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Meet the ‘Ambassadors’


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Ambassadors and Knights walk the halls at East Newark Elementary School.

Well, actually, the Ambassadors do a lot of sitting and talking, while the Knights are busy mostly outdoors.

Explanation: the Ambassadors are older students who are part of an experiment to bolster the reading readiness skills of younger children through one-on-one tutoring sessions at the end of the school day.

And the Knights are also part of an elite group: They’re members of the first intramural soccer squad that veteran borough observers can remember functioning in many years, if at all.

Both programs came to life under the watch of Patrick Martin, the new superintendent/ principal of the borough’s only school, although Martin credits school psychologist Shelley Harrison for recommending the student tutorials as a way of breaking through the language barriers that many of the school’s ethnically diverse population face.

Because a significant number come from families whose primary language is something other than English – mostly Spanish and Portuguese – the kids are up against it when it comes to getting English homework help at home, especially if one or both parents are working the night shift, said Jeanine Cruz, now in her 15th year as a basic skills teacher in East Newark.

And that impacts kids’ performance on standardized tests, not only in Language Arts but also in math, since arithmetic word problems can be tricky without a full understanding of the words.

Enter the Ambassadors.

Every Monday to Thursday, from 3 to 4 p.m., nine students from grades 7 and 8 are matched up, individually, with youngsters from grades 1 to 4 and convene in the school cafeteria to work together.

For the first 40 minutes, the younger kids read aloud from a grade-level classroom text to their tutors, who encourage them to sound out a tricky word, break it into syllables and check for comprehension. After a snack, the tutors will spend 20 minutes guiding the younger ones through their reading homework.

Generally, Cruz said, “The little ones are excited to be working with the older students. They feel special. … They see their tutors as positive role models. They’re very chatty and smiling with them.”


Photos courtesy Shelley Harrison TOP: Tutor Elijah Brown (r.) reviews reading sample with Keanu Vargas. MIDDLE: Sharing a light moment, from l., are school psychologist Shelley Harrison, students Monica Arce, Daveed Alverio and Angela Arca and PE teacher/soccer coach Michael Caravalho. The students are ambassadors and players on intramural soccer team. BOTTOM: Model of soccer shirt.

Photos courtesy Shelley Harrison
TOP: Tutor Elijah Brown (r.) reviews reading sample with Keanu Vargas. MIDDLE: Sharing a light moment, from l., are school psychologist Shelley Harrison, students Monica Arce, Daveed Alverio and Angela Arca and PE teacher/soccer coach Michael Caravalho. The students are ambassadors and players onintramural soccer team. BOTTOM: Model of soccer shirt.


“Research shows that [working together] also helps the tutors by boosting their self-esteem,” Harrison said. Several of the tutors have brought in their own smart boards as a resource tool, she noted.

The nine tutors are: Monica Arce, Elijah Brown, Janeth Medieta, Daveed Alberio and Angela Arca, all seventhgraders; and Layza Espichan, Virginia Sacramento, Joselyn Gutierrez and Jenna Vieira, all of grade 8.

The tutorees were selected by classroom teachers while 17 students volunteered to be tutors after getting their parents’ consent and then school staff picked nine, based on high academic performance, teacher recommendations and an interview.

Eighth-grader Virginia Sacramento, who is tutoring a third-grader, said she’s happy to have been chosen because, “I love leading people in different things,” even though, she said, people tend not to see her in that light.

Even before, she said, “I was helping some of the kids in class with math, even though I don’t always understand a problem. I enjoy trying to work it out.” (A tutor training worksheet that school staff share with the students advises: “Always ask a teacher for help if you need it.”)

Fellow tutor Elijah Brown, a seventh-grader, recalled how sometimes, when he was younger, he and his older sister “played the game of teacher. On days when I was sick and not in school, she’d pull me aside for two hours and start teaching me.”

Had he resented her intervention? No way, said Elijah, also a member of the school’s Pre-Chemistry Club. “Without her, a lot of the knowledge I have today, I wouldn’t have.”

As he’s working with his fourth-grader, he uses his smart board to “write out a word and separate it into its different parts,” along with how words sound. Elijah believes his tutoree is “getting better” with his help. And, he said, “I’m very grateful because I’m doing something that’s actually useful instead of just reading myself.”

Then there are the Knights, formed at Martin’s behest, both to offer some measure of intra-scholastic athletic competition in soccer and as a morale builder for middle schoolers.

Thirty-three kids from grades 6, 7 and 8 took up the challenge, even though “very few” of them had previously played the sport, according to coach Michael Caravalho, the school’s physical education instructor and a volunteer coach for the Kearny Kardinals Junior Varsity soccer team for the past three years.

Why soccer and why so many? “That’s what the kids want,” said Martin, “so they flock to it.”

The kids play – so far, only among themselves – at the borough’s soccer field next to Borough Hall, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 4 to 5 p.m., but that could change soon. The Harrison school district has offered the use of its turf field for middle school soccer play, thereby suggesting the possibility of inter-scholastic play for the first time.

Good times at Belleville High


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent 


Elinor Mostello and Bob Iracane were both members of the Belleville High School Class of ’65 but didn’t actually get to know each other until their senior year – which happened to be the same year the then-“new” high school opened.

“We met the first week of school in [September] 1964 when we happened to be in the same math class,” Elinor explained, “but it took him until February to ask me out.

“It was Feb. 12, 1965. We went out to the Belleville vs. Orange basketball game.” Four years later, he proposed.

Bob and Elinor remembered the good times at Belleville High last month when they joined three fellow alumni – Joseph Cervasio, Pat Bradley and Rose Pepe – and Patricia Maucione (now Pugliese), one of their former social studies teachers who has since retired, at a mini-reunion of some members of the first class to graduate from the current Belleville High.

Cervasio, who was president of the Class of ’65, which had 364 students, had called BHS Principal Russell Pagano about organizing a visit, primarily to celebrate Bob and Elinor’s initial meeting in Classroom 217.

“When I was contacted late over the summer by Mr. Cervasio, I thought this would be a great opportunity to reunite the community with the wonderful things at Belleville High School,” Pagano said. “Having alumni return to our school and speak to our students give our students an insight on what to expect when they leave the halls of Belleville High School. It provides encouragement, positive vibes, creates respect and helps student learn about success. This is why I had Mr. [BHS Vice Principal Joseph] Rotonda coordinate this event with me.”

The alums got a tour of the building from BHS seniors, ate cupcakes marked “BHS 1965” baked by the school’s culinary arts students and fielded questions from students.

“I really enjoyed high school,” said Elinor Iracane. “Belleville was a great place to grow up.” And, in September 1964, “It was heaven to be in a new place. We had spent three years in the other building on Washington Ave. [now the middle school] where we were on split sessions where it was so crowded that one year, we couldn’t even get to our lockers, so we had to carry our books everywhere.

“In the new building, we had lots of space. … I remember the excellence of the teaching staff. It was interesting to see how many had gone to Belleville High School themselves. To me, that says something very good about the community.” Elinor eventually became a software engineer for AT&T at Bell Labs.

Photos courtesy Gary Klotzin Top Photo: Recalling fond memories of their time at Belleville High, from L., are: retired social studies teacher Patricia (Maucione) Pugliese, and alums Elinor (Mostello) and Bob Iracane, Pat Bradley and Joseph Cervasio. They were treated to specially decorated cupcakes in honor of the occasion.

Photos courtesy Gary Klotzin
Top Photo:
Recalling fond memories of their time at Belleville High, from L., are: retired
social studies teacher Patricia (Maucione) Pugliese, and alums Elinor (Mostello)
and Bob Iracane, Pat Bradley and Joseph Cervasio. They were treated to
specially decorated cupcakes in honor of the occasion.


Bob Iracane, a CPA, recalled the feeling of “arriving at a new school in my senior year after spending three years in the same high school my father had graduated from 30 years before me. Everything was brand new. It was a total change. In the old high school, it was crowded, there was no campus to speak of and only a small gym. For physical education, we had to walk up to Clearman Field on Union Ave. At lunchtime, you could go to the corner pizzeria. At the new school, we had a cafeteria – there were five lunch periods and you had 25 minutes to eat.”

Overall, though, high school “was just a good time in my life,” he said. “And going back to the high school last month was such a breath of fresh air. The school was in beautiful shape, spotless. To see the kids wearing uniform golf shirts or the sport shirt of the day was very refreshing.” Bob confessed to having “planted the seed in Joe Cervasio’s head” to help arrange a return visit to commemorate that special time when he and his future wife first met.

Cervasio, a corporate executive who handles talent management services for the resort industry and the author of “Bad News on the Doorstep,” also enjoyed the occasion and interacting with the students who “were so relaxed and transparent.” He advised them to, “Live in the moment [and] not be fearful of tomorrow or overly consumed with yesterday.”

His fondest memory, Cervasio said, was of classmate Nicholas Arnold Melito, who had cerebral palsy but who “went from seemingly being least likely to succeed, to becoming one of America’s best comedy writers in Hollywood…. He was the youngest writer ever for Johnny Carson and Joan Rivers was his mentor. When he passed away in 1999, he remains an inspiration to me and all of us from the Class of 1965. He is the only member of our class on the hallowed Wall of Recognition.”

A formal reunion gathering of the Class of ’65 is being planned, possibly for fall 2015.

23-year-old Nutley man charged with sexually assaulting 14-year-old girl


A 23-year-old Nutley man has been arrested and charged with sexually assaulting and endangering the welfare of a 14-year-old girl, Nutley police say.

Jonathan Matos was taken into custody by police on Friday, Oct. 10, on Spring Street, and is being held at the Essex County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail, police say.

Nutley police say they, in concert with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, investigated claims of a sexual relationship between him and the Nutley girl over the past year.

The prosecutor’s office authorized charges on Oct. 10, at which time Nutley police drafted warrants for Matos’ arrest, according to police.


Bloomfield’s Cunningham on watch in the Indo-Asia Pacific region


Quartermaster Seaman Fayden Cunningham, of Bloomfield, assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), stands watch at night in the bridge. Mustin is currently on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting regional security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Declan Barnes/Released)

NAPD: Don’t fall for phone scams


North Arlington residents have reported to police that they’ve received phone calls, mail and email from people reporting to be from the IRS and other governmental agencies. The caller will report delinquencies  in paying taxes, credit card bills or make a similar claim you owe money. A second scam purports that you are entitled to money from oversees or you can benefit from found money by the scammer.

Generally, you will be asked to purchase a green card or similar card from a local store and provide the number on the card or send money to the scammer.

Don’t fall victim to these scams.

Never provide your personal information over the phone or email to a solicitor.  Instead, contact your local police department if you’re not sure what to do.

— Chief Louis M. Ghione
North Arlington Police Department

2nd Harrison hotel


Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide opened its 14th Element hotel in Harrison last Thursday with members of the development team pedal-powering a virtual ribbon-cutting at the new location, 399 Somerset St., just off Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. South.

Starwood CEO Fritz van Paasschen told visitors that that the company is “looking to open 19 more” Element hotels “in the next couple of years” in places like the United Kingdom and China. With the Element brand, “we want to tap into a focus on wellness and sustainability,” he said.

Last Thursday in Harrison, the hotel’s builders and managers mounted bicycles attached to bike generator stands and, as they worked the pedals, they generated enough electricity to power a flat screen plasma monitor to create an “official opening’’ message on screen.

The event underscored Element’s commitment to pursuing LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification for each of its hotels. Element at Harrison is a 138-room modular facility built by a joint venture of Ironstate Holdings LLC and The Pegasus Group and managed by Crescent Hotels & Resorts. The hotel, which opened to guests Aug. 21, features a 24-hour fitness center, indoor pool and a 1,500 square foot meeting room.

The hotel, steps away from the Harrison PATH station, offers complimentary bikes for guests to borrow, plus complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the facility, breakfast, an evening reception and salon bar carts stocked with wines and beers, soft drinks and snacks available after hours.

About 8,000 square feet of the ground floor space is dedicated to retail use. A 2,200 square foot Dunkin’ Donuts has already opened; AT&T will be leasing a 1,500 square foot retail space later this year; Cork Wine & Liquors will be occupying 2,000 square feet in 60 to 90 days; and a retail food shop is planned for the remaining 2,000 square feet, according to Michael Barry, principal of Ironstate.

Photos by Ron Leir LEFT: Gary Maida, general manager of Crescent Hotels & Resorts, (at podium) is flanked, from l., by Richard Miller (The Pegasus Group), Michael Barry (Ironstate Holdings) and Michael Williams (Crescent VP). RIGHT: Fritz van Paasschen, Starwood CEO, at ceremonial opening for Element at Harrison.

Photos by Ron Leir
LEFT: Gary Maida, general manager of Crescent Hotels & Resorts, (at podium) is flanked, from l., by Richard Miller (The Pegasus Group), Michael Barry (Ironstate
Holdings) and Michael Williams (Crescent VP). RIGHT: Fritz van Paasschen, Starwood CEO, at ceremonial opening for Element at Harrison.


Ironstate and Pegasus have partnered to develop Harrison Station, a three-phase, mixed-use project which, at full build-out, will consist of six residential buildings with ground floor retail and the hotel with retail.

The first phase, at 300 Somerset St., which was completed September 2011, comprises 275 luxury rental apartments with a 24-hour attended lobby, fitness center, residents’ lounge with large screen TVs and ping pong table, landscaped courtyard with outdoor pool and beach volleyball court, all above 12,814 square feet of retail, including Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Pronto Gourmet, Sakura Japan, Pro-Cuts, GNC and Path Cleaners.

Phase 2 is the 138-room Element at Harrison and accompanying retail.

Now under construction, next door to the hotel, is Phase 3, which will consist of four stories of 329 residential units and 8,700 square feet of retail, with an estimated completion by October 2015.

– Ron Leir 

A first for Kearny VFW Post


By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 


When Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1302 elected its new commander in May, it also made local history. Jennifer M. Long, who was installed in office at the state VFW convention in June, is the first woman to head a veterans’ organization in this area.

And before any chauvinists ask: Yes, she has the credentials. Impressive credentials.

Long served in the U.S. Army for 30 years, retiring in August 2012 with the rank of Sergeant Major. Her last assignment was with the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan, where she spent nine months “in country” and received a Bronze Star.

While there, she was assigned to the French Army as an adviser on Afghan affairs, overseeing the equipping and training of local police and military in anticipation of the transfer of power from the French to Afghan forces.

She also served a combat tour in Iraq in 2008-09, worked security operations at Guantanamo Bay and is a veteran of the Gulf War.

Asked to comment on all that, she simply said, “You do your job.”

It was a job she said she “always wanted to do,” even though it was not something women thought of as a career at the time she entered military service.

And the job she wants to do now is revitalize the Post, recruit new members, work more closely with other vets’ groups, such as the American Legion and the Marine Corps League, and see the Post become more involved in the community at large.

Those are all among the reasons behind the first annual Octoberfest she has organized for this coming Saturday, Oct. 18. It will be held, rain or shine, on Belgrove Drive between Bergen Ave. and Afton St. from noon to 6 p.m.

In addition to all the aforementioned veterans’ groups, participants will include members of the Kearny Police and Fire Departments, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Kearny students of all ages and various civic-minded groups. “We wanted it to be inclusive, to get as many parts of the community as possible involved,” Long said.

There will be raffles and games and food and live entertainment — rock bands, blues bands, etc.

And everything is being provided to Octoberfest gratis.

“That’s the beauty of this, they’ve all donated their time and their talents,” Long said.

And speaking of donations: The primary goal of the event is to raise funds to send care packages to the 900 New Jersey National Guard troops who are deployed around the world. Also, to collect items to fill those packages.

Cash donations will be used to pay the postage, which, Long noted, “is our biggest cost.” According to the N.J. National Guard, it costs about $25 to ship each box overseas. For 900 troops, that’s $22,500.

You can also bring things needed for the packages. Among the suggested items:

• Lip balm

• Sunblock

• Moist wipes

• Bug spray – non-aerosol

• Bars of soap

• Small bottles of shampoo

• Deodorant – non-aerosol

•Powdered drink mixes

•Cereal/snack/granola bars

• Instant oatmeal – individual  packets

• Hot chocolate – individual  packets

• Small cans of tuna with  pop-tops

• Small cans of fruit with  pop-tops

• Microwave popcorn –  individual bags

•Athletic socks

•Batteries – all sizes

• Toothpaste

• Gum

• Candy

• Small boxes of cereal

• Small bags of trail mix,  peanuts, pretzels

• Books & magazines

There are various websites with care-package info, among them opshoeboxnj.org.

And when Octoberfest is over (we’ll see you there, won’t we?), Long can go back to planning other things. Like continuing to recruit new VFW members.

Post 1302 was once among the biggest in the state, Long said, but “as with all Posts, we’re up against a declining membership. They just age out.”

She added, “Younger veterans want to see more community projects. I’ll try to create such projects to bring in members.”

Then there’s the task of spiffing up the headquarters at 300 Belgrove Dr., a 19th-century structure that, Long noted, had been the administration building for the Old Soldiers’ Home.  That takes money, and money is raised via the Post bar and its hall rentals. “It’s like running a business,” the new commander said.

Fortunately, along with her military experience, she has business acumen. She is currently a financial representative with Primary Financial in Fairfield.

If you were to ask her how she manages all this varied responsibility, we’d bet she’d say, “You do your job.”

Latest snafu for troubled district

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 


For the past few years, it has been nothing but Sturm und Drang at the Belleville public school district.

In late 2012 the superintendent of schools resigned in the wake of several lawsuits by former subordinates charging him with sexual harassment and discrimination.

During 2013 and 2014, angry teachers lambasted the school board for spending $2 million on an elaborate security system instead of fixing broken computer equipment and replenishing instructional supplies and the teachers’ union head narrowly avoided being fired for “conduct unbecoming.”

This year, the state assigned the district a fiscal monitor who initiated an administrative shakeup after a preliminary finding that the district may have overspent $4 million.

Then, last week, came the coup de grace: the district had its phones disconnected by the provider, Clarity Technologies Group. Calls to the main number were answered by a recording that said: “The number you have dialed at the Belleville school district has been suspended due to nonpayment.”

That recording played several days before the phones were switched on again by Clarity – which, according to state monitor Thomas Egan, had turned them off after a dispute “over what we’re being charged.”

In early 2013, the school board contracted with Clarity to provide phone service for $10,000 a month ($120,000 annually). As part of one contract package, it also agreed to pay the firm $1.9 million to install a security system and $240,000 to oversee its IT technology.

Egan said the Belleville school district – like many others – participates in a federal program that helps local districts “enhance phone technology” and reimburses local districts for the cost of phone service under an “E-rate provider” formula keyed to the number of free and reduced meals it provides its students.

It turns out, Egan said, that Belleville is “not eligible to get any of our E-rate reimbursement because Clarity is not recognized as a bona fide E-rate provider by the federal government which they made representation to the board that they were.”

In June, the district, at Egan’s direction, stopped paying Clarity for alleged “poor performance” under its multi-tiered contract and had planned to go to arbitration until Clarity killed phone service, prompting the district to post on its website a list of cell phone numbers assigned to each of its school facilities – a move that Councilman (and former BOE member) Joseph Longo ridiculed as “moronic” and oblivious to the issue of “public safety” for students and staff.

Egan said last week he’s getting another phone vendor, which he described only as “an affiliate of Verizon” and “vetted by the state,” to install a new phone system.

Clarity President/COO Bruce Kreeger said that the Belleville district “failed to pay its bill for six months and their service was suspended. [Late last week] they made a payment and their service is back on.” He declined to say how much the district paid but noted that the check was dated May 4.

Kreeger said it was his understanding that because “Belleville’s financial situation was very bad,” the monitor had been holding up its payments Even so, he said, Clarity “didn’t shut off access to the internet, and made sure that 911 emergency, inter-office and interschool communication systems were still on. Our concern was that students would be protected.”

Asked about Egan’s assertion that Clarity misrepresented its E-rate provider qualifications, Kreeger said that Clarity is a properly licensed E-rate provider. He said the district has failed to file the proper paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission to qualify for federal E-rate reimbursement.

According to Kreeger, the district owes Clarity about $269,000, of which $61,000 is for “phone and internet” service and the balance is for “outsource IT support, parts and supplies,” including fixing all the district’s printers.

Egan said it was also the lack of IT support that prompted his decision to hold up Clarity’s payment. During a severe heat wave at the end of August, Egan said, the district’s computer system crashed, taking down its business, payroll and special services software, preventing it from processing purchase orders and vendor payments. School employees had to bring in their summer pay stubs so that W2 records could be manually calculated and guidance counselors had to reconstruct student scheduling and special needs records for the middle and high schools. “

It caused havoc,” Egan said, and it happened because “Clarity never backed up any of those systems on a separate server.” Egan said Clarity blamed the district for the foulup and, ultimately, both parties agreed to submit the dispute to arbitration, but, “two weeks later, they pulled the plug.”

Meanwhile, BOE President John Rivera, who faulted Egan for allowing the phone shutdown to happen, said: “The monitor came here four months ago and we still don’t have an [accounting] of the district’s financials. He pretty much thinks he’s running the district and he’s put us between a rock and a hard place. … I still don’t know if we’re solvent or if we’re losing money.”

Egan said he’s “had to postpone” that auditing process “because the business records weren’t available,” but added that he’s in the process now of “preparing all the financials to be sent to Trenton.” He said he anticipates he’ll be asking the state to provide a loan to the district of “in excess of $4 million” to balance its budget.

‘Tried to usurp my powers’

Among the legal actions targeting Mayor Robert Giangeruso is a lawsuit filed by the Morristown law firm of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman on behalf of Police Chief James O’Connor.

O’Connor, whose suit was filed July 29 in Bergen County Superior Court, alleges that on May 13, the township improperly amended its police regulations “to strip [the police chief] of his statutory right to assign subordinate officers” by mandating “that no officer holding a rank higher than lieutenant may be eligible for off-duty jobs.”

What’s more, O’Connor’s complaint said, “The Mayor has a history of interfering with the day-to-day operations of the police department. Mayor Giangeruso routinely summons [the chief’s] subordinates to his office without the Chief’s knowledge; rides in police vehicles; directs police personnel away from their duties to chauffeur him; directs police personnel to attend meetings without the Chief’s input; and attempts to direct the day-to-day duties of police personnel without notifying the Chief.”

As a particularly egregious example of what the chief characterizes as interference, the complaint said that Giangeruso directed O’Connor to assign, as a “political patronage reward,” a particular police superior to a series of jobs, first as “the narcotics guy” and to provide him an SUV-type vehicle but without the standard GPS; then as a “street crimes unit;” and then, “property maintenance” overseer – “a function not even within the purview of the police department.” Giangeruso then “promoted this [superior] to … Deputy Chief, over [O’Connor’s] objections, as a way of thanking him for his assistance in getting the Mayor re-elected” and “to help his pension.”

“The Mayor has essentially used this [superior] as his personal chauffeur for the past nine years, requiring him to be at the Mayor’s beck and call and taking him outside the accountability of the police department chain of command,” the complaint said.

– Ron Leir 

Open House at KFD headquarters


By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


Do you know why last week, Oct. 5-11, was national Fire Prevention Week? We didn’t, either.

But we learned the reason thanks to the Kearny Fire Department’s second annual Open House, held Sunday from noon to 4 at its headquarters.

One of the guest participants in the program was Dave Kurasz of the N.J. Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, who explained to the kids and adults gathered on Midland Ave. that Fire Prevention Week is always held the week in which Oct. 8 falls, marking the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

(He told us that it also marks the anniversary of an even worse fire, of which we had never heard. To find out more, see our Thoughts & Views column on p. 6.)

Kurasz was there with a Fire Sprinkler Burn Trailer, in which occurred a short but dramatic display of how quickly sprinklers can douse a blaze. Picture windows on three sides of the vehicle gave the crowd an up-close, and safe, view.

Photos by Karen Zautyk & courtesy of PSE&G

Photos by Karen Zautyk & courtesy of PSE&G


One of the fascinated onlookers was 2 1/2-year-old Izabella Perez-Bambino, held securely in father Jose’s arms. The toddler’s mom, Tania, noted that the family lives around the corner from fire HQ and, at Izabella’s insistence, “Almost every day, we have to take a walk to see the firetrucks!” Tania is a school nurse in Union City, but somehow we think her daughter is planning a different career.

The afternoon’s demos also included a “Jaws of Life” automobile extrication and the always-popular dousing of paper flames by youngsters manning real firehoses.

And all through the program, the children got to try on helmets and bunker gear and clamber aboard trucks and engines and even the KFD’s new fireboat. And they went home with plastic helmets and nifty backpacks.

Photos by Karen Zautyk & courtesy of KFD

Photos by Karen Zautyk & courtesy of KFD


For the adults, there were tables full of literature on fire safety. Even PSE&G was there (and, by coincidence, the MetLife blimp).

KFD Chief Inspector John Donovan was distributing free smoke detectors and small flashlights, invaluable in helping one exit a smokefilled home. Also invaluable was his advice: “Get out and stay out. Because nobody gets out twice.” Remember that, please.

The Open House was both educational and fun, and perhaps the best part was that the public, particularly all those children, got to meet the firefighters whose chosen duty it is to protect lives, even at risk of their own.