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2 teens are charged in Kearny arson


By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


A cooperative investigation by the Kearny Fire Department and Police Department into a devastating house fire on Garfield Ave. last month has resulted in the arrest of two township youths on arson charges.

The suspects, aged 15 and 16, are both students at Kearny High School. After being taken into custody last week, they were remanded to the Hudson County Youth House.

Police Chief John Dowie characterized the boys’ actions as “just a random arson attack” as opposed to the targeting of specific victims.

The two-alarm blaze gutted a single-family home on Garfield Ave. at the corner of Elm St. on Nov. 10.

It was reported at 3 a.m. and quickly spread through the structure. The occupants, a man and a woman, were able to escape, but the man suffered minor smoke inhalation after he reentered the house to rescue three dogs, Dowie said.

KFD Chief Inspector John Donovan, who conducted the initial investigation, determined that the fire apparently started, not indoors, but outside the Elm St. side of the house, towards the rear of the property.

For it to begin outside, “it took some human intervention,” Donovan noted.

The starting point could also be identified by the burn patterns on the building.

Once arson was suspected, KPD Sgt. Rick Poplaski and Det. John Plaugic joined Donovan in the investigation. Plaugic canvassed the neighborhood for witnesses and obtained security videos from cooperative homeowners. Dowie said the footage showed “two shadowy figures” heading south on Elm at about the same time the blaze broke out.

After the direction of flight was determined, Plaugic, Det. Lt. Anthony Gouveia and Det. Michael Gonzalez located more residential videos. One tape, provided by a homeowner in the area of Elm St. and Bergen Ave., reportedly gave a clearer view of the suspects and the route they traveled.

Even clearer videos were then located by Gonzalez at two businesses near Bergen and Kearny Aves. These were provided to the KPD for viewing “in house” by patrol officers, Dowie said. Officer John Fabula passed the descriptions on to his street sources and obtained the first name of one possible suspect, and the department’s Kearny H.S. school resource officer, Steve Montanino, was then able to furnish the teen’s full name and address, Dowie reported.

On Dec. 2, after questioning at headquarters, the 16-yearold and, subsequently, his alleged 15-year-old accomplice, were charged with arson, aggravated arson and conspiracy to commit arson.

Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl, noting the “cooperative effort” between the departments, commended both Donovan for his “efforts and diligence” and the police for their “very good detective work.”

Citing the KPD, he said, “I’d like to applaud them.” Dowie thanked the homeowners and merchants who obligingly provided the police with access to their security videos, which helped crack the case.

Regarding two other recent Kearny fires, Donovan reported that a Nov. 20 blaze in a two-family home at 47 Beech St. was accidental and began with a space heater. He said the cause of the Nov. 23 apartment house fire at 425 Beech St. is still undetermined, “but we can’t rule out smoking.”

Those Yuletide fires


By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 

Have you ever seen a Christmas tree go up in flames? If you answered “yes,” I can all but guarantee it was via a video. If you had seen it happen in person, you’d likely not be around to answer the question.

An evergreen, especially a dry one, doesn’t smolder or burn bit by bit. It bursts into flames like a torch, taking with it anything flammable in the vicinity. And then the rest of the room. And the house. If you’d like to see what happens, there’s a video link at www.kearnyusa.com/FireDepartment. On the right side of the page, click on Fire Safety for the Holidays. Which is also what this article is about.

Last week, we sat down with Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl and Chief Fire Inspector John Donovan to get some tips on keeping fire-safe during the season.

Trees are at the top of the list.

According to the National Fire Protection Assoc., 48% of home Christmas-tree fires are caused by electrical problems, and a heat source too close to the trees causes 27%.

Even with an artificial tree, you need take care: Be sure it is labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.

For live trees, safety begins when you’re choosing one. Make sure it has fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

Before placing it in the stand, cut 1 ro 2 inches off the base, to expose fresh wood.

Then, add water to the tree stand DAILY.

Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, including fireplaces, heat vents, radiators, candles and lamps. And make sure it is not blocking any exits.

As for lights, use only those labeled by an independent testing lab. And note that some are for indoor use only, some for outdoor, but not both.

Replace any light strings that have worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Check for frayed or kinked wires. Connect no more that three strands of mini-lights or a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.

Lights usually come with instructions. Follow them.

Turn the tree lights off before leaving the house or going to bed.

And NEVER use real candles on a tree.

When the tree starts dropping needles, it’s time to discard it. And when you do take it outside, don’t stand it against the house.

This is also the season when extension cords tend to proliferate. “Extension cords are for temporary use,” Dyl noted. And “if an outlet looks like an octopus,” you’ve overloaded it. Power strips are good, if they are UL listed and if you don’t overload them.

Extension cords should not be run through the back of a door, because the door can damage it if it closes on the wire. And make sure cords aren’t running under rugs or creating tripping hazards.

Outdoor extension cords should be labeled for outdoor use and plugged into an outdoor outlet labeled GFCI (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter).

Other holiday tips:

If you’re hiding presents from the kids, do not store the gifts in the oven.

Seriously. Dyl said the KFD has responded to fires caused by toys hidden in ovens — as well as pizza boxes and newspapers stored in ovens.

After opening gifts, do not throw the wrapping paper in the fireplace. It tends to create fiery little flakes that could float back into the room.

UL-listed battery-operated candles are a lot safer than real ones. If you insist on decorating with real ones, don’t buy the cheap kind- Cheap tapers, for example, can tend to bend over as they melt.

Don’t leave burning candles unattended. If you go out, put the candles out.

When entertaining, make sure all your guests know how to get out in case of fire. And if you are visiting, especially if you’re staying overnight, make sure you know the safe exits.

As for general winter-time fire safety:

Have your chimney serviced and your boiler/furnace checked.

Do not forget to add water to the boiler.

Do not store things near the boiler or furnace.

Never use an oven for heating.

If you have a portable space heater, make sure it is UL listed and has tip-over protection. Plug it directly into the wall socket. Make sure it is on a non-combustible surface and keep it away from combustibles. And shut it off when you leave the room.

If you have a gas fireplace and you smell gas, do not light it. Call the KFD or PSE&G immediately.


Test your smoke alarms monthly. Make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors – – one of them within 10 feet of the bedroom.

Don’t warm up your car inside an attached garage.

And remember to check that Christmas-tree fire video.

Bianchi focused on redevelopment


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Redevelopment of the borough’s meadowlands acreage will be “the first priority” of the incoming administration of Republican Mayor-elect Joseph Bianchi.

In a recent interview with The Observer, Bianchi – who, along with his Borough Council running mates, defeated the Democratic team led by incumbent Mayor Peter Massa in the municipal election Nov. 4 – said he’d like to take a cue from the borough’s southern neighbor Kearny in Hudson County.

“I’ve been very impressed with the way Kearny is developing their portion of the meadows district off Rt. 7 and elsewhere and I’d like to see development on our 50 acres of meadows,” he said.

There has been some activity already, with the new owner of the old Bergen County Utilities Authority property having leased the facility to PSE&G to use as an equipment storage site and staging area for upgrades to its regional high tension wires. But to stir more interest in the area by prospective investors and job creation, Bianchi said he intends to revive a municipal redevelopment board and hire a “specialist who knows the meadowlands and how to market our properties.”

The board that he envisions would have eight members – appointed by the mayor with consent of the Borough Council – “from all walks of life.” Bianchi said he would look to these board members – all of whom would serve as volunteers – and the “part-time” specialist – who would receive a “small stipend, maybe $25,000 and no benefits” – to come up with a redevelopment plan for the meadows area which would then be brought before the mayor and council for deliberation and, ultimately, adoption before it could be implemented. “No town or town council can do this,” Bianchi said, because “they have enough to do running the town.” While the borough has struggled to find additional revenues in recent years to offset tax hikes, Bianchi insisted that it should be seen as a community on the rise.

“North Arlington is strong and healthy and our future is bright,” he said. “We have an excellent Police Department [even though, with a force of 25, it falls 10 short of its T.O.] which is doing a wonderful job and our Volunteer Fire Department and Volunteer Emergency Squad, with the finest equipment available, are among the best in the USA.

“Our Public Works Department has 10 men and we do the best we can plowing and patching the streets, cutting down dead trees and grinding stumps – working very hard,” he added.

“Our recreation program is filled with volunteers who donate their time to coach and educate our kids,” Bianchi said. “There was a time when we didn’t have enough places to play but now we have a brand new county park and new high school field accessible to the community for exercise and walking, along with Zadroga Park for soccer and Alan Park for girls’ softball.”

As mayor, Bianchi said, “My thought is I’m willing to allow the girls from the high school to practice [softball] at Alan Park but to play their games at the county park” to allow enough playing time for the girls’ recreation softball program.

Bianchi, a hair stylist by trade who has served as a volunteer firefighter for the past three decades, thanked Mayor Massa “for his service to our community” along with the borough residents who voted for Bianchi as mayor after his having served seven years on the Borough Council (leaving a vacant seat to be filled) and 25 years on the Planning and Zoning Board.

Bianchi said he was “very humbled by the overwhelming show of support I received from the voters and I will work every day to live up to the confidence they showed in me to lead our community,” Bianchi said. Being given such an opportunity is “one that I will respect and cherish every day of my tenure.” He’s looking forward to working with his running mates Kerry Cruz and Dan Pronti and the rest of the council.

“We have a lot of work to do to revive our town and get it moving in a positive direction and I am counting on the support of – not only the Borough Council – but the residents as well. North Arlington is home to many intelligent and caring people and I hope to call on them to help me make decisions that will positively impact the future of the borough.”

Arce resigning after 11 years of service


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Now only three remain. A second member of the five-person dissident Democratic ticket, swept into municipal office by Kearny voters in 2003, is stepping down from her post.

Councilwoman Alexa C. Arce, who was elected to a First Ward seat on the Town Council in 2003, announced at Tuesday night’s council session that she was resigning, effective Jan. 5, 2015.

“I’m expecting my first child in a few weeks,” Arce said, “so I’ll be focused elsewhere.” Arce, who will be relocating from Kearny to be close to other family members, said she “thought it over so long” before concluding that separating herself from the demands of government service was the right thing to do.

She’ll also be taking some time off from her job as a manager for the Bank of America.

Mayor Alberto Santos, who ran with Arce as head of the slate opposing the HCDO (Hudson County Democratic Organization)-backed ticket led by James Mangin, said that the local Dems county committee, which he chairs, has 15 days from the day Arce’s seat is vacated to submit the names of three nominees to temporarily fill the seat.

The Town Council, he said, has 30 days from the time of the vacancy to pick one of the three to fill out the balance of Arce’s unexpired term, which is two years.

“Being a public servant is not easy,” said Arce. Looking back on her elective career, she said she’d be able to recall “some wonderful moments … [like] the creation of a new park in the First Ward, but also some tough choices.”

Perhaps the hardest choice she faced, Arce suggested, was accepting the offer to run for office in the first place and then, once she agreed, she was intensely engaged “in a full primary battle.”

No regrets, though, Arce added. “I’ve enjoyed working with all of you,” she told her fellow council members.

And, judging from her colleagues’ comments, the feeling was mutual.

Said Santos: “It was an honor to work with you. You’ve been consistent and responsible throughout,” despite what the mayor characterized as the initial “theatrics” from the opposition “when local government was not operating effectively.”

Santos credited Arce for her candor. “You’d always tell me where you stood,” he said, “but your focus was always on practicality and getting things done for the community.”

Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle, the Third Ward candidate on that 2003 ticket, thanked Arce “for rounding up those Bank of America volunteers for our [annual Passaic] river cleanup. I’ve enjoyed working with you.”

The Fourth Ward candidate on the ticket, Councilman Michael Landy, commended Arce for her “calm and logical” approach, even in the heat of debate, and for her “reassuring voice” that all would be well.

The fifth member of the team, Barbara Cifelli-Sherry, resigned from her Second Ward council seat in October 2009 after moving to the Third Ward. She subsequently ran, successfully, for the Board of Education last year.

Arce’s First Ward counterpart, Councilman Albino Cardoso said he was “very proud” to have supported her in 2003 and, after he was elected to the council, “You were always at my side to teach me everything.”

Third Ward Councilwoman Eileen Eckel joined the chorus, telling Arce, “You’re one of those rare people who brings out the best in all of us. I appreciate your friendship and counsel over the years,” especially, being “sassy,” she said.

And Fourth Ward Councilwoman Susan McCurrie offered this tribute: “I’ll miss you …. You’re going for a good cause.”

During her 11 years on the council, Arce has served as chairperson for the Transportation Committee and a member of the Police, Water and Recreation Committees. Most recently, she was the council liaison to the Planning Board.

She has volunteered and fundraised for March of Dimes Walk America, Project HOPE (Homebound Outreach Project for the Elderly) at Beth Israel Medical Center, AIDS Walk and Making Strides – Walk for Breast and Ovarian Cancer.

Recounting that bitterly contested 2003 Primary contest, Santos said the slate aligned with the HCDO was placed on Line A of the ballot while, “we were kicked over to Line E.”

The dissident ticket didn’t mind “working with the county,” Santos said, but its members also wanted to give Kearny residents more of a say in running the town, he added.

“Our ticket won by a 2-1 margin,” the mayor said and the victory gave the dissidents at 7-2 majority on the governing body – which became 9-0 a few years later.

Improvements eyed at Kearny Point

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


The town governing body is poised to adopt a conceptual redevelopment plan for the Kearny Point Industrial Park, after having voted Dec. 2 to introduce an ordinance to approve the plan and is expected to adopt it at a public hearing before year’s end.

Mayor Alberto Santos said that adoption – following the Planning Board’s Dec. 3 approval of a site plan and variance applications in support of the proposal – would set the stage for the town to act on the owner/developer RTL Services’ application for a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) and for RTL to begin work in 2015. Santos said the town will also likely act on a request by Carlstadt developer Ed Russo for a PILOT on a proposed expansion of a redevelopment project at Bergen and Schuyler Aves. for an additional 70 apartments.

The 126-acre property at Kearny Point – originally home to the Federal Shipyard and Dry Dock Co. – fronts along the Conrail tracks and Central Ave. to the west and the Hackensack River to the east, has been used for warehousing and distribution facilities for the last half-century.

However, because of flooding from Super storm Sandy in 2012, “many of the buildings are currently vacant or have been demolished,” according to a report on the redevelopment plan prepared by Heyer Gruel & Associates, the town’s planning consultants.

In its PILOT application filed with the town, RTL envisions an investment in excess of $100 million for a water quality improvement project to enhance the property’s water, stormwater and sanitary sewer infrastructure systems, demolition of existing substandard buildings and infrastructure, a soil improvement program to minimize settlement that could disrupt new water facilities and construction of an impervious cap to mitigate contamination of the site and the river.

As part of the future use of the site, RTL is hoping to deploy a “flex space” concept where “a structure with high ceilings containing an open floor plan … can be modified [with partitioning, for example] to accommodate individual needs of its tenants. Individual areas can be leased for uses such as office space with warehouse, research and distribution facilities and other light industrial uses [as well as] general loading accommodations,” Heyer & Gruel reported.

In another commercial development, the Kearny Planning Board voted Dec. 3 to permit Signature Pre-Owned LLC, a used car dealer at 375 Schuyler Ave., to relocate to 369-371 Schuyler.

Signature owner Victor Castro, represented by attorney Ken Lindenfelser, told the board, “I need a little more room to make [the business] work.”

Castro plans to use an existing one-story, 1,900 square foot masonry building on the new site as an office for himself and three employees and possibly as a showroom for “one or two” of the 18 used cars he’ll have on the 9,000 square foot lot.

The rest of the cars will be contained on a portion of the new property which will also accommodate parking spaces for up to five customers, he said.

Castro’s Scotch Plains engineer Thomas Quinn told the board that the front of the masonry structure will be replaced by a glass front, that a roll-up metal garage door will be installed at the southwest corner of the building and that existing chain-link fencing will be extended along the northern property line so that the entire site will be enclosed.

Board member Michael Martello, who also serves as town administrator and construction code official, advised Castro and Quinn that as per licensing requirements for used car dealers, fencing “must be set back one foot beyond the property line” and that exterior lighting cannot “reflect onto the adjacent property.”

While the plans show a fairly tight configuration for the used cars to be stored on the lot, Quinn told the board that Castro’s employees “will have ample room to maneuver cars in and out of spots.” The process will be eased, he added, by the fact that customers are asked to make appointments so the employees will have ample time to do the maneuvers.

Since Schuyler is a county roadway, Castro must also get approval from the Hudson County Planning Board before he can go forward with the move, Martello noted.

Thoughts & Views: A time for remembrance


Do you know anything about the S.S. Leopoldville?

That’s a rhetorical question, because odds are you don’t. As Christmas Eve nears, I wanted to share the story because this Dec. 24th marks the 70th anniversary of a tragedy that cost the lives of 763 American soldiers but was an official secret for many years.

I first learned of it in 1999, from a retired New York City police lieutenant, Allan Andrade, when I was working for the N.Y. Daily News.

The column I wrote then is available online, but also available, and of greater import, is the book Andrade authored, “S.S. Leopoldville Disaster: December 24, 1944.” You can find it on Amazon.

At risk of plagiarizing myself, I’m repeating the story for Observer readers because those 763 men deserve to be remembered.

The U.S. Army troops were members of the 262nd and 264th Regiments of the 66th Infantry Division who were being transported across the English Channel, from Southampton to Cherbourg, for deployment in the Battle of the Bulge. In all, there were 2,235 soldiers, including some British forces, aboard the Leopoldville, a former Belgian passenger liner converted into a troopship.

As the ship approached the French coast, it was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank. More than 500 of the Americans are believed to have gone down with the vessel. Another 248 died of injuries, drowned or froze to death in the frigid Channel. In all, 493 bodies were never recovered.

Those who were found were piled on a Cherbourg pier. Andrade provided me with a quote from his book, from a Linden man, Robert Hesse, who had witnessed the scene. “Live ones were stacked up with the dead ones. Some were so frozen, they could only move their eyes, but that was enough to save their lives.”

For whatever bureaucratic/ diplomatic reasons, the story of the Leopoldville was kept secret and remained so long after wartime censorship could be used as the explanation. Survivors were ordered not to discuss the sinking. The families of the victims were given scant information. The telegrams sent by the Army read, “Missing in action.” Or, “Killed in action in the European area.”

The U.S. Army records were not declassified until 1959; the British files, not until 1996.

(An interesting sidelight, although it may be apocryphal since the sources have not been verified: As the story goes, for decades, the French Navy used the sunken wreck of the Leopoldville as a training site for divers. This supposedly ended in the late ‘90s when they finally learned the facts about the ship.)

In 1997, a 66th Infantry Leopoldville memorial was finally erected at Fort Benning, Ga. It is inscribed with the names of the dead, including 24 from New Jersey. Among them are two local men: Pfc. Malcolm B. Christopher of Nutley and S.Sgt. Gilbert J. Steuble of Belleville.

For a complete list of the victims — which, coincidentally, was complied by Andrade — visit leopoldville.org.

That’s one of the benefits of the internet. Things that had been lost to history are now being rediscovered. The dead can become, as they should be, the honored dead.

And now, I will deliberately plagiarize myself, paraphrasing the words I used to end the column I wrote for The News:

Come Christmas Eve, you might acknowledge the supreme sacrifice of the Leopoldville victims. With a silent prayer on a holy night.

 – Karen Zautyk 

Union pickets Passaic Ave. mall site


Members of Local 3, Building Construction Laborers of North Jersey, are picketing a Passaic Ave. mall development site where a new BJ’s is slated as the anchor tenant.

Currently, Danco General Contracting is demolishing the old Congoleum factory on the site to clear the way for construction of new retail outlet stores by DVL Holdings LLC.

Paul Roldan, Local 3 field representative for Hudson and Essex counties, said the union is upset about Danco’s use of non-union labor and about safety at the work site.

Danco, according to a published report, is paying its workers $22 to $25 an hour with no benefits. Roldan said the union scale “area standard” is $54 an hour. And, he said, the benefit of having union labor is that, “all of our people are OSHA (federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration)-trained.”

Aside from that, Rolan said that, “for jobs of this magnitude,” there’s no reason why at least some Kearny area residents shouldn’t be employed. For tax-abated development projects exceeding $20 million, the government permits Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) between the community and the developer, which, he said, would “trigger the use of a [union] apprenticeship program for at least 20% of the work force at the project.”

Asked about that, Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos said that local government “cannot mandate the use of union labor” but they can sign a PLA “which requires the contractor to employ and train apprentices” and “a contractor with non-union workers would have to pay union dues for the length of the project and follow union rules on pensions and work conditions. Kearny does not have a PLA policy.”

Asked if the town would consider implementing such a policy, Santos said: “We would need a cost analysis done before doing so. Unlike Jersey City [which has a PLA], Kearny does not have the same level of developer interest.”

 – Ron Leir 

KPD: How sweet it is

On Dec. 1, Officers Tom Sumowski and Steve Hroncich, responding to a 3:30 a.m. report of a disorderly person in the area of Devon and Hoyt Sts., encountered an apparently intoxicated man holding a large black backpack that was “overflowing” with candy bars, KPD Chief John Dowie reported.

Scattered on the sidewalk were at least 10 more candy bars, Dowie said. And the pack reportedly contained parts from a vending machine, including the coin storage unit and a “substantial amount of change”: 53 quarters, 94 dimes and 30 nickels.

After learning that the man worked in the area, Dowie said, Officer John Travelino visited the company and found a damaged candy-vending machine, missing both its coin unit and a lot of candy.

Since no one saw the suspect, Geronimo Ramirez, 24, of Kearny, actually breaking into the machine, he was charged only with possession of the stolen property. However, he was also charged with illegal possession of a prescription drug, due to the 25 Xanax tablets allegedly in the backpack with the candy. And there was more to come.

While housed in a cell at headquarters, Ramirez reportedly broke the handle on a toilet and tore apart a mattress, resulting in a charge of criminal mischief.

• • •

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

Nov. 24 

On patrol in South Kearny at 8 p.m., Officers Brian Wisely and Rich Pawlowski spotted a Lincoln livery car in the weeds off Central Ave. The driver, Joseph Leon, 22, of Jersey City, who reportedly was seeking a secure place for a rendezvous, instead found a secure place at KPD headquarters after he was arrested on two outstanding Jersey City warrants.

Nov. 25 

Vice officers, patrolling at Kearny and Midland Aves. at 4:30 p.m., saw Joseph Calleja, 24, of Kearny, alight from a bus, did a warrant check and confirmed he was wanted on one each from North Arlington and Newark. He was booked and turned over to the North Arlington PD.

Nov. 26 

At 5 p.m., a man called HQ to report he had been hit in the face with a snowball at Johnston and Passaic Aves. Officer Wisely checked the area for the two suspects and, near ShopRite, reportedly saw one of them hurl a snowball at a passing car, causing the driver to swerve when the auto was hit. Alexander Nekrasow, 32, of Wayne, was arrested on a charge of interfering with transportation.

Nov. 28 

Just before midnight, Officers Jack Corbett and Dean Gasser responded to a two-vehicle accident in South Kearny and found a heavily damaged Mazda on the center divider of Rts. 1/9, where it had ended up after apparently hitting a Freightliner truck. The driver of the car, Shamsunda Singh, 58, of Jersey City, was charged with DWI, careless driving and refusal to take an Alcotest.

Nov. 30 

At midnight, Officer Jordenson Jean was dispatched to investigate a report that a loud party was taking place in an abandoned dwelling on Hillside Ave. Inside, he found a number of juveniles, empty beer cans/ bottles and the strong odor of marijuana. Several of the partiers fled, but he managed to corral seven, all of whom were charged with criminal trespass, underage possession of alcohol and curfew violations. The youths included three 17-year-old males, from Kearny, Harrison and Newark; two 16-year-old males, from Kearny and Harrison, and two 16-yearold Kearny females. All were turned over to their parents or guardians.

Dec. 2 

The KPD — which has increased traffic enforcement near Franklin School following “numerous complaints” of speeding, illegal parking, jaywalking, and parents dropping off kids in the roadway — was on site again at 9 a.m., when Sgt. John Taylor reportedly saw a driver double-park and discharge a child into the street. When approached by the officer, motorist Luis Mayorga, 33, of Hopatcong, was unable to produce a driver’s license and was subsequently charged with driving while suspended and improper discharge of a passenger.

Police said he also had two outstanding warrants from Newark.

Dec. 3 

Officer Damon Pein responded at 9:45 a.m. to a business on the 1200 block of Harrison Ave. and was advised by the manager that the front-gate lock had been cut and the building broken into. Stolen were 2,000 pounds of brass plumbing fixtures and several hundred feet of copper tubing. Also missing, from a trailer parked on the lot, was a substantial amount of work clothes. The total loss was estimated at $13,000. The case is under investigation by Det. Bryant Obie.

– Karen Zautyk 

ShopRite of Lyndhurst hosts healthy-holidays events

ShopRite of Lyndhurst, an Inserra Supermarkets store, 540 New York Ave., has announced its roster of healthy-holidays and wellness events. All programs are free, open to the public, held at the store and do not require advance registration unless otherwise noted.

Julie Harrington, R.D., instore registered dietitian, leads each program and provides easy-to-implement nutrition and wellness advice.

• Walking Club – Join this weekly club for a one-mile trek through the store on Thursdays, Dec. 11 and 18, starting at 8 a.m. at the Dietitian’s Corner.

Membership cards and prizes are awarded to all participants.

• Julie’s Produce Pick – Harrington will mix the week’s produce pick into a delicious new dish on Wednesday, Dec. 10, from 1 to 3 p.m. Stop by for samples and recipe cards.

• Healthy Freezer Finds – Drop by the Dietitian’s Corner on Thursday, Dec. 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., for samplings of ShopRite’s wide variety of nutritious items in the frozen food section.

• Healthy Holiday Brunch – Participants learn how to prepare a healthy brunch Monday, Dec. 15, from 2 to 3 p.m. or 5 to 6 p.m. Space is limited, and registration is required.

LiveRight with ShopRite Kids’ Day Cooking Class – Youngsters ages 6 and up can create and try new things while preparing a simple, healthy snack on Saturday, Dec. 20, from 11 a.m. to noon. Space is limited, and registration is required.

“Soup-er” Sunday – As the temperatures dips, warm up with satisfying soup recipes on Dec. 21, from noon to 2 p.m.

ShopRite’s dietitians can serve as guest speakers/instructors at wellness events hosted by local organizations. For more information or to pre-register for a program, contact Harrington at 201- 419-9154 or email Julie.harrington@wakefern.com.

Back home & giving ‘Maximum’ effort


By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent


It’s one thing when a brother and sister get on very well. It’s even more unique, perhaps, when they go to college for the same major and then open a business together.

And that’s exactly what happened with Paige and James Van Dien, both North Arlington natives and co-owners of Maximum Performance Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Center.

Both Van Diens got their master’s degrees in physical therapy from Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa. It all happened by chance, Paige says, that the duo shared a mutual love for physical therapy. After getting their graduate degrees, they both went on to practice their craft at various venues.

But their dream was to open their own PT business — and that’s exactly what they did in January 2013.

“It was something James and I wanted to do for a while,” Paige said. “Having worked at other facilities, we knew what we liked, what we didn’t like, and so we finally decided we had nothing to lose since we’re both still young. We looked around at different locations, and ultimately decided that because we’re originally from North Arlington, that this would be a great place to settle the business.

“This is our town, so it all worked out well.”

Indeed it did.

When they first opened the business, the Van Diens made arrangements with numerous local doctors who deal with patients in need of PT and rehabilitation. They’d take them out to lunch, explain what they had to offer — and ask the doctors to give them a chance by referring patients.

And from there, the rest is history.

Maximum Performance’s clientele has grown exponentially since January 2013.

But it hasn’t just been physician referrals that have helped.

“Since we’re from North Arlington, we do know a lot of people — and a lot of people know our family,” Paige said. “So with that and through word of mouth, we’ve grown nicely.”

Typically, for insurance purposes, patients who need PT and rehab are written prescriptions by their doctors, who then refer them to a PT center. Paige says it’s surprising how many insurance policies actually cover physical therapy.

“That’s why we always tell our patients to call us first with insurance information so our receptionist can verify what is or isn’t covered,” she said. “But we will work with patients whose insurance doesn’t cover physical therapy — or with patients who are uninsured.”

When finances are a challenge, there’s little to worry about. They’ll work with you on a payment plan if that’s a needed option.

So what are the injuries most commonly seen at Maximum Performance?

“We definitely see a lot of orthopedic injuries,” Paige said. “From muscle sprains, to joint sprains, to post-op care, back and neck surgeries from injuries and spinal injuries, we do see a variety.”

Many of the patients are also athletes, Paige said. And not too long ago, she treated a fairly well-known athlete in this neck of the woods.

“We’ve taped Brandon Jacobs, [formerly] of the New York Giants prior to his games,” Paige said. “It was great having him here.”

Not all physical therapy and rehabilitation centers are alike, Paige says, and what sets Maximum Performance apart is this: “When you’re with us, you’ll only deal with us — my brother or me — and never an aide. In many other practices, a patient will work with a therapist for around 10 minutes, and then get handed off to an aide. Here, that never happens. We never pass anyone off. For around 30 minutes, you’ll work with us and us alone.”

So it’s the personal attention and care that stands out. “It means there are long hours, but it’s well worth it,” she said. “Whether it’s a young child, or a 95-year-old person, we want our clients to get only the very best.”

Only the very best, indeed. Maximum Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation is located at 170 Schuyler Ave., Suite 3, North Arlington. Hours of operation are: Monday and Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m.; and Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Find out more about the practice by visiting www.Maximum Performance Physical Therapy.com at any time or by calling 201-991- 3800 during business hours.