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1.7B to clean Passaic’s lower 8 miles

  NEWARK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last Friday, April 11, that it plans to undertake the most costly public waterway cleanup in its 43-year history. At a press conference held at Newark Riverfront Park, EPA Regional […]

Lost medal recovered from Pa.

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – For more than two decades, it sat – carefully preserved – in a Pennsylvania residence. Next month, however, the Purple Heart medal awarded posthumously to a long-dead Kearny serviceman will be returned […]

Feds won’t pay for more firefighters

Two neighboring West Hudson communities have been shut out in their bids to snag federal funding to hire more firefighters. Kearny Fire Dept. and Harrison Fire Dept. each applied for a share of SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency […]

Tribute to a teacher

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Fred Kuhrt died doing what he loved best – giving of himself to others. His former employer, the Kearny Board of Education, is honoring the automotive technology instructor’s selflessness by establishing the […]

Play ball! (and politics, too)

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent NORTH ARLINGTON – Saturday’s opening ceremony for the North Arlington Recreation Girls’ Softball season took on a political twist. Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat, complained that he was snubbed by League President Mike Tetto […]

News in brief

HARRISON – Harrison Mayor James Fife, 73, is spending time in St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark, where he is recovering from surgery. The hospital declined to provide any information but Councilman James Doran, who is serving as Fife’s campaign manager […]


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.”

Fife is easy pick for mayor

Photo courtesy Town of Harrison As his wife Linda holds the Bible, James Fife is sworn in as interim mayor by Municipal Court Judge Elizabeth McNamara.

Photo courtesy Town of Harrison
As his wife Linda holds the Bible, James Fife is sworn in as interim mayor by Municipal Court Judge Elizabeth McNamara.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


James Fife, who taught history to a lot of Harrison High School students over the years, is now in the official Harrison history books.

Fife, who will mark his 73rd birthday on April 15, became the municipality’s interim mayor by a unanimous vote of the Town Council at a special meeting held last Monday night.

Fife takes over for former longtime Mayor Raymond McDonough who died Feb. 12 after collapsing at his Town Hall office. McDonough, 65, was starting his 20th year as the town’s chief executive.

Fife, who will serve out the balance of McDonough’s term which ends Dec. 31, told The Observer last week he plans to run in the Democratic Primary in June as the head of a ticket whose members were all aligned with McDonough.

As was required by state election law, Councilman James Doran, who chairs the county Democratic Committee of Harrison, presented the council with the names of three nominees for the open mayoral seat: Harrison Board of Education member Maria Vila, Harrison Fire Director Harold Stahl and Fife.

The council voted 8-0 to select Fife, chairman of the Harrison Redevelopment Agency and president of the Harrison Board of Education.

A statement released through Town Clerk/Town Attorney Paul Zarbetski said: “It is with mixed emotion that the Harrison Town Council announces that James A. Fife has succeeded our friend and leader, Raymond J. McDonough, as mayor of the Town of Harrison. While the council members are still in mourning and sad over the great loss of Raymond, they are also grateful to have found a replacement with impeccable credentials and unquestionable character.”

Last week, Fife tendered his resignation from the Board of Education – after seven years of service – to avoid a conflict of interest. In Harrison, members of the school board are appointed by the mayor who chairs a Board of School Estimate which certifies the school budget.

He also resigned last week from his seat on the Harrison Housing Authority but he’ll continue to serve on the HRA, as the mayoral representative. He will need to fill a vacant seat on that board.

Fife said last week he was looking into the legalities of whether he can keep his seat on the Hudson County Community College Board of Trustees which he’s occupied the past five years.

During an interview at the mayor’s office at Town Hall last Wednesday – the first he has given since taking office – Fife said he “had some prodding from Dr. [James] Doran [the councilman who is also Harrison superintendent of schools]” to allow his name to be brought before the council.

“He contacted me [on behalf of the Dems Committee] and I talked it over with my wife Linda because we like to go away weekends during the winter to Okema Mountain in Vermont,” Fife said.

In the end, Fife said, he agreed. “I felt it was almost my duty to continue Ray’s [legacy]. It had to do with continuity. Redevelopment is the biggest thing we have going on right now in Harrison. We’d like to continue the progress made to date and, from my work with the Redevelopment Agency in the last 12 years, I know all the developers.”

Staying the course, Fife said, “assures them that no one’s going to be upsetting the apple cart.”

And, on the municipal government front, Fife – who was planning to meet formally with the various department heads at some point soon – also figures to stay with the troops already on board.

“I don’t see making changes because everything’s running smoothly,” he said.

And Fife hopes to keep the same elective team in place beyond year’s end by entering the Democratic Primary in June “aligned with the county ticket.”

That would place Fife as the head of the local Dems slate, running with incumbent council mates Jesus Huaranga in the First Ward, Anselmo Millan in the Second, Laurence Bennett in the Third and Doran in the Fourth.

“I’ve spoken to the all the council members personally and told them I’m going to run in the primary,” Fife said.

Nominating petitions have yet to be filed for the primary.

Photo by Ron Leir Town Hall photo display in tribute to the late Mayor Raymond McDonough.

Photo by Ron Leir
Town Hall photo display in tribute to the late Mayor Raymond McDonough.


Bennett told The Observer he’s behind Fife all the way. “I’ve known him 50 years – I had him as my swimming instructor – and through his work on the Redevelopment Agency, as an educator and [school] administrator and I know he has the experience to be able to move Harrison forward and the programs that Ray started.”

Although the June campaign would mark his first bid for elective office, Fife is by no means a newcomer to the political arena. When he was head of the Harrison Education Association, Fife said he recruited teachers to work on political campaigns for the then-Mayor Frank E. Rodgers and he recalled Rodgers taking time to congratulate those workers at campaign functions held at the old Carbone’s Restaurant.

Fife grew up in Newark where he attended Hawkins St. Elementary School and East Side High School. He got a B.A. in social studies/ history from Montclair State, an M.A. in guidance from Jersey City State College and an M.A. in administration from William Paterson College.

In 1966, Fife moved to Harrison and got a teaching job the following year as a fill-in social studies teacher and, eventually, working a half-day in that slot and the balance of the day as an aquatics instructor at the high school pool.

Fife recalled that the current Council President Michael Dolaghan – the maintenance director for the Harrison Board of Education – “was in my first home room when I was teaching history.”

In 1982, he became Harrison High principal and continued in that job until his retirement 11 years later.

In Newark, the Fife family joined the old Presbyterian Church in Newark and Fife eventually saw service as a deacon, elder, clerk of the session and board of trustees. He continues to worship there.

For relaxation, Fife said he and his wife enjoy visiting their summer house in Point Pleasant Beach at the Jersey Shore.

Schuyler Ave. fire victim dies

By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent


A man who was severely burned in a Feb. 12 house fire at 131 Schuyler Ave. succumbed to his injuries last week at St. Barnabas Medical Center, authorities reported.

The victim, Manuel Lampon, 66, died the evening of Feb. 25 in the Burn Unit of the Livingston hospital, where he had been in critical condition after being admitted with third-degree burns.

Other than his name and age, no details about Lampon were available at press time. “It is our understanding that the family had to travel from Spain,” Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl said.

Lampon had been trapped in the bedroom of his basement apartment after the fire broke out about 3:30 p.m. on the 12th. Kearny firefighters had been told by another tenant of the building that someone was in the basement unit, but the victim’s exact location was not known, and they had to search the premises, authorities said.

Heavy smoke and narrow quarters, including low ceilings, reportedly hampered the efforts to remove Lampon from the cellar. He was found unconscious in the bedroom, and as the rescuers worked to get him out of the burning structure, they began to run out of oxygen, authorities said.

According to Kearny Police Chief John Dowie, KPD Officer Chris Levchak, arriving first at the scene, had made it to the top of the basement stairs but “was beaten back by the flames and the smoke.”

Lampon was initially taken by Kearny EMS to University Hospital in Newark and was then transferred to St. Barnabas, which has a specialized burn center.

The blaze is believed to have begun in the basement, but the exact cause is under investigation.

No other injuries were reported.

3-alarm blaze on Dukes St.


Fire_web1 Fire_web2

Photos courtesy Andrew Taylor KFD at Dukes St. fi re scene where pet pup was rescued and revived.

Photos courtesy Andrew Taylor
KFD at Dukes St. fire scene where pet pup was rescued and revived.


By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent


Seven persons were displaced last week when a three-alarm fire left their Dukes St. home uninhabitable, authorities reported. As of press time, the exact cause of the blaze was still under investigation.

Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl said the first alarm was called in at 5:37 p.m., Monday, Feb. 24, at a two-family, 2.5-story home at 58 Dukes St. In addition to the firstand second-floor apartments, Dyl said, there was another apartment in the basement.

The blaze is believed to have started in a first-floor bedroom. A woman resident of that apartment suffered smoke inhalation, was transported to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, was treated and released.

The woman and the other six occupants of the home managed to escape without assistance, Dyl said, and were relocated with family members and friends.

There was severe damage to the entire wood-frame structure, but firefighters managed to contain the flames before they could engulf the house next door at 60 Dukes St. That second home, separated from the other only by a narrow alleyway, had some damage to the siding and roof, but this was said to be minor.

“The guys did a tremendous job of keeping the fire to one building,” Dyl said. This, despite hazardous icing conditions on the sidewalk and street.

All Kearny FD units responded to the scene along with the Harrison, Jersey City, North Arlington, East Newark and Belleville Fire Departments. North Hudson covered the town.

One Jersey City fireman reportedly suffered minor injuries when he fell down the stairs. He was treated at Jersey City Medical Center.

The fire was declared under control at 6:39 p.m., but KFD members remained at the scene for more than 20 hours as they attempted to determine the cause. The Division of Fire Safety is pursuing that investigation.

Although the human residents escaped the blaze, a cat and a dog did perish. However, thanks to the efforts of Kearny Firefighter Jed Schappert, another pet dog was saved.

Schappert found the canine, unresponsive and lying on its back, on a stairway to the top floor. He removed it from the smoke-filled home, placed it on the bumper of Engine 1, covered its snout with his oxygen mask and revived the pup.

Intn’l carjacking ring is busted

Photo courtesy NJ Attorney General James Hemphill

Photo courtesy NJ Attorney General
James Hemphill


A10-month multi-agency investigation culminated Thursday in the arrests of 23 New Jersey men in connection with an international carjacking ring, one of whose alleged leaders is a Belleville resident, authorities reported.

At a press conference, state Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman noted that the complex criminal enterprise specialized in the theft of luxury vehicles, primarily SUVs, that were then shipped to West Africa, where they could be sold at prices above their U.S. new market value.

Of those arrested in “Operation Jacked,” seven were labeled as the ringleaders, including 41-yearold James Hemphill of Belleville. The other six alleged leaders are from Newark, Irvington and Roselle.

The rest of the suspects hail from Montclair, Bloomfield, East Orange, Irvington, Union, Newark, Rahway and Tuckerton.

The thieves and traffickers reportedly were operating for more than a year in multiple counties in New Jersey, targeting high-end vehicles: Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Honda, Porsche, Jaguar and Aston Martin.

Approximately 160 of the stolen cars, worth more than $8 million, were recovered by law enforcement in last week’s takedown. Of the total, 140 were found at ports in New York and New Jersey, including Port Newark.

Before being transported to the docks, the vehicles were loaded into shipping containers bearing false bills of lading that misrepresented the containers’ contents, authorities said.

A statement by Hoffman’s office noted that “theft crews” used various methods, including carjacking, to steal the vehicles, but always with the goal of obtaining the keys or key fobs, which were critical to the resale value.

According to the statement, the carjackers would often bump the victim’s vehicle from behind. When the targeted driver stopped, the carjackers would take the key by force or threat or, if the key were still inside, simply jump into the vehicle and drive off.

Thefts also occurred at carwashes, airports, car dealerships and at parking garages, where thieves would hold up valets to get keys and vehicles or grab keys from valet boxes.

Ring members also would search neighborhoods for unlocked high-end cars with the key fob in the glove box. In other cases, they would obtain cars through fraud, using bad checks to buy the vehicles.

After vehicles were stolen, authorities said, the theft crew typically would store or “cool off” the cars at various locations — including hospital parking garages, long-term parking garages, residential backyards, warehouses and private garages — to make sure they were not equipped with tracking devices.

While some of the vehicles were sold domestically, including in New Jersey, most were shipped overseas, Hoffman’s office said.

The 23 suspects arrested Thursday face charges including racketeering, carjacking and money laundering. Six other alleged ring members were being sought as fugitives.

Operation Jacked was led by the N.J. Division of Criminal Justice and the N.J. State Police, assisted by Port Authority Police, ICE Homeland Security Investigations and 12 other agencies, including the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office.

– Karen Zautyk

New hires just a drop in the bucket

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Three more firefighters will be added to the rolls of the Kearny Fire Department later this year – assuming they make it through their training.

But it still won’t be enough to make a real difference to allow the town’s Bravest to reach optimum strength, conceded Mayor Alberto Santos and Fire Chief Steve Dyl.

And Santos said that unless Kearny hits the federal lottery, so to speak, by getting its application for SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant money to hire 15 more firefighters approved, the town doesn’t have the money to hire more personnel for at least the balance of 2014.

Meanwhile, Santos said the town is doing what it can to maintain a survival level of fire protection for its residents and businesses.

The three new men puts the total of able-bodied fire personnel, from the rawest recruit up through the chief, at 87 – far below the 102 that the department’s Table of Organization calls for.

On Feb. 25, the Kearny Town Council authorized the hiring of James Burgos, Kenneth Immersi and Mark Isabella as firefighters, effective March 3, at a starting rate of pay for fire trainees at $33,000 a year.

Chief Dyl said that the town had authorized hiring up to four firefighters last year but fiscal restraints limited the department to putting only one – Sean Brady – on its roster. The “balance due” is now being satisfied with the additional three men, he said.

Brady recently passed his mandated Fire Academy training and he’ll be considered a full-fledged firefighter as soon as he completes EMT training at Kearny Fire Headquarters, Dyl said.

Burgos, Immersi and Isabella are in the process of two weeks in-house orientation and they are scheduled to begin four months of training at the Essex County Fire Academy on March 17, Dyl said.

If all goes well, they should be ready to hit the streets by July, he said.

“We’re still waiting to hear about our SAFER application,” Dyl said. “We need that money desperately. In the meantime, the new guys are a nice shot in the arm and we’re glad we’re going in the right direction.”

Santos said he’s spoken with Rep. Bill Pascrell, who represents the Ninth Congressional District, which includes Kearny, to ask him to track the town’s SAFER application.

The absence of clearly defined grant award cycles complicates the process of calculating how the town may fare in the federal application review protocol, Santos said.

Personnel levels in the Fire Department could be impacted soon, Dyl said, if veterans in the ranks start putting in pension applications.

As of October 2014, according to departmental records, 19 employees will be eligible for retirement; another 10 could put in their papers in 2015 and eight more could follow in 2016, Dyl said. Cumulatively, that’s more than 40% of the department.

According to Dyl, the town last bolstered the ranks when it hired three firefighters in 2010. After one of them quit, he was replaced by another hiree in 2011, Dyl said.

Asked for background on the latest round of hiring, Dyl offered some details:

Burgos, 28, a Newark resident, has worked for Bank of New York since 2007, mostly recently as a section manager. After graduating from Queen of Peace High School, North Arlington, Burgos enrolled at Caldwell College where he earned an undergraduate degree in business.

Immersi, 31, grew up in Bloomfield where he graduated from Bloomfield High School. After apprenticing under the District Council of Ironworkers, he began working for Ironworkers Local 11 of Bloomfield in 2002. He’s currently living in Newark.

Isabella, 22, of Kearny, is a Kearny High School alumnus whose mother, Florence, is a Kearny school crossing guard. A U.S. Marine Reservist, Isabella has worked for Sanzari Construction of Hackensack since 2011. He has taken courses at Kean University.

KPD: DWI nets robbery suspect

A Kearny man sought as the suspect in two strong-arm robberies last week — one in Kearny, one in Harrison — did law enforcement a favor by cutting short their hunt for him. That same day, he ended up in custody, getting himself arrested for drunk driving in Montclair, police reported.

KPD Chief John Dowie said the first robbery occurred at 6:30 a.m., Feb. 23, at a gas station at Kearny and Linden Aves.

A man driving a white SUV with Pennsylvania plates engaged the station attendant in conversation and then requested change. When the attendant produced a roll of bills, the customer allegedly attempted to grab it, and a tug-of-war ensued.

The robber managed to get a portion of it, less than $100, and drove off, heading south on Kearny Ave., Dowie said.

Officer Adriano Marques, Sgt. Michael Cardella and Det. John Plaugic responded to the scene, and Plaugic learned that, a short time after the Kearny crime, a Harrison service station was robbed — reportedly by a man driving a white SUV with Pennsylvania plates.

After further investigation, Det. Michael Gonzalez developed as a suspect 44-year-old Kearny resident Anthony Froilan, who had previously been arrested for similar crimes in New York and an armed robbery in Phoenix, Dowie said.

Police launched a search for Froilan, who turned up hours later in cuffs in Montclair on a DWI charge.

Froilan was charged with the Kearny crime and was lodged in the Essex County Jail.

Other recent reports on the KPD blotter included the following: 

Feb. 20

At 9 p.m., Vice detectives had under surveillance two males who appeared to be sharing a marijuana cigar in the area of Johnston and Kearny Aves. After confirming their suspicions, police said, the officers arrested

Kearny residents Efrain Ortiz, 39, and 19-year-old Diosdaldo Reyes, identified as Ortiz’ son. Both were charge with possession and use of a CDS and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Feb. 23

Officer Chris Medina responded to a 2 a.m. report of an individual who appeared to be defacing a car in the area of Schuyler and Arlington Aves. Officer Michael Santucci interviewed the witness, who provided a description of the suspect, and Medina found a man fitting that description on Ivy St. Police said 55-year-old Carlos Sequeira of Kearny, who apparently harbored some resentment against its owner, admitted to damaging the vehicle, a 2013 Mazda that had been “keyed.” Sequeira was charged with criminal mischief.

Feb. 25

At 4 p.m., Office Jay Ward arrested Natalie Rogers, 42, of Kearny near ShopRite on warrants from Kearny and Newark. Police said the Kearny warrant stemmed from a 2012 theft of “a substantial amount” of tools from a local business. Her new bail was set at $2,500.

The Vice Unit took into custody Samuel Cantarinhas, 26, of Kearny at Kearny Ave. and Liberty St. at 9 p.m. after observing him examining what appeared to be marijuana and confirming their suspicions, police said.

He was charged with possession of pot and paraphernalia.

Dets. Scott Traynor and Ray Lopez went to a Maple St. residence at 11:30 p.m. to arrest Vanessa Pagan, 32, of Kearny on an outstanding warrant related to a June 2013 burglary. While at the apartment, the detectives reportedly observed, in plain view, two vials of suspected cocaine and a glassine fold of suspected heroin, labeled Top Gun.” Pagan was arrested on the warrant and drug-possession charges and was remanded to the Hudson County Jail.

Feb. 27

Vice detectives were on patrol on the 500 block of Belgrove Drive at 4:45 p.m. when they reportedly observed 36-year-old Ricardo Santos of Newark, described as a “known drug offender,” enter onto the porch of a private home and peer in the window. Santos then helped himself to a package on the porch, walked around the corner to Oakwood Ave., opened the box and began to remove the contents, police said.

The detectives approached him and determined that the name on the package was not Santos’, and a search pursuant to arrest found him to be in possession of a hypodermic needle and a bag of suspected marijuana, police said.

Santos was charged with theft, criminal trespass, peering into a dwelling (we are assured that is a specific wording of the offense) and possession of the needle, pot and paraphernalia. Police said he was also wanted on a Newark warrant.

The Belgrove Drive homeowner was contacted and confirmed the package was hers. It contained costume jewelry.

–Karen Zautyk

Thoughts & Views: Get the drift? I love snow!

Created by Sabrina Walker The official Observer snowman

Created by Sabrina Walker
The official Observer snowman


As I write this, the snow has begun to gently fall, once again blanketing streets and lawns and turning our world into a magical wonderland.

I know what you’re thinking: “She’s now going to turn that observation into some snarky remark about the weather.”

Wrong! I mean every word of it. I have loved this winter, and every storm the season has brought. This is what winter should be, and what it hasn’t been in many years. Snowfall after snowfall after snowfall. I have lost count.

Unlike what appears to be 99% of the population, I am not sick of the weather. I’m sick of the interminable weather reports. Yes, people want to know what the forecast is, but must the weather be the lead “news” story every night? It is becoming farcical.

Last week, when things were going to warm up a bit, the following actually happened on one of the local TV stations:

As the 6 p.m. news broadcast began, the hosts offered a couple of video clips and teasers about the upcoming stories. A vicious mugger preying on women in Queens. An update on Ukraine. But first, this Weather ALERT! Which turned out to be, “We’ve had rain all day, but the weather is improving.”

I am not making that up. It is a quote.

That stupidity was trumped Friday night on another station, which had one of its newshounds doing people-on-the- street interviews about (of course) the weather.

Since even TV has concluded we are all fed up with “breaking news” stories about shoppers seeking rock salt and shovels, the reporter decided to focus on more crucial matters. Approaching a woman about to enter a supermarket, he asked, “What do you buy when you’re shopping before a storm?”

She answered, with long pauses, “Uh, meat …. chicken …. rice.”

“Things you eat?” he said.


End of report.

I am not making that up either.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so feeble. I can grasp the need for weather news, but we have become obsessed by it. News12 New Jersey has “Weather on the Ones,” meaning weather reports every 11 minutes. Year-round. Every season. Even when all is sunshine and roses. Do we think the weather changes every 11 minutes?

I long for the snows of yesteryear, which crept up on us unheralded. Or just about. Unless there was a hurricane or actual (not social-media rumored) blizzard pending, the weather report was at the tail end of the nightly news. Where it belongs.

Have we had one real blizzard this winter? I can’t recall. Every dusting is treated with the same media overkill.

I long for the mornings of my childhood, when I awoke to the jingly sounds of tire chains on the street below. That’s how I knew it had snowed overnight.

And if the storm had been bad enough, school would be closed. But we didn’t sit inside texting each other all day. We went out. And built snowmen. And snow forts. And had snowball fights. Or maybe just plodded through the hip-high drifts pretending we were trying to reach the South Pole.

(Google “South Pole,” children, if you are confused. You might also Google “tire chains” while you’re at it.)

On that warm day last week, yet another reporter was out on the sunny streets of a suburban town, interviewing passers-by — about the weather, of course.

A mother with two young sons expressed her delight at finally being able to allow them out of the house to play.


When we were young, you couldn’t get us into the house after a snowfall. We’d succumb only when our mittens were so wet, or frozen, we had to change them.

But sometimes even that didn’t deter us.

In Down Neck Newark, St. Aloysius Church vestibule, which was always open, had lovely steamy radiators with metal covers, upon which we could dry those mittens, or at least melt the ice that coated them.

We could warm up at the same time.

But we never stayed long. There was too much adventure waiting in the snowy streets. In a world that had become a magical wonderland.

–Karen Zautyk

5 years for Belleville hit-run death

A Nutley man who pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in a 2011 hit-and-run death of a Belleville pedestrian was sentenced Friday in Union County Superior Court to a five-year prison term. Under the plea agreement reached last month, Luis Cruz, 44, will be eligible for parole after serving slightly more than four years, authorities said.

The victim, Jodi DeSoto, 48, of Belleville, was stuck and killed the night of Sept. 17, 2011, as she crossed Belleville Ave. near Rhode Place.

Cruz fled the scene, leaving DeSoto in the street.

Police said she had been thrown more than 60 feet by the impact. She was pronounced dead at Clara Maass Medical Center.

Cruz was arrested a week later following an investigation by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Homicide Task Force. According to published reports, investigators calculated he had been travelling about 45 mph in the 25-mph zone.

DeSoto was the widow of Essex County Superior Court Judge Hector DeSoto and had worked as a court services supervisor for Essex County. Because of those connections, Cruz’ case was transferred to Union County.

– Karen Zautyk

Lots of ‘Love’ from Bloomfield singer

Photos courtesy Karen Luschar Karen Luschar’s new album, “It’s Love” features 14 tracks from a recent performance at Lincoln Center.

Photo courtesy Karen Luschar
Karen Luschar’s new album, “It’s Love” features 14 tracks from a recent performance at Lincoln Center.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

Observer Correspondent

Using a lifetime of passion and love for performing as her inspiration, Bloomfield resident Karen Luschar has released her much-anticipated third CD “It’s Love.”

“I just realized that a lot of the songs that I sing revolve around love,” said Luschar, explaining how the CD began. “I just wanted to look at (love) from many different ways.”

Recorded live at Lincoln Center, the new CD brings 14 of Luschar’s best live performances to listeners at home.

Narrowing down to just 14 songs was no easy task for the Bloomfield resident.

“When I started to do this show, I started typing out names of love songs I could think of,” Luschar explained. “I came up with 450 and that was just a drop in the bucket. There are thousands of songs written about love. It’s just a theme people love to sing about.”

Luschar’s CD explores a wide spectrum of the experience of love.

“Whether you’re in the midst of falling in love or losing love, it’s still the subject of love,” Luschar explained. “It’s looking at love from all the different angles because songwriters have written about love more than any other subject.”

She continued, “This is a show that can look at love from enduring the years, hopefulness, frustration. It encompasses many feelings.”

Luschar’s career in music started at the tender age of 2 and developed with aspirations of performing on Broadway. Over the course of her career, Karen has been able to achieve her dream, performing on the Great White Way and global venues spanning from Canada to Japan.

“I have been fortunate to follow that dream and get to Broadway,” Luschar said. “When you plant a dream in your heart and in your mind, it’s so great – that feeling — when it comes to fruition.”

Luschar credits her mother – a dancer and a violinist – for pushing her toward her dream.

“She was nice enough to start me singing and dancing when I was very small,” Luschar said. “I knew (performing was) what I wanted to do. I wanted to dance and I wanted to sing.”

Luschar’s experience from a lifetime of performing certainly shows in her latest work on “It’s Love.”

Unlike some artists who can over-perform a song, Luschar’s experience allows her to put her creative take on a song while maintaining the song’s true meaning and style.

Luschar’s adaptation of “My Sunny Valentine” showcases that exact trait.

While the song has been covered by many A-list stars including Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and Michael Buble, Luschar’s version ranks among them.

While Luschar takes a more Broadway approach to the song – as opposed to Buble’s crooning version – the singer still brings out the meaning to the song and conveys the love created by the song.

Luschar also performs a brilliant version of the Barbra Streisand hit “My Man,” which is featured on the “It’s Love” CD.

Luschar stays true to the Streisand version of the song, standing toe-to-toe with the hit singer’s full-bodied sound while not over-singing the body of the song.

Photo courtesy Karen Luschar

Photo courtesy Karen Luschar


With her third album now in the books, Luschar continues to perform across the nation, but always is looking towards the future.

“I want to perform more overseas,” Luschar said. “There’s one company that has been talking about the idea of bringing me over and I hope that happens. I’d really love to do that.”

Luschar said that above all, she’d love to take her shows to France and England, especially her World War II-themed show “Singing for Victory.”

“I was there a year ago and I feel very drawn to that show and I feel it’s very viable there,” Luschar said. “When I traveled through France, I told people about the show and the war is still very imprinted in those people’s lives. I’d love to perform that there.”

For more information on Bloomfield’s resident Broadway singer Karen Luschar, visit her website at www.KarenLuschar.com. Her newest CD, “It’s Love,” can be found on her website, and can be found on Amazon and CD Baby later this month.