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Happy Thanksgiving!

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More apartments eyed for Bergen Ave.

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  Carlstadt builder Ed Russo is looking to expand a residential development project already in progress in a Kearny redevelopment area at Bergen and Schuyler Aves. Russo told The Observer last month he has a contract to purchase an additional 2.25 acres of […]

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Local taxes up again in borough

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  NORTH ARLINGTON –  Borough residents should be getting their property tax bills by the first week of December, CFO Steve Sanzari said last Thursday, after the Borough Council finally adopted the 2014 municipal budget. Passage of the budget, introduced back in July, has […]

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Vets’ photos wanted for ‘Wall of Honor’

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  NUTLEY –  This township, which has been in the forefront when it comes to offering support and assistance and recognition to veterans, has launched yet another project to pay tribute to the men and women who have served our nation. This time, going […]

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Carved in stone

    Photo by Karen Zautyk On Veterans Day, the Township of Kearny added this new memorial to Monument Park on Kearny Ave. It will commemorate local members of the armed forces who make the supreme sacrifice in the War on Terrorism. […]

 
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Bloomfield Police Blotter

March 6

George Attys of Orange was arrested for contempt.

Larry Amons of Newark was arrested for contempt.

March 5

A large metal safe was stolen from the bedroom closet of a residence on the 300 block of Broughton Ave.  The safe contained cash and documents.

Rims and tires were stolen off of a vehicle parked at a residence on Walnut St.

A Garmin GPS unit and an I-Phone charger were stolen from a vehicle on Van Winkle St.

Carl Furguson of Bloomfield was arrested for assault.

Donelle Bellot of Bloomfield was arrested for an outstanding warrant.

James Rouse of Newark was arrested for outstanding warrants.

March 4

A 2007 Toyota parked on Donald St. that was possibly left unlocked, was reported with a laptop computer missing from it.

Another vehicle, this one a 2011 Ford was also possibly left unlocked on John St. A Coleman flashlight and $5 in change were reported missing.

Spray paint markings were found on the rear cellar door of a residence on the 200 block of Broughton Ave.

An attempted theft of a 2003 Audi was reported on the 200 block of Berkeley Ave.

March 3

John Plaza of Montclair was arrested for robbery, conspiracy, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose. His bail was set at $250,000.

Jordan Hooks of Orange was arrested for robbery and conspiracy. His bail was set at $100,000.

Jose Echievarria-Ortiz of Paterson was arrested for aggravated assault.

A residence on the 300 block of Broughton Ave. was burglarized with no apparent signs of forced entry evident. A 42-inch LCD television was found missing.

A 2010 Chrysler with N.J. plates was stolen from the 900 block of Broad St.

A Honda Civic with N.J. plates was stolen from the 200 block of North 17th St.

March 2

Two men approached a woman as she exited her vehicle on the 100 block of Thomas St. When one of the men pointed a silver handgun at the woman and demanded her wallet, the victim started screaming for help. Startled by the woman’s reaction, the would-be holdup men fled the scene.  With the assistance of Montclair Police Officer Steven Iberer, a suspect was located and Bloomfield Police Officers Mike Moleski and David Lehman were able to get a positive identification that led to his arrest. Further investigation resulted in the arrest of his alleged accomplice.

A first-floor residence on Edison St. had one of its basement window forced open. Various types of jewelry were found missing at the home.

A second-floor residence at the same Edison St. location had its front door forced open. Missing were an Apple laptop computer, a Canon digital camera, and various types of jewelry.

A rear window was broken at a residence on the 300 block of Broughton Ave.  An I-Pad and jewelry items were reported missing.

A 2005 Toyota had two sets of fog lamps removed from it on Birch St.

A 2001 Ford pick-up was found with damage to its driver’s side door and ignition on the 100 block of Washington St. Work tools were missing from the vehicle.

March 1

Two men approached a man on the 100 block of North15th St. After pointing a handgun at the man, the duo relieved him of two cellular telephones and darted off in a white Cadillac. The vehicle was later recovered in Newark. Police are investigating.

February 29

A 1999 Honda Accord with N.J. registration was stolen at Bloomfield Ave. and N. 16th St.

On Carteret St., a shop owner reported the theft of bundles of newspapers.

Harrison Police Blotter

March 7

Jewelry and laptop computers were stolen from three apartments on Frank Rodgers Blvd. South, N. Fifth St. and Harrison Ave. that were burglarized.

Police found a homeless man, identified as Numar Giraldo-Ramirez, 47, sleeping in hallway of a building on Frank Rodgers Blvd. North. He was arrested on a $3,500 warrant out of North Bergen and was subsequently released by North Bergen P.D.

March 6

Burglars broke into a vehicle parked on Warren St. under Rt. 280 and another vehicle parked on Sussex St. beneath the highway. Nothing appeared to have been stolen from either car, police said.

A former Harrison resident, Luis Garcia, 20, was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Webster, Mass., charging him with rape. When he was apprehended, Garcia had eight plastic bags of suspected marijuana in his pocket. He was charged with possession of drugs with intent to distribute. He was also charged with entering the state of New Jersey as a fugitive from justice. Garcia is being held at the Hudson County Jail, Kearny.

March 4

Someone stole a 1998 Honda Civic while it was parked in the 300 block of Sussex St.

March 3

Police are seeking three men who allegedly beat up a 16-year-old male and robbed him of his cellular phone and hat while he was walking on Kingsland Ave. around midnight. Police described the suspects as two Hispanic males and one black male. An investigation is continuing.

A motor vehicle accident on Frank Rodgers Blvd. North led to the arrest of Antonio Rosmaninho, 57, of Newark, for disorderly conduct after police said he created a disturbance. Police said they subsequently arrested Rafael Torres, 37, of Harrison, who was involved in the accident, on charges of assaulting the other motorist involved. Torres was charged with aggravated assault. He was released after posting bail.

March 1

An unknown male stole an undetermined amount of money from a tip cup at Frank Rodgers Blvd. restaurant. However, the theft was captured by the eatery’s security camera and a police investigation is under way to identify and locate the thief.

Someone broke into a vehicle parked on N. Second St. and removed a portable GPS unit.

Feb. 29

A Harrison Ave. resident reported that his vehicle was broken into while it was parked in a private lot on Harrison Ave. Nothing was stolen.

Hugo Martinez, 32, of Kearny, was arrested for an outstanding Newark warrant after he was involved in a dispute outside a Harrison Ave. tavern.

Feb. 27

Eli Cabral, 44, of Kearny, was arrested on a DWI charge after he was observed operating his motor vehicle with a flat tire on Frank Rodgers Blvd. near the PATH station.

Feb. 26

Someone broke into a vehicle parked at Third and Warren Sts. and took a portable GPS unit. And another vehicle parked on Warren St. under Rt. 280 was burglarized and a portable GPS unit taken from that vehicle.

Feb. 24

Jamie Montoya, 23, of Harrison, was arrested for DWI and filing a false police report after he reported that his vehicle was stolen in Harrison when, in fact, he had crashed it on Jackson St. in Newark, police said.

Feb. 23

Donald Carpenter, 29, of Harrison, was arrested on charges of assaulting a woman at a local convenience store after the two became involved in a dispute, police said.

Police arrested Ryan Carson, 29, of Harrison, at Third and Jersey Sts. for an outstanding warrant from Newark for $350.

Online Exclusive: Belleville Blotter

Stolen cars/keys at Signature Fitness, Belleville

 

For the convenience of its members, the Signature Fitness gym at 471 Cortlandt St. provides a basket where they can leave their car keys while taking their workouts. On February 27, three sets of car keys were stolen from the basket. Of those three, two were used to steal cars parked outside. The missing cars are a white 2012 Honda Accord with temporary license plates, and a black 2007 Mazda 6 4-door.  Police are investigating.

 

 

In other Belleville happenings:

 

 

March 2

 

At 12:51 a.m., officers noticed a vehicle stopped in the middle of Cortlandt St., with a person standing beside the passenger door. After making a hand signal to the driver, the man got into the vehicle. It then performed a U-Turn and sped off. Suspicious, police stopped the car and spoke with the driver. They noticed numerous cans of spray paint and an art binder in the vehicle, the latter of which carried “graffiti tags” on its cover. After returning to the spot where the car was originally parked, they noticed a wall with fresh blue paint markings on it. They also noticed blue paint smudges on the hands of the two men. The driver, Sean M. Raybeck, 22, of Wallington was charged with criminal mischief and issued motor vehicle summonses for careless driving and driving without a license. The passenger, 19-year-old Kevin Sanchez of Paterson was charged with criminal mischief. Both men were released on their own recognizance.

 

February 27,

A car was reported stolen from 85 Tappan Ave. at 8:00 p.m. A man stated that he parked his wife’s silver 1996 4-door Honda Civic at the address and stayed at his sister’s house located on the same block.  When he returned for the car it was gone.

 

February 26

 

A woman walking along Belleville Ave. where it intersects with Delavan Ave. noticed a car pull up beside her at 11:54 a.m. The male driver asked her, “Do you know where the library is?” After giving him directions she continued on her walk. Shortly thereafter he pulled beside her again, ostensibly to ask for more directions. This time, however, he said, “What do you think?” as he exposed his genitals to the woman.  Shaken by what had just occurred, she ran off and called police. The man, being sought for lewdness and attempted luring is described as medium/heavy set, 20-30 years of age with a “young looking” face. He was wearing a dark jacket and jeans and driving a silver 4-door vehicle.

 

 

Stephen D. Bryant, 39, of Maplewood was arrested for outstanding warrants after his motor vehicle was stopped at Newark Ave. and Cuzo St. at 10:52. Bryant carried a $624 warrant out of Totowa, and a $600 warrant from Pequannock. He was released on his own recognizance on one warrant, and paid bail on the other.

 

Another warrant arrest occurred at 10:58 a.m. at 162 Franklin St. when police saw a suspicious man “pacing and looking through fences.” It was learned that Luis A. Martinez, 51, of Newark carried an outstanding no-bail warrant from the Essex County Sheriff’s Dept.

At 1:50 p.m., a female manager stopped a man who was spotted putting cases of formula into a black bag at the Belmont Ave. Pathmark as he attempted to exit the store. He shouted, “I’m just letting you know I’m not going!” as he ran off and hopped into a waiting car. The man is described as white, 5’6” tall, 170 lbs. with brown eyes.

 

February 25

 

At 12:24 p.m., a 9mm handgun accidentally discharged at the Bullet Hole indoor shooting range, striking a man in his leg. The unidentified victim said that just after firing a round, the burning hot shell casing landed on his leg. As he went to remove it, the gun accidentally fired.  Luckily, his injuries appeared to be minor. He was taken to University Hospital in Newark and released the same day.

IN MEMORIAM: OSBRANY MONTES DE OCA

OSBRANY MONTES DE OCA (IN UNIFORM)

 

PHOTOS BY JEFF BAHR/ OSBRANY’S YOUNGER BROTHER FRANKLIN MONTES DE OCA AND HIS MOTHER, MIRIAM MONTES DE OCA.

 

By Jeff Bahr

NORTH ARLINGTON –

As she glanced across the street toward her home on the Belleville Turnpike, North Arlington resident Miriam Montes De Oca tried to pretend that everything was still the same. Only hours before, she had routinely walked the few short paces from her house to her beautician’s job directly across the street. Now that her shift had ended she would make the trip in reverse. But something was distinctly different this time around. This time, an ominous cloud of uncertainty hung over her home – a cloud that would prove to be a mother’s worst nightmare.

With three sons in the Marines (a set of twins and their older brother) stationed in war-torn Afghanistan, Miriam knew in her heart that the soldiers standing at her front door weren’t there to socialize. She also knew that when she took those first agonizing steps toward the house, her life and the lives of her remaining family would be forever altered. How could this have happened? Which one of her babies was it?

She pushed fear aside and plodded forward. She simply had to know.

Osbrany Montes De Oca didn’t look like a Marine in- the-making when he was younger. Like his twin brother Osmany, he was slight of build, bony-thin actually, according to his younger brother Franklin, and possessed nothing close to the brawny physique emblematic of the “few and the proud.” But nature at this early stage can often mask the potential that lies within. The best was yet to come.

Skinny or not, “Osbrany and Osmany were determined to become U.S. Marines,” explained Miriam. “Since they were eleven they dreamed about being Marines. They said when they were eighteen they wanted to sign up and were going to do it no matter what I said. Osbrany even told me that he would one day win the Purple Heart.”

As the boys matured their bodies began to change. The reed-thin appendages that they laughingly called arms were now banded by sinewy muscle – a physical trait passed down by their father. Regular weight training only enhanced this physical change. A few years later when the twins signed up for boot camp at the Marine recruitment offi ce, they had not only the desire to be proper Marines, but the brawn to back it up. Their long-anticipated dream was finally taking form.

Back at home life went on as always. Younger brother Franklin played at sports and was thankful that he would no longer be treated as the “little brother,” no longer be called “midget,” or jokingly be “locked into a suitcase” by his older siblings. Even so, he couldn’t deny that he missed them both. Despite their antics and a five-year age difference, they were still his heroes, and sometimes he wished that they were still around. He wondered how boot camp was treating them and how he would fare if put to the same grueling test. By now it was common knowledge that Franklin also longed to be a Marine, just like his older brothers.

Osbrany’s girlfriend, Maria, had high hopes for their future together. Sweethearts for six years, the serious-minded young couple had already thrown a stiff jab at the longevity odds. One fine day they would marry and begin a fruitful life together – she just knew it. Maria could hardly wait.

Rosa Matos, the twins’ great aunt, had always cooked for the boys. Now that they were gone she felt a sudden void in her daily routine. “Hey auntie, whatcha got in the pot?”

Osbrany would ask her while licking his chops in hungry anticipation. She recalled how Osbrany was absolutely nuts for lasagna. “Auntie, please make two lasagnas, one for today and one for tomorrow,” he’d say with a Cheshire cat grin and playfulness in his voice. He’d usually wolf down both servings in one day.

Miriam did her best not to worry, but when her 20-yearold twins were sent off to Afghanistan, as their 22-year-old brother Sandro (also a Marine) had done before them, it was all she could do. Sometimes she’d think about Osbrany’s keen sense of humor and silly antics and it would bring a smile to her face. Like that time when he was three and purposely knocked a bottle of cooking oil onto the fl oor and began to swim in it, just like a fish. Were these aquatic motions Osbrany’s way of showing that he was destined to be a Marine? The notion still made her giggle.

But then Miriam’s fears would come rushing back and she’d think about the cruel possibilities of war. She’d recall in particular that definitive moment when Osbrany said to her, “Mom, I know what I’m getting myself into. If I’m going to die, I’m going to die a Marine.” It was a haunting comment that she could never quite shake.

As Miriam moved closer to the Marine contingent standing at her front door, the ashen look on their faces spoke volumes. She now knew with agonizing certainty that at least one of her boys had been killed. It was Osbrany, the Marines told her in a soft respectful tone. He had been cut down by a sniper on Friday, February 10, in the Helmand Province. He never saw it coming. Miriam was inconsolable. Within the span of a few excruciating hours the rest of Osbrany’s family learned the tragic news. Most were as shaken as Miriam. All prepared for a life now devoid of Osbrany’s shining light.

 

 

Photo by Jeff Bahr/ Various moments in the life of Osbrany Montes De Oca, as arranged by family, including Purple Heart (c.)

The body of Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca was flown stateside. His brother Osmany, who had received a 30-day leave, accompanied the casket on the flight to Dover Air Force Base. “Osmany was hit the hardest by the news,” said Miriam. “He shared a special bond with his brother that only twins understand,” she said. Now, as one half of the former “team” Osmany would have to carry on without his brother. He understood that the going would be tough, but he also knew that he had no choice but to rise to the challenge; people were depending on him. First and foremost he was a Marine.

Osbrany was laid out at the Parow Funeral Home, North Arlington where countless loved ones, friends and soldiers viewed him for “one last time” before he was committed to the ages. His burial at Holy Cross Cemetery on Feb. 20 was conducted with full military honors. It’s as he would have wanted, said his mom.

Miriam Montes De Oca wants everyone to think of her beloved son not just as Osbrany, a young man who brought joy to so many, but as Osbrany the proud U.S. Marine. By anyone’s measure he has earned that right.

“Osbrany was a person who saw the dangers of protecting freedom and yet volunteered to defend it, regardless,” said Montes De Oca of her boy’s legacy. But that only accounts for a portion of this soldier’s story. Osbrany also managed to see his dream materialize even though his mortal life was cut short. There are millions of people wandering this globe who would give anything – including years off of their lives – to make such a claim.

A makeshift shrine has been set up on the family’s coffee table. Amongst the remembrances are formal sympathy letters from dignitaries such as U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (DN. J.), U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). All include a somber passage about Osbrany making the “greatest sacrifice” in service to his country. Standing beside these are picture frames containing snapshots of Osbrany from many stages of his life. Here he is as a fresh-faced lad of six or seven; there he is just a few years older wearing a cocky grin, and so on.

The majority, however, show Osbrany standing tall and proud in his Marine Camo’s or Dress Blues. This is only right and proper for Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca was a Marine through and through. Nothing and no one can ever alter that fact – not even a sniper and a sneak attack. This committed young man did what he believed he was destined to do and in the process helped to keep us safe.

A velvet jewel box rests prominently on this table of honor. Inside is the Purple Heart medal just as Osbrany had promised.

You made the grade, soldier, and you made us proud.

Semper Fi and Godspeed.

May we never forget you.

Township, church clash over historic cemetery

Photo by Ron Leir/ The Rev. Miguel Ortiz and his wife Lily stand in the Revolutionary War-era cemetery. Ortiz says groundhogs are undermining graves by digging tunnels throughout the property.

By Ron Leir

BELLEVILLE –

A recent commotion at an historic burial ground containing the remains of American Revolutionary War veterans has stirred the sounds of battle anew.

At their Feb. 28 meeting, members of the township’s governing body sounded an alarm about conditions at the Belleville Reformed Church Cemetery – now owned by La Senda Antigua Church – at Main and Rutgers Sts.

Tom Grolimond, who chairs the Belleville Historic Preservation Commission, talked about seeing tree branches being cut down – some “more than 12 inches in diameter” – and, instead of using rope to ease the heavy limbs down to the ground, the cutters were allowing them to drop on the tombstones, with at least one dating from the 1700s “cracked in four pieces.”

When concern was voiced about possible damage to cemetery railings, Grolimond said the response from the cutters was that it didn’t matter because “they’re old.”

Township Attorney Tom Murphy said he’d talked with the police chief about the possibility of bringing criminal charges against the people doing the cutting under a “desecration statute,” but they concluded it would be tough to prove “purposeful action,” as required under the law.

“I don’t think the chief would feel comfortable issuing a complaint,” he added.

“Whether this is a crime or not, I don’t know,” Murphy said. “It’s more of an ‘I don’t care’ attitude.”

And that type of apparent unconcern, Murphy said, is an affront to the people buried at the site. “They endured terrific hardships to make us free,” he said.

Then, as if on cue, church pastor, the Rev. Miguel Ortiz, accompanied by his wife Lily, and Rutherford attorney Doug Mautner, entered the chambers.

Murphy reminded the church’s agents that town officials had met with them about six months ago about taking precautions with any cleanup of the cemetery grounds “which holds more bodies of Revolutionary War soldiers than any other cemetery in the United States.”

That’s why local officials were so upset when they learned about the seemingly haphazard tree cutting on the morning of Feb. 19, Murphy said. “That’s completely unacceptable to the township,” he said. “Disregard for the sanctity of that (property) represents the poorest type of citizenship…. We were just flabbergasted by the activities that occurred.”

Pastor Ortiz sought to assure the governing body that, “I meant no harm to the cemetery.”

The church’s intent, the pastor said, was simply to “pick up all the branches that were left hanging” from the storm that hit the area last October. Only one gravestone was damaged previously, he said. “We weren’t cutting trees. We have total respect for the graves. I just wanted to cut the hanging branches. One was about to hit the (bust) of George Washington.”

Fine, said Murphy, “but we still should be notified” about any further cemetery cleanups.

“The church is responsible for cleaning up the cemetery,” Ortiz said.

Murphy responded: “Had we been notified, I’m confident our Public Works Department would’ve gone on the grounds (to supervise and assist).”

Councilman-at-large Michael Nicosia interjected: “I can’t emphasize enough how much this means to the town. I make sure my children know how important it is. I would’ve taken precautions (to minimize possible damage). In future, I hope you reach out for help.”

Mayor Ray Kimble chimed in: “Call the Police Department in future. They know how to get in touch with our DPW.”

That’s right, Murphy added, Belleville’s government is ever vigilant. “We don’t disappear on the weekend,” he said.

Ortiz insisted he wasn’t taking the matter lightly. “I’m not a one-night stand,” he said.

And so, the skirmish ended in a truce.

Outside the chambers, church advocate Victor Bian, a history teacher at Passaic High School, said that he recognized the importance of the cemetery and that he has prepared an on-line historical appreciation of the site for fellow parishioners.

La Senda Antigua, a Pentecostal congregation, acquired the church and cemetery from another church about two years ago.

Grolimond said that the historic commission hopes to get the site declared an historic landmark. Among those buried there are 62 Revolutionary War soldiers and many of Belleville’s street names are derived from those dead, he said. The cemetery was originally associated with the old Dutch Reformed Church, whose original structure dates from 1697 and was rebuilt in 1850, he said.

A cemetery tablet ascribed to the Belleville Historical Society states that Josiah Hornblower (credited with inventing the first steam engine in America in the 1700s) is buried in the cemetery, along with many of Belleville’s early settlers.

When the historic commission next meets on March 15, it expects to have on hand Mark Alan Hewitt Architects, of Bernardsville, to provide architectural consulting services. The Township Council voted Feb. 28 to hire the Hewitt firm at a $10,000 a year cap.

In other business, the council granted a request by the Belleville Soccer Association to use the municipal stadium for its home games from March through June 2012 with fees waived. Kimble noted that of the 102 children registered with the league, 70 live in Belleville. Kimble asked league officials to coordinate with the township Recreation Dept. to avoid scheduling conflicts.

The council also appointed township assessor Kevin Esposito as interim township manager. He’ll temporarily replace current manager Victor Canning, who is leaving March 15 to take a similar position in Montville. Esposito’s salary adjustment has yet to be negotiated. The township is seeking a permanent replacement for Canning.

Community reaches out to help fire victims

Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski

 

Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Post-fire damage at 187 Brighton Ave.

 

By Jeff Bahr

Concerned about the plight of the Franco family who were left homeless when their house at 187 Brighton Ave., Kearny, caught fire on Feb. 27, neighbor Donna Cupka is orchestrating collections for the family in their greatest time of need.

The fire, reported at 2:16 p.m., escalated into a four-alarm conflagration that became so intense at times it nearly spread to adjoining houses. After an investigation of the incident, Kearny Fire Chief Steven Dyl confirmed that his department has ruled the fire as accidental.

At first Cupka thought that the house to the south of the Franco residence was the one that had caught fire – not at all surprising since firefighters had routed a fire hose through its front door and out of a side window in an effort to attack the flames from a better angle.

She tried to contact one of the tenants at the house, a Kearny High School teacher, but eventually realized that the flames were coming from the Franco home.  Franco, his wife, son and grandchild were in the house when the fire started. All made it out safely. The family dog took refuge beneath a bed, said Cupka. Sadly, the animal perished in the blaze.

The fire did extensive damage to the wood-framed structure rendering it unlivable until major repairs are made – but Cupka wonders whether the building can be restored.

“The insurance company had come and they said that they can’t knock the house down; they’re going to have to rebuild what’s there,” explained Cupka. “I don’t think they’re going to be able to do that because the whole back of the house collapsed… There’s no back of the house – you can see right through,” she said.

As the house burned, members of the Franco family congregated directly across the street on Cupka’s front porch and watched with great sadness as the living nightmare progressed.

“They (the family) did go in there yesterday and were actually able to save some things, ” said Cupka. “They actually saved pictures, jewelry, things like this.”

“It was like a miracle when they went into the owner’s bedroom because they had a cross on the wall which had fallen down on the bed,” said Cupka. And the whole room was destroyed except for that bed, the quilt, and the pillows. Everything was still intact – they were just wet from the water… The dresser right next to the bed was still fine, and a cabinet and everything that they had like their passports and important papers and everything… Nothing burned ‘cause this cross was sitting there.”

The Red Cross has put the Franco family up in a hotel for the time being, explained Cupka.  “I think they’re only in there for like five days and then either his (Franco’s) insurance or his job are going to help put them up somewhere until he can find something,” she said. When asked about the family’s long-range plans, Cupka sounded less optimistic. “I don’t think there’s enough insurance to even cover building again… The whole back collapsed right down to the basement.”

The family has lost virtually everything that they own and are in great need, said Cupka. “We had a U-Haul truck out here last night for donations for clothes and things like that,” she explained. “I know Garfield School is doing Dress-Down-Days to get money for the kids, because that’s where the (Franco kids) go.” Lincoln School and Roosevelt schools are “going to do something also,” she said.

“My daughter is trying to get something done at Kearny High School – to help with the teacher also because he had so much water damage in there,” Cupka said. “Even the house on the other side has water damage. They can’t go back in there. I saw them taking out their beds last night, I don’t know where they were going.”

Cupka marveled at the way that people have opened up their hearts and wallets to help the Franco family get back on their feet. “When we rented the U-Haul truck, a fireman came up and gave some gift cards, another woman came and gave money to rent the U-haul again, ‘cause we’re gonna do it (accept donations) again on Friday. We’ve put it out on Facebook… There’s so many sites right now and everybody is putting something on Facebook about it.”

“I’m the person who is coordinating the neighborhood right now,” explained Cupka when asked how people can best contribute to the cause. “What we’re telling people is if there’s nobody over by the (Franco) house with the U-Haul truck, then they can drop everything on my front porch… And people who want to donate furniture for later on, we’re taking names and addresses. We’ll pick things up from them, ‘cause a lot of people said they had beds and furniture but they had no place to put them right now. They (the Francos) need things like appliances right now – they need everything,” Cupka said.

“So many people brought clothes last night it was unbelievable,” said Cupka about the generosity that’s being displayed by good Samaritans. “I was really surprised how people came out like that. And they were just seeing it on Facebook,” she added.
Cupka, who has been friends with the Franco family since she moved in across the street some 16 years ago, explained how another family also living on her side of the street pitched in to help. “They let them stay in the house so they could make phone calls,” said Cupka.

In a bizarre twist, a man “in his fifties” living at the same residence passed away later in the evening due to a heart attack, said Cupka in disbelief.  “We were so shocked, we didn’t even know it until the next morning when his girlfriend came over and told us.”
“From what I understand, I think it was Mr. Nino’s (restaurant) came up and said they were very sorry about what happened, and they brought them (the family) down to the restaurant to eat dinner” free-of-charge, explained Cupka.  A dry cleaner and others also donated their services.

“I’m surprised at the outpouring of help here,” Cupka continued. “With that fire a few years back on Windsor St. there wasn’t that much done for those people and it was three houses. With this, it’s amazing what they’re doing right now.”

Cupka described the closeness that she shares with the family that finds itself so sorely in need. “I can’t not help the Francos,” said Cupka with concern in her voice. For years we’ve been trading clothes and baby stuff. Every time someone had a baby, we’d switch clothes. We couldn’t not help them.”

“The Franco family sends their heartfelt thanks to the Kearny Fire and Police Departments and all those that have helped them,” said Cupka.

Contributors to the effort include: Mr. Nino’s Restaurant, PODS (storage containers), Ozzie’s Exxon (U-Haul truck), Comcast Community Bulletin Board (donation information), the Town of Kearny (permits), Kearny Schools (fundraisers), New Visions Development Service (house demolition services), N.J. 12 Television, and many other caring members of the community.

Those wishing to donate goods or money have been asked to contact Donna Cupka at (201) 702-9343, or make arrangements via Facebook at “Help the Franco Family.” Clothing sizes and necessary items are listed on the site. Cash donations are also being accepted at PNC bank in the “Franco Family” account.

Dancing their way to the title

 

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Hykey/ The Lyndhurst Dance Team at the NJCDCA dance competition.

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

The stereotypical high school cheerleader is pictured as a teenager with pom-poms and a short skirt dating the quarterback on the football team. Lyndhurst Dance team looks to blow that notion off the dance floor.

The dancers showed off their moves and eventually captured the New Jersey Cheering and Dance Coaches Association (NJCDCA) title, proving that they were the best dance team in the state.

“I had an idea we could be successful after I had the amount of turnout in tryouts,” said head coach Stephanie Hykey. “We just had a lot of talent.”

The group won the title on Feb. 25 and placed second at the national championship on Mar. 3.

Winning the title has special meaning for Hykey, a Lyndhurst High School alumna from 2002 and member of the dance team during her tenure at the school. Nearly a decade later, Hykey takes pride in her team.

“I feel like it means more as a coach because I know they’re winning under my guidance. “(As a member of the team), I’m only one dancer. Being on the team it’s harder to get the girls together. I’m sure I would have loved to win one, but it’s nice to see all the time that we put into it and realize it’s paying off.”

The rewarding experience is one that Hykey shares with her players. Senior Sarah Wohlrab, who joined the team when she was a freshman, has felt the same way.

“I was so happy (when we found out we won),” she said giddily. “I’m so proud of my girls for all of their hard work and dedication, getting to practices, and giving it their all.”

Wohlrab, who joined the team after a few older members on the squad pressed her to try out when she was a freshman, also cited the comradery between the members as one of the more rewarding experiences.

“We get to be ourselves and get to know each other more,” Wohlrab said. “I was inspired by (what the older members told me) so I just did it.”

With their state win this year, Hykey sees the possibility for this kind of success next year.

“We’re only losing just one senior,” Hykey said. “We have a pretty young team and I’m thinking that the rest will come back.”

With Lyndhurst’s first state dance title ever, this group of girls has something to be proud of.

Phasing out 19th century technology

Photo by Ron Leir/ Fire Official Sam Infante (l.) and Fire Chief Joseph McCarthy check out the interior of a Gamewell alarm box at Montgomery and Williamson Sts.

 

By Ron Leir

BLOOMFIELD –

An ancient and now impractical piece of township infrastructure is targeted for the dust bin of history.

The nearly 200 Gamewell telegraph fire alarm boxes scattered around Bloomfield that haven’t been used by the public for many years are slated for removal later this year.
It’s not that they don’t work – they do, insisted Fire Chief Joseph McCarthy and Fire Official Sam Infante.

That is, they explain, the alarm device functions and if a box alarm is tripped, it will transmit the box’s coded location to the firehouse. But the problem lies with the electrical circuitry and the difficulty of finding parts for a 19th century mechanism.
“We’re dealing with wiring that’s 120 years old,” Infante said.

He can tell you the exact date of the Gamewell system’s installation here: Nov. 29, 1890.

And, Infante continued, when there’s a disruption of the electrical service and the Fire Department wants to fix the wiring, “Verizon doesn’t want us working in their manholes without a permit so we have to spend time applying for a permit.”
Then there’s the matter of spare parts to replace 19th century technology. “It used to cost $400 to replace a box,” Infante said. “Now it’s probably four times that amount.”
The Gameway Co. was taken over by Honeywell, which doesn’t make parts for those boxes or the pedestals supporting the boxes anymore, Infante said. Instead, the company recycles whatever old parts it may still have in stock, he said.

The intricacies of the Gamewell alarm are outlined in www.backtaps.com, an Internet site which seeks to keep the memory of these telegraph alarm boxes alive. Here’s the explanation it gives for the box’s operation: “The fire boxes operate using telegraph lines. Rather than having short beeps and long beeps in a series to type out letters (as in Morse Code), a fire box ‘taps’ out the number … corresponding to a code wheel…. What happens is this: The entire wired fire alarm system circuit is normally a closed circuit, meaning that electricity flows through the system without any interruptions. When the box is activated, it causes a series of ‘opens’ or taps in the pattern of the box number.” The system relies on the operation of a spring-wound clockwork mechanism, code wheel and striker to create an open circuit that produces the “taps.”

“It’s one of the best and most reliable alarm systems – if it can be maintained,” Infante said. “It’s just that now there are no spare parts available if anything goes wrong.”
Right now, he said, with the Watchung Bridge down for repairs, the circuitry connecting alarm boxes at three township schools – Brookdale, Oakview and North Middle – has been disconnected, although the bridge job is expected to be completed by next month.

So, if there’s a fire at any of those locations, “they’ve got to call us,” Infante said.
Infante said the township Board of Education will be taking bids shortly for the installation of its own central alarm monitoring system.

Several private nursing homes and some day care facilities for children and adults have their own alarm systems while others still rely on nearby Gameway boxes for coverage, he said. Senior citizen buildings have the boxes, too.

“We won’t remove the box system until everyone comes on line with an alarm system,” Infante said.

Elsewhere in Essex County, Orange and Verona still have operating Gamewell boxes; eight communities in Bergen County, including Rutherford and Hackensack, continue to use them; there are none operating in Hudson County.

A WORD WITH THE PUBLISHER: Tornado spares Cordia, Ky.

publisher@theobserver.com

 

As news flashed across television screens showing the killer tornadoes in Kentucky, my heart went out to our friends who live deep in the hollows of Kentucky. The images were scary in their own right, with tornadoes destroying towns like they were made of paper mache’ and lifting homes and vehicles off the ground like toys.

My heart went out to the people of Kentucky who we have come to love. Familiar faces went through my mind and thinking of the already bad living conditions that were made worse I became extremely concerned. and I was extremely concerned.

I made a phone call to Gino Montrone, a past organizer of the Kentucky Care Project, to find out what we could do to help, but by the grace of God, our friends , located in the central portion of the state , were left untouched.

For those of you who called with concern for those in Appalachia, thank you, and for the families who were not spared, our hearts go out to you.

No definitive answers for school shootings

On the heels of the tragic school shooting in Ohio that left three students dead and two others injured in its wake, the fruitless “dance” will once again begin. Well-intentioned people, misguided as always, will clamber over one another to get to the underlying reasons for the tragedy. They’ll search for concrete “answers” in order to “understand” precisely what motivated T.J. Lane, 17, to walk into Chardon High School on Feb. 27 and allegedly mow down his peers with a .22-caliber Ruger semiautomatic pistol.
And as always the news outlets will feed on the story like blackbirds on a carcass. In a ratings scramble, the networks will trot out their top “guns” (no pun intended) who will lean forward in their chairs and talk softly – for added drama and effect – to show genuine (manufactured) concern as they probe the “senselessness” of the killings.

Then, almost on cue, school officials and posturing politicos from far and wide will chime in. They’ll talk about “getting tougher” on school violence, and will, for the umpteenth time, reassert their “zero tolerance” policies when dealing with firearms. This will prompt another countrywide order of metal detectors; the posting of even more security guards; appeals to parents to “look for the warning signs” in their children – blah, blah, blah, ad nauseum.

The trouble is we’ve been down this road many times before. Despite all of these maneuverings, plans, tactics and policy changes, not too much has changed. Most importantly, we’re no closer to deciphering the reason that such violent acts occur in the first place. Why is this, you ask? Because there simply isn’t one definitive answer.

Irish rock ’n’ roll star Bob Geldof and his Boomtown Rats underscored this sad fact with the hit song, “I Don’t Like Mondays.” For it was on Monday, Jan. 29, 1979, that 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer opened fire on children happily playing in a playground at Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, Calif. Spencer killed two adults and injured eight children and a police officer that day. When asked why she did it, the unrepentant girl could only offer the flippant comment, “I don’t like Mondays – this livens up the day.” Geldof, taken by the utter senselessness of the act, became even more intrigued when journalists kept asking the young shooter why she was driven to kill.  “It was the perfect senseless act and this was the perfect senseless reason for doing it,” said Geldof. “So perhaps I wrote the perfect senseless song to illustrate it.”

Our need as human-beings to wrap everything up in tidy packages, to get to the underlying whys and wherefores of such tragedies is understandable. In our naiveté, however, we believe that if can just identify the reason for a violent act, isolate and examine it, then we can pinpoint the warning signs in the future and prevent it from occurring again.

Yet deadly school violence continues to occur despite such research, and this unproductive dance continues. Were the killings drug-related? Was bullying involved? Was the child mentally stable? Did he/she have a score to settle? Was the act the result of desensitization from watching too much violence in movies and on television? Did the child have identity issues; questions and/or shame about his/her sexuality? Did the youth have an inferiority complex?  Did alcohol play a role?  Were violent video games responsible in some way? Could the teenage infatuation with vampires have driven the youth to go on a blood-spilling mission? Enough already!

As always, this pursuit for answers, noble though it is, will amount to nothing more than an exercise in futility. People’s motives for committing unthinkable acts aren’t interchangeable and are often mired in mystery. And we as watchdogs before the fact are not clairvoyant. There is no pat set of warning signs that can be relied upon to tell us if or when someone might suddenly go off the deep end and open fire.  Geldof got it exactly right.

As harsh as it sounds, people of all ages sometimes kill simply because they kill. After the murders are committed, some murderers can’t even tell you why they committed the heinous act in the first place, which suggests that there are underlying causes for this that may never be known to any of us. End of story. Fade to black. Take it away Boomtown Rats:

And daddy doesn’t understand it/ He always said she was good as gold/ And he can see no reasons, ‘cause there are no reasons/What reason do you need to be shown?/ Tell me why! I don’t like Mondays. /Tell me why! I don’t like Mondays. /Tell me why! I don’t like Mondays./ I wanna shoot the whole day down!

– Jeff Bahr
jeffbahr@theobserver.com

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