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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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Obituaries

Bret Allan Shugrue 

Bret Allan Shugrue, 54, of Honesdale, Pa., formerly of Kearny and Florida, died unexpectedly June 21 at his home. Born Sept. 15, 1959, in Newark, Bret was the son of the late William and Florence Marie Beck Shugrue. A hard worker, Bret held many jobs over the years. While living in Florida, he was a foreman at a Walmart warehouse. He enjoyed motorcycles and riding his motorcycle. Bret also enjoyed boxing and watching it on television.

Surviving are his sons Bret Shugrue of Denver, Col., and Brad Shugrue of North Arlington; his brother Willliam Shugrue Jr. and girlfriend Barbara of Kearny; his aunt Genevieve Hyl of Spotswood; nieces and nephews Laura Kirst of Manalapan, William R. Shugrue of Beckett, Mass., Christa Toro of Sherman Oaks, Calif., Kelly Richie of Maple Shade and Bryan Shugrue of Kearny.

Private cremation services were held at the convenience of his family. Arrangements were by Hessling Funeral Home, Inc., Honesdale, Pa.

UPDATE: Eva Simon, 14, of Nutley found safely

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NUTLEY —

The Nutley Police Department says 14-year-old Eva Simon has been found safely and unharmed. An investigation continues, police said.

Whiskey Cafe’s July 2014 Calendar of Events
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‘Jersey Fresh’ back in town

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY –

The Kearny Farmers’ Market, sponsored by the Kearny Urban Enterprise Zone program, made its return appearance last Thursday, June 19, with several of the familiar vendors but with one new wrinkle … a new location.

Now the vendors are setting up their booths on Garfield Ave., between Kearny Ave. and Chestnut St., on the north side of the Kearny Public Library. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. on Thursdays.

On June 10, the mayor and Town Council introduced an ordinance prohibiting parking on both sides of Garfield, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., through Oct. 31, when the market season ends. Read more »

Will Doran accept big pay cut?

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

HARRISON – 

Will he go or will he stay? That’s what the Harrison Board of Education is wondering about Schools Superintendent James Doran, as he faces a June 30 deadline, when his contract with the district runs out.

Last Wednesday night, the BOE noted that it had “completed and accepted the evaluation of the Superintendent” (he passed) but took no action on renewing his contract.

When asked about Doran’s status, Michael Pichowicz, assistant school business administrator, said: “We’re still in negotiations.”

BOE President Maria J. Vila said the matter was scheduled for discussion at the June 25 board meeting. Read more »

Feds target laser threat to planes

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 

You can call it a limited-time offer, but it’s being offered by the federal government, not a car dealership or mortgage company.

Until Aug. 31, the FBI is offering up to $10,000 “for information that leads to the arrest of any individual who aims a laser at aircraft.”

The reward, announced earlier this month, is part of a national effort to raise public awareness and to stop what has become an “dramatically” increasing danger, not only to pilots and passengers, but also people on the ground.

Many of our Observer towns are directly under the flight path for Newark Liberty Airport. At any given time, you can look skyward and see an aircraft coming in for a landing or on its outbound route. It’s more than a little frightening to realize that someone with a handheld laser could temporarily blind a pilot. Read more »

New school borders set

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY –

The Kearny Board of Education voted June 16 to set in motion plans to send all seventh- and eighth-graders to a redesigned Lincoln Middle School by affirming new elementary school boundary lines for the 2014-2015 school year, taking effect in September.

And the board also cleared the way for Acting Schools Superintendent Patricia Blood to oversee implementing the plans by granting a 3-month extension through Sept. 30, pending approval by the executive county superintendent of schools, and by extending her contract through Dec. 31.

To help facilitate the district- wide elementary school reconfiguration, the board has approved the transfers of dozens of teachers, which, Kearny Education Association head Marcy Fisher estimates, will total about 120 – out of some 5 00 teachers that the KEA represents district-wide.

The Observer has asked Blood for the total number of students involved in the re-shaping of the district’s five remaining elementary schools (Lincoln now excluded) but, so far, the acting superintendent – who says she has spent many hours going over student movements from school to school with a consulting demographer – has yet to sort out a definitive answer. Read more »

Superstorm Sandy aid available

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Hudson County Long Term Recovery Committee (HCLTRC) has been set up after Superstorm Sandy to support and coordinate the area’s longterm recovery effort. It is a voluntary association of members representing many nonprofit agencies, faith-based groups and social service organizations; participants also include community advocates, relief groups and government partners.

HCLTRC assists residents of and organizations operating in Hudson County to recover from the effects of disasters, with particular attention to the needs of low-income and disabled residents and economically disadvantaged communities.

Hudson County residents who were affected by Sandy are eligible for HCLTRC’s services. They can help residents with finding out about resources, giving advice on dealing with damage, help with home repairs, and providing goods and financial assistance. Services are provided on a case-by-case basis and may vary depending on residents’ needs and the resources that are available.

Residents who are recovering from Sandy damage and are in need of additional assistance are encouraged to call 211 or 1-800-435-7555 to speak with someone regarding Sandy-related assistance

Taxes up, but so are public safety ranks

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BELLEVILLE – 

Public safety personnel and capital needs are being addressed as part of the Belleville municipal budget introduced earlier this month – but it comes with a bit of a price tag.

The $58.4 million municipal budget, of which $45.8 million is to be raised by local taxation, is only 1.84% higher than the township’s 2013 spending plan but will still – unless revised when the public hearing is held for its adoption – account for a projected increase of about $62 on the “average” house assessed at $238,200, according to Township Manager Kevin Esposito.

How property owners’ tax bills will be impacted by local school costs and the local share of the Essex County budget remains to be seen but if projections of a $2.5 million Board of Education deficit are accurate, that alone could drive up taxes by more than $200 on the average homeowner, Esposito said.

On the municipal side of the ledger, Esposito said a $300,000 spike in the cost of snow removal this past winter, when a cumulative total of 70 inches fell in the area, along with an uptick in employee health insurance premiums, helped push spending up.

The 2015 budget is designed to make room for 16 new police officers, of whom four are now undergoing training in the Police Academy and the township expects to send the other 12 to the Academy by September, according to Esposito.

Seven additional firefighters are also being added to the Fire Department roster, thanks to a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant that pays for salaries and benefits for two years.

With the new cops, the township will be “a few officers shy” of the ordinance strength called for by the Police Department’s Table of Organization and the Fire Department will also fall short of its T.O., but at least it’s taking steps to try and build up its public safety capability under fiscal restraints, Esposito said.

The township recently secured a 2014 E1 HP 100-foot aerial ladder fire truck with a 2,000-gallon-per minute pump, manufactured in Ocala, Fla., and acquired for $880,000 through a Houston/Galveston purchasing cooperative from a New Jersey vendor, Absolute Fire Protection, of South Plainfield. It will replace a 1992 rig.

The Fire Department also got a new ambulance, a 2014 Freightliner with a 170-inch box, built by PL Custom, of Manasquan, and acquired from N.J. Emergency Vehicles, a division of PL Custom, at a cost of $218,000 through the same purchasing cooperative. The department’s 2007 ambulance, with 114,000 miles logged, will become a backup vehicle for now.

Both new vehicles come equipped with a diesel exhaust fluid system.

“We are in the process of looking at our capital needs for 2015 and, specifically, replacing our aging pickup trucks which are used all seasons and some of which date from 1992,” Esposito said.

Additionally, he said, “At our July 1 Township Council meeting, we will be introducing a bond ordinance for our annual road improvement program, into which we hope to incorporate funds for the completion of the new Friendly House recreation center. At that time, we’ll make a decision on what equipment we want to purchase.”

– Ron Leir 

Guilty plea in massive scam

A Lyndhurst man, owner of a Jersey City jewelry store, pleaded guilty last week to a role in what authorities termed one of the largest credit card fraud schemes ever charged by the U.S. Justice Department.

According to New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, 51-year-old Vinod Dadlani used his shop, Tanishq Jewels, in a scam in which the conspirators fabricated more than 7,000 identities and obtained tens of thousands of credit cards. The result: over $200 million in confirmed losses to businesses and banks.

Dadlani, indicted last October, pleaded guilty June 18 in Federal Court in Trenton to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gain/loss caused by the offense. He is reportedly the 17th conspirator to admit guilt.

According to authorities, the scheme involved a process in which the defendants would create a false identity and a fraudulent credit profile with the major credit bureaus and then doctor the credit reports to pump up their spending/ borrowing power.

“They then borrowed or spent as much as they could, based on the phony credit history, but did not repay the debts,” Fishman’s office said.

Fishman’s office said Dadlani admitted that other conspirators came to his store, where he allowed them to swipe cards he knew did not legitimately belong to them. Dadlani would then split the proceeds of the phony transactions with them.

Tanishq Jewels was one of many complicit businesses involved in the scam, which reportedly operated from 2003 until early 2013.

“The scope of the criminal fraud enterprise required Dadlani’s conspirators to construct an elaborate network of false identities,” a statement from Fishman noted. “Across the country, the conspirators maintained more than 1,800 ‘drop addresses,’ including houses, apartments and post office boxes, which they used as the mailing addresses for the false identities.”

Dadlani’s sentencing is scheduled Sept. 24 before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson in Trenton.

– Karen Zautyk

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