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Meet the ‘Ambassadors’


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Ambassadors and Knights walk the halls at East Newark Elementary School.

Well, actually, the Ambassadors do a lot of sitting and talking, while the Knights are busy mostly outdoors.

Explanation: the Ambassadors are older students who are part of an experiment to bolster the reading readiness skills of younger children through one-on-one tutoring sessions at the end of the school day.

And the Knights are also part of an elite group: They’re members of the first intramural soccer squad that veteran borough observers can remember functioning in many years, if at all.

Both programs came to life under the watch of Patrick Martin, the new superintendent/ principal of the borough’s only school, although Martin credits school psychologist Shelley Harrison for recommending the student tutorials as a way of breaking through the language barriers that many of the school’s ethnically diverse population face.

Because a significant number come from families whose primary language is something other than English – mostly Spanish and Portuguese – the kids are up against it when it comes to getting English homework help at home, especially if one or both parents are working the night shift, said Jeanine Cruz, now in her 15th year as a basic skills teacher in East Newark.

And that impacts kids’ performance on standardized tests, not only in Language Arts but also in math, since arithmetic word problems can be tricky without a full understanding of the words.

Enter the Ambassadors.

Every Monday to Thursday, from 3 to 4 p.m., nine students from grades 7 and 8 are matched up, individually, with youngsters from grades 1 to 4 and convene in the school cafeteria to work together.

For the first 40 minutes, the younger kids read aloud from a grade-level classroom text to their tutors, who encourage them to sound out a tricky word, break it into syllables and check for comprehension. After a snack, the tutors will spend 20 minutes guiding the younger ones through their reading homework.

Generally, Cruz said, “The little ones are excited to be working with the older students. They feel special. … They see their tutors as positive role models. They’re very chatty and smiling with them.”


Photos courtesy Shelley Harrison TOP: Tutor Elijah Brown (r.) reviews reading sample with Keanu Vargas. MIDDLE: Sharing a light moment, from l., are school psychologist Shelley Harrison, students Monica Arce, Daveed Alverio and Angela Arca and PE teacher/soccer coach Michael Caravalho. The students are ambassadors and players on intramural soccer team. BOTTOM: Model of soccer shirt.

Photos courtesy Shelley Harrison
TOP: Tutor Elijah Brown (r.) reviews reading sample with Keanu Vargas. MIDDLE: Sharing a light moment, from l., are school psychologist Shelley Harrison, students Monica Arce, Daveed Alverio and Angela Arca and PE teacher/soccer coach Michael Caravalho. The students are ambassadors and players onintramural soccer team. BOTTOM: Model of soccer shirt.


“Research shows that [working together] also helps the tutors by boosting their self-esteem,” Harrison said. Several of the tutors have brought in their own smart boards as a resource tool, she noted.

The nine tutors are: Monica Arce, Elijah Brown, Janeth Medieta, Daveed Alberio and Angela Arca, all seventhgraders; and Layza Espichan, Virginia Sacramento, Joselyn Gutierrez and Jenna Vieira, all of grade 8.

The tutorees were selected by classroom teachers while 17 students volunteered to be tutors after getting their parents’ consent and then school staff picked nine, based on high academic performance, teacher recommendations and an interview.

Eighth-grader Virginia Sacramento, who is tutoring a third-grader, said she’s happy to have been chosen because, “I love leading people in different things,” even though, she said, people tend not to see her in that light.

Even before, she said, “I was helping some of the kids in class with math, even though I don’t always understand a problem. I enjoy trying to work it out.” (A tutor training worksheet that school staff share with the students advises: “Always ask a teacher for help if you need it.”)

Fellow tutor Elijah Brown, a seventh-grader, recalled how sometimes, when he was younger, he and his older sister “played the game of teacher. On days when I was sick and not in school, she’d pull me aside for two hours and start teaching me.”

Had he resented her intervention? No way, said Elijah, also a member of the school’s Pre-Chemistry Club. “Without her, a lot of the knowledge I have today, I wouldn’t have.”

As he’s working with his fourth-grader, he uses his smart board to “write out a word and separate it into its different parts,” along with how words sound. Elijah believes his tutoree is “getting better” with his help. And, he said, “I’m very grateful because I’m doing something that’s actually useful instead of just reading myself.”

Then there are the Knights, formed at Martin’s behest, both to offer some measure of intra-scholastic athletic competition in soccer and as a morale builder for middle schoolers.

Thirty-three kids from grades 6, 7 and 8 took up the challenge, even though “very few” of them had previously played the sport, according to coach Michael Caravalho, the school’s physical education instructor and a volunteer coach for the Kearny Kardinals Junior Varsity soccer team for the past three years.

Why soccer and why so many? “That’s what the kids want,” said Martin, “so they flock to it.”

The kids play – so far, only among themselves – at the borough’s soccer field next to Borough Hall, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 4 to 5 p.m., but that could change soon. The Harrison school district has offered the use of its turf field for middle school soccer play, thereby suggesting the possibility of inter-scholastic play for the first time.

Good times at Belleville High


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent 


Elinor Mostello and Bob Iracane were both members of the Belleville High School Class of ’65 but didn’t actually get to know each other until their senior year – which happened to be the same year the then-“new” high school opened.

“We met the first week of school in [September] 1964 when we happened to be in the same math class,” Elinor explained, “but it took him until February to ask me out.

“It was Feb. 12, 1965. We went out to the Belleville vs. Orange basketball game.” Four years later, he proposed.

Bob and Elinor remembered the good times at Belleville High last month when they joined three fellow alumni – Joseph Cervasio, Pat Bradley and Rose Pepe – and Patricia Maucione (now Pugliese), one of their former social studies teachers who has since retired, at a mini-reunion of some members of the first class to graduate from the current Belleville High.

Cervasio, who was president of the Class of ’65, which had 364 students, had called BHS Principal Russell Pagano about organizing a visit, primarily to celebrate Bob and Elinor’s initial meeting in Classroom 217.

“When I was contacted late over the summer by Mr. Cervasio, I thought this would be a great opportunity to reunite the community with the wonderful things at Belleville High School,” Pagano said. “Having alumni return to our school and speak to our students give our students an insight on what to expect when they leave the halls of Belleville High School. It provides encouragement, positive vibes, creates respect and helps student learn about success. This is why I had Mr. [BHS Vice Principal Joseph] Rotonda coordinate this event with me.”

The alums got a tour of the building from BHS seniors, ate cupcakes marked “BHS 1965” baked by the school’s culinary arts students and fielded questions from students.

“I really enjoyed high school,” said Elinor Iracane. “Belleville was a great place to grow up.” And, in September 1964, “It was heaven to be in a new place. We had spent three years in the other building on Washington Ave. [now the middle school] where we were on split sessions where it was so crowded that one year, we couldn’t even get to our lockers, so we had to carry our books everywhere.

“In the new building, we had lots of space. … I remember the excellence of the teaching staff. It was interesting to see how many had gone to Belleville High School themselves. To me, that says something very good about the community.” Elinor eventually became a software engineer for AT&T at Bell Labs.

Photos courtesy Gary Klotzin Top Photo: Recalling fond memories of their time at Belleville High, from L., are: retired social studies teacher Patricia (Maucione) Pugliese, and alums Elinor (Mostello) and Bob Iracane, Pat Bradley and Joseph Cervasio. They were treated to specially decorated cupcakes in honor of the occasion.

Photos courtesy Gary Klotzin
Top Photo:
Recalling fond memories of their time at Belleville High, from L., are: retired
social studies teacher Patricia (Maucione) Pugliese, and alums Elinor (Mostello)
and Bob Iracane, Pat Bradley and Joseph Cervasio. They were treated to
specially decorated cupcakes in honor of the occasion.


Bob Iracane, a CPA, recalled the feeling of “arriving at a new school in my senior year after spending three years in the same high school my father had graduated from 30 years before me. Everything was brand new. It was a total change. In the old high school, it was crowded, there was no campus to speak of and only a small gym. For physical education, we had to walk up to Clearman Field on Union Ave. At lunchtime, you could go to the corner pizzeria. At the new school, we had a cafeteria – there were five lunch periods and you had 25 minutes to eat.”

Overall, though, high school “was just a good time in my life,” he said. “And going back to the high school last month was such a breath of fresh air. The school was in beautiful shape, spotless. To see the kids wearing uniform golf shirts or the sport shirt of the day was very refreshing.” Bob confessed to having “planted the seed in Joe Cervasio’s head” to help arrange a return visit to commemorate that special time when he and his future wife first met.

Cervasio, a corporate executive who handles talent management services for the resort industry and the author of “Bad News on the Doorstep,” also enjoyed the occasion and interacting with the students who “were so relaxed and transparent.” He advised them to, “Live in the moment [and] not be fearful of tomorrow or overly consumed with yesterday.”

His fondest memory, Cervasio said, was of classmate Nicholas Arnold Melito, who had cerebral palsy but who “went from seemingly being least likely to succeed, to becoming one of America’s best comedy writers in Hollywood…. He was the youngest writer ever for Johnny Carson and Joan Rivers was his mentor. When he passed away in 1999, he remains an inspiration to me and all of us from the Class of 1965. He is the only member of our class on the hallowed Wall of Recognition.”

A formal reunion gathering of the Class of ’65 is being planned, possibly for fall 2015.

Kearny defeats rival Harrison again, this time in overtime


Defender Quintos becomes hero with golden goal

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer

Andrew Quintos is a defender on the Kearny High School boys’ soccer team. He knows defenders rarely grab the headlines, because they rarely score goals.

However, Quintos has been recently finding himself in a position to put the ball in the net.

He scored three goals in a recent win against Memorial and had two more goals in a victory over Belleville. In fact, Quintos has tallied an astounding seven goals this season.

But none bigger than the one Quintos knocked home Sunday afternoon. In fact, it’s a goal that Quintos will hold dearly for the rest of his life.

Quintos got the ball off a mad scramble in the second overtime of the Hudson County Tournament semifinal against neighboring rival Harrison Sunday afternoon at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium and somehow knocked it home, giving the Kardinals a thrilling 2-1 victory.

With the win, undefeated Kearny (13-0-2) advanced to Sunday’s county tournament finale to face North Bergen, which upset St. Peter’s Prep, 1-0, in the other semifinal held at Harrison High School.

Quintos was asked to describe the game-winning play.

“The ball came right in front of me,” Quintos said. “I got there first before a Harrison defender could get to it. It was just my instinct. I had to get there.”

“There had to be about 19 or 20 players in the box,” Kearny head coach Bill Galka said. “The ball was bouncing back and forth.”

The winning play was set up by a corner kick from Calvin Carbajal, but was then touched about seven or eight times by players on both teams before it bounced back to Quintos.

“He just has a knack to get to the bouncing ball,” Galka said. “He somehow gets to it. He scored two the same way against Belleville. As our center back, he goes up for free kicks. He’s been getting goals from the back. It’s amazing.”

“Of course, it’s as big as it gets,” Quintos said. “I knew that the goal ended the game. There was a sense of relief and joy. We put a lot of hard work into it. It feels good to get to the finals. Last year, we were disappointed, because we didn’t win anything. This year, we have a chance to go far, so it makes winning important.”

Quintos knows the importance of the goal, because he gave Kearny its second win of the season against the rival Blue Tide. Kearny has never defeated Harrison twice in one year before. The previous win came at Red Bull Arena by a 3-1 decision Sept. 27.

“It’s something that gets built up for years,” Quintos said. “It feels great. To be honest, I couldn’t even have something like this in my thoughts. I’ll never forget it.”

Galka knew that Harrison was going to be a tough out, considering the two teams played a spirited game less than a month ago.

Photo by Jim Hague Kearny forward Calvin Carbajal scored a goal early on and almost had another during the Kards’ 2-1 win over Harrison Sunday afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hague
Kearny forward Calvin Carbajal scored a goal early on and almost had another
during the Kards’ 2-1 win over Harrison Sunday afternoon.


“They had a little bit more of a motivation, considering we won the first time, so there was a revenge factor,” Galka said. “So the way we looked at it, we had to play better than them. They were ready and put the pressure on us. We were up against it.”

The Kards were also without top ball distributor Marcello Matta, who was out with a groin injury.

Harrison head coach Mike Rusek thought that his team had a chance against the Kards this time around.

“I thought we battled hard with them at Red Bull Arena,” Rusek said. “We thought we could go in there Sunday and battle with them. I told our kids that it was our county championship (the Blue Tide were the defending champs) and we had to go there to defend our title. We had to go there and play like champions, which we did.”

Rusek said that it was a tough situation for his team to be in.

“I went back as far as I could and couldn’t find another time where Kearny beat Harrison twice in one year,” Rusek said. “It’s a different year. They got us twice.”

The Kardinals took the lead in the early going, when Carbajal scored in the eighth minute off a fine pass from Alexi Velasquez.

“Scoring early sometimes hurts,” Galka said. “You tend to get a lackadaisical feeling and let up. It might be easier not to score early. We had a long way to go in the game.” Midway through the second half, the Blue Tide tied the score on a goal by freshman Ney Moreno.

“It was a nice goal,” Galka said. “It really got some momentum going for them. We were defending pretty well, but it was a matter of survival.”

“We were pushing for a second goal,” Rusek said. “We played well in the second half. The wind was pretty strong and it played a factor, because we had the wind at our backs in the second half.”

With five minutes to go in regulation, the Blue Tide thought they had the game winner. Ali Lakhrif chipped one that eluded Kearny standout goalkeeper Sebastian Ferreira and appeared headed toward the goal.

“Ali chipped one from the 18 (yard line) and the ball hit the crossbar, the corner of the goal post and slid off to the side,” Rusek said. “That was tough.”

Kearny also had a chance to win the game, but Carbajal plunked one off the crossbar as well, sending the game to the overtime, eventually giving Quintos the golden opportunity to be a golden hero with a golden goal, a score of a lifetime.

“Unfortunately, when you lose on a goal like that, everything just stops,” Rusek said. “We started to think about penalty kicks already. The mind starts prepping for things like that. Then, suddenly, it’s over. You’re in shock, because you were not prepping for that. You stand there, like ‘What just happened?’ But that’s soccer.”

The Blue Tide dropped to 13-3 on the season, with two of the three setbacks to the local rivals and the other coming at the hands of Princeton.

Both teams will be forces to be reckoned with in the upcoming NJSIAA state tournament – Kearny in North Jersey Section 1, Group IV and Harrison in North 2, Group I.

“I told our kids that the only month where you have to worry about being undefeated is November,” Rusek said. “This was a good experience for us for the state tournament.”

The Kardinals have a county title to be won, facing North Bergen somewhere this weekend. The Kards defeated North Bergen, 2-1, in overtime a few weeks ago.

“We haven’t won in a while,” Galka said of the county tournament title. “We’re looking at trying to get it back again.”

As for the unbeaten mark this late in the season?

“We don’t mention it and certainly don’t talk about it,” Galka said.

Such are the superstitions of soccer.

Lyndhurst boys’ XC wins NJICColonial title


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer


It had been three years since the Lyndhurst boys’ cross country team won a league championship, so Andre Francisco wanted to make sure that his team got a chance to enjoy the fruits of winning a title one more time.

“Since we won the last one our freshman year, we had to come back and win again as seniors,” said Francisco, whose second place finish overall led the Golden Bears to the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference-Colonial Division championship last week at the Garret Mountain Reservation in Woodland Park.

“We knew we had a good team this year,” said Francisco, who finished second in 17:05. “We just wanted to make sure we got our championship.”

The Golden Bears were solid throughout the race, also placing fifth (Dylan Stanco in 17:23), sixth (William Hooper in 17:27) and seventh (Stephen Covello in 17:29). That consistency was enough to catapult the Bears to a resounding victory, defeating closest rival Leonia by an astounding 46 points.

“We felt like we had something to prove,” said Hooper, whose brother is the goalkeeper on the Lyndhurst soccer team. “We just got stronger as a team. We knew we were going to win going in. With the hard work we put in, we knew we were the best team.”

“We felt like it was our responsibility to win,” Stanco said. “We’ve been preparing for this since our sophomore year. It’s the strongest team I’ve ever been on.”

Covello agreed. “We’ve all been training hard together as a team since the summer,” Covello said. “We all have been working hard, doing double sessions, just to get better. We wanted to win this year and prove that we could become a Group I power house.”

“We wanted people to see that we have a great cross country program,” said Christopher Barreto, who finished 16th overall.

Beside the aforementioned seniors, the Golden Bears were helped by sophomore Xavier Locke, who fin ished 13th and junior Anthony Dell Aquila, who was 19th  overall in the race.

Lyndhurst head cross country coach Michael Pichardo was pleased with his team’s performance.

“We absolutely have a great group of seniors,” Pichardo said. “I had high expectations for this group this year. This is just the beginning. Winning the league was just the start of the journey. We want to win the county, the state sectionals and make it to the Meet of Champions.”

Pichardo likes the commitment he gets from his team.

“This is a very experienced team,” Pichardo said. “They won the state sectional (the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I) last year and have a chance for bigger things this year. We don’t have just five kids or seven kids. We have 10 kids who are willing to step up and do whatever it takes to continue the legacy of the program.”

Added Pichardo, “Andre was able to win the league as a freshman, but the others didn’t, so I was happy for them.”

Pichardo knows that bigger things will happen for this group.

“They’re hungry,” Pichardo said. “They get the history and tradition of the program. They all know their roles. They want to do something special.”

Pichardo knows that the next steps, which include the Bergen County Championships this Saturday at Darlington Park in Mahwah, will not be easy.

“Winning the county would be an honor,” Pichardo said. “But we’re right in the mix. And if the stars align, we have to be in the discussion for the state sectional and the Groups. The championship season is just starting now and the first step has been won. It’s a long journey, but we have a chance to get everything we want. We have a great group of kids who are totally dialed in. I can’t ask for anything else.”

“We still want to accomplish more,” Covello said. “We’re not satisfied. We want to leave more of a legacy.”

Still, leaving a league title banner on the wall of the gym won’t be too hard to swallow.

“It’s amazing,” Stanco said. “It’s going to be a great feeling to see that go up and know that we all had a part of that.”

One win from six straight: Kearny girls’ soccer rolls to finals


By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer

The Kearny High School girls’ soccer team is just one win away from an amazing sixth straight Hudson County Tournament championship.

The Kardinals advanced to the title game with a resounding 11-0 win over Hoboken in the county tourney semifinals Sunday at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City.

The Kards will now face Memorial in the tourney title game this Sunday at a site to be determined, quite possibly the same location.

The Kardinals received yet another stellar performance from senior forward Barbara Paiva, who is well on the way to re-writing the school’s record books.

Paiva tallied an incredible five goals in the win over Hoboken, giving her 33 on the season, tying the school mark set by Stefanie Gomes (now at Montclair State) a few years ago.

Lily Durning added two goals while senior midfielder Amanda Eustice had a goal and three assists. It was a complete domination, as the Kardinals continue to roll.

“Hoboken had a nice game against North Bergen to get to the semifinals, but they lost a lot of girls to injury,” said Kearny head coach Vin Almeida. “So they were a little light handed to face us. It was a tough situation for us to play them in the semifinals, but in way, it was fortunate, because we were able to get a lot of girls on the field.”

Almeida said that he was impressed with Paiva’s performance.

“She’s really on a roll right now,” Almeida said. “She scored some nice goals. She’s a solid finisher. She’s really heating up at the right time.”

Almeida said that he was also impressed with the play of Eustice, who missed all of last season due to knee surgery.

Photos by Jim Hague TOP: Kearny senior defender Dana Green (12) passes the ball during the 11-0 win over Hoboken in the Hudson County Tournament semifinal win over Hoboken Sunday. BOTTOM: Senior midfielder Amanda Eustice (10) controls the ball during tourney contest at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City Sunday. Eustice had a goal and three assists.

Photos by Jim Hague
TOP: Kearny senior defender Dana Green (12) passes the ball during the 11-0
win over Hoboken in the Hudson County Tournament semifinal win over Hoboken
Sunday. BOTTOM: Senior midfielder Amanda Eustice (10) controls the
ball during tourney contest at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City
Sunday. Eustice had a goal and three assists.


“She’s getting the ball to our scorers, serving the ball to where the girl can finish,” Almeida said. “It makes things a lot easier. She’s been doing that a lot lately. She’s playing in a spot where she never played before (defensive center midfielder) and she’s handling it well. She’s doing a lot of the dirty work that goes unseen. But that leads to our success.”

Needless to say, Almeida was pleased with the incredible performance.

“It’s a great feeling to be in the finals and hopefully, we can win another county championship,” Almeida said. “That was the goal coming in.”

The Kards will now face Memorial, a team that they have defeated twice already this season by 3-1 and 4-0 margins. Almeida knows the old adage that it is very difficult to beat the same time three times in a season.

“Memorial will certainly not be a pushover,” Almeida said. “We have to be sharp to beat them. We can’t let our opponent get one up on us. We have had some good tests against them.”

Memorial features standout forward Mayensy Vargas, who has 31 goals this season, so the county final will pit two of the state’s leading scorers in Paiva and Vargas.

“We shall see,” Almeida said. “It’s two of the top goal scorers playing against each other. It should be very exciting.”

Almeida knows that history is hanging in the balance. There aren’t many soccer programs in New Jersey that can lay claim to six county championships in a row.

“We just have to keep our composure,” Almeida said. “We have to come out and play our game. We just have to stay focused. We’re feeling pretty good. We’re confident, but cautious.”

Perhaps history is in the making on Sunday.


Rose E. Lyons

Rose E. Lyons (nee Power) died on Oct. 14 at home. She was 73.

Born in Canada, she moved to Kearny in 1966.

Arrangements were by the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass was held at St. Stephen’s Church, followed by entombment in Holy Cross Cemetery. To leave online condolences, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.

Rose was the devoted companion of the late Gary Sobierajski for many years. She is survived by her loving children and their spouses Lisa Marie and Joao Pita and Robert and Dolores Lyons. Also surviving are her grandchildren Ryan, Kristeen, Brian, Brett and Breonna.

Claire M. McCurrie 

Claire M. McCurrie (nee McKechan) died on Oct. 14 in Clara Maass Medical Center. She was 74.

Born in Stony Point, N.Y., she lived in Newark before moving to Kearny in 1960.

Arrangements were by the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral service was held at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Lyndhurst, followed by entombment in Holy Cross Cemetery. To leave online condolences, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.

Claire was a bookkeeper for M. Tucker and Co. in Harrison. She was also a warden at St. Thomas Church as well as being involved in many of the church functions.

Wife of the late Les McCurrie, she is survived by her sons Michael F. and James P. McCurrie. Sister of the late Richard McKechan, she is also survived by her grandchildren Brian, Matthew and Erin.

In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

2nd Harrison hotel


Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide opened its 14th Element hotel in Harrison last Thursday with members of the development team pedal-powering a virtual ribbon-cutting at the new location, 399 Somerset St., just off Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. South.

Starwood CEO Fritz van Paasschen told visitors that that the company is “looking to open 19 more” Element hotels “in the next couple of years” in places like the United Kingdom and China. With the Element brand, “we want to tap into a focus on wellness and sustainability,” he said.

Last Thursday in Harrison, the hotel’s builders and managers mounted bicycles attached to bike generator stands and, as they worked the pedals, they generated enough electricity to power a flat screen plasma monitor to create an “official opening’’ message on screen.

The event underscored Element’s commitment to pursuing LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification for each of its hotels. Element at Harrison is a 138-room modular facility built by a joint venture of Ironstate Holdings LLC and The Pegasus Group and managed by Crescent Hotels & Resorts. The hotel, which opened to guests Aug. 21, features a 24-hour fitness center, indoor pool and a 1,500 square foot meeting room.

The hotel, steps away from the Harrison PATH station, offers complimentary bikes for guests to borrow, plus complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the facility, breakfast, an evening reception and salon bar carts stocked with wines and beers, soft drinks and snacks available after hours.

About 8,000 square feet of the ground floor space is dedicated to retail use. A 2,200 square foot Dunkin’ Donuts has already opened; AT&T will be leasing a 1,500 square foot retail space later this year; Cork Wine & Liquors will be occupying 2,000 square feet in 60 to 90 days; and a retail food shop is planned for the remaining 2,000 square feet, according to Michael Barry, principal of Ironstate.

Photos by Ron Leir LEFT: Gary Maida, general manager of Crescent Hotels & Resorts, (at podium) is flanked, from l., by Richard Miller (The Pegasus Group), Michael Barry (Ironstate Holdings) and Michael Williams (Crescent VP). RIGHT: Fritz van Paasschen, Starwood CEO, at ceremonial opening for Element at Harrison.

Photos by Ron Leir
LEFT: Gary Maida, general manager of Crescent Hotels & Resorts, (at podium) is flanked, from l., by Richard Miller (The Pegasus Group), Michael Barry (Ironstate
Holdings) and Michael Williams (Crescent VP). RIGHT: Fritz van Paasschen, Starwood CEO, at ceremonial opening for Element at Harrison.


Ironstate and Pegasus have partnered to develop Harrison Station, a three-phase, mixed-use project which, at full build-out, will consist of six residential buildings with ground floor retail and the hotel with retail.

The first phase, at 300 Somerset St., which was completed September 2011, comprises 275 luxury rental apartments with a 24-hour attended lobby, fitness center, residents’ lounge with large screen TVs and ping pong table, landscaped courtyard with outdoor pool and beach volleyball court, all above 12,814 square feet of retail, including Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Pronto Gourmet, Sakura Japan, Pro-Cuts, GNC and Path Cleaners.

Phase 2 is the 138-room Element at Harrison and accompanying retail.

Now under construction, next door to the hotel, is Phase 3, which will consist of four stories of 329 residential units and 8,700 square feet of retail, with an estimated completion by October 2015.

– Ron Leir 

A first for Kearny VFW Post


By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 


When Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1302 elected its new commander in May, it also made local history. Jennifer M. Long, who was installed in office at the state VFW convention in June, is the first woman to head a veterans’ organization in this area.

And before any chauvinists ask: Yes, she has the credentials. Impressive credentials.

Long served in the U.S. Army for 30 years, retiring in August 2012 with the rank of Sergeant Major. Her last assignment was with the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan, where she spent nine months “in country” and received a Bronze Star.

While there, she was assigned to the French Army as an adviser on Afghan affairs, overseeing the equipping and training of local police and military in anticipation of the transfer of power from the French to Afghan forces.

She also served a combat tour in Iraq in 2008-09, worked security operations at Guantanamo Bay and is a veteran of the Gulf War.

Asked to comment on all that, she simply said, “You do your job.”

It was a job she said she “always wanted to do,” even though it was not something women thought of as a career at the time she entered military service.

And the job she wants to do now is revitalize the Post, recruit new members, work more closely with other vets’ groups, such as the American Legion and the Marine Corps League, and see the Post become more involved in the community at large.

Those are all among the reasons behind the first annual Octoberfest she has organized for this coming Saturday, Oct. 18. It will be held, rain or shine, on Belgrove Drive between Bergen Ave. and Afton St. from noon to 6 p.m.

In addition to all the aforementioned veterans’ groups, participants will include members of the Kearny Police and Fire Departments, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Kearny students of all ages and various civic-minded groups. “We wanted it to be inclusive, to get as many parts of the community as possible involved,” Long said.

There will be raffles and games and food and live entertainment — rock bands, blues bands, etc.

And everything is being provided to Octoberfest gratis.

“That’s the beauty of this, they’ve all donated their time and their talents,” Long said.

And speaking of donations: The primary goal of the event is to raise funds to send care packages to the 900 New Jersey National Guard troops who are deployed around the world. Also, to collect items to fill those packages.

Cash donations will be used to pay the postage, which, Long noted, “is our biggest cost.” According to the N.J. National Guard, it costs about $25 to ship each box overseas. For 900 troops, that’s $22,500.

You can also bring things needed for the packages. Among the suggested items:

• Lip balm

• Sunblock

• Moist wipes

• Bug spray – non-aerosol

• Bars of soap

• Small bottles of shampoo

• Deodorant – non-aerosol

•Powdered drink mixes

•Cereal/snack/granola bars

• Instant oatmeal – individual  packets

• Hot chocolate – individual  packets

• Small cans of tuna with  pop-tops

• Small cans of fruit with  pop-tops

• Microwave popcorn –  individual bags

•Athletic socks

•Batteries – all sizes

• Toothpaste

• Gum

• Candy

• Small boxes of cereal

• Small bags of trail mix,  peanuts, pretzels

• Books & magazines

There are various websites with care-package info, among them opshoeboxnj.org.

And when Octoberfest is over (we’ll see you there, won’t we?), Long can go back to planning other things. Like continuing to recruit new VFW members.

Post 1302 was once among the biggest in the state, Long said, but “as with all Posts, we’re up against a declining membership. They just age out.”

She added, “Younger veterans want to see more community projects. I’ll try to create such projects to bring in members.”

Then there’s the task of spiffing up the headquarters at 300 Belgrove Dr., a 19th-century structure that, Long noted, had been the administration building for the Old Soldiers’ Home.  That takes money, and money is raised via the Post bar and its hall rentals. “It’s like running a business,” the new commander said.

Fortunately, along with her military experience, she has business acumen. She is currently a financial representative with Primary Financial in Fairfield.

If you were to ask her how she manages all this varied responsibility, we’d bet she’d say, “You do your job.”

Latest snafu for troubled district

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 


For the past few years, it has been nothing but Sturm und Drang at the Belleville public school district.

In late 2012 the superintendent of schools resigned in the wake of several lawsuits by former subordinates charging him with sexual harassment and discrimination.

During 2013 and 2014, angry teachers lambasted the school board for spending $2 million on an elaborate security system instead of fixing broken computer equipment and replenishing instructional supplies and the teachers’ union head narrowly avoided being fired for “conduct unbecoming.”

This year, the state assigned the district a fiscal monitor who initiated an administrative shakeup after a preliminary finding that the district may have overspent $4 million.

Then, last week, came the coup de grace: the district had its phones disconnected by the provider, Clarity Technologies Group. Calls to the main number were answered by a recording that said: “The number you have dialed at the Belleville school district has been suspended due to nonpayment.”

That recording played several days before the phones were switched on again by Clarity – which, according to state monitor Thomas Egan, had turned them off after a dispute “over what we’re being charged.”

In early 2013, the school board contracted with Clarity to provide phone service for $10,000 a month ($120,000 annually). As part of one contract package, it also agreed to pay the firm $1.9 million to install a security system and $240,000 to oversee its IT technology.

Egan said the Belleville school district – like many others – participates in a federal program that helps local districts “enhance phone technology” and reimburses local districts for the cost of phone service under an “E-rate provider” formula keyed to the number of free and reduced meals it provides its students.

It turns out, Egan said, that Belleville is “not eligible to get any of our E-rate reimbursement because Clarity is not recognized as a bona fide E-rate provider by the federal government which they made representation to the board that they were.”

In June, the district, at Egan’s direction, stopped paying Clarity for alleged “poor performance” under its multi-tiered contract and had planned to go to arbitration until Clarity killed phone service, prompting the district to post on its website a list of cell phone numbers assigned to each of its school facilities – a move that Councilman (and former BOE member) Joseph Longo ridiculed as “moronic” and oblivious to the issue of “public safety” for students and staff.

Egan said last week he’s getting another phone vendor, which he described only as “an affiliate of Verizon” and “vetted by the state,” to install a new phone system.

Clarity President/COO Bruce Kreeger said that the Belleville district “failed to pay its bill for six months and their service was suspended. [Late last week] they made a payment and their service is back on.” He declined to say how much the district paid but noted that the check was dated May 4.

Kreeger said it was his understanding that because “Belleville’s financial situation was very bad,” the monitor had been holding up its payments Even so, he said, Clarity “didn’t shut off access to the internet, and made sure that 911 emergency, inter-office and interschool communication systems were still on. Our concern was that students would be protected.”

Asked about Egan’s assertion that Clarity misrepresented its E-rate provider qualifications, Kreeger said that Clarity is a properly licensed E-rate provider. He said the district has failed to file the proper paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission to qualify for federal E-rate reimbursement.

According to Kreeger, the district owes Clarity about $269,000, of which $61,000 is for “phone and internet” service and the balance is for “outsource IT support, parts and supplies,” including fixing all the district’s printers.

Egan said it was also the lack of IT support that prompted his decision to hold up Clarity’s payment. During a severe heat wave at the end of August, Egan said, the district’s computer system crashed, taking down its business, payroll and special services software, preventing it from processing purchase orders and vendor payments. School employees had to bring in their summer pay stubs so that W2 records could be manually calculated and guidance counselors had to reconstruct student scheduling and special needs records for the middle and high schools. “

It caused havoc,” Egan said, and it happened because “Clarity never backed up any of those systems on a separate server.” Egan said Clarity blamed the district for the foulup and, ultimately, both parties agreed to submit the dispute to arbitration, but, “two weeks later, they pulled the plug.”

Meanwhile, BOE President John Rivera, who faulted Egan for allowing the phone shutdown to happen, said: “The monitor came here four months ago and we still don’t have an [accounting] of the district’s financials. He pretty much thinks he’s running the district and he’s put us between a rock and a hard place. … I still don’t know if we’re solvent or if we’re losing money.”

Egan said he’s “had to postpone” that auditing process “because the business records weren’t available,” but added that he’s in the process now of “preparing all the financials to be sent to Trenton.” He said he anticipates he’ll be asking the state to provide a loan to the district of “in excess of $4 million” to balance its budget.

‘Tried to usurp my powers’

Among the legal actions targeting Mayor Robert Giangeruso is a lawsuit filed by the Morristown law firm of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman on behalf of Police Chief James O’Connor.

O’Connor, whose suit was filed July 29 in Bergen County Superior Court, alleges that on May 13, the township improperly amended its police regulations “to strip [the police chief] of his statutory right to assign subordinate officers” by mandating “that no officer holding a rank higher than lieutenant may be eligible for off-duty jobs.”

What’s more, O’Connor’s complaint said, “The Mayor has a history of interfering with the day-to-day operations of the police department. Mayor Giangeruso routinely summons [the chief’s] subordinates to his office without the Chief’s knowledge; rides in police vehicles; directs police personnel away from their duties to chauffeur him; directs police personnel to attend meetings without the Chief’s input; and attempts to direct the day-to-day duties of police personnel without notifying the Chief.”

As a particularly egregious example of what the chief characterizes as interference, the complaint said that Giangeruso directed O’Connor to assign, as a “political patronage reward,” a particular police superior to a series of jobs, first as “the narcotics guy” and to provide him an SUV-type vehicle but without the standard GPS; then as a “street crimes unit;” and then, “property maintenance” overseer – “a function not even within the purview of the police department.” Giangeruso then “promoted this [superior] to … Deputy Chief, over [O’Connor’s] objections, as a way of thanking him for his assistance in getting the Mayor re-elected” and “to help his pension.”

“The Mayor has essentially used this [superior] as his personal chauffeur for the past nine years, requiring him to be at the Mayor’s beck and call and taking him outside the accountability of the police department chain of command,” the complaint said.

– Ron Leir