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Farewell to a brother in blue

On Friday afternoon, regular traffic came to a halt on the Belleville Pike and Ridge Road to open the route for the funeral procession of slain Jersey City Police Detective Melvin Santiago. The 23-year-old rookie, promoted posthumously to detective, had been ambushed early Sunday, July 13, when he […]


State eyes raising part of Pike

By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent  KEARNY – The Rt. 7/Belleville Turnpike corridor which runs through Kearny’s meadows area and beyond is getting a lot of attention these days from state and federal transit agencies. For the past couple of years, contractors hired by the state Department of Transportation have […]

2014-07-16 09_41_31-428 Kearny Ave - Google Maps

Taxes up on average by $244

By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  Now that Trenton – even without a gubernatorial endorsement by the town’s Democratic mayor – has gifted Kearny $2.5 million in transitional aid and reduced its pension obligations by nearly $435,000, Kearny property owners can know what to expect. They’re still getting […]


Wild pursuit ends with 3 arrests

LYNDHURST – It started as an alleged speeding incident and led to a frantic chase that ended in three arrests. Here’s the account given by Lyndhurst Police: Shortly after 2 p.m. on July 14, Patrol Officer James Goral pulled over a 2008 BMW traveling east on Page […]


Builder targets eyesore

By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent  NUTLEY –  A 36-unit residential development being pitched to the Nutley Zoning Board of Adjustment has township and school officials on the edge of their seats wondering how many schoolage kids the project may generate if approved. Mayor Alphonse Petracco is blunt about it. […]


Kearny girls’ cross country team excels at Passaic County Coaches meet

Photo by Jim Hague The Kearny girls’ cross country team had a fine showing at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational meet at Garret Mountain in Woodland Park Saturday. From l. are Anna Czykier, Julia Coppola, Mariah Davila, Aislinn Sroczynski, Erika Alzamora, Noemi Campos, Melissa Quiros and Maria Lozano.

Photo by Jim Hague
The Kearny girls’ cross country team had a fine showing at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational meet at Garret Mountain in Woodland Park Saturday. From l. are Anna Czykier, Julia Coppola, Mariah Davila, Aislinn Sroczynski, Erika Alzamora, Noemi Campos, Melissa Quiros and Maria Lozano.


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Before the current high school cross country season began, veteran Kearny High School coach Jim Cifelli knew that he had the makings of something special.

“We are certainly the favorites to win the (Hudson) county championship,” Cifelli said. “Sure, you can’t predict those things, but we certainly have the depth and the talent. I don’t think it’s that bold of statement. It’s just a statement of fact. We’re bringing everyone back and added three girls. Last year, we had no depth and that hurt us. This year, we have eight girls and that does help the team’s chances.”

Cifelli also acknowledged that the depth has aided with the competition among the runners.

“The most important kid on the varsity is the last one,” Cifelli said. “Because then, everyone works harder. Healthy competition within the team is always good. It’s good because all the girls get along very well.”

The camaraderie was definitely evident last Saturday in the Kardinals’ first strong competitive race of the season. The Kardinals finished third as a team at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational Varsity Girls Group 4 race at Garret Mountain, a solid effort that will only help to boost confidence as the season progresses.

Photo by Jim Hague From l., Aislinn Srocczynski (second) and Erika Alzamora (fi fth) led the way for Kearny at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational meet Saturday.

Photo by Jim Hague
From l., Aislinn Srocczynski (second) and Erika Alzamora (fi fth) led the way for Kearny at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational meet Saturday.


Leading the way Saturday was senior Aislinn Sroczynski, who finished second overall in the race, crossing the line in 20:35.10, trailing only winner Gina Riccardi of Livingston, who came home in 20:16.66.

“Aislinn is the one who makes this team go,” Cifelli said. “She’s all heart and all attitude. Her mother (Heather) ran for me and her father (Steve) ran for me, so Aislinn has that competitive nature and has added that competitive spirit to workouts. She was a novice a year ago, never having run before. But she battles tooth and nail, every step of the way.”

The Kardinals’ other ace performer is fellow senior Erika Alzamora, who finished fifth in the race Saturday in 21:03.89.

“She’s been our best all along,” Cifelli said of Alzamora, who won the individual Hudson County championship last year. “I expect her to be much better this year. She was sick last week, so that set her back a little. I expect her to be among the top three in the state sectional. She’s still very young as a senior. She’s only 16 years old. But she has so much experience. And you can see that in her workouts.”

The Kardinals’ third runner is senior Mariah Davila, who finished 18th overall in 22:24.21.

“Her attitude has improved a lot,” Cifelli said. “She would back out of workouts with little injuries here and there, but she doesn’t do that anymore. She was the freshman county champ three years ago, but she now realizes her place on the team and keeps everyone in sight.” Sophomore Anna Czykier was 30th overall at Garret Mountain in 23:20.13. “She ran indoor and outdoor for us last year, but never did the distances with everyone else,” Cifelli said. “I think we’ll see the best of her later in the season. She can be something special.”

Senior Noemi Campos was 29th overall on Saturday, finishing in 23:18.59, a solid performance. Seniors Wendy Carranza and Melissa Quiros, junior Julia Coppola and sophomore Maria Lozano round out the Kardinals’ roster.

Needless to say, Cifelli likes the makeup and the character of his team. Saturday’s solid performance is just a sign of better things to come.

“I think because we have good depth and because they work so well together, I think we have a chance to do some good things,” Cifelli said. “We were fourth in the sectional last year. Our goal is to finish at least third, a representative third. I think Aislinn and Erika should get to the groups (overall Group IV championships at Holmdel Park) and hopefully we can get them to the Meet of Champions.”

First things first. The Kardinals have to take care of local business and after Saturday, they’re certainly on their way.

Nutley girls’ soccer: Going to goal with authority

by Jim Hague Senior Natalie Melillo (l.) and junior Victoria Kealy (r.) have combined to score 20 goals and collect 11 assists in just six games for the undefeated Nutley girls’ soccer team, enjoying a 5-0-1 start thus far.

by Jim Hague
Senior Natalie Melillo (l.) and junior Victoria Kealy (r.) have combined to score 20 goals and collect 11 assists in just six games for the undefeated Nutley girls’ soccer team, enjoying a 5-0-1 start thus far.



By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Most high school soccer teams like to take the defensive approach: protecting their own goal at all costs and hoping for the chance to get a score here and there.

That’s certainly not the thought process with the Nutley High School girls’ soccer team and second-year head coach Mike DiPiano.

“We were a 4-4-2 attack, but now we’re going with a 4-3-3 lineup, because we have so many dynamic scorers,” said DiPiano, who changed the entire outlook of the program last year, helping the Maroon Raiders win 14 games. “We decided to go after goals and let the other teams come after us. It’s a more exciting style of play.”

It’s also enabled DiPiano to upgrade the Maroon Raiders’ schedule this season, facing bigger schools with huge soccer reputations like Bridgewater- Raritan, Cranford, Glen Ridge and even Kearny this season. The Maroon Raiders played Bridgewater-Raritan, the state’s No. 11-ranked team, to a 1-1 draw last Thursday.

“The girls are really stepping it up and playing at a high level,” DiPiano said.

You can’t argue with the results. The Maroon Raiders own an unbeaten 5-0-1 record and are scoring goals in bunches.

“We’re shooting to take it to a whole new level this year,” DiPiano said. “Especially when it comes time for the (Essex) county tournament. We’ve set our sights on playing exciting, winning soccer and we’re hoping to have that.”

When DiPiano took the head coaching position last year, the Maroon Raiders were in a rut, having won just four games in 2011 and three in 2010. But DiPiano, taking a page from the old school method he learned being around the soccer program at St. Benedict’s Prep, turned the tide last season and has continued that ascent this season.

“I came in with a three-year plan and things just skyrocketed last year,” DiPiano said. “People thought we overachieved, but it was just taking advantage of the team we had.”

The Maroon Raiders certainly have enough fire power up front, thus causing the change in the offensive alignment.

“It’s unbelievable, but I think we have three girls who have a chance to all score 30 goals this season,” DiPiano said.

Senior Natalie Melillo, who had 29 goals last year, tops in Essex County, has returned and has picked up from where she left off last season. In just six games, Melillo has eight goals and eight assists. Melillo has already given a verbal commitment to attend Troy University in Alabama next fall.

“She’s a dynamic scorer,” DiPiano said. “She has a chance to break our school scoring record this year.”

Junior Victoria Kealy is another of those top-flight scorers. Kealy moved from center midfield, where she played last year, to forward without a glitch, scoring a team-high 12 goals thus far.

“She’s an excellent player and she’s already getting looks from colleges like American and Monmouth,” DiPiano said.

The third goal getter is freshman Zoe Steck, who has 11 goals and nine assists in her first six high school varsity matches.

“She has a chance to break all the school records by the time she’s done,” DiPiano said. “She’s been unbelievable.”

Steck is already playing with the New Jersey state and regional U-14 teams.

“The goals they have been scoring have been incredible,” DiPiano said. “They’re so fast. They take two passes and they’re gone.”

With an offensive attack such as that, it makes it easier for the rest of the Maroon Raiders.

DiPiano has been utilizing two girls in goal, namely seniors Meghan Montgomery and basketball standout Blair Watson. The two have been splitting time evenly thus far.

Senior captain Brittany Currie has returned to her spot at sweeper. Currie, who is also a fine softball and basketball player, is a staple on the defense.

“She’s a smart player who is very aggressive,” DiPiano said. “She’s our leader in the back.”

Senior Allyson Zeiher returns to the stopper position she held a year ago.

The other defenders are seniors Grace Montgomery, Meghan’s twin sister, and Katherine Balitsos. It means that three Montgomery family members play soccer at Nutley, as younger brother Will is on the boys’ team.

“They’re a very athletic family,” DiPiano said.

Grace Montgomery is another three-sport athlete, participating in basketball and track and field.

The center midfielder is senior Sherein Abdelhady, who has collected two goals and three assists so far.

“Everything we do goes through Sherein,” DiPiano said. “She’s the motor and the heart of the team. She’s the unsung hero. She does a great job distributing the ball.”

Seniors Samantha Haddock and Kelly Huegel are the other midfielders.

“All three midfielders played the same position last year,” DiPiano said. “We are very experienced.”

Not to mention talented.

“I think we have a shot to do good things this year,” DiPiano said. “I really do. I think if you have a shot with a team like this, you take that shot and go for it. I’d like to take a run at the state (NJSIAA North Section 2, Group III) and use the county as a stepping stone for the states. But we’re going to score goals and we’re letting the opponents to decide how they can handle that. It’s a very difficult task to try to defend us.”

As evidenced by the gaudy goal totals the Maroon Raiders have already compiled this season.

Makeshift Martin: NA standout has game to remember


Photo by Jim Hague North Arlington senior running back Nick Martin.

Photo by Jim Hague
North Arlington senior running back Nick Martin.


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

The high school football preseason wasn’t exactly going as planned for the Vikings of North Arlington High School. Just two weeks before the season opener, the Vikings’ premier player, senior Nick Martin, suffered a seriously sprained ankle that put his availability for the first game in serious jeopardy.

“I was very concerned,” North Arlington head coach Anthony Marck said. “It was a bad ankle sprain. When he went down, you could see he was in agony and Nick is never one to complain. It was our main concern. The swelling was pretty bad for a while. We didn’t have him do anything before the first game.”

Martin didn’t know what to think.

“I was really worried,” Martin said. “It was getting down close to the opening week and I couldn’t do anything with it. I didn’t want to have lingering issues with it. But it was tough.”

Martin went daily to receive treatment from local chiropractor Jim Sanfilippo, who was a standout athlete during his high school days at Kearny High.

“He got me through it,” Martin said of Sanfilippo. “He coached me through therapy to strengthen my ankle.”

Martin returned to action in time for the season opener against Elmwood Park, playing a new position. In order to get more opportunities for Martin to touch the ball, Marck decided to move Martin from tight end, where he played last year, to fullback.

“We needed to revamp our offense to become more of a downfield offense, so we put Nicky in the backfield,” Marck said. “He was going to be the lead blocker for our tailbacks while getting a few carries himself.”

However, after the loss to Elmwood Park, the Vikings found themselves in a bit of a quandary. The Vikings’ two top tailbacks, Mike Brazzel and Adrian Foote, both suffered injuries, leaving them unavailable to face Wallington in the second game.

“So we moved Nick to tailback,” Marck said. “We knew he could carry the load.”

How sure was Marck about the shift?

“I asked Nick if there was ever a point in the game where he didn’t want the ball, that he should let me know,” Marck said. “I said, `You know how much I trust you.’ He just said, `Put me at tail. I can do it.’ I told him that maybe he should also wear the headphones and call the plays.”

Martin didn’t know how well he would do as the featured back.

“I understood the responsibility, but not having experience at the position, I worried a bit,” Martin said.

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Martin saw his fears disappear after his first carry of the game.

“The line did a great job and I went through the hole untouched to the end zone,” Martin said.

As it turned out, the makeshift tailback had the best rushing game in the history of the school. Martin carried the ball 26 times for an astounding 296 yards and five touchdowns, leading the Vikings to a 62-39 victory. Martin’s 296- yard performance set a new single game rushing record.

For his efforts, Martin has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the last week.

Martin also received the honor in November 2012.

Martin had no idea that he was just four yards shy of collecting 300 yards.

“I knew I was getting up there,” Martin said. “But I never thought 300 yards would be a number I could approach. When I realized I had five touchdowns, I knew it was an incredible night, because I never even had more than one touchdown in a game before. It was a completely different feeling, running with the ball. I really like being in the backfield. It’s easier for me to get the ball.”

Added Martin, “With the ball in my hands, I can do so much more. But to have a game like this? I couldn’t believe it.”

Marck said that Martin impressed a lot of people with his breakaway ability.

“People said to me that they didn’t know how fast Nick was,” Marck said. “But I see that burst every day. It’s just with the ankle and him being so big that people don’t think he can run. I didn’t believe he had as many yards as he had. I knew he was over 200, but I went back and watched the tape and it was legitimate. I wish I knew he was that close to 300, because I would have given him the chance to get the other four yards. It would have been nice.”

Martin was also honored as the Athlete of the Week by the Bergen Record, the first North Arlington football player to be recognized since Danny Sandowick, a current North Arlington police officer, was honored in 1982.

“It’s just fabulous,” Marck said. “Nick really sets the tone for everyone else. When other kids have a bump or a bruise, they might ask out for a play or so. But Nick played with that ankle and a bad hand and I think that, in itself, shows leadership. It’s a pleasure to have him.”

While Martin’s explosion might have drawn attention from college recruiters, Martin is actually considering not playing in college.

“I’m not too sure I want to play in college,” Martin said. “I’m leaning toward not playing. I think it might get in the way of my studies. I need sufficient time to keep my grades up and my academics always come first.”

Martin is an excellent student, with a 4.2 grade point average and a Scholastic Aptitude Test score of 1710. He is being sought after by the Ivy and Patriot League schools.

Martin didn’t just receive the Athlete of the Week honors.

“My coach said that he never gives out a game ball, but after the game, he said he had to,” Martin said. “Going into the game, I had no idea that would be the outcome.”

But now, Martin’s impromptu performance as a tailback has permanently placed him in the school record books forever – or until someone goes for 300 yards in one game.

All in the family

Photo by Anthony Coelho Maria (l.) and Carla Domingues.

Photo by Anthony Coelho
Maria (l.) and Carla Domingues.


By Anthony Coelho

Observer Correspondent

“Business and blood don’t mix.”

That’s a phrase that is common in the workplace, and a rule of thumb for most businesses. But at Pink Vision Associates, they see things differently and succeed as a team by doing the exact opposite of how the saying goes.

Maria Domingues founded the company in February 2011, opening its first set of offices in Irvington, then Lyndhurst later that year. Before that, Maria had attended Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Sciences in 2005.

She then went on to attend the Nova Southeastern College of Optometry in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., where she received her Doctor of Optometry degree in 2009. Her optometric training was completed at the Eye Centers of South Florida, and at Aran Eye Associates in Coral Gables, Fla.

Carla Domingues, Maria’s younger sibling and right hand in the business, recently received her doctorate in Optometry while enrolled at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. She had been accepted back in 2009. Prior to that, she attended Seton Hall University where she graduated cum laude, receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.

Along the way, Carla interned at various locations including the Liva Eye Center, Omni Services, and the Veterans Hospital of Lyons. She also worked at the Eye Institute of Philadelphia.

“You can definitely say my sister inspired me,” Carla said. “But it’s always been a passion of mine. I got my first taste of it when I was 14 years old working at a local optometrist’s office in Kearny.”

Carla, now 24, hopes to acquire more experience at Pink Vision’s new office, located in the heart of Fort Lee.

“It’s really rewarding, being able to combine everything you’ve learned and see it all come to life right away. I’m truly blessed,” Carla added.

Maria — who couldn’t be more proud — remains confident in Carla’s ability to contribute to the company.

“I’m just so excited for her. She’s so driven and professional. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without her. I know that this can only mean growth.”


Frank Bonaccorso

Frank Bonaccorso, 90, of Toms River, passed away Monday, Sept. 23, at Community Medical Center.

Frank was born in Aci Castello in Sicily, Italy, to Giuseppe and Grazia Bonaccorso. He came to the United States at the age of six and returned to Sicily in 1948 to marry his love, Olga, and they started their family in Kearny. Frank served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater from 1944 to 1946 followed by civilian service in Tokyo assisting in the reconstruction of the city’s communication infrastructure.

He was the owner and operator of Frank’s Liquor and Delicatessen in Kearny. He later went on to work for the U.S. Postal Service at the Dominick V. Daniels Postal Facility in Kearny, retiring in 1990.

Frank is a member of the East Dover Old Guard, the St. Justin’s Seniors Club, the Holy Name Society, the Seaside Italian American Club, the Gilford Park Civics Club and the Knights of Columbus Council 8415. Frank enjoyed sailing and spending time with his adored children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Frank is survived by his loving wife of 65 years, Lucia Olga; his sons, Joseph (Ann Marie) of Kearny, Attilio (Deborah) of Charleston, S.C., and Mario (Margaret) of Long Hill Twp.; his sister, Jennie Sama; his grandchildren, Joanne Kelly, Francis Bonaccorso, Catherine Pabst, Attilio, Jr., Jessica, Nicole, Lindsay, Melissa Bonaccorso; two great-grandchildren, Rachel Grace and Attilio III and many nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his sister, Ida Marrazzo.

Arrangements were by the Timothy E. Ryan Home for Funerals, Toms River. The funeral Mass was held at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church, Toms River. The entombment and committal service followed in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Frank’s memory to Deborah Heart and Lung Foundation, 212 Trenton Road, Browns Mills, N.J. 08015. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting: www.ryanfuneralhome.com.

Lucille Borghesi

Lucille Borghesi, of East Newark, died at home on Sept. 28. She was 93.

Visiting will be on Tuesday, from 2 to 4 p.m., and 7 to 9 p.m., at the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass will be held Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 10 a.m., in St. Anthony Church, East Newark and burial will follow at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Mrs. Borghesi was the branch manager at Valley National Bank in Harrison. She retired as a vice president. She had been a member of the East Newark Board of Education, St. Anthony Rosary Society and volunteered at Mountainside Hospital.

Wife of the late Cimbro “Jim” Borghesi, she is survived by her sons and their spouses Anthony, Peter and Nadine, and Jim and Lynne. Also surviving are her grandchildren Cara, Renee and Jimmy.

Catherine Gallacher

Catherine Gallacher, 88, died on Sept. 24, in the St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark.

Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home, 585 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass was offered at St. Cecilia Church, Kearny, followed by interment in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thiele-reid.com.

Catherine was born in Dundonald, Scotland, and immigrated to this country at age 18. She lived in Kearny for 60 years before moving to North Arlington 10 years ago. Miss Gallacher was an accounts receivable clerk for Hartz Mountain in Harrison for 10 years, retiring many years ago.

She was a member of the St. Cecilia Seniors. Surviving her are many nieces, nephews and grandnieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents John and Annie (McCaughey) Gallacher; her sibilings Eileen Mullen, Sheila McGinn, Anthony, David and John Gallacher and her aunt and uncle; Catherine and James Strain.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mid-Jersey Chapter, 28 Kennedy Blvd., Suite 180, East Brunswick, N.J. 08816-1248 would be appreciated or visit www.jdrf.org.

Robert Krzeminski

Robert Krzeminski, 71, of Belleair Bluffs, Fla., formerly of Kearny, passed away on Sept. 21.

Born on July 16, 1942, in Pittsburgh, Pa., he was the son of Stanley and Julia Krzeminski.

A U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam Conflict, Bob was a driver for the Kearny Board of Education. He was also a member of the AmVets.

He is survived by his loving wife of 44 years, Valerie; daughters, Connie (John) Mizak, Colleen (Tony) Marinaro, and Christine Krzeminski; granddaughter, Samantha Mizak; brother, Tony Yankoski; numerous nieces and nephews; and his best friend, Buddy the Maltese.

A memorial service was held in Florida. Friends may sign the guest book at www.dignitymemorial.com.

Andrew Negrin

Andrew Negrin, of Harrison, died Sept. 21. He was 21.

Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass was held at The Sacred Heart Cathedral Basilica, Newark. Burial was in Holy Cross Cemetery. To leave an online condolence, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.

Andy, a United States Navy veteran, is survived by his parents, Wilton Negrin and Kimberly Nin-Diaz, his wife Maria and children Jaylannie and Zaylie. He was also the brother of Kristian, Wilton and Zorion.

Gerard (Jay) O’Neill

Mr. Gerard (Jay) O’Neill of Kearny passed away at home on Monday, Sept. 23. He was 58.

Funeral services were held privately from the Condon Funeral Home 684 Kearny Ave., Kearny, at the family’s request.

Jay had been a driver for Myles F. Kelly in Harrison for many years. After leaving Kelly he drove for Metro Taxi and was a bartender at the Eagles Hall. He was also a member of the Eagles Fraternal Order Aerie #2214 in Kearny. He graduated from Kearny High School in the early 1970s.

He was predeceased by his parents Gerard and Agnes O’Neill and his sister, Kathleen McKenna. Surviving are his niece Jeryl Lawless and her fiancee, Justin Allaire.

Then & Now



Upper photo courtesy Kearny Museum; bottom photo by Karen Zautyk

St. Cecilia Church in Kearny was founded in 1893 with the Rev. Thomas Kernan as its first pastor. The circa-1900 photo shows the original wooden church at the corner of Kearny Ave. and Hoyt St., with St. Cecilia’s Grammar School behind it. By 1922, it had been replaced by the current brick edifice on the same site, with funds raised by the parishioners. (A new grammar school also had been built on Chestnut St.) By the 1930s, St. Cecilia’s reportedly had the largest congregation in town, with about 2,000 members. Today, the church, responding to Kearny’s changing demographics, offers Masses in English, Spanish and

Longtime Lyndhurst bakery closed


A landmark bakery in Lyndhurst has been shuttered after the discovery of health code violations.

Bergen County Chief of Staff Jeanne Baratta said that a routine check of Mazur’s Bakery at Ridge Road and Valley Brook Ave. by a county health inspector on Sept. 6 resulted in an unsatisfactory rating.

Baratta said the inspector found insect and rodent infestation and live animals – two cats – on the premises.

“We asked them to voluntarily close and we laid out a corrective action plan but they chose to close because of a water main break,” Baratta said. Meanwhile, she said, customers who had called in orders were advised to pick up those orders at the next door ice cream shop.

On Sept. 13, Baratta said the county inspector returned to the bakery “to make sure they were not giving out food and they did.”

A closing notice was then posted, she said.

For the past decade, the bakery has been operated by Joseph Spiekermann, who acquired the right to use the name of the original shop and its recipes.

– Ron Leir

Iraq vet bravely soldiers on

Photos courtesy Marrocco family Benefi t for Sgt. Brendan Marrocco, shown with his brother Michael, will be held at Scots Club on Oct. 19. Inset: Brendan on duty in Iraq.

Photos courtesy Marrocco family
Benefi t for Sgt. Brendan Marrocco, shown with his brother Michael,
will be held at Scots Club on Oct. 19. Inset: Brendan on duty in Iraq.


By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent


Every once in awhile, someone comes into your life, by accident, by fate, by the grace of God, perhaps. And they have the power to affect your life in ways deep and significant. They can help you begin to see the world, and yourself, with new eyes. And the irony of it all is that this life-changer is someone you’ve never met, a complete stranger who has not the slightest idea of how deeply he is affecting others — just by being himself. Such a person is Sgt. Brendan Marrocco.

If you know his story, you know what I mean. If you don’t know it, it’s time you learned it. It is dramatic, and it keeps getting more so.

We first learned of Brendan in 2010, through his aunt Pat Collins of Kearny, who asked if The Observer could promote a fund-raiser being held for her nephew at the Scots- American Club. At the time, Brendan had been in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington for a year — and he would spend another 12 months there. And then return.

There wil be another Scots- American event next month. More about that later, but first a soldier’s story:

On Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, Army Spc. Brendan Marrocco, Second Battalion, 27th Infantry, was on active duty in Iraq, returning to his base 130 miles from Baghdad when his vehicle was hit by an explosive device.

Brendan suffered a shrapnel injury to his left eye, broken nose and shattered facial bones, severe facial lacerations, burns to the neck and face, and a severed carotid artery.

He also lost both arms and both legs.

He is the only surviving quadruple amputee from the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts. Neither Brendan nor the other members of his family wanted the spotlight, but once the world’s media heard his story–and met with this exceptional young soldier–he could not avoid it. For Brendan, now 27, is one of those incredible individuals who dwells, not on his problems, but his hopes for the future; not on the negative, but the positive, and not on himself, but on the needs of others.

Did we mention he was exceptional?

Newspapers and networks followed his progess at Walter Reed as he was fitted with and learned to adjust to prosthetic arms and legs.

And then, in December 2012, Brendan made history at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, becoming the first patient there — and only the sixth in the U.S. — to undergo a successful double arm transplant. Brendan was found to be a match for the deceased, unnamed donor, and for 13 hours a team of surgeons connected bones, blood vessels, muscles, tendons, nerves and skin. The lead surgeon called it “the most extensive and complicated limb transplant procedure to be performed in the U.S.”

At a January press conference, held after it was apparent his body would not reject the transplants, Brendan commented, “It gives me a lot of hope for the future.”

Last week, we talked with Brendan’s father, Alex Marrocco, who told us that his son is now back at Walter Reed, undergoing physical therapy and rehab. “He has movement in his hands, fingers and elbows,” Alex said. “The doctors are very pleased with his progress. He is able to do simple tasks, and they will continue to work with him to improve his mobility.”

Alex also gave a salute to his other son, Michael, 29, who “has been with Brendan for the last four years as his nonmedical attendant.” That’s 24/7. That’s also the definition of brotherly love.

Prior to the transplant surgery, Michael and Brendan had been sharing a home in the Prince’s Bay area of Staten Island, a home built specifically for the soldier thanks to donations raised from across the nation by Building Homes for Heroes and the Stephen Siller Tunnel- to-Towers Foundation (which honors one of N.Y.C. firefighters killed on 9/11.)

It was equipped with ramps and an elevator and adjustable countertops — all the devices that make a home completely handicapaccessible, Alex told us. The ribbon-cutting took place and Brendan was given the keys June 11, 2011, soon after he had left Walter Reed for the first time. All was well. . . . until Oct. 29, 2012.

Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc not only on the Jersey Shore. Staten Island was devastated too. Luckily, Michael and Brendan were not at home when the storm struck, because his new house on the island’s south shore was in Sandy’s crosshairs.

Alex told us that water had gotten into the first floor and that “we had to gut the entire floor.” The Marroccos are now looking to raise the structure. “We’ve been working with the city Building Department to come up with a repair plan.”

Photo courtesy Marrocco family Brendan Marrocco at Walter Reed prior to double-arm transplant.

Photo courtesy Marrocco family
Brendan Marrocco at Walter Reed prior to double-arm transplant.


Immediately after the storm, The New York Times tracked Alex to a Home Depot where he was buying equipment to clean out the sand and muck and mud, and he told the reporter, “…. it’s one of those things. Realistically, we’re a lot better off than other people. So we’re thankful.” Like sons, like father.

Now, about that upcoming Kearny fundraiser for the Brendan Marrocco Road to Recovery Trust.

It is scheduled from 7 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, once again at the Scots- American Club, 40 Patterson St. It was at the Scots Club (whose president Joseph Collins is Brendan’s uncle) where that first ever benefit for the soldier was held in 2010. That event was sold out, and it is hoped this one will be just as successful.

Tickets are $30 and can be reserved by calling Pat Collins at 201-998-3011 and picked up at the club.

Brendan, of course, can’t be there, but dad Alex plans to attend.

“We have had a lot of support from folks in New Jersey,” he told us. “I’d like to extend my gratitude to them for all the help we’ve received in the last four years.”

A rift in the ranks

Observer file photo Once allies, now foes: Mayor Robert Giangeruso (l.) and former Mayor Richard DiLascio.

Observer file photo
Once allies, now foes: Mayor Robert Giangeruso (l.) and former Mayor Richard DiLascio.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Only four months after the Lyndhurst First ticket swept into office, at least two of its members and a key supporter are embroiled in a vitriolic feud that got a public airing at the Sept. 10 Township Commission meeting.

Mayor Robert Giangeruso and former Mayor and current Township Attorney Richard DiLascio, once tight allies, are now bitter rivals.

And, as proof of the pudding, the township has posted on its website a solicitation for Request For Proposal for “special legal services” to “provide research, advice and counsel on the appropriateness of statutory and other appointments under the Commission form of government (Walsh Act).”

The successful applicant, the notice says, “shall demonstrate sufficient knowledge in New Jersey municipal law, public employment law, Shared Services Act, New Jersey Ethics law and statutory appointment law under NJSA 40 and NJSA 40A.”

All RFPs must be received by 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26, at the Township Clerk’s office, “at which time they will be opened and read aloud.”

A brief historical reminder: Ironically, while still serving with Giangeruso as a member of the Board of Commissioners, DiLascio had stepped down as mayor with a year to go in his term in favor of Giangeruso. DiLascio didn’t seek re-election in May but ended up being hired as the attorney for the township and Board of Education at a combined pay of $150,000 a year.

Now Giangeruso alleges that DiLascio is, essentially, breaking with his former political backers making a power grab to advance his own interests.

Things got ugly early at the Sept. 10 meeting when Parks & Recreation Commissioner Tom DiMaggio denounced an anonymous flier circulated among residents who live near the Passaic River blasting the township for earmarking proceeds from the Sept. 28 Lyndhurst Music & Food Festival in Town Hall Park for a charity linked to a contractor working on the new Rt. 3 bridge whose work has been faulted by some members of the Lyndhurst community. The flier alleges Giangeruso is angling for a county job through the contractor’s political connections. “Police, Parks Dept. & DPW overtime [for the street fair] courtesy of your tax dollars,” it says.

DiMaggio said that in researching “what charity would be well-served” by dedicating proceeds from the street fair, he was referred to the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack which treats children with cancer. A voluntary $5 admission goes to that charity, DiMaggio added. “Not one cent is coming from taxpayer money.”

“I was appalled that people could stoop so low to politicize this – it ticks me off,” the commissioner said.

Interjecting, Giangeruso called the flier “distorted,” adding that, “I don’t need an outside association to tell me what to do.”

The next target of Giangeruso’s wrath was Township CFO Robert Benecke – hired under the DiLascio administration – who was being quizzed by several crossing guards about the terms of a new labor contract and about a new payment protocol.

“Who are you to set policy, Mr. Benecke?” the mayor asked. “I don’t need you to come in and tell me what to do. … I’m tired of being bullied around. Enough is enough.”

Benecke said that he’d “presented a report” to the mayor on Aug. 30 but Giangeruso, who is the public safety commissioner, cut him off, saying, “I’ll negotiate [the crossing guards’] contract – not you.”

A bit later, after learning from Police Chief James O’Connor that two school crossing posts – Stuyvesant and Court Aves. and Page and Riverside Aves. – had been dropped as a budget economy, Giangeruso asked: “Where did that order come from?” The chief replied he’d been informed by Benecke.

“You [Benecke] and Mr. DiLascio called me into your office and told me you’re going to eliminate 10 crossing guards and I said, ‘Not one,’ ’’ Giangeruso fumed.

Summoning DiLascio to the chambers, Giangeruso continued to vent. “You’re no longer the mayor – you work for us. You do nothing but stay in that cubby hole [Town Hall office] and bang us around. … How come the streets aren’t done? We don’t have the money to do it.”

DiLascio listed several streets that, he said, were paved this year – Lake, Post, Green and Fern Aves. – while Thomas Ave. was left unfinished because of a broken sewer line and he said that state funding for New Jersey Ave. was reallocated to the Jersey shore after Sandy hit. “You are making progress,” he said. The township was fiscally hampered by the EnCap bankruptcy, he added.

“EnCap is always your excuse,” Giangeruso retorted. “You did a lot of damage. And now you’re looking to become CFO.” Later, DiLascio acknowledged he was “taking classes to be a CFO,” but didn’t elaborate.

A bit later, Giangeruso continued listing his grievances against his former political teammate, saying: “You’re pulling my commissioners down to your office to give legal advice. … I gave you the mayorship for seven years. Where’s the loyalty? You’re done giving me orders. … We never knew you were going to be the Board of Ed[ucation] attorney. I hope my board [of commissioners] votes to give me an independent counsel.”

DiLascio acknowledged he was “upset about some of the things you’re doing” and now, he said, Giangeruso is angry because “I sent you an e-mail telling you about them.” He reminded Giangeruso that he spent several years as a member of the Board of Education advocating for children and for construction of a new middle school to enhance the value of the township to attract new residents and ratable. And, by consolidating the jobs of township and BOE attorney, “I’ve saved $300,000,” he added.

“You control the Board of Ed,” Giangeruso said.

Harking back to the furor over selecting the Sanzari Hospital as the preferred charity to benefit from the street fair proceeds, DiLascio said he’d tried to explain that making such a choice might not be the best idea. “I didn’t want people by the river to think [the township] was abandoning them,” he added.

To that, Giangeruso responded: “He was ordered by the Army Corps of Engineers to put that barge in the middle of the river.” Residents have complained that contributed to the spread of debris and interruption of the river’s flow.

As of last week, Giangeruso declined comment on his next move – other than to refer a reporter to the RFP notice – and DiLascio didn’t return a phone message.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Funding for Owens Park seems assured


It was a close call for more than a year but the Nutley Township administration seems confident that the state will be releasing its allocation of state Green Acres money, after all, for improvements made at Monsignor Owens Park off Park Ave.

Those improvements, which were undertaken in summer 2012 and completed by late September 2012 at a cost of nearly $1.3 million, featured the installation of a synthetic turf multipurpose playing surface accommodating two new softball fields, a football field, perimeter track and two short side soccer fields.

Green Acres was to provide partial reimbursement funding through a combination of a grant and a low interest loan totaling about $750,000.

But on Aug. 9, 2012, Green Acres Project Manager Amy Sumoski wrote to Nutley Parks & Recreation Commissioner Mauro Tucci “regarding a composting facility that was discovered … at Monsignor Owens Park” – which, she said, was an inappropriate use of parkland and needed to be removed.

On Oct. 3, 2012, Sumoski reminded Tucci that, “… the intentions of the Township are to remove the compost facility from parkland.”

Then, on Jan. 11, 2013, Sumoski reported another potential disturbing finding to Tucci, “… that a [T-Mobile] cell phone tower exists … at Monsignor Owens Park,” again an inappropriate use for parkland, and one which must be removed.

“Therefore,” Sumoski wrote, “the Township must indicate what steps it will take to remove any remaining parkland diversions … by February 15, 2013, or the funding for this project will be put into jeopardy of cancellation.”

Asked about the situation recently, Tucci said the township Department of Public Works uses land near the park as a “staging area” for its recycling operation but, “at least prior to 1970,” those locations “were never used as parkland.”

However, Tucci said, “Somewhere along the line, the Parks & Recreation Department erroneously included it as part of our park roster.”

And, Tucci said, on Sept. 4, Green Acres advised the township that it was persuaded that the listing of the DPW facility as part of local parkland “appears to be a bona fide error” and needn’t be disrupted, nor must the cell tower go “because it’s not part of our parkland.”

Tucci said that as a result of the township having been able to amply document its claim, the state “is going to initially release 50%” of its pledged funding. The balance, he said, will come after the township conducts a survey of the Owens Park site and conducts a public hearing on the issue.

Asked for the state’s position, Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environment Protection, which administers Green Acres programs, said that Nutley has sent documents and photos to support its contention that the properties at issue “were never held for recreational purposes.”

Hajna said the information provided by Nutley included site plans from the mid-1970s and 1980 and photos showing the area where debris was collected by the DPW, along with affadavits from former township employees supporting Nutley’s position about the separation of Owens Park from the area devoted to the “collection and dropoff of DPW materials.”

Based on the evidence submitted, the state has concluded “that the township’s position has merit,” Hajna said. So the state will release $375,000 of the committed Green Acres funding now and the rest after Nutley completes the hearing process, he said.

Apparently, the cell tower [just beyond the multipurpose field] won’t be an obstacle to Nutley getting the money.

Although the Owens Park field is removed from the DPW recycling staging area by a parking lot in between, Tucci said the township plans to put up a “solid wooden fence and plantings” to separate the two sites.

– Ron Leir