web analytics

Author Archive

WE’VE GOT MAIL

New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to ban supersized sugary sodas has resurrected the age-old debate over the role of the state in protecting the public health. In recent years, this debate involved bicycle helmets, car seat belts, tobacco, trans fats, saturated fats in meat and dairy products, and sugar (or more aptly, highfructose corn syrup). Public subsidies for tobacco, meat and dairy, and corn production added fuel to the debate.

I would argue that society has a right to regulate activities that impose a heavy burden on the public treasury. National medical costs of dealing with our obesity epidemic, associated with consumption of meat, dairy, and sugars, are estimated at $190 billion. Eliminating subsidies for these products, as well as judicious taxation to reduce their use and recoup public costs should be supported by health advocates and fiscal conservatives alike.

Benjamin Franklin claimed that nothing is certain except death and taxes. Ironically, death can be deferred substantially by taxing products that make us sick.

Kenneth Miller

Kearny

Will Housing Authority ever get a new boss?

By Ron Leir

HARRISON –

For nearly two years the Harrison Housing Authority has been without the services of a permanent executive director and there’s no potential replacement in sight.

If anything, the HHA has moved backwards in its search for a new leader.

In May 2011, after having published a solicitation for applicants, and garnering more than 50, the HHA announced it was suspending the search after concluding that none of the candidates filled the bill.

Eventually, the authority re-opened the search with a revised set of criteria, deeming that “a minimum of five years required of progressively senior level experience in a public housing authority is essential” and specified a salary range “between $80,000 and $100,000” for the position.

Additionally, it noted that, “An ideal candidate will have completed the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Local Housing Authority Training Program; have a (B.A.) or advanced degree in public administration, finance, business; and have exceptional references from previous employers.”

Then, in January 2012, Mayor Ray McDonough and the Harrison Town Council put in their two cents with a letter to the HHA, urging them to look locally for a new director.

“Being a Town resident gave the past executive directors a unique insight into the workings of the Town as a whole and the needs of its residents,” said the letter, signed by the mayor and the seven council members. “We believe that the people of Harrison will be best served by the hiring of a Harrisonian. It is further our belief that someone who is not familiar with the unique characteristics of the Town of Harrison, and in fact may be from out of the State, will not be as effective as someone with intimate knowledge and experience.”

That advice, however, didn’t sit well with the HHA commissioners, whose chairwoman, Irene Almeida, fired off a steamy, three-page letter dated Jan. 20 to the governing body, telling them, in essence, to go stuff it.

Almeida reminded the town leaders that under federal law – which governs the HHA – “A Municipal residency requirement/ preference constitutes a discriminatory employment practice, in hiring for a position using Federal Funds and is therefore prohibited.”

Further, she added, “New Jersey also has prohibitions on employment discrimination. It is unlawful for the Housing Authority to place any limitations on the Executive Director position which could have the effect of negatively impacting or unfairly excluding certain groups, and could constitute employment discrimination. ….”

Even on the local level, Almeida pointed out, the Town of Harrison’s “own Municipal Code” affirms that, “Residency shall not be a factor in recruiting, selection, tenure or promotion of any employees.” That codification developed, she said, as the result of a diversity in employment complaint brought by the NAACP’s Newark branch against Harrison two decades ago.

Beyond the residency issue, Almeida continued, the HHA has to comply with the New Jersey Local Redevelopment and Housing Law which spells out various educational and vocational requirements, along with advertising criteria, for hiring an executive director.

Under those mandates, the HHA “… is prohibited from limiting its search to local candidates with access to (only) local media.

” Finally, Almeida suggests that the town butt out. “The Town of Harrison does not play a role in the employment or other decisions of the Housing Authority,” she writes. “The Housing Authority has not and will not accept or consider input from the Town regarding Housing Authority hiring decisions or employment matters. It is improper for anyone outside of the (HHA) Board of Commissioners to weigh in on Housing Authority employment matters. ….”

The letter’s insistence on the authority’s autonomy echoes a theme raised in a federal “whistleblower” lawsuit filed against the mayor, the town and a somewhat different lineup of HHA commissioners by Michael Rodgers after he was fired as the authority’s executive director in 2010. Rodgers claimed that the mayor instigated his firing after he refused to overlook the alleged drug use by an HHA employee. That case is still awaiting discovery. Many of the parties named in the lawsuit have been subpoenaed for depositions but none has yet taken place.

Meanwhile, the HHA got another batch of applicants for executive director in response to its second solicitation, only to end up with the same results. On May 2, through its Interim Executive Director Zinnerford Smith, the HHA notified all applicants that, “Unfortunately, circumstances beyond the control of the Housing Authority occurred during the process and the HHA has found it necessary to conclude the search at this time. … When the search resumes an advertisement will be issued.”

Asked to elaborate, Smith told The Observer: “The position will remain open until it’s filled. We felt it would be unfair to the applicants to have them in limbo status. It’s been well over four, five months (since the application submission cutoff).” The original deadline of Oct. 21, 2011, had been extended.

Why can’t the authority find an acceptable candidate? Smith said the screening committee, aided by a private search consultant, dutifully culled the applicants’ resumes and background, “short-listed them down to three,” but the HHA commissioners “didn’t select anybody.”

“Whenever we feel the agency is prepared again to consider applicants, we’ll readvertise,” Smith said.

Smith added that he’s not in the running for the job. “I have no intent or desire to be the permanent executive director,” he said, “although this is a high-performing agency that a (housing) professional should be considering as an opportunity for property management.

” On a related housing front, the town governing body voted April 3 to provide a letter of commitment supporting a proposal by The Domus Corp., a non-profit arm of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, to build an “affordable 15-unit apartment building for low income seniors” at 774 Harrison Ave. subject to N.J. Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) requirements and loan documents.

The town pledged to apply “up to $650,000” from its Affordable Trust Fund to the project. Three of the 15 units would be earmarked for seniors “earning 30% of area median income” and the rest for seniors “earning less than 60% of median income.”

On June 6, the town reaffirmed its endorsement of the project, saying that that the project “meets or will meet an existing housing need.” It notes that Domus has established a corporate entity known as Harrison Senior Urban Renewal, LP, that has applied to the NJHMFA for 4% tax credits to help finance the project.

Beyond the money pledged by the town, the Hudson County HOME Investment Partnerships Act program has committed about $1.5 million in grant funds and the NJHMFA’s tax credits would amount to about $1.4 million, according to Domus President Phillip Frese.

Returning writer wows kids at alma mater

Photo Courtesy Anna Prokos/ From l., Library Media Specialist Kathleen Smith; students Laura Pinto, Thomas Muller, Charles McBride; author Anna Prokos; and guest Christopher Kontakis.

 

Photo Courtesy Anna Prokos/ Anna Prokos (c.) accepts flowers from Kathleen Smith and first-graders Emma Fernandes-Santinho (l.) and Raquel Cunha.

 

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

After a 26-year hiatus, Anna Prokos returned to her old grammar school on June 6 as an accomplished author. Prokos, who authored the children’s book “The Lucky Cake,” came to Roosevelt school in Kearny to talk to students about writing and being an author.

“It was really great to go back to my elementary school for the first time in 26 years,” Prokos said. “It was nice to see all these kids excited and how much of a difference my book made.“

“The Lucky Cake,” published in November 2011, tells the story of a Greek tradition where a cake is baked with a coin inside for the beginning of the New Year. The cake is served in order from oldest to youngest and the finder of the coin can expect to have a lucky year.

Prokos and “The Lucky Cake” achieved success, as 1,200 copies of the children’s book were sold in a threemonth span but Prokos is even happier with the reader response that her book has sparked.

“Most of the copies have been purchased by non-Greek people,” Prokos said. “Through the feedback I get, (readers) make this cake not just on New Year’s but at any time. It’s my inspiration to give kids a different cultural experience that they really have embraced.”

What really impressed her during her visit was how both teachers and students reacted.

“I think that the kids really enjoyed it,” Prokos said. “The kids had lots of questions and were very enthusiastic to ask them…The teachers really enjoyed having an author come to their school and talk about what’s its like to be an author and the careers you can have in publishing.”

One student in particular made a lasting impact with Prokos. She recounted the event, saying, “One child (that a teacher later said she didn’t think would be interested due to a disinterest in reading) wanted to talk to me directly. He asked me what were the most and least important things when writing a book. I was really struck by the fact that this child, who has not shown that much excitement in the classroom, had really wanted to ask me a question.”

Prokos answered the child by saying, “(The most important thing is to) keep rewriting as much as possible until you feel that it is done. Don’t ever settle until you’ve done it as well. (The least important thing is) a page or word limit. That’s something you can worry about at the end of it.”

Prokos found her inspiration for writing during her time at Roosevelt School while participating in a literary magazine the school published.

“My teacher created this magazine where they printed everybody’s best work throughout the year,” Prokos explained. “I remember being so excited to see my work with my name on it. I brought (the publication) home and told my parents, ‘I’m going to be a writer when I grow up’ and they didn’t believe me, but here I am today.”

With “The Lucky Cake” published, Prokos is now in the final stages of her next book, “The Lucky Year.” The book will follow the character Billy during his lucky year after finding the coin in “The Lucky Cake.” “

Right now, the book is finished and is in the design and illustration process,” Prokos said. She’s unsure about when the book will be ready for publication.

For more information on “The Lucky Cake,” visit www.theluckycakebook.com. To follow the book on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/a.to.z.publishing as well as the book’s Twitter @AZPublishing

JohnClaude still open for business

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Despite “For Lease” signs on its front windows, JohnClaude Exclusive Catering is still in business.

“We’re caterers and that’s what we want to do,” explained coowner John Martello. Martello and fellow owner Claude Persico closed the retail end of the store to focus on their catering.

Martello’s passion for cooking formed from his childhood, where he was surrounded by cooking.

“I’ve been around it my whole life,” Martello said. “All my family and friends did it.”

As for what has kept him in the business, Martello said, “I like to please people. Food is instant gratification. I like to make people smile.”

Martello, a Staten Island, N.Y. resident, chose North Arlington for his business because of its proximity to major metropolitan areas.

“Being in North Arlington gets me to the essential spots,” Martello explained. “I can get my drivers to the major roads quicker and get them where they need to go.”

Martello has built a foundation for great food with twenty years of experience in the food business, working his way up the ladder from simply preparing food at 15 to becoming an executive chef at 18.

Martello’s career would take him through Johnson & Wales, where he graduated with a degree in Business. Martello then went on to own The Gas Light Restaurant in Hoboken before choosing a career in catering in 2007.

Now entrenched at 20 Ridge Road in North Arlington, Martello takes pride in all of his work.

“We’ve done thousands of events,” Martello said. “I take pride in anything, from catering to 10 people to an event for 10,000 people (referring to an event John Claude catered for Bear Stearns).”

John Claude’s culinary background is just as varied as the size of the events they cater. From American, Italian, French, Oriental Fusion, Spanish, and Mexican, Martello said, “There’s not one particular thing that we do. Throw it on my plate and I’ll do it. I take pride in all of it.”

While Martello loves to simply cook any style of meal, he has two styles that he prefers to eat.

“Probably Italian or Steak,” Martello explained when asked what his favorite meal to consume was. “I love steaks. I like a good bone and rib-eye.”

JohnClaude Exclusive Catering is located at 20 Ridge Road in North Arlington. For catering inquiries, call (201)-998-0039 or visit their website at www.jcexclusivecatering. com.

Going for a ‘spin’ will get easier

It’ll be easier for customers to tote laundry to and from a Belleville laundromat now that the owner has gotten the OK to expand his on-site parking.

The Belleville Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimously last Thursday night to approve an application by 34 Franklin Street LLC to knock down a shuttered dessert stand at 34-38 Franklin St. next to Spin Central, a self-service facility, and develop the vacant lot for extra parking.

Under questioning by his attorney Robert Gaccione, Shane Berger, principal of 34 Franklin St. LLC and owner of the laundry facility, told the board he has a 20-year lease for the laundry property at Franklin and N. Eighth Sts. and is the contract-purchaser of the adjoining lot at 34-38 Franklin St.

Berger, who serves as vice president of the Bloomfield Board of Education, has been operating the Franklin St. business for the past five years with limited and cramped parking on-site, accessible via Franklin St.

To provide more room and easier traffic flow for laundry patrons driving to and from the location, Berger proposes to demolish the old Rita’s Italian Ice and merge the two adjacent lots.

Berger said that reconfiguration would accommodate a total of 33 parking spaces, three of which would be reserved for laundry employees and two for disabled motorists.

Drivers would be able to enter and exit the property via Franklin St., he said.

Business hours will be from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends, he said.

Bulk variances required for the project were approved by the zoning board with the condition that the applicant confer with Town Engineer Tom Herits on plans for stormwater drainage.

– Ron Leir

Around Town

Kearny

• The Kearny School district will present a townwide jazz concert on Wednesday, June 13, at 7 p.m., at Lincoln School, 121 Beech St., Kearny, in the auditorium. Admission is free. Garfield Elementary School and the Washington Jr. School Jazz bands will perform, along with the Lincoln Jr. Jazz band and Kearny High School Jazz Band. Finishing out the concert will be a 17-piec e professional big band called the Kearny Faculty Community Jazz Band.

• The 22nd annual Kearny Senior Picnic, sponsored by the Mayor, Town Council and the Kearny Municipal Alliance will be held on Thursday, June 14, at the Doyle Pavilion, Riverbank Park, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Admission is free to Kearny senior residents. In case of rain, the picnic will be held at the Benstead Center, 60 Columbia Ave.

Lyndhurst

• The Humane Society of Bergen County of Bergen County, 221 Stuyvesant Ave., Lyndhurst, has a supply of dog foods, all brands FREE OF CHARGE, for anyone due to unemployment, disability or any other financial problem are unable to feed their dog. Please stop by or call 201-896-9300. Monday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 201-896-9300.

• The Lyndhurst Health Departmentwill begin the summer session of Yoga, Zumba, and Zumba Gold the week of June 18. This 10- week session is made possible through a partnership with Y.M.C.A. and classes will be held on M ondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays at the Health Department. The cost is $35 for residents and $55 for non-residents. Please make checks payable to Meadowlands Area Y.M.C.A. Payment and registration can be returned to the Lyndhurst Health Department on 253 Stuyvesant Avenue. Call 201-804- 2500 with any questions. Registration forms can be picked up at the Health Department or online www.lyndhurstnj.org.

• “Pig Farm Blues: Music and Stories from a Childhood in Secaucus,” a free program for seniors, will be held on Thursday, June 14, at 7 p.m. at the Meadowlands Environment Center, DeKorte Park, Lyndhurst. Joe McKay used his childhood growing up on a pig farm as the inspiration for folk songs about the “Backroad” in Secaucus. This singer/songwriter will entertain you with “tales and wails” about that time in New Jersey’s agricultural past. Phone pre-registration required: 201-777-2431.

• NJMC Pontoon Boat Tours will be held on June 15, 19 and 21 at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $15 per person. Get an up-close view of the Meadowlands District’s spectacular scenic beauty and wildlife with a two-hour guided pontoon boat cruise of the Hackensack River and its surrounding marshes. Experienced NJMC staff discuss the region’s human and environmental history and point out birds and other wildlife along the way. Pontoon boat cruises depart from River Barge Park, 260 Outwater Lane, Carlstadt. For ages 10 and up. Pre-registration required.For a complete schedule and to register, visit www.njmeadowlands.gov or call 201-460-4640.

• An NJMC Father’s Day Canoe Tour is set for 8:30 a.m. Saturday, June 16. Take a three-hour guided tour exploring the Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area. Paddlers will learn the basics of salt marsh ecology and enjoy the magnificent natural and man-made scenery while rowing past wetlands down creeks. $15 per person. Departs from Laurel Hill County Park, Secaucus. Pre-registration required. For more information or to register go to www.njmeadowlands.gov and click on “Environment” and “Meadowlands Tours” or call 201-460-4640.

• The NJMC has scheduled a free program, “Why are the ruins of NYC’s Penn Station in the NJ M eadowlands?” on Tuesday, June 19, at 2 p.m. Before 1969, unregulated dumping was not unusual, and 2,508 acres in the Meadowlands were landfills or slated to be landfilled. Join MEC Director Dr. Angela Cristini as she uncovers the underground secrets of the ruins unearthed in the Meadowlands, and leads you in a game of Marsh Jeopardy. Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park, Lyndhurst. Phone pre-registration required: 201-777- 2431.

North Arlington

• The North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Rd., announces the following upcoming events: Yoga class – Fridays in June at 10:45 a.m., Friday, July 20 – Bingo luncheon from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 18 – Bus trip t o Sand’s Casino and shops in B ethlehem, Pa. For more information, call 201-998-5636.

Nutley

• Nutley’s Annual Father’s Day Street Fair will be held on Sunday, June 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. along Franklin Avenue. Admission is free. The event is sponsored by the Nutley High School Hockey League Booster Club.

• American Red Cross, 169 Chestnut St., Nutley, will have a blood drive on Tuesday, June 19, (Chatham Room, first floor) from 3 to 8 p.m. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 in some states with a signed Parental Consent Form), weigh at least 110 pounds and are generally in good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

• The Pen to Prose Writers’ Group will meet at Nutley Public Library on Monday, June 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The group was formed to read works-in-progress, share accomplishments, critique works, give writing instruction, and provide encouragement and inspiration to aspiring authors. The group is free and open to the public.

• Adults are invited to participate in the Between the Covers Summer Reading Club at the Nutley Public Library, which kicks off on June 25. Each book that you read or listen to gives you an opportunity to win fun prizes from weekly raffle drawings at the library. Displays of recommended summer reading materials will offer an opportunity for browsing and borrowing. Readers are encouraged to include a review of their book on each raffle ticket, or post a review on the Facebook page for Nutley Public Library. A grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the summer. Call the library at 973-667- 0405 for more information on this and other programs. The schedule of programs is available at the library and on the library’s web site at http://nutley.bccls.org

• Drop-In Mommy and Me Time will be held a t library on Mondays, July 2, 16 and 30 at 10 a.m. – Registration is required.

• The next meeting of the library’s Monday Night Book Club is schedule for July 2 at 7 p.m. This month’s book is “Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship” by Gail Caldwell. The group meets on the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. Newcomers are welcome. Drop-In Craft for Registered Story Time at the library is scheduled for July 5, 6, 19 and 20 a t 10 a.m. Registration required.

• A Tween Video Game Tournament will be held a t the library on Friday, July 6 and 20 at 2 p.m. – Registration required.

• The library’s Craft Book Club will meet on S aturday, July 7, at 11 a.m. Registration is required. • Babygarten will be held a t the library on Monday, July 9 and 23 at 10 a.m. and 1 p .m. – Registration required.

• Preschool Story Time will be held at the library on Tuesday, July 10 and 24 at 10 a.m.. Registration required.

• An environmental workshop for PreK-2nd grade will be held at the library on Tuesday, July 10 at 2 p.

Nutley native Gomez drafted by Marlins

Former DBP and Vanderbilt infielder gets call in sixth round

 

Photo courtesy Vanderbilt University sports communications./ Nutley native Anthony Gomez, who played college baseball at Vanderbilt University the last three seasons, was selected by the Miami Marlins in the sixth round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft last week.

By Jim Hague

As the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft entered its second day last Wednesday, Anthony Gomez wasn’t paying a lot of attention.

Nutley native Gomez was with his teammates at Vanderbilt University and was in the locker room, after the Commodores had been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by North Carolina State last Sunday.

“One of the guys was watching the draft tracker online,” Gomez said. “I wasn’t really paying attention. I was hoping to hear my name called, but my friend said, `Hey, Gomez just got taken by the Marlins.’ That’s how I found out.”

It was true. The 6-foot, 185-pound shortstop, who played his high school baseball for perennial state power Don Bosco Prep, was taken by the Miami Marlins in the sixth round of the draft, becoming the first Nutley product to get selected in the MLB Draft since pitcher Rob Gariano was taken by the San Diego Padres in the 35th round of the 2010 Draft out of Fairfield University.

Before Gariano, Larry Mohs was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 11th round in 1993.

Gomez was the third highest player from New Jersey taken in the 2012 MLB Draft.

Gomez had a good idea that he would be picked in the draft.

“The day of the draft, we had a team meeting, so I was busy with that,” Gomez said. “I had received a few phone calls earlier that I might get drafted. A scout from the Marlins called me and asked if I would be ready to sign if they took me. I had a few other teammates who were also told they might get drafted, so we were all having a little fun with it.”

Photo courtesy Vanderbilt University sports communications/ Vanderbilt’s Anthony Gomez throws out runner from shortstop position.

 

Gomez said that receiving the news from the Marlins was the best moment of his life.

“It’s completely a dream come true,” Gomez said. “It’s what every kid wants to do. To see it now become a reality is truly amazing.”

Gomez, who still has another year of eligibility remaining at Vanderbilt if he chooses to return to school, led the Commodores in a host of offensive statistics this season, batting .357 with 57 RBI and 90 hits, earning All-Southeast Conference honors for the second straight year. He stands fourth on the Vanderbilt all-time hit list with 267 and if he chooses to return for his senior year, he could very well break the school’s alltime hit record. His .354 career batting average ranks fifth alltime at Vanderbilt.

But it sounds as if Gomez is leaning towards signing a contract with the Marlins. He returned to Nutley on Thursday, a day after the draft, and was greeted by a host of family and friends.

“Everyone has been so excited,” Gomez said. “I’ve seen a few friends and they’re all very happy for me. They know it’s been my lifelong dream.”

Gomez plans on meeting with the Marlins’ organization this week to discuss a contract.

“I’m heading to Jupiter (Florida) this week to begin negotiations,” Gomez said. “We’ll see, but I’ll probably sign, maybe Wednesday. It’s good to know that I was picked that high. I wasn’t sure where I was going to fall. I spoke with the Marlins before the draft, so I knew that they were interested in me, but I had no idea where I would end up. But I’m really excited. It feels pretty good.”

Gomez started to gain a lot of attention last year, when Vanderbilt sent 12 players to the MLB Draft.

“We had a lot of scouts coming to the games last year and we had a lot of guys get drafted,” Gomez said. “It helped that we had a team with a lot of talent. I got noticed and started to realize I had a chance. I had a lot of scouts who wanted to know if I would sign if I got drafted. So I guess I knew I would get picked. It was just a matter of what round.”

Gomez was happy to share the day with five of his Vanderbilt teammates, who also were taken during this year’s draft.

“It was a great time for all of us,” Gomez said. “I did get to hear my buddies’ names called. Six from the same school is pretty impressive.”

Gomez was happy it was the Marlins, because he said that he has family in Miami.

“They’re excited as well,” said Gomez, who was born in Belleville at Clara Maass Hospital and was raised on the Nutley/Clifton border.

Gomez said that it was helpful to be part of two great baseball programs, first at Don Bosco Prep and later Vanderbilt. “It was a huge help to me,” Gomez said. “You see all the big-time players going through the process from freshman to senior year.” One of Gomez’s high school teammates, Steve Proscia, was drafted in the fourth round by the Seattle Mariners last year and is playing minor league baseball in their organization.

“Between Bosco and Vanderbilt, there have been others who know what the minor league process is all about,” Gomez said. “It can def nitely be a benefit to me.”

Gomez was amazed to learn he was one of only a handful of Nutley products to be drafted.

“I didn’t know that,” Gomez said. “It’s a great feeling to have that distinction. It feels good to come back to Nutley and have everyone all excited and happy for me. I’m glad I can help to bring happiness to everyone.”

And help to put Nutley on the national baseball map once again.

Kearny boys’ volleyball enjoys solid season

Photo by Jim Hague/ The Kearny volleyball team qualified for the NJSIAA state tournament for the second time in the school’s history. From left are Jonathan Horvaht, head coach Bill Mullins and Albert Jimenez.

 

By Jim Hague

When the high school boys’ volleyball season began three months ago, Kearny head coach Bill Mullins didn’t know what to expect.

After all, Mullins had only one starter returning from a team that posted a 10-13 record the prior year. The Kardinals were basically putting an entirely new team on the floor.

“We knew that we had some nice players, but we didn’t know how well we would do,” said Mullins, the long-time Kearny basketball coach who entered his second season as the boys’ volleyball coach in April. “We didn’t know who was going to be out there. We had a young team with kids battling for positions.”

The lone returning starter was senior setter Kevin Ortiz. It looked like a team in total flux.

“We tried to set some goals,” Mullins said. “We tried to use making the state playoffs as a goal. But we had to take each point, each game at a time.”

Mullins was definitely encouraged, because he had a dedicated bunch of volleyball players.

“They definitely were working hard and wanted to get better,” Mullins said. “They also had a very good attitude. They worked together and listened.”

Because he didn’t know exactly what his team was made of, Mullins tried a different approach.

“I wanted them to play aggressive,” Mullins said. “I wanted them to jump and hit the ball with power every single time. It was a big emphasis. I challenged them to hit with power and become more of an aggressive power team.”

It was an approach that the Kardinals bought into.

“It was a big responsibility, because we were playing some good teams,” said senior outside hitter Albert Jimenez, who had quality playing time last year as a reserve. “We had an inexperienced team and everyone didn’t think we’d do well. But we pulled together.”

At one point of the season, prospects looked pretty grim. The Kardinals had lost six straight matches to drop to 6-11 overall.

“We lost to Bayonne, which ended up being a Final Four team in the state,” Mullins said. “But we needed to battle back to get to .500 and qualify for the states.”

A big turning point took place in early May, when the Kardinals went to the Hackensack Comet Invitational tournament, an eight-team volleyball smorgasbord with some of the toughest teams in northern New Jersey.

“I thought a little about changing the lineup of the team or moving them around a little, to change things up,” Mullins said. “Then, right before the Hackensack tournament, I decided to stick with it. I had a little bit of faith in them and they did tremendously.”

The Kardinals defeated Bergenfield, Jefferson and host Hackensack, then knocked off Garfield in the semifinals, a team that had defeated the Kardinals in the regular season.

“That was a good sign for me that we turned things around,” Mullins said.

The Kardinals did lose to neighboring rival Harrison in the championship round, but it was definitely a turning point in the season.

“To get to the finals really changed us,” Mullins said. “It gave the team some encouragement that we could win. We just had to stick to what we were doing and continue to get better.”

The Kardinals managed to win seven of their final nine matches to reach the .500 mark and qualify for the NJSIAA state tournament. They lost in the first round to perennial state power St. Peter’s Prep, but they did manage to finish with a 14-14 record and a berth in the NJSIAA state tourney for only the second time in the program’s seven-year history.

“We had that pressure the whole year to make the state tournament and we did it,” Mullins said. “I’m real proud of their efforts.”

Jimenez emerged as a standout player, eventually earning All-Hudson County league honors.

“He got a lot stronger and played with a lot more power,” Mullins said of Jimenez, who is headed to Fairfield University in the fall to study engineering. “He really came a long way.”

“We never gave up and that was important,” Jimenez said. “It was amazing the way we came back and got to .500. Hackensack was definitely the wake-up call.”

Ortiz remained solid as the setter, but midway through the season, he suffered a broken thumb, so junior Thiago de Carvalho had to step in and serve as the setter.

“It’s basically like losing your quarterback in football, but Thiago did well in the last eight games and we went 6-2 with him as our setter,” Mullins said.

Junior Jonathan Horvaht was the team’s opposite hitter.

“He also developed into a nice player,” Mullins said.

“This was a big season,” Horvaht said. “It was only the second time we made it to the states. It was good to get this far, considering no one thought we could do it. It’s a big sense of accomplishment and gives us something to build on for next year. I never made the state tournament in anything, so it was a big step in my high school career.”

Junior John Lemos was another outside hitter who developed leaps and bounds this season.

“He’s the best jumper on the team,” Mullins said.

Senior Konrad Balakier was perhaps the team’s most versatile performer.

“He played all around the floor,” Mullins said.

Junior Kyle Seridonio was another hitter. Junior Lucio Costa was the team’s libero or defensive specialist.

Senior Anthony DeSousa was a member of the back row defense and sophomore Douglas Chemin was a good shot blocker and middle hitter.

All totaled, the Kardinals found the intestinal fortitude to recover from the tough times and reach their collective goal for only the second time in school history.

“We hit some obstacles with that losing streak, but they overcame the adversity like they did all year,” Mullins said. “They kept working hard and playing. We have some nice talent coming back, so it’s up to us to keep getting better.”

QP’s Momnohin living up to the meaning of his name

Photo by Jim Hague/ Queen of Peace sophomore track and field standout Kevin Momnohin

 

By Jim Hague 

Kevin Momnohin has an Irish-sounding name (his last name is pronounced like MONAHAN) but the Queen of Peace sophomore’s name has its origins from the Ivory Coast in Africa.

That’s where Momnohin’s father was born and in a country where the national language is called “We,” the name means “You did it,” in the native tongue.

Well, it’s safe to say that Momnohin certainly has done it and done it well as an athlete at Queen of Peace. Momnohin first attended Don Bosco Prep and intended to be a football standout at the nationally-ranked powerhouse, but since his twin brother, Keith, was enrolled at Queen of Peace, he decided last September to join his brother at QP.

“I wanted to be there with my brother,” said Kevin Momnohin about his younger fraternal twin, born two minutes apart. “It made sense to me to be there. We push each other every day to become better athletes. We are very close.”

It didn’t take long for Momnohin to feel comfortable at his new school.

“I felt at home with the students, the athletes, the coaches,” Momnohin said. “It made sense for me to be there.”

When the outdoor track season began, the Momnohin twins joined the Golden Griffins’ program, headed by veteran respected coach Nick Mazzolla.

It didn’t take long for Mazzolla to realize that both twins had talent, but Kevin was something special.

“I knew that this kid was a natural athlete,” Mazzolla said. “I could tell that right away.”

Momnohin was joining the QP track team for one reason.

“I wanted to get ready for football,” Momnohin said. “I thought it would be the best way to work on my strength and stamina. I figured I could do the sprints.”

Momnohin had never competed in track and field before, but his father said that both Kevin and Keith were always running after each other since they were toddlers, so running track made a lot of sense.

Mazzolla didn’t know where Momnohin would fit in.

“We did a series of workouts to see where his talents were best,” Mazzolla said. “I figured he could do the 100-meter high hurdles, the 100 and 200-meter dashes and the long jump.”

Momnohin knew that he could run the sprints, but was a little unsure about doing the hurdles.

“I never did them before,” Momnohin said. “I just had to jump over it.”

Seems easy enough. Mazzolla saw rapid improvement from his budding star.

“Meet after meet, he just kept getting better and better,” Mazzolla said. “As he continued to improve, his performances also got better. Our assistant coach, Terry Iavarone, used some unique cross training methods to get Kevin ready. He used it with all the kids, but it really worked with Kevin. Halfway through the season, you could see that Kevin was getting stronger and faster. I was toying with him, thinking of using him in the 400-meter run and the middle distances.”

Mazzolla then came up with an idea that would best utilize Momnohin’s talents.

“I thought about putting him in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles,” Mazzolla said. “I knew he had the ability. I thought that his speed would help him in between the hurdles.”

Momnohin didn’t know what to think.

“I knew I never did it before,” Momnohin said. “But Coach Mazzolla was behind me and had faith in me, so I did it.”

Just like the meaning of his name.

With no practice in the event whatsoever, Momnohin lined up at the recent NJSIAA Non-Public B state sectional championships and in his first-ever attempt at the 400-meter intermediate hurdles, Momnohin finished second in 1:00.7.

“I was a little surprised,” Momnohin said. “I was a little nervous, but once I got over the first hurdle, it was actually kind of easy. I never thought it could happen.”

At that same meet, Momnohin also finished second in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and finished fifth at the long jump.

A week later, Momnohin went to the overall NJSIAA Non-Public B state championships and this time, he won the 400-meter intermediate hurdles in 58.44 seconds.

“I told the kid that not only was he going to do well, but that he was going to win the thing,” Mazzolla said. “I knew he would do well. He cut his time by two seconds as well.”

“I never thought I could get this far,” Momnohin said. “I could never have predicted this.”

At the overall Non-Public B group championships, Momnohin also finished third in the 100-meter dash and fourth in the 200-meter dash, meaning that he secured three medals and earned the right to compete in the NJSIAA Meet of Champions in three events.

For his efforts, Momnohin has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week. Momnohin also earns the distinction of being the final honoree for the 2011-2012 scholastic sports season. The presentation for the Observer Male and Female Athletes of the Year will take place in the coming weeks.

Mazzolla is overjoyed at Momnohin’s progress.

“He works hard in practice and deserves this,” Mazzolla said. “He’s also a real gentleman and he’s very coachable. By the time he’s done and if he uses track as his vehicle, he could get to college. There’s no doubt about it. He’s done very well with very little experience.”

Very little? Try just two attempts at the intermediate hurdles and it produced a state champion. That’s almost too mind boggling for words.

“Sometimes, you have to take a chance in this sport,” Mazzolla said. “It worked out. I just had a hunch.”

“Of course, I think there’s a big future for me,” Momnohin said. “I’m going to keep doing track. It’s now sort of equal with football.”

However, QP football coach Steve Romano is going to look forward to have both Momnohin twins in the fall.

“It’s a big pleasure for me to represent Queen of Peace,” Momnohin said. “Coach Romano told me the other day that I’m making the school proud, that I have to keep making the Queen of Peace name get out there.”

Much like the Momnohin name, meaning “you did it.” Yes, Kevin Momnohin certainly did it. He’s a state champion.

Obituaries

John A. Holle Sr.

John A. Holle Sr., of Bloomfield, died tragically on June 7 from injuries sustained after being struck by an automobile while crossing the street. Originally from Arlington, John joined the Marines in 1942 and fought at Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima, and earned citations for bravery including the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He was a proud life member of the Marine Corps League, West Hudson Detachment; the Catholic War Veterans; and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He was also a member of the Father Washington Club. His father, Edward Holle, was killed on the Dorchester with the Rev. John Washington when it was torpedoed and sank in the North Atlantic during WWII. A marksman, John was a life member of the NRA and received many awards and medals and national recognition for his shooting expertise as part of the Kearny and Roseland Rifle and Pistol Clubs.

A devout Catholic, John was a daily communicant of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Bloomfield, where he was a member of the Holy Name Society and served as an acolyte, usher, and Eucharistic Minister. John served twice as Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus Council 1178, and was a member of the St. Isaac Jogues 4th degree Assembly #0649.

An avid golfer and bowler, John was a member of The Bowling Green Golf Club in Oak Ridge, and a captain of the St. Thomas Bowling League for many years. He had been a mechanical contractor and a member of the Pipe Fitters Local #274.

A man of service to many charities, Mr. Holle was predeceased by his son, John A. Holle, Jr. and a brother Albert J. Holle. He is survived by his beloved wife, Cecilia A. (nee Jordan) Holle; three children, Joan Holle of Spring Lake, Dolores Holle of Sea Girt, James Jordan Holle and his wife Deirdre Cannon of East Hanover, and the Rev. Laurence P. Dolan, OFM, of San Diego, Calif.; two grandchildren, James and Brian Holle of East Hanover; four sisters-in-law, Ann Holle of Oceanside, Calif., Rose Wildeman of Point Pleasant, Teresa Corcoran of Blairstown and Rosalie A. Jordan of Spring Lake; a niece Regina Holle of San Diego, Calif.; and many nieces, nephews and cousins in the U.S. and Ireland. John leaves behind many loyal friends and family, and will be sorely missed.

Visitation will be at Frank Halpin’s Brookdale Funeral Home, 1284 Broad St, Bloomfield, on Wednesday June 13, from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. The funeral will be Thursday, June 14, at 9 a.m. from the funeral home. The funeral Liturgy will follow in Saint Thomas the Apostle Church, 60 Byrd Ave, Bloomfield, at 10 a.m. Interment is at Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the John A. Holle Memorial Fund, West Hudson Detachment, Marine Corp League, 286 Belgrove Dr., Kearny, NJ 07032 or The Seeing Eye, PO Box 375, Morristown, NJ 07963.

Theodore R. Lapinski

Theodore R. Lapinski, 87, died on June 5 at Englewood Hospital in Englewood.

Born in Jersey City, he lived in North Arlington since 1953.

He was the vice president of operations for Englewood Hospital for 13 years before retiring in 1992. Earlier, he worked as an account executive Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Newark for 25 years. He served in the United States Army during World War II. He served North Arlington as tax collector, councilman and Mayor from 1969 to 1970 and most recently as vice chairman of the Board of Health. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus #3428 and an usher at Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington. He was a member of the Lions Club of North Arlington, the North Arlington Republican Club and was state ambassador for the A.A.R.P.

He was the beloved husband of Jennie (nee Natina); devoted father of Gordon and his wife Virginia of Cherry Hill and the late Lenore; cherished grandfather of Jennifer Sands, Derek, Amanda and Kyle Lapinski and great-grandfather of Robert Sands III.

Visitation was held at the Parow Funeral Home, 185 Ridge Rd., North Arlington on Saturday, June 9, with a religious service. In Theodore’s memory, the family would appreciate donations made to the North Arlington Volunteer Emergency Squad, P.O. Box 7088, North Arlington, N.J. 07031.

Claude Neilson

Claude Neilson died on June 8 at home. He was 84. Born in Crawhills, Scotland, he lived many years in Kearny before moving to Margaretville, N.Y.

Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A Masonic service was held, followed by the funeral service and private cremation. To leave online condolence please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.

Claude was a butcher and part owner of the Royal Meat Market, Kearny. He was past master of Copestone Ophir Lodge, past president of the Scots American Club, Scottish American Monument Committee and the Square Club all in Kearny.

Husband of Agnes (nee Hamilton), he is survived by his children Robert Neilson, Elizabeth and Arlindo Teixeira and Andrew Neilson, six grandchildren and four greatgrandchildren. He was predeceased by his grandson, Sean.

In lieu of flowers, kindly make a donation to Erskine Hospital c/o the funeral home.

Stuart J. Schardin

Stuart J. Schardin, 61, of Harrison, passed away on Sunday, June 3.

Private funeral arrangements were entrusted to Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Avenue, Harrison. followed by cremation. For information or to send condolences to family please visit mulliganfuneralhome.org.

Son of the late Elmer and Fern, Stuart was born in Lake Benton, Minn.

He survived by his sons Joshua S. and Matthew J. Schardin.