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Reilly feted as Civil Lawyer of the Year

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The Hudson County Bar Association Civil Practice Committee has named Kathleen M. Reilly of Brady, Brady & Reilly as the Civil Lawyer of the Year for 2014.

The award, presented at the Bar Association Practice Awards Dinner, was bestowed on Reilly in recognition of her distinguished service in the practice of civil law. Attending were members of her firm, the judiciary and her family as well as fellow members of the trial bar.

A certified civil trial lawyer, Reilly heads the firm of Brady, Brady & Reilly in Kearny. A graduate of Rosemont College and Seton Hall University School of Law, she has been practicing litigation in the State and Federal Courts of New Jersey since 1983. She specializes in serious personal injury and death claims, including, but not limited to, automobile negligence, dangerous products, premises liability, liquor liability, dog bites and slip/trip and falls.

Reilly has had multiple jury verdicts in excess of $1 million and has settled millions of dollars in personal injury cases on behalf of her injured clients.

In announcing the award, the law firm noted: “Representing the injured, disabled and bereaved is a serious responsibility, and Reilly shoulders this mission with unwavering compassion. Known for her sympathetic and caring nature, many are surprised to witness her feistiness and ferocity in the courtroom. She is both fearless and vigorous in pursuit of a claim on behalf of a client. Her experience, dedication and meticulous preparation have translated into financial awards and justice for the firm’s satisfied clients.”

Celebrate Mardi Gras at Applebee’s in N.J.

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar locations in New Jersey invite guests to let the good times roll with a variety of food and beverage specials to celebrate Mardi Gras.

From now until Feb. 22, Applebee’s will offer diners a taste of The Big Easy in their neighborhood by featuring its Bourbon St.- inspired dishes and specialty cocktails including:

• Bourbon St. Chicken &  Shrimp – Cajun-seasoned chicken breast grilled and served on a sizzling skillet with blackened seasoned shrimp, garlic and thyme.

• Bourbon St. Steak – A  juicy, tender 9 oz. steak jazzed up with Cajun spices. • Shoo Fly Punch – Jim  Beam with ginger and lime soda over crushed ice.

• Southern Jack-hattan  – Jack Daniels, peach schnapps and sweet vermouth.

Mardi Gras specials are available at 100 Applebee’s locations owned and operated by Doherty Enterprises.

In New Jersey, Applebee’s is located in Brick, Bridgewater, Butler, Clifton, East Hanover, Edison, Flemington, Garfield, Hackensack, Hackettstown, Hillsborough, Howell, Jersey City, Jersey Gardens, Kearny, Lacey, Manahawkin, Manalapan, Manchester, Middletown, Milltown, Mt. Olive, Newark, Newton, North Bergen, Northvale, Ocean, Paramus, Parsippany, Phillipsburg, Piscataway, Rockaway, Tinton Falls, Toms River, Totowa, Union, Wall and Woodbridge.

Report: 2 women arrested, charged with soliciting prostitution at Kearny clinic

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GOOGLE STREET VIEW PHOTO — Two women were arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution at a Kearny health-care clinic located inside 50 Midland Ave., seen above, according to reports.

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY —

In a professional building on Midland Ave., near the Post Office, there used to be a business called the Y&L Health Care Clinic. We say “used to be” because last week it got busted.

Kearny police said it  was a massage parlor operating as a front for prostitution.

At 2:30 p.m., Feb. 9, as the result of an ongoing investigation, KPD Vice detectives went to the premises and arrested 64-year-old Jia Cao and 49-year-old Chunlan Yu, residents of Flushing, Queens.

Both were charged with engaging in prostitution; additionally, Yu was charged with promoting it.

The officers also confiscated approximately $500, believed to be the proceeds from illicit proceedings.

Seeking donations for Brown St. fire victims

The Nutley Department of Public Affairs, working in partnership with the Nutley Music Boosters Association, is seeking donations from the public to assist the victims of a recent fire on Brown St.

Gift cards to clothing stores, food stores, etc., are very helpful.

Also needed are: soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, powder, brushes, combs, blow dryers, hand/body lotion, shaving cream, shavers, socks, (size 10) men’s and women’s gloves — women’s (XLG), men’s (XLG) — hats, scarves, slippers (XLG) women’s and men’s, pocketbooks and wallets.

Items be may be dropped off at the Department of Public Affairs, 149 Chestnut St., Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to noon.

For more information, call 973-284-4976.

Fitness center coming; new housing under review

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By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY –

It may require an extended backstop at Harvey Field to prevent foul balls from whacking cars and/or people and perhaps a buffer of some kind for a residential dog run.

But, in any event, Carlstadt developer Ed Russo will be returning to the Kearny Planning Board March 4 for local approvals to expand his residential project along the north side of Bergen Ave. adjacent to the town’s Harvey Field recreation complex.

Last Wednesday, the board began hearing testimony on Russo’s proposal to demolish two commercial structures at 311-337 Schuyler Ave. and erect two 3-story buildings with 70 rental apartments as part of what the town has designated as an area in need of redevelopment.

It will reconvene next month to hear more about Russo’s expanded project but in the meantime, it voted to approve the developer’s application for a subdivision and amendment to the site plan for the first phase of his residential project – six buildings – on the south side of Bergen Ave. to accommodate a clubhouse and fenced-in dog run on the site of what had been projected as a retail pad.

In other business, the board also sanctioned a site plan and variance application submitted by Kearny Holding VF LLC/Fitness Intl. LLC to convert the old Pathmark supermarket at 175 Passaic Ave. to an LA Fitness facility.

Kearny attorney Gary Bennett, representing Fitness Intl., told the board that his client has negotiated a long-term lease with the property owner, Vornado Realty Trust of New York, to occupy the 58,000 square feet former supermarket building with no change to the structure’s footprint.

James O’Sullivan, director of development for Fitness Intl., said that the company has 650 locations in the U.S. and Canada and of those, he developed 60 in the past decade.

O’Sullivan said the building will be equipped with a kids’ club, locker rooms with bathrooms and showers, a spa, a 3-lane lap pool, basketball/ volleyball court and studios for cardio, yoga and cycling workouts.

Chances of putting in a juice bar are “50/50” at this stage in the development process, O’Sullivan said.

The facility will be open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week, he said.

 

 

by Ron Leir Ed Russo outlines his residential project at Planning Board meeting.

by Ron Leir
Ed Russo outlines his residential project at Planning Board meeting.

Plans call for the exterior masonry to be refurbished and repainted with an “earth-tone” color and “additional glass and light,” removal of the former supermarket’s loading docks, installation of brick pavers and bike racks near the front entrance and landscaping with 400 new plants anticipated, he said.

It will probably take a few months to file for building permits and, once granted, “five to six months to construct,” according to O’Sullivan. “The goal is to get this club open this year.”

Once construction starts, the company will open a “pre-sales office” to solicit memberships, he said.

Down the road, O’Sullivan said, the Kearny facility figures to employ more than 75 fulland part-time workers, with job opportunities for local residents.

As for the Bergen Ave. development, Russo told the board he expected to “be 100% complete” with his first phase which he calls Vermella Crossing – 150 rental apartments spread over six buildings – by October 2015.

Assuming favorable action by the board on his proposed expansion, Russo said his hope was to begin construction on that project by “sometime in 2016.”

Monthly rentals are projected at the “mid- $1,600s” for his one-bedroom apartments and in the range of “$2,200 to $2,400” for the two-bedroom units, Russo said. He has no plans to switch to “for sale” units.

Several board members, noting the proximity of the 2.2-acre development site to Harvey Field, wondered whether residents and/or their property might be in harm’s way from foul balls hit by batters during baseball season and that concern triggered discussion about the town doing some adjustments to the baseball field backstop which adjoins the targeted development site. No final plan was agreed to last week.

Asked about concerns raised by the Kearny Fire Department about access to hydrants and the ability of fire trucks to maneuver around the proposed residential buildings, Doug Bartels, an engineer and vice president with Russo Development, said that interior stairwells in each building would be equipped with standpipes and that fire rigs – and garbage trucks – should have enough room “to circulate around both buildings.”

Two board members – Chairman Fred Esteves and Councilman Jonathan Giordano – worried that tenants exiting either of the two proposed driveways from the site would have a tough time negotiating the flow of westbound traffic along Bergen Ave., which tends to stack up at the light at Schuyler Ave.

“There’s no way people are going to be crossing those driveways,” Esteves said. “No one’s going to give them a chance.”

Russo vice president Christopher Minks, the attorney representing the developer at the board hearing, said that the company may be “open to discussion on the more westerly of the two driveways” on possibly restricting the direction of traffic flow to oneway out only. “We’ll be looking at all options,” he said.

Legion seeks new members

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By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – ­

Last August, The Observer carried our feature story on the 95th anniversary of American Legion Post 99 of Kearny. At the time, Post Commander Keith McMillan spoke about a problem most veterans’ organizations are facing: diminishing membership.

Over the past decade, Post 99 has lost more than 100 members, primarily due, sadly, to the loss of the World War II generation.

“We’re trying to communicate with the new generation of veterans,” McMillan told us. Next week, the Post hopes, that communication will take a leap forward.

And, although the younger generation is one focus, so too are older veterans.

Those who served during Korea or Vietnam — or WWII — also need support and, often, information about and help with the benefits to which they are entitled.

On p. 8 of today’s paper, you will find an ad from the Joseph E. Frobisher Jr. Post 99 inviting non-member veterans to its monthly meeting, to be held at Tuesday, Feb. 17, at the Legion headquarters, 314 Belgrove Dr.

The meeting will start at 7 p.m., “but come early, around 6 o’clock,” McMillan suggested.  “We’ll have refreshments before and afterward.” As the ad notes, anyone who has served honorably in the U.S. armed services, stateside or overseas, during WWII, Korea, Vietnam or were enlisted during any conflict, including Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, is eligible for Legion membership.

There will be open enrollment, but don’t think you will be pressured to join.

This is basically an invitation to stop by and meet some members and learn what the Legion is all about.

“I want them to feel welcome,” McMillan said. “I don’t want anyone to feel obligated. There’s no commitment. This will just be a great opportunity to network and learn for themselves about the benefits and support we can offer to people in the military.”

For example, McMillan said Post 99 is in the process of organizing a career-counseling program. “We are currently working with some companies that would like to donate their time to help with resumes,” he said.

There is also the Kearny VOICE (Veterans Outreach Information Community & Education) project, which provides veterans and their families with information and assistance (clarifying eligibility, assisting with paperwork, etc.) regarding benefits, claims, job training, education and counseling — including referrals for counseling for vets suffering from PTSD.

Kearny VOICE was formed in partnership with the local VFW and Marine Corps League. Post 99, McMillan noted, “has a good rapport” with those groups, “and we’re working more together now.”

“And even though I would like people to join my post,” he said with a smile, “I would not be upset if they chose to join any one of the three.”

McMillan is also hoping to make the Post 99 building more welcoming, including eventually opening it to vets’ service/therapy dogs. He’d also like to see its doors open more often, “so someone could just stop by for a cup of coffee.”

The Legion “has been involved in the community, but I’d like it to be more involved,” he said, adding that Post 99 “is fortunate enough to have the full support of Kearny’s mayor and Council.”

The Post is planning future open-enrollment programs for its Women’s Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion.

While young vets, especially those fresh out of the service, have many concerns, such as finding a job or starting a family, McMillan hopes they will realize that American Legion membership can offer both help with their futures and a connection with a shared history.

“I want them to know how the many generations before us have given us the foundation to keep a good organization going,” the commander said.

“Now, people coming home from service have a different set of concerns, but we have a common bond: We served.

“This is an opportunity to belong to an organization where you share that common bond. You can help build on the foundation they gave us and enable us to carry on.”

Teens for Jeans big hit

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

The suggestion came from English teacher Kathy Williams but once it was out there, it didn’t take long for the kids from Lincoln Middle School to jump into it.

Led by the school’s Student Council, the seventh- and eighth-graders are joining 10,000 schools worldwide in a venture co-sponsored by global retailer Aeropostale and youth volunteer organization DoSomething.org, with “Teens for Jeans,” to collect used jeans for homeless teens.

According to the sponsors, they have collected more than 4 million pairs of jeans just in the past several years.

“In 2012, when I was Student Council adviser at Franklin School, we participated in Teens for Jeans and at that time, we came in among the top five donors nationwide with 4,600 pairs of jeans collected,” Williams said.

This year, she said, Lincoln School hopes to surpass that achievement but it’s going to take some doing since as of last week, the total raised was 400 pairs.

But the students remain undeterred.

John Camac, president of the Student Council, has taken the initiative by emailing the principals of Franklin, Washington and Schuyler elementary schools and asking them to join in the enterprise and Williams has extended the collection deadline to Thursday, Feb. 12.

As an incentive, Teens for Jeans offers the school that hauls in the most jeans an opportunity to win a $5,000 grant and a free concert by The Vamps, a British pop band.

The program is pushing jeans as a valued clothing item for their durability and for providing “a sense of normalcy” among those teens whose lives have been disrupted. The sponsors say that kids under 18 “account for 39% of the homeless population.”

“Get involved,” urges a flier circulated by Lincoln students to their peers. “Clean out those closets and dresser drawers. Pack up those jeans that don’t fit you anymore. We’ll collect all sizes and colors.”

Several Student Council members offered their take on the project.

Brianne O’Callaghan said she’s enthused about participating because, “it’s nice to actually get to help people, to give something to people who are on the streets all day.” She said she’s observed homeless – not in Kearny – but elsewhere in New Jersey and “it’s sad to see that.”

And, “even if you don’t actually see homeless people,” said John Millar, “it’s still good to know you’ve made a difference in their lives – whether it’s five or 5,000.”

Anthony Bianchini took heart in noting that the pants drive “is a great way to help others without spending a lot of money.” And Cedric Briones said: “It’s been wonderful to see kids come together for this program.”

For Council Treasurer Justin Jablonski, learning that it’s not just adults that are suffering was a revelation. “I didn’t realize that kids our age are also out there and that it’s not just a bad streak of luck,” he said. “That’s depressing.”

Bianchini said this project has inspired him to take on a community service project, “Help Serve Vets,” through his home parish at St. Stephen’s. This summer, he plans to visit an area V.A. facility to visit and extend a helping hand to hospitalized servicemen and women.

Teens for Jeans is an application of this year’s Student Council theme, “Community and Me,” Williams said. “We’ve written letters to veterans and decorated Operation Goody Bags distributed to emergency first responders and veterans.”

When all the jeans are accounted for locally, Williams said they’ll be tied up and bundled and transported in teachers’ cars and/or school bus to the Aeropostale outlet in Morristown for distribution by volunteers to the homeless.

2nd time around for council pick

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

It’s back to square one for members of the Kearny governing body in its efforts to fill a First Ward seat on the Town Council that was vacated when Alexa Arce resigned Jan. 5.

So now, according to Mayor Alberto Santos, the decision will fall, by default, to members of the local Democratic County Committee, who will choose one of the three candidates it offered to the council: Marytrine DeCastro, Sonia Hill and Jenny Mach.

Even after a public Q&A with the three nominees, followed by a nearly 90-minute-long private deliberation among themselves on Feb. 2, the seven Town Council members emerged and declared themselves deadlocked.

Santos said that although “there were three strong candidates,” none had a “strong majority” to put one of the three over the top.

“There were different views who could best serve the council and the town,” the mayor added, and what complicated the situation was that each nominee “had different skill sets” supporting their candidacy.

It’s the first time in at least the past 15 years that the council has failed to come up with a clear choice after a vacancy has occurred, according to Santos. Council President Carol Jean Doyle said she found each candidate “strong and opinionated. Personally, I could work with all three without blinking an eye.”

Each has been an advocate for the community, Doyle said. Hill, for example, was among the group pushing to keep the former West Hudson Hospital open, Mach has been a pioneer in helping launch the Butterfly and Community Gardens and DeCastro is on the Board of Health.

Doyle volunteered that, “the DeCastro family has supported me politically for the past 23 years,” but hastened to add that she remained open-minded about the virtues of all three nominees.

“Each one would bring something positive to the council and the town,” said Doyle, a Third Ward representative, “so how do you pick one?”

It was the council’s suggestion to have the Q&A, Doyle said, because “we thought it would be easier – especially for those of us who didn’t know a candidate particularly well – to make the choice but, ironically, it made it more difficult.”

In fact, Doyle recalled, during the closed session, “[Council] people were cheerleading for all. Everybody wanted the three of them. All three deserve to be there.”

And, she said, all three responded well to the questions posed, such as, “What is your vision for the town’s future?” and “How can you make Kearny better?” and “What would you like to see as your accomplishments during your term in office?”

“Not exactly softball questions,” Doyle said, although she acknowledged that the subject of local real estate “taxes did not come up.”

Fourth Ward Councilman Michael Landy readily agreed that, “We had three really good candidates. They all had positives and we just couldn’t come to a consensus of one over the others.”

All three candidates assured the council that if they were appointed, they had every intention of running in November for the balance of Arce’s unexpired term through 2017.

Meanwhile, the pressure is now on the Dems County Committee to solve the vacancy dilemma.

“By state statute, we must hold another meeting of the committee on or before Feb. 19 and vote by secret ballot for one of the three nominees,” Santos said. “The candidate with the highest number of votes will be the appointee.”

There are 60 members of the county committee – two from each district – but Santos, who is the committee chairman, said that its bylaws are silent on the issue of a quorum for such a vote.

As of press time, no date had been set for that crucial meeting but Doyle said that whenever it is scheduled, she would press for a Q&A session similar to the one arranged for the Town Council for the benefit of county committee members who may be unfamiliar with the nominees before the vote is taken.

Will town privatize water system?

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

On March 1, Kearny Water Superintendent and Licensed Water System Operator Richard R. Ferraioli will retire after having completed 25 years on the job and his departure will leave the town treading water, so to speak.

That’s because the town isn’t sure whether to simply replace him or to re-think how the water department should be run. At the same time, the Kearny Town Council voted last week to approve a one-year renewal of its water services agreement with United Water of Harrington Park for $344,132 to handle water meter readings, billings and collections.

But how the town will reconcile the management of its water system after the superintendent exits is another matter. Members of the Town Council and Mayor Alberto Santos were informed of Ferraioli’s imminent departure at last Monday’s council meeting and voted to accept his retirement and to pay him $72,932 in terminal leave pay and unused vacation time.

Records in the state Treasury Department listed Ferraioli’s annual salary at $121,060. Santos said that Ferraioli’s decision to file his pension application was “very unexpected. He’s been an extremely knowledgeable, hands-on superintendent in a job that’s very taxing and he has done it well. It’s the kind of job where you’re always on call.”

Indeed, at virtually every meeting of the town’s governing body, the Town Council is asked to approve expenditures involving repairs of water leaks and/or water main ruptures that have been occurring on a regular basis – a fact of life that town officials attribute to the water system’s aging pipes.

Because of Ferraioli’s extensive experience dealing with the town’s water system, “we do not think he is replaceable,” the mayor said.

That’s why one of the options likely to be explored, he said, is “privatization of the management of the water system.”

One option that will not be entertained, however, Santos said, is selling the water system outright, much like North Arlington did some years ago by contracting with a state authority, the Passaic Valley Water Commission, to take over the borough’s water system.

Whatever the outcome, “it has to be done in a cost effective way,” Santos said.

One downside in transferring the operation of a water system to a third party, Santos said, “is that you lose control over [setting] your water user rates.” In the cases of Harrison – which contracts with United Water to run its system – and North Arlington, Santos said that the rates are “substantially higher” than those charged in Kearny.

“In some instances, the third party doesn’t even have to call a public hearing before it imposes an increase in the rates,” he noted.

“At least, if we do decide to contract out the management of our system in a cost-effective manner, we can retain our water rate function,” he said.

In November 2014, the Town Council approved nominal rate increases of 18 cents for residential users (going to $2.43 per 100 cubic feet up to 18,000 cubic feet), 34 cents for commercial users (going to $3.14 per 100 cubic feet up to 75,000 cubic feet) and 39 cents for industrial users (going to $3.64 per 100 cubic feet in excess of 75,000 cubic feet). The utility ended 2013 with a deficit but finished last year in the black.

The Kearny Water Department’s budget for 2014 was about $6.3 million, of which about $3.7 million was paid to the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission for the town’s potable water, nearly $1.5 million went for salaries and benefits for seven employees, about $50,000 for employee Social Security contributions and $600,000 for debt payments. As of Dec. 31, 2014, the water utility showed a cumulative outstanding debt of about $15.1 million.

“We’re going to sit down with Rich and [his brother and assistant water superintendent] Ted, along with Town Administrator Michael Martello and CFO Shuaib Firozvi, our engineer Michael Neglia and United Water to discuss what direction we should be pursuing,” Santos said.

He said that Martello would “manage the transition” as the town prepares to phase into a new management system.

Ferriaoli, who replaced his father, Richard Sr., as the town’s water boss, declined to discuss his retirement or his legacy with The Observer, but Council President Carol Jean Doyle offered her take on why he’s leaving when – since he’s only in his 50s – he could still have many productive years ahead.

“Rich is a replica of his father,” said Doyle, “with a beautiful work ethic, climbing down in the hole with his men to fix a pipe. He takes the job home 24/7 and I think he’s reached the stage where he’s burned out.”

The town has repeatedly advertised for additional water department staff, Doyle said, but “we haven’t been able to get people with the expertise required for this type of job.” It’s also hard to find someone with the state-mandated certification to operate a municipal water system, she added.

Unneeded meds welcome 24/7 at HQ

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Got any unneeded or out-of-date medications at home that you’ve been meaning to dispose of?

Now you can do exactly that – safely and conveniently – by participating in the Lyndhurst’s “Project Medicine Drop.”

The Lyndhurst Police Department has installed a drop box in the hallway of its headquarters at 367 Valley Brook Ave., where residents are invited to deposit “unused, excess or expired prescription medications.

” In past years, the LPD has partnered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in “Operation Take-Back” in designating a specific date and location for residents to drop off their old, unwanted prescription drugs but now they can do it on a 24/7 basis, noted Det. Captain John Valente.

Drop-offs may be done anonymously and with no questions asked.

This new program is part of an initiative by the state Attorney General, in cooperation with the state Div. of Consumer Affairs, to put a dent in the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs, including highly addictive opiate painkillers.

Municipal police departments, county sheriff’s offices and State Police barracks across New Jersey are all opening their doors to these drop boxes.

“Project Medicine Drop is a natural addition to our commitment to help improve the public safety and quality of life in Lyndhurst,” township Public Safety Commissioner John Montillo Jr. said.

This initiative also aids the environment by keeping these drugs out of landfills and the water supply.

For more information about Project Medicine Drop, including a full list of drop-off locations, check out www. NJConsumerAffairs.gov/meddrop. Or to learn more about the LPD drop box, call 201- 939-2900, ext. 2740.