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Skyway in line for mid-April fix

Top photo by Ron Leir, bottom courtesy nj.com Construction of new Hackensack River Bridge (top) is progressing while repairs to Pulaski Skyway should start in a few weeks.

Top photo by Ron Leir, bottom courtesy nj.com
Construction of new Hackensack River Bridge (top) is progressing while repairs to Pulaski Skyway should start in a few weeks.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Better adjust your travel plans because it’s coming … finally.

The long-anticipated – and long-dreaded – big fix to the 80-year-old Pulaski Skyway will begin next month, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The DOT announcement, which was quietly posted on the DOT website on Feb. 24, says that, “Saturday, April 12 will mark the start of an approximate two-year period for construction activity connected to the $1 billion Pulaski Skyway rehabilitation project, which will improve road and travel conditions in both the northbound and southbound lanes across the deck of the 3.5-mile bridge.”

Work will start with repairs to the two northbound lanes. “When that work is completed,” the DOT explains, “southbound traffic will be shifted to the new northbound bridge deck. This shift will allow workers to rebuild the two travel lanes that normally carry southbound traffic.”

DOT reminds motorists that, “Motorists will be unable to travel in the northbound direction, from Newark to Jersey City, for the duration of the construction period.”

Once that happens, it will spawn nasty consequences for local travelers forced to take alternate routes, particularly through the South Kearny area, predicts Kearny Police Sgt. John Manley, deputy coordinator of the town’s Office of Emergency Management.

The closure, Manley said, “is going to increase traffic to roads already taxed to the maximum,” such as Truck Rt. 1&9, Rt. 7 (Belleville Turnpike) and Harrison Ave., with the “biggest impact” expected during the morning rush.

Secondary thoroughfares like Fish House Road, Second St. and Hackensack Ave. – all of which loop through South Kearny – will also be congested, Manley said.

And, since all those roads – particularly Rt. 7 and Harrison Ave. – flood during rainstorms, that could be a recipe for traffic gridlock, Manley said.

Similarly, Manley warned, a disabled car or accident on the Skyway – with the South Kearny exit ramp, and all exit ramps, being closed to southbound commuters (but open to emergency providers) – will potentially cause hours of delay. “An incident on the Skyway will back up traffic into the [Holland] Tunnel and into Manhattan,” he said.

Worst possible scenario is the closure “is going to double people’s travel times,” Manley said. “I would encourage people to leave early to get to their destination.”

Another severe winter like the one now being experienced will only compound the travel complexities, Manley said.

Not to mention the issue of the Norfolk & Southern freight line that hauls industrial wastes out of the South Kearny area. Manley said there are negotiations involving the rail line, CSX (which controls the rail yard), the waste company, Kearny and the DOT to try and limit the train’s movements to off-peak hours.

If the “garbage train” plods along during morning or afternoon peak times, “traffic will come to a standstill in South Kearny,” Manley predicted, and “emergency responses will be delayed for hours.” Manley said that Kearny police, fire and EMS representatives have been meeting periodically with their counterparts from Jersey City, Newark and the Port Authority of N.Y. & N.J. to discuss the logistics of getting to accidents and the like during the closure.

“It’s going to be a learning experience,” he said.

For its part, DOT says it has worked for more than a year “to develop alternate routes and travel modes for the motorists who currently travel in the northbound direction on the Skyway, which carries Rt. 1&9 traffic,” and which is most crowded between 6 and 9 a.m. when an estimated 9,600 cars head toward Jersey City, Hoboken, other Hudson County destinations, and New York.

As alternate routes, DOT recommends drivers consider taking:

• N.J. Turnpike Newark Bay

• Hudson County Extension (I-78) where an eastbound shoulder will be converted to a third travel lane during morning and evening rush to handle an additional 4,500 cars.

• N.J. Turnpike Eastern Spur, projected to accommodate an additional 1,500 cars during morning rush.

• Truck Rt. 1&9, where “adaptive traffic signal control technology and intersection and entrance ramp improvements” will help take almost 1,700 more cars. To deal with “crashes, breakdowns and other incidents,” DOT “is staging state Safety Service Patrol trucks and two trucks to respond to incidents as quickly as possible.”

On the public transportation front, DOT says the P.A. and NJ Transit are taking steps to increase ridership capacity on its train and bus services. The P.A., for example, will add more PATH departures from Newark Penn Station to accommodate 6,000 additional riders. NJ Transit is adding trips on the Morris & Essex Lines between Summit and Hoboken Terminal, on the North Jersey Coast Line between Bay Head and Hoboken and the Raritan Valley Line to and from Newark Penn Station.

Also, DOT will provide monthly $325 subsidies to NJ Transit through the Hudson County TMA “to support up to 10 new vanpools” to handle about 100 commuters. DOT and the Hudson TMA “are visiting work sites to provide employees with a clear summary of their [travel] options.”

Meanwhile, DOT is continuing work on replacement of the Rt. 7 Wittpenn Bridge over the Hackensack River with a new $480 million vertical lift bridge rising parallel to and 250 feet north of the existing bridge. It will carry two 12-foot lanes, a 12-foot auxiliary lane and an 8-to-12-foot shoulder in each direction, plus a 6-foot sidewalk along the eastern roadway. An 8-foot median with barrier will separate opposing traffic flows. Pedestrians and bicycles will be accommodated. The new lift will allow for a minimum vertical clearance of 70 feet above mean high tide in the closed position – double the capacity of the existing span.

Part of the job calls for reconstruction of a portion of Fish House Road, construction of a pump station and pipe jacking under railroads. Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos said that his understanding is that, “DOT will be sinking Fish House Road to get sufficient overhead coverage for trucks.” As for the pump facility, Santos said that Fish House Road “floods with normal rain events.”

Work is proceeding in five phases:

Contract 1 calls for construction of river piers and fender system, and a pier protection system on either side of the channel consisting of “73 eight-foot diameter drilled shafts that are anchored into rock.” This phase will be done by summer 2014.

Contract 2 provides for off-line portions of the bridge on the Jersey City side, including construction of several piers, superstructure, base supports for sign structures, barrier gate and warning gate supports, and utility relocations. This work should be done by fall 2014.

Contract 3A calls for construction of a pump station, surcharge for Fish House Road abutments, reconstruction of part of Fish House Road and pipe jacking under railroads. Fish House Road and ramps to and from Fish House Road to Rt. 7 will be closed for two weekends. Contract 3 will see construction of the new vertical lift span, with control and machinery houses, lift span towers on the piers already built and the Kearny approach, and construction of off-line portion of the main lift span on the Kearny side, including piers and superstructure, base supports for signs and barrier gate.

Contract 4 will provide for construction of the final bridge and approach roadways and improvements to the Fish House Road interchange, plus new connection ramps to Newark Ave. and St. Paul’s Ave., demolition of old bridge, and utility relocations.

The entire job should be completed by summer 2020.

Get a feel for feline fancy: ‘Cats’ at KHS

Top photo courtesy Kathleen Astrella; bottom photo by Ron Leir TOP: The cast of “Cats.” BOTTOM: Playing Grizabella, Demeter and Munkustrap, respectively, from l., are Cassie Shea, Jessica Sela and Michael Oliveira.

Top photo courtesy Kathleen Astrella; bottom photo by Ron Leir
TOP: The cast of “Cats.” BOTTOM: Playing Grizabella, Demeter and Munkustrap, respectively, from l., are Cassie Shea, Jessica Sela and Michael Oliveira.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Kearny High School’s upcoming spring musical is certain to give you “paws,” if you’ll pardon the pun.

It’s “Cats,” the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about a tribe of cats known as the Jellicles that enjoyed a twodecade- long run on Broadway and a 21-year run in London.

The show, based on the poet T.S. Elliott’s book, “Old Possum’s Book of Cats,” has been translated into 20 different languages.

But this will mark the first time around for local audiences. “It’s something we’ve never done before here,” said director Brian Toal. “We thought it would mesh well with the talent we have available.”

For the past two months, Toal – who is also stage and vocal director – has been pushing his Kardinal cast of 30 through the show’s demanding paces. “It’s challenging musically since there’s music and dancing 90% of the way through,” he explained.

“Our kids leave here tired every night,” Toal said. “We’ve had to make up for time lost to snow days so they’ve been coming in Friday nights, weekends. I have to say, to their credit, this is the most energetic cast I’ve had.”

When these human felines start purring, so to speak, they’ll be accompanied by an eight-piece orchestra of professional musicians, including some former KHS students, under the baton of music director Ed Gargiulo.

Easily the best known tune from the musical is “Memory,” which 17-year-old senior Cassie Shea, as the outcast Grizabella, gets to sing.

It turns out that her character isn’t mentioned in “Old Possum’s Book of Cats” but, instead, appears as the four-legged version of the woman in another Elliott poem, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night.” (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

Cassie, performing in her fifth and final KHS musical (she got her first shot on stage as an eighth-grader), has found her role something of a reach.

“[Grizabella] used to be young and beautiful and she wanted to go off and see the world. Now she’s grown old and beat up and she wants to come back to the tribe but she’s shunned. I’ve never played a role like this before and I’m friends with the other kids in the cast so when they try to keep me away in the play, we end up laughing,” Cassie said.

But she’s working hard to keep it together for the good of the show, she says.

Jessica Sela, 17, a senior appearing in her second KHS musical, plays Demeter, who Jessica describes as “one of the more sensual cats out there” and a leader of the opposition to Grizabella’s return to the tribe.

“She left and exposed herself to something different [and] I don’t want Grizabella’s influence on the younger cats,” Jessica said, explaining her character’s motivation. Pressed for more, Jessica added: “There may be some jealousy behind it, too.”

The notion of being protective as the character has a real life parallel for Jessica. “I’m defensive about what’s mine,” she says.

Demeter is aligned with the tribe’s second in command, Munkustrap, acted by another 17-year-old senior Michael Oliveira, doing his third KHS musical and bound and determined, after graduation, “to be on the stage for as long as I live, but I also want to teach [acting].”

“Munkustrap wants to protect everyone from harm,” Michael says of his character. He, too, has found a real-life situation from which to draw his motivation. “I have an older brother and younger sister and I’m kind of protective of them,” he explains.

In the context of the play, “When you offend someone in our group [by leaving it], you offend all of us, so I have to step in.”

Aside from the demands of learning songs and dance routines, choreographed by Milly Gonzalez, the young thespians are faced with another challenge – applying and performing under a ton of face paint and makeup – plus costume – designed to give each of the “cats” a distinctive look.

Kathleen Astrella, the show’s business manager, said that 10 AP Studio Art students have been recruited for makeup duties – which are considerable, given that it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to complete work on one person, according to Toal.

So, in the interests of efficiency and time, Astrella said that, “Each AP student will be assigned to do makeup of three actors and the goal is to do everyone in two hours.”

“We spoke to one of the makeup artists who worked for the Broadway show – he’s now a university professor who teaches makeup artistry – and he graciously talked with us for an hour in great detail about the process so we were very fortunate to get that professional guidance,” Astrella said.

All of the costumes are being rented, she said.

A 15-member student crew, led by set designer and lighting director John Bednarczyk, is creating the “home” of the Jellicles.

The show runs Thursday, March 20, Friday, March 21, and Saturday, March 22, all at 7:30 p.m., in the high school auditorium. Admission is $8 for students and senior citizens and $10 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at the door.

Additionally, the KHS Players will present a free preview performance for senior citizens on Tuesday, March 18, with a pre-show dinner prepared and served by KHS culinary arts students at 5 p.m. in the high school cafeteria, followed by the play in the auditorium at 7 p.m. Seating is limited to 200 so seniors are encouraged to sign up in advance at any senior citizen center or with Sally Sprague at the KHS main office by 3 p.m. Friday, March 14.

And, as a treat for the younger set, the KHS Players will offer a kiddie matinee performance for children ages 12 and under, accompanied by an adult, on Saturday, March 21, at 1:30 p.m., in the high school auditorium. Admission is $6. As a bonus, kids will have a shot at face painting from 12:45 p.m. to 1:20 p.m. and during intermission and, after the show, starting at about 3:30 p.m. there will be photo ops with the cast of “Cats.”

Kearny Firefighters of the Year

A January 2013 blaze caused a structural collapse at this Devon St. house, trapping several fi refi ghters, who were rescued by KFD members Andrew O’Donnell (top) and Michael Janeczko.

A January 2013 blaze caused a structural collapse at this Devon St. house, trapping several firefighters, who were rescued by KFD members Andrew O’Donnell (top) and Michael Janeczko.

By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent


At 2 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, fire broke out in a three-story, six-family home at 118 Devon St. All 24 residents were safely evacuated, but the blaze was so fierce, it took three hours to bring it under control.

At one point, conditions were so bad, the flames forced the firefighters from the building. But then, before they could all reach safety, the roof collapsed.

Several of the men were trapped, buried under burning debris.

They were saved by two fellow members of the Kearny Fire Department, who dug them from the rubble.

Those rescuers — Firefighter Michael Janeczko and Firefighter Andrew O’Donnell — have now been named the KFD Firefighters of the Year for 2013, sharing the honor as they shared the danger that night for the sake of their “brothers.”

The honorees were selected by the department’s Meritorious Acts Review Board, on which all ranks are represented. They will also receive the New Jersey State Firemen’s Benevolent Association Brotherhood Valor Award.

In 2012, O’Donnell was cited for another heroic act, earning the KFD’s Class B Medal of Honor, which is awarded “only when a member performs an act with great personal risk involved.”

According to a department statement, O’Donnell “acted courageously and without due regard to his own safety at a house fire on Laurel Ave.”

He was the acting captain on Engine 3 and arrived at the scene to find the second floor of the home fully involved. At the time, other KFD units were battling another blaze, on Harrison Ave. O’Donnell, with limited staffing, “directed his crew in extinguishing the fire and searching for trapped occupants.”

O’Donnell, a 1986 Kearny High School graduate, has been a member of the KFD since February 1999 and is currently assigned to Station 2 on Kearny Ave.

He is president of FMBA Kearny Local 18 and is an active member of the department’s Technical Rescue Team.

O’Donnell and his wife, Kathleen, have four sons: Griffin, Luke, Hunter and Cole.

Janeczko has been with the KFD since April 2007.

A graduate of Bayonne High School, he attended Jersey City State College and was previously employed as a senior manufacturing assistant with AT&T and as a train engineer for PATH. He is assigned to KFD Station 3 on Midland Ave.

Janeczko is active in Emergency Management and has been a Red Cross Disaster Volunteer for 20 years.

He is also a Lifeguard Instructor Trainer, Emergency Response Instructor Trainer, Water Safety Instructor and Disaster Instructor.

Currently, he also serves as an elected member of the Hudson County Democratic Organization Committee and he is the director of the Bayonne Community Education Indoor Soccer League.

Janeczko and his wife, Stacey, live in Bayonne with their two daughters, Alexa and Ella Grace.

He came to buy tickets, got robbed instead


Photos courtesy LPD Franklin Nobile Stephanie Diaz

Photos courtesy LPD
Franklin Nobile                                                                            Stephanie Diaz



Two people have been arrested and a third suspect is being sought in connection with a scheme to steal $1,200 from a Nutley resident looking to buy Super Bowl tickets.

Lyndhurst police Chief James O’Connor announced the arrests of Stephanie Diaz, 21, of Lyndhurst, on charges of conspiracy to commit theft and luring, and Franklin L. Nobile, 24, of East Orange, on charges of robbery, possession of a hand gun, possession of a hand gun for unlawful purpose, conspiracy, aggravated assault, luring and threat to kill.

Police said the incident happened on Saturday, Feb. 1, the day before the Super Bowl, when police were called to a location in the 300 block of Page Ave. on a report of an armed robbery.

At the scene, police said they learned that a 21-yearold Nutley man had come to Lyndhurst with the intent of purchasing two Super Bowl tickets for $1,200. Police said the tickets had been posted for sale on Facebook by a longtime female acquaintance of the victim who lived in Lyndhurst.

The victim told police that when he arrived at the residence, which is where Diaz lives, he was met by a heavyset African-American in his mid-20s with short black hair and was then approached by a second person from behind who pointed what he believed to be a hand gun to the back of his head.

Police said the two men then went through the victim’s pockets and removed $1,200 in cash, his car keys and a cellular phone. Police said the keys and phone were later recovered inside the residence where they believe the suspects left them before fleeing the scene.

The victim was unharmed, police said.

Lyndhurst Police Det. Capt. John Valente said that police were able to locate Diaz through the victim but delayed arresting her until last Thursday because they wanted to arrest Noble first. Noble was arrested on Feb. 11 after detectives worked with police contacts in Newark and review video surveillance in the Page Ave. neighborhood to track him, Valente said.

Valente said that police investigators, led by Det. Vincent Auteri and Det. Lt. Patrick Devlin, determined that the tickets offered for sale were legitimate and were acquired through an unknown means by two individuals who attended the game but were found to be unconnected to the scheme.

No weapon has been recovered and the $1,200 is unaccounted for, Valente said.

Both Diaz and Noble are being held at Bergen County Jail, Hackensack, pending prosecution. Diaz’ bail was set at $15,000 or 10% cash option; Noble’s bail is $130,000 with no 10% cash option.

– Ron Leir

Woman groped in park:NPD blotter

Composite courtesy N.J. State Police Have you seen him?

Composite courtesy N.J. State Police
Have you seen him?


Police are looking for a man who, they say, grabbed a woman in Nichols Park, bounded by Kingsland St. and Bloomfield Ave., in Nutley late Thursday afternoon.

The woman told police she was walking her dog near the waterfalls in the park at about 4:45 p.m. when an unknown man grabbed her from behind, touching her inappropriately.

Police said she fended him off and ran, calling police for help and providing a description of her assailant as white, about 6 feet, 200 pounds, wearing a navy blue hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.

A search of the park area was unavailing.

A New Jersey State Police sketch artist produced a composite rendering of the potential suspect.

Police asked anyone who has information about the incident to contact the Nutley Police Department’s Detective Bureau at 973-284-4940, ext. 2171.

Police listed the following incidents as among those logged during the past week:

March 1

At 9:12 a.m., police were called to a Walnut St. residence where the owner told them that, upon returning home, they found the rear door entrance handle broken off and a rear window sill broken off and screen removed and bent. Under the window, police said they found a long-handled shovel which they surmise was used by an intruder to try to pry up the window. Police said they also found footprints in the snow. Inside, police said, multiple rooms and drawers were rummaged through and an estimated $3,000 worth of items taken. Essex County law enforcement agents and local detectives are investigating.

March 5

At 11:47 a.m., the manager of a River Road business reported finding a pile of garbage outside of the two Dumpsters in their parking lot. The manager told police that the Dumpsters were kept locked because of previous problems with people dumping trash in the Dumpsters without authorization.

At 2:03 p.m., the owner of a Franklin Ave. business reported a suspicious incident, telling police that someone purporting to be from the Online Windows Co. called asking about their computer, saying they needed to update the company’s files, and the owner gave the caller information to access the computer from a remote location. The caller told the owner that a fee was required for further assistance but the owner declined. So far, no personal or financial information is missing, police said.

While on patrol, at 9:47 p.m., police said officers were stopped for a light at Bloomfield Ave. and Kingsland St. when they spotted a silver Audi go through the red light, with the driver shutting off the headlights, nearly causing an accident. Police said the patrol unit activated its overhead lights and siren and began a pursuit of the Audi which continued on at a speed of 40 mph. Police said the Audi continued into Clifton and got onto Rt. 46 West where the chase was ended. However, police said they were advised that the Audi was stopped by Totowa PD after it crashed on Rt. 80 West. The driver, Michael Matto, 39, of Franklin, was taken to an area hospital and later released. Matto was charged with eluding, failure to stop or yield, no headlights, speeding, failure to signal turn, reckless driving and driving while suspended. Matto was held at Passaic County Jail on $5,000 bail or 10% cash option, pending court action.

March 6

Multiple police units responded to a Park Ave. location, at 1:44 a.m., on a report of someone trying to gain access to vehicles in a parking lot. A caller told police they heard their car alarm sounding and, when they looked out the window, which overlooks the lot, someone shouted, “Hey!” from their apartment window, prompting a man dressed all in black with a black ski mask to run from the lot. Police said they found no signs of any vehicles tampered with and a search of the area proved unsuccessful.

At noon, police said they responded to a River Road location on a report of a stolen vehicle. Police said the owner of a white Ford Mustang told them they’d parked the vehicle in front of their apartment complex and, upon returning, found it missing. The owner told police that before they parked the Mustang on River Road, they saw two men parked in a station wagon blocking the driveway into the complex.

March 7

A suspected case of fraud was reported by a victim who told police their bank had contacted them about someone who’d tried to cash a check from their business, but who, after the teller became suspicious of the transaction, left the bank, leaving behind the check. The victim told police they logged onto their account and noticed that two checks had been drawn from the account, payable to two different individuals, that appeared to be fraudulent. Both checks, totaling $3,574.90, were cashed at a branch of the bank in Jacksonville, Fla. The victim advised the bank they didn’t issue those checks. The victim told police they had made out several checks to various companies and suspected that those checks were intercepted in the mail or by someone at one of those companies. The victim’s information was copied with their signature onto new fraudulent checks. Police advised the victim to contact the Jacksonville PD and advise them of the incident.

– Ron Leir

KPD targets paintball perps

On the night of Feb. 18, Kearny police responded to several reports of paintballs being fired from a passing car at unsuspecting pedestrians. Incidents were recorded at Kearny and Pavonia Aves., Brighton Ave. and Halstead St. and near Town Hall.

At least two people were reported injured, one suffering a facial laceration.

Now, thanks to the followup investigation by Det. John Traynor, three suspects have been identified, Police Chief John Dowie reported. They are Kevin Telfair, Caavon Hinson and Dashawn Singleton, each 24 years old and all from Newark.

Warrants have been issued for their arrest on charges of aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, and conspiracy.

Dowie said the same trio are suspects in a similar incident near Essex County College in Newark, also on Feb. 18.

Other recent reports in the KPD blotter included the following:

Feb. 27

After confirming he was the subject of an outstanding Harrison warrant, members of the Vice Unit arrested 53-yearold Kearny resident Bryan Couch at Kearny Ave. and Patterson St. at 9:30 p.m., police said. In a search pursuant to arrest, Couch was reportedly found to be in possession of four glassine folds of suspected heroin, stamped “300.” He was charged on the warrant and with possession of the drug and paraphernalia.

March 2

Officer Luis Moran, dispersing a disorderly group on Washington Ave. at 9 p.m., observed 18-year-old Gabriel Xavier of Kearny holding a blunt cigar, which was found to be hollowed out and containing marijuana, police said. Xavier was charged with possession of pot and paraphernalia.

March 3

Officer Chris Levchak was dispatched to Walmart at 5 p.m. after store security reported a customer “blatantly” cutting open packages of cell phone, car and bicycle parts. Levchak confronted the man in the store and removed from his possession two pairs of pliers, a screwdriver, a utility knife and a razor knife, police said.

Eric Perez, 46, of East Newark was charged with shoplifting and possession of burglar tools. Police said he also had outstanding warrants from Newark and Union City.

At 7:30 p.m., Officer John Fabula observed Francis Perez, 25, of Kearny — whom he knew to have a suspended driver’s license — make an illegal u-turn on Kearny Ave. near Wilson Ave. and then park next to a fire hydrant, police said. When Perez alighted from the vehicle, Fabula arrested him on charges of: driving while suspended; failure to surrender a suspended license; failure to have his vehicle inspected; blocking a hydrant, and failure to notify the DMV of an address change.

March 4

Shortly after 5 p.m., Vice detectives reportedly observed Aaron Taylor, 26, of Harrison drinking beer from a clear plastic cup at Kearny Ave. and Boyd St. Taylor might have gotten away with just a summons for violation of the town ordinance against drinking in public, but for the fact that a warrant check, police said, showed he was wanted by Harrison — for drinking in public. He was arrested on that warrant.

At 9:15 p.m., on the 300 block of Kearny Ave., Vice officers observed an individual known to them enter a vehicle and, under police surveillance, reportedly travel at a high rate of speed to Belgrove Drive and Bergen Ave., disregarding a traffic signal at Bergen and Kearny, and then return to the 300 block, where they conducted a motor vehicle stop. There, police said, they saw him put a small plastic bag containing a white substance in his mouth and swallow it.

The driver, Glenn Yakabofski, 41, of Kearny, reportedly also appeared to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. He was arrested on charges of: hindering apprehension; possession of cocaine; possession of drug paraphernalia; operating a motor vehicle under the influence, and possession of a CDS in a motor vehicle.

March 5

At 11 a.m., while conducting a foot search on the 100 block of Beech St. in connection with an unrelated investigation, Officer Thomas Bannon, Det. Michael Gonzalez and Sgts. John Taylor and Michael Cardella were checking a backyard when they found Marllon Marques, 19, of Kearny, allegedly ingesting marijuana on the rear deck of a house (not his). He was charged with possession of a CDS.

March 6

At 5:30 p.m., on the 100 block of Midland Ave., Vice officers, pursuant to observation of an earlier drug transaction, approached Christian Vasile, 36, of Kearny and found him to be in possession of two glassine folds of suspected heroin, stamped “187,” police said. He was charged with possession of the drug and paraphernalia.

Vice officers, conducting surveillance at Kearny Ave. and Afton St. at 9:30 p.m., reportedly witnessed a hand-to- hand drug transaction and took into custody the alleged customer, Jesus Cintron, 37, of Kearny, on charges of possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.

The reputed seller, Manuel Dean, 27, of Kearny, was in possession of money believed to be proceeds from the sale, and a later search at his residence produced a large bag of suspected marijuana, police said. He was charged with distribution of the drug and distribution within 1,000 feet of Kearny High School and 500 feet of the Kearny Public Library.

–Karen Zautyk

Coccia Realty agents honored

Billy and Amelia Pena.

Billy and Amelia Pena.


The New Jersey Association of Realtors (NJAR) has inducted nine Coccia Realty agents into its Circle of Excellence for the year 2013 for Coccia Realty’s local offices of Rutherford, Lyndhurst and Kearny.

The award is given to agents who have made a substantial amount of sales. Bronze Level recipients had to accumulate a minimum of $3,000,000 in sales volume and 15 units closed while Silver recipients needed at least $7,500,000 in cumulative sales volume and 20 units closed.

The recipients for the NJAR Circle of Excellence Award 2013 Silver Level were: Amelia Pena, Amelia’s son Billy Pena and Bobby Ristovski. Those who achieved the 2013 Bronze Level were: Carol Hughes, Carol Ann Evangelou, Beatrice Goldberg, Dorota Chojnacki, Luis Pinto and Jan Kwapniewski.

Amelia and Billy Pena were credited with combined sales of more than $16 million with in excess of 65 transaction sides in 2013.

The Penas share over 35 years of experience in real estate and consistently rank as among the leading agents in the region, based on statistics from the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service (NJMLS).. Both Penas are fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

Top row, from l.: Bobby Ristovski, Carol Hughes and Dorota Chojnacki; next row, from l.: Michael Amoroso, Randy Wine, Middle Row: Jim Curroto, Amelia Pena, Farah Chaffin and Gina DeFalco; bottom row, from l.: Jan R. Kwapniewski Billy Pena, Bea Goldberg and Luis Pinto.

Top row, from l.: Bobby Ristovski, Carol
Hughes and Dorota Chojnacki; next row, from l.: Michael Amoroso, Randy Wine, Middle Row: Jim Curroto, Amelia Pena, Farah Chaffin and Gina DeFalco; bottom row, from l.: Jan R. Kwapniewski Billy Pena, Bea Goldberg and Luis Pinto.


All award winners are full-time agents and Realtors at Coccia Realty offices in Rutherford, Lyndhurst and Kearny. They are members in good standing with the RealSource Board of Realtors the NJAR and National Association of Realtors as well as active members of the NJMLS and some are members of the Garden State MLS system.

Kwapniewski, president of Coccia Realty, said: “2013 was quite a year for the company and a terrific year for our NJAR award recipients. I am impressed and delighted to have such a group of professionals. Our Coccia Realty team is truly the best in the area. … Coccia Realty is number one in sales in the area and has the top agents who look out for their clients’ best interests.”

Founded in 1961, Coccia Realty has more than 100 sales associates and staff with five locations in Bergen, Hudson and Morris Counties.

Around Town


Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave., offers these children’s programs:

• Storytime on Wednesdays at 11 a.m., beginning March 12.

• St. Patrick’s Day celebration with crafts, games and featuring a musical performance by the Faulkner Sisters on Saturday, March 15, at 2 p.m.

For more information, call the library at 973-450-3434 or visit www.bellepl.org.

Belleville Elks Lodge #1123, 254 Washington Ave., holds its monthly breakfast on Sunday, March 16, 9 a.m. to noon. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children under age 10 and free for children under age 3. In case of bad weather, call the lodge at 973-759-9623 for possible cancellation.


Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., offers the following children’s programs:

• Spanish Storytime, for ages 2 to 5, on March 17 at 11 a.m.

• Bedtime Storytime, for ages 2 and up, on March 24 at 6:30 p.m.

• Science Friday, for ages 5 and up, on March 21 at 4 p.m.

• Movies at the library will be postponed due to construction in the library theatre.


A blood drive will be held at the Harrison Recreation Center gymnasium, 401 Warren St., on Wednesday, March 12, 3 to 7 p.m. Donors must know their social security number, bring signed photo ID, weigh at least 120 pounds, eat a meal and drink plenty of water one hour before donating. Parental consent forms for 16-year-olds will be available at the blood drive. For more information, call 973-676-4700, ext. 144, or email bmcentyre@bloodnj. org.


Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., screens “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (PG-13/146 minutes) at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 14. Popcorn and light refreshments will be served. Admission is free. For more information on any library program, call 201-998-2666 or visit www.kearnylibrary.org.

Good Shepherd Church, 780 Kearny Ave., launches an English-speaking service on March 22 at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 201- 997-4369.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 7, Hudson County, meets on the second Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the Irish American Association, 95 Kearny Ave. New members are welcome.

Grace United Methodist Church, 380 Kearny Ave., hosts a corned beef and cabbage dinner on Friday, March 14, 5 to 7 p.m. Take out orders are available. Admission is $10 for adults; $5 for children age 12 and under. The church’s Easter Spring Fling sale will also be open. For more information, call 201-991-1132.

St. Stephen’s Seniors meet on Tuesday, March 18, at noon. Board meeting is at 10:30 a.m. The club is planning the following events:

• Atlantic City trip, March 26.

• Virginia trip, April 24-27.

• Anniversary party at San Carlo, Lyndhurst, May 2.

• “Sight and Sound” trip, June 11-12. For club information, call Tom at 201-998-8258; for tours, call Joan at 201-998- 3578; for A.C., call Peg at 201- 998-9443; and for Sunshine, call Vicki at 201-991-8345.

The Evening Membership Department of the Woman’s Club of Arlington meets on Wednesday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m. at the Henrietta Benstead Center, Columbia Ave.

Presbyterian Boys-Girls Club, 663 Kearny Ave., hosts a St. Patrick’s Dance on Friday, March 14, 7 to 10 p.m. Guests are restricted to teenagers only. The dance will be supervised by Lincoln School guidance counselor Thomas Fraser and members of the club’s board of directors.

The PBGC is conducting a canned food drive this month on behalf of the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington. Children are invited to donate two canned foods as their admission to the club. Club hours: 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.


New Jersey Meadowlands Commission announces:

• “Marshes of the Meadowlands: 1950 to today” on Sunday, March 16, 1 to 2:30 p.m., at the Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park Plaza, Lyndhurst. For more information, call 201- 460-8300. Admission is $5/ person; $4/MEC members.

Registration is recommended and appreciated. To register go to www.njmeadowlands. gov/ec.

• A 30-minute Woodcock Walk at Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus with the NJMC and Bucks County Audubon Society on Monday, March 17, at 6:45 p.m. It’s free. Check meadowblog.net for additional details and last-minute weather updates. To R.S.V.P., contact Don Torino of the BCAS at greatauk4@aol.com or 201-230-4983.

• Third-Tuesday-of-the- Month bird walk with the NJMC and BCAS on Tuesday, March 18, 10 a.m. to noon.The walk starts at Harrier Meadow on Disposal Road near Schuyler Ave., North Arlington. Check meadowblog.net for last-minute updates. Participants are asked to sign a standard liability release that is good for NJMC/BCAS events throughout the year. To R.S.V.P., contact Don Torino of the BCAS at greatauk4@aol.com or 201-230-4983.

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

• A St. Patrick’s Day craft program for children in grades 1 to 4 on Monday, March 17, 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Advance registration is required. To register, call the library at 201-804-2478.

• “Introduction to Fly Fishing,” presented by Doug Penna of Trout Unlimited, on Wednesday, March 19, 6 to 8 p.m. Space is limited so registration is necessary. Come a half-hour early for a personal Q & A with Penna. To register, call the library at 201-804-2478, ext. 7, or email romeo@bccls.org.

Join the Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Ave., for the following:

• Free arthritis and joint pain management forum hosted by Clara Maass Medical Center on Friday, March 21, at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be served. Call the Lyndhurst Health Department at 201-804-2500 to reserve a seat.

• A free meditation course beginning Wednesday, March 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the recreation room at 601 Riverside Ave. Use the entrance doors facing the Passaic River.

North Arlington

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Rd., offers the following programs:

For children and teens: • Young Adults Movie Day, for grades 6 and up, on Friday, March 21, at 3 p.m.

• Spring Craft, for kindergarten to grade 5, on Saturday, March 22, at 11 a.m. Registration is required. Call 201-955-5640, ext. 126.

For adults:

• ESL Group class on Tuesdays through March 18 at 10 a.m. No registration necessary. •

Friends of the Library meeting on Friday, March 21, at 10:30 a.m.

• Amateur historian/ photographer Bill Coughlin offers a New Jersey history program for all ages on Tuesday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m. This program is sponsored by the Woman’s Club of North Arlington.

The Senior Harmony Club sponsors the following trips:

• Taj Mahal on Tuesday, March 18, and the Sands on Thursday, April 24. For reservations or information, call Florence at 201-991-3173.

• Westchester Broadway Theatre to see “Ragtime” on Thursday, May 1. Call Anna at 201-939-2960.

North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Rd., hosts a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon on Monday, March 17. Bingo starts at 10:30 a.m., lunch is served at noon and there’ll be dancing from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information and reservation, call 201-998- 5636,


Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Dr., announces:

• A one-hour Story Time with therapy dog Rodney and his guardian Ms. Carol on Saturday, March 15, at 11 a.m. The program includes a story and a discussion on Rodney’s role and experience as a therapy dog, plus a craft. All ages are welcome. Light refreshments will be served. Registration is required.

Register online at the children’s room website at http://nutleypubliclibrary. org/youthservices/, or call the library at 973-667-0405, ext. 2623.

• Children ages 5 to 12 are invited to improve their literacy skills by reading to a certified therapy dog from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on the following Saturdays: March 19, April 17 and 31. Registration is required. Register online at the children’s room website at http:// http://nutleypubliclibrary. org/youthservices/reading-todogs- nutley-public-library/, or email Michelle Albert at michelle.albert@bccls.org, or call the library at 973-667- 0405, ext. 2623.

• Richard Jackson hosts “Nutley: Honoring a Proud Past, Building a Healthy Future,” Tuesday, March 18, at 7 p.m. Jackson explains how well-designed communities can improve both mental and physical health.

• “Library Catalog 101” explains the latest tips and strategies to effectively search for and request items, how to share what you are reading on Facebook and manage your online library account on Friday, March 28, at 10 a.m. Call the library at 973-667- 0405, ext. 2604, to register no later than one week before presentation.

Nutley Elks Lodge, 242 Chestnut St., presents The Cameos on April 26 at the lodge, 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. The $45 admission includes a hot buffet and open bar. Proceeds benefit veterans’ programs. For tickets, call Frank Zatorski at 201-207-2743. R.S.V.P. by April 15.

New school security system just about ready to roll

Photo courtesy Belleville Public Schools Belleville schools ID cards are embedded with a radio frequency tracking mechanism.

Photo courtesy Belleville Public Schools
Belleville schools ID cards are embedded with a radio frequency tracking mechanism.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


The elaborate $2 million security system cooked up by the Belleville public school system is on the brink of being activated, school officials said.

No official starting date was offered but Superintendent of Schools Helene Feldman said recently that, “The security infrastructure has been laid down completely and we’re ready to roll.”

Elaborating, Board of Education President Joseph Longo said that, “Installation is complete. We’re just going through the process of testing it out to make sure all the parts are working. We’ll be operating on a rolling implementation.”

Responding to a query raised by an audience member during the board’s Feb. 24 meeting about metal detectors, Longo said: “We have two hand-held wands, one for the high school and one for the middle school, which can be used [at the school entrance] at the discretion of the school safety officer.”

The Belleville Education Association has attacked the BOE spending on the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) video tracking system – which is being spread out over five years – as misguided, saying that the board should be thinking, instead, about replacing outdated computer equipment essential to student learning.

At the Feb. 24 meeting, teacher Michael Dias said: “We simply do not have the tools necessary to do our jobs” and added that teachers couldn’t complete report cards for the current marking period because they couldn’t link up to the computer system.

But Feldman and Longo, in a recent interview with The Observer, said the board was actively involved in remedying the computer issues because they recognized how important they were to help deliver positive outcomes for students.

Indeed, Feldman said, “Technology is the only answer for children these days.”

At the Feb. 24 meeting, the board approved by a vote of 3-2, with two abstentions, contracting with Clarity Technologies Group of Mine Hill – the same firm handling the security system – “to provide outsourcing of the [district’s] Information Technology Department” for $20,000 per month, for five years.

Board members Jennifer Lombardi and Ray Kuebler opposed the award; Longo and Lillian Torres abstained; and John Rivera, William Freda and Peter Zangari Jr. voted in favor. Longo said he abstained because his son formerly worked for Clarity.

Longo said that Clarity proved its value to the district after the company was brought in as an “emergency vendor” in January 2013 to remedy malfunctioning or inoperative computers.

“When they came in, they found 950 open tickets [service requests] on individual machines,” Longo said. “They got that number down to 250. Now we’re down to about 100. They also fixed 16 printers. Now, they’re attacking one school at a time and not just looking at units ticketed for servicing – they’re doing triage and inventorying all equipment – dismantling, cleaning and upgrading – so we know what we have.”

Longo also credited the firm with arranging to install an anti-virus software and devising a storage system for email.

In other district developments, the board voted to create a new job of Assistant Business Administrator; upgrade Ricardo Acosta from interim principal to principal effective Feb. 25; accept the retirements of School 7 teacher Gioia Crawford, School 7 special needs teacher Jeanne Orefice, high school English teacher Salvatore Mauriello and assistant high school custodian William Forrest; and approve a new AP Human Geography social studies course.

Feldman said she and her staff are looking at the possibility of offering adult classes in cosmetology, TV studio and printing to the public in the evening.

Meadows redevelopment ratables at risk

Observer file photo NJ Transit is eyeing acquisition of Koppers site for emergency power grid.

Observer file photo
NJ Transit is eyeing acquisition of Koppers site for emergency power grid.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


A proposal by NJ Transit to build a backup power system in South Kearny to run its trains in cases of emergencies like another Superstorm Sandy threatens to derail a redevelopment plan that could generate big tax ratables for Kearny and Hudson County, officials said.

The plan by NJ Transit reportedly focuses on a large Kearny meadows tract that includes all or part of the Koppers (Seaboard) Coke Peninsula Redevelopment Area which the Hudson County Improvement Authority has been actively seeking to market on behalf of itself, the Town of Kearny and Tierra Solutions, the other landowner involved.

On Jan. 13, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority voted to endorse NJ Transit’s application to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration to finance a “microgrid electrical power system as an additional component of Superstorm Sandy Recovery and Resiliency Program.”

The rail agency would look to tap a portion of a $3 billion allocation funded on a competitive basis under the Public Transportation Emergency Relief Program and Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 for the mid-Atlantic and East Coast regions.

The resolution passed by the NJTPA board says the rail agency proposes to “partner with the U.S. Department of Energy and DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories to design ‘NJ TransitGrid,’ a firstof- its-kind microgrid which will support the use of public transit in … Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties along critical transportation corridors.

“The microgrid will also employ distributed generation technologies such as fuel cells, combined heat and power, and solar with storage … to provide resilient, highly reliable power to support the operations of the transit system and critical transit infrastructure.”

Applications for this federal funding source are due March 27.

The Kearny Town Council and Hudson County Board of Freeholders each passed resolutions last week opposing NJ Transit’s application, arguing that the placement of an electrical grid on the meadows property would have a “chilling” effect on the HCIA’s current negotiations with prospective developers.

Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos said he came to learn of the rail agency’s intentions in early February from the HCIA.

The resolution passed by the freeholders says that NJ Transit “has, from time to time, expressed interest in acquiring the Koppers Seaboard Site to utilize it for transportation infrastructure purposes.”

The HCIA has sued NJ Transit to recover more than $1 million it says it spent in assisting the agency in exploring potential “transportation infrastructure purposes” in connection with the now-dead rail tunnel project.

And, according to Freeholder Bill O’Dea, it was during mediation of that litigation that NJ Transit advised HCIA negotiators that if they got federal funding, they’d look to acquire the Koppers site.

“We’re against that because we want to put ratables on that property,” O’Dea said. “We’d fully support funding for other sites where NJ Transit could put a grid.”

Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, who is chairman of the NJTPA, voted for the endorsement application.

Asked to explain his action, DeGise said that when the information on NJ Transit’s proposal was initially submitted to the NJTPA’s Project Prioritization Committee, which he then headed, he “didn’t know” the microgrid was proposed for the Koppers site.

“When it came up for a vote at the January meeting, I did know,” DeGise said. NJ Transit had made known its intentions during a litigation mediation session with the HCIA, he said, “and when it came before the full board for the vote, “I expressed my displeasure with [NJ Transit] about it.”

“However,” DeGise added, “I told them I’d support [their application] because it’s a big deal regional project … I didn’t want to scuttle it. … What, I’m going to stop New Jersey from getting $1 billion [reportedly the estimated project cost] to support rail infrastructure? That would be irresponsible on my part.”

At the same time, DeGise said, “If that’s the only place [NJ Transit] can put [the grid], I realize they have the power of eminent domain and they’re going to have to condemn it. They’ll have to buy it or beat it [because] I’m still a proponent of bringing jobs and ratables to that property. … Between 2007 and 2010, we spent $1,025,000 to help them after they told us they needed our property as a rail yard and, after the ARC project was killed, they walked away.” Since then, “they’ve put $500,000 on the table,” he said, but the HCIA lawsuit is still ongoing. “Now they’re throwing the rug out from under us again.”

Because of legal restrictions that prevent full disclosure of the HCIA negotiations with prospective developers for the peninsula site, O’Dea said he couldn’t provide specific details on those discussions but he did say that the talks involved “two major port logistics developers who have submitted substantial proposals to develop the [peninsula] site.”

According to O’Dea, “Each [of the proposals] would create a minimum of in excess of 1,500 permanent jobs,” resulting from “$150 million worth of construction that would generate between $1.5 million and $2 million a year in tax revenue for Kearny and, depending on whether a tax abatement was involved, between $100,000 to $250,000 or $300,000 a year in revenues for the county.”

O’Dea said that “90%” of the peninsula land owned by the HCIA has been environmentally remediated while the Kearny-owned portion would require much more work. “Responsible parties,” rather than developers, would be looked to for cleanup costs, he said.

As the NJ Transit application process continues, O’Dea said the HCIA “can and should move the development process along and try to finalize a deal” to put itself in a “stronger” position in trying to sway federal legislators to do whatever they can do to set aside NJ Transit’s proposal.

When the question was put to NJ Transit spokesman William Smith as to the exact whereabouts proposed for the grid, Smith said: “The project is still in the study and initial design phase.

“Previously, NJ Transit has stated that it could make use of existing railroad rights-of-way to transmit power between any potential generation site as well as key facilities and rail lines in Jersey City, Kearny, Secaucus, Hoboken, Harrison and Newark. ….”

Smith said that, “Electrical microgrids can supply highly-reliable power during storms or other times when the traditional centralized grid is compromised … [and could] facilitate emergency evacuation-related activities.”

Asked if the agency had considered applying for funding to raise the elevation of its meadows rail yard in South Kearny to prevent damage to rail cars from flooding, as happened during Sandy, Smith said the agency “has installed Trap Bag mobile flood barriers which will protect four power substations at the Meadows Maintenance Complex, including the Rail Operations Center, from the impacts of flooding, as well as the Newark Light Rail.

“Trap Bags are used for flood control along Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain, in the Rockaways, as well as parts of Long Island and Staten Island. More than eight million pounds of sand has filled these six-foot temporary flood barriers, all which will remain in use until the substations are permanently raised.”