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Relief for commuters

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  LYNDHURST –  After what Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso characterized as “33 years of starts and stops,” the township – with help from Bergen County – is finally beginning to see the start of improvements to the intersection at Kingsland and Riverside Aves. The changes […]

Convicted in mortgage swindle

A Belleville man was among three defendants convicted earlier this month in federal court for their roles in a $15 million mortgage fraud scheme involving condominiums in New Jersey and Florida, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reported. Last month, another Belleville resident pleaded guilty in the same scam. According to […]

Walmart is keeping cops busy

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  The Walmart in Kearny is conveniently located on Harrison Ave., with easy access to Rt. 280, the N.J. Turnpike and feeder roads to Newark and Jersey City. This is a boon for shoppers. However, according to Kearny police, it is […]

2011 layoffs affirmed

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY – Four former Kearny workers, including a union chief, have lost the first round of a bid to reverse their New Year’s Eve dismissals nearly three years ago. In a 21-page ruling issued Sept. 3, the state Office of Administrative Law […]

Go pink at St. Michael’s

Don your favorite pink attire and join St. Michael’s Medical Center for a Breast Cancer Awareness Month event — Breast Health & You — on Saturday, Oct. 25, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at SMMC’s Connie Dwyer Breast Center, 111 Central Ave., Newark. Dr. Nadine Pappas, director of […]


A WORD WITH THE PUBLISHER: Guidelines for stepparenting



Last week I received a phone call from a Harrison woman. She mentioned that she had a possible story for me. She didn’t claim to be a journalist; in fact she went out of her way to point this out. She just felt compelled to write on the behalf of custodial stepparents.

After reading her letter I couldn’t agree more with her assessment. I myself went through the trials and tribulations of stepparenting. Contrary to what some people believe, you don’t have to bear a child in order to love and care for one. But it takes time, patience and a set of ground rules on both parts. I want to thank Pujo for taking the time to send in her story and for opening up this important conversation. The letter reads as follows:

Custodial Stepparents:

Overworked and Underappreciated

While going through a difficult time within my blended family, I went online looking for support and advice from other stepmothers. I was surprised to find that in this day and age with family dynamics vastly changing, there isn’t much support out there for custodial stepparents. Although both roles are important and extremely complex, there is a big difference between a stepparent who lives with the children and a stepparent who sees the children every other weekend or once a week.

There are many articles and forums that talk about a stepparent’s boundaries and what they should not say or what they should not do, but when you live with the children it is extremely hard to see that boundary line.

Although a noncustodial stepparent wants to bond and get to know the children, the task can be hard to achieve when they spend a short amount of time with them.

Often, a blended family will rely on the custodial stepparent for food, clothing, financial and emotional support, but when it comes to the rights of custodial stepparents, there are none. This is one of the hardest realities a custodial stepparent has to face. Unless you have been in this situation before, you have no idea how hard it is for a custodial stepparent to deal with these realities. Besides having no legal rights to the children that you provide and care for, a custodial stepparent also has to face the fact that society often judges them as “trying to be the mom or dad” when that is not the case.

A custodial parent does not ask to be a “step in” parent. They are given this role with no guidelines and have to figure it out on their own. People often say, “ They are not your kids, you do not have to worry about it that much.” So it is okay for me to care for and love these children as if they are mine because they live with me, but when things get a little hard society assumes I should not care because they are not biologically mine. What is wrong here? A stepparent knows the children are not biologically theirs – we do not need society reminding us of the obvious.

It is now 2012 and we as a society know that blended families have become quite common. The reality is most custodial stepparents “step in” when a biological parent “steps out.” That by itself deserves a standing ovation.

Whether the children you live with are yours, adopted, foster or stepchildren you have an obligation as a member of society to raise them to the best of your ability, no matter what people think. I believe the bond I have with my stepchildren is unbreakable. After years of raising these kids as my own, they have become a part of me and I have become a part of them. This might be a difficult concept for some people to grasp, but we are bonded by love, not blood.

— Puja Oquendo

Editor’s note: Are you a custodial stepparent with your own unique experiences to share? We’d like to hear about it. Please send an email to jeffbahr@theobserver.com.

Added dimension not needed

While writing “Out and About” pieces during the summer, I stopped in to see the 3-D version of “Green Lantern,” the summer blockbuster featuring Ryan Reynolds. While the film itself was good, I’ve never quite understood the hoopla about 3-D movies.

Don’t get me wrong; seeing planets, stars, and space debris flying all around you is a pretty cool, but it didn’t really enhance the film for me. Ryan Reynolds is still going to be a decent-at-best actor who, in my opinion, only gets over with audiences because of his looks.

“Beauty and the Beast” is one of Disney’s best movies. Does the addition of 3-D make the movie that much better? Will a giant 3-D chandelier in the ballroom scene really thrill someone? I don’t think so.

If one of these movies could be decent in 3-D, Star Wars might be it. The movie has enough action and background jumping out at you to make you feel the film.

If 3-D is going to be done right, the best way is to shoot films with things coming out at you. This is what made 3-D successful in the first place.

The best example I can give is with the most recent “Transformers” movie. While the film has certainly had its plot issues, 3-D definitely enhanced this film. Why? Because Michael Bay puts enough explosions in the film to make sure that the audience has ample stuff flying at it. The “Transformers” film puts audiences right in the heart of the action, much like the recreation of “The Phantom Menace” can do.

Regardless of your opinion on the third dimension of movie watching, a bad plot cannot be totally masked. Just because you shined up your nice shoes doesn’t mean it’s going to mask the hole in the side.

The purest side of filmmaking is always in the story and how it is conveyed. Friday Night Lights will always be one of my favorite movies. Not because it is based on football, but because the film uses the imagery of west Texas and has an unconventional plot (spoiler alert: the team loses at the end).

This film didn’t need to be in 3-D to be good; it just needed to tell a story. Taking a film class in college, I watched some of the greatest films of all time: “Citizen Kane,” “On the Waterfront,” and “Hoosiers,” just to name a few. Two of these movies didn’t even need color to convey their message – let alone a third dimension. They all told a story. Somewhere along the line we lost the idea that films need a good story.

Despite huge marketing campaigns that entice me to watch a “recreated” film that I first saw when I was four, I’ll go watch a promising story in the new film “Redtails.” All two dimensions of it.

—Anthony J. Machcinski

In Memoriam – Ken Russell

Ken Russell


By Jeff Bahr

Kearny —

Kearny lost one of its most beloved citizens on Friday, Jan. 27 with the passing of 71-year-old Ken Russell. Russell was well known within the community for his involvement in civic groups, and for his uncommon concern for the poor and disenfranchised.

“Ken was a larger-than-life personality who really lived to be involved with his grandchildren and to be involved with his community,” said Russell’s son-in-law Mark Wiggins, who went on to recount his first meeting with his future father-in-law. “The first time I met him I was a Pioneer boy and Ken came in and he was showing us how to juggle and do magic tricks” said Wiggins. “I never imagined that my children would be blessed with such a wonderful grandfather. My parents are lucky to have had him.”

In addition to his work with several other organizations, Russell served for the past seven years as a member of the Salvation Army’s Kearny Corps Advisory Board. “Ken’s passing is a loss to our Advisory Board and so many civic groups in our communities,” said Rebecca Escobar, Administrative Assistant of Kearny Corps. Escobar added that she was thrilled that Russell will be honored this year at Kearny Corps’ annual dinner.

Russell worked closely with the Salvation Army, particularly during their annual campaign to raise funds for the poor. According to Maj. Brenda Suarez, Russell was “well connected in the community” and was always ready to help out where he could. “Every year he would help with our ‘Kettle Campaign” explained Suarez. “He really touched a lot of lives within the organization.”

Maj. Alberto Suarez also spoke fondly of Russell. “He was very compassionate, especially for social justice issues, said Suarez in describing his friend. “He had a great compassion for poor people.”

Russell was a member of the West Hudson chapter of The Pioneer Boys & Girls of America.

Harrison Police Blotter

Jan. 24

Harold Gadsden, 33, of Harrison, was arrested on a traffic warrant issued by North Arlington. He was released on his own recognizance by North Arlington.

Jan. 23

Someone broke into a car while it was parked beneath Rt. 280 on Sussex St. In breaking a window, the culprit apparently cut himself on the glass and left blood on the glass, which police collected for DNA analysis.


A 1999 Jeep Cherokee was broken into while it was parked on Kingsland Ave. Both door locks were damaged and the car’s ignition was tampered with but nothing was reported stolen. Jan. 21 Someone broke into a BMW while it was parked at Third and Warren Sts. Although the passenger side window was smashed and the vehicle was ransacked, nothing was reported missing by the owner.

Jan. 20

A 2004 Ford F-150 pickup truck was stolen from a parking lot on Essex St. while parked there overnight.

Jesus Delvalle, 25, of Newark, was stopped for a motor vehicle violation on Frank Rodgers Blvd. South when police detected the odor of what they suspected was burnt marijuana coming from his vehicle. After police found he was in possession of two small bags of marijuana, they issued him a summons and released him pending court action.

A 2000 Honda Civic was stolen from Grant Ave. While investigating the theft, police realized that a 1990 Toyota Camry reported stolen from Newark on Jan. 17 was abandoned in the same area where the Civic was stolen from.

Jan. 19

Miguel Cartagena, 37, of Newark, was arrested on an outstanding Newark warrant in a Harrison Ave. store. He was released on his own recognizance by the Newark Municipal Court.

A 2000 Honda Civic was stolen from a private parking lot on Railroad Ave. while it was parked there during the day. The vehicle was recovered the following day a few blocks from where it had been stolen.

A 1998 Honda Civic was stolen from the 400 block of Cleveland Ave. during the early evening hours. It was recovered on Jan. 22 in Newark.

Young Artists featured at NJCU

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Astrella/ The group of students, listed below, with teachers from the Kearny High Art Department. The students who will have their work displayed are as follows: Brittany Calero, Cristian Vidreiro, Felipe Fagundes, Carmina Lasam, Edward Curtis, Kevin Zajac, Devayani Kumaran, Gabrilla Robles,Viktorrija Kulvicaite, Nicole Olivares, Mercedes Lois, and Damian Snider.


Anthony J. Machcinski

America has been called the land of opportunity, a place where people can make a name for themselves irrespective of their race, gender, or social status. Kearny High School is doing its part to keep that idea alive.

As part of the High School Art Exhibition, twelve Kearny High School art students were selected to have their work presented at New Jersey City University (NJCU).

“NJCU reached out to different high schools and I grabbed the opportunity,” said Supervisor of Art, Music and Media Kathleen Astrella. “It’s only going to help (the students) down the road.”

Two works each from different mediums including ceramic, photography, 2-D design, painting, drawing, and graphic arts will be featured at the gallery at NJCU.

The exhibition will afford students an opportunity to have their works viewed and appreciated – something that doesn’t happen often.

“I never really wanted to stand out,” senior Brittany Calero said. “I didn’t want to be a show off.”

“I didn’t really think I had the ability to do something like that, but when Mr. (Diogo) Neto told me, I was glad that he thought I had the ability to,” said sophomore Gabriella Robles.

This inspiration for art is something many of the children have had since they were young.

“Just from being a little kid, I used to doodle around,” said sophomore Kevin Zajac.

Photos courtesy of Kathleen Astrella


Photos courtesy of Kathleen Astrella/ Kearny High artists (Nicole Olivares (top) and Kevin Jazak) show their pieces at NJCU.


“I’ve always drawn since I was really young, so I was always interested in art,” junior Eddie Curtis added.

Sophomore Damien Swider also agreed with his fellow artists.

“When I first came to Kearny, I got an interest in drawing and I heard about the art programs and I told myself, ‘Why not?’” said Swider.

Kearny High maintains large art program that goes into great depth.

“I think here in Kearny it’s an amazing opportunity,” said Diogo Neto, the 2-D art teacher. “They have one art teacher in other schools and you never fully conquer anything. You’re never allowed to take those fundamentals further. In this school, you’re allowed to take a medium and explore deeper.”

This level of detail comes into play in the classroom. Even something as simple as a class project can become a great work.

“It was part of a project, so I decided to experiment with it,” said junior Felipe Fagundes, who created a detailed Spartan mask that will be on display.

The hard work that the students put into making such detailed pieces doesn’t go unnoticed by their teachers, whose job it is to decide which students will be able to go to NJCU.

“It’s difficult to select two pieces,” Gary DiVincenzo, photography teacher and Kearny High alum said. “If you came down to my studio, I had about 1,000 to select from. The kids get anxious who I’ll pick and it was difficult.”

“I have a high standard for their work and when I saw work that exceeded it, I chose it,” Chris McShane, ceramics teacher and fellow Kearny High alum said. “I’m happy about my students work.”

Even though it is the students’ work on display, the hard work and influence of those teachers doesn’t go unnoticed.

“My art teacher has always been supporting me a lot,” said junior Nicole Olavares. “He’s the one who put me in the AP art class where I drew the perspective drawing for the exhibition.”

“ I thought the teachers did an excellent job,” said Astrella. “I can’t say enough about them. They’re very talented. They engage very well with the students and they are very much into differentiated education.”

Through the lessons taught by these teachers, several students have transformed their passion for art into careers.

“I want to go to a college that has art and literature,” said junior Nicole Olavares. “I want to make Manga in Japan.”

“I want to go to college and major in graphic art and business,” said junior Cristian Vidreiro. “I’m looking forward to being a graphic designer and making ads on the computer.”

The amount of passion expressed by all the children is a warming thing for Astrella. “It’s like seeing a kid in a candy store,” Astrella said in describing the feeling students have when they see their work on the gallery wall.“They walk in a room and their artwork is on the gallery wall. It’s like being a little kid on Christmas morning. To me, when you go through life and you get that appreciation, it gives you the energy to want to do better.”

While appreciation is always wonderful, having fun is a worthy goal too.

“Every year I get involved in something different,” said Senior Mercedes Lois, who hopes to go into the physical therapy field. “(Art) is something I enjoy doing, and I got pretty far with it.”

The High School Art Exhibition is currently open at the NJCU Visual Arts Gallery, 100 Culver Ave., Jersey City.

Around Town


The Bloomfield Public Library is partnering with Bloomfield resident Gene Nichols to preserve family stories. Nichols, a retired journalist and public relations executive, is offering to videotape community members 65 and older as they recount memories and milestones in their lives.

Life Story Cam sessions will be held free of charge (for those age 65 and over) at the Bloomfield Public library by appointment. Call Gene Nichols at (347)-560-8056 to schedule. Nichols will conduct an on-camera interview with each participant, which he will format, edit, and create a DVD. “If anyone is unhappy with the results, the material will be discarded,” says Nichols. However if people like it, Nichols will instruct them how to upload their “story” to a website that, with proper access codes, can be viewed by friends and family from far and wide. Samples of the questions he will ask as well as a video explaining the process can be viewed on his website at http://www. lifestorycam.com. Currently, the sessions are by appointment and will (mostly) take place at the library at 90 Broad St. To find out more information and to arrange an interview time, please contact Gene Nichols at (347)560-8056.

Bloomfield Public Library announces the following schedule for its Thursday Afternoon at the Movies program: Feb. 2 – “The Adjustment Bureau” (R) (Matt Damon); Feb. 9 – “Murder, He Says” (NR) (Fred MacMurray); Feb. 16 – “Nothing But a Man” (NR) (Ivan Dixon); Feb. 23 – “The Reader” (R) (Kate Winslet).

The following schedule is for the library’s Monday Afternoon at the Movies program: Feb. 6 – “Rachel Getting Married” (R) (Anne Hathaway); Feb. 13 – “For the Love of Ivy” (G) (Abbey Lincoln); Feb. 20 – “Bridesmaids” (R) (Maya Rudolph); Feb. 27 – “No Name on the Bullet” (NR) (Audie Murphy). Films for both programs start at 12:15 p.m. in the library theater. Admission is free and all are welcome.

East Newark

West Hudson Brave Women Fighting Breast Cancer meets on the last Friday of every month from 7 to 9 p.m. at the East Newark Senior Center, 37 President St. The group will provide an atmosphere of warmth and comfort for patients and family. For more information, call Emma at 201-998-6828, Rosa 201-246- 7750, Fatima 973-485-4236 or email emidura2@yahoo.com. Together we will fight this disease.

Harrison Health educators from the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) will conduct a free poison prevention education program, sponsored by Washington Middle School on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 1 North 5th St., Harrison, at 3:30 p.m. Programs are designed to give New Jersey residents necessary information to adhere to poison safe practices in their home, workplace, and community. Interactive activities and a question and answer period are included in each session, which is about an hour in length. Free educational materials are provided to all participants. The New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES), also known as the Poison Control Center, is a non-profit organization. It is the state’s only poison control center and its free, 24/7 emergency and information hotline (1-800-222-1222) is answered by specially trained healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, and pharmacists). They can assist callers who speak many different languages.

Molly the Therapy Dog made her first visit to the Harrison Public Library. Over 20 children attended the program. Molly will visit the library every month. Contact the library for future dates at 973-483-2366.


The Rosary Society of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 136 Davis Ave., Kearny, will hold its first meeting of the new year on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. in the church hall. Snow date is Thursday, Feb. 9. Cecilian Seniors announce a trip to Resorts Casino on Feb. 8. The bus will leave at 9:30 a.m. from in front of St. Cecilia’s Church. If interested, call Johnnie B. at 201-997- 9552 after 6 to 9 p.m.

Mater Dei Academy presents it’s Annual Raffle Auction on Friday, Feb. 17. On the Red Carpet will be held at St. Stephen’s church hall on Kearny Avenue. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are only $15. Thousands of dollars in prizes! You can purchase tickets at the school office. Tickets sell out quickly so don’t wait!


The Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst has placed a decorated Valentine box 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 library is collecting nonperishable food items for the Lyndhurst Health Department’s Food Pantry. The drop-off box is located inside the library’s back entrance. It will remain there year-round. For questions regarding the Food Pantry, call the Lyndhurst Health Department at 201-804-2500.

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, One Dekorte Park Plaza, Lyndhurst, will host “Mad Science: Wonders of Water!” on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 1 p.m. Marvel as the mad scientist performs wondrous experiments with ice and liquids to illustrate amazing scientific principles in this educational entertainment program perfect for children and their parents. Admission is $5 per person and $4 for MEC members.

Lyndhurst Knights of Columbus Council #2396 is hosting its third annual Tricky Tray on Friday, Feb. 10, at the Senior Citizens Building, 250 Cleveland Ave., Lyndhurst. Tickets are $10, which includes coffee and cake. You can bring your own appetizers for your table. Doors open 6 p.m. Contact Sal Russo 201-446-7244, Michelle Rogan 201-438-2444 or Maria Lesny 201-507-9766.

The Lyndhurst Health Department is hosting a monthly health lecture series, made possible through a partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center. The next lecture will be held on Friday, Feb. 17, starting at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be served. February’s lecture topic will be: Preventing Heart Attack and Stroke. Please call the Lyndhurst Health Department at 201-804-2500 to reserve a seat.

North Arlington

The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Queen of Peace Parish will be conducting a blood drive on Sunday, Jan. 29, beginning at 9:00 a.m. and ending at 1:00 p.m. at the LaSalle Center (located across the street from Queen of Peace Church) on Church Street. Every successful donor will be given a $10 Shop- Rite gift card.

The North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Road, announces a Valentine luncheon and dance will be held on Friday, Feb. 17, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A trip to Mohegan Sun Casino with a St. Patrick’s Day show in Mystic Village is scheduled for Saturday, March 17. For more information, call 201-998-5636.


The Wednesday Afternoon Knitting Club meets at the Nutley Public Library every week from 1 to 3 p.m. Come share your love of knitting and crocheting with both beginning and experienced knitters. Meet fellow knitters, brush-up on your skills, and learn some new techniques. Please bring your own supplies. This group meets every Wednesday.

Adult Scrabble Night will be held at the library on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for first and second place scores. Matinee Fridays: Classic Films program will be held on at the library every Friday at 2 p.m. Please check the monthly calendar, flyer or Facebook for the titles of the films. Saturday Story Time and crafts for children of all ages is held at the library on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Registration is not required.

Nutley grapplers take rivals to mat in capturing Essex County title

Photo courtesy of Rob Trombetta/ The Nutley wrestling team celebrates winning its first Essex County Tournament championship Saturday at the Codey Arena in West Orange.


By Jim Hague

The Essex County wrestling championships were still a day away last Friday night, but Nutley High School head coach Frank DiPiano started to feel a little of the pressure.

DiPiano was helping to set up at the Codey Arena in West Orange, putting up tables and chairs to prepare for the tourney a day later, when it started to hit him.

“I felt a little weak in my knees,” DiPiano said. “I was a little queasy. I knew all these people were expecting big things from us, expecting us to do something that was never done before. We didn’t know the feeling of being a county champ, yet the expectations were very high. It was a little different with the expectations of doing something that had never been done before.”

The Maroon Raiders had come close in the past, but never won the team title in the Essex County tourney. With a deep lineup and a host of talented wrestlers, this was going to be the year. Or so it seemed.

When DiPiano took the job at Nutley, he insisted that it would take five years to make the program respectable and competitive. Well, the Maroon Raiders were already competitive and DiPiano had certainly made the program extremely respectable, but they had yet to reach the pinnacle.

DiPiano’s worries soon subsided Saturday, when the Maroon Raiders raced out to an impressive early lead.

“We got off to a great start and by the quarterfinal round, we had jumped out to a pretty big lead,” DiPiano said. “From there, things just sort of kept rolling. My nerves were high, but they went away pretty quickly. It was like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders.”

Led by overall champions Bobby Trombetta (120 pounds) and Nick Gaeta (195), the Maroon Raiders steamrolled to their first-ever Essex County Tournament title.

Nutley had 203 points, with West Orange finishing second with 169 and Seton Hall Prep third with 153. Bloomfield was fifth and Belleville sixth in the 24-team field.

“It says a lot about the kids,” DiPiano said. “There was a lot of hard work and time put in. Everyone is still on a high. The JV (junior varsity) kids were even excited, because they know they had a major part in it. The phone has been ringing with people offering congratulations. They can’t get over it. (Former head coach) Carmen LoRe now lives in Florida and he was calling me every minute or so. Parents are calling. Alumni members are calling, thanking us. They all never saw this before, but they’re all as thrilled and as happy as we are.”

The Maroon Raiders placed six wrestlers among the top three in their respective weight classes and had 11 wrestlers earn medals overall.

“They showed incredible balance,” DiPiano said. “I preached to the kids that if they lost early, that winning matches in the wrestleback rounds meant just as much and that’s how you win team titles. A lot of kids lost early and came back to win.”

Trombetta didn’t lose at all, winning his third straight county crown. He was defeating Nick Polimeni of Seton Hall Prep, 12-1, in the fi nal round when Polimeni had to take an injury default in the second period due a shoulder injury.

Incredibly, the win over Polimeni was the 100th win in Trombetta’s career. Trombetta, who fi nished seventh at 112 pounds at the NJSIAA state tournament last year, is well on his way to a return trip to Atlantic City, improving his seasonal mark to 23-1.

“There’s no doubt about the fact that Bobby was zoned in,” DiPiano said. “He was raring to go. It was like he was possessed. We all knew we were watching something special.” Trombetta now has a chance next year to become the eighth wrestler in Essex County history to win four consecutive county titles, the last one being Belleville’s Filiberto Colon in 2008.

Gaeta won the 195-pound title, earning his first county gold medal. Gaeta, a senior, defeated Dante Bellamy of Montclair in the fi nals. Bellamy is ranked among the top wrestlers in the state in his weight class.

“Nick was just very focused,” DiPiano said. “He was feeling pretty good and I’m glad for the kid that he won.”

Freshman Anthony DiLorenzo was second at 106 pounds, getting to the finals with an upset win over Belleville’s Rocco Genova.

Brandon Keena (160 pounds) and Andre Hamlin (heavyweight) both placed third for the Maroon Raiders. Keena is a junior, while Hamlin is a senior.

“We feel pretty good right now,” DiPiano said. “But we’re not stopping here. We have other things to shoot for.” The Maroon Raiders have 15 wins this season and if they defeat Columbia this week, that will give them a new school record for wins in a season. The Maroon Raiders are in line to receive a high seed in the upcoming NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III sectionals, with powerhouses like South Plainfi eld, Warren Hills and JFK-Iselin as possible foes.

“We’ve set a lot of goals,” DiPiano said. “We set the bar pretty high and we want to keep going. We’re not settling for anything.”

Among the other locals, Justin Colon of Belleville won his second straight county title, edging past Mike Marotti of West Essex, 3-1, in overtime, to capture the 126-pound championship. Colon now has 145 career victories, moving closer to the school and county records of 156, set by his older brother, Filiberto.

Football coach’s arrest has Lyndhurst in shock

Photo by Jim Hague/ Lyndhurst football coach Scott Rubinetti, shown here last fall, is currently suspended from his coaching position after he was arrested last week for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a female student.


By Jim Hague

The 2011 high school football season had come to an end and Lyndhurst football coach Scott Rubinetti, proud of the school’s best grid season in almost 30 years, complete with an NJSIAA first-round state playoff victory, was already thinking about the future.

“We need the program to take the extra step,” Rubinetti said in late November. “We’re already motivated for next year.”

Rubinetti had every right to be pointing toward the future. He was ready to have a host of talented kids back from the Golden Bear team that went 8-3 last season. “We have the pieces to keep things going, if the kids continue to work hard,” Rubinetti said at the time. “We had a great run this year, but we have to keep it going forward.”

He beamed with pride about being able to bring a winner back to his alma mater. He talked about his family’s storied history with the program.

“My grandfather was part of the booster club and my father (John) was a team captain (in 1963),” Rubinetti said. “All of my father’s good friends played at Lyndhurst. I played here (Class of 1990). I grew up with the history and tradition of Lyndhurst. It’s always been a part of my family. It’s great to see this all happen. I’ve always had a sense of pride about Lyndhurst. I got to be a part of it as a player, now I am part of it as a coach. We put Lyndhurst back on the map, where it should be.”

Three months later, Rubinetti has put Lyndhurst on the map all right, but this time, it’s at the center of the Bergen County police blotter.

Last week, the 39-year-old Rubinetti was arrested out of Lyndhurst High School, taken away in handcuffs, charged with sexual assault of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and witness tampering.

Now the prospects of coaching at his alma mater, of maintaining a rich family tradition are greatly threatened.

Last week, after a lengthy investigation, members of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit and the Lyndhurst Police Department took Rubinetti into custody, after they concluded was significant evidence against Rubinetti having a sexual relationship with a female student, aged 17 at the time, during a period between 2009, soon after Rubinetti was hired by the school district, through 2010, when the student graduated from Lyndhurst.

The Prosecutor’s Office was working on information it had received from an anonymous teacher at Lyndhurst, who reported the alleged affair to school and law officials.

Rubinetti also allegedly, police say, contacted the teenager and asked her to lie to law enforcement officers if asked about the relationship.

The Lyndhurst community is shaken and stunned by the news of Rubinetti’s arrest. The Board of Education put a moratorium against anyone speaking to the media in regards to the case. Students, coaches, administrators, you name it, have been advised not to say a word.

But the people that I have spoken to, the ones not directly tied to the school, the ones who either follow Lyndhurst football or have kids who have played or still play, are in a state of shock.

It’s as if someone had died suddenly, only with no chance to truly mourn; there’s a sense of anger and dismay.

And everyone asks the same exact questions: “How could he have done this?” Or “What was he thinking?”

We’ll never know the answers to those questions. No one can know what was going on in Rubinetti’s mind. He’s a married man with huge responsibilities, holding the job he worked for his entire life. He had the world on the proverbial string with a Board of Education that fully supported him and was willing to go to war for him in the context of his coaching duties.

Sure, Rubinetti is innocent until he is proven guilty in the court of law. For now, he’s been suspended with pay until the investigation moves further.

But sources tell me it doesn’t have to move further to prove one thing. Rubinetti had a sexual relationship with the young lady. Whether he had the young lady’s consent or not is irrelevant. He’s a teacher who had sex with a student. Case closed. He crossed the line. He’s done.

And, if he’s found guilty, he could be headed for a hefty prison stay. In all likelihood, he would never teach or coach again.

Incredibly, four years ago, there were reports of Rubinetti allegedly being involved in similar activity at his former place of employment, Northern Valley/ Demarest High School. I’ve spoken to at least three sources, a teacher, an administrator and a parent, who claimed to have heard the rumors of Rubinetti playing “slap and tickle” inappropriately with female students at Demarest.

But none of that came to light when he was hired at his alma mater. An investigation conducted by the Lyndhurst Board of Education came up clean and he was hired by his alma mater.

When Rubinetti was hired, it was a no-brainer. He’s a hometown guy, a homegrown product with a proven winning record and a seemingly stellar background.

In fact, last fall, no one could have ever surmised that something was wrong. The Golden Bears were winning. They won a state playoff game. It was a return to glory for Lyndhurst football with a hometown hero leading the way. Things couldn’t have been better.

Now, Lyndhurst folks are scratching their heads in utter disbelief. How could this have happened?

Already there have been meetings with the returning football players, with administrators and counselors trying to tell the kids that everything will be just fine.

But it won’t be easy. The Board of Education could do a very smart thing by bringing back former head coach Joe Castagnetti if he wants the job. Castagnetti was the highly successful head coach before Rubinetti came back three years ago. At the time, Castagnetti stepped down to spend more time with his young family, but he returned to serve as an assistant to Rubinetti.

It would be a wise move in terms of keeping status quo and not upsetting the cattle cart more than it has already been tossed about by Rubinetti’s alleged indiscretions.

Even bringing Castagnetti back won’t solve all the problems. Lyndhurst has a gigantic black eye right now. There’s healing to be done before anything else.

And there’s the shame in the whole thing. The kids are the ones who will suffer. Not just the victim, who has already moved on. But also the returning football players, the ones who lost their coach suddenly last week, when he was taken out in handcuffs.

If the accusations are true, it’s safe to say that Scott Rubinetti never thought of those kids when he started to carry on with a student a few years ago. It’s safe to say he never thought what his actions would mean to his players, never mind his poor wife. It’s safe to say he never thought of anything.

He would be planning for another state playoff berth in 2012 instead of planning his defense in a sexual assault trial.

Lyndhurst keglers capture Bergen County title

Photo courtesy of Michael Rizzo/ The Lyndhurst High School bowling team captured the Bergen County Groups 1 and 2 Championship Saturday at Bowler City in Hackensack. Front row, from left, are head coach Michael Rizzo, John Missagia, Mike Dul, Lexus Lopez, and assistant coach Andres Lopez. Back row, from left, are Paul Ulrich, Jordan Lopez, Nyquan Johnson and Carmine Battista.


By Jim Hague

When the high school bowling season began, Lyndhurst head coach Michael Rizzo knew that he had the makings of a special team, one that could actually compete for the Bergen County Championships among Group 1 and 2 schools.

“I did feel good about our chances,” Rizzo said. “We were right up there with some of the other elite programs.”

A week before the county tournament, held Saturday at Bowler City in Hackensack, Rizzo had an even better feeling.

“We had been bowling our best all year recently and hitting our stride,” Rizzo said. “The kids had been bowling the way I expected them to. We’ve been a good tournament team all year long.”

However, disaster seemed to strike the Golden Bears last Monday, when senior captain Carmine Battista severely sprained his ankle playing basketball during a gym class.

“I was going up for a layup and I got pushed from behind,” Battista said. “I came down on my ankle wrong and twisted it bad. I was in unbelievable pain.”

“I got a text message Monday that Carmine was wheeled out of school in a wheelchair,” Rizzo said. “My first thoughts were all expletives.”

The Golden Bears had a crucial NJIC Meadowlands Division match that day against Becton Regional. It was hard for the team to move forward without Battista.

“Carmine’s the captain and the team’s leader, like I expected him to be,” Rizzo said. “We go as Carmine goes.”

“I saw the season flash before my eyes,” Battista said. “I knew I had to go to the doctor’s right away. I didn’t even wait. I skipped lunch and went to the doctor.”

After paying a visit to local doctor Dr. Michael Subik, who fitted Battista in a protective boot, Battista went to the bowling alley that afternoon.

“Dr. Subik didn’t want me to bowl,” Battista said. “I was very lucky it wasn’t broken. But I had to help our team beat Becton (Regional).”

Battista bowled only one game on the injured ankle, but it was good enough to lead the Golden Bears to the big win.

On Saturday, still hobbled by the injured ankle and still donning the protective boot, Battista led his team into the county championships.

“When he got hurt, I figured he was out,” Rizzo said. “But he went out there and was gimping around. He performed like Willis Reed.”

Reed was the captain of the New York Knicks who miraculously was able to come out of the tunnel in Madison Square Garden on a severely injured hip to lead the Knicks to a win in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals.

Battista was a lot like Reed Saturday.

“If we didn’t have him, we never would have had a shot,” Rizzo said. “He wasn’t 100 percent and he was sore, but he was able to bowl six games.”

“It had been hurting all week and it hurt pretty bad on Saturday,” Battista said. “But I had to go out there. I had to do it for my team. I could barely feel my ankle on Saturday, but I stuck through it and tried my best.”

Battista was able to bowl a six-game series of 1,230, which was good enough for 19th overall. It also was good enough to lead the Golden Bears to their first county title since 1998.

“Funny, I’m not even worried about my ankle now,” Battista said. “I knew we had the capability to win if we all bowled well. It’s great to be able to win the county, because a lot of people didn’t think we could do it. It’s really something I wanted before I graduated.”

Battista isn’t the only Golden Bear bowler to come through in the clutch on Saturday.

Junior Lexus Lopez, the lone female on the boys’ bowling team, led the way with a 1,245 series, the 17th best total of all bowlers. Younger brother Jordan Lopez, a freshman, rolled a 1,223 series, good for 21st overall.

That’s solid consistency between the Golden Bears’ top three bowlers.

The Lopez family has a strong contribution with the team. Lexus, who also plays girls’ basketball, has been a mainstay for the last few years. Jordan has emerged this year as a talented freshman.

“They’re such a different pair,” Rizzo said. “Lexus bottles up her emotions more. Jordan is still a young kid, only 14 years old, but he’s very emotional. Lexus is the mentor to her brother and has been bringing him along, talking him through things. Jordan has to control his emotions more.”

Their father, Andres Lopez, is the team’s volunteer assistant coach.

“We definitely appreciate him,” Rizzo said. “He’s with us all the time. He makes adjustments on the lanes and he’s a great right-hand man to have.”

Senior Paul Ulrich was a solid bowler, averaging 186 all season.

“He’s been the model of consistency,” Rizzo said.

Senior Nyquan Johnson, who transferred to Lyndhurst after a stint at a school in Brooklyn, has been a solid addition, averaging in the 190s. Johnson is another who is juggling basketball and bowling in the same season.

Sophomore Michael Dul shared time with Johnson in the county tournament, as Lyndhurst defeated runner-up Pascack Hills by a 5,875-5,691 margin. Westwood was third. North Arlington finished 10th and Queen of Peace was 19th overall.

“It feels great,” Rizzo said. “It’s nice to see the kids get rewarded for putting in all the time and effort. It’s all paying off now. They deserve what they won.”

The Golden Bears will now move on to the NJSIAA state sectionals Feb. 11 also at Bowler City. Lexus Lopez will compete in the girls’ state sectionals this weekend, also at Bowler City.

LOL – Laugh Out Loud

Like many of you, I fear failure. So where do we go when we suffer such letdowns? How do we heal and regain our strength back? For some, recovery happens quickly. For others it’s a longer journey. It is in times like these that alternative beliefs bring solace. I believe in laughter therapy. I trust it completely to elevate me from my situation and begin afresh.

In India, it is not uncommon to find clubs where people gather purely for this therapy every morning. It is considered one of the most effective forms of exercise and has been extremely popular with learned yogis for centuries. Laughter is a powerful antidote to emotional distress, conflict, stress and pain. Laughing aloud helps release endorphins in the brain that enable an individual to think clearly, gain confidence and perform better at dealing with troubles. Nothing works better or faster to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burden and inspires fresh hope. It also acts as a catalyst to help you connect with others on a more grounded and focused level. The art of tricking the mind to laugh off your worries works brilliantly since the body cannot differentiate between a genuine laugh and an artificial one. Laughing is also one of the most economical treatments.

I have personally benefitted by combining this therapy with deep breathing exercises – better known as Yoga. The stretching and discipline that these exercises demand help to rejuvenate one’s senses. It enhances the quality of your life. Knowledge is power.

Understand how your body needs to be in complete balance for you to experience a perfect state of well being. Let us learn to love ourselves today. A healthy body and a happy mind can help you live longer too. So give yourself a break and laugh out loud today.


Visit Shweta Punjabi at her website solutionsbyshweta.com for more information or email her at magictaara@yahoo.com