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Taxes up, but so are public safety ranks

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BELLEVILLE – 

Public safety personnel and capital needs are being addressed as part of the Belleville municipal budget introduced earlier this month – but it comes with a bit of a price tag.

The $58.4 million municipal budget, of which $45.8 million is to be raised by local taxation, is only 1.84% higher than the township’s 2013 spending plan but will still – unless revised when the public hearing is held for its adoption – account for a projected increase of about $62 on the “average” house assessed at $238,200, according to Township Manager Kevin Esposito.

How property owners’ tax bills will be impacted by local school costs and the local share of the Essex County budget remains to be seen but if projections of a $2.5 million Board of Education deficit are accurate, that alone could drive up taxes by more than $200 on the average homeowner, Esposito said.

On the municipal side of the ledger, Esposito said a $300,000 spike in the cost of snow removal this past winter, when a cumulative total of 70 inches fell in the area, along with an uptick in employee health insurance premiums, helped push spending up.

The 2015 budget is designed to make room for 16 new police officers, of whom four are now undergoing training in the Police Academy and the township expects to send the other 12 to the Academy by September, according to Esposito.

Seven additional firefighters are also being added to the Fire Department roster, thanks to a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant that pays for salaries and benefits for two years.

With the new cops, the township will be “a few officers shy” of the ordinance strength called for by the Police Department’s Table of Organization and the Fire Department will also fall short of its T.O., but at least it’s taking steps to try and build up its public safety capability under fiscal restraints, Esposito said.

The township recently secured a 2014 E1 HP 100-foot aerial ladder fire truck with a 2,000-gallon-per minute pump, manufactured in Ocala, Fla., and acquired for $880,000 through a Houston/Galveston purchasing cooperative from a New Jersey vendor, Absolute Fire Protection, of South Plainfield. It will replace a 1992 rig.

The Fire Department also got a new ambulance, a 2014 Freightliner with a 170-inch box, built by PL Custom, of Manasquan, and acquired from N.J. Emergency Vehicles, a division of PL Custom, at a cost of $218,000 through the same purchasing cooperative. The department’s 2007 ambulance, with 114,000 miles logged, will become a backup vehicle for now.

Both new vehicles come equipped with a diesel exhaust fluid system.

“We are in the process of looking at our capital needs for 2015 and, specifically, replacing our aging pickup trucks which are used all seasons and some of which date from 1992,” Esposito said.

Additionally, he said, “At our July 1 Township Council meeting, we will be introducing a bond ordinance for our annual road improvement program, into which we hope to incorporate funds for the completion of the new Friendly House recreation center. At that time, we’ll make a decision on what equipment we want to purchase.”

– Ron Leir 

Guilty plea in massive scam

A Lyndhurst man, owner of a Jersey City jewelry store, pleaded guilty last week to a role in what authorities termed one of the largest credit card fraud schemes ever charged by the U.S. Justice Department.

According to New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, 51-year-old Vinod Dadlani used his shop, Tanishq Jewels, in a scam in which the conspirators fabricated more than 7,000 identities and obtained tens of thousands of credit cards. The result: over $200 million in confirmed losses to businesses and banks.

Dadlani, indicted last October, pleaded guilty June 18 in Federal Court in Trenton to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gain/loss caused by the offense. He is reportedly the 17th conspirator to admit guilt.

According to authorities, the scheme involved a process in which the defendants would create a false identity and a fraudulent credit profile with the major credit bureaus and then doctor the credit reports to pump up their spending/ borrowing power.

“They then borrowed or spent as much as they could, based on the phony credit history, but did not repay the debts,” Fishman’s office said.

Fishman’s office said Dadlani admitted that other conspirators came to his store, where he allowed them to swipe cards he knew did not legitimately belong to them. Dadlani would then split the proceeds of the phony transactions with them.

Tanishq Jewels was one of many complicit businesses involved in the scam, which reportedly operated from 2003 until early 2013.

“The scope of the criminal fraud enterprise required Dadlani’s conspirators to construct an elaborate network of false identities,” a statement from Fishman noted. “Across the country, the conspirators maintained more than 1,800 ‘drop addresses,’ including houses, apartments and post office boxes, which they used as the mailing addresses for the false identities.”

Dadlani’s sentencing is scheduled Sept. 24 before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson in Trenton.

– Karen Zautyk

In KPD database, they’re #busted

KEARNY – 

Following a nearly threemonth investigation, Kearny police have arrested two suspects in connection with the theft of 158 computers from a local business. Some of the stolen Panasonic Toughbooks, with a total value of $286,000, later showed up for sale on the internet, KPD Chief John Dowie told The Observer.

The equipment was reported missing from a South Kearny company March 17. After the initial report was filed by Officer Jack Corbett, the case was turned over to Det. Ray Lopez, who started putting together the pieces of a complicated puzzle, Dowie said.

During the investigation, the Toughbooks started turning up on sites such as eBay, offered for sale by a “Jersey Joe,” police said. Lopez reportedly also tracked 17 of the computers to North Carolina and worked with the NYPD to gather information. Eventually, the detective narrowed his focus to two employees of the company that had been hit.

On June 9, suspect Ricardo Guzman, 37, of Elizabeth, turned himself in at KPD headquarters, police reported. Lopez and Det. Sgt. John View arrested the second alleged thief, James Steen, 43, of Hackettstown, on June 12 at the South Kearny business.

Both men have been charged with theft and conspiracy.

Charges are pending against at least two other individuals, Dowie said

 – Karen Zautyk 

KHS graduation day marred by mishap

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KEARNY –

Two Kearny teenagers were shaken up after their vehicle was involved in an accident on Kearny Ave. this past Friday afternoon, police said.

The accident, which occurred near the Locust Ave. intersection, involved two cars, one of which was rear-ended, according to police, who detoured traffic away from the location.

Police said the two teens – who, according to friends at the scene, were Kearny High seniors – were taken by Kearny EMS ambulance to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville for evaluation.

The teens’ car was towed while the owner of the second car drove that vehicle away, police said. An engine crew from the Kearny Fire Department responded to hose down the street.

The accident happened only a few hours before the scheduled Kearny High School graduation ceremony and, in what has become an annual custom, many Kearny High seniors typically ride up and down Kearny Ave., the main street in town, honking their horns and shouting greetings as they go. Whether this was the case in Friday’s incident, police couldn’t confirm.

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One student on Kearny Ave. said he didn’t see the accident but sometimes, he said, the seniors who ride along the avenue “are honking their horns and shouting out the windows and they don’t pay attention to traffic.”

On Friday, police said they didn’t know the extent of any injuries the teens may have suffered but Kearny High Principal Al Gilson, reached over the weekend, said the students “did attend graduation and we’re really happy about that.”

Mayor Alberto Santos said the mishap brought to mind an incident that, he said, happened on a high school graduation day in 2008 in which a student “surfing” on a pickup truck fell from the vehicle and was killed.

When informed about the “tradition,” Gilson – who is completing his first year in the Kearny school district – said he was unaware of the history but it was “something I’m going to address with the [acting] superintendent (Patricia Blood).”

 – Ron Leir 

Thoughts & Views: 52 million without country to call their own

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Imagine a winter scenario in which New York Gov. Cuomo is persuaded that his neighbors are meddling with the intrastate bridges and tunnels and orders out the Empire State militia and National Guard to invade the Garden State.

The state government in Trenton quickly topples, Gov. Christie abandons Drumthwacket and the State Police provide him with a high speed escort to a top secret Morris County retreat – quicker than you can say, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Meanwhile, the Cuomo invaders don’t stop with taking over all transportation infrastructure – they begin occupying all state, county and local government offices, postal facilities, schools, businesses and forcing residents out of their homes, confiscating everything from private vehicles to farmlands, looting and burning as they go.

Hapless New Jersey defenders quickly disappear into the Pinelands and displaced civilians – grabbing only what they can easily carry – stream onto the local roads (Turnpike, Parkway, Rts. 3 and 280 all blocked by N.Y. militia) and head for Pennsylvania and Delaware in hope of finding refuge there.

Those states grudgingly permit the frozen, weary travelers entry but, with their economies already taxed to the limit, bureaucrats scramble to set up temporary lodgings in second-hand trailers and tents scrounged from FEMA. Food is trucked in – when the snow-packed roads are negotiable and not being strafed by New York drones – from scant emergency pantries.

Hard to imagine? Yes, indeed, but that’s the kind of life that millions of people – more than 50 million by one United Nations estimate – around the globe are facing as a result of being displaced from their native lands.

As reported by The Guardian on June 19, “The number of people forced to flee their homes across the world has exceeded 50 million for the first time since the second world war, an exponential rise that is stretching host countries and aid organizations to the breaking point, according to figures released [by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees]” for 2013.

The Guardian quoted UNHCR head Antonio Guterres as saying, “We are witnessing a quantum leap in forced displacement in the world.”

By the UNHCR’s calculations, the civil war in Syria bumped up the 2012 global count by 6 million alone. As reported by The Guardian, “By the end of last year, 2.5 million Syrians had fled across the country’s borders and 6.5 million were internally displaced – more than 40% of the population.”

Fighting in the Central African Republic and South Sudan accounted for further displacement, the international agency report said.

An average of 32,200 people had to leave their homes every day, according to the agency. That’s comparable to the communities of Garfield or Orange or Fair Lawn suddenly emptying out.

Of the estimated 51.2 million forced to leave their homes worldwide, the UNHCR classifies 16.7 million as “refugees,” of whom Palestinians, Afghans, Syrians and Somalis comprise about half the total and are being absorbed primarily by Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Nearly 1.2 million of the global total are listed as “asylum seekers,” the majority of whom are being hosted by Germany.

And 33.3 million of the total are “internally displaced people,” meaning they were forced out of their homes but stayed in their home countries.

Of those who end up leaving their homelands, Guterres says that many are preyed on by “increasingly sophisticated trafficking gangs” who use “rape, torture, sexual exploitation, organ harvesting, extortion and murder” to exploit them.

Needless to say, children – thousands unaccompanied by parents or relatives – are the most defenseless against such criminality.

The U.S., of course, continues to struggle with its own “hosting” of immigrants, many fleeing north from impoverished Central America or from criminal gangs in Mexico. Periodic calls for “immigration reform” measures were heard on Capitol Hill but the House and the Senate have been unable to agree on legislation.

And so runs the world away from one of its most pressing people issues.

– Ron Leir 

Longtime coach promoted in police ranks

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

EAST NEWARK – 

He’s been a longtime West Hudson youth coach, a Hometown Hero, a ground zero volunteer. And now, he’s known as Police Sgt. Michael J. O’Donnell, having been installed in that rank by East Newark’s governing body on June 11.

O’Donnell, 43, had been serving as a police superior in an acting capacity, since Oct. 9, 2013, and now that he’s passed his probationary period, he’s been made permanent in the position.

Aside from the chief, O’Donnell is the only other superior officer in the borough’s small Police Department.

“He’s a hard worker, great with kids and good with people,” said his boss, Police Chief Anthony Monteiro. “In a community our size, a sergeant has a lot more responsibilities than in the larger departments, whether it’s making out reports or calling a judge for bail in the middle of the night. In this town, he is it.”

A 1989 Kearny High School graduate, O’Donnell served in the U.S. Navy about three and a half years as a non-combat veteran, mostly in Japan, completing with an E-3 pay grade.

He spent seven years as a corrections officer with the state Department of Corrections, assigned to East Jersey State Prison, Rahway.

It was during that period that O’Donnell volunteered with many other law enforcement agents in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center, for which the DOC honored him with an award for exceptional conduct. Nine years ago, O’Donnell successfully applied for a position as an officer with the East Newark Police Department and he’s never looked back. This is his sixth year running the Police Department’s DARE program, which makes kids aware of the dangers of substance abuse, in partnership with the borough Public School.

O’Donnell and Monteiro both received citations from Kearny Police Chief John Dowie for their arrest of four suspects wanted in connection with the armed robbery of an Exxon service station on Passaic Ave. on Feb. 28, 2007.

In 2008, O’Donnell was named a Hometown Hero in recognition of his police work and dedication to local youths.

For some time, he’s been an active supporter of area youth recreation programs as a coach and umpire. “I ran the Pop Warner program in Harrison for 16 years and I just got hired by the Harrison Board of Education as an assistant high school football coach,” O’Donnell said.

In 2005 the United Irish Association of West Hudson selected O’Donnell as deputy parade marshal for its annual St. Patrick’s Parade.

O’Donnell and his wife, the former Donna Gilmore, have four daughters – Christina, 23, who is graduating from Kean University; Briana, 20, completing her second year at Bergen County Community College; Amber, 16, a Harrison High School junior; and Haley, 11, a fifth-grader at East Newark Public School – and a son, Michael, 15, a Harrison High freshman.

A special day for N. Arlington child

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NORTH ARLINGTON –

A 10-year-old borough lad was the center of attention recently when he was selected “Chief for the Day” by the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association in cooperation with Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino.

Now in its third year, the program seeks to recognize youngsters with special needs from around the county and make them feel good about themselves in their home communities.

On June 6, with the help of input from the borough Board of Education and the child study team at Washington School, fifth-grader Miguel Vega, a special needs youngster, was ceremonially sworn in as North Arlington’s chief by Mayor Peter Massa at Borough Hall and met borough employees.

Then, Miguel was taken to the borough Police Department where he “took over,” sitting in the private office of Chief Louis Ghione, and, after being outfitted with his own special police uniform, with the chief’s guidance, delivered “orders of the day” to the rank and file and “signed off” on purchase orders and sorted through official police reports.

Miguel was also able to phone his dad, a truck driver on the road, and identified himself as “Chief Mike.”

During an “inspection” of the police motor pool, Miguel found out what it felt like to sit on a police motorcycle and inside a patrol car where he activated the lights and siren.

Next stop for Miguel was the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack where he was introduced to, and mingled with, some 35 of his peers from around the county who were also honored that day.

Photos courtesy North Arlington PD TOP: Miguel and the chief share time in Ghione’s office. BOTTOM: Miguel tries out a police motorcycle on his special day.

Photos courtesy North Arlington PD
TOP: Miguel and the chief share time in Ghione’s office. BOTTOM: Miguel tries out a police motorcycle on his special day.

 

He was photographed with Chief Ghione on the courthouse steps and that picture was incorporated into a framed plaque that the borough presented him as a souvenir of his special day. As the culminating event for the day, Miguel and his mother Lilia were given a motorcycle police escort to the Empire Club in Little Ferry for a luncheon.

Johnston Communications, a North Arlington firm that does a lot of charitable work, paid for Miguel’s uniform and plaque and the meals for Miguel and his mom, according to Ghione.

“This is our third year participating in the program and each time it’s more rewarding for me because we’re focused on what’s important – the people in this community,” the chief said.

 – Ron Leir

It’s dinner, music & comedy … and much more, at Whiskey Cafe

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

LYNDHURST – 

If you’re looking for a New York City-like night out, but don’t want the hassle or prices of Manhattan, you need not look all that far away — as Whiskey Café Restaurant and Night Club, at 1050 Wall St., has plenty for locals to do, every night of the week.

Among the newest events at Whiskey Café is Dinner, Music & Comedy, featuring music by Allan Boles and the comedy of Kelly Shannon & Friends, on Fridays, 6 to 10 p.m.

Normally, Fridays at Whiskey are associated with Happy Hour, but with the summer here and with many people drawn to the Shore for the weekend, owner Frank Morganti says he wanted something enjoyable for those who don’t go away.

“We really wanted something new and something special for Fridays,” Morganti said. “And we think we have that with live music and comedy.”

The Friday dinner menu has items for just $10.95, and includes soup or salad and an entrée. For just $4.95 more, you can add an appetizer or dessert. And best of all — there’s no cover for the shows.

Boles performs from 6 to 9 p.m., and then Shannon hits the stage from 9 to 10 p.m.

There’s so much more than just what happens Friday nights, too. For the next few weeks, Whiskey will show every World Cup Soccer game on its numerous large-screen HDTVs.

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Photo courtesy Whiskey Cafe A few of the many cars you’ll find at Whiskey Café Saturday nights between 5 and 10 p.m. as part of the American Cruisers weekly car cruise.

Photo courtesy Whiskey Cafe
A few of the many cars you’ll find at Whiskey Café Saturday nights between 5 and 10 p.m. as part of the American Cruisers weekly car cruise.

 

On Monday nights, it’s paint night at 7 p.m. — where an artist comes in and shows patrons how to paint while responsibly enjoying some adult beverages. (Advance tickets are required — and can be purchased for $25 from a link at www.WhiskeyCafe.com).

“We stated out with about 10 people, but it’s grown to be really popular now,” Morganti said. “We’ve got about 40 coming on Monday nights — and they really seem to be enjoying it.”

On Wednesdays, it’s country music night starting at 7 p.m. — and a $10 cover gets you access to a full buffet starting at 8 p.m.

On Thursday nights, it’s Salsa Summer — and that includes a 7 p.m. Salsa dance lesson, as well as a great night of Salsa music. That’s only $5.

Perhaps the most noted night of all is Saturdays, when around 500 classic, new and specialty cars make their way to Whiskey from 5 to 10 p.m. as part of American Cruisers’ largest regularly scheduled car cruise. There’s no cost for the car show, but the American Cruisers do accept donations as patrons arrive.

While all that’s happening, there’s always some kind of live entertainment, from dance music to oldies and bands, including Classic 45 Oldies Band on June 28.

Bottom line — if you’re looking for something to do, you’re going to find something enjoyable every night of the week at Whiskey Café.

“We’re really happy with what’s happening here — and we hope more people come out and give us a try,” Morganti said. “They won’t leave disappointed.”

The Whiskey Café Restaurant & Night Club is located at 1050 Wall St., Lyndhurst. Contact them at 201-939-4889 or visit them online at www.WhiskeyCafe.com for more information.

KPD blotter: Accosted by gunman

A Kearny man was robbed at gunpoint in the early hours of Saturday, June 14, in the area of Sanford and Harrison Aves., police reported.

The 19-year-old victim told responding Officer Dean Gasser that at about 1:40 a.m., he had just parked his car on Sanford when he was approached by two males, one of whom displayed a handgun and demanded, “Give me everything you’ve got.” The victim turned over a small amount of currency, his driver’s license and college ID and an iPhone.

The robbers fled west on Harrison Ave. in a newer model SUV, police said.

Det. Ray Lopez is conducting the investigation.

Other recent reports from the Kearny police blotter included the following:

June 12 

Vice detectives, conducting surveillance at Kearny Ave. and Halstead St. at 5:15 p.m., saw what they believed to be a drug transaction taking place in a double-parked car. They stopped the vehicle at Garfield Ave. and Forest St., where the driver, Isael Aquino, 27, of Kearny, was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and operating a motor vehicle in possession of a CDS.

Police said Aquino was also found to have a suspended license and an outstanding Kearny warrant. His passenger, John Arboleda, 24, of Kearny, was charged with possession of the drug and paraphernalia and possession with intent to distribute.

June 13 

At 2:30 a.m., Officer Ben Wuelfing was dispatched to Kearny and Wilson Aves. on a report of a person asleep in a car. He arrived to find a man snoozing behind the wheel of a Hyundai that was stopped in the northbound lane of Kearny Ave., the car still in drive and the man’s foot on the brake, police said. Wuelfing put it in park, removed the keys, awoke the driver and conducted field sobriety tests, after which Javier Solano, 22, of Belleville, was charged with DWI, DWI in a school zone, being an unlicensed driver and obstructing traffic.

Office Jay Ward responded to Devon Terrace at 2:40 p.m. on a report of people removing items from a home believed to be vacant. Ward reportedly saw two individuals loading household goods into a parked pickup truck and contacted the realtor, who told the officer the property was in foreclosure and no one had authority to take anything. Nicholas Reinoso, 54, of Newark, was charged with theft. Gladys Perez, 62, also of Newark, was arrested on an outstanding warrant from that city.

June 14 

At 9 p.m., Officer Daniel Esteves responded to the 800 block of Kearny Ave., where a southbound Nissan pickup truck had rear-ended a Honda Accord.

The truck’s driver, Tyler Mills, 19, of Douglasville, Ga., was charged with DWI, underage consumption of alcohol, having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle and careless driving.

 June 16

An off-duty state trooper alerted the KPD at 10:30 p.m. to a suspicious vehicle and two individuals who were looking into cars and driveways near Kearny and Stuyvesant Aves. While Officer Chris Medina gathered information from the trooper, Officer Ben Wuelfing checked the area and found a parked white Ford van with New York plates. He also encountered Wilmer Barona, 25, of Queens, who police said could not provide a legitimate explanation for being there. Barona was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Elizabeth. Also arrested, on a warrant from Leonia, was Brayan Castano, 25, of Queens.

June 17 

A Jersey City man had a bit of bad luck when his car broke down in South Kearny at about 10 a.m., and it involved more than just a disabled vehicle.

Officer Joseph Vulcano found that the driver, 29-year-old Darrow Younger, was wanted by the Hudson County Sheriff ’s Office, police said. Younger, who reportedly also had a suspended license and suspended registration, was arrested.

June 18 

Officer Richard Carbone was on patrol at 3:30 p.m. when he saw three individuals trespassing on railroad property near Schuyler Ave. and West Hudson Park. While interviewing them, he noticed a strong odor of raw marijuana and one of the trio was found to have four large plastic bags of suspected pot in a backpack, which also contained a marijuana grinder, a pipe, a digital scale and numerous empty plastic bags, police said.

Joseph Lamboy, 29, of Harrison, was charged with possession of more than 50 grams of the drug, possession with intent to distribute, and possession with intent near a school and a park. He was remanded to the Hudson County Jail on $25,000 bail.

 – Karen Zautyk  

Brother’s Bakery is on a roll – and it takes the cake!

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY –

If you’ve ever driven past Brother’s Quality Bakery- Deli late at night, chances are you’ve smelled that incredible scent coming from the ovens. If you pause for a second right now, you can probably recall just how great an aroma it is.

And if you’ve ordered a sandwich of any kind — especially that Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwich — you’ve probably had it on a roll made at Brother’s.

And yet, in a real sense, Brother’s Bakery is so much more than just its bread. And it’s been that way for close to 40 years now.

“We offer some of the finest French and Italian breads available,” said Brother’s general manager Jackie Diaz. “We also offer cakes for any occasion, custom-made cakes, 3-D cakes and more — and we always use the freshest ingredients. Never anything frozen.”

Brother’s is also known for distributing its well-loved bread throughout the region.

“We distribute all over,” Diaz said. “We have customers in Scotch Plains, customers in New York City — all over really.”

Brother’s also recently made the decision to reopen its deli.

“We had had a deli before but stopped,” Diaz said. “But our customers told us they wanted the deli back. They always use our breads for their sandwiches, so it made sense that if they came here, they could do it all in one stop. And we love our customers for it.

“Many people come in, start off with a cup of coffee, then get a sandwich — and then finish things off with dessert.”

Diaz says customers can get all kinds of sandwiches made, including paninis and wraps.

Thomas Gencarelli and his family have owned Brother’s since the day its doors opened in 1976. It was Tommy, Nick and Frank Gencarelli who started the business. And now Tommy runs the bakery with Diaz.

Diaz says she and Tommy are grateful for their loyal customers who keep coming back, day in and day out, year in and year out.

“We really do appreciate our customers’ support,” she said. “We always try our best to provide the best quality products — and it’s our hope we continue to do so for many years to come.”

Considering how many people across the country ask on Facebook about having bread delivered to them — including many in Florida — it makes sense Brother’s will continue to be one of Kearny’s greatest and longest- standing businesses for a long time to come.

Said one Facebook fan: “Good morning Brother’s Bakery. I would like to recommend that you ship your hard rolls out of state to Florida by prepaid special request.”

Brother’s Bakery is located at 365 Kearny Ave., at Liberty St., Kearny. For information, call 201-991-4364 or find them on Facebook at www.facebook. com/BrothersQuality- BakeryNJ. Hours of operation are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Saturday; and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.