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Easing the way over

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 […]

Last chance to sound off on dog park

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 […]

Ice storm took its toll on local roads

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. […]


Bracing for funding shift

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 […]


A new ‘acquisition’

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 […]


Industrial accident ends in fatality

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski/ The Hummel Machine & Tool Co., where an employee was fatally injured.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

An unfortunate accident at a production company in Kearny had a deadly ending on May 25.

Around 1:50 p.m., Kearny Police and EMS were alerted to a report that a worker at the Hummel Machine and Tool Company at 580 Davis Ave. had been injured on the job. When they arrived at the scene, they found the worker, 55-year-old David Kornas of Kearny, with injuries to his neck.

Kornas was rushed to University Hospital in Newark and was pronounced dead at 2:45 p.m.

Authorities haven’t released the cause of death. According to Kearny Police Sgt. John Taylor, the accident occurred when Kornas heard an engine over-revving. As Kornas went to shut the machine off, a piece that was being fabricated in the machine crashed through the protective observation window of the machine, striking Kornas in the neck.

The machine was a Hurco TM10 Lathe, used to cut and sand metal among other things. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesperson Leni Fortson, an investigation is ongoing with the company.

As of The Observer’s press time, executives from Hummel could not be reached.

Kornas was born in Jersey City and was a lifelong resident of Kearny. Kornas had been a supervisor at Hummel Machine and Tool Company and had been an employee there for the past 36 years.

Kornas was also a member of the New Jersey Army National Guard for 11 years. Kornas leaves behind a wife, three children and three grandchildren.

One Tank Trips: Stress relief at quaint and quiet Ocean Grove, N.J.

Photo by Jeff Bahr/ Quaint tent community greets visitors at Ocean Grove.


By Jeff Bahr

The real Jersey shore

If you mention the Jersey shore to almost anyone these days, images of Seaside Heights and the Jersey Shore TV show, which is filmed in town, will probably come to mind. That association can be a genuine blast if you’re youngish and hunger for the latest facts behind Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi’s “shocking” pregnancy or Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino’s latest female conquest, but not so good if you’re a bit longer in the tooth looking for respite from such manufactured drama.

The real Jersey shore is comprised of many quiet (“dead” in youth-speak) beach communities that have little or nothing to do with such hormone-driven antics. That’s as it should be. Many of us reach a point in our lives where the frantic pace of the midway somehow loses its allure. It is then that we look for charming towns – cute, quiet places – where we can soak up our surroundings and decompress.

Cape May is perhaps the most celebrated of these restful spots along the Jersey shore, but it’s also the farthest afield. If you think three hours of monotonous Parkway driving is too hefty a price to pay to reach such a land-based nirvana, boy do I have the alternative for you!

It’s hip to be square

Ocean Grove, N.J., is often overlooked in travel brochures because, in truth, it’s the antithesis of a “happening” place. With no amusements on its boardwalk and a decidedly laid-back pace, this “dry” town (Ocean Grove prohibits the sale of alcohol) repels the younger generation as effectively as a chaperone at a sleepover. But the kids’ loss is everyone else’s gain. Ocean Grove is steeped in history, brimming with charm, and refreshingly quaint when compared to other seaside towns. Let’s check it out.

Camptown USA

Ocean Grove emerged in 1869 as an outgrowth of the “camp meeting” religious movement. The idea was simple. Bring the faithful (in this case Methodists) to an agreeable location for a few days where, unburdened by daily chores, they could receive God’s word through a series of orations given by prominent preachers and speakers.

Due to the popularity of the revival – which traced at least in part to the new town’s beautiful seaside location – the seaside meeting place became known as the “Queen of Religious Resorts” by the early 20th century. Even today, the town functions in this heavenly capacity. It’s a feat that’s earned Ocean Grove the honor of being the longest active camp meeting site in the United States. Take that, Salt Lake City!

Tents aplenty

In addition to Victorian houses so astoundingly attractive they helped to earn the town’s Ocean Pathway listing as one of the 10 most beautiful streets in all of America, people come here to see the tents. Before these can be effectively described, you will need to forget the “roughing it” concept that the word tent implies and think more along the lines of “impossibly adorable cloth vestibules designed for peaceful contemplation.”

But as fetching as these are, their looks are deceiving. Each one of Ocean Grove’s 114 celebrated canopies is in reality a hybrid structure. The rear portion – built of wood and housing the kitchen and bathroom — stands yearround, while the front section is erected and used during the warmer months only.

Most residents use the tent portion as a sitting room where they read and relax, entertain guests, etc., and many have moved their beds here to sleep in the salt-air glory that the Jersey shore is famous for. A stroll past the tents often finds many of them with their doors swung wide open – a situation that ensures a great interior view for curious tourists.

The Stokes statue, named for Rev. Ellwood Stokes, a founder of the Camp Meeting Movement at Ocean Grove, stands in front of The Great Auditorium.


The Great Auditorium

Appropriately, the tent community encircles The Great Auditorium. The name is more than apt. The mammoth allwood structure, built in 1894, has become the epicenter of summer activity in Ocean Grove, and its history is every bit as rich as its grand Victorian architecture.

Seven U.S. presidents including Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon have spoken here, and musicians like Enrico Caruso, John Philip Sousa, and Peter Paul and Mary have made magic beneath its timber roof. The building currently seats over 6,000 people. This sounds impressive until it’s learned that it once accommodated 10,000! The hall is shaped in such a way that a performer’s voice resonates throughout the enclosure without amplification. Every summer during Camp Meeting Week performers take to the stage (2012 shows are slated for Friday, July 27 – Sunday, Aug. 5). This year Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell are scheduled to perform. How’s that for a nostalgia fest?

Antiques, banned ‘hooch’ and ice cream

Ocean Grove’s shopping district is rather small (most of the shops are located on Main Ave.) but you know what they say about things that come in small packages. Boutiques, bric-a-brac and antique shops rule the day here, but ambience is what this place is really about. For this reason, there are generally as many people walking past the shops as dropping in for a visit. An abundance of outdoor eateries are featured on Main Ave., so your stomach will be well taken care of, but, as mentioned earlier, your consumption will need to be done in the complete absence of spirits (other than the Holy Spirit, that is). But don’t fret. A great treat exists at Nagle’s Apothecary Café, an old-time pharmacy/ice cream parlor that also serves delicious sandwiches. Here one will find an array of gooey delights including Nagel’s egg cream (yum!) and hand-drawn cherry Cokes. Nagle’s has become a local institution in town and for good reason. The ice cream served here is good enough to make most forget alcohol – temporarily at least.

Despite its pious Christian history, Ocean Grove stands at the ready to be enjoyed by any savvy enough to seek out its charms. Go there for a swim ($5-a-day passes are available at the boardwalk), a stroll, a meal, a concert or all of the above. But do go. As surely as this town is called “God’s square mile” many believe He would want you to.

Panasonic plans ‘R&D’ facility in Harrison

Photo by Ron Leir/ Edward Russo tells Harrison Planning Board about proposed Panasonic building.


By Ron Leir


It turns out that Newark won’t be reaping all the gold from Panasonic’s migration out of Secaucus. Harrison is getting in the act, too: The town figures to derive significant financial benefits from the corporate giant relocating a portion of its business here as well.

About a year ago, the worldwide electronics manufacturer announced plans to move its North American headquarters from Secaucus – where it has operated since 1973 – to downtown Newark with the aid of a $102.4 million tax credit from the N.J. Economic Development Authority (EDA).

Panasonic’s landlord, Hartz Mountain Industries Inc., and the Town of Secaucus sued to stop the move, claiming that the tax credit violated the intent of the state law designed to keep jobs in New Jersey, but, ultimately, both ended the litigation in hopes that new legislation would be crafted to deal with corporate intrastate moves.

According to published reports, Newark has earmarked a vacant privatelyowned tract at Raymond Blvd. and McCarter Highway for construction of a highrise office tower, possibly as tall as 18 floors, to accommodate hundreds of Panasonic employees under a 15-year lease and Newark should realize millions of dollars in revenues from the project.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Passaic River, Harrison is bracing for its own share of lucre from the corporate cash cow.

On May 29, the Harrison Planning Board voted unanimously in favor of an application by Russo- Advance at Harrison I, LLC for site plan approval that would permit construction of a one-story, 30-foot tall “office technology center building with approximately 48,000 square feet of ground space and the right to construct approximately 10,000 square feet of mezzanine space, together with associated parking, landscaping and site improvements (at Frank Rodgers Blvd. and Guyon Drive, just south of the PATH station) to be used for office, laboratory, storage and associated uses.”

The board also granted the applicant design waivers to allow two ground-mounted signs exceeding the 60 square feet permitted under the Harrison Waterfront Redevelopment Plan and two building signs that will conform to redevelopment conditions.

Christopher Minks, attorney for the applicant, said his client “envisions Panasonic as the tenant” for the new building and is “very close to signing a lease.”

The Advance Co. is the owner of the development site and the Russo Development Co., of Carlstadt, will construct the building for Panasonic, Minks said.

Russo, through an affiliated company known as Russo at Harrison Urban Renewal, LLC., received fi – nal approvals from the Planning Board, also on May 29, to proceed with construction at 1100 Fifth St., also known as “Block C” in the Harrison Waterfront Redevelopment Area, of a fi vestory building with a mix of 326 rental apartments, 440 parking spaces, about 10,000 square feet of retail space (restaurant and bank).

Once building permits are in hand, the company anticipates beginning construction on Block C by late summer or early fall, according to Russo Development President/COO Edward Russo. “We’ll build the garage first,” Russo said. It will contain 380 spaces; the rest will be on-site.

As many as 2,000 pilings may have to be driven to prepare the foundation, he added.

As for the Panasonic building, Russo said that talks between the electronics firm and his firm began nine months ago about locating a site near Newark for a research and development facility and, after potential sites in Hudson County, south Bergen and the meadows were ruled out, Panasonic opted for the Harrison location.

Russo said Panasonic plans to outfit the building – which would occupy about three acres of the 8-acre site – to accommodate a repair lab, machine testing spaces, a small product showroom of large cameras for corporate customers, plus storage space to be serviced by three loading bays and a fourth bay for trash disposal.

Russo added: “We anticipate a fair number of employees (later quantifi ed as “40 or so” by Russo traffic expert Nick Verderese) going back and forth to Panasonic’s main facility in Newark. … There will be a lot of sharing.”

Harrison Mayor Ray McDonough said the governing body will meet on June 6 to consider introduction of ordinances authorizing PILOTs (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) for both the Panasonic and the Block C mixed-use projects.

If the PILOTs are approved by the Town Council, McDonough estimated that Harrison would realize annual revenues of about $133,000 for the Panasonic property and about $850,000 for the Block C tract.

Later this year, also in the waterfront redevelopment zone, The Pegasus Group is expected to move on construction of a hotel between the Harrison Parking Center and the Harrison Station mixed-use development site.

In a related action, the various principals involved in building in the waterfront district have banded together to form the Harrison Community Developers Association, co-chaired by Peter Cocoziello of Advance and Carl Goldberg of Roseland Property Co.

“All of us involved want to see Harrison succeed so we formed an association which will focus on a mutual effort to create the proper infrastructure (to support redevelopment) that will parallel the Port Authority’s upgrade of the Harrison PATH station,” Cocoziello said. “Even though we’re competitors, we still have the philosophy that all of our boats rise in Harrison. We want to make this community a great place in which to live and work.”

Cocoziello said the group would also lobby for improvements to the Rt. 280 Harrison interchange which would give the town “fourway access from the east and west.” The N.J. Department of Transportation is currently at work reviewing different routing options.

Other “side discussions” that Cocoziello said the group hopes to expedite with the state involve “formulating the kinds of incentives and programs available to help with subsidies for development,” such as remediating brownfields.

Finally, Cocoziello said, the association believes “that it’s vitally important that the entire Harrison community goes through an upgrade,” such as making Town Hall and other municipal buildings more energy efficient.

To get out the message about growing Harrison, Cocoziello said the association has pooled $100,000 for lobbyists, advertising and public relations efforts. As the “guiding arm” of a marketing campaign, the group has retained the services of the Hackensack-based PR firm run by Michael Beckerman.

Time for Obama/Romney to tango a la politico

If you’re like the vast majority of middle-class Americans, you have seen your pay stagnate or decrease, your benefits decline, your job security all but disappear, your bills and taxes increase, much of your hope for the future ebb or disappear altogether, and your temper rise.

When our great middleclass, the people that by and large built this country, feel like they’re being squeezed like a tube of toothpaste, treated like cash-cow patsies by a blatantly corrupt system that threw them overboard decades ago, they tend to get a bit cranky. If such irritability led to a rise in critical thinking that would be one thing. Then, this ridiculously exploited group might actually look at both controlling political parties for what they essentially represent – a failed exercise in democracy that sold itself off to the highest corporate bidders long ago – and seek out viable alternatives.

But, for some reason, most middle-class Americans will not allow themselves to go down this road of distrust/disgust – at least not yet. It is a sad fact that our politicians bank on. In truth, an alarming number of American citizens have been sucked into an us vs. them “team” mentality that finds them backing one political side or the other like rabid sports fans despite the profound and continuing damage that these parties do to America. That is why Obama and Romney (the assumed nominees) will begin a time-honored if laughingly disingenuous political dance to win our votes come November. We’re ripe for the picking.

What is that dance, you ask? It’s a divide-and-conquer waltz that has nothing at all to do with the betterment of this land and everything to do with keeping these protectors of the lopsided status quo in power. How will you know when it is being performed? That’s simple. Listen closely to both candidates and you will notice that the vast majority of their rhetoric will feature finger pointing of some sort, in lieu of any substantive ideas or concrete plans to restore America.

Romney will talk about Obama’s “horrible failed policies” and Obama will counter with self-serving putdowns of his own. Neither candidate will praise anything at all about the other, which, if you stop to think about it smacks of intellectual dishonesty. But this lack of substance will go mostly unchallenged. In fact, many political “fans” will praise the candidates for delivering humorous – if venomous – one-liners in their pre-fabricated speeches. Hey, if the guy from your political team is the one getting the digs in, that’s got to be a good thing, right? Wrong.

Such blind cheering is fine if we’re talking about something as inconsequential as the Yankees vs. the Red Sox, but this is our nation that hangs in the balance – our beloved homeland – the place where we raise our children and hope against hope that things will work out for them; a land that brave Americans in war zones regularly die for; a land that once seemed to give the average Joe a fair shake, but now seems to do anything but.

So why do we do it? Why do we continue to do the bidding for these charlatans? Beats me. All it takes is a look at America’s easily measurable decline over the past four decades to see that neither of these parties has any kind of answer for us. All they offer up is hollow rhetoric and more of the same – anything it seems to stay in or to regain power.

And so the dance shall commence and we dutiful citizens shall once again fall into step with our masters. And in the end, when our country falls farther than any of us ever could have imagined, we’ll have no one but ourselves to blame. How did P.T. Barnum put it?

– Jeff Bahr

Trees to please & kudos to library staff

As we soon end spring and head towards the summer — and hopefully better weather — it’s nice to see Lyndhurst, like other towns, take an initiative to beautify the town. It’s easy to take it for granted, but focusing on the beauty of the township really can impress the viewer. Former Mayor Richard DiLascio said on May 31 that residents simply need to look around town to see all the changes going on, and he couldn’t be more right.

Part of those changes include the replacement of pear trees (see page 1) around Lyndhurst. Plans call for shedding the pears in favor of a variety of trees that promise to offer safer and sturdier canopies of greenery for many residents. Our area has always maintained its beauty, whether it was over-the-top Christmas decorations or simply having a couple plants between the sidewalk and the curb,

• I also wanted to take a minute to thank Josh Humphrey and Joan Hart of the Kearny Library for their help with researching my story last week (‘Chronicling The Observer’s History’ – May 30).

With their help, I was able to find a treasure trove of information for the article and even more that I didn’t have space to include.Whether it was previous editions of the paper from the ‘30s or old business documents from town, The Kearny Library had anything I needed.

I would suggest that residents consider taking a trip to the Kearny Museum located on the library’s second floor. What caught my attention, in particular, were two large aerial photos of the town from the 1960s.

- Anthony J. Machcinski

Working hard to improve playtime activities

Photos by Anthony Machcinski/ Bleacher Construction taking place at Vikings Field.


By Ron Leir

Now that the warm weather has arrived, communities in the region are focused on recreation opportunities for youths and North Arlington is no exception.

The borough made use of a 50% matching grant of nearly $65,000 from the Bergen County Open Space Trust Fund to upgrade two municipal play areas – Allan Park and Zadroga Park – and three public school playgrounds at Jefferson, Roosevelt and Washington Elementary Schools. The borough applied roughly the same amount of capital cash toward the project.

Those spaces are the beneficiaries of new “wood chips with carpet” play surfaces replacing asphalt, and new play equipment deemed appropriate and safe for younger children.

And the borough’s Board of Education is busy assembling a new bleachers for the Vikings football field on Passaic Ave. off Hedden Terrace. Landsite Construction Co., of Roselle Park, was awarded the contract as the lowest bidder for $328,800.

Schools Supt. Oliver Stringham said the district hopes to have the job completed by September.

The old bleachers, along with the field and track, locker rooms and concessions stand facilities, were deluged by Hurricane Irene last fall and the school board has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for $68,263 in storm damage reimbursement costs, including $41,766 to replace or repair athletic equipment.

“We’re hoping to do a new fieldhouse next year,” Stringham said, while a new field and track, however, “we’re still exploring.”

Elsewhere, Kearny will hold a ribbon-cutting June 5 at 6 p.m. for the newly renovated Brighton Ave. playground and parking lot, between Bergen and Wilson Aves., formerly known as the Shade Tree Nursery Park, in the First Ward.

The town contracted with Rich Picerno Builders, of Kenilworth, to do the work for $257,601 and received a Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund grant of $200,000 to help offset the cost, according to Kearny CFO Shuaib Firozvi.

Photos by Anthony Machcinski/ Upgraded Brighton Ave. Playground.


As of last week, Firozvi said that the contract was still open because of some open “punch-list” items for the contractor to complete.

In Belleville, the township secured rubber safety surfacing for its Mary St. Park at Emmet St. and for the “Pistol Range” play area at Joralemon St. and Hoover Ave. from Rubberecycle, Inc., of Lakewood. The Recreation Center at Joralemon St. and Garden Ave. is also scheduled for similar work later this month. The rubberized carpet replaces mulch surfaces. The township financed the safety improvements through a bond for nearly $100,000.

Additionally, the township has awarded a $589,000 contract to Stonebridge Development LLC, of Watchung, to rebuild the Friendly House recreation facility at Florence Ave. and Frederick St. Belleville received bids for the job on April 20 and the Watchung firm was deemed to be the lowest responsible bidder.

On May 22, the governing body voted to transfer $185,000 from a portion of the fiscal 2010 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) account reserved for the Essex County Track & Field Project to help pay for the Friendly House construction.

Interim Township Manager Kevin Esposito said that before the job can start, Belleville needs approval of the CDBG transfer from the Essex County Board of Freeholders but no opposition is expected.

“We hope to begin building by late summer or early fall,” Esposito said. The job should take no more than six months to complete, he added.

Plans call for construction of a one-story, 20-foot-tall, 4,250 square foot structure with concrete floor, bathrooms and office which, according to Esposito, will be used as a “multi-purpose” facility for recreational use and as a new location for the township’s nursery/day care program, which currently is housed at the Recreation Center.

In Harrison, the federal government has committed funding for a “trip-safe” resurfacing of the rubberized matting at the playgrounds at the Harrison Housing Authority’s Harrison Gardens and Kingsland Court sites. Design and engineering specifications have already been done and the job should be bid out shortly for completion by late July, according to HHA Interim Executive Director Zinnerford Smith.

Photos by Ron Leir/ Councilman Joseph Bianchi (l.) and Borough Administrator Terence Wall show off newly upgraded Jefferson School playground.


Some months ago, Harrison completed installation of lights at its Little League field on Harrison Ave. and a resurfacing of its soccer court on Frank Rodgers Blvd. South.

In Nutley, the Township Commission in late April contracted with Dakota Excavating, of Hackensack, for an upgraded softball field at Owens Park at the east end of Park Ave. near River Road. The $1.28 million project is being funded by a Green Acres allocation.

Next up for W.H.A.T. is ‘Nunsense’

Photo courtesy Linda D’Isa/ The cast of “Nunsense”: Bottom row: Paula Ribeiro, Joan Hemphill, Melissa Miranda. Middle row: Danielle Pennisi and Danielle Romano. Top row: Elizabeth Camarza and Paula Reyes. Not pictured: Francesca Stokes and Don Flynn.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) will conclude its first season on June 15 when area residents will perform the musical comedy “Nunsense.”

‘Nunsense’ revolves around Sister Julia, Child of God, cook for the Little Sisters of Hoboken who accidentally poisons 52 of her fellow sisters. In order to acquire the funds needed for the burials, the remaining sisters decide to perform a variety show.

Directing his second show for W.H.A.T. Joseph Ferriero has high expectations for the company’s rendition.

“I’m really excited for the first performance,” Ferriero said. “I want to see how the audience reacts. I don’t watch the show as it goes on; I want to see the audience. It lets me know what I’ve done right and what I’ve done wrong and what I need to change.”

Ferriero last directed “Frog Princess” for W.H.A.T., a family-oriented performance in April. As Ferriero started working on “Nunsense,” he quickly realized the two plays would be very different.

“It’s just really a different situation,” Ferriero explained. “Adults get it much faster than kids do in terms of understanding the characters.”

Performing in her debut for W.H.A.T. is Joan Hemphill, who will play Reverend Mother in the musical. While Hemphill is excited about the opportunity, she didn’t expect to be thrust into the spotlight so early.

“I was actually shocked to be honest,” Hemphill explained. “I just wanted a role to get me involved and get my feet wet. I’m taking (the role) on as a challenge to deliver a good performance.”

Explaining what those challenges are, Hemphill said, “It will take me more time to get used to. I have to balance my work and my career, but I’m really dedicated to it. I’m not a natural, but I’m up to the challenge.”

Joining Hemphill on the stage at the Grace United Methodist Church on June 15 will be Paula Reyes, who will play Sister Julia, Child of God. “Nunsense” will be Reyes’ second performance with W.H.A.T. after playing Ursula in the “Frog Princess” performance.

“I’m privileged to be in (‘Nunsense’) with (Ferriero) and the rest of the cast,” Reyes said.

One major difference between “Frog Princess” and “Nunsense” has been the ability of the cast to adapt and learn the play, despite the more complex nature of “Nunsense.”

“This is one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with,” Reyes remarked. “It’s nice because people put on productions in a threeto- four month time frame. We’re doing this in five weeks. (Acting) isn’t their main job. It’s an amazing production.”

Ferriero agreed, saying, “(The cast) is really dedicated. Whether it’s music one night, acting another, choreography another. There are things we’ve done seven times and then we say we’re going to change something with two weeks left because it wasn’t working. The cast has dealt with different curveballs very well.”

For this group, acting simply isn’t something they do just to cure summer bordom, it’s a fierce passion that’s been present in their lives for many years.

“I truly enjoy the arts,” Reyes explained. “It’s important to bring it back to the community in an affordable way.”

Hemphill echoed that idea, saying, “Kearny is a town that has a lot of interest in the arts. The people organizing it are talented and have the experience and know-how. It’s good to have that collaboration.”

Aside from the hard work and dedication that takes place to put the performance together, Hemphill points to another factor that has yielded much satisfaction for her involvement in the production.

“(The best part of the whole experience is) getting to know the music and working with people under good direction and meeting new people,” Hemphill explained.

The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company will perform the musical comedy “Nunsense” on June 15 at 7:30 p.m. and June 16 at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Grace United Methodist Church at 380 Kearny Ave. in Kearny. Tickets are available by visiting the company website at whatco.org, by calling the box office at 201-467-8624, or by purchasing them in person a half hour before the show or at 570 Kearny Ave. in Kearny.

Another season to remember for the Lyndhurst track team

Photo by Jim Hague/ The Lyndhurst boys’ track and field team enjoyed another championship season. Front row, from left, are Mike Leitao, Kane McDermott, Nathan Duquilla, Mike Morreale, Ian Yunis and Anthony Giaquinto. Back row, from left, are Alfredo Silva, Anthony Maldonado, J.P. Manzo, Eric Angus, Thiago Fernandes, Danny Gaspar, James Wenger, Ali Kone, Jonathan Mercado and Cap Ki Kim.


By Jim Hague

Before the 2012 outdoor track season began, there were a lot of people who questioned whether the Lyndhurst High School boys’ track and field team would be as competitive as in years past.

After all, the Golden Bears did lose standout Patrick Rono, the 2010-2011 Observer Male Athlete of the Year, to graduation and the University of Arkansas. There were those that truly believed that the track and field program would suffer immensely with his departure.

But none of those doubters wore blue and gold uniforms. To a man, the Golden Bears all thought they could be just as good – if not better – without Rono.

“We knew from the start that it would be a little tougher without Patrick,” said senior pole vault standout Mike Morreale. “We knew that we still had a great team and we shouldn’t let what people say about us change what we do. If we could perform at our best, we could have another great team. We could be just like last year.” “

We wanted to build from what Pat helped to build,” said senior distance runner Thiago Fernandes. “That was the goal.”

Fellow senior distance runner Danny Gaspar agreed.

“We really pushed ourselves,” Gaspar said. “We knew it was going to be tough without Patrick, but we never thought we wouldn’t be good. We had a lot of talented people still here.”

Veteran head coach Tom Shoebridge tried to get the entire team to believe.

“The first thing we talked about as a coaching staff was getting the kids to believe in themselves,” Shoebridge said. “It was in our first team meeting with the staff. We knew we could get another triple crown (league, county and state). We knew we had a chance. We just had to make sure the kids believed it.”

Shoebridge credited his close-knit senior class for helping the rest of the 70 kids to buy in.

“The senior class wanted to achieve some great things,” Shoebridge said. “It was more like the seniors wanted to achieve the same things that last year’s team did. It’s a great group of kids.”

Kids like Gaspar and Fernandes handling the distance races and making sure that the Golden Bears scored as many points as possible in their events. Cap Ki Kim took care of the hurdles events. Ali Kone was a versatile performer. Eric Angus went on to set a new school record in the javelin that stood for 10 years. Morreale emerged as the best in the pole vault in the history of the school – and there has been plenty of excellence in the pole vault at Lyndhurst.

“They already had that dimension that they wanted to be remembered as one of the best teams in the school’s history,” Shoebridge said. “They were all part of things that never happened before.”

Sure enough, this team went out and excelled without the standout Rono. They were a bunch of hardworking kids, not one stealing any headlines or limelight. They were just a group who stuck together and did what was expected of them – and more.

“We had a motto from the beginning of the season,” Shoebridge said. “If it’s one of us, it’s all of us. They stuck to that motto and I’m very proud of them.”

The Golden Bears won their league championship for a third straight year, adding a second straight NJIC Meadowlands Division A title to the BCSL National crown the Bears won before that league disbanded.

They also captured the Bergen County Division C championship for a third straight year after never having won it before. They also just missed winning the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I title for a second straight year, losing by a single point to Weequahic of Newark.

Photo by Jim Hague/ The Lyndhurst boys’ track team, led by head coach Tom Shoebridge (center front), won the Bergen County and NJIC Meadowlands Division A titles while falling just a point shy of a second straight NJSIAA state sectional title.


It’s definitely a great legacy left by the seniors and one that needs to continue in the future.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Gaspar, who is headed to Rutgers University where he will continue his career. “We wanted to go out with the whole thing. I think everyone improved as a whole, which is important. It’s a shame we couldn’t win them all. I’ll never forget this. I remember coming in three years ago and saying that, ‘OK, we have Patrick and just a group of other guys who want to help out.’ But we really pushed ourselves to become champions.”

Fernandes can’t comprehend how far the program has come.

“I always dreamed that we could do it, but I never knew for sure,” said Fernandes, who is off to NYU and study computer science. “We were always discounted. Coming in, I never thought we had a chance to accomplish all we have. It’s great to leave a legacy like this for everyone else.”

Shoebridge now knows he has a program to be reckoned with, certainly not a fly-by-night organization fueled by the efforts of one superstar. This was a team effort through and through.

“The program has definitely flourished,” Shoebridge said. “Our kids are proud of their accomplishments and they deserve the respect they receive. They understand what it means to get respect the right way.”

Shoebridge was asked if he could have envisioned such immense success with his program.

“Absolutely not,” Shoebridge said. “I could envision some success, but I couldn’t see this happening. It’s a credit to the kids. I appreciate their efforts. They worked very hard. No way could we ever get this program to be where it is without a great coaching staff. Without them, there wouldn’t be a successful program.”

Ed Tessalone, Kim Hykey, Darius Hughes and an assortment of volunteers aided Shoebridge in assembling what has now developed into a perennial power.

The torch has now been passed to a standout like sophomore Anthony Giaquinto, who will be the top performer next season.

“All the underclassmen have a responsibility to keep the tradition going,” Giaquinto said. “The older guys set a good example for me to follow.”

And it will be up to the other underclassmen to keep that winning championship feeling going in Lyndhurst, proving to everyone that there’s more to Lyndhurst track and fi eld than one kid.

“As soon as Patrick left, everyone shot our chances out the window,” Gaspar said. “That was added motivation for is. We were determined to prove that we were a different team. OK, so Rono used to win everything, so we had to all chip in and fi ll in. We did a wonderful job, the whole team together. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

“They are always going to be remembered as one of the greatest athletic teams in the school,” Shoebridge said. “That says a lot.”

Soccer devotee imparts love of sport to youths

Photo courtesy of Tina Montanino/ The Kearny United Bhoys won the New Jersey Youth Soccer State Cup in the 16-and-under division recently, the first state championship for a Kearny youth soccer team since 1984.


By Jim Hague

Steve Montanino is a lifelong Kearny resident, a product of the town through and through. He grew up playing soccer in Kearny for the famed Thistle program and became an Eagle Scout. He went to Kearny High School and after graduation became a police officer in Kearny.

Montanino has spent the last 18 years with the Kearny Police Department, the last four as the resource officer at Kearny High, as part of the DARE program.

During this time, Montanino has also been a dedicated volunteer soccer coach on practically every level in the town.

“I just love the game,” Montanino said. “I think it goes back to my parents instilling in me that I should always give back. I’m lucky to be in the DARE program and I feel lucky to be able to coach soccer.”

This year, Montanino took on a new challenge, coaching the Kearny United U16 team, called the Kearny Bhoys, spelled like that in honor of the followers of the famed Scottish soccer club Celtic FC.

“What’s unusual about this team is that a lot of them played for me last year for the Thistle U14,” Montanino explained. “So basically half of them are playing up a year.”

Montanino’s team last year went to the New Jersey Youth Soccer State Cup semifinals for the 14-and-under division, but to take those kids and ask them to play against opponents all older than them is quite a task.

“I knew we had a pretty good team with a lot of talented kids,” Montanino said. “I also knew that we had such a deep bench.”

So Montanino went out and sought out the best competition for his team to face during the regular season.

“We made sure we played all the top competitors in the state, because we knew we had a talented team,” Montanino said. “We also have some good quality kids. Even though they were playing up, I thought they could handle it with their skill set.”

Well, that strategy worked, because the Kearny United Bhoys went on to win the New Jersey Youth Soccer Cup U16 championship recently, winning the title game in double overtime against the Jersey Central Spartans.

It marked the first time that a Kearny youth soccer team captured a state championship since 1984, when a team featuring Hall of Famers John Harkes and Tab Ramos and current Kearny head coach Billy Galka won the state cup title.

Montanino is ecstatic with the talent level of this group, especially with players like midfielder Marcelo Matta and goalkeeper Sebastian Ferreira.

“Marcelo is a tremendous player,” Montanino said of the rising star, still only in eighth grade. We haven’t seen a player like him in Kearny in a long time. He’s a throwback player like Hugh O’Neill.”

O’Neill is the Hudson County Sports Hall of Famer who was one of the first Americans to ever play top division professional soccer in Scotland.

The team has another eighth grader in Cort Montanino, the coach’s son, who anchors the backline as a fullback.

Ferreira is a freshman at Kearny High and will more than likely become the Kardinals’ starting net minder in the fall.

The team also features two standouts who are also freshmen at Kearny, namely Daniel Vicente, who is the team’s starting center/midfielder and has played under Montanino’s wing since he was 9 years old, and forward Andres Pessantes, who scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime to give Kearny United Bhoys the state crown.

The defensive backline features Queen of Peace player Kyle Lennon, along with Oliver Madrid, Jesse Majano, Chris Smith, Andrew Quintos and Modou Sowe, a Harrison resident by way of Gambia.

Other than Matta, the midfield features Richard Blancas, Jordy Arias and John Cuco.

The forward line is led by Pessantes, but also has Wender Lima, who assisted on Pessantes’ cup-winning goal, Arturo Sanchez, Kevin Tapia and Timothy Farias.

Needless to say, the future of soccer in Kearny is definitely bright, evidenced by the efforts of these young men.

Montanino received a bit of good news last week after his team won the State Cup. They have been invited by the New Jersey Olympic Development Program to participate in the Region 1 tournament at Rider University later this month.

“It’s a great honor to get invited as a club team,” Montanino said. “We’re going to be playing teams from Connecticut, Eastern New York and Maryland.”

The New Jersey ODP team will also participate, but it’s a great achievement for the kids from Kearny.

“There are going to be more than 200 college coaches there and the Team USA coaches,” Montanino said. “It’s great exposure for our kids. The head of New Jersey ODP said that we were worthy of it. He felt that we had a few guys who needed to be seen by the coaches. That’s why I coach. I want to get the kids the exposure they deserve.”

Montanino said that the Cup championship could not have been possible without tremendous help from the local business community, who helped to sponsor the team.

“We have that great community support and we appreciate it,” Montanino said. “We’re doing what we can to keep the Kearny kids here to play soccer.”

And in part, to help Kearny maintain its nationwide moniker of identity as “Soccertown, USA.”

QP’s Negroni already masters the hurdles; heads to Meet of Champs

Photo by Jim Hague/ Queen of Peace freshman Natalie Negroni


By Jim Hague

After playing soccer in the fall, Queen of Peace freshman Natalie Negroni wanted to try something different in the spring months.

“My brother (Daniel) was on the track team at Queen of Peace,” Negroni said. “I always wanted to try it. I had no idea how I would do.”

Queen of Peace track and field coach Nick Mazzolla, who returned to coaching this spring after a nine-year hiatus, also had no preconceptions about what Negroni _ or any other athlete on his team – could do.

So on the first day of practice, Mazzolla, who spent 16 years as the head track coach at North Arlington High School, took one single hurdle and put it in the middle of the grass field behind QP.

“One of the most favorite things to coach was always the hurdles,” Mazzolla said. “So I stuck a hurdle on the grass and didn’t even call it a hurdle. I told them all to jump over that thing. I noticed what Natalie did. With no direction whatsoever, she jumped over the hurdle with technique. She actually glided over it. She said she never did it before, but she sure looked like she did.”

Negroni was a total novice to the sport.

“I really didn’t think I could do it,” Negroni said. “I was afraid I was going to fall. I thought the hurdle was really high. I didn’t think I had the right technique. I thought it was all wrong. I sort of galloped over it.”

Mazzolla saw promise.

“After we started working on it together, she just got better and better,” Mazzolla said. “I’d say she was a natural.”

In her first meet, Negroni finished third behind two girls from Lyndhurst, but Mazzolla knew that he had something special.

“I could sense that she had the knack of it,” Mazzolla said. “From that first race on, she’s been incredible.”

You can say that.

That’s because the total newcomer blazed the trail in the hurdles for the entire outdoor track season, improving with every stride.

In the 400-meter intermediate hurdles, Negroni won the gold medal at the Bergen County Seat meet at Mahwah in late April. She then followed up that performance by winning the gold medal at the Bergen County Championships earlier this month with a time of 67.9. She was then second at the Bergen County Meet of Champions, running in 65.5 and captured the NJSIAA Non-Public B state sectional championship in 65.8.

Last weekend, at the overall NJSIAA Non-Public B state championships in South Plainfield, Negroni appeared headed to a state title.

“She had a good start and as she’s running around, I looked at the stop watch and she’s going to break her own record,” Mazzolla said. “She just cleared the ninth hurdle. I looked down at the stop watch and I looked up and she was on the ground. She fell. She was crushing the field, but she still got up and finished second.”

For good measure, Negroni also finished fourth in the high jump and sixth in the 100-meter high hurdles, meaning that she has now qualified for the NJSIAA Meet of Champions this week in three different events.

Not bad for a freshman with no experience whatsoever.

For her efforts, Negroni has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

“I never thought I’d be this good, especially in the hurdles,” Negroni said. “It’s been an awesome experience. It’s really too amazing to believe. I’ve only been training two months and look what has happened. Considering my experience, I can’t believe this.”

And she becomes the first QP athlete to qualify for the Meet of Champions in three events since superstar and former Observer Female Athlete of the Year Janine Davis did it in 2005.

“That’s really cool,” Negroni said. “I didn’t know that.”

Negroni will try to compete in all three events at the Meet of Champions. That alone will be a feat in itself. She’s now determined to become an even better competitor in track and field.

“I definitely want to improve a lot and I’d love to compete in track in college,” Negroni said.

It’s nice to have goals, but it’s still an astounding three years away. Instant success will do that to you.

“I knew I’d probably be a sprinter, because I knew I wasn’t any good in long events,” Negroni said. “I really didn’t know how good I’d be.”

How good? Try state sectional champion good.

“I’ve had a lot of girls with natural ability, but Natalie is beyond that,” Mazzolla said. “She’s a legitimate track athlete. I tell her all the time that she can do anything. She’s starting to understand her potential now. I think track is her sport and her potential in track is endless. Her future is limitless. It is remarkable that she doesn’t realize it.”

“He tells me that all the time,” Negroni said. “I realize now what I’ve done.”

And in all honesty, what she can still do. This is a star on the rise.