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Is N.J. going to pot? Cops hope not



By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

Even if the state legislature legalizes the possession and personal use of small amounts of marijuana for people age 21 and older, it appears that several area communities would still look to ban the practice.

And that’s an option that municipalities could exercise, through the passage of a local ordinance, under the proposed law.

The bill, S1896, as introduced March 27 by State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), with a companion bill in the Assembly, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for further debate. Read more »

This ‘Sweeney’ sure to be on cutting edge

Photo courtesy Matt Boryszewski The Harrison High School Drama Club cast of “Sweeney Todd.”

Photo courtesy Matt Boryszewski
The Harrison High School Drama Club cast of “Sweeney Todd.”



By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


Ready for a bit of skullduggery flavored with some twisted Sondheim music?

Then you’ll want to see the Harrison High School Drama Club’s deliciously dark depiction of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

Yes, it’s the Broadway thriller musical with music by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler that featured Len Cariou as the British barber back from an Australian exile with a vengeance and Angela Lansbury as the doomed pie maker Mrs. Lovett in the original cast from 1979 which won a Tony for Best Musical. Read more »

Thoughts & Views: Once there was a ‘debris field’ in N.Y.



As the mystery and media feeding frenzy over Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continue, I have been thinking about another aircraft disaster, this one closer to home and a long time ago.

When I was with the N.Y. Daily News, I wrote about it for a New York City history series the newspaper was running. If you’re interested in that article, you can find it online; the headline is, “Red Snow: The Brooklyn Air Crash, 1960.”

At the risk of plagiarizing myself, I’m going to write about it here, because it affected me deeply.

That’s because I grew up in Down Neck, Newark, directly under the flight path to nearby Newark Airport, and back in those days air crashes were more common, so I felt that what happened easily could have happened in my neighborhood. Read more »


Last week’s story about Barbara Gangi, the beloved North Arlington waitress who was tragically killed while crossing River Road, misidentified the funeral home that handled the arrangements. It was the Parow Funeral Home, North Arlington. The Observer regrets the error.

Kudos to detectives who cracked case

Photo courtesy Belleville PD Andy Kohut of AAY presents plaques to, from l. Dets. Matthew Dox, Joseph Mundy and Rafael Reyes.

Photo courtesy Belleville PD
Andy Kohut of AAY presents plaques to, from l. Dets. Matthew Dox, Joseph Mundy and Rafael Reyes.



Three members of the Belleville Police Department have been singled out for special credit for helping break a local theft case.

They are: Dets. Joseph Mundy, a 19-year veteran including the last eight years in the detective bureau; Matthew Dox, a 6-year officer in the bureau since November; and 4-year officer Rafael Reyes, also in the bureau since November.

At the March 25 Township Council meeting, the trio received plaques from AAY Associates, a Garden City, N.Y., security management firm, and T-Mobile in appreciation of their work.

Mundy said the case involved a theft at Uncle Bob’s Self-Storage, 125 Franklin St., reported on Nov. 18, 2013, by Andy Kohut, a retired NYPD detective who runs AAY Associates, which provides security services for T-Mobile, which has a cell-tower setup and related equipment in an upper level storage unit at Uncle Bob’s.

That unit had been tampered with during the night and someone had removed four 12-volt backup batteries, copper grounding rods and wireless equipment, all valued at more than $1,000, Mundy said.

There was no sign of forced entry to the storage unit.

Reviewing an electronic data base maintained by the storage facility to track access to storage units, the detectives discovered that the T-Mobile storage unit had been accessed, via a passkey, four times during the night, between 8:49 and 9:06 p.m.

Additionally, a review of internal surveillance video footage provided by AAY revealed a man in the storage facility elevator with a push cart containing materials covered by a tarp corresponding to the unit’s entry times recorded in the electronic log, Mundy said.

“So we came up with a suspect,” he said.

The detectives got another break when a member of Uncle Bob’s management team recognized the man caught on the surveillance tape as someone who lived a few blocks away who would often walk his dog near the facility.

And, Mundy said, detectives learned that the same man used to install equipment for T-Mobile. So, they reasoned, he would likely have familiarity with the company’s operations.

On Nov. 26, 2013, detectives arrested their suspect, Manuel Veliz, 26, of Belleville, at the suspect’s residence and charged him with burglary and theft. None of the items listed as stolen were recovered, Mundy said.

Because Veliz has a history of prior arrests on narcotics charges, detectives surmised that Veliz fenced the merchandise and used the proceeds to buy drugs.

Veliz subsequently pleaded guilty to the burglary and theft charge.

– Ron Leir

7 towns respond to Belleville blaze

Photos by Andrew Taylor The scene last Friday on Washington Ave. in Belleville.

Photos by Andrew Taylor
The scene last Friday on Washington Ave. in Belleville.


By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent


A four-alarm blaze in two multi-family buildings on Washington Ave. on Friday night displaced 31 residents, Belleville fire officials said. All were evacuated safely, and no injuries, to either civilians or firefighters, were reported.

At the height of the blaze, fire crews from seven departments were at the scene. Along with the Belleville FD, there were responders from Montclair, Nutley, East Orange, Newark, Bloomfield and North Arlington.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Belleville Battalion Chief Richard Cavanagh said the fire broke out about 8 p.m. in a three-story structure at 472 Washington, between Little St. and Tappan Ave., housing a tattoo parlor on the ground level and two apartments upstairs.

Before it was declared under control at 11 p.m., the fire spread to an adjacent eight-unit apartment house at 476 Washington.

Complicating firefighting efforts was a very narrow light shaft between the two buildings. This shaft, Cavanagh said, was only inches wide, lined with asphalt shingles and acted “like a chimney.”

“Once it got into that [the shaft], it was difficult to contain, but they [the fire crews] did a great job,” Cavanagh said.

There was some fire damage to the apartments on the south side of the larger building, adjoining the shaft, but on the north side, thanks to the aggressive efforts to contain the flames, damage was reportedly limited to smoke damage.

Cavanagh said residents were later allowed to retrieve some of their belongings from their apartments, but both buildings were tagged as currently uninhabitable.

Although the blaze had been knocked down within three hours, the Belleville FD was still at the scene Saturday afternoon to ensure there were no flare-ups.

While the Belleville crews were fighting the blaze Friday night, the Orange, West Orange and Cedar Grove fire departments provided coverage to the town.

April can be eye-opener for TV, film

Photos courtesy Google Images TOP: “Game of Thrones”; MIDDLE: “Noah”; BOTTOM: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Photos courtesy Google Images
TOP: “Game of Thrones”; MIDDLE: “Noah”; BOTTOM: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”



By Anthony J . Machcinski

Observer Correspondent

As April arrives, many in the entertainment business are already focused on a stocked summer season of great films and great television. However, with several hit TV shows returning and a couple of anticipated movies about to debut, April can turn out to be the spark that will start the summer’s entertainment firestorm.

With that in mind, let’s review why the entertainment scene in April should command the attention of film and TV fans.


Even with great shows like “The Walking Dead” concluding at the end of March, the small screen scene picks right back up within the first week of April.

The much anticipated return of “Game of Thrones,” now in its fourth season, kicks off April 6. Taken from the series of books of the same name by George R.R. Martin, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has seemingly everything a person could ask for in a television show – action, drama, bits of comedy and fantasy.

Taking place in medieval times, “Game of Thrones” is based on the story of several families who seek to claim their perceived rightful place as the ruler of the seven kingdoms of Westeros.

The following weekend, AMC premieres the final season of its hit show “Mad Men.” In what will be a series of 14 episodes spread over two years, the series showcases Don Draper – a New York City advertising genius – as he copes with a seemingly endless list of trials and tribulations in his life.

While the show is entering its final season, those who haven’t watched the first six seasons can visit Netflix and stream all the previous episodes. Much like the AMC hit “Breaking Bad,” which concluded its final season this fall, “Mad Men” is sure to be worth the watch.

Not to be overshadowed by the established shows this April, AMC’s brand new drama “Turn” will be one of the top new shows of the spring.

Set in the fall of 1778 during the American Revolution, the show documents a group of spies who help turn the tide in the war. The show is based on the book “Washington’s Spies” by Alexander Rose.

April also features the continuation of several contest shows on television, including NBC’s “The Voice” and ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” both of which have begun to amp up the competition recently.

Cinema Although listed as a March opening, the film “Noah” will expose viewers to most of its early story content in April.

“Noah,” a retelling of the biblical story, features an all-star cast including Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson. The film has received good reviews and has achieved a 7.3 rating out of 10 on IMDB, as rated by over 4,000 users.

However, the first real big-budget film to open in April will be “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

While “Captain America” seems like it would be a sequel to the 2011 movie “Captain America: The First Avenger,” it’s really a follow-up to the most recent “Avengers” movie.

In the film, Captain America, played by Chris Evans, warms to the task of stopping world destruction threatened by a new enemy, The Winter Soldier.

Regardless of what movie it follows, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is another film that won’t disappoint – both in theaters and at the box office.

If superheroes and biblical figures aren’t exactly your thing, fear not. “Oculus,” a terrorfilled suspense thriller, is set to scare theater-goers everywhere.

The film is based on the murder of two parents, believed to have been killed by their young son. After their son, Michael, is released from prison 10 years later, the couple’s daughter, Kaylie, becomes intent on proving Michael’s innocence.

Kaylie’s focus becomes a violent, supernatural force embedded in an antique mirror in her childhood home.

While the film may not be as big budget and high profiled as the previously mentioned two films, “Oculus” will achieve its goal – to scare and excite a crowd of April film watchers.

While April may not get the notoriety of the summer showbiz scene, it certainly is a good warmup for what is expected to be a great summer of

KPD blotter: Did he think he was dreaming?

A motorist who fell sound asleep behind the wheel sped off in his car when awakened by police, leading them on a chase, authorities reported. But, when they ended that chase because of safety concerns, the driver also stopped. Go figure.

Kearny Police Chief John Dowie said the drama began at 3:30 a.m. last Wednesday, March 26, when Officer Tim Castle noticed that an SUV stopped at the traffic light at Passaic and Bergen Aves. did not move when the signal changed. Castle and Officer Glenn Reed approached the vehicle, which was immobile in the southbound lane, and reportedly found the driver fast asleep.

Their efforts to wake him failed. Neither was he roused when Officer Mike Santucci hit the horn and siren on his patrol car, police said. Castle, who spotted an open can of beer on the center console, began trying to open the door, at which point the man finally awakened, hit the gas and accelerated through the light, which was again red, police said.

The officers tried to overtake him as he traveled down Passaic, running another red light near Kmart, hitting the curb several times and occasionally crossing into the northbound lane, Dowie said.

The SUV continued into East Newark and Harrison, where it made a right turn onto the Bridge St. bridge.

Realizing that it was probably heading to Route 21, the cops terminated the pursuit for safety reasons and began stopping traffic in the area. Then they saw that the driver had, of his own accord, halted on the far side of the bridge.

When Castle approached, the man exited the SUV and fell to the ground, Dowie said.

Taken into custody was 33-year-old Kearny resident Neal Covert, who was issued summonses for red light violations, DWI and refusal to take a breath test. He was also charged criminally with eluding police.

Other recent reports from the KPD blotter included the following:

March 20

Officer Luis Moran was on patrol at 5 p.m. when he saw a suspicious individual on a bicycle at Passaic and N. Midland Aves., police said. The man, Howard Morrison, 41, of Newark, was arrested on two outstanding drug-related Newark warrants and was later turned over to Newark police.

Officer Jay Ward, patrolling on the 250 block of Highland Ave. at 9:40 p.m., came across a double-parked car and wrote a ticket. He was approached by an allegedly loud and profane Luis Machuca, 28, of Kearny, who was unhappy about the summons and, though warned that the car would be towed, refused to move it, police said. Machuca was arrested after an inquiry showed he had an outstanding $1,000 warrant out of Newark, police said. He was allowed to contact a friend, who removed the car.

March 21

At 3:45 a.m., Officer Glen Reed, assisting the Kearny Fire Department during a reported smoke condition, was evacuating an apartment building on the 700 block of Schuyler Ave. when he encountered Harold Acosta, 39, of Kearny hanging out a window.

Acosta reportedly ignored instructions to leave his apartment, so Reed escorted him out. After the building was cleared, Acosta was again found inside, in a hallway, police said. He said he was cold, but reportedly refused an offer to sit in a patrol car and get warm, began screaming and was then escorted to the car, charged with disorderly conduct.

March 23

Sgt. John Becker, investigating a suspicious car inside the closed Arlington Cemetery at 2:20 a.m., saw a group of people sitting on headstones and taking photographs. With Officers Joe Martin and Brian Wisely as backup, Becker approached the group and, at the feet of one, spotted an open backpack containing an unmarked Rx bottle, police said. A metal spoon and four envelopes of Suboxone were also found, police said. Eugienio Pizarro, 32, of Hopatcong was charged with unlawful possession of a prescription drug and drug paraphernalia and was issued a summons for a suspended driver’s license.

March 24

At 5:10 a.m., Officers Mike Santucci and Kevin Canaley responded to Quick Chek, where management reported a man had entered the store, did not buy anything but refused to leave. He also refused Santucci’s request to depart, began cursing at both cops, and then resisted being cuffed, police said. Harrison resident Luciano Yuelling, 30, was charged with defiant trespass, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Officers Jordenson Jean and John Fabula, patrolling at Harrison and Bergen Aves. at 2:30 p.m., saw a Pennsylvaniaregistered auto make an illegal turn. After a motor vehicle stop, it was found that the driver, Roman Pavelko, 31, of Hamilton, N.J., had a suspended license and was the subject of a warrant from Hopewell. He was charged on both counts.

At 3:30 p.m., Sgt. Paul Bershefski spotted Ulises Rebozo, 40, of Kearny, walking east on the railroad trestle at N. Midland Ave., police said. Since the trestle is private property, Rebozo was charged with defiant trespass.

Also at 3:30 p.m., Officers Daniel Esteves and Sean Kelly saw an auto being operated recklessly at Johnston and Grant Aves. and followed it to John St., where it parked, police said. A passenger alighted, reportedly holding a glass bong and a small metal container, which police said he discarded on the ground near his feet. Police said the bong was found to hold remnants of a CDS; the container, suspected marijuana. Tyler Jordan, 20, of no known address, was arrested on charges of possession of a CDS and paraphernalia. The driver received summonses for careless driving, a loud muffler and an unclear license plate.

March 25

Officers Jean and Fabula encountered 28-year-old Kearny resident Sidnei Antunes at Afton St. and Kearny Ave. at 8:15 p.m. and confirmed that he was the subject of several warrants — one from East Newark and four from Harrison. He was processed at headquarters and turned over to the Harrison PD.

March 28

Officer Tom Floyd was called to Walmart at 12:30 a.m. and found that Jason Combs, 25, of Clinton, Iowa, had allegedly attempted to leave the premises without paying for a Starbucks cappuccino and 34 packs of “Magic: The Gathering” cards, with a total value of $138.10. Combs was charged with shoplifting.

– Karen Zautyk

Business Review: Dedicated to delivering fine skin care


Photos courtesy Dr. Alexander Doctoroff Dr. Alexander Doctoroff (l.) and his staff embrace the newest technology at Metropolitan Dermatology in

Photos courtesy Dr. Alexander Doctoroff
Dr. Alexander Doctoroff (l.) and his staff embrace the newest technology at Metropolitan Dermatology in


By Anthony J. Machcinski

Observer Correspondent

As the local weather transitions from frigid polar vortexes to sunny spring days, the risk of sun-caused skin damage becomes even greater and the staff at Metropolitan Dermatology in Kearny are looking to use their technology to help prevent that damage.

“If somebody had excessive sun exposure in childhood, they should have a baseline skin check,” said Dr. Alexander Doctoroff, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.

Doctoroff founded Metropolitan Dermatology in 2004 after spending two years at a larger practice.

“I felt I had more to offer patients, like newer treatments,” explained Doctoroff, who has been practicing dermatology since 2002.

“Dermatology is a very exciting field,” Doctoroff said. “It’s very intellectually stimulating and it offers a variety of things you can get involved with. It’s very exciting. You don’t have to do the same thing every day.

“You can do medical dermatology, surgical treatments, micrographic Mohs surgery, and cosmetic dermatology,” he said.

When Doctoroff created his own practice in 2004, his goal was to be involved in the many different subspecialties within dermatology providing help to many different patients and solving multiple problems.

“If you do one procedure, you can drum up business, but it wouldn’t be as exciting,” Doctoroff said. “For the business aspect, it might not be the best decision, but this is not just a business. We serve people and we want to make life stimulating and interesting for ourselves, while providing valuable service to our patients.”

That variety has helped Metropolitan Dermatology address a large number of their patients’ problems. Some patients are even referred from other dermatology practices.

“I feel that some dermatologists refer the difficult cases to us,” Doctoroff said. “A lot of times there are some rare diseases that some dermatologists are not comfortable to deal with, and a lot of these cases end up in our office. We always try to bring the latest and newest technology to our office to help our patients with these problems.”

Doctoroff has embraced the newer technology, doing anything he can to better treat his patients.

“Science doesn’t stay in one place,” Doctoroff said. “If you have something that is useful to the patients, I feel it’s my obligation to evaluate it and, if it’s going to increase patients’ quality of life, then I should certainly use it.”

Included in the new technology is a treatment used to aid patients with pre-cancerous lesions.

“We have photo-dynamic therapy that is used to treat pre-cancerous lesions,” Doctoroff said. “It’s a medication used with light therapy and it’s something that is very cutting edge. We see excellent results from these treatments in reversing the damage done to the skin by decades of sun exposure.”

In addition, Doctoroff said Metropolitan Dermatology added an Xtrac laser used for patients with psoriasis.

“A lot of patients have responded well to this treatment,” Doctoroff said. “Whenever something new and exciting comes to the horizon, we try to get it to our practice and implement it.”

Most of the providers in this specialty also use dermoscopy (small hand-held microscope) to improve the detection of various skin cancers.

“I feel that method has improved accuracy of diagnosis, and decreased the number of unnecessary biopsies,” said Doctoroff.

Doctoroff, who serves as a clinical assistant professor at Columbia University in addition to running his practice, said the dermatology field isn’t just a job, but a passion.

“This is definitely something that is fun and pleasurable and stimulating,” Doctoroff said. “I certainly have picked the right occupation for me, and it’s very nice to give back by teaching dermatology residents.” He supervises a monthly clinic for dermatology residents at Columbia University Medical Center.

Doctoroff hopes to continue to grow his business in the future, but most importantly, wants to continue providing great patient care. “I get tremendous enjoyment from helping my patients,” says Doctoroff. “Whether it’s saving a life by removing a melanoma or boosting a patient’s selfesteem by improving their appearance, each day I walk out of the office incredibly gratified.”

“My idea was always, ‘if you try to provide excellent service, your business will succeed,’ and so far, it has been working for us,” Doctoroff said.

Metropolitan Dermatology is located in Kearny at 752 Kearny Ave., with additional locations in Teaneck and Clark. To schedule an appointment in Kearny, call 201-997- 8008. For more information, visit www.metropolitanderm. com.

Then & Now

Photo courtesy Kearny Public Library/Museum

Photo courtesy Kearny Public Library/Museum

Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

The elegant looking, dome-crowned, brick firehouse on Midland Ave. at Argyle Place, Kearny, was little more than a decade old when this postcard photo was taken, circa 1908. Stately trees and homes still lined Midland, eastward down the hill, but the trolley tracks are a hint of changes to come. The fenced-in grassy plot on the left may have been a private yard, but that’s just a guess. We do know what that tower is behind the firehouse: a fire watchtower, much like the ones still used in some wilderness areas. This tower was also utilized to dry the fire hoses, which would be hung down its sides. The Kearny Fire Department’s Midland Ave. house was built in late 1896 to replace an 1880s firehouse that was located on Kearny Ave. just south of Midland where Trinity Episcopal Church now stands. Ironically, on Jan. 30, 1896, that earlier wood-frame structure, home to Truck Co. No. 1, had been destroyed by fire. Truck 1 moved to a barn on Argyle Place until the building shown here was opened. It served the KFD until the current firehouse replaced it on the same corner in 1976.

– Karen Zautyk