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Does girls crew row vs. bias?


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


A Kearny parent has filed a federal civil rights complaint against the Board of Education.

The complaint, filed in December 2014 by Paula Cavalier, alleges that the high school has violated Title 9 of federal education law which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex in federally-supported education programs.

Cavalier’s complaint alleges that the high school is favoring the boys crew over the girls crew team by denying the girls the chance to participate in regionally competitive races in which the boys crew participates.

And, the complaint says, the school discriminates against the girls crew by giving the male crew priority access to equipment.

Kenneth Lindenfelser, attorney for the school board, said that, “there was a complaint filed by a parent alleging Title 9 violations” and that the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights “has asked for information that we are in the process of gathering and which we will be providing.”

Lindenfelser said the feds wanted the materials “by Feb. 18” but because the scope of the information sought involves all interscholastic sports activities in which Kearny High participates, collecting all the information – items including each program’s “budget, number of participants, age of uniforms and type of equipment” – collection of the data has become “tedious to assemble.”

For that reason, he said, he is asking the feds if the district can limit its research to crew but, if not, “we’ll probably ask for an extension.”

The district, the attorney said, “is confident we’re in compliance, but we’re going to cooperate with them and if they find that some type of adjustment is needed, we’ll make it.”

He declined to elaborate. In her complaint, Cavalier attached a spread sheet detailing the boys and girls crew competitions for 2014. From an analysis of those events, Cavalier drew this conclusion:

“The boys raced against 151 more teams than the girls, mainly because they raced on Sunday, when the most competitive races occur. These are the races most likely to draw college recruiters, so that girls who cannot race on Sundays have reduced access to scholarships, as compared with boys. This is mostly due to the fact that the girls’ crew coach declines to work on Sundays, for religious reasons. The majority of competitive rowing on the east coast occurs on Sundays. … Under Title 9, the school district is required to afford equal opportunities to female athletes. Because the Kearny school district could easily find a solution to this inequality, I have contacted the Office of Civil Rights ….”

Ironically, according to logs obtained by Cavalier, more girls participated in crew than boys last year. “For 2014, 40 girls signed up, as compared with 36 boys,” she told The Observer.

Under the projected schedule for 2015 competitions, Cavalier said, “The boys will be racing 296 more teams than the girls, which is worse than last year’s inequality of 151 more teams.”

And getting less exposure than the boys crew in bigger competitive races “attended by regional, Ivy League college recruiters” means that girls’ chances of landing athletic scholarships are negatively impacted, she said.

Although her daughter is a member of the girls crew team, Cavalier said that she filed the discrimination complaint as an advocate for the entire girls crew team, and not just as her daughter.

“I hope she realizes that sometimes, you have to do what you might be afraid to do for the bigger picture, to right a wrong,” she said.

Last year, Cavalier said, it was embarrassing for the girls crew members when “our immediate regional competition, like the girls teams from Nutley, Belleville, Rutherford, for example, were at the Sunday Philadelphia Rowing Association races, and Kearny was not represented.”

Possible solutions, Cavalier suggested, include allowing assistant crew coaches for boys and girls to “work out a schedule so that both teams can attend the same competitions,” merging the boys and girls crew “so that they can compete in the same races as a unit” or replacing the girls’ crew coach.

Back in 1983 when Cavalier was a student at Kearny High and an avid cyclist, she asked if she could go out for crew, only to be told there were no girls permitted “because they had no separate showers or bathrooms.”

Three years later, she recalled, a girls crew team materialized.

“Today, ironically, more than 30 years later, we’re still running into a situation of inequality for girls,” she said.

Last year, Cavalier revived her high school dream by taking lessons with the Passaic River Rowing Association and has relished the experience. “When you’re a crew and rowing as one unit, it all clicks together. Together, you become one quiet, beautiful machine.”

How to ward off the cold

With predictions of continued frigid weather, including wind gusts of up to 40 mph and wind chills of -15 to -20 degrees, across The Observer’s coverage area, here are some tips from the Essex County Office of Emergency Management.

* Clothing: Dress in layers. Cover exposed skin, and wear a hat and gloves.

* Stay dry: Moisture, even sweat, increases heat loss. * Stay hydrated: Increased hydration means increased blood flow and less chance of frostbite.

* Frostbite: Signs of frostbite include white, gray, numb, or waxy skin. Victims are often unaware of frostbite until someone else notices it. Frostbite victims should be brought indoors and gently warmed with body heat or warm water. Never use a heating pad, oven or other source of extreme heat, as numb skin will burn easily.

* Hypothermia: Persons with a low body temperature will exhibit slurred speech, drowsiness, low energy, or shaking of the hands. Hypothermia victims should be brought to a warm indoor location as quickly as possible and have their body warmed as quickly as possible. Body temperatures below 95 degrees require immediate medical attention.

And from The Observer: During extreme weather, you might also consider checking up on your neighbors, particularly senior citizens. Do they need any help? Do they have heat and hot water? If they are unable to leave home, offer to run errands, such as food shopping.

Photos tell his story


By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent

Last year, Bobby Travieso was doing some spring cleaning when, in the back of a closet, he found an old leather jacket he hadn’t worn in decades. Most people might think “thrift shop.” Travieso thought “art.”

“It was the last remnant of my high school days,” he said, explaining that his yearbook and 1980 class ring from Park West High School in Manhattan, where he grew up, had disappeared over the years. “It was the absolute final item I have from that era. I didn’t want to throw it out.”

He also couldn’t wear it. “It doesn’t fit me anymore. Somehow, my arms got longer,” he said with a laugh.

So the pop artist started taking photos of friends and family members wearing the jacket. Then, he branched out. “The project soon took a life of its own, and throughout the summer different people from different walks of life all shared the same theme,” he said. In the end, he had 50 portraits, each one with its own meaningful backstory for the photographer.

His “conceptual art” exhibit, “Black Jacket,” was featured at the Monroe Center for the Arts in Hoboken last November and at the Secaucus Library last month.

It’s now on view at the North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Rd., through March 7, although due to space, only about half the photos are displayed. Still, it’s more than worth a visit. At 11 a.m. this Saturday, Feb. 21, the library will host a reception at which the public can meet the artist and hear some of his stories. There will be refreshments and a Q&A session.

Photos by Bobby Travieso TOP: Bobby Travieso at Black Jack Exhibit at North Arlington Pu blic Library. ABOVE: Scarlett Lewis displays T-shirt.

Photos by Bobby Travieso
TOP: Bobby Travieso at Black Jack Exhibit at North Arlington Public Library.
ABOVE: Scarlett Lewis displays T-shirt.


Travieso and his wife, Fran, live in Secaucus, but he has a North Arlington connection. He’s a Fedex courier whose route covers the borough.

That’s his job, but his true calling is art. You can see examples of his work at his website, http://www.hairyhand. net

“People usually ask me when did I start painting and drawing,” he said.

“The answer is a bit sad, but the truth nevertheless. I lost my dad when I was 7 years old. He was killed in a holdup in the Bronx.

“Back then, there was no such thing as counseling — not for me anyway. It simply wasn’t available.

“After the funeral, life continued as if nothing had happened. So basically I started drawing to express my sadness and anger. Art became my therapy.

“It also became a source of communication . . . I was able to express emotions that I wasn’t able to verbally.”

After high school, Travieso spent a semester at Syracuse University; then he decided to return to the city and enrolled at Baruch College. But he still wasn’t thinking of art as a possible career choice. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have gone to an art school,” he said.

Photography is a new direction for Travieso. In the art world, he is known primarily for his conceptual “cereal boxes” and satirical “movie posters.”

“I started exhibiting my work to the public about 10 years ago,” he said, explaining, “Before that, I simply thought my work was not worthy of public display. It took a very long time for me to come to that point of confidence. And longer to actually part from (sell) one of my works.

“The very first time I exhibited in a professional manner was (in October 2004) at the Armory in Jersey City during their annual Artist Studio Tours. That was a turning point because I not only showed my work to the raw public, but I was amongst other artists from all walks of life!”

Although Travieso did not go to art school, he cites two factors in his life that have inspired him.

For about a decade, mid-’80s to mid-’90s, he lived in Greenwich Village, where he “caught the tail end of the art scene that had exploded down there.”

He went to shows and met artists like Peter Max and Keith Haring. “The freedom of expression there had an everlasting influence on me and my art,” he said.

The other inspiration has been his wife, Fran, who majored in art history at William Paterson University. “Her favorite place,” he noted, is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. “She has fond memories of her dad taking her there when she was a child. Now, she takes me and becomes a tour guide teaching me about the masters!”

Photo by Bobby Travieso

Photo by Bobby Travieso


Returning to the “Black Jacket” exhibit, Travieso talked about one photo in particular that affected him. Back in June, in the early stages of the project, he brought his camera to a graduation party at a friend’s home in Secaucus. There, he was introduced to one of the guests, Scarlett Lewis, the graduate’s aunt, who was also an artist.

“She had such a positive spirit,” Travieso said. “During our conversation, I was shocked to learned that this woman — with a heart and soul as big as everyone there put together — was the mother of one of the kids that was gunned down in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut two years ago.

“I couldn’t describe how I felt,” he continued. “She was wearing a necklace with a picture of her son. I was in the presence of tragedy, but she had so much love and forgiveness. At that moment, I knew my summer fun project had taken a serious turn.

“She asked me if she could be a part of it. I was honored. Her only request was that she let her T-shirt show, because it shows the words that were scribbled by her son on the school blackboard shortly before the tragedy.”

You can see that photo at the library.

Lewis’ T-shirt reads, “Nurturing Healing Love.”

When Travieso told that story, we couldn’t help think about how he became involved in art in the first place, after his father was killed.

Art helped nurture and heal Bobby Travieso, who found in it a special kind of love.

Outlet for grieving over loss of pet


By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


If you’re not someone who loves animals, you can skip this story — because you probably won’t understand.

If you do love animals, and especially if you are a pet owner, read on. It will warm your heart.

Recently, we got a press release from Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers, who noted that after he had met “with several residents who are having a very difficult time coping with the loss of a pet,” the Department of Public Affairs “has established a program to provide grief counseling and other resources for pet owners and family members who are facing such a difficult time.”

Rogers continued: “As an animal lover who has lost a pet, I fully understand how devastating such a loss is. It is a matter very difficult to cope with, to understand, and to speak about. Such a loss is especially hard on children, and elderly residents who have no family members.”

There is a sad irony here. The commissioner was talking about his past experience with losing a pet, but after we had made tentative plans for an interview with him and his wife, Natasha, who is helping with the new program, we had to reschedule. One of the couple’s beloved chihuahuas, 14-year-old Max, had just died.

“I was all in tears,” Natasha told us when we finally did meet. “It was complete devastation.”

Having had pets of our own all of our life, and, of course, having lost them over the years, we knew exactly what she meant. Luckily, like her, we have had people around us to comfort and lend support. But some people, especially seniors, have no one with whom to share their grief. “Who do they grieve to?” Rogers asked.

And, yes, it is true grief. “Obviously, the death of a human being is more devastating,” Rogers said. But, as pet people know, an animal companion becomes a member of the family. Its death is a death in the family. The home itself, which had been full of play and cuddles and barks or purrs, is empty. For someone alone, it becomes a void. As Rogers noted, “There is a depressing silence.”

For those who don’t understand this, who might say, “What’s the big deal?” Rogers has a response: “I dare them to look into the eyes of someone, especially a senior, whose pet has passed away and ask them the same question.”

The commissioner is urging Nutley residents who are having a difficult time in coping with the loss of a pet, or who know someone who is facing the same difficulty, to refer them to the Department of Public Affairs, 149 Chestnut St., 973-284-4976. “We will do all we can to walk with them through this most difficult and lonely time,” he said.

Natasha Rogers has set up a Facebook page — Nutley Department of Public Affairs Pet Heath Resource Center — where you can find advice and share your thoughts with other pet lovers via a supportive message board.”We are letting them know there is someone to talk to,” Natasha said.

For those who do not have internet access, Rogers said the department can print out the page and also hopes to include material in upcoming department newsletters. For more information on the Facebook outreach, residents can call 973-284-4976 or email commissionerogers@ nutleynj.org.

Along with dealing with grief, sharing one’s experience can help with the particular sorrow that is compounded by guilt, when the owner has had to make the heart-wrenching decision to have an ailing, suffering pet put down.

“They feel guilty,” Rogers said. But, he added, they need to realize that “the ultimate act of love is to make that final decision.”

Some pet owners, although left bereft, are hesitant to get another pet. They don’t want to feel like they are “replacing” the one that died. Or, as more than one friend has told us, “I couldn’t go through that loss again.”

The Rogers experienced these emotions when Max died, but they have since gotten a new dog. Natasha said her husband assured her, “You didn’t replace Max. You continued his legacy of love with another dog.”

Now sharing the Rogers’ home with their other chihuahua, Marshall, is a German Shepherd puppy, Bear. Yes, a chihuahua and a German Shepherd. But the little-bitty one rules the place. They have become great buddies, but Marshall is the alpha dog. We know. We’ve seen the video.

The commissioner, who spends part of every Saturday going door-to- door to chat with his constituents, noted he had met several senior citizens who had lost a pet and were having an especially difficult time: They wanted to get a new pet but were reluctant because they feared the animal would outlive them.

For such individuals, Rogers suggests that, in their wills, they designate someone to be the animal’s caretaker. If no friend of family member is willing, or suitable, the pet owner can note that it should be given to a no-kill shelter or an animal sanctuary.

Hopefully, that advice will help, for people who love animals need animals in their lives. “Dogs and cats and other pets are very therapeutic,” Rogers said.

“They’re life-savers.”

And he noted, “Where else do you get that unconditional love? Spell the word ‘DOG’ backwards.”

Fire roster beefed up but still shortstaffed


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Seven additional firefighters are being hired by Kearny but, because of upcoming retirements, it will still leave the Fire Department short of the recommended number of personnel, Fire Chief Steven Dyl said.

The Kearny Town Council voted last Tuesday to authorize the new additions to the KFD payroll, effective Feb. 23, pending approval by the newly assigned state fiscal monitor Terry Reidy, a former city manager of Montclair and Asbury Park. He replaced monitor Steve Pannella on Jan. 29.

In November 2014, the council green-lighted hiring up to 12 firefighters with the hopeful expectation, at the time, that the town would be successful with its application for federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) funding which pays for two years’ salaries and benefits.

But the town never got the funding so it put off the hirings.

Meanwhile, as overtime costs soared, the town felt it had no choice but to go ahead with some hirings to partially replenish the gap in the fire personnel ranks.

It wasn’t easy. “We started out with 100 [applicants] and we ended up with seven,” Dyl said.

Looking down the road, it won’t get any easier since nine members of the department – mostly superior officers – have filed pension applications with two more possible, according to Dyl.

The department’s Table of Organization calls for up to 102 employees and currently there are 82 aboard. The seven new hires will push that total up to 89 but when the nine retirees are gone, the department will be down to 80 and if the two others contemplating retirement leave, that will bring the number down to 78, Dyl said.

At last week’s meeting, Councilwoman Eileen Eckel, liaison to the KFD, declared that, “We are looking to hire even more [firefighters}” as more department members leave but she didn’t say how many more or when it would happen.

Mayor Alberto Santos, noting that six of the new hires were Kearny residents (the other is from Newark), said that local residency “reflects what we wanted to do for the past two years,” after the town’s labor attorney Fredrick Danser negotiated with the NAACP an amended federal consent decree on public safety hirings.

That amendment contracted the candidate pool area, from Kearny and Essex County, to Kearny and Newark, on the presumption that the prior arrangement “was not giving a fair opportunity to Kearny residents,” he said.

And the latest results show that “it’s working,” the mayor added.

Noting the presence of two of the new hires, Steven Yerkes and James Corbett Jr., in the council chambers, Santos congratulated them and said: “They need you yesterday. … We have a large local area to protect and that puts a tremendous strain on our Fire Department.”

Since a good portion of the KFD’s veteran members have been departing in recent years, Santos told the recruits that they and their colleagues “will be the core of the group” representing the department’s future.

Two of the rookies – Corbett and Kyle Plaugic – have local police legacies: Corbett is the son of retired Kearny Dep. Police Chief James Corbett and Plaugic’s dad, John Plaugic, is currently serving as a detective with the KPD.

Steven Yerkes, a Kearny resident, previously worked as a mechanic for a private firm.

James Corbett Jr., a Kearny resident, has served as an investigator for the New Jersey Dept. of Health. He has a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in criminal justice and sociology.

Kyle Plaugic, a Kearny resident who holds a degree in business administration from Caldwell University, has worked as a financial analyst for a private company. His late grandfather was a member of the Newark Fire Department.

Joseph Socci, who lives in Kearny, has worked as an assistant rental manager for Penske Truck Leasing in Jersey City. He has a B.A. degree in communications from the University of Albany.

Donald Alexander, a Newark resident, is a graduate of Bishop George Ahr High School, Edison, and has worked as a private security officer.

John Digrivina, of Kearny, has attended classes at Essex County College and Hawaii Pacific University. He has worked as a painter.

Jeffrey Paredes, a Kearny resident, has worked as a computer technician and fitness instructor. He has attended classes at Essex County College and the County College of Morris.

The recruits are scheduled to begin their fire training March 22 at the Essex County Police Academy building and, upon successful completion, should be ready for duty in Kearny “by the end of June or beginning of July,” Dyl said.

During their academy tenure, the rookies’ starting pay will be $33,000, plus benefits.

Koppers, NJ Transit perfect together: HCIA

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


NJ Transit may be giving Kearny the silent treatment on its plans to install a reserve generator in South Kearny but that’s not been the case with the agency’s dealings with the Hudson County Improvement Authority.

The HCIA, which owns the 138-acre former Koppers Coke site straddling the Hackensack River in South Kearny and continues to negotiate with The Morris Companies to redevelop the site, has learned that NJ Transit proposes to use “up to 26 acres” in the central portion of the Koppers site.

So says Norman Guerra, executive director of the HCIA, who is upbeat about the prospects for successfully concluding the talks with Morris which began about six months ago with a deal to sell the property – and, at the same time, accommodate NJ Transit’s needs.

Ultimately, said Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, the transit agency will have to come before either the town’s Zoning or Planning Board for the requisite land use approvals needed before it could proceed with its “micro-grid” that would be used as a backup power system for its trains. Such will be the scenario, Santos said, unless the state legislature approves a newly introduced amendment to the bill merging the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority with the N.J. Meadowlands Commission – an amendment that would exempt the builders of power distribution plants from having to get local land use sign-offs.

Up until last year, Kearny, which owns the old 25-acre Standard Chlorine parcel, teamed with the HCIA and Tierra Solutions, which owns a 30-acre parcel in the area, in an effort to collectively market three separately-owned properties in what has been designated by the NJMC as the Koppers Coke Peninsula Redevelopment Area, ideally, as one package to enhance the land’s prospective value to a redeveloper and Santos fretted that NJ Transit’s positioning itself to acquire a piece of the pie could deter potential investors in the overall site. And, he noted, whatever land NJ Transit ends up acquiring will be tax- exempt so Kearny will derive no future revenues from that venture.

Since then, the HCIA opted to go its own way and signed a tentative agreement with the Rutherford-based Morris Companies – which boasts a “combined portfolio of industrial, retail and office properties” totaling more than 6 million square feet spread over New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida – to redevelop the Koppers site.

That left Kearny on its own and the town began talks with another potential redeveloper, a possible joint venture by Matrix Development Group of Monroe Township and Clean Earth of North Jersey, for its own deal. Those negotiations are continuing, Santos said.

Terms of the HCIA/Morris agreement are still being hashed out by the lawyers, Guerra said last week, “but we’re getting very close to executing a sales agreement which we hope to finish in four to six weeks.”

If that happens, Guerra said that Morris has projected close to 2 million square feet of warehousing space being built for which no tenants have yet been identified. He said the HCIA will provide an additional access road at the site’s western end and is considering another at the eastern end.

He said the HCIA is still in the process of raising the site to a 13-foot elevation out of the flood zone and related environmental work such as “engineering for a slurry wall and raising monitoring wells.”

Asked whether future construction by NJ Transit could interfere with Morris’s work, Guerra said, “No, there’s a lot of planning involved so one project isn’t going to hold up the other.”

Meanwhile, Kearny, Lyndhurst and North Arlington, whose meadows development projects have had to pass NJMC review since the commission’s creation by the legislature in 1969, are waiting to see how things will play out under the merger with the NJSEA.

Already, the bill’s replacement of the NJMC tax-sharing formula with a 3% hotel tax has irked North Arlington Mayor Joseph Bianchi, who griped, “We took a $150,000 hit,” dropping from about $1 million to about $812,500, which, he said, would “raise taxes two points” – meaning that it could cost the borough’s average homeowner about $100 more this year.

Bianchi also complained about the NJSEA’s abrupt closing of its IZOD C enter and the laying off of, reportedly, 1,700 people. “You can say that the mayor of North Arlington is not happy and the state never came to the town fathers of the communities in the region to tell us what they were going to do. This was just a sneak attack.”

Borough Councilman Al Granell joined in the mayor’s grievance, calling the state’s action “unacceptable” and added that he will urge the council to petition the state to reverse the reduction in inter-local aid. He also faulted the state for keeping the region “in the dark” about the IZOD closure.

Lyndhurst, which had been paying about $860,000 into the taxsharing fund, will no longer have to do that while Kearny will continue to receive about $3.8 million, plus about $1.3 million from the leasing of the Keegan landfill and about $100,000 for the use of land for the baler scales.

Under the merger bill, the newly created Meadowlands Regional Commission will be run by the NJSEA board of directors plus one mayor from the 14-town meadows district to be appointed by the governor.

Asked what will happen to the NJMC’s 99 employees and $6.5 million payroll, topped by executive director Marcia Karrow and her $148,000 salary, and its $30 million annual budget, NJMC spokesman Brian Aberback said: “Effective Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015, the NJMC was made a part of the NJSEA. There will be no interruption in the services provided to the public and the regulated community. All staff contacts remain the same. We encourage you to continue to check our website for updates.”

Thoughts & Views: Have you seen this woman?


This week’s column is more accurately a public service announcement. The other day, we read a press release from the Newark Bureau of the FBI regarding something that happened nine years ago.

We were not familiar with the case, the crime did not occur in The Observer coverage area, nor was the victim from any of our towns. But it happened not far away. And maybe, just maybe, one of our readers knows something, or suspects something, or has heard something. Something that might help authorities find a missing woman — or at least find a lead on what might have happened to her.

This is the story of Carla Vicentini, who came to New Jersey from Brazil as an exchange student on Jan. 19, 2006. She was 22 years old.

According to the press release, Vicentini promptly found employment at a White Castle Restaurant on Route 46 in Ledgewood, and for a couple of weeks she resided at the Roxbury Motel in that town.

Then, on Feb. 5, 2006, she and a roommate, also an exchange student, began renting an apartment on Ferry St. in the Ironbound section of Newark, the neighborhood just over the Jackson St. bridge from Harrison.

Vicentini’s roommate worked as a waitress at the Adega Bar & Grill, located at 130 Ferry St., and “during the early morning hours of Feb. 10, 2006,” Vicentini went there to visit her friend, the FBI said.

At approximately 2:30 a.m., Vicentini left the bar with an unidentified white male she had apparently met in the Adega lounge.

According to investigators, she “told her roommate she was going to look at a photograph in the automobile of this individual and would meet her at their apartment, only a few blocks away.”

“Vicentini,” they said, “was never seen or heard from again.”

The FBI said the man was described as white, of unknown nationality, having a fair complexion, light eyes, and short salt-and-pepper hair. He was approximately 30 years old (nine years ago), about 5-foot- 8, weighing 200 pounds, with a stocky build.

Vicentini, a native of Brazil, spoke Portuguese and limited English. She was described as about 5-foot-7, 140 pounds, with brown eyes and blonde hair.

She has multiple body piercings and three tattoos: a gray angel on her back, a red and yellow chameleon on her left hip, and a “tribal tattoo” on her lower back.

She is listed by the federal agency as a kidnapping victim.

Although this might be considered a cold case, investigators continue to pursue leads.

And last week, on the ninth anniversary of her disappearance, the Newark Division of the FBI announced it is offering a reward of up to $20,000 “for information leading to the location of Carla Vicentini or information leading to the identity of the person(s) involved in her disappearance.”

In addition, the agency is launching a multi-media campaign to publicize the new reward. As well as notifying the news media, it will place digital billboards “across the Newark area,” and Vicentini’s photo “will be sent out on various FBI social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.”

Hoping against hope, until and unless a body is found, somewhere, there is still the chance that Carla Vicentini may be alive. Somewhere.

But if she is not, the least her family in Brazil deserves is some form of closure.

And in either case, the person responsible for her disappearance deserves to be brought to justice.

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Carla Vicentini is urged to call the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Newark Division, at 973-792-3000.

– Karen Zautyk 

Belleville ‘corruption’ probe; Kearny Dems filling vacancy


The Essex County Prosecutor’s Official Corruption Unit last Wednesday served warrants on the Township of Belleville’s for certain municipal records.

Last Thursday, Kevin Esposito, the township’s interim manager, disputed published reports characterizing the process as a “raid,” saying that the investigators called in advance to advise which documents were needed.

“Our attorney, Tom Murphy, talked to the prosecutor and everything was handled in a very cooperative manner,” Esposito said.

It took “less than an hour” to produce all the records that were sought, according to Esposito, who declined to enumerate them but advised The Observer to file an OPRA (Open Public Records Act) request to get that information. The Observer filed such a request but, as of press time, the information had not yet been received.

Calls to Township Attorney Tom Murphy and Mayor Ray Kimble were not returned but one person reportedly familiar with the county probe said that at least some of the records requested involved overtime in the Public Works Department.


Local members of the Hudson County Democratic Committee were scheduled to vote Feb. 17 for one of three nominees to fill the First Ward seat on the Kearny Town Council vacated by the resignation of Alexa Arce on Jan. 5.

The winner will serve through the November general election, at which point an election will be held to determine who will fill the seat for the two years remaining in Arce’s unexpired term.

The three nominees are Marytrine DeCastro, Sonia Hill and Jenny Mach.

Just one thing after another


If you are going to block traffic by stopping your car on a relatively narrow street made even narrower by snowbanks along the curbs, make sure that: 1) there are no drugs in the vehicle; 2) the passengers are not actively engaging in the consumption of drugs; and 3) nobody has a warrant.

Failure to heed this advice reportedly led to the recent arrest of four men on a variety of charges.

Police Chief John Dowie said members of the KPD Vice Squad, conducting an unrelated narcotics investigation, were on Chestnut St. between Woodland and Johnston Aves. at 4 p.m., Friday, Feb. 6, when they came upon a 2011 Infiniti stopped in the street and blocking traffic.

The front-seat passenger, identified later as Jamal Wright, 27, of East Orange, was seen puffing on a small cigar, which he then passed to back-seat passenger Michael Cureton, 25, of Newark, Dowie said.

As the detectives approached the vehicle, Cureton dropped the cigar out the window, “practically at their feet,” the chief noted. In addition, they reportedly detected the strong odor of marijuana.

All four occupants were ordered out of the car, inside of which the officers reportedly observed on the rear seat two plastic bags containing suspected marijuana and, protruding from the rear-seat armrest, a third plastic bag. Police said that one held 51 vials of crack cocaine.

When the dust (snow?) settled, Wright and Cureton were both charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Police said both also were wanted by Newark: Wright had one $400 warrant; Cureton, two warrants, $200 and $300. A third passenger, Carnell Wright, 25, of Newark, had a $500 warrant from that city, police said.

The bulk of the charges were filed against the Infiniti’s driver, Nigel Gyamfi, 21, of Newark. These included possession of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute, intent to distribute in a school zone, possession of drug paraphernalia, and driving while suspended. Also: obstructing traffic.

He apparently did not have a warrant.

The car was impounded.

– Karen Zautyk 

Video trips up alleged burglar


By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


Security video from a Forest St. apartment building led to the arrest last week of one tenant for allegedly burglarizing the residence of another, Kearny police reported.

At 1:15 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 12, Officer John Fabula went to the building on the 500 block of Forest to take a report from the victim, who said the crime had occurred on Feb. 10. She had returned home that day to find her apartment had been entered and a coin collection — including silver dollars and Indian Head pennies — jewelry and $300 in cash were missing, police said. Also taken was hollow-point ammunition, legally possessed by a family member who is in law enforcement.

Because police believed someone with access to the building was likely responsible, Fabula began a canvass of the property and, along with Dets. Michael Gonzalez and Scott Traynor, viewed the security tapes. Suspicion fell on tenant William Lupkovich Jr., 23, and police obtained authorization for a search of his apartment, Chief John Dowie told The Observer.

Reportedly found there were the missing items, including the coins and the ammo, but only $45 in cash.

Also found, police said, were nine plastic bags of marijuana, six aluminum folds of marijuana and a glass jar containing the remnants of the drug.

Lupkovich was arrested at 5:19 p.m. on charges of burglary, theft, possession of prohibited items (the hollow-points), receiving stolen property, possession of burglar tools, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

He was remanded to the Hudson County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail and was due to be arraigned Feb. 18.