Looking back at 2017

By Ron Leir & Kevin Canessa

The calendar year 2017, like most years, saw its share of ups and downs. It saw the untimely and shocking death of Kearny Councilman Jonathan Giordano and trailers finally being removed from Kearny High School. It saw one police chief retire and a new one take office in Kearny. And there was so much more.

So with the year coming to an end, Ron Leir and Kevin Canessa, two of The Observer’s journalists, will take you, now, on a journey — looking back at the top stories that made headlines. Some stories are good. Some, not so good. Regardless, we hope you enjoy our recap of 2017. January to June is recapped by Canessa. July to December is recapped by Leir.

January

The year 2017 kicks off with a look at the new Wittpenn Bridge that will ultimately connect Kearny and Jersey City. Leir and Canessa take a tour of the new span and report it won’t open until for several more years, well behind schedule.

Manet Thomas, a resident of Kearny, dies after injuries she sustained while at an apartment in East Rutherford in December 2016. Francis Tattoli, arrested Dec, 18, 2016, in connection to the crime, has charges upgraded to murder and felony murder among others. He is remanded to the Bergen County Jail, Hackensack, here he awaits trial.

Michelle Malone becomes Belleville’s new principal librarian. She replaces Joan Taub, who held that same position for many years and who retired in December 2016.

Kearny’s Davis Ave. Firehouse, a dilapidated mess, is prepared for a makeover. One construction company bids on the project, which is ultimately completed in June.

Meanwhile, in perhaps the year’s most shocking story, Kearny’s Second Ward Councilman Jonathan Giordano, 50, dies just outside his place of business on Jan. 7. Later reports reveal he had a heart attack. Giordano is found inside his vehicle, which had caught fire, following his cardiac incident.

January was also the month the Archdiocese of Newark got its first-ever cardinal-archbishop in Joseph Tobin. Tobin was installed as archbishop Jan. 6, replacing the oft-maligned John J. Myers, who was archbishop of Newark from 2001 (a month after 9/11) until late 2016.

In his State of the Town address, Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos says he hopes to keep a lid on property taxes in 2017.

John DeRosa is sentenced to life in prison, having been convicted of the 2009 murder of Kearny jeweler Xavier Egoavil.

Fred Confessore, a longtime Harrison schools administrator, retires after 43 years of service to the district. He continues to run a deli in Harrison, among other ventures.

Meanwhile, Observer Correspondent Karen Zautyk introduces Karl Petry, Kearny’s resident psychic, to the public. Petry is currently filming a documentary on his paranormal abilities.

In a local first, the Kearny Recreation Department issues directives on dealing with transgender children participating in youth sports. The town promises to stay in the forefront by offering a “safe, supportive and inclusive environment for all participants,” including children who identify as transgender.

After an exhaustive effort, Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny is accepted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. Local residents took on the initiative, which included making the public aware of Kearny’s many accomplishments.

Lyndhurst becomes the first local town to offer WiFi hotspots that can be checked out of the library for patrons to use at home. (Kearny eventually followed with the same.) The program is ideal for families with children who cannot afford home Internet service. Patrons may keep the hotspots for one week. If no one else requests a hotspot, the sign-out period can be extended by a week.

January ends with a flurry of police and fire promotions. Anthony Limite is promoted to police lieutenant; Christopher Levchak and Pete Blair are promoted to police sergeants; and firefighters Lorenzo Tirado and Vic Girdwood are promoted to captains.

February

The year’s second month brings the story of brothers Matt and Timothy Farias, two Kearny boys who bring food and necessities to Newark’s homeless population. They began their efforts November 2016.

Gov. Chris Christie pays a visit to Washington Elementary School, Nutley, and spends time speaking to a group of older children about the dangers of opioid abuse. The governor used opioid abuse as a platform for his final year as a lame-duck governor.

Meanwhile, Peter Santana, an admin in the Harrison school system, is appointed Second Ward Councilman in Kearny, replacing the-late Jon Giordano. Santana’s selection was unanimous — the vote was 8-0 in his favor. Several councilmembers and Mayor Al Santos note Santana’s selection was fortified by his being tri-lingual — Santana speaks English, Portuguese and Spanish fluently. Kearny’s Second Ward has a heavy non-English speaking population.

Since Santana took his seat, he’s distinguished himself as a go-getter and is seen at almost all town-sponsored events.

Officials in Harrison, meanwhile, announce cops will begin, in March, working 12-hour shifts. This change comes as a result of a new collective-bargaining agreement.

Also in February, Kearny officials begin to solicit input from residents on how to best upgrade the Gunnell Oval recreation complex off Schuyler Ave. A final decision isn’t made until much later on in the year.

Police in Belleville announce that a man who crashed a car had actually been shot prior to the incident. The victim’s name is not released.

March

The month begins with word the Town of Kearny seeks its share of $8.75 million in funding to fight opioid abuse among youngsters.

In Harrison, Alex Loy and Rich Lourenco, of the Harrison Police Department, are promoted to lieutenants and Joe Carr, Stan Titterington, Charlie Schimpf, Mike Halpin and Corey Karas are all promoted to sergeants.

In Kearny, Charles Smith and John Plaugic are both promoted to KPD lieutenants.

Belleville’s Carrie Borkowski, a graduate of Belleville High School, continues her Peace Corps journey in Rwanda. She makes it clear she’s on “a mission for peace.”

March also saw Kearny High School’s winter musical called “Bring it On.” The show is based on a 2000 movie and 2012 Broadway show of the same name.

In Lyndhurst, Wayne and Donna Alexander are cited by then-Public Safety Commissioner John Montillo for their 33 years of service to the Lyndhurst Auxiliary Police Department. The couple have been married for 44 years.

In Kearny, two routine (separate) traffic stops lead to the recovery of two handguns.

In Belleville, an elderly out-of-town woman is hit by a car — twice — and she survives to tell a tale. The 83-year-old woman, whose name is not released, was struck at Joralemon St. and S. Franklin Ave. by one car — then a second car accidentally ran her over as she lay in the street, injured. The first strike was by someone driving a township-issued DPW vehicle, the driver of which was not criminally charged, but instead issued summonses for, failure to report an MV crash, careless driving and failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The driver of the second card was not criminally charged or assessed any tickets.

Kearny resident and Hudson County Community College President Glen Gabert is named grand marshal for the Jersey City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Gabert has been HCCC president since 1992.

Meanwhile, a group of North Arlington-based cheerleaders placed first in a nationwide competition in Houston, Texas.

March also saw yet another successful West Hudson St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The cold weather of the day didn’t keep the crowd away either — the parade was quite well attended, indeed.

In Kearny, mold in the basement of the Town Hall Annex on Kearny Ave. is cleaned up.

Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal, now Gov. Elect Phil Murphy’s nominee for state Attorney General, announces a 6.9% increase in opioid overdoses in the county in 2016 over the previous year. There were 308 in 2016 and 288 the year prior.

Attorney General Chris Porrino announces an increase in social media-based charity scams.

The Kearny Fire Department purchases new turnout gear thanks to a significant federal grant of nearly $248K. The grant also covers the purchase of new air packs, according to Chief Steven Dyl.

Crime in Kearny, meanwhile, hits a 16-year low, according to the Uniform Crime Index — with a 4% drop in 2016 over 2015. Only robberies and motor-vehicle thefts saw an indexed rise. All other categories either remain steady of dropped, then-Chief John P. Dowie tells The Observer.

Ana D. Matos is named Kearny’s new court administrator. As Matos is appointed, Gerry Kerr, the town’s longtime DPW superintendent, announce he’ll retire in November.

Similarly to Lyndhurst, the Kearny Public Library announces it has obtained WiFi hotspots for library patrons to take home. The Alcatel devices are provided by T-Mobile at a nominal cost to the library and offer high-speed, 4G-LTE service.

“CBS This Morning’s” Gayle King speaks at Bloomfield College in late March. The award-winning journalist fields questions from audience members. The speech comes several months before her co-host, Charlie Rose, is ousted from his role in alleged sexual encounters.

Former U.S. Sen. And First Lady Hillary Clinton attends a funeral in Harrison for former East Newark Resident John O’Kane, a former Borough Councilman.

As March ended, we learn of a federal raid on a Kearny Ave. rooming house. Opioids were found in the place.

The Kearny Fire Department hires 13 new firefighters. At present, they’ve completed their academy training and are now on the job.

St. Michael’s Church, Lyndhurst, is robbed for the second time in 2017 as March comes to an end. The suspect is caught on surveillance video.

April

As the year’s fourth month commenced, word comes that the Hudson Arts & Sciences Charter School, currently based at the former St. Stephen’s School (and later, Mater Dei Academy), is looking take over the former St. Cecilia Grammar and High schools. Eventually, the school hopes to expand to include a high school that would be based in the old Saints high school building.

Meanwhile, the Kearny PD says three people were saved by the drug (the generic version of) NARCAN. The KPD is one of many departments that utilize the drug to save people who overdose on narcotic drugs.

Lyndhurst businessman Richard Yanuzzi, of Belleville, is arrested by state Treasury agents following an inspection of his Ridge Road cigar shop. He’s charged with several counts relating to tax evasion.

The Rev. Paul Gulya is appointed pastor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus American National Catholic Church. The parish, not connected to the Roman Catholic Church, has many similarities to that church.

Word comes down the construction project at Kearny High School is winding down. Ultimately, construction continues through the rest of the year.

Scouts from Unit 305, connected to St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church, hike from the Kearny Ave. church to the Harrison PATH station and pay a visit to the new World Trade Center site. The Scouts pay homage to those who died Sept. 11, 2001 — and visited St. Paul’s Chapel, Manhattan, and members of the FDNY.

Kearny Mayor Al Santos, meanwhile, gets results at Walmart. For months, the entrance way off the Newark-Jersey City Turnpike, had severe potholes that cause a lot of flat tires. After complaining to the CEO of the mega store, the potholes are filled — and the entranceway is finally repaved.

Still in Kearny, the Town Council adopts an ordinance that would give the chief of police greater power to regulate the operation of pawn shops.

Harrison cop Joseph Sloan and firefighter Ray Tremer III are named Policeman and Firefighter of the Year respectively. Both are cited for going above and beyond the call of duty.

In Kearny, local resident and Kearny FD dispatcher Kim Luciano debuts a support group called Parents Against Drug Dependency (PADD). Nearly 30 attend the group’s initial meeting. Luciano says she wants the stigma attached to drug abuse and drug abusers to end. “Don’t wait until you need the answers,” Luciano says. “Arm yourself with the knowledge now.”

The Pulaski Skyway, seemingly under construction forever, still hasn’t reopened as of April, though initial plans had called for such an opening. The NJDOT says it may not fully reopen the Skyway until April 2018 or later.

A 36-year-old Chestnut St. resident is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Luisa Cristina Reyna-Tello, 46. Jose Castro-Lavado, originally from Peru, is reportedly illegally in the United States and faces deportation after his trial. Castro-Lavado is alleged to have killed his estranged partner on April 10.

Locally, food pantries continue to struggle with filling shelves. Most pantries say they continue to need canned and non-perishable items.

Recent bail reform continues to plague local police departments, especially in Kearny. Over the course of the entire year, Correspondent Karen Zautyk brought countless stories of criminals released because of bail reform, only to reoffend in short periods of time. One such person was a man called Jeremy Postel, of East Newark, who had been arrested on a slew of charges. He spent a night at the Hudson County Jail, South Kearny, was released on bail (reform) 24 hours later — and then a week or so later, was re-arrested on similar charges.

In Kearny, Mayor Al Santos and Councilmembers Marytrine DeCastro, Rich Konopka, Carol Jean Doyle and Michael Landy will face no opposition in the upcoming June primary. Same for Peter Santana, who runs to fill out the unexpired term of the-late Councilman Jonathan Giordano. Though independent candidates have until June to file to run, none do.

For the 25th consecutive year, Kearny’s annual town-wide cleanup is spearheaded by Jane Mackesy, of Kearny. The same happens for the annual Passaic River Cleanup, under the direction of Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle.

Kearny’s cop and firefighter of the year are announced. For the KFD, it’s Andy Taylor and for the KPD it’s Richard Poplaski Jr.

Kearny prepares to celebrate its 150th birthday with a listing of anniversary events.

In Lyndhurst, voters hear from candidates running for the board of commissioners. The election takes place in May.

James Lockwood, 39, enters guilty pleas in a series of robberies.

As April comes to a close, Kearny’s Project Graduation committee puts on its annual volleyball tournament, one of the largest fundraisers it has each year to ensure graduates are safe on commencement night.

May

Nakia Bent, 35, of Kearny, is arrested and charged with the murder of 70-year-old Lilawatee Ramsaran, of the Bronx. The NYPD says Bent reportedly killed Ramsaran in the basement of her Bronx home.

Lewis Battista, 98, of Kearny, is honored by the mayor and Kearny Town Council for his decades of community service. Battista is a World War II veteran.

Harrison Mayor James Fife and Kearny EMS Chief Harry McNeill are appointed to the board of directors at St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark.

As Kearny celebrates its milestone birthday, so, too, does The Observer, which turns 130 on May 14. The Arlington Observer debuted on May 14, 1887, as a single-page broadsheet newspaper. Currently, The Observer averages 28 pages in a tabloid format.

Harrison announces taxpayers won’t see an increase in the municipal portion of their bills in 2017.

Robert J. Smith is sworn in as Kearny’s new business administrator. He replaces the retiring Michael Martello. Smith had been in the same position in Washington Township, Gloucester County, in South Jersey, since 2011.

Doug Boyle becomes Kearny’s newest fire captain. Boyle is a decorated U.S. Marine who has served tours of duty overseas.

Meanwhile, Hudson County official announce upgrades to a baseball field in West Hudson Park. The grass surface on the baseball diamond will be replaced with easier-to-maintain artificial turf.

Yanafi Mojica, of Elizabeth, allocutes to 20 years behind bars for the 2015 slaying of another man outside a Belleville night club. Mojica, 33, must serve at least 85% of his term before he’s eligible for parole, under the No Early Release Act (which was signed into law by former N.J. Gov. Christine Todd-Whitman in 1997.)

In another of the more stunning stories of 2017, officials at Queen of Peace High School, North Arlington, announce the cash-strapped school is closing, just one year after a massive fundraising drive kept the school open following the end of the 2015-16 school year. The Rev. Michael Donovan, then pastor of the parish and president of the high school, says the school could have remained open another year, but bucks the Archdiocese of Newark’s plan to do so.

At a public forum for parents, students, alumni and friend of QPHS, Donovan is screamed and yelled at for allowing the school to close — and for having kept it open the year prior. Donovan throws members of the New York City media out of the church, where the meeting takes place, much to the chagrin of those assembled.

The forum lasts several hours and is highly contentious throughout.

Despite pleas from numerous people assembled, the school closes in June for good, joining St. Anthony High School, Jersey City.

In Lyndhurst, four of five candidates aligned with Mayor Robert Giangeruso are elected to the Board of Commissioners. Along with Giangeruso, other winners are Tom DiMaggio, John Montillo, Karen Haggerty and Richard L. Jarvis. Laura Jean Checki, also on Giangeruso’s slate, loses the fifth seat by a meager 3 votes. Montillo ran on the opposition slate. Once sworn in, Giangeruso immediately reclaims his post as public-safety commissioner, something that had been stripped away from him, unceremoniously, some time ago.

The Observer reports of a property in North Arlington that prominently displays a Confederate Flag. Though the owner declines to speak with the newspaper about the display, the flag, itself, disappears from display several weeks later — and has not since been seen.

Cynthia Baumgartner returns to Harrison as temporary leader of the Harrison school district. She is paid $671 a day for up to 260 days of work (or a potential total of just under $175,000.)

May comes to a close with a journey Correspondent Karen Zautyk takes readers on to homes in East Newark once occupied by men who left the area to fight in World War I — only never to return.

Across the river in Newark, the Archdiocese of Newark ordains seven men to the priesthood.

Back in Kearny, the owner of the former Rapp’s Boatyard is ordered to clean the place up. It’s been a mess for many years, officials report.

Joseph Cardinal Tobin celebrates Mass in the area for the first time at a special Memorial Day liturgy in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. He returns for a Mass at St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny, in September.

June

A raging fire at 664 Elm St., Kearny, destroyed a home, sent four to hospital and destroys a family’s every possession. A GoFundMe cash drive and clothing drive are both set up as the people of Kearny rally, as usual, behind the family that experiences so much devastation.

A special event takes place at the Portuguese Cultural Association that offers non-residents a pathway to potential U.S. citizenship. Scores of local residents, who are not American citizens, attend. Mayor Al Santos and Councilmen Peter Santana and Albino Cardoso also attend.

In Lyndhurst, bubbles are found in the fountain at Town Hall Park. It takes almost two days to get the bubbles out — and authorities never learn who put the bubbles in the fountain.

In North Arlington, a major water main break strikes at the foot of Stevens Place and River Road, essentially shutting down businesses in the area for much of a day. Workers were able to make repairs within 24 hours.

The Kearny Farmer’s Market reopens for the new season.

The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company — W.H.A.T. — puts on performances of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

A Harrison cop, whose name was not released, was struck by a car he had pulled over. The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office says the officer’s gun discharged during the incident.

The 27th annual senior citizens picnic takes place at the Doyle Pavilion on Passaic Ave., Kearny. Hundreds of town senior citizens reveled in the music and enjoyed great food and raffles. Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle once again put on a fantastic day for the elders of Kearny.

Richard DiLascio, former mayor of Lyndhurst, was removed from positions as counsel to the township and board of education. DiLascio, a one-time political ally of Mayor Robert Giangeruso, split from the mayor — and the change is brought about after Giangeruso re-gained control of the board of commissioners.

Redesign of the Gunnell Oval is still up in the air as the town solicits opinions of those involved in town recreation sports, most notably soccer and baseball.

Kearny schools announce they’ll be offering before- and after-care when schools reopen in September. The program is to be available at elementary schools only for student in kindergarten to sixth-grade. The cost is nominal.

In one of the more bizarre police blotter entries, Nutley PD announces a resident had exotic fish and a turtle stolen from his outdoor fish tank. Still no word whether the aquatic creatures were recovered.

Also in Nutley, a fire truck overturns just outside headquarters and near Township Hall. Fortunately, no injuries are reported. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office investigated.

June comes to a close with Kearny High School seniors taking their annual sojourn up and down Kearny Ave., whilst blowing horns and celebrating.

Kearny’s Sarah Davie, daughter of Harrison lawyer Ken Davie and his wife, Edna, announces she’ll be heading the corners of the globe — starting in China — to teach. She’s beaming lessons from wherever she is back to her students in Newark. While she’s gone, she won’t be earning a dime — so the entire journey is paid for by the generosity of her parents and others.

In Kearny, 14 teachers and other para-professionals are given a pink slip. At this point, it’s unclear whether said teachers will be rehired if the district scores additional — and highly necessary — state aid.

In Kearny, Recreation Director Ralph Cattafi announces plans for lacrosse and volleyball programs. He puts out a call for coaches in each sport to apply for the open positions.

July

Seventy-five Nutley youngsters from grades 5 to 8 attend a week-long Junior Police Academy at Spring Garden School. Now in its fifth year, the program sponsored by the Nutley Police Department seeks to build good relations with the community’s youngest members.

After prodding by resident Monu Sohal, the Lyndhurst Board of Commissioners pass a law that permits the taping of public meetings of the governing body with certain restrictions.

Lyndhurst pays tribute to five local EMS – Nicholas and Paul Haggerty Jr., Dominic Rotundo, Isabella Maldonado and Charles Pelle – for saving the life of DJ Dick Italiano during a Community Pride event at Michael’s Riverside on St. Patrick’s Day.

July 4 is commemorated in Belleville, not only as Independence Day, but as the township’s 220th birthday when the village of Second River took on its current name. The township honors the 68 Revolutionary War veterans whose remains lie in the Dutch Reformed Church cemetery.

Twelve new police officers, including two women, and seven new firefighters are appointed by the Town of Kearny and prepare to begin their Academy training. Both departments are now closer to their respective ordinance strengths.

The Belleville Planning Board designates 81-179 Belmont Ave. in the township’s Silver Lake section as an area in need of redevelopment. A joint venture known as BOIC Belleville BCB LLC says it is looking to acquire and develop the site.

Kearny’s governing body finalizes a design plan for a remake of its Gunnell Oval recreational complex that calls for artificial turfing of playing surfaces, including a 115-yard-long soccer field but no portable/temporary fencing to separate playing fields. In September the town approves bonding for up to $20.5 million for the project.

Harrison’s Nicholas Landy is named one of three New Jersey district governors of the Lions International service organization. Landy is a local history teacher and high school boys’ volleyball coach.

Litigation between a disgruntled cop and his employers over his termination comes to an end as Lyndhurst Board of Commissioners agree to a $550,000 settlement with former Police Sgt. John Giammetta. The ex-cop had sought $2 million in damages.

Harrison’s tax appeal victory with Red Bull Arena, growing ratable base and phasing out of state transitional aid leads Moody’s Investor Service to upgrade the town’s credit rating, in general obligation debt, from Baa1 to A2.

A Belleville physician, Dr. Craig Gialanella, is charged by the state Division of Criminal Justice with writing and selling hundreds of prescriptions for “tens of thousands” of high-dose opioids to a South Jersey drug ring. His arrest prompts the state Attorney General and Division of Consumer Affairs to create a new web-based portal called SAR (Suspicious Activity Report) that will allow pharmacists and the public to “easily report suspected abuse or diversion of controlled substances.”

Following the retirement of John Hearns as top cop in the North Arlington Police Department, the borough governing body names Scott Hedenberg the new police chief on July 17.

Harrison’s James Doran is sworn in July 13 as the newest member of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission. Doran also serves as a Harrison councilman and assistant superintendent of schools.

Newark resident Donald Myer, 60, is sentenced to 45 months in prison for robbing a Valley National Bank in Belleville in April 2016. He is also ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution.

Kearny rolls out its newest senior citizen bus, a 2016 Ford E450 Extended Mini-Bus, which seats 12 and has a wheelchair-lift. The town has a 5-year lease with NJ Transit for its use and, after that, will own it outright.

Harrison PD charges N.J. Corrections Officer Michael Floyd with drunk driving July 26. Floyd, a resident of Kearny, was involved in a motor-vehicle crash that day at Supor Boulevard near Ann St.

August

More than 40 kids, ages 11-13, enroll in Kearny’s Junior Police Academy, running July 24 to Aug. 3, at Lincoln Middle School. They listen to presentations by county, state and federal law enforcement reps and local fire departments and get tips on police training tactics.

A legal settlement between Kearny and Hartz Mountain over the value of a master lease for a 26-acre Bergen Ave. tract clears the way for one Hartz tenant, Cummins, to begin operating a truck repair and driver training facility and for a second, Preferred Freezer Services, to start construction.

The Kearny Board of Education renews its contract with Superintendent of Schools Patricia Blood through June 30, 2019, whose pay for the 2017-2018 school year is set at $196,584.

Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso announces an initiative to transform a retail section of Stuyvesant Ave., near the NJ Transit rail station, into a “restaurant row,” keyed to converting a township-owned parcel into off-street parking for prospective patrons.

On the 155th anniversary of his death, the Belleville Historical Society pays homage to a Union Army captain, Harry Benson, who was mortally wounded in combat at the Battle of Malvern Hill in Virginia July 1, 1862, and died Aug. 11. He was buried in the Dutch Reformed Church cemetery and his funeral – attended by military brass – was reportedly the first official military funeral in the township.

A Kearny grassroots group, Education Awareness on Drug Dependency (EADD), spearheaded by activist Kim Luciano, continues its mission to alert the community about the spread of opioid abuse by organizing public forums and support/referral programs.

Controversy flares in Kearny Aug. 8 when Mayor Alberto Santos votes against the appointment of Matthew McCurrie to the Kearny Fire Department following a closed caucus by the governing body for a “review of qualifications to hire firefighters.” But he’s the only dissenter and the appointment goes through.

Anthony Chisari is named Kearny’s new construction official. He replaces Michael Martello, who retired from his dual position as town administrator and construction official Aug. 1.

Part of Harrison’s history is no more: the Polish National Home, which hosted social and political gatherings since the early 1900s, is torn down following the property’s sale to a potential developer.

A forgotten Kearny firefighter hero is recalled when research by Kearny fire cadets turns up information that Firefighter Robert Hamilton died of a heart attack at age 61 while battling a brush fire in the meadows Jan. 13, 1941. An Irish immigrant, he fought in the Spanish-American War and WWI.

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office investigates a police-involved shooting Aug. 18 on Greenbrook Drive in Bloomfield that left a 60-year-old alleged domestic violence suspect dead.

The historic eclipse of the sun is viewed, among countless others, by some 200 students, staff and visitors, equipped with special glasses, at Kearny’s Lincoln Middle School on Aug. 21 when 72% of the sun was blocked by the moon.

The Belleville school community is jarred by the death of Board of Education trustee Ralph Vellon at the age of 60 on Aug. 21. Later in the year, the school board re-names the High School Academy the Ralph Vellon Academy of Engineering and Medical Sciences to honor his legacy.

Republican Mario Karcic is appointed Aug. 22 to fill the North Arlington Borough Council seat vacated by the Aug. 10 resignation of Kerry Hamilton.

Ethan Z. Chandler, a 43-year-old Belleville resident who ran a youth sports video production company from his home, is indicted by a state grand jury on charges that he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old boy multiple times after meeting the teen on a social media site.

Harrison is awarded its first-ever federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant for $1.2 million that will enable the town to hire eight more firefighters. The grant will pay for firefighters’ wages and benefits for three years. After that, the town will assume the full cost. The town, meanwhile, authorizes bonding $1.2 million for a new ladder truck.

Kearny’s application for a state Transportation Alternatives grant to set up a bicycle share and bicycle lane project is rejected.

The N.J. District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod re-designates the former St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Harrison as the New Life Lutheran Mission and assigns the Rev. Dr. Eric Moeller as its new pastor.

September

On Sept. 7, Joseph Cardinal Tobin, archbishop of Newark, makes his first pastoral visit to West Hudson and his Deanery, beginning with a stop at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny.

Hudson Arts & Science Charter School begins its second year of classes in Kearny, adding sixth-graders to the mix. Next school year is likely to see a seventh grade operating out of the old St. Cecilia School complex.

East Newark Borough School adds a music teacher to its faculty and supplements its academic technology with the acquisition of Android tablets for each student, starting in first grade.

The new owners of the former Roche pharmaceutical site in Nutley sign a second tenant, Modern Meadow, a manufacturer of biofabricated leather materials, which will relocate a part of its Brooklyn, N.Y. operation to Essex County, aided by the award of $32 million in tax credits by N.J. EDA’s Grow NJ program. The other tenant will be a medical school campus to be developed as a joint venture of Seton Hall University and Hackensack Meridian Health.

Lyndhurst resident Malcolm J. McPherson Jr. becomes the newly elected national president of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

Nutley celebrity Frank Vincent, who starred as Phil Leotardo in the TV smash hit “The Sopranos,”  and the film “Goodfellas,” dies at age 80 on Sept. 13.

Lyndhurst celebrates its 100th birthday as a township with a Centennial Celebration — a big parade and street fair Sept. 30.

North Arlington’s Steve Egoavil enlists family, friends and volunteers in a campaign to collect more than $40,000 in non-perishable foods, medical supplies, infant-care and hygiene products and pet food for hurricane victims in Texas and Florida.

The 22nd annual Harrison Fest, organized by Councilman Anselmo Millan, is marked by an opening night Mass at Holy Cross Church on Sept. 22, followed next day by a parade that included some 70 local organizations and an appearance by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-Hoboken) and a street fair.

Goodwill Industries of Greater N.Y. and Northern N.J. announces it will be closing its Harrison facility and relocating elsewhere.

Ironstate Development and the Pegasus Group host a ribbon-cutting for Harrison URBY, a 409-unit rental complex at 777 S. Third St.

East Newark cops get a one-year, 2% pay raise, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017.

Kearny Health Department offers residents of Kearny and East Newark a new type of flu shot featuring a “quadrivalent” vaccine designed to protect against four types of flu viruses.

Kearny Board of Education receives $2.1 million in additional state school aid for 2017-2018 which it plans to use to re-turf the high school athletic field, resurface the high school track, buy new seats for the Franklin School auditorium, acquire new custodial/maintenance equipment, award pay raises to teacher aides, pay additional special needs out-of-district tuition fees and hire seven new teachers, four instructional coaches and one janitor.

The Hackensack Riverkeeper, Bill Sheehan, sponsors his second annual Pirates of the Hackensack RiverFest, a catch-and-release fishing derby to mark the continuing environmental restoration of the waterway.

The Optimists of Kearny name KPD member Richard Poplaski Jr. Police Officer of the Year Sept. 28. On the same day, Poplaski is credited with taking the lead in helping rescue occupants of a burning building on Chestnut St. In April 2016, Poplaski applied CPR to save the lives of an man and a 5-day-old choking baby – both on the same day.

Belleville Councilman Joseph Longo is removed from his council seat by a vote of his colleagues Sept. 26. Longo, now living in Florida where he is working, previously tendered his resignation effective Oct. 31 but, on Sept. 26, emailed the Town Clerk proposing to change the date.

Kearny High School’s south field house is dedicated as the John F. Cali Jr. Memorial Field House in tribute to the late businessman and philanthropist. Cali, who died earlier this year, helped prepare the high school stadium for the original turf field and built the 9/11 memorial at the King St. side of the field.

Kearny resident Mamdouh Abdel-Sayed, a full-time tenured lecturer at the City University of New York’s Medgar Evers College, is charged in Manhattan Federal Court with fraud, corruption and obstruction in his alleged selling of fake Medgar Evers College certificates for completion of health care courses.

October

Kearny marks its 150th birthday Oct. 1 along Belgrove Drive with band music and family attractions such as a Zipline, face painting, a rock-climbing wall, tea-cup ride, food vendors, cultural performances, civic and fraternal group presentations and a fireworks show.

Belleville businessman Carlos Marzan pitches in with other locals to mount a collection drive to help victims of devastating storms leaving residents of Puerto Rico without power, water and basic necessities.

Kearny’s Dr. John Branwell is appointed Lt. Gov. of the Optimist Atlantic Central District Zone 3 for 2017-2018. He’s a past president of the Kearny Optimists.

Kearny residents gripe about excessively loud music lasting into the wee hours which, officials say, has been traced to mobile speakers blaring out rock tunes set up at a vacant industrial tract in Newark’s North Ward near the Passaic River. Kearny is trying to enlist help from various police and civilian agencies to put a stop to it.

The annual Blessing of the Animals takes place in Kearny on the front lawn of the Archdiocesan Youth Retreat Center (formerly Boystown), conducted by the Rev. Msgr. John J. Gilchrist and Sister Doris DeLotto.

Preliminary construction work to the tune of $20 million begins on a new Portal Bridge in South Kearny as part of the state’s Gateway Program transportation infrastructure improvements. The bridge is a critical link for rail traffic along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

Nutley cops are granted annual 3% pay raises, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017, under a newly approved 4-year labor contract that runs through Dec. 31, 2020.

Kearny begins to realize substantial revenues from its lease of town-owned meadows sites to outdoor advertising companies. Thus far, the town has pocketed upward of $90,000 as its share of loot from billboard revenues, with much more to come.

Harrison inks a redevelopment agreement with Joseph Supor for construction of residential and commercial structures in the waterfront redevelopment district, at 1000 Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard S. and 600 Guyon Drive. Plans call for additional deck parking north of Guyon.

A 14-year-old Kearny High School freshman, Angel Gonzalez, reported missing Oct. 9 is found in bad shape – a day earlier – in Newark where he is pronounced dead at a local hospital, but it takes more than a week to identify his body, despite alerts sent to every New Jersey police department and to a national tracking data base, coupled with exhaustive searches by local and county law enforcement agencies. No official cause of death has yet been issued.

The Spirit Ride, an inaugural coast-to-coast campaign to raise public awareness of “Slow Down, Move Over” laws, makes a stop in Rutherford. More than 5,000 tow truck operators, along with emergency first-responders, are relaying a ceremonial casket, “Spirit,” to more than 250 communities across the U.S. The empty casket is a symbol memorializing the lives of 33 tow truck operators killed in 2014 while coming to the aid of stranded motorists.

Kearny’s Glen Gabert marks his 25th year as president of Hudson County Community College – making him the longest-serving president in the college’s history and in the entire state.

An alleged home invader, identified by police as Michael Ridley, 42, of Orange, is fatally shot Halloween night by the 32-year-old occupant of a Berton Place home in Belleville near the Nutley border. Police say Ridley shot the resident, the two struggled and the resident grabbed the gun and shot Ridley. Police say the resident was treated at an area hospital for his wound and released.

Harrison Housing Authority executive director Roy E. Rogers dies at 75. He was appointed to the job in January 2014. A replacement has yet to be named.

A woman “trespasser” later identified as Anna Galushkina, 37, of Bloomfield, is killed after she is struck by a NJ Transit train near the Watsessing Ave. station in Bloomfield Oct. 30.

November

Lyndhurst PD nabs two suspects with 70 pounds of marijuana packed in two laundry bags in their vehicle on Oct. 22. Police figure the drug had a potential street value of $70,000.

Kearny parent Leonor Nasert organizes the Firesquad Youth Group, a faith-based group of kids from grades 6 to 9 that meets twice a month at the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington. Kids are encouraged to talk about issues of concern to them and to organize service projects.

Nutley Hall of Fame inducts Henry Bunner, Leonardo Capalbo, Phil Cuzzi, Rena DeAngelo, David Difrancesco, Tom Evans, David Gilbert and Adam LaReau.

Following Nutley’s example, Kearny’s governing body bans retail sales of cats and dogs as a way to prevent the stocking of pet stores with abused animals bred in “puppy and kitten mills.”

As part of its Sesquicentennial observance, Kearny – with help from historian/author Bill Styple – hosts a Civil War re-enactment “camp” along Belgrove Drive on the site of the former N.J. Home for Disabled Soldiers & Sailors (The Old Soldiers’ Home).

A Kearny veterinarian, Dr. Herbert Learny, plays host to five dogs relocated from storm-ravaged Texas until owners can be found for them.

The old Coca-Cola plant in South Kearny is sold to the owners of River Terminal. The facility is being demolished to make way for presumed new commercial development.

Kearny Prevention Coalition, an arm of the Kearny Municipal Alliance, is the recipient of a 5-year, $625,000 grant from the federal Drug-Free Communities Support Program to help counter youth substance abuse.

Kearny Public Works Superintendent Gerry Kerr retires Nov. 1 after more than 13 years on the job. His deputy, Kevin Murphy, is now in charge.

Five candidates for Kearny firefighter who successfully complete Academy training are sworn in as the KFD’s newest members. They are Dylan Schalago, Daniel Madden, Ethan Evanchick, Christopher Vezos and Mathew Miller. Two other candidates fail to make it through.

A Nov. 13 fire damages Pechter’s Bakery in Harrison but the shop is back in business next day.

The Salvation Army of Greater Kearny kicks off its annual Kettle Campaign, setting a fund-raising goal of $85,000 for this holiday season.

A pair of local mayoral races begin to heat up a year ahead of time as two former office holders make early declarations: former North Arlington councilman Albert Granell says he’ll be challenging Mayor Joseph Bianchi for the top spot and in Belleville, former township councilman Michael Melham says he wants the job now held by Mayor Raymond Kimble. Bianchi hasn’t yet announced his intentions; Kimble is seeking re-election. Balloting is next year.

South Kearny is once again host to the Hudson County Warming Center, 53 S. Hackensack Ave., where homeless adults are able to spend freezing nights during the winter season.

A 71-year-old Kearny resident, Sylvia Dumshat, is hospitalized with multiple injuries after she was struck by a hit-run driver and thrown an estimated 10 feet in the air at Seeley Ave. and Grand Place on Nov. 17. The driver is still being sought by police.

Kearny Fire Department is now linked to the New Jersey Task Force One Urban Search & Rescue, Office of Emergency Management, meaning that its five fire boats and firefighters can be enlisted in water rescue and/or emergency scenarios. In December, the KFD becomes part of a U.S. Coast Guard response team for deployment involving incidents along the Hackensack and Passaic rivers.

Jennifer Long, commander of Kearny’s Wilson-Gugelman Veterans of Foreign Wars post, is appointed to N.J. Gov.-elect Phil Murphy’s transition team, serving on its Military and Veteran Affairs Transition Policy Committee.

Teachers at the East Newark Borough School, without a new contract since June 30, 2015, seek help from a factfinder appointed by the state PERC (Public Employment Relations Commission). They are the lowest-paid among the state’s public school teachers.

December

Kearny Police Chief John Dowie retires Dec. 1 after 19 years in the post. Dowie, with nearly 40 years of law-enforcement service, is replaced by Deputy Chief George King. And, in turn, King’s spot is filled by Capt. Scott Macfie.

Kearny resident Kevin Olsen, 66, dies following a fire that engulfed his home at 422 Forest St. Nov. 29. The fire also kills three of his eight dogs.

All systems are go for the first Muslim school in Harrison. The town Planning Board votes to waive site plan review for the proposed Marwah Academy, targeted to open at 228 Harrison Ave., pending the issuance of a certificate of occupancy.

Holiday concert patrons of Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan are advised that it’s a Harrisonian behind the organ. George Wesner, profiled by The Observer’s Kevin Canessa, has been principal organist at that venue since 1981.

Harrison’s Marcelo Pagani, 34, dies following a motor-vehicle crash on Rt. 21 at Mill St. in Newark. Police say Pagani, the driver, was ejected from his vehicle. A passenger was listed in stable condition.

Kearny’s Francesco Alonso, with a little help from his friends, constructs 12 “bat boxes” in the marsh adjacent to the Gunnell Oval recreational complex. His project qualifies him as an Eagle Scout, the highest award in scouting.

Filming based on “Absent Witness,” a 2017 book penned by Kearny’s resident psychic/medium Karl Petry, has begun. The final product is to be a TV series – also called “Absent Witness” – for which the first three half-hour episodes have been completed. Petry hopes the series will debut in mid-2018.

Kearny’s governing body passes laws regulating the “raising and maintenance of chickens” and authorizing prohibition of short-term rentals of apartments in one-family homes for 30 days or less.

Newark resident Jermaine Mason, 40, is sentenced in Newark Federal Court to 79 months behind bars for robbing five banks – including one each in Harrison and Kearny – in October and November 2016.

Belleville resident Raul Concepcion, 29, is one of five suspects charged in connection with “Operation Triple Play,” which the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office described as an investigation into a major drug ring allegedly involved in the distribution of “large amounts of cocaine, heroin and marijuana” in Passaic, Bergen and Essex counties.

A proposal to permit local liquor retailers to sell alcoholic beverages starting at 9 a.m. when Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve fall on a Sunday – as they do this year – is narrowly defeated by Kearny’s governing body. Retailers say they enjoy big sales on those days.

The Observer Staff