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Category: News

Senior housing project advancing

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HARRISON – 

The 15-unit, 3-story apartment building billed as affordable rental housing for senior citizens – the first such development for Harrison – is taking shape on Harrison Ave., just east of the Harrison Gardens public housing complex.

Last week, after several workers secured the boxed modular apartments with ropes, a crane lifted sections of the modulars from the bed of a tractor-trailer truck into place at the construction site.

As a precaution, Harrison police officers halted east and westbound traffic on a section of Harrison Ave. as the crane operator performed his job. The Domus Corp., the construction arm of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, has been contracted for the project. Del-Sano Contracting Corp. of Union, which has previously built seven affordable senior buildings for Domus, is handling this project.

Last fall, Domus CEO John Westervelt had projected that the building would be completed by fall 2014 and would be ready for occupancy by December 2014 or early 2015 and it now appears that schedule will be met.

Westervelt said that the apartments – all 650 square feet one-bedrooms – will be “marketed and advertised in local and regional newspapers, as well as local senior centers and service providers.”

Federal regulations mandate that, “units must also be posted on the state’s Housing Resource Center website” and that “a lottery will be used” to help pick the tenants, who must be 62 and older and meet income requirements to qualify for consideration, he said.

Apartment rental applications haven’t yet been processed.

Because federal and state funding is involved, the apartments cannot be restricted only to Harrison residents.

The $3.7 million project has generated some controversy because $1.8 million of the total is drawn from the state’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding pot, designed as relief from the ravages of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. While Sandy did have some impact on Harrison, the proportion of any displaced residents pales in comparison to areas like the Jersey Shore.

Domus, which is also using $1.4 million in county HOME funds and $509,000 in Affordable Housing Trust funds from Harrison for the project, pursued the Disaster Recover money when it became available in 2013 after having failed previously to secure a Federal Home Loan Bank grant and tax credits, according to Westervelt.

As to the projected rentals, Domus says that 12 of the apartments will likely go for $705 per month while three will probably be priced at $560 per month, keyed to income guidelines.

Westervelt said Domus “is pursuing [additional affordable senior projects] in Bergen and Union counties but no additional projects in the West Hudson area at the moment.” However, Harrison Mayor James Fife said the town is exploring the possibility of acquiring several privately-owned parcels – which he declined to identify – with an eye to securing more public housing sites.

– Ron Leir 

Sobering reminder for all drivers

Police departments in four Observer communities are among 195 New Jersey law enforcement agencies that have been awarded grants to fund their participation in the state’s “Drive Sober, or Get Pulled Over” end-of-summer crackdown on drunk and impaired drivers.

Each of the agencies — including the Kearny, Lyndhurst, Belleville and Bloomfield police — is receiving $5,000, to be earmarked for checkpoints and saturation patrols, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety announced last week.

The total awarded throughout the state was $975,000.

This year’s crackdown began Friday and will run to Sept. 1. More than 300 additional police departments are expected to participate in the initiative unfunded.

According to highway authorities, nationwide a fatal alcohol-impaired-driving crash occurs every 51 minutes on average throughout the year. Over the Labor Day weekend, that statistic reportedly jumps to one fatality every 34 minutes, with 46% occurring between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

During last year’s crackdown, law enforcement made 1,365 DWI arrests statewide. They also issued citations for speeding (5,710), seatbelt violations (4,153), driving with a suspended license (3,563) and reckless driving (936).

Nearly 1,800 fugitives also were apprehended during the campaign, authorities reported.

The Division of Highway Traffic Safety offers the following advice for those who choose to drink:

* Take mass transit, a taxi or ask a sober friend to drive you home.

* Spend the night rather than get behind the wheel.

* Report impaired drivers to law enforcement. In New Jersey, drivers may dial #77 to report a drunk or aggressive driver.

* Always buckle up, every ride, regardless of your seating position in the vehicle. It’s your best defense against an impaired driver.

* If you’re intoxicated, do not travel on foot. Take a cab or have a sober friend or family member drive or escort you to your doorstep.

Gary Poedubicky, acting director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety,: “Many people believe that even after having a few drinks, they can still drive. One’s judgment is among the first things to be affected after consuming alcohol . . . even one drink can impair judgment and reaction time, creating a potentially dangerous situation for everyone on the road.”

Notes from the KPD blotter

A Schuyler Ave. couple got a rude awakening early Saturday, Aug. 9, when a driver crashed his station wagon into the side of their apartment unit, showering them with sheetrock as they slept, Kearny police reported. The motorist, who himself had apparently slept through the crash, was charged with driving while intoxicated.

Police said a report of a vehicle striking a building on the 700 block of Schuyler came in at 5:15 a.m., and responding Officer Mike Santucci arrived to find a 2002 Ford wagon against the side of an apartment, the driver sound asleep behind the wheel of the still-running vehicle.

After repeated attempts, Santucci managed to rouse him and when the man rolled down the window, a strong odor of alcohol reportedly wafted from the wagon. The officer had to unlock the door for the driver, who exited staggering, police said.

The impact of the crash had cracked both the outside and inside walls of the apartment, sending shards of sheetrock down on the sleeping tenants. Police said neither the couple nor the motorist, Wilfred Montas, 22, of Elizabeth, was injured.

Montas was given an Alcotest and issued summonses for DWI and careless driving. Other recent reports from the KPD blotter included the following:

Aug. 6 

Police were contacted by the owner of a restaurant who said that someone had been defecating outside the premises on the 100 block of Kearny Ave. This had occurred at least twice, reportedly resulting in more than $500 in clean-up costs. Det. Scott Traynor viewed security videos from the area and developed as a suspect Arthur Smith, 50, of Kearny. A warrant has been issued for his arrest on a charge of criminal mischief.

Aug. 11 

At 9:30 a.m., Det. Michael Andrews was on off-duty traffic detail on the Pulaski Skyway when he came upon a 2012 Mercedes that appeared to be having mechanical trouble. Since the car had to be towed, Andrews asked the driver for the paperwork and was handed a license issued to a man whose photo did not resemble the driver, police said. Challenged by Andrews, the driver reportedly admitted that the license belonged to a friend and that his own was suspended. Police said he was also found to have an outstanding Newark warrant. Ekendilichukwu Atanmo, 27, of Newark, was charged with the MV violation, the warrant and with hindering apprehension.

Officer Glenn Reed, on patrol at 11:15 p.m.. found a Freightliner tractor-trailer stopped in traffic and blocking the right eastbound lane on Harrison Ave.

When the driver, Juan Aguirremallea, 54, of Kearny, was advised that the truck had to be moved, he reportedly refused to do so, launched into a “profane tirade” and also refused to produce his credentials. Aguirremallea was charged criminally with obstructing the administration of law and was issued summonses for failure to comply with an officer’s directions and obstructing traffic. The Freightliner was towed from the scene.

 Aug. 12 

The NYPD warrant task force contacted the KPD for assistance in locating and arresting a former Kearny resident, 49-year-old Michael Murdy, who was wanted on an N.Y.C. no-bail theft warrant. Shortly after 8 a.m., Det. Scott Traynor found and detained Murdy at Morgan Place and the Belleville Turnpike. He was taken into custody by the detective and New York officers, brought to KPD headquarters and turned over to the NYPD. Police said Murdy was also found to have a warrant out of Millburn.

At 9:20 a.m., off-duty Officer John Fabula was working a construction detail on Argyle Place when he saw two individuals asleep in a car. He recognized one of them as Michael Wojcik, 24, of Lodi, who he knew to have outstanding warrants, police said. Fabula contacted on-duty Officer Steven Hroncich, who, after confirming Wojcik’s warrants from Lodi, Mansfield and North Arlington, awakened and arrested him. He was turned over to the custody of the Lodi police.

Vice Unit officers were at Johnston and Grant Aves. at 8 p.m. when their attention was caught by Mario Lamberty, 24, of Kearny, who they said was throwing “numerous” pieces of food on the ground. They then saw him remove a cigar from his pocket and light it. Said cigar was reportedly found to contain marijuana. Lamberty was arrested for possession and use of the drug and possession of drug paraphernalia. He also received a summons for littering.

Aug. 13 

At 10:40 p.m., Vice officers saw Jerry Corrochano, 27, of Kearny enter the passenger side of a car in the area of Patterson St. and Kearny Ave., and, following the vehicle, witnessed what they believed to be a drug transaction. When they stopped the car at Maple St., they reportedly saw the other occupant, Mario Rodrigues, 33, of Kearny, attempt to conceal a plastic bag in his waistband. Police said it contained suspected marijuana. Rodrigues was charged with possession of pot and paraphernalia. Corrochano, who had $40 that was thought to be the proceeds of a drug transaction, was charged with distribution of pot and distribution within a school zone and 500 feet of a playground.

– Karen Zautyk 

Prepping for opening

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

When the bell rings for the opening of classes at the newly reconfigured Lincoln Middle School in Kearny Sept. 4, everything will be ready for the incoming seventh- and eighth-graders, said Acting Superintendent Patricia Blood.

Last week, after the school district completed its summer school and Ticket-to- Read programs at Lincoln, maintenance staff cleaned classrooms on the building’s second floor to prepare them for the estimated 441 grade 8 students who will be their new occupants.

“Our custodial staff has been phenomenal,” Blood said. “Everything should be up to snuff when school resumes.” Read more »

Vehicular homicide charge in fatal crash

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A Union City truck driver has been charged with vehicular homicide in connection with a N.J. Turnpike crash that claimed the life of a Kearny man in June.

The N.J. State Police, working with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, arrested Henry Flores, 55, without incident at his home July 31.

Detectives reportedly have determined that Flores was using a cell phone when his tractor-trailer caused the chain-reaction accident on the Turnpike in Carlstadt. Several people were injured, and Jeffrey Humphrey, 43, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Humphrey, a lifelong Kearny resident, was a medical technology instructor at Montefiore Medical Center and was also the leader of a musical group, The Jeff Humphrey Trio. He was the brother of Kearny Public Library director Josh Humphrey.

The accident occurred at approximately 4:55 p.m., June 9, in the southbound lanes of the highway and resulted in its closure for about eight hours.

Police said Flores was traveling in the left lane when he smashed into the vehicle in front of him that was slowing with traffic. The initial impact caused a crash that involved multiple vehicles. Humphrey’s car was in the middle of the line of cars that were hit.

In addition to vehicular homicide, Flores has been charged with hindering apprehension, reckless driving and improper use of a cell phone.

He was remanded to the Bergen County Jail in lieu of $50,000 full cash bail.

 – Karen Zautyk  

Celebrating Nutley’s history

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By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 

NUTLEY –

If you were a kid, where would you opt to be on a sunny Tuesday morning in August? In a park? Down the Shore?

For a group of Nutley youngsters, the choice was to be at the Department of Public Affairs offices on Chestnut St. for a lesson local history.

No foolin’. Read more »

New superior among the Bravest

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY –

On Jan. 20, 2013, Kearny firefighters were battling a fire at a 3-story, 6-family building at 118 Devon St. when part of the roof gave way, pinning Capt. Gary Dye and Firefighter Michael Kartanowicz under rubble.

Eventually, they were pulled out by Firefighters Michael Janeczko and Andrew O’Donnell who were acclaimed as Firefighters of the Year for their deeds.

Both of the injured men – Kartanowicz took a few months to recover from surgery – have returned to work and last Tuesday, Kartanowicz, 36, was promoted to fire captain in ceremonies at the Town Hall assembly chambers filled with family, friends and colleagues.

He’ll earn $103,637 a year in his new rank. Read more »

Two-time loser

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By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 

NUTLEY –

A 50-year-old Nutley was sentenced last week to four years and seven months in prison for the 2013 robbery of a Clifton bank — a crime committed while he was on supervised release following a previous bank-robbery conviction.

The bandit, Wayne Winner, had been arrested about a week after the Clifton crime thanks to an alert and observant Nutley police officer, authorities reported.

According to court documents, Winner entered a Valley National Bank in Clifton on Jan. 4, 2013, and handed a teller a bag and a note, which read, “No joke, loose bills, no dye, in a hurry.” The amount of money taken was not disclosed. Read more »

Cat colony conundrum

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY –

Controversy over how to deal with a cat colony in the back of an E. Midland Ave. apartment complex came to a head at last Tuesday night’s mayor/Town Council meeting.

Half the assembly chambers were filled with advocates for the colony led by animal activists Leonard and Juliette Twist, a couple who live on the same block where the cats have congregated in a woodsy area along a set of abandoned railroad tracks.

Problem is, according to the town, the cats have spilled over into the parking lot of the apartment complex whose owner, last week, took steps to set traps for the strays, hire an off-duty cop to guard the traps, and send them to the Bergen County Animal Shelter.

There, Mayor Alberto Santos told the crowd, “if a cat is feral and not sociable, it is euthanized. If the cat is sociable, it is held at the shelter and can be held for as long as a year.”

Although the traps have since been removed, Santos said, “I’ve learned that wildlife [other than stray felines] have been trapped … and that two of those wildlife have been euthanized. That should not have happened.” Read more »

News from the KPD blotter

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Aug. 1 

At 1:30 a.m., Officer Derek Hemphill responded to the report of a hit-run accident on the 200 block of Argyle Place and found that parked vehicles had been struck. Back-up Officer Ben Wuelfing followed a trail of tire marks and and automobile fluids to Schuyler and Laurel Aves., where he located a “heavily damaged” Nissan SUV and detained two individuals. Wuelfing determined that one, Damaso Castill, 22, of Kearny, had been the SUV’s driver and he was charged with DUI, leaving the scene of an accident and refusing to take an Alcotest.

Sgt. Peter Gleason and Officers John Travelino and Jay Ward answered a request for assistance from an NJ Transit bus driver at 9:30 p.m. at Seeley and Kearny Aves. Police said the driver had ejected an unruly passenger who, upon exiting the bus, kicked out windows in the door and fled. Ward located the suspect at W. Bennett Ave. and Pleasant Place and returned him to the bus for identification. Stephen Scrupski, 52, of Newark was charged with criminal mischief and on an outstanding warrant from Harrison. Read more »