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Tonight’s Nutley HS football game moved to Msgr. Owens Field

Due to weather conditions this week and the need to preserve the final stages of construction on the oval, tonight’s Nutley High School home football game has been moved to Monsignor Owens Field 44 Park Ave.,  at 7 p.m.  Admission to the game is […]

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One dead in Lyndhurst shooting

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 […]

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‘Sober House’ rattles residents

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 […]

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2nd hotel signals growth

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 […]

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A harvest of plenty in special garden

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. […]

 
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Will Doran accept big pay cut?

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

HARRISON – 

Will he go or will he stay? That’s what the Harrison Board of Education is wondering about Schools Superintendent James Doran, as he faces a June 30 deadline, when his contract with the district runs out.

Last Wednesday night, the BOE noted that it had “completed and accepted the evaluation of the Superintendent” (he passed) but took no action on renewing his contract.

When asked about Doran’s status, Michael Pichowicz, assistant school business administrator, said: “We’re still in negotiations.”

BOE President Maria J. Vila said the matter was scheduled for discussion at the June 25 board meeting. Read more »

Feds target laser threat to planes

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 

You can call it a limited-time offer, but it’s being offered by the federal government, not a car dealership or mortgage company.

Until Aug. 31, the FBI is offering up to $10,000 “for information that leads to the arrest of any individual who aims a laser at aircraft.”

The reward, announced earlier this month, is part of a national effort to raise public awareness and to stop what has become an “dramatically” increasing danger, not only to pilots and passengers, but also people on the ground.

Many of our Observer towns are directly under the flight path for Newark Liberty Airport. At any given time, you can look skyward and see an aircraft coming in for a landing or on its outbound route. It’s more than a little frightening to realize that someone with a handheld laser could temporarily blind a pilot. Read more »

New school borders set

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY –

The Kearny Board of Education voted June 16 to set in motion plans to send all seventh- and eighth-graders to a redesigned Lincoln Middle School by affirming new elementary school boundary lines for the 2014-2015 school year, taking effect in September.

And the board also cleared the way for Acting Schools Superintendent Patricia Blood to oversee implementing the plans by granting a 3-month extension through Sept. 30, pending approval by the executive county superintendent of schools, and by extending her contract through Dec. 31.

To help facilitate the district- wide elementary school reconfiguration, the board has approved the transfers of dozens of teachers, which, Kearny Education Association head Marcy Fisher estimates, will total about 120 – out of some 5 00 teachers that the KEA represents district-wide.

The Observer has asked Blood for the total number of students involved in the re-shaping of the district’s five remaining elementary schools (Lincoln now excluded) but, so far, the acting superintendent – who says she has spent many hours going over student movements from school to school with a consulting demographer – has yet to sort out a definitive answer. Read more »

Superstorm Sandy aid available

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Hudson County Long Term Recovery Committee (HCLTRC) has been set up after Superstorm Sandy to support and coordinate the area’s longterm recovery effort. It is a voluntary association of members representing many nonprofit agencies, faith-based groups and social service organizations; participants also include community advocates, relief groups and government partners.

HCLTRC assists residents of and organizations operating in Hudson County to recover from the effects of disasters, with particular attention to the needs of low-income and disabled residents and economically disadvantaged communities.

Hudson County residents who were affected by Sandy are eligible for HCLTRC’s services. They can help residents with finding out about resources, giving advice on dealing with damage, help with home repairs, and providing goods and financial assistance. Services are provided on a case-by-case basis and may vary depending on residents’ needs and the resources that are available.

Residents who are recovering from Sandy damage and are in need of additional assistance are encouraged to call 211 or 1-800-435-7555 to speak with someone regarding Sandy-related assistance

Taxes up, but so are public safety ranks

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BELLEVILLE – 

Public safety personnel and capital needs are being addressed as part of the Belleville municipal budget introduced earlier this month – but it comes with a bit of a price tag.

The $58.4 million municipal budget, of which $45.8 million is to be raised by local taxation, is only 1.84% higher than the township’s 2013 spending plan but will still – unless revised when the public hearing is held for its adoption – account for a projected increase of about $62 on the “average” house assessed at $238,200, according to Township Manager Kevin Esposito.

How property owners’ tax bills will be impacted by local school costs and the local share of the Essex County budget remains to be seen but if projections of a $2.5 million Board of Education deficit are accurate, that alone could drive up taxes by more than $200 on the average homeowner, Esposito said.

On the municipal side of the ledger, Esposito said a $300,000 spike in the cost of snow removal this past winter, when a cumulative total of 70 inches fell in the area, along with an uptick in employee health insurance premiums, helped push spending up.

The 2015 budget is designed to make room for 16 new police officers, of whom four are now undergoing training in the Police Academy and the township expects to send the other 12 to the Academy by September, according to Esposito.

Seven additional firefighters are also being added to the Fire Department roster, thanks to a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant that pays for salaries and benefits for two years.

With the new cops, the township will be “a few officers shy” of the ordinance strength called for by the Police Department’s Table of Organization and the Fire Department will also fall short of its T.O., but at least it’s taking steps to try and build up its public safety capability under fiscal restraints, Esposito said.

The township recently secured a 2014 E1 HP 100-foot aerial ladder fire truck with a 2,000-gallon-per minute pump, manufactured in Ocala, Fla., and acquired for $880,000 through a Houston/Galveston purchasing cooperative from a New Jersey vendor, Absolute Fire Protection, of South Plainfield. It will replace a 1992 rig.

The Fire Department also got a new ambulance, a 2014 Freightliner with a 170-inch box, built by PL Custom, of Manasquan, and acquired from N.J. Emergency Vehicles, a division of PL Custom, at a cost of $218,000 through the same purchasing cooperative. The department’s 2007 ambulance, with 114,000 miles logged, will become a backup vehicle for now.

Both new vehicles come equipped with a diesel exhaust fluid system.

“We are in the process of looking at our capital needs for 2015 and, specifically, replacing our aging pickup trucks which are used all seasons and some of which date from 1992,” Esposito said.

Additionally, he said, “At our July 1 Township Council meeting, we will be introducing a bond ordinance for our annual road improvement program, into which we hope to incorporate funds for the completion of the new Friendly House recreation center. At that time, we’ll make a decision on what equipment we want to purchase.”

– Ron Leir 

Guilty plea in massive scam

A Lyndhurst man, owner of a Jersey City jewelry store, pleaded guilty last week to a role in what authorities termed one of the largest credit card fraud schemes ever charged by the U.S. Justice Department.

According to New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, 51-year-old Vinod Dadlani used his shop, Tanishq Jewels, in a scam in which the conspirators fabricated more than 7,000 identities and obtained tens of thousands of credit cards. The result: over $200 million in confirmed losses to businesses and banks.

Dadlani, indicted last October, pleaded guilty June 18 in Federal Court in Trenton to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gain/loss caused by the offense. He is reportedly the 17th conspirator to admit guilt.

According to authorities, the scheme involved a process in which the defendants would create a false identity and a fraudulent credit profile with the major credit bureaus and then doctor the credit reports to pump up their spending/ borrowing power.

“They then borrowed or spent as much as they could, based on the phony credit history, but did not repay the debts,” Fishman’s office said.

Fishman’s office said Dadlani admitted that other conspirators came to his store, where he allowed them to swipe cards he knew did not legitimately belong to them. Dadlani would then split the proceeds of the phony transactions with them.

Tanishq Jewels was one of many complicit businesses involved in the scam, which reportedly operated from 2003 until early 2013.

“The scope of the criminal fraud enterprise required Dadlani’s conspirators to construct an elaborate network of false identities,” a statement from Fishman noted. “Across the country, the conspirators maintained more than 1,800 ‘drop addresses,’ including houses, apartments and post office boxes, which they used as the mailing addresses for the false identities.”

Dadlani’s sentencing is scheduled Sept. 24 before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson in Trenton.

– Karen Zautyk

In KPD database, they’re #busted

KEARNY – 

Following a nearly threemonth investigation, Kearny police have arrested two suspects in connection with the theft of 158 computers from a local business. Some of the stolen Panasonic Toughbooks, with a total value of $286,000, later showed up for sale on the internet, KPD Chief John Dowie told The Observer.

The equipment was reported missing from a South Kearny company March 17. After the initial report was filed by Officer Jack Corbett, the case was turned over to Det. Ray Lopez, who started putting together the pieces of a complicated puzzle, Dowie said.

During the investigation, the Toughbooks started turning up on sites such as eBay, offered for sale by a “Jersey Joe,” police said. Lopez reportedly also tracked 17 of the computers to North Carolina and worked with the NYPD to gather information. Eventually, the detective narrowed his focus to two employees of the company that had been hit.

On June 9, suspect Ricardo Guzman, 37, of Elizabeth, turned himself in at KPD headquarters, police reported. Lopez and Det. Sgt. John View arrested the second alleged thief, James Steen, 43, of Hackettstown, on June 12 at the South Kearny business.

Both men have been charged with theft and conspiracy.

Charges are pending against at least two other individuals, Dowie said

 – Karen Zautyk 

KHS graduation day marred by mishap

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KEARNY –

Two Kearny teenagers were shaken up after their vehicle was involved in an accident on Kearny Ave. this past Friday afternoon, police said.

The accident, which occurred near the Locust Ave. intersection, involved two cars, one of which was rear-ended, according to police, who detoured traffic away from the location.

Police said the two teens – who, according to friends at the scene, were Kearny High seniors – were taken by Kearny EMS ambulance to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville for evaluation.

The teens’ car was towed while the owner of the second car drove that vehicle away, police said. An engine crew from the Kearny Fire Department responded to hose down the street.

The accident happened only a few hours before the scheduled Kearny High School graduation ceremony and, in what has become an annual custom, many Kearny High seniors typically ride up and down Kearny Ave., the main street in town, honking their horns and shouting greetings as they go. Whether this was the case in Friday’s incident, police couldn’t confirm.

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One student on Kearny Ave. said he didn’t see the accident but sometimes, he said, the seniors who ride along the avenue “are honking their horns and shouting out the windows and they don’t pay attention to traffic.”

On Friday, police said they didn’t know the extent of any injuries the teens may have suffered but Kearny High Principal Al Gilson, reached over the weekend, said the students “did attend graduation and we’re really happy about that.”

Mayor Alberto Santos said the mishap brought to mind an incident that, he said, happened on a high school graduation day in 2008 in which a student “surfing” on a pickup truck fell from the vehicle and was killed.

When informed about the “tradition,” Gilson – who is completing his first year in the Kearny school district – said he was unaware of the history but it was “something I’m going to address with the [acting] superintendent (Patricia Blood).”

 – Ron Leir 

Thoughts & Views: 52 million without country to call their own

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Imagine a winter scenario in which New York Gov. Cuomo is persuaded that his neighbors are meddling with the intrastate bridges and tunnels and orders out the Empire State militia and National Guard to invade the Garden State.

The state government in Trenton quickly topples, Gov. Christie abandons Drumthwacket and the State Police provide him with a high speed escort to a top secret Morris County retreat – quicker than you can say, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Meanwhile, the Cuomo invaders don’t stop with taking over all transportation infrastructure – they begin occupying all state, county and local government offices, postal facilities, schools, businesses and forcing residents out of their homes, confiscating everything from private vehicles to farmlands, looting and burning as they go.

Hapless New Jersey defenders quickly disappear into the Pinelands and displaced civilians – grabbing only what they can easily carry – stream onto the local roads (Turnpike, Parkway, Rts. 3 and 280 all blocked by N.Y. militia) and head for Pennsylvania and Delaware in hope of finding refuge there.

Those states grudgingly permit the frozen, weary travelers entry but, with their economies already taxed to the limit, bureaucrats scramble to set up temporary lodgings in second-hand trailers and tents scrounged from FEMA. Food is trucked in – when the snow-packed roads are negotiable and not being strafed by New York drones – from scant emergency pantries.

Hard to imagine? Yes, indeed, but that’s the kind of life that millions of people – more than 50 million by one United Nations estimate – around the globe are facing as a result of being displaced from their native lands.

As reported by The Guardian on June 19, “The number of people forced to flee their homes across the world has exceeded 50 million for the first time since the second world war, an exponential rise that is stretching host countries and aid organizations to the breaking point, according to figures released [by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees]” for 2013.

The Guardian quoted UNHCR head Antonio Guterres as saying, “We are witnessing a quantum leap in forced displacement in the world.”

By the UNHCR’s calculations, the civil war in Syria bumped up the 2012 global count by 6 million alone. As reported by The Guardian, “By the end of last year, 2.5 million Syrians had fled across the country’s borders and 6.5 million were internally displaced – more than 40% of the population.”

Fighting in the Central African Republic and South Sudan accounted for further displacement, the international agency report said.

An average of 32,200 people had to leave their homes every day, according to the agency. That’s comparable to the communities of Garfield or Orange or Fair Lawn suddenly emptying out.

Of the estimated 51.2 million forced to leave their homes worldwide, the UNHCR classifies 16.7 million as “refugees,” of whom Palestinians, Afghans, Syrians and Somalis comprise about half the total and are being absorbed primarily by Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Nearly 1.2 million of the global total are listed as “asylum seekers,” the majority of whom are being hosted by Germany.

And 33.3 million of the total are “internally displaced people,” meaning they were forced out of their homes but stayed in their home countries.

Of those who end up leaving their homelands, Guterres says that many are preyed on by “increasingly sophisticated trafficking gangs” who use “rape, torture, sexual exploitation, organ harvesting, extortion and murder” to exploit them.

Needless to say, children – thousands unaccompanied by parents or relatives – are the most defenseless against such criminality.

The U.S., of course, continues to struggle with its own “hosting” of immigrants, many fleeing north from impoverished Central America or from criminal gangs in Mexico. Periodic calls for “immigration reform” measures were heard on Capitol Hill but the House and the Senate have been unable to agree on legislation.

And so runs the world away from one of its most pressing people issues.

– Ron Leir 

Longtime coach promoted in police ranks

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

EAST NEWARK – 

He’s been a longtime West Hudson youth coach, a Hometown Hero, a ground zero volunteer. And now, he’s known as Police Sgt. Michael J. O’Donnell, having been installed in that rank by East Newark’s governing body on June 11.

O’Donnell, 43, had been serving as a police superior in an acting capacity, since Oct. 9, 2013, and now that he’s passed his probationary period, he’s been made permanent in the position.

Aside from the chief, O’Donnell is the only other superior officer in the borough’s small Police Department.

“He’s a hard worker, great with kids and good with people,” said his boss, Police Chief Anthony Monteiro. “In a community our size, a sergeant has a lot more responsibilities than in the larger departments, whether it’s making out reports or calling a judge for bail in the middle of the night. In this town, he is it.”

A 1989 Kearny High School graduate, O’Donnell served in the U.S. Navy about three and a half years as a non-combat veteran, mostly in Japan, completing with an E-3 pay grade.

He spent seven years as a corrections officer with the state Department of Corrections, assigned to East Jersey State Prison, Rahway.

It was during that period that O’Donnell volunteered with many other law enforcement agents in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center, for which the DOC honored him with an award for exceptional conduct. Nine years ago, O’Donnell successfully applied for a position as an officer with the East Newark Police Department and he’s never looked back. This is his sixth year running the Police Department’s DARE program, which makes kids aware of the dangers of substance abuse, in partnership with the borough Public School.

O’Donnell and Monteiro both received citations from Kearny Police Chief John Dowie for their arrest of four suspects wanted in connection with the armed robbery of an Exxon service station on Passaic Ave. on Feb. 28, 2007.

In 2008, O’Donnell was named a Hometown Hero in recognition of his police work and dedication to local youths.

For some time, he’s been an active supporter of area youth recreation programs as a coach and umpire. “I ran the Pop Warner program in Harrison for 16 years and I just got hired by the Harrison Board of Education as an assistant high school football coach,” O’Donnell said.

In 2005 the United Irish Association of West Hudson selected O’Donnell as deputy parade marshal for its annual St. Patrick’s Parade.

O’Donnell and his wife, the former Donna Gilmore, have four daughters – Christina, 23, who is graduating from Kean University; Briana, 20, completing her second year at Bergen County Community College; Amber, 16, a Harrison High School junior; and Haley, 11, a fifth-grader at East Newark Public School – and a son, Michael, 15, a Harrison High freshman.

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