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Goodwill gesture

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  HARRISON –  In front of Goodwill Industries’ building on Supor Blvd., there is a brand new sign. “Palisades Regional Academy,” it reads. Has Goodwill moved? Only in the sense of moving forward in its stated mission “to empower individuals with disabilities and other barriers […]


Holy Cross relic is recovered

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  HARRISON –  The sacred relic of the Holy Cross stolen last month from the church that bears its name has been recovered and returned to its Harrison home, and police believe they have a line on the thief. “It is undamaged, […]


Drive-time perils on Davis St.

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  HARRISON/EAST NEWARK –  Every weekday morning when the East Newark Public School is in session, some Davis St. commuters enroute to work face an early nightmare just leaving their block. That’s because from 7:45 to 8:30 a.m., as children file into the […]


Animal, family event is Oct. 4 at Library Park, Harrison

There will be a pet and family event on Saturday, Oct.  4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in Library Park, 415 Harrison Ave.,  Harrison.  This is a free  event for the whole family and their pets and animal venders […]


Tight lid on trash

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  Tired of seeing a plethora of overflow trash cluttering the sidewalks in the town’s retail district, especially after weekend deposits, Kearny is unleashing a new weapon to counteract the unseemly collections. It’s the solar-powered Big- Belly trash receptacle. The town got four […]


Man robs local bank; suspect still at large


By Anthony J. Machcinski

KEARNY — The Chase Bank, located on the corner of Kearny and Johnston Aves. was robbed in broad daylight on the morning of Jan. 10.

A male entered the bank around 10:03 a.m. and handed the teller a handwritten note, demanding $3,000. He then told the teller, “Don’t be stupid, I have a gun” – a claim that couldn’t be proven or disproven since he never physically produced the weapon.

The suspect (as described by Scene Incident Commander Det. Sergeant Robert Maguire) is described as a white or Hispanic male between 5’8” and 6’ tall and 35-45 years of age. Dressed in a 3/4 length jacket, dark pants and a wool hat with a scarf or a band covering his mouth, he has an average build and a larger than average nose. He walks slightly hunched over.

After leaving the bank with $2,000 the suspect moved south towards Johnston Ave. Initial reports mentioned that the suspect may have entered a car waiting on the Harrison border, but that report has since been disproved.

Kearny police and the F.B.I. are investigating the incident. Police collected evidence from the bank, as well as from the written note. It was then turned over to the F.B.I. in Washington, D.C. for analysis.

Maguire doesn’t feel that this robbery is part of a string. He believes that it was conducted as a “need for cash” robbery.

Officer John Plaugic will be the lead detective for the case.

Zoners ponder youth center, container yard

Image courtesy Nash Interior & Design Construction Management/ A rendering of the proposed St. Mary and St. Mercurius Coptic Church Youth Center with three levels of parking.


By Ron Leir

BELLEVILLE – A local police superior was recently asked for expert testimony about security issues involving a 128-foot diameter dome-shaped youth center proposed by St. Mary and St. Mercurius Orthodox Coptic Church on Academy St.

But he wasn’t speaking as a witness at a criminal trial.

For the benefit of the township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, Belleville Police Capt. Victor Mesce was evaluating safety measures incorporated into the design for an elevatorequipped 128-foot diameter “monolithic dome” that would house a chapel, meeting rooms, a computer room, multipurpose room and kitchen for adolescent church members, plus three levels of parking below for 96 cars.

The board is weighing an application by the church to knock down three homes west of the church and build a youth center next to the existing church building.

The existing church – which was converted from a former synagogue in 2002 – would remain unchanged. It plans to share a 30-space surface parking lot with the nearby township Public Library at the east end of the site.

At the Jan. 5 zoning board session, Mesce, who also serves as deputy coordinator for the township’s Office of Emergency Management, credited the project’s safety features, including bollards proposed as safety barriers around the dome, surveillance cameras to be posted around the facility, electronic parking gates and color-coded parking stickers for the garage, and a “10-inch-thick” concrete surface for the dome which he called “phenomenal.”

“We’re looking at things in general that could happen,” Mesce said, “like if somebody tries to take a shot from outside (the dome).”

That comment raised the hackles of Academy St. neighbor Alex Gasparo, who, like other neighbors, have voiced concerns about safety and parking issues related to the project.

When Gasparo pressed for more information about safety precautions, board chairman Anthony DelGuercio said: “Anything can happen. We’ve had planes crash on the White House lawn. … The town had security concerns (about the project). Nothing’s foolproof – 9/11 is proof of that.”

William Edwards, the project’s engineer, said that motorists would use a “bi-directional driveway” on Academy St. to enter or exit the garage and Brian Intindola, the traffic engineer, predicted that Academy St. “could process” the volume of cars that the garage and surface parking would generate, given that there are currently an average of between 600 and 700 vehicles that travel along the street each day.

In a phone interview, project designer Ralph Nashed said that development of the youth center would solve two problems for the church, which, he said, has more than 300 individual members.

First, he said, the congregation, mostly immigrant Coptic Christians from Egypt, “wants to have a place where a new generation of American-born, English-speaking youth, can learn the Coptic language and also have a Mass in the English language. They need a chapel, meeting rooms and a place for education so they can learn how to serve the community.”

As for parking, Nashed said, the neighbors won’t have to worry because “we will park every congregant’s car within the premises of church land.” Traffic will flow smoothly in and out and the church plans to create a 30-space lot it plans to share with the nearby Belleville Library, he said.

Photo by Ron Leir/ Roosevelt Ave. residents are upset over plans for a roll-off container yard proposed for the property behind them.


“If the board votes ‘yes,’ this will be an historic milestone for New Jersey, the first monolithic dome of this size to be built in New Jersey,” Nashed said. “It will be a victory for Belleville, a solution for the neighborhood and a blessing for the church.”

Nashed said a mechanical exhaust system would be installed in the underground portion of the garage while the two levels above would be left open to natural air. The youth center space will be equipped with HVAC systems, he said.

Nashed estimated that the dome would cost $5 million and would take six months to a year to complete. The second phase – the surface parking project – would follow, he said.

“In this project, we have in mind to merge history, culture and technology in this project,” he said.

The zoning board is due to reconvene a public hearing on the church’s application Feb. 2. The church is represented by attorney Frank Cozzarelli.

At that meeting, the board is also expected to continue its review of an application by Peter Garofalo to acquire property in the Valley section, at 95-107 Roosevelt Ave., for a roll-off container storage yard on a 17,600 square foot lot and a 700-square foot offi ce. Garofalo currently operates out of Garfi eld and Passaic.

Plans call for 40 container units, each about 35-feet long, to be stored on the site, which was previously used as a truck terminal and is now zoned for “light industrial/planned retail.” The project would account for six new jobs.

Garofalo plans to plant 43 trees and extend fencing at the site to create a buffer between the storage yard and neighboring homes in the rear of the property along Greylock Ave.

Garofalo is projecting six trips a day between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. but even that volume seems oppressive to disapproving neighbors who’ve signed a petition to stop the project.

Jeff Mattingly, a local business owner who is spearheading the opposition, told the board at the Jan. 5 meeting that, “Roosevelt Avenue is a quiet street with minimal activity where the remaining industries and residents get along.”

But Mattingly said residents fear that the proposed roll-off venture will be “noisy and dirty – that’s why they’re generally in heavy industrial sites.”

And, despite Garofalo’s assurances that the containers will be empty when stored in the yard, Mattingly said it’s still possible that the residue of dust and/or possible toxins from construction debris tipped out of the containers may remain, only to be spread through the neighborhood by wind and/or rain.

Several residents speculated that Garofalo’s proposed enterprise could grow, thereby increasing the prospect for additional truck traffic in the neighborhood.

Resident Raphael Jimenez said he was concerned about the safety of children who “walk to School 9,” just a block and a half away from the project site. And, he said, the new business could scare off his tenant.

“How am I going to sustain my property taxes without my tenant?” Jimenez asked.

His wife, Deby, added: “This is a very quiet block. You could basically hear a pin drop. And it’s a very clean street.”

Still, zoning board member George Smith suggested that Garofalo’s plan “is a very less intense use” that what the township zoning code permits for that site in terms of the number of trucks that could be parked there.

The board will take up the case again on Feb. 2.

A WORD WITH THE PUBLISHER: Remember human workers?




By Lisa Pezzolla

Last week as I was speaking to a customer she brought up an interesting idea on how to increase jobs in America. As the conversation progressed we grew more passionate about the topic. Honestly, if the woman hadn’t received a business call that she absolutely had to take, we would have been ranting and raving for hours.

In the past I’ve commented on the new technology and how it has changed the way that we do business on a daily basis. From emails, faxes and texts, to automated phone systems, there is very little human input or interaction these days.

My biggest pet peeve is how we have become dependent on this way of doing business. Sadly, things often get lost in translation when there is no one to talk to at the opposite end: “Press one for sales… Press two for customer service… ” Press this, press that! Before you know it you find yourself throwing the phone across the room out of sheer frustration. It goes without saying that nothing gets accomplished in the process.

Here’s a thought: We could increase jobs if we actually started using people to answer these phones. Which reminds me, how about the toll collectors? In the days before EZPass you could find them at every exit. Now? Good luck.

And they actually call this progress

Demise of the ‘9-to-5’ worker

No, I’m not talking about me. I’ve become accustomed to the rigors of the journalism world. I had a teacher once tell me that, “journalism has no hours,” but I digress.

Escaping the hassle of work has become nearly impossible with the onslaught of advances in technology.

I hear it every day when I go home. My dad’s cell phone constantly goes off, chirping wildly through the night with e-mails from his job.

Slowly, over the past decade or so, I have watched my father get off the train at Arlington Station (after work) hoping for some well-deserved rest and relaxation, only to fall victim to the slow, insidious influx of technology attached to his hip like a tumor (AKA Smartphone) – sucking his free time away in the form of “urgent” e-mails, text messages and phone calls.

I always hear people talking about what has changed today; why America seems so stressed out with everything going on in the world. No one, it seems, takes time to just stop and look at the world around them anymore.

In my own personal life, I look back at my college career and wonder where all the time went. Growing up in this high tech age, I, like many my age were unable to slow down and appreciate the finer things as they happened. It was a constant rush to get money, to get the latest phone, the latest shoes, or even just to pay tuition.

Every year, my family ventures to the Adirondacks in upstate New York. The best part of the trip is making that one, blessed turn onto Rt. 28 North where cell phone service vanishes (yes, such places do exist!).

It’s the most relaxed you’ll ever see my father, or the countless others who escape the urban jungle in favor of this vast mountain range.

The following suggestion may sound like something straight from our Message for the Soul columnist, Shweta Punjabi, but it bears repeating. Take a minute to appreciate everything around you. Whether it’s going to your kid’s Little League game or just taking a short walk in the park before the sun retreats — try to enjoy the peaceful tranquility of life without a cell phone. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, the burden of work may lift just long enough to allow a bit of your free spirit to shine through.

—Anthony J. Machcinski Editorial@theobserver.com


To the Publisher:

Just read Senator Lesniak’s letter in The Record calling their opinion opposing Internet gambling “dumb.” What is really dumb is his position to allow Internet gaming that will reap billions of dollars for its casino businesses. These billions of dollars will come from desperate residents who are struggling to pay their bills and are turning to the false hope that they will strike it rich in the gambling world.

Gambling has not rescued New Jersey from its position as the highest taxed state in the nation. Neither has the sales tax or the lottery. These programs were simply scams to raise more revenue for the most dangerous “gang” in New Jersey – the Trenton “Gang of 120.”

Allowing people to gamble in the privacy of their home will increase gambling addiction and destroy lives. It’s more difficult to find the time to board a bus or drive to a casino than to simply turn on the computer in your pajamas at any time.

Senator Lesniak should explain why, after three decades of casino gambling that provided billions in new revenue, is Atlantic City still a depressed area. Does “dumb” apply to many of the decisions made by our elected officials on the state and local levels? History is the judge and the decision is GUILTY!

Vincent J. Frantantoni



Belleville Police Blotter

Jan. 12

At 3.10 p.m. Officers on patrol observed a man walking on the 600 block Washington Ave. openly drinking a container of beer. The man, Mario Perez, 42, of Belleville was issued a town summons for drinking in public.

Jan. 11

At 8:58 a.m. a victim stated that he had parked his 1998 red, four door Mazda in front of 36 Watchung Ave. When he went to move the vehicle to allow for street cleaning, he noticed that the vehicle was missing. The vehicle was recovered later that day in Newark.

At 4:11 p.m. a resident at 2 Elana Pl. contacted police to report that his 2005 white Ford van was missing. The owner explained that he had loaned the vehicle to an employee who had later called him to tell him that the vehicle was taken. Luckily, an onboard GPS system pointed police in the direction of Jersey City where the vehicle was later recovered.

At 6:52 p.m. a gas attendant at the Pit Stop gas station, 190 Franklin Ave., called police to alert them to a strong-arm robbery that had just occurred at the station. The attendant told police that he noticed a man walked towards him. When he entered the store, he asked the attendant for change for the soda machine. He returned a moment asking for cigarettes. When the attendant turned his back to fetch the cigarettes, he noticed that the man was going through his cash drawer. When he turned around to confront the thief, the man yelled, “Give me your money” and forcibly took $120 off of the attendant’s person before fleeing. Police describe the suspect as black, 6”2” tall and 180 lbs. He was last seen wearing black pants, black jacket and a black hat. Police are investigating.

At 7:22 p.m. a man contacted police to report an attempted burglary at his Cedar Hill Ave home. The man’s sister stated that her brother had left the house at 5:45 p.m. When he returned, he noticed that a patio chair had been moved on an attached deck. He also noticed that a window was now open and a screen was down. No evidence of entry was found, and nothing was discovered missing.

Jan. 9

At 9:43 p.m. a police unit patrolling Franklin St. noticed a male suspect suspiciously looking through parked car windows. After they interviewed John Sanchez, 25, of Kearny they discovered that he carried a $100 warrant out of Newark. He was released on his own recognizance.

Jan 8

At 8:17 a.m. an employee coming off of the overnight shift at the Clara Maass Professional Building reported that his red 1996 Honda Civic 2-door incurred damage in what was likely an attempt to steal it. The victim noted that the passenger window and door lock had sustained damage, and that the steering column showed signs of tampering.

At 9:40 a.m. the owner of a beige 2008 Nissan Pathfinder reported that someone had attempted to steal the vehicle from a parking lot where he had left it since Jan. 5. The owner stated that the driver’s side window was in the down position. He added that the door lock and ignition had also been tampered with.

At 11:35 a.m. police were summoned to the Pathmark at 115 Belmont Ave. on a shoplifting complaint. Store detectives reported that they observed the suspect, 37-year-old Agustin Camacho of Newark stuff eight cans of baby formula into a laundry bag and proceed towards the door where they detained him until police arrived. Camacho was transported to headquarters and charged with shoplifting. He is being held on $500 bail at the County Jail.

At 4:57 p.m. police observed a white Dodge van moving at a high rate of speed. The vehicle was stopped at the intersection of Heckle and Brook Sts. Police found that the driver, William L. Benenato, 43, from Lincoln Pk. was driving with a suspended license. He was charged with careless driving and driving while suspended and released on $50 bail.

At 8:04 p.m. the owner of a rare 1986 Buick Grand National black 2-door called police to report that the car had been stolen while it was parked in front of the Providence Bar at Heckle and Jeraldo Sts. According to the victim, the robbery occurred somewhere between 4:30 – 8:04. The victim claimed that the Grand National, considered highly collectible, is worth in excess of $85,000.

Around Town


Bloomfield Public Library’s Book Club will meet on Monday, Feb. 6, from 6:45 to 7:50 p.m. in the conference room to discuss “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Jeffrey Eugenides dazzling second novel tells the story of a Greek-American hermaphrodite. For further information or to request help in locating a copy of the book club selection, please call the Reference Desk at 973-566- 6200, ext 502. Admission is free.

The Bloomfield Public Library is pleased to present a seminar called “Basics of Banking” on Jan.18 at 2 p.m.

Participants will learn how to recognize the major types of insured financial institutions, basic banking terms, recognize differences between banks and check-cashing services, identify bank employees and their jobs, and the types of accounts and banking services. The program will be presented by Melissa Jaipal, the local branch manager at Sovereign Bank in Bloomfield. She has been with the bank for five months, and has over six years experience in banking.

For more information on this event or upcoming programs, please call (973) 566-6200, ext. 502.

The library will host a seminar called “Saving for College: Understanding Your Options” on Jan. 21 at 10 a.m., presented by Geraldine Callahan, a seasoned financial professional with nearly 10 years in financial services. For more information on this event or upcoming programs please call (973) 566-6200, ext. 502.

The library will host “Keeping it Safe: Identity Protection Education” on Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. This seminar will give you general information on laws that protect consumers. Further information can be found by using the resources listed in your Take-Home Guide, that will be provided. The program will be presented by Melissa Jaipal,

For more information on this event or upcoming programs, please call (973) 566-6200, ext. 502.

“Business Banking 101” will be presented at the library on Jan. 31 at 2 p.m., by Melissa Jaipal For more information on this event or upcoming programs, please call (973) 566-6200, ext. 502.

An educational presentation on Chinese culture will be presented at the library on Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. The program will focus on Chinese history and a brief overview of key dynasties, on classic stories and fascinating characters from Chinese literature, and on classical Chinese dance (Shen Yun) and Chinese musical instruments.

For more information on this event or upcoming programs, please call (973) 566-6200, ext. 502.

“Maximizing your Social Security Benefits” will be presented at the library on Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m.

Confused about social security? Learn how to maximize your social security retirement benefits. The seminar will presented by Geraldine Callahan. For more information on this event or upcoming programs, please call (973) 566-6200, ext. 502.


Registration for the spring 2012 semester of the Kearny Adult School will be held on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 23, 24 and 25, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the main office of Kearny High School, 336 Devon St. Brochures indicating course offerings are currently in the mail. If you did not receive one, you may pick up a copy at The Observer, Kearny Library or the Kearny Board of Education office, 100 Davis Ave. For additional information, you may call the Kearny Adult School at 201-955-1392.

Kearny Branch Library, 759 Kearny Ave., will host a special art project honoring Martin Luther King Jr. for children ages 4 and up on Thursday, Jan. 26, at 4 p.m. with art teacher Mrs. Mills. The program will be free of charge. Please bring one or two shoeboxes to make “floats of respect.” All other supplies will be provided by the library. For further information, please call the Main Library at (201) 998-2666.

Check the library’s website www.kearnylibrary.org for more program information.

The Heaven Cent Thrift Shop, located at First Presbyterian Church, 663 Kearny Ave. Kearny, is open on Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is a great selection of new and gently used clothing, as well as small household goods. Stop in for great bargains. Donations are always welcome. Use upper Laurel Avenue door.


The Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst has placed a decorated Valentine box for veterans on each floor of the Lyndhurst Public Library. Please support this project by placing a valentine card in one of the boxes for a veteran.

The Lyndhurst Health Department will begin a monthly health lecture series, in conjunction with Clara Maass Medical Center. The first lecture will be held on Friday, Jan. 20, starting at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be served. January’s lecture topic will be First Aid for Seniors. Please call the Lyndhurst Health Department at 201-804-2500 to reserve a seat.

The Health Department’s Monday night meditation series resumes on Monday, Feb. 6, at 6 p.m. There is no fee or pre-registration required. The classes are lead by Lyndhurst resident Parbatie Singh, who was trained at the Oneness University in India and has become a teacher in meditation. This class includes techniques to help with stress and depression, to help one feel a sense of and relaxation.

The winter-spring session of chair yoga, held in conjunction with the Meadowlands Area YMCA, begins on Friday, Feb. 10, at 11:30 a.m. for Lyndhurst residents at the Health Department. There is no fee for this program. Please call 201-804-2500 to register. Registration forms are available at the Health Department.

The winter-spring session of yoga and Zumba will begin on Feb. 6 at the Health Department. There is a $45 fee for Lyndhurst residents and a $75 fee for non-Lyndhurst residents for a 15-week session consisting of one class per week. The following classes are being offered: Yoga on Mondays at 5 p.m., Zumba on Mondays at 7 p.m., Zumba on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., and Zumba Gold on Thursdays 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. Please call 201-804-2500 for more information. Registration forms are available at the Health Department.

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, starting at 2:30 p.m., a veteran’s ward party will be held at Chestnut Extended Care facility, in Passaic, American Legion Post 139, Lyndhurst, will provide games of chance that will be played with refreshments to follow for including bed-ridden veterans. An anonymous family is sponsoring the party. If you want more information on how to sponsor a party, please call John Deveney at 201-438-2255.

The New Jersey Federation of Women’s Clubs is sponsoring a beefsteak dinner fundraiser for Gilda’s Club on Saturday, March 24 at the Lyndhurst senior building. Cost is $45. (snow date will be Sunday, March 25, at 1 p.m.). Featured is comedian/ventriloquist John Pizzi. Anyone interested in purchasing tickets should contact District State Project Chairman Annette Bortone at 201-438-1852 or co-chair of the event Jackie Reformato at 201-935-3567. No one under 18 is permitted.

North Arlington

Senior Harmony Club of North Arlington has scheduled the following trips to the Taj Mahal on Tuesday, Feb. 7, and Tuesday, March 6. You do not have to be a member of the club to attend. For information or to make a reservation, call Florence at 201-991-3173.


Alex Lidell, young adult fantasy author, will share her knowledge of the commercial publishing process at the next meeting of Nutley Public Library’s Pen to Prose Writing Group on Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. Alex Lidell is a young adult author and Nutley resident. Her fantasy novel “Cadet of Tildor”, a finalist in Amazon’s 2010 ABNA competition, is upcoming from Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin). Learn more about Lidell at www.alexlidell.com. Lidell will remain with the group for the critique session.

BabyGarten for Infants and Toddlers, from birth to 22 months, and their caregivers, will be held at the Nutley Public Library on Monday, Feb. 6, 13 and 27 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The program includes books, nursery rhymes, playtime, and meet other babies from the Nutley area. Registration is required.

The library’s Monday Night Book Club will meet on Monday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. to discuss “A Death in the Family” by James Agee. The group meets on the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. Newcomers are welcome.

Buccaneer grapplers off to great start even as coach wrestles with lineup

Photo by Jim Hague/ The Belleville High School wrestling team is enjoying its best season in recent years, posting a 9-2 record thus far. From left are Rocco Genova, Justin Colon, head coach Joe Nisivoccia and Daniel Giangrande.


By Jim Hague

Joe Nisivoccia has been the head wrestling coach at Belleville High School for what seems like forever. Nisivoccia remembers the good times the program has enjoyed, but the recent memories haven’t been all too good, as the Buccaneers, as a whole, have fallen on some tough times over the last few years.

But this year’s version of the Bucs has enjoyed a return to glory.

The team has posted a 9-2 record thus far, easily its best mark since qualifying for the NJSIAA state sectionals in 2005.

However, Nisivoccia isn’t spoiled by the stellar mark thus far.

“Honestly, we really could be 11-0,” Nisivoccia said. “We lost two matches that we easily could have won. We lost to two good teams, but if we had our entire lineup those days, we could have won. I really thought we could have beaten both teams we lost to. If we did, then 11-0 would have sounded so much better.”

Nisivoccia isn’t about to complain.

“No, I’m happy and pleased with our start,” Nisivoccia said. “When you’re a coach and you start to do well, you’re always going to want more. That’s natural. If I show them that I want more, then maybe they’ll want more as well.”

What makes the Buccaneers’ brilliant start even more impressive is that the veteran coach has still not settled on a full-time starting lineup.

“Our lineup is still not fully set,” Nisivoccia said. “We’re playing around with a couple of weight classes.”

There’s no tinkering with the 106-pound slot in the lineup. That belongs to Rocco Genova, who is a returning district champion. Genova is having another solid season, despite the fact that he suffers from diabetes, so he has to watch his weight and his blood sugar more than any other wrestler.

Genova won the 106-pound championship at the recent Edison Tournament, took second at the prestigious Elizabeth Holiday tournament and was third in the highly competitive Middletown tourney with 17 teams.

“He’s having a great year,” Nisivoccia said.

At 120 pounds is senior Ricky Gencarelli, who was second in Edison and third in Elizabeth.

“He’s a much improved wrestler,” Nisivoccia said.

Senior Justin Colon is the Buccaneers’ 126-pounder. The talented Colon, who has been one of the premier competitors in Essex County over his career, has been alternating between 126 and 132 pounds.

“We’ve been bumping him up from time to time to give him better competition,” Nisivoccia said. “He’s been doing a great job.”

Justin, who is on pace to surpass his older brother, Filiberto, as the all-time win leader at Belleville, has an 18-1 record thus far. Colon won at Edison, took second at Middletown and became only the third Belleville wrestler (joining current assistant coach Anthony Conte and Frank Zarro) to ever win the Elizabeth tournament four consecutive years. Even Filiberto never turned the trick.

But there is something missing on Colon’s resume that his brother owns – a medal at the NJSIAA state tournament in Atlantic City. The elder Colon, wrestling at Eastern Michigan University, earned three state medals in his four trips to Atlantic City.

“Justin’s never won a medal,” Nisivoccia said. “He’s come close, but he just misses by one round. It’s a sticking point with him and I know he’s driven by it. I hope he’s standing on the podium this year. How high he stands remains up to him.”

Senior Sean Carey is the Buccaneers’ 138-pounder. Carey also won gold medals at the Edison and Elizabeth tournaments.

“I expect big things from Sean this year,” Nisivoccia said.

Anthony Avino is the team’s 145-pounder. The senior is another four-year varsity competitior.

“He suffered from a bad back last year and that hurt him,” Nisivoccia said. “He missed a lot of action last year, but he’s back this year and he’s been very good.”

Joe Anello holds the fort at 160 pounds. Anello is a twotime District 14 champion who earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler award at last year’s districts.

“He’s been certified to wrestle at 152 (pounds), so we’re leaving it up to him which weight he wants to wrestle at,” Nisivoccia said.

Anello was third in both Edison and Elizabeth and fourth at Middletown.

“Joe seems to peak right around February,” Nisivoccia said.

Junior Nick Fruncillo is the team’s 170-pounder. Fruncillo has been a solid, competitive wrestler throughout and has earned his place in the regular lineup.

Senior Daniel Giangrande is the Buccaneers’ 195-pounder.

“He’s having a great year,” Nisivoccia said of Giangrande, who won the Edison tourney and finished third at Middletown and Elizabeth. “He’s a pinner and we need that.”

Giangrande, Anello and Colon serve as the team’s captains.

The heavyweight is junior Nate James, who keyed a big win against Verona last week.

“He’s shown a lot of promise and he’s coming around,” Nisivoccia said.

One of the team’s most versatile wrestlers is sophomore David Colon, who is not related at all to the other Colon brothers.

“A lot of people think they’re related, but they’re not,” Nisivoccia said. “He’s seeing action at both 126 and 132 pounds.”

The rest of the weight classes are still up for grabs, which makes the Buccaneers’ practice room a very competitive place to be. “We’re still working on the rest of the lineup,” Nisivoccia said. “We’re hoping to get invited to participate in the state sectionals. That’s our goal right now.”

With the record where it is, it’s a very tangible goal – and one that had not been within reach for the last seven years.

“I think we’ll do fine in the county tournament,” Nisivoccia said. “We would like to place among the top three and bring home a trophy. If that happens, we’ll be very happy. We’d also like to win the District (14) title. If that happens, then the year is a full success. We’re just trying to put together a nice team and bring a good number of wrestlers to the regions.”

Nisivoccia credits a lot of the team’s success to assistant coaches Conte and Corey Woodring.

“We’re doing fine right now, but we have to keep it up,” Nisivoccia said.

If that’s the case, then it’s a full return to glory for Belleville’s wrestling program.

Maroon Raiders shoot for another state playoff berth

Photo by Jim Hague/ The Nutley boys’ basketball team is playing with a lot more confidence than in years past, as reflected by a 6-6 record. From left are seniors John Llano, Josh Thomson, head coach Bob Harbison, Nick Gariano and C.J. Schroeder.


By Jim Hague

The Nutley High School boys’ basketball program had suffered through a decadelong drought of being left out of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoffs before qualifying a year ago.

Now, the Maroon Raiders want to make a return trip to the state playoffs.

“We want to get into the state tournament,” said veteran Nutley head coach Bob Harbison, who also is the head baseball coach at the school as well. “But we also want to challenge for the conference title (the Super Essex Conference- Independent Division). We’re right there in the mix with Verona, Arts (of Newark) and West Essex.”

Imagine that, the Maroon Raiders actually contending for a championship in boys’ basketball. It’s a novel approach.

The Maroon Raiders are putting a lot of faith in senior point guard Nick Gariano. The 5-foot-9 Gariano is averaging better than 10 points per ganme.

“We use him in any tough situation,” Harbison said. “He’s been a three-year starter for us at point guard. His offense has picked up this season and he’s become a very good shooter.”

The shooting guard is senior Josh Thomson. The 5-foot-8 Thomson is the team’s best defensive player.

“He defends the opponent’s best guard,” Harbison said. “He’s a very tough kid and he’s very coachable.”

The Maroon Raiders’ small forward is 6-foot junior Ryan Fischer, who has developed into a fine offensive threat.

“He’s a great shooter, especially from long range,” Harbison said. “He has good range and he’s not afraid to take the big shot. He draws a lot of attention from the opposition.”

Fischer is also averaging close to 10 points per contest.

The starting power forward is 6-foot-4 senior C.J. Schroeder.

“He is a good rebounder and a good physical presence down low,” Harbison said. “He’s also a very good student in the classroom.”

The center is 6-foot-1 junior Joe Feraco.

“He shoots well and we use him more as a point center, because he can handle the ball so well,” Harbison said. “We run the offense through him. He has a good mid-range shot, but more importantly, he’s an excellent free throw shooter.”

Feraco made 10-of-12 free throws in a recent victory.

The first player off the Maroon Raider bench is 6-foot-2 junior Jon Russo.

“He’s a very athletic player and he’s offensive minded, which you need coming off the bench,” Harbison said.

Junior Scott Gonzalez is another valuable reserve player. The 5-foot-9 Gonzalez is a good shooter and capable ball handler.

Junior Charlie Bingham is the team’s back-up point guard. The 5-foot-7 Bingham is “a good defender who handles the ball well,” according to Harbison.

Senior John Llano is a 6-foot-2 forward who serves both power positions.

“He’s a good rebounder who has been getting a little more time recently,” Harbison said.

The Maroon Raiders are 6-6, which puts them firmly in the middle of the North 2, Group III playoff hunt. After they got a little taste of the state tournament a year ago, the Maroon Raiders want more.

“We’ve been a little too inconsistent, but we are right there,” Harbison said. “It’s fun to be able to look into the post-season and have hopes of being there. It makes this more interesting, having games at this point of the season have more of an importance. I don’t need to get them up for every game. They should be up, because they know the games are important.”

It also makes practice time a little easier as well.

“They’re definitely much more attentive, knowing that they have something to play for,” Harbison said. “They take things much more seriously.”

There’s another positive sidelight to the Maroon Raiders. If you noticed, the roster is packed with juniors, so a majority of this team will be back next season.

“We’ve had points in games where we’ve had four juniors on the floor in crunch time,” Harbison said. “They’re not getting garbage time. They’re getting quality minutes, serious minutes. That bodes well for the future.”

While Harbison is pleased with his team’s performance thus far, he’s not totally content.

“We should do a better job of winning the games we’re supposed to win,” Harbison said. “We have to play like every game is winnable.”

Right now, it looks like every Maroon Raider game is winnable – and losable for that matter. But if the Maroon Raiders can manage to win more than they lose, they can actually contend for an SEC crown and make a return trip to the state playoffs, an idea that would have been totally unimaginable just two years ago.

QP’s Maurer comes through in the clutch

Photo by Jim Hague/ Queen of Peace senior forward Derrick Maurer.

By Jim Hague

The Queen of Peace boys’ basketball team had lost Jim McLane, one of the program’s top scorers in history, to graduation and new head coach Tom McGuire was looking for someone to step up and try to fill McLane’s shoes.

That player was senior Derrick Maurer.

“We expected Derrick completely to step it up,” McGuire said. “He’s been a varsity player for three years and he’s played some big games for us.”

But in the early going, Maurer wasn’t completely comfortable with the increased role.

“He had been struggling a little,” McGuire said. “With Jimmy moving on (playing at William Paterson University), we’ve been trying to find an identity as a team. We also had to find an on-the-court leader.”

Maurer felt the pressure of trying to be the team’s new leader.

“With the loss of Jimmy, I felt I had to step it up big time,” Maurer said. “But I had to change my style of playing and that wasn’t easy. I had to help out down low, help to rebound and play defense more, and I had a tough time changing. I had to focus on defense and rebounding. With the change of coaching, it took me a little while to get used to it. In the beginning, it wasn’t what I was hoping for.”

Last week, the Golden Griffins traveled to Weehawken for a big NJIC Meadowlands Division clash. A loss would have been devastating to the Golden Griffins.

“We needed that game,” McGuire said. “It was huge. I told them that we couldn’t afford another loss. It was such a huge game.”

Maurer realized the importance of the game.

“We knew that they were a tough team, one of the better teams we’ve faced,” Maurer said. “In the few practices before Weehawken, I started to fit into my position better and felt better about myself.”

When the Golden Griffins arrived in Weehawken, they noticed a major difference.

“The court was smaller,” Maurer said. “I never had been in that gym before. It was loud and you couldn’t shoot from the corners. I like shooting from there, so I was kind of nervous.”

However, Maurer started to feel his shot coming back and that was a good sign.

“Coach McGuire just told me to keep shooting,” Maurer said.

“It was all about shot selection,” McGuire said. “At times this season, Derrick’s shot selection was questionable. But his shot selection has been better.”

With the game hanging in the balance and the Golden Griffins seemingly headed for a tough loss, Maurer stepped up and became the leader that McGuire hoped he would become.

With less than two minutes left, Maurer canned a long 3-pointer that sliced a sixpoint deficit in half.

When the Golden Griffins got the ball back again with under a minute left, McGuire called time out and called for a play. It involved Maurer.

“If everything worked out well, we were running a triple screen for Derrick,” McGuire said.

“I guess because I made the three a minute before, he had faith in me,” Maurer said. “But every player wants that chance. As soon as he called the play, I knew I would make the shot.”

McGuire said he was more than a simple make.

“He nailed it,” McGuire said.

Now, with the game tied at 56-56 and the clock ticking away, it was time to get back on defense and try to play for overtime. However, Maurer had other things in mind.

“As I was getting back on defense, I had to make a play,” Maurer said.

Maurer made a steal at midcourt, was fouled and made the two free throws that gave the Golden Griffins a thrilling 58-56 victory. Maurer ended the game with 19 points, but scored eight of those in the final two minutes.

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

Maurer has enjoyed big games this season against Lyndhurst and Great Falls Academy, scoring 22 points in each of those contests. But none was bigger than the win at Weehawken, a win that kept the Golden Griffins’ NJSIAA Non-Public A state playoff hopes alive.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Maurer said.

Maurer is one of the most diversified athletes in the area. He’s a standout soccer player and hopes to play soccer at Rowan University in the fall. Maurer is also a member of the QP baseball team.

But Maurer is also a standout bowler who comes from a family of fine bowlers. His older sister Shannon is perhaps the best girls’ bowler in QP history. Maurer owns a 205 bowling average and would love to be able to bowl and play basketball at the same time.

“I tried to do both last year, but it was too tough to do,” Maurer said. “It’s a little disappointing to me, because I love bowling so much. A few people tell me that I should be bowling instead of playing basketball, but that can’t happen.”

Maurer’s prowess on the soccer field has given him a leg up on other basketball players.

“I’m definitely in perfect shape because of all the running I did in soccer,” Maurer said. “I came into the basketball season in great shape and that’s definitely a factor. In soccer, I was basically running non-stop, so that’s helped me with basketball practices and games.”

“There’s definitely a positive carryover,” McGuire said. “He’s such in great shape that we don’t have to worry about him ever getting tired. He never looks like he’s tired.”

McGuire is also happy to know that he has a go-to player in Maurer.

“It’s great,” McGuire said. “We run that play to get a basket and it’s nice to know that we can run it and Derrick can make the big shot for us. That’s what I was hoping for. Maybe he needed just a little bit of a kick start. I just hope he continues.”

“It’s my senior year,” Maurer said. “I might as well enjoy it.”

It’s a lot more enjoyable now.