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NAPD seeks man who allegedly passed 4 fake $100s

The North Arlington Police Department  is currently investigating an incident involving use of counterfeit $100 bills at a 7-Eleven on Ridge Rd. A man, approximately 6′  in height, 150 lbs., wearing a baseball cap  with a Seattle Mariners logo, a […]


W.H.A.T. presents ‘The Addams Family’ July 30-Aug. 5, including preview tonight at Angry Coffee Bean

KEARNY — Teen Drama, a theater company for teens celebrating its fifth anniversary this summer, in association with the West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) presents the modern classic Broadway musical “The Addams Family” this summer. The smash-hit musical […]


Images from funeral procession for Jersey City police Detective Melvin Santiago

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Farewell to a brother in blue

On Friday afternoon, regular traffic came to a halt on the Belleville Pike and Ridge Road to open the route for the funeral procession of slain Jersey City Police Detective Melvin Santiago. The 23-year-old rookie, promoted posthumously to detective, had been ambushed early Sunday, July 13, when he […]


State eyes raising part of Pike

By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent  KEARNY – The Rt. 7/Belleville Turnpike corridor which runs through Kearny’s meadows area and beyond is getting a lot of attention these days from state and federal transit agencies. For the past couple of years, contractors hired by the state Department of Transportation have […]


Snowstorm creates havoc

Photo by Karen Zautyk/ Downed wires are draped dangerously close to roadway at Washington Ave. and Fairview Place, Kearny.


By Karen Zautyk

On Friday night, perhaps for the first time in living memory, local TV weather forecasters provided information the viewers could actually use.
Because the leaves were still on the trees, they warned, snow from the approaching storm would weigh heavily on the branches – more so than in a normal winter snowfall – and those branches, and maybe entire trees, would fall.
There was nothing anyone could do about that, but at least we were warned. And,
starting on Saturday, evidence of the accuracy of this prediction was all over the
After Hurricane Irene, we wrote that Kearny looked like one big crime scene,
with yellow tape blocking off fallen limbs and downed wires on streets throughout
the community.
This weekend, the scene was even more devastating.
Entire blocks were closed. And there were branches everywhere, along with wires
draped over autos, sidewalks and lawns.
“This storm was 100% worse than Hurricane Irene,” said Kearny Police Sgt. John
Manley, deputy coordinator of the town’s Office of Emergency Management. “The
trees still had leaves, and the wet snow, the weight of the snow,” combined to make
conditions extremely hazardous, he noted.

Photos by Karen Zautyk & Anthony J. Machcinski





Post-storm scenes of downed trees and wires, and one resident sawing up a fallen tree (from top): Oakwood Ave., Kearny; Edgar Place, Nutley; Kearny Ave. at Washington Ave., Kearny; River Road, Nutley, and South Midland Ave., Kearny.

“The tops of the trees were splitting and branches were falling everywhere,” he said.
Kearny Police Chief John Dowie told The Observer that, from noon Saturday until noon Sunday, the KPD logged 454 calls.  “As you can imagine, they were mainly downed trees, wires, road closures, flooding, accidents, etc.”
To deal with the 911 deluge, the department held over the morning shift into the afternoon.
Manley  noted that the Kearny Fire Department was also “running from call to call.”  These, he said, involved” downed wires, wires arcing, wires on fire, trees on fire.”
On Saturday, while the snow was still falling, the responders faced particularly perilous conditions. “As we were out there checking things out, trees and branches were falling all around us,” Manley said. “During the storm, it was too dangerous for anyone to work under the trees.”
He could only guess, but he speculated that thousands of branches and perhaps several hundred trees were down all over town.
Clean-up began in full on Sunday, and PSEG, which was on the scene during the storm, was to bring in extra manpower this week to deal with the power outages, which were affecting various neighborhoods.
The OEM was also assessing the damage along with the utility and the Department of Public Works.
The storm even forced the cancellation of the annual Halloween parade, which had been scheduled for Sunday along Kearny Ave.
Mayor Alberto Santos explained that, even though the storm had passed, conditions in town were “unsafe.” The Washington School playground, where costumed children were to gather, had not been cleared and “many sidewalks were not clear.” Add to that the downed trees and fallen power lines.
“We assessed the situation and decided it was much more prudent to cancel,” the mayor said.
The destruction in Kearny was repeated throughout Hudson, South Bergen and Essex counties.
A drive through Nutley on Sunday showed that it appeared to have been especially hard hit. We saw damage on every block we passed. The streets were a carpet of wet foliage. Branches were down on most streets, and there were also limbs covering the railroad tracks. Entire trees had been split, as if some giant lumberjack had taken an ax to them.
Throughout our region, homes were still without power at press time Monday, and some residents had been cautioned that electricity might not be restored until Wednesday.
PSEG was reportedly bringing in utility workers from as far away as  Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi to bolster its own work crews.

Hell hath no fury like . . .

By Karen Zautyk

A 42-year-old township woman was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly trying
to hire a hitman to kill her ex-boyfriend’s current love interest, authorities reported.
The suspect was identified as Nicole Faccenda, 42, of Olive St., Lyndhurst. The identities of the former boyfriend, with whom Faccenda reportedly has a child, and the new girlfriend, were not made public.
According to authorities, the ex also has a child with his new paramour. The longterm
relationship between Faccenda and the man reportedly ended about three months ago.
According to the criminal complaint, as released by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman in Newark, Faccenda, seeking help in finding an assassin, phoned a friend in Florida on or about Oct. 19 and explained what she wanted done. She reportedly commented that she had already bought a black outfit to wear to the girlfriend’s funeral and was ready to pay $10,000- $20,000 for the hit.
Later, the complaint states, Faccenda told the supposed hired gun that she wanted to
“spit on the casket.”
She also allegedly “stated that she did not want her ex-boyfriend dead but that he can be shot in the foot, but the victim’s girlfriend has to be shot in the head, ‘gone, gone to the moon’ and that her happiest day will be” when she gets the phone call that the job is done.
According to the complaint, Faccenda also said that she did not want the girlfriend’s children killed, “but if something happens to one of them, ‘Oh, well, I’m sorry.’ ”
The individual Faccenda had called in Florida immediately contacted federal authorities, Fishman’s office said, and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began recording conversations between the two.
On Oct. 21, the complaint charges, Faccenda met with the supposed hitman for the first time, in an A&P parking lot in Mahwah. At the initial meet-up,  authorities said, Faccenda stated she had “watched a lot of Lifetime movies”  and wanted to make sure the man was not a cop.  Unbeknownst to the suspect, he was a “cop,” or, more specifically,  an undercover ATF agent.
Subsequent meetings with her friend reportedly took place in the lot of the Red Robin restaurant in Clifton on Oct. 22 and at an Exxon station next to the Olive Garden restaurant in Secaucus on Oct. 24.
Faccenda reportedly agreed on a  $10,000 price for the job – $5,000 up front and the balance when the deed was done.
During the negotiations with the hitman/agent, the complaint says,  the suspect was told she had to be sure of her decision, and she allegedly responded, “That’s not even an issue.”
At the Secaucus meeting, Fishman’s office stated, Faccenda gave her friend an envelope containing $2,000 and later that night and into the early hours of Oct. 25, via phone and text messages, allegedly provided the  intended victim’s name, photo and license plate number.
On Oct. 26, the friend phoned her to report  the victim had been shot in the head and it had been made to look like a robbery, Fishman’s office said.
Faccenda was arrested the same day by ATF agents at her place of work in Mahwah.
“This was a cold and calculated plan to end the life of another person,” Fishman said.  “It failed because of the actions of a private citizen, who immediately contacted authorities, and the diligence and hard work of federal investigators. Because of their quick  action, a life was saved.”
Faccenda appeared in Federal Court in Newark on the 26th and was remanded on a  charge of using the mail and facilities of commerce with the intent that a murder be committed for payment.
If convicted, she faces a maximum prison term of 10 years and a $250,000 fine.
Fishman’s office noted that the charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Nab 1, hunt 2 in store holdup

By Karen Zautyk

One suspect was apprehended and two were being hunted by police following an armed robbery at the Quick Chek on Kearny Ave. last week.
“An intense follow-up investigation is underway, and we have substantial leads to
the identity of the cohorts,“ Kearny Police Chief John Dowie told The Observer.
At 12:45 a.m. Thursday, Officers Rich Pawlowski and Pat Walsh were on patrol when they noticed a couple arguing outside the convenience store. When the cops stopped their squad car, the woman ran over and told them there was a suspicious group inside. (Dowie said the argument apparently was about whether or not to report this, with the woman wanting to call police and her male companion preferring to just leave.)
Through the window, the officers could see a man atop the store counter. After advising headquarters that there was a probable robbery in progress and requesting back-up, they drew their weapons and took cover positions to watch the door, Dowie said.
Before the additional units could arrive, three males exited the store. The cops ordered them to the ground, but the suspects took flight, running east on Bergen Ave. Two broke off and turned north on Chestnut St., while the third headed to Devon and ran south.
While Pawlowski and Walsh were engaged in the foot pursuit, other KPD units set up a containment perimeter. Officers Tom Sumowski and Tom Floyd spotted the pair who were on Chestnut and began a chase, but the suspects “went to ground” in the backyards and managed to elude the officers. Later, the Hudson County K-9 unit joined the search, but the two culprits had escaped.
Meanwhile, Walsh encountered a pedestrian, not one of the suspects, who told the officer that a running man had stopped him and asked to use his cell phone, “and the guy let him,” said Dowie.
Det. Sgt. John View and Det. Ray Lopez had joined the search, and at Chestnut and Boyd Sts., Lopez stopped a man who fit the physical description of the phone-borrower. He could not give a legitimate answer as to what he was doing there, but neither was he wearing the black hat, black hoodie and black sneakers that all three suspects had worn, the chief noted.
But at the same time, Dowie said, Officers Glenn Reed and Jay Balogh, who were also searching the area, found the clothing in question discarded on the ground. And, in a garbage can nearby, Lopez found a handgun.
The quick-change artist, an 18-year-old from Newark, was arrested on robbery, conspiracy and weapons charges and eluding police.
The search for his companions is continuing.
Dowie commended all the responding officers for securing the area and finding the evidence. “That was key,” he noted.
Dowie added: “This was a very good job on the part of all the officers involved, especially the first two responding officers, who came upon a crime in progress, who didn’t overreact, but took a good position and displayed a lot of restraint.”
This, the chief noted, “was a three-on-two confrontation.” He also commended Pawlowski and Walsh “for having the courage to engage in the foot pursuit of the suspects, all of whom were possibly armed.”
Dowie said no one in the store was hurt during the holdup. An undetermined amount of cash was removed from the registers.

Storm aftermath

Photos by Karen Zautyk & Anthony J. Machcinski
Pictures from the area after the snow storm hit October 29.


Driver arrested for shooting at Nutley cop

NUTLEY – As police officers know, even a routine traffic stop can turn lethal. And
lethal is what nearly happened Friday night on Route 21 in Nutley.
Authorities said that, at about 10 p.m., Nutley P.O. William Paro attempted to pull over a southbound car on the highway after a computer check indicated the driver, Jerry Shanks, 37, of Elizabeth, had outstanding motor vehicle violations.
Instead of stopping, authorities said, Shanks spun his car around, facing it into the
oncoming traffic, and then fired at least two shots at Paro from a .40-caliber handgun. The officer was not hit.
Shanks fled the scene but was tracked to an address in Passaic and arrested several hours later.
He has been charged with attempted murder and was being held on $1 million bail.
– Karen Zautyk

Alert cop thwarts alleged burglars

By Karen Zautyk

Three Newark men arrested last week in this township for allegedly burglarizing an auto have been linked to similar crimes in at least three other communities, police reported.
The suspects – Bryan Ervin and Aljir Davis, both 20, and Hakim Jones, 21 – were remanded to the Essex County Jail on $100,000 bail each.
Nutley Det. Anthony Montanari said Officer Ted Reilly was on patrol shortly after 1
a.m. last Wednesday when he observed a car with its interior lights on parked in the lot of a defunct gas station at Union Ave. and Centre St. Walking away from the vehicle was a man, later identified as Davis, carrying a silver case.
The driver, Ervin, when questioned by Reilly, reportedly claimed he had pulled over
to check his GPS to find his way home. Asked why his passenger was out of the vehicle, the explanation was that Davis was trying to find an open gas station, Montanari said,
noting that the two men “were inconsistent with answering questions.”
The third suspect, Jones, was found about a block away on Weston St., a small, residential side street not likely to have a gas station, police noted.
Back-up officers who had arrived at the Union Ave. scene observed a 2008 Dodge
parked nearby with damage to the side door and lock. The interior had been ransacked
and on the front seat there was a large screwdriver that was determined to be the burglary tool, Montanari said.
Inside Davis’ silver case were PlayStation games and other items identified by the Dodge’s owner as having been stolen from the car, police reported.
In addition, the suspects’ vehicle was allegedly found to contain proceeds from other burglaries, including a checkbook stolen in Belleville, ID and a backpack from Rutherford, and a cell phone and camera from Montclair.
On Thursday, Montanari said other items, including cell phones and an iPod Touch,
were still being inventoried and police were attempting to identify where these had
been obtained and what other municipalities may have been targeted.
All three men were charged with burglary, theft and conspiracy. Davis, who reportedly
gave a phony name when initially questioned, has also been charged with hindering
Police Chief John Holland commended Officer Reilly as “an exemplary officer who
took the initiative to stop and investigate, which led to the apprehension of three felons . . . and disrupted their operation.”

Time change is not for me



By Lisa Pezzolla

This weekend, at 2 a.m. on Nov. 6, we move our clocks back one hour, bringing an end to Daylight Savings for this year.
Daylight Savings time was instituted in the U.S during World War 1 in order to save energy for war production between April and October.
This past weekend, although we had sunlight longer in the day, electricity was out for many as a result of the unusual snowstorm which hit hard and suddenly. I hope this isn’t an indication of what’s in store for us this winter. Get generators, candles, flashlights and camping lanterns ready in case a power outage hits you. Don’t leave candles unattended!
I personally hate the long drawn-out winter months. Yes, it is sunny in the morning but we spend most of the day working indoors, and kids – who, studies show, are getting increasingly obese – stay cooped up in school.
After-school activities could help lower obesity by giving kids time after school to enjoy the outdoors.
During these cold winter months, we find ourselves sluggish and begin hibernating. With so many of us lacking in vitamin D, I will begin taking a supplement and try to beat it. Symptoms of this deficiency are depression, chronic fatigue, diabetes, heart disease. After all, vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin. We need sunshine and it doesn’t cost us a penny. We just need the sunlight and the capacity to enjoy the outdoors.
Wouldn’t it make sense for all of us to  increase our outdoor activities and enjoy sunlight during the winter months and get our intake of vitamin D?
We’d get energized and our depression would drop.

At least it won’t need a tombstone

A couple of weeks ago, in an addendum to a column about animals, I asked readers to be careful when driving on Passaic Ave. in Kearny because the groundhogs in the riverside park were grazing dangerously close to the roadway as they fattened up for winter. I had already seen one flattened in the street.
Last Monday morning, sure enough, I spotted a particularly plump one sitting practically atop the curb near South Midland Ave. It was oblivious to the passing cars as it fed.
The next time I passed by, there it was again, in precisely the same place.
It was there on Wednesday and Thursday, too.
There must be some especially tasty grass in that spot, I thought.
There’s nowhere to pull over and stop on that stretch of Passaic, so when I saw it again Friday, I just slowed down to try to get a closer look.
It was not moving and seemed tilted over a bit. And then I realized: It must be dead.
Do groundhogs die sitting upright, perhaps of heart attacks or strokes? Did some motorist hit it and put the corpse on the curb? (People do strange things.)
When I got to The Observer office, I called the town DPW to report the deceased creature and warn them that if it were not soon removed, passing drivers would get a graphic lesson in decomposition.
It was a township furlough day and there was no one to take my call. (Luckily.)
Heading home on Friday, I decided to take South Midland to Passaic to again check out the situation. It was the first time I had viewed the scene from the northbound direction, and something did not look quite right. Had the groundhog’s head fallen off? Or . . . ?
When I was driving into town on Sunday, I tried to get another look, but snow covered the site.
Later that day, I stopped into the Irish Quality Shop to chat with proprietor Maggie Millar, and I mentioned the groundhog. And the suspicions I had developed. Which she confirmed.
She knew exactly what I was talking about and exactly where the “animal” was, for she had seen it many times.
It was not a dead groundhog at all.
It was a pair of rocks.
For a week, I had been worrying about the well-being of rocks.
And I wasn’t even stoned.
— Karen Zautyk


To the Publisher:

The North Arlington Recreation Commission would like to thank all those that helped make the second annual Trunk or Treat a huge success.  It was slightly non-traditional as a result of the weather, but the spirit of Halloween was not deterred in North Arlington.  The kids all had a great time going around to all the different groups represented at the event.
We would like to thank all the people who donated candy for the Trunk or Treat as well as all the groups that took part in providing candy and giving it out during the event.  We would also like to single out North Arlington High School and the Board of Education for helping us put the event together in a very short amount of time and change it to the gym.  Without their cooperation, we would not have had this great event.

Jimmy Herrmann
NA Recreation Director

Bond not such a capital idea, lawmaker says

Photo by Ron Leir/ Councilman Steven Rovell, flanked by Jeanne Lombardi, of Bellewood Civic Association (l.), and Cary Sookram, supporter, are petitioning for a public vote on a capital bond.


By Ron Leir

A new firehouse, a restored public recreation center, a fixed-up senior center and other improvements are in the works for Belleville with the passage of a $3.45 million capital bond ordinance last month.
But, then again, maybe not.
One of two Belleville Council members who voted against the bond Oct. 11 is spearheading a petition drive to put the matter up for a public referendum on the grounds that it’s too much to spend now for work that can wait.
By law, that man – Second Ward Councilman Steven Rovell, who is also deputy mayor – has until Nov. 8 – Election Day – to gather the approximately 1,000 signatures he says are needed to trigger the balloting.
Township Manager Victor Canning says the councilman’s efforts are wrongheaded and that all the improvements covered by the bond are essential to Belleville’s progress.
Rovell says that if he can muster the required number of residents’ signatures, he would prefer to have the Council majority reconsider their vote instead of having the township incur the cost of a special election.
Time will tell how things turn out.
Canning said the bond would account for an annual increase of about $46 in real estate taxes for the owner of a home with an “average” assessment of $249,400. “On a house assessed at $500,000, it would mean a $100 a year tax increase,” Canning said, “but there are very few $500,000 homes in Belleville.”
Canning said the township is well below its borrowing limit and is taking aggressive steps to pay down its total accumulated debt of $29 million and be “fiscally responsible.”
But Rovell and his ally, Councilman-at-large Michael Nicosia, gripe that Canning has not factored in the cost of two other recent bonds, one for paying tax appeals and another for acquiring water meters, that — together with the capital bond — will add up to about $10 million in debt and more tax dollars.
“My taxes this year went up $1,000,” Rovell said. “Fortunately, I can afford that, but a lot of people here are struggling with this economy.”
Nicosia echoes that, saying, “We’ve got the worst economy since the Great Depression and here we are putting a huge bond together with multiple construction projects that are not necessary.”
If the bond stands up, it would authorize spending $600,000 toward construction of a one-story firehouse on Franklin St. in the Silver Lake section to replace an existing 8-decade-old facility that, according to Canning, “needs extensive work” just to maintain. Repairs, he said, would cost “between $400,000 and $500,000.” However, Canning added that NJ Transit has offered to lease the township an acre of property and provide $634,000 toward the building of a new firehouse large enough to accommodate two rigs and parking.

Photo by Ron Leir/ The capital bond would fund a replacement for this firehouse in the Silver Lake section.


Rovell says this project would be counter-productive because the township is short of firefighter personnel and equipment and, therefore, would have trouble staffing a new firehouse designed for two companies.
Never mind what may happen in the future, Nicosia says. That firehouse “has been closed down more than 30 times this year alone for lack of manpower.” In the past two years, attrition has cut the firefighter ranks to 58 from around 70, he says.
The proposed bond would also provide $610,000 to supplement $476,000 in county Community Development Block Grant funds to rebuild the Friendly Home recreation facility on Frederick St. The old structure was torn down four years ago after having fallen into disrepair.
But Nicosia says the targeted site “couldn’t be located in a worse spot . . . . The property is on a small lot with limited parking and security issues, and the building would probably accommodate only one function at a time.”
The bond would also provide $330,000 for an Astro Turf soccer field on Elementary School 9 property on Ralph St. Since soccer is a growing sport in Belleville, that’s a “good idea,” Nicosia says, but “just not at this time.”
The bond would provide $300,000 to build a one-story storage facility to house township records which, by state law, it is obliged to keep for a designated period of time. “We pay to store records and files in two different places now,” Canning says. Neither Rovell nor Nicosia has an argument against this project.
Nor do they quarrel about the $150,000 earmarked for a backup generator and repairs to the township senior center or the repaving of the quarter-mile-long Garden Ave. or the acquisition of new public works equipment – all of which, they concede, are needed.
Problem on the bond is, notes Nicosia, that  “this was an all-or-nothing vote,” so certain items could not be pulled out of the ordinance for a separate vote by the Council.
Rovell hopes to make up for that by pushing his petition drive, particularly on behalf of the Second Ward which, he says, “historically has contributed more in residential taxes” than any other section of Belleville.
The last time Rovell took on the political establishment – in 2004 when he wasn’t yet on the Council – he and other residents crusaded against a development plan calling for 400-plus apartments at Essex Park. “We wanted to reduce the density of the project, and it was scaled down to 200-plus units. We fought and we won,” he said.
Now he’s waging a new battle. “I never chose this path,” he says, “but this is where I am.”