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Category: News

Cop hurt in Kearny Ave. mele; 4 arrested


By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent


Four people were arrested and four police officers were assaulted — one of them kicked in the head by an arrestee — in an early-morning melee Feb. 8 at the Quick Chek store on Kearny Ave., authorities reported.

The officers, outnumbered and surrounded by an unruly crowd who refused to disperse and physically interfered with the arrests, were forced at several points to employ OC spray, KPD Chief John Dowie said.

The saga had begun a short time earlier near Kearny Ave. and Afton St., where two females reported to Officer Leroy Bibbs that they had been harassed and assaulted, and their car damaged, by several people who had then headed south on the avenue. Read more »

Is Clark Thread project unspooling?

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Since its courtship and conditional designation in May 2007 as the redeveloper of the old Clark Thread mill property, East Newark Towne Center has seemingly played the part of the reluctant bride.

Instead of uniting on a common path forward, the Long Island City, N.Y., real estate firm, headed by Efstathios Valiotis, and the borough have drifted further apart since the parties entered into negotiations on a redevelopment agreement.

Bad feelings between the two sides intensified after the borough hauled ENTC into Municipal Court over alleged fire and property code violations at the 12.5- acre site at 900 Passaic Ave. culminating in ENTC agreeing to pay a $100,000 fine.

But now, it looks as if the fragile partnership could be severed altogether, with ENTC having filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the borough, on Jan. 29, in Hudson County Superior Court.

The complaint, brought by attorney Thomas Scrivo of the Newark law firm McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, alleges that the borough’s representatives – and “in particular Mayor Joseph Smith” – engaged in “bad faith” negotiations, with a view toward scuttling the deal.

Smith says the borough has simply been trying to protect the interests of its taxpayers by getting the best deal possible without being potentially overwhelmed in providing municipal and educational services for the hundreds of new residents who would live at the redeveloped site.

ENTC’s complaint alleges that in April 2009, a month after it submitted a plan calling for construction of 800 residential units “at about 1,000 square feet per unit” subject to a proposed PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreement, the borough “unreasonably, arbitrarily and capriciously required further changes to the redevelopment agreement.”

Further, the complaint claims, the borough “has engaged in a pattern of delay and bad faith to thwart all development and financially enrich its professionals” whom ENTC agreed to pay for accounting, planning and engineering services sought by the borough in connection with the negotiations on the redevelopment plan.

After paying “in excess of $500,000” to those professionals, the borough asked for an additional $140,000 in April 2009, and, on top of that, the complaint adds, the borough suddenly asked ENTC to build a school for more than 300 children on the project site – a proposal it later amended by asking the company to adapt one of the existing buildings on the site as a school annex.

In November 2010, the complaint says, the borough proposed a “lesser density” among the number of residential units planned.

After ENTC agreed to set up an “interim escrow account” in April 2011 for the deposit of funds for professional services while continuing negotiations about disputed billings for those services through mid- June 2011, the complaint says that the borough in October 2013 billed the company for $70,000 “to replenish the escrow account.”

In a narrative it enclosed with its response to the borough’s Request for Proposals in March 2007, ENTC outlined a “project vision” that called for two options involving demolition of some of the existing buildings and conversion of others for residential development, one assuming a residential component of 613 apartments and the other, 767 apartments, both in a combination of one- and two-bedrooms, each one generating more than 1,000 individual residents, including 114 to 127 school-age children.

Also proposed were scenarios for varying amounts of retail space fronting the project’s Central Ave. side and varying amounts of office space along Grant Ave., along with a community center and green space courtyard. There would be a combination of deck and surface parking for about 1,300 vehicles.

Total development cost was pegged at between $190 million and $198 million, depending on which development scenario was chosen. Under a PILOT plan, the borough would receive between $1.7 million and $1.95 million in annual in lieu of tax revenues.

ENTC projected that the project would account for 700 construction jobs and 135 permanent jobs.

News from the Nutley Police blotter

Feb. 7

After responding to a report of a disturbance at a Copolla St. location, at 5:05 p.m., police arrested Jimmy Nunez, 20, of New Brunswick, for outstanding warrants from South Brunswick and Bridgewater. He was also charged with hindering apprehension and released after posting bail on the warrants.

Feb. 8

A motor vehicle stop at Washington and Pershing Aves., at 1:40 p.m., resulted in the arrest of the driver, Isaiah Suber, 23, of Paterson, for two active warrants from Newark and Hawthorne, and his passenger, Hassan Wright, 25, of Paterson, on a charge of possession of marijuana. Suber was also issued two motor vehicle violation notices. Both were released pending court dates.

Feb. 9

A report of criminal mischief brought police to a Nutley Ave. location at 10:04 a.m. where a resident told officers that someone broke a fence post cap on the west side of their home. The resident said that during the night, they heard a hammering noise and discovered two more fence post caps broken on the same fence. The three caps were valued at about $90.

Feb. 10

A case of apparent fraud was reported to police at 6:13 p.m. The victim told police they were contacted by Verizon Fios about an account opened in their name using their Social Security number and email account but was closed after it was discovered to be fraudulent.

Feb. 11

Belleville resident Vincent Buttacavoli, 54, was arrested, at 5:18 a.m., after a motor vehicle step on Kingsland St. for an active warrant from Montclair. Police said they also ticketed Buttacavoli on a charge of driving while suspended. He was released after posting bail on the warrant, pending court dates in Montclair and Nutley.

The victim of an apparent fraud provided a report to police at 10:54 a.m. The victim told police that while at their bank on Centre St., they were advised that someone had opened two accounts in their name in the amount of $50 each and showed a green card, Social Security card and date of birth bearing the victim’s name, along with the name of the victim’s employer and the victim’s address and two phone numbers. After the victim told the bank they hadn’t opened those accounts, the bank immediately closed the accounts, police said. A bank representative told the victim that the suspected scammer asked to withdraw funds from the victim’s other accounts and was told to use their debit card.

At 6:40 p.m., police arrested Nicholas Stefanelli, 44, of Clifton, on a charge of shoplifting at a Franklin Ave. business. He was released pending a court date.

Feb. 12

The victim of an apparent credit card fraud told police that someone made fraudulent charges totaling $700 to their debit card during the past month. The bank was alerted and canceled the account, police said.

Feb. 13

At 8:43 a.m., while at the scene of a motor vehicle crash, police said they learned that the driver, Michael Ix, 28, of Lyndhurst, had an active warrant from Bloomfield. He was arrested and also ticketed on a charge of driving while suspended. Ix was released after posting bail on the warrant pending court hearings.

– Ron Leir

Around Town


Belleville UNICO sponsors a bus ride fundraiser to the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on Sunday, March 9. A pre-paid donation of $30 is requested ($35 at the door). A continental breakfast will be served before the trip at 8 a.m. at the Disabled American Veterans Post hall, 612 Mill St. The bus will leave at 8:50 a.m. Call 973-759-9259 to reserve seats (no last minute cancellations). Send checks, payable to IAOVC, to Gene Antonio, 436 Joralemon St., Belleville, N.J. 07109.


Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., announces the following children’s programs for the February break: • Make a Catapult, for ages 5 and up, is offered on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. Children will make their own catapults and try them out.

• The Art of Eric Carle, for ages 4 and up, is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20, at 2 p.m. In this program, children will “dress for a mess.”

• “Despicable Me 2” will be screened for Movie Day on Friday, Feb. 21, at 2 p.m. Popcorn will be served.

Registration is not required for February Break programming.

In case of bad weather, call 973-566-6200 to check on possible cancelations.

The library has slated a bone marrow drive Feb. 24 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Come learn about what it means to be a registered bone marrow donor and swab your cheek at the donor recruitment drive, hosted on behalf of Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. People between the ages of 18 and 60 and in generally good health are eligible to be screened and join the worldwide registry.


Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., invites children ages 4 and older to participate in an art class from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20. The library will provide the art materials. Registration is not necessary, but space is limited.

Fraternal Order of Eagles #2214, 166 Midland Ave., will sponsor a fish fry, hosted by Argyle Fish and Chips on Friday, Feb. 21, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Admission is $13.50 per person, payable at the door. Proceeds will benefit Wounded Warriors. Dinner includes fish and chips, clam chowder and soda. For more information, call 201-991-9865.

St. Stephen’s Seniors, Kearny, meet on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at noon. The Winter Party originally scheduled for Feb. 4 will be held at this meeting. There will be a board meeting at 10:30 a.m. Members are reminded that 2014 membership dues of $10 is now due. A trip to Atlantic City is set for Feb. 26.

Upcoming events include:

• St. Patrick’s Day celebration at LeGreci’s in Staten Island on March 11. Final payment is due at the Feb. 18 meeting.

• Trip to Norfolk, Va. for the Virginia International Tattoo, which includes marching band competition, bagpipers, Scottish dancers, etc., slated for April 24-27. • Anniversary party at San Carlo’s scheduled for May 2, from noon to 4 p.m.

• Trip to Sight & Sound in Lancaster, Pa., to see “Moses” planned for June 11-12.

• Cruise on the Norwegian Gem to Canada and New England for Sept. 13-20. Call 991- 4771 for further information.

For club information, call Tom at 201-998-8258, for tours, call Joan at 201-998-3578, or for A.C., call Peg at 201-998- 9443. For Sunshine (get well, sympathy cards), call Vicki at 201-991-8345.

Kearny Community Garden invites town residents to register to join the garden on Saturday, March 1, at the Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., from noon to 2 p.m. Family membership for the entire growing season is $20.

Gardeners can also sign up Sunday, March 2, or Friday or Saturday, March 7 and 8 at the Kearny Community Garden, located on River Road, just south of Midland Ave. from, noon to 2 p.m.

Gardeners are urged to reserve garden space and bales as early as possible.

Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., hosts the following:

• An art class for children ages 4 and older from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20. The library will provide the art materials. Registration is not necessary, but space is limited.

• A free screening of the family film “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” ( PG/ 95 minutes) at 4 p.m. downstairs at the Main Library on Friday, Feb. 21. Popcorn and light refreshments will be served.

For more information on library programs, call the library at 201-998-2666 or visit www.kearnylibrary.org.


Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Ave., offers a free stroke prevention forum hosted by Clara Maass Medical Center on Friday, Feb. 21, at 10 a.m. Participants receive free blood pressure screenings and a light breakfast. Call the Health Department at 201-804-2500 to reserve a seat.

The Lyndhurst Library Children’s Room, 355 Valley Brook Ave., hosts the following events:

• Mardi Gras craft – Children in grades pre-k to 3 are invited to create their own masquerade mask on Tuesday, March 4, from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Registration is required.

• Children in grades pre-k to 4 are invited to a screening of the movie “The Cat in the Hat Up and Away” on Wednesday, March 5, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., as part of Dr. Seuss’ birthday week observance. Registration is required.

To register for these programs, call the library at 201- 804-2478.

North Arlington

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Rd., announces:

• Origami Club for grades 4 and up is held on Friday, Feb. 28, at 3:30 p.m.

• A basic computer class for adults is offered on Feb. 24. Call 201-955-5640 for more information and to register. Registration is required.

• Friends of the Library meets on Friday, Feb. 21 at 9:30 a.m. in the Senior Center (behind the library). New members are welcome; check the website for more details about membership: northarlington.bccls.org or call 201-955-5640.

• Historical Fact and Fiction Book Club meets on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 10 a.m. New members are welcome.

• Friends of the Library Book Club meets on Friday, Feb. 28, at 10 a.m. in the Senior Center (behind the library). New members welcome.

• The documentary “Alice’s Ordinary People” will be screened on Friday, Feb. 21, at 10:30 a.m., in the Senior Center. The film tells the story of Alice Tregay – an influential figure in the civil rights movement during the 1960s. The program will last at least one hour and 45 minutes.


Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Dr., presents P.J. Story Time on Monday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. Children of all ages and their caregivers enjoy a cozy evening at the library. Make yourself comfortable, put on your pajamas and meet in the Children’s Room. Registration is not required.

For more information, call the library at 973-667-0405.

The Nutley Recreation Department’s Art Workshop for grades 1 to 6 resumes March 15 for an eight-week spring session. Classes will be held on Saturdays at the department, 44 Park Ave. The fee is $30. Class size is limited and applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Register online at nutleynj.my.gov-i.com/recreation. For information, call 973-284-4966 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Remembering Ray McDonough: A reflection from former Observer Editor Kevin Canessa Jr.


By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Former Observer Editor

I first met Raymond J. McDonough in January 1992. He was still a councilman in Harrison, and I was just a high-school senior at St. Peter’s Prep and a rookie stringer at another newspaper that covers Hudson County, let’s just say, at the time. I remember being in awe of him back then, because he’d already served on the council for about 14 years. And I found it pretty remarkable that anyone could be that dedicated.

Of course, sitting in the mayor’s chair at the time was Frank E. Rodgers. Talk about longevity.

I left West Hudson County in 1993 to go away to Rhode Island for college. But in that time frame, in 1995, Rodgers retired as the nation’s longest-serving mayor — and McDonough, almost rightfully — ascended to the mayoralty.

No one was better suited to replace the legend that was Rodgers.

And in his own way, from 1995 to the day he died on Feb. 12, 2014, McDonough was himself a legend who, with a little help, transformed Harrison into the bustling place it’s becoming now.



In 2006, I landed my dream job — the editor of this newspaper. And not too long after I was hired, I went to Harrison Town Hall on a whim because I wanted to re-introduce myself to the mayor. It had been 13 years since I’d dealt with him professionally — though I did occasionally run into him at Tops Diner some summers when I was back in New Jersey.

When I walked into Harrison Town Hall, surprisingly, he was standing not too far away from the huge doors into the place on the Harrison Avenue side. And astonishingly, I didn’t even need to remind him who I was.

“Kevin!” he shouted from across the hall. “So good to see you. Wow it’s been a long time!”

It was as if I’d left for Rhode Island a week before.

“Come on with me to my office,” he said.

And that’s what we did.

We sat and talked for an hour. We caught up — and didn’t speak politics for a second that day.

But as time went on, we developed a trust for each other that was rare between an editor and a mayor. Numerous times, he called me into his office to inform me of yet-to-be-announced plans for the town.

Whenever anything was happening with Red Bull Arena, there I was.

Whenever there was something new on the redevelopment front, there I was.

When he got word from U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez that Harrison was getting a brand-new PATH station, I was sitting in his office before anyone else — media or otherwise — knew a thing about it.

And it translated into other areas of the town, too — most notably in the police department — where two of the greatest policemen I’ve ever known, Derek Kearns and Michael Green developed into two of the most trusted confidants I’ve ever had as a journalist.

Ray McDonough was a very simple man. Sure, he had his political enemies — just ask Steve or Maria McCormick. Even Councilman Anselmo Millan at one point went from being McDonough’s trusted friend, to bitter enemy, back to a trusted ally.

But for the most part, all he ever really wanted was for the only town he ever called his home town to be a better place. That’s why he worked so hard to get a hotel here. That’s why he fought with every bone in his body for positive redevelopment. That’s why he was almost single-handedly responsible for landing the Red Bulls.

He only really ever wanted good things to happen to the people, too. He genuinely cared about the people of the town, whether they were from the old country in Ireland — or new arrivals from Colombia or Peru.

I’ll never forget when a resident came up to him once and told him he was out of work — and hadn’t eaten in days. They two hopped in the mayor’s car — and a few moments later, they were sharing a meal at Tops.

That’s the kind of man Ray McDonough was. The Jesuits would have loved him, because he was a great example of a “Man For Others.”

I loved Ray McDonough. He was a tremendous influence in my life. And when I left The Observer in 2008, he was one of the few people I really can say I miss to this day.

It kills me that I never got to tell him what a truly great man he was.

But as the tributes flow in from all corners of the globe upon his death, it won’t take much to demonstrate that greatness.

And it won’t be hard to tell just how much he’s going to be missed.

Kevin Canessa Jr. was editor of The Observer from 2006 through 2008. 

Harrison Mayor Ray McDonough dead at 65 (updated at 2 p.m. Thursday)



Longtime Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough, 65, collapsed at Town Hall and died of an apparent heart attack on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

McDonough had just finished one meeting and was getting ready for another when he was stricken, according to Councilman Larry Bennett. It was President’s Day, so the Municipal Building was closed, but the mayor had scheduled some town business to tackle. He was rushed to St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark, where he was pronounced.

After his passing, the Town Council directed flags to fly at half staff and arranged to have black bunting draped from the front entrance of the Town Hall as a memorial to the deceased mayor.

Funeral plans have yet to be completed, according to Bennett.

McDonough, who had served 17 years on the Harrison Town Council, was beginning his 20th year as mayor and the final year of his current four-year term as chief executive.

– Ron Leir

Nutley resident: Door was open, and I didn’t open it


Jan. 31
At 6:05 p.m., a Kingsland Ave. homeowner near Alexander Ave. notified police that they’d arrived home and discovered the front door wide open. Police said it appeared that entry was made through the back door and that all bedrooms had been ransacked.

Feb. 1
The victim of a theft told police they went to a bank ATM at Vreeland and Franklin Aves. to withdraw $50 but, after having trouble getting money from the machine, went inside to get the money. After checking their account later, they noticed that someone had withdrawn $400 from their account. Police said the victim believed that they had failed to clear the ATM and that the person waiting in line behind them took the money out of the account. The victim described the suspected robber as a Latina woman, about 5-feet-five, about 115 pounds, wearing a wool cap and shoulder-length hair, driving an SUV parked in a bus stop. Read more »

Harrison police: 16-year-old had pot, heroin on him


Feb. 1

At 10:58 a.m., police said a patrol officer in an unmarked car near Hamilton St. and Davis Ave. observed a male and female participate in what appeared to be a drug transaction, with the female allegedly passing cash to a 16-year-old boy who handed the female an unknown object and quickly walked away east on Hamilton. After calling for backup, the officer approached the teen and briefly struggled with him before taking him into custody. Searching the boy, police said they found a prescription bottle containing five clear plastic baggies of suspected marijuana and three glassine bags of suspected heroin which they seized. After getting the boy’s mother’s consent to search the boy’s bedroom, police said they recovered drug paraphernalia and multiple small empty clear plastic baggies intended for distribution. The teen was later released to his parent by county juvenile authorities, pending charges being filed. Read more »

Likely storm cancels NA Lifeline screening


The borough health department has announced that due to the pending snow storm, the Lifeline Screening that was scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday, Feb.13) at the senior center will be canceled.

Loyal civil servant kept his finger on town’s pulse


By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


After nearly four decades as a Health Department employee, the last 17 as the chief, John Sarnas, 64, will be retiring on April 1.

Mayor Alberto Santos said the town is soliciting applications for a replacement. Submission deadline is Feb. 21.

“We have a need for a full-time person – not someone to share with another town – who will be asked, since our staff is limited, not only to oversee the many services provided to the public but also, in some cases, to implement them,” the mayor said.

The list of health-related programs in Kearny is many and varied, including from infant vaccinations, flu and rabies shots, Women Infants & Children (WIC), Meals on Wheels, sanitation inspections, dog licensing, animal control, coordinating with the county on mosquito control and other health issues, among others. Sarnas also chairs the N.J. Mosquito Commission.

“We also have a lot of work to do on health education,” Santos added. Sarnas, who began his long career with Kearny as a health inspector on May 1, 1974, is only the fourth health officer in the town’s history since the title came into being. His predecessors were: Edward Grosvenor (1978-1997), Walter Nicol (1954-1978) and Amos Field (1939-1954).

“The profession has advanced greatly,” Sarnas said. “When I started, all you needed was a bachelor’s degree but [since then], the state has required you to have a master’s degree in public health. Even the requirements for sanitarians have been upgraded.” Sarnas got his master’s of science degree in health administration from the former Jersey City State College. Read more »