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Lyndhurst police blotter: Man hardly got it his way at BK after drug charges

April 4 At 7:16 p.m., police went to the parking lot of the Park Ave. Burger King on a report of a man possibly under the influence. They ended up arresting Piotr Maleszewski, 33, of Lyndhurst, after allegedly finding drugs […]


Harrison police blotter: Man tried to murder his mother, police say

April 4 Police arrested Carlos Gonzalez, 49, of Harrison, on a charge of attempted murder after Gonzalez allegedly tried to smother his 85-year-old father with a pillow in the family’s home on Cleveland Ave. Police said they were called to […]


Nutley police blotter: Man sat on stoop, got busted on warrant

April 5 At 5:41 a.m., police responded to an Oakridge Ave. location on a report of an unwanted man sitting on the steps of a residence. Police arrested the man, Eric Perry Jr., 24, of Nutley, after learning he had […]


Jeff Bahr: An Appreciation

By Ron Leir Observer correspondent In the movie, “The Misfits,” Gay, the cowboy character played by Clark Gable (in what would turn out to be his last film) tries to persuade two buddies to join in a “mustanging” enterprise. “Beats […]


Former Observer correspondent Jeff Bahr dies in motorcycle crash

Former Observer correspondent Jeff Bahr, 56, died April 10 as a result of a motorcycle crash in Pennsylvania. Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Jeff’s entire family. Our Ron Leir is working on a retrospective of Jeff’s life, and […]


Drug store supplants shop, homes

By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Developers had reason to cheer but also jeer in the wake of separate decisions by two of the town’s regulatory boards last week. Kearny will be getting a new chain drug store on […]


Coccia Realty agents honored

Billy and Amelia Pena.

Billy and Amelia Pena.


The New Jersey Association of Realtors (NJAR) has inducted nine Coccia Realty agents into its Circle of Excellence for the year 2013 for Coccia Realty’s local offices of Rutherford, Lyndhurst and Kearny.

The award is given to agents who have made a substantial amount of sales. Bronze Level recipients had to accumulate a minimum of $3,000,000 in sales volume and 15 units closed while Silver recipients needed at least $7,500,000 in cumulative sales volume and 20 units closed.

The recipients for the NJAR Circle of Excellence Award 2013 Silver Level were: Amelia Pena, Amelia’s son Billy Pena and Bobby Ristovski. Those who achieved the 2013 Bronze Level were: Carol Hughes, Carol Ann Evangelou, Beatrice Goldberg, Dorota Chojnacki, Luis Pinto and Jan Kwapniewski.

Amelia and Billy Pena were credited with combined sales of more than $16 million with in excess of 65 transaction sides in 2013.

The Penas share over 35 years of experience in real estate and consistently rank as among the leading agents in the region, based on statistics from the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service (NJMLS).. Both Penas are fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

Top row, from l.: Bobby Ristovski, Carol Hughes and Dorota Chojnacki; next row, from l.: Michael Amoroso, Randy Wine, Middle Row: Jim Curroto, Amelia Pena, Farah Chaffin and Gina DeFalco; bottom row, from l.: Jan R. Kwapniewski Billy Pena, Bea Goldberg and Luis Pinto.

Top row, from l.: Bobby Ristovski, Carol
Hughes and Dorota Chojnacki; next row, from l.: Michael Amoroso, Randy Wine, Middle Row: Jim Curroto, Amelia Pena, Farah Chaffin and Gina DeFalco; bottom row, from l.: Jan R. Kwapniewski Billy Pena, Bea Goldberg and Luis Pinto.


All award winners are full-time agents and Realtors at Coccia Realty offices in Rutherford, Lyndhurst and Kearny. They are members in good standing with the RealSource Board of Realtors the NJAR and National Association of Realtors as well as active members of the NJMLS and some are members of the Garden State MLS system.

Kwapniewski, president of Coccia Realty, said: “2013 was quite a year for the company and a terrific year for our NJAR award recipients. I am impressed and delighted to have such a group of professionals. Our Coccia Realty team is truly the best in the area. … Coccia Realty is number one in sales in the area and has the top agents who look out for their clients’ best interests.”

Founded in 1961, Coccia Realty has more than 100 sales associates and staff with five locations in Bergen, Hudson and Morris Counties.

Business Review: They take care of toothaches & headaches


Photos by Anthony Machcinski Dr. Richard Ekstein and spouse Fran and the rest of the staff at Smile Design Specialists in North Arlington.

Photos by Anthony Machcinski
Dr. Richard Ekstein and spouse Fran and the rest of the staff at Smile Design Specialists in North Arlington.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

Observer Correspondent

Dr. Richard Ekstein, a North Arlington dentist and co-owner at Smile Design Specialists, has begun a new venture so rare, that he says he’ll be the only practitioner in New Jersey doing it.

That venture is treating headache disorders through dental therapy. Dubbed the New Jersey Headache Relief Center, Ekstein claims it’s the first of its kind in New Jersey and says he’s one of 420 doctors across the country that offer it.

“We had been looking at it for a while,” said Fran Ekstein, Richard’s wife who helps him run his business. “It’s a very relaxing and calming type of therapy using micro-stimulation.”

Fran said the idea came from a patient who described her now-old migraine therapy method.

“One of our patients came in and mentioned she had migraines and we never knew it,” Fran said. “She went through 50-plus botox injections in her head and face and showed us this bag full of medicine. You can tell that she was still stressed out and that opened our eyes.”

Richard added, “We’re looking to expand and add to the New Jersey Headache Relief Center and give more customized care and more individual care.”

Both Eksteins said that the process is done in one-hour sessions over 12 weeks, leading to pain-free migraine relief.

Fran said the therapy requires no needles, medicine or surgery.

“We use ultrasound, muscle manipulation, cold laser and micro stimulation,” Fran said.

The pain-free treatment comes as a successful alternative for people seeking migraine relief.

“If you’re willing to resort to (botox injections and medication), this is a viable option,” Fran said. “We can diagnose and treat patients and we have the equipment that shows tangible results.”

“You don’t just say, ‘Yeah, I feel better.’ You can tell that you’re better.” Richard Ekstein, a dentist and board-certified prostodontist for 23 years, opened Smile Design Specialists in January 2012 and has successfully transitioned from being a part of a practice to running his own.

“It’s been a very smooth and successful transition,” Richard said. “It’s allowed me to focus on patient care at a personal and individual level. It’s allowed me to expand on things I wanted to get done.”

Richard said he is driven to be one of the best in his profession.

“I didn’t want to be average,” Richard said. “I wanted to be a master at my craft. I wanted to be the best of my field.”

Aside from his drive, Richard believes he has been successful because of the practice’s goal and vision.

“Our vision is to utilize the most advanced and latest techniques,” Richard said. “We educate patients about their dental needs, and allow them to actively participate in their dental well-being.”

The Eksteins and the team at Smile Design Specialists also look for opportunities to give back to the community, including a “Free Dentistry Day” for unemployed people.

“We put an offer out for any people that were unemployed to come in and receive the dental care they needed, as long as it could be done in a single visit,” Fran said. “We ended up expanding on it because if there was care that needed to be done in more than one day, we completed it.”

Richard said that the team at Smile Design Specialists jumped at the opportunity.

“The staff donated their time,” Richard said. “It was a very rewarding day. We were just happy to do it. We had everything that we needed and it was time to give back to the community.”

As for the future of the business, Richard said he hopes to continue embracing the new technology that’s out there, “so we can continue to give better patient care through individualized attention.”

Smile Design Specialists operates out of 312 Belleville Turnpike, Suite 3-B. Appointments can be made by calling 201-991-1228 or by calling 844-“Doctor-E.”

For additional information, visit the office’s website at smiledesignspecialists.com.

Around Town


Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave., offers these children’s programs:

• Storytime on Wednesdays at 11 a.m., beginning March 12.

• St. Patrick’s Day celebration with crafts, games and featuring a musical performance by the Faulkner Sisters on Saturday, March 15, at 2 p.m.

For more information, call the library at 973-450-3434 or visit www.bellepl.org.

Belleville Elks Lodge #1123, 254 Washington Ave., holds its monthly breakfast on Sunday, March 16, 9 a.m. to noon. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children under age 10 and free for children under age 3. In case of bad weather, call the lodge at 973-759-9623 for possible cancellation.


Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., offers the following children’s programs:

• Spanish Storytime, for ages 2 to 5, on March 17 at 11 a.m.

• Bedtime Storytime, for ages 2 and up, on March 24 at 6:30 p.m.

• Science Friday, for ages 5 and up, on March 21 at 4 p.m.

• Movies at the library will be postponed due to construction in the library theatre.


A blood drive will be held at the Harrison Recreation Center gymnasium, 401 Warren St., on Wednesday, March 12, 3 to 7 p.m. Donors must know their social security number, bring signed photo ID, weigh at least 120 pounds, eat a meal and drink plenty of water one hour before donating. Parental consent forms for 16-year-olds will be available at the blood drive. For more information, call 973-676-4700, ext. 144, or email bmcentyre@bloodnj. org.


Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., screens “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (PG-13/146 minutes) at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 14. Popcorn and light refreshments will be served. Admission is free. For more information on any library program, call 201-998-2666 or visit www.kearnylibrary.org.

Good Shepherd Church, 780 Kearny Ave., launches an English-speaking service on March 22 at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 201- 997-4369.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 7, Hudson County, meets on the second Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the Irish American Association, 95 Kearny Ave. New members are welcome.

Grace United Methodist Church, 380 Kearny Ave., hosts a corned beef and cabbage dinner on Friday, March 14, 5 to 7 p.m. Take out orders are available. Admission is $10 for adults; $5 for children age 12 and under. The church’s Easter Spring Fling sale will also be open. For more information, call 201-991-1132.

St. Stephen’s Seniors meet on Tuesday, March 18, at noon. Board meeting is at 10:30 a.m. The club is planning the following events:

• Atlantic City trip, March 26.

• Virginia trip, April 24-27.

• Anniversary party at San Carlo, Lyndhurst, May 2.

• “Sight and Sound” trip, June 11-12. For club information, call Tom at 201-998-8258; for tours, call Joan at 201-998- 3578; for A.C., call Peg at 201- 998-9443; and for Sunshine, call Vicki at 201-991-8345.

The Evening Membership Department of the Woman’s Club of Arlington meets on Wednesday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m. at the Henrietta Benstead Center, Columbia Ave.

Presbyterian Boys-Girls Club, 663 Kearny Ave., hosts a St. Patrick’s Dance on Friday, March 14, 7 to 10 p.m. Guests are restricted to teenagers only. The dance will be supervised by Lincoln School guidance counselor Thomas Fraser and members of the club’s board of directors.

The PBGC is conducting a canned food drive this month on behalf of the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington. Children are invited to donate two canned foods as their admission to the club. Club hours: 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.


New Jersey Meadowlands Commission announces:

• “Marshes of the Meadowlands: 1950 to today” on Sunday, March 16, 1 to 2:30 p.m., at the Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park Plaza, Lyndhurst. For more information, call 201- 460-8300. Admission is $5/ person; $4/MEC members.

Registration is recommended and appreciated. To register go to www.njmeadowlands. gov/ec.

• A 30-minute Woodcock Walk at Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus with the NJMC and Bucks County Audubon Society on Monday, March 17, at 6:45 p.m. It’s free. Check meadowblog.net for additional details and last-minute weather updates. To R.S.V.P., contact Don Torino of the BCAS at greatauk4@aol.com or 201-230-4983.

• Third-Tuesday-of-the- Month bird walk with the NJMC and BCAS on Tuesday, March 18, 10 a.m. to noon.The walk starts at Harrier Meadow on Disposal Road near Schuyler Ave., North Arlington. Check meadowblog.net for last-minute updates. Participants are asked to sign a standard liability release that is good for NJMC/BCAS events throughout the year. To R.S.V.P., contact Don Torino of the BCAS at greatauk4@aol.com or 201-230-4983.

Lyndhurst Public Library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., offers:

• A St. Patrick’s Day craft program for children in grades 1 to 4 on Monday, March 17, 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Advance registration is required. To register, call the library at 201-804-2478.

• “Introduction to Fly Fishing,” presented by Doug Penna of Trout Unlimited, on Wednesday, March 19, 6 to 8 p.m. Space is limited so registration is necessary. Come a half-hour early for a personal Q & A with Penna. To register, call the library at 201-804-2478, ext. 7, or email romeo@bccls.org.

Join the Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Ave., for the following:

• Free arthritis and joint pain management forum hosted by Clara Maass Medical Center on Friday, March 21, at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be served. Call the Lyndhurst Health Department at 201-804-2500 to reserve a seat.

• A free meditation course beginning Wednesday, March 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the recreation room at 601 Riverside Ave. Use the entrance doors facing the Passaic River.

North Arlington

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Rd., offers the following programs:

For children and teens: • Young Adults Movie Day, for grades 6 and up, on Friday, March 21, at 3 p.m.

• Spring Craft, for kindergarten to grade 5, on Saturday, March 22, at 11 a.m. Registration is required. Call 201-955-5640, ext. 126.

For adults:

• ESL Group class on Tuesdays through March 18 at 10 a.m. No registration necessary. •

Friends of the Library meeting on Friday, March 21, at 10:30 a.m.

• Amateur historian/ photographer Bill Coughlin offers a New Jersey history program for all ages on Tuesday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m. This program is sponsored by the Woman’s Club of North Arlington.

The Senior Harmony Club sponsors the following trips:

• Taj Mahal on Tuesday, March 18, and the Sands on Thursday, April 24. For reservations or information, call Florence at 201-991-3173.

• Westchester Broadway Theatre to see “Ragtime” on Thursday, May 1. Call Anna at 201-939-2960.

North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Rd., hosts a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon on Monday, March 17. Bingo starts at 10:30 a.m., lunch is served at noon and there’ll be dancing from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information and reservation, call 201-998- 5636,


Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Dr., announces:

• A one-hour Story Time with therapy dog Rodney and his guardian Ms. Carol on Saturday, March 15, at 11 a.m. The program includes a story and a discussion on Rodney’s role and experience as a therapy dog, plus a craft. All ages are welcome. Light refreshments will be served. Registration is required.

Register online at the children’s room website at http://nutleypubliclibrary. org/youthservices/, or call the library at 973-667-0405, ext. 2623.

• Children ages 5 to 12 are invited to improve their literacy skills by reading to a certified therapy dog from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on the following Saturdays: March 19, April 17 and 31. Registration is required. Register online at the children’s room website at http:// http://nutleypubliclibrary. org/youthservices/reading-todogs- nutley-public-library/, or email Michelle Albert at michelle.albert@bccls.org, or call the library at 973-667- 0405, ext. 2623.

• Richard Jackson hosts “Nutley: Honoring a Proud Past, Building a Healthy Future,” Tuesday, March 18, at 7 p.m. Jackson explains how well-designed communities can improve both mental and physical health.

• “Library Catalog 101” explains the latest tips and strategies to effectively search for and request items, how to share what you are reading on Facebook and manage your online library account on Friday, March 28, at 10 a.m. Call the library at 973-667- 0405, ext. 2604, to register no later than one week before presentation.

Nutley Elks Lodge, 242 Chestnut St., presents The Cameos on April 26 at the lodge, 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. The $45 admission includes a hot buffet and open bar. Proceeds benefit veterans’ programs. For tickets, call Frank Zatorski at 201-207-2743. R.S.V.P. by April 15.

Then & Now

Photo courtesy Kearny Public Library

Photo courtesy Kearny Public Library


Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk



What makes this circa 1911 photo of Terrace Place at Midland Ave., Kearny, a bit more special than your usual street scene of houses and trees is, of course, that marvelous car and its dressed-to-drive occupants. Since we have not seen the actual original photo, we could be wrong, but we have a sneaky suspicion that this is a composite. We think the car was cut from another picture and pasted onto this one (an early version of Photoshop). You’d need a magnifying glass to see the details, but there seem to be thin, dark lines around portions of the auto image, and the wheels, especially the left rear, appear to not quite meet the pavement. Something else is not right: The vehicle is driving on the left side of the street. Yes, it has a right-hand drive steering wheel. (Early American cars might have either right- or left-hand drive.) But New Jersey had enacted a ‘keep right’ road law for wagons and such a century before, way back in 1813; it didn’t change when cars arrived. We guess the car image was pasted on the left side of the street so it wouldn’t block details of the homes across the way. But, again, we could be wrong about all of this. In which case, someone needs to give that guy a ticket.

– Karen Zautyk

Kearny wrestling developing among younger ranks

Photo courtesy Tony Carratura Jr From l., Jacob Baeza, Travis Witt, Jacob Cardenas and Jimmy Mullen all earned berths in this weekend’s New Jersey State Youth Wrestling championships. Witt, Cardenas and Mullen all won region gold recently to advance

Photo courtesy Tony Carratura Jr
From l., Jacob Baeza, Travis Witt, Jacob Cardenas and Jimmy Mullen all earned berths in this weekend’s New Jersey State Youth Wrestling championships. Witt, Cardenas and Mullen all won region gold recently to advance


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Tony Carratura Jr. vividly recalls the days when the Kearny Recreation youth wrestling program was a strong and solid commodity.

After all, the younger Carratura was part of a program that his father, Kearny High School head wrestling coach Tony Sr., was an integral part of initiating.

“I wrestled with the Kearny Rec a long time ago,” said Carratura Jr., who went on to wrestle at Kearny High for his father before he became a guidance counselor at Lincoln School.

“We once had more than 100 kids in the program, but wrestling had been down for a couple of years,” the younger Carratura said. “We wanted to boost it back up again.”

Brian McDonnell, a former Kearny High wrestling and cross country standout and current teacher, became involved with coaching wrestling with the younger kids, before he became an assistant with the older Carratura with the Kearny varsity.

“Brian did a great job in getting the youth program going,” Carratura Jr. said. “We just wanted to keep it going.”

Carratura Jr. said that the Kearny Rec program has a solid group of dedicated coaches, like Joe Chew, Andrew Plaugic, Kevin Vega, Charlie Wallentine, Dallas Sanchez, Nick Machado and Miguel Matos, some of whom are products of the Kearny Rec program themselves.

“It’s a close-knit group of coaches,” he said. “They’ve been great, spending a lot of time with the kids. They’ve been a big help.”

The Kearny Rec program embarked on a new challenge this season, joining a highly competitive league.

“We entered the Tri-County League, going up against great wrestling programs like Roxbury and Jefferson,” Carratura said. “We go out as a team and wrestle as a team (not individuals). This league promotes high school wrestling at a younger again and gets the kids prepared to wrestle in high school. We might have taken our lumps a little, but I could see a change in the kids as well as their parents. We’re building a wrestling culture once again and it seems to be working.”

The program has almost 60 kids of grade school age participating and competing.

Of those kids, 14 received medals recently at state qualifying tournaments and six have moved on to the state tournament this weekend in Trenton.

“The future is definitely very bright,” Carratura said. “The kids are definitely into the sport and so are their parents. It’s been a great year.”

Jacob Cardenas, Jimmy Mullen and Travis Witt all won recent regional tournament gold medals in order to move on to the states.

Cardenas, a 136-pound seventh grader, is a skilled wrestler.

“He’s a finesse wrestler,” Carratura said of Cardenas. “He’s one of the most technical wrestlers around.”

Witt is a 146-pound seventh grader.

“He’s a brawler,” Carratura said of Witt, who comes from a strong family of wrestlers. “He’s just a beast. He’s a very physical wrestler.”

Mullen is one of the most impressive stories. He’s only in third grade and weighs 118 pounds, but he constantly competes against kids much older.

“Jimmy is just a big, strong kid,” Carratura said. “He had some tough matches this season, so he had to learn to be more technical and rely on making moves. He can’t just overpower people now. You can see the difference in him as a wrestler.”

Mullen has dominated on the youth level, winning a state title a year ago in his age bracket. He has a very bright future.

Jacob Baeza finished third at the regional tourney in the 85-pound class to punch his ticket to the state tourney. Baeza is in fifth grade.

“He just got better as the year went on,” Carratura said. “He’s best when he’s on his feet.”

David Duran (the 100-pound class) and Adam Chew (105-pound class) earned berths in the state tourney after competing in a qualifier tournament in Fair Lawn on Sunday.

To have six kids competing for the right to be a state champion is an amazing accomplishment for the Kearny Recreation program.

“I’m so happy,” Carratura, said. “They really exceeded any expectations I had. It’s also great that we’re getting the parents involved. We’ve had long practices and matches that take place an hour away, but the parents are there.”

Carratura said that the program will continue through the spring and summer at Lincoln School.

“We want to continue it all year round,” Carratura said. “We’re working on a summer workout schedule right now. We’re also getting younger kids, like 6-and-7-year-old kids involved.”

Needless to say, Carratura has enjoyed the rebirth of the youth program.

“I deal with kids all day long at Lincoln School,” Carratura said. “It’s great to have them in a different environment.”

And getting the chance to expand that environment throughout the state of New Jersey – and quite possibly, beyond.

Kearny Christian’s Bianoski enjoys breakout senior season

Picture courtesy of David J. Friere Kearny Christian Academy senior John Bianoski (c.) owned the highest scoring average in local boys’ high school basketball, scoring 25 points per game this season. Flanking Bianoski are coaching brothers Ariel Friere (l.), the head coach, and assistant coach David J. Friere.

Picture courtesy of David J. Friere
Kearny Christian Academy senior John Bianoski (c.) owned the highest scoring average in local boys’ high school basketball, scoring 25 points per game this season. Flanking Bianoski are coaching brothers Ariel Friere (l.), the head coach, and assistant coach David J. Friere.


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

The highest scoring average by any local boys’ high school basketball player this season belongs to John Bianoski, who tossed in more than 25 points per game this season.

Say who?

Plain and simple, Bianoski may be the best kept secret in the area. He’s a senior at tiny Kearny Christian Academy, which is now housed in the former Sacred Heart School in Kearny. There are only 40 high school students in the school, 15 of which are boys.

“If I don’t play basketball, then who will?” said the 6-foot-6 Bianoski.

Bianoski, a resident of Belleville, was a reluctant basketball player who didn’t join the team at KCA as a freshman.

“I did play a little in fifth, sixth and seventh grade,” said Bianoski, who has attended Kearny Christian since kindergarten. “But I just lost interest. I had the former coaches telling me I should join the basketball team, but I didn’t want to.”

Enter Ariel Friere, who became the head coach at KCA after the untimely death of former coach Joe O’Neill.

“John was six feet at the time,” Friere said. “I met John’s father and he’s like 6-7, so I figured the kid would shoot up. John really didn’t take basketball seriously, but I figured that he might change his mind.”

If you ask Bianoski, he doesn’t know what inspired him to play.

“I honestly don’t know why I did it,” Bianoski said. “I knew that a lot of the seniors on the team had graduated, so I guess that made me do it. I knew we had a new coach coming in.”

But Bianoski didn’t make his decision to play until the last minute.

“I didn’t practice or anything,” Bianoski said. “I came to practice a week before the season started. I hadn’t played at all since seventh grade.”

The rust showed. Bianoski was a mild contributor as a sophomore.

“I don’t think I scored anything,” Bianoski said. “I honestly wasn’t that good. I was so nervous because I hadn’t played in three years. I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t going to quit. I started it and I was going to finish it.”

Bianoski improved dramatically as a junior, averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds per game.

“That’s when you could see that he got better,” Friere said. “I wasn’t as serious when I wasn’t that good,” Bianoski said. “But something clicked for me and I took it more seriously.”

So last summer, Bianoski worked many hours with Friere on his own to get ready for his senior year.

“If I wasn’t going to do good this season, then no one would,” Bianoski said. “I was the only senior and we had another junior. I had to step up my game this year. So in the offseason, I practiced a lot. I worked hard on my post moves and my shooting in general.”

Bianoski spent a lot of time shooting at the basketball hoop in his yard, working on his jump shot.

“I sat him down and told him that I needed him for this year,” Friere said. “I made sure that he was going to work hard this season.”

But no one could have predicted the extent of Bianoski’s improvement, going from scoring 10 a game to 25 per contest.

“That was a huge jump,” Bianoski said. “I wasn’t expecting that. The first game of the season was against Parsippany Christian, the best team in our league. I scored 16 in that game. It gave me a lot of confidence.”

Soon after, Bianoski had 31 points against Hackensack Christian and 33 against Abundant Life Christian.

“Back-to-back games, I had 30 points,” Bianoski said. “We were also on a four-game winning streak. It was tremendous.”

“He has a good work ethic under the rim and has a nice soft touch with his shot,” Friere said.

Bianoski cannot believe how far he’s come in just three years.

“I would have never imagined I would have improved this much,” Bianoski said. “To go from where I was in 10th grade to where I am now, I have to give credit to my coaches for that. If someone would have told me when I was in 10th grade that I would become the best player, averaging what I have scored, I would have said, ‘Well, that’s not me.’ I would have never believed it.”

“It’s very remarkable,” Friere said. “There are not many who have done that, going from 10 points a game as a junior to 25 a game this year. He became a great player.”

Bianoski is also a great student. He owns a 4.0 grade point average and earned a score of 1860 on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests. He stands to be the valedictorian of Kearny Christian’s Class of 2014.

Bianoski was asked if he was a little disappointed that he and the entire team play under almost complete anonymity. The team uses the old Boys Town gym on Belgrove Drive as its home court.

“We can barely get people to come to the games,” Bianoski said. “We only have 40 kids in the high school, so the people who come to watch us are parents and teachers. I’m always trying to get friends to come. It’s really tough.”

Kearny Christian Academy ended the 2013-14 season with a 5-7 record. Friere said that he tried to schedule independent games against other local schools to no avail.

Bianoski does not plan to play basketball in college. He has already been accepted to Rutgers in New Brunswick, but may attend Essex County Community College to save money.

“My goal is to get through college as debt free as possible,” Bianoski said. “I keep going back and forth about what I want to study. I would like to be an architect, but I’m also interested in meteorology and finance. So I’m not sure what I want to do.”

One thing is for sure: Bianoski is glad he put his mind and effort into basketball.

“It was a lot of fun,” Bianoski said. “I just had to keep working hard and keep going with it.”

And the best kept secret in local basketball, the one with the highest scoring average, isn’t so much of a secret anymore.

Nutley’s Ferinde takes home 8th place medal in AC

Photo by Jim Hague Nutley junior 120-pound wrestler Joe Ferinde.

Photo by Jim Hague
Nutley junior 120-pound wrestler Joe Ferinde.


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

When he was growing up, Joe Ferinde always looked up to his older brother Michael. “I always said that I wanted to be like him,” the younger Ferinde said. “When he was a senior (at Nutley High School) and I was in eighth grade, I saw him wrestle in the state tournament and I would dream about getting a chance like that.”

Last year, as a sophomore, Joe Ferinde reached that goal of qualifying for the NJSIAA state wrestling championships in Atlantic City.

But this year, Ferinde wanted to make his journey to Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall more memorable.

“That was the goal all season,” said the 120-pound Maroon Raider wrestler. “The whole season was geared toward getting a medal in Atlantic City.”

It wasn’t going to be easy. After all, Ferinde lost in the finals of the Region 4 tournament last week, meaning that Ferinde was going to have to battle back in the consolation preliminary round.

“I knew it was going to be a tough time,” Ferinde said. “I knew that the weight class was stacked. I basically went there to try to stay calm and focused throughout. I took each match at a time and just stayed focused on what was ahead of me.”

On Friday night, Ferinde wrestled twice and won both matches to stay alive.

Winning those matches put Ferinde in a better piece of mind.

“I definitely had to get the nerves out of the way,” Ferinde said. “I won the first match and moved on to the next.”

Ferinde defeated Kyle Brown of Old Bridge, 10-3, to advance to Saturday.

“It definitely cleared away any nerves I might have had and put me in a nice mindset to place in the tournament,” Ferinde said.

It also helped that Ferinde had a volunteer assistant coach on hand to lead the way, namely older brother Michael, who currently wrestles at Johnson and Wales College in Providence, R.I., and will compete in the NCAA Division III national championships next weekend in Iowa.

Michael Ferinde, four years older than Joe, competes at 141 pounds at Johnson and Wales.

“He worked with me right up before my matches,” Joe Ferinde said of his brother. “He helped me stay focused and gave me a few pointers to use. He’s definitely a perfect drilling partner. Having him there gave me most of my motivation to do well. Not many other wrestlers get to warm up with their older brother. It was a big thrill.”

Ferinde had to come back and wrestle Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. He won that match.

The next one came at 12:30 p.m. and once again, Ferinde emerged victorious.

“It was pretty tough, because my body was sore,” Ferinde said. “But I worked on staying focused.”

Ferinde remained at Boardwalk Hall for his next match, which came at 5 p.m.

“Once we were there, we stayed there,” said Nutley head coach Frank DiPiano. “We tried to do whatever we could to make him the most comfortable. Having his brother there really helped, because he didn’t have his teammates there. He just had the mindset that he had to stay focused.”

Sure enough, Ferinde won all three of his Saturday matches, guaranteeing the chance to wrestle on the final day of the season and locking down a medal.

Although his season ended with a loss, Ferinde did manage to finish eighth in the state at 120 pounds and for his efforts, Ferinde has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

Ferinde finished the season with a stellar 38-4 record and became another in a legacy of Nutley wrestlers who have earned medals at the state tournament.

Bobby Trombetta, who graduated last year, earned three medals in his career. Brandon Keena also won a medal last year. Vinnie Maurillo, Anthony D’Amico and Nick Gaeta are also former Maroon Raider standouts who won medals at the state tournament under the guidance of DiPiano.

“It says something about a little program like Nutley,” DiPiano said. “I’ve been here seven years and we’ve had medal winners five of the seven years and four in a row. The kids understand the vision of what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

DiPiano loves Ferinde’s approach.

“He just loves the mat and loves wrestling,” DiPiano said. “He goes to school, does his school work and then wrestles. That’s all he does. He’s come such a long way. He wasn’t even in our regular lineup as a freshman. If you saw him then to now, you’d see a complete transformation. He knows wrestling is a grind. He embraces that idea and loves it.

Added DiPiano, “I really don’t think we’ve seen the best of Joe yet. He’s going to get better. He’s a student of the game and loves being on the mat. The focus he has is tremendous. He understands what has to be done. I think he opened a lot of eyes this weekend.”

Ferinde is proud of his accomplishment, especially the rough road he had to travel.

“It’s one of the best feelings of my life so far,” Ferinde said. “I can definitely use this as motivation for the future.”

And for now, Joe Ferinde has one up on his brother. Michael Ferinde got to the round of 12 his senior year, just missing the opportunity to earn a medal.

“He’s definitely one of the biggest reasons why I placed,” Joe Ferinde said. “From now on, I’m the boss.”

Ferinde laughed while uttering those words. He knows full well that Michael draws top honors in the Ferinde household.

Joe Ferinde has more wrestling to do this season. Later this month, he will head to Virginia Beach to compete in the Junior Nationals.

Now, he goes as a state medal winner.

“It really is a great feeling,” Ferinde said. “I know we haven’t had too many medal winners from Nutley. I just want to have the chance to do better than they did. That pushes me to keep going and do as much as I can.”

The future certainly looks bright, as long as Joe Ferinde has his older brother along.


Mark A. Maldonado

Mark A. Maldonado, 37, entered into eternal rest on Monday, March 3, at St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark, after a short illness.

Funeral services were under the direction of Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave., Harrison. A funeral Mass was held at Holy Cross Church, Harrison.

Born in Newark, Mark was a lifelong resident of Harrison. He was a computer aided design and drafting technician and he also did heating & air conditioning repair and installation.

In his free time, Mark enjoyed playing the guitar and video games.

He is survived by his beloved parents Federico and Eva I. (nee Lopez) Maldonado, his loving sister Lory Enright and her husband Ryan, his cherished nephews Ryan and Jason Enright, and his dear aunt Merinda Martinez and her husband Hank. He is also survived by many cousins.

Eleanor C. Mount

Eleanor C. Mount, 86, of Toms River, formerly of Harrison, died on March 7 at home.

Arrangements are by Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A Mass of Christian burial will be officiated on Tuesday, March 11, at 10 a.m. at Holy Cross Church, Harrison, followed by interment at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Mrs. Mount lived in Harrison most of her life before moving to Toms River in 2012.

She was the beloved wife of the late James R. Mount; mother of James (Paula) Mount, Carolyn (Kevin) Duffy, Karen (Douglas) Holzherr, John (Kathryn) and the late Michael Mount; grandmother of 13 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, donations to Make a Wish Foundation (www.nj.wish.org) would be appreciated.

Gladys Tubens



The funeral for Gladys Tubens, of Kearny was arranged by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. The funeral Mass was at St. Anthony’s Church and burial followed at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Gladys came to this country from Peru 20 years ago. She is survived by her husband Enrique Bravo and her children Jesus, Gladys, Celena, Karina, Cinthia and Miguel Cordova and Milagros De La Rosa. Also surviving are eight grandchildren.

New school security system just about ready to roll

Photo courtesy Belleville Public Schools Belleville schools ID cards are embedded with a radio frequency tracking mechanism.

Photo courtesy Belleville Public Schools
Belleville schools ID cards are embedded with a radio frequency tracking mechanism.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


The elaborate $2 million security system cooked up by the Belleville public school system is on the brink of being activated, school officials said.

No official starting date was offered but Superintendent of Schools Helene Feldman said recently that, “The security infrastructure has been laid down completely and we’re ready to roll.”

Elaborating, Board of Education President Joseph Longo said that, “Installation is complete. We’re just going through the process of testing it out to make sure all the parts are working. We’ll be operating on a rolling implementation.”

Responding to a query raised by an audience member during the board’s Feb. 24 meeting about metal detectors, Longo said: “We have two hand-held wands, one for the high school and one for the middle school, which can be used [at the school entrance] at the discretion of the school safety officer.”

The Belleville Education Association has attacked the BOE spending on the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) video tracking system – which is being spread out over five years – as misguided, saying that the board should be thinking, instead, about replacing outdated computer equipment essential to student learning.

At the Feb. 24 meeting, teacher Michael Dias said: “We simply do not have the tools necessary to do our jobs” and added that teachers couldn’t complete report cards for the current marking period because they couldn’t link up to the computer system.

But Feldman and Longo, in a recent interview with The Observer, said the board was actively involved in remedying the computer issues because they recognized how important they were to help deliver positive outcomes for students.

Indeed, Feldman said, “Technology is the only answer for children these days.”

At the Feb. 24 meeting, the board approved by a vote of 3-2, with two abstentions, contracting with Clarity Technologies Group of Mine Hill – the same firm handling the security system – “to provide outsourcing of the [district’s] Information Technology Department” for $20,000 per month, for five years.

Board members Jennifer Lombardi and Ray Kuebler opposed the award; Longo and Lillian Torres abstained; and John Rivera, William Freda and Peter Zangari Jr. voted in favor. Longo said he abstained because his son formerly worked for Clarity.

Longo said that Clarity proved its value to the district after the company was brought in as an “emergency vendor” in January 2013 to remedy malfunctioning or inoperative computers.

“When they came in, they found 950 open tickets [service requests] on individual machines,” Longo said. “They got that number down to 250. Now we’re down to about 100. They also fixed 16 printers. Now, they’re attacking one school at a time and not just looking at units ticketed for servicing – they’re doing triage and inventorying all equipment – dismantling, cleaning and upgrading – so we know what we have.”

Longo also credited the firm with arranging to install an anti-virus software and devising a storage system for email.

In other district developments, the board voted to create a new job of Assistant Business Administrator; upgrade Ricardo Acosta from interim principal to principal effective Feb. 25; accept the retirements of School 7 teacher Gioia Crawford, School 7 special needs teacher Jeanne Orefice, high school English teacher Salvatore Mauriello and assistant high school custodian William Forrest; and approve a new AP Human Geography social studies course.

Feldman said she and her staff are looking at the possibility of offering adult classes in cosmetology, TV studio and printing to the public in the evening.

Meadows redevelopment ratables at risk

Observer file photo NJ Transit is eyeing acquisition of Koppers site for emergency power grid.

Observer file photo
NJ Transit is eyeing acquisition of Koppers site for emergency power grid.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


A proposal by NJ Transit to build a backup power system in South Kearny to run its trains in cases of emergencies like another Superstorm Sandy threatens to derail a redevelopment plan that could generate big tax ratables for Kearny and Hudson County, officials said.

The plan by NJ Transit reportedly focuses on a large Kearny meadows tract that includes all or part of the Koppers (Seaboard) Coke Peninsula Redevelopment Area which the Hudson County Improvement Authority has been actively seeking to market on behalf of itself, the Town of Kearny and Tierra Solutions, the other landowner involved.

On Jan. 13, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority voted to endorse NJ Transit’s application to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration to finance a “microgrid electrical power system as an additional component of Superstorm Sandy Recovery and Resiliency Program.”

The rail agency would look to tap a portion of a $3 billion allocation funded on a competitive basis under the Public Transportation Emergency Relief Program and Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 for the mid-Atlantic and East Coast regions.

The resolution passed by the NJTPA board says the rail agency proposes to “partner with the U.S. Department of Energy and DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories to design ‘NJ TransitGrid,’ a firstof- its-kind microgrid which will support the use of public transit in … Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties along critical transportation corridors.

“The microgrid will also employ distributed generation technologies such as fuel cells, combined heat and power, and solar with storage … to provide resilient, highly reliable power to support the operations of the transit system and critical transit infrastructure.”

Applications for this federal funding source are due March 27.

The Kearny Town Council and Hudson County Board of Freeholders each passed resolutions last week opposing NJ Transit’s application, arguing that the placement of an electrical grid on the meadows property would have a “chilling” effect on the HCIA’s current negotiations with prospective developers.

Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos said he came to learn of the rail agency’s intentions in early February from the HCIA.

The resolution passed by the freeholders says that NJ Transit “has, from time to time, expressed interest in acquiring the Koppers Seaboard Site to utilize it for transportation infrastructure purposes.”

The HCIA has sued NJ Transit to recover more than $1 million it says it spent in assisting the agency in exploring potential “transportation infrastructure purposes” in connection with the now-dead rail tunnel project.

And, according to Freeholder Bill O’Dea, it was during mediation of that litigation that NJ Transit advised HCIA negotiators that if they got federal funding, they’d look to acquire the Koppers site.

“We’re against that because we want to put ratables on that property,” O’Dea said. “We’d fully support funding for other sites where NJ Transit could put a grid.”

Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, who is chairman of the NJTPA, voted for the endorsement application.

Asked to explain his action, DeGise said that when the information on NJ Transit’s proposal was initially submitted to the NJTPA’s Project Prioritization Committee, which he then headed, he “didn’t know” the microgrid was proposed for the Koppers site.

“When it came up for a vote at the January meeting, I did know,” DeGise said. NJ Transit had made known its intentions during a litigation mediation session with the HCIA, he said, “and when it came before the full board for the vote, “I expressed my displeasure with [NJ Transit] about it.”

“However,” DeGise added, “I told them I’d support [their application] because it’s a big deal regional project … I didn’t want to scuttle it. … What, I’m going to stop New Jersey from getting $1 billion [reportedly the estimated project cost] to support rail infrastructure? That would be irresponsible on my part.”

At the same time, DeGise said, “If that’s the only place [NJ Transit] can put [the grid], I realize they have the power of eminent domain and they’re going to have to condemn it. They’ll have to buy it or beat it [because] I’m still a proponent of bringing jobs and ratables to that property. … Between 2007 and 2010, we spent $1,025,000 to help them after they told us they needed our property as a rail yard and, after the ARC project was killed, they walked away.” Since then, “they’ve put $500,000 on the table,” he said, but the HCIA lawsuit is still ongoing. “Now they’re throwing the rug out from under us again.”

Because of legal restrictions that prevent full disclosure of the HCIA negotiations with prospective developers for the peninsula site, O’Dea said he couldn’t provide specific details on those discussions but he did say that the talks involved “two major port logistics developers who have submitted substantial proposals to develop the [peninsula] site.”

According to O’Dea, “Each [of the proposals] would create a minimum of in excess of 1,500 permanent jobs,” resulting from “$150 million worth of construction that would generate between $1.5 million and $2 million a year in tax revenue for Kearny and, depending on whether a tax abatement was involved, between $100,000 to $250,000 or $300,000 a year in revenues for the county.”

O’Dea said that “90%” of the peninsula land owned by the HCIA has been environmentally remediated while the Kearny-owned portion would require much more work. “Responsible parties,” rather than developers, would be looked to for cleanup costs, he said.

As the NJ Transit application process continues, O’Dea said the HCIA “can and should move the development process along and try to finalize a deal” to put itself in a “stronger” position in trying to sway federal legislators to do whatever they can do to set aside NJ Transit’s proposal.

When the question was put to NJ Transit spokesman William Smith as to the exact whereabouts proposed for the grid, Smith said: “The project is still in the study and initial design phase.

“Previously, NJ Transit has stated that it could make use of existing railroad rights-of-way to transmit power between any potential generation site as well as key facilities and rail lines in Jersey City, Kearny, Secaucus, Hoboken, Harrison and Newark. ….”

Smith said that, “Electrical microgrids can supply highly-reliable power during storms or other times when the traditional centralized grid is compromised … [and could] facilitate emergency evacuation-related activities.”

Asked if the agency had considered applying for funding to raise the elevation of its meadows rail yard in South Kearny to prevent damage to rail cars from flooding, as happened during Sandy, Smith said the agency “has installed Trap Bag mobile flood barriers which will protect four power substations at the Meadows Maintenance Complex, including the Rail Operations Center, from the impacts of flooding, as well as the Newark Light Rail.

“Trap Bags are used for flood control along Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain, in the Rockaways, as well as parts of Long Island and Staten Island. More than eight million pounds of sand has filled these six-foot temporary flood barriers, all which will remain in use until the substations are permanently raised.”