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Category: News

Readers spread holiday cheer

Photo by Jeff Bahr/ Pictured from l.: Kevin Scannell Sr., Carl Gebron, Tony Bouchoux, Peter Bouchoux, and Dan “the man” Keeler.


In the December 7th edition of The Observer, we asked all of our readers to donate toys to children who come from needy families in our area. Once again, our readers responded to the tune of 25 bags of toys.
The Observer was able to take these toys and give them to several charities, including the Hope House in Jersey City and Foster Adoptive of Hudson County. Toys were also given to Larry Bennett with the Elks in Harrison, Mayor Raymond J. McDonough of Harrison, Commissioner Robert B. Giangeruso in Lyndhurst, and Cervino Chiropractic and distributed to needy families through them.
It’s hard to fathom how uplifting these donations have been to the children and how profound an effect that receiving these gifts has had on their lives. Words cannot express the gratitude and thanks we have for you, our readers, and the monumental effect you have given children at a time when everyone should feel the joy and the spirit of the holiday.

Around town

Go to the Belleville Public Library’s website at www.bellepl.org to download a wide selection of eBooks for library cardholders.  For further information, call the library reference desk at 973-450-3434.
Call librarian Karyn Gost at 973-450-3434 to make an appointment to learn how to surf the Internet and set up an email account.  Tutoring is for library cardholders only.
Need help with your resume and other career information? Call the library’s circulation desk at 973-450-3434, to reserve your time with staff member Angela Digoino.  This program is for library cardholders only.
The Essex County Passport Outreach is available every second Thursday of the month at the library.  Application and renewal of passports, notary public oaths, veterans peddler licenses and physician license filing are the services available.
Volunteers from the New Jersey State Health Insurance Assistance Program are ready to help with any Medicare questions that you may have.  Call library at 973-450-3434 for an appointment.
The library has added the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum at Pier 86 in New York City to its museum membership collection. Library members may make reservations for free passes at the circulation desk.
Tickets are also available for the American Museum of Natural History at a cost of $7 per person. Call the library at 973-450-3434 to make your reservations.
Join the Friends of the Belleville Public Library and Information Center: Individual membership is just $5, family membership $7, student membership $1, business $25, organization $25 and for just $50 you can be a member for life.  All proceeds from Friends programs benefit the library.

Bloomfield Library Children’s Department librarians, Emily Knorr and Patricia Cooke will hold a sing-along in the Little Theater at the library on Wednesday, Dec. 28, at 11 a.m.  All ages are welcome. No registration is needed.

East Newark
West Hudson Brave Women Fighting Breast Cancer meets on the last Friday of every month from 7 to 9 p.m. at the East Newark Senior Center, 37 President St. The group will provide an atmosphere of warmth and comfort for patients and family. For more information, call Emma at 201-998-6828, Rosa 201-246-7750, Fatima 973-485-4236 or email emidura2@yahoo.com. Together we will fight this disease.

The Salvation Army, 28 Beech St., Kearny, is offering computer classes on Monday and Tuesday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon. A $30 fee is charged per 12 hours of instruction. The classes cover basic computer skills (mouse, keyboard, Internet), email, as well as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint.
Kearny library patrons can now set-up a one-on-one half-hour session with professional librarians for help with putting together and typing a resume and applying for a job online. The sessions will be held at the main library. To sign up, call (201) 998-2666.
The Kearny Rotary Club meets every Wednesday afternoon at 12:15 at La Fiamma Restaurant, 440 Harrison Ave., in Harrison. Business leaders from Harrison are invited to attend to learn about the work that Rotary International accomplishes around the world and in local communities. For more information about the Kearny Rotary Club or to join them for a meeting, call Joe D’Arco at 201-955- 7400 or Jose Fernandez at 201-991-1040.
The West Hudson Detachment of the Marine Corps League invites all former and active duty Marines and FMF Corpsmen to attend an open house, which will be held every Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. at 286 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. Guests are welcome.

The library is collecting nonperishable food items for the Lyndhurst Health Department’s Food Pantry. The drop-off box is located inside  the library’s back entrance and it will remain there year-round. For questions regarding the Food Pantry, call the Lyndhurst Health Department at 201-804-2500.

North Arlington
The North Arlington Woman’s Club holds monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the North Arlington Senior Center, behind Borough Hall.  Guests are welcome.
The First-Sunday-of-the-Month Nature Walk with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and the Bergen County Audobon Society will be held on Sunday, Jan. 1, at 10 a.m. at Mill Creek Marsh in Secaucus. Check meadowblog.net for last-minute weather updates. You will have to sign a standard liability release that is good for NJMC/BCAS events throughout 2012. To R.S.V.P., contact Don Torino of the BCAS at greatauk4@aol.com or 201-230-4983.

BabyGarten for infants and toddlers, from birth to 22 months, and their caregivers, is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 23 and 30, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., at Nutley Public Library. The program includes books, nursery rhymes, playtime, and meet other babies from the Nutley area. Registration is required.
Patrons are invited to stop by the library to play Bridge every Tuesday at 1 p.m.  Experienced and non-experienced players welcomed. No registration required.
The library’s Tuesday Evening Knitting Club will meet on Jan. 3 from 7 to 8:45 p.m. Meet fellow knitters, brush-up on your skills, and learn some new techniques. Please bring your own supplies. This group meets the first Tuesday of every month.
The Wednesday Afternoon Knitting Club meets every week at the library from 1 to 3 p.m. Meet fellow knitters, brush-up on your skills, and learn some new techniques. Please bring your own supplies.
Adult Scrabble Night will be held on Thursday, Jan. 5, at 7 p.m., at the library. Prizes are awarded for first and second place scores.

Building good Karma

We have all heard wise people preach that the things we do today are like the seeds we sow in the fertile soil of time – the fruits of which we will reap at a later date. How many of us actually understand this thoroughly and alter our actions today to make provisions for the future? In India, this thought is given supreme importance and is known as Karma.
If we are willing to accept the principle of cause and effect in nature and an action and a reaction in physics, we must realize that as human beings we too fall in the same natural order of the universe.
To understand Karma, we must understand our thoughts, our actions and ourselves. While doing good things for another will bring the good back to you, this theory also stands true for the evil.
We all lead stressful lives and if there is one thing we can do to alleviate that pressure from our daily routine, it is to start building on our asset accounts. Consider this a balance sheet of one’s life. Your focus should be on increasing your assets and reducing the liabilities. By doing a good deed, you are making someone smile. Perhaps your good act is just enough to make this person feel like extending the gratitude to another and then to another, which will perhaps one day form a complete circle that will come back to you when you need it the most. If this is to happen, you have to make a choice today.
Ask yourself if you prefer a feeling of pleasant surprises, joy and contentment coming your way, or the anxiety and sorrow of evil? Your actions today and every new day will decide that.
While we are still in the holiday season, I encourage you to try and spread some hope and happiness to others. Let’s pledge to do something nice for someone today. Spread some warmth. This act will not only bring joy to another soul, but will also make you feel good about yourself, knowing that you are responsible for the smiles. Here’s wishing you a wonderful Karma!


Visit Shweta Punjabi  at her website solutionsbyshweta.com • For more information or email her at magictaara@yahoo.com

There really are ways to dig out of debt steadily


Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan often losses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
                                  –William Shakespeare

By Randy Neumann

Those few words say a lot, especially today.  In the last few weeks, Standard & Poor’s, one of the big three rating agencies, lowered the outlook for America’s long-term credit rating to “negative” from “stable.”  At about the same time, the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) signed an agreement to use their own currencies instead of the predominant U.S. dollar in issuing credit or grants to each other.  Not surprisingly, the value of the U.S dollar continues to drop against other currencies.
If you’d like to get a lot of information, and maybe a little depressed, log onto USDebtClock.org.  On this website you can see, in real time, the U.S. debt, debt per citizen, U.S. population, U.S. income taxpayers and a lot of other information.  However, this column is not about debt and gloom, but rather, about how a lot of people have reduced their debt and some ideas on how to reduce yours.
A recent press release from the New York Fed says that household delinquencies are down 8.2 percent from the third quarter of 2009 and that nearly $1 trillion has been shaved from consumer debt since the third quarter of 2008, when everything bottomed out.
OK, our friends and neighbors are getting out of debt.  How did they do it?  One way is to create a budget.  On one side of the ledger is, “What do you spend your money on?”  On the other side is, “What is your income?”
Now, to a lot of people, a ledger sounds like an arcane accounting contraption.  It’s not.  Take a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle and you’ve created a ledger.  On the top of left side of the paper write, “What do I spend my money on.”  On the top of right side of the paper write, “Income.”
You may find writing down the truth to be cathartic.  You might discover that spending $100 a month at “Fourbucks” is not a necessity.  Ditto for $100 per month for lousy movies.  Keep going.  You may find that you can cut a lot of fat out of cable TV, eating out at fancy restaurants, buying at high-end retail stores, etc.
Modern technology can also save you money.  I don’t know too many young people who have “land lines” in their dwellings, and there are phone apps that can scan barcodes and give you competitive prices as you shop.
OK, we worked on the expense side of the ledger, now for the income side.  I know of people who are collecting unemployment because it’s easier than working.  One way for those people to reduce their debt is to increase their income and “get a job.”  This was strongly suggested to me by a “fan” in 1975.
I fought Duane Bobick in a main event at Madison Square Garden.  The winner was scheduled to get a shot at the title against Muhammad Ali.  I won the first three rounds of the fight, but was knocked down three times in the third round causing a loss by technical knockout.  Prior to the fight, I said in an interview with a writer from the New York Times that although I had just graduated from Farleigh Dickinson University, I did not want to be a “cog in the corporate wheel.”  In the article, the writer accurately quoted me as saying, “Death to me is a 9-to-5 job.”
Well, as I was coming down the steps (a little wobbly after 3 knockdowns) of the ring in the Garden, a “fan” (who had obviously read the story) ran up and shouted in my face, “Hey, Neumann.  Get a job!”
So, if you’re sitting on your duff until unemployment runs out, go out and get a job.
Ditto for a family member in a similar position.
Jumping back to technology, it’s amazing what you can sell.  Go to your basement and attic and look around.  Then go to eBay, craigslist, etc. and you’ll be amazed at the market (and the asking prices) for this and that.  What people collect, want and buy may surprise you.  It wouldn’t be shocking if you have a few hundred dollars – or more – sitting around your house or in your garage.  You might be able to pay off a couple of credit cards – or even a loan – with what you sell.  Another way to save money is on transportation.   Ditch the big car payment and drive a cheaper car that gets good MPG.  Say goodbye to the oversized SUV (or the overpriced sports coupe).  Get a car that makes sense instead of a statement.
These are just a few life style changes you can make to help you cut down your expenses and pay off your debts.  Good luck!

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for the individual.  Randy Neumann CFP® is a registered representative with securities and insurance offered through LPL Financial.  Member FINRA/SIPC.  He can be reached at 12 Route 17N, Suite 115, Paramus, 201-291-9000.


Gertrude DiElmo
Gertrude DiElmo, 93, died on Dec. 18. Born in South Orange, she lived in Nutley for many years.
Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass was held in St. Stephen’s Church, followed by private cremation.
Mrs. DiElmo was a retired beautician.  Wife of the late Andrew, she is survived by her children Andrew and John DiElmo, Joan LoCurto, Victor DiElmo and Mary Anne Guerriero, 10 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her son Joseph and her sisters and brother Cecilia Prunera and Edward and Dorothy Frank.
In lieu of flowers, kindly make a donation to The American Heart Association. To leave online condolences, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.

Maria J. Smith
Maria J. Smith, 64, of Newport, N.C., died on Dec. 18 at her home.
She is survived by her dearest friend, Michael Doyle of Atlantic Beach, N.C.; two daughters, Michelle Smith and Francine Smith-Beyer, both of Newport, N.C.; son James Smith Jr., of Goldsboro, N.C.; eight grandchildren Kara Anne O’Connor, Nadiya Beyer, Kendra Beyer, Brandon Hodge, Breanna Ambrus, Arianna Smith, Jaydon Smith and James Paul Smith, III; beloved sister Gladys Flores of New Jersey; and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 17 years, James Smith.
Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society, 930-B Wellness Dr, Greenville, N.C. 27834.
Online condolences may be made at www.mundenfuneralhome.net.
Arrangements are by Munden Funeral Home, Morehead City, N.C.

Lorraine Woods
Lorraine Woods (nee Raibick), 64, of Harrison, formerly of Newark, died suddenly on Dec. 18.
Beloved wife of Dennis, she was the devoted mother of Kelly-Anne Nigro and her husband Joe, and Dennis Woods, loving grandmother “Mi Mi” to Gianna, Sophia, Joey, Isabella, Ian and Valentina, dear sister to Al Raibick, his wife Gloria, and dear sister-in-law of Maureen Bracchi and her husband Alan, and Brian Woods and Caroline Hall.  Lorraine is also survived by a host of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and dear friends.
Arrangements were by the Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave., Harrison.  A funeral Mass was at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, Harrison.  Interment followed at Holy Cross Chapel Mausoleum, North Arlington.
For directions, information or to send condolences please visit mulliganfuneralhome.org.

Maria Rosa Monteiro Nunes
Maria Rosa Monteiro Nunes died on Dec. 21 in the Post Acute Care Center in Kearny. She was 91.
Born in Latrobe, Pa., she had lived in Portugal before moving to Kearny.
Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass was held in Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington. Entombment was in Holy Cross Cemetery.
Maria was the wife of the late Jose dos Anjos. She is survived by her daughter and her husband Maria Emilia and Dominick Ruela, her stepdaughter and her husband Angelina and Jose Ferreira along with their children; sister of Jose Monteiro da Costa. She is also survived by her grandchildren Christine and Dominick and her great-granddaughter Catalina.
In lieu of flowers, kindly make a donation to Alzheimers Research; envelopes are available at the funeral home. Condolences may be left online at www.armitagewiggins.com.

Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukkah

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski/ 65 Noel Drive, North Arlington

Christmas Angels spread holiday cheer

Photos courtesy Allan Ford/ Charlie Schimpf and Allan Ford go over the list during wrapping (below) and a group photo from this year’s event (above).


By Anthony J. Machcinski

With all of the economic hardships that area families face on a daily basis, many have been forced to cut back on Christmas celebrations. In order to make sure that the children of these families have something to look forward to this season, several members of the Harrison Police Department have put together the Christmas Angels project.
Started in 1996, the Christmas Angels project has helped many families and their children celebrate Christmas.
“In 1996, we got gifts and put then in the back of a truck and we went to the [Harrison Gardens] and we had Santa show up,” explained Sgt. Dave Strumolo, who has been with the Christmas Angels project since its inception. “It got bigger and then we started having it at the community center.”
“It was actually an old tradition that the police department did for a while,” explains Det. Charlie Schimpf,  the School Resource Officer for the Town of Harrison and a member of Christmas Angels.
This year, the project helped 38 families and over 107 children. It was funded by donations from several sources including the PBA, officers and local businesses. The toys are stored in a donated warehouse space in Harrison, organized into age groups, then distributed to the families.
This year imparted a different feeling for many of the attending families.
“This year, it’s a little more personalized,” explained Allan Ford, who is running the event this year along with Schimpf and Strumolo. “This is also the first year we decided to do breakfast where we have waffles, eggs, sausage, and donated breads from Dunkin Doughnuts and Pechter’s.”
While Christmas Angels provides a gift for the families they serve, the real gift is the reaction they receive back from those same families.
“It makes you feel good,” Ford said, “We get a lot of hugs and see the smiles on their face. It’s unbelievable. Even the kids who don’t believe, seeing their faces watching their younger brother or sister, we’ve even had parents cry. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
For Schimpf and Strumolo, it’s about giving something back.
“I remember for me, Christmas was very church oriented,” explained Schimpf. “My gifts I did receive were from people in the church. The nuns would come over with bags of stuff that was donated. That feeling of being appreciated of someone else helping – that was it.”
“What we feel is that you do something for people who need something more than you,” Strumolo added.
Giving something back was given a whole new meaning last year.
After Christmas with his family, Ford received a call from an officer who was responding to a domestic violence call. Inside the home, there was no Christmas tree and no gifts on Christmas. Ford went home, got dressed up as Santa, and headed to the scene.
“We had some left over gifts and we brought them to the kids,” Ford explained happily.
Ford, Schimpf and Strumolo mostly organized the huge undertaking. Admittedly, the three men have received help in the form of donations. They send their heartfelt thanks to the following members of the community for their contributions:
Applebee’s, The Brown Family, Dan and Carol Manley, the Corblies Family, Delaware North, Dunkin Donuts, Extra Space Storage Harrison, Fleco-Craft, the Ford Family, Harrison Grammar School Counselors, Harrison PBA Local 22, Harrison High School Student Wrappers, Jenn Esteves, LCCC Staff, Lincoln Theatre, the McChesney Family, Michael’s Clifton Store, Pechter’s Bakery, Retired Harrison Police Chief John Trucillo, the Schimpf Family, Shop Rite, Stan Przybylski, the Strumolo family, the Titterington Family, Travis Cowley, The Observer, The Kearny Journal, and WalMart.

Beautifying Bloomfield – one overpass at a time

Photos by Jeff Bahr/ Mayor Raymond McCarthy (inset) of Bloomfield speaks at the debut of the mural on John F. Kennedy Drive.


By Jeff Bahr

How do you turn a utilitarian crossing into a colorful celebration of humankind? At first, such a Houdini stroke might seem impossible, but that would be to discount the uplifting effect that art can have on a nondescript surface sorely in need of adornment.
Such a thought came to Bloomfield’s Township Administrator Yoshi Menale as he drove beneath the bland pedestrian overpass that links the east side of John F. Kennedy Dr. (at the recently refurbished football stadium/skate-park complex) with Maple and Spruce Sts.
It wasn’t that there was anything inherently wrong with the drab gray concrete wall that supports the crossing, but it did stand in rather featureless contrast beside the newly spiffed-up recreation area.
After mentioning his improvement idea to Mayor McCarthy the two men hatched a plan. They agreed that the wall would lend itself nicely to a painted mural, as had other overpass walls in nearby towns that the mayor had observed, but that led to the obvious question: Who would do the work?
With that goal in mind, the Mayor’s Secretary, Rosemary Brown, sent an email to the Bloomfield College Department of Creative Art and Technology in search of volunteers. After receiving the request, Adjunct Art Professor Clark Stoeckley asked his students if they’d like to participate.  An enthusiastic nod from his charges set the Bloomfield Township Community Art Project into motion.
Now all that was needed was a theme for the mural and perhaps a few additional hands to help out the effort. After a consensus vote, the students settled on a grand celebration of mankind itself. The “Power of Diversity” was a choice that teacher Stoeckley immediately got onboard with. “The U.S. is a melting pot of many different ethnicities and religions,” explained the teacher, “so the idea was a worthy one.”
Next, an ad seeking additional artists was placed in a local newspaper. Bloomfield residents Matt Amato, Karen Bullock and Tyrique Hogue answered the call and the workforce was complete.
As Stoeckley and his group began the Herculean job of transforming the immense wall into a work of art, they hit a momentary snag. It came when a patrolling Bloomfield cop, unaware that the project had received an official commission, pulled over to check out the group of assumed “Graffiti artists.” After a few anxious moments and a requisite background check, he realized that the artists were friends, not foes, and they all shared in a hearty laugh.
The mural combines elements of nature with human diversity. A stout tree-trunk gives way to limbs sprouting hundreds of separate leaves. These in turn display national flags from around the world. A quick perusal by this flag-challenged correspondent uncovered banners from Sweden, Denmark, Israel, Romania, Ireland, Italy and scores of other nations that didn’t trigger recollection.  The work itself was accomplished with dozens of cans of spray paint and added to the wall via stencils and freehand strokes.
The cash outlay for materials was minimal, “a few hundred bucks at best,” according to the mayor. Most who see the wall in its new, eye-catching state will probably agree that it was money well spent.
“The fact that it (the project) was done by the students shows that we’re a community of great people,” added the mayor with a glint of pride in his eyes.
Future mural projects planned under the Bloomfield Township Community Art Project banner will include a railroad trestle in the Township’s North Center district, two G.S. Parkway underpasses at the South end of JFK Dr., and a few other crossings, according to the mayor.
Artists who participated in the mural project include:
Art Teacher Clark Stoeckley, Tyrique Hogue, Frankki Moriarty, Absatu Mustapha, Kirsy Vasquez, Valerie Bagalay, Tiffane Bowman, Karen Bullock and Matt Amato.

Library marks centennial anniversary

Photos by Ron Leir


Photos by Ron Leir/ As celebrants partake of refreshments, town and library officials check out library archives. At bottom,from l., are: library board member Marian Comprelli, library director Nelba Mejias, library board president Constance McDonough and Mayor Ray McDonough.


By Ron Leir

There was a lot of gabbing going on Thursday night at the Harrison Public Library and no library staffers bothered shushing anybody.
Yes, dear reader, the normal silence rule was broken because the library was celebrating a landmark birthday – its 100th in fact  – and while there was no cake for the occasion there were plenty of townspeople, young and old, to celebrate.
Constance McDonough, president of the library’s board of trustees, welcomed the dignitaries and guests and proclaimed: “I love the feel of books; I love the smell of books. I hope in one hundred years, this (building) will still be here.”
Not that the librarians have become Luddites: far from it. They have 30 computer terminals available for the public’s use – up from the original three, installed in 1996, noted Acting Library Director Nelba Mejias, who will mark her 15th year at the library in August.
A public referendum cleared the way for Harrison’s first public library, a one-room affair occupying a retail space at 160 Harrison Ave. which owner Catherine McDonald rented to the town for the princely sum of $35 a month and which the town stocked with 886 books and furniture purchased for $3,000, according to a library history compiled by local staffers.
The portals to this potpourri of print opened in April 1911 under the watch of Librarian Ruth Townsend.
By 1936, it was clear that the little library needed room to grow and so the then-Mayor Frederick J. Gassert tapped a federal funding source via the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works to finance construction of the current library building, which was dedicated in 1938.
Harrison High School graduates received their diplomas on the library portico and veterans conducted Memorial Day services from that site.
During World War II the library hosted blood banks sponsored by the Red Cross and Nopco Chemical Co. along with Red Cross first-aid classes.
After Frank E. Rodgers became mayor in 1947, the library became home to Girl Scouts’ craft shows, Recreation Department youth dances, library science classes, story hours and a school book loaning program.
In the ‘50s, summer band concerts were held on the portico and the scope of reference books was expanded.

Photos by Ron Leir/ Former acting library director Agnes Katelus-Jones (l). shares a light moment with library board member Marian Comprelli


Photos by Ron Leir/ Cherry Zhang relaxes in children's library where she teaches a weekly class in Chinese language.

In 1969 the library balcony was reshaped into an adult study and reference room. And during the ‘70s, Town Historian Henry Mutz organized the “Harrison Collection,” which is now housed in the Harrison Museum at the Town Hall Annex; summer reading programs began and turn-of-the-century Harrison poet Aloysius Michael Sullivan was awarded a plaque. In the ‘80s the library got an extensive facelift, both inside and out and the ‘90s saw cataloguing of books by computer and the introduction of Wi-Fi.
Constance’s husband, Mayor Ray McDonough, told the crowd: “I am happy to have been a part of some major renovations here including the installation of the elevator, the children’s library (in the basement) and the use of computers in the library. I am happy to see that the facility is so well used.”
Later the mayor observed: “You come here evenings, on Saturdays, you see the place packed with people using computers.”
To acquire those terminals, the library used money from the Gates Foundation, the town and the Board of Education, Mejias said.
Today, the library – which runs on a $90,000 annual budget and houses 46,000 volumes – claims 11,915 card holders, mostly from Harrison and East Newark, but also about 50 folks from out of the region who, as Mejias puts it, “like the service and our books.”
As a reflection of the town’s changing demographics, the children’s library hosts a weekly one-hour class in Chinese characters and Chinese traditional poetry, offered by the Hualei Chinese School, for Chinese-American children ages 3 to 5.
Cherry Zhang, the school’s instructor, is hoping to expand the program to two nights a week by offering two classes, one for ages 3 and 4 and another for ages 5 and 6. That proposal is currently under review by the library board.
Since September, children in the current class have learned more than 80 Chinese characters and are able to recite eight traditional Chinese poems, according to Zhang.
Among the visitors to the birthday event was Agnes Katelus-Jones, a former acting library director who served at the Harrison facility for 32 years. “It was always a busy library,” Katelus-Jones said. “It was a place where you knew that the library staff would always help you.”

Will empty classrooms become new apartments?

Photo Credit by Anthony J. Machcinski/ School no. 1 is being targeted for redevelopment.


By Ron Leir

A 90-year-old school building whose classrooms have been empty since 1980 is now being eyed as a site for new housing and/or retail use.
School 1, a 3-story structure, sits on a 1.6-acre parcel at 81 Stephens St. The property includes a fenced lot to the north and east of the school itself accessed via Cortlandt St. where school buses are parked. Another part of the tract fronting Rutgers St. contains a lawn area with several mature trees.
Over the years, the building has become something of an eyesore due to the lack of maintenance.
As noted by township planning consultant John Madden, the building’s exterior has cracks in its brick veneer on its northeast side; deteriorated limestone coping; several rusted steel doors; several broken and/or boarded-up windows, and a damaged roof.
Inside, the gym (added to the building in 1967) is a wreck; the roof is leaking, floor tiles are crumbling and plaster is falling from stairwell walls and ceiling. Paint is peeling on the first and second-floor corridor ceilings. Much of the third floor’s flooring has been removed.
In Feb. 2011, Madden notes, Township Construction Official Frank Delorenzo Jr. declared the building an unsafe structure due to “structural damage, hazardous electric, friable asbestos (and) blocked exits.”
“Occupancy is prohibited until the issues noted are remedied,” Madden said.
In July 2011, the Belleville Planning Board voted to classify the School 1 tract as an area in need of redevelopment, a recommendation endorsed by the mayor and Township Council shortly thereafter.
On Dec. 8, the Planning Board convened a public hearing on a proposed conceptual redevelopment plan for the site and voted to adopt the plan, pending certain amendments dealing with parking.
The board is suggesting the governing body consider “a variety of higher density residential uses with the potential inclusion of small scale supporting retail activities… Development of more residential units in close proximity to Washington Avenue will reinforce the (township) Master Plan goal of strengthening Belleville’s main commercial street. The plan (also) serves to improve the Rutgers Street corridor, which functions as a gateway entrance into the Township of Belleville.”
To that end, the board sees “attached or multi-family housing” as the best way to approach that goal, because “residential development is the only viable land use capable of undertaking the substantial financial costs to remediate School 1’s contaminated building and grounds.”
Development strategies pitched by the board are:
Stacked townhouses, with 42 townhouse units, 24-feet-wide, and 42 on-site garaged parking spaces. (“Stacked” means a one-family dwelling unit attached to other one-family units which share the same vertical and horizontal walls and are separated by firewall or tenant separation wall. Each one-family unit has an attached garage with room for at least one vehicle.)
Multi-family development of two buildings with 56 dwelling units and 57 on-site parking spaces.
At least five of the mature trees on the property are to be preserved under either scenario.
The plan also allows community/recreation facilities and swimming pools, along with up to 2,500 square feet of retail space “where the retail use is located on all or a portion of the first floor and the remainder of the building is occupied by multi-family dwellings.”
For the stacked townhome scenario, the planning consultant proposed a maximum building height of three stories/45 feet and 30 dwelling units per acre; for the multi-family dwelling plan, the board suggests 38 units per acre, a maximum building height of five stories/60 feet, and a mix of 70% one-bedroom apartments and 30% two-bedroom units. Stacked townhomes must have pitched roofs.
In consideration of the possibility of parking under the building, the board is considering an amendment that, according to board attorney Thomas DiBiasi, “could allow the building to go up another 10 feet.”
On-site parking can be located “under the building, underground or on the surface,” at a ratio of one garage space per stacked townhouse unit or about one space per unit in a multi-family dwelling.
However, because board members were concerned that there may not be sufficient and convenient parking for residents, the plan will be revised to reflect the need for additional parking, either on or off-site, possibly at a ratio of 1.5 to 2 spaces per dwelling unit, Madden said.
Sidewalks around the development site are to be at least five feet wide and must provide access for the physically disabled.
No dwelling units can be used for professional or business offices by the occupants or any others.
As an area in need of development, the property will be eligible for tax abatement in the form of a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes).
The township is looking to acquire the School 1 property from the Belleville Board of Education. The property is currently assessed at $916,700 – $566,700 for the land and $350,000 for the building.