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The Top 10 stories of 2018 on theobserver.com

While The Observer continues to be one of the most read printed weekly newspapers in New Jersey, its partner website, www.theobserver.com, also continues to bring in readership from the area, the state, the nation and overseas. Each week, thousands of people catch up with what’s happening in West Hudson and surrounding communities either through our posted stories or via the e-Edition, which continues to grow since its 2013 inception.

As such, here is a look at the Top 10 stories read on www.theobserver.com in 2018. (Based on statistics supplied by Google Analytics.)

  • No 10 — “Kearny, New Jersey: a place where stigmas are history.” — July 4.

In the summer of 2018, The Observer dedicated several weeks to covering the opioid and mental health crises that have swept the country and the globe. In this particular piece, Kevin Canessa challenged the governing bodies of all of the newspaper’s readership area to follow Lyndhurst’s lead to adopt a “No Stigma Zone” in their municipalities.

The idea is that no one who suffers from addiction or mental-health illnesses should ever have to face the stigmas involved with such afflictions. In Lyndhurst, there are numerous areas for help for addicts and those with mental-health diseases.

Since the challenge was issued, North Arlington adopted a stigma-free zone policy. However, there has been no response in Kearny, Harrison, East Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield or Nutley.

  • No. 9 — “After only 2 years being open, BJs shopping center sold.” — July 17.

There was great fanfare when the BJs shopping center opened. The anchor tenants hosted a massive, days-long grand opening of its club, including a visit from the company’s CEO. Since then, many other stores have open — and they all appear to be enjoying great success. However, while none of the stores are going anywhere, the developers of the site decided after just a few years to sell. Though the value of the property was listed at around $29 million, it reportedly sold for more than $10 million more than that valued price.

The original owners of the property were quoted as saying they are in the redevelopment business to create new projects — and eventually sell them off to move on to new development elsewhere.

  • No. 8 — “Hudson County Corrections Officer, resident of Kearny, arrested after allegedly smuggling contraband into jail.” — June 18.

A Hudson County Corrections Officer, who is also a resident of Kearny, was arrested and charged with smuggling contraband into the Hudson County Correctional Facility.

On Friday, June 15, shortly after 1:45 p.m., Alex Almeida, 40, of Kearny, was arrested by members of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office Public Integrity/Internal Affairs Unit, for his involvement in the smuggling and distribution of contraband into the jail. A source, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak about the case, said the contraband reportedly included “alcohol and cigarettes.”

  • No. 7 — “Social-media threat to NAHS ended quickly by NAPD, superintendent says.” — Dec. 3.

Stephen Yurchak, superintendent of schools, announced via the district’s social-media app that North Arlington High School was the subject of a threat. That day, Yurchak said: “Earlier this afternoon, at approximately 1:45 p.m., school officials were made aware of a social-media threat directed toward North Arlington High School. The North Arlington Police Department was notified and within minutes, located the two suspects believed to have made the threat. They are now in custody.”

  • No. 6 — “Lengthy Kearny PD investigation leads to take down of massive cargo-theft network: Chief.” — Dec. 14.

A 1 ½-year investigation, commenced by the Kearny Police Department’s Detective Bureau under lead Det. John Fabula, led to the arrest of numerous Hudson, Bergen and Union county men reportedly responsible for a major $4 million-plus cargo-theft network.

“These arrests are the culmination of an intensive investigation spanning multiple law enforcement agencies. I am extremely proud of the work done by members of the Kearny Police Department Detective Bureau and their collaboration with county, state and federal agencies to bring this to a successful conclusion,” Chief George King said.

  • No. 5 — “Apologize to the Kearny cop you shoved, Santos says to JC Mayor Fulop.” — June 13.

This one was a real doozy — and to this day, it’s hard to fathom that Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop didn’t wind up with handcuffs on in the back of a KPD cruiser — though Kearny’s mayor says an apology would have sufficed.

This all stemmed from an incident Alberto Santos says occurred Tuesday night, June 12, at Kearny High School, at a contentious meeting of the Democratic County Committee to pick the party’s chairperson for the next term.

Santos says Fulop, an ally of Union City Mayor Brian Stack who was running for the top seat — Stack lost to County Executive Tom DeGise’s daughter, Amy DeGise — was trying to make his way into a room that had a voting machine in it for committee members to vote for either DeGise or Stack. Thing is, only poll workers and those voting are allowed in that room, according to the bylaws of the Hudson County Democratic Organization.

When the Kearny police officer assigned to a door to that room wouldn’t let the Jersey City CEO in, that’s when Fulop reportedly shoved the cop to try to gain access. While it’s was possible Fulop could have been charged with assault, Santos, at the time, said he would have preferred to see Fulop issue an apology instead.

Shockingly, Fulop never issued an apology — and charges were never brought against him.

  • No. 4 — “Newark man charged in Nov. 30 hit-and-run in Kearny: KPD.” — Dec. 4.

The man who turned himself in to the Kearny Police Department Dec. 3 as the driver responsible for a Nov. 30 hit-and-run involving a Franklin School student on Bergen Avenue, Kearny, has been identified as David D. Simoes, 38, of Newark.

Simoes was charged with being involved in an accident resulting in serious bodily injury while driving with a suspended license and the traffic charge of driving with a suspended license.

Simoes was released on summonses. Additional charges are pending since the accident is still under investigation.

On Nov. 30, at around 8:05 a.m., it is alleged Simoes struck a juvenile — a student at Franklin School — on Bergen Avenue near Davis Avenue, and did not stop following the incident.

  • No. 3 — “2 men shot, one fatally, in Harrison.” — Sept. 17.

Two men were shot — one fatally — following a shooting in Harrison near Harrison Avenue and Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard.

Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said on Sunday, Sept. 16, at approximately 4:25 a.m., the Harrison Police Department received a report of a motor-vehicle crash with a pedestrian struck in the area of Harrison Avenue and Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard. Responding officers found the lifeless body of a man lying next to a GMC Yukon that had impacted a pole and landed on the sidewalk in the area of 402 Harrison Ave., Harrison.

The man, later identified as Shadi Miles, 31, of Newark, was found with an apparent gunshot wound to his torso. He was pronounced dead at the scene at approximately 4:55 a.m. A preliminary investigation found a second man had also been shot — Joseph Bossie, 19, of East Orange, who was later charged with armed robbery, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and unlawful possession of a weapon.

  • No. 2 — “How one person’s needless fear led to an unnecessary death.” — Aug. 1.

This was perhaps the most emotional story of 2018. In it, we learned of the horrifying death of Allison Gaynor, 24, who overdosed on opioids in a fast-food restaurant in Harrison.

Ally died in the bathroom at the restaurant, her mom, Kim Alfieri says, after being in the rest room for 30 minutes. The people who were with her that day, Kim says, neglected to check on her when she was away from them for half an hour. Had they checked on her, perhaps even 10 minutes earlier, she might have survived the overdose.

Ally’s death shook an entire community. But her all-too-soon departure from this earth may very well save lives now and in the future. New Jersey law protects good Samaritans who report overdoses from prosecution and arrest so long as they’re not in a large quantity of drugs and so long as there is no evidence of a distribution ring.

Kearny Police Chief George King explained the law and how the KPD — and other departments statewide — handle it. And it’s very simple. If you, or someone you’re with, is overdosing — and someone calls for help — no one will be prosecuted or arrested so long as distribution of the drug is not involved.

“If someone is overdosing, call the police,” King stressed. “The spirit of the law is not to prosecute anyone who anyone overdosing and who is in possession or under the influence. You will not be arrested. You will not be charged. The attorney general’s guidelines are clear.

  • No. 1 — “Teen arrested in ‘joke’ KHS threat.” — March 2.

A 15-year-old Kearny High School student was arrested and charged with third-degree creating a false-public alarm after the boy allegedly used a photo on a social media account with the caption: “Thinking of searching up how to shoot up a school and get away with it,” Kearny police Chief George King told The Observer at the time.

According to King, on Thursday, March 1, someone at the high school was alerted to a Snap Chat post/threat and called the police immediately. The police responded to the boy’s home and the boy, with his mother present, was questioned. King said the boy admitted to creating the social media post, noting, “it was a joke.”

But to the police, it was no joke. And after gaining permission from the boy’s mother, who police say was cooperative, the boy’s home was searched — and police said they found no weapons or evidence of a plot to shoot up Kearny High School.