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Koppers developer picked

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  Hopes by Kearny to secure a developer for the old Koppers Coke Peninsula Redevelopment site have taken one step forward and two steps back. Kearny and Tierra Solutions, the owners of two of the three parcels in the South Kearny meadows area targeted […]

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School getting facelift

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  EAST NEWARK –  As summer’s clock winds down to the start of classes for the fall term, East Newark Public School is making all kinds of preparations to welcome students and staff back in style. Newly installed Superintendent/ Principal Patrick Martin recently ticked […]

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Too many birds of a feather flock to Nutley

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  NUTLEY –  Fire hoses didn’t work. Boom-boxes didn’t work. Will “fogging” do the job? Only time will tell. The “job” is to drive the starlings from DeMuro Park, where they reportedly have been roosting in massive numbers. Roosting and pooping. It’s the pooping […]

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To catch a raccoon

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  On an early August night, a few weeks ago, Kearny’s Julie Kelley recalls her husband Ed calling her to the window of the couple’s Morgan Place home and inviting her to look next door where the beacon from his flash light was […]

Massa names sewer committee

NORTH ARLINGTON –  North Arlington Mayor Peter Massa has appointed an eightmember committee to interview Geraldine and Truman Road residents to learn the extent of sewer backups into basements and to team with the borough engineer to communicate possible solutions to residents. In the meantime, the borough awaits the results of a […]

 
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Obituaries

Mary A. Capozzi

Mary A. Capozzi, formerly of 437 John Street, East Newark, will be laid to rest on May 19. The funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. at St. Cecilia’s Church, 120 Kearny Ave., Kearny, followed by a graveside service at Holy Cross Cemetery, 340 Ridge Road, North Arlington.

Ann S. Walsh

Ann S. Walsh, (nee: Smith) 79, of Kearny, passed away suddenly on Sunday, May 6, after being hit by a car.

A prayer service was held on Friday, May 11 at the Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave, Harrison. Interment was in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, East Hanover. For information to send condolences to the family please visit: www.mulliganfuneralhome.org

Ann was born in Scranton, Pa., the daughter of the late Frederick and Mary and wife of the late William. She is survived by her sister Eileen Szostek and her brothers Joseph and James Smith. She is also survived by many nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews.

She is predeceased by her sisters Mary Delores Helms, Donna Jean Palma and Margaret Lynch.

Walter Warivonchik

Walter Warivonchik, 90, died on May 5 at the Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville.

Born in New York City, he lived in Newark before moving to North Arlington 58 years ago.

He worked as the plant supervisor for the Westinghouse Corporation in Newark, for 42 years before retiring in 1984.

He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, where he served in the Persian Gulf Command in Iran. He was a member of the AARP of North Arlington and Lyndhurst, the Westinghouse Retirees of Newark, American Legion Post No. 37, and Veterans of Foreign War Post No. 4697, both of North Arlington.

He was the beloved husband of Martha (nee Zadworny); the cherished father of Michael and his wife, Helen, of Pennsylvania, Patricia of California, and Victoria of New York City; the adored grandfather of Andrew and his wife, Anna, of Denville, and the brother of Olga Latushko and her children of Rutherford.

A funeral service was held on Tuesday, May 8, at the Parow Funeral Home, 185 Ridge Rd., North Arlington, followed by private cremation. Donations in his memory may be made to the American Heart Association , 1 Union St., Suite 301, Robbinsville, N.J. 08691.

Nutley child needs surgery for baseball eye injury

Photos courtesy Belinda Aquine-Calvo/ Armani G. Calvo before his accident (l.) performing in a school talent show and after (r.) being hit by a line drive.

 

Eight-year-old Armani G. Calvo had a tough break last week.

Armani was playing second base for the Nutley FMBA Farm League team in the early evening of May 8 at Flora Lauden Park off Hancox Ave. when he was struck in the face with a line drive from an opposing batter.

An ambulance rushed the boy to Hackensack Hospital where he was examined by emergency room doctors. “On the way, he kept telling me to call his teacher because he was supposed to take the NJ ASK math exam the next day,” his mother, Belinda Aquine-Calvo, recalled.

It wasn’t until two days later that Armani, sporting a shiner, was able to open the damaged eye and was later determined to have an “orbital floor fracture,” which will require surgery, according to Aquine- Calvo.

Last Friday, Township Public Safety Commissioner Al Petracco visited the boy’s home and treated him to ice cream. And, Aquine-Calvo said, “His entire third-grade class (at Yantacaw School) made him ‘get well soon’ cards. Nutley has showed they care and has made the healing process painless. … I can’t get over all the attention.”

Although Armani – who played T-ball two years ago and football last year – will be on the DL for the rest of the season, Armani is hoping the coach will let him sit on the bench and cheer on his teammates.

“He plans to play baseball next year,” Armani’s mom said.

Other incidents logged in the Nutley Police blotter during the past week include these:

May 10

Mathew Poole, 20, of Nutley, has been linked to the theft of cigarettes and other proceeds from two late night gas stations several months ago. Police charged him with burglarizing the Delta station, Centre and Prospect Sts., twice – in July and September 2011 – and with burglarizing the US Gas station, Kingsland St. and Passaic Ave., in fall 2011. He was released after posting 10% of the $50,000 bail, pending a court hearing.

Police arrested Jose Santiago, 29, of Bloomfield, in connection with the burglary of the Riverside Church office on Union Ave. on April 20 in which two Apple MacBook laptops valued at more than $1,000 apiece were reported taken. After obtaining search warrants for computer thumbprints, detectives were able to identify a Bloomfield location where someone attempted to log on to one of the stolen laptops. Santiago was charged with receiving stolen property. The other laptop hasn’t been found, police said.

An Edison Ave. resident told police that $1,600 in unauthorized charges to her account had been made. Those charges originated in the United Kingdom, the resident said.

May 9

A traffic stop at 4:49 p.m. at Harrison St. and Ravine Ave. resulted in the arrest of Augusto Martinez, 38, of Belleville, after police learned Martinez had an outstanding warrant for $500 out of Clark. He was ticketed for driving while suspended and released after posting bail.

After being away from his home for about an hour, a Passaic Ave. resident called police at 1:21 p.m. to report that someone locked the resident’s dog in a room and burglarized the apartment.

May 7

Gary Clark, 32, of Newark, was pulled over at 11:29 p.m. on Rt. 21 and charged with speeding and driving while suspended, police said. He also had multiple warrants outstanding. After posting bail he was released pending a court appearance.

Police responded to a Washington Ave. home at 8:11 p.m. after the owner reported it had been burglarized. Police said an intruder gained access through a rear door and ransacked the house, removing an undetermined amount of proceeds.

May 6

A Hillside Ave. resident called police at 8:21 p.m. to report that someone threw an empty Corona beer bottle through her window.

-Ron Leir

The Observer Podcast #1: Test

Testing new technology MySong

Cinco de Mazur’s

 

 

Mazur’s Bakery located on 323 Ridge Rd. in Lyndhurst gets into the Cinco de Mayo celebration a few days early. Photo taken on May 3.

N.A. COP ARRESTED IN ALLEGED THEFT

PHOTO COURTESY NORTH ARLINGTON P.D./ PAUL CASALE

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

NORTH ARLINGTON –

When Police Officer Paul Casale reported for his normal work shift on May 1, he was greeted by fellow cops who promptly put him under arrest.

Casale, 24, was charged with one count of theft and one count of criminal trespass when he walked in for work at 2 p.m. on May 1.

Casale, who dad is a lieutenant with the Newark P.D., was suspended without pay pending the resolution of criminal and administrative charges.

“Obviously, it’s not a good thing for anyone at all – the victims, community, or the police department,” North Arlington Police Capt. John Hearn, operations commander, said last week.

Police said the two crimes occurred at the same 2-family Biltmore St. residence on April 22 and 28.

In the first incident, on April 22, Casale was investigating a heating complaint by the resident. Later, the reported that seven rings valued at $4,500 were missing from her residence after Casale’s departure from the residence.

On April 28, the homeowner told police that Casale – whom she observed in her living room – had allegedly entered her residence without authorization.

Police Chief Louis Ghione said that after the incidents were reported, North Arlington P.D.’s Internal Affairs unit immediately started an investigation and contacted the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Offi ce, which provided assistance and oversight. The investigation led to Casale’s arrest.

Originally a member of the Newark Police Department, Casale was hired by North Arlington with an annual salary of $52,000 in January 2011 after being laid off by Newark, as permitted under the so-called Rice bill.

“It’s very disappointing,” said North Arlington Borough Council President Richard Hughes. “He was here a little over a year and always acted as a gentleman. He always went out of his way.”

According to Hearn, Casale had no prior criminal record, with Newark or with North Arlington. When he was hired, Casale’s background was screened by North Arlington P.D.

“We didn’t want to just go off of Newark’s word,” Hughes said, “so we gave him a second background check.”

Asked whether Casale had been linked to any other North Arlington thefts or burglaries, Hearn said: “At this point, it’s just this case, but there is an ongoing investigation.”

Hearn said that Casale has retained counsel.

Trustees split on tenure vote

By Ron Leir 

KEARNY –

Two Kearny public school administrators and one supervisor face the loss of their jobs now that the Board of Education has failed to renew their contracts.

They are: Cynthia Baumgartner, high school principal; Martin Hoff, vice principal of Franklin Elementary School; and Robert Elsmore, supervisor of plant operations.

All three – appointees of former Schools Supt. Frank Digesere who departed in June 2011 – were recommended for renewal by the current superintendent Ronald Bolandi.

The board’s refusal to grant job extensions to Baumgartner and Elsmore, in particular, could be problematic since it comes at a time when the district is in the process of undertaking the nearly $40 million reconfi guration of Kearny High School which will, ultimately, involve the rotation of students through outdoor classroom trailers.

By state law, school employees must serve three years and a day to gain tenure in their job. Board records show that Baumgartner, who was named principal Aug. 1, 2010, was on track to achieve tenure by Aug. 2, 2013. Hoff and Elsmore would each be tenured by Aug. 20, 2012, according to the records.

Resolutions proposing the reappointment of Baumgartner, Hoff and Elsmore for the 2012-2013 school year – along with a host of other employees up for rehiring – were presented to the board at a special meeting held April 30. By state law, non-tenured staff must be notified by May 15 whether they can expect to have a job for the fall.

Altogether, the board deliberated on a total of 110 proposed reappointments of employees district-wide, including administrators, supervisors, directors, guidance counselors, plus clerical, custodial and maintenance workers.

Board member Sebastian Viscuso was absent from that meeting.

Minutes of the meeting show that on the Baumgartner resolution, the tally was 3-2, with three not voting. James Doran Jr., Bernadette McDonald and Lisa Anne Schalago voted “yes”; board vice president Paul Castelli and John Plaugic voted “no”; and John Leadbeater, Robert O’Malley and board president George King abstained.

Since a five-vote majority was needed for approval, the resolution was defeated.

In Hoff ’s case, McDonald and Schalago voted for the resolution, Castelli opposed it and five members – Doran, Leadbeater, O’Malley, Plaugic and King abstained. Doran said he didn’t vote because of a conflict of interest situation.

Elsmore got “yes” votes from McDonald and Schalago but Plaugic and Castelli voted “no” and Doran, Leadbeater, O’Malley and King abstained. Leadbeater said he didn’t vote because of a conflict of interest situation.

The board also declined to rehire two teachers and one custodian.

Board members offered no public explanations for their decisions.

Neither King nor Supt. Bolandi would comment on the board’s actions on advice of board counsel David Rubin who said in a phone interview that because the resolutions voted on involved school employees, state school law dictated confidentiality.

Neither Baumgartner nor Hoff would discuss the board’s actions and Elsmore couldn’t be reached last week. Nor would Jon Zimmerman, head of the Kearny School Administrators Association, which represents Baumgartner and Hoff. Elsmore is a nonrepresented management employee.

One school source familiar with the situation said that because of their continuous service credits, Hoff and Elsmore would have the opportunity to exercise so-called “bumping” rights to lower level jobs in the district, if they decided to go that route.

However, another option open to Baumgartner, Hoff and Elsmore under state school law is to request, in legal parlance, a “Donaldson hearing,” as outlined by an “EdLaw Alert,” prepared by the EdLaw Group at the Lindabury law firm in New Jersey.

Any non-tenured school employee who receives notice that his or her contract isn’t being renewed has 15 days from the notice time to request from the board a written statement providing reasons for his/her non-renewal. That statement must be provided within 30 days.

Then, 10 days from the time such a statement is issued, the employee can ask for an informal hearing before the school board, which must be scheduled within 30 days of the request. This procedure is known as the Donaldson hearing, named for a 1974 case, “Donaldson v. Board of Education of North Wildwood.”

At this hearing, the employee – who may choose to be represented by an attorney – can try to convince the board to reconsider its decision not to reappoint. The board then has three days to decide the merits of the employee’s case.

Redistricting plans now in full swing

Photo by Ron Leir/ Supt. Tracey Marinelli displays school redistricting map. The district hopes to balance class size starting this fall.

 

By Ron Leir

LYNDHURST –

Fifteen months after taxpayers voted down a $37 million referendum built around a proposed new middle school, Lyndhurst public school leaders are now scrambling to balance class size, deliver more effective instruction to grades 6 to 8 in particular, and import new technology, starting this fall.

And it’s all being done with less financial impact on property owners.

Although the district figures to spend about $300,000 more than last fiscal year — $32.9 million for 2012-2013, versus $32.6 million for 2011- 2012 – the average school tax bill will drop by $135, from $3,844 to $3,709, thanks to a combination of “zero-based school budgeting,” increased state aid and a township property reassessment, according to district Business Administrator David DiPisa.

DiPisa said that new budget will fund:

• New math textbooks for kindergarten through grade 5 and a new reading series for K to grade 2.

• A new roof on Lincoln School, replacement of rear and basement windows at Columbus School and new windows and bathrooms at Franklin School.

• Leasing of iPads for grades 6 to 12 and 400 computers district-wide from Apple at a cost of $1.4 million over four years. (As of May 1, all classrooms will be equipped with Smart Boards and MacBook Air laptops which allow for interactive board work.)

All of these moves will be happening against a backdrop of redistricting or “reconfiguration,” as characterized by Schools Supt. Tracey Marinelli.

Starting with the new school term in September, elementary school assignments are being restructured this way:

One group of students will start at Washington School for kindergarten to grade 3, then move to Lincoln School for grades 4 to 8.

Another group will start at the Prevost Building at Lyndhurst Recreation Center for kindergarten before moving to Franklin School for grades 1 to 3, then shift to Roosevelt School for grades 4 to 8.

A third reconfiguration has kids attending kindergarten at Jefferson Community Annex, then moving to Columbus School for grades 1 to 3, and Jefferson School for grades 4 to 8.

It is hoped that the restructuring will eliminate overcrowding in certain grades and balance out any numerical inequities among schools. “Right now, we have class sizes that range from some as low as 15 to one grade 5 class that has 39,” Marinelli said.

With the reshuffling, the district should realize an “average class size of 26,” with the probable exception of this fall’s incoming first grade sections which, Marinelli figures, could go as high as “29 to 30.”

As of last month, Marinelli said that of the approximately 2,500 parents and/or guardians who’ve been asked to “re-register” their children for the fall term, as per the new school assignments, 48 have yet to respond. Sixty parents and/or guardians have asked for reconsideration of the assignments and a committee is reviewing those appeals, she said.

Part of the re-registration process requires parents and/or guardians to verify they are bona fide residents of Kearny. They were reminded that they will be liable for tuition fees if it’s proven they aren’t living in town.

During the past school year, Marinelli said the district uncovered 15 non-resident students – “at least one in every (grammar school) building” – and all are now “gone.”

Another facet of the district reconfiguration that Marinelli and her staff are shepherding through is the re-assignment of “more than 50” administrators, teachers and clerks. Some of those transfers are prompted by 15 employee retirements taking effect June 30, the superintendent said.

The Kearny Education Association, which has the right to challenge any involuntary employee transfers, has filed “no grievances,” according to Marinelli. “Before we did the transfers, we had employees tell us their three top choices of schools they’d prefer to go to,” she noted.

School time schedules are also being tinkered with, Marinelli said, “so that each grade level cluster (K, 1-3, 4-12) will have varying start and end times which allow for easier drop-off and pickup for parents and guardians.”

There is also some physical reconfiguration that will happen. For example, kids in grades 6 to 8 will occupy classrooms currently containing kindergarteners for science instruction and those classrooms will be adjusted to provide lab tables and running water for experiments and, additionally, each grammar school building will be equipped with a computer room and at least one classroom devoted to an elective such as art and music, Marinelli explained.

“We’re looking to reinstate some teacher stipends to accommodate certain student clubs like Junior National Honor Society, newspaper, Future Business Leaders of America and technology,” Marinelli said.

Plus, for grades 4 to 8, Marinelli said the district wants to create “tiered academics” aimed at targeting instruction to children operating “at, below or above” grade level “so that students can receive daily remediation or enrichment as needed and a greater concentration on academic excellence.”

Marinelli said the district web site will be updated periodically to keep the school community aware of new developments as they occur.

College educated and underemployed – America’s newest ‘success’ story?

By Jeff Bahr 

I was a youngster when I first heard my dad use the term.

“That young man is ‘college material,’ ” Pop said, with reverence in his voice, as he spoke of a favorite nephew who was heading off to a state university.

The implication of my father’s statement was well understood. A four-year college degree, during the 1960s, placed the recipient on the fast track to success. It was that cut and dry. If a graduate held a degree in business, for example, there was an expectation that he/ she would be financially set for life. This was true of many, if not most, college degrees. With a sheepskin in hand, the only place to go was up, it seemed, and up many graduates went.

For those who didn’t attend college, or a trade school for that matter, the situation could be different but was nowhere near desperate. Production firms were only entering their downward cycle back then and many high-school graduates would start and end their careers working for only one company.

It’s important to note that many of these firms trained new hires – in-house or through company-sponsored training programs – and often required nothing more than a high school diploma. On average, such workers enjoyed fully-paid benefits, a weekly wage that in time could grow fat enough to support an entire family, and a full pension waiting for them at the end of the rainbow.

But, as Bob Dylan pointed out, the times were changing. America would eventually lose the manufacturing/ industrial base that had once distinguished it from other countries. The end result? These days it seems almost as likely to find a college-graduate working at WalMart as it is to find one working on Wall Street.

Nevertheless, people continue to plunk down tens of thousands of dollars in pursuit of college degrees that, at least from an employment standpoint, may not carry as much weight as they once did. Let’s examine the facts.

Item: The education paradigm is rapidly changing. No longer must one enter a brick and mortar building in order to receive quality training. In fact, much of what’s available at a typical university can now be found online, often for free or for a fraction of the cost of a traditional college course. According to a Sloan Survey conducted in 2010, enrollment in online education grew 21% that year while enrollment at traditional colleges grew only 2%. Even more tellingly, the study found that more than 5.6 million people – nearly one-third of all students – were taking at least one course online. A harbinger of things to come?

Item: Student loans unduly burden a graduate. There’s no getting around it. According to a November 2011 study conducted by The New York Times, the average debt carried by a graduate is more than $25,000. Young people saddled with this level of debt (and often much higher) are increasingly sinking like anchors at a time when their earning power is at its comparative lowest. If graduates don’t land decent paying jobs and quick – a genuine rarity in these days of nagging unemployment/ underemployment – they may go belly-up before they’ve ever really started. Then, they’ll not only be floundering at a job that’s beneath their skill level, they’ll also have a severe mark against their credit record.

Item: Not everyone qualifies as “college material,” and that’s precisely as it should be. Greatly accomplished people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have gone on record saying that they were repelled by classroom regimentation, or bored silly by the learn-by-rote style of teaching often found in classroom settings. Others have interests or show aptitude in areas that fall well outside the college realm. Many believe that the comparatively new assumption that all will benefit from the typical college experience is as staggering for its naïveté as it is for its hubris. Human beings aren’t interchangeable units, proponents from this camp argue. One size doesn’t necessarily fit all.

Item: Perception and reality can be very different things especially where college educations are concerned. Even as today’s graduates experience questionable returns on their hefty college investments, high school graduates clamber to get into the “right” schools. The curious thing about this is the fact that, in many cases, the particular college that one attends matters less than the fact that they have a degree. If better jobs come to those who attend “better” schools, studies show that it often traces to the connections that one makes while a student, not the inherent value of the sheepskin itself.

Item: Somewhere along the lines the American outlook on college has changed. There was a time when young men and women looked toward higher education as a tried-and- true path toward self-betterment. Sure, a diploma might pay dividends in the form of career advancement, security and higher wages, but that wasn’t necessarily its sole objective. Nowadays, it’s no great secret that college is increasingly viewed as a means to an end – no longer an end in itself. This undoubtedly traces to economics. It’s hard to remain principled if one can’t first acquire the required necessities of life (food, shelter, clothing). If companies are increasingly demanding that their employees hold college degrees, many people feel that it’s incumbent upon them to meet such requirements.

Item: Many, if not most, colleges offer little to nothing in the way of job placement. Critics believe that colleges dangle their four-year degrees in front of prospective students like carrots – setting their sheepskins up as grand prizes, sought out as much for their cache as their implied earning power. If the big “payoff” doesn’t arrive when a student moves out into the workforce, or if that student can’t find work in his/her chosen field, it’s no sweat to the institution, according to these critics. The schools were already paid handsomely for their sheepskin. Next.

Item: The value of a four-year college education is being scrutinized like never before. When “Johnny Jr.” graduates and finds himself underemployed in a low-paying “career” that comes nowhere near the level to which he originally aspired, his disenchantment with the system may find its way onto social networks like Facebook and Twitter. It doesn’t take a college graduate to see that such negative reports might effect future college enrollments.

Item: A recent Pew Research Center study found that 75% of Americans feel that college has become too expensive for most people. That same study showed that only 53% believe that college makes work more interesting. Only a slim majority (55%) of higher education graduates felt that college prepared them for a job, yet a whopping 86% believed that college was a good investment for them.

Item: A Bureau of Labor Statistics study shows that, despite the skepticism, college is still the best bet in the long run for young people looking to get ahead financially. According to the study, the median earning potential of an average college graduate outpaces that of high school graduates by some 13.5%. On the other hand, the study fails to factor in college loan debt that many graduates carry with them for years afterward.

Make no mistake, for the moment at least, the traditional college experience is still perceived as the gold standard in education. Even so, colleges may eventually price themselves out of the market when people decide that their return on investment is no longer in tune with the astounding and continually escalating price of tuition. Only time will tell.

 

 

What are your thoughts on this great college debate? We’d like to know. We’re inviting recent graduates (out of school for six months or longer) to share their experiences with us via an informal survey (see following questions). The findings will be posted in a follow-up article. Please send responses to: jeffbahr@theobserver.com or The Observer, 531 Kearny Ave., Kearny, N.J. 07032.

Survey questions:

• After graduation, how long did it take you to land a job?

• Was that job in your chosen field?

• Was the pay scale in sync with what you expected?

• Do you carry student debt? If so, how much? Do you consider such payments a burden or are they worth it in the long run?

• Do you feel that college as a whole is still worth the price of admission? What are your feelings about online education or other alternatives to the standard college experience?

• If you had it to do again, would you still attend college?

• Would you recommend the college experience to others? Why? Why not?

New supermarket coming to Belleville

Photos by Ron Leir/ TOP: Former Pathmark site awaits rebirth as ShopRite. BOTTOM: Interior space of new supermarket.

By Ron Leir

BELLEVILLE –

Dave Owens is a cautious man, having been exposed to the vagaries of the retail business world. So, when Nutley Park Shop- Rite representatives gleefully informed Mayor Ray Kimble and Interim Township Manager Kevin Esposito on April 27 that they planned to open a second store at the long-vacant space at Belleville Center on Washington Ave. early next year, Owens took it in stride.

As a representative of the property’s management firm, Kan Management, Owens said he heard the same commitment from ShopRite a year ago – when legal papers were drawn up for a proposed long-term lease of the space formerly occupied by Pathmark until its closure in mid- October 2010.

But “(ShopRite) backed out,” Owens recalled.

True enough, conceded Vincent Locurcio Jr., vice president of Nutley Park ShopRite. “Circumstances came where we had to withdraw,” he said.

But now, Locurcio insisted, “things changed. We’re back in the mix. … We’ve negotiated an agreement with the landlord so we’re moving forward with bringing a second ShopRite into (the Belleville) location.”

Locurcio, who runs Nutley Park with partner Dave Infusino, declined to explain what factors forced the supermarket company to put the move on the shelf a year ago but this time around, he said, “we got approvals a month ago from our Wakefern (ShopRite) co-op board representing 17 families” to go forward with the deal.

“It’s close,” Locurcio said. “It’s definitely going to happen.”

How close? Locurcio believes the lease with Belleville Center “will be signed in the next month” and the new store should open sometime during “the first quarter of next year.”

Once development plans are submitted to, and approved by, the Belleville Planning Board – (no land use variances will be required, according to Locurcio) – “we’re looking at a nine month build-out,” he said.

Locurcio said the new store will occupy the same footprint as the old Pathmark – more than 40,000 square feet – but will also expand to take over the space now taken up by a liquor store which “will relocate across the hallway so that the whole right side of the store will be ShopRite.”

“We’ll be a little bit smaller than Nutley Park (48,000 square feet) and a little tighter but the new store will, essentially, be the proto-typical ShopRite, with a pharmacy, produce, bakery, all the different departments,” Locurcio said.

Locurcio said “a couple hundred” new commercial and retail jobs would be created by opening the new store. “We’ll probably transfer some people from Nutley,” he said.

On the assumption that Wakefern lawyers sign off on the deal, Owens said that all the existing tenants at Belleville Center, including Kelly’s Liquors, Pizza Hut and KFC, will remain.

“We’re proceeding as if it’s going to happen,” Owens said. “It’s at a point where legal documents are being prepared. … There’s no reason to think there’s not a commitment to go forward. … It appears Wakefield is pursuing it.”

And, Owens added, “We’re going to do everything we can to help.” That means refurbishing the outside of the property by installing new lighting, fencing and landscaping so that “the building will look brand new.” Those site improvements would be undertaken “60 days prior to the anticipated opening of the new store,” he said.

As for the interior, Locurcio said, Shop- Rite is committed to a “multi-million dollar investment” in making ready the new store.

“ShopRite has been in Nutley since the 1950s,” Locurcio said. “We regard Belleville as our sister town. Its people have been a big supporter of our business.”

Pathmark “was struggling” in that location, Locurcio said, “but we feel there’s a need for a supermarket in that area. We’re excited about it.”

A WORD WITH THE PUBLISHER: Happy birthday to us!

publisher@theobserver.com

 

This month, The Observer celebrates its 125th birthday. The anniversary date is May 14, 1887. Back then it was called The Arlington Observer and it cost only three cents! The front-page edition still hangs in our front office.

Over the years the newspaper industry has changed drastically. Computers have made our job much easier, especially when compared to the old paste-up days. But some things have stayed the same. The Observer is still maintaining its family tradition by producing a weekly paper that focuses on the community’s needs.

We’re also helping local businesses to prosper via our skilled advertising and marketing strategies.

I want to thank everyone for supporting this paper over the years. It’s been a wonderful journey.

Happy birthday, Observer!

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