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7 towns respond to Belleville blaze

Photos by Andrew Taylor The scene last Friday on Washington Ave. in Belleville.

Photos by Andrew Taylor
The scene last Friday on Washington Ave. in Belleville.

Fire_web2

By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent

BELLEVILLE –

A four-alarm blaze in two multi-family buildings on Washington Ave. on Friday night displaced 31 residents, Belleville fire officials said. All were evacuated safely, and no injuries, to either civilians or firefighters, were reported.

At the height of the blaze, fire crews from seven departments were at the scene. Along with the Belleville FD, there were responders from Montclair, Nutley, East Orange, Newark, Bloomfield and North Arlington.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Belleville Battalion Chief Richard Cavanagh said the fire broke out about 8 p.m. in a three-story structure at 472 Washington, between Little St. and Tappan Ave., housing a tattoo parlor on the ground level and two apartments upstairs.

Before it was declared under control at 11 p.m., the fire spread to an adjacent eight-unit apartment house at 476 Washington.

Complicating firefighting efforts was a very narrow light shaft between the two buildings. This shaft, Cavanagh said, was only inches wide, lined with asphalt shingles and acted “like a chimney.”

“Once it got into that [the shaft], it was difficult to contain, but they [the fire crews] did a great job,” Cavanagh said.

There was some fire damage to the apartments on the south side of the larger building, adjoining the shaft, but on the north side, thanks to the aggressive efforts to contain the flames, damage was reportedly limited to smoke damage.

Cavanagh said residents were later allowed to retrieve some of their belongings from their apartments, but both buildings were tagged as currently uninhabitable.

Although the blaze had been knocked down within three hours, the Belleville FD was still at the scene Saturday afternoon to ensure there were no flare-ups.

While the Belleville crews were fighting the blaze Friday night, the Orange, West Orange and Cedar Grove fire departments provided coverage to the town.

KPD blotter: Did he think he was dreaming?

A motorist who fell sound asleep behind the wheel sped off in his car when awakened by police, leading them on a chase, authorities reported. But, when they ended that chase because of safety concerns, the driver also stopped. Go figure.

Kearny Police Chief John Dowie said the drama began at 3:30 a.m. last Wednesday, March 26, when Officer Tim Castle noticed that an SUV stopped at the traffic light at Passaic and Bergen Aves. did not move when the signal changed. Castle and Officer Glenn Reed approached the vehicle, which was immobile in the southbound lane, and reportedly found the driver fast asleep.

Their efforts to wake him failed. Neither was he roused when Officer Mike Santucci hit the horn and siren on his patrol car, police said. Castle, who spotted an open can of beer on the center console, began trying to open the door, at which point the man finally awakened, hit the gas and accelerated through the light, which was again red, police said.

The officers tried to overtake him as he traveled down Passaic, running another red light near Kmart, hitting the curb several times and occasionally crossing into the northbound lane, Dowie said.

The SUV continued into East Newark and Harrison, where it made a right turn onto the Bridge St. bridge.

Realizing that it was probably heading to Route 21, the cops terminated the pursuit for safety reasons and began stopping traffic in the area. Then they saw that the driver had, of his own accord, halted on the far side of the bridge.

When Castle approached, the man exited the SUV and fell to the ground, Dowie said.

Taken into custody was 33-year-old Kearny resident Neal Covert, who was issued summonses for red light violations, DWI and refusal to take a breath test. He was also charged criminally with eluding police.

Other recent reports from the KPD blotter included the following:

March 20

Officer Luis Moran was on patrol at 5 p.m. when he saw a suspicious individual on a bicycle at Passaic and N. Midland Aves., police said. The man, Howard Morrison, 41, of Newark, was arrested on two outstanding drug-related Newark warrants and was later turned over to Newark police.

Officer Jay Ward, patrolling on the 250 block of Highland Ave. at 9:40 p.m., came across a double-parked car and wrote a ticket. He was approached by an allegedly loud and profane Luis Machuca, 28, of Kearny, who was unhappy about the summons and, though warned that the car would be towed, refused to move it, police said. Machuca was arrested after an inquiry showed he had an outstanding $1,000 warrant out of Newark, police said. He was allowed to contact a friend, who removed the car.

March 21

At 3:45 a.m., Officer Glen Reed, assisting the Kearny Fire Department during a reported smoke condition, was evacuating an apartment building on the 700 block of Schuyler Ave. when he encountered Harold Acosta, 39, of Kearny hanging out a window.

Acosta reportedly ignored instructions to leave his apartment, so Reed escorted him out. After the building was cleared, Acosta was again found inside, in a hallway, police said. He said he was cold, but reportedly refused an offer to sit in a patrol car and get warm, began screaming and was then escorted to the car, charged with disorderly conduct.

March 23

Sgt. John Becker, investigating a suspicious car inside the closed Arlington Cemetery at 2:20 a.m., saw a group of people sitting on headstones and taking photographs. With Officers Joe Martin and Brian Wisely as backup, Becker approached the group and, at the feet of one, spotted an open backpack containing an unmarked Rx bottle, police said. A metal spoon and four envelopes of Suboxone were also found, police said. Eugienio Pizarro, 32, of Hopatcong was charged with unlawful possession of a prescription drug and drug paraphernalia and was issued a summons for a suspended driver’s license.

March 24

At 5:10 a.m., Officers Mike Santucci and Kevin Canaley responded to Quick Chek, where management reported a man had entered the store, did not buy anything but refused to leave. He also refused Santucci’s request to depart, began cursing at both cops, and then resisted being cuffed, police said. Harrison resident Luciano Yuelling, 30, was charged with defiant trespass, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Officers Jordenson Jean and John Fabula, patrolling at Harrison and Bergen Aves. at 2:30 p.m., saw a Pennsylvaniaregistered auto make an illegal turn. After a motor vehicle stop, it was found that the driver, Roman Pavelko, 31, of Hamilton, N.J., had a suspended license and was the subject of a warrant from Hopewell. He was charged on both counts.

At 3:30 p.m., Sgt. Paul Bershefski spotted Ulises Rebozo, 40, of Kearny, walking east on the railroad trestle at N. Midland Ave., police said. Since the trestle is private property, Rebozo was charged with defiant trespass.

Also at 3:30 p.m., Officers Daniel Esteves and Sean Kelly saw an auto being operated recklessly at Johnston and Grant Aves. and followed it to John St., where it parked, police said. A passenger alighted, reportedly holding a glass bong and a small metal container, which police said he discarded on the ground near his feet. Police said the bong was found to hold remnants of a CDS; the container, suspected marijuana. Tyler Jordan, 20, of no known address, was arrested on charges of possession of a CDS and paraphernalia. The driver received summonses for careless driving, a loud muffler and an unclear license plate.

March 25

Officers Jean and Fabula encountered 28-year-old Kearny resident Sidnei Antunes at Afton St. and Kearny Ave. at 8:15 p.m. and confirmed that he was the subject of several warrants — one from East Newark and four from Harrison. He was processed at headquarters and turned over to the Harrison PD.

March 28

Officer Tom Floyd was called to Walmart at 12:30 a.m. and found that Jason Combs, 25, of Clinton, Iowa, had allegedly attempted to leave the premises without paying for a Starbucks cappuccino and 34 packs of “Magic: The Gathering” cards, with a total value of $138.10. Combs was charged with shoplifting.

– Karen Zautyk

Around Town

Bloomfield

St. Valentine Church, 125 N. Spring St., offers a Spanish Mass on Sunday, April 6, at 3 p.m. Starting in May, Spanish Mass will be held the second Saturday of each month at 3 p.m. The church offers an evening of reflection and Stations of the Cross in Spanish on Friday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m.

Belleville

Belleville Irish American Association sponsors a trip to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Boston and Mohegan Sun Casino, June 2-6. Cost is $485 double occupancy and includes transportation, sightseeing, four dinners, four breakfasts and one lunch. For an itinerary or additional information, call Pat at 973-751-5308 or email patn139@aol.com.

Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave., offers Teddy Bear Tea Party for children on Saturday, May 3, at 2 p.m. Registration closes April 28.

Free tree seedlings will be available to Belleville residents on April 5, from 8 a.m. to noon, at 92 Montgomery Pl., as part of the New Jersey Tree Recovery Campaign. This program helps communities replace trees damaged or destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. Seedlings, available on a first-come, first-served basis, come with instructions on how to store, care for and plant them. Guides help residents choose the right place on a property to plant a tree, while keeping in mind the tree’s future full-grown size. For more information, contact the Department of Public Works at 973-450-3412 or 973-450-3414.

East Newark

St. Anthony’s Church, 409 N. Second St., hosts a Tricky Tray on Saturday, April 5, at 7 p.m. Admission is $15 (includes one ticket with 26 chances). Children are admitted free, accompanied by an adult. For advance tickets, call 973-525- 5924.

Harrison

Harrison High School Drama Club performs “Sweeney Todd,” April 3 to 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the school auditorium, 800 Hamilton St. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students, children and seniors.

Rite Aid, 432 Bergen St., hosts Wellness65+ Wednesdays, April 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Held on the first Wednesday of every month, Wellness65+ Wednesdays are dedicated to in-store senior events and savings, including 20% off almost everything in the store, special activities and a different health topic each month. This week’s topic is spring allergies and the store will provide hand-outs and tips as well as information on new allergy medications.

Harrison Mayor James Fife will address the Harrison business community with an update on Harrison redevelopment projects at a luncheon hosted by Harrison Business Connections at the Hampton Inn and Suites, Harrison- Newark Riverwalk, on April 10 at noon. More information can be found at http://HBCevents.eventbrite.com. Harrison Business Connections can be found online at www.Harrison-BusinessConnections.com and www.facebook.com/Harrison- BusinessConnections.

Kearny

Comunidade Evangelica Vida Abudante (Abundant Life Evangelical Community Church), 151 Midland Ave., hosts a blood drive on April 14 from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Donors must be age 16 (with parental consent) and older and weigh at least 110 pounds. Those who are 75 and older may donate with a doctor’s note.

A pancake breakfast fundraiser to benefit the American Diabetes Association will be held at Applebees, 175 Passaic Ave., on Sunday, April 6, from 8 to 10 a.m. Admission for adults is $10 and $5 for children ages 2 to 9. Door prizes are offered. For tickets, contact Janice at 201-362-2958 or by email at shnanny@aol.com.

Franklin School PTA hosts Breakfast with the Easter Bunny at Applebee’s on April 12, from 8 to 10 a.m. Tickets are $10 and must be purchased at the door.

Kearny High School PTA presents “Rocking with Rod Stewart,” a performance by Jay Gates, on April 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Irish American Club, 95 Kearny Ave. The $25 admission includes refreshments, cash bar and a small raffle. Call Denise at 201-428-8572 for more information or to purchase tickets.

Kearny UNICO announces:

• Membership meeting on Thursday, April 3, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call Chapter President Lou Pandolfi at 201-368-2409.

• Fund-raising bus trip to the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City on Sunday, April 27, leaving from the parking lot of Kearny Federal Savings Bank at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are $30 and can be obtained by contacting Lou Pandolfi.

• Super 50-50 Raffle to be drawn May 15. Tickets are $5 each or three tickets for $10. To purchase tickets, contact any member of Kearny UNICO or Lou Pandolfi.

St. Cecilia Church, 114 Chestnut St., announces a flea market on Saturdays, April 5 and 12. For more information, call 201-991-1116. Vendors are welcome. All proceeds benefit St. Cecilia Parish. Donations are kindly accepted.

Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., offers:

• No-Bake Cooking class for ages 4 to 8, Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m., beginning April 16. Each class is one hour. The class runs three weeks. Enrollment is limited to 12 students.

• Cooking class for ages 10 to 15 Mondays at 3:30 p.m., beginning April 21. This class meets for three weeks. Each class is 90 minutes. Only 15 slots are available. Both classes are free. To reserve a spot, call the library at 201-998-2666.

• New: Hunger Games series Reading Club. Fifth-and sixth-graders who can attend all four club meetings in April are invited to borrow a copy of “Mockingjay,” Book 3 of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Copies of “Mockingjay” will be available to borrow at the April 3 club meeting. Reading club meetings are from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on April 3, 10, 17 and 24. Participants must have a library card in good standing but borrowers may keep the book for four weeks instead of two. “Catching Fire,” the movie of Book 2, will be shown at the April 3 club meeting.

St. Stephen’s Seniors meet on Tuesday, April 1, at 1 p.m. in Hedges Hall at St. Stephen’s Church. Dues are payable at this time. April 22 is the deadline for signing up and paying for the May 2 anniversary party at the San Carlo in Lyndhurst. For club information, call Tom at 998-8258.

Lyndhurst

The Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst announces that the Food Pantry, at the Town Hall annex, 253 Stuyvesant Ave., is collecting hams, turkeys and lasagna for the holidays and non-perishable food items (dry cereal, peanut butter, puddings, juices, etc.). Donors are reminded to check expiration dates on food. Expired items will be thrown out. Woman’s Club volunteers are at the pantry Monday to Thursday, 1 to 3:30 p.m.

Anyone in need of food is asked to contact Sarah at the Lyndhurst Health Center, 601 Riverside Ave. Recipients must show proof of residency and need. Once registered, recipients are entitled to food once a month. Call Sara at 201-804- 2500.

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission hosts “Flat Rock Brook Owls” for all ages on Sunday, April 6, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., at the Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park Plaza. The Flat Rock Nature Center will bring artifacts and live birds and talk about their behavior, physiology, adaptations and natural history. Admission: $5 /person; $4/MEC members. Registration is recommended and appreciated. To register, go to www.njmeadowlands.gov/ec.

Lyndhurst Public Library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., hosts the following events:

• Easter Basket Craft – Children in pre-K to grade 4 make and fill an Easter basket with treats on Wednesday, April 9, from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Registration is required. Call 201-804- 2478 to register.

• Free, drop-in citizenship classes are on Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to noon. For more information, call Michele Kelly at 201-804-2478, ext. 5.

Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Avenue, Suite 1, offers:

• Thyroid Health Forum, hosted by Lyndhurst chiropractor Marco Ferrucci, on Friday, April 11, at 10 a.m. A light breakfast and refreshments will be served.

• Women’s Health Clinic, in partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center, on April 25, at 9 a.m., providing education on breast self-examination and a pap smear. The event is free and is open to female township residents age 18 and older. For appointments and reservations, call the Health Department at 201-804-2500.

North Arlington

The Borough of North Arlington reminds residents that people who want to hold a garage sale must first secure a permit from the borough. Permits are $6 and available at Borough Hall, 214 Ridge Rd., or on-line at www.northarlington.org.

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Rd., hosts these children’s programs:

• Story Time for ages 2 to 5 is held on Wednesdays at 11:45 a.m.

• Evening Story Time for ages 4 to 6 is scheduled for Thursdays, April 10 and 24, at 6:30 p.m.

• Lego Club for grades 1 and up, meets on Tuesdays, April 8 and 29, at 6:30 p.m. To register, call 201-955-5640, ext. 126. By leaving a message you are automatically registered, Due to the program’s popularity, callers are asked to register for one session per child.

And, for adults:

• Computer Basics is held on Mondays, through April 14, from 6 to 7 p.m. Call 201- 955-5640 to register, Space is limited.

• Knitting Group meets on Thursday, April 10, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. No registration is needed.

• Friends of the Library Book Club meets on Friday, April 25, at 10 a.m.

Nutley

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 120 Prospect St., hosts a fish-fry on Friday, April 11. Tickets are $15. Take-out is from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and dining-in, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are for sale in advance only. To purchase tickets, visit the rectory Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or after any weekend Mass.

Dinner is catered by Thistle Restaurant. For more information, call 973-667-2580, email olmcnutley@optimum.net, or visit www.olmc-nutley.org.

The Nutley Parks and Recreation Department has opened registration for spring session of “Let’s Get Moving,” a high-energy program designed for children ages 3 to 5 to refine motor skills and increase balance. Classes begin April 22 and will run for eight weeks.

Residents may choose between a Tuesday class at 1 p.m. or a Thursday class at 9:15 a.m. Class size is limited to 15 per session. Online registration is available at nutleynj.my.gov-i.com/recreation or at the Recreation Department, 44 Park Ave, reachable at 973-284-4966.

Town Wide Yard Sale switches to spring

This year, Kearny residents have a great reason to get started on their spring cleaning as the annual Kearny Urban Enterprise ZoneTown- Wide Yard and Sidewalk Sale switches seasons and moves from the fall to Saturday and Sunday, May 3 and 4, from 9 to 4 p.m. Participants will, as always, have an entire weekend to turn their seldom-used or long forgotten goods into some extra cash as part of the rain-or-shine event.

“The Kearny Town Wide Yard Sale continues to grow each year,” said KUEZ coordinator John Peneda. “There is no question that this is among the most popular KUEZ-sponsored events that we host.” Peneda said that each year the KUEZ has received more and more requests to move the sale to the spring.

Peneda is confident the event will continue to energize the town and bring new visitors and shoppers to Kearny. “We are also always working on creative new ways our KUEZ member businesses can jump on board, benefit from the sale, and take advantage of the influx of visitors and shoppers to our town.”

Here’s how it works: Any Kearny resident can host a yard sale that weekend at their home. There is no fee to register, no permits to obtain. Those who register before the deadline of April 16 will be identified on a special Yard Sale printed map that will be distributed to thousands of shoppers. The KUEZ will be aggressively promoting and advertising the sale throughout the area.

Peneda reminds registrants that Yard Sale entry forms must be legible. “We have a lot of registration forms that we simply cannot read; we will not be able to include these sellers in our materials,” he said.

In addition to producing a special yard sale map, the KUEZ will once again provide a special interactive Google Map, which will list not only the sellers’ addresses, but also some of the items they will have for sale.

There is no charge to participate, but participation as a seller is open only to residents and homes in Kearny. Registration forms can be obtained at the KUEZ offices, at Town Hall, or may be downloaded from the Town of Kearny website at www. kearnynj.org. Completed forms may be dropped off at or mailed to the KUEZ Office, 410 Kearny Ave., Kearny N.J. 07032, faxed to 201-955-1827, or emailed to kearnyyardsale@ kearnynj.org no later than April 16. For more information call 201-955-7981.

Expect new firefighters on duty by Independence Day

BELLEVILLE –

Seven newly hired Belleville firefighters began training at the Essex County Fire Academy in Cedar Grove two weeks ago.

Those who successfully complete the eight-week program will then undertake up to six weeks of training as emergency medical technicians, to qualify as first responders, said Belleville Fire Chief Robert Caruso.

“We should have them ready for duty after July 4th,” Caruso said. “They’ll be dispersed across all four shifts.”

The additions will bring the department’s total strength to 68, according to the chief. The BFD peaked at 74 back in 2009-2010, he said.

Most recent prior hirings came in September 2013 when three new firefighters came aboard and, before that, nine were put on in September 2011.

Belleville positioned itself to appoint the new firefighters by applying for – and getting — $1.18 million in a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate and Fire Emergency Response) grant that pays salaries and benefits for two years.

After the two years, the township is obliged to take over full payment obligations.

It marked the first score for Belleville in several previous application efforts, Caruso said.

While they’re at the academy, the firefighters- in-training will earn $30,000. When they begin as full-fledged firefighters, they’ll advance to first-year pay of $39,000.

The benefit package’s value can range from $20,000 to $35,000 depending on the option chosen by the firefighter, Caruso said.

The new recruits, hired from a state Civil Service appointment list, certified Dec. 9, 2013, are: Andres E. Idrovo, Manuel Antonio, Nicholas Giangrande, Christopher Gammaro, Michael R. Corino, Anthony N. Malanga and Dennis J. Herrmann.

Meanwhile, on the equipment front, Caruso said the department was expecting delivery of a new ladder truck from the Florida manufacturer E-One within a month, replacing a 1991 truck which the chief described as “kind of worn out.”

“A new ambulance should also be coming at around the same time,” Caruso said. That will replace a 2007 vehicle. “We answer close to 4,000 calls a year,” he said. The new vehicle will be equipped with a heavier chassis which should make it more durable, he added.

The township previously authorized a capital bond ordinance to provide financing to acquire the ladder truck, for about $900,000, and the ambulance, for about $225,000.

– Ron Leir

Nutley girl missing since March 17; have you seen her?

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A 16-year-old Nutley girl was reported missing on March 17, and Nutley police are still investigating her whereabouts. She frequents Passaic and Paterson and has been located in Montclair, S. Hackensack, Wayne and Little Falls as well. It appears that she is avoiding being located, and has spoken to officers on several occasions stating that she is going to return home but has failed to do so as of April 1.

Christina Simeonidis is 5’6” 140lbs, brown eyes and brown hair, fair skin with a tattoo on her left wrist that says “Heaven.”

Anyone with information to her whereabouts is asked to contact the Nutley Police Department at 973-284-4940

Evidence registered with cops

Matthew James

Matthew James

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY–

From the Department of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: A suspect in the robbery of a Kearny store has been linked to an earlier heist in Belleville thanks to a cash register drawer he left in plain view on the back seat of his car, authorities reported.

The alleged bandit was identified as Matthew James, 28, of Monroe Township, formerly of Belleville.

The suspect apparently also has a penchant for lime green T-shirts and lime green/orange gloves, which police said helped in identifying him. Last Wednesday, March 19, Kearny police said, a ski-masked individual entered a liquor store/deli on Davis Ave. at 4:15 p.m. and asked for a pack of cigarettes. He then reportedly ran behind the counter and grabbed a fistful of bills from the register. A short struggle ensued with the proprietor, who was pushed and punched, but who managed to pull up the mask, partially revealing the man’s face, police said. The culprit then fled on foot. Read more »

Tragic death of beloved waitress

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

NORTH ARLINGTON –

It was her day off – Tuesday –and Barbara Gangi kept to her set routine.

Shortly before 6:30 a.m., Gangi dropped off her wash in front of the Riverside Laundry and started walking across River Road to the Arlington Diner, her home away from home, for a light breakfast.

This particular Tuesday, March 18, however, she never got to the diner because she was fatally struck by a car. Read more »

Meadows mulch ignites again

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By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY–

The pesky mulch pile in the meadows that kept the Kearny Fire Department busy last year has been slumbering all winter, kept quiet, pehaps, by blankets of snow and ice.

But last week, it appeared to be welcoming spring — in a rebirth of its annoying tendency to spontaneously combust.

On March 16, the mulch at Nature’s Choice Corp., 631 Belleville Turnpike – scene of several 2013 fires – was again aflame. A passing motorist reported the fire and the KFD answered the alarm at 12:37 p.m.

Fire Chief Steve Dyl said all Kearny units, along with North Arlington firefighters, responded to the two -alarm blaze, which was declared under control at 4:15 p.m. Dyl said the fire was prevented from spreading outside the mulch, but about an acre of mulch piles burned. Read more »

Zoners’ youth center OK nixed

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

BELLEVILLE –

It took nearly a year for St. Mary & St. Mercurius Coptic Orthodox Church to get local approvals to build a dome-shaped youth center and parking garage on Academy St.

But neighbors went to court to block the project and, last month, they got a judge to do what they wanted by overturning the Belleville Zoning Board of Adjustment’s decision favoring the project.

And now, the church has to start all over again to make its case.

Still, the church’s attorney Frank J. Cozzarelli is optimistic that the church will ultimately succeed because he’ll be presenting a revised plan aimed at appeasing some of the neighbors’ concerns. Read more »