2014: The year in review

Compiled by Karen Zautyk & Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondents 

 

Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough died on the job at age 65 on Feb. 12.

Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough died on the job at age 65 on Feb. 12.

JANUARY

The revolving door on the office of the Kearny schools superintendent keeps turning as the Board of Education, at its reorganization meeting, initiates a “vote of no confidence” in Superintendent Frank Ferraro and places him on paid leave.

Patricia Blood, director of curriculum for grades 6-12, is named acting superintendent. The Harrison Housing Authority, three and a half years after its chief administrator was fired, finally approves a replacement: Roy E. Rogers of Sicklerville, N.J.

As one of the snowiest winters in recent memory continues, authorities in various Observer communities remind residents that they should not “reserve” on-street parking spaces by marking them with trash cans, traffic cones, lawn furniture, baby strollers, etc. We leave it to you to surmise if the reminder worked. Kearny EMS vacates Harrison’s Cleveland Ave. firehouse after the town votes to award its emergency services contract to Monmouth- Ocean Hospital Service Corp. (MONOC).

The N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs issues a warning to and informational fact sheet for shoppers who visited Target stores during the Christmas buying season. It’s part of the fallout from a massive Target data breach that may have affected 40 million customers nationwide.

Speaking of fallout, Gov. Chris Christie holds a twohour press conference to deal with the continuing flak from the September 2013 “Bridgegate” fiasco.

Reaction is, to say the least, mixed.

The Nutley Public Library readies a year of special programs marking its centennial.

The Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team, NFL alumni, and 9/11 first responders from New Jesey and the FDNY participate in a “Tribute to Heroes” charity flag football game sponsored by Essex County.

Observer towns are afflicted by Super Bowl fever leading up to the Feb. 2 contest to be held, for the first time, in our own backyard: at the Meadowlands (a/k/a MetLife Stadium).

FEBRUARY 

Hudson County is shocked by the sudden death of Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough, 65, who suffers a massive heart attack in Town Hall on Feb. 12.

As tributes pour in from leaders statewide, a funeral Mass is offered at Holy Cross Church. McDonough, mayor since 1995 and a longtime force in Democratic politics, courted controversy with his endorsement of Republican Gov. Chistie. But he also earned accolades for his continuing efforts to revitalize Harrison through extensive redevelopment, particularly along the waterfront and in the southern end of town, which had been left a nearwasteland after numerous industries closed. The Red Bull stadium and new housing replaced the defunct factories and vacant land and began to transform the community.

On Feb. 25, the Harrison Town Council selects James A. Fife, former Harrison High School principal, to serve out McDonough’s term, which ends Dec. 31.

As our snowy winter continues, and with a blizzard predicted, local towns are burning up the phone lines trying to find a precious commodity: rock salt. Salt piles have been depleted and shipments are tied up on barges at Port Newark and Port Elizabeth.

On Feb. 12-13, that predicted blizzard dumps 15 inches of snow on Kearny — and similar amounts in surrounding towns. According to one report, more snow fell in the two weeks than normally falls in an entire winter.

Accumulated ice and heavy snow have been endangering and damaging buildings around the state. Now, it’s Kearny’s turn: a roof collapses on a four-family residence on Devon St. No one is hurt, but 12 people have to be evacuated.

Restricted space in a basement apartment on Schuyler Ave. challenges Kearny firefighters in their rescue of a 66-year-old man trapped in a bedroom. The victim, Manuel Lampon, dies from his severe burns at St. Barnabas Medical Center later in the month.

A mixed-use development — including offices, light industry, a biotech campus, hotel and residential units — is proposed by developers for the 118-acre Hoffmann- LaRoche property straddling Nutley and Clifton.

For the first time, Harrison middle school students join the international Canstruction program, a combination sculpture challenge and food drive. Also participating is Kearny High School, for the third year in a row.

Kearny releases its 2013 Uniform Crime Report Index, showing a 2.5% decrease in major crimes, representing a 13-year low.

Detective Michael Gonzalez is named Kearny “Police Officer of the Year,” marking the second time he has received that award. He also was honored in 2009.

An Essex County Superior Court judge overturns the Belleville Zoning Board’s approval of a youth center and parking garage that St. Mary & St. Mercurius Coptic Church wanted to build on Academy St. The lawsuit was filed by residents who objected to the construction in a residential neighborhood.

In North Arlington, discussions continue on where to install a 9/11 monument featuring steel beams recovered from the World Trade Center and secured by the Volunteer Fire Department three years ago.

MARCH 

Work continued on a replacement for the Wittpenn (Rt. 7) Bridge linking Kearny and Jersey City (top) and repairs to the Pulaski Skyway (bottom) proceeded with the closing of northbound traffic.

Work continued on a replacement for the Wittpenn (Rt. 7) Bridge linking
Kearny and Jersey City (top) and repairs to the Pulaski Skyway (bottom) proceeded
with the closing of northbound traffic.

 

A proposal by NJ Transit to build a back-up power system in South Kearny threatens to derail the Koppers Coke Peninsula redevelopment plan that was expected to generate big tax ratables for Kearny and Hudson County.

Seven people are displaced by a three-alarm blaze in a home on Dukes ST. in Kearny.

A 10-month multi-agency investigation busts an international carjacking ring based in N.J. and leads to the arrest of 23 people, including an alleged ringleader from Belleville.

Luis Cruz, 44, of Nutley, who pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in the 2011 hit-run death of Belleville pedestrian Jodi DeSoto, is sentenced to five years in prison.

As the snows finally dissipate, public works crews throughout The Observer coverage area are beleagured by the job of filling all those potholes that are plaguing local streets.

Firefighters Michael Janeczko and Andrew O’Donnell are named Kearny Firefighters of the Year for their work at a January 2013 blaze on Devon St.

When the roof on the sixfamily home collapsed, several other firefighters were buried under burning debris. Janeczko and O’Donnell dug them from the rubble and saved their lives.

Belleville says it’s “ready to roll” with an elaborate $2 million school security system.

The Lyndhurst Board of Education alerts parents to the recent appearance of a viral ailment known as the “Fifth Disease” among several local grade-school students.

Kearny police launch an initiative to identify the locations of private security cameras throughout the town and to seek access to the tapes if needed in a criminal investigation. Camera owners will register voluntarily.

Sally Goodson of the American Association of University Women receives the inaugural Nutley Women’s Advocate Award presented by the township Department of Public Affairs.

Kearny reports that it will cost an estimated $15.8 million to revamp the Gunnell Oval recreation complex off Schuyler Ave.

North Arlington announces it has finally decided where to put the 9/11 steel [see February]. The site will be the Schuyler Ave. firehouse, but the cost is uncertain.

Patrons of the Arlington Diner are among many mourning the death of a beloved waitress, Barbara Gangi, 73, who was killed by a car while walking across River Road enroute to the diner. [As of January 2015, flowers and ribbons still mark a lightpole near the diner as a memorial to her.]

Windy weather and dry conditions keep local firefighters busy, combating brush fires in the meadows of Harrison and Kearny, including three blazes in one day.

In Belleville, a four-alarm fire in two multi-family dwellings on Washington Ave. requires response from firefighters from seven towns. All 31 residents are evacuated safely and no injuries are reported.

The Kearny Board of Ed votes in favor of creating a centralized middle school (grades 6, 7 and 8) campus.

Belleville Detectives Matthew Dox, Joseph Mundy and Rafael Reyes are cited by a security-management firm for helping to break a 2013 theft case.

APRIL 

The long-anticipated, and long-dreaded, rehabilitation of the 80-year-old Pulaski Skyway finally begins, bringing with it headaches for motorists, law enforcement, emergency services and businesses. The $1 billion project is expected to take at least two years to complete.

The Kearny Zoning Board approves a plan for construction of a Walgreens Pharmacy and parking lot on Kearny Ave, site of the former Lynn Chevrolet property, and the current Irish Quality Shop.

Small businesses on the old Congoleum-Nairn property on Passaic Ave. prepare to move in advance of the 2015 arrival of a BJ’s Wholesale Club on the site.

Area residents are warned of a new “jury duty” phone scam. Callers identifying themselves as “Sheriff’s Office” employees are threatening call recipients with arrest for allegedly not appearing for jury duty. The unsuspecting targets are told they can make their warrant go away if they pay a fine via credit/debit/money card. It’s all a fraud.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announces that it plans to undertake the most costly public waterway cleanup in its 43-year history: a $1.7 billion project to remove toxic sediment from the lower eight miles of the Passaic River, But plans won’t be finalized until 2015.

Meanwhile: The Kearny High School crew team, with assistance from Belleville and Nutley students, holds its annual Passaic River cleanup, removing 4 to 5 tons of debris from the water and the riverbanks.

The Kearny Board of Ed establishes the Fred Kuhrt Scholarship Fund in honor of the Kearny High School automotive technology teacher who died suddenly in January at age 58.

The Kearny Board of Ed changes its mind about what would constitute a middle school, now looking to merge only grades 7 and 8 — not 6. It also rejects the lone bid received on the already delayed Kearny High School noise abatement project.

In Harrison, Joseph Moscinski is saluted as Firefighter of the Year, and Cory Karas as Police Officer of the Year.

Nutley Police Officer David Strus is recommended for a departmental award for saving the life of a stabbing victim in a Clifton mall.

Parents in North Arlington form “North Arlington Cares About Schools” to press concerns about the state’s standardized- testing policies.

Cub Pack Troop 305 and the Kearny DPW team up for a Riverbank Park tree-planting as part of the annual Arbor Day program.

The Observer family mourns former editor Jeff Bahr of Bloomfield, killed in a motorcycle accident in Pennsylvania at the age of 56.

MAY 

Hoffmann-LaRoche schedules a public meeting to inform residents about plans to clean up its property on the Nutley-Clifton border when it vacates the site.

South Kearny businesses, recovering from the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy, report hopeful progress.

For the fifth year, Kearny turns into one big bargain venue as hundreds of residents and businesses take part in the KUEZ-sponsored townwide yard and sidewalk sale.

After three years of renting space in the former Holy Cross School in Harrison, Lady Liberty Academy — a Newark charter school — announces it is planning to move back to its home base across the river.

A Purple Heart, awarded posthumously to Army Pvt. Wilfred J. Warhurst of Kearny, who was killed Jan. 19, 1945, in Europe during World War II, is returned to the township. The medal had been found in Pennsylvania and was turned over to Purple Hearts Reunited, which contacted the Kearny United Veterans Organization. Since Warhurst had no known living relatives, the medal is donated to the Kearny Museum.

Wilfred Warhurst Purple Heart

Wilfred Warhurst Purple Heart

The Kearny school district reaches out to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to find out how much leeway might be available if the ongoing KHS renovation exceeds the $44 million budget from the P.A., FAA and state DOE.

A state Appellate Court rules that the Town of Harrison has the right to tax both the Red Bull Arena and the land on which it stands.

KHS’ Canstruction project reports it collected a whopping 28,511 cans of food, all of which were distributed to local food pantries.

The state Department of Education assigns a monitor to oversee the Belleville Board of Education’s fiscal operations.

The Bergen County Sheriff’s Office reports the arrest of two suspects in the “jury duty” phone scam reported in The Observer in April. The alleged conspirators are a Georgia corrections officer and an inmate, and authorities say the scam was being run out of a prison in that state.

The highly successful Kearny Community Garden officially opens its second season.

Msgr. John Gilchrist of Kearny, a priest for more than a half-century, is honored in Jersey City as Hudson County’s Senior of the Year.

East Newark residents learn there will be a special question on their Nov. 4 general election ballots: “Should East Newark high school students be sent to Kearny High School instead of Harrison High School?”

Patrick W. Martin is named East Newark school superintendent/ principal.

Nineteen people are left homeless when fire destroys a multi-family residence on Fifth St. in Harrison.

Nutley’s Department of Health and Department of Public Affairs launch a Senior Call program, a concerted effort — including twice-monthly phone calls — to reach out to local senior citizens to offer any assistance they might need, and just to let them know they’re not alone.

With the help of the Peruvian Civic Association, the Kearny Fire Department initiates a new fire safety program with a special seminar for Spanish-speaking residents.

JUNE 

A monument honoring the contributions of the Portuguese- American community to Kearny and other towns is unveiled in Riverbank Park at a dedication ceremony attended by hundreds.

On June 6, America commemorates the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy — the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe.

In Nutley, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs’ D-Day ceremony is held in conjunction with memorial services conducted in England by the Royal British Legion.

Jack Kane, a lifelong resident of Nutley, is elected State Commander at the 95th Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention held in Wildwood.

St. Stephen’s R.C. Church, which is marking the 75th anniversary of its Kearny Ave. building, holds an afternoon of guided tours of the cathedral-like structure.

In North Arlington, it turns out that the debate over placement of the World Trade Center steel beams is not over after all. Cost reportedly is a factor.

Lyndhurst is taking steps to create a safer foot approach to its playing fields off Valley Brook Ave.

The Meritorius Acts Review Board of the KFD holds its first annual awards ceremony honoring both firefighters and civilians. Recipients included Capts. Jerry Coppola and Rod Nardone and FF Dave Russell for their rescue of two Jersey City firemen who were trapped inside a burning Harrison building in 2013. Civilian awards went to David Moran of Moran Towing, Rob Neu of River Terminal Development and Observer correspondent Karen Zautyk [who remains humbled by the honor].

U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker visit a South Kearny Superfund site — the “orphaned” Syncon Resins property — to push for a polluter tax to clean contaminated industrial sites around the nation.

Ten-year-old Miguel Vega of North Arlington is named “Chief for the Day” by the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association and the Sheriff’s Office, is ceremonially sworn in at Town Hall and serves with distinction.

The popular Kearny Farmers Market, sponsored by the KUEZ, returns for another season, but in a new location, moving from the Mandee’s lot to Garfield Ave. between Kearny Ave. and Chestnut St.

The Kearny Board of Ed approves a plan to send all seventh- and eighth-graders to a redesigned Lincoln Middle School for the 2014-15 school year.

JULY 

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission closes its Saw Mill Creek Trail to allow PSE&G to proceed with part of its $907 million Northeast Grid Reliability Project to replace and upgrade its power lines and sub-stations along a 50-mile route stretching from Roseland to Jersey City, including The Observer’s coverage area.

Nearly a year after 40-yearold Belleville resident Dante Cespedes was killed in an avalanche of bullets fired by cops in his Lake St. apartment, an Essex County grand jury is convened to look into the shooting. In early December, the grand jury decides not to bring criminal charges against the cops involved in the fatal shooting.

Kearny’s governing body promotes John View to police lieutenant.

Belleville Board of Education, reeling from an auditor’s preliminary finding that it had overspent more than $4 million during the 2013-14 school year, votes not to rehire 75 non-tenured teachers and 21 non-instructional employees. Belleville Historic Preservation Commission designates the old Dutch Reformed Church building as a local landmark. Later in the year, the church – now owned and used as a worship center by Iglesia Pentecostal LaSenda Antigua – is awarded a $250,000 grant for badly needed restoration work.

The derelict Jeryl Industrial Park, off the Belleville Turnpike in Kearny, is put on the path to a big upgrade with the intervention of a new operator, Ridge Crossing, which begins to demolish many of the 28 buildings on site.

After his 5-year contract as Harrison superintendent of schools expires, James Doran is appointed director of personnel/human resources/ compliance and crisis management at about $200,000 a year – roughly $40,000 less than his superintendent’s pay.

The state awards Kearny $2.5 million in transitional aid plus $500,000 in employees’ pension contribution to soften the 3.74% property tax hit on local property owners. Overall, the average homeowner will pay $244 more in county, school and municipal taxes this year.

The Meadowlands Board of Realtors, which advocated for real estate agents and their customers in West Hudson and South Bergen for 93 years, merges with the Eastern Bergen County Board of Realtors, creating the third largest realtor association in the state.

Thirty-six Kearny youths complete the two-week training course offered by the Kearny Police Department’s Junior Police Academy. They are the academy’s sixth graduating class.

A Newark couple, Mujahideen Abdullah and Jomaris Gonzalez, are arrested in connection with the June 12 killing of a Hackensack livery-cab driver who, police say, was targeted after an argument at a Belleville nightclub.

An estimated 1,000 police motorcyclists escort the funeral cortege of slain Jersey City Police Detective Melvin Santiago July 18 to Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington for burial. Santiago was killed July 13 when he responded to a 911 call at a Jersey City Walgreens.

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Three members of the Kearny High Class of 2003 were caught up in an alleged international cyber theft ring. They were: Bryan Caputo (in orange Tshirt), Daniel Petryszyn (blue shirt) and Laurence Brinkmeyer. All await trial.

Three 2003 Kearny High School alumni – Bryan Caputo, Laurence Brinkmeyer and Daniel Petryszyn – are indicted on charges of money laundering and criminal possession of stolen property in connection with what authorities described as an international cyber theft ring that allegedly accessed more than 1,600 user accounts on StubHub.

The state Department of Environmental Protection re-issues a warning to anglers not to catch or eat blue club crabs from the lower Passaic River, which runs through parts of North Arlington, Lyndhurst, Kearny, Nutley, Belleville, East Newark and Harrison, because they can cause cancer.

A Union City truck driver is charged with vehicular homicide in connection with a N.J. Turnpike crash that killed Kearny’s Jeffrey Humphrey, 43, brother of Kearny Library Director Josh Humphrey.

An effort by the Belleville Board of Education to fire middle school math teacher Michael Mignone, head of the teachers’ union, fails when an arbitrator dismisses 12 of 13 tenure “conduct unbecoming” charges against Mignone but imposes a 30-day suspension for a privacy invasion complaint.

AUGUST 

Nutley launches “Celebrating America – Celebrating Nutley,” providing residents a perspective on local history on Nutley’s role on the national stage.

Kearny Fire Department gets another superior officer as the town governing body appoints Fire Capt. Michael Kartanowicz.

Kearny’s J.E. Frobisher Jr. American Legion Post 99 celebrates its 95th birthday.

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office upgrades charges against a Belleville man to murder in an alleged assault on his roommate. Police say Edwin Andujar, 49, allegedly stabbed Thomas Parent, 59, in the stomach and back at a Wallace St. residence on Aug. 7.

Kearny Fire Department’s fireboat, acquired in May 2013, responds to its first alarm of fire on Aug. 15, assisting boats from Newark Fire Department and N.J. State Police in knocking down a smoky fire under the Pulaski Skyway. Fires also erupt Aug. 4 at the Portal Bridge and Sept. 2 at the PATH span.

A Belleville pharmacist is one of 16 individuals charged as alleged conspirators in a scheme to fraudulently obtain and distribute oxycodone. Federal prosecutors listed Vincent Cozzarelli, 77, owner of Rossmore Pharmacy on Washington Ave., as the accused druggist. The case remains under review by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Finance Officer Walter Tomasheski (l.) and Commander Keith McMillan mark the 95th anniversary of the J. E. Frobisher Jr. American Legion Post 99 of Kearny.

Finance Officer Walter Tomasheski (l.) and Commander Keith McMillan mark
the 95th anniversary of the J. E. Frobisher Jr. American Legion Post 99 of Kearny.

 

Hudson County Improvement Authority designates The Morris Companies as the prospective developer of the old 138-acre Koppers Coke redevelopment site in Kearny. Both sides are still negotiating a sale/purchase agreement for the parcel.

Nutley closes DeMuro Park several days to conduct a “fogging” experiment – spraying an aerosol, Methyl Anthranilate, to rid the park of an overabundance of starlings.

Belleville veterans’ advocate Joseph T. Fornarotto dies Aug. 25 at age 88. As the owner of Joe’s Lunch in the 1950s, he came to know Francesco “Frankie” Castelluccio, better known now as Frankie Vallie of The Four Seasons. A one-term Township Commissioner and a former Essex County employee, Fornarotto was a U.S. Navy veteran who later served as a founding member and commander of Disabled American Veterans Belleville/Nutley Chapter 22. In 2009, he was named Belleville Man of the Year at the Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade. Essex County plans to install a memorial plaque honoring Fornarotto in the veterans’ section of Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield in the spring.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan to do a bank-to-bank and cap cleanup of the Lower Passaic River, from Newark Bay to the Newark/Belleville border at a cost pegged at $1.78 billion is challenged by the Cooperating Parties Group, which has accepted responsibility for the cleanup. The EPA is still working on a final draft of its plan.

SEPTEMBER 

West Hudson Arts & Theater Co. (W.H.A.T.) moves to a new home, from the former St. Stephen’s School on Midland Ave. to First Lutheran Church on Oakwood Ave.

The U.S. Postal Service and FBI undertake a criminal investigation into a Sept. 4 incident at the Logistics & Distribution Center on Harrison Ave. which was evacuated after a postal employee reportedly found a container dropped in a postal hamper with the word “Ebola” written on it.

A second hotel opens in Harrison: the 138-room Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide’s Element Harrison just steps from the PATH station.

Occupancy of a Grand Place house in Kearny by Valentine House, a substance abuse recovery group, angers neighbors who call on town officials to shut it down. The town takes the owner and lessor to court, alleging that they are operating an illegal rooming house in a one-family residential zone. The occupants have left but Valentine House has vowed to defend its right to be there.

The new Element Harrison hotel opened.

The new Element Harrison hotel opened.

Kearny Town Council approves a three-year redevelopment agreement with DVL Kearny Holdings to redevelop a Passaic Ave. shopping mall with BJ’s Wholesale Club as its anchor tenant. DVL is in the process of demolishing the old Congoleum-Nairn factory building to clear the way for new construction.

Holy Cross Church in Harrison reports the theft of a sacred relic, believed to be a piece of the original Cross of Christ from Jerusalem that has been in the church’s keeping since its founding in Harrison in 1886. It is recovered, undamaged, less than two weeks later, by Port Authority police patrolling PA property in Harrison.

Goodwill Industries in Harrison partners with Palisades Regional Academy, which serves students in grades 6 to 12 with serious learning and behavioral disabilities.

OCTOBER 

Perkins Family Restaurant & Bakery closes its doors after seven years at the Valley Brook Ave. mall next to Town Hall in Lyndhurst. It’s the second retailer in the mall to fold. A Mandee shop shut more than a year ago.

Nutley Boy Scout Scott Bolton Jr. is feted as a “Scout in Action” for intervening on Sept. 9 when a 16-year-old boy weighing 180 pounds attacked an 8-year-old girl on a school bus with a key and then tried to jump out the emergency door onto Rt. 23. Scott restrained the boy until the bus pulled over and then helped a female bus aide hold onto the boy when he tried to run into traffic until police and an ambulance arrived.

For several days, calls to the Belleville Board of Education are answered by a voice message that says phone service has been suspended due to a “non-payment.” It’s part of a dispute between the vendor, Clarity Technologies, and the district’s state monitor which culminated with the district replacing Clarity with a new communications vendor.

Lyndhurst Mayor and retired Deputy Police Chief Robert Giangeruso is dislodged as the township’s public safety director in the aftermath of several lawsuits alleging his interference with the management of the Police Department. Public Affairs Commissioner John Montillo takes over public safety and, four weeks later, Montillo presides at the promotions of seven cops: Capt. Patrick Devlin, Lts. Robert Nicol, John Kerner and Michael Failace; and Sgts. Kevin Breslin, Donna Niland and Richard Pizzuti.

Improvements to the Lyndhurst approach to the DeJessa Memorial Bridge begin at the Kingsland and Riverside Ave. intersections where commuter tie-ups occur regularly. Officials blame badly synchronized lights, off and on the bridge, plus insufficient capacity on a 100-year-old bridge with only one lane in each direction. Later in the year, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority earmarks a $750,000 grant to determine the best alternative for fixing or replacing the bridge.

The Walmart on Harrison Ave. in Kearny has become a big security headache as Kearny PD reports it is closing in on 400 responses this year to the retail store and has already logged 113 arrests there – not just for shoplifting but many for outstanding warrants from other communities.

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office reports an apparent murder-suicide in Belleville on Oct. 17. Police believe John Sykes, 47, fatally shot Felicia Hunt, 23, and himself at a New St. residence.

Kearny veterans groups hold an Octoberfest to raise money for “care packages” for National Guard troops.

A 16-year-old Kearny boy arrested on a receiving stolen property charge is released to his guardian at the recommendation of the county juvenile intake unit but the next day, the youth is arrested again, this time on a robbery charge. It marks the boy’s 50th “encounter” with the KPD since June 2010 when he was 13, according to Chief John Dowie. His history of charges includes armed robbery with a firearm, theft, aggravated assault and terroristic threats.

East Newark concludes legal wrangling over a sexual harassment suit filed in 2013 by a former civilian police dispatcher against a then-borough police superior. It agrees to pay $101,000 to settle the litigation and to pay more than $90,000 in fees and costs to the plaintiff’s lawyers. The superior, Sgt. Robert Tomasko, has since accepted a voluntary demotion to police officer.

Sgt. Donna Niland is one of seven Lyndhurst cops promoted, about a month after Mayor Robert Giangeruso is shifted, from public safety director to public affairs director.

Sgt. Donna Niland is one of seven Lyndhurst cops promoted, about a month
after Mayor Robert Giangeruso is shifted, from public safety director to public affairs director.

 

 

NOVEMBER 

Frank Ferraro resigns as Kearny superintendent of schools, after the Board of Education approves a settlement agreement that gives Ferraro about $70,000, representing four months’ pay.

A woman who worked as a receptionist at a Kearny medical office pleads guilty to embezzling nearly $500,000 from her employer and using fake credit cards to make more than $200,000 in personal purchases. Gwendolyn Muller, 53, reportedly a former Kearny resident, faces sentencing in February.

Kearny police stop providing security at scholastic sports and other school-related events after the Board of Education says it can’t afford to pay newly raised off-duty pay rates for cops.

A federal judge grants the government’s request to put off the trial of Kearny’s John Leadbeater for allegedly taking part in a conspiracy to defraud banks of $13 million in mortgage proceeds for three months, to March 2, after federal prosecutors designate the matter as a “complex case,” necessitating more prep time. Harrison attorney Al Cifelli, a county freeholder and Harrison tax assessor, is honored as Knight of the Year by the Harrison Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Grace Council 402. Election results: It’s a clean sweep for the GOP in North Arlington as voters oust North Arlington Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat – along with his council running mates Mark Yampaglia and Daniel Castro – in favor of GOP Mayor-elect Joseph Bianchi and council candidates Daniel Pronti and Kerry Cruz, giving the Republicans a 4-2 majority on Jan. 1. The GOP also get to pick someone to fill part of Bianchi’s unexpired term on the council. In Harrison, interim Mayor James Fife, a Democrat, beats Republican challenger Eric Brachman by a more than 2-1 margin. Democratic council incumbents (Jesus Huaranga, Laurence Bennett and James Doran in the First, Third and Fourth Wards) faced no opposition; in the Second Ward, incumbent Democrat Anselmo Millan defeated independent Ramon Rodriguez. And, in East Newark, borough residents voted 157-52, in a non-binding referendum, that they’d prefer to send their kids to high school in Kearny, not Harrison – where they’ve gone for more than a century.

Two Newark men – Jonathan Fontenot and Terrence Morris, both 26 – are killed in an accident on Rt. 21 South in Belleville after a tractortrailer collides with two passenger cars on Nov. 3.

Voters chose Republican Joseph Bianchi (l.) as mayor of North Arlington and Democrat James Fife as mayor of Harrison.

Voters chose Republican Joseph Bianchi (l.) as mayor of North
Arlington and Democrat James Fife as mayor of Harrison.

Nutley Irish American Association selects Charles E. O’Mara as grand marshal for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March. Ann E. Morris is deputy grand marshal, Joe Milbauer is Member of the Year and Diandra Kelly is 2015 Parade Queen.

Mace Bros. Fine Furniture, which has done retail business at in Kearny for 62 years at Oakwood and Kearny Aves., announces it is closing.

Monument Park in Kearny gets a new addition: a memorial to the military victims in the War on Terrorism. It is dedicated at the town’s annual Veterans’ Day ceremony. The new monument, designed by Thomas J. Goffredo of the North Arlington firm, Thomas Meloro & Son, which crafted the stone, bears the name of Staff Sgt. Edward Karolasz, a Kearny soldier killed in Iraq nine years ago at age 25.

Newest addition to Kearny’s Monument Park is a memorial to the War on Terrorism and honoring Staff Sgt. Edward Karolasz, whose mother Krystyna Karolasz (c.), and sister Kristine Lancha (l.) and Donna Kornas attended the dedication.

Newest addition to Kearny’s Monument Park is a memorial to the War on Terrorism and honoring Staff Sgt. Edward Karolasz, whose mother Krystyna Karolasz (c.), and sister Kristine Lancha (l.) and Donna Kornas attended the dedication.

Nutley senior citizen Ernesta Fernandez is killed after being struck by a hit-and-run driver on Centre St. on Nov. 15. The Prosecutor’s Office have reportedly located the driver but no charges have as yet been filed.

A three-alarm fire displaces 90 occupants of a 41-unit, five-story brick apartment building at 425 Beech St. in Kearny on Nov. 23. One woman is rescued from a fire escape and many cats are also saved.

An intoxicated Newark man commandeers an excavator at a construction site in West Hudson Park in the Harrison section of the park and begins driving home, running over some park property and a parked car in the process on Nov. 14.

A kitchen fire on Nov. 15 forces the temporary closure of a popular E. Passaic Ave. pub, the Old Canal Inn, in Nutley. The owners have vowed to reopen as soon as repairs are done.

After finally adopting a 2014 municipal budget, North Arlington officials say the spending blueprint will account for an 8% increase in the local tax rate for municipal purposes or about $254 more on the “average” tax bill. When school and county contributions are included, that bill will reflect an overall increase of $268, officials say.

Nutley’s Department of Public Affairs is creating a “Wall of American Honor” to feature images (photos, sketches, portraits) of all township veterans from 1776 on.

Three Kearny residents are rescued from a second-floor front porch roof during a Nov. 20 house fire at 47 Beech St. The trapped residents – two women and a man – are taken away safely by Firefighters Victor Girdwood and Ron Protokowicz, also credited with saving a dog hiding in a first-floor apartment.

A lottery for 15 affordable senior apartments at the newly completed Harrison Senior Residence is held by the developer, Domus Corp. Close to 150 people apply to be on the list. Domus hopes to have the list of finalists screened shortly.

Residents of North Arlington, Lyndhurst and Bloomfield are among 31 individuals arrested in seven counties during a Nov. 23 pre-dawn sweep by 26 law enforcement agencies targeting an estimated $1 million narcotics trade involving heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Agents confiscate 518 bricks of heroin, with an estimated street value of $300,000, eight pounds of marijuana valued at $40,000 and $50,000 in cash.

 

A Bayonne man helped solve the mystery of the missing headstone for Kearny’s Theodore Zetterlund.

A Bayonne man helped solve
the mystery of the missing
headstone for Kearny’s Theodore
Zetterlund.

 

DECEMBER 

Nutley PD holds a public workshop to heighten residents’ awareness of how they can take steps to protect their vehicles from break-ins and thefts, prevent wallets or purses from being snatched, use ATMs safely and teach their children how to keep themselves safe.

Two Kearny teens are charged with arson in connection with a fire that gutted a single-family house on Garfield Ave. at the corner of Elm St. on Nov. 10.

A Bayonne tire dealer, Bruce Dillin, helps solve the mystery of why the headstone of Theodore Zetterlund, a Kearny butcher/grocer killed by a would-be robber some 79 years ago, was missing until its discovery by Dillin in the Kearny meadows in May 2014. After much travail, Dillin recovered the headstone and – with help from a Kearny cop friend, an environmentalist with the N.J. Turnpike Authority and John Burns of John Burns Memorials – arranges for its placement at Zetterlund’s gravesite in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.

Kearny Councilwoman Alex Arce announces she is stepping down from her council seat Jan. 5 – with two years remaining in her three-year term – because she’s expecting her first child soon.

Members of Local 3, Building Construction Laborers of North Jersey, picket demolition work at the Passaic Ave. mall site being redeveloped by DVL Kearny Holdings.

Belleville High School science teacher Joy Alfano is recognized as a 2014 Voya Unsung Hero. She’s one one of 100 teachers feted nationwide by Voya Financial to honor innovative teaching methods.

North Arlington will get $275,000 this year and $50,000 next year in a settlement of litigation with the Passaic Valley Water Commission. The borough and PVWC had differences over issues such as the payment of permit fees, police security at job sites and advance notice on proposed water rate hikes.

Silver Lake Baptist Church in Belleville marks its 100th anniversary. It was founded as the First Italian Baptist Church of Belleville to serve the area’s Italianspeaking population.

Harrison retains a Bloomfield law firm, Pearlman & Miranda, for up to $100,000 to defend the town’s right to tax Red Bull for its land and stadium. Both sides are awaiting a review of the longstanding tax case by members of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Mazur’s Bakery, a landmark store on Ridge Road in Lyndhurst, reopens under new ownership: the Sugarflake Bakery Chain, operating in Westwood, Wyckoff and Fair Lawn.

The state Department of Environmental Protection announces a $190 million settlement with Occidental Chemical Corp. to resolve the company’s liability for contamination of the Passaic River. The money will be applied to efforts to clean up the river.

Two armed robbers invade the Radio Shack on Main St. in Belleville on Dec. 21, bind three employees and pistolwhip one before fleeing, slamming a township patrol car as they go.

Belleville Board of Education, still awaiting the final results of an audit on how much it overspent during the 2013- 2014 school year, votes to spend more than $3 million for infrastructure technology and phone upgrades.

The Observer Staff