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State: Distracted-driving incidents total 1.4 million

By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent The statistics are mind-boggling. From 2004 to 2013, 1.4 million motor vehicle accidents in New Jersey were linked to distracted driving. Repeat: 1.4 million. In New Jersey alone. From 2003 to 2012, more than 1,600 people were killed […]

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Moving day is coming

By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Even Steven Shalom, who has run Discount City in Kearny since 1992, concedes that sprucing up the Passaic Ave. mall with BJ’s Wholesale Club as a new anchor store, will be “a good […]

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Going out in style with Blue Ribbon

By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent HARRISON – You could say Ron Shields’ career as a Harrison educator was preordained, given that both his parents taught at Harrison High School. His dad, Fred Shields, a 1936 soccer Olympian, was a physical […]

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For the sake of the Passaic

By Karen  Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY– Plastic lawn chairs, propane tanks, wrought iron railings, pipes, dead shrubbery, pieces of street signs, and innumerable plastic shopping bags and plastic bottles — but no groundhogs. The groundhogs who burrow along the banks […]

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Nothing stops her

By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent Harrison’s Blanca Alvarez was sick with the flu the morning of the big race. “But I decided to run anyway,” she said. Still, Alvarez had something to brag about: Her time of 1:08:44.96 was good […]

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Unsung heroes in our midst

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent HARRISON – The Harrison American Legion Post 282 salutes Joseph Moscinski as 2013 Firefighter of the Year and Corey Karas as Police Officer of the Year on April 26 at 4 p.m. at the […]

 

Heavy snow causes Devon St. roof collapse

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By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY –

It was only a matter of time. And of snow, and ice, and weight.

Last week, it seemed like every local news broadcast included yet another story about a roof collapsing somewhere in New Jersey. Sure enough, on Thursday night, it was Kearny’s turn.

The official calculation of snow depth in Kearny from the storm that began late Wednesday and continued into Thursday was 15 inches.

That near-record amount was, literally, on top of all the accumulated snow and glacial ice still remaining from this exceptionally brutal winter’s previous storms. Read more »

Cop hurt in Kearny Ave. mele; 4 arrested

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By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY–

Four people were arrested and four police officers were assaulted — one of them kicked in the head by an arrestee — in an early-morning melee Feb. 8 at the Quick Chek store on Kearny Ave., authorities reported.

The officers, outnumbered and surrounded by an unruly crowd who refused to disperse and physically interfered with the arrests, were forced at several points to employ OC spray, KPD Chief John Dowie said.

The saga had begun a short time earlier near Kearny Ave. and Afton St., where two females reported to Officer Leroy Bibbs that they had been harassed and assaulted, and their car damaged, by several people who had then headed south on the avenue. Read more »

Thoughts & Views: Moments of triumph

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Among the happy events associated with Mayor Raymond McDonough and his beloved Harrison in recent years are, clockwise, from top right, a press conference last summer, attended by Gov. Chris Christie, marking a ceremonial groundbreaking for the long awaited Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s upgrade of its Harrison PATH station which figures to coincide with development of the town’s waterfront redevelopment area; Mayor McDonough at his home away from home, Harrison Town Hall, where, even as, technically, a part-time employee, he logged full-time hours and beyond; the mayor with the man he called “my new best friend,” Gov. Chris Christie, when McDonough became the first Democratic mayor in the state to endorse the governor for re-election last year as the pair exchanged greetings at Tops Diner in neighboring East Newark; and McDonough taking the oath of office as he was sworn in for his newest four-year term as the town’s chief executive by his lifelong friend, then-Municipal Court Judge John Johnson.

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Is Clark Thread project unspooling?

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

EAST NEWARK –

Since its courtship and conditional designation in May 2007 as the redeveloper of the old Clark Thread mill property, East Newark Towne Center has seemingly played the part of the reluctant bride.

Instead of uniting on a common path forward, the Long Island City, N.Y., real estate firm, headed by Efstathios Valiotis, and the borough have drifted further apart since the parties entered into negotiations on a redevelopment agreement.

Bad feelings between the two sides intensified after the borough hauled ENTC into Municipal Court over alleged fire and property code violations at the 12.5- acre site at 900 Passaic Ave. culminating in ENTC agreeing to pay a $100,000 fine.

But now, it looks as if the fragile partnership could be severed altogether, with ENTC having filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the borough, on Jan. 29, in Hudson County Superior Court.

The complaint, brought by attorney Thomas Scrivo of the Newark law firm McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, alleges that the borough’s representatives – and “in particular Mayor Joseph Smith” – engaged in “bad faith” negotiations, with a view toward scuttling the deal.

Smith says the borough has simply been trying to protect the interests of its taxpayers by getting the best deal possible without being potentially overwhelmed in providing municipal and educational services for the hundreds of new residents who would live at the redeveloped site.

ENTC’s complaint alleges that in April 2009, a month after it submitted a plan calling for construction of 800 residential units “at about 1,000 square feet per unit” subject to a proposed PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreement, the borough “unreasonably, arbitrarily and capriciously required further changes to the redevelopment agreement.”

Further, the complaint claims, the borough “has engaged in a pattern of delay and bad faith to thwart all development and financially enrich its professionals” whom ENTC agreed to pay for accounting, planning and engineering services sought by the borough in connection with the negotiations on the redevelopment plan.

After paying “in excess of $500,000” to those professionals, the borough asked for an additional $140,000 in April 2009, and, on top of that, the complaint adds, the borough suddenly asked ENTC to build a school for more than 300 children on the project site – a proposal it later amended by asking the company to adapt one of the existing buildings on the site as a school annex.

In November 2010, the complaint says, the borough proposed a “lesser density” among the number of residential units planned.

After ENTC agreed to set up an “interim escrow account” in April 2011 for the deposit of funds for professional services while continuing negotiations about disputed billings for those services through mid- June 2011, the complaint says that the borough in October 2013 billed the company for $70,000 “to replenish the escrow account.”

In a narrative it enclosed with its response to the borough’s Request for Proposals in March 2007, ENTC outlined a “project vision” that called for two options involving demolition of some of the existing buildings and conversion of others for residential development, one assuming a residential component of 613 apartments and the other, 767 apartments, both in a combination of one- and two-bedrooms, each one generating more than 1,000 individual residents, including 114 to 127 school-age children.

Also proposed were scenarios for varying amounts of retail space fronting the project’s Central Ave. side and varying amounts of office space along Grant Ave., along with a community center and green space courtyard. There would be a combination of deck and surface parking for about 1,300 vehicles.

Total development cost was pegged at between $190 million and $198 million, depending on which development scenario was chosen. Under a PILOT plan, the borough would receive between $1.7 million and $1.95 million in annual in lieu of tax revenues.

ENTC projected that the project would account for 700 construction jobs and 135 permanent jobs.

Out of the East comes … Country!

 

Photos courtesy JD Klossek Bob Rogal (top) and JD Klossek team in Brick City Cowboys gig.

Photos courtesy
JD Klossek Bob Rogal (top) and JD Klossek team in Brick City Cowboys gig.

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By Anthony J. Machcinski

Observer Correspondent

About a year and a half ago, JD Klossek started the band Brick City Cowboys, with hopes of creating a complete CD and beginning a career as a country singer.

Midway through that first year, however, other priorities emerged, making Klossek change his thoughts about the first CD.

“We had plans to finish the other three songs and do a complete CD, but before you know it, a friend of mine and I started hearing about people being evicted in Jersey City,” Klossek said.

Looking to help out those people, Klossek hoped to release an LP – – a seven-song album – with most of the profits going to charity.

“I got in touch with other band members and explained it to them, asked them if we could just release an LP now,” Klossek recalled.

“They thought it was a good idea.” With the LP’s release, Klossek created the Bands Against Tragedy charity, an organization he hopes will grow with time.

“We’re hoping to raise $5,000 for a particular family with two children family in order to get them into a new apartment,” Klossek said, adding that the family has ben staying in multiple shelters for the homeless.

Klossek, a lifelong fan of country music, started the Brick City Cowboys to follow a childhood passion.

“I wrote some songs, sent some demos to Nashville and the folks over there were pretty helpful,” Klossek said. They set me up with some musicians and we got together and we clicked right away.”

Klossek, a Newark native who lived in both Kearny and North Arlington before settling in Jersey City, said that he couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t listening to country music.

“It was always around, it was always surrounding me,” Klossek said. “I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t there.”

Klossek said it was his family that inspired his career choice.

“It was a natural progression for me,” Klossek said. “There were a few musicians in my family. I never knew a time when I wasn’t interested in trying to write or play music. It’s something that I love.”

Klossek’s music choice comes from inspirations of older country legends such as Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Eddie Rabbit and Johnny Cash, and folk singers such as Bob Dylan.

However, Klossek acknowledges that his style differs markedly from many of today’s than that of many modern country artists, such as Keith Urban and Brad Paisley.

That difference is shown all throughout the Brick City Cowboy’s LP “A Cold Hard Winter.”

On the title track, “It’s Been a Long Cold Hard Winter,” the band’s slow tempo goes well with Klossek’s southern draw, a trait not commonly found with Newark natives.

The Cowboys also feature the song “She Don’t Want to Be Found,” which tells the tale of the singer’s lost love and how she “don’t want to be found.”

On the track, the band mixes Klossek’s southern twang with an uptempo – almost happy – style, not something often found in country music.

As for the future of his band, Klossek hopes to continue to grow and record more songs.

In addition, he would also like to be able to do more for Bands Against Tragedy.

“There just really is a huge need,” Klossek said. “Whether it’s a few concerts or helping out with rent or food drives. (The charity) can really go in so many directions.”

For more information on the Brick City Cowboys, visit their website at www.brickcitycowboys.com. Their first EP, “A Cold Hard Winter” can be found on iTunes or on Amazon for $7.99.

Klossek said that after a percentage of the profits goes to iTunes and Amazon, about $5 goes to the Bands Against Tragedy charity.

News from the Nutley Police blotter

Feb. 7

After responding to a report of a disturbance at a Copolla St. location, at 5:05 p.m., police arrested Jimmy Nunez, 20, of New Brunswick, for outstanding warrants from South Brunswick and Bridgewater. He was also charged with hindering apprehension and released after posting bail on the warrants.

Feb. 8

A motor vehicle stop at Washington and Pershing Aves., at 1:40 p.m., resulted in the arrest of the driver, Isaiah Suber, 23, of Paterson, for two active warrants from Newark and Hawthorne, and his passenger, Hassan Wright, 25, of Paterson, on a charge of possession of marijuana. Suber was also issued two motor vehicle violation notices. Both were released pending court dates.

Feb. 9

A report of criminal mischief brought police to a Nutley Ave. location at 10:04 a.m. where a resident told officers that someone broke a fence post cap on the west side of their home. The resident said that during the night, they heard a hammering noise and discovered two more fence post caps broken on the same fence. The three caps were valued at about $90.

Feb. 10

A case of apparent fraud was reported to police at 6:13 p.m. The victim told police they were contacted by Verizon Fios about an account opened in their name using their Social Security number and email account but was closed after it was discovered to be fraudulent.

Feb. 11

Belleville resident Vincent Buttacavoli, 54, was arrested, at 5:18 a.m., after a motor vehicle step on Kingsland St. for an active warrant from Montclair. Police said they also ticketed Buttacavoli on a charge of driving while suspended. He was released after posting bail on the warrant, pending court dates in Montclair and Nutley.

The victim of an apparent fraud provided a report to police at 10:54 a.m. The victim told police that while at their bank on Centre St., they were advised that someone had opened two accounts in their name in the amount of $50 each and showed a green card, Social Security card and date of birth bearing the victim’s name, along with the name of the victim’s employer and the victim’s address and two phone numbers. After the victim told the bank they hadn’t opened those accounts, the bank immediately closed the accounts, police said. A bank representative told the victim that the suspected scammer asked to withdraw funds from the victim’s other accounts and was told to use their debit card.

At 6:40 p.m., police arrested Nicholas Stefanelli, 44, of Clifton, on a charge of shoplifting at a Franklin Ave. business. He was released pending a court date.

Feb. 12

The victim of an apparent credit card fraud told police that someone made fraudulent charges totaling $700 to their debit card during the past month. The bank was alerted and canceled the account, police said.

Feb. 13

At 8:43 a.m., while at the scene of a motor vehicle crash, police said they learned that the driver, Michael Ix, 28, of Lyndhurst, had an active warrant from Bloomfield. He was arrested and also ticketed on a charge of driving while suspended. Ix was released after posting bail on the warrant pending court hearings.

– Ron Leir

Around Town

Belleville

Belleville UNICO sponsors a bus ride fundraiser to the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on Sunday, March 9. A pre-paid donation of $30 is requested ($35 at the door). A continental breakfast will be served before the trip at 8 a.m. at the Disabled American Veterans Post hall, 612 Mill St. The bus will leave at 8:50 a.m. Call 973-759-9259 to reserve seats (no last minute cancellations). Send checks, payable to IAOVC, to Gene Antonio, 436 Joralemon St., Belleville, N.J. 07109.

Bloomfield

Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., announces the following children’s programs for the February break: • Make a Catapult, for ages 5 and up, is offered on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. Children will make their own catapults and try them out.

• The Art of Eric Carle, for ages 4 and up, is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20, at 2 p.m. In this program, children will “dress for a mess.”

• “Despicable Me 2” will be screened for Movie Day on Friday, Feb. 21, at 2 p.m. Popcorn will be served.

Registration is not required for February Break programming.

In case of bad weather, call 973-566-6200 to check on possible cancelations.

The library has slated a bone marrow drive Feb. 24 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Come learn about what it means to be a registered bone marrow donor and swab your cheek at the donor recruitment drive, hosted on behalf of Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. People between the ages of 18 and 60 and in generally good health are eligible to be screened and join the worldwide registry.

Kearny

Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., invites children ages 4 and older to participate in an art class from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20. The library will provide the art materials. Registration is not necessary, but space is limited.

Fraternal Order of Eagles #2214, 166 Midland Ave., will sponsor a fish fry, hosted by Argyle Fish and Chips on Friday, Feb. 21, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Admission is $13.50 per person, payable at the door. Proceeds will benefit Wounded Warriors. Dinner includes fish and chips, clam chowder and soda. For more information, call 201-991-9865.

St. Stephen’s Seniors, Kearny, meet on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at noon. The Winter Party originally scheduled for Feb. 4 will be held at this meeting. There will be a board meeting at 10:30 a.m. Members are reminded that 2014 membership dues of $10 is now due. A trip to Atlantic City is set for Feb. 26.

Upcoming events include:

• St. Patrick’s Day celebration at LeGreci’s in Staten Island on March 11. Final payment is due at the Feb. 18 meeting.

• Trip to Norfolk, Va. for the Virginia International Tattoo, which includes marching band competition, bagpipers, Scottish dancers, etc., slated for April 24-27. • Anniversary party at San Carlo’s scheduled for May 2, from noon to 4 p.m.

• Trip to Sight & Sound in Lancaster, Pa., to see “Moses” planned for June 11-12.

• Cruise on the Norwegian Gem to Canada and New England for Sept. 13-20. Call 991- 4771 for further information.

For club information, call Tom at 201-998-8258, for tours, call Joan at 201-998-3578, or for A.C., call Peg at 201-998- 9443. For Sunshine (get well, sympathy cards), call Vicki at 201-991-8345.

Kearny Community Garden invites town residents to register to join the garden on Saturday, March 1, at the Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., from noon to 2 p.m. Family membership for the entire growing season is $20.

Gardeners can also sign up Sunday, March 2, or Friday or Saturday, March 7 and 8 at the Kearny Community Garden, located on River Road, just south of Midland Ave. from, noon to 2 p.m.

Gardeners are urged to reserve garden space and bales as early as possible.

Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., hosts the following:

• An art class for children ages 4 and older from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20. The library will provide the art materials. Registration is not necessary, but space is limited.

• A free screening of the family film “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” ( PG/ 95 minutes) at 4 p.m. downstairs at the Main Library on Friday, Feb. 21. Popcorn and light refreshments will be served.

For more information on library programs, call the library at 201-998-2666 or visit www.kearnylibrary.org.

Lyndhurst

Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Ave., offers a free stroke prevention forum hosted by Clara Maass Medical Center on Friday, Feb. 21, at 10 a.m. Participants receive free blood pressure screenings and a light breakfast. Call the Health Department at 201-804-2500 to reserve a seat.

The Lyndhurst Library Children’s Room, 355 Valley Brook Ave., hosts the following events:

• Mardi Gras craft – Children in grades pre-k to 3 are invited to create their own masquerade mask on Tuesday, March 4, from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Registration is required.

• Children in grades pre-k to 4 are invited to a screening of the movie “The Cat in the Hat Up and Away” on Wednesday, March 5, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., as part of Dr. Seuss’ birthday week observance. Registration is required.

To register for these programs, call the library at 201- 804-2478.

North Arlington

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Rd., announces:

• Origami Club for grades 4 and up is held on Friday, Feb. 28, at 3:30 p.m.

• A basic computer class for adults is offered on Feb. 24. Call 201-955-5640 for more information and to register. Registration is required.

• Friends of the Library meets on Friday, Feb. 21 at 9:30 a.m. in the Senior Center (behind the library). New members are welcome; check the website for more details about membership: northarlington.bccls.org or call 201-955-5640.

• Historical Fact and Fiction Book Club meets on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 10 a.m. New members are welcome.

• Friends of the Library Book Club meets on Friday, Feb. 28, at 10 a.m. in the Senior Center (behind the library). New members welcome.

• The documentary “Alice’s Ordinary People” will be screened on Friday, Feb. 21, at 10:30 a.m., in the Senior Center. The film tells the story of Alice Tregay – an influential figure in the civil rights movement during the 1960s. The program will last at least one hour and 45 minutes.

Nutley

Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Dr., presents P.J. Story Time on Monday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. Children of all ages and their caregivers enjoy a cozy evening at the library. Make yourself comfortable, put on your pajamas and meet in the Children’s Room. Registration is not required.

For more information, call the library at 973-667-0405.

The Nutley Recreation Department’s Art Workshop for grades 1 to 6 resumes March 15 for an eight-week spring session. Classes will be held on Saturdays at the department, 44 Park Ave. The fee is $30. Class size is limited and applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Register online at nutleynj.my.gov-i.com/recreation. For information, call 973-284-4966 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Longtime Kearny track coach Cifelli retires

Photo courtesy the Cifelli family Kearny veteran cross country and track and field coach Jim Cifelli retired recently after four decades of coaching, athletic administration and academic administration.

Photo courtesy the Cifelli family
Kearny veteran cross country and track and field coach Jim Cifelli retired
recently after four decades of coaching, athletic administration and academic
administration.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It was the spring of 1961, when a young man from Kearny was bitten by the bug called track and field.

At that impressionable time in his life, the teenage Cifelli was in seventh grade.

“All my friends were athletes and all of them were runners,” Cifelli said. “So like all the other kids, I started running.”

Little did Cifelli know that it would begin a five-decade love affair with the sport.

“I don’t know what got me,” Cifelli said. “I just did it.”

Cifelli ran track throughout high school and helped Kearny win its first-ever NJSIAA state sectional championship in 1965.

“Once I got on the team, I loved the camaraderie with everyone,” Cifelli said. “I guess you could say I was a decent runner. I got a medal at the Penn Relays and I broke two minutes in the 800 (yard run).”

Upon graduation from Kearny High, Cifelli headed to Seton Hall and was part of the track team there.

“I learned a lot in college by watching others,” Cifelli said. “I majored in history and education.”

Cifelli was fortunate enough to do his student teaching in Kearny at Lincoln School.

“Tommy Krulik was the varsity coach,” Cifelli said. “I asked Krulik if I could be a volunteer coach.”

The next year, Cifelli was added an assistant coach. A year later, Krulik suddenly passed away.

“The kids, everyone, we were all devastated,” Cifelli said. “I was asked to take over as the interim coach.”

That was 1972. Cifelli was involved in Kearny cross country and track and field ever since, until recently, when Cifelli announced his retirement after more than 40 years.

“It’s a good time to say goodbye,” Cifelli said. “I won’t say that there’s sadness, but there never will be another Kearny. It’s tough to cut the umbilical cord after all this time. There’s always going to be a fire there. I keep in contact with everyone.”

Cifelli is moving on to become an assistant coach with the New York/New Jersey Track Club, based out of Rutgers University, under the legendary Frank Gagliano.

It ends a remarkable run that Cifelli enjoyed as a coach, athletic administrator and school administrator.

In Cifelli’s second year as head coach, the Kearny boys won the old Big 10 Conference championship, a league that included Belleville, Nutley and Bloomfield.

The team also qualified for the NJSIAA Group IV championships, a major step as to what would later occur.

In 1978, Joe Weber won the overall NJSIAA Meet of Champions in cross country. The team competed in the meet, with Dean Olawski as another top runner. In track, the Kearny sprint medley team won the state championship and posted the fastest time in the country. The distance medley had the third fastest time in the nation.

In 1983, the Kearny boys won the NJSIAA Group IV championship, a team that was headed by Frank Sroczynski and featured Tom Greene, Keith Donnelly, Tony Rego, Wayne Dunn, Mike Richardson and John Gouveia.

The year of 1987 was perhaps the best overall year in Kearny cross country history. The boys’ team, led by Art Almeida, won the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV and overall Group IV championships. Almeida finished fifth in the state overall.

The Kearny girls did one better. They won the NJSIAA Meet of Champions title, led by Liz Duarte, who finished fifth overall. Other members of the overall state championship team included Uloopi Desai, Tara McDermott, Jackie Salmon, Annabella Mateus and Kristen Rutzler.

“I would have to say that it was the best year,” Cifelli said. “It was a great year. The best part of it all was that I had Billy Clifton as an assistant coach. We did everything together. We were very close. Before that season, we sat down and talked about our chances. I thought the girls were still a year away. Did I know they were going to be that good? No, I really didn’t.”

That was when Kearny became respected for being a cross country and track and field power, both statewide and nationwide.

“I remember one quote I read in the paper,” Cifelli said. “It said ‘we [a rival team] about Kearny and we were afraid of them.’ ”

In 1988 and 1989, the Kearny girls won the NJSIAA North 1, Group IV state sectional cross country title. They won again three years straight, from 1990 through 1992, becoming one of the most dominant programs in the state.

Soon after, Cifelli stepped down to become the Kearny athletic director, a position he held for five years. He then became the vice-principal at Washington School and retired as the school’s principal in 2002.

In 2003, Bob Cressman stepped down as the cross country coach.

“I said, `What the hell, I’ll go back,’” Cifelli said.

He also served as a volunteer assistant with the indoor and outdoor track teams since returning to coaching in 2003.

Now, it’s the end of an era. “I’d have to say that the best thing, above winning championships, is that the kids I coached all became successful and good people in their own right,” Cifelli said. “You can talk about the team and the successes, but you can measure the great achievement by the multitude of kids who became good people, successful people. That’s what means the most to me.”

Cifelli is leaving with his head held high.

“We did what we wanted to do,” Cifelli said. “I’ll keep in contact with everyone.”

Cifelli thanked his parents, Leticia and Fred.

“I was a kid running in high school and my mother and father were at every meet,” Cifelli said. “They also volunteered to help. They had a huge influence on me.”

Cifelli also gave credit to his wife, Linda, a Kearny school teacher.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done without her support,” Cifelli said.

Cifelli was able to accomplish a lot during his 50-plus years of involvement in Kearny athletics. He definitely has left a huge mark and the shoes will be difficult to fill.

Lyndhurst’s Donovan earns NJ Lacrosse Hall of Fame berth

Photo courtesy of the Donovan family Lyndhurst resident Jim Donovan is proud to be among the newest members of the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Donovan is seen here with his wife Maria and sons Campbell and Aiden. Donovan was one of eight people inducted into the Hall of Fame last week.

Photo courtesy of the Donovan family
Lyndhurst resident Jim Donovan is proud to be among the newest members of the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Donovan is seen here with his wife Maria and sons Campbell and Aiden. Donovan was one of eight people inducted into the Hall of Fame last week.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

When Jim Donovan entered Columbia High School in Maplewood in the early 1980s, he knew he wanted to be involved in sports, but he didn’t know which one.

Incredibly, Donovan, now a long-time resident of Lyndhurst, chose lacrosse.

“The high school had a long tradition of lacrosse and I already had a lacrosse stick,” Donovan said.

That’s how a Hall of Fame career began.

As it turned out, Donovan became a member of the Columbia team that won the state championship in 1982. He then went on to play two years of lacrosse at Ashland College in Ohio, then returned to his native New Jersey to play lacrosse at Kean.

“I was an okay player,” Donovan said. “I played club lacrosse until I was 30.”

But Donovan’s biggest contribution to the sport came as a coach and administrator. He got involved as a coach in the youth lacrosse program in Maplewood in 1989.

“It was like a feeder program for the high school,” Donovan said.

Donovan remained involved in youth lacrosse in Maplewood until 2003, when his older son, Campbell, was born.

Donovan was also involved heavily in lacrosse, as the president of the North Jersey Junior Lacrosse League.

“Lacrosse programs were popping up all over the state,” Donovan said. “I was always being asked by a group of fathers here and there how to start a lacrosse league.”

When Donovan started his reign as president, there were 16 youth lacrosse teams in New Jersey.

“Now, we have 20,000 kids from third through eighth grade playing,” Donovan said. “It’s the largest boys’ youth lacrosse league in the country.”

Donovan also helped to get grants from the United States Lacrosse Association to run clinics in areas like Jersey City that are looking to introduce the sport to interested youngsters.

And last year, Donovan brought the sport of lacrosse to Lyndhurst for the first time.

“We have both boys and girls playing, learning lacrosse,” Donovan said. “We have about 40 boys and 30 girls. It’s primarily instructional for now.”

The Lyndhurst lacrosse program had one game against Florham Park and next year, there are plans for as many as five games.

Last week, Donovan’s tireless efforts were rewarded as he was one of eight inductees into the 17th annual New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Donovan received his award at the Mercer Oaks Country Club in Princeton Junction.

“It’s very humbling,” Donovan said. “It was pretty cool to get up in front of all these people that I looked up to admitted, like Mike Cleary, my assistant coach at Kean, Bob Kirko, who has been around the sport forever and Hawley Lawterman, who has been at Kean forever. He was the one who originally gave me the coaching bug.”

Mike Springer, who was a fine player at Don Bosco Prep and later played at Syracuse and professionally in Major League Lacrosse, and Craig Buckley of Fair Lawn were inducted along with Donovan.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Donovan said. “I was in awe. I saw the people in front of me and there were a lot of guys I played with, played against and watched play.”

Donovan received the phone call about his induction a few months ago.

“I have to admit that I was pretty shocked,” Donovan said. “The guy who called me is a good friend of mine and I didn’t believe what he told me. I thought it was a joke, because my friend is a good practical joker.”

But it was true. When the kids in Lyndhurst convene for lacrosse practice in a few months, they can say that they have a Hall of Fame coach.

Donovan has resided in Lyndhurst with his wife, Maria, and sons Campbell and Aidan since 2000. Aidan is an aspiring lacrosse player.

Donovan was asked about the growing popularity of lacrosse.

“I think it’s something new and different,” Donovan said. “We’re giving kids in Lyndhurst the opportunity to try something different. The beautiful thing about lacrosse is once you pick up the stick, you always want to have it with you. Then, you learn to catch and cradle the ball and you want to do it more. The sport keeps growing and growing. It’s very exciting.”

And it’s great for Lyndhurst to have such a decorated coach to teach the youngsters of the township the ins and outs of the sport of lacrosse.

NA’s Keefe wins NJSIAA state sectional bowling crown

Photo courtesy the Keefe family North Arlington junior bowler Tyler Keefe.

Photo courtesy the Keefe family
North Arlington junior bowler Tyler Keefe.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It’s safe to say that Tyler Keefe was born to be a successful bowler.

After all, his father, the late James Warger, was a member of the Pro Bowlers Tour before he died in 2006.

And Keefe’s grandparents have a storied history in the sport. In fact, Keefe’s grandmother, Linda Rose Keefe, is a member of the Bowling Hall of Fame. Keefe’s grandfather, David, is also a long-time successful bowler.

“They taught me everything I know,” said Tyler Keefe, a junior at North Arlington High School. “What can I say? Bowling was pretty much in my blood. My grandmother was the first woman in New Jersey to throw a 300 and get an 800 series. I was very blessed to have them in my family.”

Keefe started bowling at a very early age, but he was never one to take the ball twohanded and push it down the lanes.

“I was always one-handed, even with the plastic ball,” Keefe said. “And my grandfather made sure that there were absolutely no bumpers. I was always bowling on a regular basis. When I was 12 or 13, I realized I was getting pretty good and could be a bowler for a very long time.”

Keefe first enrolled as a freshman at Howell High School, where he participated in varsity bowling and put up an average of 190.

But then the family moved to North Arlington, where his grandparents already resided.

“I would always come up here during the summer and practiced bowling with my grandparents,” Keefe said.

He also made friends at the bowling lanes, especially Jordan Lopez, one of the top bowlers at nearby Lyndhurst and the defending Bergen County champion.

“We’re all very friendly and everyone cheers for each other,” Keefe said. “Jordan and I are good friends.”

Keefe had to sit out half of last season after transferring to North Arlington, bowling in only 10 games late in the season.

“I felt like I couldn’t do anything to help my team,” Keefe said. “It was very disappointing.”

So Keefe was determined to have a solid junior campaign. He worked on his game to improve.

“No one is perfect,” Keefe said. “You’re always working to get better. I practiced and practiced until I found a technique that was good for me. I had to work on my release. I have a very high backswing, so I lowered it a little. I was very aggressive with my backswing, so I smoothed it out a little.”

Keefe was certain that this was going to be his year.

“I told Jordan that I was going to have a good high school year,” Keefe said. “I worked hard to get what I could.” A few weeks ago, Keefe thought he had enough to win the Bergen County championship at Bowler City in Hackensack.

“I felt confident going in, but I left a big split in the last game,” Keefe said. “It was a big letdown. I was really upset.”

Keefe lost the county title by just five pins. A spare in that frame would have been enough to carry Keefe to the crown.

“I was so upset that I lost,” Keefe said. “It was just five pins. I wanted to come back and show everyone that I was the best bowler in the county.”

“Coming into the season, I knew that Tyler was one of the better bowlers in the county,” North Arlington coach Dan Farinola said. “I think he took something away from being second in the county tournament. He’s been a consistent bowler.”

A week after the county tournament, Keefe returned to Bowler City for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1A, Group I tournament. He rolled a 776 series with a high game of 279 to capture the gold medal at the state sectional.

For his efforts, Keefe has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

Farinola believes that Keefe has the perfect demeanor for a champion.

“He’s a great sportsman,” Farinola said. “He’s a happy kid who cheers for everyone. He gets along with everyone. I think that helps him relax as a bowler.”

Keefe is also a baseball player at North Arlington. He was a shortstop on the junior varsity last year and hopes to be a varsity player when the season begins in April.

Keefe maintained a 212 average this season. He keeps a similar average in the New Jersey Junior Bowling Tour, which he is a member and competes all year round.

He still is enjoying his state sectional crown.

“It’s a great feeling,” Keefe said. “There’s been no better feeling. To finish second in the county and then come back to win the sectional makes it all feel better.” Keefe said that he wasn’t competing against his friends. “It’s just me against the pins,” Keefe said. “That’s how I look at it. I love Bowler City. I always seem to find a line that fits me there. I can’t answer why. I guess I have a positive mindset.”

Keefe just recently finished seventh overall in the state last Wednesday.

He admits to having bowled a 299 game last year, but knows that a perfect game will eventually happen. After all, Keefe just turned 17 on Feb. 15.

“I’m actually very confident for next year,” Keefe said. “My confidence is very high right now. I’m very proud of myself.”