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2013: The year in review

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Compiled by Karen Zautyk & Ron Leir
Observer Correspondents

JANUARY

Candles and fl owers placed by friends and strangers at the home of murder victim Alishia Colon (inset).

Candles and fl owers placed by friends and strangers at the home of murder victim Alishia Colon (inset).

 

 

The most dramatic local news story of the year was also the most horrific:

The murder of 16-year-old Alishia Colon of Kearny in her Belgrove Drive bedroom Jan. 17. The Kearny High School student, killed by a bullet to the head, was an innocent victim whose slaying, according to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, appeared to be “retaliation over an ongoing dispute between alleged street gang members and members of the victim’s family.” Alishia, the HCPO said, “was not believed to be part of that dispute at all,” and her death was but “the tragic consequence” of the feud.” Within two days, a Pennsylvania man was arrested in that state in connection with the killing. In early February, three more suspects — from East Orange, Orange and Willingboro — were nabbed and charged with firstdegree felony murder. As of Jan. 1, 2014, all four defendants were still in jail, and no trial date had been set.

In another murder case, this one dating to August 2011, Harrison resident Carlos P. Campos, 23, was judged mentally incompetent to stand trial in the fatal stabbings of his parents and 3-year-old niece in their Hamilton St. home.

Three Kearny firefighters are injured when a ceiling collapses during a fierce blaze in a six-family Devon St. home. It takes three hours to bring the fire under control, but police and firefighters safely evacuate all 24 occupants of the building.

North Arlington firefighters battle both flames and frigid temperatures when fire engulfs a Ewing Ave. commercial building. Frozen hydrants and water lines lead to low water pressure. The crews were on site for 17 hours and were aided by firefighters from 11 other towns.

After six months, traffic finally resumes over the rehabbed Clay St. Bridge in Harrison.

Speaking of traffic, the state Department of Transportation announces plans to shut down the northbound Pulaski Skyway for two years, starting early in 2014, for a $1 billion repair project on the 80-year-old elevated roadway.

Harrison Mayor Ray Mc- Donough, a lifelong Democrat, makes headlines with his endorsement of Republican Gov. Chris Christie for reelection.

The mayor, the gov and members of the Harrison Town Council gather at Tops Diner in East Newark for the announcement.

Speaking of East Newark, that borough takes aim at pigeon- lovers, introducing an ordinance to prohibit feeding of the birds, which it deems a health threat. The law is subsequently approved.

FEBRUARY

On Feb. 3, St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny observes the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the U.S. Army transport ship Dorchester, dedicating a monument to the Four Chaplains. The chaplains gave up their life jackets to save others after the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine. The four– Father John P. Washington, a priest from St Stephen’s; Rabbi Alexander D. Goode; a Dutch Reformed minister, Clark V. Poling; and a Methodist minister, George L. Fox—were last seen praying together on deck as the Dorchester sank.

Kearny achieves labor peace with its police force for three years without the threat of layoffs and/or demotions, but the agreement provides for a pay increase of less than 1% per year.

The Harrison Board of Health votes to ask the Town Council to consider establishing smoke-free zones throughout the community.

Harrison American Legion Post 282 launches ayear of celebration in anticipation of its 75th anniversary in January 2014.

The North Arlington Board of Education is seeking residents’ okay to borrow $3.4 million for a make-over of Rip Collins Athletic Field. In March, voters go to the polls and give their approval to the referendum.

During a two-day, state-sponsored gun buyback in Essex County, 1,770 weapons are turned in to authorities.

The United Irish Associations of West Hudson announce the honorees for its 40th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade: Grand Marshal James J. Miller Sr. of Kearny, Deputy Grand Marshal Daniel J. Choffo of Harrison, and Honorary Irishwoman of the Year, Kearny Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle.

The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, continuing its River Restoration Program, fishes an abandoned, capsized 31-foot boat from the waters under the Belleville bridge.

Good news for Patricia (“Tanning Mom”) Krentcil of Nutley: An Essex County grand jury refuses to indict her on a charge of child endangerment.

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission approves a proposal to redevelop the 367- acre Koppers Coke Peninsula in South Kearny.

Kearny police link a local deli holdup to at least three other robberies — at a Newark gas station and delis in Belleville and Bloomfield. In November and December, two Newark men plead guilty in connection with the crimes.

Belleville police are hunting a man who robbed a Valley National Bank and is thought to be linked to four more heists, including one other in Belleville, in the last six months.

Thanks to a new Table of Organization previously approved by the Town Council, the Belleville PD adds seven new sergeants to its supervisory rolls.

Several multi-family residences on Warren St. in Harrison are damaged by fire, and occupants of three of the buildings are left homeless. Luckily, no injuries are reported.

MARCH

 

Aftermaths: (Above) Demolition begins on Harrison buildings destroyed in March fire.

Aftermaths: Demolition begins on Harrison buildings destroyed in March fire.

Five firefighters are hurt, six families are left homeless, and a church and two businesses are left in ruins in a blaze on Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. North in Harrison, near the East Newark border. (The buildings are subsequently demolished.) The fire forces rerouting of the West Hudson St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It also sparks a political firestorm about the level of fire protection in the town.

A fire in a mulch pile in the Kearny meadows ignites a debate about continued use of a landfill that has been the scene of three blazes since late 2012. Later in the month, it bursts into flame again.

SONY DSC

A January blaze turned a commercial building into a pile of rubble in North Arlington.

A January blaze turned a commercial building into a pile of rubble in North Arlington.

 

 

Kearny honors John Fabula as 2012 Police Officer of the Year and Thomas Atwell as Firefighter of the Year.

Kearny holds an informational meeting to help property owners understand and deal with FEMA’s post-Sandy revised flood-elevation maps.

Kearny expands its no-smoking prohibition to cover all town-owned parkland.

The Town of Kearny’s Uniform Crime Report Index for 2012 shows an 18% decrease in crime, a 10-year low.

After more than two-years of stop-and-start work, the Kearny High School Noise Abatement and Exterior Renovation project comes to a grinding halt when the Board of Ed votes to fire the general contractor.

John Leadbeater, vice president of the Kearny Board of Ed and a former councilman, is indicted by a Camden County grand jury in connection with an alleged multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme. As of January 2014, he had yet to stand trial.

Former Lyndhurst High School football coach Scott Rubinetti, 40, of Nutley pleads guilty to two counts of a fivecount indictment charging him with having inappropriate relationships with a 17-yearold female student.

APRIL

In the wake of the Harrison fire in March that destroyed several buildings, displaced families and injured five firefighters, the Hudson County Fire Chiefs Assoc. voices concern over Harrison’s ability to deal with emergencies and its “over-dependence” on mutual aid from other communities and presses the town to increase its FD staffing.

Later in the month, the Town of Harrison signs a new labor contract with the FMBA and approves a side agreement to improve the Harrison Fire Department’s first-response efficiency.

After a seven-month investigation, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office announces the arrest of more than 30 suspects in a multi-state, multimillion- dollar identity-theft ring based in New Jersey.

On April 10, the 50th anniversary of the loss of the nuclear submarine USS Thresher off the coast of Massachusetts, Nutley sponsors a memorial service honoring the 129 crewmen and civilian technicians who died, among them Nutley resident Seaman Pervis Robison Jr.

By month’s end, the Lower Passaic Cleanup Project reports, the EPA is expected to complete a plan to deal with toxin-laden tidal mudflats bordering Riverside County Park in Lyndhurst.

A stubborn brush fire, fanned by strong winds, destroys a mile-long, 500-yardwide swath of Kearny meadowlands. Two KFD members are felled by heat exhaustion, and lack of water — there was only one hydrant in the area –complicates firefighters’ work.

Flags fly at half-staff across N.J. in honor of the victims of the April 15 terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon.

What remains of long-abandoned boat that was blocking Passaic River is removed from waterway.

What remains of long-abandoned boat that was blocking Passaic River is removed from waterway.

 

Belleville is looking to market its long-vacant Elementary School 1 property for housing development. In December, the building is demolished in advance of planned construction.

Following the successful Essex County program earlier in the year, the state sponsors a gun buyback in Bergen County, bringing in 1,345 weapons.

The New Jersey Fireman’s Mutual Benevolent Association awards gold medals of valor to six Harrison firefighters — Willie McMahon, Robert Underhill, Joseph Zicchinella, David Prina, Lt. Joseph Lang and Capt. John Dwyer — for their roles in a November 2012 life-saving rescue of a Harrison man trapped in his Central Ave. apartment.

At Opening Day ceremonies for the Kearny Little League, the long-awaited new field house at Veterans’ Field is dedicated.

MAY

For added security, Kearny has installed 11 more surveillance cameras on utility poles around town. Included are five license plate readers, located at entry points to the community, that can spot stolen vehicles, those with expired registrations, and those whose owners have expired or suspended licenses.

Belleville Municipal Court Judge Frank J. Zinna announces he will be leaving that post at the end of next month, after 27 years on the bench.

Controversial plans to replace a medical office/1-family Belgrove Drive structure with a split-level duplex and garage are shot down by the Kearny Board of Zoning Adjustment.

Lifelong Kearny resident John Jarvie, 91, is among the World War II veterans featured in a PBS television special about “The Ghost Army.” In fact, it was Jarvie’s memorabilia that inspired the filmmaker to create the documentary about specialized units of the U.S. Army that created a “travelling road show of deception” (inflatable tanks and artillery, false radio broadcasts, phony command posts, etc.) to mislead the Nazis about the size, strength and whereabouts of Allied forces.

Scene from ‘The Ghost Army,’ a PBS World War II documentary featuring a Kearny resident, John Jarvie

Scene from ‘The Ghost Army,’ a PBS World War II documentary featuring a Kearny resident, John Jarvie

 

Shop and office windows all over town are transformed into works of art by Kearny High School students in the Kearny Urban Enterprise Zone’s second annual Windows of Spring project.

Hudson County’s smallest police force — nine cops plus one special – is diminished by one with the retirement of Chief Kenneth Sheehan.

Nutley launches “Operation Welcome Home,” designed to provide uplifting and joyous homecomings for local troops returning from deployment and for their families.

In continuing fallout from the March “backdraft” fire in Harrison, the Kearny Town Council votes to cut back its mutual aid response to that town, providing only two fire companies instead of three. It will reassess its position next month.

In Lyndhurst, the slate headed by incumbent Mayor Robert Giangeruso takes all five seats in the nonpartisan Township Commission election. The other victors are Tom DiMaggio, Theodore Dudek, John Montillo Jr. and Matthew Ruzzo.

Lady Liberty Academy Charter School of Newark, which has rented space in the former Holy Cross School in Harrison for the last two school years, announces it will return for a third.

Dedicating a plaque at his alma mater, Harrison High School, Harrison honors its courageous son Lance Cpl. Donald Blue Scott, killed in Vietnam in August 1968 at age 19.

The general contractor hired, and then let go, by the Kearny Board of Ed, says it is not his fault the Kearny High School reconstruction project is mired in delays and blames the board for “handcuffing” his firm.

A body fished out of the Passaic River off South Kearny turns out to be that of a man who had been hunted for two months as a suspect in an attack on his ex-wife in Irvington. The victim had been doused in hot oil and suffered severe burns.

North Arlington makes history with its Memorial Day Parade, led for the first time by two female Army veterans as co-Grand Marshals: Jennifer O’Brian, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Mary Biro, who served in Kuwait.

Groundbreaking is held in Belleville for the town’s first new senior citizen residential complex in 35 years, to be built near the intersection of Franklin and Mill Sts.

This scene was repeated at state-sponsored gun buy-backs in Essex, Hudson and Bergen Counties.

This scene was repeated at state-sponsored gun buy-backs in Essex, Hudson and Bergen Counties.

 

JUNE

The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark, is the setting for a Mass of Thanksgiving, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ordination of the Rev. Msgr. Francis Seymour, Archdiocesan Archivist, who has been in residence at St. Cecilia’s, Kearny, since 1988.

The Nutley Historical Society, the Township and its Public Library celebrate the 80th anniversary of the opening of the Nutley Velodrome, a legendary cycling track that was part of the “golden age” of bicycle racing in the U.S.

A former industrial tract in the Kearny meadows, abandoned since the ‘90s and deemed by some environmentalists as one of the most polluted in the state, may be destined for a clean-up following an agreement between the EPA and four companies to study the project.

Two hundred straw bales laid out in 11 rows mark Kearny’s first Community Garden, taking root in Riverside Park. Township residents had promoted the idea and brought it to fruition.

Anthony Monteiro, 37, takes over as acting East Newark police chief, replacing the retired Kenneth Sheehan.

Speaking of police, there’s a bit of a dust-up at the Nutley Police Department, where Capt. Thomas Strumolo is accusing Mayor Alphonse Petracco of political interference in the PD.

East Newark is shopping for a new high school for its students, who traditionally have gone to Harrison High. It’s a matter of money.

North Arlington announces that, come September, its public school students will be wearing uniforms.

Harrison unveils its new state-of-the-art police communications center.

An ambitious upgrade of playing fields at Riverside County Park in North Arlington and Lyndhurst is proceeding on schedule, Bergen County reports.

Nutley residents are left high and dry when the township temporarily shuts down its Vincent Place well, from which folks have been drinking cold, clean water for the past three decades. DPW Commissioner Joseph Scarpelli explains that leaks from the well’s underground holding tank – 104 feet deep – caused the pump to pump continually, “which kept blowing the fuses.” A new pump and tank were being installed.

At l., Lyndhurst’s St. Michael the Archangel Church displays the “Field of Flags” tribute to fallen heroes. At r., Gov. Chris Christie with Mayor Ray McDonough at ceremonial groundbreaking for upgrade of Harrison PATH station.

At l., Lyndhurst’s St. Michael the Archangel Church displays the “Field of Flags” tribute to fallen heroes. At r., Gov. Chris Christie with Mayor Ray McDonough at ceremonial groundbreaking for upgrade of Harrison PATH station.

 

JULY

Belleville shutters its Silver Lake firehouse and relocates its pumper company to headquarters after the township construction office declares the building at 275 Franklin Ave. unsafe. Mold conditions, developing from a leaky roof, unstable steps leading up to second-floor sleeping quarters and other factors contributed to the closing. Later in the year, the township agreed to bond funding for repairs.

In Belleville’s Second Ward, residents of Carpenter St., in the shadow of the old SoHo Hospital, catch a break when the township cuts a deal with Essex County to widen the narrow street to allow for parking on both sides of the block. For years, neighbors have been frustrated by the parking crunch.

Independence Day sees the dedication of the Rutgers St. span linking North Arlington with Belleville as the Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca Memorial Bridge in tribute to a 20-year-old North Arlington Marine who was killed in February 2012 by an explosive device during a combat mission in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was awarded a Purple Heart. The soldier’s two brothers – a twin Osmany, and Sandro – are both in the Marine Corps.

After getting battered by Superstorm Sandy, like many other communities, Harrison get some new rolling stock for its Police Department which, Chief Derek Kearns says, should help in coping with any future flooding. The HPD acquires three new Ford Explorer Interceptors, SUVs, that should be able to reach people trapped or threatened by high water conditions. The town ordered the cars under a cooperative pricing deal through Cranford PD.

A Belleville man is killed by police in his home after officers respond to a report of an assault. Police said Dante Cespedes, 40, a New York hotel chef, was shot after he allegedly lunged at cops with two knives. According to published reports, three cops fired 30 rounds, of which 24 struck Cespedes. His wife has filed a notice of intent to file a wrongfu-death suit. The incident is still being investigated by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

Internal strife continues within the Kearny Board of Education. Trustee Bernadette McDonald files a legal complaint with the state Department of Education to try to regain the presidency of the BOE, from which she had been displaced by a majority vote of the board. In late August, a state Administrative Law Judge nixes her challenge and the decision is affirmed by the state education commissioner. Meanwhile, the BOE fills its vacant No. 2 administrative post, hiring Debra Sheard as assistant superintendent of schools at $150,000 a year. Sheard was a Hunterdon County school administrator. The BOE also hires D’Archangelo & Co., a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., accounting firm, for $75,000 to do a Kearny High School “construction risk assessment.”

Law enforcement agents collect 589 weapons from Hudson County residents in a state-sponsored gun buyback held July 12-13. For every gun turned in, the state gave $250 back. Among the guns received were an Uzi, a 12-gauge shotgun and a 30-caliber military style rifle. Previous buybacks were conducted in Camden, Mercer, Essex, Bergen, Passaic, Monmouth, Atlantic and Cumberland counties.

Nutley cops demonstrate outside the Municipal Building, decrying what they characterize as “political cronyism” by Mayor/Public Safety Director Alphonse Petracco.

Lyndhurst resident Christina Nunez, 30, an ex-postal worker, is sentenced to 46 months in prison after being found guilty of intercepting and distributing packages of cocaine mailed from Puerto Rico to New Jersey.

As part of a price gouging investigation of businesses that exploited the post-Sandy situation, the state fines owners of the Exxon station, just east of the DeJessa (Park Ave.) Bridge, $25,000 for hiking the price of regular gas by 21% and premium by 14%.

The Kearny Salvation Army gets new leadership as Sherry and Maurice Moukonangala take over as officers/pastors at the Chestnut St. facility.

The Lower Passaic Cooperating Parties Group, which is paying for a cleanup of the Passaic River, donates six “dry suits” to members of the Lyndhurst Fire Department dive team for search and rescue efforts on the long-polluted river.

 

The sign tells the story: Harrison High gets “Blue Ribbon” designation.

The sign tells the story: Harrison High gets “Blue Ribbon” designation.

AUGUST

Belleville shifts to “single stream” recycling, retaining the same vendor for pickups of regular household trash and recyclables. The township predicts it will save close to $500,000 over the next two years.

Kearny Fire Department scores two new pieces of equipment. It now has a “Quick Attack” truck with dual capability of shooting water from two nozzles at a rate of 1,200 gallons per minute and of delivering 125 gallons of foam to douse gas, oil or diesel fuel fires, both in tight, tricky terrain; and it comes with attachments for a snow plow and hydraulic lift. It also gets a surplus 5-ton Army truck which can be adapted for rescues in high waters.

The Lower Passaic CPG begins dredging a five-acre stretch containing an estimated 20,000 cubic yards of toxic mudflats in Lyndhurst at River Mile 10.9. The operation, which barges the contaminated sediment to a South Kearny waste treatment plant, bogs down for several weeks when the Bridge St. Bridge motors conk out but then resumes, pretty much concluding with the placement of a protective cap by year’s end.

A Kearny couple gets lucky when the MegaMillions Lotto ticket purchased at Dollar Subs turns out to be the $19 million Jackpot winner.

Kearny Public Library begins work on its Children’s Garden project with a $150,000 county Open Space Trust Fund grant, hoping for a fall opening, but as of year’s end, it remains unfinished.

Nutley resident David Licata Jr., 34, is among 20 defendants caught up in “Operation White Silk,” a multi-law enforcement agency takedown of a Paterson-based oxycodone distribution scheme in northern N.J.

Alma Realty, owner of the former First Republic complex in East Newark, agrees to pay the borough $100,000 in fines as settlement of longstanding fire code violations at the 35-building, 13-acre Passaic Ave. complex.

Kearny hires three new cops, including Mayor Alberto Santos’s nephew/BOE member Dan Esteves, but its application for SAFER funds to hire additional firefighters is denied so the town opts to reapply.

North Arlington gets an A+ financial rating from Standard & Poors.

Rep. Bill Pascrell publicly feuds with state DEP Commissioner Bob Martin over Gov. Chris Christie’s announced intention to take $40 million from a $130 million partial settlement with Passaic River polluters for the state.

Aug. 19 is marked as the 70th anniversary of the explosion at the old Congoleum Nairn plant on Passaic Ave. that killed 16 workers.

Gov. Chris Christie visits Harrison to mark the start of a $256 million upgrade of the town’s PATH station by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Christie says the project will account for 470 construction jobs with a $42 million payroll and will pump more than $300 million into the local economy.

After closing two Little League diamonds and a small soccer field at Gunnell Oval due to environmental concerns, Kearny ponders possible artificial turfing for the entire recreation complex but only if sufficient outside funding can be acquired.

Roche Co. performs environmental testing on and around its Nutley property as it continues to negotiate with representatives of Nutley and Clifton on terms for its departure from the area.

The U.S. Postal Service shuts its Kearny Ave. postal station due to environmental issues, apparently stemming from a compromised apartment directly above the station. The USPS says the facility is being “studied for permanent closure.” Customers are referred to the Midland Ave. Post Office.

Knox Presbyterian Church closed in September after 130 years in Kearny.

Knox Presbyterian Church closed in September after 130 years in Kearny.

 

SEPTEMBER

Federal, state and county law enforcement agents launch an anti-carjacking task force focused on the Rt. 21 corridor in Essex County where the number of such incidents has doubled since 2009, to about 400 a year.

An environmental consulting firm hired by Kearny is remediating conditions stemming from prior removals of underground fuel storage tanks at the First Aid Squad and at the Kearny Ave. firehouse.

Kearny High students must now “log in” with swipe cards when they report for morning classes. Officials say it’s a more efficient way to track students’ use of ID and uniforms and daily attendance.

Harrison’s application for $2.1 million in SAFER funds to hire more firefighters is denied but the town is awarded $35,000 to replace 20-year-old rescue equipment; it will reapply for $5.7 million in hopes of hiring 36 more firefighters to beef up the current 29-member department.

Federal and county law enforcement agencies arrest Peter Mancuso, 43, of Nutley, and two Passaic men in busting up a $160,000 cell phone insurance scam.

The KPD launch an outreach program to find autistic children and adults with Alzheimers who may go missing by registering key information in computer data base.

East Newark’s public school pre-K program returns to the borough. The borough had been sending 4-year-olds to Harrison’s school district but is hoping to save money by keeping kids local.

St. Michael the Archangel Church, Lyndhurst, participates in the “Field of Flags” traveling memorial to the fallen U.S. heroes of Afghanistan and Iraq by displaying 6,700 American flags on the parish lawn.

Kearny Fireman’s Mutual Benevolent Association Locals 18 and 218 volunteer time to build a children’s playground in Normandy Beach, one of the Jersey Shore towns wrecked by Superstorm Sandy, in memory of Chase Kowalski, 7, one of the 26 children who perished at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn. FMBA locals pledged to build 26 playgrounds dedicated to the children who died.

Dr. Angelo Calabrese, who has a North Arlington practice, and Lyndhurst resident David McCann, employed by Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services, of Parsippany, plead guilty to federal charges of participating in a bribery scheme to steer $600,000 worth of test referrals to the lab over the past three years. Both await trial.

St. Cecilia’s parish in Kearny loses two key spiritual leaders – the Rev. Michael Ward, pastor; and the Rev. Yuvan Alvarez, parochial vicar – to reassignments, causing consternation among many of its parishioners.

Kearny welcomes the first visit by mobile dental clinic, furnished by North Hudson Community Action Corp., to service lower-income residents. Kearny High holds its firstever 5K Run to benefit the school’s extra-curricular clubs and raises $6,000.

A very public split in the once-solid ranks of the Lyndhurst Democratic team occurs at a Township Commission meeting as Mayor Robert Giangeruso and Parks/Rec Commissioner Tom DiMaggio upbraid former ally/ Mayor Richard DiLascio, now attorney for the township and BOE. The Giangeruso faction announces plans to hire a new attorney but later reassesses.

Kearny Scots-American Club holds a fundraiser for Army Spec. Brendan Marrocco, nephew of Kearny residents Pat and (club president) Joseph Collins. Marrocco lost both legs and arms on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, in an explosion while returning to his base, 130 miles from Baghdad, Iraq. He’s said to be the only surviving double-amputee from the Middle East war. After undergoing a double arm transplant in Dec. 2012, Marrocco lost his Prince Bay, S.I., home to Sandy.

Kearny BOE prepares to resume construction on Kearny High with the award of a contract for nearly $3 million to Paul Otto Building Co., of Cranford, to finish work on South Building.

Knox Presbyterian Church in Kearny announces its closing after functioning more than 130 years in town. Dwindling numbers of congregants and income contributed to the shutdown.

Nutley attorney Paul Bergrin, 57, is sentenced to six life terms after a jury convicts him on 23 criminal counts, including racketeering, drug and prostitution offenses and conspiracy to murder a witness.

Former Jefferson School PTA President Jeneen Gino, of Lyndhurst, is charged with forgery and stealing $10,000 from the PTA. She’s awaiting trial in Bergen County Superior Court.

Kearny High seniors Marco Matos and Tiffany Gonzalez are appointed non-voting student liaisons to Kearny BOE.

Navy veteran Andrew Negrin, 21, and Amanda Velez, 23, of Belleville, are killed in a single car crash on Rt. 21 in Newark. The cause of the accident was under investigation.

Mazur’s Bakery, a longtime fixture in Lyndhurst, is closed for health-related issues after inspection.

Another project for Harrison’s waterfront redevelopment district gets approval from the town Planning Board. Advance at Harrison LLC plans to build 345 rental apartments, spread among five buildings, with 5,400 square feet of ground-floor retail, on land just west of Red Bull Arena.

Nutley Police Chief John Holland retired Nov. 1 after four decades with the department.

Nutley Police Chief John Holland retired Nov. 1 after four decades with the department.

 

OCTOBER

An arborist hired by Kearny recommends the removal of many of the older oaks and maple trees concentrated in the town’s Manor section as being decayed and/or unsafe to residents and properties. Later in the year, the town hires a tree removal firm to begin the process.

Harrison High is one of only 26 schools from among 15 states to be named a “Blue Ribbon” school by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. It is categorized as an “exemplary improving” school for progress shown in Language Arts mastery (moving from 63% to 88% passing on the HSPA) and in math achievement (going from 57% to 78%) from July 2008 to Nov. 2012.

A new Sacred Heart of Jesus American National Catholic Church parish is in residence at Harrison’s Christ Episcopal Church.

The South Kearny Industrial Association sounds an alarm over how a partial closure of the Pulaski Skyway, targeted for March 2014, will adversely impact traffic in South Kearny.

Two unusual Kearny shoplifting incidents happen within two days of each other: one, originating at Street Smart on Passaic Ave., ends with the suspect, a Newark woman, jumping out a moving SUV with an infant in tow; the second, starting at Walmart, ends with the suspect being rescued from a water-filled meadows ditch.

A lone gunman who tries – but fails – to rob Tullo’s TruckStop is arrested a few weeks later at his Irvington residence. Police are looking to tie him to prior robberies in Newark and Jersey City.

Belleville Recreation Director Michael Wieners leaves his $62,464 job to take over as director of alumni relations for his alma mater, St. Peter’s Prepatory School, Jersey City.

Kearny BOE undertakes conversion of the old tire factory at 174 Midland Ave. into new BOE headquarters, with some classrooms planned for the lower level.

John Zacherle (AKA Zacherley), onetime host of “Shock Theater,” a late-night horror movie TV show in late ‘50s) makes a guest appearance at the Lyndhurst American Legion Post 139.

Kearny Recreation Commission cites Little League Coach John Leadbeater for violating Town of Kearny’s Recreation Volunteer Code of Conduct for allegedly engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct with player (by placing player in garbage can to teach proper hitting), using profanity and verbal abuse of players. Leadbeater is also Kearny BOE veep.

Kearny shuts Bell Playground for about a month in wake of damage to play equipment rendering it unsafe for use.

Hollywood comes to Kearny as director Clint Eastwood spends several days in town lensing his next picture, “Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons,” featuring Christopher Walken as Gyp DeCarlo. Shooting will continue into 2014.

Harrison’s Goodwill Industries opens a Career Counseling & Learning Center to help people prepare or update resumes and search for jobs.

Belleville’s Grace Baptist Church celebrates 102 years in the township.

Russian émigré Mikhail Korban, 61, is killed in a fall from the roof of a Kearny building where he was doing construction work.

Nutley Police Sgt. Christopher Lamond sues the township and Mayor/Public Safety Director Alphonse Petracco, claiming that politics has interfered with his promotion to a higher rank.

NOVEMBER

Nutley Police Chief John Holland retires after more than 40 years with the department; Capt. Tom Strumolo is appointed as his successor, but only as “provisional” chief.

Welcomed by several hundred supporters, including Mayor Ray McDonough, Gov. Chris Christie and former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani visit Harrison as part of a Christie re-election campaign stop.

In a split vote, Lyndhurst BOE adopts a policy prohibiting kids in K to grade 8 from bringing nuts and/or nut products to school to protect kids with severe allergies to peanuts.

Ex-NY Mets/Yankees pitcher Dwight “Doc” Gooden visits Nutley High School to talk about drug and alcohol abuse prevention. His talk is sponsored by the Municipal Alliance and Mayor Alphonse Petracco’s HOPE project.

Nutley chiropractor Joseph Salomone, with practices in Jersey City and Paterson, is sentenced to four years in prison for submitting more than $89,000 in false billings to five insurance companies as part of a plea agreement.

General election results: Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, running unopposed, is re-elected with Democratic Town Council running mates, including newcomer Richard Konopka, replacing Madeline Peyko, who is moving to the Jersey Shore. In North Arlington, Dems hold on to a 4-3 majority (with Mayor Pete Massa as the tie-breaker) after Republican incumbents Rich Hughes and Joe Bianchi beat off Dems incumbent Peter Norcia and challenger Jean Williams and newcomer Dan Pronti wins a third seat from Dems Dan Castro. Later in the year, Norcia is appointed DPW superintendent at $79,000 a year by a 4-3 vote.

“Fugitive Safe Surrender,” by which the state permits non-violent criminal and civil offenders sought on warrants to give themselves up and pay what they owe, thereby avoiding worse consequences, nets 4,587 “surrenders” in Hudson County, thereby settling some 10,000 outstanding warrants and the collecting of $4,000 in fines, mostly for traffic violations but also for misdemeanors, child support and a few felonies.

Hudson County dedicates the USS Juneau Center in South Kearny on the 71st anniversary of the ship’s sinking, killing all but 10 of its crew of nearly 700. Part of the building will be a museum for Juneau-related artifacts; part will be used by the county’s OEM personnel and part by the county prosecutor for records storage.

Three armed men accost a couple who own a Union City jewelry shop as they’re about to enter their Lake St. home in Lyndhurst, tie up the wife and kidnap the husband, dropping him off elsewhere after beating him, according to Lyndhurst PD. The case is still under investigation.

North Arlington Borough Administrator Terence Wall quits to take a comparable job in Cranford at a slightly higher rate of pay.

Red Bulls GM Jerome de Boutin says the team needs more parking, adding that it hopes to acquire land adjacent to the team’s Harrison arena that could accommodate between 3,000 and 4,500 cars. Negotiations involving a developer and the town are continuing.

Newark resident Bobby Dawson, 30, pleads guilty to a Feb. 2 armed robbery of Shoppers Express in Belleville and to 16 other holdups, including the April 17 robbery of Belleville News & Food; the Feb. 10 robbery of Krauszer’s Deli in Kearny; and to robberies on Feb. 13 and March 29 of Krauszer’s in Bloomfield. He faces sentencing next year.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez picks Nutley resident Steven Sanberg, formerly a radio reporter with WINS/AM, as press secretary.

The Lower Passaic CPG proposes a plan to swap a safe fish for every carp hauled out of the Passaic River by people fishing at the polluted river. State and federal environmentalists say they’re not taking the proposal seriously if it’s meant to detract from a full-fledged effort to clean the river of contaminants.

Rookie North Arlington Police Officer Dave Balanta is badly hurt when his police cruiser crashes into a utility pole on Schuyler Ave. enroute to a medical emergency call. He continues to recuperate from his injuries.

East Newark amends its parking ordinance to charge a $50 annual fee to non-resident owners or lessees of vehicles parked on local streets.

Hudson County dedicated the USS Juneau Memorial Center in South Kearny in November on the 70th anniversary of the Juneau’s sinking.

Hudson County dedicated the USS Juneau Memorial Center in South Kearny in November on the 70th anniversary of the Juneau’s sinking.

 

DECEMBER

Harrison holds a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Harrison Senior Residence, the town’s first senior affordable housing project. The 15-unit building, being developed by the Domus Corp., an arm of Catholic Charities, is expected to open by fall 2014.

Lyndhurst resident Nicole Faccenda, 44, is sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempting to hire a hitman to kill her ex-lover’s new girlfriend.

Kearny’s governing body approves an amended site plan that will pave the way for a Passaic Ave. developer, DVL Holdings LLC, to bring in BJ’s Club as anchor tenant for a proposed shopping mall. And the mayor and Town Council also approved the town’s firstever PILOT for a conventional residential project, a 150-unit apartment cluster pitched by Carlstadt developer Ed Russo for Schuyler and Bergen Aves. The Schuyler Crossing project figures to generate an annual in lieu of tax payment of $375,000 and a one-time, $150,000 contribution to the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The East Newark BOE hires a Morristown law firm for $44,000 to prepare a feasibility study aimed at showing why the BOE should be permitted to stop sending its students to Harrison High, in favor of sending them elsewhere, probably to Kearny High, in an effort to save money.

Belleville designates David A. Mack Properties of Connecticut as the redeveloper for the Roche Diagnostic property with the condition that Mack accepts responsibility for an environmental cleanup of the site. Negotiations are continuing with Roche over transfer of title to the township, presumably for sale to the developer.

Three Newark women are held up and robbed in the parking lot of an East Newark restaurant on Grant Ave. by two men believed to have been armed.

Nutley Police Department puts out a call for volunteers for its Neighborhood Watch program.

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