New 9/11 memorial & more in Belleville police lobby

BELLEVILLE — The Belleville Police Department headquarters, hidden in a first-floor wing at the Municipal Building, has a new look to it.

It was shepherded by Police Chief Mark Minichini who, after taking office in July 2016, has been focusing on ways of promoting the BPD’s ties to the community in a positive way.

One such step has been the newly decorated Wall of Honor — or rather walls in the police lobby in such a way as to invite public inspection and respect for the men and women in blue.

Foremost among the new displays is the Sept. 11 Memorial, a glass case containing a section of steel which, Minichini says, was cut from the same piece of steel beam from the Twin Towers sitepreviously donated to the township by the Port Authority at the request of Councilman Vincent Cozzarelli.

That memorial, whose stonework is in the shape of the Pentagon another target of the 911 terrorists and which bears the name of Belleville’s 911 victims Antoinette Duger, Harry Ramos and Harvey J. Gardner III, is located on Franklin Ave. off Chestnut and Liberty Sts.

Minichini credited Nutley resident Vincent Carnicella, an Essex County corrections officer who heads the county Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program (SLAP), commonly referred to as the “Second Chance” program in Belleville for low-level offenders, with coming up with the idea for the memorial which was unveiled to the public April 25 at a township council meeting.

“I was looking for a way of giving part of the steel back to the town as a special memorial,” Carnicella said.

Carnicella told The Observer the project represents the fruition of more than seven months of time and labor by offenders he recruited who had specialized skills like carpentry and general contractingthat could be applied to the task.

Carnicella said he laid out funds to purchase most of the supplies needed for the endeavor.

The finished product is a 5-foot-tall and 4-foot-wide, carpeted glass and oak cabinet containing a twisted piece of steel from the World Trade Center adjacent to a model of the Twin Towers with red-and-blue lighting and an American flag in the background.

Probably the toughest part of the job, Carnicella said, was fitting the steel section weighing an estimated 425 pounds into the case.

So he enlisted the services of Nicolette Towing Service, a local business, to arrange the heavy lifting.

But before that job could be tackled, Carnicella lined up two of his Second Chance enrollees to “clean off the rust” from the steel.

“We graciously accept this memorial to remember the [2,900-plus] victims and those first responders who perished that day,” Minichini said.

The memorial is one of the first things that strikes the eyes of visitors when they walk through the first-floor entrance to police headquarters or when they emerge from the elevator and exit to the police lobby.

Next to the memorial, on the adjoining wall, is a plaque honoring the approximately 70 members of the Belleville Police Department who volunteered as part of search and recovery efforts after the WTC attacks.

On the wall facing the elevator, visitors will find another special exhibit: framed photographs of the township’s nine police chiefs who have served since Belleville since in 1907 three years before it was reincorporated as a town. (It wasn’t until 1981 that Belleville switched to a township form of government.)

Those chiefs whose names and dates of service are recorded on plaques attached to a monument on the lawn of the Municipal Building — are: Michael J. Flynn (1907-1936); George R. Spatz (1936-1962); Charles M. McGinnis (1962-1966); Donald Smith (1966-1970); Joseph F. Smith (1970 to 1980); George J. Lister (1980-1992); Raymond R. Kimble (1992-2000); Joseph P. Rotonda (2000-2016); and Mark Minichini (2016- ).

Finally, on the wall just to the side of the glass window of police HQ is mounted a large plaque inscribed with the nearly 350 names of all BPD retirees logged since 1907.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.