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Category: News

Parents alerted to virus



The Lyndhurst Board of Education has alerted parents to the recent appearance of a viral ailment known as “Fifth Disease” among several elementary school age youngsters in the district.

A March 6 posting on the BOE website said that some students had been diagnosed with the condition which was described as “a common disease of school children.”

It listed as likely symptoms, “red rash on cheeks, lacey and itchy rash on arms and legs; sometimes mild joint pain or swelling [and] low grade fever.” Parents are advised to contact their doctors for more information.

In particular, the posting said that, “Pregnant women who have come in contact with an infected child should speak with their doctor.” The posting said that a child with the ailment is “contagious two weeks to three days before appearance of rash. Once rash appears, child is no longer contagious and can attend school.” Read more »

KPD focuses on security cameras


By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent


Early last year, a malevolent vandal spray-painted graffiti up and down Elm St. between Oakwood and Midland Aves., damaging houses, garages, retaining walls and a car (which was reportedly re-targeted after its owner had it cleaned up).

Authorities said the damage averaged about $500 per property; the damage to the auto, about $4,000.

Thanks to cooperative homeowners with private security cameras, the Kearny Police Department was able to readily identify a suspect and take him into custody.

Now, as crimes go, you might think graffiti is no big deal (unless, that is, you have been a victim faced with a graffiti-removal bill you can ill afford). So, how about murder? Read more »

‘Street’ smart in language skills


By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


Check out the action in kindergarten and first grade classes in Lyndhurst public schools.

Instead of sand creatures and tinker toys, kids are creating reading and writing portfolios and parents and/or guardians are being asked to take an active role in helping their kids mount the ladder of academic success.

School administrators are deploying a language arts curriculum called “Reading Street” to get their young charges on the march to literacy mecca. Read more »

Big tab for Oval makeover; survey next


By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


It will take an estimated $15.8 million to revamp Kearny’s Gunnell Oval recreation complex off Schuyler Ave., just north of Oakwood Ave., to the town’s specifications.

But unless the town can find outside funding sources to make that happen, it appears that at least the two environmentally compromised softball fields and soccer/T-ball field that remained off limits last summer will stay closed this season as well, forcing those leagues to scramble for alternate sites. Read more »

Serial robber pleads guilty

Dept of Justice logo

A Newark man pleaded guilty last week to his role in 14 armed robberies — including one in Kearny, one in Belleville and two in Bloomfield — U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

The accused, 27-year-old Jamar Darby, a/k/a “Rhino,” entered the plea March 12 before U.S. District Judge William H. Walls in Newark.

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court, Darby conspired with others to rob various commercial establishments from Dec. 29, 2012, through May 10, 2013. Read more »

Rt. 46 crash injures woman; 2 arrested

Photos courtesy BCPO Steven Baker Harry Halvorsen

Photos courtesy BCPO
Steven Baker                                                                           Harry Halvorsen


A Lyndhurst woman was seriously injured last week when the car in which she was riding was involved in a fiery head-on collision on Route 46. Police said the other vehicle had been traveling the wrong way on the highway.

Both drivers were charged in connection with the crash, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli announced.

Authorities said 25-yearold Jessica Wagoner was a passenger in a 1970 Mercury Cougar driven by Harry Halvorsen 3rd, 25, of Wallington, which was heading eastbound shortly before 1:30 a.m. last Wednesday, March 12.

Near the Henry St. intersection in Elmwood Park, Halvorsen’s car was struck by a 2000 Mitsubishi GS, which Elmwood Park police said was traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes.

The Mitsubishi’s driver, Steven Baker, 28, of Newark, has been charged with driving while intoxicated.

Authorities said the Cougar burst into flames and, prior to the arrival of police, two good Samaritans pulled Wagoner from the burning car. She was transported to Hackensack University Medical Center suffering serious injuries, Molinelli’s office said.

Baker and Halvorsen, both of whom suffered minor injuries, were reportedly operating their respective vehicles with suspended driver’s licenses.

Baker was charged criminally with third-degree assault by auto, driving while suspended and being involved in a serious-bodily-injury collision. He was also issued summonses for DWI and reckless driving.

His bail was set by Elmwood Park Municipal Court Judge Anthony Gallina at $10,000, with no 10% option.

Halvorsen has been charged criminally with driving while suspended and involvement in a serious-bodily-injury collision. His bail was set at $2,500, no 10% option.

– Karen Zautyk

‘Green’ infusion for Community Garden


Photo courtesy David Mach At award ceremony, from l., are Jenny and David Mach; PSE&G Service Vice President Richard T. Thigpen, PSE&G Public Relations Director Art Gida, PSE&G Sustainability Manager Angela Ortiz, Sustainable Jersey Board Chair Pam Mount, and Sustainable Jersey Co-Director Randy Solomon.

Photo courtesy David Mach
At award ceremony, from l., are Jenny and David Mach; PSE&G Service Vice President Richard T. Thigpen, PSE&G Public Relations Director Art Gida, PSE&G Sustainability Manager Angela Ortiz, Sustainable Jersey Board Chair Pam Mount, and Sustainable Jersey Co-Director Randy Solomon.

The Kearny Community Garden is getting flush with green … cash, that is. On March 12, the citizen volunteer-town endorsed effort became one of 34 such ventures from around the state to be awarded $2,000 Sustainable Jersey Capacity-Building grants by the Public Service Electric & Gas Foundation. Since 2009, Sustainable Jersey has given out more than $1.3 million in grants to municipalities in the Garden State to help make their communities more environmentally friendly.

Mayor Alberto Santos said: “Year 2 for Kearny’s Community Garden is off to a great start. Last year our green team members worked very hard learning to cultivate our organic, straw bale garden. I am pleased to say that this year, the organizers’ plan is to expand the project and invite more residents to become urban gardeners growing their own vegetables and flowers in our straw bales. We have already had 45 new families sig up to participate this coming year. Thanks to this grant, we will be able to continue the team’s mission of beautifying, educating and nourishing the community.”

David Mach, a co-founder of the garden, located next to the butterfly garden, in Riverbank Park on Passaic Ave., just south of Midland Ave., said: “There was so much interest … that we had to expand to meet all of the demand.”

And that demand, said co-founder and spouse Jenny Mach, meant that, “All of the 250 spaces in this year’s garden sold out in only four days.” Among this year’s new entries, which include “all different ages, including the local Cub Scouts, professions and ethnic groups,” said David, adding: “We anticipate about 200 people working in the garden this coming season. Last year, the group began with a 10-member hard core unit and it was joined by another 10 down the road.

In an effort to accommodate the growing numbers, Jenny said the organizers are “compiling a waiting list for those interested in case space opens up.”

David Mach said the grant money would help offset the cost of acquiring “more straw bales, potting soils and organic fertilizer than we needed our first season” and “will ensure this growing season is even more prosperous.”

Additionally, some of the money will be used “for advertising” to help promote the garden, said Davis. The hope is that the grant can be stretched to get two years’ use out of it, he added.

How does the Kearny garden grow? Under the rules, “Every family or group that signs up gets at least five bales for $20 to grow what they want,” said David, so long as they agree to use “no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.” A big group like the scouts may get additional bales, he said.

To help keep the garden self-sustaining, without it becoming a drain on local government resources, David said, “We plan to have one or two cash crops. We’ve been thinking of Indian beans, for example, or pumpkins.”

One new wrinkle planned for this growing season is the placement of landscape fabric mats under the straw bales to prevent the spread of plant roots, David said.

So far, about 400 municipalities spread among the state’s 21 counties have registered to become Sustainable Jersey grant recipients.

“The impact that these projects will make in New Jersey is incredible,” said Pam Mount, who chairs Sustainable Jersey’s board of trustees. “Aiding towns and Green Teams to achieve their sustainability goals by funding green initiatives will have a ripple effect that will benefit us all.”

Kearny residents interested in learning more about the garden or who want to join the waiting list are invited to contact the organizing committee at KearnyCommunityGarden@ gmail.com and/or “like’’ the enterprise by visiting www. facebook.com/KearnyCommunityGarden.

– Ron Leir

9/11 steel destined for Schuyler firehouse

Photo courtesy Borough of North Arlington

Photo courtesy Borough of North Arlington



It wasn’t unanimous but at least North Arlington now has selected a place to put its 9/11 memorial steel but is still unsure how much money it will need to do that.

Democrats Al Granell, Tom Zammatore and Mark Yampaglia were joined by Republican Dan Pronti in voting for the Schuyler Ave. firehouse site. Republicans Rich Hughes and Joseph Bianchi favored Zadroga Field, further south on Schuyler where there is an existing 9/11 memorial along a cyclone fence at the entrance to the property.

The council directed borough engineer Tom Lemanowicz to report back at the April 10 meeting with a cost estimate for installing the 12.5-foot-long section of steel recovered from the WTC ruins and gifted by the Port Authority of N.Y. & N.J. to the borough’s Volunteer Fire Department, which applied for it as a tribute to firefighters who lost their lives responding to the disaster.

Granell, the council president, told The Observer, “I’m happy that a location that serves to respect the first responders as well as the residents of North Arlington has been chosen. The 9/11 beam has been in the DPW [garage] for four years since it was first received. It will finally have a resting place viewing its original home and skyline. [It is] a location that does not put the residents at risk and one that will allow those who wish to visit the memorial unfettered access to the memorial.”

For Zammatore, the notion of putting the beam at Zadroga Field creates too many logistical problems: “the traffic, we’d have to reposition the fence, build a retaining wall, add room for parking. The fence should be left as it is.” At the Schuyler firehouse, he said, “there’s a beautiful plot of land on the east side of the parking lot where there’s room for people to park and congregate. There may be some landscaping added.”

A final design for the firefighters memorial has yet to be worked out, he added.

Granell said that since there is no money budgeted to pay for the installation, the borough would consider the possibility of applying to Home Depot for a “grant” program that provides a credit card entitling the cardholder to $5,000 worth of purchases that could be applied toward the installation.

In other business, the council:

• Heard tenants of the Canterbury Gardens apartments on Ridge Road gripe about issues involving plumbing, heating, vacant apartments, questionable work being done. Council instructed the borough administrator to coordinate a visit to the complex by the borough’s construction official and health officer to investigate and take appropriate action.

• Referred to Police Chief Louis Ghione a request by Richard Tarantula, leader of the 60-member Citizens Emergency Response Team, for a $10,000 stipend to help pay for items like reflective vests, coats, rain gear.

• Got a report from the borough engineer complaining about the allegedly poor quality of work by a contractor hired by the Passaic Valley Water Commission to patch up roadways after utility repairs that, he said, can hasten deterioration of the streets involved.

And Mayor Peter Massa swore in Michele Stirone as the new borough recreation director.

Stirone, a controller/property manager for an Elmwood Park consulting firm, is a cofounder/ director of the North Arlington Starz Cheerleading Competition Team. She has also served as advisor to the local girls’ cheerleading squad for five years and as Team Mother for the Junior Vikings football league for six years. Her son Christopher, 12, plays on local football, wrestling and baseball teams and her daughter Gianna, 9, plays softball and is a member of the borough’s recreational and competitive cheerleading teams.

– Ron Leir

Convicted of impersonating a cop

Photo courtesy ECPO Peter Repoli

Photo courtesy ECPO
Peter Repoli


So, a guy walks into a pizzeria and says to the staff, “I’m a sheriff’s officer . . .” It sounds like the start of a bad joke, except it’s real life and the unfunny joke is on the guy, Peter Repoli, 54, of Nutley.

Last week, after a twoday trial in Newark, a jury convicted Repoli of impersonating an Essex County Sheriff’s officer, and he now faces up to 18 months in state prison, Acting County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced.

According to Murray’s office, Repoli went to Santini’s Pizzeria on Franklin Ave. in Nutley on Jan. 26, 2013, flashed a badge and told the workers he needed the address of someone he believed they knew. He threatened to arrest them if they did not provide it, and they said they would try to get the information by the next day.

Repoli returned the following day for the address. But when he left, the workers watched, and they saw him board a bus, not drive away in a sheriff’s car. They thought this a bit strange, so they Googled his name and discovered he had prior convictions.

Rightly believing that this, too, was strange, they alerted Nutley police, who subsequently arrested the “officer.”

On March 12, following the trial before Judge Martin G. Cronin in Superior Court, Newark, the jury found Repoli guilty of the impersonation.

“When someone flashes a badge and indicates he is an officer of the law, members of the public should able to rely on that representation,” said Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Pustay, who tried the case.

“Falsely presenting yourself as an officer is a serious offense and it is a crime taken seriously by this office.

For that reason, we will be seeking an 18-month sentence in New Jersey State prison, the maximum penalty,’’ Pustay said.

Sentencing is scheduled April 25 before Judge Cronin.

Murray’s office said Repoli has 10 prior convictions including robbery, terroristic threats, possession of a weapon and false imprisonment.

– Karen Zautyk

Nicosia drops out of municipal race

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


A bombshell has shaken up the Belleville municipal campaign and has left a glaring hole in the Working for Belleville/ Working for You ticket headed by Mayor Ray Kimble.

Councilman Michael Nicosia, one of the two at-large council candidates running on that slate, has abruptly dropped out of the race.

Nicosia, who is completing his second 4-year term on the council, submitted a letter to the Township Clerk’s Office Friday announcing that he was withdrawing from the campaign.

And it is too late for the campaign team to replace Nicosia on the ballot for the May 13 municipal election. A drawing for ballot positions was scheduled for this week. Aside from Kimble, Nicosia was also running with at-large Councilman Kevin G. Kennedy.

They’re opposed by the Belleville United! ticket, led by Marie Strumolo Burke, the current First Ward councilwoman now seeking the mayoralty, and at-large council aspirants Joseph V. Longo and William J. Freda, both of whom currently sit on the Belleville Board of Education.

In a phone interview with The Observer, Nicosia said that he felt badly for having abandoned his running mates at the 11th hour but, at the same time, he felt he had no choice.

“Four years ago, when I ran in the previous election for council, I felt like backing out because [government service] was consuming too much of my life,” Nicosia said.

This time around, Nicosia said, he thought it would be different. “I was really energized about revitalizing Washington Ave. and other things and the [campaign] battle started early, I got wrapped up in it and I convinced myself I can do this again.”

But during Thursday night’s meeting of the township Planning Board, of which he’s a member, he said he realized he was only fooling himself.

During a hearing on a subdivision application by the developer of a residential complex planned at Franklin Ave. and Mill St., Nicosia said he found himself drawn into a lengthy discussion about “agerestricted” (ages 55 and older) – which is what this developer will be building – versus “senior citizen” housing, “which had no bearing on the application,” and, then, arguing about the pros and cons of amending the plan to allow the developer to give back a piece of land to the township to make it easier for the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission to access the adjoining Second River for maintenance purposes. “And still, three [board members] voted against it,” he said. However, a majority carried the amendment forward.

“The night totally consumed me,” Nicosia said. “I said to myself, ‘What am I doing?’ It was an absolute awakening for me that I need to focus on my family.”

Nicosia, who will finish out his current term June 30, said he’s “most proud of having had a big impact on the [Belleville Municipal] football stadium, the fact that I got the price reduced by $200,000. And, on the new Friendly House, which is still unfinished, because of my negotiations with the contractor, I got us the air-conditioning and the water heater at no extra cost.”

In addition to his four terms on the Planning Board, Nicosia said he also put in time on the council’s development, recreation, public works and IT committees.

Asked would he’d miss most about the job, Nicosia said: “Definitely helping people solve their problems. That’s very gratifying.”

But he remains adamant about bidding farewell to the political arena. “I love this town but I love my family more,” he said.