The state Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team is investigating a fatal shooting of the driver of a stolen SUV at the Lyndhurst-Rutherford border early Tuesday, Sept. 16, according to a press release issued by the AG’s Office. The driver, identified […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – The corner house at Grand Place and Stewart Ave. doesn’t really stand out in any particular way, but it’s drawn a lot of attention from neighbors – and not in a good way. Many packed the assembly chambers at […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent HARRISON – The town of Harrison, with a current population of about 14,000 but growing thanks to several new residential projects rising in its waterfront redevelopment area, now has a second hotel. It is the Element Harrison, the brand’s second hotel in New […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent HARRISON– Somewhere in Harrison, there is a magical place. If we were telling this story as a fairy tale, it would begin: Once upon a time, there was a small plot of land on which a happy home had stood. […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Starting next month, the Kearny Farmers Market will be offering a new, sweet treat as part of the fresh, Jersey-grown produce for its patrons. We’re talking vino, folks. The town governing body voted last Tuesday night to permit the Four […]
Belleville veterans, public officials and residents were at the Municipal Building last weekend to mark the annual observance of Memorial Day and to belatedly dedicate a historic Fire Bell.
Among the invited guests were Barbara and Frank Marino. Barbara is the daughter of John Resciniti Sr., who donated the bell as a memorial intended as a remembrance and tribute to those deceased members of the Belleville Fire Department.
By Barbara’s recollection, the 2,500-pound bell was placed in front of the Municipal Building on Washington Ave. as far back as 1962 but has never been formally commemorated until now.
In “A History of the Belleville Fire Bell,” author Anthony Buccino, a Belleville native and local historian, and Marino recount how the bell – 3-foot-1-inch high and 4-foot-inch in diameter – was cast in bronze by the Meeheeny Co., of Troy, N.Y., and purchased in 1898 by the township’s fire commissioners. Its arrival in Belleville was welcomed by a parade of local firefighters.
From 1898 to 1935 the bell hung in a 50-foot tower at the William St. firehouse, where Volunteer Co. 2, then known as the Eastwood Co., was quartered. Aside from summoning the volunteers to a fire, the bell rang to announce the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.
In 1935, the bell was retired to sit on cement blocks in the rear of the firehouse and it was turned over to the custody of the Belleville Exempt Firemen’s Association. During World War II, the association decided to donate the bell to a salvage scrap drive but the bell was never melted down.
Periodically, the bell rang on the occasion of the death of a Belleville firefighter, the last time for the funeral procession of Fireman Michael Carr on May 4, 1960.
After deciding to set up the bell as a memorial, the association approached local scrap dealer John Resciniti who agreed to sign over its ownership to the Exempt Firemen’s group which enlisted the aid of the Belleville Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association, Local 29, and Ladies Auxiliary of the Belleville Fire Dept. which donated funds to finance the memorial.
Off-duty firefighters dug the footing, retired Firefighter Charles Natale helped firefighters lay the bricks that make up the two supporting piers; local monument setter Vincent Sorrentino donated his truck to swing the ton-and-a-half bell into place; and local sign painter Joseph Dietz offered the use of his truck and boom to set the heavy limestone in place to complete the memorial outside the Municipal Building.
– Ron Leir
This summer, Hudson County Community College is scheduling several information sessions this summer for local residents to learn about its programs. College staff will be available to discuss the admissions process, financial aid, degree and certificate programs, and transfer opportunities after graduating. Sessions are as follows:
Thursday, June 14 and Wednesday, Aug. 8 – 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 5 – 7 p.m. at the Culinary Arts Institute/Conference Center, 161 Newkirk St., Room 511, Jersey City.
Thursday, Aug. 9 –11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 5 – 7 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room (N 203), North Hudson Higher Education Center, 4800 Kennedy Blvd., Union City.
For further information or to R.S.V.P. for any of these sessions, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Thursday, May 24, Officer Dave Rakowski responded to a motor vehicle accident on Rutland Ave. around 10 a.m. and upon arrival, realized the accident had been a hit and run. An investigation into the accident determined that a red car had struck a white car and fled the scene. Rakowski put out a broadcast to be on the lookout for the car, which had fled the scene going westbound on Rutland. Minutes later, Officer Jack Grimm advised that he had a vehicle matching the description on the corner of Bergan Ave. and Afton St. Rakowski responded to the scene to interview the female motorist, who gave conflicting stories about where she had been. She was administered sobriety tests after smelling alcohol on her breath. In the officer’s opinion, she did not perform these satisfaactually and was placed under arrest. Kearny resident Kathleen Kuziel, 45, was charged with reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, failing to report an accident, driving while intoxicated, refusing to take an alcohol test, and failure to exhibit a driver’s license.
Two days later, Officer Jay Ward was on patrol in the 500 block of Kearny Ave. around 4:40 p.m. when he approached a man who was drinking in public. When he went to approach the man, he found that the man was wanted by the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office. Michael Burke, 37, of Kearny was taken into custody and held for pickup by Hudson County Sheriffs.
Later on May 26 around 11:30 p.m., Officer Dean Gasser was sent to the area of Wilson Ave. near Winsor St. on a report of a stabbing. He arrived on the scene to find nobody stabbed, but that a confrontation had taken place and one of the individuals pulled a knife and fled the scene. After obtaining a description, Officers Tom Sumowski and Ben Wuelfing found the individual. Det. Ray Lopez responded to the scene and began a search of the area for the knife, which he eventually found under a parked car on Winsor St. A 15-year-old Kearny Juvenile was taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
Overnight on the 28th at 1:45 a.m., Officer Chris Medina was on patrol in the area of Midland Ave. and Elm St. when he observed a vehicle traveling westbound swerving from side to side. The vehicle eventually turned off midland and onto Devon St. where it picked up speed. Medina stopped the car on Quincy Ave. and Chestnut St. When Medina asked the driver for credentials, he detected a strong odor of alcohol and the man had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes. Officer Jay Balogh arrived as backup. Given the individual’s state of intoxication, he was placed under arrest. A search of the man, 22-year-old Edwin Torres of Kearny, turned up a pack of Marlboro cigarettes found to contain hand-rolled cigarettes and another bag of suspected marijuana. Torres was charged with possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia, driving while intoxicated, careless driving, refusing to submit to an alcohol test, and possession of a controlled substance within a motor vehicle.
The next day, Officer Mike Santucci responded to a loud music complaint on the 500 block of Forest St. around 2:30 a.m. and found that loud noises including music and loud laughing and talking to a group near a fire pit in the rear of the home. This was the third time that Santucci had been to the same location in a four-hour period and Santucci had put the individuals on notice a few times. As Santucci approached the group, they began to protest, saying they could hang out and play their music all they wanted. Santucci then called the Fire Department to extinguish the fire. Officer John Treveino also arrived as backup and helped issues to all the people involved.
Finally, Officer Pat Becker was on foot patrol on May 29 around 3:30 p.m. in the area of Afton St. and Kearny Ave. when he observed an intoxicated male. Becker went to see what condition the man was in and as Becker got closer, the man, 26-year-old Sidnei Antunes of Kearny, began to yell at Becker, saying he couldn’t do anything to him. Antunes was unruly in front of sever pedestrians, so Becker put Antunes under arrest. Antunes fought back against Becker before Becker took a stronger stance and took Antunes to the ground to handcuff him. Officer Sean Kelly arrived as backup. Antunes complained of shoulder pain and was examined by EMS at headquarters. Antunes persisted to the point that he was taken to the hospital for an additional examination. He was returned to headquarters and found to have two outstanding warrants from East Newark and Harrison. Antunes was charged with Disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, along with the two outstanding warrants.
On May 29, at 12:33 p.m., Belleville Police officers were dispatched to the area of Main and Rutgers Sts. on a report of a stolen white commercial GMC pickup truck. The vehicle’s driver furnished the police with the vehicle’s license plate number. Shortly thereafter, the man’s boss contacted police to say that he was currently tailing the stolen vehicle on Rt. 21 south in Newark. Working with real-time information, Belleville and Newark Police were able to corner the vehicle at the intersection of Governors St. and take the thief into custody. Manuel R. Estevez, 29, of Port Ritchie, Fla. was arrested and charged with receiving stolen property. He was transported to Belleville headquarters where it was subsequently learned that he carried an extradition warrant out of Florida, as well as two Newark warrants totaling $600. Estevez was taken to the county jail to await extradition to Florida.
In other Belleville Police happenings:
While officers were patrolling the Franklin Ave. and Clara Maass Drive area at 10:36 p.m., they observed a green Acura blow through a stop sign at Rocco St. and Sanford Ave. After stopping the vehicle, police learned that the driver, Raul Lopez, 24, of Newark carried a $205 Elizabeth warrant, and the passenger, Miguel A. Padilla, 19, of Newark carried a $350 warrant out of Newark. Both men were arrested and the vehicle was left at the scene.
The mother of a 16-year-old girl who lives at 53 Overlook Ave. visited Belleville headquarters at 8:37 p.m. to report that her daughter was missing. The woman stated that she had last seen her daughter at 5 p.m. in her bedroom doing her homework. Two hours later when she went to check on her, she found the room empty. She noted that the bedroom window, which leads to a fire escape, was wide open. At press time, the girl was still missing.
Officers patrolling Franklin St. observed a man speaking with a woman at the intersection of Naples Ave. at 9:41 p.m. They saw the woman hand over “several white-colored items” to the man and in return receive “paper currency” from him. Believing that it was a drug transaction, officers stopped the man and discovered that he was in possession of several “small white glassine envelopes” containing a “white powdery substance.” The items field-tested positive for narcotics. Ronnie E. Baker, 55, of Montclair was charged with possession of C.D.S. and arrested.
A motor vehicle was reported stolen from N.J. Grinding, 14 Franklin St. at 5:19 p.m. The vehicle’s owner told police that his work van, a red 2006 Dodge Caravan, was taken while parked in a lot adjacent to the business. The theft was recorded by the company’s surveillance camera. The suspect is described as an Hispanic male with dark hair. He was wearing blue jeans, a grey jacket, and a dark shirt. The vehicle was later recovered in Elizabeth, N.J.
Officers witnessed a vehicle traveling in the wrong direction on Eugene Pl. (a one-way street) early in the morning. As they were about to pull the vehicle over, they learned that a shooting had just occurred in Bloomfield with multiple shots fired. The white Nissan with New York plates being sought in connection with the Bloomfield incident fit the description of the vehicle they were about to stop. Fittingly, officers conducted a “felony motor vehicle stop” (all occupants are removed from the vehicle) when they pulled the car over at North 9th St. A handgun, one round of ammunition and an open bottle of liquor were found inside the car. The driver, Javier C. Montas of Elmhurst, N.Y. was arrested and charged in Belleville with possession of a handgun and possession of hollow-point ammunition. He also received several motorcycle vehicle summonses. The vehicle and recovered items were turned over to Bloomfield Police.
At 2:39 a.m. police came upon Javier Rivera, 22, of Nutley, walking in the roadway and after learning he was wanted on a Ridgewood warrant, arrested him. Rivera was later released in his own recognizance.
At 11:33 p.m. police went to a Washington Ave. location to break up a father-son dispute that became physical. Charges are pending against the 17-year-old son.
Police are investigating a possible scam reported by a Howard Place resident who told police a Craigslist add had offered a Chadwick Drive residence for rent – reportedly contrary to the facts – and the Craigslist poster had solicited personal information from the Howard Place resident.
A report of a possible abduction brought police to a Myrtle Ave. location at 8:03 p.m. Upon arrival, officers were told that a 16-year-old boy had been assaulted by several attackers and that the teen had fled in a friend’s car. Police said the teen later returned with minor injuries and denied being abducted. Police are investigating the incident.
At 5:06 p.m. a Montclair Ave. resident called police to report fraudulent charges on his credit card.
A Chestnut St. resident reported finding a threatening note on the resident’s doorstep at 4:38 p.m. Police are checking into that.
Police were called to an E. Centre St. business at 4:07 p.m. to separate the owner and an employee. Police said the pair had reportedly argued about a job applicant when one shoved the other. Both were told they could sign complaints.
Alerted by a computer check that a passing motorist on Centre St. had an expired registration at 2:23 p.m., police stopped and ticketed the driver and impounded the vehicle.
A North Road resident called police to report that someone had forced open a side door to get inside the burglarized the house. Police said the break-in occurred sometime between 8:30 and 11:42 a.m. Anyone with information is asked to call Nutley detectives at (973) 284-4940.
A River Road resident notified police that someone had fraudulently charged $300 to her credit card at gas stations in Florida.
Police stopped a vehicle at Centre St. and E. Passaic Ave. at 11:16 a.m. after discovering, via a computer alert, that the driver was unregistered. Police issued the driver a summons and impounded the vehicle.
Police are investigating a home burglary on Pershing Ave. reported at 10 a.m. The resident discovered a door open and the home ransacked.
At 1:08 a.m. police spotted a vehicle with an expired inspection sticker in the parking lot of a River Road apartment complex. Inside the vehicle police found two people, along with several auto parts, including headlamps, multiple sets of BMW keys and hand tools. After checking area towns for any reports of stolen headlamps without success, police issued the vehicle’s occupants motor vehicle summonses and permitted them to leave.
A Walnut St. resident called police at 9:35 p.m. to report that a business contractor was using the resident’s address to advertise in a local directory. The resident told police that when he phoned the party, the contractor kept hanging up.
At 12:38 a.m. police issued a Passaic Ave. resident a summons for violating a township ordinance for placing in the road a garbage Dumpster that wasn’t illuminated, thereby causing a hazardous condition.
At 6:51 p.m. a motorist called police to report that as he was driving east on Park Ave., a piece of the rail bridge fell onto his vehicle, damaging it. Police notified the state Dept. of Transportation and asked DOT to check the integrity of the bridge structure.
An activated alarm brought police to a Pershing Ave. residence at 1:54 p.m. where the homeowner discovered someone had forced open a door and gained entry.
A Nutley resident was walking her dog on Prospect St. at 10:02 a.m. when a canine that reportedly ran out of a house on that block attacked her dog. No injuries were reported, police said.
An automated plate recognition reader alerted police at 3:23 p.m. that a passing 2005 Acura on Franklin Ave. was registered to a suspended driver. Police stopped the vehicle and ticketed the occupant for driving with a suspended license and registration. They also impounded the vehicle.
After spotting a man sitting next to a Dumpster on Washington Ave. at 11:55 a.m., police discovered he was homeless and transported him to an area shelter.
Responding to a Franklin Ave. location at 9:52 a.m. on a report of a father-daughter dispute, police arrested Stephanie Jankin, 22, on a disorderly conduct charge after multiple attempts by officers to calm her.
At 11:12 p.m. police were called to a Spring St. home on a report of a missing 14-year-old girl whose parents told police she had left earlier with two adult men whose names they couldn’t provide and were believed headed for Newark. As police were entering the girl’s name into a missing person data base, however, the teen returned home unharmed.
Neighbors’ complaints about a noisy and disruptive pool party for the better part of the day brought police to an Enclosure St. residence at 9:45 p.m. All parties were advised of their right to sign complaints.
Complaints about loud music and fireworks in the evening resulted in police making several visits to a King St. location. Police managed to get the music volume reduced but couldn’t locate any fireworks.
Police are investigating the report of a burglary of a Beech St. resident’s vehicle during the evening hours. Several undisclosed items were reportedly taken in the process, police said.
A Maple St. resident reported that jewelry was missing after having had several friends visit. The incident was logged at 10:35 a.m.
Police responded to a Colonial Terrace residence after getting a report at 7:35 p.m. that juveniles were riding in the trunk of a car. Police verified that no juveniles were in the trunk.
At 9:31 a.m. a N. Spring Garden Ave. resident reported that someone “egged” the resident’s home.
By Anthony J. Machcinski
On the morning of March 14, 1887, three young men sat in a small back room looking at their finished work. The three men, Philip E. Brockway and brothers Bernard and Edward Fredericks, had spent the whole night working feverishly on the first copy of Volume 1, Number 1 of The Arlington Observer, a four-page, five-column masterpiece. What has simply become just another newspaper in modern society must have been viewed as a work of art for those three men. Today, 125 years later, that plain, but pioneering publication has evolved into the multifaceted collaboration of compositions you hold in your hands.
Formed 20 years after an act of the New Jersey Legislature created the Township of Kearny in 1867, The Observer has grown and changed as much as the town around it.
Judging from a town map from 1893, only six short years after the paper was born, Kearny looked much like many towns in western Jersey look today: spacious. The three men who started that paper on what was known as McCloud’s Block, now Elm St. (where Elm St. currently intersects with Midland Ave.) would be shocked to see the sheer amount of change just in their corner of town. Even the description of what was then known as Arlington from one of the men says it all: “Its western borders are washed by the placid Passaic.” Despite its poetic pageantry, I’d fi nd it hard to believe that anyone would describe the Passaic River as “placid” these days.
Even the Greenwood Lake branch of the Erie Railroad, once the lifeline of Kearny, has changed names countless times before its last owner, New Jersey Transit, stopped service in 2002.
The paper itself has seen a great deal of change since 1887. The three men who spent all night putting together four pages of material would be amazed to hear that graphic designers now can put our 32-page newspaper together within a couple of hours.
Of course, like many contemporaneous businesses since then, The Observer has changed hands on several occasions. Along with several others, the paper has been owned by Col. Theodore C. Wildman, Messrs. Perley and Burroughs, J.D. Beckwith, J.W. Speare, and William W. Beadell. The present version of the paper came into being in April 1935 when The Observer and the West Hudson Record merged.
The current owner of the Observer, Mary Tortoretti, took over the paper with her husband Anthony in 1972. As we pass our 125th birthday and look toward the future, one thing remains unchanged. While it is unclear whether of Brockway or one of the Fredericks wrote the following testimonial, it still rings true to this day. After citing an extensive list of infrastructure improvements in town, including mass transit and new utilities, one of the three men wrote, “Therefore, all things considered, Arlington offers many advantages to both manufacturers and residents.”
Today, with improvements in all those comforts as well as technological advancements, a newspaper that has become the backbone of the community can be added to that list.
By Ron Leir
The newest member of the township governing body was just getting his feet wet but he’d already lined up a three-pronged priority plan of action.
Steven Rogers, 60, who garnered 2,078 votes in the May 8 non-partisan municipal election – good enough to capture the only seat on the five-member Township Commission not reclaimed by incumbents.
“I spent $6,500 on my campaign,” said Rogers, a diehard Republican. That’s hardly a princely sum for election expenses, these days. “I walked in every neighborhood, knocked on every door,” he said. “And the people of Nutley gave me the honor to serve.”
At a township reorganization meeting May 15, Commissioner Alphonse Petracco – topping all candidates with 3,727 votes – was installed as the new mayor of Nutley.
As the new boy on the block, Rogers – a retired Nutley Police lieutenant who served one 4-year term on the Nutley school board – is known as a gadfly but he has pledged to be a sharing partner as a member of his new team.
In his first week on the job, the freshman lawmaker said he’s been impressed by the “passion” shown by employees at the Public Affairs Department (which he oversees) “to serve the common good of the people.”
“It’s an awesome responsibility to be in government,” Rogers said, during a recent interview at his township office. He said he hopes to use the skills he acquired as a U.S. Navy intelligence officer and 38-year police veteran “to help shape the future of Nutley.” To that end, Rogers said he wants to work with his fellow commissioners to achieve three goals in particular.
First, he said, “We’re going to roll out what we believe will be a national model for offering the best possible services to every active and retired member of the military and their families. We want to make this department a one-stop shop for veterans,” whether that involves medical assistance, help with securing veterans’ benefits, etc.
Rogers said he plans to appoint a community member with military background as a volunteer “director of military and veterans’ affairs” to serve as a liaison between the Public Affairs Dept. and every veteran in Nutley. He declined to name the prospective appointee.
“I’m getting a list of every Nutley veteran and they’re going to be getting a personal visit from me during the summer to see what their needs are,” Rogers said. “Our veterans are heroes and the (federal) V.A. (Veterans Administration) is not effective delivering services to our veterans. It needs a top-tobottom reform.”
That’s why action on the local level is required, Rogers said.
Rogers’ expectation is that the Township Commission will be voting on a resolution in June to start the program, which he sees as a one-year pilot, after which the program would be evaluated to determine if it should continue, be tweaked or scrapped.
Second, Rogers is offering a “Meet the Commissioner” opportunity by inviting residents to stop by his office at 149 Chestnut St. “every Saturday,” from 8:30 a.m. to noon, to solicit advice, give suggestions or just chat. He launched the new venture last Saturday.
“I believe in transparency in government,” Rogers said. “So, I’ll be here on the weekend to listen to my constituents, see how my department can offer help or be a conduit to my fellow commissioners if it turns out that their departments can be of help. We’re stressing teamwork in Nutley.”
Third, Rogers said he wants to do his part to help keep a lid on local property taxes by “talking to our county and state representatives about unfunded mandates.” There are instances, Rogers said, where the state and/or federal levels of government dictate that municipalities carry out certain required functions but don’t provide money for staffing and/or equipment that may be needed to satisfy those mandates.
As an example, Rogers said the state requires local police officers to attend periodic domestic violence and firearms training sessions, typically at locations not easily accessible to Nutley cops but provides no reimbursement for travel and related expenses.
Another example, Rogers said, is the state’s directive to local school boards to institute an anti-bullying program as part of the district’s curriculum but, here again, without any state compensation to facilitate the program.
Despite the financial pressures faced by many municipalities in recent years, Rogers said Nutley’s commissioners “have done well in controlling the local tax rate. We’re not as bad off as other communities. Our parks are pristine, our crime rate is low, our schools are in great shape, and our public works department did an extraordinary job with the storm cleanup last year.”
And, while he acknowledges that “we still have a lot to do,” such as upgrading roads and revitalizing the downtown sector through a vehicle like a Small Business & Economic Development Council working with Main St. USA, Rogers said he has faith in Nutley’s future.
“I want to market our township as one of the best places to live and work – an American oasis,” he said.
By Jeff Bahr
A mix of specially selected juniors and sophomores from Bloomfield High School took part in Bloomfield Youth Day on May 21. The annual event, designed to bring students up-close-and-personal with vocational opportunities in the township, was a few minutes late in getting started, but after event leaders ironed out the small details, the event progressed without a hitch.
The idea behind the day is straightforward. If the mystery of each job is removed, and the steps involved to reach each position are revealed, there is that much more likelihood that a student will consider it as a potential vocational goal.
During Youth Day, students visit with various municipal departments including administrative, legal, police and fi re. They listen to an overview of each job by the people who hold the positions, and are encouraged to follow up each presentation with questions. In this way, the students discover the requirements necessary to obtain each job, as well as the day-to-day intricacies involved in performing each task.
The event got underway with an orientation held in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building. “We know that you have this special thing about you,” Mayor Raymond McCarthy told the students, “because you’ve been chosen by your peers and by the teachers – which means that you are leaders in this community.”
The mayor then described the electoral process governing Bloomfi eld’s mayoralty and Township Council and pointed out how the township is “a lot different” from most communities in New Jersey since it operates under a “no commission form of government.”
District Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo (D) elaborated, explaining that, “Our form of government was produced by a special charter. We are one of 16 of the 566 communities in the state of New Jersey that have a special charter. Back in 1953, the people of Bloomfield decided that they wanted to change their form of government… And they changed it. It was a commission form of government like Nutley is now. So they (the citizens) filed a petition with the state of New Jersey, put it on the ballot and it won overwhelmingly.”
Caputo catalogued the differences between the two forms of government, noting that Bloomfi eld has “three-year terms” for its elected offi cials versus four for most other municipalities statewide. “The other thing that’s signifi cantly different (about Bloomfi eld) is the fact that the township is run by our township administrator, said Caputo. “The people back in 1953 didn’t like the commission form of government because each elected offi cial ran his/her own department.”
Bloomfield Second Ward Councilman Nicholas Joanow spoke of the importance of knowing the different levels of government. “When we talk about government, we talk about the many layers of government,” said Joanow. “It’s like making a sandwich. We’ve got the local municipal level; we’ve got the county level; the state and the federal (levels). The mayor, council and assemblyman are your first line of defense… So it starts with the grass roots when there are concerns.”
Before the students moved out of the municipal building to begin their tour, they posed questions to the department heads and administrators. “What was your most interesting case?” Christine Dino asked Municipal Court Judge Vincent A. Pirone.
The judge recalled an amusing case wherein a man, who was appearing before the court on motor vehicle related charges, claimed sovereignty. “He never referred to his car as a car,” said Pirone, chuckling. “He referred to it as his vessel. When he asked the offi cer (in court), ‘Did you see me in my vessel?’, (the officer) looked at him like a deer in the headlights!”
Another student asked the judge about the temperament that the job requires. “Attorneys will push you to the wall,” said Pirone. “They’ll try to get your goat. You can’t let them get your goat ‘cause once you do that you give away all your marbles. I didn’t know whether I had the disposition or temperament to sit here and basically conduct court in the manner in which it should be conducted, so I really had to think about it.” After seeking the council of friends and law colleagues, Pirone ultimately decided to give it try.
Bloomfield Police Chief Christopher Goul made a fi nal comment before the students continued on with Youth Day. “I give you guys credit,” said Goul. “(When I was your age) I had no idea what I was going to do. Back in 1980, I was going to open a pizzeria. But then my father said, ‘Have you ever seen a Polish pizzeria?’ It was the wisest thing he ever told me… Have fun, and I’ll see you all later!”
By Ron Leir
For six lucky men in blue, it was a day to celebrate … for now at least. Following an agreement between the local police unions and the town, the Kearny Town Council voted last Tuesday, May 22, to authorize promotions in the ranks, effective immediately.
The beneficiaries are: Capt. John Gouveia; Lts. David Feldhan and Timothy Wagner; and Sgts. Peter Gleason, Paul Bershefski and Patrick Sweeney.
The promotions came about after the Kearny Patrolman’s Benevolent Association’s Local 21 and the Kearny Police Superior Officers Association had filed grievances over certain of their members doing jobs in a higher rank but not getting higher pay appropriate to that rank. The town asserted it had a “managerial prerogative” to assign anyone to a job.
But after many hours of negotiations, with lawyers involved on both sides, the governing body has seemingly remedied that inequity by appointing those cops to “permanent” positions and pay levels appropriate to their ranks.
However, there’s one sticky point: As explained by Mayor Alberto Santos, “Our labor contracts with the police unions expire Dec. 31, 2012, and we have money in the 2012 budget to pay the incremental increases covering the promotions. We don’t know what our (police) costs are going to be in 2013 so the agreement provides that unless there’s a new contract in place by Jan. 1, 2013, those individuals who were promoted will revert back to their old (previous rank) salaries.”
So the apparent solution could end up causing some grief for the unions – and six of their members – if no new labor agreement can be negotiated by year’s end.
A captain’s base pay is currently $145,645 a year; a lieutenant makes $129,462; and a sergeant receives $115,076.
Santos said that the town was able to “satisfy the department’s supervisory needs while staying within its budgetary restraints.”
Three of the promotions were made to fi ll vacancies created by retirements, while the rest were done to “backfill” vacancies left in lower ranks, Santos said.
Santos said an “unexpected retirement” – which came about when a Kearny police officer opted to take a job in Austin, Texas, for job security reasons – gave the town about $73,000 in savings to help accommodate the promotions for 2012.
But the Police Department “is still undermanned,” said Councilwoman Laura Cifelli- Pettigrew.
And so is the Kearny Fire Department, FMBA President Jim Carey warned, as he called the council’s attention to the department’s recent trimming of minimum manning levels, from 17 to 15 per shift. “The FMBA will not condone this reduction,” he said. The lives of civilians and firefighters, alike, are being endangered, Carey asserted. Fire Chief Steve Dyl said he’s had to shut down a ladder company at the Kearny Ave. firehouse for lack of personnel. And, he warned, “This will be the wave of the future until we get (more) staffing.” Santos conceded that, “we don’t meet NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) minimum staffing standards” but, at the same time, he said the town needs to review the Fire Department’s “salary structure.” Carey called for a referendum on firefighter hirings.
Meanwhile, the Police Department has lost 16 members through retirement since 2011 and “about half” were superior offi cers, according to Police Chief John Dowie. Even with the promotions, the department will still fall one lieutenant and one sergeant short of what its Table of Organization allows, Santos said.
This is happening, “while police calls are at a record number,” Santos conceded. In 2011, police responded to more than 31,000 calls for assistance, he said.
Also, as a result of the downsizing, Dowie said he’s deploying single offi cer patrols, instead of paired, during the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift. Still, Dowie said, “This will put more cars on the street overnight which helps cut our response time and gives more visibility which, naturally, results in crime deterrence. It also enables us to cover a wider area which allow us to devote more time to some of our growing outlying areas such as the Harrison Ave. and Belleville Pike areas where we … have experienced crime….”
At least, the mayor said, the town should realize some savings in overtime as a result of the promotions. So far this year, the department has spent about $390,000 in overtime pay, according to Kearny CFO Schuaib Firozvi. Probably half of that amount was for superior officers, Santos said.
John Gouveia, whose brother, Anthony, is a Kearny Police lieutenant, is a law school graduate, the department’s computer expert and a runner who placed fifth in a recent 5-K race in Washington, D.C., to honor police officers who died in the line of duty during the past year.
David Feldhan, son of a retired Hudson County police offi cer and a former teacher, is the department’s accident specialist who was singled out for commendation by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in 2005. He was credited for capturing a Newark homicide suspect in 2004.
Timothy Wagner was chosen Policeman of the Year in 2002, just a year after he was appointed to the department, in recognition of “several high-profi le jobs.” He’s earned three merit service bars and serves as a medic on the Tactical Services Unit. Most recently, he led the Community Police Unit.
Peter Gleason, a detective, was credited for his actions in 1999 for defusing a potentially dangerous situation when he disarmed a suicidal gunman in 1999. He scored second highest in the state in the Civil Service exam for sergeant. Gleason has served in the warrant and vice squads.
Paul Bershefski, son of a retired New Jersey State Police trooper, got kudos for reviving a choking man several years ago while serving with the Tactical Services Unit. Bershefski has been a stalwart supporter of the Police Unity Tour four-day bicycle riding fundraiser with proceeds going to the National Law Enforcement Offi cers’ Memorial and Museum.
Patrick Sweeney, a former Paramus police offi cer, was credited with bringing order and accountability to the department’s record room, the repository for all types of criminal evidence. An accomplished bagpiper and golfer, he organized a local “Adopt the Block” program.
“We may be downsized, but we’re not down,” Dowie said, getting cheers from a packed-house audience of family and friends of the newly promoted officers at last week’s Town Hall meeting. “Every man here is up to the task.”