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Sprucing it up

Trestle_web

 

 

The state Department of Transportation is arranging for the sandblasting and repainting of this old railroad trestle that traverses the Belleville Turnpike (Rt. 7) just north of Seller St. It’s one of six bridges that cross Rts. 7, 21 and 185 – all state roads – that are getting facelifts under state maintenance contracts.

Red Bulls & SportsCare: perfect together

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HARRISON –

The New York Red Bulls, the major league soccer team based in Harrison, has contracted with the New York metropolitanbased SportsCare Institute to offer physical therapy and athletic training for the Red Bulls Academy and Training Program for young soccer talent, a joint press release announced July 30.

“The New York Red Bulls family is excited to partner with a local organization like SportsCare Institute,” said Marc de Grandpre, the team’s director of commercial operations. “SportsCare will provide our youth development programs and academy with terrific care, helping us continue developing great talent in the New Jersey area.”

As part of the partnership arrangement, SportsCare will have certified athletic trainers and physical therapists on-site at “multiple” Red Bulls youth clinics as well as at home matches “to assess injuries and offer free injury prevention screenings,” the release said.

SportsCare President Ron Lombardi said: “SportsCare’s network of physical therapy professionals are excited to work with another worldclass sports franchise.” The company also provides physical therapy services to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

“Given the excitement generated by the World Cup,” Lombardi added, “we’re more bullish than ever on youth soccer’s future in the U.S. And with our commitment to keeping young athletes safe – including a focus on establishing baseline assessments for those recovering from concussions – I’m confident our program with the Red Bulls can become a national model for health maintenance and protection.”

The agreement also makes SportsCare the exclusive physical therapy marketing partner of the Red Bulls, the release said.

No details about the terms of the agreement were provided in the release. A Red Bulls spokesman couldn’t be reached.

SportsCare says it has 56 facilities throughout New Jersey, New York and Florida that provide state-of-the-art physical and occupational therapy and sports medicine services.

‘The Hunt With John Walsh’ on CNN is already paying off

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

John Walsh lived every parent’s nightmare back in 1981, when his then 6-year-old son, Adam, was kidnapped from a mall in Hollywood, Fla., and found dead, decapitated, just weeks later about an hour or so north of his home.

And for years, Walsh went on a crusade, hosting “America’s Most Wanted” on the Fox Television Network. With that show now a thing of the past, he’s taken his mission to find criminals to CNN with a new show called “The Hunt With John Walsh.”

The show airs on CNN every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, and after being on the air for just three weeks, it has already led to the capture (and ultimately, death) of one of the profiled criminals.

If there’s a show on TV that every American should take time to watch each week, it’s this show — because not only is it riveting, it’s also perhaps the most beneficial law-enforcement tool on the air, or anywhere, for that matter.

Each episode profiles one or two criminals who are involved in a most heinous crime. The details of each crime are re-enacted. And while some of the scenes are extremely graphic, they’re by no means a turnoff, because in reality, they’re demonstrative of some very evil acts committed by some very evil people.

So why isn’t that a turnoff?

It’s simple actually.

It’s because every viewer of the show should watch “The Hunt” with the thought that perhaps, at one point or another, they’ll see someone featured whom they know, or might have seen somewhere.

It was somewhat perplexing when a show as beneficial as “America’s Most Wanted” was cancelled. It led to the arrest and capture of hundreds of wanted criminals over its long run. And clearly, “The Hunt” is poised to do the very same.

“All it takes is one person, one tip,” Walsh said on the show’s preview. “We might not get tons of calls. We might not get tons of accurate tips. But all it takes is one person who knows something to pick up that phone, or to go online, and we’ll make a difference and bring these animals to justice.”

And that’s exactly what happened in New York last week.

One person picked up the phone and made one telephone call, and Charles Modzir was found by U.S. Marshals and the New York City Police Department working in a Manhattan smoke shop.

Modzir was on the run for more than two years after he was accused of sexual abuse against a young boy. When he was confronted by marshals and the NYPD, he immediately began to fire on them, according to police reports, and when they fired back, he was killed.

Of course, Walsh says he’d prefer the criminals be caught and not killed, but he’s always delighted when one more criminal is taken off the streets.

Photos courtesy CNN Fugitive Charles Modzir, who was featured on an episode of ‘The Hunt,’ and was found by authorities just days later working in a New York City smoke shop.

Photos courtesy CNN Fugitive
Charles Modzir, who was featured on an episode of ‘The Hunt,’ and was found by authorities just days later working in a New York City smoke shop.

 

All sorts of cases, crimes 

The episodes and kinds of crimes committed by those wanted vary from week to week. Without giving too much away, this past week’s installment profiled two criminals: one wanted on vehicular homicide charges (Christopher Ponce, 24, of Florida) and another wanted on attempted murder charges (David Burgert, 50, of Montana).

Ponce was awaiting trial for a 2012 incident where he was alleged to have killed several people while driving the wrong way up an on-ramp on a Florida highway. He was on bail with an ankle monitor, but he cut it off and has since jumped his bail.

Burgert is wanted after he allegedly opened fire on police officers while he was a member of a militia that reportedly had a list of people — mostly government officials and police officers — whom they wanted to kill.

He escaped after a violent shootout with police, though some interviewed on the show believe he may actually be dead since he’s gone two years without resurfacing.

There have been other cases involving murder, sexual abuse, kidnapping and other crimes. But the bottom line is these cases are getting exposure — and it will become very difficult for these criminals to remain on the run after the episodes air.

So if you’re not busy one Sunday night at 9, turn on CNN.

Perhaps one week you might see someone being profiled whom you’ve seen.

KPD: ‘Knock, knock’ not funny

An overzealous door-to-door solicitor got himself arrested after an encounter with a 70-year-old woman who wouldn’t put up with his aggressive manner, Kearny police reported.

Police said the incident occurred around 4 p.m., July 25, in a residential complex at S. Midland and Passaic Aves., where several people had complained about three individuals, purportedly representing an energy company, who were knocking on doors, saying they could help lower PSE&G bills. The solicitors were not PSE&G employees, but reportedly wore uniforms with logos similar to those of that utility.

The senior citizen, after listening patiently to the spiel, said she wasn’t interested, but the solicitor was insistent, and when the woman tried to shut the door, he allegedly thrust his clipboard and shoulder between it and the frame. She had to push him back to prevent him from gaining access, police said.

Officers Chris Levchak and Daniel Esteves and Sgt. Peter Gleason responded to the complex, obtained the man’s description and took into custody 30-year-old Manhattan resident Joseph Estrada, who reportedly had an outstanding warrant out of East Rutherford. He was arrested on that, also charged with criminal trespass and issued a summons for canvassing without a town permit.

The other two canvassers were also issued town ordinance summonses.

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

July 25 

Also at 4 p.m., the Vice Unit had Juan Gonzalez, 32, of Newark, under surveillance near Midland Ave. and Belgrove Drive, saw him enter and exit an apartment building and then ingest what they believed to be a CDS. They followed his car to Johnston Ave., where they conducted a motor vehicle stop and saw him discard a cut straw containing a white, powdery residue, police said. In a search subsequent to his arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia, police said he was also found to be in possession of 38 bags of suspected heroin, stamped “War and Peace.” Gonzalez was charged with that offense and with possession with intent to distribute. Police believe he had a customer in the apartment building he had visited.

July 26 

Officer Jay Ward and Sgt. John Becker responded at 11:30 p.m. to a report of someone sleeping on the steps of a building on the 300 block of Davis Ave. Armed with the snoozer’s description and information that he was now walking, they located a 17-year-old Kearny male, who they said smelled strongly of alcohol and was unsteady on his feet. When the youth was confronted, he fled north on Davis but was overtaken by Ward, police said. He was charged with underage consumption of alcohol, violating curfew and resisting arrest.

July 28 

PSE&G figured in another incident, but this one involved a legit PSE&G employee who reportedly was the victim of an assault. At 8:30 a.m., Sgt. Paul Bershefski responded to a “heated dispute” near Kearny and Quincy Aves., where the worker was trying to “perform his duties” in connection (or disconnection) with an unpaid utility bill, police said. Alexander Constantine, 30, of Kearny, had allegedly physically threatened him and verbally abused him regarding his race and ended up being charged with aggravated assault. Police said Constantine was also wanted on an Elizabeth warrant.

 July 30 

At 1:30 p.m., Det. Michael Farinola witnessed Jesus Morales, 45, of Kearny, apparently sell a small electronic item to a passerby near 150 Kearny Ave. Farinola confronted the buyer, who said Morales – claiming his car had broken down and he needed cash to get home — had sold him a TomTom GPS unit for $20.

Interestingly, Kearny has had a rash of thefts from cars, many involving GPS units.

Officers Jack Corbett and Dave Rakowski located Morales at Woodland and Highland Aves., where he was identified by the buyer, police said. Morales was charged with possession of property lost or mislaid, receiving stolen property and possession of a hypodermic needle.

Police activated the recovered GPS and have contacted its owner.

 – Karen Zautyk 

News from the Nutley police blotter

July 26 

The manager of a Washington Ave. gas station called police at 12:10 a.m. to report that the driver of a red truck described as a late 1980s Dodge Ram Charger with a non-working rear right tail light, asked for gas, bought a pack of cigarettes, returned to his vehicle and then left the station without paying for $90 worth of gas. The driver was listed as a white male, balding, wearing cargo shorts and a grey T-shirt. Police said the truck was last seen northbound on Washington.

At 7:34 a.m., a Centre St. resident called police about a downed power wire. Police a tractor trailer struck the overhead wires and continued westbound on Centre. Police observed two cable/ phone wires on the ground lying across the street.

A Kingsland St. homeowner called police at 3:06 p.m. to report that after returning from vacation, they found multiple trash bags and a blue garbage can discarded curbside in front of their home. Police told the owner that the refuse would be hauled away on the next garbage pickup day.

July 27 

Police found a bent speed limit sign on the grass in front of a Nutley Ave. residence at 8:58 a.m. Having seen a tire mark on the curb and on the grass leading up to the sign, police surmised that a vehicle had struck the sign and left the area. Police alerted DPW about the sign.

Responding to a criminal mischief report from a Lincoln St. location, at 11:23 a.m., police found that someone had apparently climbed atop a small table to reach – and smash – a window on the south side of the residence. Police found multiple pry marks along the broken window frame and damage to the screen. Nothing was reported missing from the residence, police said.

July 28

Someone broke into an auto parked on Nicola Place. Police found the driver’s side door slightly ajar, the plastic cover to the steering column on the floor and the ignition switch damaged. Detectives are investigating. The incident was logged at 8:25 a.m.

A thief stole a purse left on the passenger side front seat of an unlocked 2007 Jeep Cherokee in the parking lot of a local bakery. Police said the purse contained money and personal items. The theft was reported at 11:57 a.m.

At 6:05 p.m., a Kingsland Ave. resident called police to report a suspicious incident. They said that a white male, about 6 feet, was walking around the rear yard and taking photos with an iPad. The man told the resident that he was a state inspector and that a shed in the yard was too close to the property line. Police said the resident will follow up with the township building department.

July 29 

A store employee was arrested after police said he tried to leave, a Franklin Ave. business, without paying for $175 worth of merchandise. Joseph Mercado, 22, of Nutley, was charged with shoplifting and released pending a court date. Police said Mercado had allegedly filled a shopping cart with cleaning supplies and was stopped when he tried to leave the store but couldn’t produce a receipt for the items. The incident was logged at 1:54 p.m.

July 30 

Someone threw a baked potato at the window of a Prospect Ave. residence and broke the glass, causing $50 in damage. The incident was reported at 9:59 a.m. Police said the same house has been previously hit by other food items, including burritos.

Aug. 1 

A Milton Ave. resident was targeted for a telephone scam, police said. The resident reported getting a phone call from someone claiming to be from U.S. Customs & Immigration telling them there was a problem with their immigration status and that they needed to send $96,000 to fix the problem. The resident told police they are a legal U.S. citizen. After the resident got the caller’s phone number, police called back, only to get a message that the “Magic Jack’’ customer was unavailable.

– Ron Leir 

Around Town

Belleville 

A performance by the Library Players, a children’s acting troupe, on Aug. 18 and a Science Fun Workshop on Aug. 25 will be the next installments of the Eight Great Live Monday nights series at Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave. Both programs begin at 6:30 p.m. Registration is required. Call 973-450- 3434. These programs are for the entire family.

Belleville UNICO sponsors a bus ride to the Taj Mahal Sunday, Aug. 24. A donation of $30 – or $35 if paid the day of the trip – is requested. A continental breakfast will be served at 8 a.m. at the Senior Citizens Center, 125 Franklin Ave. The bus will leave from the center at 8:50 a.m. Call 973-759-9259 to reserve seats (no last minute cancellations). Mail checks, payable to Belleville UNICO, to: Gene Antonio, 436 Joralemon St., Belleville, N.J. 07109.

 Bloomfield 

The Fab Four come to Bloomfield in a free concert Friday, Aug. 8, when the Essex County SummerMusic Concert Series hosts the Beatles tribute band, featuring former cast members of the Broadway show “Beatlemania,” at 7:30 p.m. in Brookdale Park. For more information, call the Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs at 973‑239-2485.

Harrison 

The Harrison Downtown Community Development Partnership and Neighborhood Preservation program co-sponsor a flea market and collectible show Saturday, Aug. 16, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the parking lot at 401 Bergen St. Admission is free. Any school/local organization interested in having an exhibitor space to sell their items and/or promote their club are welcome to reserve one of the four spaces that will be offered free. Call 201-998-1144 or visit events@jcpromotions. info to make a reservation.

Kearny 

Summer vacation Bible School will be open from Sunday, Aug. 10 to Thursday, Aug. 14, 6 to 8 p.m. nightly, at Calvary United Methodist Church, 342 Elm St. All ages are welcome.

Lyndhurst 

The Lyndhurst Health Department is collecting donations for students in need. Backpacks, marble composition books, notebooks, dividers, loose paper, crayons and 3-ring binders are welcome. Donations can be dropped off at the Health Department, 601 Riverside Ave., Suite 1, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Aug. 31. Parents with children in need of school supplies are asked to contact the Health Department at 201-804-2500 to schedule a pick-up of the needed supplies. The child’s gender and grade level are requested.

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission presents a three-hour guided tour of the Hackensack River and its marshes Aug. 16, departing at 8:30 a.m. from River Barge Park, 260 Outwater Lane, Carlstadt. Paddlers will learn the basics of salt marsh ecology. Admission is $15. The event is recommended for ages 10 and up. Pre-registration is required. For a complete schedule of trips, directions, and to register, visit www.njmeadowlands.gov and go to the Parks and Nature Programs tab at the top of the page, or call 201-460-4677.

Lyndhurst Public Library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., announces:

• A watermelon craft program for pre-k to grade 3 is slated for Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2:30 to 3:15 p.m. Registration is required.

• A sea crab craft program for grades 1 to 4 is offered Monday, Aug. 18, 2:30 to 3:15 p.m. Registration is required.

• Walk-in story time is held every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. for children in grades pre-K to 2. No registration is required. The program also includes coloring time. To register, call 201-804- 2478.

North Arlington 

Openings are available for the Queen of Peace Ladies Bowling League. The season starts Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 12:45 p.m. at North Arlington Bowl, 200 Schuyler Ave. To join, call Betsy at 201-997- 3914.

The North Arlington Woman’s Club holds a flapjack breakfast Saturday, Aug. 23, 8 to 10 a.m., at Applebee’s Restaurant, Kearny. The cost is $10. For tickets, call 201- 889-2553.

Nutley 

Knitting group, bridge and ESL classes are available for adults every week at the Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Drive.

• Patrons can play bridge Tuesdays at 1 p.m.

• Conversational ESL classes meet Wednesdays at 10 a.m.

• Wednesday Afternoon Knitters meet at 1 p.m. Beginning and experienced knitters are welcome. Bring your own supplies.

No registration is required for these programs. For more information, call the library at 973-667-0405 or visit http://nutleypubliclibrary.org.

Kearny youngsters learn at annual boys’ PAL basketball camp

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By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

Ten-year-old Jonathan Muller of Kearny loves playing basketball, but there was one aspect to young Jonathan’s game that needed a little refining.

“My dribbling was a little hard to control,” said Muller, a student of Roosevelt School. “I had to work on that.”

Esteban Martinez is a 13-year-old student at Lincoln School in Kearny. Another avid fan of basketball, Martinez said that there was a part of his game that was lacking.

“My defense is something I needed to get better at,” Martinez said. “I had to learn how to stay down on defense and not stand up.”

Muller and Martinez were just two of approximately 50 local youngsters who participated in the recent Kearny boys’ basketball camp, sponsored in part by the Police Athletic League, at Kearny High School.

Under the direction of Kearny High School head coach Bob McDonnell, the youngsters learned a lot about the fundamentals of basketball while having a lot of fun at the same time.

In a town where soccer is first, followed by soccer and then soccer, it was refreshing to see so many kids interested in playing another sport, other than, say soccer.

“I would definitely say numbers are up,” said McDonnell, a long-time youth and underclass coach in Kearny before taking over the varsity program last year. “The interest is definitely there. We had at least three kids stay home from their family vacations in order to come to the camp. It was a really nice week. We have so many kids who are eager to learn, want to know the basics of basketball. I didn’t have any misconceptions about what it would be like, but seeing the joy in their faces when they do something correct is so rewarding.”

Added McDonnell, “We tried to give them something different to learn each day, whether it’s shooting, passing, rebounding. It varied from day to day. You could see that the kids never got bored. They were into it, especially the young kids. I give them credit. They really worked hard.”

The staff featured Kearny assistant Mike Reilly, a former head coach at McNair Academic in Jersey City for three decades, as well as former Kearny High players Mike Trama and Dylan Hoch and Mohammed Farih, who went from Kearny High to walk on to the roster at St. Peter’s University.

“They do a great job of helping with the young kids,” McDonnell said.

Another Kearny High grad Tommy McDermott, who went on to play at New Jersey City University and still plays on a semi-pro level, was another counselor.

Farih brought a lot of the knowledge he’s gained as being part of the St. Peter’s program for the last three years.

“We did a lot of the drills that they do at St. Peter’s, thanks to Mo,” McDonnell said. “It’s a fresh perspective for all of us. You need to keep it fresh for the kids.”

Photo by Jim Hague Camp director Bob McDonnell (center left) and St. Peter’s University player Mohammed Farih (center right) during the recent Kearny PAL boys’ summer league at Kearny High.

Photo by Jim Hague
Camp director Bob McDonnell (center left) and St. Peter’s University player
Mohammed Farih (center right) during the recent Kearny PAL boys’ summer league at Kearny High.

 

McDonnell said the campers could relate to people like Farih and Hoch.

“It has been a great week,” McDonnell said. “It refreshes me, dealing with the younger kids.”

McDonnell said that at least five former campers have moved on to become members of his varsity squad.

“It’s one of the first times I get to see these kids play,” McDonnell said. “It’s like getting a head start.”

Isiah Wheeler is a 14-yearold student from Lincoln School.

“I needed help working on my shooting form,” Wheeler said. “I was shooting with my arm too far to the left, so I had to work on that. Coming to the camp really helped me become a better player. It was a lot of fun and it encourages me to want to play more. It also helped me to get to know others.”

Like 16-year-old Steven Velez, who is a resident of North Arlington. Velez has been attending open gyms that McDonnell ran and felt comfortable with McDonnell so much that he decided to come to the camp again.

“I still have a lot to learn and I like what Coach McDonnell has to offer,” Velez said. Velez played for North Arlington in the summer league (also at Kearny High) all summer. “We all know our roles. I plan on playing a little more now to get ready for the season,” he said.

Velez said that “McDonnell is a great person and he’s willing to help everyone.”

“He knew me since I was like in seventh grade,” Velez said of McDonnell. “I went to his first camp when I was in seventh grade. I plan to keep coming back.”

Jason DaSilva is a 12-yearold student of Lincoln School.

“Coming to the camp has really helped me improve my game,” DaSilva said. “I wanted to play against my friends and I did.”

DaSilva also attended the Kearny Kids Kamp for baseball a few weeks ago.

“I kept busy this summer,” DaSilva said. “I knew this camp would keep me busy and help my game. I want to play more basketball.”

That was the ultimate goal – giving kids a chance to embrace the game of basketball.

Ledo new North Arlington girls’ hoops coach

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After spending several years as a youth and AAU basketball coach, as well as the last few seasons as the junior varsity girls’ basketball coach at Fair Lawn High School, Rob Ledo wanted a new challenge.

“I felt like I was ready for the next step,” Ledo said. “And that was to be a head coach on the high school level. I was told by someone that if I really wanted to get my foot in the door, I had to get a head coaching job at a smaller school.”

So when the head coaching position with the North Arlington High School girls’ squad opened up, Ledo was quick to apply for it.

“It was a great opportunity for me to get in and see what I could do as a head coach,” said the 31-year-old Ledo, who works full-time as a supervisor for the Fair Lawn Parks and Recreation Department.

“I’ve put in a lot of time coaching boys and girls on the travel level, then girls AAU (for the Wayne PAL). I’ve been coaching all year round,” he said.

Ledo, a native of Ridgefield, said that he was knowledgeable about North Arlington sports from his high school days, when he attended Ridgefield Memorial.

“I’m aware of North Arlington’s previous successes in all sports,” said Ledo, who graduated from Ridgefield in 2001. “It wasn’t just girls’ basketball. I did my research before I went for the interview. I was also aware of what they did the last few years.”

The Vikings struggled a year ago to a 3-18 record.

“The Board of Education basically told me what their expectations are,” Ledo said. “They definitely want to see the program succeed. I’m a winner and I come here with that same mindset. We’re all on the same page. I’m completely aware of what has happened. But in my eyes, the past is in the past. I’m not worried about that.”

Since his appointment in June, Ledo has overseen regular workouts as well as monitoring the progress of the Vikings in the recently completed Kearny High School girls’ summer league.

“I expect to succeed right away and I explained that to the girls,” Ledo said. “We need to have that mindset. We have a team with a majority of juniors and sophomores, so we have a young team. They really dedicated their time over the summer and I think they’re beginning to see the potential that they have.”

Ledo said that he has been impressed with the Vikings’ talent level thus far. “I really do like what I see,” Ledo said. “We do have some good pieces to this team. I look at it like it’s a puzzle. We have an inside presence and some good guards. I just have to put the pieces of the puzzle together and have them put their trust in me.” Ledo attended East Stroudsburg University for a year, then eventually graduated from Rutgers in New Brunswick with a sports management degree. He interned at Fair Lawn and returned to work there after a year at Leonia.

Ledo has just one goal as he begins his new challenge at North Arlington.

“I just want to teach them fundamentals of basketball,” Ledo said. “We’re going to work on passing, shooting, the little details that are so important. That’s what we’re focusing on. I’m going to teach them how to play basketball.

They’re catching on. They’re understanding the way I want them to play basketball.” Ledo is pleased with the overall athletic ability of the Vikings. “They’re a very athletic group of girls,” Ledo said. “I can see they have put in the work to get better. They’re working on their fundamentals and I like that.”

Ledo said that he’s eager to begin working with his new team on a regular basis, other than outdoor workouts and summer league play.

“I’m very excited,” Ledo said. “This all came rather quickly for me. I’m still a young guy, but I have put the work in and deserved the chance to coach. I’ve been coaching year-round non-stop. I’m very excited to start implementing things I’ve learned over the years. I wanted to see what I can do as a high school coach. I think it’s going to be an exciting year. I want to see if I can right the ship a little bit and bring success back to North Arlington.”

Ledo said that he hopes to at least be very improved this season.

“We want to aim high,” Ledo said. “That’s the first thing, to be better than last year. Then we want to at least be .500 and be competitive, before we start aiming for titles. But I want them to come in with a good positive mindset more than anything. We will see what happens, but the summer workouts have been going well.”

North Arlington’s Collins Field gets major facelift

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By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer

In 2011, Rip Collins Field on Passaic Ave. in North Arlington, the borough’s main athletic facility, was severely damaged due to a flood, forcing the North Arlington High School athletic teams to look elsewhere to play. The floods ravaged the locker rooms, concession stand and offices that were also at Collins Field.

Then, after repairs were made to the facility, Hurricane Sandy arrived in 2012, which made the Passaic River rise to horrendous flood levels once again.

Sure enough, the North Arlington fall sports teams, especially football, were sent to play at other local fields for two seasons.

In 2013, the town passed a referendum that called for a $3.2 million renovation and restoration project to Collins Field, an improvement that included a new FieldTurf playing surface, a state-of-the-art facility for track and field and a new field for baseball.

The work on Collins Field has been ongoing since the beginning of spring and made some people wonder whether the improvements would be completed by the time the fall seasons commence in September.

Then last week, the turf field was laid down and suddenly, everyone in North Arlington could see that the improvements are becoming a reality.

“The reality is coming now,” said North Arlington High School athletic director Dave Hutchinson said. “Once the turf went down, reality set in. It’s a real positive feeling. I’ve been getting calls from alumni members and parents, coaches, everyone. We’re just not getting a brand new field, but we’re getting an all-weather six-lane track, so we can actually hold track meets. We’re also going to have night soccer games. It’s going to be a beautiful facility and we’re all really excited.

Added Hutchinson, “It’s really nice to finally be back into our home. It’s been hard to do without for the last two years.”

Hutchinson was quick to point out that the new locker rooms, offices and concession stand will all be raised by a few feet to avoid future flood situations. There will also be a weighted tarpaulin that will protect the field from possible flooding as well.

“The tarp is going to save us a lot of money,” Hutchinson said.

Joseph Riccardelli is the North Arlington Board of Education president and the chairman of the Athletics and Facilities Committee.

“It’s amazing and outstanding,” Riccardelli said. “It’s going to be one of the best, if not the very best, facilities in Bergen County. Getting this referendum passed was huge. This is a big thing in the history of North Arlington.”

Riccardelli said that the facility will also be used by the Junior Vikings youth football program as well.

The football team will christen the new Rip Collins Field Sept. 26 in a game against Cresskill.

Head football coach Anthony Marck is overjoyed to be able to go back to Collins Field.

“You can’t imagine how excited we are,” Marck said. “It’s been a long time coming. We have a very close-knit community and everyone felt that this was the best thing for everyone.”

Marck said that he has been driving past Collins Field to monitor the work ever since the construction company started work in March.

“I would drive into work and then take a detour to go past the field,” Marck said. “Then, either at lunch time or going home, I would drive by again to take a second look. I would go by there two or three times a day. I wanted to stop and get the workers coffee. It was one thing to see the work in progress, but once the turf went down, it just added to the excitement.”

Marck is astounded by the work.

“The buildings are beautiful structures,” Marck said. “The Board of Education did an excellent job, taking every step with proper precaution. I have to credit the Board of Education and the people of North Arlington for passing the referendum. I don’t think flooding water will ever be a problem there again.”

Marck is hoping to get approval to begin practices at the new facility as soon as possible. “We don’t have a certain date, but we’re hoping for the end of August,” Marck said. “Whenever it’s ready, we’ll be happy. It’s so exciting to see it coming together. I know it’s really hard to hold the excitement back until we can get on the field.”

Needless to say, the last two years of being a vagabond football program with no true home has been extremely trying.

“It’s been quite the while,” Marck said. “We had our share of distractions last year. I’m not an excuse maker, but it’s relief to know we’ll have our own place again. It’s only going to make us a better football team.”

Boys’ soccer head coach Jesse Dembowski is also excited about the improvements.

“We’re very lucky and fortunate,” Dembowski said. “We’re excited about having a new state-of-the-art home. We don’t have to worry about playing all away games anymore. We also haven’t had a night game in years, so that will be exciting. It’s very uplifting for the players.”

Dembowski thinks that the turf field is a little bigger than the grass field the Vikings played on in Riverside County Park.

“I think the bigger field suits our style more,” Dembowski said. “I know a lot of my players will be ready to play there. It’s the talk of the town, getting to be on that field. I think now all we need to do is get some wins.”

First things first. It’s time to get the Vikings back home where they belong.

Then & Now

ThenNow_web1

 

Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

 

Officially, it was known as the Catholic Protectory, an orphanage for boys in the Diocese (later, Archdiocese) of Newark. 

Eventually, it was called Boystown, and for a century it offered a home to generations of youths. The postcard photo is from 1906, which surprised us because we hadn’t realized Boystown was that old. Then we learned it was even older. 

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Newark Bishop Winand M. Wigger ‘removed the Catholic Protectory to Arlington’ in 1883 and ‘established the Sacred Heart Union to aid in its maintenance.’ Initially, the Protectory, launched in 1875 by then-Newark Bishop Michael Corrigan, was located in Denville. Boystown closed its doors in1984, but the property on Belgrove Drive is still used. It is now the headquarters for the Archdiocese Youth and Young Adult Ministry and serves as the CYO Retreat Center. The Victorianera housing is long gone, but the lovely church still stands. And recently, a refurbished meditation garden opened just to the north of the church. It is a place of peace and beauty and contemplation. And you don’t have to be Catholic to visit. 

– Karen Zautyk