By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent LYNDHURST – After what Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso characterized as “33 years of starts and stops,” the township – with help from Bergen County – is finally beginning to see the start of improvements to the intersection at Kingsland and Riverside Aves. The changes […]
A Belleville man was among three defendants convicted earlier this month in federal court for their roles in a $15 million mortgage fraud scheme involving condominiums in New Jersey and Florida, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reported. Last month, another Belleville resident pleaded guilty in the same scam. According to […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY – The Walmart in Kearny is conveniently located on Harrison Ave., with easy access to Rt. 280, the N.J. Turnpike and feeder roads to Newark and Jersey City. This is a boon for shoppers. However, according to Kearny police, it is […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Four former Kearny workers, including a union chief, have lost the first round of a bid to reverse their New Year’s Eve dismissals nearly three years ago. In a 21-page ruling issued Sept. 3, the state Office of Administrative Law […]
Don your favorite pink attire and join St. Michael’s Medical Center for a Breast Cancer Awareness Month event — Breast Health & You — on Saturday, Oct. 25, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at SMMC’s Connie Dwyer Breast Center, 111 Central Ave., Newark. Dr. Nadine Pappas, director of […]
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
When the New Jersey City University men’s soccer team prepared to begin the 2014 season, the Gothic Knights were missing a very important ingredient. They needed a goalkeeper.
NJCU head men’s soccer coach Patrick Snyder thought he had two recruits entering the program this fall.
“We had some options, but one kid just didn’t fit our profile,” Snyder said. “Both of our goalkeepers from last year didn’t return – one chose to leave and the other didn’t have the academics down.”
So Snyder made one phone call – to former Observer Male Athlete of the Year Tyler Krychkowski.
The celebrated North Arlington High School graduate, the recipient of The Observer’s top award in 2012, had been a midfielder with the Gothic Knights for the first two years of his college career.
Krychkowski was always asked to be the emergency fill-in at goalie – even though he never played the position at all.
“I told Tyler that he had to be ready to help if we needed him,” Snyder said. “I really thought we had at least one goalie, but that didn’t work out. I know I should have asked Tyler if he wanted to be the goalie, but I guess I basically told him.
” The response was typical Tyler.
“I just told him I would do it for the team,” Krychkowski said. “There was no one else around to step up and take over. I wanted to have a good season, so I decided to do it.”
With no formal goaltending training at all, Krychkowski donned the gloves, got a new uniform to wear and headed toward manning the goal.
“I worked hard with our goalie coach Mike Coughlin,” Krychkowski said. “I guess my athleticism helped me. I worked really hard with Mike to get ready to play.”
Krychkowski’s natural athletic ability carried him. After all, Krychkowski was a three-sport standout at North Arlington – a goal-scoring machine in soccer, a 1,000-point scorer in basketball and a track and field expert. It was a no-brainer the year he was selected as Observer Male Athlete of the Year.
“I didn’t have any doubts in myself handling it, because I worked so hard at it,” Krychkowski said. “The key was not making too many mistakes.”
“He really took to it,” Snyder said. “We just didn’t know if he could handle it, but after training a little, Tyler got better and better and felt pretty comfortable with it. He’s just a selfless kid. I just hoped that his athleticism and dedication would carry him.”
Snyder likes what Krychkowski has done in the new position.
“He’s a roaming goalie,” Snyder said. “He likes to come outside of the box and go after the ball. He can jump well and knows how to use his body.”
The results have been staggering. Krychkowski, thrust into a new position that he never played before, has become one of the best net minders in the New Jersey Athletic Conference.
Krychkowski collected a shutout in one of his first games as a goalie. In 11 games, he’s surrendered just 17 goals, a 1.44 goals against average, and he’s collected 68 saves.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed, as Krychkowski was named the NJAC Player of the Week, the league’s defensive player of the week and was honored by the ECAC as its Defensive Player of the Week. Krychkowski was also honored as the Disney Soccer/ NCAA Division III National Player of the Week.
Let’s go one step even further. In the Sept. 15 editions of Sports Illustrated, Krychkowski was featured as one of the prestigious magazine’s Faces in the Crowd.
Yes, the impromptu goalie getting national recognition. Not a bad gig at all.
“I was really nervous before the first game, but I got the shutout,” Krychkowski said. “Then, I realized I can be pretty good at this. I am definitely surprised by it. The defense has played very well in front of me. If the guys in front of me are playing hard, we have a good chance of not allowing a goal.” Krychkowski said that his experience as a field player has helped him as a collegiate soccer goalkeeper.
“Just knowing where the forward is playing has helped me in goal,” Krychkowski said. “I just reversed it all. I learned all the key words I have to say to my teammates. I’m still learning that. The athleticism I have definitely helps. I know where I have to be. I just know the game and I’ve learned a lot from my goalie coach. I know now I can be a goalie. The confidence level is high playing goalie. I just do what I have to do.”
Snyder said that he knew he had a winner when he told Tyler to change positions.
“Our whole team philosophy has changed in that we’re trying to defend more,” Snyder said. “Everyone on the team wants to defend. They knew what was good for our program. As soon as Mike and I made the decision to go with Tyler, we knew. Tyler just threw a pair of gloves on, had a few practices and was ready to go.”
Krychkowski had some tough moments in the last week, facing NJAC powers Montclair State and defending league champion Rutgers- Camden. But he’s still there, still in goal, still doing what’s best for the Gothic Knights.
“It is a little different,” Krychkowski said. “The attention and everything has started to settle down. I’m getting used to being in goal. I like where I am right now. It could have been far worse.”
But Krychkowski isn’t about to make playing goalkeeper a permanent slot.
“It’s definitely a one-year deal,” Krychkowski said. “Scoring goals, there’s no better feeling in the world. Okay, I won’t do it this year, but I will be back trying to score goals next year, no doubt.”
“I think it’s a testament to Tyler and the whole team,” Snyder said. “We are now going after good kids, good students. I know it can work.”
As long as Snyder finds diamonds in the rough like Tyler Krychkowski, a former goal scorer supreme now working his tail off to prevent goals from scoring. Such is life as a soccer player.
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Craig Merkle didn’t have to go far to find inspiration in becoming a standout high school football player. The Nutley High School junior could have easily found that motivation in his own living room.
That’s because Craig Merkle has two older brothers who paved the way for him to become a Maroon Raider.
First, Chris Merkle went from being a fine two-way performer with the Maroon Raiders to a great career at Montclair State and eventually became a professional football player, toiling for a few years in the Arena Football League.
Then, middle brother Kevin came along and played for the Maroon Raiders before heading off to Union College two years ago.
“They definitely motivated me a lot,” Craig Merkle said. “I used to always go to Chris’ games when he played and I always followed Kevin. I always wanted to be a good football player like my older brothers. It was definitely a little tough, knowing all that Chris did and how far he got. They were some huge shoes to fill.”
Merkle definitely showed that he was ready to become the next in line last year, when he went from being a sophomore reserve to a prime-time performer.
“We tried to break him in slowly last year, because he was a sophomore,” Nutley head coach Tom Basile said. “But he ended up scoring 11 touchdowns every way imaginable, running, catching, kick returns, defense. He ended up leading the team in tackles. We worked him in as the season went on. He became a starter and wasn’t coming out.”
In fact, the youngest Merkle brother was so impressive that he earned a remarkable distinction as a sophomore.
“We gave him the Most Outstanding Player award at the season end banquet,” Basile said. “It’s virtually unheard of to give it to a sophomore, but that was the way to show everyone how talented he is. Obviously, he was our best player. He’s a good all-around football player.”
Merkle said that he was shocked that he earned the MVP trophy.
“I was pretty surprised,” Merkle said. “I didn’t think I had a chance to get it. It was a great accomplishment.”
But Merkle knew that he couldn’t rest on the laurels he gained a year ago.
“I knew I had to keep working hard,” Merkle said. “I knew that I would be the main running back this year, so that made me work a little harder. I loved the idea that I would be getting the ball more.”
In Basile’s eyes, it was a nobrainer.
“I did expect Craig to be the workhorse back this year, somewhere in the 20-to-25 times per game,” Basile said. “We do have other weapons, but Craig is our go-to guy. He’s the one who can get the tough extra yard, but he’s also the one who could break one. He’s that kind of kid.”
Merkle proved to be that kind of player – and then some – Saturday afternoon against West Orange. He carried the ball 29 times for 192 yards and scored touchdowns on runs of 13 and 51 yards. Merkle also gathered an interception and returned it 77 yards for another touchdown, leading the Maroon Raiders to a 49-27 victory, a win that pushed Nutley’s record to an impressive 3-0 in the early stages of the 2014 season.
For his efforts, Merkle has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week. Merkle is the first honoree for the 2014-2015 scholastic sports season. The weekly feature will culminate with the presentation of the Observer Male and Female Athletes of the Year sometime in June and July of 2015.
Basile said that Craig Merkle is a combination of his older two brothers.
“Craig is the best of both worlds,” Basile said. “He has the personality of Kevin and the intensity and physical level that Chris had. Kevin was more cerebral, but Craig has the best of both brothers. It’s a great football family. They’re all supportive of the program.”
Basile said that he loves Craig’s work ethic.
“He’s the one who is working all year round,” Basile said. “He never misses a day in the weight room and he also runs track in the spring, so he’s training all the time.”
Basile said that Merkle is also a great student and product of the Nutley community.
“He’s a solid B-plus student,” Basile said. “He does his job in the classroom. He’s also involved in the community. He’s the total package. He’s just a well rounded guy.”
Basile also feels that Merkle is a college football prospect.
“I think he’s still going to grow some,” said Basile of Merkle, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 220 pounds. “He’s basically still a baby. I obviously think he can play in college. He has the size and the strength to do it.”
But Merkle is just a junior. He has another year of high school football to worry about.
But Merkle has that goal in his sights already.
“That’s what I hope for every day,” Merkle said. “I want to play in college. That’s my dream.”
Merkle said that he doesn’t have a preference for which way he would want to play, either running back or linebacker.
“As a kid, I always played defense and it was my favorite,” Merkle said. “But when I got to high school, I liked running the ball, so now, I really don’t know. I like to play both.”
The Maroon Raiders will now get challenged in their schedule, facing Montclair this week.
“It’s a reality check now,” Basile said. “Our schedule gets solid now. We’re going to see what Nutley is all about.”
“We’re going good right now,” Merkle said. “We have a tough schedule coming up, beginning with Montclair, so we have to go in with a good mind. But right now, this feels great. Everyone is looking good.”
Just not as good as the Maroon Raiders’ best player, the one from the strong football family.
Patricia Ann Caruso
Patricia Ann Caruso died peacefully on Sept. 14. She was 74. Born in Jersey City, she lived in Kearny since 1985. Arrangements were handled by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass was offered at St. Stephen’s Church, followed by burial in Arlington Cemetery. To leave online condolences please visit www.armitagewiggins.com
Patricia is the wife of Joseph B. Caruso and is the mother of John Caruso (Geralyn) and the late Bernard; sister of the late Nora Driscoll, Dorothy Hansen and Michael Driscoll. Also surviving are her grandchildren Kristen, Lauren, Jenny and Gillian and four great-grandchildren
In lieu of flowers kindly make a donation to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Stephen J. Nemeth
Stephen J. Nemeth, 92, passed away on Sunday, Sept. 28, at Hackensack Medical Center in Hackensack. He was born in Throop, Pa., and lived in Kearny for the past 45 years.
Steve worked for Breeze- Eastern Corp. in Union, for over 63 years. He served on the U.S. Army during World War II and was honorably discharged.
He was the son of the late Louis and Louise ( Nee Horvath ) Nemeth; dear brother of the late Margaret, Anna, Cecelia, Louise, Rose and John; cherished uncle of Gail Bellog (his goddaughter), Joanne Pearn, Dennis Bellog and his wife Michelle and Arleen Kinsley and her husband Raymond Jr.; he is also survived by many cherished nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.
Relatives and friends are welcome to attend the funeral on Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 9 a.m. at the Shaw-Buyus Home for Services, 138 Davis Ave., at Bergen Ave., Kearny, followed by a funeral Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Kearny, at 10 a.m. Entombment will be in Holy Cross Chapel Mausoleum, North Arlington. Visitation is Tuesday, Sept. 30, from 5 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.buyusfuneralhome.com.
Agnes R. Gretchen
Agnes R. Gretchen (nee Pawlowicz) died peacefully at home on Sept. 21. Arrangements were handled by the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass was offered at St. Stephens Church, followed by burial in Holy Cross Cemetery. To leave online condolences please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.
Agnes was the wife of the late Matrue Gretchen and is survived by her children Lorraine Gretchen and Dennis (Carolyn) Gretchen. Sister of Alice Daniels she is also survived by her grandchildren Denise Doorly and Michael Gretchen and her great grandchildren Donovan, Hayden and Katarina.
In lieu of flowers kindly consider a donation to Van Dyke Hospice.
ShopRite of Lyndhurst, an Inserra Supermarkets store, and Ultra Fitness Center/ The Unique Women’s Gym recently hosted an Outdoor Exercise Extravaganza at ShopRite’s New York Ave. store.
Zumba and strength-training classes were offered to the public as part of National Cholesterol Education Month and ShopRite’s annual Partners in Caring program. Participant donations benefited Partners in Caring, designed to raise hunger awareness and funds for local food programs. As weights, the sessions used canned goods that were purchased by and collected from participants to be donated to a food drive.
Each month, ShopRite of Lyndhurst hosts a wide range of LiveRight events that are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Julie Harrington at 201-419-9154 or email Julie.harrington@ wakefern.com.
At about 4:35 p.m., the owner of a 2009 Hyundai Elantra came into Harrison Police HQ to report that someone damaged his vehicle while it was parked on Cleveland Ave., just off Hiram Place, sometime between 4 p.m. Sept. 20 and 9:45 a.m. Sept. 22.
Police said the vehicle was scratched on the driver’s side, from the fender to the rear door.
The owner told police that two weeks prior, when his vehicle was parked in the same location, someone had placed on his vehicle’s windshield a note written on the back of a receipt from Kearny Auto Spa saying that the way the vehicle was parked, it had taken up two parking spaces. At that time, the vehicle was untouched, the owner reported.
At about 7:30 p.m., a man entered HQ to report a theft. The man told police that when he’d entered his Washington St. apartment at 4:30 p.m., he discovered that his laptop and iPod were missing.
The HP Pavilion laptop was valued at about $700 while the iPod touch was priced at about $200, the tenant told police.
Earlier in the day, the man told police he had friends in the apartment.
Detectives are investigating.
– Ron Leir
By Karen Zautyk
On Sunday afternoon, at a Mass of Thanksgiving marking the 75th anniverary of the dedication of St. Stephen’s Church, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda stood in the sanctuary and gazed up at the breathtaking Gothic architecture and told the congregation that what he was viewing wasn’t a parish church.
“This,” he said, “is a cathedral.”
Observer readers who have been fortunate enough to visit St. Stephen’s would agree. The soaring vaulted ceiling, the columned nave, the magnificent reredos behind the main altar, the light coming through the exquisite stained glass windows … it all lends a particular sense of grandeur to this house of worship.
Later, after the readings and the gospel — and hymns that had echoed through the building — Hebda took to the pulpit to deliver the homily, which he prefaced with the comment, “Not only does this church look like a cathedral, it sounds like a cathedral!”
But bricks and mortar and glass and marble and wood are just part of the story of St. Stephen’s. Citing “the vitality of this parish after 75 years,” the archbishop noted: “This building is only a manifestation of what it going on in your hearts.”
“We know that God is here,” Hebda said, and for 75 years “this has been a place where people could open their hearts to the Lord.”
Hundreds of hearts were opened on Sunday, for the huge church was filled for a celebration not only of parish history but, more importantly, of the common Roman Catholic faith the parishioners cherish.
Hebda was the representative of the Archdiocese of Newark at the Mass, at which more than a half-dozen other clergy officiated along with the pastor, the Rev. Joseph A. Mancini. And the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard added to the ceremonial pomp. As did the incense wafting through the nave.
It should be noted that St. Stephen’s Parish predates the church at Kearny and Laurel Aves. by four decades.
The parish itself was founded in 1899 as a mission of St. Cecilia’s Church, Kearny. In 1900, St. Stephen’s began holding services in what had been a small Methodist church on Chestnut St. in the Arlington section.
Eventually, the parish built its own church, and school, at Midland Ave. and Chestnut St. (St. Stephen’s School operated for many years before being replaced by Mater Dei Academy, which occupied the building from 2009 to 2012.)
The present church was dedicated Sept. 17, 1939, and there is a photo taken at that ceremony showing the Rev. John P. Washington leading a procession into the building.
A little more than three years later, on Feb. 3, 1943, Father Washington would die in the North Atlantic — one of the Four Chaplains whose heroism would be remembered not only at St. Stephen’s, but around the world. Along with Protestant ministers the Revs. George L. Fox and Clark V. Poling and Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, the priest perished on the USAT Dorchester, which had been torpedoed by a German submarine. The Four Chaplains gave up their lifejackets, and their lives, to save Dorchester crewmembers.
St. Stephen’s was Washington’s last parish assignment before he was appointed a U.S. Army chaplain in World War II. There has long been a plaque inside the church honoring him, and now the Four Chaplains Memorial, an impressive bronze sculpture, graces the church lawn.
On Sunday, following the Mass, adults and children were gathering around that memorial — and then, more than 360 of them sat down for a picnic on the lawn. A table, running nearly the width of the grassy plot, bore a bounty of food, all of it prepared by parishioners. There would also be music, and games for the children, and even a “dunk tank.” (Alas, we could not stay for the festivities, so we don’t know who got dunked, but somehow we doubt it was the archbishop.)
We chatted briefly with Cyndie Schirm, who was arranging the food table, and we learned that the event was planned and brought to fruition by a committee of Parish Council members. Kudos to all.
The sight of the overflowing trays and bowls and casseroles brought to mind something Hebda had said in his homily. Citing the parable of the loaves and fishes (five loaves and two fishes with which Christ fed a multitude), the archbishop noted that afterwards, the disciples had gathered up the scraps that were left from the feast, and these filled 12 baskets.
“Count the baskets of God’s blessings before you,” he told the congregation at the Mass. “You should rejoice, for what a blessing this parish has been.”
In his remarks following the service, Mancini referred to a bit of popular history. The year 1939, the same year the beautiful St. Stephen’s Church was dedicated, brought, he noted, “two very important cultural events.”
On July 4, in his farewell appearance at Yankee Stadium, the dying Lou Gehrig told the crowd, “. . . today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
And later that year, “The Wizard of Oz” was released.
“Today,” Father Joe said, “we consider ourselves to be the luckiest Catholics on the face of the earth because there is no place like our spiritual home.”
(Editor’s note: The Giants won Sunday, didn’t they? We saw more than one Manning jersey in church. We’re not saying, we’re just saying.)
By Ron Leir
A sacred relic has been purloined from Holy Cross Church in Harrison, according to police and church officials. The religious artifact is believed by the church faithful to be a piece of the original Cross of Christ from Jerusalem and has been in the church’s keeping at least since its founding in Harrison in 1886, said the Rev. Joseph Girone, pastor of Holy Cross.
“We were told by [former pastor] Monsignor John Gilchrist that the relic was brought here when the church was built as a gift from Rome,” explained the Rev. Francisco Gonzalez, parochial vicar of Holy Cross and youth minister.
A Harrison PD report issued last Monday, Sept. 15, gave this account of its disappearance: On the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 11, police were called to the church on a report of a burglary. Upon arrival, officers were told that the night before, at about 7:15 p.m., a church volunteer found a stranger in the sacristy carrying one of the church’s donation collection bags.
When the volunteer asked the man what was inside the bag, he replied: “Trash.” At that point, the volunteer told the man she was going to get a priest, Father Rodriguez, and left the sacristy.
After being alerted to the situation, Father Rodriguez confronted the intruder in the rectory kitchen where the man was searching through the cabinets. When asked what he was doing, the man replied: “I’m hungry.” The priest asked the man to leave and escorted him to the rear kitchen door.
Going to the sacristy, where the man was first seen, Father Rodriguez discovered that the relic – which, according to Father Girone, had been left in its receptacle on a table to be polished in preparation for Sunday’s Feast of the Holy Cross – was missing.
Girone said the artifact is normally kept in a rectory safe but had been removed for its once-a-year cleaning. The reliquary is in the shape of a cross about a foot long encased in a brass canister with the tiny relic itself contained in a glass “eye” and is used on special occasions, such as when priests offer a blessing for the sick.
What police described as “an unknown amount of rare gems” were said to be affixed to a portion of the artifact. Father Girone produced a framed certificate of authenticity for it written in Latin and signed by James J. O’Gorman, possibly a bishop of the period, and dated April 21, 1907.
This past Sunday, Sept. 14, the church had another surprise visit – this one from members of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police Department – who were returning two liturgical identified as being from Holy Cross which they said were found near railroad tracks in Jersey City along with a canopy known as the “banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” which the church displays during the annual Feast Day on Dec. 12.
Girone said the intruder is believed to have removed the missals or books of prayer from a shelf in one of the rooms of the rectory. He said these were “old translations” of prayers that have since been replaced by the church.
“When the Port Authority police brought them to us, they were waterlogged,” he added.
Girone said the intruder apparently entered the rectory by climbing through a window on the side of the building.
Police described the suspect as African-American, between 50 and 60, about 5-feet-10, with short black and gray hair, a black and gray beard, wearing a black shirt and denim shorts.
In other recent criminal activities logged by Harrison PD, police listed these incidents:
Two bicycle thefts were reported.
In the first incident, reported at 2 p.m., the owner of a green Huffy valued at $30 told police he parked his bike in front of 506 Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. N. at 12:20 p.m. and when he returned at 1 p.m., the bike was gone.
The second theft, reported at 7:46 p.m., involved the disappearance of a gray Mongoose with orange tire rims, valued at $350, which, according to its owner, had been secured at the bike rack near the Harrison PATH station at 8:30 a.m., but which, upon the owner’s return at 7 p.m., was missing.
Hilario Gonzalez, no age or address listed, was pulled over in front of 36 Harrison Ave., at 2 p.m., after police said they observed his vehicle cross the painted median as it approached the intersection of Harrison Ave. and First St. In questioning the driver, police said they detected a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. Gonzalez was ticketed for DWI, reckless driving, being an unlicensed driver and maintenance of lamps.
By Ron Leir
EAST NEWARK –
East Newark wants to ask its residents, through a non-binding referendum, this question: “Should East Newark high school students be sent to Kearny High School instead of Harrison High School?”
The borough wants the question to go on the ballot for the Nov. 4 general election and the Hudson County Clerk’s Office has prepared such a ballot. Sample ballots were to be mailed out this past Monday.
But the Harrison Board of Education – which stands to lose a lot of money if the switch is done – has gone to court to block its neighbor from conducting the referendum, which – by itself – has no legal standing to change anything.
Hudson County Superior Court Assignment Judge Peter Bariso reserved decision at a hearing held in Jersey City last Friday. He will likely rule on Harrison’s request on Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 3 p.m.
The East Newark Board of Education, meanwhile, has hired its own lawyer to draft a feasibility study to make its case with the state Commissioner of Education to end a more than 100-year-old practice of sending its school children to Harrison High. East Newark has a single school which educates students in pre-K through grade 8.
But East Newark Mayor Joseph Smith, whose wife Marlene is president of the local school board, has previously said that the tuition fees assessed by the Harrison school board are too high for borough taxpayers so the borough is looking for an alternative – which, in this case, happens to be Kearny High.
Currently, East Newark is sending 125 students to Harrison High at a cost of $16,300 a year per student, according to Harrison school board records.
For the past several months, representatives of the East Newark and Harrison school boards have been talking about a possible compromise, with interim Executive Hudson County Superintendent of Schools Monica Tone serving as a sort of referee. At the same time, the East Newark school board is, through its legal advisor, pursuing the path toward separation that could take effect as early as the 2015- 2016 school year.
On May 14, the East Newark Borough Council resolved “to obtain the sentiment of the voters … on whether the send-receive relationship with Harrison High School should be ended and East Newark high school students [be] sent to Kearny High School.” And, on May 29, the borough asked Hudson County Clerk Barbara Netchert to put the question on the November ballot.
Princeton attorney Richard E. Shapiro, retained as special counsel by the Harrison Board of Education, filed legal papers last week with Hudson County Superior Court, asking the court to order the county clerk to “refrain from placing the proposed question … on the ballot,” or, failing that, to “remove the proposed question from the ballot….”
In the brief filed with the court, Shapiro argued that the borough exceeded its statutory authority in calling for such a referendum because state law limits municipalities to seek such action only to “… any question or policy pertaining to the government or internal affairs” of the municipality.
Viewed in this context, Shapiro reasoned, the proposed question “relates to an educational issue within the purview of the Borough of East Newark’s Board of Education,” and, therefore, fails to meet the criteria set by the statute.
As such, Shapiro says, the proposed question “… is illegal and cannot lawfully be placed on the ballot for the next general election on Nov. 4, 2014.”
In his legal papers, Shapiro cites a 1958 case known as Botkin v. Westwood in which the state Appellate Court held that Westwood’s municipal governing body’s proposal for a non-binding referendum on whether there should be a “deconsolidation” of the consolidated school district of Westwood and Washington Township was improper.
The court found that “this particular referendum question does constitute a prohibited intrusion … in school district affairs by a body which has no business intermeddling with them in the slightest degree except as the legislature has permitted.”
East Newark school board’s feasibility study is still in process but the Kearny Board of Education went on record in March to accept the borough’s students at Kearny High if and when that possibility unfolds.
By Ron Leir
When a young Theodore Plasky moved with his mother to the Kingsland Court apartments in Harrison in 1959, they found it a welcome refuge.
“We were staying at my cousin’s house in Fairview and the house blew up – I think it was something to do with the heating system that caused an explosion,” Plasky recalled. A little boy who lived next door was killed by the force of the blast, he said.
“We needed a place to stay and my mother took us here,” Plasky said. Since then, he added, “Everything’s been great.” Plasky, who says everyone in the complex knows him as “Ted,” made a living by playing accordion with different musical groups in the area.
Plasky was one of five longstanding public housing tenants awarded framed certificates of appreciation by the Harrison Housing Authority last Wednesday, Sept. 17, as the authority celebrated its 75th anniversary barbecue at Harrison Gardens, the town’s first public housing development.
It was among the earliest government-built housing complexes in the nation, on the heels of Congress’s passage of the U.S. Housing Law (also known as the Wagner-Steagall Act) in 1937 which provided federal funds for the creation of affordable housing.
A company called JAJ Construction Inc. built Harrison Gardens, 214 apartments spread among 10 buildings, at a cost of $1,070,000, which comes out to about $5,000 per unit, according to Harrison Housing Authority Executive Director Roy Rogers. Hugh A. Kelly was the design engineer on the project and the thentown engineer Joseph Cundari signed off on the plans.
When “the Gardens,” as the complex is commonly called, opened, the average monthly rent was $22; today, monthly rentals at the Gardens range from $650 to $700, Rogers said.
Kingsland Court, with 54 apartments, dates from 1952.
What makes the Gardens distinctive among the hundreds of public housing clusters built around the country, Rogers said, is that, “These are the original units – the walls were never modified – they were well-constructed brick with the original plaster. All the buildings have the same basic footprint.” The interiors – kitchens, bathrooms and HVAC systems – have been upgraded over the years, he said.
HHA maintenance worker Michael Ferriero, who has helped with the upkeep of those apartments, was presented with a certificate of appreciation at the celebration “as being the current longest working employee at the Harrison Housing Authority” with 33 years under his belt.
Other tenants who received certificates of appreciation were: Charles Kinsella, who has lived at the Gardens for 63 years; Margaret Kearns (mother of Harrison Police Chief Derek Kearns), a Gardens resident for over six decades; Jean McCormack and Geralding Doffont, both Gardens residents for over half a century.
As the many guests at the barbecue helped themselves to free hotdogs, hamburgers and soda, and as kids enjoyed pony rides, a petting zoo and a lemon toss, various local officials talked about old times at the Gardens.
HHA Commissioner/Councilman Larry Bennett recalled how as a boy, “I lived [nearby] on Franklin Ave. and, during the winter, I liked coming to Harrison Gardens because it was warm inside.”
Bennett said it was important to remember that, “Cops, lawyers, all good people, came out of here.”
Mayor James Fife, a former longtime Harrison educator, told the crowd that he felt an attachment to the Gardens because “I grew up in a housing project in Newark – in Hyatt Court – from the ages of 2 to 15 and it was a great place to grow up.” Unfortunately, he added, “many of those buildings have been knocked down since then.”
And Councilman James Doran, currently personnel director for the Harrison Board of Education, said he spent part of his youth in the Gardens’ Building 1, as did Councilman Victor Villalta, “and [Board of Education member] Artie Pettigrew lived in Building 7.”
“So many familiar names are connected to the Gardens,” Doran said. “It feels good to be home.”
The Occidental Chemical Corp. has agreed to pay the State of New Jersey $190 million to resolve the company’s liability in the contamination of the Passaic River, state officials announced last week.
Occidental is the legal successor to Diamond Shamrock Chemicals Co., which had manufactured pesticides and herbicides at its plant on Lister Ave. in the Ironbound section in Newark — and reportedly dumped the toxic waste into the water. The factory was near the riverbank, directly across from Harrison and South Kearny.
From the 1940s through the 1960s, the state says, Diamond Shamrock (formerly Diamond Alkali) intentionally discharged hazardous substances — including the infamous defoliant Agent Orange, a known carcinogen used during the Vietnam War — into the Passaic.
In the river-pollution litigation launched by the state, Occidental was the lone defendant that had yet to settle. However, the agreement is still a proposed settlement, subject to a public comment period and review by a Superior Court judge. Officials said a decision could come by December.
“The cleanup of the lower Passaic River is vital to the health and safety of people who live and work along the river and is one of the state’s top environmental priorities,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin.
Those people are you, The Observer readers. The lower Passaic is that stretch bordering Lyndhurst, North Arlington, Nutley, Belleville, Kearny, East Newark and Harrison. It is considered by some environmentalists to be the most polluted waterway in the nation.
Calling the Passaic “one of our most precious natural resources,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman stated, “Our objective throughout the Passaic River litigation has been to hold accountable those legally responsible for contaminating the river, and we have done so.”
If approved, the Occidental settlement would bring to $355.4 million the total amount recovered by N.J. as a result of litigation involving the river cleanup and contamination-removal costs, natural resource damages and other expenses, the state says.
Environmentalists point out, though, that due to a change in the law, a portion of the funds could be directed, not toward river remediation, but into the state’s general fund.
Last April, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced a plan to remove toxic sediment from the lower eight miles of the Passaic flowing into Newark Bay. The cost of that project is estimated at $1.7 billion.
– Karen Zautyk