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One-tank trips: Highlands and Atlantic Highlands, N.J.

By Jeff Bahr

Paradise off Exit 117

Just 47 miles south of Kearny (Garden State Parkway, Exit 117) the first sandy swath of New Jerseyís famed shoreline begins at Highlands, N.J.

Surrounded by water on three sides ñ the Shrewsbury River to its west, Raritan Bay to its north, and the Atlantic Ocean to its east ñ the hook-like peninsula known as Sandy Hook (the southern portion of the Gateway National Recreation Area) is the northernmost shore point along New Jerseyís 130 miles of coastline. Itís also one of its most intriguing. The reasons for this have nothing to do with boardwalks, carnivals or midways ñ as you might expect ñ rather itís the absence of these that make it so special. Letís don our sunglasses and take a look-see.

Let’s get wet!

If you plan to swim at Sandy Hook Beach during the weekend I have some sage-like advice for you: Arrive early. Otherwise, youíll find the parking lots filled to capacity and your hopes for a refreshing dip dashed.

Like other Atlantic Ocean beaches, Sandy Hook offers surf, pleasant breezes and fun in the sun. Quite unlike them, however, you will also find untouched areas featuring windswept sand dunes, salt marshes, even a holly forest. Another noteworthy feature of this barrier spit is its narrowness. At certain points, the ocean and bay are less than one-tenth-of-a-mile apart. This means that you can see both bodies of water at the same time ñ a visual feast for your seashore senses.

Sandy Hook contains seven swimming beaches. Thereís no entrance fee if you arrive on foot or by bicycle, but a $15 fee is charged if you arrive by car.


Fort Hancock

New York City has long been a target for foreign forces not on board with our American way of life. Realizing this, the United States Army opened the coastal artillery base Fort Hancock near Sandy Hookís northernmost tip in 1859.

In its earliest days, the installation protected the city from hostile ships with its powerful gun battery. During World Wars I and II, it protected New York Harbor from German subs. Most recently, it functioned as a Nike antiaircraft missile base ñ a prime defense against hostile ìbogiesî with their crosshairs set squarely on the city.

Decommissioned in 1974, Fort Hancock acquired National Historic Landmark status and was opened to tourists. Today, visitors will find the fortís gun batteries and officersí quarters largely intact. Here, too, theyíll encounter Sandy Hook Lighthouse, a 103-foot-tall beauty built in 1764 that carries the distinction of being the oldest working lighthouse in the United States.


Getting High

Hereís an interesting tidbit: The highest point to be found on the eastern seaboard south of Maine is located in Atlantic Highlands, N.J. (situated just to the west of Highlands). Specifically, it occurs at Mt. Mitchell ñ a 266-foot-high ocean bluff that offers breathtaking views of the Hook and its surrounding waters.

If you find yourself sweating under Sandy Hookís beaming sun, a quick drive to the summit will help to cool you off. From this superb vantage point, visitors can easily see the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and Lower Manhattan, including the new World Trade Center.  One of the more interesting 9/11 memorials is situated here. It recalls how people huddled on this very bluff and watched in disbelief as history changed before their eyes.


Navesink Twin Lights

If loftiness is Highlandsí calling card, the Navesink Twin Lights are its signature. As its name implies, this picturesque lighthouse features two beacons ñ one of which is still operable.

The lighthouses, built in 1862, are perched majestically on a hillside some 246 feet above the HighlandsñSea Bright Bridge. Currently operated as a museum (for a fee), visitors, short on time or loot, can walk the lighthouse grounds for free reveling in salt air and sea breezes as they go.

Twin Lights features two claims to fame. It was the first American lighthouse to test a Fresnel lens, and the place where radio genius Guglielmo Marconi demonstrated his wireless telegraph in 1899.

Atlantic Highlands

The town of Atlantic Highlands has its own unique set of charms. The Henry Hudson Trail ñ a 24-mile-long multi-use path that beckons walkers and cyclists alike ñ can be found here, as can the circa 1893 Straus Mansion and Museum ñ a 21-room Queen Anne residence that offers a freeze-frame view of the way things were more than a century ago. Shops and restaurants abound along First Ave., the townís main shopping district, so youíll be light of wallet and heavy of belly if you take the walk.


Bahrs Landing

No Highlands visit is complete without a stop at Bahrs Landing (no relation to this reporter) ñ a seafood mainstay on the Shrewsbury River since 1917. Grab yourself some clams or a basket of shrimp and watch the endless procession of boats pass by. Life is good!

The Naked Truth

Hereís an interesting tidbit that the Chamber of Commerce might gloss over:

In the mid-1970s, naturists took over a portion of the recently decommissioned Fort Hancock for the purpose of sunning au natural. Gunnison Beach was picked not just for its tanning potential, but also because the parcel of land is under federal control and not subject to state or municipal laws.

In 1999, after a law change allowed the prohibition of nude beaches by counties and municipalities, Gunnison became New Jerseyís only remaining legal nude beach.

Warm weekends find it brimming with a generous assortment of naked bodies. For those who may be offended by such unabashed activity, posted signs warn beachcombers heading north from the public beaches that theyíre about to enter an area where ìhanging outî can and should be taken in its most literal sense. Vive la diffÈrence!


Getting there

If using public transportation, take New Jersey Transitís North Jersey Coast Line train to Red Bank, and then board New Jersey Transitís bus # 834 to Highlands. Buses drop off at or near the entrance to Sandy Hook. Phone 1-800-772-2222 for more information.

5 million reasons for Harrison to be esctatic

It was six days after Independence Day but Harrison authorities had an excuse to belatedly shoot off fireworks if theyíd wanted to do so.

Thatís because on July 10 ñ a day before they were due back in State Tax court ñ the New York Red Bulls dropped off a check for a cool $5,615,287.73 representing about two and a half years of back taxes plus 18% in interest fees.

The town and the Red Bulls, a professional soccer team that made its home in Harrison when it built a $200 million stadium off Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard, have been skirmishing over whether Harrison has the right to tax the teamís property.

The Red Bulls, represented by the Woodbridge law firm of Greenbaum Rowe Smith &

Davis, LLP, argued that because the land occupied by the Red Bull Arena is publicly-owned and because the team is providing a public recreation service promoted by county and local government entities that issued some $40 million in bonds to acquire the land leased to the team, the property should be tax-exempt.

But in a Jan. 6 opinion, State Tax Court Judge Christine Nugent ruled otherwise, declaring that both the land and stadium should be subject to local property taxes.

Town Attorney Paul Zarbetski said last week that as part of a settlement agreement, the team will pay Harrison for the two remaining tax quarters of 2012 which will generate an additional $925,000 approximately.

However, Zarbetski added, the Red Bulls want to preserve their right to press on with its anti-tax arguments with the state appellate court for 2010 and 2011 and will likely file a new complaint to contest taxes for 2012.

The Red Bulls had been on the hook for an annual rent payment of $150,000 to the town but Zarbetski said that because the state tax judge has pronounced the Red Bulls land and stadium fully taxable, that fee will go by the boards.

Thomas J. Denitzio Jr., the attorney with the Woodbridge firm handling the Red Bulls case, would say only that his clients were ìpleased with the progress theyíve made in addressing the case,î but because the litigation is continuing, ìweíre precluded from discussing the case further.î

At any rate, Zarbetski and Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough couldnít be happier about the timing of the Red Bullsí payment.

ìTheyíre about 5% of our (municipal) tax levy,î Zarbetski noted, ìso getting this money should bring us up to virtually 100%.î

Asked if Harrison would use the new revenue to hire additional employees, McDonough said: ìNo, weíll just be banking the money, controlling the taxes. In fact, according to what my financial officer (Gabriela Simoes) tells me, if we hadnít gotten the money, there wouldíve been a (municipal) tax increase of $850 to $900 (on the average house) for this year, but now that increase should be only $200.î

The 2012 municipal budget has yet to be adopted by Harrison.

McDonough, meanwhile, is counting on the town seeing more revenues from local development projects, such as the new Element by Westin, a $38 million, 7-story, 138-room hotel to be built by Ironstate Development. Its first floor will contain the lobby and retail shops; the second floor will have meeting rooms, an indoor pool and a workout room.

This hotel will rise in front of the Harrison Parking Center garage on the west side of Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard and half-way up Somerset St.  Construction is expected to start next month and the hotel should open sometime in the first quarter of next year. Guests will park in the Harrison Parking Center garage as an additional expense.

The Pegasus Group and Ironstate, partnering to build Harrison Station, a mixed-use development of residential/retail next to the Harrison PATH station, have completed Phase 1, having rented all but one of the 275 apartments, according to Pegasus executive Richard Miller.

Last week McDonough said the town received a check for $307,000 from the Harrison Station developers representing their contribution to the townís Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Of the 15,000 square feet of retail space targeted as part of the first phase of development, one tenant ñ Five Guys Burgers and Fries ñ has moved in and a second, Pronto Market ñ which has established a presence in Newarkís Ironbound section ñ will open shortly, Miller said. The remaining retail tenants are expected to be a Japanese restaurant, a vitamin store and a drycleaner, he said. Those shops should generate in excess of 100 jobs, according to Miller.

Directly across Frank E. Rodgers Blvd., Heller Urban Renewal is knocking down the old Hartz Mountain warehouses where the firm intends to build a mixed-use community of 747 one- and two-bedroom luxury apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail.

Youngsters learn the basics of baseball at Kards Kamp

By Jim Hague

If you needed proof that the sport of baseball is alive and well in Kearny, then all you had to do was pay a visit to Franklin School Field last week.

Thatís because the Kards Kamp was taking place at Franklin, with approximately 70 young and aspiring baseball players learning about the sport from some noteworthy teachers and having an overall good time at the same time.

Under the guidance of Kearny High School head baseball coach Frank Bifulco, the youngsters were introduced to many of the basic fundamentals of baseball _ hitting, fielding, pitching _ while also having fun in the summer sun.

ìIt means a lot to have such a great turnout,î Bifulco said. ìThere hasnít been that much involvement in baseball in Kearny in quite some time. To get this kind of involvement, get 70 or so kids to come to a camp is amazing. I canít be happier.î
Bifulco said that he was impressed with the talent level in the camp.

ìThere are a lot of good players out here,î Bifulco said. ìAnd about 65 of these kids are from Kearny. Itís a Kearny program for Kearny kids, run by Kearny people. The coaches all breed that Kearny spirit. Itís great.î
Bifulco said that he was amazed at the campersí improvement over the course of the week.

ìThey showed tremendous strides,î Bifulco said. ìWe had

a tremendous group of 7-and-8-year-olds. Thatís a key group to focus on, because they are the ones who develop the most. Itís what you want. You want to get them interested, have them learn and keep moving on up. Itís the ladder effect.î

Bifulco said that he enjoyed the interaction he had with the youngsters.

ìDuring our season, itís hard for me to get to see them play,î Bifulco said. ìSo to see these young kids playing and enjoying the game is a big thrill. You canít beat it. Thatís the greatest thrill for me, working with the young kids. And it was great to see them all meshed and blended well together. It really worked well.î

Bifulco also liked the eagerness and the positive attitude of the kids.

ìThey were here early every day, even before me,î Bifulco said. ìThey were always asking to do more. They really want to learn and we made the learning process challenging for them. Everything they did was a challenge.î

One of the guest instructors was Kearny product Jeff Gogal, the former Florida Marlinsí organizational left-hander now pitching for the New Jersey Jackals.

ìIn the off-season, I give lessons to kids (in his winter home of Swatters Foley, Alabama),î Gogal said. ìSo I love working with kids. Itís great to see this kind of turnout. I remember going to camps when I was little and soaking up the things I learned. A good high school program starts with the youth, so having something like this will only help Kearny High later on.î

Gogalís father, Doug, is an assistant coach at Kearny High with Bifulco and was also an instructor at the Kamp.

ìBeing on the same field with my father is a great thrill,î Jeff Gogal said. ìI donít get many chances to do that now. We talk baseball every single day.î

The Kards Kamp also brought former long-time Kearny head coach Jim Sickinger out of retirement to work with the youngsters.

Many of the counselors at the camp were current members of the Kearny program.

The campers were definitely excited to be there.

ìI want to get better, because I love playing baseball,î said 12-year-old Travis Witt, the catcher on the Kearny Little League All-Star game. ìThe coaches are teaching me a lot and itís a big help. Baseball is my favorite sport and I want to be ready when I get to Kearny High School.î

Gabriel Mostafa is a 12-year-old aspiring pitcher/infielder.

ìThe coaches break things down and make it easier for us to learn,î Mostafa said. ìIt encourages me to want to play more baseball. These coaches are the high school coaches and I hope they can recognize us when we get to that level.î

The Kards Kamp wasnít just for boys. Two girls participated in the camp as well.

ìIt was actually a lot of fun,î said 7-year-old Samantha Bell. ìI learned a lot of new stuff. At first, I was a little scared, being with all the boys, but then I got over it. I learned a lot about pitching. This is my third year of playing baseball and I love it. Itís a lot of fun.î

Ten-year-old Lianna Pinto also participated in the camp.

ìI do play softball, but I wanted to learn baseball,î Pinto said. ìI was a little worried being with the boys, but I felt very comfortable after the first day or so. I learned a lot about pitching, about keeping my balance. I think I proved a little that girls could play baseball as well.î

Eight-year-old Angel Elliott was a very eager camper.

ìI learned about the importance of throwing strikes,î Elliott said. ìI like baseball even more now than before. It made me want to play more. I wish we could keep going to camp. It was a lot of fun.î

Seven-year-old Trayton Witt also had a blast.

ìIím a second baseman, but I learned I can pitch, too,î Witt said. ìAnd Iím a good pitcher.î

Bifulco promised that the learning process is just beginning for Kearnyís youngsters.

ìI plan on having winter camps and clinics,î Bifulco said. ìIt all builds up, but this was a good starting point. I was anticipating 40 or so, but to have 70 kids is tremendous. Itís all very good, all very positive.î

But Bifulco had other business to attend to. Soon after the Kamp was completed, he flew off to Punta Cana to marry his fiancÈe, Kaitlyn Liotti, who also worked at the Kamp.

Sometimes, baseball doesnít always take precedence.

Red Bulls’ newcomer Le Toux scores in debut

RBNY makes changes in 2-2 tie with Seattle; starts three-game home stand

It was a wild and crazy 48-hour span for the newest member of the New York Red Bulls, namely former MLS All-Star Sebastien Le Toux.

Last Thursday, Le Toux was training with the Vancouver Whitecaps, preparing for a game this weekend. A day later, LeToux was packing up his belongings and flying clear across the country, after getting traded to the Red Bulls in exchange for popular midfielder Dane Richards.

ìThe last two days have gone by so fast that I didnít even have a chance to think about it,î said LeToux, an MLS All-Star performer for the Philadelphia Union. ìMy mind was really off. It was pretty crazy. Thatís part of the league. It was weird and fast.î

Le Toux, known for his goal-scoring ability, didnít waste any time making his presence felt with his new team. He scored a goal in his first game with his new club in the Red Bullsí 2-2 tie with the Seattle Sounders Sunday at sweltering Red Bull Arena.

ìIt felt good to get a goal in my new uniform,î said Le Toux, who scored 25 goals in the last two seasons with Philadelphia. ìIt would have been nice to get a win. But Iím glad to be with the Red Bulls. Iím pretty lucky to be here and to be with this team now. Iíll just try to do whatever the coach (Hans Backe) asks me to do. Iím happy he believes in me. Itís a great opportunity for me.î

The trade for Le Toux means that RBNY will more than likely utilize a three-forward attack from here on, with Le Toux joining Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper up front.

ìI think with more balance in the midfield, itís possible that it will work,î Backe said. ìBut we need more box-to-box play in the midfield to keep them out there.î

Red Bulls sporting director and general manager Erik Soler spoke about the Le Toux/Richards trade before Sundayís match. Soler knew that giving up Richards was going to be tough, considering he had the most seniority on the team, having played six seasons with the club since he was drafted in 2007.

ìWhen you trade a player like Dane, there are a lot of emotions,î Soler explained. ìItís hard, because we all loved Dane. He was a true professional and a great guy. But we knew he would probably leave us (for Europe, as has been rumored) at the end of the year. We had a chance to bring Sebastien in right now to help us. We knew what Sebastien could do. We had been working on getting him for a while.

Iím pretty confident Sebastien will do well here. We wanted to do something different, get more feel with our attack.î

Soler believes that Le Toux can help out at both forward and midfield.

ìHe has the capacity to play both if we needed it,î Soler said. ìHe definitely gives us a lot of options. Iíll leave the decisions to Hans.î

Le Toux likes the idea of playing with both Henry and Cooper, two of the leagueís top scorers. Cooper is second in goals scored with 11, while Henry is fifth with nine.

ìTo get the chance to play with top players is great for me,î Le Toux said. ìI think weíre going to be able to make progress with them in the future. When I was younger, I used to watch Henry play in France. Heís a great guy and a great player. Itís going to be easy for me to play with these players.î

Le Toux wasnít the only Red Bull newcomer to make his debut Sunday. Bill Gaudette, also acquired in a trade Friday, this deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy, was in goal for the Red Bulls, after it was learned rookie sensation Ryan Meara has a hip injury. Gaudette, who trained with the Red Bulls in 2010 and almost signed a contract, was glad to be back.

ìGetting the start here is pretty incredible,î said Gaudette, who made three saves, two of which were spectacular stops. ìItís a pretty exciting day. It all happened pretty quickly. I got the phone call, packed what I could and got on the flight here. I would have liked to have a better result in my first game. I was almost a part of this team two years ago, but Iím excited to help this team as much as I can now.î

Meara had been in goal for all 18 prior Red Bulls matches this season.

Seattle got on the scoreboard first in the 16th minute, when Johansson made a perfect crossing pass from 45 yards out to a sliding Alvaro Fernandez, who pushed the ball past Gaudette for a 1-0 lead. Johanssonís left footed cross from the right sideline went over the head of Red Bull defender Brandon Barklage directly to Fernandezís right foot.

The Red Bulls then tied the score in the 24th minute when Le Toux scored.

Cooper unleashed a wicked blast from just outside the penalty area that Seattle net minder Bryan Meredith stopped, but Le Toux alertly followed and kicked it home for his fifth goal of the season.

ìKenny got off a pretty strong shot,î LeToux said. ìI knew that if the keeper didnít get it, I had a chance to get to it. I was lucky to have the rebound come to my direction and I put it in the back of the net.î

The Red Bulls had a chance to take the lead right before halftime, when Henryís corner kick was headed by Markus Holgersson, but the attempt clanked off the crossbar as time expired in the first half, keeping the match tied at 1-1.

ìI should have scored on that one,î Holgersson said. ìThereís no excuse there. It was a perfect pass.î

The Red Bulls had the better scoring chances in the early going of the second half and in fact took a 2-1 lead. After Henry was stopped on a direct free kick attempt in the 49th minute and rookie Connor Lade just missed on a left-footed shot in the 52nd minute, the Red Bulls jumped in front on a fine play from Joel Lindpere.

Lindpere took a feed from Barklage, then faked out former Red Bulls defender Jeff Parke to unleash a left-footed blast from 25 yards out in the 61st minute to give New York a 2-1 lead.

The Red Bulls had a great scoring chance in the 74th minute, when Dax McCartyís header off a Henry corner kick beat Meredith, but an alert Johansson was standing on the goal line to kick the shot aside.

Backe was pleased with the effort, but disappointed with the result.

ìWe made it too easy for them,î Backe said. ìWe gave them too many chances in the second half after we took the lead.î

The game was the first of three straight at Red Bull Arena. They play a rare Wednesday afternoon game against Chicago, with kickoff at 1 p.m. With the temperatures expected in the 90s, itís a starting time that does not please Backe.

ìIíve questioned that starting time since I saw the schedule in February,î Backe said. ìIt shouldnít be allowed to play 1 p.m. with the temperature around 96-to-98 degrees. You canít play for 90 minutes in conditions like that.î

ìWednesday, maybe we can pray for rain or something,î Lade said.

ìThe weather was awful today,î Holgersson said. ìItís going to be crazy Wednesday. We have to take it a little easy out there. The game will be a little slow.î

The Red Bulls also play Philadelphia Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Itís a stretch where the Red Bulls have to take advantage of having three straight home matches.

One-act theatre festival

Harrison- Based theater company, Creative Motion Players LLC kicked off its 2012 summer season by organizing its first annual One-Act Theatre Festival. Two prompts were provided, and submissions were opened up to the community.

ìPart of Creative Motion Playersí vision is to celebrate the community,î says Creative Motion Players co-founder Lauren Biscaldi of Bayonne. ìWhat better way to celebrate the ëcommunityí in Community Theater by letting them write our first show?î

The winners of this yearís One-Act Festival are Gil Moreno of North Bergen, and James Monohan of Brooklyn, N.Y.

The winning plays, ìRemembering Danielî and ìTrash, Foie Gras, and the Baumgart,î written by Gil Moreno and ìMarshmallow,î written by James Monohan, will appear alongside Shel Silversteinís works in ìThe Space Within: A Showcase ñ An Adult Evening of Original Works and Shel Silverstein.î

ì ëThe Space Withiní is not your average one-act play festival. Weíre not just presenting six different plays. Weíve actually created an original character called ëThe Architect.í He guides the audience from play to play and helps the whole evening to feel like one full-length, cohesive play,î says co-founder Cindy Yin, of Harrison.

Performances will take place on July 27 at 7 p.m. and 28 at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Washington Middle School, in Harrison. Tickets are $10 for students and $12 for general admission, and are available online at www.creativemotionplayers.com.

This artist really jumps off the page

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Rising to a tough challenge has never been an issue for North Arlingtonís Agnes Bartell. Whether it was helping a teacher with an unruly student or creating a difficult piece of artwork, Bartell embraced the struggle. It is this spirit that keeps Bartell creating art at age 76.

Since 1977, Bartell has made three-dimensional pieces of art called decoupages. What initially started as a hobby for Bartell soon became a job opportunity.

ìPeople hear about these pictures and they want to buy different ones,î Bartell said. ìI had to quit my job (building cables for computers) because I had so many offers.î

Bartell discovered her true vocation after signing up for an art class in Cliffside Park in 1977.

ìIt was a general art class pertaining to 3-D,î Bartell said. ìI just started doing my work and Iíve been doing it ever since.î

Bartell creates her 3-D decoupages by cutting out images from a print and gluing them on top of one another.

ìYou can do as many layers as you want,î Bartell said. ìThe difficulty is thinking about what next piece is going on top. Itís not hard for me, but it may be for someone else.î

Bartellís art has been showcased in many venues, including doctorsí offices, banks, and even at The Observer. With each piece of work, Bartell tries to personalize little items within the image.

ìI can take a picture hanging on the wall in the image and put a picture of the family who is buying the image,î she said.

But just as she was beginning to feel comfortable at her craft, Bartell was very nearly derailed from her passion.

In the ë70s, just after starting to work on the images, Bartell had been using a protective coating to cover the images. Shortly after, Bartell noticed her skin turning blue. After a trip to the doctor, Bartell learned that she was allergic to the coating she used for the images.

Instead of succumbing to this threat, Bartell found a new method to create the images without having to use the covering. Bartell started setting the 3-D images in a deep frame, allowing the pictures to still be 3-D, but still hold up to the effects of time.

Now working out of the comfort of her North Arlington home, Agnes Bartell still assembles her artwork. To inquire about purchasing her images, prospective buyers are invited to call Bartell at (201) 991-4666.




By Anthony J. Machcinski

The morning commute for many area residents traveling on Passaic Ave. just got a bit longer. The Clay St. bridge, which spans the Passaic River and connects East Newark to Newark and Rt. 21, will be closed down for the next two months.

The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic on July 5 and is scheduled to reopen Sept. 3 to allow for Scafar Contracting, of Newark, to install a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) chamber on the Newark side of the bridge.

The CSO acts as a filter, keeping solids larger than half an inch from getting into the river. According to Scafar employee Patrick Visaggi, CSOs come into play when there is a “major rain event” such as large rainstorms or hurricanes that bring continuous rainfall lasting more than 24 hours. CSOs will not only help prevent solids from getting into the river, but will help channel the flow of the water towards treatment plants.

CSO systems are commonly found in larger cities. Visaggi said that Scafar has done several CSO projects in the area, including Jersey City, Paterson and other sections of Newark.

According to Visaggi, the price of the project varies depending on the size of the CSO system. As of press time, calls to several Newark agencies for the exact price of this project weren’t returned.

Although the bridge will be closed for cars, motorcycles and trucks, East Newark Police Chief Kenneth Sheehan said pedestrians will still be able to cross the bridge using the sidewalk on the north side.

Sheehan said: “Traffic will be diverted to the Bridge St. bridge (in Harrison). People in lower Bergen County and Kearny can take an alternate route to Rt. 21 South using the Arlington Bridge.”

Borough borrowing big bucks

North Arlington’s most recent capital improvement: new Engine 2 which was put into service two months ago. It replaced a 30-year-old rig. Borough got a $285,000 grant to apply to the purchase of the vehicle.



By Ron Leir 


The borough is looking to borrow close to $1 million for public safety and public works improvements.

On June 21, the Borough Council voted for the introduction of two ordinances that would authorize the borough to bond up to $988,000 for these measures. The ordinances will get a public hearing at 7 p.m. on July 12 at the Borough Hall.

One of the ordinances calls for spending up to $633,000 for the following:

• $200,000 for a new ambulance for the North Arlington Emergency Medical Services/ Volunteer Emergency Squad. EMS Chief Anthony Mondaro said the new unit would replace a 13-year-old vehicle with more than 100,000 miles logged that serves as one of two backups. “We typically run two ambulances every day,” he said. The squad responds to calls in the borough and in surrounding communities when needed, he said.

• $200,000 for retaining walls and related improvements at various locations including the municipal parking lot at Ridge Road and Fisher Place.

• $116,000 for new video equipment and firearms for the Police Department. Borough Administrator Terrence Wall said the new weapons would replace 15-year-old “long guns” used by a tactical squad dealing with hostage-type situations. “The new guns will have a better range and higher f ire power,” he said.

• $35,000 for a new SUV for the Police Department.

• $42,000 for new vehicle lifts for the Public Works Department garage.

• $40,000 for installation of solar panels on the roof of Firehouse Station No. 1.

This ordinance targets $90,000 for financing expenses to pay associated professional fees for architectural, engineering, accounting, legal and inspection services plus interest fees

These bonds are to be paid off over a period of about nine years and four months. The other ordinance calls for spending up to $355,000 for the following items:

•$250,000 for new communication and signal systems equipment consisting of a new radio system for use by various Borough departments in order to comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) narrow band mandate.

• $105,000 for new, additional or replacement equipment and machinery for the Borough Fire Department, including personal protective equipment (turnout gear), a thermal imaging camera, equipment for a pickup truck and equipment for the new pumper fire engine.

Volunteer Fire Chief Robert Melofchik said that to comply with the FCC rules for getting first-responder units on the same radio frequency, the borough is moving to a repeater transmission system that relies on three locations: Schuyler Fire Co. 1 on Schuyler Ave., Engine Co. 1 on River Road and Borough Hall. Another one is being added near Allan Park, he said.

Melofchik said the thermal imaging camera is designed for the protection of firefighters in a particularly dense blaze where “it almost eliminates the smoke. It will definitely give us better sight.”

A “fit-testing” machine being acquired will check for leaks in firefighters’ oxygen masks, the chief said. “We use it at least once a year,” he said.

The Fire Dept. is also getting eight new sets of turnout gear, Melofchik said. “We replace protective clothing for firefighters every 15 years and we do it in phases so the borough doesn’t get hit with a big bill for everybody at once,” he said. Right now, the volunteer department is riding with 80 firefighters, down from its normal staffing of 85.

And the department will also be ordering a new “key box,” a security-controlled container that holds a unique key designed to open boxes at more than 50 local private firms and those boxes, in turn, hold keys to access those companies in cases of fires and other emergencies, the chief said. The private boxes are alarm-rigged in the event someone tries to break in, he said.

Financing costs for this ordinance are estimated at $5,000 and this bond is t o be paid off after eight years and five months.

Early morning blaze forces out 13 residents

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Scene of the early morning fire on July 5 in Harrison.



By Anthony J. Machcinski 


Thirteen Harrison residents were forced out of their homes on July 5 by a three-alarm fire that swept through two unattached buildings at 20 and 22 Washington St.

Members of the Harrison Fire Department reported to the scene at 3:30 a.m., just two minutes after the first calls for help were received. Requesting mutual aid from other communities to combat the fire was complicated by a county-wide telecommunications problem.

Quick-thinking dispatchers used personal cell phones to contact other fire departments.

A resident from 20 Washington St. first reported the fire after waking up and smelling smoke. Once he saw a glowing on the ceiling from the fire, he roused residents on the second and third floors and all got out safely.

Once on the scene, the Harrison first responders found heavy fire coming from the south and east sides of a three-story structure at 20 Washington St. After running hoses there, firefighters were eventually able to contain the fire, but not before the fire had spread to 22 Washington St., a four-story residence.

Harrison Fire Director Harold Stahl praised the seven men who arrived on scene first, saying, “They did one heck of a job in stopping the fire. This was nothing short of a heroic action.”

The first responding units were on scene for about 20 minutes before backup arrived. Units from Kearny, Jersey City, East Newark, Secaucus, and Bayonne all responded to the blaze.

The fire took about an hour to get under control, but units were still wetting down hot spots within the building around 6 a.m.

In total, 13 residents of 20 and 22 Washington St. were left homeless. A family of seven who lived in 22 Washington St. were relocated to a hotel with the assistance of the Red Cross and, as of press time, were still looking for permanent housing. Six people from 20 Washington St. had all found shelter with family and friends.

Investigators ruled the fire’s cause accidental. Stahl believed that the fire started in a light fixture on the ceiling on the second floor in 20 Washington St. where the ballast in the fluorescent light overheated and set fire to wood members.

Stahl described the damage in 20 Washington St. as “extreme,” with extensive damage to the south and east sides of the building. The roof had to be opened up in three places to vent the flames and smoke. Despite the extensive damage, Stahl said he believed that, “the house is probably going to be saved.”

The building at 22 Washington St., just south of 20 Washington, also had extensive damage on the north side. Stahl said that the house, “is also (currently) uninhabitable (but) should be repaired quicker than (20 Washington St.).”

Stahl said that no injuries had been reported, adding, “that is an amazing thing considering the fire was at 3:30 a.m.”

Stahl again praised the efforts of the first responders. “They kept the fire from being a whole lot worse. They had their hands full and they measured up to the task,” he said.

Celebration of a young life cut short by tragedy

Photo courtesy Lazara Capote


On June 5, with completion of his junior year at Fort Lee High School just around the corner, John Graniello wrote eloquently about his love for his family, his life and his dreams for the future.

Looking ahead, John envisioned flying a plane, traveling the world, visiting the pyramids, acquiring a “pet penguin,” going on safari and opening a restaurant. All of this he would accomplish, he wrote, after he retired, in his “mid-20s.”

Unfortunately, he will do none of these things.

Three days after he typed up his manuscript, the 16-year-old fell to his death from atop the Palisades Interstate Park in Fort Lee in what authorities characterized as a tragic accident.

In his touching memoir, John recalled how his mother, Lazara Capote, lovingly called him and his younger brother Vincent as her “miracle babies” because they came into the world through “in vitro fertilization.”

John relished his early years in Haworth, where “life just couldn’t get any better. … From mountains of toys, to the large boat in Long Island that we’d spend our summer weekends on, life was great.”

That dream life took a slight detour when his parents split up in 2005 and he ended up living with his mom.

While he admits to some disagreements between him and his dad, Michael Graniello, “that has never gotten in the way of the love we share. … I am so glad and proud to call him my father.” John wrote lovingly about summers and holidays spent with his dad’s family in Long Island, N.Y., and time spent on the family boat. He also shared good times with his “beautiful half-sister Chloe Graniello.”

His appetite for material things notwithstanding, John also came to appreciate the value system he acquired from “mom – my hero.”

Yes, this is a 16-year-old speaking – a 16-year-old who describes himself as a “couch potato” and a fan of “hip-hop and rap.”

Listen to John’s uncoached testimony: It was his mother, he wrote, who “has had the biggest impact on my life compared to anyone else. She has taught me everything I know today, and she’s also responsible for all the good decisions I’ve made in my past. … My mom is my number one hero because she made me the well-mannered teenager I am today.”

John recounts proudly how his mom, as a young child, left her native Cuba with her family in 1966 to live in the U.S. An “A” student from the fourthgrade onward and an honor roll achiever in high school, who later became a textile design coordinator and professional trainer but “gave up her career just to raise me correctly,” teaching him “how to cook like a chef and how to clean like a housekeeper, two very important skills to have in life.”

John also credits his mom with teaching him English and Spanish and Spanish culture, “how to properly behave in restaurants,” and for not spoiling him.

“My mother would always make sure that I earned what I was given,” John wrote. “For example, if I wanted a new box of ‘Legos,’ then I would clean the house every day for five days.” “My mom came to America with nothing but the clothes on her back, and she worked as hard as she possibly could to become a strong and successful individual,” John wrote. “She taught me that only you can make the best out of your life, and if you truly want something, you must earn it.”

Even after being diagnosed with lupus after the birth of her second child, his mother’s health issues “never stopped her from being a spontaneous and ‘full of life’ individual.”

Still, John wrote, his mom also taught him the importance of enjoying life to the max “without going too crazy. My mom taught me that life is a gift, and it can’t be wasted. … She made me realize that you can’t let small and unnecessary things ruin your mood or day. ….”

“My mother and I have such an unbreakable and beautiful relationship that simply cannot be described in words,” John wrote.

Not that everything was always bliss but strife seemed only a temporary aberration. As John explained, “Our loud and roaring arguments will always end up in tears and laughter once the day is over. It’s almost like we have the same mind; we always think of the same ideas and strategies. If I was to pick one person in the entire world that I could be like when I’m older, it would most definitely be my mother.”

At Fort Lee High School, John was a member of the morning TV newscast program and had taken his SATs the weekend before his passing and was looking forward to a future college career.

John was beloved by classmates and teachers, alike. One of his instructors observed: “There are certain students who remain in a teacher’s heart and John was one of them.”

Outside of school, John held down a job at Fairway Market and in his mini-autobiography, he illustrated the text with images of various produce items and listed each section of the text as different “aisles.”

John’s funeral was held June 13 at the Hunt Stellato Funeral Home, Fort Lee. Burial followed in Madonna Cemetery, Fort Lee.

– Ron Leir


Sign this petition – save a life

The tragedy that befell young John Graniello was not uncommon to the area. People of all ages have met their end at the cliffs in Palisades Interstate Park. Critics note that the only thing protecting people from a fall is a flimsy three-foot tall fence composed of mere wires.

John Graniello’s cousins, Gina and Jennifer Sancho are hoping to change that. “We are petitioning for a safer future,” they explained. “Adequate lighting, a higher railing and a safety net placed at the edge of the cliff will stop newspaper reports like these and save many young lives like Johnny’s. “

As a tribute to their beloved cousin, Graniello’s relatives are asking that the safety measure be called “Johnny’s Net.”

After obtaining signatures, the petition will be forwarded to Governor Chris Christie.

If you would like to sign the petition please visit: www.facebook.com/johngnet