web analytics

Castagnetti returns as Lyndhurst grid coach

Photo by Jim Hague/ Joe Castagnetti, who was the head football coach at Lyndhurst from 2002 through 2008, has been re-hired as the head coach of the Golden Bears.


By Jim Hague

When Joe Castagnetti resigned as the head football coach at Lyndhurst High School after the 2008 season, he stepped aside with his family in mind.

“It was a crazy time for my wife, Jodi, and my kids and me,” Castagnetti said. “I didn’t know what my kids wanted to do. It was still unknown. It’s still crazy now, but not as crazy.”

That’s because Castagnetti’s children – Isabella (11), Joey (10) and Francesca (8) – are a little older now.

“When I stepped down, it wasn’t easy,” Castagnetti said. “Coaching football was tough on them and on my wife. Football became an issue, even though it’s always been a part of my life.”

Plus, at the time of his resignation, Castagnetti had just received a promotion within the Lyndhurst school district. He was also relieved to know that his friend and former teammate Scott Rubinetti was taking over the program, with Rubinetti coming home to become the head coach.

The Golden Bears enjoyed their best season since 1983 last fall, winning eight games and advancing in the NJSIAA state playoffs for the first time in almost 30 years with a win over neighboring rival Rutherford.

However, adversity struck the program during the offseason, when Rubinetti was suspended without pay as a teacher and coach after his arrest last January for his alleged sexual involvement with a teenage student girl. Rubinetti still has to face the charges of his shocking arrest.

Castagnetti served as an assistant coach for the last two seasons and was the defensive coordinator on last year’s successful squad. To keep a sense of continuity and decorum from last year’s team – with a ton of talented players returning – it only made sense for Castagnetti to return to his position as head coach.

“As soon as it happened, I had a conversation with Jodi about me returning,” Castagnetti said. “She knows how much I love to coach and how much I loved the kids. I’ve learned how to deal with family life and deal with things. Coaching was doable.”

Castagnetti approached Lyndhurst vice-principal Frank Venezia, who ironically was one of Castagnetti’s football coaches at Lyndhurst, and discussed the situation.

“We felt it was the best thing to do for the kids,” Castagnetti said. “Mr. Venezia and I sat down after it happened and thought it was the best thing to keep things as normal as possible. We all agreed that it was the best situation.”

So Castagnetti was named the interim head coach in February. Last week, the Lyndhurst Board of Education decided to lift the interim tag and appointed Castagnetti as the head coach once again, a position he held from 2002 through 2008, posting solid records of 7-3 in 2004 and 6-4 in his final season of 2008.

“I think everyone just wanted to keep operations moving in the right direction,” Castagnetti said. “We had a good season last year. We want to keep Lyndhurst on the map. We’re going to be alright. The kids know who I am and they know what I’m all about.”

Castagnetti said that he was approached by hundreds of people who wanted to know if he was going to return as head coach.

“Everywhere I went, I was getting bombarded by people, stopping me, asking me if I would take it over,” Castagnetti said. “I couldn’t say anything because of the process. I had to low key everything. But it all worked out. I’m happy. The kids are happy. We’re ready to get to work.”

The Golden Bears were already involved in their extensive weight training program and started 7-on-7 scrimmages last week with Weehawken, Harrison and St. Anthony of Jersey City. It’s business as usual for Lyndhurst football.

“Things happen for a reason,” Castagnetti said. “For me to go back makes the most sense. I’m just happy the way it all played out.”

Castagnetti was asked about the reaction of the players.

“They’re excited,” Castagnetti said. “When it all happened, they immediately asked me what was going to happen with the team. It was tough for me, because at the time, I couldn’t tell them. I just tried to keep them upbeat.”

And now?

“Without a doubt, they’re ready,” Castagnetti said. “They’re chomping at the bit just to compete again. We want to pick up where we left off last season.”

Sure, the cloud of controversy hasn’t fully left Lyndhurst, considering that Rubinetti’s case has not come up for trial or whether he’s working on a plea deal. But at the very least, the Lyndhurst football program has a very familiar face to lead the way. A newcomer, an outsider, didn’t have to be brought in.

“Everything is going to be fine,” Castagnetti said. “We’re definitely moving forward from all of this.”

Go with what you trust


By Randy Neumann

What’s wrong with the UGMA? Plenty. UGMA (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act) and UTMA (Uniform Transfers to Minors Act) are ugly acronyms – and poor planning vehicles as well – so why not turn ‘em in for a new model? But first, a short lesson in government and history.

States, in these United States, are supposed to have “uniform” laws among them. Does that mean that each state’s legislature is smart enough to pass the same laws at the same time? Not really. It works as follows: There is a group of lawyers, judges and law professors known as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws that proposes model legislation. Then, it’s up to the individual states to determine whether they’ll adopt them and what changes they’ll make. This is where the horse-trading takes place to placate various special interest groups.

UGMAs were first introduced in 1956 and were adopted by all the states shortly afterward. They were created to provide a convenient way to make gifts of money and securities (stocks, bonds and mutual funds) to minors for college funding. In 1986, UTMAs, which expand the types of property you can transfer to a minor, replaced UGMAs. (Since most people still refer to them as UGMAs, I’ll use that name for both).

You can think of these vehicles as “a poor man’s trust.” They are available from various financial institutions – banks, brokerage houses, et al. at no cost. UGMAs are similar to trusts in that both place property under the control of a person who isn’t the beneficial owner – that is, the person who has the ultimate right to enjoy the fruits of the property. In the case of a trust, a trustee manages the property for the benefit of the beneficiaries. In the case of a custodial account, the custodian manages the property for the benefit of the minor.

Yet custodial accounts are not trusts. In fact, the whole point of UGMA and UTMA is to permit you to transfer property to a minor without establishing a trust. The legal framework for trusts is much more elaborate than for custodial accounts. Generally speaking, trusts are more expensive (usually costing a few thousand dollars), more complicated, and more timeconsuming than custodial accounts. Because UGMAs are not trusts, they have some undesirable features. The first is, when the child reaches “majority,” which is between 18 and 21 years of age depending on the state, the money becomes the child’s. So, that hard-earned and wisely invested money earmarked for the child’s education can wind up in a sports car dealer’s account.

The second problem with UGMAs is the taxation. If the child is under age 14, the first $950 of unearned income is tax-free. Earnings from $951 to $1,900 are taxed at the child’s income tax rate. Earnings over $1,900 are taxed at the parent’s rate. For a child aged 14 or over, all income is taxed at the child’s rate.

The third problem with UGMAs is in the estate possibilities. If the custodian (say, the father of the child) dies while acting as custodian, the entire account balance is included in the custodian’s estate. If, to avoid this result, the father names his spouse (the mother) as custodian and she dies at a time when state law imposes upon her the duty to support the child (most often after the father’s death), the account balance may be included in her estate as well.

What is the solution to the UGMAs problems? There are two. One is to set up a trust. Such a trust might be a Minor’s Trust, which is a creature of the Internal Revenue Code Section 2503(c). It has many advantages over UGMAs. First, you can name yourself as the trustee. The trust can be authorized to invest in virtually any prudent investment. The trustee can loan to and borrow from the trust at adequate interest rates and even retain the right to change the trustee within.

However, since it will cost you a few thousand dollars to set up (and more to maintain) this trust, you really need to be able to contribute a lot of money to make it worthwhile.

Another solution is a Section 529 college savings plan. It also gets its name from the Internal Revenue Code because this is a federal law and it has several advantages over UGMAs. The first is in taxation. If you use the money for a child’s college expense, there is no tax on gains in the account. Unlike an UGMA that becomes the child’s property at age 18, a 529 plan does not. A 529 plan cannot be included in the donor’s estate nor is it considered an asset of the child for financial-aid calculations.

Further advantages of a 529 plan over an UGMA include the ability for the donor to change the beneficiary or to take money out of the plan. Lastly, you can convert an UGMA into a 529 plan. Please consult your legal advisor prior to taking action.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for the individual. Randy Neumann, CFP is a registered representative with and securities and insurance offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/ SIPC. He can be reached at 600 East Crescent Avenue, Suite 104, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458, 201-291-9000.


Iris E. Boris

Iris E. (Neubert) Boris, 83, formerly of Kearny, died Wednesday, June 20, in Milton, Ga. Iris was preceded in death by her husband of 64 years, Paul Boris; father, Joseph Michael Neubert; mother, Iris Ida Miller; and half-sister, Joan MacLean. She is survived by her son Paul L. Boris, Milton, Ga.; three daughters, Sharon Boris, Tucson, Ariz.; Diane Yager, Kearny and Jill Eckert, Cumming, Ga.; 11 grandchildren and 15 greatgrandchildren.

Iris was laid to rest beside her husband following a graveside service held at the Georgia National Cemetery, Canton, Ga. Arrangements were by the Northside Chapel Funeral Directors and Crematory, Roswell, Ga.

Edward D. Clifford

Edward D. Clifford, 81, of Toms River, formerly of Kearny, died on June 17 at his home.

Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass was held in St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny. Interment was in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. To leave online condolences, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.

Mr. Clifford was a toll collector with the N.J. Turnpike Association for 10 years retiring in 1995. Prior to that, he was a metalurgist with RCA, Harrison, for over 20 years. He also served in The United States Navy Reserves after The Korean Conflict.

He is the beloved husband of the late Florence Potulski Clifford; father of Kathleen (Michael) Singerline, Joseph (Dorothy), David (Deborah), and Mark (Susan) Clifford; brother of Ruth Cucchira, Jeanette Kearns and the late John (Buddy) Clifford; grandfather of Laura, Sarah, Tabitha, Nick, Amanda, Heather and Mark.

In lieu of flowers, donations to The American Cancer Society would be appreciated.


 John Graniello

“If you met him once, you fell in love with him,” according to Robert Pezzolla, a close family friend.

John Graniello, 16, of Fort Lee passed away on June 8, leaving behind his mother Lazara Capote, father Michael Graniello, and siblings Vincent and Chloe. Services were held at Hunt Stellato Funeral Home in Fort Lee.

John was a junior at Fort Lee High School, where he was a member of the morning television newscast. John completed his SAT the weekend before his passing and was excited for the opportunity to start his college career.

John was loved and respected by everyone who knew him. One teacher noted that “there are certain students who remain in a teacher’s heart and John was one of them.”

Even with a job at Fairway Market and a heavy school workload, John was able to keep up his upbeat and positive demeanor. His caring personality drew many to say that he was “the nicest kid I’ve ever met.”

During the funeral ceremony on June 13, the priest read John’s autobiography, completed just days before his death. In the autobiography, John devoted a large part of his work to his mother, Lazara, who John considered his idol, mentor, and friend.

Ferdinand F. Stecher

Ferdinand F. Stecher “Freddy” died on June 17 at Clara Maass Hospital. He was 72. Born in Newark, he moved to Belleville 40 years ago.

Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass was held in Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington. Interment was in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. To leave online condolence, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com

Freddy was a fueler at Newark airport for over 30 years and was in the Marine Corps from 1958-1964. He is a life member of the Marine Corps League in Kearny and was a Devil Dog.

Surviving are his wife Phyllis (nee Siccone), his children Robert Stecher, Tracy Cordero, Danielle Davis, Claire Louise Morinho, Ronny Stecher and Dawn Giuliano; his sister Loretta Gallagher, 15 grand www.theobserver.com and 12 great-grandchildren.


According to the American Red Cross and the Community Blood Council of New Jersey blood supplies are at critical lows this summer. In fact, blood supplies in June nationwide already are 50,000 pints less than they were this time last year.

Clara Maass Medical Center and the American Red Cross will host a Blood Drive on Monday, July 2, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in Greifinger Lecture Hall at the Medical Center located at 1 Clara Maass Drive, Belleville.

Individuals who are 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate. High school students may have to meet certain height and weight requirements. For a full list of eligibility requirements for donors please visit www.redcrossblood.org. All blood types are needed.

On the day of please bring picture identification, remember to eat a healthy meal and drink plenty of fluids before donating.

To make an appointment, please visit http://www.redcrossblood.org/make-donation-sponsor and enter:
Sponsor Code: 02210161
From Date:  07/01/2012
To Date:  07/03/2012

For more information, please contact Jeanette Fernandez, Blood Bank supervisor, Clara Maass Medical Center, at 973-450-2722.

Belleville Police Blotter

June 15

A nurse at Clara Maass Hospital contacted police with a complaint of a “disorderly and uncooperative patient” at 2:45 p.m. She told officers that after walking into the man’s room he grabbed her and threw her against a wall and shouted, “you’re not taking my blood! I’m not staying in here!” This prompted security guards to intervene. When they did, the man began to strike them. Police were able to subdue David Michael Finley, 40, of Newark. He was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated assault. His bail was set at $5,030.


June 13

Officers responded to the area of Washington Ave and Greylock Parkway on a report of a motor vehicle accident at 9:47 p.m. While speaking with the driver of one of the vehicles, officers noticed that his pupils were dilated and his speech was slurred. Michael Mcinernui, 33, of Kearny was arrested and charged with D.W.I. after failing a field sobriety test. He was released on his own recognizance.


Officers were dispatched to 31 Reagan Ave. Apt #1 at 6:38 p.m. on a report of a burglary.  The victim said that after arriving home, he noticed that the front door was ajar and that the doorknob had been ripped off of it. Upon closer inspection, he noticed that $5000 worth of jewelry was missing from the premises. Police are investigating.


June 10


At 5:05 a.m., officers were sent to Belleville News and Food at 111 Newark Ave. on a report of an individual who had made off with bundles of newspapers. When police arrived at the store they observed a man at the corner of Naples Ave. attempting to conceal two bundles of newspapers. Paul Vilmenay, 42, of East Orange was charged with theft and receiving stolen property. A subsequent search of Vilmenay’s vehicle uncovered 150 newspapers that had been stolen from Montclair. He was held in lieu of bail.


June 9

Officers responded to Magnolia St. and Newark Ave. at 6: 59 p.m. on a report of a motor vehicle accident with a vehicle leaving the scene. The victim said that the vehicle was traveling the wrong way on Magnolia St. and struck his vehicle before stopping. When he asked the driver why he was driving in the wrong direction, the man grabbed a dark colored object, waved it menacingly and started running toward the victim’s car. He then took off. Police spotted his car shortly thereafter and pulled it over. They observed a brown wooden pipe inside his car that matched the description of the object that had been brandished earlier. Louis Reed, 38, of Belleville was charged with simple assault, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. He was also charged with several motor vehicle offenses. He was released on his own recognizance. — Jeff Bahr

Nutley Blotter

Big drug bust nails AWOL soldier

Two Newark men were apprehended during a suspected drug deal just outside the southern tip of Yantacaw Park and just a half-block from Holy Family parochial school on the night of June 13.

Undercover police detectives arrested Cory Hicks, 25, and Abubakir Muhammad, 24, after observing what police described as an apparent narcotics transaction at Franklin Ave. and Harrison St. at 9:30 p.m.

Police said the plainclothes unit observed several small plastic packages thrown from the window of a 2000 Lexus and those packages were later found to contain what was believed to be crack cocaine.

Police said detectives recovered 79 bags of suspected crack cocaine, 85 bags of a white substance believed to be heroin and 55 vials of suspected powder cocaine, all packaged for alleged distribution, along with unidentified narcotics paraphernalia.

They also seized 100 bags of suspected marijuana and residue.

Hicks, who, according to police, was listed as being away without leave from the military, was charged with possession of drugs, distribution within 500 feet of a park and within 1,000 feet of a school and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was taken to Essex County Jail, Newark, on $50,000 bail.

Muhammad was charged with possession of drugs. Police said he also had an outstanding warrant out of Belleville. Muhammad was released, pending a court hearing, after posting $5,000 bail.

A third party who was inside the car with the two suspects wasn’t charged, nor was the woman driving the vehicle, which, according to police, was registered to another individual.

In an unrelated incident on June 14, at 10:50 p.m., police detectives stopped a motorist, David Connolly, 40, of Lyndhurst, for alleged motor vehicle violations on Washington Ave. near Park Ave.

But Connolly was soon in more trouble after detectives found that the driver had prescription medication for which he had no prescription, according to police. Police said detectives recovered packages of white powder, unidentified pills, Oxycontin pills and unidentified paraphernalia.

Connolly was arrested on charges of possession of drugs and possession of paraphernalia and was released after being issued a summons for a court appearance.

Nutley Police Director/Mayor Alphonse Petracco credited the detectives for their vigilance. “Drug offenders will not be tolerated in this town,” he said.

In other incidents logged by police for the past week:

June 15

At 9:27 a.m. police and Rescue Squad members responded to Wilson Ave. where, police said, a 26-year-old woman tripped over an exposed water pipe, suffering deep cuts and ankle injuries. She was taken to an area hospital for treatment.

June 14

A red dump truck was reported stolen from an Essex St. home at 11:48 p.m.

An intruder tried to break into a Parallel Ave. house at 7:42 p.m. The occupants told police they heard noises, then heard their 2-year-old child say “hello’’ to someone. Next, they spotted two men running from the side of the house, police said. Police are investigating.

June 13

Three residents called police within a 45-minute span, between 9:14 and 9:59 p.m., to report their homes had been “egged.” The vandalism took place on Bloomfield Ave., Highfield Ave. and Walnut St., police said. At 9:30 p.m. police said a resident reported spotting a juvenile in a silver vehicle driving around and throwing eggs at homes. Residents were advised of their rights to sign criminal mischief charges.

A neighborhood dispute brought police to a Crestwood Ave. location at 5:03 p.m. where a resident complained that a woman’s dogs were allegedly digging holes in her garden. The dog’s owner was issued summons for unlicensed dogs.

Someone swiped a lawn flag from in front of a Brookline Ave. resident’s home about around 5 p.m., police said.

June 12

A sports-minded thief struck gold when he came upon a golf bag left unattended by the owner outside the front door of a Lakeside Drive home. Police said the owner returned for the bag, only to find it had been opened and more than $800 worth of clubs gone. Police logged the report at 9:12 a.m.

June 11

A Franklin Ave. tenant was surprised by the appearance of an unknown man at her window, at 10:46 p.m., asking for someone who didn’t live there. After he was told that no one by that name lived there, the man climbed back down the fire escape and left, the tenant told police.

June 10

A Plymouth Road resident emptying a swimming pool experienced a malfunction, causing significant flooding to a neighbor’s basement, police said. The incident was reported at 6:46 p.m.

Police responded to reports of a brawl at a Centre St. bar at 1:43 a.m. There, on the ground, they found the victim, having suffered scrapes and minor injuries. Police said the suspected assailant was located outside the bar but denied any involvement. A day earlier, police went to the same bar at 1:47 a.m. to check out a reported fight but no charges were filed.

June 9

Police discovered several adult pornographic magazines “strategically laid out” on a bench in Father Glotzbach Park, off Grant Ave., at 4:40 p.m. Police said the reading materials were “in viewing proximity of small children.”

An angry crowd, upset over a dog left unattended for more than an hour in a car parked outside a Franklin Ave. store, confronted the owner, causing police to intervene at 4:23 p.m. Police calmed everyone and advised them of their rights to sign complaints. No summonses were issued.

June 8

A 33-year-old man cleaning gutters at a Mountainview Ave. residence suffered multiple injuries after falling off the roof at around 5 p.m., police said. He was taken to an area hospital for treatment.

A Nutley High School student was allegedly assaulted while entering his car in Municipal Lot 1, police said. The incident was reported at 12:34 p.m. Police are investigating. – Ron Leir





By Anthony J. Machcinski


The smell of burned wood still lingered in the air days after a fire raged through the residence at 304 Beech St. in Kearny.

The fire started around 2:40 p.m. on June 12 when fumes from a car gas tank, which had been removed from the car and brought into the basement of the building, were ignited by either the building’s hot water heater or furnace.

Fire Chief Steven Dyl said he couldn’t provide further details about why the tank would have been hauled into a residence until town inspectors have completed an investigation.

Firefighters from Kearny, North Arlington, Jersey City, East Newark, and Harrison responded to the three-alarm fire, battling walls of flame that quickly spread throughout the balloon frame of the house.

Dealing with that type of construction, “there are no fire stops on each fl oor so there is a clear channel from the basement to attic for the fi re to spread,” said Kearny Fire Chief Steven Dyl. “We had guys in the house and when we opened up the walls, kept finding more fire.

” To combat the seemingly endless wall of flame, firefighters used an aggressive interior attack, a labor-intensive assault that saw the combatants opening the walls of the house in order to attack the flames.

Although the fire was deemed under control by 5 p.m., firefighters stayed on the scene until midnight to make sure that hot spots didn’t rekindle the blaze.

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Aftermath of fire at 304 Beech St.


The fire caused injuries to a civilian and a firefighter. Kearny Firefighter Chris Stopero and civilian Jose Perez were both taken to area hospitals by Kearny EMS, Dyl said. Stopero was treated for a shoulder injury and released last Tuesday. Perez, owner of the Beech St. house, was detained at St. Barnabas Hospital for burns to his legs.

The heat from the blaze melted the siding on the house just north of the blaze while other nearby buildings were left unscathed. The intensity of the heat, which fire officials said, ranged from 500 to 1,000 degrees, was tangible a block away on Argyle Place.

As of The Observer’s press time, the damage to 304 Beech St. was still being evaluated. Officials said it is unclear whether the building, which sustained heavy fire damage including a sizable hole in the roof, was salvageable.

The Beech St. house’s nine occupants, including one child, found refuge with families and friends or at the Lyndhurst Motel. The Red Cross pitched in with clothing donations.

This blaze was the first major fire the Kearny Fire Department has faced since cutbacks forced the closure of one local fire company.

“The men did very well handling (the closure),” Dyl said. “We had one less company on scene and relied more on mutual aid (which came from Jersey City, North Arlington, Harrison and East Newark). We supplemented the missing people with overtime and mutual aid.”

Fire companies from Belleville, Bayonne, and North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue provided stand-by aid at Kearny firehouses during the fire, Dyl said.


Investigation coming for illegal renting

As the charred remains of 304 Beech St. still remained, a darker investigation into the housing structure looms on the horizon.

During the initial fire investigation into the June 12 blaze, Kearny Fire Officials found that the two basement apartments in the residence were housing units deemed illegal under town construction codes.

“I took the owner to court in 1997,” said Kearny Town Administrator and Construction Code Official Michael Martello. “(In 1997), he had to vacate the area and remove what was there. Apparently, he placed them back without a permit.”

The case is currently being referred to the municipal court with the possibility of fines of $2,000 per week for each week the housing was there.

Martello added that determining the amount of weeks the housing was in the basement would be part of the investigation.

When asked about the status of the current structure, Martello believed, “the structure is a total loss,” although he added that the insurance company will have to assess the property before an official decision is made.

As of the Observer’s press time, it was unknown if were any penalties assessed to the owner for bringing the gas tank into the house.

Planners focus on ‘eyesore’

Photo by Ron Leir/ Jeryl Industrial Park owner Howard Wachenfeld, checking aerial map of site, hopes to sell the property.


By Ron Leir


As a gateway approach to Kearny, it’s an embarrassing “eyesore,” as one Planning Board member puts it.

Environmentally compromised, more like a junkyard than anything else, with a torn-up roadway running through it – that’s how a town consultant describes Jeryl Industrial Park (the former Turco property) and adjacent fenced-in vacant tract owned by Tierra Solutions of East Brunswick.

What to do?

After hearing a report on the property from Red Bank planning consultant Susan Gruel, the Kearny Planning Board voted unanimously last Wednesday night to recommend the designation of the 31-acre tract as “an area in need of redevelopment.”

If the Town Council agrees, it will weigh in with a conceptual redevelopment plan that will lay out permitted land uses and standards for the tract with Schuyler Ave., Belleville Turnpike, Sellers St. and the Conrail track as its rough borders.

In her report to the town’s planning commissioners, Gruel said the study area meets at least one – if not more – of the various statutory criteria to qualify as a potential redevelopment area because it contains structures and conditions “which are detrimental to the safety and health of the community.”

“This is a dilapidated, deteriorated area with a signifi cant number of vacant buildings and outdoor storage,” Gruel said. And the property has had “persistent fi re and building code violations over the years.”

Gruel said the private road, Turvan St., that snakes through the site, between Schuyler and the Pike, is in horrible shape: “Its asphalt is crumbling, it has large gaping holes, ponding and stagnant water – there’s no type of stormwater management, no curbing.”

Gruel said the site is marked by “haphazard parking, outdoor debris and abandoned vehicles and parts of vehicles, no drainage.”

The property’s code violations have prevented the town from issuing certifi cates of occupancy to prospective tenants, she said.

To make things even worse, she said, the site has a “long history of environmental contamination – chromium – for which Tierra Solutions is the responsible party for cleanup of Lots 9 to 13 which have been designated a (federal) Superfund site.”

This last point, however, was disputed by Enrique Castro, remediation manager for Tierra Solutions, who said that the state Department of Environmental Protection has classifi ed Lots 9 to 13 “only as one of the chromium sites in Hudson County.” Castro said that “isolated” portions of the Jeryl site – portions of Buildings 8, 20 and 26 and the outside of Building 10 – are impacted by chromium as well. He said high levels of hexavalent and trivalent chromium were present.

Both of the sites, he said, “are in the remedial investigation phase.” He said that “interim remedial measures” have been taken by Tierra (which purchased the property from Sunoco during 2006-2007) but “we haven’t made a remedial action proposal yet.” When that will happen “will depend on the pace of (our) study,” he said. It could be several years in the making, he added.

And Jeryl president Howard G. Wachenfeld, a Newark attorney, took exception to part of Gruel’s description of the site. “Well more than 50% of the buildings are occupied,” he said. And, he added, “most of those vehicles are put inside at night.”

Nonetheless, Gruel said that based on her “visual inspections from the outside,” it seemed to her that the property was “defi nitely underutilized,” with “some scattered businesses.”

Despite the awful conditions Gruel listed, West Orange attorney Peter Tanella told the Planning Board that he represented clients (whom he didn’t identify) “currently in negotiations to purchase the (Jeryl) property and redevelop the property and rehabilitate the private road.” He didn’t say what the clients intended to do with the land. They “haven’t done their due diligence,” he said.

Mayor Alberto Santos, who sits on the Planning Board, said: “It’s very clear the structures (on the site) are dilapidated, underused, with much debris, abandoned vehicles, the (interior) road is in bad shape and the property is not at its best possible use. I believe the area meets the criteria (for designation as an area in need of redevelopment).”

Board member James Capobianco agreed, adding that, “There has been no improvement, based on my recent inspection of the site. It’s gotten worse. It hurts our town, as a gateway to Kearny.” Board member Ann Farrell concurred, saying, “Nothing is being maintained.”

Some years ago, noted board member Lynn Schantz, “we had an application from (the property owners) that they were going to improve and that never happened.”

And board vice chairman James Doran, a retired Kearny firefighter, recalled that after the property was initially developed during the 1950s and 1960s, “it didn’t take much time to find serious water problems” to the extent that when he was still with the Fire Department, “we spent time taking people out of there on boats.”

After the board voted, Wachenfeld seemed upbeat about his property’s future. “We have people interested in buying it and doing what the town wants done,” he said. Asked what future use he saw for the property, Santos said he believed it was zoned for “mostly light industry and distribution facilities.”

One-tank trips: ‘Steely’ resolve at Bethlehem, Pa.

Photo by Jeff Bahr/ Sands Casino sign mounted on former Bethlehem Steel crane.


By Jeff Bahr

Forged from steel

In the 1982 song, “Allentown,” singer Billy Joel laments the passing of America’s great industrial era by spotlighting Allentown, Pa., and the neighboring city of Bethlehem. At the time, both cities were well on their way to becoming “rust-belt” refugees – once vibrant towns that, due to major changes in world markets, were fast losing their economic Mojo. Bethlehem, famous for its Bethlehem Steel Works, the second largest producer of steel in the world (behind U.S. Steel) reported a loss of $1.5 billion that year – a precipitous drop in revenue that forced the company to shut down many of its U.S. operations. In 1995, steel making at the Bethlehem plant ceased for good. The company that had supplied steel for such iconic projects as the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam and the Empire State Building was in its death throes. In 2003, Bethlehem Steel closed all six of its plants. Left in the company’s wake was economic devastation so complete, it left portions of the city of Bethlehem looking like something from a war zone. Closed stores, abandoned buildings and rising crime were indicative of this economic devastation, and it appeared as if the city’s final epitaph had been written.

A ‘lucky’ rebirth

For many years the south end of Bethlehem stood idle. The giant blast furnaces that had once forged a nation and provided thousands of locals with jobs had become nothing more than rusting, rotting hulks looming over a fast-decaying city. Attempts at revitalization fell mostly fl at, due in large part to a lack of interest and funding. In 2007, however, Lady Luck found Bethlehem when the Sands Casino Resort obtained the Bethlehem Steel property. The $600-million “Bethworks” project called for a new casino, hotel, performing arts center and music facility. Since the day that the casino opened in May 2009, the area has grown by leaps and bounds. Gone are the desolate streets and hopelessness that once prevailed. People now come in droves to gamble, dine, listen to music and go walking in and around this unique area.

Gambling and Gobbling

The Sands Casino Resort Casino in Bethlehem has retained much of the steel plant’s original flavor. Instead of demolishing the buildings used to make, “Iron, coke, chromium steel,” (to use Billy Joel’s lyrics) planners had the good sense to allow the new enterprise to coexist in harmony with these famous remnants and buildings that once represented the town’s lifeblood. The result is an enjoyable and respectful hybrid of the old and the new. The casino is cavernous, as one might expect. It features 3,000 slot machines, 30 poker tables and table games including blackjack, craps, roulette, Baccarat, Texas Hold’em and more. Losing/winning money at the casino requires energy and that requires food. This is another area that planners didn’t overlook. The casino contains Emeril’s Chop House (yes, that Emeril), Emeril’s Italian Table, Emeril’s Burgers and more, St. James Gate Irish Pub and Carvery, Carnegie Deli, the Cobalt Café and The Market Gourmet Express. If one’s gastric desires can’t be satisfi ed here, there are a number of restaurants scattered within walking distance of the

Photo by Jeff Bahr/ Remnants of old Bethlehem Steel plant.


Steel Stacks and Musikfest

Steel Stacks, the arts and entertainment district located beside the casino has become a top-notch draw in itself. Five enormous blast furnaces provide a backdrop for the campus that includes Artsquest, a contemporary performing arts center; and the hugely popular Musikfest event, a yearly happening that’s described as the nation’s largest non-gated music festival. Beginning on the fi rst Friday of each August, the 10-day event offers hundreds of free shows and daily premium concerts (tickets required) at Steel Stage, the festival’s grandest venue. Past headliners have included Carrie Underwood, The Beach Boys, Tony Bennett, Earth, Wind & Fire, Alice Cooper, Ray Charles, Martina Mc- Bride, Adam Lambert, Jethro Tull, B.B King, and a host of other acts. This year, Sheryl Crow, Joe Cocker, Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry, Jane’s Addiction, Huey Lewis and the News, Boston and many others are scheduled to perform.

Historic Bethlehem and the Moravians

Originally founded by Moravians (an evangelical Protestant denomination), the city of Bethlehem was formed in 1741. Its historic district – located just north of the Sands casino in the downtown area – features an intact Moravian village with buildings that date as far back as 1750. Quaint shops including the Moravian Book Store and Gift Gallery are located beside this tranquil area, as is the Hotel Bethlehem, a circa 1922 gem that was recently restored to its former glory. The Hotel’s interior features seven large murals (painted by George Gray in 1937) that depict the history of Bethlehem, including one work that zeroes in on the naming of the city in 1741 – an act that occurred on the site where the hotel is now situated. During the Christmas season, hordes of visitors fl ock to this part of Bethlehem not only to see the historic district dressed up in festive fi nery, but also to deposit their Christmas cards in town mailboxes and, thereby, get their Christmas greetings stamped with the postmark “Bethlehem.” What’s not to love about this place?

Tanning salon owner won’t throw in towel

Photo by Jeff Bahr/ City Tropics - former salon of notorious tanner Patricia Krentcil.


By Jeff Bahr


The tanning salon where Nutley’s infamous “tanning mom” Patricia Krentcil got her bronze on has been penalized for numerous violations cited by the state Department of Health. City Tropics Tanning 2, located on Centre Street, has been ordered to pay $5,200 in fi nes for alleged infractions that include overexposure, failure to use clean towels to wipe down equipment, and failure to provide staff training information.

Salon owner Anthony Ruccatano, who also owns another salon in North Arlington, said that he believes he is being treated unfairly primarily because of his salon’s connection with Krentcil. He also claims that he’s been misquoted about his intentions regarding the fines. “The AP (Associated Press) said that I was taking the state to court,” Ruccatano said. “That’s ridiculous. Who takes the state to court? All I have to do is request a hearing. I was advised to do that by the state.”

“I feel that they (the state) just had to do something because of this woman (Krentcil),” Ruccatano continued. “In one of our violations, they (state inspectors) said the font wasn’t big enough in one of the warning signs that we have. We just printed an eight-and-one-half-by-eleven sheet like anyone else does, put it in a frame, and they said the font was off like a millimeter or whatever. Nonsense.”

“One of the other violations was that we use the same towel to clean the beds, over and over,” Ruccatano said. “The guy asked why we don’t use disposable towels. I don’t know anybody that does that. We have a (cloth) towel for the customer that’s folded a certain way, very plush-like. Then we have towels to clean the beds that are folded over once, and we have a table that they’re on, so when the girl goes to get the cleaner she grabs that towel and comes in. And then she goes out and throws it in a hamper.

“The girl told the guy (the inspector), ‘These are our towels here, we clean our own towels; we have a washer and dryer on premises.’ He goes, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’ We do five or six loads of laundry a day. … He was under the (incorrect) assumption that we just use one towel all day to clean the beds. … That was the (reported) violation that upset me the most. Customers actually see us cleaning the beds. We clean 300 to 400 towels a day. The girls are constantly doing the laundry.”

“When they (the inspectors) were talking about a customer who was over-tanned, they never said who it was. I’m assuming they’re talking about Patricia Krentcil,” said Ruccatano. “If you do your homework, she hasn’t tanned since April 22. If you look at her mug shot on the 24th, she looks just tan, not overly tan. Then you look at her on the news toward the end of April, she was so dark and everybody followed her everywhere, she didn’t tan anywhere. You can’t get darker (without tanning). That’s the stuff the bodybuilders put on (instant tanning ointment). She must have figured she was going on TV. She wants to look like a model or something.”

The state Department of Health maintains that the inspection was performed as a result of news coverage surrounding the Krentcil case, but wouldn’t say whether or not Krentcil was the overtanned customer in question.

Ruccatano also takes exception to the assertion that Krentcil’s daughter received a leg burn from tanning in one of his beds. “I’ve talked to probably 150 people from the media,” said Ruccatano. There isn’t one person from the media, the news, who believes that the little girl went in the tanning booth. Not one.”

With that, Ruccatano gave his take on the alleged incident which has caused him and his business so much grief. “A teacher in the school (supposedly) overheard her little daughter talking to a boy in the schoolyard. And the boy said, ‘where did you get the sunburn on your leg?’ And she said, ‘I got sunburned tanning with mommy in the tanning salon.’ Now, you’re telling me two six-year-olds are talking in the schoolyard like that? I mean, they’re talking about SpongeBob; they’re not talking about this. A little boy doesn’t even know what sunburn is. That’s the last thing on his mind.”