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Category: News

Collect pledges for Pathways

Get involved in a worthy charity cause and collect a free T-shirt. To encourage participation in next month’s Pathways to Independence Walk-A-Thon, Silva Construction is sponsoring a free event T-shirt for each participant who turns in $100 or more in pledges.

It’s easy to participate in the Oct. 4 Walk-AThon. Just register yourself or your team in advance by obtaining registration forms at Pathways to Independence, 60 Kingsland Ave. (at Bergen and Schuyler Aves.), Kearny, or call 201-997-6155 to have them mailed to you. You can also register before the walk at the Schuyler Ave. entrance of West Hudson Park, starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4.

The walk will start at 10 a.m. and takes only about an hour to complete, but it will make a big difference to Pathways. The event also includes food, drinks, tricky tray raffles, special item raffles, craft items for sale that were made by Pathways consumers and a goody-bag for each participant.

Pathways to Independence is a not-for-profit organization that has been providing life skills, job training and work for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for the past 37 years and serves Hudson, Bergen and parts of Essex County.

For more information, contact Alvin Cox, executive director of Pathways to Independence, at 201-997-9371 ext. 18.

Are your supplements working?

Dr. Richard Ekstein hosts a bio-photonic event Monday, Sept. 22, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at 312 Belleville Turnpike, Suite 3B, North Arlington, when guests will receive interesting information about the capability of the bio-photonic scanner.

Learn if your body is receiving enough anti-oxidants to support a healthy body. Learn why anti-oxidants are a necessary ingredient in obtaining optimal health benefits. Learn how to enhance and maximize the absorption rate of these necessary nutrients.

During this event, guests will discover their body’s anti-oxidant level and learn how to increase their personal levels. Admission is $20 for the event and a personal scan. The program is limited to 30 people. For more information or to register, email your name and phone # to antioxidantseminar@ gmail.com.

Final salute to veterans’ champion


By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


Joseph T. Fornarotto, a lifelong resident of Belleville and a tireless advocate for America’s veterans, passed away on Monday, Aug. 25.

To say that his death came as a shock is an understatement.

Usually such sentiments are expressed when the deceased is young. Joe Fornarotto was 88.

But he was so full of energy and life, news of his sudden demise was still difficult to accept.

Fornarotto was a frequent visitor to The Observer offices. He had been here on Friday, Aug. 22, just three days before his death, to meet with general manager Robert Pezzolla. It was a stunned Pezzolla who gave your correspondent the sad news last week.

On July 16, The Observer had featured Fornarotto in a front-page story about his links to those “Jersey Boys,” The Four Seasons, dating to the 1950s when he owned Joe’s Lunch at 90 Franklin St. in Belleville. The place was a popular gathering spot for teenagers, among them Francesco “Frankie” Castelluccio, better known now as Frankie Valli.

That, however, was only one brief chapter in a life rich in memories.

Fornarotto and his wife Jeanne (nee Rosamilia), who predeceased him in 2011, were married for 61 years and raised four children. He is survived by his son, Joseph Jr.; daughters, Kathy Mazur and her husband Walter, Joni Lewis and her husband Jim, Jeanne Finnan and her husband Kevin; a sister and five brothers, five grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.

After his stint in the luncheonette business, Fornarotto worked for the Township of Belleville and later Essex County, retiring just four years ago.

He also served a term as a Belleville commissioner and was a member of the township Senior Citizens and the Italian American Civic Association. In 2009, he was honored as Belleville Man of the Year at the Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade.

But Fornarotto — a U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Pacific during World War II — was probably best known in his hometown, and surrounding communities, as commander of Disabled American Veterans Belleville/ Nutley Chapter 22, of which he was a founding member.

Any time there was any sort of event honoring or involving veterans, Fornarotto was there.

In 2011, Chapter 22’s headquarters at 612 Mill St., Belleville, which he was instrumental in getting constructed, was formally named the Commander Joe Fornarotto Disabled American Veterans Building.

Among the dignitaries attending the ceremony was Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., who cited the commander’s unwavering commitment to those who have served our country.

“To the hospitals he’s visited, to the veterans he’s reached his hand out to, to those who are homeless, to those who’ve lost faith and hope, to those who are addicted, to those who continue to experience the pains of war, Joe has not forgotten anybody,” the congressman said.

Those sentiments were echoed last week by Nutley Commissioner Steven Rogers, himself a dedicated proponent on veterans’ issues. The weekend before Fornarotto’s death, the commissioner and his wife were in the Nutley Diner when they saw Fornarotto up by the cash register. “I saluted him, and he saluted me,” Rogers said. “It was a nonverbal expression of the mutual respect we had as veterans.”

“Joe was a veteran to his last breath,” Rogers said. “He served and fought for this country, and well into his elder years, he continued to fight for this country by working very hard to ensure that American veterans would be treated well.”

Read at the 2011 DAV dedication ceremony was a message co-written by chapter members. It said, in part:

“For many, many years, Joe championed the cause of disabled veterans, assisted his comrades in Chapter 22, fund-raised for our hospitalized and institutionalized comrades and led the efforts to bring the fight for disabled veterans to public attention.

“For many of us, his achievements seemed virtually unattainable before he accomplished them.

“Joe, we love you and salute you. Thank you for all you have done.”

Fornarotto was buried Friday, with military honors, in Immaculate Conception Cemetery, Montclair.

Those who wish to honor his memory are asked to make a donation to the Veterans Administration Hospital, 385 Tremont Ave., East Orange, N.J. 07018.

Joe, we love you and salute you.

Thank you for all you have done.

Upscale rentals enroute


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

Two West Hudson communities will see their populations grow a bit thanks to a pair of residential developments being undertaken by an area builder.

Russo Development of Carlstadt, which completed Vermella Lyndhurst, a 296- unit, four-building apartment complex with a clubhouse, in March 2013, is now moving ahead with two new upscale rental projects.

In Kearny, the company, led by Ed Russo, is in the beginning phase of Vermella Crossing, a six-building, 150-unit apartment cluster, off Bergen and Schuyler Aves. All six residential buildings should be completed by summer 2015. An Investors Bank and a CVS, both built by Russo, sit just west of the residential construction site.

And, to the south in neighboring Harrison, the company is putting up Vermella Harrison, a single five-story, mixed-use development with 400 apartments and 15,000 square feet of ground floor retail, off Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. South, next to the Red Bull Arena and just across from the Harrison PATH station. The first 100 apartments should be finished by July 2015.

One-bedroom apartments will range from 713 to 972 square feet of space while two-bedroom units will be anywhere from 1,197 to 1,236 square feet. Studio apartments will range from 451 to 587 square feet.

The name Vermella is being used to establish the “Russo residential brand,” according to Lisa Sikora, director of marketing for the company. “The goal is to build a portfolio of high-quality apartments that are designed and maintained to Russo family standards,” she said.

That brand will feature such apartment amenities as “gourmet kitchens with quartz countertops, stainless steel Energy Star appliances, hardwood floors in living areas, 9-foot ceilings, in-residence washer and dryer, ceramic tile in kitchen and bath and surround-sound,” she said.

All apartments will be equipped with central air and heating and most pets will be allowed at both Vermella Crossing and Vermella Harrison, with a “pet fee” to be charged, Sikora said. And there will be on-site property management, she said.


Photos by Ron Leir One of the six residential buildings going up at Kearny construction site (bottom). Russo Development is also building new apartments in Harrison (top), from which tenants will have view of downtown Newark skyline.

Photos by Ron Leir
One of the six residential buildings going up at Kearny construction
site (bottom). Russo Development is also building new apartments in Harrison
(top), from which tenants will have view of downtown Newark skyline.


Vermella Crossing will have a total of 222 parking spaces for residents and guests.

The first of the Kearny apartments – all of which will be spread among six three-story buildings – will front along Bergen Ave. As construction progresses, those that follow will be set up further to the back of the property.

A clubhouse and fitness center, available to tenants, a rental office and community room are expected to open by January 2015.

Each building will contain 25 apartments: 13 one-bedroom units and 12 two-bedroom units. Monthly rental fees have yet to be fixed; those amounts figure to be set by November or December 2014. An amenity fee will be assessed for the use of the fitness center.

At the Harrison development, which tenants will access via the extension of S. Fifth St., plans call for 121 studio apartments, 263 one-bedroom units and 18 two-bedroom units. No rental prices have been announced yet.

Residential units will be spread, primarily, from the second to the top floor of the building with ramped parking to be “wrapped inside” the apartments, so that tenants can conveniently access parking on each level of the building, said Michael Pembroke, Russo executive vice president.

Access to the garage will be via Crucible Drive.

Plans call for 400 parking spaces for residents and 60 retail spaces.

The ground-floor retail portion will front mainly along Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. S. and partly on Riverbend and Crucible Drives. No leases have yet been signed for the retail space.

Amenities may include a courtyard pool, a dog run, a putting green, bocce ball court and shuffleboard court in a second courtyard, plus a clubroom and gym for tenants only.

Gearing up for ‘antidote’ drug


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


North Arlington is among the first communities in Bergen County – and New Jersey – to undertake proactive efforts to save the lives of people who overdose on heroin or opioids by outfitting EMS and police with an “antidote” drug.

On July 31, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder set the stage for a nationwide response to the growing numbers of drug overdoses – many triggered by street dealers’ sales of heroin or prescription pain relievers – when he called for law enforcement agents to “arm” themselves with naloxone.

If administered correctly, naloxone (also known as narcan) can revive someone from an overdose.

So far, 17 states, including New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, have authorized cops’ use of the drug and state and municipal police have amended their operational policies accordingly.

The U.S. Justice Department has reported that, on average, 110 Americans die from drug overdoses each day – more than the number of fatalities resulting from gunshot wounds or car crashes. And more than half of those overdoses are attributed to heroin or other opioids.

Between 2006 and 2010, heroin overdose deaths alone rose by 45%, according to the Justice Department.

In North Arlington, Councilman Richard Hughes, liaison to the borough First Aid Squad, said the borough’s paid Emergency Medical Service and the Volunteer Ambulance (First Aid) Squad recently completed training in how to administer naloxone to “reverse the effects of opioids including respiratory depression, sedation and hypotension.”

Both the EMS and First Aid Squad applied for – and received – permission from the state Department of Health to administer the drug.

Hughes said that all borough emergency responders have been trained in the use of naloxone by paramedic Dennis Kruk, a member of the borough EMS, and Dr. Joseph Katora, an emergency medicine specialist with the U.S. Navy who has volunteered to serve as medical director for the local EMS teams.

Jim Sackerman, a borough EMS supervisor, said that North Arlington’s four ambulances and a first responder vehicle have all been equipped with naloxone kits “and we have two back-up units in our office.”

The drug – which costs about $20 for a 2mg dosage – should remain effective for a year and a half to two years, he said.

Sackerman said the drug is administered as a nasal spray – 1mg through each nostril – “the maximum dosage we are permitted to give. My understanding is the [borough] police have a higher protocol.”

“The aim is to get the person’s respiratory count back up to normal,” Sackerman said. “It is not a cure for drug addiction,” he added.

Hughes said the drug’s use is to be limited to cases where it appears that someone’s life is in danger due to an overdose. “Hopefully, the emergency responders will have to use naloxone no more than five or 10 times a year. It’s a treatment of last resort,” he said.

Just in the last two months, based on what he’s observed during his EMS shifts, Sackerman said, “There were three situations where naloxone could have been used. … “There’s definitely a need for this program.”

Meanwhile, Police Chief Louis Ghione said he has sent borough Police Officer Thomas Farrell for naloxone training, sponsored by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, and conducted by Dr. Marc Dreier, director of the mobile intensive care unit at Valley Hospital, Ridgewood, so that Farrell, in turn, can help train other borough officers.

Ghione said the prosecutor’s office has acquired 325 naloxone kits, to be spread among municipal police departments around Bergen County who opt to participate in the training. “We got eight of those kits,” he said, “which we will distribute among our patrol units. Training of our officers is the next phase of the operation we’ll be participating in.”

In neighboring Lyndhurst, about one-third of the Police Department has been trained in the use of the drug, according to Det. Capt. John Valente. The department has obtained five naloxone kits, he said. “Once everyone has been trained, we’ll be out there with the drug.”

Katherine Carter, spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, said: “We’re in the early stages of pulling together a [naloxone] training program and we’ve been in touch with the local departments about that.”

And Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Staff Gene Rubino said the office has completed a “first round” of training with Dr. Kenneth Lavelle, an emergency medicine specialist for Jefferson University Hospitals, who has provided extensive training in Ocean County. “We are currently surveying the needs of our 12 municipalities and we expect to implement the program in late fall.”

DWI cited in 2 crashes

By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


Two local men have been charged criminally with assault by auto following separate accidents in the township, a hit-and-run and a headon collision, Kearny police reported. Both are also accused of driving while intoxicated.

At 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23, Officer Brian Wisely responded to the report of a pedestrian having been struck by an auto in the area of Schuyler Ave. and King St. and found a “severely injured” man in the roadway on John Hay Ave. Police said the vehicle had fled the scene.

The officer summoned Kearny EMS, which took the victim, a 42-year-old Kearny resident, to University Hospital, Newark, for treatment of head and arm injuries.

Processing the scene of the hit-run, Wisely located evidence, including a sheared-off side mirror, that the vehicle involved was a blue Subaru, police reported. A short time later, Officer Daniel Esteves spotted a blue Subaru with fresh damage near Quincy Ave. and Windsor St., and he and Officer Sean Kelly located and arrested the owner, Luciano Sanchez, 20, of Kearny, after he failed field sobriety tests, police said.

Accident investigator Sgt. Richard Poplaski later interviewed the victim at the hospital and also located witnesses to the accident who identified Sanchez as the driver, police said.

In addition to assault by auto, Sanchez was charged criminally with endangering an injured person and with possession of a CDS (suspected marijuana) and drug paraphernalia. Motor vehicle charges included DWI, DWI in a school zone, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and failure to yield to a pedestrian.

Police Chief John Dowie said the victim was reported in stable condition.

The head-on collision, which sent three people to the hospital, occurred at about 6:50 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, on Bergen Ave. between Schuyler and Harrison Aves.

Officers T.J. Hernandez and Stephen Hroncich and Sgt. Paul Bershefski arrived at the scene to find two heavily damaged vehicles, a 2013 BMW and a 2009 Honda, and several victims lying on the sidewalk, police said.

It was determined that the BMW driver, Jonathan Quevedo-Garcia, 27, of Kearny, was responsible for the crash, police said.

Quevedo-Garcia, who reportedly failed field sobriety tests, was charged with DWI, reckless driving, driving with a suspended license and failure to surrender same. Criminally, he was charged with three counts of assault by auto.

The injured, all of whom had been in the Honda, were three North Arlington residents — two males and a female. They were taken to Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, for treatment.

KPD blotter: Anybody seen a Glock?

An 18-year-old girl, with addresses in both Bayville and Newark, was arrested Aug. 22 in connection with the theft of a gun from a Devon St. home, Kearny police reported.

At 10:30 p.m. on that date, Officer Angelo Palagano responded to the address, where the resident reported that his 9-mm. Glock handgun, which had been kept in a locked box, was missing. Police said the weapon had been purchased legally and the owner had a permit for it.

Dets. Scott Traynor and John Telle learned that the man’s 16-year-old son had had company at the house before the gun disappeared and they developed as a suspect Georganna Britting, whom Palagano soon located on Kearny Ave.

Questioned at headquarters, Britting reportedly admitted seeing the Glock but said she had put it back. “But we searched the residence, and it wasn’t there,” Police Chief John Dowie said.

It also wasn’t found on her person, but she was still charged with theft of movable property, possession of a weapon and possession of a firearm without a permit.

The Glock “is missing,” Dowie said. “It’s somewhere out on the streets.”


Other recent reports from the KPD blotter included the following:

AUG. 22 

At 9 a.m., with temperatures in the mid-70s, a man wearing gloves and a hoodie, with the hood up, caught the attention of an off-duty Newark police officer near the Chase bank at Johnston and Kearny Aves. He alerted the KPD, and Sgt. John Taylor found and followed the suspicious individual over the Devon St. footbridge. At south end, the suspect reportedly pushed the officer and ran into Harrison, pursued on foot by Taylor, Sgt. Paul Bershefski and Officer Renee Crawford. Crawford cut him off and knocked him down, “and she’s little,” Dowie noted.

Taken into custody was Sean Reilly, 43, of Kearny, who was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, obstructing the administration of law, and on warrants from Newark and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office.


At Chestnut St. and Columbia Ave. at 3:45 p.m., Officer John Fabula spotted Christopher Krbec, 28, of Kearny, confirmed that he had outstanding warrants and arrested him on same, which had been issued by Kearny, Ringwood and and Newark, police said. Krbec’s companion, Richard Stevens, 28, of Kearny, was reportedly found to have two warrants out of Newark and one from Manahawkin. Both were booked at headquarters, and the various municipalities were notified.

AUG. 23 

At 3:20 p.m., police responded to the 400 block of Beech St. on a report of people drinking beer in a parked car and throwing the empties on the street.

Officers Dave Rakowski and Tim Castle and Sgt. Charles Smith took into custody Marwa Ali, 20, of Fair Lawn, and her passenger, Scott Huaman, 24, of Kearny. She was charged with underage consumption of alcohol and having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. Huaman was charged with the latter and on an outstanding Belleville warrant.

AUG. 24 

Officer Ben Wuelfing responded to a 2 a.m. report of a possible sick person in a car at Highland and Bergen Aves. and found Ruben Perez, 37, of Lyndhurst standing next to a double-parked, still-running vehicle tending to his “obviously intoxicated” passenger, police said. Wuelfing summoned aid for the passenger, but Perez, who reportedly failed FSTs and an Alcotest, got summonsed for DWI and DWI in a school zone.


At 6:20 a.m., Officer Rakowski went to Highland and Wilson Aves. on the report of a hit-run and found damage to two parked cars and to the curbing. On Patterson St., police said, he found a damaged 2013 Subaru and a group of people struggling to hold up another individual — apparently the Subaru’s driver. Jerry Quintero, 24, of Kearny was given an Alcotest at HQ and charged with DWI, DWI in a school zone, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

AUG. 25 

Officer Jack Grimm and Det. Michael Farinola responded to a 1:20 p.m. complaint of a panhandler loitering near Applebee’s and detained suspect Christopher Gaskins, 33, of East Orange. Police said a warrant check showed him to have three, one each from Belleville, Secaucus and Elizabeth. During a search incident to arrest, he allegedly was found to be in possession of a GPS, two cell phones and a N.Y. Knicks wristwatch, which was not on his wrist.

Gaskins told the officers he had bought the items as birthday gifts for himself, but he couldn’t recall where, police said.

Farinola activated the GPS and traced it to a Newark man who, when contacted, said his vehicle had been burglarized overnight and identified all the property as his. Gaskins was then charged with receiving stolen property.


At 8:20 p.m., Officer Philip Finch and Sgt. Peter Gleason went to Walmart after loss prevention personnel reported they had video evidence of an employee pilfering from cash registers. Nicole Mitchum, 29, of Newark — who allegedly had stolen about $3,000 over time — was charged with theft and on a warrant from Irvington.

AUG. 26 

Officer Joe Martin responded to Dunkin’ Donuts on Kearny Ave. at 2:45 a.m. after a customer reported that his cell phone had been stolen while he was in the store. Martin obtained a description of the suspect, and Officers Derek Hemphill and Tom Sumowski searched the area. Hemphill located the man, who was in possession of the phone and was identified by the victim, police said. Andrew Worth, 22, of Kearny was charged with theft by unlawful taking. (Editor’s note: If the name sounds familiar, that is because Worth appeared on last week’s blotter, charged with receiving stolen property, credit-card theft and marijuana possession.)


Officer Christopher Levchak was on patrol on Harrison Ave. near Rt. 280 at 11 p.m. when his radar clocked a car traveling 56 mph in the 35- mph zone. The driver, Moises Cabides, 23, of Bayonne, was charged with speeding and driving while his license was suspended. Police said he was also wanted on a Union Township warrant.

More turnover at BOE

Photos by Ron Leir (Top) Resident Jeff Mattingly quizzes members of the Belleville Board of Education who appointed Ricardo Acosta (bottom) as acting superintendent Thursday night.

Photos by Ron Leir
(Top) Resident Jeff Mattingly quizzes members of the Belleville Board of Education
who appointed Ricardo Acosta (bottom) as acting superintendent Thursday




By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


In the latest in a series of organizational hiccups, the Belleville Board of Education has lost its most recent chief school administrator.

At a special meeting last Thursday night, the BOE accepted the resignation of Helene Feldman as superintendent of schools – after only 15 months on the job – and installed elementary school principal Ricardo Acosta as acting superintendent, effective Sept. 1.

The BOE also agreed to retain Strategic Educational Advantage to conduct what BOE attorney Stephen Edelstein characterized as a “nationwide” search for a new superintendent. No stipend was set.

And the BOE approved an “early separation” agreement with the departed Feldman, whose contract runs through June 30, 2016.

“In the past,” Edelstein said, “it was the board’s prerogative to negotiate or buyout a superintendent’s contract [and] the state [Department of Education] played no role. All that has changed. Now, it’s very regulated. Superintendent Feldman decided to resign and the law tells us what she’s entitled to.”

Under that law, Edelstein said, Feldman “is entitled to three months’ pay for each year remaining in her contract,” which, in her case, “because of the way the year breaks,” works out to [a total of] 5.5 months,” plus compensation for “unused and accrued sick and vacation days,” all of which, he added, was audited by the state.

As spelled out in the agreement, Feldman – whose salary was about $167,500 a year – will receive $76,770 in salary payments, plus $11,163 for 43 unused accrued sick days (calculated at 40% of her $644 per diem rate), plus $7,730 for 12 unused accrued vacation days, for a grand total of $95,664.

For legal guidance in connection with the terms of the agreement, Feldman was represented by Andrew Babiak, a staff attorney with the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

Feldman was elevated to superintendent in September 2012 from her position as the district’s special services director to replace the then-Superintendent Joseph Picardo, who ultimately resigned after he was sued by a former employee on sexual harassment charges. Picardo had replaced Edward Kliszus in 2010 and two interims followed before Feldman came aboard.

During the past two years, the district went through a succession of business administrators and this school year, was assigned a state monitor, Thomas Egan, who has reported that the district ran up a deficit of about $4 million for the 2013-2014 school year.

To try and get the overspending under control, the BOE has reduced its payroll by shedding 59 of its employees from the administrative, secretarial, custodial and instructional ranks, Raymond Jacobus, the current BOE secretary/ school business administrator, told The Observer.

“That’s subject to re-evaluation in September when we look at the needs of the district and school enrollment,” Jacobus added. At this point, he said, enrollment figures appear to be holding steady. “In the high school, we’re showing a little more but we can be a little more flexible than with the elementary schools,” he said.

Aside from the fiscal woes, Feldman’s short stay has been rocked by confrontations with the teachers’ union – and its president Michael Mignone in particular – in the wake of the district installing a $2 million elaborate security system, which the union has blasted as ill-advised and ineffective and argued that the money would’ve been better spent on instructional supplies and tools.

Meanwhile, Acosta is preparing to step through the chief school administrator’s revolving door.

“When Mr. Egan called me into his office [to offer him the job of acting superintendent], I was shocked,” said Acosta, who will be 37 in October. But he’s set his sights on “moving the children forward and working hand-in-hand with the teachers for the benefit of our students.”

Having just completed his sixth year with the district, Acosta served this past year as principal of Elementary School 4 and will continue to serve in that post as acting superintendent. He was vice principal of the Middle School two years prior. For his first three years, he was a fifth-grade teacher at Elementary School 10. Before coming to Belleville, he taught five years at Our Lady of Czestochowa School in Jersey City. He’s one of three Belleville school employees who hold a school administrator’s certificate, Egan said.

6 locals among newest Troopers



Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, presented badges to New Jersey’s newest state troopers during graduation ceremonies at Pine Belt Arena last Friday morning.

The 154th New Jersey State Police class graduated 149 troopers, including six from Observer communities. The locals are: Andre Almeida and Eric Chaves of North Arlington, Christopher Perez of Belleville, James Calero and Bryan Haczyk of Nutley and Allen Cheng of Bloomfield.

The class completed 24 weeks of strenuous physical and academic training consisting of exhaustive classroom and practical training scenarios.

The recruits participated in extensive training and roleplaying exercises focused on motor vehicle stops, domestic violence situations, human dignity, and cultural diversity.

Each applicant applying to the State Police is required to have a bachelor’s degree, or alternatively, a minimum of 60 college credits, plus two years of work experience. The probationary troopers will be assigned to stations throughout the state, and over the next 11 weeks, the new troopers will begin their careers under the watchful eye of their Trooper-Coaches and supervisors.

Images courtesy N.J. State Police website

Images courtesy N.J. State Police website


“Today’s graduating class includes approximately one-third minority graduates, which continues a welcome diversity trend within the State Police ranks,” said Gov. Chris Christie. “Together with the 152nd and 153rd Classes, these new troopers represent another step in our continuing effort to develop and maintain a State Police force that reflects the diverse population it serves.”

“The State Police is not only recognized as one of the finest statewide law enforcement agencies in the nation and the most visible symbol of law enforcement throughout our state, but every individual who wears a trooper’s badge is recognized as a leader — on the road, in his or her neighborhood, and in the community at large,” said Hoffman. “That is why it is vital that those leaders not only receive exhaustive training, but also reflect the character and composition of our great state.”

Fuentes noted, “The intensive training that troopers received and the friendships they forged over the past 24 weeks will stay with them for their entire careers and beyond.

“The life of a New Jersey State Trooper is more challenging than ever, but in return they are rewarded by protecting and serving our communities. As these men and women proudly wear our uniform, they will be viewed as role models and leaders. Being a New Jersey State Trooper is more than a job; it’s a responsibility to lead by example.”

Also at the ceremony, Troopers Jason Serrano, Luis Cardenas, and Mohamed Hussein, each received the NJSP Citation of Meritorious Service for their extraordinary rescue of Lawrence Scherf on Aug. 19.

The troopers responded to a tractor-trailer crash on the N.J. Turnpike in Ridgefield. When they arrived, Scherf was severely injured and floating in Overpeck Creek located underneath that portion of the highway.

The officers worked together quickly and decisively, placing themselves in harm’s way, by getting into the water in full uniform and pulling Scherf to safety.

A new home for W.H.A.T. at First Lutheran Church


West Hudson Arts and Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) announces it is moving from its location at the former St. Stephen’s School on Midland Ave., Kearny, to First Lutheran Church, 64 Oakwood Ave., Kearny.

“While we are most grateful to St. Stephen’s parish and the Rev. Joseph Mancini for helping us establish West Hudson Arts and Theater Company in the community, the need arose for us to seek a new home,” said W.H.A.T. president Gerald Ficeto. “We are happy to have found that at First Lutheran — an amazing and welcoming new venue for W.H.A.T.”

“We are truly delighted to have W.H.A.T. in residence at our facility,” says Anne Dittman, First Lutheran Church Council president. Current plans are for the new facility to house not only the full season of W.H.A.T. productions, but also be home to the successful W.H.A.T. Ed Program which this past summer which allowed students ages 8 to 13 to participate in a full musical production of “Annie.” Registration for the fall semester will take place at the new location on Sept. 18 and 23, starting at 7 p.m. both days. Ficeto also noted that W.H.A.T. will now also be able to offer patrons on-site parking at their new location in the spacious parking lot in the rear of the church complex.

Ficeto noted that a new fundraising initiative on behalf of W.H.A.T. will also be announced soon.

The 2013–2014 season at W.H.A.T. will feature “A Tribute to Old Time Radio: A special Hometown Event” (October ’14); “Disney’s Sleeping Beauty” (November ’14); “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (December ’14); “24-Hour Musical Challenge: Legally Blonde” (January ’15); “Father of the Bride” (March ’15); “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley” (April ’15); and “Grease” (June ’15).

Ficeto invites members of the community to consider auditioning to be a part of the shows. For audition information, tickets and more about W.H.A.T. visit the website at whatco.org, follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook.