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Category: News

State: Distracted-driving incidents total 1.4 million


By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

The statistics are mind-boggling.

From 2004 to 2013, 1.4 million motor vehicle accidents in New Jersey were linked to distracted driving. Repeat: 1.4 million. In New Jersey alone.

From 2003 to 2012, more than 1,600 people were killed in N.J. crashes where driver inattention – chatting on a cell phone, texting, checking your messages, etc. — was a “major contributing factor.” Read more »

Moving day is coming


By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


Even Steven Shalom, who has run Discount City in Kearny since 1992, concedes that sprucing up the Passaic Ave. mall with BJ’s Wholesale Club as a new anchor store, will be “a good thing for the town.”

At the same time, though, he feels “it’s a shame that I have to pay.”

That’s “pay,” in the sense that he’s got to leave the place he’s known as his home away from home, commuting back and forth from his actual domicile in Long Branch, seven days a week, for 22 years. Read more »

Going out in style with Blue Ribbon


By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


You could say Ron Shields’ career as a Harrison educator was preordained, given that both his parents taught at Harrison High School.

His dad, Fred Shields, a 1936 soccer Olympian, was a physical education instructor and his mother, Amelia Nowak, was in the business department. Fred taught 40 years at HHS; Amelia, 28 years, after spending a decade at Hillside High. They met while teaching in Harrison.

On June 30, Ron Shields will be calling it a career after 42 years at HHS, the last 19 as the school’s principal; and, joining him in retirement will be his spouse, Mary Pat (Millea) Shields, who has taught English and art at HHS for more than 30 years. By coincidence, Ron and Mary Pat also first got to know each other at HHS. Read more »

For the sake of the Passaic


By Karen  Zautyk
Observer Correspondent


Plastic lawn chairs, propane tanks, wrought iron railings, pipes, dead shrubbery, pieces of street signs, and innumerable plastic shopping bags and plastic bottles — but no groundhogs.

The groundhogs who burrow along the banks of the Passaic River appear to have weathered the winter nicely.

“Sometimes, their dens flood and they get washed into the river,” Kearny High School teacher and girls’ varsity crew coach David Paszkiewicz told
us. But this year, no deceased critters. Read more »

Nothing stops her


By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

Harrison’s Blanca Alvarez was sick with the flu the morning of the big race.

“But I decided to run anyway,” she said.

Still, Alvarez had something to brag about: Her time of 1:08:44.96 was good enough to place ninth in the top 10 among women in the 60-64 age category for the 38th annual running of the Essex County Cherry Blossom 10K event in Branch Brook Park. Belleville’s Piedad Sanchez, 61, ranked 10th in that category with a time of 1:09:10.52.
Read more »

Unsung heroes in our midst



By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


The Harrison American Legion Post 282 salutes Joseph Moscinski as 2013 Firefighter of the Year and Corey Karas as Police Officer of the Year on April 26 at 4 p.m. at the post, 8 Patterson St.

Moscinski, 38, a 12-year employee, was on a ladder truck responding to a fire at a two-family, 3-story house at 615 Central Ave. at around 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 10, 2013, and was credited with maneuvering his truck’s aerial ladder around several obstacles and venting the attic window, thereby allowing firefighters to advance with an interior attack of the fire.

“It allowed the smoke to safely vent out the front of the building instead of towards the exposures,” according to a statement released by the Harrison Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association local.

Moscinski told The Observer that while several of his colleagues were evacuating the building, he was initially helping stretch hose line to connect to the nearest hydrant.
At that point, Moscinski said, he returned to his truck and positioned its ladder directly in line with the fire side of the building but he had to “spin the ladder 360 degrees” to avoid trees, power lines and utility poles. Read more »

His swift response saved a life

Photo courtesy Nutley PD Officer David Strus

Photo courtesy Nutley PD
Officer David Strus



An off-duty Nutley cop has been credited with coming to the aid of a stabbing victim at a Clifton shopping mall and thereby saving that person’s life.

Nutley Police Chief Tom Strumolo said he was recommending Officer David Strus
for a departmental award for his heroic actions.

The incident in which Strus, a 19-year member of the force, was involved happened last Monday, April 14, shortly before 7:30 a.m., at the Richfield
Shopping Center, Clifton Ave. and Allwood Road, in neighboring Clifton.

Read more »

Habitat back in business in Kearny

Photo by Ron Leir Construction manager Tom Grossi (l.) and Hudson County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Tom Bruning at Kearny Habitat site.

Photo by Ron Leir
Construction manager Tom Grossi (l.) and Hudson County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Tom Bruning at Kearny Habitat site.



The long dormant Hudson County Habitat for Humanity International project site in Kearny is showing signs of life.

On Monday, an earth-moving vehicle was spotted sitting, unattended, in the now-cleaned up vacant lot at 41 Kearny Ave. – where a new 3-family residential building is slated to rise – but there was no operator in sight.

But Habitat’s Hudson County Chapter Executive Director Tom Bruning said that Habitat has new partners in its Kearny enterprise.

Bruning said that Habitat has retained Tommy Grossi of MPC Construction of North Bergen as construction manager for the Kearny project and Howard McPherson’s Champion Construction & Demolition Co., also of North Bergen, as the contractor for the project.

Read more »

Tribute to Rogers, Spectra Colors


Photo by Ron Leir Salvation Army Lt. Maurice Moukouangala (c.) with honorees Paul Rogers and Alexis Capik of Spectra Colors.

Photo by Ron Leir
Salvation Army Lt. Maurice Moukouangala (c.) with honorees Paul Rogers and Alexis Capik of Spectra Colors.

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


The Salvation Army of Greater Kearny will honor local Canstruction representative Paul Rogers and Spectra Colors Corp. at its 10th annual fundraising dinner, slated for Thursday, May 8 at the San Carlo, 620 Stuyvesant
Ave., Lyndhurst.

Festivities get started at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $55 and may be purchased by calling Rebeca Escobar at 201-991-1115 or by emailing her at Rebeca.Escobar@ USE.SalvationArmy.Org. Deadline for reservations is May 1.
People are also invited to buy ads for a souvenir journal that will be circulated at the event, which will celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Salvation Army Kearny Corps’ presence in Kearny, according to Lt. Maurice Moukouangala, who oversees the Kearny Corps with his wife, Capt. Sherry Moukouangala.
The theme of this year’s dinner is “Doing the Most Good … Together.”
The affair is one of two big annual fundraisers held by the Kearny Corps; the other is the Christmas holiday Kettle Drive. Lt. Moukouangala said: This event makes it possible for us to publicly honor individuals and companies who have given uncommon service to the five communities we serve: Harrison, East Newark, Kearny, North Arlington and Lyndhurst.”
And his spouse, Capt. Moukouangala, added: “We depend on the continued generous support of the public for this, our principal fundraising event. The money we raise through this dinner helps local families and individuals in need.”
This year, the Kearny Corps is presenting its Individual Award to Paul Rogers, a retired Kearny firefighter who is being recognized for his volunteer work on behalf of Canstruction, an international charity which hosts competitions, exhibitions and events showcasing colossal structures made
out of full cans of food.

Once the structures are assembled, they go on display to the public as a gigantic art exhibition and, ultimately, all the food in the cans is donated to local hunger relief organizations.
This year, Rogers is guiding Kearny High School’s third Canstruction project and is also advising Harrison High School in its first season working with the charity.
Working with Kearny High teachers, administrators and students, and aided by volunteers from Kearny’s service clubs and the Fire Department, Rogers raised donations that enabled Canstruction to provide 43,000 cans of food to the food pantries of The Salvation Army, St. Stephen’s, St. Cecilia’s, First Presbyterian, Apostle’s House and St. John’s. He hopes to add an additional 30,000 cans this year.
Some interesting background on Rogers: His paternal great-grandparents emigrated from Scotland and his maternal great-grandparents came from Ireland, and Paul grew up in a house – one of 25 – that his father and other WWII veterans, working together, build in Kearny on their return from the front.
Paul’s grandfather worked in the old Clark Thread Co. in East Newark until he joined the Kearny Fire Department in 1925. Paul’s father also worked at Clark before he, too, was hired by the KFD in 1949, after which he served in the Kearny Town Museum.
In 1977, Paul became the third generation of his family to become a member of the town’s Bravest.
In 1984, Paul married school friend Donna MacKenney, who, after her retirement from St. Michael’s Hospital, Newark, became a docent in the Kearny Town Museum and volunteers with two food pantries and an animal shelter.
After retiring from the Fire Department in 2002, Paul enrolled at Rutgers University’s Newark campus for courses in art history and religious history. In 2009, he was felled by heart failure and three strokes, for which he received a double pacemaker, followed by two years of grueling rehabilitation.
With encouragement from his doctors and friends, Paul returned to school and to
serving Kearny with Canstruction.
The Kearny Corps is giving this year’s Community Service Award to a firmly rooted Kearny business, Spectra Colors Corp., 25 Rizzolo Road, off Schuyler Ave., in recognition of the company’s charitable efforts.
Alexis Capik, Spectra’s marketing manager and, like her dad Spectra President Luis Marrero, an active member of the Kearny Corps’ Advisory Board, said the family-run business has been in operation in Kearny for the past 26 years and supplies dyes and colorants to companies around the globe to create a variety of products such as inks, soaps and makeup.
“We have a standing rotation among our employees for people ringing the bell for a day for the Salvation Army’s annual Kettle Drive,” Capik said.
The company has pitched in to help with that drive for the past five years, said
Capik, who, with Laurence Mach, is co-chairing this year’s dinner for which Spectra is printing the souvenir journals.
In 2013, Spectra led all other corporate organizations by raising $1,700, according to Lt. Moukouangala. For four consecutive years, Spectra employees set a record for most money raised by a company during the Kettle Drive period.
The Kearny Corps is encouraging members of the public to attend next month’s
fundraising event or consider becoming a sponsor or ad-taker to help finance its
efforts to extend assistance to the needy in its constituent communities.
Among the ways it serves its constituents, the Corps:
• Aids more than 120 families, including about 150 children.
• Donates more than 4,500 grocery orders a year to people in the five-town area through its food pantry, which is open three times a week.
• For last year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, it distributed more than 2,000 toys, some 1,900 pieces of clothing and 1,500 grocery bags.
• Provides computer classes for adults twice a week.
• Accommodate 55 adults in three levels of English as a Second Language/Citizenship programs.
• Welcomes adults and children to an open gym every Friday.
“Every month, we receive requests from 75 households for rent assistance, 115 for
utilities assistance and over 150 for clothing/furniture. Unfortunately, we do not have resources to help,” a Kearny Corps press release said.
Additionally, the statement said, “We currently have a waiting list of children wishing to join our After School Homework Center – before the school year even starts.”
Every Sunday, about 50 people travel to the Corps, 443 Chesnut St., for worship service and about one third of the congregation is from Kearny but the rest arrive
from places like Newark, Lodi and Teaneck – stirring memories of the days when the Army’s national headquarters was in Verona and Kearny was a destination of choice for as many as 100 each Sunday, Lt. Moukouangala said.
When the Army moved its HQ to Alexandria, Va., during the 1990s, many of the pastors and congregants who had been Kearny regulars drifted away. “We’re still struggling to get them back,” he said.

Frank Riposta achieves top honors


Frank Riposta

Frank Riposta

Century 21 Semiao & Associates announced that Frank Riposta, of the Kearny branch office and the company’s Easter Seals chairperson, was recently awarded its annual Top Overall Producer of the Year Award, which ranks him first in gross closed commission’s company-wide.
Fernando G. Semiao, brokerowner, recently presented the award to Riposta during a special company office rally, congratulating him on his hard work and outstanding sales achievement for 2013.
“Frank’s dedication, commitment and professionalism are an asset to both Century 21 Semiao & Associates and to the clients he serves,” said Semiao.
Riposta has also been honored by New Jersey Association of Realtors with the 2013 Circle of Excellence Silver Award. In addition, Riposta has earned the Century 21 Quality Service Pinnacle Award 2013 and the 2013 Century 21 President’s Producer Award. The President’s Award is bestowed upon a distinguished group of individuals that have achieved both Centurion level  production and Quality Service Pinnacle Award in the same year. This year Riposta also was inducted into the Centurion Honor Society for being a Centurion Producer at least five out of the last seven years.
“Our agents shine in any market,” said Semiao. “Frank’s level of production can only be achieved through hard work and understanding that for many people, buying or selling a home is the most significant purchase of a lifetime. Frank leverages his real estate knowledge and professionalism to help make each transaction as smooth as possible and in the end, is rewarded with satisfied clients and a job well done. We are very proud of him.”
“It is a great honor to be a part of a great organization as Century 21 Semiao & Associates,” said Riposta. “The unwavering support of my family and my colleagues undoubtedly helped to make receiving this award possible.”
Riposta can be reached at 213 Kearny Ave., Kearny, by calling 201-991-1300, ext. 410, or his cell at 201-679-3785.