By Ron Leir
Carlstadt builder Ed Russo is looking to expand a residential development project already in progress in a Kearny redevelopment area at Bergen and Schuyler Aves.
Russo told The Observer last month he has a contract to purchase an additional 2.25 acres of property on the northeast side of Bergen Ave. – opposite where his current project Vermella Crossing (formerly known as Schuyler Crossing) is rapidly rising.
He’s looking to acquire – and take down – commercial warehousing at 307-337 Bergen Ave. – 175 feet from the Schuyler intersection – currently owned by Wal-Park Associates of Verona and put up two new multi-family residential structures with a total of 70 apartments.
Each three-story building would contain 35 apartments, with 18 one-bedroom apartments and 17 two-bedroom units.
Russo said that the design of those buildings would mirror the frame and masonry look of Vermella Crossing: six three-story buildings that will contain a total of 150 apartments, consisting of one- and two-bedroom units, plus a clubhouse/fitness center.
Although Russo included retail tenants — a CVS pharmacy and Investors Bank – as part of his Vermella Crossing mixed-use development site, he said that – at this point – he is not planning any retail space for the proposed expansion project.
What he is seeking, however, is approval from the town governing body for a PILOT (Payment in lieu of Tax) agreement similar to the tax abatement deal previously negotiated with the town for the residential portion of Vermella Crossing.
That arrangement was for a 30-year PILOT agreement which called for Russo to pay the town an annual “service charge” of $375,000 (representing 10% of the gross annual rents), with yearly adjustments keyed to inflation and a state budget cap, plus an annual $2,500 “administrative fee.” Russo also agreed to make a one-time-only $150,000 contribution to the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and to repave part of Bergen Ave. to the trestle bridge.
As of last week, Mayor Alberto Santos said that the terms for a PILOT for the proposed expansion were still being discussed.
Meanwhile, Russo has filed an application, under the name Schuyler Crossing Urban Renewal LLC, with the Kearny Planning Board for approval to undertake the new project which, according to the application, will include “all necessary drainage, sanitary sewer, water, landscaping and lighting improvements.”
Russo is seeking variances from the Schuyler Redevelopment Plan for impervious coverage and ground signs, he’s asking for a design waiver to provide 9-foot by 18-foot parking stalls and he wants an exception to allow parking for 106 as opposed to 133 spaces.
Plans call for 64 “garage/ driveway” spaces and 42 “open parking” spaces.
In neighboring Harrison, meanwhile, Russo is building a single five-story structure that will hold 400 apartments (a combination of studios, one- and two-bedrooms) plus 15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and various amenities.
In other development news, the Kearny Zoning Board of Adjustment voted Nov. 6 to clear the way for Helo Holdings Inc. to expand its South Kearny heliport by building a new helicopter hangar/maintenance facility, offices and lounge for a total of 40,465 square feet at Central Ave. and Webster Road.
With the capacity to handle more aircraft, Helo CEO Jeff Hyman has projected that the number of flights, primarily by corporate clients, would likely increase by an additional 45 per day, from the current 20 to 27 daily flights.
By Ron Leir
NORTH ARLINGTON –
Borough residents should be getting their property tax bills by the first week of December, CFO Steve Sanzari said last Thursday, after the Borough Council finally adopted the 2014 municipal budget.
Passage of the budget, introduced back in July, has been delayed since then because members of the governing body – faced with local elections earlier this month – couldn’t agree on the final numbers.
But the process was pushed along by the looming threat of the state Local Finance Board dictating an outcome that, officials said, could have been far more distasteful.
Had they not acted when they did, the borough faced having no revenues coming in since they’d have been unable to mail out bills without a county-certified tax rate, starting the new year with an operational deficit and $25-aday fines to individual council members for each day after Dec. 31 that the budget was late.
As it is, the adopted 2014 budget, after amendments, calls for expenditures of $21.55 million (up from last year’s $20.18 million), of which $15,875,961 must be raised in local taxation (up from $14,657,457 last year).
According to the CFO’s calculations, that translates to a nearly 8% increase on the local tax rate for municipal purposes only or a hike of about $254 on the “average” house assessed at $319,000. The county share of the budget is expected to have “zero” impact while the local school portion figures to add on about $14 for a total impact of $268 on a total tax bill of $9,220 (up from last year’s $8,951.).
For the local spending document to be complete, however, the borough was relying on the Passaic Valley Water Commission to approve at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 18, a legal settlement that would pay North Arlington $325,000. Both sides have been in negotiations for many months over alleged overcharges the borough claims it’s owed.
Only Council President Al Granell voted against the amended budget. In a prepared statement, Granell said he was “dismayed that the council did not join me in working to lower the tax levy for our residents as promised at the budget introduction in July.”
Granell said that several alternatives to lower the levy “have been presented for the council to consider for many months but did not garner the support of a council majority. I firmly believe that the Borough Council next year and in coming years will have to seriously consider and implement some of those options, including shared services and merging of services and basic municipal functions.”
And Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat, who will cede his post to Republican Councilman Joseph Bianchi on Jan. 1 after having lost a re-election bid Nov. 4, said the council should follow the lead of Kearny and other municipalities in pressing the state to “help compensate us” for providing municipal services to “tax-exempt properties” owned by non-profits and the like because “it’s becoming more of a financial burden … on our seniors and homeowners who account for 85% of our tax base.”
Borough spokesman Thom Ammirato said this year’s tax increase was driven by $1.35 million in unexpected costs, outside the state-mandated 2% budget cap, including $307,000 for snow removal, $422,000 “to bolster the reserve in uncollected taxes” and $276,000 “to increase debt payments.”
Additionally, he said, the borough was directed by the state to reserve $125,600 in FEMA revenue for 2013 to pay down special emergency debt and to “reduce revenues by another $123,000 for the current year’s anticipated FEMA aid.
By Karen Zautyk
This township, which has been in the forefront when it comes to offering support and assistance and recognition to veterans, has launched yet another project to pay tribute to the men and women who have served our nation. This time, going all the way back to the American Revolution.
The Nutley Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, in partnership with the Nutley AMVETS, is creating a “Wall of American Honor,” which will feature images — photos, sketches, portraits — of all township veterans from 1776 on.
Also eligible are veterans who may not have personally lived in Nutley, but whose descendants or other relatives are current residents.
So, Nutleyites, if your father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, sister, aunt, husband, wife, uncle, cousin, whatever, wore this country’s uniform, you are invited to submit that person’s picture for inclusion on the wall.
In the words of Commissioner Steven Rogers, “It will be an enduring legacy that will enable future generations to see for themselves, through these photos, what their friends and relatives did to preserve the nation.”
The veterans need not have served in combat; those who swore their oath of allegiance in times of peace are also to be honored, for they, too, did their part to “preserve the nation.”
When completed, the display will be on a mobile wall, which can be incorporated into the ceremonies marking Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
There will also be virtual “walls” for viewing on the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs’ Facebook page and its website.
Rogers noted that the idea came from the department, which also decided to enlist Nutley youngsters in the project. “This wall is going to be an educational tool, constructed by students,” he said, explaining that they will be framing the photos and organizing the makeup of the wall.
Area Scout troops, the school district and the Nutley High School Patriot Club have been recuited, the commissioner said, but any local child or teen is welcome to volunteer. Just contact him at the Department of Public Affairs: 973-284-4976.
As for the photos (or drawings or portraits) of the vets, these should be mailed to Rogers at the Department of Public Affairs at 149 Chestnut St., Nutley 07110. “We do not need original photos, copies will do,” said Courtney Johnson, executive director of the department. In fact, you can even email the images to him at: cjohnson@ nutleynj.org.
Please note that, along with the photos, the department needs the names of the individuals pictured and the contact information for those submitting the images. If you know the veteran’s branch of service (and that can include the oft-overlooked U.S. Merchant Marine) and the years they served, that information can be added.
Rogers emphasized that the veteran does not have to be a current or former township resident. “There just has to be some Nutley connection.”
“As time goes on,” Rogers said, “I have noticed that the legacy of our veterans is getting lost.” He hopes that this project will be “an inspiration to those veterans and their families, to know that their legacy will live on forever.”
Also in recognition of that legacy, Rogers noted that all Nutley veterans are entitled to a medal. For information on that program, or on benefits for veterans, call Public Affairs at 973-284- 4976.
Plans are to unveil the “Wall of American Honor” on Veterans Day 2015.
Photo by Karen Zautyk
On Veterans Day, the Township of Kearny added this new memorial to Monument Park on Kearny Ave. It will commemorate local members of the armed forces who make the supreme sacrifice in the War on Terrorism. The first name inscribed is that of Staff Sgt. Edward Karolasz, who was killed in Iraq. The monument was designed by Thomas J. Goffredo of the North Arlington firm of Thomas Meloro & Son, which crafted the stone. Now in its 97th year, the company created most of the memorials that now grace the park. When you can, pay a visit and ponder the names on all the stones. They deserve to be remembered year-round, not just in November and May.
By Karen Zautyk
Notice to anyone who views Kearny as their personal trash heap: It’s not. Stay away. You have been warned.
Kearny police have dealt with two cases of illegal dumping in the past two weeks. One is under investigation and the other has been solved, thanks to some nifty detective work.
The more recent incident was reported to KPD Officer Brian Wisely at 10 a.m., Nov. 17, by a township Department of Public Works employee who had discovered “a large amount of construction debris” behind the now-vacant Skinner Brothers automotive shop on Passaic Ave., Police Chief John Dowie said.
Det. Michael Gonzalez responded to the scene along with William Pettigrew of the Kearny Health Department, and both rummaged through the leavings. In the debris, Dowie said, they found cabinet packaging, which was traced to a retailer.
This narrowed the focus of the investigation, and Gonzalez identified a specific contractor who had done business with that company. When confronted, police said, the 33-year-old Garfield resident admitted having discarded the material, which came from a project he had been working on in Jersey City.
He was issued a Board of Health summons and ordered to return to Skinner Brothers and clean up the mess.
The previous week, police were called to Gunnell Oval by a concerned citizen who had seen two men unloading debris from a silver pickup truck and dumping it into the brush in the northeast corner of the recreation complex.
Officer Rich Carbone took the initial report at 4 p.m., Nov. 10, and found that portions of wooden fencing and buckets of concrete had been discarded.
The Kearnyite who had called the cops said the men had jumped back into the truck and fled when they noticed him watching them — but not before he was able to take a photo of the vehicle with his cell phone.
A BOLO was issued, and security videos from the area are being collected.
The investigation, by Gonzalez, the Health Department and the DPW, is ongoing.
Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave., announces:
- A screening of the animated action adventure film “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (PG) is slated for Saturday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m.
- Pajama Storytime, open to all ages, will be held Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 6 p.m.
- Saturday craft, open to all ages, is offered Dec. 13 at 3 p.m.
The Woman’s Club of Belleville meets the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at its clubhouse, 51 Rossmore Place. Prospective members are welcome. For more information, contact Terry Landon at 973-751-6529.
Belleville High School’s Music Department presents its 2014 winter concert series, starting with the instrumental music program, featuring the BHS Wind Ensemble and Orchestra, on Thursday, Dec. 11, and the vocal music program, with the BHS Concert Choir and Acapella Chorus, on Tuesday, Dec. 16.
Both concerts start at 7 p.m. in the Connie Francis Theatre at the high school. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. Admission is free but donations are accepted at the door.
For more information, email band director Anthony Gotto at Anthony.gotto@belleville. k12.nj.us or vocal music director Carol Lombardi at email@example.com. nj.us.
A cat food drive is being conducted through Dec. 12 for Kearny’s TNR (Trap, Neuter and Return) program. Drop off cat food donations at K-9 Corner, 169 Midland Ave., at Elm St.
A motorcycle run/toy drive for St. Claire’s Homes for Children kicks off at the Kearny Elks Lodge, 601 Elm St., Sunday, Nov. 30, at 1 p.m. Registration is from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Participants are asked to bring a $20 registration fee and a new, unwrapped toy. No stuffed animals are accepted. The lodge hosts an after-run party for riders.
Those who don’t wish to participate in the run can still drop off donations at the lodge or at Arlington Lawn Mower, 483 Schuyler Ave., between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
For more information, call Paul at 201-991-1076 or 201- 726-2315. Visit www.aidsresource.org.
Kearny PTA Council will hold a Tricky Tray Nov. 29, from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Irish American Club, 95 Kearny Ave. Tickets are $20. Proceeds go towards a scholarship for Kearny High School’s Class of 2015. For tickets, call Judy Hyde at 201-998-5812 or email JH519@aol.com. People wishing to simply make a donation are asked to contact Judy Hyde and/or the PTA.
Presbyterian Boys-Girls Club, 663 Kearny Ave., hosts its annual carnival on Friday, Dec. 5. and Saturday, Dec. 6, from 7 to 9 p.m. Try your hand at more than 30 games of skill, including the goldfish toss, spin the wheel, go fish and more. There will also be a table of arts and crafts, homemade toys and baked goods. The entire community is welcome.
Kearny UNICO meets on Thursday, Dec. 4, at 7:30 p.m. For more information about the meeting or Kearny UNICO, contact Chapter President Lou Pandolfi at 201- 368-2409. Kearny UNICO is a member chapter of UNICO National, the largest Italian American service organization in the U.S.
Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Ave., Suite 1, holds a blood screening Friday, Dec. 5, at the Community Center on Riverside Ave. Appointments begin at 8 a.m. This service is available to Lyndhurst residents ages 18 and older for a $20 fee. Preregistration is required. For appointments, call 201-804- 2500. Payments are accepted in cash or checks, payable to Medical Laboratory Diagnostics.
The Humane Society, 221- 223 Stuyvesant Ave., invites members of the community to bring children and pets for photos with Santa on Sunday, Dec. 7, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments are available, but walk-ins are also welcome. All pictures will be taken by a professional photographer. Proceeds benefit the animals at the Humane Society. Photos with an attractive holiday folder cost $10. A CD of all pictures taken is available for $20. For more information, call 201-896-9300.
Visit the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission’s DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst for a free “Green Friday” guided nature walk on Friday, Nov. 28, beginning at noon inside the Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park Plaza. The event, sponsored by the NJMC and the Bergen County Audubon Society, features a walk, from noon to 1:45 p.m., on DeKorte Park’s Marsh Discovery Trail and Lyndhurst Nature Reserve. A brownbag lunch is recommended. For more information, contact Jim Wright at jim.wright@njmeadowlands. gov or 201-460-2002, or go the NJMC nature blog, www.meadowblog.net. Inclement weather cancels.
Knights of Columbus Council 2396 sponsors a Tricky Tray Friday, Jan. 16, at the Senior Center, 250 Cleveland Ave. The $15 admission includes coffee plus one prize sheet of tickets. No alcohol is permitted. No tickets will be sold at the door. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, call Steve Cortese at 201-657-0800 or Sal Russo at 201-446-7244.
Santa Claus will visit North Arlington neighborhoods on Saturday, Nov. 29, from 9 a.m. to noon. The borough’s volunteer firefighters will transport St. Nick atop a fire truck. Santa’s journey concludes at the firehouse behind Borough Hall, where children can mingle with Santa.
Santa and the Fire Department will also collect food for Queen of Peace Church food bank. Families wishing to donate non-perishable food items are asked to have their donations ready for Santa as he passes their homes. Residents are asked not to bring food to any of the borough’s firehouses.
The borough will conduct its annual holiday tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 2 in front of Borough Hall. Check the borough website, www.northarlington.org., for the time.
The ceremony will include carolers and music provided by local school children.
American Legion Alexander Stover Post 37 meets Monday, Dec. 1, at 8 p.m., at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall, 222 River Road. All veterans are invited. For more information, call 201-214-8253.
North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Road, hosts a holiday celebration Friday, Dec. 12. Bingo starts at 10:30 a.m., lunch is served at noon and dancing begins at 1:30 p.m. For more information and reservations, call 201-998- 5636.
North Arlington Woman’s Club sponsors a trip to the Sands Casino, Bethlehem, Pa., on Dec. 6. The bus leaves from Borough Hall at 9 a.m. Cost is $30 with $20 slot return and $5 food voucher. For information, call 201-889-2553.
North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Road, hosts a talk by food historian Judith Krall-Russo on Colonial and Victorian Christmas on Saturday, Dec. 13, at 11 a.m. Registration is recommended but not required. Call 201-955-5640, ext. 126.
Nutley Abundant Life Worship Center, 390 Washington Ave., sponsors a blood drive on Sunday, Nov. 30, from noon to 4:30 p.m. Sign up at the center or to schedule an appointment, visit nybloodcenter. org and use group code 68275. Walk-ins are welcome. For questions about eligibility, call 1-800-933-2566 or visit the website. Donors must be at least age 17 or 16 with parental consent and remember to bring ID.
Children can send letters to Santa Claus by placing them in the “Santa Express Mailbox.” starting Friday, Nov. 28, at the Park Oval entrance on Chestnut St., in conjunction with Santa’s arrival at the Oval. The last day of collection will be Wednesday, Dec. 17. Children must include their age and return address on each letter. Santa doesn’t always have the luxury of time to look up addresses during the busy holiday season. For more information, contact the Department of Public Affairs at 973-284- 4976.
The Valerie Fund is the recipient of more than $750,000 thanks to the New Jersey Auto Retailers Unite campaign, a one-of-a-kind partnership between the fund and 177 franchised dealerships in the Garden State. The generous efforts will enable The Valerie Fund to continue its mission of providing hope, care and compassion to children with cancer and blood disorders in New Jersey.
In Bergen County, Frank’s GMC contributed $5 for every car sold during the official four-month campaign period, totaling a donation of nearly $2,500.
Spearheaded by the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers (NJCAR), the campaign also increased awareness of the fund and highlighted the philanthropic work auto retailers do in communities throughout New Jersey.
For more information or to make a donation to The Valerie Fund, visit www.thevaleriefund.org.
Dr. Blair Schachtel is the proud new owner of the well known dental practice, The Smile Centre, located at 837 Kearny Ave. in Kearny.
Dr. Schachtel graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Doctorate of Medical Dentistry. He was born and raised in New Jersey and has been practicing dentistry for 18 years.
“I am excited and enthusiastic to have acquired this reputable dental practice in Kearny,” states Dr. Schachtel. “The practice has a long reputation in the community of providing exceptional quality dentistry and exceptional customer service to its many loyal patients. Most importantly, The Smile Centre still has the same friendly staff including Dr. Jeffrey Poirier and Dr. Sharon Jacobson.”
Should you be interested in meeting Dr. Blair Schachtel or any of the doctors of The Smile Centre for a complimentary consultation or second opinion, please call Alexis at 201/991- 1055 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Smile Centre offers convenient appointments including Saturdays. It offers a wide variety of multispecialty dental services including oral surgery, periodontics, general and cosmetic dentistry, dental implants, Zoom Teeth Whitening, Dentistry While Asleep with our own anesthesiologist on staff. The Smile Centre also offers Botox to look good and feel younger.
Above: A woman awaits rescue on a fire escape at a Beech St. fire Sunday afternoon in Kearny. She was ultimately brought to safety without incident. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Taylor via Youtube).
By Karen Zautyk
A three-alarm fire in an apartment building on Beech St. at the Belleville Pike on Sunday afternoon displaced 90 residents, but everyone was evacuated safely, authorities reported.
Fire Chief Steve Dyl said the blaze broke out in a third-floor apartment at 425 Beech St. at 3:58 p.m. and was under control by 4:57 p.m. Along with the KFD, firefighters from North Arlington, Harrison, Jersey City and North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue were at the scene.
One woman was rescued from a fire escape by KFD Capt. Gary Dye and FF Bill Crockett. Other occupants of the 41-unit, five-story brick building were evacuated, many with the help of Kearny Police Officers Frank West and Chris Levchak, Dyl noted.
No injuries were reported, and firefighters said “multiple cats” were also rescued.
One of the factors aiding the evacuation was the existence of fire doors in the building’s hallways, Dyl said.
“These helped control the smoke,” allowing residents to escape safely, he said.
The Red Cross found temporary shelter for five of the displaced tenants, but the rest reportedly were staying with friends or relatives. As of Monday, no one had yet been allowed to return, pending a safety inspection.
The unit where the fire started was severely damaged, Dyl said, with some minor damage to the apartment above.
The cause is under investigation.