) is a nonprofit organization that runs an animal shelter near Liberty State Park. Every stray animal found in Jersey City or Hoboken comes through their doors, and they do their best to provide each one a second chance at a lifelong, loving home. LHS operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week providing essential services to two metropolitan cities. But unlike other state mandated service providers, only half of their operating budget comes from the municipalities they serve. The rest of their operational costs they raise themselves through individual contributions, foundations and grants.
After we contacted you about participating in #dayinthelifejc an exciting opportunity came up which you will be sharing during the JCI Instagram takeover…. Can you give us a little info on that?
Yes! I’ll be heading out to Las Vegas on April 21 to film an interview for the PBS series Voices in America, hosted by James Earl Jones. The show will be featuring Miracle Flights, a wonderful nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to low-income children for commercial air travel to obtain special medical care. I had to have reconstructive surgery on my legs when I was 8 and 13. They helped my family so that I could fly to St. Louis and back for one of the operations. I’ll be there through the weekend, so my Instagramming will be a Jersey City/Las Vegas mash-up!
Tell us about what’s new at Liberty Humane Society?
We’re very excited that NJ Devils teammates Cory Schneider and Adam Henrique will be signing autographs at Liberty Humane Society on Saturday, April 23 from noon to 2 pm. For each $20 donation to LHS, Cory and Adam will sign one piece of memorabilia. We’ll also have photos available for purchase for $5. Cory and his wife Jill have been volunteering at Liberty Humane Society for the past two years, and they are incredible advocates for LHS and local animal welfare. We are so grateful for their support and that of the NJ Devils.
Liberty Humane Society will also be hosting its first public low-cost Spay/Neuter Day. The event will take place on April 27 at LHS (235 Jersey City Boulevard). Residents interested in having their cat or an outdoor community cat spayed or neutered may register on the Liberty Humane Society website. The procedure will cost $30 per cat, with a 2 cat limit per registered individual. Currently, there is no low-cost spay/neuter provider operating in Hudson County. LHS hopes to make more low-cost spay/neuter appointments available to the public through its clinic in the near future.
Liberty Humane Society recently conducted an online poll of residents throughout Hudson County, with the highest concentration of responses in Hoboken and Jersey City. We found that many of these residents identified affordable spay and neuter services as their number one need, so we are opening up our spay/neuter clinic for them during this special one day event.
We’re excited to be able to expand these preventative programs to the animal loving communities we serve. We will be scheduling more events based on community feedback, so if you haven’t yet weighed in on our survey, please do.
The shelter has plans to host more events both at the shelter and out in the community, such as: Wellness and Vaccination Clinics, Adoption Events, and Mobile Spay/Neuter. LHS will schedule future events based on responses to the survey.
Irene Borngraeber in her Jersey City Heights studio with her cat Espi. Photo credit Tracey Luz
In your opinion, what is the most amazing thing about Jersey City?
The people. Everyone has a story to tell, and they’re willing—if we listen. Whether you were born here, grew up here or just moved here, we’re all here seeking something. And that’s fascinating.
Can you give us a run down on your basic #dayinthelifejc?
1. Radio news and local online roundup
2. Alternate-side parking shuffle (sigh), followed by Modcup coffee (bliss)
3. Core Management meetings with our amazing Liberty Humane Society team
4. Kitten and puppy snuggle time (because how can I not?)
5. Research, writing, and strategy sessions
6. Donor/public events in Jersey City
7. Dinner/drinks with friends
8. Studio or garden time (if I can get it), with podcasts (RadioLab and Snap Judgement are two of my favs)
9. Deadlifting or Pilates
What would you like to see happen in Jersey City in the next five years?
Jersey City is really fractured right now. I’d like to see us bridge the geographic and demographic divide and engage in a meaningful conversation about how we can work together to make our communities great. Because we can.
What’s your Jersey City “hidden” gem?
The Bergen Arches between the Heights and Journal Square. I’m a plant nerd, and I love seeing what grows in urban areas that have just been left to go wild. There’s also some really interesting art people have made and just left down by the abandoned railway tracks. But I’m not sure you’re actually supposed to be under the Arches, so… *cough*
Where are you favorite places to go or things to do in Jersey City?
So now that I’ve gotten the plant nerd thing out of the way…. The Hudson Farmers Market on Kennedy Boulevard is a great place to pick up basic plants when the Farms in the Heights, the farmers Market at Riverview Park is in the off-season. The pool at Pershing Field is awesome for a quick dip and some exercise, and the Reservoir is right next door if you feel up for a quick hike on the weekends. Outside of the Heights: I’m a sucker for TeaNJ’s delicious vegan bakery; Transmission’s new dance venue is great; and WFMU’s Monty Hall has some awesome performances. There are also other spaces around the city hosting music and art that I’m only not calling out because I don’t want to get them in trouble—you know who you are!
Do you have a favorite “Jersey City” story or memory?
A few winters ago I was out shoveling in front of my building after a major snowfall, and a (private) plow pulled up onto the sidewalk of the warehouse next door to me to plow the walkway clear. The driver hopped the curb and completely buried the cars parked on the street, and then had nowhere to put the snow he had accumulated—so he leaned on his horn to get all the drivers to come out and try and move their cars. My neighbor (who I didn’t yet know) came running out of his house in slippers, without a coat, and started cursing out the plow driver. They went back and forth until the plow finally just backed off the sidewalk, leaving a giant pile of snow right in the middle of the walk. It turns out the plow driver and my neighbor had gone to school together and have been nemeses ever since. My neighbor then helped me finish shoveling my sidewalk, in his slippers. That’s the Jersey City I love.
You can follow Irene Borngraeber at @ireneliza on Instragram. A lot of her content also ends up on @libertyhumanesociety (Instagram), the Liberty Humane Society Facebook page and libertyhumane.org. Follow Irene Borngraeber’s #dayinthelifejc at @jcindependent.
Thank you for sharing your story with us Irene!
Want to be considered for the #dayinthelifejc JCI Instrgram Takeover? Have questions? Contact: Catherine Hecht at checht(at)jerseycityindependent.com or Tracey Luz and Eric Brown at info(at)honeyandmoonphotography.com.