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More apartments eyed for Bergen Ave.

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  Carlstadt builder Ed Russo is looking to expand a residential development project already in progress in a Kearny redevelopment area at Bergen and Schuyler Aves. Russo told The Observer last month he has a contract to purchase an additional 2.25 acres of […]

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Local taxes up again in borough

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  NORTH ARLINGTON –  Borough residents should be getting their property tax bills by the first week of December, CFO Steve Sanzari said last Thursday, after the Borough Council finally adopted the 2014 municipal budget. Passage of the budget, introduced back in July, has […]

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Vets’ photos wanted for ‘Wall of Honor’

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  NUTLEY –  This township, which has been in the forefront when it comes to offering support and assistance and recognition to veterans, has launched yet another project to pay tribute to the men and women who have served our nation. This time, going […]

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Carved in stone

    Photo by Karen Zautyk On Veterans Day, the Township of Kearny added this new memorial to Monument Park on Kearny Ave. It will commemorate local members of the armed forces who make the supreme sacrifice in the War on Terrorism. […]

Warning: Stop trashing Kearny

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY – Notice to anyone who views Kearny as their personal trash heap: It’s not. Stay away. You have been warned. Kearny police have dealt with two cases of illegal dumping in the past two weeks. One is under investigation and the other […]

 
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Rec chie moving on to private sector

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

BELLEVILLE –

Say sayonara to Township Recreation & Cultural Affairs Director Michael Wieners.

Last Friday, Oct. 11, ended Wieners’ four-year tenure as the overseer of the township’s numerous child-focused play activities, for which the township will now have to seek a new monitor.

As listed on the township web site, those play activities are many and varied. They are: fall bowling, baseball and softball, cheerleading clinic for grades 1-8, junior basketball for grades 3-8, Junior Bucs football cheerleading for girls in grades 3-8, Junior Bucs travel tackle football for boys in grades 5-8, junior wrestling for boys ages 6-14, “kindergym” for boys and girls in K-grade 2, pre-school play, soccer for boys and girls in grades 1-8, touch football, tennis lessons for boys and girls ages 8-16, art workshop for grades 1-4 and Camp Belleville for grades K-6.

Not to mention summer concerts and holiday events for kids and adults alike.

Wieners, 27, started a new job this week as director of alumni relations for his secondary school alma mater, St. Peter’s Preparatory School of Jersey City, where he was a member of the Class of 2004.

After attending the Prep, Wieners headed west to study communications at Loyola University of Chicago and was then admitted to the university’s Graduate School of Business. In Chicago, he worked for the Mayor’s Office of Special Events from 2008 to 2009, returning to his hometown in September 2009 to tackle the rec job.

During his four years of service, Wieners said he’s happy to have brought back intermediate baseball for teens. “And our soccer league has continued to grow,” he added.

“One of the things I’ll miss most about the job is working with the kids in my hometown,” Wieners said. “What I enjoyed, coming back from Chicago, was interacting with the coaches and staff I hadn’t seen in quite some time. Growing up here, I had participated in the Belleville recreation program, playing in a number of sports, so it was good to reconnect. But seeing the kids having a good time was probably my favorite thing.”

Another happy time was preparing for and overseeing the township’s annual Fourth of July fireworks event, he said. “We always get a great crowd that comes out for the fireworks outside Belleville High School.”

“I want to thank the mayor and [Township] Council for their support and for their trust in having given me this wonderful opportunity,” Wieners said.

Township Manager Kevin Esposito characterized Wieners’ departure as “bittersweet for us. He has served the township well and we wish him well in his new venture.”

Esposito said the township “will post” for a replacement and, once it has secured a list of applicants, “we will begin the interview process and, hopefully, we will find someone to fill the vacancy.” It’s the township’s intent to keep that slot as a full-time position, he said. Wieners was collecting $62,424 a year in the job, according to township records.

Until someone new is found, Esposito said he plans to “reallocate some of the work staff” to continue to staff the Rec Building at 407 Joralemon St. with at least three employees to help with clerical and scheduling work.

One priority matter that Wiener’s replacement will have to deal with is the still unscheduled opening of the newly rebuilt Friendly House on Frederick St. in the township’s Silver Lake section.

In 2012, three years after the original century-old recreation facility (which had an indoor pool and basketball court) was torn down for safety and health reasons – the building had numerous code violations and mold and cost too much to fix – the township used a $589,000 Community Development Block Grant to construct a smaller version with no pool.

But there still remains unfinished business: a parking lot and outdoor lighting have yet to be provided and furnishings for the building haven’t yet been ordered or purchased. Esposito said it could take up to $75,000 to get that work done. “We’ll have to look at the budget to see whether there’s money available,” he said.

Councilman Michael Nicosia, a private contractor, said he’s asked the township to investigate the possibility of having township workers install a seepage pit for the purpose of collecting stormwater runoff as a drainage system under the future parking lot and “sub-contract out the curbing” around the lot.

“That way,” he said, “we could cut down the cost substantially.”

And, although there has been discussion about day care and/or pre-school activities, the township still hasn’t determined the official purpose of the facility or allocated funds for staffing. “I need the township Recreation Committee, in consultation with the mayor and council, to tell me what the building is being used for before I go out and order supplies,” Esposito said.

Nicosia said there has been talk about setting up a morning and afternoon pre-school recreation program, which could include “some teaching” that, he added, parents “will pay for.” But none of that has been set in stone.

“Certainly there’s concern here,” Esposito said. “No one intended to have a new building put up and not have it utilized.”

How did their garden grow? Fruitfully

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Photos courtesy Kearny Community Garden Gardeners strut their stuff; Jenny Mach holds a carrot and David Mach shows off pumpkins.

Photos courtesy Kearny Community Garden
Top to bottom: Gardeners strut their stuff; Jenny Mach holds a carrot and David Mach shows off pumpkins.

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

KEARNY –

It’s clearly been a labor of love for the cultivators of the Kearny Community Garden in Riverbank Park along Passaic Ave.

As its first season winds down, with the culmination of the fall harvest, organizers Jenny and David Mach are pronouncing the new venture a big success, as evidenced by the bounty of produce that Mother Nature has yielded.

So much, in fact, that the gardeners are happy to share the surplus with friendly neighbors like Skinner Brothers Automotive or dog walkers venturing in for a look.

“We’ve had so many tomatoes, we couldn’t give them away fast enough,” said Jenny, a teacher by day and grower largely on weekends. “We’ve been constantly giving stuff away.”

The volunteer gardeners used some 200 straw bales (placed over a base of topsoil and peat moss) as planting beds – irrigated by rows of soaker hose – to grow strawberries, watermelon, pumpkins, tomatoes (purple, plum, oxheart, grape, cherry and beefsteak), mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, cilantro, fennel, beans (string, bush, lima and Indian), beets, turban squash, eggplant (white and purple), pepper (hot and sweet), lettuce, carrots, broccoli, spinach, celery, parsley and potatoes.

When the enterprise was launched in mid-May, no one knew how things would turn out. “It was a giant experiment to see what would grow,” said Jenny.

Virtually everything planted did, in fact, sprout, although some hard lessons were learned in the process. “Fruits were a big bonus,” she said.

“With some of our heavier tomatoes, we now know they have to be supported by posts because, otherwise, their weight will cause them to fall,” said David.

Another, more unsavory discovery, was that, “groundhogs ate a whole row of gourmet lettuce,” Jenny said. “They just mowed it down, along with broccoli and spinach, the leaves on sweet potatoes and cucumbers – young stuff, anything of the newer growth.”

“I was surprised to see that they climbed some trees and jumped down onto the bales,” Jenny noted.

One strategy that seemed to prevent the creatures’ incursions was protecting some of the plantings with chicken wire, the Machs said. That mini-fencing will definitely be used next season, they said.

Other forms of wildlife that popped up as surprise visitors, but not disruptive ones, included possums, rabbits, raccoons, turkey buzzards and snapping turtles. “We even caught a couple of field mice,” said David.

Aside from the 10 or so “regulars” who formed the core group that tended the garden, the Machs credited Mayor Alberto Santos and members of the Town Council for “being super supportive of our ‘green’ initiative” by making the land and water supply available.

The Machs also gave kudos to employees of the town’s Department of Public Works for their labor on the project. “They took away the trash, made our compost bins, installed the water irrigation system, provided and spread the wood chips [between the rows of bales as a sort of carpet for more efficient maneuvering by gardeners] and, in general, maintained the grounds impeccably,” David said.

And some residents who happened to wander through the garden and were suitably impressed even gave cash donations for the cause, Jenny said.

Photos courtesy Kearny Community Garden Top: A view of the garden from Passaic Ave. Above l.: A sample of goodies harvested. Above r.: Tomatoes grow atop bales irrigated by soaker hose.

Photos courtesy Kearny Community Garden
Top: A view of the garden from Passaic Ave. Above l.: A sample of goodies harvested. Above r.: Tomatoes grow atop bales irrigated by soaker hose.

 

One core group member, Sophia Rahman, planted Indian beans, long squash and pumpkins – replicating some of the produce she grows in her home garden. She said the group “enjoyed working together” for the same common goal: getting nourishing food the old-fashioned way – by growing it.

Peg and Ed Bixler, a couple who’ve also been with the project from the get-go, planted a batch of potatoes and cucumbers, using the latter to make 21 pints of bread-and-butter pickles.

The Machs said the core group will be meeting during the winter to plan for next season’s garden enterprise. They hope that the garden can expand to some extent, she said.

“We’re expecting a huge sign-up for next year,” Jenny said. “We’re thinking of allowing people to sign up for up to five straw bales [for planting] and up to 10 per family.”

For updates on those plans, folks are invited to visit the garden website at kearnycommunitygarden@ gmail.com or check out pictures and information about the garden at facebook.com/kearnycommunitygarden.

At long last, BOE tackles Midland Ave. site

Photos by Ron Leir Operations Director Mark Bruscino hammers out a second-floor wall in the Midland Ave. building last occupied by a private school. Remnants of lockers and classroom space will be replaced by new offices.

Photos by Ron Leir
Operations Director Mark Bruscino hammers out a second-floor wall in the Midland Ave. building last occupied by a private school. Remnants of lockers and classroom space will be replaced by new offices.

 

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

KEARNY –

After some three years of sitting idle, the former tire factory and, more recently, private school, at 172- 174 Midland Ave. previously acquired by the Kearny Board of Education as a future BOE headquarters is finally showing signs of life.

Last week, school maintenance staff secured the building’s exterior with a fence and green tarpaulin, positioned a Dumpster on the Elm St. side and began limited interior demolition work.

Workers busied themselves with ripping out sections of drywalls, ceiling tiles, hallway lights, old electrical wiring and the like to prep the space for Mark Construction, the Montville contractor the BOE hired in August 2010 for about $1.6 million to reshape the building to its current needs.

The BOE will get 40% of the job reimbursed through the state Department of Education’s School Development Authority.

Unfortunately, since the job has been delayed for more than three years to complete state-mandated environmental remediation, the increased price of construction materials could drive up the cost by $160,000 to $170,000, according to Superintendent of Schools Frank Ferraro.

“We’re trying to offset that additional cost by doing some of the preliminary work in-house,” explained Mark Bruscino, director of school plant operations.

As the job transitions to the more complex work, Bruscino said the contractor will be redeveloping a small garage on the building’s Elm St. side to accommodate the new BOE meeting room and caucus room.

Mark Construction will also build a modest addition to the building, also on the Elm St. side, which will house the new first-floor front entrance and reception area for visitors.

The first and second floors will be reconfigured as office space for an estimated 30 BOE employees including the superintendent and all central staff who handle business, payroll, registration and special education-related duties for the school district.

Another big part of the project will be the installation of an elevator to provide access to the second-floor offices and to several self-contained basement-level classrooms that, according to Ferraro, will serve special education youngsters. How many classes and numbers of children have yet to be determined.

Some windows on the Midland Ave. side of the building will be replaced.

The BOE meeting room and all of the BOE staff offices, except for the special education personnel who now occupy rented space on Kearny Ave., are now housed in a wing of the Franklin Elementary School campus.

That space will revert back to Franklin School whose principal, Yvonne Cali, says that with an enrollment of about 1,100, Franklin ranks as one of the biggest schools “in the Northeast Corridor.”

Cali said she plans to move her three pre-school classes – about 75 4-year-olds – into the space now occupied by BOE administrators and staff where she can more easily monitor them from her nearby office. “They have bathrooms there,” Cali noted, so the plumbing is in place to serve toddlers’ needs, probably with some adjustments.

Cali said she’d like to convert the space vacated by the pre-schoolers into computer labs.

Photos by Ron Leir New classrooms will occupy basement level (l.) which will be accessed by stairway and elevator. Mark Bruscino (r.) points to area where elevator shaft will be installed.

Photos by Ron Leir
New classrooms will occupy basement level (l.) which will be accessed by stairway and elevator. Mark Bruscino (r.) points to area where elevator shaft will be installed.

 

 

As of now, Cali said that because classroom sizes are holding “pretty stable,” she doesn’t foresee using any of the newfound space to open additional sections of any grades.

Back at Midland Ave., Ferraro said the contractor anticipates that once he begins the job, the building will be ready for use “within six months,” so the spring should see new life there.

“We’re excited things are moving forward,” Ferraro said.

Ferraro, however, won’t be among those relocating immediately into the Midland Ave. building. He has said that he plans, instead, to make a temporary detour – along with Assistant Superintendent Debra Sheard and Bruscino – to Kearny High where they can keep tabs on the stalled construction project there.

“I’m looking to keep my presence at the high school at a minimum,” he said, acknowledging that students and staff already are dealing with distractions from the ongoing work in and out of the school building, which has prompted the BOE to move some students into classroom trailers parked on the school’s front lawn.

Last month, the BOE picked a new contractor to complete the unfinished $40 million job which was to provide new soundproofed windows to block out persistent aircraft noise, along with additional classroom space, a new cafeteria and a five-story atrium. Last year, the BOE parted ways with the original contract via a “termination for convenience.” Now both parties must negotiate a settlement.

Nov. 3 opening pegged for supermarket

Photos by Ron Leir Co-owner Vincent LoCurcio (l.) and construction manager Frank Salas prepare for opening of new Belleville ShopRite, as evidenced by new signage.

Photos by Ron Leir
Co-owner Vincent LoCurcio (l.) and construction manager Frank Salas prepare for opening of new Belleville ShopRite, as evidenced by new signage.

 

BELLEVILLE –

The township’s newest supermarket at the Belleville Center at the north end of Washington Ave. is on schedule to open Nov. 3, predicted Vincent LoCurcio, who, with partner David Infusino, is co-owner of the Belleville ShopRite.

They also operate the Nutley ShopRite store.

“We’re ready to go,” LoCurcio told The Observer as he toured the new facility last week with his architect/construction manager Frank Salas, president of CSR Construction Corp. of Nutley. “We’re down the home stretch.”

ShopRite fills the space previously occupied by Pathmark, which was a fixture at the Washington Ave. shopping center for three decades until its closing in October 2010.

LoCurcio said the new store will, essentially, be a mirror image – albeit a bit smaller – of the longtime Nutley market. It becomes the anchor tenant of the Belleville Center. Other remaining tenants are Kelly’s Liquors, Pizza Hut, O M Jewelers and United Check Cashing.

The Belleville facility will be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, he said. The 40,000 square feet of “selling space” will feature a pharmacy, floral shop, baked foods, and the usual host of produce and household wares.

Some 270 employees, including many from Belleville and the surrounding area, have been hired to work at the supermarket, LoCurcio said.

Shoppers will have access to surface and underground parking and an elevator will convey them from the garage directly to the market or to the mall lobby.

Last week, workers were busy assembling grocery racks and shelving and there were rows of checkout counters visible from the mall lobby.

“There will be baggers at every checkout,” LoCurcio said.

Belleville resident Tony Sessa, who has 35 years prior experience in the food industry, was hired six months ago as the Belleville ShopRite store manager, LoCurcio said.

– Ron Leir

Thoughts & Views: Tea Party: How to keep faith with America

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Since Congress put in motion the partial government shutdown, many federal civil servants have been furloughed but that hasn’t stopped federal park rangers from volunteering for trail maintenance in Hillsborough, N.C.

That gave me an idea for how members of Congress – who are still drawing their salaries – and particularly Tea Party advocates – can redeem themselves in the eyes of their constituents.

To earn their pay – and to honor the virtues of patriotism – some of our more agile GOP federal lawmakers, say folks like Eric Cantor of Virginia or Marco Rubio of Florida, for example, could venture out to South Dakota and check in at the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial.

The memorial – under an agreement between the federal government and South Dakota – remains open to visitors so don’t worry Congress folks, you won’t be breaking your laws by going there.

There, of course, are the images of four of the nation’s greatest (depending on your point of view) presidents – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt – sculpted into the cliff face.

Wouldn’t they be doing the country a great service – and, in the process, saving ‘face’ – if Eric, Marco and company were to rappel down the mountain to give our nation’s former leaders a thorough dusting?

I ask you: What could be more fitting to honor America?

Now I grant you there may be some quibbling over a somewhat muddled party line among the four ex-chiefs: There are only two clear Republicans in the mix – Lincoln and Roosevelt. As a Federalist, Washington clearly favored a strong role for the federal government but the maverick Jefferson – with James Madison – formed the Democratic-Republican Party in 1792 as a sort of early states’ rights advocate.

So, three out of four should be sweet enough for the Tea Party brain trust. Just don’t think about defacing George, OK? Hey, he was the guy who set up the mechanism so you could have a job in the first place.

Now when you’re done with this chore – which should keep you busy for some time – and, thankfully, away from Congress – you should think about visiting Detroit which, you may remember, is broke. GM couldn’t save it. Federal bailout? We know the answer to that one.

So here’s my proposition. Again in the interest of public service – let us recall George H. W. Bush’s “Thousand Points of Light” – why not pitch in and help do those many chores that you guys feel government has no business doing.

You know, stuff like picking up the trash, cleaning the streets, fixing broken street lights, getting kids to school, taking care of the sick and infirm.

Or, do we just write them off as a lost cause? Maybe Sarah Palin has a thought on this? Can she look out her window and see Mt. Rushmore? I hope so.

– Ron Leir

KPD blotter: Who needs four wheels anyway?

On Oct. 5, at 1:30 a.m., Kearny police received reports of a northbound SUV travelling past Applebee’s on Passaic Ave. on only three wheels. Responding Officer Tom Sumowski spotted it at Passaic and South Midland Aves. Its left rear tire was badly shredded, and there was fresh collision damage all along the driver’s side of the vehicle, police said.

Detecting the odor of alcohol, police said, Sumowski and Officer Joe Martin had the driver perform field sobriety tests and then brought her to headquarters for an Alcotest. Subsequently charged with DWI and careless driving was 28-year-old April Martinello of Lyndhurst.

According to police, Martinello claimed she did not know how the SUV sustained all its damage. Surrounding towns have been notified of the arrest and the condition of the vehicle “in the event there was a report of any hitand- run” in their jurisdiction, Police Chief John Dowie said.

Other recent entries on the KPD blotter included the following:

Oct. 7

At 5:30 p.m., Officer Giovanni Rodriguez responded to a report from Kmart that a shoplifter had just fled the store on Passaic Ave., leaving behind the four pairs of jeans he had allegedly attempted to steal by stuffing them in his waistband. Given the suspect’s description and direction of flight, Rodriguez spotted him running south on Passaic and apprehended him in East Newark. She detained him there, and Kmart security came to the scene and identified him, police said. Arrested was Robert Harrell, 42, of Orange.

Officer Brian Wisely was on patrol on the Belleville Pike at Beech St. at 6:10 p.m. when he observed a pedestrian reportedly guzzling a 24-ounce Budweiser. Wisely, preparing to write a summons for violation of the town ordinance against drinking alcohol in public, did a warrant check and, police said, found that 51-year-old Miguel Gonzalez of Newark had two: one from Newark and a no-bail warrant from the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. He was arrested and turned over to the other agencies.

Officer Pete Jahera, responding to a report of a two-car crash at Davis Ave. and Devon Terrace at 6:45 p.m., reportedly detected the odor of alcohol about the person of one driver: Susan Kasper, 62, of Kearny. After field sobriety tests, she was charged with DWI and reckless driving. Kasper was brought to HQ and her car was towed from the scene. Police said there were no injuries in the accident. After Officer Wisely reported a car parked at the deadend near the old railroad cut off North Midland Ave. at 8:30 p.m., the Vice Squad responded as back -up and reportedly observed one occupant with a hand-rolled cigarette. Fabian Arroyo, 18, of Kearny was also allegedly in possession of three plastic bags of suspected marijuana. He was charged with possession of the drug and of drug paraphernalia.

Oct. 9

Vice detectives, at Hoyt St. and Davis Ave. at 8:40 p.m., observed an individual known to them in a parked vehicle with a cigar and with folded paper on the dashboard, police said. The officers followed the car into West Hudson Park, stopped it at the Schuyler Ave. entrance, and reportedly detected the odor of marijuana. After Charles Bravin, 22, of Kearny gave them the paper, which allegedly contained the drug, he was charged with possession of pot and paraphernalia.

After a 9:30 p.m. hit-run crash where the Belleville Pike meets Harrison Ave., the crasher reportedly drove off, westward down Harrison, with the crashee in pursuit. The latter called the KPD, and Officers John Fabula and Jose Resua stopped the fleeing car on Bergen Ave. The driver, Michele Raia, 43, of Kearny, was given field sobriety tests, taken to HQ for an Alcotest and charged with DWI and reckless driving.

Oct. 10

A “fight” several citizen callers reported at 3 p.m. on Bergen Ave., just west of Kearny Ave., turned out to be a confrontation between several Rite Aid employees and a suspected shoplifter they had pursued from the nearby pharmacy. The first cop on the scene was Chief Dowie, who had been driving in the area and saw the commotion — along with the thief’s loot, tubes of body lotion, all over the street.

When the man refused to comply with instructions and submit to arrest, a scuffle ensued, but the chief forced the man to the ground and cuffed him. The suspect, Yasmil Lopez, 31, of Newark, was turned over to the custody of Officer Jack Corbett.

Because Lopez had also reportedly struggled with employees, the charge of shoplifting was elevated to robbery, but he was also charged with shoplifting and conspiracy in connection with an earlier theft and was found to be wanted on a Newark warrant, police said.

On Oct. 1, Dowie said, Lopez and Jose Perez, 33, also of Newark, were caught on security video at the pharmacy but managed to get away. Perez returned alone to Rite Aid on Oct. 5, and was busted on a shoplifting charge. On the 10th, it was Lopez who returned solo to the store.

And what was stolen? Since Oct. 1, Rite Aid reported, about $2,000 in merchandise — mostly deodorants and body lotions — disappeared from the shelves. If they are the culprits, Lopez and Perez must have very soft skin. And smell good, too. Allegedly.

– Karen Zautyk

5 armed robbery suspects nabbed by Nutley, Belleville cops

Five individuals – three juveniles and two adults – have been arrested in connection with the armed robbery of two Belleville residents in Nutley last Wednesday, Oct. 9.

Nutley P.D. said the residents were walking on Passaic Ave., near Florence St., at around 1:45 a.m., when a blue Chevrolet Equinox pulled up and three males – all juveniles – exited and sprinted toward them.

One of the trio pointed a silver revolver at the pair and demanded what they had on them – a purse, two Galaxy android cellular phones, $245 in cash, house keys and car keys, police said.

Pocketing those items, police said the three bandits returned to the Chevy and took off north on Passaic Ave., then east on Centre St.

The residents weren’t physically harmed, police said.

After arriving on the scene, Nutley P.D. broadcast a description of the vehicle via SPEN to police in surrounding municipalities and soon after, police said Belleville P.D. spotted a car matching that description, which they stopped at Franklin and Liberty Aves.

Police said the residents made a positive ID of the three juveniles in the car, from which police said they recovered a silver .22 caliber Ruger revolver, and the juveniles – all age 17 and all from Irvington – were charged with robbery, theft, aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon and defaced firearm.

The teens were taken to the Essex County Youth Detention Center to await a juvenile court hearing.

Additionally, police said, two adult suspects believed to have been waiting in the car during the robbery were arrested. Shane Anderson, 19, and Michael Williams, 22, both of Irvington, were charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, promoting a juvenile in a crime, possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose and a defaced firearm.

Anderson and Williams were ordered held at Essex County Jail on $250,000 bail each.

Nutley Mayor/Police Director Alphonse Petracco and Chief John Holland credited the quick response by Nutley officers and the alert Belleville officers in making the arrest.

Other incidents logged by Nutley P.D. during the past week included these:

Oct. 11

A motor vehicle stop, at 2:40 a.m., on Vreeland Ave. led to the arrest of Jeremy Schaefer, 19, of Lyndhurst, on a DWI charge. He was also ticketed on charges of driving while intoxicated while being under the legal age to purchase alcohol and failing to wear a seat belt. He was released to a family member pending a court appearance.

Police said they found three men standing behind a trailer parked in a Dodd St. resident’s driveway at 1:27 a.m. and, as they approached, the men ran into the rear yard. A pursuit resulted in police stopping one of the men who was found to have an outstanding warrant from Hackensack. That man, Christopher Hoff, 21, of Lyndhurst, was taken to headquarters where he posted bail and was released pending his new court date, police said.

Oct. 9

Police received two separate reports of fraud. One victim told police that someone used their personal information to buy three I-phones at a store in the Bronx, N.Y., charging more than $480 to their account. Verizon has suspended the three lines, police said. Another victim said they were notified by their bank that six fraudulent transactions totaling $190 had been made through their debit card which the victim had lost. The account was closed, police said.

Oct. 8

At 7:57 p.m., police arrested Vincent Rondinella, 25, of Nutley, on an outstanding warrant from Wayne. Rondinella was released after posting bail, pending a court date.

Police received a report of credit card fraud from a victim who told them that someone had tried to purchase items on their credit card on two occasions without their authorization. However, the victim card company to stop the purchases, police said.

Oct. 7

A report of a car fire on Rt. 21 South, at 2:54 p.m., brought police to that location where officers said they observed a vehicle in the median of an exit fully engulfed in flames. No one was inside the vehicle, they said. Police stopped traffic to await the arrival of the Nutley Fire Department which put out the fire. Police said a vehicle was attempting to tow another vehicle when it caught fire. Police ticketed the owner of the vehicle that caught fire for driving an unsafe vehicle, reckless driving, disabling a vehicle to obstruct traffic, riding on parts not intended for passengers and failure to exhibit insurance. The owner of the towing vehicle was ticketed for reckless driving, unsafe vehicle and disabling a vehicle to obstruct traffic.

Oct. 6

A Spruce St. resident called police at 4:24 p.m. to report a theft. The resident told police that someone had siphoned about a quarter tank of gas from the fuel tank of their Toyota while it was parked in their driveway. Upon arrival, police said they found the gas tank open and the gas cap removed.

A Clover St. resident reported a case of criminal mischief. Police said the resident told them that during the night, someone stole one of their inflatable Halloween lawn decorations and damaged another. The resident placed the value of the decorations at about $150.

Oct. 5

Police said a Centre St. resident called at 5:53 a.m. to report that someone had stolen their Honda Civic from its parking space during the evening. The resident told them they had locked the car when they parked it. Police said they found no broken glass or sign of forced entry.

At 2:56 a.m., police said they responded to a vehicle stuck on the railroad tracks at Kingsland and Bloomfield Aves. After investigation, police arrested the driver, Sergio Alpizar, 25, of Paterson, on a DWI charge. He was also ticketed for careless driving. Alpizar was released to a relative pending a court appearance.

– Ron Leir

The latest from the Lyndhurst Police blotter

It turned out to be a bad morning all around for Ashley Alexander, 26, of Clifton.

Police pulled over Alexander as she was driving her 2007 Toyota on Riverside Ave. near Sanford Ave., at 1:26 a.m., and placed her under arrest on an outstanding $215 traffic warrant from Nutley. And she was ticketed on charges of DWI and suspended license.

After posting bail, Alexander called a friend, Martin Craig, 23, of Estell Manor in Atlantic County, to pick her up. But police refused to let Craig drive Alexander home after allegedly detecting alcohol on his breath so Alexander called a Belleville friend for assistance.

When the third party arrived at 4:30 a.m., police said Craig began loudly complaining and arguing with that individual so he was charged as a disorderly person.

Oct. 9

At 11:43 p.m., police said they observed a 2000 Saturn parked on Paul St. in a no parking zone with its motor running and no driver visible but passengers in the front and rear seats and the odor of suspected marijuana detected. A bit later, police said the driver exited a nearby building and returned to the Saturn. After he was allegedly found to have marijuana on him, police charged Matthew Durante, 18, of Lyndhurst, with possession of drugs. The passengers were released, police said.

Oct. 7

At 4 p.m., police responded to 9 Polito Ave. on a report of a theft. An Elizabeth contractor who had been working at the site for the past four months told police someone had cut the locks off a storage container in the rear of the parking lot and removed numerous power tools.

At 2:18 p.m., police said Richard Makowski, 46, of Lyndhurst, walked into the municipal court administrator’s office on the second floor of the Municipal Building on Valley Brook Ave. and began arguing about an outstanding $250 criminal warrant from another jurisdiction. Police were summoned and Makowski ended up being issued a summons charging him with disorderly conduct. He was released pending a court date.

Oct. 6

At 10:50 p.m., police said Police Chief James O’Connor reported that a 2005 Honda Accord was stopped in the middle of Lake Ave. near Stuyvesant Ave. with the driver asleep at the wheel. Officers responded and roused the driver, Richard Gonzalez, 32, of Garfield. He was issued summonses charging him with DWI and careless driving.

At 7:24 a.m., police responded to a report of theft of services at an Orient Way location. Police said they were met by a New York taxi driver who told them he’d driven a passenger from New York to a Marin Ave. address in Lyndhurst but, arriving at his destination, the passenger told him he had no cash and offered to pay the $130.75 fare via credit card but the card was declined so the driver took his passenger to a nearby Seven-11 to use an ATM but that effort also failed. At this point, police said, the passenger asked if the driver would settle for $80 and the driver agreed, but police said the passenger then ran off south along Orient Way. He was described as about 5-foot-eight, 180 pounds, with short brown hair.

Oct. 5

At 4:48 p.m., police pulled over a 2002 Ford Explorer driven by Carlos Coronel, 58, of Newark, on Kingsland Ave. near Octavia Place, after officers allegedly spotted two open cans of Budweiser beer inside the vehicle. Police issued Coronel summonses charging him with DWI and having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. His car was impounded and he was released pending a court date.

– Ron Leir

Around Town

Belleville

Belleville Elks Lodge 1123, 254 Washington Ave., holds a blood drive on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Donors must be age 17 and older, weigh at least 120 pounds, bring a signed form of ID and social security number and eat a light meal before donating. For more information, call the New Jersey Blood Center at 973-676-4700.

The Woman’s Club of Belleville hosts an arts, crafts and collectibles show on Oct. 19, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Senior Center, 125 Franklin Ave. The vendor fee is $25 per table. Contact Kathy at garden07109@ gmail.com or Joan at jhneedles@gmail.com.

High School bands, motorcycle clubs and all civic associations interested in participating in Belleville’s Veterans Day Parade on Sunday, Nov. 10, at 1 p.m., are invited to contact Bill Steimel at 973-759-4692.

Belleville Public Library, 221 Washington Ave., announces:

• Halloween Bash on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 11 a.m.

• Baby and Toddler Storytime every Tuesday at 11 a.m.

• Saturday Storytime and Craft on Nov. 16 at 11 a.m.

• Saturday Film Showing “Wall-E” on Nov. 9 at 2 p.m.

Bloomfield

The Historical Society of Bloomfield (HSOB) presents “The History of the Ampere Parkway Area of Bloomfield” on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m., at the Bloomfield Civic Center, 84 Broad St. Refreshments will be served.

Visit www.hsob.org to download a membership form, or contact 973-743-8844, info@ hsob.org or HSOB1812@gmail. com for information about membership and upcoming meetings.

Bring your clean, gently used Halloween costumes to Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., to receive a ticket for a costume swap (one swap ticket per child). Bring your tickets to the library to choose a costume on Oct. 19 from 2 to 5 p.m. No costume to donate? You can select a costume from 4 to 5 p.m. for a donation of $3. Leftover costumes are donated to Goodwill. For more information, call 973-566-6200, ext. 507.

Harrison

Harrison American Legion hosts its 75th anniversary celebration and awards dinner on Nov. 9 at the Harrison-East Newark Elks, 406 Harrison Ave. Mayor Raymond McDonough, Elks Exalted Ruler Larry Bennett and Councilman Victor Villalta will be feted for the work they do for veterans. For information or reservations, call Ed Marshman at 201-998- 0662.

Kearny

Kearny High School Baseball Booster Club hosts a comedy night fundraiser, featuring Jeff Norris and Renee DeLorenzo, on Friday, Nov. 8, at 6:30 p.m., at Copestone Ophir Masonic Lodge, 225 Kearny Ave. Tickets are $30 (BYOB and snack). For ticket information or to make a donation, contact Carolyn Girdwood at 551-208-6227, Sandy Hyde at 551-265-8969, Clarence Hicks at 201-283-0515 or Wayne Walley at 201-376- 4882.

Kearny Rotary Club meets every Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. at La Fiamma Restaurant, 440 Harrison Ave., Harrison. For more information, call Joe D’Arco at 201-955- 7400 or Jose Fernandez at 201-991-1040.

The Senior Citizens of Kearny meet every Thursday at the Henrietta Benstead Senior Center, 60 Columbia Ave. Doors open at 9 a.m. for breakfast and socializing; meetings begin at 11:30 a.m., followed by bingo at noon. For more information, call Carol at 201-991-9369.

Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 136 Davis Ave., hosts a 10-part series, “Catholicism 101.” There will be two sessions, held on Thursdays, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. The first session will run from Nov. 7 to Dec. 5; the second, from Jan. 9 to Feb. 6. Contact Linda at 201-991-3870 to register or for more information.

Grace United Methodist Church, 380 Kearny Ave., hosts a turkey dinner on Friday, Oct. 18, from 5 to 6:45 p.m. Cost is $10. There is no charge to attend the live auction, which begins at 7 p.m. Dinner tickets may be purchased at the door. Take out orders will be available. For more information, call the church at 201-991-1132.

A Halloween costume party fundraiser for Cub Scout Pack 305 will be held on Saturday, Oct. 26, from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. at Hedges Hall at St. Stephen’s Church, 676 Kearny Ave. This event is for ages 18 and over (BYOB). For advance tickets, call Beth Young at 201-600-1740 or email kearnycubscouts@gmail.com.

Lyndhurst

Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Ave., holds a free flu vaccine clinic on Monday, Oct. 21, from 2 to 4 p.m. for ages 18 and over. Proof of township residency is required. Medicare recipients must present their cards. Additional dates will be announced, depending on vaccine availability.

New Jersey’s “Batman” Joe D’Angeli presents “Bats, Spiders and Snakes – Oh My!” for all ages on Sunday, Oct. 20, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., at the Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park Plaza. Meet these creatures up close. Admission is $5; $4 for MEC members. For more information, call 201-460-8300 or visit www.njmeadowlands.gov/ec.

Lyndhurst Public Library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., sponsors the following children’s programs:

• Fit4Kids Anti-Bulling Show: Presented by Muscle Man Mike and his Super Hero Friends, for ages 3 to 10, on Friday, Oct. 25, at 4 p.m. Registration is required.

• Halloween Craft: Kids in grades 1 to 4 can make a witch’s cauldron on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Registration is required.

• Halloween Parade: Children in grades pre-k to 3 can wear their costume and collect treats on Thursday, Oct. 31, at 3:30 p.m. Registration is required. To register, call the library at 201-804-2478, ext. 7, or e-mail romeo@bccls.org.

• “Fact, Hoax or Something Else”: This event is for grades 6 to 12 on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Space is limited, and registration is necessary. To register, e-mail lyndref@bccls.org or call 201- 804-2478, ext. 4.

Lyndhurst Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3549, 527 Valley Brook Ave., hosts karaoke on Friday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. The VFW hall is available for all occasions. Call the post at 201- 939-3080 for more information.

Lyndhurst Woman’s Club sponsors a bus trip to Crossings Outlets and Mount Airy Casino on Tuesday, Oct. 23. A bus will leave from the N.J. Transit lot by ShopRite at 8:30 a.m. Cost is $30 (receive $25 in slot play and $10 food coupon from casino.) For tickets, call Janet at 201-935-1208.

Lyndhurst Disabled American Veterans will sponsor a veterans’ ward party at Chestnut Hill Extended Care Facility, Passaic, on Oct. 22 at 2:30 p.m. in memory of U.S. Marine Corps L/Cpl Frank Lopinto and Eugene and Madelyn Lopinto. To sponsor a ward party in memory of a loved one, call John Deveney, rehabilitation chairman, at 201-438-2255.

The Polish American Citizens Club, 730 New Jersey Ave., hosts its 90th anniversary celebration on Sunday, Nov. 9, from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is $65. For more information, call 201-438-9723.

North Arlington

North Arlington Woman’s Club announces the following events:

• Pasta dinner and raffle fundraiser – Friday, Oct. 25, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the Senior Center, 214 Ridge Rd. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children age 12 and under (raffle tickets sold separately). For tickets, call Mary Ann at 201-997-8915.

• Bus trip to Sands Casino, Bethlehem, Pa. – Saturday, Nov. 16. Bus departs Town Hall at 9 a.m. Cost is $30 ($20 slot credit and $5 food credit). Contact Eileen at 201-998-2501 for tickets.

The Rosary Society of Queen of Peace Parish sponsors a Tricky Tray and luncheon, Saturday, Oct. 19, from noon to 4 p.m., at San Carlo Fine Caterers, 620 Stuyvesant Ave., Lyndhurst, for ages 18 and older only. Admission is $40. For tickets, call Carol at 201- 991-6454 or Pegeen at 201-246- 1030.

The North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Rd., hosts a Halloween party on Friday, Oct. 25, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For information and reservations, call 201-998-5636. The North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Rd., announces the following:

• Tween Book Club for grades 4 to 8 meets Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 3:30 p.m.

• Comics Club for grades 6 and up meets Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 3:30 p.m.

* Spooky Spectacular Workshop for grades K to 5 is slated for Thursday, Oct. 24, at 6 p.m. Mad Science presents bubbling potions, wicked brews, and really cool special effects.

* YA Movie Day for grades 6 and up is held Friday, Oct. 25, at 3 p.m.

The Ironbound Irish-American Association presents “Finnegan’s Wake” on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 7 to 11 p.m., at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 194 River Rd. The Michael Byrnes Band is featured. Admission is $45. For tickets, call Ted Edwards at 201-628-2069 and 973-900-3160 or Mike Batty at 201-317-6200.

Nutley

Nutley residents can safely discard unused prescription medication by bringing it to Nutley Police Headquarters, 228 Chestnut St., on Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., during the Nutley Police Department’s “Operation Take Back.”

Take a musical journey through Paris at the Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Dr., on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 3 p.m., with a concert program featuring compositions by Chopin, Debussy, Liszt and more, including information about the composers and the pieces performed. Call the library at 973-667-0405 for more information.

Holy Family Church youth group, 28 Brookline Ave., hosts a Tricky Tray and pasta dinner on Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $30. Proceeds benefit youth group projects and programs for those in need. For tickets, call Anna O’Reilly at 973-661- 3759. No tickets will be sold at the door.

Kearny’s ‘Oarsome Foursome’ tackles the Passaic River

Crew moms band together and race in PRRA event

 

Photo courtesy Paula Cavalier The Kearny Oarsome Foursome, namely from l., Amy Beth Baptista, Cindy Springer, Paula Cavalier and Patti McCurrie, take to the Passaic River Saturday to race in the Fall Regatta. It was the first time the quartet of Kearny crew moms raced together.

Photo courtesy Paula Cavalier
The Kearny Oarsome Foursome, namely from l., Amy Beth Baptista, Cindy Springer, Paula Cavalier and Patti McCurrie, take to the Passaic River Saturday to race in the Fall Regatta. It was the first time the quartet of Kearny crew moms raced together.

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Back in 1982, out of athletic curiosity, then-Kearny High School student Paula Cavalier wanted to see what it took to become a member of the school’s prestigious crew team.

At the time, Cavalier was told that she could not be a part of the program because she was a girl and Kearny didn’t offer crew for girls.

“I wanted to see what I could do to start a girls’ team,” Cavalier said.

Fortunately for hundreds of young ladies over the years, a girls’ team was eventually formed and the girls’ crew program at Kearny has won countless championships and even produced a United States Olympian in Jen Dore.

“I was always fascinated by the Passaic River,” said Cavalier, who is a spin instructor at King’s Court, the athletic training facility located right on the banks of the river in Lyndhurst. “I was always intrigued.”

It turns out that Cavalier wasn’t alone.

Amy Beth Baptista is a Kearny High School teacher.

“Ever since I moved to Kearny, I always watched the boats racing, coming down the river,” Baptista said. “I always loved rowing, going to camp, canoeing, row boating.”

The fascination spread.

Patti McCurrie is another Kearny resident with rowing curiosities.

“I always wanted to do it, but I was from Harrison and we didn’t have a team,” McCurrie said.

It was more of the same for Cindy Springer.

“I was always curious about it,” Springer said. “I grew up in Kearny and watched the races on the river. I was always impressed by the kids who did it. I thought it was kind of cool. I knew I couldn’t do it.”

The four Kearny residents also all had something in common. They had children who were all part of the Kearny High crew program. Cavalier’s daughter, Jessica, is a sophomore on the team – the same for McCurrie’s daughter, Erin, and Springer’s daughter Amanda.

Baptista has two children involved, daughter Gabriella, a junior, and Jeremy, a freshman.

So the women always found themselves at Kearny crew events, watching their children and wondering if there was somehow, someway to get on the river themselves.

Enter the Passaic River Rowing Association, which instituted a “Learn to Row” program earlier this year.

The PRRA, headed by Belleville High School coaches Jeff and Gail Lahm, a dedicated husband-and-wife team, has been allowing adults the opportunity to first learn the proper techniques of rowing with extensive lessons and training, then giving them the chance to get on the river and race competitively.

Baptista was the first of the Kearny crew moms to join the program in June.

“I guess I was the pioneer for the Kearny women,” she laughed. “I found out that the PRRA had this program and that adults could do it. That was it. I was convinced I was doing it.”

Baptista had a major change in lifestyle a year ago.

“I used to weigh more than 300 pounds,” Baptista said. “I was morbidly obese. But through diet and exercise, faith and perseverance, I lost 160 pounds. I never imagined I could get in a boat. I thought I probably would have sunk the boat.”

Photo courtesy Paula Cavalier From l., Kearny crew moms Amy Beth Baptista, Cindy Springer, Paula Cavalier and Patti McCurrie get together after racing for the first time as a crew team, namely the Kearny Oarsome Foursome

Photo courtesy Paula Cavalier
From l., Kearny crew moms Amy Beth Baptista, Cindy Springer, Paula Cavalier and Patti McCurrie get together after racing for the first time as a crew team, namely the Kearny Oarsome Foursome

 

Baptista, who is regularly seen running up and down Kearny Ave. with weights in hand, also competed recently in the Kearny 5K road race. She was able to lose that much weight naturally, with no surgery.

“Thank God, I’m doing things now I never would have been able to do,” Baptista said.

Soon after Baptista signed up for the “Learn to Row” program, the other three moms followed suit.

“I did it just to see if I was coordinated,” Cavalier said.

“We had a picnic last year and I was allowed to go in the boat,” Springer said. “But I couldn’t even get the oar in the water. It was so embarrassing. So when I heard about the program, I signed up because I didn’t want my daughter to be embarrassed. I found it amazing what these kids are able to do.”

McCurrie was encouraged after she found out Baptista got involved.

“I knew Amy Beth was doing it, so I just said, `Let’s all do it,’” McCurrie said. “Cindy, Paula and I all joined together (in July).”

The “Learn to Row” program was certainly extensive. It was not just getting together and then getting on the river. The Kearny moms got to learn about the pain of the ERG – the stationary device called an ergometer that measures the amount of work and simulated distance.

“Because we were older, it was definitely challenging,” said McCurrie, who works as a paralegal and a realtor. “Starting off was very tough, but we stuck with it. I actually found it addicting. It’s like when you learned how to drive a car. You wanted to get back in the car as soon as you could. Well, this is not like joining a gym, because there were four of us involved.”

“We trained together as a team,” Baptista said. “We got together three days a week and we really worked hard.”

Baptista was the team’s driving force.

“She’s the strength,” Cavalier said. “She’s the one who pushes us. I’m more of a clown, goofing around. Amy Beth takes it very seriously. She tells me, ‘Paula, focus.’ It makes for a nice blend.”

“Our daughters laugh at us, because we’re so corny,” Springer said. “We drive to the girls’ meets together at 4 a.m., giggling and slapping each other silly. It’s good we get along so well. We have a lot of fun together.”

Cavalier is the eldest of the group, but all four are over 40. Women’s ages should never be published as just common courtesy.

Springer loved the attention to detail that the team received from the PRRA coaches and instructors.

“The people are so great,” Springer said. “Our first coach, Fabian (Cortez, who recently started the competitive program at North Arlington High School), was really amazing with us. Gail Lahm was awesome with us. They really taught us well.”

Last Saturday, the quartet of Kearny crew moms took to the water as a team for the first time in a competitive race as part of the PRRA’s Fall Regatta. They had T-shirts made, proclaiming themselves as the “Kearny Oarsome Foursome.”

“I saw the buoys in the water and I started to get a nervous stomach,” Cavalier said. “I was excited. I was scared. I definitely feel like I’m the weakest link of the group. I didn’t want to mess it up. It was taking me the longest to get it down. I just had to get it out of my head and just do it.”

It didn’t matter that there wasn’t a boat to race against. There wasn’t another novice quartet entered.

“We crossed the finish line, so in my mind, we won,” Baptista said. “The goal was to row and learn the sport, learn to love it. We didn’t care about time or winning medals. We’re unified. We’re Kearny’s Oarsome Foursome.”

Baptista had medals made, just so the group felt like winners.

“It was great fun,” Cavalier said. “It taught me how to challenge myself.”

Cavalier has also taken on a recent challenge, training in cycling with a local organization, the Portuguese Cycling Group.

Chances are that the “Oarsome Foursome” will be challenging each other on the Passaic River – and as dedicated Kearny crew moms – in the future as well. A new crew quartet has been formed, thanks to the PRRA.

For more information about the Passaic River Rowing Association’s “Learn to Row” program, log on to www.prra.org.

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