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Category: News

2014: The year in review

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Compiled by Karen Zautyk & Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondents 

 

Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough died on the job at age 65 on Feb. 12.

Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough died on the job at age 65 on Feb. 12.

JANUARY

The revolving door on the office of the Kearny schools superintendent keeps turning as the Board of Education, at its reorganization meeting, initiates a “vote of no confidence” in Superintendent Frank Ferraro and places him on paid leave.

Patricia Blood, director of curriculum for grades 6-12, is named acting superintendent. The Harrison Housing Authority, three and a half years after its chief administrator was fired, finally approves a replacement: Roy E. Rogers of Sicklerville, N.J.

As one of the snowiest winters in recent memory continues, authorities in various Observer communities remind residents that they should not “reserve” on-street parking spaces by marking them with trash cans, traffic cones, lawn furniture, baby strollers, etc. We leave it to you to surmise if the reminder worked. Kearny EMS vacates Harrison’s Cleveland Ave. firehouse after the town votes to award its emergency services contract to Monmouth- Ocean Hospital Service Corp. (MONOC).

The N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs issues a warning to and informational fact sheet for shoppers who visited Target stores during the Christmas buying season. It’s part of the fallout from a massive Target data breach that may have affected 40 million customers nationwide.

Speaking of fallout, Gov. Chris Christie holds a twohour press conference to deal with the continuing flak from the September 2013 “Bridgegate” fiasco.

Reaction is, to say the least, mixed.

The Nutley Public Library readies a year of special programs marking its centennial.

The Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team, NFL alumni, and 9/11 first responders from New Jesey and the FDNY participate in a “Tribute to Heroes” charity flag football game sponsored by Essex County.

Observer towns are afflicted by Super Bowl fever leading up to the Feb. 2 contest to be held, for the first time, in our own backyard: at the Meadowlands (a/k/a MetLife Stadium).

FEBRUARY 

Hudson County is shocked by the sudden death of Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough, 65, who suffers a massive heart attack in Town Hall on Feb. 12.

As tributes pour in from leaders statewide, a funeral Mass is offered at Holy Cross Church. McDonough, mayor since 1995 and a longtime force in Democratic politics, courted controversy with his endorsement of Republican Gov. Chistie. But he also earned accolades for his continuing efforts to revitalize Harrison through extensive redevelopment, particularly along the waterfront and in the southern end of town, which had been left a nearwasteland after numerous industries closed. The Red Bull stadium and new housing replaced the defunct factories and vacant land and began to transform the community.

On Feb. 25, the Harrison Town Council selects James A. Fife, former Harrison High School principal, to serve out McDonough’s term, which ends Dec. 31.

As our snowy winter continues, and with a blizzard predicted, local towns are burning up the phone lines trying to find a precious commodity: rock salt. Salt piles have been depleted and shipments are tied up on barges at Port Newark and Port Elizabeth.

On Feb. 12-13, that predicted blizzard dumps 15 inches of snow on Kearny — and similar amounts in surrounding towns. According to one report, more snow fell in the two weeks than normally falls in an entire winter.

Accumulated ice and heavy snow have been endangering and damaging buildings around the state. Now, it’s Kearny’s turn: a roof collapses on a four-family residence on Devon St. No one is hurt, but 12 people have to be evacuated.

Restricted space in a basement apartment on Schuyler Ave. challenges Kearny firefighters in their rescue of a 66-year-old man trapped in a bedroom. The victim, Manuel Lampon, dies from his severe burns at St. Barnabas Medical Center later in the month.

A mixed-use development — including offices, light industry, a biotech campus, hotel and residential units — is proposed by developers for the 118-acre Hoffmann- LaRoche property straddling Nutley and Clifton.

For the first time, Harrison middle school students join the international Canstruction program, a combination sculpture challenge and food drive. Also participating is Kearny High School, for the third year in a row.

Kearny releases its 2013 Uniform Crime Report Index, showing a 2.5% decrease in major crimes, representing a 13-year low.

Detective Michael Gonzalez is named Kearny “Police Officer of the Year,” marking the second time he has received that award. He also was honored in 2009.

An Essex County Superior Court judge overturns the Belleville Zoning Board’s approval of a youth center and parking garage that St. Mary & St. Mercurius Coptic Church wanted to build on Academy St. The lawsuit was filed by residents who objected to the construction in a residential neighborhood.

In North Arlington, discussions continue on where to install a 9/11 monument featuring steel beams recovered from the World Trade Center and secured by the Volunteer Fire Department three years ago.

MARCH 

Work continued on a replacement for the Wittpenn (Rt. 7) Bridge linking Kearny and Jersey City (top) and repairs to the Pulaski Skyway (bottom) proceeded with the closing of northbound traffic.

Work continued on a replacement for the Wittpenn (Rt. 7) Bridge linking
Kearny and Jersey City (top) and repairs to the Pulaski Skyway (bottom) proceeded
with the closing of northbound traffic.

 

A proposal by NJ Transit to build a back-up power system in South Kearny threatens to derail the Koppers Coke Peninsula redevelopment plan that was expected to generate big tax ratables for Kearny and Hudson County.

Seven people are displaced by a three-alarm blaze in a home on Dukes ST. in Kearny.

A 10-month multi-agency investigation busts an international carjacking ring based in N.J. and leads to the arrest of 23 people, including an alleged ringleader from Belleville.

Luis Cruz, 44, of Nutley, who pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in the 2011 hit-run death of Belleville pedestrian Jodi DeSoto, is sentenced to five years in prison.

As the snows finally dissipate, public works crews throughout The Observer coverage area are beleagured by the job of filling all those potholes that are plaguing local streets.

Firefighters Michael Janeczko and Andrew O’Donnell are named Kearny Firefighters of the Year for their work at a January 2013 blaze on Devon St.

When the roof on the sixfamily home collapsed, several other firefighters were buried under burning debris. Janeczko and O’Donnell dug them from the rubble and saved their lives.

Belleville says it’s “ready to roll” with an elaborate $2 million school security system.

The Lyndhurst Board of Education alerts parents to the recent appearance of a viral ailment known as the “Fifth Disease” among several local grade-school students.

Kearny police launch an initiative to identify the locations of private security cameras throughout the town and to seek access to the tapes if needed in a criminal investigation. Camera owners will register voluntarily.

Sally Goodson of the American Association of University Women receives the inaugural Nutley Women’s Advocate Award presented by the township Department of Public Affairs.

Kearny reports that it will cost an estimated $15.8 million to revamp the Gunnell Oval recreation complex off Schuyler Ave.

North Arlington announces it has finally decided where to put the 9/11 steel [see February]. The site will be the Schuyler Ave. firehouse, but the cost is uncertain.

Patrons of the Arlington Diner are among many mourning the death of a beloved waitress, Barbara Gangi, 73, who was killed by a car while walking across River Road enroute to the diner. [As of January 2015, flowers and ribbons still mark a lightpole near the diner as a memorial to her.]

Windy weather and dry conditions keep local firefighters busy, combating brush fires in the meadows of Harrison and Kearny, including three blazes in one day.

In Belleville, a four-alarm fire in two multi-family dwellings on Washington Ave. requires response from firefighters from seven towns. All 31 residents are evacuated safely and no injuries are reported.

The Kearny Board of Ed votes in favor of creating a centralized middle school (grades 6, 7 and 8) campus.

Belleville Detectives Matthew Dox, Joseph Mundy and Rafael Reyes are cited by a security-management firm for helping to break a 2013 theft case.

APRIL 

The long-anticipated, and long-dreaded, rehabilitation of the 80-year-old Pulaski Skyway finally begins, bringing with it headaches for motorists, law enforcement, emergency services and businesses. The $1 billion project is expected to take at least two years to complete.

The Kearny Zoning Board approves a plan for construction of a Walgreens Pharmacy and parking lot on Kearny Ave, site of the former Lynn Chevrolet property, and the current Irish Quality Shop.

Small businesses on the old Congoleum-Nairn property on Passaic Ave. prepare to move in advance of the 2015 arrival of a BJ’s Wholesale Club on the site.

Area residents are warned of a new “jury duty” phone scam. Callers identifying themselves as “Sheriff’s Office” employees are threatening call recipients with arrest for allegedly not appearing for jury duty. The unsuspecting targets are told they can make their warrant go away if they pay a fine via credit/debit/money card. It’s all a fraud.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announces that it plans to undertake the most costly public waterway cleanup in its 43-year history: a $1.7 billion project to remove toxic sediment from the lower eight miles of the Passaic River, But plans won’t be finalized until 2015.

Meanwhile: The Kearny High School crew team, with assistance from Belleville and Nutley students, holds its annual Passaic River cleanup, removing 4 to 5 tons of debris from the water and the riverbanks.

The Kearny Board of Ed establishes the Fred Kuhrt Scholarship Fund in honor of the Kearny High School automotive technology teacher who died suddenly in January at age 58.

The Kearny Board of Ed changes its mind about what would constitute a middle school, now looking to merge only grades 7 and 8 — not 6. It also rejects the lone bid received on the already delayed Kearny High School noise abatement project.

In Harrison, Joseph Moscinski is saluted as Firefighter of the Year, and Cory Karas as Police Officer of the Year.

Nutley Police Officer David Strus is recommended for a departmental award for saving the life of a stabbing victim in a Clifton mall.

Parents in North Arlington form “North Arlington Cares About Schools” to press concerns about the state’s standardized- testing policies.

Cub Pack Troop 305 and the Kearny DPW team up for a Riverbank Park tree-planting as part of the annual Arbor Day program.

The Observer family mourns former editor Jeff Bahr of Bloomfield, killed in a motorcycle accident in Pennsylvania at the age of 56.

MAY 

Hoffmann-LaRoche schedules a public meeting to inform residents about plans to clean up its property on the Nutley-Clifton border when it vacates the site.

South Kearny businesses, recovering from the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy, report hopeful progress.

For the fifth year, Kearny turns into one big bargain venue as hundreds of residents and businesses take part in the KUEZ-sponsored townwide yard and sidewalk sale.

After three years of renting space in the former Holy Cross School in Harrison, Lady Liberty Academy — a Newark charter school — announces it is planning to move back to its home base across the river.

A Purple Heart, awarded posthumously to Army Pvt. Wilfred J. Warhurst of Kearny, who was killed Jan. 19, 1945, in Europe during World War II, is returned to the township. The medal had been found in Pennsylvania and was turned over to Purple Hearts Reunited, which contacted the Kearny United Veterans Organization. Since Warhurst had no known living relatives, the medal is donated to the Kearny Museum.

Wilfred Warhurst Purple Heart

Wilfred Warhurst Purple Heart

The Kearny school district reaches out to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to find out how much leeway might be available if the ongoing KHS renovation exceeds the $44 million budget from the P.A., FAA and state DOE.

A state Appellate Court rules that the Town of Harrison has the right to tax both the Red Bull Arena and the land on which it stands.

KHS’ Canstruction project reports it collected a whopping 28,511 cans of food, all of which were distributed to local food pantries.

The state Department of Education assigns a monitor to oversee the Belleville Board of Education’s fiscal operations.

The Bergen County Sheriff’s Office reports the arrest of two suspects in the “jury duty” phone scam reported in The Observer in April. The alleged conspirators are a Georgia corrections officer and an inmate, and authorities say the scam was being run out of a prison in that state.

The highly successful Kearny Community Garden officially opens its second season.

Msgr. John Gilchrist of Kearny, a priest for more than a half-century, is honored in Jersey City as Hudson County’s Senior of the Year.

East Newark residents learn there will be a special question on their Nov. 4 general election ballots: “Should East Newark high school students be sent to Kearny High School instead of Harrison High School?”

Patrick W. Martin is named East Newark school superintendent/ principal.

Nineteen people are left homeless when fire destroys a multi-family residence on Fifth St. in Harrison.

Nutley’s Department of Health and Department of Public Affairs launch a Senior Call program, a concerted effort — including twice-monthly phone calls — to reach out to local senior citizens to offer any assistance they might need, and just to let them know they’re not alone.

With the help of the Peruvian Civic Association, the Kearny Fire Department initiates a new fire safety program with a special seminar for Spanish-speaking residents.

JUNE 

A monument honoring the contributions of the Portuguese- American community to Kearny and other towns is unveiled in Riverbank Park at a dedication ceremony attended by hundreds.

On June 6, America commemorates the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy — the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe.

In Nutley, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs’ D-Day ceremony is held in conjunction with memorial services conducted in England by the Royal British Legion.

Jack Kane, a lifelong resident of Nutley, is elected State Commander at the 95th Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention held in Wildwood.

St. Stephen’s R.C. Church, which is marking the 75th anniversary of its Kearny Ave. building, holds an afternoon of guided tours of the cathedral-like structure.

In North Arlington, it turns out that the debate over placement of the World Trade Center steel beams is not over after all. Cost reportedly is a factor.

Lyndhurst is taking steps to create a safer foot approach to its playing fields off Valley Brook Ave.

The Meritorius Acts Review Board of the KFD holds its first annual awards ceremony honoring both firefighters and civilians. Recipients included Capts. Jerry Coppola and Rod Nardone and FF Dave Russell for their rescue of two Jersey City firemen who were trapped inside a burning Harrison building in 2013. Civilian awards went to David Moran of Moran Towing, Rob Neu of River Terminal Development and Observer correspondent Karen Zautyk [who remains humbled by the honor].

U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker visit a South Kearny Superfund site — the “orphaned” Syncon Resins property — to push for a polluter tax to clean contaminated industrial sites around the nation.

Ten-year-old Miguel Vega of North Arlington is named “Chief for the Day” by the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association and the Sheriff’s Office, is ceremonially sworn in at Town Hall and serves with distinction.

The popular Kearny Farmers Market, sponsored by the KUEZ, returns for another season, but in a new location, moving from the Mandee’s lot to Garfield Ave. between Kearny Ave. and Chestnut St.

The Kearny Board of Ed approves a plan to send all seventh- and eighth-graders to a redesigned Lincoln Middle School for the 2014-15 school year.

JULY 

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission closes its Saw Mill Creek Trail to allow PSE&G to proceed with part of its $907 million Northeast Grid Reliability Project to replace and upgrade its power lines and sub-stations along a 50-mile route stretching from Roseland to Jersey City, including The Observer’s coverage area.

Nearly a year after 40-yearold Belleville resident Dante Cespedes was killed in an avalanche of bullets fired by cops in his Lake St. apartment, an Essex County grand jury is convened to look into the shooting. In early December, the grand jury decides not to bring criminal charges against the cops involved in the fatal shooting.

Kearny’s governing body promotes John View to police lieutenant.

Belleville Board of Education, reeling from an auditor’s preliminary finding that it had overspent more than $4 million during the 2013-14 school year, votes not to rehire 75 non-tenured teachers and 21 non-instructional employees. Belleville Historic Preservation Commission designates the old Dutch Reformed Church building as a local landmark. Later in the year, the church – now owned and used as a worship center by Iglesia Pentecostal LaSenda Antigua – is awarded a $250,000 grant for badly needed restoration work.

The derelict Jeryl Industrial Park, off the Belleville Turnpike in Kearny, is put on the path to a big upgrade with the intervention of a new operator, Ridge Crossing, which begins to demolish many of the 28 buildings on site.

After his 5-year contract as Harrison superintendent of schools expires, James Doran is appointed director of personnel/human resources/ compliance and crisis management at about $200,000 a year – roughly $40,000 less than his superintendent’s pay.

The state awards Kearny $2.5 million in transitional aid plus $500,000 in employees’ pension contribution to soften the 3.74% property tax hit on local property owners. Overall, the average homeowner will pay $244 more in county, school and municipal taxes this year.

The Meadowlands Board of Realtors, which advocated for real estate agents and their customers in West Hudson and South Bergen for 93 years, merges with the Eastern Bergen County Board of Realtors, creating the third largest realtor association in the state.

Thirty-six Kearny youths complete the two-week training course offered by the Kearny Police Department’s Junior Police Academy. They are the academy’s sixth graduating class.

A Newark couple, Mujahideen Abdullah and Jomaris Gonzalez, are arrested in connection with the June 12 killing of a Hackensack livery-cab driver who, police say, was targeted after an argument at a Belleville nightclub.

An estimated 1,000 police motorcyclists escort the funeral cortege of slain Jersey City Police Detective Melvin Santiago July 18 to Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington for burial. Santiago was killed July 13 when he responded to a 911 call at a Jersey City Walgreens.

Review_web4

Three members of the Kearny High Class of 2003 were caught up in an alleged international cyber theft ring. They were: Bryan Caputo (in orange Tshirt), Daniel Petryszyn (blue shirt) and Laurence Brinkmeyer. All await trial.

Three 2003 Kearny High School alumni – Bryan Caputo, Laurence Brinkmeyer and Daniel Petryszyn – are indicted on charges of money laundering and criminal possession of stolen property in connection with what authorities described as an international cyber theft ring that allegedly accessed more than 1,600 user accounts on StubHub.

The state Department of Environmental Protection re-issues a warning to anglers not to catch or eat blue club crabs from the lower Passaic River, which runs through parts of North Arlington, Lyndhurst, Kearny, Nutley, Belleville, East Newark and Harrison, because they can cause cancer.

A Union City truck driver is charged with vehicular homicide in connection with a N.J. Turnpike crash that killed Kearny’s Jeffrey Humphrey, 43, brother of Kearny Library Director Josh Humphrey.

An effort by the Belleville Board of Education to fire middle school math teacher Michael Mignone, head of the teachers’ union, fails when an arbitrator dismisses 12 of 13 tenure “conduct unbecoming” charges against Mignone but imposes a 30-day suspension for a privacy invasion complaint.

AUGUST 

Nutley launches “Celebrating America – Celebrating Nutley,” providing residents a perspective on local history on Nutley’s role on the national stage.

Kearny Fire Department gets another superior officer as the town governing body appoints Fire Capt. Michael Kartanowicz.

Kearny’s J.E. Frobisher Jr. American Legion Post 99 celebrates its 95th birthday.

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office upgrades charges against a Belleville man to murder in an alleged assault on his roommate. Police say Edwin Andujar, 49, allegedly stabbed Thomas Parent, 59, in the stomach and back at a Wallace St. residence on Aug. 7.

Kearny Fire Department’s fireboat, acquired in May 2013, responds to its first alarm of fire on Aug. 15, assisting boats from Newark Fire Department and N.J. State Police in knocking down a smoky fire under the Pulaski Skyway. Fires also erupt Aug. 4 at the Portal Bridge and Sept. 2 at the PATH span.

A Belleville pharmacist is one of 16 individuals charged as alleged conspirators in a scheme to fraudulently obtain and distribute oxycodone. Federal prosecutors listed Vincent Cozzarelli, 77, owner of Rossmore Pharmacy on Washington Ave., as the accused druggist. The case remains under review by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Finance Officer Walter Tomasheski (l.) and Commander Keith McMillan mark the 95th anniversary of the J. E. Frobisher Jr. American Legion Post 99 of Kearny.

Finance Officer Walter Tomasheski (l.) and Commander Keith McMillan mark
the 95th anniversary of the J. E. Frobisher Jr. American Legion Post 99 of Kearny.

 

Hudson County Improvement Authority designates The Morris Companies as the prospective developer of the old 138-acre Koppers Coke redevelopment site in Kearny. Both sides are still negotiating a sale/purchase agreement for the parcel.

Nutley closes DeMuro Park several days to conduct a “fogging” experiment – spraying an aerosol, Methyl Anthranilate, to rid the park of an overabundance of starlings.

Belleville veterans’ advocate Joseph T. Fornarotto dies Aug. 25 at age 88. As the owner of Joe’s Lunch in the 1950s, he came to know Francesco “Frankie” Castelluccio, better known now as Frankie Vallie of The Four Seasons. A one-term Township Commissioner and a former Essex County employee, Fornarotto was a U.S. Navy veteran who later served as a founding member and commander of Disabled American Veterans Belleville/Nutley Chapter 22. In 2009, he was named Belleville Man of the Year at the Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade. Essex County plans to install a memorial plaque honoring Fornarotto in the veterans’ section of Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield in the spring.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan to do a bank-to-bank and cap cleanup of the Lower Passaic River, from Newark Bay to the Newark/Belleville border at a cost pegged at $1.78 billion is challenged by the Cooperating Parties Group, which has accepted responsibility for the cleanup. The EPA is still working on a final draft of its plan.

SEPTEMBER 

West Hudson Arts & Theater Co. (W.H.A.T.) moves to a new home, from the former St. Stephen’s School on Midland Ave. to First Lutheran Church on Oakwood Ave.

The U.S. Postal Service and FBI undertake a criminal investigation into a Sept. 4 incident at the Logistics & Distribution Center on Harrison Ave. which was evacuated after a postal employee reportedly found a container dropped in a postal hamper with the word “Ebola” written on it.

A second hotel opens in Harrison: the 138-room Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide’s Element Harrison just steps from the PATH station.

Occupancy of a Grand Place house in Kearny by Valentine House, a substance abuse recovery group, angers neighbors who call on town officials to shut it down. The town takes the owner and lessor to court, alleging that they are operating an illegal rooming house in a one-family residential zone. The occupants have left but Valentine House has vowed to defend its right to be there.

The new Element Harrison hotel opened.

The new Element Harrison hotel opened.

Kearny Town Council approves a three-year redevelopment agreement with DVL Kearny Holdings to redevelop a Passaic Ave. shopping mall with BJ’s Wholesale Club as its anchor tenant. DVL is in the process of demolishing the old Congoleum-Nairn factory building to clear the way for new construction.

Holy Cross Church in Harrison reports the theft of a sacred relic, believed to be a piece of the original Cross of Christ from Jerusalem that has been in the church’s keeping since its founding in Harrison in 1886. It is recovered, undamaged, less than two weeks later, by Port Authority police patrolling PA property in Harrison.

Goodwill Industries in Harrison partners with Palisades Regional Academy, which serves students in grades 6 to 12 with serious learning and behavioral disabilities.

OCTOBER 

Perkins Family Restaurant & Bakery closes its doors after seven years at the Valley Brook Ave. mall next to Town Hall in Lyndhurst. It’s the second retailer in the mall to fold. A Mandee shop shut more than a year ago.

Nutley Boy Scout Scott Bolton Jr. is feted as a “Scout in Action” for intervening on Sept. 9 when a 16-year-old boy weighing 180 pounds attacked an 8-year-old girl on a school bus with a key and then tried to jump out the emergency door onto Rt. 23. Scott restrained the boy until the bus pulled over and then helped a female bus aide hold onto the boy when he tried to run into traffic until police and an ambulance arrived.

For several days, calls to the Belleville Board of Education are answered by a voice message that says phone service has been suspended due to a “non-payment.” It’s part of a dispute between the vendor, Clarity Technologies, and the district’s state monitor which culminated with the district replacing Clarity with a new communications vendor.

Lyndhurst Mayor and retired Deputy Police Chief Robert Giangeruso is dislodged as the township’s public safety director in the aftermath of several lawsuits alleging his interference with the management of the Police Department. Public Affairs Commissioner John Montillo takes over public safety and, four weeks later, Montillo presides at the promotions of seven cops: Capt. Patrick Devlin, Lts. Robert Nicol, John Kerner and Michael Failace; and Sgts. Kevin Breslin, Donna Niland and Richard Pizzuti.

Improvements to the Lyndhurst approach to the DeJessa Memorial Bridge begin at the Kingsland and Riverside Ave. intersections where commuter tie-ups occur regularly. Officials blame badly synchronized lights, off and on the bridge, plus insufficient capacity on a 100-year-old bridge with only one lane in each direction. Later in the year, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority earmarks a $750,000 grant to determine the best alternative for fixing or replacing the bridge.

The Walmart on Harrison Ave. in Kearny has become a big security headache as Kearny PD reports it is closing in on 400 responses this year to the retail store and has already logged 113 arrests there – not just for shoplifting but many for outstanding warrants from other communities.

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office reports an apparent murder-suicide in Belleville on Oct. 17. Police believe John Sykes, 47, fatally shot Felicia Hunt, 23, and himself at a New St. residence.

Kearny veterans groups hold an Octoberfest to raise money for “care packages” for National Guard troops.

A 16-year-old Kearny boy arrested on a receiving stolen property charge is released to his guardian at the recommendation of the county juvenile intake unit but the next day, the youth is arrested again, this time on a robbery charge. It marks the boy’s 50th “encounter” with the KPD since June 2010 when he was 13, according to Chief John Dowie. His history of charges includes armed robbery with a firearm, theft, aggravated assault and terroristic threats.

East Newark concludes legal wrangling over a sexual harassment suit filed in 2013 by a former civilian police dispatcher against a then-borough police superior. It agrees to pay $101,000 to settle the litigation and to pay more than $90,000 in fees and costs to the plaintiff’s lawyers. The superior, Sgt. Robert Tomasko, has since accepted a voluntary demotion to police officer.

Sgt. Donna Niland is one of seven Lyndhurst cops promoted, about a month after Mayor Robert Giangeruso is shifted, from public safety director to public affairs director.

Sgt. Donna Niland is one of seven Lyndhurst cops promoted, about a month
after Mayor Robert Giangeruso is shifted, from public safety director to public affairs director.

 

 

NOVEMBER 

Frank Ferraro resigns as Kearny superintendent of schools, after the Board of Education approves a settlement agreement that gives Ferraro about $70,000, representing four months’ pay.

A woman who worked as a receptionist at a Kearny medical office pleads guilty to embezzling nearly $500,000 from her employer and using fake credit cards to make more than $200,000 in personal purchases. Gwendolyn Muller, 53, reportedly a former Kearny resident, faces sentencing in February.

Kearny police stop providing security at scholastic sports and other school-related events after the Board of Education says it can’t afford to pay newly raised off-duty pay rates for cops.

A federal judge grants the government’s request to put off the trial of Kearny’s John Leadbeater for allegedly taking part in a conspiracy to defraud banks of $13 million in mortgage proceeds for three months, to March 2, after federal prosecutors designate the matter as a “complex case,” necessitating more prep time. Harrison attorney Al Cifelli, a county freeholder and Harrison tax assessor, is honored as Knight of the Year by the Harrison Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Grace Council 402. Election results: It’s a clean sweep for the GOP in North Arlington as voters oust North Arlington Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat – along with his council running mates Mark Yampaglia and Daniel Castro – in favor of GOP Mayor-elect Joseph Bianchi and council candidates Daniel Pronti and Kerry Cruz, giving the Republicans a 4-2 majority on Jan. 1. The GOP also get to pick someone to fill part of Bianchi’s unexpired term on the council. In Harrison, interim Mayor James Fife, a Democrat, beats Republican challenger Eric Brachman by a more than 2-1 margin. Democratic council incumbents (Jesus Huaranga, Laurence Bennett and James Doran in the First, Third and Fourth Wards) faced no opposition; in the Second Ward, incumbent Democrat Anselmo Millan defeated independent Ramon Rodriguez. And, in East Newark, borough residents voted 157-52, in a non-binding referendum, that they’d prefer to send their kids to high school in Kearny, not Harrison – where they’ve gone for more than a century.

Two Newark men – Jonathan Fontenot and Terrence Morris, both 26 – are killed in an accident on Rt. 21 South in Belleville after a tractortrailer collides with two passenger cars on Nov. 3.

Voters chose Republican Joseph Bianchi (l.) as mayor of North Arlington and Democrat James Fife as mayor of Harrison.

Voters chose Republican Joseph Bianchi (l.) as mayor of North
Arlington and Democrat James Fife as mayor of Harrison.

Nutley Irish American Association selects Charles E. O’Mara as grand marshal for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March. Ann E. Morris is deputy grand marshal, Joe Milbauer is Member of the Year and Diandra Kelly is 2015 Parade Queen.

Mace Bros. Fine Furniture, which has done retail business at in Kearny for 62 years at Oakwood and Kearny Aves., announces it is closing.

Monument Park in Kearny gets a new addition: a memorial to the military victims in the War on Terrorism. It is dedicated at the town’s annual Veterans’ Day ceremony. The new monument, designed by Thomas J. Goffredo of the North Arlington firm, Thomas Meloro & Son, which crafted the stone, bears the name of Staff Sgt. Edward Karolasz, a Kearny soldier killed in Iraq nine years ago at age 25.

Newest addition to Kearny’s Monument Park is a memorial to the War on Terrorism and honoring Staff Sgt. Edward Karolasz, whose mother Krystyna Karolasz (c.), and sister Kristine Lancha (l.) and Donna Kornas attended the dedication.

Newest addition to Kearny’s Monument Park is a memorial to the War on Terrorism and honoring Staff Sgt. Edward Karolasz, whose mother Krystyna Karolasz (c.), and sister Kristine Lancha (l.) and Donna Kornas attended the dedication.

Nutley senior citizen Ernesta Fernandez is killed after being struck by a hit-and-run driver on Centre St. on Nov. 15. The Prosecutor’s Office have reportedly located the driver but no charges have as yet been filed.

A three-alarm fire displaces 90 occupants of a 41-unit, five-story brick apartment building at 425 Beech St. in Kearny on Nov. 23. One woman is rescued from a fire escape and many cats are also saved.

An intoxicated Newark man commandeers an excavator at a construction site in West Hudson Park in the Harrison section of the park and begins driving home, running over some park property and a parked car in the process on Nov. 14.

A kitchen fire on Nov. 15 forces the temporary closure of a popular E. Passaic Ave. pub, the Old Canal Inn, in Nutley. The owners have vowed to reopen as soon as repairs are done.

After finally adopting a 2014 municipal budget, North Arlington officials say the spending blueprint will account for an 8% increase in the local tax rate for municipal purposes or about $254 more on the “average” tax bill. When school and county contributions are included, that bill will reflect an overall increase of $268, officials say.

Nutley’s Department of Public Affairs is creating a “Wall of American Honor” to feature images (photos, sketches, portraits) of all township veterans from 1776 on.

Three Kearny residents are rescued from a second-floor front porch roof during a Nov. 20 house fire at 47 Beech St. The trapped residents – two women and a man – are taken away safely by Firefighters Victor Girdwood and Ron Protokowicz, also credited with saving a dog hiding in a first-floor apartment.

A lottery for 15 affordable senior apartments at the newly completed Harrison Senior Residence is held by the developer, Domus Corp. Close to 150 people apply to be on the list. Domus hopes to have the list of finalists screened shortly.

Residents of North Arlington, Lyndhurst and Bloomfield are among 31 individuals arrested in seven counties during a Nov. 23 pre-dawn sweep by 26 law enforcement agencies targeting an estimated $1 million narcotics trade involving heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Agents confiscate 518 bricks of heroin, with an estimated street value of $300,000, eight pounds of marijuana valued at $40,000 and $50,000 in cash.

 

A Bayonne man helped solve the mystery of the missing headstone for Kearny’s Theodore Zetterlund.

A Bayonne man helped solve
the mystery of the missing
headstone for Kearny’s Theodore
Zetterlund.

 

DECEMBER 

Nutley PD holds a public workshop to heighten residents’ awareness of how they can take steps to protect their vehicles from break-ins and thefts, prevent wallets or purses from being snatched, use ATMs safely and teach their children how to keep themselves safe.

Two Kearny teens are charged with arson in connection with a fire that gutted a single-family house on Garfield Ave. at the corner of Elm St. on Nov. 10.

A Bayonne tire dealer, Bruce Dillin, helps solve the mystery of why the headstone of Theodore Zetterlund, a Kearny butcher/grocer killed by a would-be robber some 79 years ago, was missing until its discovery by Dillin in the Kearny meadows in May 2014. After much travail, Dillin recovered the headstone and – with help from a Kearny cop friend, an environmentalist with the N.J. Turnpike Authority and John Burns of John Burns Memorials – arranges for its placement at Zetterlund’s gravesite in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.

Kearny Councilwoman Alex Arce announces she is stepping down from her council seat Jan. 5 – with two years remaining in her three-year term – because she’s expecting her first child soon.

Members of Local 3, Building Construction Laborers of North Jersey, picket demolition work at the Passaic Ave. mall site being redeveloped by DVL Kearny Holdings.

Belleville High School science teacher Joy Alfano is recognized as a 2014 Voya Unsung Hero. She’s one one of 100 teachers feted nationwide by Voya Financial to honor innovative teaching methods.

North Arlington will get $275,000 this year and $50,000 next year in a settlement of litigation with the Passaic Valley Water Commission. The borough and PVWC had differences over issues such as the payment of permit fees, police security at job sites and advance notice on proposed water rate hikes.

Silver Lake Baptist Church in Belleville marks its 100th anniversary. It was founded as the First Italian Baptist Church of Belleville to serve the area’s Italianspeaking population.

Harrison retains a Bloomfield law firm, Pearlman & Miranda, for up to $100,000 to defend the town’s right to tax Red Bull for its land and stadium. Both sides are awaiting a review of the longstanding tax case by members of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Mazur’s Bakery, a landmark store on Ridge Road in Lyndhurst, reopens under new ownership: the Sugarflake Bakery Chain, operating in Westwood, Wyckoff and Fair Lawn.

The state Department of Environmental Protection announces a $190 million settlement with Occidental Chemical Corp. to resolve the company’s liability for contamination of the Passaic River. The money will be applied to efforts to clean up the river.

Two armed robbers invade the Radio Shack on Main St. in Belleville on Dec. 21, bind three employees and pistolwhip one before fleeing, slamming a township patrol car as they go.

Belleville Board of Education, still awaiting the final results of an audit on how much it overspent during the 2013- 2014 school year, votes to spend more than $3 million for infrastructure technology and phone upgrades.

Catch basin repairs completed

inlets_web

NORTH ARLINGTON – 

Eighteen crumbling storm water inlets around the borough have been rebuilt, Borough Council President Al Granell said.

Granell said the inlets were in gross disrepair and required fixing to capture rainwater and melting ice and snow and carry it to storm sewers.

“These repairs, identified some months ago as priority improvements that needed to be made, and they were recently completed,” Granell said. “Reconstructing these storm water inlets will improve public safety and quality of life for our residents.”

Some of the inlets were in such bad shape that they were collapsing or at risk of collapsing soon and their ineffectiveness caused backups, allowing water to pond in the streets, creating flooding conditions and – in winter – an ice hazard, he said.

“With the heavy downpours we have been experiencing in recent years and the heavy snows, it was imperative to get this project done before the winter really hits us, and we did,” Granell said.

The borough used $85,000 in local funds to pay Jo-Med Contracting Corp. of Elizabeth for the project, which included repairing curbs and sidewalks and small road repairs around the inlets. It took about two weeks to complete the work.

Those inlets that were rebuilt are: one near 150 Prospect Ave., three on Arlington Blvd., two on Park Ave., one at Wesley and Morgan Places, one near 45 Devon St., one near 113 Jason Way, one near 2 Webster St., two on Hendel Ave., one at 134 River Road, one at Locust and Riverview Aves., one near 246 Prospect Ave. and all inlets along Riverview and Lincoln Aves.

Foot issues? A podiatrist at your service

By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent

NORTH ARLINGTON – 

When Dr. Paul Latora, a podiatrist, was 20, he’d pretty much made up his mind he was going to school to become a pharmacist. But one day that year, he discovered he had a wart on one of his toes.

When he went to the podiatrist to get it removed, he knew, fairly quickly, that he no longer wanted to be a pharmacist – instead, he developed a fascination for the foot, and wanted to go to medical school to become a podiatrist.

And that’s exactly what he did.

“I never had had thoughts of going to medical school at the time,” Latora said. “I was going to pharmacy school – no question. But it all changed pretty quickly after the incredible treatment I received for the wart. The rest is history.”

And indeed it is.

Because Latora is now celebrating 25 years as one of the area’s most noted and well-liked foot docs.

Latora has been in his current office location for the last 15 years in North Arlington, preceded by 10 years in another locale in the borough.

“I’ve loved every minute of that time,” he said. “This is such a wonderful community to serve.”

But just what does a podiatrist do?

Many think of the podiatrist as the doctor to go to when you’ve got an ingrown toenail. Yet Latora says he (and others in his profession) do so much more.

“Some of the more common issues I deal with include heel pain, fungus on the toenail, infections, diabetic sores, sprains, strains, bunions (and) hammer toes,” Latora said. “I do see diabetics often, as well. And diabetics should see a podiatrist at least twice a year because of the potential ailments they could face.”

So in reality, Latora handles all facets of podiatry which, in New Jersey, also means he does ankle work. (Ankle work doesn’t fall under podiatry in every state).

In addition to his private practice, Latora is also Director of Podiatry at the Columbus Hospital Wound Center, Newark, a a position to which he was appointed on Oct. 1.

Latora’s North Arlington office is located at 312 Belleville Turnpike, Suite 1B. He can be reached by phone at 201- 998-3668. Visit his website at www.drlatorafootdoctor.com. Office hours are are: Mondays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Calls are answered 24 hours a day as needed. (Latora also has an office in Paramus that operates two days a week – see his website for details).

Cardoso calls for anti-speeding remedy

stops_web

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

A First Ward lawmaker is pressing for four-way stops as a safety measure at several Highland Ave. intersections in Kearny.

But that’s something that won’t happen overnight, if at all.

At a recent Town Council meeting, Councilman Albino Cardoso said that residents had approached him with concerns about drivers speeding, both along and across Highland, one of the town’s north-south arteries.

As examples of some of the more egregious intersections where cars tend not to stop, Cardoso mentioned Afton St., Quincy Ave. and Patterson St.

He also said he’s looking at the entrance to West Hudson Park at Woodland Ave. and N. Fifth St. where, he added, “the traffic coming down Devon St. (toward the park) is going very fast and there’s been a history of accidents. We’ve got to look at what the accident rate is.”

One of the lawmaker’s constituents, Eddie Guerreiro, who has lived near the corner of Highland and Patterson for the past 15 years, agrees that something needs to be done at that location to put drivers on notice instead of watching them sail through the intersection.

“I saw a couple of accidents here at night,” Guerreiro said. Those incidents resulted from cars speeding – east and westbound – on Patterson through Highland, he said.

Currently, there are two stop signs at the intersection, at the northeast and southwest corners.

For motorists proceeding east and west, the visibility at the intersection is bad, especially if cars are parked near the corner, further blocking the view, said Guerreiro.

Morning and afternoon rush-hours become even more of a safety concern, Guerreiro said, “when you’ve got kids from Washington School walking to and from school.”

And, on the north side of the intersection, he added, there’s the Scots-American Club, which draws crowds on weekends, in particular.

Another neighbor, who lives across the street from Guerreiro, said that the existing stop signs aren’t much help.

“People don’t really stop,” he said, “and if they do, they’re already way out into the intersection. I’m guilty of it, too, at times. And it’s all day long. Like with some of the little cars coming up Patterson, the drivers see an incline as they approach the intersection so they give it more gas.”

But maybe a four-way stop would at least prod drivers to pay more attention, the resident said. “Any little bit helps.”

Conditions are “even worse” along Afton St., Cardoso said, particularly on the one-way stretch between Maple St. and Belgrove Dr. where there’s no stop sign and cars push on through.

A check of Kearny Police Department records showed there have been a total of three accidents at Highland and Patterson between 2011 and 2014, three accidents at Highland and Afton during that same period, and six accidents at Highland and Quincy over the past four years, according to research by Sgt. John Taylor of the Traffic Division.

Asking for – and getting – four-way stop signs at designated locations are two different things, Taylor pointed out.

Local police departments are guided in such matters by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), administered by the Federal Highway Administration, which “defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices … including road markings, highway signs and traffic signals … on all public streets ….”

A four-way stop can be implemented, Taylor said, only if certain traffic conditions are met, as per the MUTCD:

“Multi-way stop control is used where the volume of traffic on the intersecting roads is approximately equal.

“The decision to install multi-way stop control should be based on an engineering study.”

The manual says that among the criteria that “should be considered” in undertaking such a study are: whether “five or more reported crashes in a 12-month period” have occurred at a given intersection, whether the vehicular volume entering the intersection from the major street approaches “averages at least 300 vehicles per hour for any eight hours of an average day” and the “combined vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle volume” entering the intersection from the minor street approaches “averages at least 200 units per hour for the same eight hours.”

Other criteria that can trigger the study include whether “… a road user, after stopping, cannot see conflicting traffic and is not able to negotiate the intersection unless conflicting cross traffic is also required to stop” or whether the proposed sign would be located at “an intersection of two residential neighborhood collector (through) streets of similar design and operating characteristics where multi-way stop control would improve traffic [flow].”

around town

Bloomfield 

Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., announces the following programs:

  • The library presents its version of the traditional Italian legend of LaBefana with interactive storytelling, live musicians, singers and dancers, and more on Sunday, Jan. 11, at 2 p.m. Befana, like Santa Claus, delivers gifts to children on Epiphany Eve (Jan. 5). Children receive gifts from both Befana and Santa Claus. Reservations are required.
  • Book Club meets Jan. 5 at 6:45 p.m. to discuss “Riders of the Purple Sage” by Zane Grey. • Midday Movies are screened Mondays and Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. Here’s January’s schedule: Jan. 5 – “Sunset Boulevard,” Jan. 8 – “The Giver”; Jan. 12 – “Million Dollar Arm,” Jan. 15 – “Selma, Lord, Selma,” Jan. 22 – “Chef,” Jan. 26 – “Winter’s Tale” and Jan. 29 – “Dolphin Tale.”
  • Storytimes resume Jan. 12. Days and times will remain the same: Baby and Me, for ages up to 18 months, is offered on Thursdays at 11 a.m.; Toddler Time, open to ages 19 to 36 months, is held Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 a.m. Registration is not required unless otherwise noted. To register or for more information, call the library at 973- 566-6200.

Kearny 

Kearny UNICO is sponsoring a bus trip to the Tropicana Casino on Sunday, Jan. 25. The cost is $30 with $25 in slot play back from the casino. The trip leaves from American Legion Post 99, 314 Belgrove Drive, at 8:30 a.m. Refreshments will be served inside the hall beginning at 7:30 a.m. To purchase tickets or for more information, contact Chapter President Lou Pandolfi at either 201-368-2409 or lpandolfi@ verizon.net.

Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., will screen the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PG-13/101 mins.) on Friday, Jan. 2, at 2 p.m. Popcorn and light refreshments will be served. Admission is free. For more information on any of the library’s programs, call the library at 201-998-2666 or visit www.kearnylibrary.org.

West Hudson Arts and Theater, 65 Oakwood Ave., announces the following auditions: “Father of the Bride” on Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 5 and 6, 7 to 9 p.m. each night, and early bird auditions for the June production of “Grease” on Sunday, Jan. 11, 3 to 5 p.m. each day, and Monday, Jan. 12, 5 to 7 p.m. Visit www.whatco.org for more information.

Lyndhurst 

The N.J. Meadowlands Commission hosts a New Year’s Day Nature Walk with the Bergen County Audubon Society at Mill Creek Marsh in Secaucus, Thursday, Jan. 1, 10 a.m. to noon. This event is free and open to all ages. To R.S.V.P., contact Don Torino of the BCAS at greatauk4@gmail. com or call 201-230-4983.

The NJMC’s First-Sunday-of- the Month Nature Walk with the BCAS is set for Sunday, Jan. 4, starting at the Meadowlands Environment Center at 10 a.m. (directions are on meadowblog.net in the left-hand column.) This free two-hour guided walk in DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst and nearby Disposal Road features raptors and waterfowl. Participants are asked to sign a standard liability release that is good for NJMC/ BCAS events throughout the year. To R.S.V.P., contact Don Torino of the BCAS at greatauk4@ gmail.com or 201-230- 4983.

Registration is recommended and appreciated. Lyndhurst Health Department announces:

  • Flu vaccine is available for township residents. Call 201-804-2500 for an appointment. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older receive a yearly flu vaccine.
  • Rabies Clinics are set for Thursdays, Jan. 8 and 15, at the Community Center on Riverside Ave. (behind the Little League fields), 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Township residents can also license their dogs and cats at these clinics. Licensing deadline is Jan. 31. Call the Health Department for more information.

Sacred Heart Home-School Association, 620 Valley Brook Ave., hosts its annual Tricky Tray on Friday, Jan. 16. Tickets are $10. No one under age 18 will be admitted. Doors open at 6 p.m. Each ticket includes one sheet for first level prizes, coffee/tea and dessert. For tickets and information, call the school office at 201-939-4277 or Patty at 201-803-9580. Ticket deadline is Jan. 6. No tickets will be sold at the door.

Knights of Columbus Council 2396 sponsors a Tricky Tray Friday, Jan. 16, at the Senior Center, 250 Cleveland Ave. The $15 admission includes coffee plus one prize sheet of tickets. No alcohol is permitted. No tickets will be sold at the door. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, call Steve Cortese at 201-657-0800 or Sal Russo at 201-446-7244.

North Arlington 

American Legion Alexander Stover Post 37 meets on Monday, Jan. 5, at 8 p.m. at the VFW hall, 222 River Road. For more information, call 201-214- 8253.

Tax break for S. Kearny industrial park

Tax_web

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY –

Still operating in Sandyrecovery mode, South Kearny’s Industrial Park is looking to take a giant step forward, now that the town is poised to grant what’s likely to be the first of several tax abatements to develop the 120-acre property.

At a special session held Dec. 16, the mayor and Town Council voted to introduce an ordinance to enter into a financial agreement with KPIP Urban Renewal 1 LLC, a subsidiary of RTL Services, for 78 John Miller Way on the east side of Central Ave. off the Hackensack River. The ordinance was expected to be adopted Dec. 29.

Although RTL plans to construct seven or eight new buildings on its site, the proposed abatement would, at present, be limited to its 4-story, 207,764 square foot Heller Way headquarters which will be partitioned into eight “commercial condominium units” targeted for lease to small businesses.

One of those units, for which 72,326 square feet of space is allocated, “will be immediately renovated” for use by Hugo Neu Recycling Co. which will be relocating from Mt. Vernon, N.Y.

Although the owner currently has no other signed leases, KPIP CFO/Principal Steve Nislick told the town governing body earlier this month that he was confident that the owners will have no trouble finding tenants for the other condo units.

Reportedly, KPIP is very close to locking in two prospective tenants: a gourmet bakery and a storefront window glass manufacturer. Other possible occupants include technology companies, post-secondary schools, food companies and a roof-top restaurant.

As many as 300 new jobs could be generated from this flex-space accommodation in what has been designated as “Building 78,” KPIP has predicted.

Kearny currently collects nearly $67,000 a year in nonabated taxes for the property.

But, under an abatement formula keyed to $1.50 per square foot (escalating 2% each year) or 14% of gross revenue, whichever is greater, the town would receive close to $300,000 as its first annual PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) when the building is fully renovated.

The PILOT agreement would continue for 30 years, at which point, the property would revert to full taxation.

As the rest of the industrial park is developed, if KPIP wanted to extend that PILOT arrangement, the owner would have to reapply for a new abatement agreement, Mayor Alberto Santos said. “Each application would be considered on its merits.”

Why a PILOT to begin with? A narrative attached to the financial agreement explains that, “In the current real estate marketplace, the rents likely to be achieved by this project are not sufficient to pay for the costs of construction and the payment of full taxes.”

But granting an abatement will allow the owner “to make a return on his investment that is sufficient to both warrant the risk and to convince the lending markets to provide the construction and permanent financing required by the project.”

And because Kearny believes it can absorb the cost of municipal services associated with the project even under an abated tax arrangement, “the town believes that it is in its interest to provide the necessary incentive that will cause the project to be constructed. Since the formulas used in the financial agreement provide for growth in the amounts to be paid over time, the town expects the project will continue to make payments that are greater than the costs [for municipal services] to be incurred.”

A full build-out of the entire 120-acre property is projected to take five to seven years, according to one person familiar with the project.

In the meantime, since the industrial park site is not linked to a mass transit connection, Santos said that KPIP is working with NJ Transit to try and arrange a shuttle bus service that would connect to Transit’s Light Rail station at West Side and Claremont Aves., Jersey City.

Additionally, KPIP is hoping that NJ Transit will consider a possible extension of the Light Rail to a station stop near the Hackensack River terminus. NJ Transit has looked at the possibility of extending the Light Rail from the West Side terminus to a Rt. 440 location, also on Jersey City’s West Side, which could provide a jumping off point for a spur line a bit further west.

$$ to flow into Passaic

settlements

Acting N.J. Attorney General John J. Hoffman and state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin last week announced the approval of a $190 million settlement with Occidental Chemical Corp. to resolve the company’s liability for contamination of the Passaic River.

Approved by Superior Court Judge Sebastian P. Lombardi on Dec. 16, the settlement is the third and final one in the Passaic River litigation, a series of agreements in which the state obtained costs and damages from multiple parties responsible for polluting the river.

Altogether, the state has recovered $355.4 million from the litigation, over and above the cost of remediation.

“The Occidental settlement . . . along with the two Passaic River litigation settlements that preceded it represents a tremendous victory for the citizens of New Jersey,” Hoffman said.

“As a result of these three settlements,” he added, “not only will the Passaic River be cleaned up at no cost to New Jersey taxpayers, but the state also has recovered more than $150 million that it expended over many years of exhaustive legal and environmental effort to clean up the river.”

Among other terms, the Occidental settlement calls for $50 million of the payment to fund natural resource restoration projects in and around the Newark Bay Complex. A total of $67.4 million from all Passaic River settlements will be dedicated to such projects.

Occidental Chemical is a legal successor to the Diamond Shamrock Chemicals Co., which was found to have intentionally dumped hazardous pollutants, including dioxin, into the Passaic from its plant on Lister Ave. in Newark in the 1950s and ‘60s. The factory, in the Ironbound section of the city, was located on the river, directly across from the Harrison meadows area.

“Cleaning up the lower Passaic River is a top environmental priority for New Jersey, one that is vital to the health and safety of people who live and work along the river and who have long had to bear the burden of this pollution,’’ Martin said.

The commissioner said the state will continue to work with the federal Environmental Protection Agency “to get this cleanup project started as soon as possible.”

The EPA has proposed a $1.7 billion plan for cleanup of the lower eight miles of the river — the portion that flows past Nutley, Belleville, Lyndhurst, North Arlington, Kearny, East Newark and Harrison.

Under a federal law known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), it is possible the agency could call on New Jersey to bear a 10% share of the cleanup cost, Hoffman’s office noted.

However, as part of the Occidental settlement, the corporation reportedly agreed to cover the state’s share, if assessed.

“In short, the Occidental and other settlement payments are above and beyond the funds used to clean up the Passaic River,” Hoffman said. “That is, the responsible parties will clean up the river at their own expense, while the state will receive a total of $355 million, plus a guarantee to cover any costs to the state in the unlikely event those cleanup costs are assessed under CERCLA.”

The amount of Occidental’s guarantee is between $210 million and $400 million and is dependant upon on the outcome of the company’s indemnification claims against other original defendants in the Passaic River litigation.

Occidental also has assumed responsibility for any future state cleanup costs at the Newark Lister Ave. site and future costs within the Newark Bay Complex — provided these are related to the discharges from the Newark plant, Hoffman’s office reported.

– Karen Zautyk 

Belleville board borrows more

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent 

BELLEVILLE – 

The already fiscally strapped Belleville Board of Education has committed to borrowing more than $3 million for technology upgrades.

By a 3-2 vote, with one abstention, on Dec. 15, the board agreed to enter into a lease purchase transaction that will “finance the acquisition of infrastructure technology, servers and a phone system,” according to the resolution it adopted.

Voting for the measure were Board Vice President Jeanne Lombardi, Peter Zangari Jr. and Raymond Kuebler; Lillian Torres abstained; and Board President John Rivera and William Freda opposed it.

“I just didn’t have enough information to vote ‘yes,’ ’’ Rivera told The Observer last week. He said state monitor Thomas Egan brought the lease-purchase proposal to the board without any advance notice, so the board had no opportunity to review it.

The resolution says that on the advice of bond counsel McManimon, Scotland & Baumann LLC, the board is accepting a bid by U.S. Bancorp Government Leasing and Finance as the “purchaser/ lessor” at an annual interest rate of 2.189% for a principal amount not to exceed $3,323,512 which is repayable over five years.

Proceeds from the sale of the lease “shall be applied to pay costs to acquire and to install the equipment and pay the costs of entering into the lease.”

Egan told The Observer that the financial arrangement is being done “under state contract” and will allow the district “to replace and improve its internet and technological infrastructure in order to make it ready for the [state-mandated] PARCC [Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College & Careers] testing scheduled for March.

“Without this equipment replacement, the district would not be ready for the PARCC,” Egan said. The new equipment’s acquisition and installation will be overseen by Pro Media Technology Services of Little Falls and “is being purchased on state contract.”

Egan said the old equipment “could not support the wireless technology” needed to facilitate the administering of the testing.

Egan said there is a “phone component” to the new technology that will “enable telephone data transmissions, servers and streaming to run more efficiently.”

Pro Media was initially brought into the district over the Labor Day weekend after the district’s internal phone system and computers crashed and, ultimately, the communications services being supplied through Clarity Technologies Group of Mine Hill were discontinued.

Previously retained to install an elaborate school security system for $1.9 million, Clarity in 2013 also received two other contracts: one for $10,000 per month for phone service and another for $20,000 per month to provide IT support. The board has retained certain payments from Clarity and both parties are in arbitration over how much Clarity is owed. At the monitor’s urging, the board has discontinued its IT contract with the vendor.

Meanwhile, the board continues to await the findings of an audit to determine exactly how much it overspent during the 2013-2014 school year. A preliminary assessment by Egan is that the district ended the school year on June 30 more than $4 million in the red. It was the discovery of the spending lapse that led to the monitor’s arrival in May.

In other business at the Dec. 15 meeting, the proposed appointments of Dave Joisil and Saul Escobar as teachers of health and physical education at Belleville Middle School were pulled at the direction of Acting Superintendent Ricardo Acosta after questions were raised about the selection process, Rivera said. “We’re going to do it over again.”

Also, of the 44 people who responded to the district advertisement seeking applicants for the superintendent’s job, the board’s search consultant has narrowed down that list to six, Rivera said. On Jan. 10, the board – which will reorganize on Jan 6 – is due to interview those six candidates and will likely make an appointment by late March, he said.

Recycling funds for local towns

recycling_web

TRENTON – 

State recycling grants totaling approximately $226,000 are being awarded to the eight communities in The Observer coverage area to implement and enhance local recycling efforts, the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection announced last week.

In all, 588 N.J. municipalities will share $15 million in grants awarded through the state’s Recycling Enhancement Act.

The funds are being allocated based on the recycling successes local governments demonstrated in 2012. Disbursement was to begin last week.

The local grants are: Belleville, $15,615; Bloomfield, $31,538; East Newark, $3,890; Harrison, $23,367; Kearny, $54,617; Lyndhurst, $27,948; North Arlington, $27,669; Nutley, $40,369.

“The grants can help municipalities in many ways,” said Jane Herndon, DEP Assistant Commissioner for Environmental Management. “They can purchase the best and biggest recycling containers with these funds, educate residents and businesses about the benefits of recycling and help local governments support recycling staff.”

The recycling grant program is funded by a $3-per-ton surcharge on trash disposed of at solid waste facilities across the state. The DEP reported that, in 2012, New Jersey generated more than 10.2 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) — i.e., garbage — from homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, etc. That same year, the agency documented the recycling of more than 4.4 million tons of recyclable municipal waste, such as glass, aluminum and other metals, and paper.

This resulted in a MSW recycling rate of 44%, an increase of 4% over 2011. By comparison, the national MSW recycling rate in 2012 was 34.5% percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Overall, nearly 20.2 million tons of solid waste (including construction debris and other types of non-MSW waste) were generated in New Jersey in 2012, of which 11 million tons were recycled. The overall waste and amount of materials recycled were impacted significantly by debris generated by Superstorm Sandy, the DEP noted.

“We still have the goal of achieving 50% municipal recycling in New Jersey and we would like to see our overall recycling rate grow beyond 60% and stay there,” Herndon said.

For a complete list of recycling grants by municipality, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/dshw/recycling/ stat_links/2012payout.pdf.

For more information on recycling in New Jersey, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/ dshw/recycling.

– Karen Zautyk 

School board settles vendor suit

KEARNY – 

The Kearny Board of Education settled litigation over replacement of its copy machine vendor at its meeting on Dec. 15.

In other developments:

The board received notification from the executive Hudson County superintendent that the five-year contract the board had awarded Patricia Blood as superintendent of schools has been sanctioned by the state Department of Education.

On Nov. 13, the board voted to appoint Blood to the post, after she’d been serving for some time as acting chief school administrator, granting her a 5-year contract at $167,500 a year through June 30, 2019.

Also, board members convened their first meeting in their new conference space in the annex to their new Midland Ave. headquarters.

The building’s elevator, part of the unfinished business at the new HQ, was due for a state inspection last Friday and its fire suppression system was also scheduled for inspection by the municipal Construction Code unit. If the building gets a passing grade, then a permanent certificate of occupancy will be issued. Results of those inspections weren’t readily available at press time.

The building’s basement, which has been reportedly reserved for two Gifted and Talented classrooms, remains a work in progress.

As for the legal issue, Ken Lindenfelser, the board’s general counsel, said that when the district switched its copy machine service contract, from Xerox to Atlantic, earlier this year, there was a dispute with the old vendor over billings.

Lindenfelser said that Xerox sued the district for about $230,000 but ended up settling for a payment of $109,000 and the return of all of its copy machines from the various school facilities.

Of that amount, Lindenfelser said, Atlantic has agreed to pay $103,500. He said that when Atlantic submitted its bid for the copy machine contract, the vendor pledged to be responsible for that obligation.

“The new machines from Atlantic are all in place,” he said.

– Ron Leir