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Category: News

Brookdale Park fireworks, concert postponed to July 15

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Because of the forecast of severe weather, the Essex County Fireworks Display and Concert with The Infernos and Joe Piscopo scheduled for tonight, Thursday, July 3, in Essex County Brookdale Park has been postponed to Tuesday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m.

Towers of power

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By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 

LYNDHURST – 

Fans of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission’s DeKorte Park took notice when the NJMC recently announced that the Saw Mill Creek Trail has been closed and will likely remain so until next year.

Readers unfamiliar with the wildlife preserve might have just shrugged.

But, lo and behold, it turns out the closure is part of a multimillion-dollar energy project that affects most of our Observer towns. It’s called the Northeast Grid Reliability Project, it’s costing an estimated $907 million, and PSE&G has been working on it since 2012. Completion is projected for June 2015.

Your correspondent admittedly noticed PSE&G workers busy at the power lines on Main St. in Belleville for some months now but never thought to make inquiries. It was the NJMC announcement that caught our attention, and we have since learned much. Read more »

May sue for more energy cash

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

Public Service Electric & Gas pays about $18 million a year in Energy Tax Receipts (ETR) aid to the state for its properties in Kearny and the state passes that money along to the town’s coffers.

That’s nearly a quarter of the town’s overall budget but Mayor Alberto Santos – who’s looking to extract as much revenue as he can to soften the local tax impact for property owners – said Kearny deserves more.

“At our peak year in 2002, we were getting $21.5 million a year from the state for PSE&G,” said Santos. But since then, he said, the state has elected to keep more of the state-wide utility tax for its own budget-balancing purposes.

The mayor’s assertions are echoed in a “Friends of Local Government Policy Paper Series” March 2013 report on “Appropriating Energy Tax Receipts: The New Normal for New Jersey,” written for the N.J. League of Municipalities Educational Foundation by Alan Zalkind and Angie McGuire of the Rutgers Center for Government Services. Read more »

Cespedes shooting to grand jury

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BELLEVILLE – 

Nearly a year after Belleville resident Dante Cespedes was gunned down in a fusillade of bullets fired by three township cops in his apartment, an Essex County grand jury has been convened to investigate the fatal shooting.

Katherine Carter, spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, wouldn’t confirm or deny the grand jury activity but Marc Bengualid, the New York attorney representing Cespedes’ widow Judy Breton, said his client was called to testify June 20.

Other witnesses who appeared before the grand jurors included several Belleville police personnel, according to Bengualid, who said he was unable to identify the officers.

Bengualid said he believes that, “more witnesses are coming,” including the Essex County medical examiner. Read more »

Now he’s a lieutenant

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

The Kearny Police Department has scored an additional police superior but it still leaves the department scrambling for more bodies, according to Police Chief John Dowie.

For now, though, the chief said he’s thankful that the town governing body has seen fit to promote Sgt. John View, 45, to the rank of police lieutenant. View was sworn in at the June 24 meeting of the mayor and Town Council, at an annual base pay of $124,608.

Because the town has applied for state transitional aid, View’s promotion was contingent on approval by the state Division of Local Government Services but no objections were foreseen.

At last week’s meeting, Dowie, addressing Mayor Alberto Santos and members of the council, said that when he recommended the move to them, he realized that the town was under fiscal restraints. “This was not easy to sell,” the chief said, “but my hat’s off to you for rising above it.” Read more »

Layoffs, loan seen as deficit remedies

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

BELLEVILLE –

Last week, the Belleville school community learned the awful truth: The township’s public school district is $3.6 million in the red and deep cuts are being made to get the district right for the coming school year.

And the situation could actually have been worse: CPA Jeffery Bliss, a partner with Lerch, Vinci & Higgins, the Belleville Board of Education’s Fair Lawn auditors, told a massive crowd assembled in the high school auditorium June 23 that overexpenditures for the current school year totaled $4.8 million.

But to soften the blow, the board is applying its surplus funds to restore a portion of the money it now needs to balance its budget by June 30, according to BOE Secretary/ Business Administrator Raymond Jacobus.

In a phone interview last week, Jacobus told The Observer that in April, he met with Executive County Schools Superintendent Joseph Zarra and Belleville Schools Superintendent Helene Feldman to sound the alarm of a looming deficit and to outline specifics. Read more »

Artistic and adorable

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HARRISON –

See that creature in the photo at top right? That is the beloved and legendary “Pig Chicken With Round Hands.”

You never heard of it? Well, more’s the pity.

We made its acquaintance last week in Harrison, where students in kindergarten through third grade were exhibiting their work in Lincoln School’s annual art show.

Although we have written about prior shows, we never cease to be delighted, and amazed, at the creativity and imagination evident in the sculptures, paintings, collages, etc.

The aforementioned being, for example, was the creation of a third-grader, who envisioned it and then brought it to life, so to speak, using everyday, mundane recyclables.

(Look closely. It is obviously a rotund, white pig. With chicken “feathers.” And circular hands.)

The halls of the building on Cross St. were lined with such gems, some displayed on tables, some hanging on the walls. A visitor walking through the doors couldn’t help but smile as soon as the art came into view. And then you read the titles: “The Cow From the Moon,” “The Big- Eyed Hungry Animal,” “The Happy Snowman That Loves to Play,” “The Flying Long- Tailed Cat With Antenna.”

Did we say the children were imaginative? Read more »

Doggedly pursuing animal complaints

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY –

Summer has barely begun but already Kearny has seen plenty of the season’s “dog” days … and lots more.

Just ask William Pettigrew, public health inspector for the Kearny Health Department, who’s been scampering around, responding to a series of incidents involving dog bites and barkings, a cat scratch, even a stray chicken, plus lots of overgrown grass and weeds in yards.

On June 4, the Health Department was notified by Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, that the hospital had treated someone bit by a pit bull-type dog on Chestnut St. the day prior.

After learning the dog owner’s identity, Pettigrew said he phoned the owner and advised that he’d be stopping by to talk and to arrange for a home confinement for the owner’s unlicensed pet for 10 days as a precaution. Read more »

‘Novelties’ & smoke shop had folks fuming

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY –

Kearny residents have apparently been spared the appearance of an “adult novelties” shop on the town’s main retail district where many tenants live above the stores.

At the June 24 Town Council meeting, Mayor Alberto Santos said that First Ward Councilman Albino Cardoso had gotten calls from some worried constituents about a sign posted in the window of the former Hot Nails salon at 257 Kearny Ave.

That sign advertised a “Smoke Shop & Adults Novelties Store Coming Soon…” Upon hearing the news, Cardoso told The Observer, “I was appalled. I never thought that would happen in the First Ward in the main avenue. In a residential area, it shouldn’t be allowed.”

And it won’t – at least not on Kearny Ave., the mayor maintained, because such a proposed use there doesn’t conform to the town’s zoning code — which, as the result of a 2007 amendment — credited to Councilwoman Susan Mc- Currie’s initiative “restricts sex-oriented businesses” to a part of the South Kearny industrial area, Santos said.

Actually, Santos was out of town – a weekend trip to Dallas – when word reached him about the prospective enterprise and he immediately alerted Town Administrator/ Construction Code Official Michael Martello about the situation.

“I call it the ‘Saturday night panic,’ ’’ quipped Martello. “The mayor reached out to me from Texas.”

So, on Monday, Martello said he went to the location and spoke to the property owner who told him that his new tenant had put up the sign in anticipation of opening the business which, according to Martello, the tenant planned to call “Sexy Smoke.”

The owner was instructed to have the sign removed, which he did, Martello said.

Should the tenant want to pursue the “adult novelties” pitch, the individual could file an application with the town Zoning Board of Adjustment and seek a variance from the existing zoning code restriction, Santos said. So far, though, that hasn’t happened.

But even if the individual were successful in persuading the zoning commissioners to allow the operation at the Kearny Ave. site, town Health Officer Kenneth Pincus cautioned there would still be an obstacle to installing the proposed “smoke shop” if it involved patrons’ use of “hookahs,” typically, smoking of flavored tobacco or nontobacco products through heated water pipes.

“Unless it’s a pre-existing use, you can’t have a hookah lounge in New Jersey,” Pincus said.

A 2011 public health administrative health advisory circulated by the state Division of Health & Senior Services advises local health agencies that in hookah bars or lounges, “… the use of hookahs for smoking – whether tobacco or non-tobacco products – is strictly prohibited by the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act [which took effect in 2006].…”

The law further defines smoking as “the burning of , inhaling from, exhaling the smoke from, or the possession of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco or any other matter that can be smoked.”

In the Garden State, smoking is banned in “in any indoor public place or workplace,” except in casino floors, cigar bars and lounges that make 15% of their income from tobacco products and tobacco retailers whose primary sales (equal to or greater than 51%) are from tobacco products.

More than a fender-bender

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KEARNY – 

As motor vehicle accidents go, the one pictured here may not appear very serious. But appearances are deceiving. This Hickory St. crash put a driver in a life-threatening situation, police reported.

At about 5 p.m., June 21, Officer Frank West responded to the 400 block of Hickory, where a ‘95 Buick was reported to have hit an unoccupied, parked SUV. Police said he found the Buick’s driver, a 69-year-old Kearny woman, incapacitated and unconscious in the locked auto, its engine still running.

After summoning an ambulance and the Kearny Fire Department, West and Officers Jay Ward and Jordenson Jean tried to gain access to the car and had to break its windows to reach the victim. West immediately began CPR. When EMS and the KPD arrived, they helped remove her from the vehicle to render further aid, including use of a defibrillator, police said.

An ALS (Advanced Life Support) unit was also called and stabilized the victim at the scene before transporting her to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville for treatment.

Police Chief John Dowie reported that West, Ward and Jean all suffered lacerations from smashing the Buick’s windows but required no medical assistance and remained on duty.

– Karen Zautyk