This week’s e-Edition and classifieds are now posted. We apologize for the delay.
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Take away the “acting” title: the Kearny Board of Education has formally installed Patricia Blood as its official superintendent of schools. The board took the action at a special meeting held last Thursday night at the Lincoln School. The vote was […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY – On May 27, 1922, an estimated 25,000 people gathered in the streets around the small park where Kearny Ave. and Beech St. meet, to witness Gen. John J. Pershing personally dedicate the towering granite monument honoring the Kearny men who died […]
A photo (above) of the suspect van was released Nov. 19 by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. NUTLEY – Nutley police are seeking the public’s help in identifying and locating the motor vehicle that struck and killed a 77-year-old woman on Centre St. on […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent HARRISON – At Washington Middle School in Harrison, nearly 75% of the more than 400 enrolled are just as busy with school-related projects after 3 p.m. as they are during their regular day of classes. And that’s partly by design of the school […]
By Ron Leir
After several years of studying and planning, it appears that Bloomfield College may be on the brink of moving forward with extending its innercity campus into the heart of the township’s Downtown retail area.
But not everybody is greeting this development with open arms.
On March 5, the mayor and Township Council voted to designate the college as the redeveloper of a narrow two-story commercial property at 37-59 Broad St., off Franklin St., which it purchased about three years ago.
According to the resolution, the college “intends to demolish the existing building improvements on the site and seek approvals to develop it with a mixeduse project consisting of ground floor retail along the Broad Street frontage, a ground floor parking area and offices along the Franklin Street frontage, and a five-story residence hall above the ground floor.”
Because the project site lies within the so-called “Phase II plan” of the Bloomfield Center Redevelopment District, development of the college property “is subject to all the requirements of the Redevelopment Law and the Phase II plan, including, but not limited to, the execution of a redevelopment agreement between the Township and Bloomfield College and site plan approval by the Township’s Planning Board.”
College spokeswoman Jill Alexander said the college currently has an agreement with Rutgers University and the University Center in Newark for the placement of international students and Korean teachers learning English in private homes and they are transported to and from classes in Bloomfield.
“We want to bring them back to the Bloomfield campus (to be housed in Bloomfield),” Alexander said.
And the college would like to accomplish that by constructing the proposed 124,000 square foot residence hall, she said. As for the retail ground floor space, Alexander said, the college is planning for “a little less than 8,000 square feet” to be set aside for retail use.
“The Bloomfield Center Alliance (BCA), the college and the township will collaborate to get merchants in that space,” Alexander said.
However, Stuart Koperweis, executive director of the BCA, an advocacy group for the Downtown business community, said last week that the college has yet to consult with the BCA on its plans for the proposed retail space. Those commercial tenants who remain at the Broad St. property continue to wonder whether the college will actually follow through on its plans.
Greg Cancro, manager of Traveler’s Village, Inc., a corporate travel management firm which has been a fixture at the property for four decades, said: “We’ve known of (the college’s) plans for close to five years. Are we happy about it? Of course not. We’d like them not to do it (tear down the building). We have extensive clientele who come from all over. We’re so established here, it would be a shame to lose this location.”
Like most of the other tenants, the travel firm pays its rent to the college on a “month-to-month” basis, Cancro said.
Over the past few years, as many as seven tenants have relocated rather than deal with the uncertainty of their situations. Windows in those spaces are filled with Bloomfield College promotional materials. Cancro said he’s more or less reconciled to the notion that, one day, his business will also have to leave.
But Avnish Patel, owner and operator of Gallagher Wine & Liquor, the biggest tenant with close to 5,000 square feet of space, is furious about his predicament.
“The college won’t be interested in renting space to a liquor store,” he said.
Patel, who has a yearly lease with the college, said he’s been scouting around for new locations but “we’re up against certain restrictions,” in terms of the territory where he can transfer his alcohol distribution license, available space and proximity to schools and houses of worship.
The liquor store has also been a longtime tenant – 40 years in the same spot – and Patel has been operating the last two decades. “We are the only liquor store in the center of town,” Patel said. “Now the township wants to take away central retail business and give it to a non-profit entity – that’s not right.”
“Why doesn’t the college use any of the ample space it has on its campus?” Patel wondered.
Other tenants still at the property include a deli, nail salon and offices occupied by a realtor and insurance agent.
Township tax records show that for 2011, Bloomfield levied a total of $71,200 in real estate taxes on the three Broad St. lots the property comprises. Much – if not all – of that revenue figures to be eliminated, once the college replaces the existing building with its presumably tax-exempt dormitory.
There is scuttlebutt that some or all of the proposed retail space could be filled by a college bookstore and/ or cafeteria, which could also be considered taxexempt.
When the college will be filing construction plans and site plan application with the Bloomfield Planning Board is anybody’s guess. Alexander didn’t know and Florham Park attorney Glenn Pantel, the college’s legal representative, couldn’t be reached.
Asked how the project would be financed, Alexander said the college would likely apply to a bank for a construction loan. “That’s all in the works,” she said.
“We’re hoping in the next two to three years to occupy (the new facility),” Alexander said.
By Lisa Pezzolla
Last week, we at The Observer began our fun in the sun, so to speak, with an article about places to visit without burning a hole in your wallets and enjoying a memorable day out. In weeks to come, we will continue to map trips to places such as Princeton, N.J. and Hyde Park, N.Y..
One of our readers, Alexander MacDonald of Harrison, took the time out to share his recent trip to New Hope. He was excited to have had visited this newfound gem. His letter is featured below.
In the coming weeks we would like to invite our readers to share other places for us to feature.
If you have photos of the places you suggest, it would be nice if you can send them in so we can post them online. We have so much beauty around us, so I say get out the road map, hit the road, and enjoy our wondrous region!
While listening to the faint, static-filled transmission of 105.5 WDHA, a rock music station out of Dover, N.J., I couldn’t help but be frustrated when as the results of their “Rock Madness” contest, I couldn’t hear the winner.
Depending on which side of Kearny Ave./ Ridge Rd. that you’re on, you can either get WDHA, or you get the static-filled mess that was bestowed upon me.
Ever since the ending of 92.3 K-Rock in early 2009, I’ve been searching for that one radio station to get hooked on. It baffles me that still in New York, there are no modern rock stations and only one classic rock station.
If that part doesn’t infuriate you, even worse, we are stuck with virtually the same three stations in Z100, 92.3 Now (took over for K-Rock in March 2009), and 103.5 KTU.
I’m not trying to put down the Top 40 stations, but the amount of times I’ve turned from one station to the other and heard the same song is just plain ridiculous. Sorry Katy Perry, but I don’t need to hear about what you did last Friday night 24 times on my five minute trip to work.
Since K-Rock’s ultimate demise, Q104.3 has remained the only station playing any sort of rock music, and even they play the same Zeppelin, Floyd, and Sabbath songs every day.
One station, 101.9, had a brief run as a New York rock station, billing themselves as, “The only station in New York playing modern rock,” but just months later the brash styling’s of Foster the People were replaced with dull talk radio.
Will there ever be a rock station in the biggest city in the world? Personally, I don’t see it coming until there is another band that just changes the landscape in the rock genre. Bands today know what makes money, and it’s simply not in rock music.
Hopefully someday that will change, until then, I’ll continue to listen to old rock music on Pandora radio.
-Anthony J. Machcinski
I took the trip to New Hope on Wednesday and followed the guidelines set forth in the article. What a great trip I had in New Hope. I watched the people walking around while having lunch, did some shopping in the candle shop and sat by the river and the canal. I found the railroad and went on to Lahaska for dinner and looked at unique shops. It was a very interesting trip. I went on a weekday and was told the town is normally busier on the weekends. I will go again to ride the train and ride on the river. I just wanted to express my thoughts on this and to ask if this will be a weekly feature of this paper. What an exciting time I had. It was just great to travel someplace and not have to break the bank.
I am sure there are other places to visit in this great state. Here is hoping that this will be a weekly feature in The Observer and I am looking forward to going on more trips on one tank of gas.
Alexander J. MacDonald
By Anthony J. Machcinski
After noticing that his son had been faking it on the bass guitar, playing just one string and earning the moniker, “One String Ron,” Ron Penque Sr. gave his son a few lessons. One day, Penque Sr., an accomplished bass player for 20 years, saw his son Ron admiring his ‘57 Fender Precision Bass in the closet. Penque Sr. said to his son, who now had become passionate about his play, “Ron, this bass is yours to borrow until the day you stop playing.”
Thirty-seven years later, Ron Penque Jr., known as Ronnie, still has that bass. The bass currently resides in the office of one of the most influential bass players of all time.
“My two brothers and I were all musicians,” said Penque.“Music was always a love.”
Penque is a member of the recently revived New Riders of the Purple Sage, a jam band that featured some of the most influential musicians of all time, including the likes of Jerry Garcia and members of the Grateful Dead. Since 2005, Penque has been the bass guitarist for the New Riders, a band he originally grew up listening to.
“I was sitting eighth row center at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic,” Penque recalled. “My friend and I were sitting there with binoculars trying to get the chords from the New Riders so we could play them at home.”
Penque’s seven-year-tenure with the band has been marked by stability, retaining the same members during that time — a record its predecessor band couldn’t match. Since his involvement with the New Riders, he has been a part of three studio records and a DVD.
“Absolutely not,” Penque responded when asked if he ever envisioned himself with the New Riders when he was young. “It’s like a TV movie. I would dream I want to be in the coolest band on earth and it’s been unbelievable to wind up in that band and end up on a couple records with them.”
While with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Penque has tried to branch out and perform his solo act, Ronnie Penque & Friends, who will visit Donegal Saloon in Kearny on March 31.
“I just felt like I needed to start recording these songs,” said Penque, who plans to play some of his solo works as well as some covers from his time with the Jerry Garcia Band. “‘Only Road Home’ (Penque’s most recent work) started as a glorified demo and it just kind of turned into a record.”
Penque’s solo debut was a successful one, as “Only Road Home” was the number one record on Jam Bands Radio in March of 2011 and was number two on the same list for January and February of the same year.
“It took me almost two years to get it produced and out to the public,” Penque explained. “I have many more and I’m thinking about getting back into the studio.” Penque’s songs off ”Only Road Home” are very similar to the style that Penque played with both New Riders of the Purple Sage and with the Jerry Garcia Band. Penque’s soft vocals help accent the relaxing feel that his playing produces. American Junkie, a tune off “Only Road Home,” showcases the natural flow that a jam band needs to have in order to be successful.
Regardless of what band he is playing in, Penque loves just one aspect of every show.
“Every musician likes big crowds at their shows because the energy is great,” Penque said.
Anyone with even the slightest ear for music will have no problem providing Penque with all the energy he needs.
A 2004 truck and landscape trailer were broken into in the 200 block of Davey St. Five Red Pack leaf blowers and a snow bucket were taken.
A 2002 Chrysler with a New Jersey registration was broken into on Llewellyn Ave. An iPod and loose change were taken.
An attempted theft of a Ford with a New Jersey registration occurred in the 100 block of Morse Ave. A 2001 Kia, also with a New Jersey registration was tampered with in an attempted theft. Missing were a driver’s license and $40.
A motor vehicle accident involving a pedestrian occurred on Broad St. at Eaton Place at 10 p.m. The pedestrian – a 78-year-old male from North Arlington – suffered hand, head and leg injuries. He was transported to UMDNJ. The driver, a 60-year-old female from New York, was not injured.
There were no summonses issued. The accident is presently under investigation by the Traffic Division. March 16 A 2005 Chrysler with a New Jersey registration was broken into while it was parked in the 300 block of Watchung Ave. The vehicle’s registration and owner’s manual were taken. Timothy Harris-Williams of East Orange was arrested for theft.
A 1996 Nissan with a New Jersey registration was stolen while parked in the 100 block of Glenwood Ave.
Freddy Ortiz-Hidalgo of Belleville was arrested for D.W.I.
Peter Aviles of Bloomfield was arrested for simple assault.
Sari Kaplan of Cedar Grove was arrested for simple assault.
Paul Power of Newark was arrested for warrants.
William Timmons of East Orange was arrested for warrants.
Marc Fluerimond of West Orange was arrested for warrants.
A woman told police that she placed her iPhone on a store counter at the 300 block of Bloomfield Ave. as she was waiting to check out. She then left, forgetting to take the phone. When she returned the phone was gone.
Christian Chirino of West New York was arrested for contempt.
A man told police that 30 newspapers were taken from the front of his store on the 100 block of Glenwood Ave.
A storeowner on Carteret St. reported 27 newspapers missing from the front of his shop.
As March marks Women’s History Month, Clara Maass Medical Center will host “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment: A Health Fair for Women,” on Friday, March 30, from 9 a.m. to noon in the Belleville Founders Room at Clara Maass Medical Center, located at One Clara Maass Drive, Belleville.
Screenings and information will include: Body fat analysis, cholesterol screening, breast health information, diabetic foot screening, blood pressure screening, glucose screening, cardiac risk assessment questionnaires, stroke risk assessment and bruit screening, urinary tract/incontinence info, and information about nutrition and weight loss options.
There is no cost to attend this event. Please park in the parking deck. Women and men alike are invited to attend this health fair.
To register, please call 1-888-724-7123, prompt 4. Walk-ins are welcome!
Mark your calendars for International Night on April 4 at 7 p.m. at Belleville Middle School, 279 Washington Ave. The evening will feature a variety of dances, songs and foods from different cultures and countries. Middle school students will be dancing, singing, and bringing food from their culture.
Belleville Elks Lodge #1123 will have a blood drive on Saturday, April 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m at the lodge hall, 254 Washington Ave. All donors will receive a mini-physical. The entire process including donation and screen may take up to one hour. Donors must be at least 17-years-old and weigh at least 120 lbs. All donors are required to eat a least a light meal before donating and are required to have a signed form of identification and Social Security number. For more information regarding eligibility to donate, call the New Jersey Blood Center at 973-676-4700.
Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center, 240 Belleville Ave., Bloomfield, is presenting it’s sixth annual “A Taste of Bloomfield” on Sunday, April 15, from 4 to 6 p.m. Attendees will enjoy samples of signature dishes from many of Bloomfield’s restaurants. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. For more information and to purchase tickets, call 973-429-0960.
West Hudson Brave Women Fighting Breast Cancer meets on the last Friday of every month from 7 to 9 p.m. at the East Newark Senior Center, 37 President St. The group will provide an atmosphere of warmth and comfort for patients and family. For more information, call Emma at 201-998-6828, Rosa 201-246- 7750, Fatima 973-485-4236 or email emidura2@yahoo. com. Together we will fight this disease.
Harrison Public Library, in conjunction with Town of Harrison, will be offering a free resume review for its residents. Services offered will include working on resumes to make them better and more attractive to prospective employers and workshops on career guidance. Saptarshi Katwala, a Harrison resident, will be conducting these resume review sessions. These sessions will be offered twice per week, every Tuesday, from 6 to 7 p.m. and Saturday, from 10:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. The first session starts on Tuesday, April 3. For further information, please contact the Harrison Public Library at 973-483-2366.
Harrison Little League will host its second annual Mikey Derrico Little League tournament starting June 18. The fee is $250. Teams for ages 9 through 12 will be competing. For more information, contact the Community Center at 973-268-2469 or 973-268- 5859.
Harrison Recreation Little League Opening Day Parade will be held on Saturday, April 21 at 9 a.m. (assemble at 8:30 a.m.) All Little League, Minor League, Tee-Ball players and coaches will assemble at the soccer courts on Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. In the event of rain, please follow your schedule. Opening Day ceremonies will be held at the Little League Field. Any questions, contact the Center at 973-268-2469 or 973-268-5859.
The Kearny Public Library presents a Guitar Bob family concert, “Kids on the Move, a Jumping, Junior Jamboree,” from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. on Monday, April 9 in the lower level of the Main Library, 318 Kearny Ave. Bob Messano, Guitar Bob, is a prolific songwriter, performer and recording artist specializing in children’s music. Guitar Bob concerts and CDs feature interactive music activities that delight children and parents alike.
Admission is free. No registration needed, but space is limited. For more information, call 210-998- 2666 or visit www.kearnylibrary.org.
Cecilian Seniors announces a trip to Mt. Airy Casino trip on April 11. Cost is $30. Bus leaves at 9:30 a.m. from in front of St. Cecilia’s Church. Call Johnnie B. at 201-997-9552. A Wildwood trip for five days and four nights is also planned. If interested, call Johnnie B. for details 201-997-9552, after 6 to 9 p.m.
New Jersey Blood Services announces a blood drive is scheduled at Calvary Chapel of Kearny, 156 Oakwood Ave., on March 31 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Lyndhurst Public Library will present “Communicating and Healing with Angels,” hosted by the Lyndhurst Public Library on Wednesday, April 11, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., is an introduction to communicating and healing with angels, lead by Maria Ferrara Weinert of www.earthdream.biz. Space is limited. To register, please call Library Director Donna Romeo at 201-804-2478, ext. 7 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Favorite Food and Libations of Past Presidential Families” will be held at the Lyndhurst Public Library on Saturday, April 14, from 11 a.m. to noon, presented by Food Historian Judith Krall-Russo. Learn how American Presidents entertained at State dinners and how they entertained friends and families. Space is limited. To register, please call Library Director Donna Romeo at 201- 804-2478,ext. 7 or email email@example.com.
The Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst will host “Spring Into Fashion” Sunday Brunch and Fashion Show fundraiser on Sunday, April 15, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Graycliff, 122 Moonachie Ave., Moonachie. There will also be a tricky tray with great prizes and a 50/50 raffle. A full brunch will be served. Tickets are $35. For tickets, please call Rosemary at 201-935-4836 or Marge at 201-694-5976. No tickets will be sold at the door.
Special April Fools Bird Walk with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and the Bergen County Audubon Society, will be held at DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst on Sunday, April 1, from 10 a.m. – noon and will feature a new birding challenge: Birders can quietly make note of any decoys they see along the way – and ID them if possible. Winner may receive a prize. Check meadowblog. net for last-minute weather updates. You will have to sign a standard liability release that is good for NJMC/BCAS events throughout the year. To R.S.V.P., contact Don Torino of the BCAS at greatauk4@ aol.com or 201-230-4983.
The Lyndhurst Health Department will hold its bi-annual Women’s Health Clinic on Thursday, April 5, at 5:30 p.m. This free event, made possible through a partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center, includes education on breast self-examination and a pelvic exam. The clinic is open to all female Lyndhurst residents aged 18 years and over. Please call 201-804-2500 to make an appointment.
The American Legion Alexander Stover Post 37, 222 River Rd North Arlington will hold it’s monthly meeting on Monday April 2, at 8 p.m. All veterans are welcome. For more information call 201-214-8253.
The Township of Nutley is inviting residents to join Autism Speaks in celebrating World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and Light It Up Blue to help shine a light on autism. Whether it’s your front porch or your local business, an office party or a banquet, the whole world is going blue to increase awareness about autism. Nutley Mayor Mauro G. Tucci has personally purchased 100 blue bulbs to distribute free to residents on a first come basis. Bulbs will be available at the Department of Parks and Recreation located at 44 Park Ave., Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Bulbs may also be purchased at local stores.
Nutley Department of Parks and Recreation announces its 7th annual Great Flashlight Easter Egg Hunt is scheduled for Thursday, April 5, beginning at dusk.
Nutley youngsters grades 2 through 6 are invited to bring their flashlights along to search for over 1,500 toy or candy filled eggs scattered throughout Reinheimer Park on Bloomfield Avenue across from the recreation Annex Building. Children are asked to meet by the playground equipment to begin the festivities.
A golden egg will be hidden and the lucky winner will receive a large chocolate filled basket. Parents are encouraged to stay with the children during this event.
A rain date has been set for Saturday, April 7. This event is open to Nutley residents only. For more information, please contact the Nutley Recreation Department at (973) 284-4966, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Nutley Public Library will have photography by Kathryn Marano until April 30.
Pajama Story Time for children of all ages is held at the library on Mondays at 7 p.m. . Registration is not required.
Patrons can play bridge at the library on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Experienced and non-experienced players welcomed. No registration required.
Tuesday Evening Knitting Club will meet at the library on Tuesday, April 3, from 7 to 8:45 p.m. Come share your love of knitting and crocheting with both beginning and experienced knitters. Please bring your own supplies. This group meets the first Tuesday of every month.
Come meet Rick Mikula The Butterfly Guy at the library on Wednesday, April 4, at 11 a.m. Learn about and see some beautiful live butterflies. Registration is not required
By Jim Hague
Frank Bifulco hasn’t noticed much of a difference in his first days as the new head baseball coach at Kearny High School.
It’s not like Bifulco is a total stranger to the Kardinals. He did serve as an assistant to the now-retired Jim Sickinger for the last few years and he is a product of the Kearny baseball program.
But he’s the new head honcho, so things are just a little different.
“The transition has been pretty good,” Bifulco said. “It’s now up to me to be able to read each player. I’m the guy who has to make the decisions now. I’m manning the coaching staff. It’s only been a month in so far, so it hasn’t been bad. The biggest thing I have to do is know the team and try to find what’s going to make us click. It’s everything I’ve expected and more.”
Bifulco inherits a basically young team, with only a handful of players back from the Kardinal squad that won 17 games last year.
“We have to work hard and the kids have to buy into what we’re doing,” Bifulco said. “They realize they have a lot to do as a young team. But they’re improving every single day.”
Leading the way is senior pitcher/third baseman Nick Beauchene. The hardthrowing Beauchene won four games last year.
“He’s going to be our workhorse,” Bifulco said of Beauchene. “We have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to shut people down and we expect to win when he’s on the mound. He’s also a very good hitter and we’re looking for him to crush the ball.”
Another solid hurler is senior right-hander Dave Bush, who won three games last season.
“Dave has to come out with a bulldog mentality every time he pitches,” Bifulco said of the three-sport standout. “He’s looked very good on the mound.”
Junior Eric Greenlee, the starting quarterback on the Kardinal football team in the fall, is another quality hurler and the team’s lone lefthander.
“He saw some spot time with the varsity last year and looked good,” Bifulco said. “He gives us good balance.”
The rest of the pitching staff will be comprised of senior Dylan Schalago, junior Kyle Macconchie and sophomore Bryan Rowe.
“They’re all right-handed and all can throw,” Bifulco said. “Schalago is going to be our closer and we’re counting on him to come in and shut the door. He’s been an excellent worker so far.”
The Kardinals’ catching duties are currently being shared by a pair of juniors in Ryan Michaels and Anthony Oliveira.
“It’s a totally open position and they’re battling for it,” Bifulco said. “They’re both doing a nice job. I think the competition between the two just breeds success.”
First base responsibilities will be shared by Beauchene, Oliveira and sophomore Steven Dyl, the younger brother of former Observer Female Athlete of the Year Allyson Dyl, who played college soccer at Pace University.
Sophomore Rowe has been a find and he earns the starting nod at second base.
“He’s been phenomenal defensively and keeps improving leaps and bounds,” Bifulco said. “He’s going to be a battler in the batter’s box and I think he’s going to be fun to watch.”
Schalago will be the shortstop when he’s not pitching. When Schalago takes the hill, senior Eric Cruz will be the shortstop. Cruz handles all the middle infield duties.
“Schalago is doing a great job as the everyday shortstop,” Bifulco said.
Third base will be shared by Beauchene and Bush. When one is pitching, the other will play third, although Beauchene may also see time at first. It’s like mixing and matching players with positions for Bifulco.
Junior Brandon Vilar will be the left fielder.
“I hate to say it, but he reminds me of me,” Bifulco said. “He gets on base, makes contact, works hard. He’s a fireball.”
Senior Alex Potvin is the centerfielder. Potvin saw some varsity playing time at the end of last season.
“He has a strong arm and goes after the ball,” Bifulco said.
Greenlee will be in right field when he’s not pitching. Michaels and Oliveira will handle designated hitter duties as well when one is not catching.
The Kardinals open the 2012 season April 3 against Hudson Catholic, then will face Clifton to christen their new field at Franklin School on Saturday, April 7 at 11 a.m. The field’s renovations are now complete and the Kardinals will have a home to play on this season after spending the entire 2011 season as road warriors.
“We’re just trying to get back to what we used to do,” Bifulco said.
“We’re trying to get to that regular routine. They have to understand that we don’t usually lose games at home. Plus, everyone comes out to watch us at home. It’s amazing the support we get, even for scrimmage games. We have to keep doing well so the fans keep coming out.”
Bifulco is fortunate to have the town’s resident baseball guru Doug Gogal back to serve as an assistant, along with Dave Smart, who was with the freshman team last year.
“We have three different personalities, but all have the same mindset,” Bifulco said. “The goals are the same.”
And the goals this season will be like any other. Win as many games as possible, earn a berth in the NJSIAA North 1, Group IV playoffs and contend for a Hudson County Tournament title. Those are all viable goals for the Kardinals this season under their new head coach.
Ryan Meara was already making plans for the rest of his life. A Fordham University degree in tow, the 21-year-old had just recently taken both the New York City and Yonkers fire department tests.
“My father was a fireman and so was my uncle,” Meara said. “It’s something I always wanted to do.”
But Meara also had another dream in mind.
“Yeah, that’s what I was going to do if soccer wasn’t a part of my life,” Meara said.
Incredibly, almost miraculously, soccer is a major part of the young man’s life these days, as he’s gone from a Fordham student to the starting goalkeeper for the New York Red Bulls almost overnight.
Meara was drafted as an afterthought by the Red Bulls in January’s MLS Draft and he worked his way through the preseason and some veteran competition to earn the starting nod to begin the 2012 campaign.
“It’s been a crazy couple of months,” Meara said. “I never thought this was possible. It seems like it was only a couple of minutes ago that I was watching these guys on television. I had to get over that pretty quickly. The whole process, from going to the (MLS) combine to the draft to the preseason, has been hectic and pretty unbelievable. I’m just trying to enjoy it all, take it all in.”
That’s the way Meara was last Thursday, as the Red Bulls held their annual media day festivities at Red Bull Arena, a few days prior to the team’s home opener Sunday.
In one corner of the room, Thierry Henry was holding court. In another, Rafa Marquez commanded attention, much like the way superstars in soccer do.
And there was young Meara, still young enough to be battling a case of acne and looking like a dead ringer for basketball superstar Larry Bird.
“I’ve been getting that one since I was about seven or eight years old,” Meara said. “Especially when I was playing basketball. I guess I do look like him.”
Meara grew up in Crestwood, N.Y. and was a big fan of the old MetroStars and now Red Bulls.
“It was something I always dreamed of, playing for this franchise,” Meara said. “I never expected it could actually happen. It was always my dream to play professional soccer. It’s even better to do it so close to home. I’m excited to be here and a little nervous.”
Meara hasn’t shown much nerve in his first three professional games, allowing a total of five goals in those games. He might have had a shutout Sunday, but Omar Cummings’ rocket shot sailed over Meara’s head in the 77th minute, in the Red Bulls’ 4-1 win over Colorado.
Still, it appears as if Meara has found a permanent home, manning the net for one of the most recognizable teams in the MLS.
“It was a crazy first couple of days, meeting guys I watched all the time and now I’m playing with them,” Meara said. “I didn’t want to look too far in front of me. I just wanted to work hard and maybe I’d get a chance to play. I just wanted to improve. I just had to be confident, have faith in my ability. Those are the keys to success. I never take anything for granted.”
Marquez, who was suspended for three games for throwing the ball at Landon Donovan and starting a brawl in last year’s MLS Cup playoffs, came back and vowed he was a changed man. He knows that he has to change his reputation this season, a reputation that was tarnished last year by poor play and even worse behavior, like badmouthing his teammates.
“I definitely have a different approach this year,” said Marquez, who has been moved up to midfield from defender where he played last year. “It’s a position that benefits me. I know that I have to demonstrate some things on the field to win the fans back. I’m not worried about that. What happened was in the past and there’s no need to talk about it. I have to be able to fit in better.”
The Red Bulls started off the season with two straight losses, but came back Sunday a more determined team.
“You could see in the warm-ups that everyone was more focused,” Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said. “You could see the difference. We lost the first two games and we were under pressure to get a win. We need to perform well and dig in, because we have to be almost unbeatable here. That has to be the theory, not just talk.”
Superstar team captain Henry saw to that, scoring two goals and assisting on a score by Kenny Cooper.
Cooper also had two goals, giving the team a lethal combination up front while teenaged sensation Juan Agudelo recovers from knee surgery.
Cooper is just enjoying his time with Henry.
“He’s just amazing,” said Cooper, who was acquired in a January trade with Portland. “He can score. He creates. He has great field vision. He’s someone who has been a hero of mine and I’m privileged to be on the field with him. Anyone would love to be on the field with him or this incredibly talented team.”
The talented team is 1-2 now.
Things are better. And the young goalkeeper has a win under his belt. He can hold off taking any firefighter’s test for a while.
By Jim Hague
The 2012 high school softball season arrives next week and it’s not a moment too soon for Harrison High School.
“We’re definitely in a better situation now,” said Harrison head coach Dave Nankivell, who guided the Blue Tide to a 10-15 record last year. “For the most part, we’re in better shape. We did graduate four key senior starters, but the players we have coming back are all improved. They have a good level of experience and maturity. There’s also excellent chemistry.”
It’s safe to say that the Blue Tide softball program has come a long way.
“When I first started, the girls had a total lack of understanding about the game,” Nankivell said. “The first practice that first year, we had 20 girls and only one had a glove. Now, the expectations are much higher and the girls understand what they’re doing.”
It means that the Blue Tide group is expected to do better things this season.
Senior Shannon Mattern is a key component to the Blue Tide’s success. Mattern was the team’s No. 2 pitcher last year and she may see some action on the mound again this year, but she’s more valuable as a third baseman.
“We’re fortunate enough to have a good player at third, so we don’t want to jeopardize that,” Nankivell said. “For now, she’s going to split the time between third base and pitcher. She didn’t even know how to pitch before she came to us.”
Mattern will share the pitching duties with freshman Fiona Slattery.
“She’s done a nice job,” Nankivell said. “We’re going to give her a few chances to pitch. If Fiona can function well, then that makes us a much stronger team.”
The catching duties are being handled by sophomore Alexandria Hidrovo, who got to start about six games behind the plate last year to get ready for this season. Hidrovo is a student at High Tech in North Bergen, but commutes back to her hometown in time to play softball.
“She gets her bat on the ball and she’s evolving as a catcher,” Nankivell said.
Bianca Martinez, one of the best all-around female athletes in the area, plays first base. She’s been a three-year starter for the Blue Tide in softball.
“She’s a very good athlete who is becoming a pretty good first baseman,” Nankivell said. “Her bat is beginning to come around.”
Junior Genevie Andujar is the second baseman. Andujar, up from the junior varsity, is handling the duties well.
“This is her first year as a starter,” Nankivell said. “She got her feet wet last year as a pinch hitter in a few games. She’s doing well now.”
The shortstop is senior Briana O’Donnell, who is one of the finest players in the NJIC-Meadowlands Division. O’Donnell batted better than .400 last year and has been a fixture at shortstop for all four seasons.
“Briana and Shannon Mattern make us go,” Nankivell said. “If we can get people on base in front of them, they’ll drive them in. Briana hits well and she also hits for power.”
Mattern is at third, but she’ll allow sophomore Jennifer Ferriero a chance to play some at third as well.
“Ferriero is a real tough kid who is going to be good,” Nankivell said.
Senior Nicole Cunha is the left fielder. Nankivell raves about the contributions of Cunha.
“She’s started almost every single game since she’s been with us and I’ve moved her all around the lineup,” Nankivell said. “She hits at the top of our lineup and she’s lightning fast. The more she gets on base, the better we’ll be. And she has so much energy that she’s like the Energizer Bunny. She just keeps going and going. She’s a real smart kid who pays attention.”
Freshman Amber O’Donnell, the younger sister of Briana, is the centerfielder. She’s the third of a line of three O’Donnell sisters.
“She potentially could be the best of the three,” Nankivell said. “She is doing well, because it’s a big adjustment coming from recreation softball to varsity. She’s very competitive and pushes herself.”
The right field slot is being contested by three players, seniors Ashley Rodriguez and Tara Mitchell and freshman Kayla Montilla, who has also shown promise.
The Blue Tide opens the 2012 season Saturday against Passaic and plays its first league game next week against Becton Regional.
“I think we’re going to be able to hit the ball,” Nankivell said. “We’re going to get our share of hits. If our defense can be solid and our pitchers get good location, keeping hitters off balance, then we can be pretty good. We have to throw strikes and play defense behind our pitchers. But we’re going to hit the ball.”
And in that respect, the Blue Tide should be much better this spring.