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Kearny fireboat rises to the occasion

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY –

On its maiden fire response, Kearny Fire Department’s fireboat – Marine 3 – performed up to par as its seven-man crew was first on the scene to help battle a smoky blaze under the Pulaski Skyway last Friday, Dep. Fire Chief Joseph Viscuso said.

But it took 51 minutes from the time the KFD got the alarm of fire to get its boat to the scene, department logs show, largely because the boat was dispatched from the Midland Ave.

It took about an hour for the Kearny boat, working in tandem with a Newark Fire Department vessel and the N.J. State Police Zodiak boat, to extinguish the flames attacking a wood fender that protects the base of the Skyway’s huge support columns from impacts of passing boats and other objects.

Viscuso, who was serving as the KFD’s acting chief on Friday, said it appears that the fire – reported at 1:05 p.m. – was ignited by sparks from welding activity on the bridge deck above.

Interestingly, at almost the same time on Aug. 8, a brush fire was reported under the Skyway on the riverbank, just 200 feet from the site of Friday’s incident, which was also believed to have been triggered by sparks from a welder’s tool, but, at the time, Marine 3 was undergoing some adjustments so the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department sent its boat, Viscuso said.

At Friday’s fire, aside from the fire boats pumping out sprays of water onto the burning timbers, Viscuso said that several of the Kearny crew also climbed onto another nearby section of fender and used firefighting tools to “cut a lot of holes into the creosote planking” to vent the fire and then used hand lines to squirt water behind the holes. The wood fencing rises about six feet above the water line, Viscuso said.

There was only “moderate damage” to the fender structure, Viscuso said, while, the Skyway superstructure appeared to be unharmed.

The 25 1/2-foot-long Kearny vessel, acquired in May 2013 with a $345,000 FEMA grant (that paid for the boat and a trailer for it), is designed to shoot 1,250 gallons of water per minute and its crew kept it pumping until the fire was declared under control.

Aboard the boat were Capt. Dave Kealy, Capt. James Mullins, Capt. Tom McDermott (the driver) and Firefighters Nelson DaSilva, Michael Janeczko and Tom Grieb, along with Probationary Firefighter James Burgos, all of whom had received trainning on it.

“It was the first time we used the boat to fight a fire and they rose to the challenge,” Viscuso said.

After being alerted to the fire through a 911 call routed to Kearny, at 1:05 p.m., the KFD deployed members of the seven-man team and hauled Marine 3 on its trailer, from the Midland firehouse, to the Passaic River Yacht Club on Scout Ave. from where it was launched into the Hackensack River, enroute upstream to the fire.

Viscuso said the boat was in the water by 1:51 p.m. and got to the scene five minutes later. It was the first of the three vessels to arrive, he added.

Jersey City Fire Department also dispatched a boat but it was directed to return, he added. Admitting that he was a little skeptical, initially, about whether Kearny really needed a fireboat, Viscuso said last week he’s absolutely convinced that the vessel is essential.

“The only way we could’ve fought this fire [on Friday] was from the water,” he said. “You couldn’t do it from the land.”

Marine 3 has been previously deployed but its prior mission was not fire-related, Viscuso said.

“On Aug. 12, at 12:43 p.m., we got a call from the bridge tender at the Amtrak portal bridge that he’d spotted a canoe drifting upside down in the river so we deployed our boat on a search and we located it along the shore,” he recalled. No one was clinging to it or near it and firefighters landed to search the area but saw nobody, he said. The KFD learned later that the canoe had been reported missing by a canoe rental place in Secaucus a month prior.

Hamilton St. back to normal now

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HARRISON –

At first, residents of Harrison Gardens probably thought they were seeing a mirage: As of Aug. 8, their stretch of Hamilton St., between Schuyler and Franklin Aves., was open.

No longer clogged with barricades, dirt, above-ground pipes, construction crews, the block was clear and they could actually park their cars on both sides of the street. It meant that, at long last, the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) had completed the relining of more than 1,500 feet of the 42-inch concrete Kearny- Harrison-Newark branch interceptor sewer line dating from 1924 and repairs to five manholes.

When the contractor was hired to do the work, the PVSC agreed to pay about $900,000 and figured the job would be done within six months.

It ended up costing $3.9 million with the time stretching over two years, based on figures provided by the commission’s chief engineer, according to PVSC spokeswoman Hollie Gilroy.

Gilroy said the original scope of work included the relining of 1,200 feet of sewer and the rehabilitation of four manholes; the revised scope included the replacement and relining of an additional 380 feet of sewer and an additional manhole,” Gilroy said.

Asked what complicated the job, Gilroy said that, “Significant ground water issues were encountered as part of the excavation required for the sewer and manhole replacement work. Ground water issues were the main cause of the schedule delays and cost overruns.”

Despite all the travails that accompanied the job – including having to provide a substitute water service for the Gardens for four days – Harrison Public Works Superintendent Robert Van Riper said it could’ve been a lot worse, given the magnitude of the job and a horrid winter. Plus, during the job, PSE&G had to relocate its power lines to the other side of Hamilton St. so the contractor would have room to work, Van Riper said.

“I want to give a shout to the PVSC for staying with it,” Van Riper said. “They did everything they said they’d do. It went as smoothly as it could possibly have gone. Everything was like synergy.”

Van Riper said the PVSC interceptor line had collapsed and the contractor had to dig down some 30 feet to lay in a new section of pipe with a liner.

“Every time it rained, they’d have to put in a sewer bypass line and we’re talking about a big trunk line on the south side of Hamilton that runs from Kearny to the Passaic Valley plant in Newark,” he said.

And Harrison Gardens received a new six-inch water service line, valve-to-valve, on the north side of Hamilton, replacing a line that had persistent leaks, he said. “Now, the leaks have been resolved.”

 – Ron Leir 

Rivera: ‘I’m political victim’

Belleville BOE President John Rivera is fighting to keep his job as a $48,000 a year township public works laborer.

Suspended without pay in February on charges of “creating a hostile work environment,” Rivera said that the township has yet to schedule a hearing. The municipal governing body only recently authorized hiring a special counsel to deal with the matter. Township Attorney Tom Murphy said last week, “We’re waiting to get some dates from the hearing officer.”

“I’m totally innocent,” Rivera told The Observer. “It’s political – I backed the wrong horse [in the May municipal contest].” Now he’s collecting unemployment. He was hired in April 2013 as a property maintenance inspector but later transferred to various other slots. The township doesn’t discuss pending legal matters.

Another school figure who may be in transition is Superintendent Helene Feldman who, Rivera told a member of the audience at the Aug. 11 BOE meeting, is currently on leave. Feldman has two years to run on her contract.

Because she may be away for an extended time, due to a serious health issue involving her husband, Tom Egan, the state monitor assigned to Belleville BOE, appointed Ray Jacobus, the BOE secretary/ school business administrator, as acting superintendent at the Aug. 11 BOE meeting. Egan said that Jacobus holds a New Jersey school superintendent’s certificate.

Egan said that a possible additional stipend for Jacobus for taking on the extra duties would likely be discussed at a special meeting called for Aug. 25. Egan also expects, at that time, to “finalize changes for the 2014-2015 school budget” and to nail down the calculations for the amount of additional state aid the district will be seeking “so that the 2014-15 school year won’t be in deficit.” Auditors have reckoned that the district ended 2013-2014 more than $4 million in the red.

At the Aug. 11 BOE session, Egan exercised his veto power as monitor to overturn several votes by a narrow board majority: He overruled a 3-2 vote to deny $90,000 in compensation to two resource (safety) officers, one at the high school and one at the middle school, and he overturned a 3-2 vote to table a proposed termination of a contract with Clarity Technologies Group LLC for outsourcing the district’s Internet Technologies Department. Egan said he felt the $20,000-a-month contract was “too expensive.” He also vetoed a vote to table the reappointment of eight non-tenured staff for the upcoming year, allowing six to go through for now, with the other two to be considered at the special meeting, along with a tabled appointment of Michael Vargas as district special education supervisor.

– Ron Leir 

30-day suspension for union head

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

BELLEVILLE –

An arbitrator has dismissed 12 of 13 tenure charges filed March 21 by the Belleville Board of Education against a middle school math teacher who doubles as the head of the teachers’ union so Michael Mignone’s job is safe – at least for now.

In his July 28 decision, arbitrator Joel Weisblatt nixed the BOE’s effort to fire Mignone on the basis of “conduct unbecoming” and “manifesting unfitness to serve as a teaching professional and role model to youth.”

The BOE focused its charges on three episodes:

*A classroom conversation on Oct. 16, 2013, that touched on students’ wearing electronic security tags deployed by the district.

*A Dec. 20, 2013, conference call involving Mignone, the parent of one of his students, a guidance counselor and a BEA representative.

*A confrontation between Mignone and Superintendent Helene Feldman on Feb. 4, 2014, in the BOE office.

In the first incident, the BOE said Mignone deviated from the curriculum by entertaining a discussion of the district security system, raised the spectre of kids contracting cancer from wearing the tags, warned students their privacy would be invaded because the devices allowed them to be “tracked” outside school, and invited them to get their parents to complain publicly that the BOE was wasting its money on a questionable security system.

Weisblatt said that while Mignone probably “showed poor judgment” in spending 20 minutes of class time on something unrelated to math, the evidence from the testimony of students didn’t support the BOE’s allegations and that it was a student who raised the subject, not Mignone. He noted that after Mignone received a letter of reprimand from a supervisor for an “inappropriate use” of classroom time, that there were no further such incidents.

In the second incident, the BOE said the parent on the call – who had previously griped at a BOE meeting that a teacher hadn’t returned her phone call about her child not being allowed to make up a class assignment – “felt threatened” by Mignone’s alleged efforts to “disrupt her child’s special needs education” by having him removed from his class, by suggesting she write to the superintendent that their conflict stemmed from a communication snafu and that Mignone violated her child’s privacy by allowing a union representative to listen in on the call and take notes.

In this case, Weisblatt noted that the issue initially raised by the parent was resolved in a follow-up call from Mignone, that testimony by the counselor indicated that in the subsequent conference call, “no threat was implied,” that Mignone asked the parent if she wanted to have her son switch classes as a matter of good faith, and that the letter to the superintendent could help to resolve a misunderstanding so the charges seemed unsupported by the evidence. However, Weisblatt said he felt the BOE made its case that Mignone “improperly involved” a union representative in the conference call “without any disclosure to the parent,” adding that, “It is at the very least an ethical breach … and further, it compromised the privacy of the student and the parent.” That behavior, Weisblatt concluded, warranted a 30-day suspension without pay for Mignone.

In the third incident, the BOE said Mignone defied a “directive” from the superintendent – about a week after the teacher had been suspended with pay – forbidding him from appearing on BOE property, except for unionrelated activities, which had to be conducted in the superintendent’s office, by entering the high school to use an office designated for union work on Feb. 4, 2014, and by causing a “disruption” to school business by arguing with a staff member. (The suspension was later withdrawn and refiled a bit later.)

Weisblatt said that he found “no written evidence of a directive” from the superintendent, adding that Mignone “accessed a ‘board employees only’ stairwell in the high school,” thereby minimizing possible contact with students. He said testimony by school staff disproved any “disruption” of administrative work. Weisblatt ruled that Mignone should be “reinstated and made whole for any loss of compensation” beyond the 30-day loss of pay meted out for the privacy compromise incident.

Feds tie area druggist to illegal OC scheme

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

NEWARK –

A Belleville pharmacist and 15 others have been charged as alleged conspirators in a scheme to fraudulently obtain and distribute oxycodone, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said. Oxycodone, a semi-synthetic narcotic analgesic, is a widely prescribed painkiller marketed under the brand name OxyContin and is regulated by the federal Controlled Substances Act. It’s known in street parlance as “hillbilly heroin,” “kicker,” “OC,” “Perc” and “Roxy.”

A press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s office on Wednesday, Aug. 13, identified Vincent Cozzarelli, 77, of Belleville, the owner of Rossmore Pharmacy, 338 Washington Ave., Belleville, as the accused druggist.

As of last week, the pharmacy was open but a sign posted in the front window advised patrons that by order of state Consumer Affairs Director Steve Lee, the sale of controlled substances is not permitted.

All the defendants are charged with one count of “conspiring to possess and distribute oxycodone, a Schedule 2 controlled substance.”

All but two of those charged were arrested by agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Tactical Diversion Squad last Wednesday last Tuesday while the others remain at large. Those in custody appeared Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Mark Falk in Newark Federal Court.

The federal complaint alleges that between February 2014 and Aug. 13, 2014, the conspirators “secured prescriptions for oxycodone and other controlled substances from various doctors in New Jersey, filled them at pharmacies in Belleville and elsewhere, and sold the drugs for a profit.”

The feds identified defendant Victoria Horvath, 42, of Elizabeth, as a “senior member” of what they characterized as a “drug trafficking organization (DTO)” who “obtained and filled prescriptions for controlled substances and then distributed them.”

They said that Cozzarelli “supplied … Horvath (also known as “Gypsy”) and the [alleged DTO] with oxycodone and other controlled substances even though he knew the prescriptions were fraudulently obtained and that the [organization] would illegally distribute the controlled substances.”

Among the defendants, from The Observer’s coverage area, are Luis Rivera (“Tupac”), 23, and Robert O’Brien, 57, both of Bloomfield.

The other suspects were listed as: Daniel Horvath, 25, Monica Horvath (“Becky”), 20, and Johnny Horvath, 45, all of Rutherford; Rhonda Musallam, 38, of Jersey City; Brian Perez (“B”), 21, Matthew Policarpio (“Papi”), 26, and Justin Farraj (“Blaze”), 23, all of Newark; Alexis Horvath (“Tima”), 26, Rickie Horvath (“Yoggi”), 53, Steven Horvath (“Chi-Chi”), 43, and Tony Marco, 45, all of Elizabeth; and Sabrina Vajda, 31, of Brooklyn, N.Y.

According to the feds, Musallam and Perez remained at large, as of last week.

Federal agents declined to say how much profit the organization made from sales of the drugs.

The release said that the federal investigation made use of “confidential sources, physical surveillance and judicially-authorized electronic surveillance” to document the criminal charges.

According to the federal complaint, Victoria, Alexis and Rickie Horvath distributed oxycodone and other drugs “in the Belleville area.” It added that, “These three individuals worked together and with others to obtain controlled substances and prescriptions [from doctors not named in the complaint] for controlled substances for distribution.”

The complaint said that Steven, Daniel and Monica Horvath, Marco and Vajda obtained and filled prescriptions for drugs from various doctors and distributed the drugs, that Johnny Horvath assisted with distribution activities, that Musallam was a supplier of drugs, and that Farraj, O’Brien, Perez, Policarpio and Rivera were local distributors and customers.

According to the complaint, “on or about June 2, 2014,” after a phone conversation between Victoria Horvath and Cozzarelli, Victoria and Steven Horvath met with a DTO customer (not named) and traveled to Cozzarelli’s house where Victoria Horvath “… met with Cozzarelli and obtained 120 30mg oxycodone pills and 120 Percocet (10mg oxycodone) pills from him. The customer of the DTO was later arrested by local law enforcement and found to be in possession of 120 Percocet pills and 23 30mg oxycodone pills.”

Also, the complaint says, “On or about June 15, 2014, in a series of calls, V. Horvath arranged to obtain 120 30mg oxycodone pills, 120 Percocet (10mg oxycodone) pills and 120 units of another controlled substance from Cozzarelli….”

A conviction on the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Logged on the Nutley police blotter

Aug. 9 

A San Antonio Ave. resident reported that someone was placing harassing notes – some very offensive – on her vehicle overnight. Police are investigating.

Police responded to a Taft St. location on a report of someone with a gun. Upon arrival, officers saw a man drop what turned out to be an air soft pellet gun, whose orange tip identifying the object as a toy was removed. Charges are pending.

A Union Ave. resident reported that someone had shot a projectile – possibly a pellet – through their 2014 Mercedes Benz, causing the window to shatter. Police are investigating.

At 1 p.m., a woman jogging near Cathedral Ave. was attacked by a pit bull, causing what police described as a minor injury. Police issued a summons to the dog’s owner.

Aug. 10

Someone stole a 2009 silver Nissan during the night or early morning hours while it was parked at a Park Ave. location, the owner informed police.

A motorist who parked in the wrong lane on Washington Ave. was discovered to be intoxicated, police said. The driver, Jimmy Gonzalez, 23, of Newark, was arrested and subsequently turned over to the custody of a relative, pending a court appearance.

Aug. 11 

A Chestnut St. resident nearly fell victim to a scam after posting an offer to sell golf clubs on Craig’s List, police said.

The would-be buyer sent the resident too much money for the clubs and then asked the resident to wire back the difference. But, after going to the bank to get the money, the resident learned this request was a common scam and refrained from sending the money, police said. Responding to the Riva Blue restaurant/lounge in Lyndhurst to assist with crowd control in the aftermath of a stabbing, Nutley PD arrested Barry Garrard, 24, of Monmouth Junction, on a disorderly person charge after police say he refused to comply with officers’ instructions.

A 15-year-old boy who left his BMX bicycle unattended at a Margaret Ave. location for a short time returned to find the bike gone, police said. The bike, which has purple pedals, was valued at $400.

Aug. 12

A Myrtle Ave. resident reported that several unauthorized charges at local establishments had been made on her credit card. Police said the resident offered some information that could lead to a suspect.

A vehicle with New Hampshire plates and an expired registration that was parked on Hay Ave. was impounded by police.

A 29-year-old woman injured both feet and a hand in a fall from an extension ladder at her Hillside Ave. residence, police said. Nutley emergency rescue personnel and police responded. The woman was taken to an area hospital for treatment.

Aug. 13 

Police responded to a River Road apartment complex to intervene in a verbal dispute between a tenant angry about a water leak and a property manager. Police said the tenant threatened to cause harm to the manager. Apologies were made after officers spoke to the parties.

Aug. 14 

A Columbia Ave. resident reported that someone had entered their unlocked 1994 Jeep and removed a BMX bicycle and other items.

A series of auto burglaries were reported on several blocks within close proximity to each other, police said.

Three vehicles were burglarized on Satterthwaite Ave.: A wedding ring valued at more than $1,000 and other items were taken from a 2009 Volvo and a navigation system was removed from a Ford Explorer and the owner’s second vehicle was also entered, police said.

On Walnut St., multiple break-ins were also reported, one to a 2012 GMC and three vehicles parked in the driveway of another resident were also entered, police said.

And, police said, a North Road resident reported that their 2007 Mercury and 2004 vehicle were broken into and an iPad and iPod were taken, along with other items.

Aug. 15 

A male suspect described as 17 or 18, wearing tan shorts and a white T-shirt, reportedly entered a vehicle owned by the wife of a business owner on E. Centre St., at 10:30 a.m., and ran off with the woman’s purse, it was reported. Police said the wife chased the suspect who dropped the purse and continued running. Police are investigating.

The owners of four businesses on the south end of Franklin Ave. reported that someone had shattered their windows during the night, causing more than $500 in damage at each store, police said. A pellet or BB gun may have been used, police said. An investigation is continuing.

A woman told police that a window in her father’s 2000 Lexus was smashed, between 8 p.m. Aug. 14 and 7:30 a.m. Aug. 15, while the car was parked in her driveway on W. Centre St.

– Ron Leir 

Around Town

Belleville 

Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave., will hold registration, beginning Aug. 20, for its Music Together class for babies and toddlers. The class will run Sept. 25 to Dec. 4, with two Thursday sessions to choose from, at 9:45 a.m. or 10:45 a.m. Space is limited. To register, call 973-450-3434.

Belleville Elks, 254 Washington Ave., host a Type O blood drive Wednesday, Aug. 27, 5 to 9 p.m. No appointment is needed. Priority is for Type O blood but all types of blood will be accepted. The entire process takes less than one hour. Donors must be at least age 17, weigh at least 120 pounds and be in general good health. The drive is open to Belleville residents and all surrounding communities.

Bloomfield 

Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center, 240 Belleville Ave., offers a dinner and theater trip package to see the new Broadway hit “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” on Wednesday, Sept. 24. A buffet dinner will be served at Oakeside at 4 p.m. before boarding the bus to New York City. The $165 cost includes dinner, round-trip transportation, orchestra seats, plus all taxes and tips. Reservations are required and must be paid within five days of booking to ensure a place. There are no refunds on paid reservations. Oakeside will accept credit cards for this event. To R.S.V.P., call the Oakeside office at 973-429-0960.

Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., presents an installment of a documentary series on “The Music Instinct: Science and Song” before screening featured films for its Monday and Thursday Afternoon at the Movies programs. The “Music Instinct” documentaries, which explore the deep connection between music and the brain, are screened at 11:45 a.m. and featured films at 12:15 p.m. Upcoming features are: “Identity Thief” (Melissa McCarthy) (NR) on Aug. 21 and “Philomena” (Judi Dench) (PG-13) on Aug. 25.

Harrison 

Harrison co-ed soccer registration for grades 1 to 8 is currently being conducted at the Community Center, 401 Warren St., through Aug. 22. Registration fee is $30. For more information, call the Center at 973-268-2469.

 Kearny 

The Irish American Association, 95 Kearny Ave., hosts an all-star comedy lineup to benefit the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation on Friday, Aug. 22, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available for presale at http://circleoflaughs.bpt. me/.

Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 136 Davis Ave., begins its annual nine-week St. Jude Novena with Msgr. John J. Gilchrist on Monday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m. All are welcome.

The Woman’s Club of Arlington hosts an Autumn Harvest Social on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 1 to 3 p.m., at the Girl Scout House, 635 Kearny Ave. Admission is free. Members and non-members alike may bring friends interested in joining the club as well as children, grandchildren, sisters, mothers, etc. for a fun, social afternoon.

Hot coffee, tea, cider, pie a la mode, and many homemade goodies will be served. The club’s mission is to support local charities, the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs State Charity and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

To attend, contact Jennifer Cullen at 201-991-6612 or Teddie Jablonski at 973-248-6500.

Kearny UNICO sponsors a bus trip to Caesars in Atlantic City on Sunday, Sept. 14. The bus will depart from the parking lot of Kearny Federal Savings, 614 Kearny Ave., at 8:30 a.m. Cost is $30 per person with $25 in slot credit back from the casino. For tickets or additional information, contact Lou Pandolfi at 201-368-2409 or 201-693-8504.

Lyndhurst 

The Lyndhurst Health Department is collecting donations for students in need. Backpacks, marble composition books, notebooks, dividers, loose paper, crayons and 3-ring binders are welcomed. Drop off donations at the Health Department, 601 Riverside Ave., Suite 1, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Aug. 31. People with children in need of school supplies are asked to contact the Health Department at 201-804-2500 to schedule a pick-up of the needed supplies. Be prepared to give child’s gender and grade level.

The Lyndhurst Health Department holds a breakfast forum, hosted by Clara Maass Medical Center, Friday, Sept. 12, at 10 a.m. Registered Dietitian Elizabeth Nossier will discuss how a healthy diet can enhance quality of life and longevity. Breakfast will be provided. To register, call the department at 201-804-2500.

Registration is also open for the department’s bi-annual chiropractic screening, also set for Sept. 12 at 8:45 a.m. Lyndhurst chiropractor Marco Ferrucci will conduct the screening, which includes a digital postural analysis. Call the department to register.

The Lyndhurst Public Library is conducting registration for Fall Storytime at the library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., through Sept. 12. Open to ages 3 to 4 1/2, this 45-minute program features stories, music and crafts. The program begins on Thursday, Sept. 25, with two sessions available at 10:30 a.m. or 1 p.m. Space is limited. To register, call 201-804-2478.

The library hosts “Introduction to Maum Meditation,” presented by Lyndhurst Meditation Space, on Wednesday, Aug. 27, at 6:30 p.m. Space is limited and registration is required. To R.S.V.P., email romeo@lyndhurst.bccls.org or call the library.

The Township of Lyndhurst hosts a Labor Day Weekend Antique and Craft Fair on Sunday, Aug. 31, at Town Hall Park. There’ll be live music throughout the day, a wide selection of specialty foods and a children’s play area. For more information, call 201-321-2756 or email robin.brystra@gmail.com.

Fair visitors are invited to give blood at the Blood Center of New Jersey’s bloodmobile from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Donors must be at least age 17, bring a sign or picture form of ID and know their Social Security number. There is no upper age limit for donors provided they meet health requirements. For those who have recently traveled outside the U.S. and for other eligibility questions, call the blood center at 973- 676-4700, ext. 132, or 1-800-652- 5663.

The Lyndhurst Veterans of Foreign Wars Post hosts a karaoke party at the post hall, 547 Valley Brook Ave., on Friday, Aug. 22, at 8 p.m. The VFW hall is available for rentals for all occasions. For more information, call the post at 201-939- 5080.

North Arlington 

The North Arlington Woman’s Club sponsors a flapjack breakfast on Saturday, Aug. 23, 8 to 10 a.m., at Applebee’s Restaurant, Kearny. Admission is $10. For tickets, call 201-889- 2553.

Openings are available for the Queen of Peace Ladies Bowling League. The season starts Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 12:45 p.m., at North Arlington Bowl, 200 Schuyler Ave. To join, call Betsy at 201-997-3914.

North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Road (at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church), hosts a fall bingo luncheon on Friday, Sept. 5, starting at 10:30 a.m., with lunch at noon, followed by bingo, games and special prizes from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information and reservation call 201-998-5636.

Nutley 

The fall season of book discussions at the Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Dr., begins Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. The group meets the first Monday of each month. This meeting will be a reader’s potluck, an informal discussion on books read during the summer. This event is free and open to all members of the community. Refreshments will be served. For more information, visit http://nutley.bccls.org or call 973-667-0405, ext. 2604.

Applications for the 2014 Nutley Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers are now available at the township’s Department of Public Affairs, 149 Chestnut St. Residents age 60 and older can register Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Vouchers will also be distributed on Sundays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Nutley Farmers Market, located in Municipal Lot 1, Franklin Ave. and Williams St.

Applicants need valid identification and proof of income. (Single applicants can earn no more than $21,590 a year, or a maximum of $1,800 a month, to qualify.)

Approved residents receive four $5 coupons, which can be redeemed for fresh fruit and vegetables only, at any farmers market in New Jersey, from July through November 2014.

For more information, call the Public Affairs Department at 973-284-4976.

Senior housing project advancing

Modulars_web

HARRISON – 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apartment rental applications haven’t yet been processed.

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

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

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

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

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

– Ron Leir 

Sobering reminder for all drivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Spend the night rather than get behind the wheel.

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

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

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

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

Notes from the KPD blotter

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 6 

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

Aug. 11 

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

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

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

 Aug. 12 

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

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

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

Aug. 13 

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

– Karen Zautyk