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Category: News

Fighting for veterans

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

NUTLEY – 

A delegation of the region’s veterans convened at the Nutley VFW to cheer news of the Senate’s passage of a bill designed to facilitate returning GIs’ access to health care, as announced by Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez.

The Senate voted 91-3 to move the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability & Transparency Act in the wake of stateside veterans’ long wait times for treatment at V.A. hospitals and falsification of records at the V.A.’s Phoenix, Ariz., facility.

According to a joint release by Menendez and Booker, the bill will fund $10 billion “to establish a Veterans’ Choice Fund to pay for eligible veterans [those living more than 40 miles from a V.A. clinic or those who have to wait more than 30 days for an appointment] to get private [non-V.A.] medical care,” $5 billion to hire more doctors and medical staff to expedite delivery of care to veterans, and authorization to build or expand 27 V.A. care centers in 18 states, including one in Brick, and Puerto Rico. Read more »

Hoping to extend access to riverfront

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

HARRISON – 

It may not compare with the breezes from the Jersey Shore but the Passaic River – albeit polluted – still offers some partial relief to urban grit.

But industrialization and development are obstacles blocking Harrison residents from getting to the riverbank, so the town is hoping to do something about that.

To that end, the mayor and Town Council have scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. in the assembly chambers at Town Hall, 318 Harrison Ave., on a proposed application for state Green Acres cash to acquire land targeted for a “public access waterfront walkway and park consistent with the Harrison Waterfront Development Plan.”

Mayor James Fife said that although the submission deadline for this cycle of Green Acres funding has passed, representatives of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) “have told us that if we have our public hearing by at least Aug. 15, we can still apply for this cycle.”

The area the town is looking to acquire is a 5.8-acre portion of what is listed on the tax map as Block 86, in part of the area designated as the Harrison Waterfront Redevelopment Area. The town owns a small section of land in the northwest corner (Lot 1.01) of Block 86 and the desired 5.8- acre vacant tract – owned by Hartz Mountain Industries – lies just south and east of it. Read more »

Serial-hoax suspect nabbed

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By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 

LYNDHURST –

On Jan. 31, just two days before the Super Bowl, letters containing a white powder resembling anthrax spores were delivered to six hotels near MetLife Stadium, including two in Lyndhurst: the Quality Inn and Courtyard by Marriott, both located on Polito Ave.

Intensive pre-game security prompted a massive response by law enforcement, including HazMat teams that determined the powder was harmless.

Last week, authorities in Dallas announced the arrest of a 66-year-old man who allegedly mailed more than 500 such hoax letters to targets around the world since December 2008. The suspect, Hong Minh Truong, of Rowlett, Texas, has not yet been charged specifically with the New Jersey hotel threats, but he is thought to have been the culprit.

According to Special Agent Diego Rodriguez of the FBI’s Dallas Field Office, “For almost six years, letters containing white powder – and believed to have been mailed by the same individual – have elicited law enforcement and public safety responses from numerous local, state and federal agencies. While it was determined that the mailings did not contain toxins or poisons, each incident required a field screening of the letter’s contents, which cost taxpayer dollars and diverted first-responder resources.”

Rodriguez said, “We believe Hong Minh Truong is responsible for the hundreds of letters sent to locations worldwide, including U.S. government offices, aerospace companies, schools, daycares, and recently, hotels in the vicinity of Super Bowl XLVIII.”

A statement from the office of U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas noted: “The language used in the letters [mailed since 2008], as well as the method of sending the letters, indicate that one person, Truong, is responsible for sending all of the hoax letters. In all but two of the batches of letters, a white-powder substance was included in the envelope.” (“Batches” refers to allegations that Truong would mail between 10 and 40 letters at a time.)

The other Bergen County hotels that received letters in January were in Rutherford, East Rutherford, Carlstadt and Hasbrouck Heights.

Truong was arrested in Texas on July 28 by FBI agents and U.S. Postal Service inspectors. He is charged in a federal complaint with “false information and hoaxes.” Prosecutors reportedly could decide whether to press further charges.

If convicted on the current charges, Truong faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Authorities did not speculate on the suspect’s motives, but the federal complaint cites a 2002 Dallas Police Department report stating that Truong claimed: to “hear voices in his head,” that “the FBI, DEA, ATF and police are after him and beaming radar into his body,” and that “the voices are telling him to do things he does not want to do.”

Fire engine on auction block

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KEARNY – 

Want to buy a used fire truck?

You’ll have a chance to do so in Kearny when the town auctions off a 1990 Emergency- One Fire Engine on Aug. 12 at 11 a.m. at the Town Clerk’s office at the Municipal Building, 402 Kearny Ave.

No minimum bid is requested but a deposit equal to 10% of the bid is required.

Fire Chief Steven Dyl said the rig is “beyond its useful life” for departmental use. Read more »

‘Charity scam’ in name of slain cop

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By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

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

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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

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HARRISON –

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

Belleville 

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.

 Bloomfield 

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.

Harrison 

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.

Kearny 

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.

Lyndhurst 

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.

Nutley 

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.