By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – 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 […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent HARRISON – 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 […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY– 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, […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY – 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. […]
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 […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – 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 […]
By Ron Leir
They’re halfway there. The South Kearny Fire and Police Station on John Miller Way now has a full-time presence by the Fire Department. But police are still waiting.
Until recently, the Fire Department was staffing its one company at the isolated location off S. Hackensack Ave. which serves the town’s industrial area from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. only. At night, the three-member crew shifted uptown to Headquarters Co. for sleeping quarters.
But as of Dec. 28, the company moved into the Miller Way facility on a permanent basis, occupying separate dormitorystyle rooms created within the confines of two trailers, each about 36 feet-by-40 feet, fitted inside the cavern-like station building on a supporting platform.
Sitting just below the trailers, also inside the building, are three fire rigs: a pumper engine, an apparatus that dispenses foam to douse chemical spills and/or fires, and an Army surplus truck that can be deployed in emergencies, such as rescuing people trapped by flood waters.
A third trailer, about 36 feet-by- 20-feet, is reserved for the Police Department, which has a separate entrance to its space.
Fire Chief Steven Dyl said the town had been waiting for delivery and installation of “furniture, computers and phones” before assigning Group 4, as that company is known, to the facility full-time.
“We’re still waiting on some additional furnishings [such as a kitchen table to replace the one now in use that was donated by a local industry] and the police are waiting on communications equipment, but at least now we’re able to be there 24/7,” Dyl said.
Fire Capt. Michael Hyde, who is staffing the fire facility with Firefighters Dave Myers and Martina Smith, said that aside from the new kitchen table, “we’re waiting on desks, chairs, additional lockers, pots and pans and plates for the kitchen.”
Being situated at the facility – even if it is in trailers – on a 24-hour basis is still “a good thing,” Hyde said, when factoring in the response time to an alarm in South Kearny. “From uptown, it can be a little crazy sometimes,” Hyde said.
National Fire Protection Association guidelines call for a response time of four minutes for the initial fire company to reach a location from the time an alarm is received and eight minutes for all companies assigned on the first alarm but Hyde said that it can take anywhere “from 12 to 15 minutes” just to reach a location in the town’s low-lying meadows area from Kearny Ave. Time is a critical factor in attacking a fire – particularly with an industrial fire where there is a potential for a chemical explosion and loss of life.
Problems associated with the South Kearny facility began in 2007 when the town’s construction officer Michael Martello declared the structure unsafe because the flooring supporting the police section of the building was sinking.
“We determined it’s going to cost $2.4 million to fix the entire building,” Martello said.
The town subsequently sued the architect for malpractice and was awarded $900,000 in damages but the amount of the award is under appeal.
In the meantime, the town relocated both the police and fire personnel from the building for safety reasons since if the property continued to settle, there was the possibility that an underground gas line could rupture and trigger an explosion.
As an interim step, Kearny leased a space in a warehouse known as Building 42A on S. Hackensack Ave., near the closed facility, to house the fire company, where it remained for the next five years, until Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast in late October 2012 and flooded Building 42A.
Once again, it was moving time for Fire Group 4 and this time, the Jersey City Fire Department provided temporary quarters in one of its firehouses in the city’s West Side section which happened to be on Kearney [different spelling but pronounced the same] Ave.
Six months later, it was back to uptown Kearny at Headquarters Co. as the newly restored South Kearny facility began taking shape and by fall 2013 the company worked out of there during daylight hours, returning to uptown Headquarters to bed down.
And then, just before New Year’s, the company was assigned full-time to South Kearny, hopefully ending its odyssey.
Meanwhile, Police Chief John Dowie said his officers have access to their portion of the site “around the clock” when they need to be there “to write accident reports, fill out forms” in connection with incidents based at South Kearny locations, including the Pulaski Skyway, the Hackensack River bridge and Rts. 1&9.
But the station is still awaiting the installation of the enhanced 9-1-1 emergency communications system, which got wrecked by flooding and which, according to Martello, will cost $250,000 to replace and there’s no indication where the town will come up with the financing.
“We’re taking baby steps,” Dowie said recently. “After all, we just got our C.O. (certificate of occupancy).”
By Ron Leir
The revolving door to the Kearny superintendent of schools office keeps turning and, like the ball on a spinning roulette wheel, nobody knows who will end up where.
On Jan. 6, immediately after the Kearny Board of Education reorganization, a newly constituted board majority asserted itself by initiating a “vote of no confidence” in the district’s current chief schools administrator.
And, by a 6-2 margin, with John Leadbeater and Dan Esteves dissenting, newly reinstalled President Bernadette McDonald, Vice President Cecilia Lindenfelser, joined by board members Sebastian Viscuso, James Doran Jr. and newcomers Barbara Cifelli- Sherry and Samantha Paris, placed Superintendent Frank Ferraro on paid administrative leave.
Trustee John Plaugic was absent, nursing injuries sustained in a fall outside his home.
The board then voted to install Patricia Blood, director of curriculum for grades 6 to 12, as acting superintendent, thereby sidestepping the No. 2 administrator, Assistant Superintendent Debra Sheard, at least pending a special meeting that was called for Jan. 13 when the board was slated to discuss the employment situations of Ferraro, Blood and Sheard.
McDonald refused to talk about the move to jettison Ferraro but Ferraro characterized it as a reprisal for his firing school maintenance worker Brian Doran, a brother of James Doran Jr.
Turns out this isn’t the first time there was an effort to dislodge Ferraro. In March 2013 – just three months after he got the job – two members of the sitting board (Doran and Viscuso) petitioned the state Commissioner of Education to remove the superintendent.
In legal papers, Doran and Viscuso argued that Ferraro wasn’t qualified for the job because he failed to satisfy the board’s policy requiring the superintendent to have at least 10 years’ classroom teaching experience on the elementary and/or secondary level.
“Because he does not meet this particular policy qualification, his contract should be declared null and void,” their petition said. Otherwise, it said, Ferraro will be “making decisions in a myriad of areas without the necessary academic and teaching background.”
Before Kearny hired him, by a 5-4 vote Dec. 10, 2012, Ferraro had been interim operations director in charge of facilities and transportation for the public school district in Peeksville, N.Y., and, before that, he served three years as assistant superintendent for business for the Greenburgh School District 7 in Hartsdale, N.Y. He has a certificate in advanced study in education and an MBA and has taught in high school and college.
But Andrew Babiak, counsel to the N.J. School Administrators Association, countered in legal papers that the board has the right to waive its policy and that as the holder of a provisional administrator’s certificate, Ferraro was perfectly capable of making key decisions in all areas.
Ultimately, Doran and Viscuso withdrew their petition. But their decision to drop the matter was only a temporary cessation of hostilities.
Correspondence obtained by The Observer via an OPRA request to the DOE shows that Carl Carabelli, manager of the Criminal Review Unit, wrote to Ferraro on Sept. 6, 2013, that Brian Doran had a criminal record – two arrests in Kearny dating from October 1993 and from June 1996 and another arrest in Clifton dating from May 1995, all resulting in guilty outcomes which, according to Carabelli, render Doran “permanently disqualified or ineligible for employment … with any public school or educational facility….”
In October 2013, Doran’s cousin, Jersey City attorney Michael Doran, who filed the Doran/Viscuso petition, asked the state Commissioner of Education to have his client reinstated on the grounds:
That Ferraro failed to present the charges against Doran before Doran’s dismissal “on or about Sept. 24, 2013,” which, the attorney said, violated his client’s rights as a tenured school employee.
That Ferraro violated school board policy by terminating Doran without a concurring vote by the school board.
That Ferraro and the district violated state school law by failing to get Doran’s consent before conducting a criminal background check and by failing to give Doran a chance to respond to the allegations of his criminal history [for DUI and marijuana use convictions] and thereby violated Doran’s right to due process. Moreover, the attorney noted, on Oct. 10, 2013, Hudson County Superior Court Judge John Young Jr. expunged “any prior offenses which may have disqualified Mr. Doran for continued employment with the KBOE.”
Nonetheless, in a prepared statement, Ferraro said: “I have made it clear to the Board that I am opposed to the reinstatement of Brian Doran. I can only conclude that my decision to terminate Mr. Doran and my opposition to his reinstatement, in large part, prompted the Board to take its actions on Jan. 6, 2014. … I will take all necessary and appropriate action to protect my professional reputation and I stand by the decisions I have made.”
Ferraro said he has “successfully moved forward” on goals he set a year ago to improve student achievement, improve public trust and confidence in the district and set a “realistic plan” to complete the high school construction project by undertaking a strategic plan for the district, developing a budgeting process that “allocates fiscal resources by instructional subject matter areas,” resuming construction on the high school, and starting conversion of the Midland Ave. building into board offices and classrooms.
Ferraro, who was slated for an evaluation by the BOE by April 2014, told The Observer that his provisional administrator’s certification runs through July 2014 and that now that he’s successfully completed a state-mandated “mentorship” under retired N.J. school administrator Michael Rush, a former Paterson school superintendent and current DOE operative, he expects the DOE to issue him “permanent certification.” He said he has “enjoyed the people I’ve worked with in the district and I’d like nothing better than to go back.”
But the BOE could opt to bring tenure charges against Ferraro if the two sides can’t work out some sort of settlement that meets with the approval of the Commissioner of Education.
Ferraro’s contract runs through June 30, 2016, at a salary of $167,500 a year. BOE general counsel Kenneth Lindenfelser said that current state school regulations “limit buyouts” of superintendents with contracts to payments of “three months’ salary for every year remaining on his or her contract and pro-rated for partial years.”
Stability hasn’t exactly been the byword for the district’s top leadership position in recent years. In the past five years, three different administrators have occupied the office: Frank Digesere, who returned to the district, from Bloomfield, in November 2009, left in 2011 with two years to go in his contract; Ron Bolandi served as interim superintendent for the next year and a half; and then Ferraro came aboard in December 2012.
By Ron Leir
Two mayors want more information on the “Bridgegate” scandal, three are satisfied with the governor’s explanation, and two have no public reaction.
That’s how municipal chief executives – all Democrats – in The Observer’s coverage area assess Gov. Chris Christie’s two-hour press conference last Thursday following published disclosures of e-mails by Christie staffers pointing to a political agenda behind the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s Washington Bridge lane closures in Fort Lee during four mornings in September 2013.
Christie fired his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, severed ties to former campaign manager Bill Stepien, and apologized to Fort Lee residents for the massive local traffic delays stemming from the P.A. blocking access lanes to the GWB.
Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, two Christie appointees at the P.A. whose e-mails were among those cited as evidence that the closures were orchestrated as political retribution for Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s failure to endorse Christie for re-election, resigned last month. Baroni had said the lane closures were part of a traffic study.
In a two-hour press conference, Christie said he was “blindsided” by people he trusted as part of his staff. Democratic state lawmakers are pursuing an investigation and federal prosecutors are contemplating one.
Meanwhile, Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos says he’s not buying the governor’s story. “There was an abuse of power and the explanations given so far are not convincing. Why is Wildstein pleading the Fifth and why were many of the e-mails [released by the P.A. in response to state subpoenas] redacted? In some case, you don’t always know who received these e-mails.”
“In order to get this behind us, everything has to be released and reviewed and then one can have confidence in explanations given. I would hope the governor would turn over all information, including e-mails — unredacted – so we can get this behind us. By doing this piecemeal, having a media frenzy, it doesn’t serve our state well; it’s continuing a disservice to the residents of New Jersey and gets in the way of government in New Jersey.”
Santos, a who backed State Sen. Barbara Buono, the party’s nominee for governor, said he was asked to endorse Christie for re-election – twice – in January 2013. “The request came in by phone from an aide to the governor. They were very polite.” He said he declined.
Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough, the first Democratic mayor in the state to announce his support of Christie in January 2013 – and one of three Democratic Hudson County mayors (Michael Gonnelli of Secaucus and Brian Stack of Union City), along with Belleville Mayor Ray Kimble, to do so – said he took the governor’s apology at face value.
“He’s always been supportive of local communities,” McDonough said last week. “He wouldn’t knowingly harm any community.”
An example of that support came in March 2012, when the P.A. board of commissioners voted to allocate more than $250 million for a long-awaited upgrade of the Harrison PATH station and, a few months later, Christie came to the town to mark the occasion.
“My new best friend invited me down to Trenton as his guest for his State of the State Address on Tuesday [Jan. 14],” the mayor noted.
Nutley Mayor Alphonse Petracco said he was inclined to take the governor at his word. “I know Gov. Christie, from working with him the past five years, and it’s no surprise to me he would take accountability for one of his staff members. If you’re in charge, that’s big of him. I’m impressed that he holds himself accountable and takes this one on the chin.”
Similarly impressed was Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso, who said the governor “took full responsibility, with no excuses, answering all questions from the reporters.” Giangeruso said he met with Christie staffers seeking an endorsement “but they never pursued it.”
North Arlington Mayor Peter Massa suggested that Christie missed the boat on an approach he could have taken to show good faith and to get the truth.
“As soon as the issue surfaced as a serious policy issue, [Christie] should have directed the state Inspector General’s Office to conduct an investigation, jointly with the Port Authority’s own Inspector General’s Office,” said Massa, a former law enforcement officer.
Those investigators, Massa said, would be positioned to follow the trail leading, ultimately, to the origin of the lane closures. They could have established, Massa said, that “once an order is issued from someone, what was the role of the P.A. police commander in allowing cones to be set up, where was the documentation establishing the supposed need for a traffic study, and so forth. A great deal of evidence could be obtained by such an appropriate investigation and the governor would have headed off a lot of problems for himself.”
Did he find Christie’s explanation credible? “I would not say the governor isn’t being truthful,” Massa said, “but I think an investigation should go forward. The public has a right to know in issues like this and public authorities have to be accountable. … It would be sad if this was a political payback because even if the governor didn’t initiate it, still, it points up the character of people working in a high level of government – which is another reason why there is a level of distrust in government today.”
Massa, who backed Buono’s gubernatorial bid, said he “had a brief conversation about a year ago with a former member of [Christie’s] staff [seeking an endorsement] but it didn’t go anywhere.”
East Newark Mayor Joseph Smith and Kimble declined comment.
By Karen Zautyk
Last May, The Observer carried a story about two “alleged leeches” who had been driving around New Jersey supposedly collecting money for 9/11 charities.
We can now remove the “alleged.”
Last week, leeches Mark Niemczyk, 67, of Tinton Falls, and Thomas Scalgione, 41, of Manahawkin, pleaded guilty to theft charges connected with the scam they had perpetrated upon countless trusting donors.
Niemczyk and Scalgione had travelled the state in a red pickup truck bearing images of the Twin Towers and the names of the police officers and firefighters who had died at Ground Zero. It was a noble-looking vehicle, which your correspondent saw at least once in this area.
From June 1, 2010, through July 4, 2012, the con men drove the truck to 9/11-related events throughout N.J.– and sometimes out of state–selling T-shirts and collecting contributions that supposedly would go to 9/11 charities and victims’ families. Instead, all the money went into their own pockets.
The two were indicted last May following an investigation by the N.J. Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
On Jan. 6, before Superior Court Judge James Blaney in Ocean County, Niemczyk pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception; Scalgione, to third-degree conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
According to the announcement by Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman, under their plea agreements, the state will recommend that Niemczyk be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation, and that Scalgione be sentenced to a term of probation.
Hoffman’s office noted that Scalgione was already on probation in connection with unrelated charges in Monmouth County and his guilty plea means he will face jail time for violating probation.
Under a consent judgment in a civil action filed by the Division of Consumer Affairs, they must also pay more than $120,000, “representing disgorgement of donations and payment of civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and investigative costs.”
Last week’s guilty pleas “ensure that Niemczyk and Scalgione will carry criminal records for the rest of their lives that will bear witness to their greed and deviousness,” Hoffman said.
EAST NEWARK –
Seventeen days after a bandit robbed a Kearny bank, another bank just a block away in East Newark was also held up, authorities said.
No one was hurt in either incident.
East Newark Police Chief Anthony Monteiro said a man walked into the Valley National Bank, at Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. North and Sherman Ave., at 9:08 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 10, and handed a teller a handprinted note reading: “I have a gun. Don’t be stupid. Give me a stack of $50s and $100s.”
After the teller handed over a total of $1,100, the robber left the bank and was last seen walking in the direction of Kearny, Monteiro said.
No weapon was shown during the robbery, the chief said.
Once the man was out of the bank, a bank employee hit a “panic” alarm activated at borough police headquarters and officers responded to the scene, Monteiro said.
There were no customers in the bank and only two tellers working at the time of the robbery, he said.
Details about the robber’s appearance were scant. Witnesses told police he was a dark-complexioned Hispanic, wearing a black jacket and jeans and scarf, according to Monteiro, who added that investigators were reviewing images of the suspect captured by the bank’s surveillance cameras in hopes of gaining more clues.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, a man walked into the Chase Bank, at Kearny and Johnston Aves., handed a teller a printed note with wording similar to the note used in the East Newark case and got away with cash reportedly totaling $3,000, according to police.
Initially, Monteiro said, “we thought there was a good chance it was same individual as the one in East Newark but our individual is Hispanic and the other guy is described as a white, blue-eyed male.”
Meanwhile, Monteiro said that police are still searching for the two suspects who held up and robbed three Newark women of their purses and cellular phones in the parking lot of the Pic-Nic eatery on Grant Ave. on the night of Dec. 12.
– Ron Leir
Two Kearny officers — one off duty, one on — combined forces to take down a suspect who was allegedly attempting a daylight break-in at a North Arlington home, Kearny Police Chief John Dowie reported.
On Jan. 2, at 3 p.m., off-duty Det. Mike Andrews was on his way to work when he noticed a man and a woman, reportedly “very well known” to Kearny police, in a black Jeep near River Road and Hedden Terrace in North Arlington. The detective kept them under surveillance since “we have had several burglaries on both sides of the Belleville Pike,” Dowie said.
When the man — identified as Sean Smith, 38, of Montville — left the car, Andrews notified on-duty Sgt. John Manley, whom he knew to be familiar with the geography and homes in the neighborhood. Provided with a description of Smith and his last known direction of travel — eastbound on Hedden — Manley canvassed the area on foot. Police said he spotted the suspect on the rear deck of a Hedden Terrace home, trying to pry open sliding glass doors with a screwdriver.
Manley, who was in plainclothes, managed to close the distance between himself and Smith, but when he identified himself as a police officer, the suspect took flight. A foot chase ensued, but the sergeant was able to apprehend Smith in an adjacent yard, forcing him to the ground, police said.
Andrews, who had heard shouting, ran to the scene and, with Manley, cuffed the suspect despite his resistance, police said.
North Arlington police were notified, took Smith to their headquarters and booked him on charges of burglary and resisting arrest.
Meanwhile, Kearny Officer Melinda Esposito located Smith’s female companion, Vanessa Shaarawy, 28, of Kearny, sitting in the Jeep near the Pike. Shaarawy was charged by North Arlington with conspiracy to commit burglary. She was booked and released with a summons, but Smith was sent to the Bergen County Jail.
Commenting on Andrews’ alertness and initiative, Dowie said, “Even when we’re off duty, we’re never off watch.”
Other recent reports from the KPD blotter included the following:
At 6 p.m., near Grant and Johnston Aves., the Vice Squad conducted a field interview with 42-year-old Robert Simone of Kearny regarding a suspicious transaction they had reportedly witnessed. He was allegedly found to have on his person several small bags of crack cocaine and was charged with possession of the drug and drug paraphernalia.
Officer Richard Carbone was on foot patrol at Kearny Ave. and Afton St. at 9:15 p.m. when he was passed by another pedestrian from whom seemed to be wafting the strong scent of marijuana. When Carbone stopped the man and informed him of his olfactory suspicions, Darren Alvarez, 26, of Kearny, reportedly admitted to having recently ingested the drug and produced from his jacket a plastic bag containing suspected pot, police said. He was charged with possession of the drug and of paraphernalia.
Officers Ben Wuelfing and Christian Medina, responding to a 12:30 a.m. noise complaint, arrived at a Belgrove Drive apartment where their ears were assaulted by a blaring TV or radio. When the occupant answered the door and was asked for identification, a warrant check revealed that he was wanted by Belleville, police said. Felix Bonet, 30, of Kearny, was arrested on the open warrant and Belleville PD was notified. He was also issued a summons for violating the town ordinance prohibiting excessive noise.
Officer Rene Crawford responded to a noon report of an overnight burglary at a pharmacy on the 400 block of Kearny Ave. and found that a bathroom window had been kicked in. The thief had fled with cigarettes and $100 in cash. Det. Bryant Obie is conducting the follow-up investigation.
After receiving a report of a suspicious individual, Officer Steve Hroncich found a man fitting the description at Stewart and Kearny Aves. at 12:30 p.m.
Carl Johnson, 35, of River Vale, turned out to be wanted by Kearny, Newark and Hackensack, police said, and was arrested on those warrants.
At 2:30 p.m., Sgt. Robert Maguire and Det. Marc Mc- Cafferey went to the Kearny home of 22-year-old Justin Paz and arrested him on an outstanding drug-related warrant from the Kearny Municipal Court.
Officer Jay Balogh responded to Walmart at 11:45 p.m. and arrested store employee Jose Zerbian, 22, of Belleville, on theft charges. Police said the suspect had been caught on store video on two occasions: once, stealing food, and once taking a $600 Xbox.
At 3:30 p.m., Officer Jose Resua responded to a report of a drunken and/or deranged man exhibiting bizarre behavior at a restaurant at Kearny Ave. and Dukes St. When asked to leave the premises, the man had allegedly pulled a knife, pointed it at an employee and then fled. The suspect was spotted and detained on Devon St. by Capt. John Gouveia and Sgt. Peter Gleason. The victim, brought to the area by Resua, ID’d the man, police said, and 54-year-old Kearny resident Kenneth Martin was charged with disorderly conduct, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, and tampering with evidence (discarding the knife as he fled). The knife was later found by Resua on Dukes St.
At 11 p.m., with the temperature hovering around 8 degrees (not counting the wind-chill), the Vice Squad took into custody a Newark woman who apparently was hoping to provide a little heat in town. Arrested at Stewart and Kearny Aves., as part of an ongoing prostitution investigation, was 21-year-old Chantal Carmichael, who reportedly had negotiated a $450 price for a night’s companionship.
Det. Ramon Lopez, on patrol at 9 p.m. at Midland Ave. and Forest St., observed a couple of double-parked vehicles, saw a man enter one – a van – drive way, but then park nearby. Lopez was told by a concerned citizen that the van driver may have been involved in damaging the other vehicle, and the officer discovered that one of its tires had been slashed and was flat, police said.
Lopez confronted the van driver, Dennis Fonseca, 45, of North Arlington, and reportedly detected a strong odor of alcohol. After backup Officer Jay Ward conducted field sobriety tests, Fonseca was charged with DWI, and during a search incident to arrest, a razor knife was found in his pocket, police said.
Fonseca was additionally charged with criminal mischief, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes.
Police said the tire-slashing was apparently linked to a prior road-rage incident.
Even before Gov. Chris Christie’s lengthy pity-party press conference last week on the George Washington Bridge “traffic study,” I was thinking of one of the famous lines from “Casablanca.” The one where Capt. Renault (Claude Rains), the prefect of police, having himself won a bundle at roulette at Rick’s Cafe, orders the place to be shuttered.
Rick (Humphrey Bogart): “How can you close me up? On what grounds?”
Renault: “I’m shocked — shocked! — to find that gambling is going on in here!”
The Christie version turned out to be more verbose but similar: “I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here . . . “
Stunned, he is. Stunned!
Thanks, gov, for living up to the script.
Later, I realized that many of the lines from “Casablanca” could, with little revision, be applied to the ongoing Bridgegate drama. Even the classic opening voiceover is adaptable. So, with apologies to screenwriters Julius Epstein, Philip Epstein and Howard Koch:
“With the coming of September 2013, many eyes in imprisoned New Jersey turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the George Washington Bridge. It was the great embarkation point.
“But, not everybody could get to the bridge directly, and so a tortuous, roundabout refugee trail sprang up – Main St. to Lemoine Ave…. across Fletcher Ave. to Hudson Terrace… The fortunate eventually make their way to Manhattan. But the others wait in Fort Lee… and wait… and wait… and wait.” “
It’s still the same old story/ A fight for votes and glory…”
“Who are you really, Bridget, and what were you before? What did you do and what did you think, huh?”
“We said no questions.”
“You said I was to do the thinking for both of us, Bridget. Well, I’ve done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing. You’re getting under that bus with Bill Stepien where you belong.”
“Of all the governor’s offices in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
“Let’s see, the last time we met…”
“Was at the GWB.”
“How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day the Port Authority marched in.”
“I remember every detail. You wore blue, the cones were orange.”
“What in heaven’s name brought you to Fort Lee?’
“Faster traffic. I came to Fort Lee to beat the traffic.”
“The traffic? The traffic is backed up to Ohio.”
“I was misinformed.”
“I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people (Kelly, Stepien, Wildstein) don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”
Media pundits: “You know how you sound, Gov. Christie? Like a man who’s trying to convince himself of something he doesn’t believe in his heart.”
“We’ll always have Trenton.”
And, of course: “Round up the usual suspects.” As for advice to the governor: If anything you said last week proves to be less than completely truthful, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.
To the editor,
I would like to thank all of the senior citizens and friends of the North Arlington Senior Activity Center for their generous gift donations collected at our center for The Tomorrow’s Children Institute at Hackensack University Medical Center. Our center tree was surrounded by the many gifts given with much love and wrapped with great care by our staff members Faryn Cooke, Louise Malinchak and Yok-Siong Wong.
As always, I am extremely proud of our community and all of our amazing seniors for their care and concern for others. I love them all and am so grateful to be part of their lives at the North Arlington Senior Activity Center.
North Arlington Senior Activity Center
PANTRY THANKS DONORS
To the editor:
As a member of the Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst and chairperson of the Lyndhurst Food Pantry, along with my Co-Chairperson Judy Candella, we would like to thank the many residents, clubs and businesses who have donated to the Lyndhurst Food Pantry during the year. The generosity was overwhelming, especially during the holidays, which made a difference to many of the less fortunate residents of our town. We are proud to live in a community who cares. Again, thank you to all.
Women’s Club of Lyndhurst,
Co-Chairperson of the Lyndhurst Food Pantry
By Ron Leir
Karl Petry is in touch with things beyond the world as we know it. Over the years, using his psychic ability, the Kearny resident has worked with police to investigate crimes or to locate missing persons or property and has investigated hauntings of all kinds.
He, like the famous Houdini, has an entry in Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s “Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits,” rated as the most widely read reference book on the paranormal.
And now, he’s to be the focus of a film based on his life and some of the “case files” Petry has developed.
Executive producer Pamela Kramer, a casting director/producer of paranormal/sci-fi projects, and co-producer Michael Giordano are teaming to make a proposed TV series called “Absent Witness,” which they’re pitching as “a paranormal drama based on the true events experienced by Petry.”
“We’re still in the pre-production stages,” Kramer said, “getting the pilot together. We’ve shot and edited a ‘sizzle’ reel, a longer version of a typical movie trailer.”
That reel – which conveys information about Petry’s life through a series of brief flashbacks – is designed to serve as a “pitch” to a possible distributor, she said.
The concept for the proposed series – for which six episodes have been written thus far – is “not a reality show,” Kramer said. “Think of ‘Law & Order’ – it’s acting out real-life events in Karl’s personal life and how he dealt with his abilities. … The goal is to get people to understand the paranormal better. We’ll show special effects but we want to keep it as pure as possible.”
Actor Michael Chmiel, who was seen in the role of William Henry Vanderbilt on the History Channel series, “The Men Who Built America,” in 2012, is playing Petry in the paranormal production.
The Petry product had its roots in a horror film class which Kramer has taught in New York since the early 1990s. About a year and a half ago, Kramer invited Petry to be a guest panelist for a Q & A session at one of those classes.
As it happens, Kramer herself has an affinity for other-worldly phenomena. As a young girl, she recalls beginning to sense “auras,” which Wikipedia describes as “a perceptual disturbance … [which] often manifests itself as the perception of a strange light, an unpleasant smell or confusing thoughts or experiences.”
“I saw visions of people who’ve ‘crossed over,’ ’’ she said.
Later, working through yoga and meditation, Kramer evolved as an empath – able to discern another person’s thoughts about the past, present or future.
“Over time, we got to know each other, Karl got to know of my skills,” Kramer said. “Karl’s abilities are somewhat different from mine but pretty intense. We kind of cross over in the middle.”
Having found the stories Karl outlined to her class “pretty compelling,” Kramer seized on the idea of translating those stories to film and brought in, as a production partner, Michael Giordano, who, Kramer notes, is a Tarot card reader but “not a classic psychic.”
To portray Petry, the team called on Michael Chmiel, who, while not possessing any psychic powers himself, said he knows a lot of people who do have those attributes so the terrain wasn’t entirely unfamiliar to him.
Chmiel, who had a featured role last year in an Investigation Discovery TV series, “Bloody Marys,” spent several days with Petry in Kearny so he could study his subject upclose and, in some ways, he saw a mirror image.
“Karl likes jeans and black dress shirts, which is exactly me. He’s soft spoken and mellow, which is kind of like how I am in life,” Chmiel said.
They even share the same taste in music. “Fifties, sixties oldies – the kind of stuff I grew up with, listening to those song with my father – both of us have an affection, an affinity for this type of music,” the actor said.
Chmiel, a native of Southern California who has lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota and earned an MFA at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, before moving to the East Coast, has enjoyed working on the project. “It’s been great getting to know Karl in different lights, his personality and expression.”
As for Petry, he feels Kramer has met a great casting choice, adding that, “On the set, I’d see [Chmiel] walk like me, talk like me – he’s a better Karl than me.”
Petry, who is in his 60s, has always known of his special abilities but kept them under wraps until some 20 years ago. Since then, he’s done what he characterized as “high profile” cases involving murders, people or money that have gone missing, and ghost investigations – all of which he’s done for free. He supports himself by doing forensic video-taping and photography.
But his psychic skills are well-documented and have drawn the attention of other entertainment industry representatives, Petry said. “I previously turned down a proposal for a reality show because I don’t like that type of presentation. And people will think it’s phony.”
A reality type show, Petry said, gives viewers the misleading impression that a case can be solved in a few minutes. “But it doesn’t happen overnight or on demand – one case I worked on in Kearny took eight months.”
Petry, a former member of the U.S. Air Force who grew up in Newark’s Ironbound section, has produced some of his own films, some of which have paranormal themes, such as “The Ironbound Vampire” (1999), “The Ghosts of Angela Webb” (2004) and “The Larksville Ghost” (2005).
Now, he’s looking forward to a happy conclusion for “Absent Witness,” also the name of a book that Petry is in the process of writing. “We’re very confident this TV series is going through,” he added.