By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY - Ninety-five years ago this week — Aug. 19, 1919 — 13 veterans of the Great War, as World War I was then known, gathered in the Kearny home of Fred E. Portz to organize a local chapter of the American Legion. […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent LYNDHURST – Lawmakers from all levels of government, led by State Sen. President Stephen Sweeney, assembled for a press conference on the banks of the Passaic River Aug. 12 to declare their support for a replacement for the 109-year-old DeJessa Memorial Bridge that links […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY – A Kearny man, who two years ago accidentally shot himself in the jaw with a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver, was arrested last week in Newark on weapons charges. This time, authorities said, he was in possession of an AR-15 assault rifle. […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY– A house-party host got a bit more than he bargained for when he hired a disc jockey for the festivities and an “associate” robbed him at knifepoint, Kearny police reported. Thanks to some determined detective work, the alleged assailant was tracked (pun intended) down […]
LYNDHURST – The Lyndhurst Police Department last week announced the capture of suspects wanted in connection with a stabbing at a local entertainment spot and with a residential theft. On Monday, Aug. 11, at about 2 a.m., police were called to the Riva Blue night club, 525 Riverside Ave., […]
By Ron Leir
The Committee for Better Facilities (CBF), a group of parents and educators advocating for an upgrade in the township’s public schools infrastructure, figures it’s got all the right answers to why it should be done.
But one big question still hasn’t been answered: Will Lyndhurst voters agree?
A simple majority will decide when residents are asked to vote “yes” or “no” on a public referendum Dec. 13 on whether to permit the Board of Education to spend $28,847,091 on a wholesale district rehab plan and to sell Lincoln School, which dates from 1886.
Educators say the plan affords the best chance – short of building a new middle school – of fostering a desperately needed improved learning environment for all the students in the district which includes six elementary schools and a high school.
A worksheet put out by the CBF states that the cost of the improvements – minus $1.5 million in state grant local reimbursements and at least $3 million projected from the sale of Lincoln School – should net the owner of an “average” home assessed at $414,000 an annual tax increase of $199 for as long as it takes to pay off the debt. A 15-year bond is projected.
Assuming the referendum passes, that tax increase wouldn’t take effect until September 2014, when all the work is expected to be completed, said Schools Supt. Tracey Marinelli.
The CBF, in cooperation with Marinelli, is going all out to heighten awareness among members of the school community by hosting a series of tours and question-and-answer sessions at schools throughout the district.
At one such workshop held Nov. 29 at Lincoln School, Marinelli made her case to a group of about 15 supportive attendees (A previous function organized by the PTA drew more than 100).
Marinelli said the concept behind the planned improvements is to make education more efficient through centralization. To that end, Franklin School and Jefferson Annex would house all kindergarten students; Columbus and Washington Schools would take grades 1 to 4; and Roosevelt and Jefferson Schools would handle grades 5 to 8.
“We’d split the district in half, using Fern Ave. as the dividing line,” Marinelli said. Generally speaking, elementary-level children living south of Fern would start at Franklin then move to Washington and complete at Roosevelt, while youngsters living north of Fern would go from Jefferson Annex to Columbus to Jefferson Elementary, she explained. Hardship applications for exceptions to the rule would be considered, she said.
With that scenario as a given, the following improvements, as funded by the referendum, would be undertaken:
Throughout the district, $3.8 million in state grants would fund a variety of infrastructure renovations, including new or upgraded boilers, roofs, windows, ventilation and electrical systems and centrally-controlled heating in classrooms.
Every elementary school would get an elevator, computer lab, media center, music room, a combination art/world languages room and the ability to house three or more sections of special needs students.
Columbus and Roosevelt would each get a combination gym/lunchroom (Roosevelt’s gym would include space for a locker room and stage because its students are older).
Jefferson and Roosevelt would each be equipped with three science labs.
Having self-contained classrooms in each school would end the practice of music, art, Spanish and physical education teachers having to travel to different schools and it would also mean students wouldn’t have to “steal” time from science or math class, for example, to take instrumental music class, Marinelli said.
Also: Lyndhurst High School would get a renovated auditorium, cafeteria and air-conditioning.
Whether or not the referendum passes, Marinelli said that redistricting will go forward in an effort to remediate unbalanced enrollment in schools.
If the referendum fails, Lyndhurst schools will lose the $3.8 million in state grant funding earmarked for the infrastructure improvements throughout the district. And the district will be unable to sell Lincoln School.
In a plea to voters, the CBF states: “All kindergarten classes are currently at maximum capacity…. Children are currently learning in space that was designed for locker rooms, storage closets and offices. Bathrooms are decrepit, auditoriums are non-existent and gyms double as cafeterias. In some classes, students are forced to have primary instruction, lunch, art, music and Spanish in the same physical location. None of our schools provide our children immediate and unlimited access to technology either in the form of a computer lab or just classroom computers. It’s time for a change!”
By Jeff Bahr
On Sunday December 4, Nutley’s biggest holiday extravaganza – the annual Tree and Menorah Lighting –went off without a hitch.
An enormous number of people ranging in age from very young to “don’t you dare
ask!” turned out for the joyous event at the Walker Middle School on Franklin Ave. There, the holiday revelers enjoyed unseasonably mild temperatures which allowed them to frolic rather than shiver near the soon-to-be-lit tree.
The festivities began promptly at 5:00 p.m. with indoor recitals by the Elementary
School Choir, The Walker Middle School Madrigal Singers, and the High School Choralettes. Then, the Walker Middle School Jazz Band took over and got the joint a jumpin’ with a swinging rendition of “Jingle Bells.” Finally, the Nutley High School Brass Ensemble tempered the mood a bit with a more subdued but equally enjoyable version of “Silent Night.”
A bake sale with proceeds to benefit the Friends of Nutley Singers and the Nutley
Music Boosters was held in the school’s cafeteria, and for those short of coin, free
coffee and donuts were also available. Across the way, Old Saint Nick sat majestically
on his throne awaiting visits from dozens of happy children, as one extraordinarily
patient photographer did his level best to make them all smile for the birdie.
But the fun wasn’t limited to the school’s interior. Outside, two horse-drawn Christmas carriages made continuous loops around the football stadium, with a dozen or so happy travelers inside of each wagon.
This looked to be the event’s most popular free attraction given the fact that at least 300 individuals (yes, I counted) stood in line alongside Franklin Ave. awaiting their turn. A multi-car, mini-train also took people for rides.
A petting zoo, featuring sheep, goats, a bunny rabbit, even a llama, was situated
beside a roped-off area where children were treated to pony rides. Just to its side volunteers roasted chestnuts on open fires (what else?) and distributed them free of charge, while street vendors plied their trade selling fun, if fattening, staples like soft pretzels and popcorn.
As the scheduled 7 p.m. switch-flipping moment approached, the audience was treated to a final performance by the Brass Ensemble, who had now moved outdoors.
Then it was 10, 9, 8 … all the way down to the big moment. As the tree and Menorah lights jumped to life, the appreciative crowd let loose with thunderous applause and another successful Christmas ceremony was in the books.
By Ron Leir
A long-neglected industrial parcel in South Kearny is getting some renewed attention.
The former Koppers Seaboard Coke property at Fish House Rd., which ended operations in 1979, is again being targeted for redevelopment by the Hudson County Improvement Authority (HCIA), which is reviewing a number of proposals for the site.
Acting on behalf of Hudson County, the HCIA acquired the 130-acre property, bounded to the north and east by the Hackensack River and by a drainage ditch to the west, in the 1980’s with the intention of building an incinerator there to handle municipal wastes. The county invested more than $60 million in cleaning and prepping the site, but was stymied when the state frowned on burning trash.
Now the county, stuck with a big debt, is looking for ways of turning the land into a profit-making venture. New Jersey Transit was considering purchasing the land to build a rail storage yard or tunnel for the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) – a proposed commuter rail link to Manhattan to run under the Hudson River – but that plan died when Gov. Chris Christie killed New Jersey’s participation in the ARC
project a year ago.
Earlier this year, acting on a directive from the county Board of Freeholders the HCIA solicited proposals for use of the property.
HCIA Executive Director Norman Guerra said that three companies came up with plans for refrigerated warehouse distribution centers. They are: Morris Company of Rutherford, Rockefeller Group of Mount Olive, and Silverman Development of Jersey City.
Sundurance LLC of Edison and Garden State Solar Farms of Linden offered to develop
Clean Earth of Hatboro, Pa., proposed a soil processing facility.
And four firms – WSI Management of Plant City, Fla.; Waste Management of Houston, Texas; Port Echo Holdings of Hammonton; and NRG Energy of Princeton – pitched “resource recovery-related” projects.
However, Guerra said that the latter four proposals are being separated from the others for now for further exploration of “resource recovery technologies that are environmentally sound” that the HCIA may look to tap in the future.
Guerra said there’s a possibility that the authority might look to set aside 20 acres
of the Koppers tract to be dedicated to some type of resource recovery operation. “It
could be an anchor to provide energy to other users on the site,’’ he said.
Guerra said that the state has indicated it “will work with us” on that process.
But before any of that can happen, Guerra said the HCIA would have to issue Requests
for Qualifications from potential applicants, followed by Requests for Proposals, all of
which would be reviewed by county officials.
One thing, at any rate, is clear. “We are not looking for any form of incineration such
as waste to energy plans,” Guerra said.
Hudson County currently sends its municipal garbage and Type 10 commercial wastes to a privately-operated facility in Essex County where it is processed and baled and shipped by rail to West Virginia for disposal.
The county pays $70.50 per ton for the service. The county pays about $26 million for
the processing and disposal of 370 tons of trash annually.
By Ron Leir
BELLEVILLE – At last, they’re on the road.
The township’s seven new police patrol cars are rolling but their path from the shop to the police garage to the asphalt hit a few detours on the way.
It’s not so much the vehicles themselves but the equipment they’re carrying.
Police Chief Joseph P. Rotonda said the seven Crown Victorias – acquired under
a 3-year lease for $77,441 per year as replacements for 2008 models, some with more than 100,000 miles logged – were put into service the week of Nov. 20.
But, Rotonda noted, “we’re still having some issues with some of the new digital cameras and computers – the electric system.” Township IT personnel are checking with Verizon and other companies involved in the instrumentation trying to remedy the problem, he said.
“It’s like any new equipment,” the chief said. “You’ve got to work out the kinks.”
Those “kinks” began showing up when vendors began outfitting the new cars with
the telecommunications gear, according to Police Capt. Victor Mesce of the department’s Special Services unit and Det. Gary Souss of the Administration and
The township authorized purchase of the vehicles in 2010 and followed up with a bond
ordinance in June 2011 authorizing spending $163,000 for the acquisition and installation of cameras, computers and radios for the Police Department and labor, $41,000 for the acquisition and installation of computer software upgrades and other
security cameras, $12,000 for the acquisition and installation of two computer servers for the Police Department and $84,000 for sport utility vehicles for the department.
After the bond passed and the equipment was ordered, police had to wait three months just to get the new radios from Motorola because the vendor had to tailor them to the department’s specifications, Det. Souss said.
Then, once the vendors began to install the electronic gear in the new cars, the electrical problems began, he said. L-3 Mobile Vision hooked up the computers and cameras to the cars’ center consoles and placed the computer software trays in the cars’ trunks while Royal Communications, a Motorola distributor, installed the radios.
Somewhere in the mix, batteries were shorted out, triggering the disruption, Sous said.
The new cameras are designed to activate automatically if the car is exceeding a certain speed and/or if the officers inside pull out a rifle or shotgun from the car’s gunrack. The video of an incident tracked by the camera can end up being valuable evidence for a future court case, Capt. Mesce noted.
Because of the way the new cars were built, it was decided to relocate the police radio
speaker because, otherwise, when an officer entered the car, he might inadvertently kick and/or dislodge it from the more cramped floorboard, Mesce and Souss explained.
Another delay came about, they said, when it was discovered that the new cars were
also too narrow to accommodate the wire mesh “cages” designed to confine prisoners
in the rear seats so the department couldn’t simply transfer the cages from the old cars to the new. So new cages had to be acquired.
And, of course, the department had to “detail” the cars, painting on official police lettering and striping on the vehicles’ exteriors, all of which took time.
The department decided to add a new touch on the new cars: the phone number for the public to call for police assistance. It is 973-450-3333.
Putting out that additional information was considered a key reminder for the public “to keep (the emergency) 911 open for real emergencies. It could save someone’s life by not tieing up the 911 operator,” Capt. Mesce said.
When all the moving parts were more or less accounted for, the department then rotated its members for training in the new cars and that took about two weeks to accomplish.
Now the department is hoping it can squeeze at least three years of useful activity from the new vehicles – the normal life expectancy for a patrol car – which, Mesce notes, is a tough road to go down since every police vehicle is operating 24/7 with virtually no “down” time and is operated, typically, by seven or eight different drivers, each with different driving habits.
By Ron Leir
HARRISON – After years of planning, land acquisition and a stalled economy, things
are beginning to break on the waterfront redevelopment front for this West Hudson community.
On Nov. 17 Heller Urban Renewal, an arm of Heller Industrial Parks, began knocking
down the old Hartz Mountain complex along the east side of Frank Rodgers Blvd. South to clear the way for 600 new residential units to rise on the 10.5-acre site along the Passaic River, just a short walk to the Harrison PATH.
“It’s a new venture for us,” said Jeffrey J. Milanaik, president of Heller Industrial
Parks, an Edison-based company whose previous accomplishments are in nonresidential enterprises.
Milanaik says the company – whose roots are in Harrison – owns 16 million square feet of distribution centers spread over New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Texas.
Now it will be expanding its portfolio with the Harrison mixed-use project, featuring
six buildings of varying size, starting at five stories and ranging up to eight or nine;
plus 30,000 square feet of retail space.
“We’ll be doing the residential component in six phases at the rate of one a year, with
the first phase to be 95 units,” Milanaik said.
The apartments will be a mix of one- and two-bedrooms, he said, and athletic workout areas will be scattered around the complex, along with meeting rooms.
Parking is to be provided on site at the rate of a bit more than one space per living unit, he said.
At total build-out, the project is expected to be valued at $100 million, according to
Demolition and environmental cleanup of the Hartz complex – nine buildings comprising 750,000 square feet – will be taking place in earnest in the first quarter of
2012, continuing through the fourth quarter of 2012.
New construction of apartments and retail space – which figures to include a restaurant and small shops – is expected to begin in 2013. The project should generate an estimated 100 construction jobs, Milanaik said.
Heller Urban Renewal will serve as general contractor and NK Architects of Morristown, which is working on another transit-oriented redevelopment project in Bloomfield, will design the Harrison project, to be known as Harrison Station.
Heller is slated to outline its plans to the Harrison Redevelopment Agency on Dec.
12, according to Mayor Ray McDonough.
Just across the way, on the west side of Frank Rodgers Blvd., Harrison Commons, the
newly-built 275-unit luxury rental apartment complex where developer Richard Miller says 120 units have been rented so far, got an additional shot in the arm.
Miller said that the state Economic Development Authority has awarded a $7.4 million Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant toward the construction of a 136-room hotel on property between Harrison Commons and the Harrison Parking Center garage.
Construction of the new hotel, which will be run by Starwood-Element, should start
by June or July, Miller said.
As provided by an ordinance adopted by the Harrison governing body on Sept. 6, the town will be collecting an annual service charge from the hotel at the rate of $1,250 per room. Based on 136 rooms, that would translate to $169,000 a year.
And then there is Russo Development, of Carlstadt, which has purchased a parcel known as “Block C,” between the proposed Riverbend Dr. and Crucible Dr. and between Frank Rodgers Blvd. and Fifth St., from the Advance Co.
In October, Russo was granted approval by the Harrison Planning Board to build 266 apartments and 32,316 square feet of retail space on Block C.
Mayor McDonough said Russo’s plans call for mostly one and two-bedroom plus some studios and two-bedroom townhomes.
“He’s expected to break ground in six months,” McDonough said.
By Lisa Pezzolla
During this holiday season, please keep in mind those who are struggling through difficult times in our local area. Now that making your Christmas list is an activity just around the corner, non-profits and county agencies yearly turn every stone seeking community support to put gifts under the trees of the area’s needy families. Unfortunately, many children don’t have a family to spend the holiday with or a toy to receive. The past few years, The Observer has collected toys, and we have been very successful with the help of the community.
A child without a Christmas gift is a sad thought, and with that in mind, this year, we have reached out to the Salvation Army and the Giving Tree and it seems we have many families in need, including teenagers. So please participate once again by giving children and teens a gift. Whatever your struggles are the rest of the year, this is the time of year you can really have a feeling of joy. With all of your help, they can wake up on Christmas morning with a gift to open. Don’t leave it up to someone else.
May we all remember each other and the real reason for the season, and His true spirit this year and always. Bring your gifts to The Observer, 531 Kearny Ave, Kearny, NJ 07032 starting Dec. 7 – ending Dec. 23 at 10 a.m.
When I was a kid growing up in Kearny, I remember that getting friends together for a game of basketball or football was an easy thing.
Whether it was sunny and 70 degrees or snow was on the ground, we were always ready to play, and most likely would join a game already in progress.
Where did those days go?
And it’s not like I was a kid back in the 1960’s. I’m currently 22.
I understand why my group of friends doesn’t play; between the need to avoid black eyes, cuts, and miscellaneous injuries while going to work, plus the age factor, but why do I now drive past Manor Park in Kearny or many of the other places I used to frequent and see no games going on?
Older people complain that all children do nowadays is spend time on Facebook, or sit in front of the television screen. But when it comes time to get their own kids involved
in sports and such, these same parents often hold their kids back.
I understand that the dangers are great. I lived in North Philadelphia for four years while attending college. But we can’t shield our kids from every potential hazard. If we do, they’ll never learn to grow in life.
One of the excuses I’ve heard is that the people from outside communities who go to suburban parks make it unsafe for children. I’ve played with those same people. If you had the choice, would you choose a park one of those towns over a park in Kearny? I
don’t think you would.
All I’m saying is this: Be smart by trusting your kids. The more you trust them, the less they’ll have to lie to you about where they’re going.
And for the children, get up and get out! There’s no reason to let a 60-degree weekend in November pass you by.
—Anthony J. Machcinski
To the Publisher:
I feel the need to express my thankfulness to the North Arlington Police Department, especially to the following names which hopefully I spelled right due to the very hectic day on Nov. 16: Detective Horton, Det. Heddenberg, Capt. John Hearn, Officer
Ballinger, Officer John Hoffman and also the dispatcher on duty for his quick response to my call and also the woman from the Port Authority that spotted my father right away at the airport.
Rarely does it seem there are positive remarks and words of gratitude or appreciation for the many good things, which are done by our police department, but instead constant negative remarks that the officers are not around when you need them.
From my perspective, (it was) my extreme worry and emotional state from the problem in the disappearance of my 90-year-old father who speaks broken English and at times would act confused which was the reason for my desperate call to the
North Arlington Police Department, during which a dispatcher answered and connected me to the appropriate department of the Silver Alert.
They quickly acted upon my request and communicated with me all the needed information and requested a picture of my father. Within minutes they had reported to me that he was found by a Port Authority officer who located him at the airport and that I was to go there and pick him up.
On Nov. 16, as I stepped out for about 15 minutes to get my dad his daily paper, I came home to find him missing from the home with his dog and suitcase and other handbags and communicated quickly to the North Arlington Police that I felt my dad was on his way to the airport but had no idea how he could have gotten there.
I had a lot to be thankful for this past Thanksgiving Day as my father was found quite
quickly uninjured and relaxed and waiting for his family at the Newark airport when were able to take him home.
Once again, thank you all that helped in this situation and the great job that was done quietly and quickly and without any confusion.
Maria H. Furtado
By Anthony J. Machcinski
A legal battle between Kearny and Lyndhurst over a late payment owed by Lyndhurst to the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission has been settled.
“Once (the payment) was made, we withdrew the complaint,” said Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos.
The NJMC is a zoning and planning agency for a 30.4-square-mile area along the Hackensack River. The NJMC extends into parts of 14 towns in Bergen and Hudson Counties, including Kearny, Lyndhurst, and North Arlington.
The NJMC was created in order to manage and preserve open spaces, especially the wetlands, in the areas along the Hackensack River.
According to the current tax formula, certain lands are designated for commercial development, industrial use, and open space. Towns with land designated for open space receive money from the NJMC. Kearny, according to Mayor Santos, is one of the biggest recipients from the NJMC because of the amount of land designated for open space. When Lyndhurst didn’t pay, one of the towns hurt most was Kearny.
Santos believes that Lyndhurst’s refusal was a protest to find other ways to fund the NJMC. Lyndhurst is one of the seven towns that, under the current tax formula, are forced to pay into a fund that is divided between seven other towns.
“Even though Kearny is a recipient, I’m open to finding other sources of payment,”
Mayor Santos explained.
“I’m open to looking to other revenue sources, but the law remains the same. We will continue to enforce our payments that are due us.”
Despite this late payment, Mayor Santos is optimistic that this will not be a recurring issue.
“I would hope that if the law does not change, that this kind of non-payment won’t recur,” explained Santos.
Mayor Richard DiLascio and Commissioner Brian Haggerty, both of Lyndhurst, were unavailable for comment before press time.
Through these issues, Mayor Santos looks to help all parties involved and bring a mutual solution to these problems.
“I’m going to make sure Kearny is going to receive what it is due,” Santos began. “However, if the burden is going to be taken off of Secaucus and Lyndhurst, I’d work with them to help them. I think it’s going to be a challenge to do, but I expect them to see if they can find something that works.
A man was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital, Newark, after being struck in the face with a pool cue during an argument that broke out over a game with another player in a Grant Ave. bar. The other player fled the bar, police said.
Someone tried to steal a motor vehicle while it was parked on Kingsland Ave.
An intruder burglarized an Ann St. residence after breaking in through a basement
window. Attempted entries to first and second-floor apartments were unsuccessful,
according to police.
A thief stole a package delivered by the U.S. Postal Service from a Bergen St. home.
A vehicle parked on N. Fifth St. was burglarized and a car radio taken.
After being observed driving at what police characterized as a high rate of speed at
Second St. and Cleveland Ave., police pursued the driver, Carlos Patela of Harrison into Newark where he was stopped on Passaic Ave. and arrested for three outstanding traffic warrants – two from Harrison and one from Newark. He was also issued motor vehicle summonses including one for driving with a suspended license.
Benjamin DiPierdomenico of Harrison was arrested for trespassing on the grounds of
Harrison Housing Authority property at Harrison Gardens, and for outstanding warrants that also involved trespassing.
A vehicle parked on the 800 block of Hamilton St. was broken into and a GPS unit was stolen.
An Infinity parked in a private parking lot in the 200 block of Railroad Ave. was broken into and an unknown amount of coins were stolen.
A Washington St. residence was burglarized via a basement window. Nothing was reported stolen at the time, police said.
Paul Burns of Harrison was arrested at Frank Rodgers Blvd. North and Hamilton St. after being found in possession of a purse and a GPS that were reported stolen from a
vehicle that was parked on Washington St. Burns also had an outstanding warrant for parole violations.
A store located on Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. South was burglarized. Phone cards and an ATM machine were stolen.
A 2004 Saab was stolen while it was left running and unattended at the Passaic and Harrison Aves. strip mall. Nov. 19
After being stopped for a motor vehicle violation, Anthony Telinski of Totowa was
arrested at Frank Rodgers Blvd. North and Cross St. for an outstanding warrant. He was also issued motor vehicle summonses including one for driving with a suspended license.
A bicycle that was chained to a fence in the area of the PATH station on Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. South was stolen.
A basement window at a N. Fifth St. residence was broken by an unknown vandal.