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Harrison police blotter

Sept. 29 

Two shipments delivered by UPS on different days to a residence in the 300 block of Jersey St. were reported stolen, police said. One package containing two pairs of men’s shoes valued at $269 that came on Aug. 29 was reported missing, as was a package with a set of $20 head phones, delivered Sept. 22, police said.

Sept. 30 

At 3:18 p.m., police separated two girls fighting in the 700 block of Hamilton St. Officers separated the two Harrison High School female students, processed them at headquarters and released them to their parents.

Oct. 2 

Police responded to a residential burglary reported by tenants in the 700 block of William St. The tenants told police they’d left their apartment at 11 a.m., and upon returning at 8:40 p.m., they found in the hallway near the door a piece of wood shaped in the form of a small pry bar type tool and discovered that two Lenovo laptops, with a total value of $1,600, had been taken, along with two necklaces, removed from a jewelry box in a bedroom.

•••

Gerald Stewart, 39, of Kearny, was issued three summons for alleged violations of failure of observe a signal, DUI and reckless driving after police say he was observed disregarding a traffic signal at Hamilton St. and Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. North, while traveling east toward N. Fifth St. Police said they detected a strong odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath.

Oct. 5 

At 2:28 p.m., police were sent to the Rite Aid Pharmacy, in the 700 block of Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. North on a report of shoplifting. The store manager told police that he saw a man, later identified as William Ferguson, 51, of Newark, remove six bottles of Lubriderm Moisture Lotion from a shelf and conceal them in a black backpack. When confronted, the manager said Ferguson emptied the contents of the bag on the floor. Police said Ferguson also had two outstanding warrants, $250 from Kearny and $500 from North Arlington. He was arrested on the warrants and issued a summons for shoplifting.

– Ron Leir 

Then & Now

ThenNow1
Photo by Karen Zautyk (top photo: Town of Harrison)

Photo by Karen Zautyk
(top photo: Town of Harrison)

 

This week’s ‘Then’ photo is of Harrison Ave. in Harrison and dates from 1895. We have scant information about it, so we can only hazard a guess, comparing it with similar pictures, that this is a view looking east from somewhere near Second St. Or thereabouts. However, in the distance on the right, at what was then Fourth St., one should be able to see the massive Holy Cross Church, completed in 1888, but we can’t pinpoint it. Note, though, the variety of architecture and the awnings (cloth and wooden). Just barely visible in the street are trolley tracks. The horse-dawn wagon is sharing the road with the trolleys and appears to have crossed within the track line. An eastbound trolley would have approached it from behind. Did wagons have rear-view mirrors? 

– Karen Zautyk 

Goodwill gesture

goodwill_web

By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent

 HARRISON – 

In front of Goodwill Industries’ building on Supor Blvd., there is a brand new sign. “Palisades Regional Academy,” it reads.

Has Goodwill moved?

Only in the sense of moving forward in its stated mission “to empower individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment to gain independence through the power of work.”

GoodwilI remains at its Harrison headquarters, but it has moved onward in the realm of education, partnering with Palisades Regional Academy, which serves students in grades 6 through 12 According to the school’s website, these are youngsters who “demonstrate more serious learning and behavioral disabilities,” which might be compounded by psychiatric issues, substance abuse or trauma.

In other words, they need more help than most public school special education programs might offer. Palisades Regional, in operation since 1970, provides that help.

In addition to an academic curriculum, the school offers counseling (on a one-to-one basis) and guidance services and an emphasis on positive-behavior encouragement and reinforcement.

Originally located in Lodi (hence the reference to the Palisades), it moved to Paramus in 1975, and now it has relocated to Harrison, where it will share the Supor Blvd. site with Goodwill.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Sept. 16 to welcome the school, which currently has an enrollment of 25 students, each of whom was referred and placed by a local school district, Palisades Regional Executive Director Jeffrey Kahn said. Those districts are in five counties: Hudson, Bergen, Essex, Passaic and Union.

Tuition is $58,000 per year for “an educational and therapeutic environment” designed, as the website notes, to help those enrolled “develop the academic, social, behavioral and life skills needed to become independent and successful.”

Hence, the partnering with Goodwill, which has been devoted to helping individuals become self-sufficient since its founding in 1915. At the ribbon-cutting, William Forrester, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Greater N.Y. and Northern N.J., cited the upcoming centennial birthday and noted that the organization has always served people with special needs but over time it has branched out.

“We have broadened our mission to now include wounded warriors, the unemployed, the underemployed, the immigrant population and returning veterans,” Forrester noted.

“We’re very happy to have the academy here,” he said. “It fulfills part of our mission.”

Kahn called the new partnering “an amazing collaboration.”

Evelyn Bilal, director of adminstration at Goodwill, said that Palisades Regional students have been coming to the Harrison headquarters for several years for “job shadowing.” This is a way for young people to explore career options by observing the day-to-day activities of employees in various fields.

The academy’s goal is “to prepare students for the life that comes after school,” Kahn said. And since PRA was considering expanding its transitional services, he thought, “Why not bring the school here?”

Kahn purchased the academy in 1977 after working seven years in special education with the New York City Board of Education as a teacher, consultant and administrator.

He explained that the students his school is helping are “socially and emotionally struggling, or depressed, or oppositional to authority or routine.”

Palisades Regional, he said, is an approved private school–approved by the state. “It’s not an experiment. It’s not a pilot program. It’s a fact.”

As for the partnering with and moving to Goodwill, Kahn commented, “This is the best thing I’ve done in a very long time.”

(Editor’s note: For more information about Palisades Regional, visit www.palisadesregional.org. For Goodwill: www.goodwillnynj.org.)

Holy Cross relic is recovered

relic_web

By Karen Zautyk

 Observer Correspondent 

HARRISON – 

The sacred relic of the Holy Cross stolen last month from the church that bears its name has been recovered and returned to its Harrison home, and police believe they have a line on the thief.

“It is undamaged, and we’re happy about that,” said the Rev. Joseph Girone, pastor.

The wooden relic, believed to be from the actual cross on which Jesus was crucified, disappeared from the rectory the evening of Sept. 10 and was found Sunday, Sept. 21, by two Port Authority police officers patrolling PA property in Harrison, police reported last week.

Harrison Det. Sgt. David Doyle told The Observer on Friday that the PAPD cops had been walking along the tracks in the area behind the Bank of America off Frank E. Rodgers Blvd.-South when they spotted a trash bag. Opening it, they found the cross-shaped brass reliquary containing the sacred artifact. Also in the bag were three wax candles, a first-aid kit and a set of keys.

Doyle said the officers brought their find to Harrison PD headquarters, where it was identified as belonging to Holy Cross Church.

On Sept. 12, other items — two prayer books and a banner honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe — that had been stolen along with the relic were found by Port Authority police on the PATH tracks in Jersey City. These have also been returned to the church.

“We are developing a suspect and hope to have a warrant drawn up by the middle of the week,” Doyle said.

The culprit is thought to be the same person the Rev. Francisco Rodriguez encountered in the rectory the night the relic went missing.

After a church volunteer reported seeing a stranger in the sacristy at about 7:15 p.m., the priest went to investigate and found a man rifling through cabinets in the kitchen.

Asked what he was doing, he said, “I’m hungry.”

The intruder, who is thought to have entered the rectory through a side window, was escorted out the kitchen door. Rodriguez then went to the sacristy and discovered the relic was gone.

The reliquary is normally kept in a safe, but it had been brought out to be polished in anticipation of the Feast of the Holy Cross on Sept. 14, when the relic it contains would be used to bless the parish faithful.

Before it was found, Rodriguez said, the Harrison police, armed with photos of the reliquary, “were hitting all the pawnshops.”

Girone said that when it was returned, he realized that a few small pieces the relic had fallen to the bottom of the “glass eye” through which it is viewed. It has been sent to an artist for restoration. “It should be back in our hands shortly,” the pastor said.

“We will reschedule the blessing” Girone noted. He said the Pastoral Council would be meeting this week to discuss the date.

Drive-time perils on Davis St.

Davis_web

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

HARRISON/EAST NEWARK – 

Every weekday morning when the East Newark Public School is in session, some Davis St. commuters enroute to work face an early nightmare just leaving their block.

That’s because from 7:45 to 8:30 a.m., as children file into the elementary school for the start of classes, crossing guards set up barricades at the intersection of Davis and N. Third St., preventing residents of this block-long stretch of Davis – which runs one-way west – from turning onto Third during that critical rush hour period.

So, if those residents are late out of the gate, their only “option” is to make an illegal U-turn and/or try to back out along Davis – also illegally – onto the heavily-traveled Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. North, creating the possibility of an accident.

Those residents face the same situation twice in the afternoon, when the street is closed during the school lunch period, from 12:30 to 1 p.m., and again, from 2:50 to 3:30 p.m. as youngsters leave school for home.

Persistent traffic headaches notwithstanding, residents and local governments alike have put up with the situation for years … until this summer when Harrison and East Newark mobilized legislative efforts to change the status quo.

Both municipalities had to act since half of this section of Davis lies in Harrison and half is in East Newark.

A resolution passed by the Harrison mayor and Town Council on July 29 lays out the action plan: “reversing the direction of Davis St. between Third St. and F.E. Rodgers Blvd. N. from one-way going west to one-way going east.”

The traffic shift is justified, the resolution states, because it “will assist to ensure the safety of the public school children who utilize Davis St. to enter and exit the East Newark Public School.”

A similarly phrased resolution was passed by the East Newark governing body on Sept. 10.

Joint legislative action by the two communities will also bring Hudson County into the act since it has jurisdiction over F.E. Rodgers Blvd., a county roadway, and, according to county spokesman James Kennelly, Hudson will pay $10,882 to J.C. Contracting of Bloomfield for “striping, signs, police traffic directors and traffic signal head [retrofit]” to accommodate the change of direction on Davis, between N. Third and F.E. Rodgers Blvd.

Harrison’s Julie Walsh, a Davis St. resident, hopes the plan works. Now, she says, “you have to go out the wrong way — there are people on the block with children who go to other schools.”

East Newark Police Chief Anthony Monteiro said that maintaining the status quo would only continue to open the door to “a chance of a head-on collision” at the F.E. Rodgers intersection while Harrison Police Chief Derek Kearns said, “We’ve had situations where motorists who have to leave in the morning have removed barriers to go against the one-way flow,” Kearns added. “Once we get the reversal of direction in play, the situation is going to improve.”

Kearns said that several months ago, a Harrison motorist received traffic tickets for having allegedly violated the one-way restriction and “I pledged to her we’d make changes.”

Kearns said that residents will get “ample notice” of those changes with public postings on the block.

Whether residents on the block will be satisfied remains to be seen. Members of one family who live on the East Newark stretch of Davis seemed to be divided on the subject.

Maria Arias told The Observer she believes the plan to reverse direction is a good one. She said she has seen Harrison police officers ticket drivers “if you go the wrong way.” And stubborn drivers desperate to get out onto F.E. Rodgers use private driveways on the block to make U-turns, damaging curb cuts and sidewalks, she said.

But Arias’s daughter, Kristine, feels the communities are “making a mistake” by shifting the traffic flow. She said she’s adjusted to the current system by giving up driving to her morning class at Rutgers’ Newark campus. “I’d have to make illegal turns to get out and I’d almost gotten into accidents doing that,” she said. “Now, I walk. It only takes me 15 minutes.”

Kristine said the current one-way regulation is inconsistently enforced. Sometimes, she said, crossing guards let some drivers go through the barrier to Third St. and other times, “the crossing guards are not here.”

“So there are still going to be problems,” she concluded.

Tight lid on trash

Trash_web

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

Tired of seeing a plethora of overflow trash cluttering the sidewalks in the town’s retail district, especially after weekend deposits, Kearny is unleashing a new weapon to counteract the unseemly collections.

It’s the solar-powered Big- Belly trash receptacle. The town got four of the 4-footplus tall, hefty “cans” which, according to the vendor’s specifications, weigh in at a nifty 270 pounds apiece.

Kearny Health Officer Ken Pincus thinks they’ll make a huge difference over the old cans they’re replacing on Kearny Ave. because the cans are actually mini-compactors, crushing the mounds of garbage as they are tossed in by passers-by.

“Overflowing trash cans, litter and illegal dumping of trash have been a continual problem on the sidewalks and streets of the town of Kearny. The town needed a new tool to address this concern. The BigBelly Solar solution provides the town an efficient way to manage our waste collection that reflects the town’s overall commitment to sustainability while keeping our streets and sidewalks cleaner,” Pincus said.

Because the new cans are sealed, animals should have little chance to gain access and the stink from any overflow garbage should be significantly reduced, if not eliminated, he added.

Each of the can’s bins hold the equivalent of 33 gallons of trash – up to five times more than the capacity of the old cans – thanks to the internal compaction system, which is designed to crunch the stuff when the receptacle is full.

The device, which has the appearance of a mailbox, seems simple enough to use: You open the “door,” drop in your trash and close the door. The trash drops down the chute and into a liner collection bag.

A wireless signal technology alerts the town’s garbage hauler, Cali Carting, how full the cans are at any given time to allow for more efficient pickup scheduling by the hauler.

Each compacting cycle takes about 40 seconds, according to the specifications prepared by the manufacturer, BigBelly Solar of Newton, Mass.

The cans even come equipped with a GPS tracking system so that if someone somehow manages to remove them, the town’s Public Works Department will be able to hunt them down, Pincus noted.

Uprooting the receptacles will be hard to accomplish, however, not only because of their weight but also because the town’s DPW has bolted them down to the sidewalk.

“My concern was that kids would be leaning on them,” Pincus said, so he decided to go the extra step and lock them into place.

The cans have been placed in four locations along Kearny Ave., between Bergen and Garfield Aves.: One is in front of the Kearny Public Library, one is directly across the street near northwest corner of Afton St., another is about a block away in front of the Chase Bank and the other is in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts shop.

These spots were selected because they are in a retail area that draws a lot of consumer traffic, Pincus said.

DPW has keys to open the galvanized sheet metal steel trash units and replace liner bags as needed. DPW will make arrangements with Cali for easy access to the units.

Total cost for the units and bags, including bolting, was $3,429 each, or a total of $14,539, including a one-year warranty for any defects in materials and/or workmanship, plus one year free for the wireless notification system transmission to Cali. The unit vendor is Direct Environmental Corp. of the Bronx, N.Y.

Pincus said the cans were acquired with a grant awarded Kearny from the state Clean Communities program.

Direct Environmental Corp. offered the town an option to purchase a double set of units, one for regular trash and a second for recyclables, but Pincus said the cost would have been $6,000 for each of the dual units so, instead, he said the town has bought “green recycling units separately, for about $200 each, which will be placed alongside the BigBelly cans.”

Mayor Alberto Santos said he welcomed the new cans, adding that, “Litter and improper disposal of garbage is a very significant quality of life concern. If these four new cans help in the battle against litter, we will expand the program to other locations.”

In the past, Pincus said, the town has tried to attack the trash issue by hiring extra part-time employees to issue summonses for failing to maintain property “and we’ve tried doing extra trash pickups,” but those efforts have had limited success.

Asked whether the town was looking at beefing up litter enforcement activities as another anti-litter strategy, Pincus said: “We’re currently reviewing potential changes to our litter ordinance.”

Now she can bank on prison

Photo courtesy Newark PD
Valeria Parziale

By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 

HARRISON – 

A 35-year-old Harrison woman who robbed three banks over a three-week span earlier this year is facing up to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty in Federal Court in Newark, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced. The robbery spree had begun in Harrison.

Valeria Parziale entered her plea last Wednesday, Sept. 24, in connection with the Valentine’s Day hold-up of a Wells Fargo Bank in Newark.

Fishman said she also admitted to the two other heists: one at a Valley National Bank in Harrison on Jan. 30; the other, at a Popular Community Bank in Newark on Feb. 20.

Parziale, who reportedly has 15 aliases, was arrested by Newark police in that city on Feb. 24 and has been in custody since then.

Authorities said the first in her trio of crimes occurred at Valley National, 433 Harrison Ave., near S. Fifth St. According to the complaint filed by the FBI, Parziale, wearing a dark, hooded jacket, entered that bank at approximately 1:40 p.m., Jan. 30, and handed a teller a note reading: “Don’t BE Stupid! Put $3,000 in envelope 50/lOO’s I got a gun! Hurry Up.”

Although she claimed to be armed, no weapon was seen. (She, however, was clearly seen on the security video.)

There reportedly were seven employees but only one other customer in the bank at the time.

Parziale fled with approximately $3,000, leaving the note behind. Harrison police said investigation later revealed that she entered a cab several blocks away and was driven to Newark.

On Feb. 14, Parziale — this time wearing a hat, sunglasses and a wig — hit the Newark Wells Fargo Bank, demanding $3,500, again via a note indicating she was armed, the FBI said. The indictment provided the exact amount handed over: $3,320.28.

In the Feb. 20 incident at the Popular Community Bank, the robber once more produced a note demanding $3,500 but setting a 15-second time limit, authorities said. The complaint stated: “The teller told Parziale to wait, but Parziale left the bank before she received any money.”

When Parziale was nabbed in Newark four days later, she reportedly was in possession of a wig, sunglasses and a note that read, “I have a gun Don’t be stupid Give me $3,500 now! Put in envelope! You got 10 seconds! Don’t Risk Yourself.”

Following the Harrison robbery, surveillance photos had been circulated among law enforcement agencies. Kearny detectives obtained an identification on the suspect and turned the information over to the Harrison PD, which was working with Newark and the FBI. Fishman thanked both the Kearny and Harrison PDs “for their excellent work in this case.”

Parziale’s sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 23.

Along with the maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison, she faces a $250,000 fine.

When a house is not a home

House1_web

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

Nobody lives on either side of Carol Pavolic but her absentee neighbors still drive her batty. The Kearny resident, who lives between two abandoned 2-story homes at 365 and 369 Forest St., has had her fill of issues from those buildings in recent years and she unloaded a litany of complaints at a recent meeting of the town’s governing body.

“The grass at 369 is three feet high – it’s a mess,” Pavolic said. “Now there’s no roof, no chimney – the tarp on the roof is ripping out, it’s all over our alleyways. We’ve got to sweep it every day.”

With the house empty for the past seven years, termites have been busy inside, according to Pavolic. “There’s nothing in there but beams. It’s all rotted.”

Meanwhile, she said, “The back door is blowing back and forth. It’s right by my bedroom. I can’t sleep at night.”

On the other side of her property, at 365 Forest, Pavolic said, “There’s a broken drainpipe in the alley. You got possums, everything, back there.” On weekends, she added, “The wise guys come drinking. They burned two trees in front of the house.”

Town Administrator/Construction Code Official Michael Martello said that, “365 Forest is in foreclosure; 369 is not in foreclosure yet.”

“When I call the bank [about the maintenance problems],” Pavolic told the local lawmakers, “they say, ‘Call your town.’ ’’

That comment prompted Mayor Alberto Santos to respond: “More and more we see banks want to spread out their losses so they don’t foreclose right away …. We have ‘zombie’ foreclosures where properties just sit there.” But some, he added, “are slowly coming back.”

Because the taxes are being paid, the town is limited as to what it can do to ensure that the property is well maintained if the owner is laggard, other than to have the work done and place a tax lien on the property.

Santos assured the frustrated resident that the town would follow up on her complaints, along with similar maintenance issues with “other properties on both sides of the street.”

In the meantime, Pavolic said, “I cut the grass, I pay for shoveling snow [on the neighboring properties]. It’s a shame we got to live there.”

Complaints about property maintenance are directed to the town’s Board of Health and The Observer checked with local health officials for a history on the Forest St. properties causing Pavolic distress.

Photos by Michael Martello  365 Forest.

Photos by Michael Martello
365 Forest.

 

For 369 Forest:

• July 28, 2006: Complaint  is received about holes in a wooden fence. Termites are suspected as the cause.

• Aug. 3, 2006: A new owner  appears on the scene and has overgrown grass cut.

• March 30, 2007: Complaint  is received about “refrigerator, old furniture, debris in yard.” Owner removes refrigerator. A summons is issued but is dismissed on May 24, 2007,  after property is cleared.

• June 25, 2010: Complaint  is received about “high grass, weeds, construction debris and wood” on the property. Summons is issued but no court appearance after mail is returned as undeliverable, resulting in dismissal of summons by court.

• April 28, 2011: Complaint  received about “high grass.” Property placed on list for town to hire landscaper to deal with but, in the meantime, neighbor arranges to cut lawn. Town has backyard shed sealed up.

• May 30, 2014: Notation  that property is “still vacant” and that “locks changed by bank.”

For 365 Forest:

• May 2, 2011: Complaint  received about overgrown weeds and grass. Notation  that “owner moved out one to two months ago.” Town arranges to have grass and weeds cut.

• May 30, 2012: Complaint  received about high weeds. Notation that Bank of America now holds mortgage on property. Complaint addressed.

• May 16, 2013: Complaint  received about dead branches in rear yard. Town hires contractor to remove the tree limbs. May 30, 2014: Complaint  received about overgrown weeds on “abandoned property.” No violation notice issued.

• On Sept. 15, Martello  advised The Observer that “the town is cleaning up the properties and placing liens on them for the cleanup. In addition, the town will be securing the property.”

Blood: ‘Enrollment up, class size stable’

Blood_web

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

As she starts her first full year as acting head of the Kearny public school system in the new Board of Education administrative office center on Midland Ave., Superintendent Patricia Blood is optimistic that students and staff will fare well.

That’s not to say that the district won’t be facing any challenges, she said, noting that since June 30, enrollment has climbed from a bit over 5,800 to the current level of about 6,000 and could go higher – which is what a demographer retained by the district predicted would happen over the next few years.

“We’re reading growth across the district,” Blood said, “and we’ve tried to anticipate that with our new middle school planning and re-drawing school boundary lines to create better-balanced class size in every school building.

“This was feasible because we worked as a team – administrators, teachers, custodial personnel and staff – to get it done.”

It was also accomplished, Blood said, despite having lost 28 teachers from last school year through retirements. At this point, she said, “we have 11 fewer teachers district-wide,” but the system absorbed the loss and still managed to even out class size by reconfiguring the number of class sections and redistributing assignment of teachers.

And Blood said she’ll continue to tweak the system as needed to maintain that continuity. For example, she said, “we may hire a new science teacher for the middle school to reduce class size in that subject.”

As part of the new middle school program for grades 7 and 8 at Lincoln School, Blood said all students will be getting computer classes plus 15 days of swim instruction, parceled out in 64-minute sessions per day.

“We’re also introducing intramural programs in volleyball, indoor soccer and basketball,” she said. “And for our 400 seventh-graders, 60 have signed up for instrumental music as an elective, 75 will be taking vocal instruction and the rest will be in art.”

As a district-wide safety measure, Blood said, “We’ve been putting in key swipes at all elementary school facilities for staff access under a state contract. We want to make sure every door is secured and locked. At the high school, we have security guards who control access.”

On the academic front, Blood said students at various grade levels are being exposed to new approaches to language arts (reading and writing) and math mastery skills.

Currently, for example, 60 teachers of kindergarten, first and second grades and special education aligned with those levels are undergoing 30 hours of training in the Orton & Gillingham reading program which, Blood said, “we felt was best suited to our needs to create a good reading foundation for our students.”

And this month, teachers in grades 6, 7 and 8 will begin training in Larson’s Big Ideas Math program, supplementing the Go Math instructional program in elementary school grades and Algebra in middle school grades.

Students in grades 6 through 8 are being exposed to the Harcourt Collections Anthology in a new language arts program while kids in kindergarten through grade 5 will be honing their language arts skills through the Being A Writer methodology.

“We’ll be piloting a new social studies series involving three different instructional companies for grades 6 through 8,” Blood said. “We’ll be continuing to use the Achieve 3000 computer-based interdisciplinary reading comprehension program for grades 2 through 8 and for high school special education students,” she said. “I’m seeing significant gains in reading performance in the last two years using this program.”

Blood said she’ll be seeking Board of Education approval to secure the use of Interactive Achievement, a system that collects and analyzes student performance data, to provide middle school teachers with another resource to better assess students’ strengths and weaknesses, as measured by the state-mandated Common Core standards.

A fish story

goldfish_web

While contemplating topics for this week’s column, I considered our President’s abysmally belated response to the ISIS threat.

I considered the renewed debate over climate change.

I considered our governor’s increasing wanderlust, which appears to be in direct correlation to his decreasing waistline.

I considered the $17.9 trillion national debt.

And then I decided: Enough with the serious stuff. This week’s column will be about goldfish.

Initially, the idea stemmed from a news item about an Australian goldfish named George whose owner paid for brain surgery on the aquatic pet when it was diagnosed with a tumor.

Yes, brain surgery.

The veterinarian who performed the 45-minute operation in Melbourne noted: “George had a quite large tumor . . . and it was beginning to affect his quality of life.”

The BBC reported that the 10-year-old fish was sedated during the surgery and afterwards was given antibiotics and painkillers. The vet said that all went well and the next day George “was up and swimming around.”

At first, I was going to make mock of all this. However, according to the BBC, “Experts say the $200 procedure may have bought George another 20 years of life.”

What? Goldfish can live to be 30? Mine lived an average of 30 days. I’d come home from school to find them belly-up in the bowl, or they’d commit suicide by leaping out of the water when no one was around to rescue them. I began to wonder if Woolworth’s was selling depressed fish.

Now I wonder if I had made them depressed. They always had clean water and sufficient food, but their bowl was small and lacked accoutrements, such as one of those tiny castles. They were probably bored to tears.

Researching goldfish for this column, I have learned many things, including that, in some places, goldfish bowls (the same kind I had) have been banned “on animal cruelty grounds.” Because the fish have both high oxygen needs and a high waste output, “such bowls are no longer considered appropriate housing.”

From Wikipedia, I also learned the following:

• Goldfish “have a memory- span of at least three months and can distinguish different shapes, colors and sounds.”

• Goldfish are gregarious and can respond to their reflection in a mirror. • Their behavior can be conditioned by their owners.

• They can distinguish between individual humans. When their owners approach, some may “react favorably (swimming to the front of the glass, swimming rapidly around the tank, or going to the surface, mouthing for food).” When strangers approach, they may hide.

• Goldfish that have “constant visual contact with humans stop considering them to be a threat. After a time, it becomes possible to hand-feed a goldfish without it shying away.”

• By using positive reinforcement, goldfish can be trained to perform tricks.

(Tricks? What tricks? Playing dead? Uh-oh.)

And:

• “Very rarely does a goldfish harm another goldfish.” (Which makes them superior to some humans, especially certain NFL players.)

I found no reference to 30-year lives. However, Wikipedia says “the lifespan of goldfish in captivity can extend beyond 10 years.”

Which is nine years and 11 months longer than mine lived.

I realize now that they really were depressed. I treated my goldfish as a form of aquatic decor, and I could have been teaching them tricks. They were starved for attention, not food. And they were confined in a bowl. They had no quality of life. I should write a song: “My Goldfish Has the Blues.” I cod call it sole music. For either a bass or an Irish tuna.

(Stop groaning. At least I didn’t say I wrote this just for the halibut.)

– Karen Zautyk