By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent LYNDHURST – State officials are still pondering what to do about the century-old DeJessa Bridge which links Lyndhurst and Nutley across the Passaic River but, in the meantime, Bergen County has done its part to try and relieve congestion there. At the urging […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – The town is preparing to let the dogs out but first it wants the owners in. For a public meeting, that is, on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 7:30 p.m., in the second floor Town Council chambers at Town Hall […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY – By the time you read this, we all may be trapped inside by a blizzard — if the current weather forecasts are correct. But it doesn’t necessarily take heavy snow to create havoc. Sometimes, a coating of ice is sufficient. […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – For the past 37 years, the Kearny nonprofit Pathways to Independence Inc. has helped those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live independently in their communities. Currently, from its 3-level, 18,000 square foot headquarters at Kingsland and Bergen Aves., it offers on-site […]
Tim Bixler, of The Bixler Group Real Estate and Insurance and his wife, Charissa Bixler, welcomed their daughter, Addison Paige Bixler, on Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 1:20 p.m. Big brother Brayden is beyond excited. Only a few more years until […]
Our last ‘Then & Now’ featured a 1930 Harrison photo of N. 4th St. (now Frank E. Rodgers Blvd.) viewed from Harrison Ave. This is the same spot, as pictured in an antique postcard. The card is undated, but it obviously predates the 1930 scene by decades. Our guess is that it’s from the 1890s or early 1900s, which we surmise based on the clothing of the pedestrians, including a woman, just visible at far left, in a ground-sweeping dress and wide-brimmed hat. What we find most intriguing is the emptiness. Where is everyone? There’s just a handful of people and no vehicles at all. Not a wagon, horse-drawn carriage or trolley in sight, although the tracks are evidence that trolleys do travel here. Was Harrison closed that day?
We thought it might be difficult to stand in the street to take the ‘Now’ photo, considering how heavy traffic is these days. But . . . where is everyone?
– Karen Zautyk
The Kearny Public Library’s main facility at 318 Kearny Ave. is closing for emergency heating repairs, from Monday, Nov. 10, to Wednesday, Nov. 12.
All programs scheduled for those days are canceled, including Story Time, Child’s Cooking Class and Book Discussion Group.
Library Director Josh Humphrey said the library’s generator – a converted coal-fired furnace that is at least 70 years old – “has been on its last legs” for a while and “leaking water.”
Core Mechanical of Pennsauken will install a new boiler, Humphrey said. He was unable to provide the cost estimate for the job but said that the money would come from the library’s unreserved emergency funds.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 10 and 12, the Branch Library, 759 Kearny Ave., will offer extended hours: from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
– Ron Leir
By Ron Leir
Erwin Ganz was only nine when he fled Germany in 1939, thereby escaping the Holocaust, but his memories of that terrifying time are still fresh. Ganz, who resettled in America, went to Weequahic High School in Newark and Seton Hall University for an accounting degree, shared those memories at an assembly program hosted by Belleville High School last Thursday.
Since retiring from The Ronson Corp. after a 60-year career in 2009, Ganz has visited more than 40 schools, colleges, churches and synagogues, to tell his story.
Young people, especially, he said, “need to know what happened during the Hitler regime because when I’m gone [along with other survivors], the only way to find out is from books.”
In February 1933, Ganz explained to the Belleville students, “Hitler came to power and blamed the Jews” for Germany’s economic ills: rampant inflation and high unemployment. When he was five, Ganz said, his father “lost his job as a bank executive in Frankfort because he was a Jew,” and the family moved 100 miles away to Berncastel- Kues where his grandmother owned a small department store and his dad worked there.
Famous for its vineyards and wine production and an ancient castle atop a hill, “it was like a fairy tale town,” Ganz said.
But below the surface lurked the political realities of the day: “There were no more than 30 Jewish families there and the local public school refused to enroll me because I was Jewish – there was rampant anti-Semitism.”
His parents found a Jewish school – 35 miles away in Willich – and Ganz and his brother commuted there and back by train. When they’d walk out of the train station, they’d be “harassed by the Hitler Youth who, on occasion, stole our books” as police stood by and “did nothing.”
It was during this period, he said, that “Jewish men were taken from their homes and beaten on the streets” and the German state secret police, known as the Gestapo, placed signs on Jewish-owned businesses, reading: “Do Not Buy From Jews.”
One morning in March 1938, Ganz recalls being told by his mother that, “my dad left in the middle of the night to escape the Nazis who were looking for him.” He later learned that an American relative had agreed to “sponsor” his dad’s admission to the U.S. by placing money in an escrow account. Armed with that information, Ganz’s father managed to scrape up enough money for a passage to the U.S.
Only after he had set sail did word arrive in Germany that the aged relative had died. But a Jewish aid society arranged for shelter and work for Ganz’s dad in the U.S.
Back in Germany, meanwhile, Ganz recalled returning home from school on Nov. 9, 1938, on an “overcast and gray” day and was surprised to see his mother waiting for him at the station.
“She was holding a banana, which was considered a delicacy in Germany then, and she gave it to me as a distraction from the terrible sight I saw when we got home – windows broken, glass all over the street and front yard – and inside the house, the Nazis had ripped frames, destroyed pictures, slashed sofas and chairs. There were hatchet marks on the door frames. In an upstairs bedroom, coal-fired stoves had been ripped from their foundations and thrown on the beds.”
Similar signs of destruction at Jewish homes and businesses – including Ganz’s grandmother’s store – were everywhere, he said. It came to be known as Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass – when, around Germany, paramilitary units looted several thousand Jewish-owned shops, burned hundreds of synagogues and began roundups of Jews bound for Nazi concentration camps.
At his grandmother’s store, Ganz said that many of the Nazi Youth involved in laying waste to the business “were children of customers who shopped there,” but their parents were reluctant to stop them “because they were afraid they’d be turned in to the Gestapo by their children.”
The Gestapo came to Ganz’s house “to take my father away,” Ganz said, but, luckily, he’d already fled to the U.S.
Conditions continued to worsen: From a tavern next door to the Ganzs’ house, “every night, we could hear the Nazis singing about killing Jews,” he said. The Jewish school in Willich “was destroyed.” The Nazis confiscated jewelry held by Jews who, by then, feared leaving their homes.
Things got so bad, said Ganz, that “our devoted housekeeper, who was Catholic, brought us food in the middle of the night.”
In April 1939, Ganz, his brother and mother left for the U.S. aboard the ship, the Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1940, his grandmother followed. “She got out on the last boat that left Germany,” he said.
When he made his first return visit to Germany in 1974, Ganz visited his old home in Berncastel-Kues and the new owner – after being assured that Ganz wasn’t going to try and reclaim the property – showed him around. “I could still see the hatchet indentations made by the Nazis in 1938,” he said.
On the site of his grandmother’s store was a tavern; the town’s synagogue had been converted to a machine shop – “but,” Ganz said, “you could still see the Star of David on top” – and, in Willich, the synagogue “was still standing” but a sign outside said it was a “Jewish Museum.”
The attendant gave Ganz a tour of the building and spoke about the onetime Jewish presence “as if it was something that happened a long time ago.”
“I would never live in Germany again,” Ganz told the students. “America is the best country in the world. America saved my life and my parents’ lives and I would do anything for it.”
By Ron Leir
After meeting in closed caucus for about an hour last Wednesday, Kearny’s governing body came out with what Mayor Alberto Santos later characterized as a commitment to hire 12 additional firefighters … if the town’s state fiscal monitor goes along.
And town officials are pledged to do that, Santos said, even if Kearny fails to secure outside funding sources – in particular, the federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant – to help subsidize the cost.
In the recent past, the town has been hesitant to hire any new uniformed employees without that outside cash, insisting that it has been operating under severe budgetary restraints.
But now, Santos said, the Fire Department roster has dipped to the degree that overtime expenses to cover for ailing or injured firefighters and fire superiors have climbed to alarming levels, to the point where the town has essentially no choice but to replenish the ranks.
“We’re going to hit close to $1 million in Fire Department overtime – for both the rank and file and for officers – for the year,” the mayor said, “and we have a recommendation from both the fire chief and CFO that if we hire 12 additional firefighters, we will actually see a savings with a big reduction in overtime.”
With the new personnel, Santos said, each of the department’s four shifts can be supplemented by three firefighters, thereby expanding coverage and more bodies available to fill gaps when needed.
Implementing the new hires, according to Santos, would mean an investment of approximately $600,000 – calculated on the basis of about $30,000 in salary plus an average of $20,000 in health benefits per firefighter per year.
But Santos said that some of that cost would be offset by retirements of veteran uniformed employees anticipated in both the Police and Fire Departments during the next couple of years.
As part of the plan, the mayor said the town would “implement monthly overtime reporting to track projected savings in overtime.”
If, for whatever reason, however, the plan doesn’t produce those savings, Santos said the town may have to close another fire company, as it did a few years ago.
Asked if the town would consider – as a possible savings strategy – renegotiating firefighters’ work schedule, Santos said that wouldn’t happen because the issue was previously arbitrated in the unions’ favor.
At any rate, assuming the state monitor signs off on the plan for extra hirings, Santos said the next step would be for the town to ask the state Civil Service Commission to certify a new firefighter appointment list.
Reached this week, Fire Chief Steve Dyl said: “Yes, we looked at our overtime for 2013 and 2014 and we figured that if we put a few more [firefighters] on, we’d have better balance and put a dent in the O.T.”
Dyl said he’s still facing a falloff in personnel, having lost three firefighters this year through retirement. “If we get the 12 [new appointees], that will put me at 56 – and, with superiors, it will come to 96 total,” he said. That will still fall short of the 102 total called for under the department’s T.O.
“We’ll try to get the new people into the training academy by March  so we have them on the streets before July 1,” Dyl said.
Meanwhile, Santos said the town is also planning to hire more police officers to strengthen thinned ranks. To that end, he said that Civil Service has asked the Police Department to verify residencies of the people on the current appointment list. He declined to say how many cops might be hired.
The mayor and council have also agreed to go along with Public Works Superintendent Gerry Kerr’s recommendation to hire three “seasonal” workers for six months of the year. The monitor has consented to this proposal, Santos said.
A request from the Health Department for a replacement senior citizen bus driver has yet to be discussed, the mayor said.
By Ron Leir
Occupants of the so-called Sober House at 2-8 Grand Place in Kearny faced a court order to vacate the building on or before 5 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 4.
Hudson County Superior Court Judge Hector R. Velazquez, sitting in Jersey City, so ordered last Friday after determining “that immediate or irreparable harm will result” from property owner Jacqueline Lopes “operating or permitting others to operate a rooming/boarding house” in a single-family residential zone.
An inspection of the property conducted by the state Department of Community Affairs’ Bureau of Rooming & Boarding House Standards on Oct. 6 found that eight people were living in the house. Angelo J. Mureo, an enforcement field supervisor with the bureau, concluded that, “the property is currently operating as an unlicensed Class C boarding house.” The house can hold up to nine residents, Mureo determined.
Among “concerns regarding physical plant,” Mureo recommends removal of two entry doors, “one providing access to the third story attic area housing a rooming unit to accommodate two roomers and the other housing a sitting room.”
He also says the bureau has received “no certificate of smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm compliance, issued by the designated Uniform Fire Code enforcing agency….”
The judge will allow Lopes to explain why the occupants of the house should be allowed to stay – but not until a hearing set for Dec. 12 at 11:30 a.m. in Jersey City.
On a separate legal front, Lopes and Charles Valentine, who runs the Sober House operation, have been summoned to appear in Kearny Municipal Court Nov. 13 at 10:30 a.m. Lopes faces fines totaling $8,000 dating from Sept. 5 for “changing the use” of the property while Valentine is charged with failing to get a certificate of occupancy for a rooming house, dating from Sept. 8.
As of last week, it was unclear what, if anything, Lopes or Valentine would do to prevent the vacate order from being carried out.
According to complaints filed by Kearny with Superior Court, Lopes acquired the Grand Place property around May 2014 and received a C.O. for its “continued use” as a “one-family dwelling.” But, the complaint notes, Lopes “is being paid $1,900 per month to illegally operate, or to permit others to illegally operate, a boarding house on the premises.”
This contention, the town says in its complaint, is borne out by the state inspection report.
And because the Valentine House accommodates “recovering drug and alcohol addicts,” that is “of particular concern to the town because the Roosevelt Elementary School is approximately 100 feet from the premises,” the complaint says.
Further, the complaint says, Lopes “has not applied to the town for a variance to use the premises as a rooming/boarding house [and] is not licensed by the [state] as a rooming/ boarding house operator ….” and that she “misrepresented that she would occupy the premises as her sole residence.”
Fairfield attorney Gregory Castano Jr., the town’s general counsel, argued in the complaints that, “The town has a statutorily mandated obligation to enforce the state and local zoning laws. Every single day that Ms. Lopes is permitted to operate an illegal rooming/ boarding house at the [Grand Place] premises is a flagrant, continuing and ongoing injury for which the town – which represents the general public interest – has no other remedy.”
Lopes couldn’t be reached and reportedly had no legal representative at last week’s court session. Valentine’s attorney Thomas J. Cotton was unavailable last week.
By Ron Leir
The federal trial of Kearny Board of Education member John Leadbeater, accused of taking part in a conspiracy to defraud banks of $13 million in mortgage proceeds, has been delayed three months – at the government’s request. The trial of Leadbeater, a former Kearny councilman, is now on for March 2 before Judge Ann Marie Donio in Camden federal court.
Leadbeater’s Jersey City attorney Thomas J. Cammarata raised no objection to the government’s petition. The case had been set for trial early next month but on Oct. 8, government lawyers asked U.S. District Court Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle to designate it as a “complex case,” and, as such, the government gets more time to prepare.
“Complex case or litigation,” as explained by the National Center for State Courts website, is a legal term of art referring to the types of cases “requiring more intensive judicial management. Complexity may be determined by multiple parties, multiple attorneys, geographically dispersed plaintiffs and defendants, numerous expert witnesses, complex subject matter, complicated testimony concerning causation, procedural complexity, complex substantive law, extensive discovery [among other factors].”
On Oct. 21, Judge Simandle granted the government’s request, noting that, “This case involves allegations of conspiracy to commit wire fraud over a period of several years and conspiracy to commit money laundering over a period several years.”
Further, the judge found that, “The discovery in the case is voluminous, in that it includes the documents relevant to approximately 30 real estate transactions occurring between 2006 through 2008.”
Initially, the government – represented by Asst. U.S. Attorney Jacqueline M. Carle – had sought the move the trial from Dec. 1, 2014, to Feb. 2, 2015, “and to exclude the intervening period of time under the [70-day] Speedy Trial Act to allow trial counsel for the government to prepare for trial.”
In response, Cammarata asked for a March date “due to scheduling conflicts,” to which the judge consented, agreeing to make the same exception for the intervening time for the defense.
In March 2013, Leadbeater, 54, was charged with Daniel Cardillo, 49, of Wildwood, in a federal indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with an alleged scheme to recruit straw buyers (Cardillo included) to buy oceanfront condominiums “overbuilt by financially distressed developers in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.”
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the straw buyers “had good credit scores but lacked the financial resources to qualify for the mortgage loans.” Leadbeater and other co-conspirators allegedly “created … fake employment records, W-2 forms and investment statements to make the straw buyers appear more creditworthy than they actually were to induce the lenders to make the loans,” the feds alleged.
“Once the loans were approved and the mortgage lenders sent the loan proceeds in connection with real estate closings on the properties, Leadbeater and his conspirators took a portion of the proceeds, having funds wired or checks deposited into various accounts they controlled,” the government alleged.
If convicted of wire fraud conspiracy, Leadbeater could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison and fined up to $1 million.
Leadbeater co-defendant Cardillo was severed from his alleged co-conspirator and will stand trial after Leadbeater, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rebeka Carmichael. They are the two remaining defendants in the feds’ sweeping mortgage fraud case involving at least 11 other alleged conspirators.
Seven of those defendants – Justin Spradley, 35, of Cincinnati, Ohio; Robert Horton, 37, of Nashport, Ohio; Paul Watterson, 53, of Mountainside; Michelle Martinez, 49, of Brick; Ernesto Rodriguez, Matthew Gardner and Steven Schlatmann, 27, of Jersey City – have each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and their sentences are pending, Carmichael said.
Four defendants – John Bingaman, 44, of Benton, Ark.; Dana Rummerfield, 47, of Los Angeles; Debra Hanson, 49, of Voorhees; and Angela Celli, 42, of Somerset, Mass. – have also entered guilty pleas relative to the case and also await sentencing, she said.
By Ron Leir
Just four weeks after Commissioner John Montillo took over as public safety director, the Lyndhurst Police Department promoted seven cops, including the only woman in the nearly 50-member department.
Strikingly absent from last Thursday’s promotion ceremonies was Mayor Robert Giangeruso, a retired deputy police chief who had been a fixture as public safety boss since being elected to the Township Commission nine years ago.
But last month, Giangeruso was forced to accept a shift to Montillo’s old spot as public affairs chief after the township was reportedly on the brink of losing insurance coverage because several cops – including the chief – were suing the mayor for allegedly interfering with the operations of the Police Department.
Standing before a packed house in the Municipal Building assembly chambers, Montillo said: “This is a special day for me. I’m extremely proud to be your public safety commissioner.” After having met with “almost all” of the police officers “to hear them explain their functions and the efforts they make to protect Lyndhurst,” Montillo said he was confident that the township “is a safer place because of Chief [James] O’Connor and the members of the Lynhurst Police Department.”
And he drew cheers when he declared that he was “committed to being fair and impartial” in his oversight of the department. Addressing the newly made superiors, Montillo added: “I have all the faith in the world you are right people for the job.”
Later, Montillo released a statement to The Observer, saying, “The promotions were in compliance with the department’s official table of organization. They filled vacancies that existed due to retirements that have occurred within the past year as well as one officer currently on terminal leave.
“It’s a benefit to our entire department those we serve to recognize the talents and dedication of our officers,” his statement said. “It also makes good police-management sense to have a clear chain of command and accountability. These promotions help us achieve that goal.”
O’Connor extended thanks to Montillo “for taking an active role” in consulting with him on the promotions and said that the department would shortly disclose a “reconfiguration” of its table of organization. He declined to elaborate.
The new appointees are: Capt. Patrick Devlin, Lts. Robert Nicol, John Kerner and Michael Failace; and Sgts. Kevin Breslin, Donna Niland and Richard Pizzuti. Sergeant’s pay is $121,352 a year; lieutenants make $131,854; and captains earn $142,424.
Capt. Devlin, the current investigative division supervisor, was hired in December 1994, was made detective in August 2000, elevated to sergeant in June 2003 and to lieutenant in 2009. He is tactical commander of the Special Response Team and founder of the Junior Police Academy. He has a bachelor’s degree in police studies from John Jay College and a master’s in administrative science from FDU. He served six years with the Marine Corps and is an instructor with the West Point Command & Leadership Program.
Lt. Nicol was hired in March 1985 and promoted to sergeant in November 2002. He teaches expandable baton, prisoner and cell block management and coordinates criminal justice information systems.
Lt. Kerner was hired in June 1992, promoted to detective in June 2003 and sergeant in September 2009. He has served as property & evidence officer, Megan’s Law liaison officer and crisis negotiator. He is credited with a highly successful case clearance rate in investigations and is responsible for DNA collections. He attended Montclair State University.
Lt. Failace was hired in August 1999, made detective in September 2002 and sergeant in September 2009. An original member of the Special Response Team, he assists with CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and Neighborhood Watch Program, is a Junior Police Academy instructor, a certified chemical munitions instructor, certified field training officer and Honor Guard member. He also works with the Bergen County Police Academy as a physical fitness instructor and motor vehicle stop & street survival instructor. While assigned to the detective bureau, he was credited with a high case closure rate. He’s heavily involved with the Special Olympics.
Sgt. Breslin was hired in December 1994. His resume includes: department Tactical Anti-Crime officer, certified EMT, instructor in CERT, CPR and First Aid, emergency vehicle operations and automatic license plate reader. He maintains all department mobile computer systems and defibrillators and is a computer trainer. Sgt. Niland was hired in January 1998. She has a degree in business administration from Ramapo College. She’s a drug recognition expert, child safety technician, Alco-test operator, DARE instructor, crisis negotiator, Project Lifesaver Electronic Search specialist and assists with Junior Police Academy.
Sgt. Pizzuti was hired in August 1999. He has a criminal justice degree from New Jersey City University and is a firearms instructor, field training officer, an SRT member/sniper, Honor Guard member and Junior Police Academy instructor. Since 2010, he has been assigned to the DEA Task Force where he’s been involved in numerous high-level narcotics investigations.
All those promoted are the recipients of numerous letters of commendation for exceptional police work.
By Ron Leir
Oct. 29 was National Cat Day, and Kearny feline lovers were purring with delight over the town’s move to implement a TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) policy for feral cats – something advocates been clamoring about for months.
It’s not quite official yet: The mayor and Town Council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance, introduced Wednesday, that details how the program will work at their next meeting on Nov. 12 but no roadblocks are anticipated.
The policy, which, Mayor Alberto Santos heralded as a potential “model for the state” if adopted, allows for “feral cat colonies” and designates citizen “caregivers” to “maintain them” as per the rules set out in the ordinance.
Here’s how the policy would work:
The town’s animal control provider, the Bergen County Animal Shelter, would train caregivers in caring for the cat colony, help resolve any complaints over the colony’s operation and assume costs associated with the TNR program, such as traps, vaccinations, neutering/spaying. (Those expenses would be included as part of the town’s roughly $92,000 a year contract with the BCAS, Santos told The Observer.)
A TNR Committee, whose members are to be appointed by the mayor and council, would use standardized forms to “maintain records provided by colony caregivers on the registration, size and location of the colonies, as well as the vaccination and spay/neuter records of cats in the caregiver colonies.”
The TNR Committee would also report to the town Health Department, every six months, with help from colony caregivers, on the “number and gender of all cats in the colony, the number of cats who died [or left the colony], the number of kittens born to colony cats and their disposition, the number of cats and kittens spayed and neutered and the number of cats and kittens placed in permanent homes….”
Volunteer feral cat caregivers would register a colony with the TNR Committee, have the colony vaccinated against rabies and get “all cats” in the colony spayed/ neutered; maintain a digital photo record of all colony cats and a record of cats having been “vaccinated, spayed/ neutered and ear tipped [to identify cats that may roam from the colony]” and provide food and water during daylight hours and winter shelter for colony cats.
They would also “keep a record of any illnesses or unusual behavior” observed in any colony cats, secure medical care for ill cats, and secure “written approval” of any property owner “to which the caregiver requires access to provide colony care.”
They would also be charged with placing any kittens born to a colony cat in “homes, foster homes, or with animal shelters, rescue organizations or veterinary offices for the purpose of subsequent permanent placement.”
The town would reserve its right to remove from a colony any cat that hasn’t received a rabies shot and is showing signs of the disease or any cat “creating a nuisance” unless the caregiver can resolve the issue within 60 days. The town could shut down a colony for failure to comply with the regulations. It could also “replace or remove” a caregiver for failure to comply with the rules. If the town gets a nuisance complaint about an ear-tipped feral colony cat, the Health Department can remove the cat if the TNR Committee can’t resolve the issue within 60 days. Sick or injured cats or cats deemed a public threat may also be removed under certain time conditions.
“Not later than Jan. 31, 2016,” the town is to evaluate the policy to determine whether to continue, modify or terminate it.
Asked who would sit on the TNR Committee, Santos said the council would be asked to deal with that shortly by acting a resolution for the appointment of between three and five nonsalaried members who, he added, would likely include TNR advocates Leonard Twist and Kathy DeRay. “We would probably leave it to them to choose the others,” he said.
The mayor credited Flanders attorney Michelle Lerner, legal adviser for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, for help in drafting the ordinance.
After the council voted to introduce the ordinance, Twist and DeRay lauded the lawmakers and Health Director Ken Pincus for their efforts. “You put your nose to the grindstone on this one,” said Twist. “We’ll make it work.”
Added DeRay: “You’ve turned Kearny from a ‘trap and kill’ community to a ‘trap and no kill.’ ’’
By Karen Zautyk
Last Wednesday, Oct. 29, Kearny police contacted the Hudson County Juvenile Intake Unit regarding a 16-year-old township boy whom they had arrested for receiving stolen property.
According to Police Chief John Dowie, rather than acceding to the request to send the teen to the Juvenile Detention Center, officials advised the KPD to release him to his guardian. Apparently, the county did not consider the offense serious enough to warrant detention.
But the kid ended up at the center anyway. The very next day. Following a new arrest — this time, for robbery.
Dowie said it marked the 50th “encounter” Kearny police have had with this juvenile since 2010.
Last week’s drama started at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, when Officer Steven Hroncich took a report from a Johnston Ave. resident regarding a bicycle stolen from her yard sometime overnight. The woman noted she had registered the bike with the Montclair PD when she was living in that town, and she provided a detailed description, including the make, the model, the color — and the ID number the MPD had inscribed on it.
At 3:15 p.m., Officer John Fabula, who had read the theft report after coming on duty at 2, spotted a cycle matching the description being ridden by the aforementioned 16-yearold at Kearny Ave. and Beech St. When Fabula inspected it, he found the Montclair ID number, police said.
Since there was no direct evidence linking the boy to the actual theft, he was charged with receiving stolen property and was brought to headquarters. It was then that the request to county was made, and denied.
The juvenile was released to the custody of his grandmother.
On Oct. 30, at 6 p.m., a 17-year-old from Kearny notified police that he had been robbed near Belgrove Drive and Afton St.
Sgt. Charles Smith and Officer Chris Levchak responded to the scene, where the victim told them he had been walking across the athletic field when he was assaulted. He said he was punched in the head and knocked to the ground and was robbed of his cell phone and $5.
A description was obtained and a short time later Sgt. Peter Gleason detained suspects at Kearny Ave. and Afton St. The victim was brought there and provided identification, police said.
Charged with robbery and conspiracy were Jomar Diaz, 21, of Newark, and the same 16-year-old apprehended the previous day with the bicycle.
Diaz was remanded to the Hudson County Jail on $25,000 bail.
The juvenile was finally sent to the Youth House.
Dowie said the KPD›s file on the teen dates to June 2010, when the boy, then 13 years old, was charged with assault. Subsequent charges have reportedly ranged from curfew violation to armed robbery (with a firearm). The 50 “encounters” have also involved allegations of theft, robbery, harassment, trespass, making terroristic threats, and aggravated assault, the chief said.
This past Sunday evening, a global audience tuned in to the Discovery Channel to watch the aerialist Nik Wallenda tackle another death-defying stunt.
On this occasion, Wallenda – of the Flying Wallendas circus family – would walk along a tightrope linking two 500-foot-plus high skyscrapers in Chicago – the Windy City – sans harness or safety rope.
And (drum roll, please) he would do part of the walk up an incline and another while wearing a blindfold.
This is the same fellow who, two years ago, strolled across Niagara Falls. (ABC insisted he wear protection for that one.)
“If I want to inspire others, I feel like I have to continue to push myself,” Wallenda told The New York Times in its Saturday edition. “I thought a blindfold would be very exciting.”
To me, exciting is managing to get out of bed in the morning without tripping over my own feet. Or pitching a softball without getting whacked by a line drive back through the box. Or performing on stage and not forgetting my lines.
Why push it?
Well, obviously there are some among us for whom life just ain’t worth living unless you do all you can do – however that translates in your own universe.
If you happen to be an entertainer on a world stage like Wallenda, I guess it’s the notion of rising to ever greater challenges that keeps you going.
Some people might see that as ego satisfaction – and there’s probably a pinch of that influencing the man on the wire – but if we are to accept his words, “inspire others,” as truthful, then we can look beyond personal acclaim to the idea that he’s taking us mere mortals along with him on his perilous journey.
That he’s putting the notion in our heads that we, too, have it in us to rise to the occasion, to be all that we can be, in the noblest and finest way in serving our fellow creatures.
Take, for example, the health care professionals – like Doctors Without Borders and their attending nurses like Kaci Hickox – who have put their lives on the line to work with the unfortunate victims of Ebola in West Africa.
There is the great courage of Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani girl shot and nearly killed by the Taliban in October 2012 for daring to advocate for a girl’s right to an education in her country and continuing to speak out in the face of persistent death threats.
Let us not forget the contributions made by test pilots, like co-pilot Michael Alsbury, who was killed this past Friday in the crash of Virgin Galactic’s experimental Space- ShipTwo in the Mojave Desert, and pilot Peter Siebold, who was seriously hurt after parachuting from the plane. And, before them, of course, Amelia Earhart and countless others who risked their lives … yes, probably for fame, but also for the advancement of aviation.
Let’s not forget Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, the Mississippi Freedom Fighters who were an inspiration to the cause of civil rights.
Yes, they all walked their own type of tightrope because they believed that in pursuing something bigger than themselves that the world would be better for it.
– Ron Leir