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1.7B to clean Passaic’s lower 8 miles

Photo courtesy U.S. EPA Signs warn not to eat fish caught from the polluted Lower Passaic.

Photo courtesy U.S. EPA
Signs warn not to eat fish caught from the polluted Lower Passaic.



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last Friday, April 11, that it plans to undertake the most costly public waterway cleanup in its 43-year history.

At a press conference held at Newark Riverfront Park, EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck said the agency will remove 4.3 million cubic yards of toxic sediment from the lower eight miles of the Passaic River, from Newark Bay to the Belleville/Newark border.

The lower eight miles of the 80-mile-long waterway that runs through seven counties are “the most heavily contaminated section of the river,” according to an EPA press release, which says that, “The sediment [in the river] is severely contaminated with dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants from more than a century of industrial activity.”

EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez said the agency has estimated it will cost as much as $1.7 billion to enact a cleanup plan still being assembled but it still cannot predict how long the job will take to do. And it won’t be until early 2015 that the plan will be finalized, after the agency hears from the public, he added.

One reason the cleanup figures to be so expensive is that it calls for “bank-to-bank dredging … followed by capping of the river bottom,” the release said.

The EPA said it consulted with the state Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “with outreach to representatives of the many communities along the lower Passaic River” over seven years to develop the cleanup plan.

The EPA will hold three public hearings to outline the plan as it now stands, the initial one slated for May 7 at 7 p.m. at the Portuguese Sports Club, 55 Prospect St., Newark.

Another May hearing – the date and location not yet fixed – will be held in Kearny and a June hearing is to follow, again date and location to be determined, in Belleville.

People can also submit written comments by mail to: Alice Yeh, Remedial Project Manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 290 Broadway, N.Y., N.Y. 10007- 1866 or by email to: PassaicLower8MileComments. Region2@epa.gov. For more information, call 212-637-4427.

“High concentrations of dioxin, PCBs and other contaminants in the lower eight miles of the Passaic River are a serious threat to the people who eat fish and crabs from this river,” Enck said. (Catching crabs is prohibited and there are “Do Not Eat” advisories posted for all fish in the lower Passaic.)

“The EPA’s proposed cleanup plan will result in a cleaner river that protects people’s health and increases the productive use of one of New Jersey’s most important natural resources and creates jobs during the cleanup. Doing less is not good enough for this river or the people who live along it,” Enck said.

According to the EPA, the Diamond Alkali plant in Newark that produced Agent Orange and pesticides in the 1960s “generated dioxin that contaminated the land and the river.” An additional 100 or so companies “are potentially responsible for generating and releasing” other pollutants into the river.

The lower 17 miles of the river, running from Newark Bay to the Dundee Dam at Garfield, are part of the Diamond Alkali Superfund site and from 1983 to 2001, extensive cleanup work was done on land at the Diamond Alkali facility and in the streets and homes near it. In 2012, an EPA-approved contractor dredged, treated and removed 40,000 cubic yards of dioxin contaminated sediment from the river near the plant. And in 2013, EPA oversaw dredging of about 16,000 cubic yards of “highly contaminated sediment” from a half-mile stretch of the river along Riverside County Park in Lyndhurst, outside of the lower eight miles. That work is ongoing.

A long-term study of what to do about contaminated sediment in the 17-mile stretch is still being done by a group of about 70 corporate entities known as the Lower Passaic Cooperating Partners Group with EPA oversight.

Meanwhile, the EPA is focused on the cleanup of the Passaic’s lower eight miles where “there is an approximately 10-to-15-foot deep reservoir of contaminated fine-grained sediment,” of which 4.3 million cubic yards – enough to fill MetLife Stadium twice – “will be dredged and removed” and a protective cap consisting of stone and two feet of sand and will be placed over the 5.4 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment that would remain on the river bottom.

EPA says the dredging would remove nearly 18 pounds of “highly toxic” dioxin, more than 35,000 pounds of mercury, in excess of 15,000 pounds of PCBs and nearly 2,000 pounds of DDT. The toxic mix would be “prepared for transport by rail for incineration and/or disposal in landfills.” An estimated 7% of the stuff “may require incineration at out-of-state facilities in the U.S. and Canada.”

Along the shore, however, the cap will be “one foot of sand and one foot of materials to support habitat for fish and plants.”

After it has a final cleanup plan in place, EPA will undertake engineering and design work “in the following years.” EPA says it will continue to “pursue agreements to ensure that the cleanup work [being proposed for the lower eight miles] be carried out and paid for by those responsible for the contamination at the site.”

The draft plan for the lower eight mile cleanup can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/ region02/passaicriver or at http://www.ourpassaic.org.

– Ron Leir

Lost medal recovered from Pa.

Left photo courtesy Army Capt. Zachariah Fike; right photo by Ron Leir Pvt. Wilfred J. Warhurst’s lost medal (l.) and the veteran’s name (r.) listed on a list of hero veterans on a bronze table in the Kearny Town Hall lobby.

Left photo courtesy Army Capt. Zachariah Fike; right photo by Ron Leir
Pvt. Wilfred J. Warhurst’s lost medal (l.) and the veteran’s name (r.) listed on a list of hero veterans on a bronze table in the Kearny Town Hall lobby.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


For more than two decades, it sat – carefully preserved – in a Pennsylvania residence.

Next month, however, the Purple Heart medal awarded posthumously to a long-dead Kearny serviceman will be returned to the soldier’s hometown to be stored in a place of honor.

Bill Sweeney, outreach coordinator for the Kearny VOICE (Veterans Outreach Information Community Education) project, co-sponsored by the local American Legion Auxiliary and American Legion, said the medal was conferred on Army Pvt. Wilfred J. Warhurst Jr., a World War II veteran killed in action Jan. 19, 1945, in Europe.

Warhurst’s name is engraved on a bronze plaque, along with the names of other Kearny hero veterans, that is part of a permanent display mounted in the lobby of Kearny Town Hall.

Sweeney said that last September, Tony Cappiti, the-then commander of the United Veterans Organization of Kearny, got a call from Army Capt. Zachariah Fike and his nonprofit organization Purple Hearts Reunited, which collects lost medals and seeks to return them to recipients or family members.

Fike told him that a woman in Pennsylvania had Pvt. Warhurst’s medal and had learned through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs that there were no known living relatives of Warhurst and wondered what, if anything, could be done about it.

“We decided it would be nice for us, through the VOICE, to partner with the Kearny Museum and let them take custody of the medal so it could be safely stored there and available for display to the public,” Sweeney said.

The medal presentation is expected to happen sometime during the May 26 Kearny Memorial Day observance, he added.

Mysterious discovery

Keystone State resident Patricia Belsky is credited by Sweeney and Fike for setting things in motion but when reached by phone last week in her current East Greenville residence, Belsky said it was actually her father-in-law Chester Belsky who found the medal as he was walking around the parking lot of the former Lehigh Valley family business in Pennsburg, Pa.

“He used to bring home all sorts of strange things,” Belsky said.

This particular day – which, according to Belsky, happened more than 20 years ago – “he came and said, ‘Look what I found,’ ’’ she said. It was the Purple Heart medal, “in pristine condition, a beautiful tribute.”

Belsky said she called the V.A., only to be told that Warhurst had no known survivors and that she should look after it, which she did. “I kept it in my jewelry box,” she said.

And there the medal sat until sometime in 2013 when she happened to be talking to a friend whose husband was, by coincidence, a Purple Heart winner who knew about Fike’s organization. And Belsky, remembering the mystery medal, decided to reach out to him.

Man on a mission

Fike, 33, a self-described “military brat” whose parents both had military service, is 17-year Army veteran and a Purple Heart winner himself for combat action in Afghanistan on Sept. 10, 2010. He said he’s been involved in returning lost or missing medals to soldiers and/or their families for the past three years.

His organization has become a sort of clearinghouse for those medals. “People who hear or read about us get in touch and we get about three medals a week,” Fike said. “Right now, we have over 200 medals we’ve been trying to find a home for. Most have the name of the recipient engraved on the back, meaning that he or she was killed in combat. We track down the families and return [the medals].”

In cases like Warhurst, “where the family is no longer with us, we find what we consider homes of honor to deliver them,” Fike said. “If at all possible, we try to keep the medals close to the recipients’ hometowns so we keep their history close together. But if that’s not doable, we’ll do a national museum.”

Before dealing with missing medals, Fike was a collector of military antiques. “It broke my heart to see military items being discarded,” he said.

Then, one day, his mother brought him a Purple Heart medal awarded to Pvt. Corrado Piccoli of Watertown, N.Y. “It symbolizes so much,” Fike said. So he set to find the soldier’s family so he could give them the medal. It took a year but he did it.

And so began his quest in earnest.

Now a member of the Vermont National Guard, Fike said: “I do my Army thing from 9 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.] and from 9 [p.m.] to midnight I dedicate to my [Purple Hearts United] foundation and I do [medal] returns on weekends. I’ve done 80 returns so far. On April 12, I’ll be in Kansas City. I’ve gone as far as Los Angeles and, pretty much, all over the U.S.”

Back in the ‘40s, Fike said, “people would tend to hide their valuables and medals in their house and, over time, they’d forget about them. Then the family sells the house and the new occupants would find these missing medals in attics and other hiding places. “

In one case, a soldier got married before going to war where he is killed and is awarded the medal. His wife moves back to her family, she passes on and her kids find the medal – now they’re reunited with it and the memories of their dad.”

In another case, Fike recalled, a multi-generational family didn’t realize their father’s medal was missing. “There’d been a rift and the family members hadn’t been close for maybe 55, 60 years. Then after I was able to bring them the medal, they had their first family reunion day. I got to see three generations come together and now they’re closer than they’ve ever been.”

Initially a one-man enterprise, Fike said he’s now aided and abetted by 10 research volunteers, including a national genealogist, who help locate medal recipients and/or families. Once a contact is made, he schedules a medal return ceremony. “They’re professionally framed for free for the families and we get a guest speaker, like a congressman or local dignitary. We need to do that for the families. It’s what they deserve.” Fike always makes the presentation.

The framing service, travel and related costs typically run “around $1,200,” Fike said. “The first two years, I was funding that but now we rely on donations to my nonprofit.”

Memorial Day return

He said the Kearny private’s medal “will be framed, hopefully with his picture if we can get one, and an American flag,” when he makes the delivery on Memorial Day. “I’ll be doing two returns that day, both in New Jersey,” he said.

To reach Fike’s organization, people can email him care of purpleheartsreunited@gmail. com.

An obituary of Pvt. Wilfred J. Warhurst Jr. retrieved by Kearny Library Director Josh Humphrey from an old newspaper clipping said that he had lived at 92 Devon Terrace, and was a former student at Kearny High where “he became a member of champion sprint relay teams…” Before entering the service, “he was employed at the Pollak Manufacturing Co. in Kearny.”

The obituary said that Warhurst “was inducted into the Army in January 1943. He trained at Camp Pickett, Val., and at Camp Davis, N.C., before being assigned to overseas duty in February 1944. He was attached to a unit of an advanced anti-aircraft artillery battalion on the Western Front.”

According to Fike’s research, Warhurst was serving with the 320th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, which advanced to Arlon, Belgium, Dec. 25-26, 1944, “and took part in the fighting to relieve Bastogne, throwing off the attacks of four German divisions, taking Villers-laBonne- Eau, on Jan. 10, 1945, after a 13-day fight and Lutrebois in a five-day engagement.” On Jan. 18, “the Division returned to Metz to resume its interrupted rest.” Then, the obituary says, Warhurst “was seriously wounded in action in Belgium on Jan. 12 [and] died a week later, Jan. 19, at an Army station hospital in Luxemburg.”

Warhurst, who was 27 when he died, was buried at Luxembourg American Cemetery in Luxemburg.

Feds won’t pay for more firefighters

Two neighboring West Hudson communities have been shut out in their bids to snag federal funding to hire more firefighters.

Kearny Fire Dept. and Harrison Fire Dept. each applied for a share of SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grants but each was turned down.

For Kearny, it was the third rejection in as many years; for Harrison, the second knockdown.

Kearny had applied for $1,974,525 to pay 15 new firefighters’ wages and benefits for two years; Harrison had sought $6 million to subsidize 36 new firefighters for two years.

In a denial letter sent to Kearny Fire Dept., SAFER overseers said, “In fiscal year 2013, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) received over 1,500 SAFER applications requesting more than $1.67 billion in federal assistance. The large number applications received and the finite amount of available funding resulted in many worthy applicants not being funded and underscores the highly competitive nature of this program.”

The letter said that each application is evaluated and rated on the basis of four review categories: “clarity of the project description, demonstration of financial need, impact on daily operations and realization of cost benefit.”

No specific explanation was provided, to either Kearny or Harrison, as to why their applications were denied.

Kearny Fire Chief Steven Dyl said that the premise of his application was to bring the total number of personnel up to a “full T.O.(Table of Organization) to 102.”

Now, Dyl said, “I guess it’s back to the drawing board. It’s frustrating. We had a set plan for what we intended to do.”

Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, who has acknowledged that both the Police and Fire Departments are working under shorthanded conditions, said that going forward “will be a challenge. I expect that if we are successful in getting transitional aid, this is one issue we’re going to look at.”

In Harrison, Fire Director Harold Stahl said the town would, at some point, file a new application.

“The year before [FEMA] told us we didn’t ask for enough,” Stahl said. “So, this time around, I thought we were in line to get funded.”

With current staffing of 29, getting the additional 36 requested positions filled “would have brought us up to the T.O. of many years ago,” Stahl said.

For now, he said, “we’re still alive and well.”

And, on April 9, the town’s governing body voted to authorize the purchase of two 2014 4-Wheel-Drive Ford Expedition SSVs (Special Service Vehicles) from Breyer Ford of Morristown for a total of $74,603 under a 3-year lease/ purchase arranged through the Cranford Police Cooperative Pricing System.

Stahl said the vehicles would be replacements for two 18-year-old jeeps and would be “large enough to move men and equipment, particularly when we have recalls of off-duty men in multi-alarm fires.”

“We expect to take delivery sometime in May,” he added.

– Ron Leir

Tribute to a teacher

Fred Kuhrt

Top photo by Johnny B. Bucsko; bottom photo courtesy Debbie Kuhrt Above, Fred Kuhrt and his beloved 1969 MG; below, Kuhrt working with his automotive technology students.

Top photo by Johnny B. Bucsko; bottom photo
courtesy Debbie Kuhrt
Above, Fred Kuhrt and his beloved 1969 MG; below, Kuhrt working with his automotive technology students.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Fred Kuhrt died doing what he loved best – giving of himself to others.

His former employer, the Kearny Board of Education, is honoring the automotive technology instructor’s selflessness by establishing the Fred Kuhrt Scholarship Fund to benefit students interested in advancing in the technical field.

Kuhrt, a 34-year teacher at Kearny High School who had planned to retire this summer, was in his classroom on Jan. 9 when he suddenly collapsed and died. He was 58.

A scholarship fundraiser has been scheduled for April 26, from 6 to 11 p.m., at the Irish American Association, 95 Kearny Ave., featuring live entertainment, raffles and 50/50s, beer, wine and food. A $50 donation is requested. Tickets are available from family members, the bartenders at Snug Harbor or Bob Walenski at Kearny High.

A 1973 Kearny High alum who played football and ran track, Kuhrt always loved tinkering with anything on wheels, his wife Debbie said. He worked for L.J. Kennedy Trucking Co. on Schuyler Ave. and an automotive garage on Dukes St. before enrolling at the-then Kean College in Union to get a degree in industrial technology.

Loved ones, colleagues and friends remember Kuhrt as a renaissance man of sorts.

Aside from his passion for vehicular maintenance which he passed on to his enthralled students, many of whom went on to careers in the automotive industry, Kuhrt’s enthusiasm for sports and the outdoors was also contagious among his young apprentices.

At KHS, he coached freshman football, helped run the rifle team and chaperoned the German Club on several field trips.

A devoted camper – he frequented the Great Divide in the foothills of rural Sussex County – Kuhrt was big into fishing and hunting, deploying bow and arrow and muzzle-loader shotgun, Debbie recalled. He was president of the Oswego Fishing Club of Kearny and Saxton Falls Rod & Gun Club in Warren County.

Walenski, head custodian at KHS and a longtime pal, said his wife Susan was a sharpshooter with Kuhrt’s rifle team. “He came to my wedding and I went to his son’s [wedding]. We used to go shopping together for tools at Harbor Freight in North Bergen. He was more family than friend.”

Former colleague Bill Gaydos, KHS science chairman, said: “Fred could fix anything. And he had great rapport with his students. Often, he would stay and work with them on a class project ‘till 4 or 4:30 [p.m.].”

And he was the family photographer, documenting travel and other adventures, Debbie said.

Yet, as much as he enjoyed being active and interacting with nature, he also made time for books. “He was a history fanatic and he was an expert on big battles in military history,” Debbie said.

But above all else, it was clearly Kuhrt’s attachment to the motor pool that consumed many of his waking hours. He was a member of the Wanderers Car Club of Sussex County and the MG Car Club of North Jersey and he won many trophies in car shows he entered.

“He saved a 1969 MG classic which he restored and which he brought into his automotive class and took the car down to its frame and rebuilt all the engine parts,” Debbie recalled. “He gave the students a broad spectrum of knowledge.”

“The last project he was working on before he died was restoring a BSA (Birmingham Small Arms) motorcycle from the ‘60s for an international festival [this month],” said Debbie. “In fact, it’s still sitting in Kearny High School.”

In late February, Debbie noted, the KHS PTA presented the school library with an automotive book in memory of Kuhrt and several students “spoke about how [their former teacher] inspired and guided them towards continuing their desire to pursue the automotive craft. Each student expressed how they want the school to continue the program for future students.”

One former student, Joseph Ferreira, who now runs New Body Collision on Columbia Ave., credited Kuhrt with being an active mentor in encouraging him to pursue an automotive repair business. “He was a real great guy – he was the one who got me into cars,” Ferreira said.

“When I was going to Kearny High, I lived around the block from New Body and when I was in my freshman year, I worked there part-time,” Ferreira said. “Mr. Kuhrt used to stop by and check up on me to see how I was doing.”

“There’s probably another 50 if not more – including people working for the town now – that Mr. Kuhrt inspired to like this trade,” Ferreira added.

Play ball! (and politics, too)

Photo courtesy Borough of North Arlington North Arlington Girls’ Softball League kicks off its season with a parade Saturday ... and some unexpected political flap.

Photo courtesy Borough of North Arlington
North Arlington Girls’ Softball League kicks off its season with a parade Saturday … and some unexpected political flap.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Saturday’s opening ceremony for the North Arlington Recreation Girls’ Softball season took on a political twist.

Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat, complained that he was snubbed by League President Mike Tetto when Tetto picked Republican Councilman Joseph Bianchi to throw out the honorary first pitch at Allan Park. Bianchi is hoping to unseat Massa in the municipal election in November.

Massa griped that Tetto’s selection process amounted to a “political endorsement” of his opponent. It should be the mayor who gets the honor of addressing the crowd at the home opener, Massa said, “particular when, as mayor, I sign off on resolutions authorizing all the improvements made to the field.”

“And, I supported, along with the other Democrats on the council, giving Mr. Tetto [and other recreation groups] a $2,000 stipend to bolster their program,” Massa said.

Asked about the mayor’s charge, Tetto said he was a registered independent and that the mayor was “upset he didn’t get called up [to speak] because it’s an election year. Last year, the mayor and council didn’t even show up for our opening day.”

Tetto said he picked Bianchi for the honor “because he’s heavily involved with our program, even without having any kids or grandkids playing for us. He returns my calls, he goes down [to Allan Park] to help out and he was in support of lights for the field.”

But Tetto said the Democrats on the governing body reneged on a promise he says was made last year to put in the lights. “We were told the field will be so bright that, ‘you’ll be able to see Allan Park from outer space,’ ’’ he said.

The way things are now, Tetto said, he’s going to be hard-pressed to find sufficient playing and practice time for the 180 girls on the combined rosters of his 18 teams, ranging from the younger kids to high school age.

While Bergen County has provided new fields at Riverside County Park, only Field 1 is available to his girls softball teams and they’ll have to compete for field time with North Arlington Little League, Queen of Peace softball and Queen of Peace baseball.

And, at Allan Park, where the girls’ games are played on weekends, if North Arlington High School is playing there on a weekday and its game runs late, there’s even less time to use the field for practice, Tetto said.

Within a 10-to-15-mile radius, every community has equipped girls softball fields with lights, Tetto said. “We are the only town that doesn’t have lights [for girls]. Our Little League fields have lights. Why only boys?”

Meanwhile, at the request of Councilman Dan Pronti, the Borough Council is debating whether to install lights in the parking lots of Allan Park and Zadroga Field. The borough engineer is preparing a cost estimate.

Pronti, a Republican, said he’s pitching the idea as a crime deterrent, particularly at Zadroga Field where, he said, there are ways for people to enter through wooded areas or openings in the fence and passing cops patrolling Schuyler Ave. have no way to view the field parking lot.

But Democrats Al Granell and Tom Zammatore are skeptical about Pronti’s suggestion. Zammatore said police have reported no criminal activity in those locations since 2011. And, he said, putting in lights could simply encourage more people to congregate there. Pronti, however, said there have been unreported crimes, including two break-ins to the Corsi House at Allan Park.

Granell said a better solution might be to “lock the gate at Allan Park at night to limit access to the parking lot after dark,” but only if it’s warranted for security reasons. Recreation Commission meetings could be held at the senior center next to Borough Hall or the recreation house in front of Allan Park, since both are illuminated, he said.

Zammatore said the borough should “get data from the Police Department that shows where crime is a problem” and then get an estimate for lighting those areas.

News in brief


Harrison Mayor James Fife, 73, is spending time in St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark, where he is recovering from surgery.

The hospital declined to provide any information but Councilman James Doran, who is serving as Fife’s campaign manager for this year’s municipal election season, said that Fife was experiencing chest pain early last week and went for tests.

“An echocardiogram showed that his aortic valv e was blocked,” Doran said. So Fife had an operation last Thursday to replace that valve, he said.

Doran said Fife was expected to remain in the hospital for five days and then undergo outpatient cardiac therapy for a few weeks.

“He should be a new man in about six weeks,” Doran said.

Until Fife is ready to return to duty, Doran said that Town Council President Michael Dolaghan and the various municipal department heads will look after town business.


The state has awarded Nutley $2.75 million in transitional aid this year that Revenue & Finance Commissioner Tom Evans said would somewhat offset the pain of a municipal tax increase triggered by a devaluation of the Roche property.

Evans said that the special compensation corresponds to the diminished share of municipal, school and county taxes that Nutley will realize as a result of demolition at the Roche site, which its owners plan to vacate by sometime in 2015.

Had Nutley not received the aid package, the owner of an “average” house assessed at $314,000 would have faced a municipal tax increase of $109 but, with the aid, the tax impact is reduced to a projected $72 increase just on the municipal portion of the 2014 tax bill, Evans said.

This is expected, he said, despite the fact that overall municipal spending is up by less than 2%.

Because the aid is a “special category” of transitional aid — designed to offer tax relief to a municipality that experiences an extraordinary loss of property value by providing a “partial adjustment” to cover that lost value – Nutley won’t be saddled with the fiscal monitoring by the state that normally accompanies the granting of transitional aid, Evans said.

“The state recognizes that Nutley ranks in the 96th percentile of the state’s Best Practices checklist so for that reason we won’t be included in the traditional fiscal oversight program,” he said. “We’re seen as a wellmanaged municipality.”

Evans said that Nutley would have to reapply in 2015 for the special aid as the township continues to transition to a future without Roche.

The property owners have hired a marketing firm to find a buyer for its property, which overlaps Nutley and Clifton.


A Franklin School sixth-grader in Kearny faced disciplining in the wake of an incident that happened outside the Davis Ave. school last Thursday.

Sources said that two sixth-graders, best of friends, were waiting for classes to start that morning. After one of them reportedly hid the other’s cellular phone, her friend allegedly removed a kitchen knife from a backpack and displayed it.

At that point, sources said, other students reported the incident to teachers. The Juvenile Aid Bureau responded, but sources said there was no threat made and no one had been injured.

There was no lockdown of the school and police worked with school administrators to calm everyone. Administrators were pleased with the police response. A school resource officer was temporarily reassigned to Franklin from Kearny High.

As rumors spread through the community about the incident – especially with it happening the day after multiple students had been stabbed by another student at a school near Pittsburgh, – phones reportedly were ringing off the hook around town.

– Ron Leir

Nutley Scouts to the rescue


Photos by Karen Zautyk Nutley Rescue Squad members dismantle ‘wrecked’ automobile.

Photos by Karen Zautyk
Nutley Rescue Squad members dismantle ‘wrecked’ automobile.


By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent


The temperature was bone-chilling and the rain was falling in torrents, but undeterred by the nasty weather, members of the Nutley Volunteer Emergency & Rescue Squad were out in the storm, turning a Lincoln Town Car into a heap of scrap metal.

They had to, for inside the vehicle, a man was trapped.

For 45 minutes, using the “Jaws of Life” and other extrication devices, they worked diligently at their task, smashing windows, ripping off the roof and doors and otherwise dismantling the auto, until they could safely secure the victim with a neck brace, move him onto a backboard and then gently lift him onto a gurney for transfer to the waiting ambulance.

Even though he had no injuries whatsoever.

It was all part of a simulated heavy-rescue drill, played out before an appreciative audience of Boy Scouts, who watched the entire procedure protected by a large canopy, graciously provided by the squad. (We weren’t kidding about the rain; it was like something out of “Noah.”)

The drill was held the night of April 7 in the lot behind the EMS headquarters on Chestnut St., just east of Passaic Ave.

The Scouts, members of Nutley Troop 142, had volunteered to serve as “victims” for a first-responder training course, and the squad was happy to comply, utilizing a car from an anonymous donor. (Poor car. It went from four-door sedan to no-door convertible in under an hour.)

We had expected that the kids might be lying scattered around on the ground, but if that were ever in the plans, the downpour put an end to any such scenario.

The Scouts, aged 11 to 16, still got to be “victims,” though. Inside the HQ building, they were bandaged and fitted with various splints and braces — and they received instruction on how to use first aid equipment.

Their first lesson was on how to secure someone to a backboard. The Town Car “driver,” probationary Squad member Daniel Randall, still immobile on the gurney, had spent nearly an hour in the car covered head-to-toe by an aluminum blanket — to protect him from glass and sparks during the rescue. But his job wasn’t over.

The boys, supervised by training officer Henry Meola, got busy retying Randall to the backboard, using long strips of heavy cloth and any sort of knots they wanted. (Being Boy Scouts, they know a lot of knots.)

When the task was done, Squad members lifted the board and flipped it over, so that Randall was suspended in air, face down. He remained safely immobile, despite the force of gravity. Good work, kids!

Although the evening’s experiences were fun, the underlying purpose was quite serious.

Troop 142 is trying to earn the “Messengers of Peace” award that will be presented in May at the N.J. State Police/ National Guard Camporee in Sea Girt.


Photos by Karen Zautyk Scouts from Troop 142 get hands-on lessons in first aid for accident victims.

Photos by Karen Zautyk
Scouts from Troop 142 get hands-on lessons in first aid for accident victims.



According to the Camporee website, gardenstatescouting. org, “Messengers of Peace,” launched in September 2011, is a “global initiative designed to inspire millions of young men and women .. . to work towards peace.”

Using social media, “the initiative lets Scouts from around the world share what they have done and inspire fellow Scouts to undertake similar efforts in their own communities, encouraging the completion of a Good Turn in your community and helping others.”

As their community service project, the local Scouts wanted to help the Rescue Squad.

The Scouts learned much and the Squad members had the opportunity to continue to perfect their already impressive skills.

The drill also provided learning opportunities in other ways. While the Scouts were outside, watching the first responders’ rescue efforts at the car wreck, we heard one of the Scout leaders say, “This is what happens when you drink and drive . . . or when you text and drive.”

Hopefully, that message will be imprinted upon all of them. Forever.

Thoughts & Views: Jeff Bahr: An Appreciation




In the movie, “The Misfits,” Gay, the cowboy character played by Clark Gable (in what would turn out to be his last film) tries to persuade two buddies to join in a “mustanging” enterprise.

“Beats wages, don’t it?” Gay asserts.

The implication is that you get to keep your freedom by living life on your own terms.

Hearing that phrase echo in my mind, just a few days later, I thought of Jeff Bahr, my former Observer colleague and friend from Bloomfield who was killed April 10 while riding his beloved 2012 Triumph Explorer motorcycle in West Buffalo Township, Pa.

Jeff was the kind of fellow who liked to go his own way, carve out his own path – (he loved to play drums but never for a band and he ran like the wind but never went out for the school track team) – and the entertaining and instructive “One-Tank” trip columns he wrote for The Observer evidenced two of his lifelong passions: writing and motorcycling.

If Jeff were writing about the day trip he’d made to the Keystone State that fateful day, he’d be sure to point out, for example, that West Buffalo Township was a rural 38-square mile area of Union County, Pa., pocketed by dairy farms and a population of 2,795 (as of the 2000 Census) and featuring as a unique attraction, the 63-foot-long, King-post truss Hayes Covered Bridge, built in 1882 and named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Longtime associates and loving friends of Jeff, including fiancée Maria Cirasella, reminisced about their fallen comrade Sunday during visitation at the Levandoski Funeral Home, Bloomfield.

Lifelong friend Joe Appleton, who attended the same kindergarten class in Oak View School, Bloomfield, said that, already at age 10, Jeff had accumulated an astounding vocabulary, reinforced by a voracious appetite for reading.

Jim McDowell, now a resident of Dingmans Ferry, Pa., who met Jeff as a teen, remembered Jeff confiding that he was thinking of quitting school. “He told me, ‘The teachers just don’t get me,’ so I asked him what he intended to do with himself and he thought about it and finally he said, ‘I’ll just become a wordsmith.’ ‘’

And so he did.

“The way he processed things was amazing,” McDowell said. “The angle through which he viewed things had a perspective like no one else. And he could find humor in everything. He could always find a way to make you laugh.”

Jeff ’s writing career started by accident, Appleton said, when he was working for an environmental lab and his employer asked him to write something about the company. He went on to write for local newspapers, magazines and book series.

He was a contributor to “Weird NJ” and “Weird Virginia,” the “Armchair Reader,” “Amazing & Unusual USA: Hundreds of Extraordinary Sights” and Backroads: Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure magazine, a monthly publication that circulates on the East Coast.

Brian Rathjen, who, with his wife Shira Kamil, publishes Backroads, has enjoyed reading Jeff ’s prose for more than a quarter century. “We’ve been friends and biking pals,” he said. “Last August, when Jeff had his cancer – and I had had cancer myself – we were a mutual support team. We kind of lifted up each other.”

As for the articles Jeff submitted, Rathjen said the author’s copy “had a fresh and vibrant style” and invariably featured “a wealth of bizarre and interesting knowledge.” And, Rathjen added, “If we needed to fill space at the last minute, you could always rely on Jeff to provide something. He was always upbeat, positive, one of the most unique guys I’ve met.”

Jeff ’s ability to draw people out amplified his story-telling talent. As McDowell put it, “People fascinated him. He got them to open up.” And that probably explained why he was a CB radio operator. And why he outfitted his motorcycle helmets with radio units so he could carry on conversations with bike buddies while he was riding to share his adventures on the road with them.

Jeff ’s fixation with bikes began officially in 1985 when, according to biker buddy and Netcong resident Paul Alesi, he got his first cycle, a Nighthawk 950. “He kept it for a year, sold it and got a 550E Suzuki. And then he went to a Suzuki Intruder 700,” Alesi said. “He’d take that up to New Hampshire to visit his sister.”

Warwick, N.Y. resident Dave Erfer, who rode with Jeff for the past 15 years after they met at a Backroads rally, figures his pal went through “eight or nine” bikes in his lifetime.

“The bike he was using when he was killed he’d had only two weeks,” Erfer said. “He said it was ‘close to perfect’ because it had anti-lock brakes, traction control and cruise control.” “The biggest thing about Jeff was, he always knew his history about the places he visited,” Erfer said. “We used to say that riding with Jeff was like riding with Google because of all the facts he could recite.”

“I’m going to miss our morning wake-up calls. In fact, he called me at 9:10 [a.m.] the morning he died on his helmet intercom to tell me he was on his day ride to Pennsylvania. I was enroute to work. An hour later, he was dead.”

As he was working his way through his recovery from throat cancer, Jeff would work out in the basement of Appleton’s home. And, a week before the fatal accident, Appleton recalled, Jeff “rode his bicycle eight miles to try and get his wind back. He was so overwhelmed that he could do that, he pulled over and cried.”

For some reason, Appleton said, Jeff had a fascination for skyscrapers and high structures. “He’d drive anywhere to find one of those huge radio towers.”

Maybe now, Jeff is looking down from the ultimate height and realizing that he’s achieved all that he set out to do and that those he’s left behind appreciated – and were inspired by – the effort.

– Ron Leir

Town has new health officer

Photo courtesyKenneth Pincus Kenneth Pincus

Photo courtesyKenneth Pincus
Kenneth Pincus



Kenneth Pincus is Kearny’s new health officer.

Pincus, a resident of Warren, was hired last Tuesday night by the local governing body at an annual salary of $99,500, effective May 1. He replaces John Sarnas, who retired April 1 after a four-decade- plus career in the health department.

Pincus has worked since 2006 as principal registered environmental health specialist for the Westfield Regional Health Department in Westfield. Before that, he was registered environmental health specialist for the Edison Department of Health from 1995 to 2006. And, prior, he was a part-time registered environmental health specialist for the Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission in Green Brook from 2004 to 2010.

This will mark Pincus’s first time serving as a certified municipal health officer.

Still, Mayor Alberto Santos said he’s persuaded that Pincus is a good choice for the job.

“We had nine applicants of whom all but one had a municipal health officer license and extensive experience in local health departments,” Santos said. “We interviewed two with the most experience.”

“We feel Ken is highly credentialed, who, in addition to possessing a license, has other certifications related to the health care field and is a seasoned health professional who will continue the tradition established by John Sarnas during his more than 40 years with the department,” Santos said.

Santos said that Sarnas will make himself available on a volunteer basis to help with the administrative transition.

Pincus’s professional resume lists him as licensed by the state Department of Health as a registered environmental health specialist, lead inspector/risk assessor and certified retail food standardized trainer. He’s also listed as licensed by the state Department of Environmental Protection as a commercial pesticide applicator and a certified community noise enforcement officer.

He has also completed FEMA courses on bio-terrorism modules and he is an adjunct professor with the University of Phoenix’s College of Health Sciences and Nursing, teaching health law.

He has a B.S. degree in environmental management from the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, R.I., and an M.S. in health administration from New Jersey City University, Jersey City.

Working in the health field “has been my passion,” Pincus told The Observer last week.

While he has had no prior work-related experience in Kearny, Pincus said he has driven through the West Hudson area many times.

In his previous job, Pincus said he introduced a standardization program for local restaurant inspections in the Westfield region, which took in the communities of Fanwood, Cranford and Garwood, ensuring that appropriate steps were being taken to protect food from potential contamination and, especially, during flood conditions.

– Ron Leir

The long arm of the law

Photo courtesy KPD Jonathan Jeffery

Photo courtesy KPD
Jonathan Jeffery


Photos courtesy KPD Brian Kinney

Photos courtesy KPD
Brian Kinney



By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent


Kearny police reported last week that they have closed two cases dating to 2012, “one crime solved through DNA, the other, the old-fashioned way,” said KPD Chief John Dowie.

The latter involved the Sept. 30, 2012, armed hold-up of a liquor store at Seeley and Kearny Aves. At about 8 p.m. on that date, a lone bandit, wielding an automatic handgun, robbed the shop and then fled on foot, running east on Seeley.

The investigating officer, Det. Scott Traynor, reviewed surveillance tapes, noting the type of weapon used and the gunman’s clothing — a dark-colored, hooded sweatshirt and a black ski mask — and later linked these details to a similar crime in Bayonne, Dowie said. Traynor kept up with the case, working with police in that city and developing information from his street sources. He subsequently identified a possible suspect — 25-year-old Bayonne resident Jonathan Jeffery.

Last month, after evidence was presented to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, warrants were issued for Jeffery’s arrest on weapons and armed robbery charges in Kearny.

The alleged perp, already lodged in the Hudson County Jail in connection with his Bayonne arrest, was brought to KPD headquarters on April 4 for formal processing and was then returned to his secure habitat.

The second case concerned the Nov. 1, 2012, burglary of a gas station at Belgrove Drive and Passaic Ave. The culprit, Dowie noted, had taken advantage of the fact that the station had no electrical power in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, broke in through a garage window and absconded with cigarettes, lottery tickets and cash.

Responding to the scene were Det. Michael Gonzalez and Det. Stephen Podolski, who recovered probable DNA evidence. This was sent to the State Police lab for processing, and last month a probable suspect was ID’d, Dowie said.

That suspect, Brian Kinney, 30, of Kearny, had also been linked to a series of robberies at Payless shoe stores in Kearny and Newark, police said, and was incarcerated at the Essex County Jail. On April 4, he was processed there on the additional Kearny charges of burglary and theft.