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Koppers developer picked

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  Hopes by Kearny to secure a developer for the old Koppers Coke Peninsula Redevelopment site have taken one step forward and two steps back. Kearny and Tierra Solutions, the owners of two of the three parcels in the South Kearny meadows area targeted […]

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School getting facelift

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  EAST NEWARK –  As summer’s clock winds down to the start of classes for the fall term, East Newark Public School is making all kinds of preparations to welcome students and staff back in style. Newly installed Superintendent/ Principal Patrick Martin recently ticked […]


Too many birds of a feather flock to Nutley

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  NUTLEY –  Fire hoses didn’t work. Boom-boxes didn’t work. Will “fogging” do the job? Only time will tell. The “job” is to drive the starlings from DeMuro Park, where they reportedly have been roosting in massive numbers. Roosting and pooping. It’s the pooping […]


To catch a raccoon

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  On an early August night, a few weeks ago, Kearny’s Julie Kelley recalls her husband Ed calling her to the window of the couple’s Morgan Place home and inviting her to look next door where the beacon from his flash light was […]

Massa names sewer committee

NORTH ARLINGTON –  North Arlington Mayor Peter Massa has appointed an eightmember committee to interview Geraldine and Truman Road residents to learn the extent of sewer backups into basements and to team with the borough engineer to communicate possible solutions to residents. In the meantime, the borough awaits the results of a […]


Kearny alum Bifulco named new baseball coach

Photo by Jim Hague/ Kearny High School graduate and former two-sport standout Frank Bifulco has been named as the new head baseball coach at the school, replacing the retired Jim Sickinger.


By Jim Hague

When Frank Bifulco was an athlete at Kearny High School, playing soccer and baseball for the Kardinals, he got a little taste of success and craved more.
“I think that was the key to everything for me,” said Bifulco, who never allowed a lack of height to deter him in either soccer or baseball. “I was fortunate to play for successful teams during my four years at Kearny. There was a process to it all and we were pushed to do our best.”
In Bifulco’s senior year, he was a part of a soccer team that shared the Group IV state championship and a baseball team that won the state sectional title and played for the overall Group IV crown.
“I don’t think there’s any question that it fueled the fire in me,” Bifulco said. “In baseball, we won 20 games every year and won the Watchung Conference all four
years. We were very good and I always talk to my buddies about that year.”
Bifulco graduated from Kearny High in 2004 and headed off to Montclair State to play baseball for a stint.
He returned to Kearny for a football game, when he was approached by long-time
Kearny head baseball coach Jim Sickinger.
“Coach Sick asked me if I wanted to get involved in coaching,” Bifulco said. “I told him that I did want to get involved, that I wanted to give back something to Kearny.”
So Bifulco became a volunteer assistant coach, soaking up everything he could from
the veteran coach.
“I was a volunteer for two years and when the opportunity opened up to become the
JV (junior varsity) coach, I jumped at it,” Bifulco said.
Sickinger saw the potential in Bifulco and eventually brought his former second
baseman up to coach the varsity with him.
“Coach Sick sat me down and asked me if I was ready to take another step and work
with the varsity,” Bifulco said. “I had to go to camps and clinics and learn as much as I could.” Sickinger continued to groom Bifulco every step of the way.
“I learned a lot about the behind the scenes stuff, like scheduling, equipment, you
name it,” Bifulco said. All along, Sickinger knew one thing. That when the time came for him to step away from coaching, he was hopefully going to be able to turn the keys of the Kardinal program over to his former player.
“I always believed Frank was the best person for the job,” Sickinger said. “I felt
very comfortable with him.
He put in that much time and effort into it that I really could see it getting passed on
to him.”
Last June, when the high school baseball season came to a close, Sickinger shocked
everyone by announcing his retirement from coaching after spending 30 years of his life as a Kearny Kardinal player, assistant coach and head coach.
“I don’t think any of us expected him to retire this quickly,” Bifulco said. “I didn’t know until he announced it before our final game.”
And Sickinger made a promise to Bifulco.
“He said, `If this is something you really want to do, then I’ll recommend you get
the job,’” Bifulco said. “We talked several times about it. He said, ‘Think back to all
the things I had you do. Well, there was a reason.’”
Last week, the Kearny Board of Education made it official and appointed the 25-year-old Bifulco as the new head baseball coach, replacing his mentor, tutor, coach
and friend.
“You can never be fully prepared for something like this, but I hope I’m ready,” Bifulco
said. “There are things that I still have to learn. There’s always room to grow. I think I’m ready.”

Sickinger is sure.
“He’s going to be able to keep the tradition alive,” Sickinger said. “I know he’ll call me from time to time and I’ll support him every step of the way. But it’s his job now. He showed the interest. He paid the dues and he gets rewarded by being the head coach. I’m excited for him that he’s going to be the head coach. It’s been a dream for him.”

Bifulco isn’t going to upset the cattle cart too much. He’s retained Kearny’s resident
baseball guru Doug Gogal as an assistant. No one in the town knows more about baseball than Gogal, who spent nearly 25 years of his life molding young talent
in the Kearny Little League before moving on to the high school level a few years ago.

“I can’t even begin to explain how valuable Mr. Gogal is,” Bifulco said. “He’s a great
baseball man and I’m glad I will be able to bounce every idea off him. He has the same
attention to details that I have.”
Bifulco will also retain Dave Smart as a pitching coach and Rob Kelly as the JV coach. Scott Millar, the son of athletic director John Millar, will become the freshman coach.
But it’s Bifulco’s show now.

“I’m very excited about it,” Bifulco said. “Kearny is always where I wanted to be. There’s nothing like coaching at the place where you played and grew up. There’s all this tradition I have to live up to. It’s going to be tough replacing someone like Coach Sick, but he’s always been there for me.”
Bifulco got one last piece of advice from his former coach.
“He told me that I have to be my own person,” Bifulco said. “That I have to implement
things on my own. I might have received a lot of my baseball knowledge from Coach Sick, but it’s a new beginning. We have a chance to become an elite program again. We lost nine seniors, but we have some young kids ready to step up. I think we’re going to be strong again.”
If the Kearny players take on the hard-working, gritty personality of their new
young head coach, then they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the future.

Kearny’s Farih lands at SPC

Former Kardinal standout makes Peacocks’ roster as walk-on

Photo by Jim Hague/ Kearny native Mohamed Farih has earned a spot on the St. Peter’s College men’s basketball roster as a walk-on.



By Jim Hague

As the St. Peter’s College men’s basketball team was going through its warm-up drills Saturday night at the Prudential Center, a kid from Kearny was right there, among the rest.
Mohamed Farih was among those Peacocks, preparing to take on Seton Hall in the
annual showdown between New Jersey Catholic colleges.
The 6-foot-4 Farih, fresh out of Kearny High School, had made the Peacocks’ final roster as a walk-on.
Yes, a kid from Kearny was playing NCAA Division I basketball – and only God
knows how long it’s been since Kearny had a legitimate Division I basketball player.
Farih, who scored four points for the Peacocks in his debut last week, a win over
Binghamton, used his due diligence to earn a spot on the roster. He’s also already made his mark as a key practice player, as the Peacocks, due to injury and illness, were down to only eight scholarship players in practice last week before facing Seton Hall, a
game the Peacocks would lose in a game effort, 63-54.
The story of Farih’s ascent to the world of Division I basketball began in earnest
last February, when Kearny head boys’ basketball coach Bill Mullins reached out to
St. Peter’s assistant Bruce Hamburger and told Hamburger about Farih’s hopes and
dreams of walking on to the Peacocks’ roster.
“I got an e-mail from Billy that said he had a kid who was coming to St. Peter’s and was interested in trying to walk on,” Hamburger said.
Farih, who had some interest from some Division III schools to play, received a
nice academic scholarship/financial aid package from St. Peter’s, so that’s where he was headed regardless.
“I decided it was a good choice for me academically,” Farih said. “But I also truly believed I could get a chance to make the team. I just wanted to make sure I got that shot.”
The Peacocks, who made the NCAA Tournament last March after winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, graduated four key players from that team, so there were some roster spots open.
Farih got in touch with Hamburger and the two began the odyssey.
“I first talked to him in July and told him what he had to do in terms of paperwork to
get eligible to play,” Hamburger said. “When school started, even before he touched a
basketball for us, he was really persistent and was at the office almost every day, asking me if everything was in line.”
“I’ve always been a persistent guy,” Farih said. “I always want to make sure I get my
stuff done and be ready,” Farih said.
Hamburger told the Kearny teenager to go play more and work on his game. So that’s
what Farih did, religiously working out at the Newark
YMCA, playing with and against players who were either pro players in Europe or
solid college players locally.
“It really helped me, playing with the better competition,” Farih said. “It got me ready.”
Farih also became a fixture at the open workouts that SPC head coach John Dunne had with his players in the offseason.
“During our preseason workouts, I’d always see the kid, but I had no idea who he
was,” Dunne said. “Every time I turned around, there’s this kid watching the workouts. He was very polite, just watching, but he was there all the time, so we let him hang around.”
“I just wanted to make sure that they knew who I was,” Farih said. “I stayed and
watched what they were doing. I wanted to know everything I could.”
Hamburger and Dunne then met to discuss the possibility of having a walk-on tryout.
“I didn’t know if we were going to keep any walk-ons,” Dunne said. “I didn’t know if
we needed any.”
But the coaching staff decided to have the tryout.
There were 13 prospective players who were vying for the chance to be a walk-on.
“I thought I played well,” Farih said. “I did some good things.” “Of the 13, about four had decent enough skills,” Dunne said. “But we had to see who could handle the practices, who was coachable, who could handle the whole deal in being a walk-on. As it turned out, Mohamed had the right attitude and he ended up having enough skill. Demonstrating a great attitude went a long way.”
It was also remarkable, considering Farih missed most of his senior season due to a
broken wrist.
After three days of the tryouts, Dunne made a decision about Farih and fellow walkon
candidate Tyler DeChalus of Elmont, N.Y.
“I called them in and gave them the spiel about how they might never get in a game, but how they need to be ready at all times,” Dunne said. “They had won a spot after a couple of days.”
“You could tell right away that he was into it,” Hamburger said. “You could give
him the simple drills and he knew what he was doing. He paid attention, listened and
separated himself a little from everyone else. He figured it all out.”
Then came the biggest test, whether Farih, an undersized kid from Kearny, could handle the physical rigors of playing with and against guys much bigger on a daily basis.
“It was a challenge,” Farih said. “Of course, they were bigger and stronger, but I
thought I handled myself.”
“He showed a lot of toughness and didn’t back down at all,” Hamburger said. “The
other guys on the team respected him and accepted him and he just went from there.
He fit in right away.”
With that, Mohamed Farih became a Division I basketball player. He’s a member of
the St. Peter’s Peacocks and amazingly has already scored collegiate points.
“I was so excited,” Farih said. “My hard work had paid off. It feels good to be part of
the team.”
Dunne beams when he talks about Farih.
“I can’t rave about Mohamed enough,” Dunne said. “If he doesn’t change, he could be
one of our best walk-ons ever. He’s extremely smart, he’s coachable, he’s proven he can compete. He has a great work ethic. He’s extremely cerebral and picks things up quickly. Even when he’s just standing on the side, he sees things and picks it up and is able to help the others. Some others have to do it over and over to get it, but not Mohamed.”
And last week, with the Peacocks battling injury and illness, Farih had a key role
in practice and was learning to play a new position, that of small forward.
“I’m getting a lot of time, learning different things,” Farih said. “I played the three
(small forward) this week and I never did that before. I just wanted to see what I could
do to help the team. It’s crazy how this all turned out, but it’s what I wanted.”
There are no guarantees in the life of a walk-on. It’s a thankless position. Farih may
never play in another game, yet he has to continue to work hard, practice hard, just to
keep his spot on the roster.
But he’s doing the right things – and that just might make him a permanent fixture
on the SPC roster. And there is a kid from Kearny playing Division I basketball. Believe it. Mohamed Farih certainly does.



George Brown Ford
George Brown Ford, 73, of Jackson, passed away on Nov. 21 at Kimball Medical Center, Lakewood.
George was born in Jersey City, and resided in East Newark, before settling in Jackson Twp. 36 years ago.
George proudly served his country in the United States Navy.
Mr. Ford was employed as a truck driver by Paul’s Trucking Company in Edison. He was captain and a volunteer fireman in the East Newark Sherman Hook and Ladder Fire Company.
George was a communicant of St. Veronica’s Roman Catholic Church in Howell.
Predeceased by his parents, Allan and Jean Ford, he is survived by his wife of 38 years, Sara V. Ford; his sons, Allan Ford of North Arlington, George Ford of Baytown, Texas, Andrew Ford of Jackson, and Francis Ford of Jersey City; his daughters, Cathy Ford of Bethlehem, Pa., Margie Ford of Sanford, N.C., Maryanne Addud of Medford, and Sarita Ford of Jackson; his brother, Pat Ford of Lanoka Harbor; his sisters, Catherine Lowe of Rockville, Md.; Marylin McGowan of Toms River, and Jane Murphy of Kearny; his 17 grandchildren, and expecting another grandchild soon, and four grea-grandchildren; and his former wife, Margaret Tomasko of Sanford, N.C.
Arrangements were by the George S. Hassler Funeral Home, Jackson. A funeral Mass was held at St. Veronica’s Roman Catholic Church, Howell, followed by interment in
St. Mary’s Cemetery, Lakewood.
In lieu o f flowers, donations may be made to the American Lung Association, 1031 Route 22 West, Suite 203, Bridgewater, N.J. 08807.

Julia Esteves
We celebrate the long and beautiful life of Julia Esteves.
She was born in Pardilho, Estarreja, Portugal to Antonio Joaquim Vaz and Maria Jose Valente de Almeida on July 24, 1925. She loved telling the story of how her father did not register her birth until Sept. 2, 1925.
Julia had the pleasure of celebrating two birthdays for 86 years. Julia married her
sweetheart, Jose Luciano da Silva Esteves, who was also born in the same town.
They moved to Angola, Africa, early in their marriage but Julia returned to the home they built on Lugar-do-Lugar when she was eight months pregnant with her son, Jose Amilcar Marques Esteves. A daughter followed 15 months later, Maria Alexandrina Marques Esteves.
With brothers in the United States anxious to bring family members to America, papers where processed and the family flew to America on Dec. 5, 1967. Harrison
was the place they would call home and where Julia lived until her death. Julia,
a devoted Catholic, had a strong faith and other than her family the Lord was her daily companion. After her husband’s death and for the last 30 years, her life has been truly dedicated to God and her children.
The gift she always said was the most precious to her was time spent with family. She carried around a photo album of family and friends who gathered to celebrate her 85th birthday party for weeks afterwards.
Her face would light up every time she spoke of her granddaughter, Amanda Mae Cohen, and she never missed any opportunity to see Amanda’s performances or be
witness to her accomplishments.
She was blessed with a wonderful son-in-law, William P. Warner, whom she adored and two beautiful step-daughters, Jessica and Christine Warner. She loved to dance, she loved to watch Spanish Soap Operas and she love walking up Harrison Avenue to Holy Cross Church. She lived 86 years and seven weeks in good health, and only several weeks ago was diagnosed with brain lymphoma. On Nov. 26, at 8:18
p.m., the Lord came for his sister. You have given us many memories to keep you in our hearts….be at peace….you are loved, and you are missed.
The funeral will be conducted from the Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave., Harrison, on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 10:30 a.m., following visitation from 9:30 a.m. A funeral Mass will be held in Holy Cross Church, Harrison, at 11 a.m. Interment
will be in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.
For directions, information or to send condolences, please visit mulliganfuneralhome.org.

Dolores A. Callaghan

Dolores A. Callaghan (Maccia), 76, passed away on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at her
home in Kearny while surrounded by her loving family.
Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home 585 Belgrove Drive,
Kearny. A funeral liturgy was offered in St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny, followed by interment at Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thiele-reid.com.
Dolores was born in Newark, lived in Bloomfield and moved to Kearny in 1966. She was employed as a medical coder at St. Michael’s University Medical Center, Newark,
for 30 years. She retired 14 years ago. Mrs. Callaghan was a member of the Kearny Senior Citizens and the St. Stephen’s Seniors.
She is survived by her children; Catherine Santangelo (James), Debra Taylor (David)
and Robert (Arlene); 11 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and her daughter-in-law Marcella (Handlin) Callaghan.
She was predeceased by her husband Donald A. Sr. in 1976 and her son Donald A. Jr. in 2010.
In lieu of flowers Dolores wished that you all enjoy life and spend quality time with
friends and family.

Robert A. Dobosh
Robert A. Dobosh, 59, passed away on Nov. 22.
Private funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thiele-reid.
Robert was born in Newark and has lived in Toms River, Nutley and most recently Kearny.
In 1971, at age 19 he opened Bob’s Deli on Davis Avenue in Kearny, working there until
closing it in 1983. In 2007, he re-opened the deli under the name of Bob’s Again Deli where he was working until the time of his death.
He is survived by his children Stephen Dobosh of Kearny, Robyn Comer of Kearny, Stephanie Dobosh of Tucson, Ariz. and his brother Stephen Dobosh of Kearny.

James Patrick Dunrovich
James Patrick Dunrovich, 44, passed away suddenly on Nov. 21 at his home in Kearny.
Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home, 585 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral liturgy was offered in St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny, followed by
interment at Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thiele-reid.com.
James was born in Newark and was a lifelong resident of Kearny.
He was an elevator mechanic employed by the International Union of Elevator Constructors, Local 1 of New York and New Jersey for the last 11 years.
He is survived by his parents John P. and Marion (Myles) Dunrovich and his two sisters, Marion and Susan Dunrovich.
He was predeceased by his brother John “Jackie” Dunrovich.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at www.stjude.org.

The dangers of disability


By Randy Neumann

In the past, when you went to a bar or restaurant for lunch, all you had to watch
on television (that is, if they had a TV) was sports and sports reporting. That’s because
sports is a medium that sells commercials, i.e., soap, deodorant, airline travel, etc. Well, times have changed.
The number of channels has increased exponentially and television now uses politics and finance, predominantly, to sell its commercials. Interestingly, many of the
commercials (especially on the financial networks) want you to buy gold. Unfortunately, the horse is likely out of the barn with the price of gold at $1,300 an ounce, but that won’t stop them.
Financial planning covers a lot more than just investments, but the other topics
of the trade aren’t as sexy, so they don’t sell as many commercials. Nonetheless, they
are important. Listed below are the five tenets of financial planning: Tax and Cash Flow Planning; Investment Planning; Retirement Planning; Risk Management and Estate Planning.
This column will focus on the area of risk management. What is risk management?
Risk management is the calculation of things that can happen to you. I used to be able to count these risks on one hand. Some of these risks are: you can get sick or disabled; you can die; your property can get damaged or somebody can sue you.
However, in the new normal (a catchy current phrase), we have to include another
risk – a long-term care stay in a facility can deplete your assets. This column is about
the dangers of disability.
Let’s begin with, “What are your chances of becoming disabled?” According to the
Counsel for Disability Awareness, “Almost 1/3 of Americans entering the workforce
(3 in 10) will become disabled before they retire.” Interestingly, freak accidents are not
usually the culprit.
Are you prepared if this happens to you? Probably not. If you’re like most Americans, you don’t have disability insurance, or enough emergency savings to carry you through 2 1/2 years. Yes, that’s the duration of the average long-term disability.
Put another way, if you had a goose that laid a golden egg once a week, would you insure that goose? Of course you would. Well, if you have a job or a business that generates a weekly paycheck, you are the Golden Goose.
What are the most common causes of disability? As mentioned above, they are not
freak accidents, nor are they injuries at work. The majority of disabilities come from
illnesses like cancer, heart attack and diabetes. Back pain, injuries and arthritis are also significant causes. Most are not work-related, and therefore not covered by workers compensation. Additionally, lifestyle choices and personal behavior that lead to obesity are becoming major contributing factors.
Disability is already a widespread problem, and the threat is growing at an alarming rate. More than 30 million Americans between the ages of 21 and 64 are disabled according to the most recent U.S. Census. In 2008, 2.3 million disability claims were filed with Social Security.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 25-plus million American lives are restricted by the effects of disability. Now, to get down to brass tacks. What are your chances of becoming disabled?
The following statistics come from CDA’s Personal Disability Quotient disability risk
• A typical female, age 35, 5’4″, 125 pounds, non-smoker, who works an office job, has some outdoor physical responsibilities, and leads a healthy life style, has the following
risks: A 24% chance of becoming disabled for three months or longer during her working career; with a 38% chance that the disability will last five years or longer, and with the average disability for someone like her lasting 82 months. If this same person used tobacco and weighed 160 pounds, the risk would increase to a 41% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer.
• A typical male, age 35, 5’10″, 170 pounds, non-smoker, who works an office job,
has some outdoor physical responsibilities, and leads a healthy lifestyle, has the following risks: A 21% chance of becoming disabled for three months or longer during
his working career; with a 38% chance that the disability would last five years or
longer, and with the average disability for someone like him lasting 82 months. If this
same person used tobacco and weighed 210 pounds, the risk would increase to a 45%
chance of becoming disabled for three months or longer.
OK, we have identified the problem. Come back next week for the solution.

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 securities and insurance offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. He can be reached at 12 Route 17N, Suite 115, Paramus, 201-291-9000.


New Jersey residents whose homes and properties sustained damage in Hurricane Irene have until Nov. 30 to register for assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Even if an insurance settlement has not been determined, individuals must register before the Nov. 30 deadline or face losing the opportunity to be considered for federal assistance. Though FEMA will not duplicate insurance benefits, expenses not covered by insurance may be eligible for federal grants after the claim has been paid.

Two remaining Disaster Recovery Centers in Essex and Passaic counties will also close Nov. 30. The centers, which operate from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., provide face-to-face answers to questions for those who have already registered. Applicants are reminded to keep their FEMA information updated, register before visiting the centers, but not to register more than once. Duplicate registrations will delay processing an application.

To register or to contact FEMA: Go to www.DisasterAssistance.gov, m.fema.gov or call FEMA toll-free, 800-621-3362 (FEMA). Those with access or functional needs and who use a TTY may call 800-462-7585 or use 711 or Video Relay Service to call 800-621-3362. Telephone lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET; multilingual operators are available.

DRC locations:

Fairfield Community Center
376 Hollywood Ave.
Fairfield, NJ 07004

Paterson Museum
2 Market St.
Paterson, NJ 07501

Residents with flood insurance claims have until Jan. 23 to submit complete, signed and sworn-to proof of loss claims to their National Flood Insurance Program providers.

Hey, kids: Hearty appetite


Photo by Ron Leir/ Lincoln School kindergarteners hold packets containing cereal and graham crackers, watched by, from l., teacher Carina Gomes, Principal Joann Dignzaio-Botch and teacher aide Deborah DeCarvalho.



By Ron Leir

Harrison –
Public school kids in one West Hudson community are getting an amenity that hungry guests in many hotels can only wish for … free breakfast.
For Harrison Schools Supt. James Doran, the free meal is more of a necessity than a luxury, given the practical realities facing many of the district’s youngsters.
“We get a sense that a lot of our kids are either not eating breakfast or, if they are eating something, it’s likely to be a buttered roll and soda,” Doran said.
“And if you’re eating sugar, that stuff burns off around 9 or 10 a.m. and that’s when kids start fidgeting and losing attention,” he said. “There’s less disruption and kids are better prepared for the day when they eat a good breakfast.”
The district started its “Universal Breakfast” experiment on Oct. 1 – helped along by a small U.S. Department of Agriculture grant – and Doran says the kids seem to have taken to it pretty well.
The district’s contracted food services caterer, Pomptonian, of Allendale, provides the hot and cold meals.
Some adjustments had to be made to accommodate the approximately 15-minute food distribution and consumption time allotted for the younger children in Hamilton and Lincoln Schools.
As negotiated in a new labor contract, teachers and staff agreed to an expanded school day, starting at 8:20 a.m. (instead of 8:30 a.m.) and ending at 3:05 p.m. (instead of 3 p.m.) so the morning meal can be served without disrupting classes.
Students at Washington Middle School and the high school eat in their school cafeterias. At Hamilton and Lincoln Schools, maintenance staff wheel food on carts to classrooms where teachers and aides dole out meals to students.
Last school year, about 77% of the district’s approximately 2,000 students were deemed eligible for free and/or reduced-price lunches under federal household income guidelines that entitle the district to government reimbursement.
Now, Doran said the district is kicking in some funds to supplement the federal grant to fund the Universal Breakfast program.
The Observer visited Lincoln School last Tuesday to check out the breakfast menu. Kindergarten and third-graders got juice, cereal with milk and a whole grain snack, while second-graders enjoyed juice, a small plate of silver-dollar-sized pancakes or French toast and milk.

Photo by Ron Leir/ Lincoln School second-graders display their packaged hot breakfast. Standing, from l., are teacher Daniella Melo, Principal Joann Dignizio-Botch and Schools Supt. James Doran.

Kids don’t have to eat if they don’t want to but, on average, 95 to 100% accept the morning meal, according to Lincoln Principal Joann Dignazio-Botch.
Hot meals are served, typically, once or twice a week at Lincoln, she said.
“The children are very excited about this new undertaking and about the choices they have,” Dignazio-Botch said. “And feedback from parents has been very positive.”
With a decent morning meal, children are “more calm, more attentive” in class, she said.
Doran said that studies have shown that kids who have breakfast in school “increase their math and reading scores as well as improve their speed and memory in cognitive tests. Research also shows that children who eat breakfast at school – closer to class and test-taking time – perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast or eat breakfast at home.”
What’s more, he said, kids who have in-school breakfast “are less likely to be overweight and have improved nutrition – they eat more fruits, drink more milk, and consume a wider variety of foods …”

Now she’s ‘guaranteed’ jail time

By Ron Leir

She offered them the dream of a lifetime, only to turn it into a cruel nightmare.
Now she’s doing the time for her crime.
Kearny’s Rosa Blake, also known as Rosa Vareiro, 56, will be spending more than seven years behind bars for bilking immigrants out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by claiming she could guarantee them U.S. citizenship.
Blake, who pleaded guilty on June 28 to a federal indictment charging her with six counts of wire fraud, ten counts of impersonation of a government official and seven counts of money laundering, was sentenced Nov. 15 to 87 months in prison.
Additionally, U.S. District Court Judge William H. Walls, sitting in Newark, ordered Blake to pay $773,800 in restitution.
She was represented by Chatham attorney John C. Whipple.
According to the government and court testimony, between May 2004 and April 2009, Blake falsely told dozens of victims that she worked for federal immigration officials and that she’d provide or expedite approval of their immigration records to help them obtain permanent residency documents (“green cards”) and job authorization papers.
Blake accepted payment for her “services” from her victims at her home where she sometimes wore fake government credentials around her neck. Then she’d have them sign official-looking papers with what appeared to be the letterhead and insignias of U.S. immigration authorities.
Blake never provided her victims with the documents or copies of these documents.
She’d then promise them that in matter of months, they’d get employment authorization documents in the mail, followed by green cards.
Instead, Blake spent the money collected from the victims on designer clothing (including numerous fur coats) and shoes, and a BMW automobile. She also squandered the ill-gotten proceeds at Atlantic City casinos.
When victims tried to contact her to check on the status of their documents, Blake threatened to have them deported. She reminded them that she knew where they lived, who their relatives were, and that they’d never see their children again after they were deported.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Office of Professional Responsibility Investigations East; ICE Homeland Security Investigations, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigations for their work in the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Zach Intrater of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark represented the government in the case.

Resident’s tip triggers burglary arrests

Dominique Morris


Alhafeez Williams


By Ron Leir

Police credited an alert resident’s call to 911 with leading them on the path to capturing two suspected burglars on Monday, Nov. 14.
Linked to at least two Nutley home burglaries on Hopper Ave. and Ackerman St. are Alhafeez Williams, 18, and Dominque Morris, 18, both of Newark.
Nutley Police Capt. Tom Strumolo and Det. Anthony Montanari gave this account of the incident:
Lt. Eric Anderson and Officer Gerard Tusa responded to a call from a Bloomfield Ave. resident reporting two men loitering around Bloomfield and Hopper Aves. shortly after 6:15 p.m.
The officers located two men – later identified as Williams and Morris – at the intersection of Taft Ave. and Spring St. and asked them what they were doing there. The pair gave inconsistent accounts about an alleged third man they say they were waiting for.
The officers found that Morris had a checkbook on his person that was issued to a Hopper Ave. resident.
Searching the area, the officers discovered a gold earring on the sidewalk, and, a bit further away, a cellular phone. In nearby bushes, they came across two suitcases which were filled with jewelry, cameras and video equipment.
The contents of the suitcases reportedly included items listed as taken earlier that day from one of the burglarized homes, and the pair had in their pockets what police described as “additional proceeds” from those home burglaries and potentially others in the area.
The Hopper Ave. property was accessed via a garage door and entry to the Ackerman St. house was gained through a window. A dog belonging to the owner was later discovered limping from an injured paw, police said.
During the same time period, someone tried to force open the door of another Hopper Ave. home but failed to gain entry.
Police later learned of another burglary at a Myrtle Ave. house where the intruders got in through a sliding glass panel door, ransacked the place, and removed a large TV. It’s unclear whether the two men were responsible for that incident, police said.
All of the burglaries happened within a three-hour period, police said. Total value of the proceeds is still being calculated, they added.
Williams and Morris were each charged with two counts of criminal mischief, burglary and theft and taken to the Essex County Jail where they’re each being held on $175,000 bail pending court action.
Police believe it’s unlikely that the pair can be tied to the Nov. 9 robbery of the Delta gas station at Bloomfield Ave. and DeVausney Place, near the Hopper Ave. homes.
Montanari commended the patrol officers’ investigatory procedures.
“They did an exemplary job,” he said.

Historic firehouse under restoration

Photos by Karen Zautyk


Top: One of the vintage photos that hang on the walls inside the old firehouse between 70 and 80 Halstead St. (bottom)



By Karen Zautyk

Members of the Kearny Fire Department, who are usually in the business of saving lives, have voluntarily taken on another responsibility — saving a small but precious piece of Kearny history.
For 15 years, on their own time and using their own money (plus gracious donations from individuals and businesses), they have been restoring the only building in Kearny declared an official historic site by the State of New Jersey.
And we’re willing to bet most of you aren’t even aware of it.
The structure is the oldest standing firehouse in town: a small two-story brick building on Halstead St., just west of Kearny Ave. It dates to 1895 and was originally the headquarters for Highland Hose Co. No. 4, back in the days when a clanging bell was the only way to alert firefighters to an emergency, and when rigs pulled by galloping horses raced through the streets to answer a call.
The building hasn’t been a working firehouse for decades, but it is still in regular use. Nicknamed the “Exempt House,” it is the monthly meeting place for members of Kearny Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Associations 18 and 218.
These meetings are held on the beautifully restored second-floor of the building, which has been rehabbed floor-to-ceiling to pristine condition. Even the windows are new. They are exact replicas of the original ones and were installed following the specific criteria required when renovating a historic site.
We learned all of this from retired KFD Deputy Chief George Harris, who acted as our tour guide on a recent visit. The goal, Harris explained, is to eventually restore the entire structure and open it to the public as a Fire Department museum. But there is still a long way to go.

Retired Dep. Fire Chief George Harris leans on old communications switchboard.


An old fire bell.


In addition to the second-story rehab, completed work has included refurbishing the exterior brickwork: Bricks were removed, repaired, and put back, one by one. Those brand-new-looking ones that you see are actually all original to the 19th century building.
The rehab job has been tough going since the beginning. When the firefighters initially decided to launch the project more than a decade ago, they found that the structure was sinking. “We had to jack up the building,” Harris recalled.
Currently, the firefighters are busy repairing the staircase leading to the second floor. They have also discovered that the roof was sagging, so that is being replaced.
As we noted, the KFD members — active and retired — do all of this exhausting work themselves, with occasional donated labor, for which they are most grateful.
When it was a working firehouse, the living quarters were on the second floor and the ground floor housed the rigs and the horses. That is, after the department got its own horses. Prior to acquiring KFD equines, firefighters had to borrow the animals. When the alarm bell rang, “the milkman or the bread man would bring their horses to the firehouse,” Harris explained.
Speaking of bells: Among the artifacts in the building is the 1886 alarm bell, which had gone missing but has now returned home. “It was found in the basement of Schuyler School, but no one knows how it got there,” Harris noted.
Over the years, other treasures have also reappeared. including a collection of 19th century trophies which had been packed away and forgotten in boxes in the firehouse cellar.
“We also found a lot of stuff after a flood in the basement in 1962,” Harris said. “Things were thrown out, but Firefighter Billy McGeehan went to the dump and brought them back.” Kudos to McGeehan and his sense of history.
When the dream of a museum is realized, the public will be treated to an exceptional exhibit, portions of which we were privileged to see. This includes the old “dispatch center,” through which all town emergency calls were routed long before 911 and cell phones. (No, children, dinosaurs did not roam Kearny at the time!)
There is also the old “life net,” a massive circle of canvas that had once been the only escape route from a fire. The item, which now hangs on a wall and is covered with patches and badges from fire departments around the world, was still in use until the 1960’s. Even later, the KFD used it for training. “It took eight people to hold it,” Harris recalled. “We used to train by jumping into it from the second story.” That practice, he remembers, was stopped in 1970 by then-Chief John Phillips, who was modernizing the department.
A museum will also offer visitors the chance to pay silent tribute to the two members of the Kearny Fire Department who lost their lives in the line of duty, and who are honored by plaques on the wall: Capt. Robert Ball, Nov. 12, 1973, and Firefighter Manny Gennace, Dec. 24, 1977.
While we were visiting the historic firehouse, KFD members were busily engaged in one of their regular clean-out days and were readying the staircase for that upcoming project. Harris and Capt. Harry Fearon made it a point to thank the businesses that have generously donated to the restoration work: Allied Building Products of Carlstadt, which has provided roofing materials; Viola Brothers of Nutley, spackle and trim; Continental Hardware of Newark; K-Mart of Kearny, paint; Building Specialties of Kearny, sheet rock; and J&L Atwell of Kearny, which installed those very special second-floor windows.
(If we have left anyone out, blame this correspondent and her faulty notes, not the KFD.)
To learn more about the history of the department, visit kearnyfire.com.
To donate materials or money (both of which are welcome and much appreciated) to the restoration effort, contact the department at the non-emergency number: 201-991-1402.

Drunken motorist plows into Nutley home

Photo by Ron Leir/ Fabre’s Buick outside the home on High St. in Nutley.


By Ron Leir

Nutley -
The occupants of a High St., Nutley home had a rude awakening early Wednesday, Nov. 16, when an out-of-control car smashed through their living room wall.
Police said George Fabre, 21, of Clifton, was driving drunk when his Buick struck the house, coming to rest inside the living room. The collision caused heavy structural damage to the dwelling and destroyed a sofa.
Fabre suffered minor injuries while his 22-year-old passenger wasn’t hurt, according to police.
Municipal Police, Fire and Building Services Department personnel were sent to the scene where they escorted occupants from the home.
The house will remain off limits until local building code officials deem it a safe structure.
Police impounded the car and issued Fabre summonses for DWI, reckless driving and being an uninsured motorist. He was released to a responsible adult pending court action.
Police said they are investigating where Fabre had been drinking prior to the accident.