By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – After months of wrangling with his employer, the Kearny Board of Education, Frank Ferraro has tendered his resignation as Kearny superintendent of schools, effective Nov. 1. Ferraro, who was facing the threat of being fired after the board had brought tenure charges […]
KEARNY – A 13-year school employee has been promoted to vice principal assigned to Kearny High School. Paul Measso, 37, was appointed to his new job Oct. 20 at an annual salary of $128,163 (pro-rated), pending receipt of his principal certificate of eligibility from Trenton. He completed a master’s degree […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent HARRISON – The town’s first affordable residence for senior citizens at 774 Harrison Ave. is getting ever closer to reality. As construction of the 15-unit building nears completion, the sponsor, Domus Corp., the housing arm of Catholic Charities of Newark, has begun the process […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY – When Kearny Vice Squad detectives busted a Newark man for drug possession/distribution Oct. 17 on Maple St., they reported recovering 135 folds of heroin. While the suspect was languishing in the Hudson County Jail on $40,000 bail, the KPD […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent EAST NEWARK – A court ruling has cleared the way – over objections by Harrison – for a Nov. 4 nonbinding referendum asking borough voters, “Should East Newark high school students be sent to Kearny High School instead of Harrison High School?” Harrison Board […]
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
By Karen Zautyk
A kitchen fire last Thursday temporarily displaced five persons and sent one of them to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation, officials reported.
KFD Chief Steve Dyl said units responded to a 7:02 p.m. call Sept. 18 at a two-family residence on John Hay Ave., below Schuyler Ave.
The blaze was confined to the second-floor kitchen and was extinguished within 20 minutes, but all five occupants of the dwelling were relocated for the night, Dyl said, and would likely remain displaced until the structure was inspected by the buildings department.
Initially, there was a report that someone was trapped inside the home, but that turned out not to be the case.
Dyl said the blaze was accidental and was ignited by cooking oil.
“Luckily, the occupant who was doing the cooking knew not to put water on it [the burning oil], and she got out immediately,” the chief said.
But he said a downstairs resident initially attempted to douse the flames with a fire extinguisher, and she suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville.
Dyl said the occupants all left the home, “which was important, because had they stayed, injuries would have been more severe.” And he reiterated the standard advice: “Get out and stay out, and call the Fire Department.
While Kearny firefighters were at the scene, the Jersey City FD provided coverage to the town.
After a two-year lull, the Red Bull Arena will once again host a soccer doubleheader, matching up longtime archrivals Harrison and Kearny, on Saturday, Sept. 27.
The Blue Tide will be hoping to avenge the Kardinals’ sweep of the boys’ and girls’ games played in 2011 at the Arena.
The Kardinals girls’ squad of Kearny High School will face off against the Blue Tide girls’ team of Harrison High School on the Arena pitch, starting at noon.
That game will be followed, at 2 p.m., with the Kardinals boys’ group taking on the Blue Tide boys’ crew.
James Doran, Harrison school district’s director of personnel, and Kearny High Athletic Director John Millar each said that the Red Bull organization has confirmed it has agreed to play host to the event this year.
“We’d certainly like to make this an annual thing [at the Harrison-based Arena],” Doran said.
Doran said the Red Bull organization will be taping the games but no decision has yet been made as to whether it will go out on a live feed to local cable. Each school district will be provided a copy of the tape “which we will post on our website,” he added.
The games will count as part of each team’s regular season schedule, he added.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students.
In Harrison, tickets may be secured through the superintendent’s office or at the high school and, in Kearny, tickets are available at the high school athletic office. Or, patrons can buy tickets on game day at the Arena on Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. across from the Harrison PATH station.
Two years ago, the Red Bulls provided nominal cash donations to both schools but for this year’s event, no contribution is anticipated, according to Millar. “It’s a big expense just to open the stadium,” he noted.
– Ron Leir
Kearny Public Library Director Josh Humphrey stands in the nearly-completed outdoor reading garden, with plantings, bluestone pavers, benches, a small stage for public events, 4-foot-high fencing and a ramped entrance allowing wheelchair access, adjacent to the main branch of the library, 318 Kearny Ave. Work still to be done includes replacement of the library’s old wrought-iron fencing. Part of the project included construction of a retaining wall as a buffer to neighboring residences. Humphrey projects a formal opening of the garden by next month. Lou’s Landscaping of Wayne was contracted to do the job for $245,000. The town is applying a $150,000 grant from the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund toward the cost of the project
‘SOBER HOUSE’ CONTROVERSY
Having grown up in Kearny and being a licensed minister for the past 32 years, I offer my comments regarding the “Sober House.”
First of all, Kearny has a rich history of supporting those in need and giving people second chances. That is not the debate point here. The point of debate is the manner in which the organization occupied this house.
Mr. [Charles] Valentine does not understand “what the neighbors are going through” because I believe he simply does not care about the neighbors. He made this dramatically obvious by not connecting with them prior to violating numerous town ordinances by occupying the property.
If he were concerned, would not the good-neighbor thing be to knock on their doors to introduce and discuss the idea before moving in and creating a uproar?
“We’re an asset to the community,” he states. Prove this by engaging with the community instead of picking a fight with it.
A story about the new Element Harrison Hotel in last week’s issue of The Observer mischaracterized the guest parking location. It is the Harrison Parking
Center. The Observer regrets the error.
This week, your correspondent – armed with a valid passport – was planning (this column is being written Sept. 20) to vacation on the island Republic of Malta, whose islands – the website lonelyplanet.com tells us – “are like nowhere else.” Indeed, the website adds, “Here you’ll find great prehistoric temples, fossil-studded cliffs, glittering hidden coves, thrilling diving opportunities and a history of remarkable intensity.”
According to Wikipedia, there are indications that the country has been inhabited since pre-historic times. It has seen many occupiers – including Napoleon – in its lengthy history, until achieving its independence from Britain in 1964, and joined the European Union in 2004.
There will be much to absorb for such a relatively tiny place – which looks like an almost perceptible speck on a map – and a lot to explore in just a few days. Maybe I’ll even find the legendary Maltese falcon – or is that just another Hollywood myth?
But, leaving aside for the moment the anticipated pleasures of R&R at an island paradise, we can’t forget the fact that Malta finds itself smack up against a geopolitical cataclysm.
Migrants – many refugees from war-torn Syria and Libya – along with Palestinians from Gaza – are being smuggled out of their desolate land through tunnels in Egypt and packed into boats bound for destinations in Europe. Those fleeing reportedly pay thousands of dollars for what they see as an opportunity for a better life elsewhere.
But their journeys are typically perilous, as evidenced by a recent episode chronicled by, among other media outlets, BBC News World which, through the Times of Malta, reported the deaths of “at least 300 migrants” who “drowned off Malta’s coast” on Sept. 12.
Survivors, brought to Malta’s shores, told the Times of Malta and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that “the smugglers deliberately rammed the migrants’ boat after they refused to move to a smaller boat from the fishing vessel they were on,” leaving its passengers to fend for themselves in the sea.
The Times of Malta account said the IOM had logged “about 2,900” migrant drowning deaths in the Mediterranean so far this year, up from 700 recorded in 2013.
Malta – just 50 miles south of Sicily – has provided shelters for several thousand of the desperate migrants who arrive at the islands and Italy has launched “Mare Nostrum,” a search and rescue enterprise pledged to save migrants in peril in the waters off its coast.
Still, the number of deaths is mounting.
Meanwhile, Malta finds itself grappling with another dilemma of increasingly global concern: the deadly Ebola virus that has emerged in West Africa and threatens to engulf the region and beyond.
On Sept. 19, the Associated Press reported that Malta turned away a cargo ship, enroute to Ukraine from Guinea, carrying a crew of 21 including a Filipino reportedly showing symptoms of Ebola. AP said the boat’s captain had sought to dock in Malta to get medical treatment for the stricken crewman.
But Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was quoted as saying that, “We cannot endanger our health system” and that it was impossible to know whether the captain was “understating or overstating” the man’s condition.
Maltese coast guard vessels escorted the boat, MV Western Copenhagen, out of the harbor, according to the AP.
And so, it seems that even in paradise, there is no escape from the crushing realities of the world.
– Ron Leir
At about 10 p.m. on Sept. 11, Nutley police arrested 48-year-old Martin Lucas of Newark in connection with a drug transaction.
Police said detectives conducting surveillance observed Lucas driving a 1999 Mercury SUV at Vreeland and Hillside Aves. and spotted a woman known to use narcotics walk up to the vehicle and allegedly make a transaction.
Police said detectives approached the car and saw a bag containing suspected crack cocaine in close proximity to the driver.
Lucas was taken into custody and charged with possession of CDS and distribution of CDS.
He was taken to Essex County Jail after failing to post $25,000 bail, pending a court appearance.
Police said they learned that Lucas also had three outstanding warrants from Newark and one from Nutley totaling nearly $2,000.
Police said the woman, who was not in possession of drugs at the time of Lucas’s arrest, was not charged.
A Nutley man has been linked by police to two crimes committed in the township within an eight-day period.
On Aug. 14, police said a woman parked her car at an E. Centre St. location momentarily to drop off a family member. As she was entering an apartment, a young man passed her. She went inside and immediately turned back to her car, only to find the young man inside, allegedly taking her purse and then leaving the vehicle.
Police said the woman then ran after him until she confronted him near the Washington Ave. intersection where the man dropped the purse and ran away.
After the incident, detectives reviewed a tape taken from a private surveillance camera in the area of the incident to help get a description of the suspect.
Then, police said, on Aug. 26, a man with a similar description allegedly entered a new business on E. Centre St. and removed more than $500 from the cash register.
Detectives investigating both incidents positively identified the man as Fernando Acosta, 19, of Nutley.
Acosta was arrested and charged with burglary to auto and theft from the auto and theft at the business. He was ordered held at Essex County Jail on $30,000 bail, pending court action.
During the past week, Nutley PD responded to 10 medical calls, 20 motor vehicle accidents, 11 suspicious incidents and 13 disputes, plus the following activities logged:
A Washington Ave. resident reported the theft of a black iPhone. The resident told police they allowed an acquaintance the use of the phone but never got it back.
The owner of a vehicle parked on Park Ave. told police that when they returned to the car in the morning, they discovered that someone had tried to pry open the driver’s side door but couldn’t get inside.
An Oak St. resident reported being victimized by credit card fraud. The resident told police that someone had obtained their Social Security number and fraudulently opened accounts at Express, Victoria’s Secret and Mandee and that they’d received three credit cards and a bill for $748 from Victoria’s Secret charged on Sept. 2.
Someone left a bag of candy on the front porch of a Chestnut St. resident’s home, the owner told police. An unknown party has left candy six times within the past six months, the owner said.
An Ernest St. resident reported that within the last three weeks, someone had stolen their green metal filing cabinet, valued at $100, from their driveway.
A man drove up to a Centre St. business and swiped a bundle of 50 Star Ledger newspapers, valued at $50, from the curb
After observing an individual walking through side streets and appearing lost, police said they learned that the man, Enrique Garcia, 22, of North Bergen, was wanted on warrants from North Bergen and West New York. Garcia was released to the Hudson County Sheriff’s Department.
Police responded to an abandoned Funston Place residence after receiving a call about three males seen exiting a black pickup truck and entering the house. Upon arrival, police said they saw a man standing next to a black Chevy pickup. The man told them two other men were inside and police escorted them out. The three told police they worked for Safeguard Properties and were there to winterize the house and produced valid paperwork confirming that information. However, police said one of the three men, Harold B. Williams, 56, of Elizabeth, was found to have an outstanding warrant from Linden. He was turned over to Elizabeth PD.
After getting a report of a woman wearing a white sweater and carrying a large bag suspected of shoplifting at a Harrison St. drug store, police went to the location and spotted a woman matching the description. Police said the woman had on her person proceeds from the alleged shoplifting incident with a total value of $78. Carmen Richardson, 36, of Newark, was charged with shoplifting. Police said she also had an outstanding warrant from Verona. She was released to Verona PD.
A Bloomfield Ave. resident reported that someone removed a folding work table, a full bucket of copper wire, aluminum cans, screens, weights, A/C unites and an animal trap from their property. Total value of the missing items was listed as $950. Detectives are investigating.
A Kingsland Ave. resident told police that upon returning home, they found that someone had smashed their butane grill lighter, which is kept on the outside window sill on their back porch. A piece of the broken lighter was found wedged into the awning of the 8-foot-high back porch.
A motor vehicle investigation involving someone known to have an active warrant from Wildwood Crest resulted in the arrest of Frank DiLiberto, 20, of Nutley, on charges of possession of marijuana under 50 grams and resisting arrest. He was released pending a court date.
– Ron Leir
By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Fans of “The West Wing” can finally rejoice. After seven years without a major political drama that really takes on issues as “West Wing” did, you’ve finally got a show on TV that brings you into the White House.
And even better, the major player in this new CBS show is a woman.
The show debuted last Sunday night — just before another great drama, “The Good Wife” — and it didn’t disappoint one bit from the very first scene.
The show follows the leadership of the nation’s new Secretary of State Elizabeth Faulkner McCord, played brilliantly by Tea Leoni. We first meet the secretary after two twenty-something boys from Hartford, Conn., are taken hostage while in Syria. The hostage takers think these kids are jihadists. Truth is, they’re not — they’re just two kids, really, who wanted to help seek peace for the Syrian people.
But they’re in serious trouble right away because the government of Syria says they’re going to be executed in just a few days — the days following their capture.
As all of this happens, the current Secretary of State is involved in a plane crash, and the President of the United States, Conrad Dalton, played by Keith Carradine (you may remember him as Frank from classic episodes of “Criminal Minds”) wants McCord to be his new Secretary of State.
She and her husband, Henry McCord, played by Tim Daly, are both living comfortable lives. She’s a political-science professor and he’s a religion professor at the University of Virginia.
But it all turns upside down when the President shows up to their Virginia ranch — and gives McCord a day to decide if she’ll accept the position.
You don’t say no to the President of the United States. No one does in reality. And no one ever did to other fictitious President, like Josiah Bartlet, most notably.
And so two months later, we’re rejoined with Mrs. McCord serving at the White House while her husband finds himself with a great job as a religion professor at the Jesuit university, Georgetown.
It’s a religion professor’s dream to work with the Jesuits, isn’t it? And that’s precisely what we learn about him when he gets there.
But Mrs. McCord is immediately faced with a crisis — and that is, to get these two hostages freed from the Syrian prison. That’s no easy task, given the political climate there in reality.
And the reality of it transcends into this new show.
From the get-go, we’re treated to just how difficult it is to be a member of the President’s cabinet. And perhaps too stereotypically, we’re shown, right away, that it’s often more challenging for a woman to get the President’s ear than it is for a man to get his ear.
Her covert plan to get the two hostages freed is immediately dismissed by the President — her long-time friend from days back in the Central Intelligence Agency — in favor of a plan presented by the chief of staff, a man.
So while there are some trite themes that one might expect a woman new to the White House to experience, the bottom line is the show has taken — and will continue to take — serious modern- day, post-9/11 themes and it will run with them.
This is perhaps even more exciting than “The West Wing” was, as that show never directly addressed the change to the world after 9/11 (the show began pre-Sept. 11, 2001 in 1999, and while it did occasionally touch on terrorism, it never did so based on real-time events).
“Madam Secretary” is different. The subjects are real. We finally get a very strong woman in a very high position of authority — and she’s the focus of the show, not the President at all.
In fact, this show doesn’t work one bit if the Secretary of State is a man. But it works with her as a woman (sure there have been other shows with women in a powerful position — think “24” — but those characters have always had major flaws and weaknesses.
Elizabeth Faulkner McCord is by no means weak. She’s anything but it.
And because of that, “Madam Secretary” is one that will absolutely last. It should draw tremendous ratings following football and “60 Minutes” on CBS.
And finally, “West Wing” fans can rejoice because they’re more than likely going to get the politics fix from Hollywood so desperately missed since that show went off the air seven years ago.