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Meet Nutley’s ‘Notables’


By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


The prolific Anthony Buccino (15 books and counting) has just published his latest work: “Nutley Notables,” profiling more than 150 “Men and Women Who Made a Memorable Impact on Our Hometown.”

Included, of course, is Annie Oakley, whom everyone in Nutley knows once lived here. (Yes, outlanders, she did!)

Almost everyone in Nutley knows that this was the hometown of Martha Kostyra, now Martha Stewart.

But do you know about Frances Goodrich? Or Uncle Fred? Or Grumpy the Clown?

You can meet them, along with political leaders, military heroes, businessmen, scientists, athletes, artists, writers, et al., in the pages of “Nutley Notables.” And you may be surprised at the wide array of talents who called this tree-shaded town home. Or as Buccino describes Nutley: the kind of place “Norman Rockwell only dreamed of illustrating.”

The author started accumulating material, including photos and sketches, about three years ago, doing research at the Nutley Historical Society and the Nutley Public Library. The library, he noted, “had five five-drawer cabinets full of clippings. I spent a couple of weeks going through those.”

In fact, his research produced so much information, he is already working on Volume 2 of “Nutley Notables” and has compiled a five-page list of names.

But back to the current book. We had a chance just to skim through it, but we did finally learn how Annie Oakley ended up here. The world-renowned sharpshooter performed with a circus that used to visit Nutley (performances were held on what would later become the Hoffmann-LaRoche property). She fell in love with the town and, in 1892, she and her husband, Frank Butler, built a house at 304 Grant Ave. Because of their travels, they lived in it intermittently for about 10 years. Alas, it was torn down in 1937.

Frances Goodrich was born in Belleville but grew up in Nutley. She and her husband, Albert Hackett, became celebrated screenwriters and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights and based the fan-favorite Nick and Nora Charles movie characters on themselves.

They also wrote the screenplay for that holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and Buccino has surmised that Goodrich based the Bedford Falls bridge, which has a key role in the plot, on her memories of the Passaic River bridge that joins Nutley to Lyndhurst. (It’s possible. The bridge is 100 years old. But if Goodrich saw its traffic mess today, she’d put it in a horror movie.)

When we found “Uncle Fred” in the book, we were gleeful. Fred Sayles hosted a long-long-ago children’s cartoon show called “Junior Frolics,” which was broadcast live from a studio in Newark. And it was on this show that your correspondent, at age 5 or so, made her television debut. As a member of the audience, sitting on a little grandstand with the host and a dozen other kids.

And because it was a Saturday, we got cake! (The Monday-Friday audiences got zilch.)

Grumpy the Clown (a/k/a Weary Willie) we had never heard of. “Nutley Notables” explains that Grumpy performed with a traveling circus in the 1800s. He carried a bag of gold coins, and if you could make him smile, you’d get the coins. Apparently, no one ever did.

When Grumpy died, he was buried in an unmarked grave in a potter’s field, now part of the cemetery at Franklin Reformed Church on Prospect St. There was no money for a headstone, the book explains, so when the circus came back to town the following year, his friends planted a pine tree on the grave. “Nutley Notables” has a recent photo of the now-stately tree. (You might like to pay a visit. Maybe that will finally make him smile.)

All these people and more are in “Nutley Notables,” which you can order at www.nutleynotables.com or Amazon.com.

And if you’re wondering why we didn’t profile Martha Stewart’s Nutley links, it’s because we are not a fan of Martha Stewart. If you’re interested in her, read the book.

Market fined for violations


A local supermarket was fined $700 plus court costs by Municipal Court Judge Thomas McKeon on Nov. 20 after being found guilty of several health code infractions.

Kearny Environmental Health Inspector Catherine Santangelo said the court action stemmed from the annual inspection of the A & J Seabra Supermarket, 180 Schuyler Ave., on Aug. 18, which uncovered 16 violations involving “critical control points” in food handling.

These included: non-compliance with employee hand washing, blocked access to sink, faulty refrigerator thermometers, cleaning issues, improper food coverage and manager’s failure to demonstrate knowledge of food safety procedures.

These deficiencies resulted in a rating of “conditional satisfactory” for the market.

“When we re-inspected on Sept. 12, we found that there were still a lot of the same violations,” Santangelo said. Those resulted in the issuing of three summonses for person-in-charge failing to show knowledge of food safety regulations, hand-wash sink not accessible and hand cleansers not fully stocked and failure of employees to wash hands.

A third inspection made on Sept. 30 showed sufficient compliance to qualify for a “satisfactory” rating, but the market was still required to deal with the summonses, which led to the court-imposed penalties, Santangelo said.

“We anticipate continued compliance,” she added.

No food from the store was embargoed as a result of the inspection process, Santangelo said. “There have been conditional ratings for this location in the past,” she said, “but not serious enough to order a closing.”

This year, more than 30 local food-related businesses received conditional ratings – some still pending re-inspections – out of a total of “close to 200” in operation, according to Santangelo. “We had a slight increase this year and that may be related to the recession, with businesses cutting back on employees, exterminating services, equipment and employee training.”

Santangelo said James Farm Market on Passaic Ave., was closed for a day after it received an “unsatisfactory” rating in July but the business was forced to shut after it, like several other retailers in the same location, were displaced by a mall development project now in progress.

– Ron Leir 

Home for the holidays


With the holidays fast approaching, I know I speak for all my colleagues at The Observer when I wish all our faithful readers, subscribers and advertisers the very best of New Year greetings.

And, if we can manage to take a breather from frenzied, last-minute holiday shopping expeditions, let’s also consider those among us who are less fortunate, those who’ve fallen on hard times and are still struggling to stay afloat.

I’m thinking of the families in Kearny and elsewhere, doing all they can to meet obligations for basic necessities, whether it’s managing to keep a roof over their heads with monthly rent or mortgage and utility payments, medical bills, food and clothing.

But it’s certainly shelter that’s got to be at the top of the list because without that, you’ve got nothing. Living in a car, on the street or in an emergency shelter (assuming you can find one), you’re at the mercy of the elements or those who prey on others.

Homelessness can only lead to instability at best and degradation at worst. And if children are involved, the potential for harm is heightened even more.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a nationwide advocacy group whose mission is to prevent homelessness, reports that, “In January 2014, there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States.

“Of that number, 216,197 are people in families, and 362,163 are individuals. “

About 15% of the homeless population – 84,291 – are considered ‘chronically homeless’ individuals, and about 9% of homeless people – 49,933 – are veterans.”

These figures are based on “point-in-time counts,” which are conducted by volunteers in each community on a single night in January every other year. The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development requires communities to submit the data to HUD to qualify for federal homeless assistance funding.

Obviously, a lot of people end up being homeless because they can’t afford the rents or property taxes being charged in their communities and there’s a lack of “affordable housing” where they live.

Here in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie – who could be in a position to dictate national housing policy by 2017 – hasn’t demonstrated much concern for helping the homeless in the Garden State. In fact, he has pushed for the dismantling of the N.J. Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) which had mandated that developers set aside a certain percentage of dwelling units to accommodate those with lower incomes or donate a one-time payment to a community’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Since 2010, when Christie issued an executive order to squash COAH, the council has been rendered impotent and enmeshed in litigation.

At the same time, the Christie administration has loosened building, zoning and environmental regulations to help expedite construction of big ticket housing developments, along with a smattering of some “affordable” projects for older folks.

Recent examples are the newly completed 15-unit Harrison Senior Residence and the senior citizen building with 137 apartments now under development in Belleville.

While the economy may be showing signs of recovery, the National Alliance points out that, “homelessness is often described as a ‘lagging indicator,’ meaning it takes time for economic and housing trends to impact trends in homelessness.”

National commentators note that while the percent of unemployed may have dropped in the last year, based on jobless claims filed, that may likely mask the fact that many people have simply given up looking for work and, therefore, remain uncounted.

While the Alliance acknowledges that the number of homeless counted fell from 633,782 to 610,042 between 2012 and 2013, does that offer much consolation to those still out there pounding the pavement?

I can reliably report, just by driving to and from Jersey City and Kearny, having seen more people begging along the road at the convergence of Rts. 7 and 1&9 in the past few years. Initially, I would see the same individual who would sleep under the overhead highway. Of late, however, I have seen increasing numbers – men and women – walking somberly and politely alongside cars stopped at the traffic light, hoping for a handout.

When I present an “offering,” it is invariably accepted with a humbling response of “God bless you!” and “Drive safe!” – a fitting greeting for any season. Even better are the words from Dickens’ creation, Tiny Tim, when he exclaims:

“God Bless Us, Everyone.”

– Ron Leir 



Through the years I have always been interested in Belleville’s school children and schools.

I am a member of the BUC (Belleville United Coalition) and will continue to be interested.

I’m an old timer. I graduated BHS in 1946 and stayed involved and acted as lead in our seven class reunions.

Our last one with 75 (39 classmates) attending was held at the Forest Hill Club for a 65th. And the money not used for an open bar was used for scholarships and one tree was planted by the flag for our 50th reunion celebration.

You see, then, there are even older people in the town that have never given up. With recent obstacles that are being looked into, we pray for a recovery and look to people like yourselves to help with the recovery.

My love of Belleville is unending and the crisis it has been in for too many years is disturbing to me as a resident and property owner.

With that said, I wish to acknowledge how pleased I was to see [in a weekly newspaper] the pictures of the young adults at their latest event for the 2015 graduation class. How wonderful to see the beautifully dressed seniors.

I have tried for years to get our school personnel to advertise our kids more.

It is important that our kids get seen to the residents as active.

Just a reminder that since our township and school system is trying to recover from a bad era, may we all work together for better times.

Thank you..

Eleanor Strollo 


State to study problem bridges


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

Two long-neglected Passaic River vehicular bridges have been targeted for rehabilitation or replacement by a state transit agency.

They are: the DeJessa Memorial (Kingsland Ave.) Bridge that links Lyndhurst and Nutley and the Bridge St. Bridge which connects Harrison and Newark.

On Monday, Dec. 4, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority voted to prioritize planning studies for each “functionally obsolete” span.

The NJTPA earmarked $750,000 for a study of the DeJessa Bridge and $600,000 for the Bridge St. Bridge to devise a “preferred alternative” strategy for remedying the various deficiencies of each.

Both are movable swing bridges, designed to allow for the passage of marine traffic.

The Kingsland bridge, rededicated in 1981 to the memory of U.S. Marine Joseph Carmine DeJessa, the first Lyndhurst resident killed in the Vietnam War, was built in 1905 and refurbished in 1986.

The Bridge St. Bridge, a thruway for County Rt. 508, was constructed in 1913 and rehabilitated in 1981. Motorists have only one lane to cross in each direction and the bridgekeepers require four hours’ notice to swing open the bridges for passing vessels. The Bridge St. Bridge is listed on the N.J. Register of Historic Places. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy knocked its two electric motors out of commission, along with old mechanical parts that allow the bridge to open and close. And that created delays for barges transporting contaminated soil being excavated, at the time, from a section of Lyndhurst mudflats along the Passaic riverbank.

At the DeJessa Bridge, state traffic studies reportedly show that more than 40,000 vehicles use that bridge daily and officials from Bergen and Essex counties agree that the bridge is simply not equipped to bear that kind of load.

And commuters complain that they’re subjected to further delays by poor synchronization of traffic lights on either side of the bridge and on the bridge itself.

Lyndhurst, in conjunction with Bergen County, is now in the process of making adjustments to the intersection at Kingsland and Park Aves., including new dedicated turning signals, and expansions of rights of way along the bridge approach that, officials hope, will help relieve some of the traffic buildup.

Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso said he was happy to hear about the NJTPA’s action. “It only took them nine years,” he added, noting that he’s been agitating that long for a replacement span. “It’s well overdue.”

“We need a new bridge,” the mayor said. “The traffic congestion there is one of the worst in the state. Let’s hope this [planning study] gets moving quickly.’’

In the meantime, he said, commuters can look forward to the installation of a new timing system for the lights on and off the bridge, “once we get synchronized with Nutley. It should happen within a month or two.”

Other bridges prioritized for planning studies are: the Central Ave. Bridge over the Newark City Subway, dating from 1908, $500,000; the Sixth Ave. Bridge over the Passaic River in Passaic County, $600,000; and the Monmouth County (Bingham Ave.) Bridge over the Navesink River. $600,000.

New superintendent expected soon


More than 40 educators have applied for the position of superintendent of schools for the Belleville public school district, according to Board of Education officials.

Board President John Rivera and board member William Freda, who chairs the search committee, said last week that no more applications are being accepted and that the consultant hired by the board to conduct the search, Strategic Educational Advantage of River Edge, was expected to develop a “short list” of candidates soon.

As advertised, candidates must have a New Jersey school administrator certificate and some experience as a central office administrator, along with “knowledge of school finance and budgets.”

Rivera and Freda said that the full board would interview the finalists, as provided by the consultant.

“I would expect that we will get through the interview process quickly so that the board could vote on an appointment in January,” Rivera said.

Whoever gets the job will be inheriting a deficit from the 2013-2014 school year which Tom Egan, the state monitor assigned to the district, has projected at around $4 million. The board is waiting for an audited statement of finances so that it can request an appropriate amount of state aid to cover that gap in next year’s budget.

In late August, the board designated School 4 Principal Ricardo Acosta as acting superintendent in place of the departed Helene Feldman, who resigned with two years remaining in her contract after receiving more than $95,000 in compensation. Last month, the board voted to grant Acosta an additional $2,000 stipend for taking on extra administrative duties.

Last month, the board also hired Robert T. Clark as an interim school business administrator/ board secretary at $500 a day with no benefits. He’ll serve through June 30. He’s a former school business administrator for the Sussex County Vocational School.

The board also appointed Henry Sinatra as interim assistant principal of Belleville Middle School, also through June 30, at $475 a day.

 – Ron Leir 

Pettigrew picked to lead Council 11



Civil Service Council 11, the union that represents nonuniformed civilian employees and crossing guards in Kearny, has elected Bill Pettigrew as its new president.

Pettigrew, who serves as town registrar and public health investigator, defeated Ken Salinski, a public works employee, by a wide margin in balloting held Oct. 17.

Also elected was Nevier Ruiz as first vice president, replacing Shirley Manucci, who retired Dec. 1. Craig Smith retains his office as second vice president.

Pettigrew, who has served on the union’s executive board for the past decade, takes over for Mary Ann Ryan, who retired last year. She had been president for the past eight years.

Council 11, with 83 members, will see its current labor contract with the town expire Dec. 31 and Pettigrew said he’s hoping for “smooth contract negotiations” with the town.

Of late, the union and the town have struggled to maintain labor peace. Council 11 contested the economic layoffs of several of its members a few years ago but a state administrative law judge dismissed its appeal earlier this year and Pettigrew said that any further legal action has been ruled out.

– Ron Leir 

Brothers rescue robbery victim, cops say


Two brothers, both in law enforcement, were credited with thwarting a would-be street robbery in the borough last Wednesday night.

Police Chief Louis Ghione said the episode unfolded at about 10:45 p.m. after a 29-year-old woman exited a bus at the stop at Garden Terrace and Ridge Road and, as she was walking home, noticed that a man was following her.

Ghione said the woman crossed the street a couple of times in an effort to shake her pursuer but the man persisted so she pulled out her cellular phone to call for help.

As soon as she took out the phone, the man grabbed her handbag which was laced around her shoulder, and in doing so, pulled her to the ground, prompting her to scream for help, Ghione said.

Luckily, Anthony Ferrer, an off-duty sheriff’s officer, and Nicholas Ferrer, an off-duty corrections officer, happened to be in the area, heard her and came to her aid, managing to detain the man until officers arrived, the chief said.

The suspect, Michael Fernandez, 34, of Kearny, was charged with robbery, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer. He was additionally charged with two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia after cops allegedly found a hypodermic needle and glassine pipe on him, according to Ghione.

“He’s an admitted heroin user,” the chief said.

As a result of her tussle with the suspect, the woman had bruises to her elbows and scrapes to her knees, he said. Fernandez was taken to the Bergen County Jail, pending court action, after failing to post $25,000 bail.

– Ron Leir 

Mazur’s Bakery reopens under new management

Steven Leyva, president and CEO of the Sugarflake Bakery chain, operating in Westwood, Wyckoff and Fair Lawn, has announced the grand reopening of Mazur’s Bakery on Ridge Road in Lyndhurst.

Mazur’s is a South Bergen landmark, having originally opened in 1937 and operated by the namesake family for 66 years until 2003. In September 2013, the business, acquired 10 years earlier by another proprietor, closed.

Leyva, himself a second-generation baker with extensive experience in the industry, noted: “To acquire an iconic spot like Mazur’s Bakery is a wonderful opportunity to bring the quality and product line that is synonymous with the name back to the Lyndhurst, Rutherford and North Arlington area. I truly believe that with my experience and the hard work of my staff, we can restore Mazur’s to its rightful place as one of New Jersey’s most renowned and successful bake shops.”

The store celebrated its reopening Dec. 12 with a ribbon-cutting attended by local government and business leaders.

“The timing is opportune for us as the upcoming Christmas holiday will give us the opportunity to deliver fantastic breads, cakes, pies and other dessert products for celebrations by families and businesses alike and to reintroduce Mazur’s to the local people. I welcome the challenge of serving the knowledgeable and discerning consumers of this wonderful neighborhood,” Leyva said.

A gift to make someone smile

The Smile and Implant Center, Kearny, is offering holiday gift certificates for tooth whitening, cosmetic dentistry, a professional cleaning and even Botox treatments. Gift certificates are available in any denomination.

The Center notes that this is a gift that will last long past the holidays: “A smile is your unique signature. If you or someone you know is not totally pleased with their smile, modern dentistry has much to offer that can enhance one’s natural smile.”

Dr. Blair Schachtel has a “multi-specialty” and fullservice office including a board-certified periodontist, board-certified oral surgeon and dental anesthesiologist all on staff.

Should you have any questions regarding the procedures offered by The Smile and Implant Center, call Alexis Vitetta at 201-991-1055 or visit www.TheSmileandImplantCenter.com and www.SedationNJ.com for more information.