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Classmates in court

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY–  The three young men, pictured above in their Kearny High School yearbook photos, had their whole lives ahead of them. Who knew where the future would take them? No one would have guessed that, a bit more than a decade later, it […]

Serial robber guilty

TRENTON – An accused serial robber has admitted to playing a role in 11 robberies, primarily of drug stores, in Harrison, Newark and Jersey City over a period of eight months, it was announced by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman. On July 21, Christopher Mojica, 23, pleaded guilty to […]

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Blue ranks get reinforcements

By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent LYNDHURST – Talk about parallel life paths: Joseph White and Matthew Giunta went to pre-school (St. Michael’s) together, then to Franklin Elementary School, then Lyndhurst High. And, last Friday, they entered the Bergen County Law & Public Safety Institute in Mahwah to begin […]

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Slow-paced developments

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  BELLEVILLE –  It’s been a year and two months since Gov. Chris Christie presided at a ballyhooed groundbreaking for Franklin Manor, an age-restricted 137-unit apartment complex for those 55 and over – the first such senior development for Belleville in more than three decades. […]

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Still waiting for wall’s restoration

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  HARRISON –  A property dispute between a longtime Harrison business and some neighbors that has been simmering for a few years now appears to be coming to a boil. Smack in the middle of the controversy are Bergen St. homeowners Victor and Eleanor Villalta […]

 
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Artistic and adorable

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HARRISON –

See that creature in the photo at top right? That is the beloved and legendary “Pig Chicken With Round Hands.”

You never heard of it? Well, more’s the pity.

We made its acquaintance last week in Harrison, where students in kindergarten through third grade were exhibiting their work in Lincoln School’s annual art show.

Although we have written about prior shows, we never cease to be delighted, and amazed, at the creativity and imagination evident in the sculptures, paintings, collages, etc.

The aforementioned being, for example, was the creation of a third-grader, who envisioned it and then brought it to life, so to speak, using everyday, mundane recyclables.

(Look closely. It is obviously a rotund, white pig. With chicken “feathers.” And circular hands.)

The halls of the building on Cross St. were lined with such gems, some displayed on tables, some hanging on the walls. A visitor walking through the doors couldn’t help but smile as soon as the art came into view. And then you read the titles: “The Cow From the Moon,” “The Big- Eyed Hungry Animal,” “The Happy Snowman That Loves to Play,” “The Flying Long- Tailed Cat With Antenna.”

Did we say the children were imaginative? Read more »

Doggedly pursuing animal complaints

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY –

Summer has barely begun but already Kearny has seen plenty of the season’s “dog” days … and lots more.

Just ask William Pettigrew, public health inspector for the Kearny Health Department, who’s been scampering around, responding to a series of incidents involving dog bites and barkings, a cat scratch, even a stray chicken, plus lots of overgrown grass and weeds in yards.

On June 4, the Health Department was notified by Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, that the hospital had treated someone bit by a pit bull-type dog on Chestnut St. the day prior.

After learning the dog owner’s identity, Pettigrew said he phoned the owner and advised that he’d be stopping by to talk and to arrange for a home confinement for the owner’s unlicensed pet for 10 days as a precaution. Read more »

Thoughts & Views: Two bullets, 10 million dead

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There was a seismic change to the world on June 28. Didn’t notice anything?

That’s okay. The change occurred 100 years ago, and back then the majority of people didn’t initially notice much either.

However, what happened that day launched a chain of events that would irrevocably transform nations, society and culture in ways then inconceivable and, even now, astonishing.

On June 28, 1914, on the streets of Sarajevo, a 19-yearold Bosnian Serb assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

(That’s Franz in the photo.) Read more »

CORRECTION

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Photos in last week’s entertainment story on The Whiskey Café were not properly attributed. Louise Surace took the photos we used.

‘Novelties’ & smoke shop had folks fuming

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY –

Kearny residents have apparently been spared the appearance of an “adult novelties” shop on the town’s main retail district where many tenants live above the stores.

At the June 24 Town Council meeting, Mayor Alberto Santos said that First Ward Councilman Albino Cardoso had gotten calls from some worried constituents about a sign posted in the window of the former Hot Nails salon at 257 Kearny Ave.

That sign advertised a “Smoke Shop & Adults Novelties Store Coming Soon…” Upon hearing the news, Cardoso told The Observer, “I was appalled. I never thought that would happen in the First Ward in the main avenue. In a residential area, it shouldn’t be allowed.”

And it won’t – at least not on Kearny Ave., the mayor maintained, because such a proposed use there doesn’t conform to the town’s zoning code — which, as the result of a 2007 amendment — credited to Councilwoman Susan Mc- Currie’s initiative “restricts sex-oriented businesses” to a part of the South Kearny industrial area, Santos said.

Actually, Santos was out of town – a weekend trip to Dallas – when word reached him about the prospective enterprise and he immediately alerted Town Administrator/ Construction Code Official Michael Martello about the situation.

“I call it the ‘Saturday night panic,’ ’’ quipped Martello. “The mayor reached out to me from Texas.”

So, on Monday, Martello said he went to the location and spoke to the property owner who told him that his new tenant had put up the sign in anticipation of opening the business which, according to Martello, the tenant planned to call “Sexy Smoke.”

The owner was instructed to have the sign removed, which he did, Martello said.

Should the tenant want to pursue the “adult novelties” pitch, the individual could file an application with the town Zoning Board of Adjustment and seek a variance from the existing zoning code restriction, Santos said. So far, though, that hasn’t happened.

But even if the individual were successful in persuading the zoning commissioners to allow the operation at the Kearny Ave. site, town Health Officer Kenneth Pincus cautioned there would still be an obstacle to installing the proposed “smoke shop” if it involved patrons’ use of “hookahs,” typically, smoking of flavored tobacco or nontobacco products through heated water pipes.

“Unless it’s a pre-existing use, you can’t have a hookah lounge in New Jersey,” Pincus said.

A 2011 public health administrative health advisory circulated by the state Division of Health & Senior Services advises local health agencies that in hookah bars or lounges, “… the use of hookahs for smoking – whether tobacco or non-tobacco products – is strictly prohibited by the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act [which took effect in 2006].…”

The law further defines smoking as “the burning of , inhaling from, exhaling the smoke from, or the possession of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco or any other matter that can be smoked.”

In the Garden State, smoking is banned in “in any indoor public place or workplace,” except in casino floors, cigar bars and lounges that make 15% of their income from tobacco products and tobacco retailers whose primary sales (equal to or greater than 51%) are from tobacco products.

More than a fender-bender

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KEARNY – 

As motor vehicle accidents go, the one pictured here may not appear very serious. But appearances are deceiving. This Hickory St. crash put a driver in a life-threatening situation, police reported.

At about 5 p.m., June 21, Officer Frank West responded to the 400 block of Hickory, where a ‘95 Buick was reported to have hit an unoccupied, parked SUV. Police said he found the Buick’s driver, a 69-year-old Kearny woman, incapacitated and unconscious in the locked auto, its engine still running.

After summoning an ambulance and the Kearny Fire Department, West and Officers Jay Ward and Jordenson Jean tried to gain access to the car and had to break its windows to reach the victim. West immediately began CPR. When EMS and the KPD arrived, they helped remove her from the vehicle to render further aid, including use of a defibrillator, police said.

An ALS (Advanced Life Support) unit was also called and stabilized the victim at the scene before transporting her to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville for treatment.

Police Chief John Dowie reported that West, Ward and Jean all suffered lacerations from smashing the Buick’s windows but required no medical assistance and remained on duty.

– Karen Zautyk 

School board post open

The Belleville Board of Education is seeking candidates to fill a vacancy on the board, following the resignation of member Joseph Longo, who was elected to the Township Council in May.

Anyone interested in serving is asked to send a letter of interest with a resume to the attention of Raymond R. Jacobus, Acting Interim Board Secretary/School Business Administrator, by July 8.

For more information, call the Board of Education office at 973-450-3500.

‘Rectify’ explores life after prison

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

Imagine what it must be like knowing you’re innocent of a crime.

Then, somehow, you’re charged with the crime, go through a trial, get convicted and then sentenced to death. You’re spared the death penalty for 19 years, and thanks to DNA evidence, your sentence is vacated — and you’re released from prison.

Such is the scenario for fictional character Daniel Holden in the Sundance Channel’s “Rectify,” a series that debuted a year ago and that is currently in its second season.

Daniel Holden’s background 

Holden stood accused, at age 19, of raping and murdering his then-girlfriend, Hanna, 16, in 1994.

When he’s released, it’s 2013 — and just think for a moment how radically different things are now than they were in 1994. For starters, there’s this new thing called the Internet. TVs are flat. Computers are everywhere. Cassette tapes are obsolete. Life as Holden knew it in 1994 is nothing as it is upon his release.

This incredible drama deals with how Holden, now 38, deals with life on the outside. And is it ever a challenge. Now keep in mind this — it’s one thing to be released from prison. It’s a completely different scenario when that release happens in a small town in the rural South — in the fictitious town of Paulie, Ga.

In small-town life, everyone knows everyone’s business. Everyone has a formed opinion. Everyone believes their opinion is the one that matters the most.

Sound familiar?

Such is the life Holden faces back in Paulie. There are countless people — including the sheriff, the prosecutor and a state senator who is the former prosecutor who tried and convicted Holden back in 1994 — who won’t rest until he’s put back into prison.

Aden Young as Daniel Holden in ‘Rectify.’

Aden Young as Daniel Holden in ‘Rectify.’

 

But then, there’s a faction of people who truly believe — just as they did 19 years ago — that Holden wasn’t responsible for the death of the 16-year-old.

It all takes an already-divided community — and divides it even further — to a point where people truly learn to despise one another.

The writers of the show do a brilliant job of making it all seem so real.

Holden’s character is portrayed brilliantly by actor Aden Young. At times, the man you see in the Holden role is the same 19-year-old who went away for as many years. At times, you find a man who is curious — who wants to learn how to get a driver’s license, what wants to discover what Target is, wants to learn to play games on a Playstation instead of his old, ancient Sega Genesis.

Yet throughout it all, you find in Holden a man who is completely lost — who really doesn’t know what life outside the walls of a prison is supposed to be like … who doesn’t know his place in the world … who can’t seem to figure out whether he even believes in his own innocence … who longs just to be touched by another human being.

What makes “Rectify” a hit is that it’s not like anything else you’ll find anywhere on TV. It tackles a quite taboo subject. It’s not a typical crime drama where the crime is the main focus of the show. It’s not in a hospital. It’s not in a police station. It’s not in a law office.

Instead, it’s in real America. It doesn’t take us to the absurd. And it portrays what this writer would imagine would happen in a nosy little town forced to deal with a man being released from prison for a crime that divided everyone.

As TV Guide said in its review, “Rectify is “one of the most captivating and poignant TV series” currently on the air.

Couldn’t agree more. Season 1 is available now on Netflix and Season 2 is currently underway. New episodes air at 9 p.m. Thursdays on the Sundance Channel.

Doran’s return still up in the air

HARRISON –

Whether Harrison Schools Superintendent James Doran will return to his job remained in limbo as of last week. Board of Education members met June 25 in hopes of resolving the unsettled issue but came away empty. Doran’s contract was to expire June 30, the end of the school year. He’s been at the district’s helm for the past five years.

At stake, aside from the question of who would lead the district if Doran departs, is the salary for the chief school administrator, which is regulated by state law. If he stays, Doran – whose current pay is more than $200,000 a year – would have to take a big cut in salary in order for the district to comply with the mandated pay restrictions keyed to a district’s enrollment.

Also up in the air is a new contract for Christine Griffin, the board secretary/business administrator.

But the school board did come to terms with two other school officials, one an educator and the other in the business office.

It reappointed Michael R. Pichowicz as assistant school board administrator, tendering him a one-year contract running through June 30, 2015, at a yearly salary of $173,748, reflecting a 2% increase from his previous salary.

And it ratified the appointment of Michael Landy as principal assigned to Washington Middle School for the 2014-15 school year, at an annual pay of $131,626. Landy, who also serves as a member of the Kearny Town Council, had been serving as the school’s “administrator-in- charge.”

At the meeting, Doran announced that the opening of the community pool at Washington School for the summer season was slated for July 1 and that the pool would have afternoon hours on July 4. The pool is available for use, at a nominal fee, for both adults and children. Swimming lessons are provided for $10.

In other summer activities, the Harrison Recreation Volleyball Camp is running at the Harrison High School gym, July 1 to Aug. 7; and the Harrison Recreation Tennis Camp will operate at the high school tennis courts, July 7 to Aug. 1.

– Ron Leir 

Breathtaking Manhattan views prevail at Battello Restaurant & Catering

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

JERSEY CITY – 

The views at Battello are stunning. In fact, on three sides of the restaurant, you’ll have a direct look at the New York City skyline, including the soon-to-be-completed 1 World Trade Center (formerly known as the Freedom Tower). You’ll also be surrounded by some of the most beautiful yachts and boats you’ll ever see.

And if you’re looking for a great meal — or a venue for a wedding or corporate event … or even a prom — it’s tough to look at Battello and think of anywhere else, frankly.

It’s been open since April.

And General Manager Fia Berisha says business has taken off beyond what anyone, including owner Cory Checket, could have dreamed.

“It’s been just amazing so far,” Berisha said. “Our owner lives in Jersey City and owns another bar in Hoboken. One day, he saw what was going on here and he wanted to buy it immediately. He fell in love with the space, found investors — and did just that – he bought it. And it’s been wonderful since.”

Indeed it has.

Two weekends ago, Battello hosted its first-ever wedding.

“Imagine having a wedding with a view of the Freedom Tower?” Berisha said. “It just never gets old. We have about eight more weddings booked the rest of the year, and we’re hoping to be able to book even more as we get closer to 2015.”

What separates Battello from other restaurants, Berisha says, is the staff, the menu and the location. Almost everyone on staff is younger than 35, the head chef is a top-25 rated chef in New Jersey and the overall team works brilliantly together.

“We’re open seven days a week, and we’re doing about 300 dinners a night and 200 lunches or brunches a day,” Berisha said. “We spent a lot of time putting the menu and cocktail list together. We actually used a mixologist for the cocktails and the offerings are amazing.”

Since the Newport section of Jersey City continues to grow as a hotspot — especially for young professionals — Berisha says she hopes, one day soon, the area is seen as similar to what’s happening in parts of Brooklyn.

“And we hope to attract tourists,” she said. “With the Westin and Marriot hotels so close, we want them here. We want the Montclair foodies to come here as they would elsewhere. And we’re certain they’ll like what they see.”

The menu at Battello is mostly Italian with a seafood flare. But there are also daily specials that allow the chefs to “think outside the box,” Berisha says.

“It’s another thing that helps us to stand apart from the rest,” she said. “Each day, we give the chefs a chance to come with something new, something different. And they appreciate being able to prepare outside the box. Not every restaurant gives that opportunity to its chefs. We do.”

Aside from an outstanding menu, which you can find at www.battellojc.com, there’s an acoustic happy hour every Thursday from 5 p.m. on. The music is mellow enough that bar-goers enjoy it — as do those who are dining.

And then, Berisha says, every Friday and Saturday, the lounge stays open from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

“And we hope more and more people come to eat first, and then make their way to the lounge,” she said. “We’ve got live music — and I hope we’re soon able to bring in more bands for the weekends.

“We really want to have a City Winery feel — and I think we’ve accomplished that on this side of the river. And in the future, we hope to include more dinner and a show events other nights of the week. We’re truly doing our best to show that we are, indeed, the best.”

Battello is located at 502 Washington Boulevard, in the Newport section of Jersey City on the Hudson River waterfront. Visit them online at www.battellojc.com for hours of operation, to make reservations or to see photos of the facilities. Call 201-798-1798.

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