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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
By Lisa Pezzolla
Last night, I sat in bed exhausted, just waiting to get a much-needed rest. Unfortunately, I spent an hour and a half staring at the TV.
What had caught my attention was Lionel the news decoder, on Channel 11 at 11 p.m. He brought up the point that you don’t have to support the war, but you can support our service men and women. He brings up an interesting point. We have parades for overpaid athletes who train daily in their sport of choice and we end up putting them on society’s high pedestals. I’m a Yankee fan but come on America, shouldn’t our war heroes have a day of recognition and hold their heads high as we salute them for what they have done for us?
The Obama administration has reportedly nixed tickertape parades for Iraq war troops. How many years have they been away from loved ones and from a normal, daily life? Now, they are forced to return to daily life in silence, without being honored for their sacrifice. Whether you support the war or not, support the real heroes and their sacrifices.
No matter which side of the issue you stand on, please send any comments you may have through e-mail, post on our Facebook, or tweet us so we can publish them.
Thirty odd years ago Hustler Magazine publisher Larry Flynt ran an editorial calling on all Americans to abolish the two-party political system. Flynt maintained that neither party represented the people anymore, so they should be removed and replaced by individuals or entities that might actually take up the people’s work. The column didn’t accomplish a great deal, other than to rattle a firmly entrenched establishment quick to point out that Flynt was nothing more than a purveyor of “filth” who shouldn’t be taken seriously. In retrospect, Flynt seems like a veritable genius whose uncanny take on the American problem was far ahead of its time.
We are witnessing a genuine uprising in our once staid political system. Protesters on the right, sick of runaway taxation and stifling government control have banded together to form the Tea Party, while lefties (AKA 99%ers) rally against a breathtakingly corrupt corporate machine and its symbiotic relationship with dirty politicians. There’s one common thread that transcends the innate differences between the two ideologies and their respective agendas. In a nutshell, neither faction believes that the party that they had originally backed – Republican or Democrat – will give them a fair shake anymore. Many believe that they never did. “
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” Marcellus declares in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and so, too, in America. Ask most anyone their opinion of politicians and the present state of our democracy and you will usually hear a variation of “they’re all crooks!” followed by “America is doomed.” It’s easy to see why. The lopsided distribution of money among a handful of the wealthiest Americans isn’t some populist hunch born of jealousy, nor can the assumption that the middle-class is being severely overtaxed be written off as unmerited paranoia. These are inconvenient facts for the powers that be that only emerged after a pioneering group of Americans, choking to death from the foul stench of corruption, finally traced the rot to its roots.
Only time will tell the full affect that these “Anti-Party” parties will have on America, but people are already making educated guesses and formulating opinions about their final impact.
The rosiest view sees a bold, Utopia-like nation rising like a Phoenix after the corruption, collusion, and cronyism have finally been vanquished. That’s a worthy dream but one that stands at direct odds with history – a cursory glance at which shows that no Utopia or attempt at it has ever survived for long.
Those who view these new anti-party groups through more cynical eyes believe that any form of government will eventually devolve as surely as our present system has. The tainted hand of man will still be at the helm steering the ship, these fatalists are quick to point out, and as John Calvin ominously stressed, mankind simply cannot be trusted. Be that as it may, it still begs this question: If we don’t try either of these approaches or other tactics yet to be named or defined, what is our alternative? It’s almost a given that America can’t go on like this indefinitely. At some point our nation will either collapse under its grossly uneven weight, or end up with a rich/poor caste system that will nullify all that it is supposed to stand for.
Yes, Larry Flynt was and still is a man who peddles smut – there’s simply no getting around it. Of course, one person’s smut is another’s S‘mores, but that observation is best left for another time and a more racy publication. Nevertheless, this purported “filth merchant” in all of his alleged sexual depravity somehow managed to propose a forward-thinking idea that was nothing short of prophetic. “Abolish the two-party system!” Flynt demanded in no uncertain terms. Too bad the raunchy fellow didn’t include an exit strategy.
— Jeff Bahr
By Anthony J. Machcinski
Discovering new talent in the entertainment industry is always a challenge, whether you’re a record label, a journalist looking to cover a new band, or a music lover who just loves some good tunes. Being in these bands, the struggle is often how to get people to come to a show, not from a money standpoint, but so they can appreciate your craft. Two Kearny residents have found a way to bridge that gap.
The pair, 29-year-old Mike Sylvia and 28-year-old Ryan Gross, celebrated the two-year anniversary of their record label, Killing Horse Records, last Friday at Maxwell’s in Hoboken.
The two friends started the label based around the idea of creating a more professional feel for the bands they had been playing with.
“I was wondering how we get this band out there. How do we get this band out to other people,” Gross explained. “I had the idea that if there was a record label attached, it might sound more serious. I went to Mike’s apartment and we figured it all out.”
With no experience, the band had to draw from their playing careers in order to feel things out.
“We didn’t have any experience, but we both played in bands growing up,” explained Sylvia. “We saw what it was like to get people in so we figured we could pool our resources and help our friends on the business end so they can focus on playing music.”
“It seems natural to help them out, more than just production, but in the day-to-day stuff to work in music professionally,” Gross added.
The young entrepreneurs started by booking shows at the Kearny Irish-American Club with New Jersey bands that had already had success with the idea of raising money.
“We didn’t make very much money, maybe 20-30 bucks a pop (after paying the bands and other charges),” Sylvia explained.
What the band would gain, however, were the necessary contacts required in order to succeed in the business.
“What we found was that we made a ton of contacts. Between bloggers, press people, all the people you need to know to stay afl oat,” Sylvia said. “It was really essential for us even though it didn’t translate monetarily.”
With these contacts, the beginning of the label’s second year saw the enterprise begin to flourish.
“With some money to work with and new contacts, we were in a place to put stuff out,” explained Gross. “We were able to put out a 7-inch vinyl record for [the band] Ben Franklin.”
While Gross and Sylvia have backed away from their playing careers in favor of other opportunities in the business, the passion to play still burns in their hearts.
“We still do [play] a bit,” said Gross, an accomplished musician in his own right who started playing music as a kid with the piano and saxophone. “I just joined the lineup of Secret Country to fi ll in the lineup a bit and work with them playing out of the area.”
As the calendar reflects Killing Horse Records’ third year, the pair are excited to continue building up the label.
“We definitely got a big year planned for 2012,” Sylvia said. “We want to put together four to five records this year. We have a couple more bands in the works, but our goal is to do one record for the label every three months.”
“I’m excited to be able to play with Secret Country and being in the fold again,” Gross said. “We’re going to start trying to play out of New Jersey more often. Nothing crazy, but going out for a weekend and hitting some places like Nashville, Philadelphia, North Carolina, it would be a great step for the band, the label, and myself.”
Whatever path life takes them down there is little doubt that the Killing Horse label will be even more successful in the near future.
For more information about the label, and the bands under it, check out their website: killinghorserecords.com.
On December 30, at 3:20 p.m. a man was walking near the QuickChek on Washington Ave. when a Hispanic male approached him. The stranger told the man that they had met before and asked if he remembered him by the name of “Smooth.” As they walked together behind 509 Washington St. the man noticed that three more individuals were approaching him and Smooth. Just when he realized that he had been set up by Smooth, one of the three men grabbed him from behind. The man managed to break free and to throw some punches at Smooth. Suddenly, one of the assailants produced a black snub-nosed revolver and shouted, “Put your hands up!” As he did, the other hooligans began to beat the man. The thieves made off with the man’s wallet, which contained $187. The men are still at large. Police described the men as follows:
“Smooth” – Hispanic with a Mohawk haircut and ponytail. Last seen wearing gray North Face jeans.
Assailant # 1 – Black male in 20’s wearing red T-shirt. Wrist possibly broken.
Assailant # 2 – Black male in 30’s wearing black ski mask and black hooded jacket.
Assailant # 3 – Hispanic male in 20’s wearing gray hooded sweatshirt Other news from the Belleville Police blotter:
Two attempted motor vehicle thefts were reported at the Verizon Building, 282 Washington Ave. A Verizon employee said that she had parked her white 1999 Chevy Cavalier in the parking lot on Dec. 28. When she returned on Jan. 3 she noticed that the ignition had been popped and broken.
The owner of a white 2008 Chevy van reported that the vehicle’s side-door lock had been popped open and that items inside the vehicle had been rummaged through. It was unclear if anything was missing.
3:20 p.m. – A 14-year-old girl entered into a brouhaha with another girl of the same age after their school bus dropped them off at the corner of Newark Ave. and Clara Maass Dr. The argumentative teen accused the victim of “talking about her” that day in school, but waited until after school to take action against her. As soon as they stepped off the bus the angry teen grabbed the victim’s backpack and struck her in the head. She then ripped the earrings from her ears. When the victim attempted to retrieve the earrings from the ground, the girl kicked her in her side. After officers were dispatched to the scene, they charged the teen with simple assault.
A trailer was reported stolen at 311 Stevens St. Police received the call on Dec. 31. The robbery apparently occurred somewhere between Dec 30 and 31. The victim informed police that she had rented the trailer from Budget Car Center and that it was gone when she returned to the lot. The trailer is a 1998 Demco model. Police are investigating.
5:45 p.m. – A 2010 Infinity was reported stolen from 10 Columbus Ave. It was stolen between 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 30, and 5:45 p.m. the following day. The owner said that the last time he had seen it was when his friend used it and dropped him off at work. Police are investigating.
9:08 p.m. – Police received a report of two males looking in vehicles at the 100 block of Ralph St. When they arrived at the scene, they spoke with a witness who observed a male wearing a black hoodie sitting on his front steps. A second man dressed in a grey hoodie and described as a Hispanic male wearing glasses, was seen sitting inside a vehicle parked in front of 103 Ralph St. When the witness walked out of his home, the two suspicious males ran off. Officers spoke with the owner of a silver 1997 Civic that the men had been standing beside. He noticed no sign of forced entry, but the ignition had been tampered with.
7:42 a.m. – A man was knocked from his bicycle in the Kmart parking lot by an assailant that he later identified as a co-worker. After he fell off the bike, the man proceeded to punch him several times in the face. The victim sustained bruises and a cut on his forehead. He refused medical treatment and was advised to contact authorities with complaints.
8 a.m. – Kmart proved to be a crime hotspot once again when when police spotted two men reportedly removing pallets from behind the store. The men claimed that they thought the pallets were being tossed out as garbage. One individual checked out OK and was released; the other, Dominick J. Lyness, 32, of Belleville, wasn’t so lucky. Police discovered that Lyness had warrants out of Saddle Brook, Elmwood Park, East Orange, and an Essex County Sherriff ’s warrant totaling some $3,300.
1 p.m. – An apparent break-in was thwarted when a woman heard a knock at her apartment door at 213 Stephens St. The man then inserted a key into the lock and attempted to open the door. The woman opened the door and asked the man what he was doing there. He nervously explained that he had gone to the wrong apartment, and then bolted down the hallway. The woman then called police. The man, still at large, is described as Asian, 5’ 6” and roughly 30.
Police are investigating a carjacking incident that took place on the Harrison border of West Hudson Park on New Year’s Day.
Police said they were called to the 600 block of Central Ave. at 9:11 p.m. on Jan. 1 on a report of an armed robbery.
The victim told officers he was talking to a friend on his cell phone while sitting in his 2006 Pontiac GTO in a Central Ave. parking lot, west of Kingsland Ave., with the driver’s door open, and the engine running, when he heard a voice say, “Get out of the car!”
He then felt an object pressed against his head and a man ordered him out of the car. As he did so, the holdup man pulled the victim’s jacket over his head and ordered him to lie on the ground with his hands over his head.
The suspect then directed a second man to check the victim’s pockets and his partner removed $200 and four New Jersey Lottery tickets. The holdup man then turned the victim over onto his back while his partner continued to search him.
The victim could now see that the holdup man was armed with a shiny gray handgun, possibly a semi-automatic, which was pointed at him.
The holdup man then moved the victim to the front of the car and ordered him to lie on the ground. Both the armed man and his partner then jumped into the GTO and sped away south on Kingsland Ave.
As the incident unfolded, the victim’s friend could hear bits of the comments made by the holdup man on his end of the cell phone until the connection was lost. The friend told police he tried to call back, but the call immediately went to voice mail.
Police described the man with the gun as a light-skinned Latino, 5 feet-6, about 25, wearing a dark hoodie, baseball cap, with a mustache, light beard or goatee. His partner was listed as Latino, wearing a dark-colored hoodie.
Police broadcast a statewide alert about the carjacking and an investigation is continuing.
Here’s an accounting of other recent criminal incidents in Harrison:
A 2008 Chevrolet was “keyed” while it was parked on the 800 block of Hamilton St. overnight.
Tanza Singletary, 21, of New York, was arrested for allegedly shoplifting a $1.29 package of cookies from a Bergen Mall business. He was also charged with hindering apprehension before being released on a summons.
Jose Rodriguez, 38, of Newark, was arrested for shoplifting 12 cans of Red Bull from a Harrison Ave. store. Rodriguez was given a summons and released.
Rocco Spinelli, 52, of Newark was arrested outside Popeye’s restaurant on Passaic Ave. on a drug offense warrant issued by Wall Township. Spinelli was subsequently released by Wall Township on his own recognizance with a new court date.
A 1999 Honda Civic was stolen from the 300 block of Essex St. sometime between Dec. 28 and Jan. 2.
Someone smashed the window of a 2000 Ford Explorer while it was parked overnight on the 200 block of Warren St. and ransacked the interior. The owner couldn’t determine whether anything had been taken.
An Ohio resident’s 1998 Honda Civic was stolen from the 300 block of Essex St. Dec. 31 A postal delivery that was left at a Franklin Ave. residence was reported stolen. A resident’s bank account information was obtained and $8.99 was illegally withdrawn from the account via a bank in Denver, Col. A Pennsylvania resident’s 2000 Honda Civic was reported stolen from the municipal parking lot at Frank Rodgers Blvd. and Essex St.
A Warren St. residence was burglarized when a rear entry to a basement apartment was forced open. Musical recording equipment was reported stolen from the apartment.
— Ron Leir
Do you Knit? Scrapbook? Write the great American novel? The Bloomfield Public Library is your one-stop community center for sharing your interests and hobbies with like-minded people.
The library’s Friday Morning Knitting Club is going strong every week at 11 a.m. in the conference room. Bring your latest project, and look forward to a couple of hours of making new friends and sharing creative ideas. Beginners are welcome!
Beginning on Feb. 16, scrapbookers are invited to the library’s new Scrapbooking Crop, which will begin on Thursdays at 11 a.m. What is a crop? It’s where a group of people get together and work on their scrapbooking projects. Beginners are welcome! Bring your supplies if you have them and a willingness to learn or teach your craft and share your ideas with like-minded crafters!
For those who like to piece together words, the library is beginning a writer’s workshop as well. Come in and share your ideas and writings beginning Feb. 6 at 10 a.m. The Get it Write sessions will be meeting on the first and third Mondays each month at 10 a.m.
Do you have a skill or hobby you’d like to share with the community? Consider doing so at the library. The above programs are all led by volunteer community members. Consider sharing your interest in a club or a one-time program. Interested? Call or email Lisa Cohn at 973-566-6200, ext. 217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harrison Public Library will be offering “PAWS to Read” program to Harrison and East Newark Children, ages 4 through 7, on Thursday, Jan. 19, from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. Come meet and read with Molly, a certified therapy dog. This will be a monthly event at the library and dates for Molly’s future visits will be distributed.
The PBGC, 663 Kearny Ave., will hold its annual winter dance on Friday, Jan. 13, from 7 to 10 p.m. Guests are restricted to teens only. The dance will be supervised by Tom Fraser, former Lincoln School guidance counselor; Paul Viera, chairman of the board and members of the Board of Directors.
The Kearny Public Library Children’s Room announces free events for children in January.
At the Main library, Play/Story Times for preschool age children will continue on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. – noon, and also on Thursday mornings from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Branch library Play/Story Times for preschool age children will continue on Thursday mornings from 10:15 to 11 a.m. The Branch Library is located at 759 Kearny Ave.
In honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the library invites children ages 3 1/2 and older to create floats of respect from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19, art class with Mrs. Mills. Please bring a shoebox or two for creating your float. The library will provide all the additional art supplies. The class will be held on the lower level of the Main Library, 318 Kearny Ave. Space is limited, so please try to arrive on time. Seating will be on a first come, first served basis until available spaces are filled. The art class is free.
Registration is not needed for any program. The Main Library is located at 318 Kearny Ave. For more information, visit the library on the web at www.kearnylibrary.org or call 201-998-2666.
Kearny UNICO is sponsoring a fund-raising winter doldrums bus trip to the Showboat Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City on Sunday, Jan. 29. Cost is $30 per person with $30 in slot credit back from the casino. Bus will depart at 8:30 a.m. from the VFW parking lot on Belgrove Drive in Kearny. Coffee will be served to participants in the VFW hall prior to departure. For tickets, please contact Lou Pandolfi at 201-368-2409.
St. Michael’s Leisure Club, Lyndhurst, will have a bus ride to Mt. Airy Casino in Pennsylvania on Thursday, Jan. 19, leaving the church parking lot on Page Avenue at 10 a.m. For price and reservation, please call Georgianna at 201-438-7847.
The Third-Tuesday-of-the-Month Bird Walk, with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and the Bergen County Audubon Society, is set for Tuesday, Jan. 17, at 10 a.m. This free two-hour guided nature walk will take place at Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus. The group will meet at the big parking lot by the Laurel Hill ball fields at 10 a.m. or at the first parking lot in DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, the home of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, at 9:20 a.m. 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 email@example.com or 201-230-4983.
The Lyndhurst High School Academic awards dinner will be held May 1. Each year the dinner honors a former graduate of Lyndhurst High School who demonstrated scholastic excellence in high school, as well as in higher educational, career endeavors and community service. Each honoree should serve as a role model for the current student body.
The committee has established a “pool” of qualified candidates. Each year names are added to that “pool.” Candidates must have graduated at least 10 years ago from Lyndhurst High School. Anyone that knows of a person or persons whose name should be added to that “pool” please submit your recommendations to: Mrs. Lisa Klein, Academic Awards Committee, Lyndhurst High School, 400 Weart Ave., Lyndhurst, N.J. 07071. Please submit your recommendations no later than Jan. 26.
The Lyndhurst Public Library invites the community to join in a continuous program titled “Connecting With Your Inner Self”. This program is geared for those 50+ years old. The purpose is to get people to talk about topics such as fears, aging, changing obstacles into opportunities, dealing with problems optimistically and appreciating where you are in life. The next meeting will be held on Thursday, Jan. 12, from 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. For more information, please call the library at 201-804-2478, ext. 7.
The North Arlington Board of Health will sponsor a free hearing screening for North Arlington residents on Wednesday, Jan. 25, from 9 a.m. to noon at the North Arlington Health Department, 10 Beaver Ave., North Arlington. The screening will be done by audiologist Kirk Knutsen, MA, MS. For an appointment or further information, please call the North Arlington Health Department at 201-955-5695.
A blood drive will be held at the Nutley Chapter of the American Red Cross, 169 Chestnut St., Chatham Room, 1st floor, on Tuesday, Jan. 17, from 3 to 8 p.m.
By Jim Hague
A few years ago, there was a popular biography of country and western music superstar Johnny Cash, starring Joaquin Phoenix and eventual Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon called “Walk the Line.”
Well, that has been the battle cry of the North Arlington High School boys’ basketball team this season. The Vikings are trying to walk the line around the .500 mark in order to remain in contention for a possible NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoff berth.
“We’re trying to hold the line at .500,” said North Arlington head coach Dave Walsh, whose team improved to the even-water mark at 4-4 with a solid win over neighboring rival Queen of Peace last Thursday night, taking a 69-57 decision. “We’re in the midst of a stretch where we have seven of our next 10 games on the road, including being away for the next four. So it’s important for us to get wins now.”
Walsh said that he began the season a little concerned about the Vikings’ inexperienced roster.
“I was worried about our lack of varsity experience,” said Walsh, who returned only two starters from the team that went 7-17 a year ago. “We had leads in the fourth quarter of our first two games and lost both of those games (to Secaucus and Becton Regional). We had to learn how to finish out games and win.”
Walsh knows that his young team has been improving.
“We’re definitely getting better,” Walsh said. “The more we play, the better we’ll get. We’re making better decisions with the basketball lately. I can sense that we’re getting better as we go along.”
Leading the way has been senior guard Tyler Krychkowski, who was the Vikings’ leading scorer a year ago. The 5-foot-11 Krychkowski, the soccer standout, has been equally as brilliant on the hardwood, averaging nearly 19 points per game. He had 27 in the win over QP last Thursday.
“Tyler has had to learn to do it with three different kids in the lineup, so it’s been a challenge for him,” Walsh said. “We have an idea that we have to get Tyler the ball. He knows how to score and knows what to do. I always tell him that the bottom line is simple. When in doubt, shoot the ball. He’s been getting his shots and he’s been making the shots.”
The Vikings’ other returning starter is 6-foot-3 junior forward A.J. Nocciolo, who has been averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds per game.
“He plays hard,” Walsh said of Nocciolo, who is also the Vikings’ quarterback during the football season. “He’s someone who is capable to score inside for us. When he’s not in the game, we miss him out there. He’s a key player for us.”
Sophomore Thai Scott is the team’s starting point guard. The 5-foot-8 Scott is gradually getting better at running the Vikings’ offense and he scored 13 points in the Vikings’ tough loss to Lyndhurst last week.
“He’s still learning the game,” Walsh said. “He’s learning that there’s a big difference between junior varsity and varsity. He’s learning how to handle the pressure and learning to cut down on his mistakes. He’s also making better decisions with the ball.”
Junior Julian Ortiz is a 5-foot-10 guard who handles a variety of responsibilities for the Vikings.
“He’s our best defender,” Walsh said. “He also handles the ball pretty well and helps with the offensive flow. He’s just a good steady player.”
The fifth Viking starter is 6-foot-4 freshman center Jose Checo, who has made the leap right into the varsity fray.
“He’s finally starting to take some shots and help out the offense,” Walsh said of Checo. “He’s doing a great job defensively, averaging like five blocked shots per game. He knows where to go on defense. He’s just young.”
Off the bench, Walsh calls upon the services of two football players in 6-foot-2 sophomore Nick Martin, who has been averaging nearly eight points per game as a reserve, and 6-foot senior Jesse Groome, who gives the Vikings more of an inside presence.
“He holds his own down low,” Walsh said of Groome. “He gives us a good physical presence off the bench and he’s a good leader in practice.”
Jeff Frytek, a 5-foot-11 junior shooting guard, is the Vikings’ version of instant offense.
“He’s our bomber,” Walsh said. “He comes in and starts launching shots from everywhere. He’s also able to give us good energy defensively.”
So the Vikings are taking a page from the man in black and walking that .500 line. So far, so good.
“We look at games now differently,” Walsh said. “We look at them having a chance to win. We have a better outlook in the long run.”
If the Vikings can survive the tough road stretch of games upcoming, they could be in the hunt for a state playoff berth in March.
By Jim Hague
The girls’ high school basketball season was only one game old and already Kearny head coach Jody Hill had some worries.
Her Kardinals started off the season with a loss at Marist, so Hill had to wonder whether her team was headed for a tough campaign.
“I was concerned,” Hill said. “We were definitely not ready to play the first game. I didn’t know what to expect. We had to find our identity a little bit, with some new faces. We had to go through a little of an adjustment.”
Hill was also worried about senior point guard Vanessa DaSilva, who was still recovering from off-season knee surgery.
“We needed a lot of work,” Hill said. “I knew we had no place to go but up.”
The Kardinals showed a lot of improvement in wins over Ferris and Dickinson of Jersey City, then headed to the Paterson Eastside Christmas Tournament.
Little did Hill know that the tourney would become an absolute blessing.
The Kardinals won three games in the tourney, defeating University Charter of Jersey City, then Plainfield and finally Hackensack in overtime.
“I was pleasantly surprised to go 3-0 in that tournament,” Hill said. “I couldn’t be happier. After the first game, we completely got our confidence back. It was the team that I thought we could be.”
The Kardinals lost a heartbreaker to Bayonne, considered by many to be the top team in Hudson County this year. They were up by three at the half, but managed to score just seven points in the second half to fall, 42-30.
“It was tough to take, because we knew we could compete with them,” said Hill, whose team shut down Bayonne standout guard Tara Flynn, holding her to just four points. “I think we all wish we could have that one back.”
The Kardinals then rebounded to defeat neighboring rival North Arlington, 55-22, last Friday to improve to 6-2 overall. Not a bad start for a team that was in trouble in the coach’s eyes to start the year.
“The key to us is that we have five senior starters,” Hill said. “We have to rely on their leadership and their senior composure. We also needed to believe in ourselves. If we do that, we can compete with the best. We proved that against Bayonne. We’re starting to get there and showing improvement.”
Leading the way is senior forward Stefanie Gomes, the soccer standout who continues her prowess on the hardwood. Gomes is averaging 17 points per game and had 21 points in the win over North Arlington Friday, a game where the 5-foot-9 Gomes also had eight rebounds, six steals and four blocked shots.
“She’s doing a good job letting the game come to her,” Hill said of Gomes. “She’s definitely more team oriented and has become more of a leader. Her shot selection is better. There’s never been a question about her ability to run the floor.”
DaSilva, the 5-foot-4 point guard, has returned from the off-season surgery well. DaSilva is also learning a new position, taking over the role that former Observer Female Athlete of the Year Janitza Aquino held before she went off to play at Montclair State. DaSilva was the off-guard to Aquino last year, but she’s had to learn to handle the ball more and become more of a playmaker.
“She’s doing a great job running the floor and running the team,” Hill said of DaSilva, who had 18 points in the big win over Hackensack and had 11 assists and five steals in the win Friday over North Arlington. “She’s had to make a tough transition, but she’s done a great job.”
DaSilva is averaging a little better than 10 points per game.
The third senior starter is 5-foot-5 swing player Michelle Goncalves, who is the team’s best defender. Goncalves was the one responsible for putting the clamps on Flynn last week.
“I think she may be the best defensive player in the county,” Hill said. “She wants the challenge of guarding the best.”
The fourth senior is Mercedes Lois, a 5-foot-8 forward.
“I say that she’s our gamer, because when the game is on, she’s ready,” Hill said of Lois. “When it’s a big game, she’s ready to step up to the challenge.”
The fifth senior is 5-foot-5 Angel Conde, who does a host of duties for the Kardinals.
“When we need her at point guard, she can play the point,” Hill said. “When we need her inside, she’s there. She can play anywhere and she’s the most well rounded player we have. She’s very versatile and can step up into any role.”
Junior Noura Farih is the team’s first player off the bench. The 5-foot-8 Farih, the younger sister of the St. Peter’s College walk-on, is a fierce competitor inside the paint.
“She loves to bang around inside,” Hill said. “She’s a smart kid and extremely coachable. She’s also ready to play every single day.”
Another key player off the bench is junior Mandy Jaing, a 5-foot-6 guard.
“She may have the smoothest shooting stroke on the team,” Hill said. “She also has good court vision and can see the floor.”
Other bench players include junior Jaime Carlen, who has six points off the bench against North Arlington, and junior Sylwia Kolodziej.
With a record of 6-2, Hill has to like the way her team has evolved.
“I definitely believe in my team,” Hill said. “With the seniors we have, we definitely can make some noise this year.”
By Jim Hague
It all began as a way to try to curtail the hyperactive tendencies of a 5-year-old.
When Favian Valdez was just entering kindergarten, he could not sit still for any extended period of time.
“He always had so much energy,” said Favian’s father, Fernando. “He was such a hyper kid that we needed to find a way to get him to sleep.”
At the time, the elder Valdez took his toddler son to a playground in the Bronx, where the family lived.
“One gentleman at the playground saw Favian playing and he asked if Favian was doing gymnastics,” Fernando Valdez said. “He told me that he was a natural and he recommended that I should take Favian to do gymnastics.”
Fernando Valdez didn’t know a single thing about gymnastics. He made a career out of being in the U.S. Army, spending 25 years in the military, including a stint in Iraq.
When the gentleman at the playground recommended that young Favian should go to the Chelsea Piers in Manhattan to learn more about gymnastics, Fernando Valdez knew it would be a costly experiment. So Valdez took his son only once a week to start.
Little did Fernando Valdez know that it would be the beginning of a budding career, one that could eventually lead Favian one day to the Olympic Games.
As it turned out, Favian Valdez loved gymnastics, becoming a daily obsession.
“I really liked it a lot,” the younger Valdez said.
“His coaches loved him,” the elder Valdez said. “They could tell he was a hard worker.”
Except there was one obstacle. Favian had a tough time with one event, the pommel horse.
“I was very close to quitting,” Favian Valdez said. “I couldn’t do it.”
Fernando Valdez purchased a special piece of gymnastic equipment, called a “mushroom.”
“Every day, I came home and worked on the mushroom,” Favian Valdez said. “I made sure I worked until I got that skill.”
“He overcame it and gave him a sense of accomplishment,” Fernando Valdez said.’
“It’s still my favorite,” Favian Valdez said.
By the time Favian was seven years old, he was already entering competitions. By the time he was nine, he was competing in a regional competition and recording perfect scores of 10 – yes, on the pommel horse. That same year, Valdez finished third in the country overall.
“After I got that first 10, I worked even harder,” Favian Valdez said. “I knew I was really improving.”
After doing well in the Future Stars regional tournament, Valdez was invited to train for a week at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
By that point, gymnastics became a full-fledged, all consuming activity. He was living in Orlando, Florida at the time, but making his mark as a nationally respected gymnast.
“I would train five or six days a week, maybe five hours a day,” Valdez said.
It paid off. At age 10, Valdez won the national overall gymnastic championship for his age group. He duplicated the feat again at age 12. At age 13, he earned a berth in the United States Junior Nationals, competing against athletes much older and bigger in stature. He was the youngest competitor in the field. Competing with a broken finger, Valdez finished 13th in the nation.
In March, Valdez moved with his family to Kearny. Fernando Valdez is a Jersey City native, so he was familiar with the area. After graduating in June from Lincoln School, Favian Valdez enrolled in Kearny High School, where not many of his fellow students realized that there is a nationally-ranked gymnast in their midst.
“I don’t like to talk about it too much,” the younger Valdez said.
What makes Valdez’ ascent to the national ranks even more impressive is that he’s not the biggest kid in the world. He stands about 5-feet tall and weighs just 73 pounds.
“I’ve always been a little short,” Favian Valdez said. “When people see a small guy like me, they don’t expect much.”
But Valdez is fluent in all aspects of gymnastics _ the rings, the parallel bars, the vault and of course all-around. Now 14 years old, Valdez is taking a step up and competing against older athletes.
Valdez has been competing with the United States Gymnastics Development Center in Mahwah, where he continues his rigorous training schedule, training with approximately 10 other top gymnasts. He works daily with respected Russian coach Genadi Shud.
“I wake up and go to school,” Valdez said. “Then, I come home and try to take a nap. I then go to Mahwah and train every day from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., then have to do my homework. It’s not easy. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices, like going out with my friends and doing other things.”
However, training with the U.S. Gymnastics Development Center has paid off, because Valdez has enjoyed an excellent start to the competition schedule.
On Dec. 3 and 4, Valdez competed in the Greater New York Invitational in Suffern, N.Y. and won his age group, capturing the gold medal in the floor exercise, the pommel horse, the rings, the parallel bars and all-around.
A week later, Valdez competed in the Valeri Liukin Invitational in Frisco, Texas and enjoyed similar success against tougher competition and a deeper field of 36 competitors. Valdez won the pommel horse and all-around titles, while finishing second in the parallel bars and third in the rings, vault and high bars.
For his efforts, Valdez has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
There’s a slight break in Valdez’s competitive schedule for the holidays. His next challenge will be the Brian Babcock Invitational in Allentown, Pennsylvania Jan. 20.
He will also compete in the New Jersey championships in March, the regional championships at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point in April and then hopefully, the Junior Nationals in Cincinnati in May.
Valdez has an ultimate goal in mind _ the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
“I’ll be 17 at that time and just graduating high school,” Valdez said. “Hopefully, I’ll be ready. But that’s what I’m concentrating on, working on. I want to go to the Olympics and I definitely feel it’s a legitimate goal.”
And it’s one worth watching for the next few years, knowing that a budding Olympic star is right in the same neighborhood. It’s definitely a far cry from the hyperactive kid in the playground nine years ago.
Our friends bring us joy. They guide us, protect and support us through good times and bad. Many would agree that without these special people to celebrate with, our lives would be incomplete. But having given our human friends their due credit, it is important that we also thank our furry and feathered friends who bring us much joy and delight. What I love about animals is that they live in the moment and love us unconditionally. For many of us, our pets are nothing short of earth angels. In fact, “pet therapy” is an alternate form of healing now widely accepted as one of the most unusual but effective techniques in the healing of emotional and mental behavior. Companion animals are being introduced into therapeutic programs at hospitals, rehabilitation and behavioral-health centers. In some cases these loving beings help in the coordination of the physically challenged and also help those with special needs.
Pets have a brilliant knack of making space for themselves in your heart and your home. They get you to fall in love with them as much as they love you and soon become a part of your family. The benefits are plenty, but it comes with a big responsibility too. It is our duty to look after our friends and not abuse or mistreat them in any way. Let’s begin the New Year with compassion. I urge you to do something special for these loving souls. Be kind to them. Let us understand that we have the power to bring about a change in the society. A small step at our end may see a change in attitudes of the people around us. We can set an example in our own little ways. I suggest we take a stand against cruelty. If there is one thing these loyal lives deserve, it’s our protection!
Let’s spread the message of love. Let’s extend our care and appreciation to all beings, big and small. Let’s make a change!
Visit Shweta Punjabi at her website solutionsbyshweta.com • For more information or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org