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Have you seen this alleged Nutley burglar?

NUTLEY — Police say they are investigating a diversion burglary that allegedly occurred on Fischer Ave. on Dec. 9. An elderly resident told police that a man banged on her front door at 3 p.m., Dec. 9, claiming there was […]

cold-case

Help sought in cold case

By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  Somebody knows something. Six years ago, an 87-year-old man was deliberately run down by a car in a South Kearny parking lot and robbed while he lay helpless on the ground. He died of his injuries the next day. Authorities ruled the death […]

100G for Arena tax case

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  HARRISON –  Now that the state Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the New York Red Bulls professional soccer team should pay taxes on the stadium and the land it occupies in Harrison, the town has hired an outside law firm to […]

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Staffing Skyway fire-watch

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY – For the first time, members of the Kearny Fire Department will have a shot at off-duty pay, much like their counterparts at the Police Department have enjoyed for many years, although there is a sunset provision for the privilege. This opportunity […]

Administrator_web

New No. 2 has seen it all

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  LYNDHURST –  The Lyndhurst Board of Education has revived the position of assistant superintendent, albeit on an interim basis, with the hiring of 50-year educator Jeffrey P. Feifer. Feifer, who came aboard Sept. 25, was appointed to serve “no more than 120 days,” to […]

 
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Rebirth o the Passaic River: Part 1

Photo by Jeff Bahr
The Passaic River plunges 70 feet at the Great Falls in Paterson. It’s one of New Jersey’s most treasured scenic wonders.

 

By Jeff Bahr

Observer Contributor

A river man comes forth In a recent opinion piece (Filth ebbs and flows on the Passaic River – Sept. 5) I talked about the Passaic River and its questionable health. As a layperson, I based my opinion purely on what my eyes told me – and what they were saying wasn’t good. Before signing off, I invited those with greater knowledge of the river and its problems to contact me. Surely someone would know why vast flotillas of floating garbage stage regular appearances on the river.

A few days after the article went to print, Chris Brooks of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission called The Observer with an intriguing offer. He said that he and his colleagues, whose job it is to keep the waterway clean, would be happy to take me for a ride on a trash skimming boat to show me the obstacles that they’re up against and the measures that they’ve taken in response to them. He also that I’d receive a better education about the river itself. Quicker than you can say “free boat ride” I signed on for the tour.

River of extremes

The Passaic River begins as a trickle at Mendham and flows for some 90 miles over a convoluted course before it finally empties into Newark Bay. Along its tortured, circuitous route, the surrounding scenery varies from pastoral to starkly urban. It’s almost as if there are two Passaic Rivers: the pretty one that flows mostly west of the Great Falls (a scenic wonder in its own right) and the less than beautiful (charitably speaking) industrial-rich stretch that flows south toward Newark.

Relative to this diversity the river is viewed as a gift by some and a downright curse by others. In fact, many homeowners who live in Lyndhurst, Wayne, Lincoln Park and other flood-prone communities detest the river and have openly cursed it. You can hardly blame them. Some of these people have been forced out of their homes for days and weeks on end when the river overflowed its banks. This was followed by a demoralizing return to waterlogged and mudcaked houses all but destroyed during the event. Since these homes are situated on a flood plain, critics argue that they should never have been built in the first place. Nevertheless, they were.

In other less floodprone areas the river can be idyllic in nature. A walk along its banks in these spots (particularly the river’s starting point in Mendham) can be restorative and tranquil. In a nutshell, the good, the bad and the ugly sum up the scenery and conditions to be found along the Passaic River.

On my cruise with the experts, I’d be traveling along the river’s lower reaches – an urban stretch chock-a-bloc with industrial remnants where the riverbed is known to contain a toxic stew of deadly chemicals in its sediment. This is the very same region where I’d spotted trash floating on the surface as far as the eye could see – a double-whammy of filth you might say.

A dirty shame

It’s important to understand just how daunting any sort of cleanup is on the Passaic River – and how very stacked the odds of restoring the waterway to a pristine state really are. In popular culture the Passaic River has become something of a laughing stock over the years. Comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello famously goofed on it in days past, and derogatory references about the river were often made on the hit TV show “The Sopranos.” It seems everyone has a joke to tell about the waterway, but the trouble is many of us are no longer laughing. When a river assaults the eyes, nose, and potential health of those who must co-exist with it, such jokes become polluted over time.

The river’s pollution problem traces to a pre-regulation industrial era that saw Paterson, Newark and other municipalities dumping their untreated waste into the river with impunity. At the time not much was known about the long-term environmental effects of a severely polluted waterway. But even if regulators were cognizant of these hazards, it’s doubtful that the practice would have been curtailed. America’s continued progress depended upon the swift production of goods, and the making of those goods depended on the use of chemicals to one extent or another. So what if some water was tainted during the production process? It was, after all, for the good of the country.

Well, yes and no. Sure, products along the Passaic River corridor were churned out at a rate that made other countries green with envy helping to turn the U.S.A. into an economic powerhouse, but people also lived beside what was fast becoming a toilet teeming with deadly chemicals. As you might imagine the river’s ecosystem has also been affected by the toxic stew. Species that once thrived along the river and its basin have largely disappeared. When and if they’ll stage a full comeback is anyone’s guess.

Next Week: Rebirth of the Passaic River Part 2 – The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission wages war on river filth.

Investors Bank grand re-opening brings with it a family day of events

Top picture: Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos offi cially opened Investors Bank’s new branch at 300 Bergen Avenue at Schuyler Avenue. Show n in the photo from left to right are Investors Regional Manager Sha ron Lingswiler, Kearny Assistant Manager Sonja Lopes, Mayor Santos, Chief Operating Officer Domenick Cama, Branch Manager Maria Hernandez, Customer Service Supervisor Ines Sena, and Regional Manager Betty Spiropoulos. Above: Kearny Branch Manager poses with children who took part in the festivities, including face painting.

 

By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent

KEARNY–

Though Investors Bank, located on Bergen Avenue, has had mini-celebrations and receptions dedicated to their most loyal costumers, all these events were merely warmups leading to the grandest of them all –their grand re-opening.

Investors’ grand re-opening celebration took place this past Saturday, Sept. 22. If one passed by the bank’s new Bergen Avenue building they would have seen families, children, friends and community members gathered in festivity.

Face painting, games, a photo booth, a disc jockey, as well as food and drinks, where all staples during the day event that lasted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“This is an event, a celebration of our grand re-opening,” branch manager Maria Hernandez said. “This is our big hoopla! We have face painting for the children, a photo booth, DJ, food…all to celebrate with the community but also to give them thanks for (being part) of (the bank’s) success.”

Despite the fact that Investors Bank’s new offices have been up and running for a few of weeks, the fun-filled day was considered as the grand re-opening of a bank that has been widely accepted and, subsequently, has become part of the surrounding community.

Those in attendance during the festivities had only positive reviews of the bank’s new offices and its grand re-opening party.

“This (carnival) is great,” Investors Bank client Lourdes Mendes said. “It’s great because there is a sense of community but at the same time it attracts new clients for them because (the event) and atmosphere will grab passersby’s attention, especially now that they have such a beautiful building.”

This latest office building is a great departure from its original location inside Seabra’s -a local supermarket specializing in Portuguese and Spanish food. The new location is across the parking lot from the supermarket, allowing clients to still have the convenience of the same locality as before.

Local ShopRite aims to fight hunger

By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent

LYNDHURST –

Lyndhurst’s ShopRite hosted “Help Bag Hunger” last Wednesday, Sept. 19. Everyone in surrounding communities were invited to bag groceries for an hour to bring awareness to the fight against hunger.

The event was part of Shop- Rite Partners in Caring and brought out Mayor Robert Giangeruso – helping to further heighten awareness about the cause.

The union between Shop- Rite and General Mills began in 1999 and has since raised a great deal of money to help local food pantries.

“Our goal is to raise enough money to help out as many people as possible who visit a local food pantry,” Lyndhurst’s ShopRite Manager Bill Petsch said. “ShopRite and General Mills partnered up in this effort. It’s goal to work together to help the less fortunate.”

ShopRite Partners in Caring began this past Aug. 26 and will run until Sept. 29. During this time, those who buy at ShopRite will be asked by a cashier, when buying their groceries, if they would like to donate a minimum of a dollar towards the cause.

While that is the main activity during this month, there are many other events scheduled to raise money for those in hunger.

“We’ve had hot dog stands, where customers can buy hotdogs and a drink,” Petsch said. “All proceeds will go directly (to the campaign).”

After the month-long fundraiser, ShopRite of Lyndhurst will donate their proceeds to a food bank – as will all other ShopRite stores participating.

Since Partners in Caring will officially end towards the end of this month, Petsch and the Lyndhurst ShopRite family plan to chose a local food bank by the early days of October. By the looks of the amount of donations, thus far, Petsch expects a great outcome.

“I believe this is our greatest year so far.”

He also stressed his gratitude towards Giangeruso and the participating costumers, who selflessly donate and support the cause.

“It is much appreciated,” Petsch added. “The generosity of our customers has been incredible.”

Enthusiasm for archery takes flight

Photos courtesy of Targeteers.
Campers line up for target practice.

 

Photos courtesy of Targeteers.
The ‘graduation’ photo.

 

By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent

With the release of the movies “Hunger Games,” “The Avengers” and “Brave” – all of them featuring archery of some sort – the sport has soared in popularity, especially among young folk.

You can add to the list of archers some 30 N.J. children, ages five to 18, who have now learned the necessary skills to gain proficiency with a bow and arrow. And their teacher is a 78-year-old Kearny man, Joe Caruso.

Caruso, who teaches at Targeteers Sporting Goods on Route 46 in Saddle Brook, last month conducted a four-day archery “camp” at the store. It was the second of the summer and was filled to capacity.

The program was launched four years ago, but, Caruso noted, because of the movies, “a lot of kids are becoming more involved.”

“The sport has exploded,” he said.

When we expressed surprise that a 5-year-old could take up archery, Caruso said, “As long as he or she can pull a bow, we can teach them.”

With the help of two twenty something archers, Kaitlyn and Damian, Caruso taught his students “everything from soup to nuts” about the sport. That includes how to construct their own equipment, how to make a bow string, how to put a bow together. But “the first thing they learn is safety,” he said, “because it is a weapon.”

For instance, they were taught that “you don’t knock an arrow (put one on the string) unless you’re shooting at a target and there is no one in front of you,” Caruso explained.

And if they decide to take up hunting, “you don’t take a shot unless you know you can harvest the animal.” He explained that hunting with bow-and-arrow is more humane than with a gun because the skilled archer never needs more than one shot and the animal dies “within a minute.”

Anti-hunting readers, be advised that the camp was target-shooting only. The youngsters were not out in the woods harvesting bunny rabbits, okay?

Caruso, however, has been hunting – always and only with bow-and-arrow – since 1960 and has been previously profiled in these pages for his extensive travels, taking game in 31 states and Canada. All said game hunted was food.

Caruso emphasizes “responsibility and ethics” in his classes, along with “discipline” and “good, clean competition.” The students, though, “compete against themselves,” not against each other.

“You know you’re teaching them properly,” Caruso said, “when the child is not interested in hitting the target; he or she is interested in how to shoot a bow properly. “If you concentrate on the target only, you can’t concentrate on the skills to make it happen.”

Those interested in furthering their skills can participate in a children’s league at Targeteers.

Footnote: Awhile back, we were driving past the archery range at the foot of Bergen Avenue in Kearny when we noticed a fairly large deer standing stock-still near the riverbank. It didn’t move, even though two men were shooting arrows at it.

“Golly,” we thought.

It took a bit of time to comprehend that the thing was a dummy deer (but less of a dummy than the person who thought it was real).

We have since found out that one of the archers was Caruso, who told us we could get a similar deer at Targeteers.

We are thinking of installing one on our patio.

Long may the Passaic flow … er, glow

The headline in Friday’s Star-Ledger read: “EPA to check for chemicals leaking into Passaic River.”

So, you might think, what else is new? Read it again. Note the present tense of the verb.

In addition to all the poisonous gunk dumped into the Passaic in decades past, the feds suspect that pollutants from a Newark industrial park may have “leached into the waterway in recent years.”

Poor Passaic.

This is a river for which I have great affection, having grown up along its banks in Down Neck, Newark.

We didn’t think about pollution then. Oh, we knew the Passaic was polluted; you could tell from the stench when the tide went out. We just didn’t think about it.

In those days, kids played unsupervised, and we played along the Passaic shoreline. It was especially fun at low tide.

We’d pick our way along the wet rocks, looking for curiosities that may have washed up. These included the occasional dead dog. Once, we also found an exotic animal: a dead pig. From whence it came was a mystery. Perhaps from Secaucus, where the pig farms were.

Using a tiny net, I fished for killies in the Passaic. I’d put them in a big jar of river water and take them home as pets. But when I transferred them into a fishbowl of clean water, they always died. Apparently, they thrived on pollution.

Chemical plants abounded in the neighborhood, too, but it was only a few years ago that I learned that one of them had been producing Agent Orange. Just a few blocks away from my home.

Throw in the asbestos that covered the pipes in our apartment complex’s laundry room, and I am surprised I have made it this far.

I am convinced that I am today a walking toxic wasteland.

But I look on the bright side. I am probably immune to most pollutants. And I never worry about electrical blackouts.

Because I glow in the dark.

— Karen Zautyk

Habitat for Humanity back in action in Kearny

Photo by Ron Leir
This building at 41 Kearny Ave. will be torn down to clear the way for four new apartments.

 

Photo by Ron Leir
Discussing plans for Kearny’s fi rst Habitat for Humanity project, from l., are Greg Strid, Hudson Habitat co-director; Georgeanna McDonough, Habitat board member; Tom Bruning, Habitat co-director; and Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle, Optimist Club president.

 

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

KEARNY –

Dormant for more than a year, Kearny’s first Habitat for Humanity- sponsored project is back on the drawing board. So said Tom Bruning and Greg Strid, newly named co-executive directors of Habitat’s Hudson County chapter, at a recent meeting of the local Optimist Club. Bruning, a Habitat board member for six years, and Strid, an accountant who handled marketing efforts for nonprofits before becoming a Habitat trustee last year, took over for former Hudson Habitat director Santos Murillo (and Kearny resident) after his resignation some months ago. Bruning said that Habitat is in the process of completing architectural drawings for the project site at 41 Kearny Ave., a onetime county TB clinic, for submission to the town’s construction department. The county has donated the property to Kearny. At the same time, he said, the nonprofit ecumenical Christian housing ministry is finalizing a contract for construction management with Dave Tillou of Design Enterprises, of Matawan. The contractor would tear down the existing structure and build a four-unit condominium residence. Bruning said the county’s Community Housing Development Organization is funding the $350,000 mortgage on the new building. “We own the mortgage but often, we’ll sell it to a bank and they’ll administer it and that gives us leverage to grow,” he said. Because such loans typically don’t cover the entire cost of construction, Habitat looks for donations to fill that gap. “This is the first project we’ve done in partnership with (the county entity) and they want us to get it built as soon as possible, using as much community support as possible,” Bruning said. Title to each apartment will pass to the occupants once the no-interest loan is paid off by the individual buyers. Prospective purchasers must meet certain conditions: Household income has to be less than 80 percent of the regional median family income level as fixed by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development; the apartment must serve as the occupants’ primary residence; the buyers must have a good credit rating; and the apartment buyers must provide volunteer service to Habitat during construction. Buyers will get finance training from Habitat counselors to help orient them to their fiscal responsibilities in paying off the loan. Habitat records show that the organization’s clients have a “much higher percentage than the general population in paying off (home mortgage) loans,” Bruning said. A lottery procedure will likely be used to help select the buyers who, under HUD regulations, will be limited to Hudson County residents. Habitat will be scheduling a series of community meetings in the next three to five months to outline more precise details about the project and to explain what resources the group will be seeking from community volunteers ages 18 and above. As Strid reminded the Optimist Club members, “Habitat is all about building partnerships, using available land and sweat equity” to rally folks around quality affordable housing projects. Through participation of the future owners in the construction process, “we bring dignity, pride and increased job prospects” to those individuals, he said. After a contractor puts a foundation in place, Habitat will be looking for volunteers to help with jobs like painting, spackling, light electrical work and planting flowers. Once permits are secured, the group hopes to begin demolition of the existing building in a couple of months and get much of the exterior work done before the onset of winter so the project can, hopefully, be completed by next spring. “If this is successful,” Bruning said, “we’re planning to build in additional places in Kearny and Hudson County.”

They want to be a ‘VOICE’ for veterans

Photo by Ron Leir
VOICE advocates, from l., are: Frobisher American Legion Post Cmdr. Anthony Capitti, Auxiliary member Keira Hauck, Auxiliary President Mary Alyn Fisher and Bill Sweeney, outreach coordinator.

 

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

KEARNY –

Taking a cue from the increasing numbers of American troops returning from Middle East battlefields as part of a phased U.S. military withdrawal, Kearny’s American Legion Frobisher Post 99 Auxiliary is taking the lead to develop a resource referral service for both active and retired veterans.

The campaign – modeled after an initiative of the Auxiliary’s national headquarters – is called Kearny VOICE (Veterans Outreach Information Community & Education) and it will have a kickoff pig roast fundraiser Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. at the post hall, 314 Belgrove Drive. Admission is $30.

Spearheading the effort is Auxiliary President, Mary Alyn Fisher, widow of a Vietnam War veteran.

Fisher said the mission is simple: “to be a service organization for (Kearny’s) military community. We want to provide consistent, aggressive service to our veterans and their families. … We see ourselves as a link to any resources that exist. We want to help these people to have a place to go …. We want to build a kind of safety net.”

To that end, Fisher said the organization intends to do a “mapping, an assessment of the community to learn what types of resources exist in town,” or, if not available locally, where veterans and their families can go to get help.

How many members of the armed forces will be their target audience and what types of issues they’ll be grappling with are questions for which, as yet, there are no firm answers, Fisher said.

But VOICE, working in partnership with such groups as the local American Legion members, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Marine Corps League, expects to get those answers, according to Fisher.

“We did have one meeting in July,” she said, and one outcome was VOICE’s launching point: creation of a veterans’ aid website which will have links to available veterans’ resources on the local, state and national levels.

“We’re going to publish a living, breathing document which our outreach coordinator is going to keep continually updated,” Fisher said. That site will also explain how and when people can reach that individual for assistance, she said.

Another VOICE objective, Fisher said, is getting someone local certified by the state as a veterans’ service officer whose job is to assist veterans and their dependents in applying for benefits or education, public health or job programs available to them.

VOICE has called on Bill Sweeney, a member of Post 99’s Sons of the American Legion, to accept that responsibility and he has agreed to take it on. Sweeney, who served with the Navy from 1976 to 1981 with the Military Sealift Command, has signed on to take the required training by the New Jersey Association of Veteran Service Officers Oct. 22-26 in Atlantic City.

“I’m going to provide outreach services to veterans who live in Kearny and, especially to those veterans returning from (overseas combat assignments),” Sweeney said. And Fisher said she plans to take the training also.

In the meantime, Sweeney said, Post 99 Cmdr. Anthony Capitti is reaching out to the N.J. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to try and get a count of those Kearny residents who’ve been deployed to the Middle East and elsewhere from the state’s National Guard and Reserve units, along with enlistees.

Fisher said VOICE has applied to AmeriCorps, the national service organization, for a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) aide who could help research veterans’ resources, update the website, get the latest information about veterans’ legislation out to appropriate community agencies, assemble a veterans’ data base and catalogue all relevant information.

As another weapon in its evolving arsenal of resources, Fisher said VOICE received a $6,000 mini-grant, supplemented by $250 from the Kearny Municipal Alliance, to offer free online training in suicide prevention through the QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Institute, based at the University of Washington.

“These are different techniques to persuade someone (such a veteran dealing with post traumatic stress) to get help, to refer someone to a resource if somebody does say, ‘yes, I’m thinking of suicide,’ ’’ Fisher explained.

“We’re thinking of offering this training to teachers, police officers, EMS personnel, public health workers, members of faith-based associations, as examples,” she said.

Fisher emphasized that she has no documented expectations that Kearny veterans would, in fact, be in need of such a service that that it’s being included as part of the VOICE playbook as a precaution.

“Our program is still in the developmental stage,” Fisher said, “and is subject to change, depending on how our community assessment goes.”

U.S. Army Col. (Ret.) Stephen Abel, director of Student Veteran Services for Rutgers University and former deputy commissioner for N.J. Veterans Affairs, said that more than 20 percent of those veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan “suffer from some degree of post traumatic stress.”

Abel said Rutgers offers its student veterans, in need of psychological assistance, such options as group counseling at the Graduate School of Applied Psychology, weekly one-on-one visitation with a veteran’s counselor who is, himself, a veteran, and a call center staffed by veterans and run by the University of Medicine & Dentistry out of Piscataway which caters to members of N.J. National Guard and Reserve units. The 24-hour call center, set up seven years ago, has since gone national with U.S. Dept. of Defense funding under the name, Vets4Warriors.

Retired pro-athletes host dinner to benefit pro bono concussion treatment

Photo by Jennifer Vazquez
Retired NFL running back Christian Okoye takes center stage at a benefit dinner to bring awareness to concussion-related issues. Sitting in the panel is Jennifer Smith, director of player programs for P.A.S.T., and retired NFL quarterback Ray Lucas.

 

By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent

PATERSON –

A panel of retired professional athletes took part in a forum this past Wednesday, Sept. 19, at The Brownstone. The event was in an effort to raise awareness for health issues that athletes, at any level –from youngsters to retired professionals –deal with as a result of playing the sport that they so much love.

The night focused on the development and ongoing expansion of a pro bono concussion treatment for retired athletes and to introduce a new education program relating to concussions in sports for young school athletes, including those still in high school. Concussion prevention and information has seen a rise in interest given the recent controversy surrounding former players who are suing the National Football League proclaiming that the NFL knew well the dangers of the game in terms of concussions but either mislead or did not efficiently or correctly inform the players of such harm.

The retired athletes that participated in the event ranged most professional sports, including football and basketball. These athletes are patients of the P.A.S.T. Retired Athletes Medical Group of New Jersey –”a medical organization that has provided $4 million in medical to retired athletes and others who support the organization,” according to a press release.

Some of the athletes that took center stage and shared their personal experiences were former running back for the Kansas City Chiefs Christian Okoye and Harrison’s own Ray Lucas, who went on to play collegiate football at Rutgers and was later an NFL quarterback, some of the athletes present, candidly sharing his heart wrenching personal journeys.

During his testimonial, Lucas, honestly and openly, shared his ongoing struggles –neck and nerve injuries during his quarterback career which subsequently brought on a dependency on prescription pain medication and street drugs. His relationship with drugs started as a result of self-medicating himself to alleviate the chronic pain he was in day after day.

“I was up to 450 pills a day,” he said. “I’m not joking, this was what my life had become.”

Many might wonder why former professional athletes may need pro bono treatment –after all, many had lucrative, money-earning careers.

“After five years of retirement, I lost my insurance,” he explained. “With pre-existing issues, no (insurance company) wanted to insure me.”

While many are not insured, others are under-insured. In any case, the need for assistance is ever present for these former athletes.

With non-stop excruciating pain, an addiction to painkillers and a mounting pile of medical debt, Lucas was at a crossroads where he saw suicide as an only option.

However, a change of heart –mostly the image of his young daughters being raised without a father and leaving his wife alone– led him to seek help, ultimately coming across P.A.S.T.

Okoye’s experience was a bit different. After all the hits the former running back endured on the field, his body started showing the effects of the brutal plays.

“I went to (P.A.S.T.) because I couldn’t feel my palms,” he said. “I said, ‘What’s going on?’ but P.A.S.T. took care of me. They saved my life.”

Indeed they did. They informed him of the fact that if he, so much just fell, he would become paralyzed. They immediately treated his condition.

Okoye poignantly asked: “Could you imagine just, so much as tripping, and you could end up paralyzed?”

Though the event mostly focused on the work P.A.S.T. has done with college and retired athletes –the topic of concussion education came up. P.A.S.T., as well as Lucas, are dedicated to bringing awareness of this specific medical situation to young athletes, particularly those in high schools.

Lucas is not only involved in going to schools and helping students understand concussions but he is also now a mentor, one might say, guiding individuals and holding group meetings in P.A.S.T. who are experiencing what he once experienced with drug dependency and the hardships of chronic pain and injuries.

He is also a voice for retired players, not afraid to showcase his disdain with not only the league but the National Football League Players Association for not doing more to help athletes, both current, but in particular, retired, who are facing consequences due to injuries that were sustained while playing the game.

Special guests also pointed out that P.A.S.T. is not limited to only evaluating and treating retired players’ with their existing pain and medical conditions, but they also have a complete preventative aspect as well, such as colon cancer screening, colonoscopies and cardio metabolic programs among many others.

The night also brought quite a few clips from upcoming documentaries focused on P.A.S.T.’s cause and the life and tribulations of some of the athletes that are dealing with health and substance abuse issues, including a clip from a documentary produced by Lucas.

P.A.S.T. is head quartered in Clifton with medical department heads located in both New Jersey and New York.

26th annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction takes center stage in NYC

Photos by Jennifer Vazquez
Many took part in the festivities and the opportunity of finding Broadway treasures during this year’s Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction in New York City.

 

By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent

The streets of the Big Apple were bustling with Broadway fans this past Sunday, Sept. 23, as people participated in the 26th annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction.

Those not familiar with this one-of-a-kind, yearly, exciting and fun event are missing out…big time!

The day was marked by thousands of Broadway and theater fans roaming in Times Square, Shubert Alley and along West 44th Street searching for authentic, unique and rare keepsakes. Everything from lost cast recordings to signed posters and Playbills, rare costume and set design sketches to props –in short you have the wonderful and great possibility of coming across anything and everything that has ever formed part of a theatrical performance.

This high-spirited and lively event also hosted games, giving everyone the opportunity to win Broadway show tickets, free dinners and various other mementos.

The main event of the festivities, however, is the grand auction. This year, with no exception, it proved to be a grand success! A clock that adorned the stage at this year’s Tony Awards –the equivalent of the Academy Awards for those in the Broadway community –signed by Broadway’s elite was one of the auctioned items. The chance to go behind the scenes to the set of television shows like Smash!, NCIS: Los Angeles, Saturday Night Live and Modern Family were also “items” auctioned off. Tickets and VIP nights to Broadway shows –both currently running and future –were auctioned off as well.

One of the biggest surprises, and money grabbers, was the chance to sit in, as a judge, alongside theatrical and acting greats, like James Gandolfini, Nina Arienda, Bebe Neuwirth and Estelle Parsons (just to name a few), as part of the Gypsy of the Year and Easter Bonnet Competitions. This once-in-a-lifetime chance for theater lovers ended up being a neck-toneck auction with two women constantly out-bidding each other. Just when you thought there was no end to the final bid, one of the women decided to bid $7,000! The other woman ceased raising the “bid” bar. However, the auctioneers gave the second participant the chance to match that same bid. She happily jumped at the opportunity. In short, the chance to form part, as a judge, in both these competitions was auctioned off to the two women for the total sum of $14,000!

Not only is the day a guaranteed sensational time but the proceeds from the flea market, auction, games and donations will go to aid a remarkable cause and organization –Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS. This organization is the nation’s leading industry-based non-profit fundraising and grant making organizations dedicated to AIDS. However, BC/EFA is also a major supporter of various programs at The Actor’s Fund, including The HIV/ AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, the Al Hirschfeld Free Clinic and the Dancer’s Resource, among others.

Last year, the event raised, roughly $550,000. However, since its inception 26 years ago, the Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction netted over $9.1 million!

This year’s day-long event will also prove to be a success as a multitude of people showed up to take in the great and unique Broadway life.

After all…Broadway is where dreams are made!

Drug busts, brawls dominate Kearny criminal activities in past week

Photo courtesy Kearny P.D.
Robert Allen

 

Photo courtesy Kearny P.D.
Steven Rutzler

 

Two accused local drug distributors were locked up during the past week by Kearny P.D.

On Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. the vice squad executed a search warrant for a Forest Street residence where suspected narcotics activity had been under surveillance during the past month, police said.

Inside the residence of Ryan Olsen, 28, police said they found a large plastic bag of suspected cocaine labeled “Molly,” a number of smaller bags suspected of being used to package the drug, a digital scale, more than $600 in cash and a locked safe of which Olsen disclaimed knowledge.

After opening the safe at headquarters, police said they found inside $2,500 in cash, along with 30 steroid pills and 30 methandienone pills. Police arrested Olsen on charges of possession and distribution of cocaine and possession and distribution of steroids within 1,000 feet of a school and within 500 feet of a park and possession of a paging device while engaged in illegal drug activity.

In the other drug-related incident, on Sept. 18 at 6 p.m., having developed surveillance of suspected narcotics transaction in and around a Schuyler Avenue location occupied by Freddy Thomas, 27, police obtained a warrant to search the premises.

Inside, police said they found a container of suspected marijuana, 500 plastic bags believed to be used for packaging the marijuana and a digital scale.

Thomas was booked on charges of possession and distribution of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school and within 500 feet of a park.

Public disturbances brought Kearny police to various places, beginning the night of Sept. 14, after the high school football game between Kearny and Bayonne, when police got a report of a disturbance on Devon Street. When Officer John Fabula arrived at 9 p.m. and exited his patrol car, police said he was confronted by a group of rowdy juveniles, one of whom had a baseball bat. Police said Fabula tried to get the group to disperse, only to hear one of the juveniles yell, “If a cop touches you, I’m here for you!” Police said Fabula ordered that juvenile to leave several times and, after he refused, the officer placed him under arrest as the rest of the crowd began swarming him. After calling for backup, Fabula managed to get the youth, a 16-year-old Kearny High School student, into the patrol car. The teen was charged with aggravated assault, obstructing and resisting arrest and turned over to his parents’ custody pending a juvenile court hearing.

On Sept. 15 at 9 p.m. Police Chief John Dowie arrested Charles Willie, 32, of Kearny, on Elm St. after witnesses told police that Willie had entered an apartment, assaulted the resident and ran away. When he was confronted by Dowie, police said Willie was shirtless and bleeding, possibly from his previous encounter with the resident. Police said Willie was reported to be involved in two previous disturbances earlier in the day. He was charged with defiant trespass.

On Sept. 16 at 10:30 p.m., police arrested Jose Romero, 23, of Newark, on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in the aftermath of a dispute in a second floor apartment of a Devon Street building. Neighbors told police that Romero was out of control after having consumed a lot of alcohol. Police said Romero held onto a railing while struggling with Officers Tom Sumowski and Derek Hemphill before he was wrestled to the floor and carried outside where he then pushed away EMTs before, finally, being strapped down in an ambulance which took him to St. Michael’s Hospital, Newark, for treatment.

On Sept. 16 at 1 a.m. police responded to a street fight at Bergen and Kearny Aves. where one of the combatants, Jason McLaren, 32, of Succasunna, was seen staggering into an SUV and driving away. Police said pursuing officers stopped him at Afton Street where he was arrested on a DWI charge.

In an unrelated incident, the attendant at the Exxon station mini-mart at King Street and Oakwood Avenue was held up and robbed by a man with a knife Sept. 14 at 12:30 a.m. Police said a man wearing sunglasses walked in and asked to purchase a lighter. When the attendant opened the register, police said the man snapped open a folding knife and told him, “Give me all the money and don’t do anything funny.” Police said the man took the lighter and cash and fled west on Oakwood. Searching the area, police said they found some money, a pair of sunglasses and articles of clothing on Beech Street which were apparently discarded by the suspect as he fled. In viewing the store’s surveillance videotape, police said Det. Mike Andrews believed he recognized the individual with the knife from previous encounters. A warrant was then drawn for the man, Steven Rutzler, 38, of Kearny, who was traced to his last known address on Washington Avenue where, late Friday evening, police arrested him on charges of armed robbery and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose. Police said they recovered currency and the knife they believe was used in the robbery in the Washington Avenue residence. Rutzler was held at the Hudson County Jail, Kearny, on $100,000 bail, with no 10% cash option, pending a court appearance.

During the robbery investigation, police were alerted to a suspected burglary of a vehicle and attached garages in progress on Brighton Avenue between Wilson and Bergen Avenues. Arriving at the scene, police said they discovered a man in a driveway who, when they pointed flashlights at him, saw him throw a glove to the ground. A search of the man’s pockets disclosed a screwdriver, two wrenches and a glass pipe typically used to smoke drugs, police said. Additionally, police said they found that the passenger door lock to a vehicle in a nearby garage had been pried out. Inside a car parked nearby – which police learned the man had driven to the location and which had been reported stolen from Maple Street — officers found tools previously stolen from a Brighton Avenue garage, police said.

The man in the driveway – identified as Robert P. Allen, 45, of North Arlington – was arrested on charges of attempted burglary, possession of burglar tools, theft of tools, theft of a motor vehicle and possession of drug paraphernalia. Allen was also wanted on a warrant from New Brunswick.

– Ron Leir

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