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Category: News

‘Charity scam’ in name of slain cop




By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


How low can you go? Not much lower than what one man is accused of doing in the wake of the murder of Jersey City Detective Melvin Santiago. Namely, falsely soliciting donations for the officer’s grieving family.

Santiago, a 23-year-old rookie, was ambushed and fatally shot, in cold blood, July 13 after responding to a report of an armed robbery at a city Walgreens. He was posthumously promoted to detective, and on July 18 was laid to rest in Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington.

On Tuesday, July 29, Kearny police began receiving complaints about a man visiting businesses on the 700 block of Kearny Ave. to solicit donations for Santiago’s family. The initial search for him was fruitless, but he returned to town the following day.

At 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, Officer John Fabula spotted Darnell Campbell, 41, of Jersey City, at Kearny and Columbia Aves. Police said he was holding a donations container.

Under questioning by Fabula, Campbell reportedly claimed to be working for the Boys & Girls Club of Jersey City and said he was collecting money for a 5-year-old child who had been shot in that city.

Fabula contacted the club and was told that it does not solicit contributions in that manner. Police said the club representative also reported that it had received similar inquiries from Montclair.

Campbell was arrested and charged with wrongful impersonation and theft by deception. Police said he also had an outstanding warrant from East Brunswick. He was remanded to the Hudson County Jail on $1,000 bail, with no 10% option.

Authorities reported that he has a record of seven prior adult arrests, including three robbery charges, and two felony convictions. One of those convictions, police said, was for a rape in Georgia in 2001.

When the KPD confiscated Campbell’s donations canister, it contained $88.

Kearny Police Chief John Dowie told The Observer, “I will request forfeiture of that money. After the disposition of this case, I intend to ask the prosecutor and I will personally turn it over to Officer Santiago’s family, along with any other donations anyone wishes to make.”

Sprucing it up




The state Department of Transportation is arranging for the sandblasting and repainting of this old railroad trestle that traverses the Belleville Turnpike (Rt. 7) just north of Seller St. It’s one of six bridges that cross Rts. 7, 21 and 185 – all state roads – that are getting facelifts under state maintenance contracts.

Red Bulls & SportsCare: perfect together




The New York Red Bulls, the major league soccer team based in Harrison, has contracted with the New York metropolitanbased SportsCare Institute to offer physical therapy and athletic training for the Red Bulls Academy and Training Program for young soccer talent, a joint press release announced July 30.

“The New York Red Bulls family is excited to partner with a local organization like SportsCare Institute,” said Marc de Grandpre, the team’s director of commercial operations. “SportsCare will provide our youth development programs and academy with terrific care, helping us continue developing great talent in the New Jersey area.”

As part of the partnership arrangement, SportsCare will have certified athletic trainers and physical therapists on-site at “multiple” Red Bulls youth clinics as well as at home matches “to assess injuries and offer free injury prevention screenings,” the release said.

SportsCare President Ron Lombardi said: “SportsCare’s network of physical therapy professionals are excited to work with another worldclass sports franchise.” The company also provides physical therapy services to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

“Given the excitement generated by the World Cup,” Lombardi added, “we’re more bullish than ever on youth soccer’s future in the U.S. And with our commitment to keeping young athletes safe – including a focus on establishing baseline assessments for those recovering from concussions – I’m confident our program with the Red Bulls can become a national model for health maintenance and protection.”

The agreement also makes SportsCare the exclusive physical therapy marketing partner of the Red Bulls, the release said.

No details about the terms of the agreement were provided in the release. A Red Bulls spokesman couldn’t be reached.

SportsCare says it has 56 facilities throughout New Jersey, New York and Florida that provide state-of-the-art physical and occupational therapy and sports medicine services.

KPD: ‘Knock, knock’ not funny

An overzealous door-to-door solicitor got himself arrested after an encounter with a 70-year-old woman who wouldn’t put up with his aggressive manner, Kearny police reported.

Police said the incident occurred around 4 p.m., July 25, in a residential complex at S. Midland and Passaic Aves., where several people had complained about three individuals, purportedly representing an energy company, who were knocking on doors, saying they could help lower PSE&G bills. The solicitors were not PSE&G employees, but reportedly wore uniforms with logos similar to those of that utility.

The senior citizen, after listening patiently to the spiel, said she wasn’t interested, but the solicitor was insistent, and when the woman tried to shut the door, he allegedly thrust his clipboard and shoulder between it and the frame. She had to push him back to prevent him from gaining access, police said.

Officers Chris Levchak and Daniel Esteves and Sgt. Peter Gleason responded to the complex, obtained the man’s description and took into custody 30-year-old Manhattan resident Joseph Estrada, who reportedly had an outstanding warrant out of East Rutherford. He was arrested on that, also charged with criminal trespass and issued a summons for canvassing without a town permit.

The other two canvassers were also issued town ordinance summonses.

Other recent reports from the Kearny police blotter included the following:

July 25 

Also at 4 p.m., the Vice Unit had Juan Gonzalez, 32, of Newark, under surveillance near Midland Ave. and Belgrove Drive, saw him enter and exit an apartment building and then ingest what they believed to be a CDS. They followed his car to Johnston Ave., where they conducted a motor vehicle stop and saw him discard a cut straw containing a white, powdery residue, police said. In a search subsequent to his arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia, police said he was also found to be in possession of 38 bags of suspected heroin, stamped “War and Peace.” Gonzalez was charged with that offense and with possession with intent to distribute. Police believe he had a customer in the apartment building he had visited.

July 26 

Officer Jay Ward and Sgt. John Becker responded at 11:30 p.m. to a report of someone sleeping on the steps of a building on the 300 block of Davis Ave. Armed with the snoozer’s description and information that he was now walking, they located a 17-year-old Kearny male, who they said smelled strongly of alcohol and was unsteady on his feet. When the youth was confronted, he fled north on Davis but was overtaken by Ward, police said. He was charged with underage consumption of alcohol, violating curfew and resisting arrest.

July 28 

PSE&G figured in another incident, but this one involved a legit PSE&G employee who reportedly was the victim of an assault. At 8:30 a.m., Sgt. Paul Bershefski responded to a “heated dispute” near Kearny and Quincy Aves., where the worker was trying to “perform his duties” in connection (or disconnection) with an unpaid utility bill, police said. Alexander Constantine, 30, of Kearny, had allegedly physically threatened him and verbally abused him regarding his race and ended up being charged with aggravated assault. Police said Constantine was also wanted on an Elizabeth warrant.

 July 30 

At 1:30 p.m., Det. Michael Farinola witnessed Jesus Morales, 45, of Kearny, apparently sell a small electronic item to a passerby near 150 Kearny Ave. Farinola confronted the buyer, who said Morales – claiming his car had broken down and he needed cash to get home — had sold him a TomTom GPS unit for $20.

Interestingly, Kearny has had a rash of thefts from cars, many involving GPS units.

Officers Jack Corbett and Dave Rakowski located Morales at Woodland and Highland Aves., where he was identified by the buyer, police said. Morales was charged with possession of property lost or mislaid, receiving stolen property and possession of a hypodermic needle.

Police activated the recovered GPS and have contacted its owner.

 – Karen Zautyk 

News from the Nutley police blotter

July 26 

The manager of a Washington Ave. gas station called police at 12:10 a.m. to report that the driver of a red truck described as a late 1980s Dodge Ram Charger with a non-working rear right tail light, asked for gas, bought a pack of cigarettes, returned to his vehicle and then left the station without paying for $90 worth of gas. The driver was listed as a white male, balding, wearing cargo shorts and a grey T-shirt. Police said the truck was last seen northbound on Washington.

At 7:34 a.m., a Centre St. resident called police about a downed power wire. Police a tractor trailer struck the overhead wires and continued westbound on Centre. Police observed two cable/ phone wires on the ground lying across the street.

A Kingsland St. homeowner called police at 3:06 p.m. to report that after returning from vacation, they found multiple trash bags and a blue garbage can discarded curbside in front of their home. Police told the owner that the refuse would be hauled away on the next garbage pickup day.

July 27 

Police found a bent speed limit sign on the grass in front of a Nutley Ave. residence at 8:58 a.m. Having seen a tire mark on the curb and on the grass leading up to the sign, police surmised that a vehicle had struck the sign and left the area. Police alerted DPW about the sign.

Responding to a criminal mischief report from a Lincoln St. location, at 11:23 a.m., police found that someone had apparently climbed atop a small table to reach – and smash – a window on the south side of the residence. Police found multiple pry marks along the broken window frame and damage to the screen. Nothing was reported missing from the residence, police said.

July 28

Someone broke into an auto parked on Nicola Place. Police found the driver’s side door slightly ajar, the plastic cover to the steering column on the floor and the ignition switch damaged. Detectives are investigating. The incident was logged at 8:25 a.m.

A thief stole a purse left on the passenger side front seat of an unlocked 2007 Jeep Cherokee in the parking lot of a local bakery. Police said the purse contained money and personal items. The theft was reported at 11:57 a.m.

At 6:05 p.m., a Kingsland Ave. resident called police to report a suspicious incident. They said that a white male, about 6 feet, was walking around the rear yard and taking photos with an iPad. The man told the resident that he was a state inspector and that a shed in the yard was too close to the property line. Police said the resident will follow up with the township building department.

July 29 

A store employee was arrested after police said he tried to leave, a Franklin Ave. business, without paying for $175 worth of merchandise. Joseph Mercado, 22, of Nutley, was charged with shoplifting and released pending a court date. Police said Mercado had allegedly filled a shopping cart with cleaning supplies and was stopped when he tried to leave the store but couldn’t produce a receipt for the items. The incident was logged at 1:54 p.m.

July 30 

Someone threw a baked potato at the window of a Prospect Ave. residence and broke the glass, causing $50 in damage. The incident was reported at 9:59 a.m. Police said the same house has been previously hit by other food items, including burritos.

Aug. 1 

A Milton Ave. resident was targeted for a telephone scam, police said. The resident reported getting a phone call from someone claiming to be from U.S. Customs & Immigration telling them there was a problem with their immigration status and that they needed to send $96,000 to fix the problem. The resident told police they are a legal U.S. citizen. After the resident got the caller’s phone number, police called back, only to get a message that the “Magic Jack’’ customer was unavailable.

– Ron Leir 

Around Town


A performance by the Library Players, a children’s acting troupe, on Aug. 18 and a Science Fun Workshop on Aug. 25 will be the next installments of the Eight Great Live Monday nights series at Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave. Both programs begin at 6:30 p.m. Registration is required. Call 973-450- 3434. These programs are for the entire family.

Belleville UNICO sponsors a bus ride to the Taj Mahal Sunday, Aug. 24. A donation of $30 – or $35 if paid the day of the trip – is requested. A continental breakfast will be served at 8 a.m. at the Senior Citizens Center, 125 Franklin Ave. The bus will leave from the center at 8:50 a.m. Call 973-759-9259 to reserve seats (no last minute cancellations). Mail checks, payable to Belleville UNICO, to: Gene Antonio, 436 Joralemon St., Belleville, N.J. 07109.


The Fab Four come to Bloomfield in a free concert Friday, Aug. 8, when the Essex County SummerMusic Concert Series hosts the Beatles tribute band, featuring former cast members of the Broadway show “Beatlemania,” at 7:30 p.m. in Brookdale Park. For more information, call the Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs at 973‑239-2485.


The Harrison Downtown Community Development Partnership and Neighborhood Preservation program co-sponsor a flea market and collectible show Saturday, Aug. 16, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the parking lot at 401 Bergen St. Admission is free. Any school/local organization interested in having an exhibitor space to sell their items and/or promote their club are welcome to reserve one of the four spaces that will be offered free. Call 201-998-1144 or visit events@jcpromotions. info to make a reservation.


Summer vacation Bible School will be open from Sunday, Aug. 10 to Thursday, Aug. 14, 6 to 8 p.m. nightly, at Calvary United Methodist Church, 342 Elm St. All ages are welcome.


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

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission presents a three-hour guided tour of the Hackensack River and its marshes Aug. 16, departing at 8:30 a.m. from River Barge Park, 260 Outwater Lane, Carlstadt. Paddlers will learn the basics of salt marsh ecology. Admission is $15. The event is recommended for ages 10 and up. Pre-registration is required. For a complete schedule of trips, directions, and to register, visit www.njmeadowlands.gov and go to the Parks and Nature Programs tab at the top of the page, or call 201-460-4677.

Lyndhurst Public Library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., announces:

• A watermelon craft program for pre-k to grade 3 is slated for Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2:30 to 3:15 p.m. Registration is required.

• A sea crab craft program for grades 1 to 4 is offered Monday, Aug. 18, 2:30 to 3:15 p.m. Registration is required.

• Walk-in story time is held every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. for children in grades pre-K to 2. No registration is required. The program also includes coloring time. To register, call 201-804- 2478.

North Arlington 

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

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


Knitting group, bridge and ESL classes are available for adults every week at the Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Drive.

• Patrons can play bridge Tuesdays at 1 p.m.

• Conversational ESL classes meet Wednesdays at 10 a.m.

• Wednesday Afternoon Knitters meet at 1 p.m. Beginning and experienced knitters are welcome. Bring your own supplies.

No registration is required for these programs. For more information, call the library at 973-667-0405 or visit http://nutleypubliclibrary.org.

Classmates in court


By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


The three young men, pictured above in their Kearny High School yearbook photos, had their whole lives ahead of them.

Who knew where the future would take them? No one would have guessed that, a bit more than a decade later, it would take them into a Manhattan courtroom, where they would be charged in connection with an international cybertheft ring.

Last week, Laurence Brinkmeyer, 29, Bryan Caputo, 29, and Daniel Petryszyn, 28 – all members of KHS Class of 2003 – were indicted on charges of money laundering and criminal possession of stolen property.

Caputo and Petryszyn were arrested and arraigned last Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court. Brinkmeyer was in court Friday after he voluntarily returned to the U.S. from Aruba, where, according to published reports, he had been on his honeymoon.

All three have pleaded not guilty.

Bail was set at $2 million for Petryszyn; $1 million for Brinkmeyer, and $500,000 for Caputo.

Screenshots courtesy NBC Seated at defense table are Bryan Caputo (in soccer club T-shirt) and Daniel Petryszyn at arraignment last week.

Screenshots courtesy NBC
Seated at defense table are Bryan Caputo (in soccer club T-shirt) and Daniel Petryszyn at arraignment last week.


Sources told The Observer that the trio had grown up together in Kearny, where Caputo still lives. According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Petryszyn currently resides in New York City. The office would identify Brinkmeyer’s place of residence only as Bergen County, but he is thought to have a North Arlington address.

The three were among six individuals indicted in connection with a cybercrime ring that allegedly illegally accessed more than 1,600 user accounts on StubHub, a website where users can buy and sell tickets to various entertainment and sporting events.

According to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the ring was able to “steal personal identifying information, use victims’ credit cards to make fraudulent electronic ticket purchases [with a reported value of $1.6 million] and transfer the proceeds through a global network of accomplices in the United States, United Kingdom, Russia and Canada.”

The local trio apparently are suspects only in the resale of stolen tickets, not in the hacking of the StubHub accounts.

Defendants and Russian nationals Vadim Polyakov, 30, and Nikolay Matveychuk, 21, are accused of using information from StubHub accounts and stolen credit card numbers to buy “more than 3,500 e-tickets that were then sent to individuals in New York and New Jersey to be resold within hours of an event.”

Those events ranged from Marc Anthony and Justine Timberlake concerts to Yankees, Giants, Jets, Knicks and Nets games to the Broadway show “Book of Mormon.”

Petryszyn, Brinkmeyer and Caputo are accused of reselling stolen tickets that they received from Polyakov and his associates.

“As instructed by Polyakov, criminal proceeds from the resale of stolen tickets were divided and directed to multiple PayPal accounts controlled by Polyakov and his associates, as well as multiple bank accounts in the United Kingdom and Germany,” a statement from Vance’s office said.

The statement continued: “One of these bank accounts belonged to Sergei Kirin, 37, a Russian national who advertised his moneylaundering services online. Polyakov directed Petryszyn, Brinkmeyer and Caputo to send payments to Kirin, who retained a percentage of the money as his fee.

“Thousands of dollars were also split into separate payments and sent by wire transfer to other moneylaunderers in London, England and Toronto, Canada.”

After Interpol confirmed that Polyakov was traveling in Spain, he was arrested July 3 outside a Barcelona hotel by Spanish authorities working with U.S. Secret Service agents.

According to a July 24 report from the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, “Matveychuk and Kirin remain in Russia, but the U.S. authorities hope they will be brought to justice.” At press time, no further information was available on their status.

Vance’s office reported that London police, “investigating what they suspect to be the proceeds of criminal activity being laundered through legitimate U.K. bank accounts,” had arrested and were questioning three men.

In Toronto, an additional money-laundering suspect was taken into custody by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Observer readers who saw TV news footage of last week’s arraignment had to notice that one of the defendants appeared in court wearing a bright red T-shirt reading “KEARNY UNITED.” That was Caputo. We contacted representatives of Kearny United, who said they were not aware of any affiliation he might have with the soccer club.

Serial robber guilty


An accused serial robber has admitted to playing a role in 11 robberies, primarily of drug stores, in Harrison, Newark and Jersey City over a period of eight months, it was announced by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.

On July 21, Christopher Mojica, 23, pleaded guilty to an information presented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office charging him with one count of Hobbs Act conspiracy, one count of Hobbs Act robbery and one count of discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Mojica was arrested April 27, 2013, in connection with the robberies and was ordered to be held at Essex County Jail, Newark, on $150,000 bond.

Mojica, represented by Woodbridge attorney Paulette Pitt, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano in Trenton Federal Court. The government’s case was presented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dara Aquila Govan of the Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.

The government alleged that Mojica conspired with others to rob Pharmacy Plus, 234 Harrison Ave., Harrison, on Feb. 21, 2013.

Additional robberies to which the government has linked Mojica include these: New Barbershop, Sept. 14, 2012; a “gambling operation,” Sept. 2012; Amcare Pharmacy, Nov. 13, 2012; Summer Pharmacy, Dec. 11, 2012; Community Health Pharmacy, Jan. 19, 2013; Delson Jewelry, Feb. 8, 2013; Forest Hill Pharmacy, April 4, 2013; Harris Pharmacy, April 16, 2013; and Delta Gas Station, April 19, 2013, all in Newark; and Montgomery Pharmacy, Jersey City, April 15, 2013.

According to the government, “Mojica and his conspirators robbed each of these establishments at gunpoint, stealing cash, oxycodone pills, jewelry and other items.” And, the government said that at the time of the robbery of the Delta Gas Station, 466 Bloomfield Ave., Newark, “… Mojica fired a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun during his flight from the scene of the robbery.”

The government said that Mojica could draw a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the conspiracy and robbery charges and that the discharging a firearm charge carries a “minimum consecutive term of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.”

“Each of these charges carries a statutory maximum fine of $250,000,” the government said.

Mojica, who has waived prosecution by indictment, will be sentenced Dec. 8 before Judge Pisano in Trenton.

Fishman credited special agents with the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark, with the investigation leading to the plea. He also thanked the Newark, Harrison and Jersey City Police Departments for their work on the case.

Blue ranks get reinforcements


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Talk about parallel life paths: Joseph White and Matthew Giunta went to pre-school (St. Michael’s) together, then to Franklin Elementary School, then Lyndhurst High.

And, last Friday, they entered the Bergen County Law & Public Safety Institute in Mahwah to begin 22 weeks of training to become accredited municipal police officers in their hometown.

Joining White, 25, and Giunta, 24, in the training class will be Nolan James, 33; and Michael Giangeruso, 27. Those four, along with Nicholas Abruscato, 23, were sworn in as newly hired Lyndhurst cops in an outdoor ceremony in the park outside the Municipal Building July 22.

The additions to the police roster brings the strength of the department up to 48 – four short of the maximum permitted by township ordinance under its Table of Organization, according to Police Chief James O’Connor.

Asked if any further appointments were planned, O’Connor said: “I’ve had a conversation with the mayor about that and it’s possible that we may see something happen around the first of the year.”

Photos by Ron Leir The five recruits, from l., Nicholas Abruscato, Joseph White, Nolan James, Michael Giangeruso and Matthew Giunta wait to be sworn in.

Photos by Ron Leir
The five recruits, from l., Nicholas Abruscato, Joseph White, Nolan James, Michael Giangeruso and Matthew Giunta wait to be sworn in.


Abruscato, son of former Township Commissioner and current Board of Education vice president Joseph Abruscato, has already graduated from the police academy, having served the past year and a half as a police officer in Bergen County. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s in national security studies, both from New Jersey City University in Jersey City.

“He will go on the road immediately,” said O’Connor.

Giangeruso, whose dad Charles is a retired deputy chief with the Lyndhurst PD and whose brother Charles is a Lyndhurst police officer, has an associate degree in criminal justice from Bergen County Community College and is pursuing a B.A. in psychology at Montclair University where he’s a dean’s list student, according to O’Connor. He’s a cousin of Mayor Robert Giangeruso, a former Lyndhurst deputy police chief.

“Law enforcement has been in my family forever,” Michael Giangeruso told The Observer. When asked whether he felt any pressure to follow the blue path, though, “Not in any regard,” was the rookie’s reply. “I’m just altruistic,” he said. “I enjoy helping people.”

James has been an officer with the state Corrections Department for more than six years, assigned to the Adult Diagnostic & Treatment Center in Avenel, and was a recipient of “numerous letters of exceptional duty” from the DOC, O’Connor noted.


Photos by Ron Leir After getting their badges, they pose for family and friends with the mayor and Chief James O’Connor.

Photos by Ron Leir
After getting their badges, they pose for family and friends with the mayor and Chief James O’Connor.

James, who attended the University of New Haven in Connecticut, holds a New Jersey teaching certificate. With his new appointment, James said he was “happy to be further along in my law enforcement career.”

White has served as a member of the Lyndhurst Police Auxiliary and has a B.A. in criminal justice from Montclair State University and Giunta is pursuing a degree in criminal justice.

“I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement,” Giunta told a reporter. “I love the work and I look forward to a long career.”

Also beaming was White, who, after being handed his badge, said he was “on cloud 9. I’ve worked for the department as a maintenance officer, in charge of the vehicle fleet, traffic signs and barricades, as a member of the police auxiliary for several years. I’ve been the court bailiff. I’ve played sports here – baseball, basketball – and I want to give back to my community what they gave to me.”

Addressing the crowd of relatives, fellow officers, township officials and well-wishers, including Rutherford Police Chief John Russo, attending last Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony, O’Connor said the five new hires were judged to be the best of some 100 applicants for the job.

O’Connor reminded the rookies of the challenges they’ll be facing. “You’ll be a “teacher, parent, problem solver, negotiator and be expected to solve everyone’s problem in several minutes,” he said.

Remember, O’Connor told the rookies, an officer has to react to a situation in a clearheaded fashion with no emotion. “There are no do-overs. … Go out in our community and enforce the law. But also be good to your families, your friends and your neighbors. Become proud members of this profession.”

Slow-paced developments


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


It’s been a year and two months since Gov. Chris Christie presided at a ballyhooed groundbreaking for Franklin Manor, an age-restricted 137-unit apartment complex for those 55 and over – the first such senior development for Belleville in more than three decades.

Since then, there’s been some land clearance work at the 2.5 acre site, Franklin Ave. and Mill St., but little else has happened except a lot of commotion over the project being gifted $6 million from a federal Sandy-relief pot for the project – even though Belleville homeowners were spared much of the storm’s wrath.

It was shortly after the $6 million was committed that Mayor Ray Kimble, a Democrat, endorsed Christie for re-election. Kimble and other township officials have said that it was the developer – not Belleville – who applied for the Sandy funds.

Last week, when The Observer called Robert Ricciardi, secretary to the Mill St. Development Urban Renewal Corp. and architect for the project, and asked when work would resume, he refused to comment and Paul DeBellis Sr., president of the corporation, couldn’t be reached.

But on July 22 there was some stirring … of paperwork at least … involving the project as the Belleville Township Council voted to authorize the mayor and township clerk to sign off on an amended redevelopment agreement and financial agreement with the developer who will be providing a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) to the township.

According to Township Attorney Thomas Murphy, “The project is being done in two phases [86 apartments are scheduled for phase 1 and 51 for phase 2] which the developer needed to clarify to get financing and tax credits. The revised agreement will reflect an increase in longterm payments to be received by the municipality, from $2.8 million to $3.5 million.”

Murphy said the township has “already been paid for the land” secured by the developer for the project.

The township Construction Department issued two permits for work at the site: one on Feb. 26 for demolition of an overhead railroad bridge and a second on May 22 for partial footing and foundation only.

Aside from $6 million from the state Community Development Block Grant program (via federal Sandy aid), project funding was also expected from the N.J. Housing Mortgage Financing Agency Low Income Housing Tax Credit program and the Essex County HOME program, in addition to developer equity. Construction and land costs were pegged at about $18 million.

DeBellis’s Franklin Development Group has partnered with the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency to build several mixed-income apartment clusters in the city’s Heights section and has also developed Willow Manor, luxury duplex townhomes in Bloomfield.

Meanwhile, at the nearby Roche Diagnostic tract, Belleville continues in negotiations with David A. Mack Properties of Southport, Conn., for development of that 18- acre property which is being vacated by its owner. Mack was designated redeveloper in December 2013.

Township Manager Kevin Esposito said last week that there’s now some uncertainty about whether the Mack group would want to invest in the Roche site because of what he characterized as “longterm liability.”

The Mack group, Esposito said, “caters to residential and commercial-residential” development “but, based on restrictions for the site’s development, that site will not be residential, by the seller’s desire. We should know how this plays out within 30 days.”

There is, however, some movement at the former Soho hospital building at Franklin and Belleville Aves., which Essex County sold to Alma Realty of New York to redevelop. Esposito said that Alma has been issued local permits to clear out broken windows and frames and secure access points to the structure.

“Next step, we expect, will be submission of an application for site plan approval,” he added. Township officials said that Alma has talked about adapting the building to accommodate market rate residential units and possible ground-floor commercial use.

And, in another prospective development-related move, the township governing body has accepted the Planning Board’s recommendation to designate Kidde Place and adjacent land at the old ice house property on the west side of Washington Ave. near the Nutley border as an “area in need of redevelopment” in anticipation of development plans by investors for the proposed “Imagine Center,” envisioned as a multimillion dollar, mixed-use project consisting of hundreds of residential units and thousands of square feet of commercial/ retail space with a rail connection.