A look back at 2015

12-30Review_webBy Kevin Canessa Jr. & Ron Leir
Observer Correspondents 

It’s hard to believe yet another year has gone by. And oh what a year it’s been in our eight readership towns — Kearny, Harrison, East Newark, North Arlington, Lyndhurst, Belleville, Nutley and Bloomfield.

As we do every year, here’s a look back at the top stories that made headlines in 2015. The first six months — January to June — were recounted by Kevin Canessa Jr.; July through December, by Ron Leir.

January 

The New Year kicked off with a report that Harrison experienced a series of break-ins the week of Christmas 2014. The first break-in occurred at Fulger’s at Harrison and Davis Aves. A man wearing a hoodie allegedly smashed the business’ front door with a brick to gain entry, stole cash and cigarettes and fled in a waiting pickup truck. A few days later, it was believed the same man who broke into Fulger’s broke into several other town stores. First, it was Hinze’s Deli on Dec. 31, 2014. Then it was Pepita’s Beauty Salon. Then it was Harrison Grocery. The assailant allegedly broke front windows on all properties.

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Meanwhile, the North Arlington Police Department was awarded a new, four-year contract. The new contract called for an annual-salary increase of 1.25% each year for four years, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014. The new contract expires Dec. 31, 2017.

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A warming center for the homeless — a place of last resort — opened in South Kearny at 53 Hackensack Ave. There weren’t beds or cots there, but people who need the shelter were able to take showers there, find new, clean clothing and were fed. There was also access to toiletries — and a common area for socializing or watching TV..

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Meanwhile, cops in Essex County were being equipped with Narcan, a drug that can save lives when a person overdoses on opiates. Over the entire year, there were stories of how several people’s lives were saved by the drug. In total, 250 Narcan kits were distributed among the 27 police agencies based in Essex County.

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A week after we reported break-ins at several Harrison stores, the HPD had its suspect in custody. Keith A. Herbert, 46 at the time, of Newark, was arrested by Newark police Jan. 6 on a strong-arm robbery in that city. HPD said Herbert told Newark police he was responsible for the Harrison break-ins, but no merchandise and no cash were recovered. Herbert was remanded to the Essex County Jail. HPD said they were “waiting in line” to get to Herbert.

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Meanwhile, Kearny police arrested a man they say held up the Exxon at Passaic Ave. and Belgrove Drive. Charles Lambaise, 25, of Kearny, was charged with the crime, the KPD said. Lambaise allegedly held the station’s mini-mart up with a knife, threatened to stab the clerk and demanded the cash in the store. He got away with nothing — and was remanded to the Hudson County Jail, South Kearny.

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Around the same time, Kearny’s four victorious Town Council candidates were sworn in to new, four-year terms at the town’s annual reorganization meeting. In the First Ward, it was Albino Cardoso; in the Second Ward, it was Jonathan Giordano; in the Third Ward, it was Eileen Eckel; and in the Fourth Ward, it was Susan McCurrie. All four council members are Democrats and had no Republican challengers in the November 2014 vote that got them re-elected. In fact, it’s been 15 years since a Republican last held elected office on the Kearny Council. This reorganization marked Santos’ 15th anniversary as Mayor of Kearny. He was first elected mayor in November 1999 and took office Jan. 1, 2000.

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Moving on, the Belleville Board of Education discovered it had an estimated $3.7 million deficit. An audit had been performed by the auditing firm of Lerch, Vinci & Higgins, LLP.

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That same week, the fourth anniversary of CANstrution was celebrated.

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Meanwhile, Brian Fitzhenry, a Republican, was appointed to fill a Borough Council seat in North Arlington that was vacated by new Republican Mayor Joseph Bianchi, who the prior November, beat the then-incumbent Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat.

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We also reported a murder-suicide in Nutley, that took place on Hillside Ave. Reports at the time said a man and woman were both found dead of apparent gunshot wounds. The victims were Christina Prestianni, 37, and her boyfriend, Christopher Minichini, 38. Minichini was a state corrections officer, the Essex prosecutor said at the time. Prestianni was the owner of Pupcake Dog Grooming & Bakery, Caldwell.

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Around that time, the Lyndhurst Police Department hired three new cops: Michael LeStrange, Steve Batista and John DeCamp. DeCamp and Batista were slated to begin their first tour on the job in June after completion of a 22-week academy. LeStrange was already enrolled in an alternate-route academy and was expected to begin his first tour in February.

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Dr. Mohan S. Deshpande announced he was retiring as a cardiologist and internist. He had practiced privately on Seeley Ave. for several decades in Kearny.

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A week later, the week of Jan. 28, we learned of initial plans for a dog park in Kearny. While initial plans for the park fell through, the town hosted a ground-breaking ceremony just two weeks ago to kick off construction of the off-leash park. There will be two separate areas for dogs — one for smaller and another for larger breeds.

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Meanwhile, improvements to the intersection leading to the DeJessa Bridge, which links Lyndhurst to Nutley across the Passaic River, were completed. The project, pushed by Mayor Robert Giangeruso with financing help from Bergen County, cost just north of $800,000.

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We also reported on an ice storm that took its toll on local roads and wreaked havoc on drivers. In Kearny alone, there were 48 reported motor-vehicle crashes on Jan. 18, according to a story written by our Karen Zautyk. The first one was at around 7 a.m. on Fish House Road and the last at 5:11 p.m. on Hackensack Ave., both in South Kearny. The others happened in South Kearny and in uptown Kearny.

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Three Democrats were nominated to fill the First Ward Kearny Council seat vacated by the Jan. 5 resignation of Alexa Arce. They were Marytrine DeCastro, Sonia Hill and Jennifer Mach. DeCastro was later appointed to the seat after a vetting process.

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And lastly, Kathleen Ambro, 58, of Nutley, was arrested and faces up to five years in prison after she allegedly filed fraudulent applications for federal and state relief following Superstorm Sandy. The Acting State Attorney General, John J. Hoffman, said Ambro allegedly filed for more than $12,000 in relief she wasn’t entitled to get. At the time, Ambro was the 23rd person to be criminally charged with trying to bilk the state and feds of Sandy money that they weren’t eligible to receive.

February 

The shortest month of the year still saw its share of news and crime.

For starters, a massive fire in South Kearny shut down the Pulaski Skyway in the early part of the month. Temperatures and wind chills were well below freezing the day of the fire that went to four alarms and that was put out by in three hours by more than 75 firefighters from Kearny, Harrison, East Newark, North Arlington, Jersey City, Bayonne and Hoboken. There were 20 fire trucks or so on scene. It was so cold that day that “the hoses were freezing, too,” Kearny FD Chief Steve Dyl told The Observer. “One froze to the ground and we couldn’t move it.”

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Meanwhile, across the Passaic River, Richard Tomko was made the new superintendent of schools in Belleville by a Board of Education vote of 5 to 1 in his favor. With the appointment came a three-plus year contract at $167,500 annually, with a chance to increase that in subsequent years by 14.99% based on merit. School board member Ralph Vellon was the only “nay” vote.

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One town to the north, a fire displaced nine Brown St. residents. Nutley Fire Lt. Dave Hollywood said 35 firefighters from Nutley, Bloomfield and Montclair were required to put the pesky two-alarm blaze out.

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That same week, Christopher Mojica, 24, of Newark, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he was convicted of a string of robberies, including one at a Pharmacy Plus, 234 Harrison Ave., Harrison. The others all took place in Hudson and Essex counties.

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There was another spectacular South Kearny fire, and this time, it involved a slew of brand-new cars. In total, 23 vehicles — including sedans, SUVs and mini-vans were destroyed in the fire. Chief Steve Dyl told Karen Zautyk the fire was made worse because the vehicles were stacked closely on trailers and because of burning tires and fiberglass.

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Meanwhile, Kearny enhanced 9-1-1 system was back up and fully running in the town’s South Kearny precinct. It hadn’t been functioning since it had been wiped out during Superstorm Sandy.

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Also in Kearny, fire department increased by seven new members, including James Corbett Jr. [son of retired Kearny police Deputy Chief James Corbett Sr.], Steven Yerkes, Kyle Plaugic [son of KPD Det. John Plaugic], Joseph Socci, Donald Alexander, John Digrivina and Jeffrey Paredes. All are either residents of Kearny or Newark — and were scheduled to begin as probationary firefighters in June.

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February ended with news that all police officers in Belleville — from rookies to the chief — ratified a new, three-year contract, that called for a 3% salary bump each year. The vote was unanimous in favor of the new pact. At the time of the agreement, there were nine new cops in the academy, but there was the possibility that up to 20 members were ready to retire sometime in 2015.

March 

In March, the Kearny Police Department announced that crime in 2014 remained static. There were just three more reported major crimes in town in 2014 — a total of 1,289.

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Meanwhile, Marytrine DeCastro was seated as a First Ward Councilwoman in Kearny. She replaced Alex Arce, who resigned Jan. 5.

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In Harrison, Mayor James Fife announced state monitors would continue to keep an eye on the town’s fiscal progress. Fife said he was hoping the town’s transitional aid, which prompted the monitoring, would be shifted to regular state aid. That didn’t happen.

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In mid-March, Ed Russo, a Carlstadt developer, was granted permission by the town’s Planning Board to begin expansion of a project at 311-337 Bergen Ave. The project will ultimately see two, 3-story buildings with 70 apartments and 106 parking spots.

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Former Kearny Councilman and ex-school board member John Leadbeater pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud in an alleged mortgage fraud scheme. In return for the his plea, the feds dropped a money-laundering charge. Leadbeater is awaiting sentencing.

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Meanwhile, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said it was continuing to investigate the death of a Newark man, whose body was found floating in Second River off Mill St., Belleville. Roosevelt Padilla- Correa was 67.

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As March drew to a close, officials in Lyndhurst announced it would work to close the 126-year-old Lincoln School as part of a township redevelopment plan.

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Also, the U.S. Postal Service announced Kearny’s branch office, at 225 Kearny Ave., would close June 3. Uptown Kearny is now only serviced by one post office — on Midland Ave.

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Finally, six new police officers were hired by the KPD: Dominic Dominguez, Mina Elkadious, Victor Girwood, Sean Podolski, Esteban Gonzalez and Christos Manolis. Chief John Dowie, at the time, had been authorized to hire up to 10 new cops, but couldn’t because of a limited Civil Service hiring list.

April 

As the year’s fourth month kicked off, officials in Kearny announced they’d be applying for a $743,000 Hudson County Community Development Block Grant to lay turf at Veterans’ Field on Belgrove Drive. The work was finished in October.

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Meanwhile, two of Kearny’s finest and four of Kearny’s bravest were promoted to captain. In the KPD, the new captains were Anthony Sylvester and Timothy Wagner and in the KFD, the captains were David Russell, William Solano, Andrew O’Donnell and Art Bloomer.

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In Nutley, police Chief Thomas Strumolo announced the first known case where Narcan, provided to the township by the county, was used to save a man from a drug overdose. Strumolo said a 48-year-old Hillside Ave. man had been found unconscious. On scene, Patrolman Ted Durand sensed an overdose, administered the Narcan nasally — and the victim survived.

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A North Arlington doctor was sentenced to 37 months in prison for accepting more than $130,000 in bribes to refer patients to a Parsippany clinical-testing lab. Dr. Angelo Calabrese, 57, pled guilty to one count of accepting bribes.

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Mid-month, Kearny Firefighter Mark Isabella Jr. was heading to Afghanistan for a deployment of up to a year. To mark his deployment, KFD Chief Steve Dyl placed a Blue Service Star on Engine 1, Isabella’s rig.

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In Harrison, elected officials announced the town’s long-anticipated health center would open in December. It had been scheduled to open in April, but bids to construct the center came in well above what had been budgeted. An opening is now planned for Jan. 19.

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Meanwhile, longtime Lyndhurst Township Clerk Helen Polito announced her retirement after 13 years in that position and nearly 29 years of overall service. Her deputy, Angela White, was her replacement.

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In East Newark, cops were granted a 2% raise by the governing body. The new contract runs through Dec. 31, 2016.

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A man who was a “known gang member,” and who was the subject of a nationwide manhunt instituted by Virginia law enforcement, was arrested in Kearny April 9. Andrew Armstrong, 32, was remanded to the Hudson County Jail to await extradition to Alexandrea, Va.

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In Kearny, officials eyed changes to the way carnivals and festivals get permits following an incident at an Easter Sunday carnival on Passaic Ave. At that carnival, a 15-year-old girl told police a man groped her whilst on a Ferris Wheel. Among the changes would be a clear description of required security at such events — as in, how many off-duty cops are needed or private security.

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At KHS, then-Principal Al Gilson announced he was stepping down effective June 30. He offered no reason for his resignation.

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As the month drew to a close, a crossing guard was struck by a car at Davis and Harrison Aves., Harrison. Grace Jurczyk, 57, was badly hurt and was taken to UMDNJ Hospital, where surgeons removed her spleen and repaired an injured left leg, according to the Harrison Police Department.

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Meanwhile, strong winds once again damaged the old Dutch Reformed Church in Belleville. The same church was dealt a similar blow in 2012 during Superstorm Sandy. Wind gusts of up to 51 mph tore off sections of wood, hurling them on to Rutgers St. below.

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In South Kearny, the dead body of an unidentified man was pulled from the Hackensack River after workers near 700 Fish House Road noticed it floating. KPD Chief John Dowie told The Observer the body was unrecognizable, but did appear to be someone 40 to 50, wearing a shirt and trousers. Police said there was no indication of foul play.

May 

The fifth month of the year started off with a report about a special eye program in East Newark. Eye exams were given to students at the elementary school and in cases where kids needed glasses, the district helps to offset the cost.

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Meanwhile, the KFD saw more promotions from within. Michael Golon, Edward Ryan and David Auerbach were all elevated to captains.

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In the Kearny police blotter, 28-year-old Perth Amboy resident Marilyn Bourdier was arrested and charged with drunken driving with her 6-month-old son in the car on the Belleville Turnpike. Police said they pulled Bourdier over after she was spotted speeding and with her hazard lights on. She was also issued summonses charging her with driving with a suspended license, failure to surrender her suspended license, misuse of a child-restraint seat, possession of an open container of Fireball Whiskey in a motor vehicle and drunken driving with a minor in the vehicle. The baby was released into the custody of a family friend and a representative of the state Division of Child Protection responded to interview Bourdier and to investigate the incident.

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Meanwhile, North Arlington Mayor Joseph Bianchi ordered flags be flown at half-staff following the April 29 death of former Councilman Phil Spanola. Spanola, a retired Jersey City police detective, moved to NA in 1971 and was a Democratic representative on the council from 2005 to 2008.

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In Kearny, Mayor Alberto G. Santos relented on a proposed ordinance to make the positions of mayor and council members full time. He floated the change to ensure all newly elected officials would be covered by health insurance. After 2010, part-time elected officials became ineligible for state benefits.

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Meanwhile, Moody’s Investor Service announced May 11 Kearny’s credit rating would drop two notches — from A2 to Baa1 — also slapping it with a “negative outlook.”

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In Lyndhurst, authorities announced that a criminal ring was responsible for the theft of construction equipment. The equipment stolen from Lyndhurst as valued at $17,950 and the overall value of the stolen equipment statewide was $300,000. The ringleader, Michael J. Troncone, 34, of Blairstown, pled guilty to second-degree theft and was to serve eight years in state prison.

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Officials in Belleville, meanwhile, announced Tulfra Realty II LLC was selected to redevelop the vacant Roche property.

As the month drew to a close, a tractor trailer overturned in North Arlington on Ridge Road. Somehow, not a single injury was reported.

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Meanwhile, a civilian DEA employee was one of two men arrested in New York City after an investigation revealed the agent lied about ownership- interest in a Hackensack go-go bar. Glen Glover, 42, of Lyndhurst, allegedly told the feds he had no ownership interest in the club. Glover and his cohort were both charged with making false statements, which carries with it, a maximum term of five years’ incarceration.

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The Kearny Board of Education hired retired educator Linda Rocco, of Spring Lake, to be the interim principal at KHS at a stipend of $500 a day for her work. Rocco did her student teaching in the ‘70s at Garfield and Kearny High School.

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A Kearny man who was a conductor in the first car of an Amtrak train that derailed earlier in the year in Philadelphia announced he was suing the railroad. Emilio Fonseca, of Dukes St., was being treated at the time at a Philly hospital for multiple broken vertebra in his back and neck and for head and shoulder trauma. The suit alleges Amtrak was negligent “in failing to install equipment that would have slowed the train as it headed into a curve while traveling at more than 100 mph when it left the tracks in the Port Richmond area.”

June

In Lyndhurst, a local man was shot dead by police in the township library. LPD Chief James O’Connor said Kevin Allen, 36, was approached by officers outside the library, who followed him inside the building. On the building’s third floor, police said Allen “became violent and attempted to flee.” In response, police said they used pepper spray and a baton in an attempt to subdue Allen, but he reportedly remained aggressive and came at police with a “large utility knife,” according to O’Connor. At this point, O’Connor said Allen was shot. He was later pronounced dead at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center, Secaucus.

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Meanwhile, a majority of members of the Kearny Board of Education announced it would look to remove member Daniel Esteves, also a town police officer. Sitting board members were concerned Esteves missed too many meetings because of his police schedule. Esteves, however, insisted he was working on fixing that — and pleaded with his colleagues to reconsider his removal. Esteves was ultimately removed June 1 by a unanimous 8-0 vote of the remaining members of the board. He was later replaced by Bryan Granelli, a private security firm owner, whose daughter is a student in the school system.

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That same week, four Kearny patrolmen were promoted to sergeant: Adriano Marques, Dave Rakowski, Pat “Buzz” Sawyer and Brian Wisely. The KPD remained under the number of officers called for by the town’s table of organization.

June also saw the departure of the Salvation Army of Greater Kearny’s leaders, Capt. Sherry and Lt. Maurice Moukouangala. The two were assigned to the Arkansas- Oklahoma Division of the Southern Territory of the S.A. Replacing the Moukouangalas were Lts. Hwang and Seoyoung Lim, previously assigned to the Montclair Citadel.

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In Lyndhurst, the Board of Education, on May 18, appointed James Corino the interim superintendent of schools at an annual salary of $157,500. He replaced Tracey Marinelli, who resigned in April, with three years left on her contract. At the same time, Lyndhurst High School Principal Shauna DeMarco was appointed assistant superintendent. She was to continue as principal and act in a dual role as principal/assistant superintendent.

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Also in June, Ralph Cattafi, a former Kearny Second Ward Republican Town Councilman, who had served as assistant director of recreation, was promoted to director of recreation at an annual salary of $84,020.

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Meanwhile, in North Arlington, longtime Chief of Police Lou Ghione announced he’d retire July 1 after 35 years on the job. Ghione would later be replaced by John Hearn, who had previously held the position of captain.

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Meanwhile, teachers in Harrison ended the school year on a high note — they finally ratified a new contract. The fouryear deal, retroactive to July 1, 2014, calls for salary increases of 3.1% the first year, 3.5% the second year, 3.3% for the third year and 2.5% the final year.

July 

As part of a state Dept. of Transportation “Local Concept Development Study” aimed at planning upgrades of long-neglected infrastructure statewide, state, county and local officials huddled in East Newark to discuss the “functionally obsolete” Clay St. Bridge. They estimated a $70 million replacement cost over five to seven years but offered no funding guarantees.

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Belleville marked the discovery that the remains of a 67th Revolutionary War soldier were contained in the old Dutch Reformed Church cemetery by dedicating a replica tombstone to the soldier, Pvt. Hermanus Brown. He was killed at the Battle of Connecticut Farms (now Union Township). The soldier’s father, Lt. Henry Brown, is also buried in the cemetery. Lt. Brown’s 5x great-grandson came all the way from his home in Rochester, Minn., to attend the ceremony.

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North Arlington and Kearny firefighters rescued a man from sinking in the mudflats, about a mile from Disposal Road. The victim, a PSE&G sub-contractor, was doing survey work on June 22 when an air hole opened and sucked the man, chest-deep, into the muck. He had a cell phone in his pocket, but couldn’t extricate it so a co-worker ran back to the roadway to get help.

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Kearny’s American Legion Frobisher Post 99, in partnership with Catholic Charities, opened the Veterans’ Clothing Center at the post hall, 341 Belgrove Drive, to assist returning vets prepare for job interviews and other occasions by offering a selection of pre-worn clothing. It’s primarily business attire but also casual duds, along with personal hygiene items and small household items. It’s the first such facility in Hudson County and only the second in the state.

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Another first for Kearny: the former St. Stephen’s School at 131 Midland Ave. is being leased to the Hudson Arts & Science Charter School which plans to open to some 360 kids in grades K to 6 from Kearny and Jersey City in September 2016.

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Controversy erupted in Belleville when the township’s ex-webmaster Michael Melham filed a federal lawsuit against Belleville and its assessor/interim manager Kevin Esposito in connection with a commercial project that Melham is developing next to the Municipal Building parking lot. Melham alleged that Esposito reduced the value of that property when the township reportedly considered acquiring the land via eminent domain. Melham asserted that state law forbids the same person to simultaneously hold the jobs of assessor and manager. The township has disputed those claims. Meanwhile, the commercial project is proceeding.

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The Rutherford-based Meadowlands Museum launched an initiative with St. Mary’s Hospital, Passaic, to find folks who came into the world, roughly between the early 1900s and 1953, courtesy of Dr. William Carlos Williams, the renowned poet who lived in Rutherford and was a staff doctor at Passaic General Hospital (now St. Mary’s). Williams’ grave is in Lyndhurst.

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A verbal spat with two superiors leds to the dismissal of eight-year East Newark Volunteer Firefighter Ed McKeown, after a mayor/borough council hearing on July 8. McKeown, charged with insubordination and conduct unbecoming, is fighting back with a tort claim against the borough, contending he was targeted for punishment after he “reported the failure of the Fire Department to conduct service ladder testing as required by state law and OSHA regulations.”

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Fire destroyed a two-story duplex at 246 Grant Ave. in East Newark on July 23 but firefighters managed to save the adjacent municipal garage from being consumed by spreading flames. Five adults were left homeless. The property owner has pledged to rebuild.

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The vacant former geriatric hospital building at Belleville and Franklin Aves. in Belleville will be re-born as a 245-unit apartment complex now that the redeveloper, Belleville Equities of Long Island City, N.Y., has been granted site approval to proceed. Occupancy is projected for 2017. The redeveloper, also known as Alma Realty, was contracted by East Newark several years ago to redevelop the old Clark Thread/First Republic complex but, so far, nothing has happened.

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North Arlington’s Little League field on River Road is due for upgrades with the help of county Open Space funding, but the borough has deferred using $362,500 in state Green Acres aid to acquire land along River Road for Little League parking.

August 

Nutley cops were befuddled by the discovery of a tombstone engraved, “Max Ferreira 6.16.90 – 9.21.98,” at the N.J. Transit bus terminal on Washington Ave. An employee uncovered the stone during an annual cleanup of the bus garage. Ultimately, part of the mystery was solved after police learned that the gravestone was commissioned by a former Newark resident for his deceased Rottweiler. The owner died in 2005. But how the stone ended up in the garage remained unexplained.

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On its fourth try over several years, Kearny Fire Department finally landed a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant for nearly $1.6 million to hire 12 new firefighters. The funding is good for 2016 and 2017. Afterward, the town must bear the full load.

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Firefighters safely rescued a couple from the roof of a burning residential structure at 518 Willow Ave. in Lyndhurst on Aug. 1 but, alas, three cats that belonged to the building’s owner, not home at the time of the fire, did not survive. Volunteer Fire Chief Paul Haggerty says the fire is believed to have been triggered by an electrical short in a fan in the basement.

•••

The state confirmed awards of transitional aid for 2015 to Kearny, Harrison and Nutley. Kearny gets $1.5 million; Harrison, $1.6 million; and Nutley, $5.5 million as a special case to replace tax revenues lost due to Roche’s phasing out its operation straddling the Nutley/ Clifton border.

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Harrison marked its 175th anniversary with a weekend extravaganza Aug. 7-9 that features a memorial Mass, a gala dinner, musical entertainment representing the town’s various ethnic groups and family-oriented activities, including pony rides for kids in Church Square Park, plus vendor booths along Harrison Ave. offering all types of wares and food.

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A key municipal recreational site in Kearny, Veterans’ Memorial Field, was to be converted from natural grass to a turf facility for $1.52 million. The upgraded complex will accommodate a new lacrosse field, an additional Little League diamond, fencing and batting cages.

•••

Faced with overspending the amount budgeted for firefighter overtime, Kearny averted closing a fire company and/or reducing the minimum staffing by negotiating a deal with the FMBA to accept compensatory time for the last three months of the year which may be converted to cash or time off in 2016. Meanwhile, the town authorized hiring 14 firefighters which, it hopes, will help cut down the O.T.

September 

Lyndhurst Board of Education put a hold on planned November referendum asking voters to authorize spending $19 million on upgrades to high school and elementary schools while it focuses on plans for new junior high school, projected to cost $50 million. The new school is linked to ultimately demolition of Lincoln Elementary School and proceeding with commercial development of that area.

•••

Our Lady of Sorrow Church on Davis Ave. in Kearny celebrated its diamond jubilee on Sept. 13.

•••

Belleville’s Jorge Alfredo Velasquez Ruiz was charged in connection with a hit-run on Rt. 17 in Rutherford on Aug. 27. The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office alleges Ruiz struck a 32-year-old man who was fixing his bike on the highway median and left the scene. A trial is awaited.

•••

Kirk Eady, the deputy warden of the Hudson County Jail in South Kearny, was sentenced to 21 months in prison after being found guilty of wiretapping co-workers who were critical of his work performance in 2012.

•••

A 3-alarm fire wrecks a house at 199 Laurel Ave. in Kearny on Sept. 22, leaving its four occupants homeless. The property had recently been put on the market.

•••

The Prevention Links Family Success Center opened for business at 341 Kearny Ave. in Kearny as a nonprofit facility whose mission is to help families enhance their life skills and find community resources to further aid them.

•••

Belleville resident Anaisa Bautista was charged with vehicular homicide in the death of a 28-year-old cabbie on Sept. 20 on Broad St. near the Bridge St. intersection in Newark. Court action is pending.

•••

A grand jury sitting in Trenton declines to indict two officers from Lyndhurst PD, one from Rutherford PD and a state trooper involved in the fatal shooting of Kashad Ashford, 23, of Newark, after a high-speed chase ended at the Lyndhurst-Rutherford border near the Park Ave. bridge on Sept. 16, 2014. Ashford was reportedly armed at the time of the shooting.

October 

It’s a wrap for Kearny’s Lincoln Cinema. The town’s lone movie theater closed with the property in tax arrears and in foreclosure. Reportedly unable to afford upgrading to digital projection, the theater’s owner was hard-pressed to compete against chain theaters.

•••

Hollywood director Clint Eastwood visited Helo Holdings in South Kearny for a day of shooting part of his movie “Sully” about the real-life pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, who safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 with 155 passengers and crew in the Hudson River in 2009 when mechanical problems developed from a bird strike after takeoff from LaGuardia.

•••

Harrison held a ribbon-cutting for 221 Bergen, a 104-unit apartment complex on the site of the old Century Cookie factory along Bergen St. built by a development partnership of Hampshire Cos., Circle Squared Alternative Investments and CrownPoint Group for $24 million.

•••

A Clifton-bound tanker truck crashed and overturned, on the western spur of the N.J. Turnpike, spilling 8,500 gallons of gas and touching off an explosion and fire on Oct. 7. The driver, Dalip Kumar, 40, of Newark, was killed. Police said Kumar had swerved to avoid mattresses and other items that had fallen from a cargo van and slammed into a guard rail.

•••

A DOT contractor began work on a $13.7 million superstructure rehabilitation of the Rt. 7 Conrail bridge between the eastern and western spurs of the N.J. Turnpike in Kearny. Traffic was to be restricted to one lane in each direction along that stretch of Rt. 7.

•••

Three suspects, all from Elizabeth, were arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of Michael Williams, 28, of Newark, on the 200 block of Belleville Ave. in Belleville on Oct. 8. Police believe Williams had visited a local gentleman’s club, Wet, before the shooting. This incident and prior disturbances inside and outside of the club have triggered protests by neighbors and township officials about the club.

•••

A Hudson County Superior Court judge ruled a second time that Carlos Campos, charged with a triple homicide in the killing of his parents and niece in their Harrison home on Aug. 16, 2011, is mentally unfit to stand trial following a competency hearing in Jersey City.

•••

Goodwill Industries of Greater N.Y. & Northern N.J.’s Harrison headquarters marked the 100th anniversary of the organization whose mission is “to help persons with disabilities and disadvantages achieve self-sufficiency.” Aside from programs aimed at aiding the infirm, Goodwill in Harrison operates a thrift shop, offers career counseling, a sign language program and, in a partnership with Hudson County Community College, computer classes.

•••

The Passaic Valley Water Commission advised North Arlington residents about traces of E-coli bacteria found in six samples of water out of 59 sampling sites borough-wide during September but hastens to add this is “not an emergency.” Subsequent re-testing reportedly shows no further traces of the bacteria, the PVWC said.

•••

Kearny held a ribbon-cutting for Vermella Crossing, a nearly-completed 150-unit rental apartment complex erected by Russo Development Co. of Carlstadt along Bergen Ave., just off Schuyler Ave. Developer Ed Russo plans to build 70 additional apartments on the north side of Bergen.

•••

North Arlington’s Michael Choynowski, 27, was charged in connection with an Oct. 9 hit-run on Rt. 46 in Clifton. The victim, a 22-year-old Moonachie woman, has been in a coma since the incident.

•••

Ryan Steel, 25, of Kearny, was killed in a single-car accident on the Garden State Parkway in Little Egg Harbor on Oct. 19. Police believe Steel lost control of his vehicle before crashing.

•••

Holy Cross Parish in Harrison marked its 150th anniversary.

•••

Kearny’s Eric Duenas, 25, became the 16th person this year to take a fatal leap from the George Washington Bridge on Oct. 22.

•••

The vacant Ridge Lumber Co. in North Arlington may be converted to an apartment building if Woodcrest Property Partners has its way. The prospective developer announced plans to build a 30-unit, four-story apartment building with exclusively one-bedroom units on the site.

November 

Kearny Police Department took delivery of 12 new SUVs for use by the patrol division in place of aging Crown Victorias, several with more than 100,000 miles logged. The town had been paying more than $80,000 in each of the past two years for repairs to its patrol cars.

•••

The Silver Lake Pathmark supermarket in Belleville closed as a casualty of the parent company A&P bankruptcy/reorganization, leaving 51 part-time and 19 full-time employees jobless, according to the United Food & Commercial Workers union. Food Basics, another A&P subsidiary, on Main St. in the Valley area, has been acquired by Fine- Fare, which has reportedly hired “about half ” of the prior work force, the new management says.

•••

NBC’s “Today Show” sent a film crew to Nutley for a segment that alerts homeowners to be wary of potential scammers posing as utility workers as a means to get access to homes and loot the contents.

•••

For a second winter season in a row, Hudson County is making available space in a privately-owned building at 53 S. Hackensack Ave. in South Kearny as an emergency shelter for the homeless. This time around, the shelter will be staffed and run by the building owner, Urban Renewal Corp.

•••

Kearny’s Gin Mill tavern, Brighton Ave. and Afton St., is ordered shut through St. Patrick’s Day after pleading guilty to two sets of ABC violations at hearings held by the mayor and Town Council. The first penalty levied was for a 60-day license suspension through Dec. 22 and the second was for 75 days, through March 15.

•••

Tulfra Realty took title to the 19-acre Roche property in Belleville for which it has been designated conditional redeveloper. The company has proposed building a hotel, restaurant and medical offices on the site but must first secure township approvals before proceeding.

•••

In municipal elections, the GOP swept in North Arlington, ousting the two Dems incumbents, Al Granell and Tom Zammatore, and achieving a 7-0 majority on the governing body while Democratic Bergen County freeholder (and former borough councilman) Steve Tanelli retained his seat. Harrison’s Democratic Council incumbents, uncontested except for Second Ward, all won reelection. And East Newark Mayor Joseph Smith, a Democrat running unopposed, was re-elected to his eighth consecutive term as the borough’s chief executive.

•••

Four suspects – three men and one woman – were charged in the alleged kidnapping of a Mahwah man from a Lyndhurst home on Nov. 8.

•••

Kearny designates Carlstadt builder Ed Russo to develop a 17-acre stretch on the west side of Passaic Ave. Russo’s plans call for construction of 450 rental apartments spread among several buildings, along with a clubhouse, outdoor pool and dog run over the next several years.

•••

Kearny Board of Education hired Jacalyn Richardson, formerly a Boonton High School administrator, as principal of Kearny High School. She’s a 1984 KHS alumna.

•••

Bloomfield First Ward Councilman Elias Chalet was charged with taking a $15,000 bribe from a local businessman. Federal prosecutors say Chalet told the businessman that the town would buy his property to help clear the way for a development project.

•••

A Norfolk Southern rail car spilled contaminated soil taken from the Roche property in Nutley outside the site, at Hillside Ave. and High St., following a partial derailment. A cleanup was in process.

•••

A Thanksgiving Day 3-alarm fire damaged the NY/NJ Recycling Center at the foot of Page Ave. in Lyndhurst, causing minor injuries to three firefighters from the LFD and one from the Secaucus FD. It took some 60 firefighters to quell the blaze. The building’s sprinkler system did not operate, according to Lyndhurst Fire Chief Paul Haggerty, who said the business has since partly resumed operations.

December 

A 4-alarm fire on Dec. 5 wrecked two residential buildings in Belleville’s Silver Lake section at 63 and 61 Heckel St., displacing seven adults and several animals. This blaze, coming on the heels of a Nov. 28 fire that ruined another Silver Lake residence at 86 Belmont Ave., leaving a 91-year-old woman and two other tenants homeless, sparked cries by residents and council members to reopen the Silver Lake Firehouse on Franklin St. The council has authorized bonding up to $260,000 for repairs to the firehouse but officials have reservations about proceeding because they feel the small firehouse is outdated and presents safety issues for an engine maneuvering across a busily-traveled Franklin St.

•••

A new Walgreens opens at Kearny and Quincy Aves. A former car showroom, an Irish shop and empty tavern, along with two homes, were torn down to make way for the pharmacy chain.

•••

Harrison Station 330, a 329-unit apartment complex along Angelo Cifelli Drive, near the Harrison PATH station, had a ribbon-cutting. It is the latest project developed by the joint venture of the Pegasus Group and Ironstate Development.

•••

The State Board of Medical Examiners suspended the license of North Arlington’s Dr. Eric Thomas for “indiscriminately” prescribing powerful painkillers.

•••

A Belleville man was charged with the robbery of the Lukoil gas station on Ridge Road in North Arlington on Dec. 3. Aided by a tape from a station surveillance camera, police arrested Wayne V. Barnes, 47, as the alleged robber on Dec. 7 after finding the clothing that Barnes was wearing and a metal pipe he was carrying at the time of the crime.

•••

The Lewandowski St. branch of the Hudson City Savings Bank in Lyndhurst was robbed of several thousands of dollars on Dec. 3. The suspect is still being sought.

•••

Consulting architects figured it will cost nearly $60 million to undertake infrastructure repairs to Belleville public schools district-wide. During the summer, the BOE replaced boilers at the Middle School and School 8 that failed inspection.

•••

Author/historian/genealogist Barbara Krasner of Kearny published her latest book, “Hometown Legends,” focused on Kearny people who’ve made significant contributions to the community and beyond.

•••

Kearny-born Karen Akunowicz is competing for Bravo TV’s “Top Chef.”

•••

North Arlington’s Omar Hafez, 23, faces federal charges that he defrauded investors of hundreds of thousands of dollars which he allegedly used for lavish personal expenses.

•••

Nutley’s Sandra Elliott was charged by the state for fraud for allegedly improperly applying for and accepting more than $90,000 in Sandy relief funds for a Brick property that was not her full-time residence.

•••

Kearny Fire Department acquired oxygen masks specially adapted for reviving stricken animals.

•••

Kearny had a ceremonial groundbreaking for the town’s first dog park in Riverbank Park, just north of the Butterfly Garden.

Kevin Canessa | Journalist & Webmaster

Kevin Canessa Jr. is a journalist and webmaster at The Observer. He is responsible for the editorial content on the newspaper's website, the production of the e-Edition, covering the Nutley Police Department and more behind the scenes. From 2006 to 2008, he served as the editor of The Observer, where he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video for the very first time. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Fla., for four years until February 2016 and in 2016, moved back to Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.