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Have you seen this alleged Nutley burglar?

NUTLEY — Police say they are investigating a diversion burglary that allegedly occurred on Fischer Ave. on Dec. 9. An elderly resident told police that a man banged on her front door at 3 p.m., Dec. 9, claiming there was […]


Help sought in cold case

By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  Somebody knows something. Six years ago, an 87-year-old man was deliberately run down by a car in a South Kearny parking lot and robbed while he lay helpless on the ground. He died of his injuries the next day. Authorities ruled the death […]

100G for Arena tax case

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  HARRISON –  Now that the state Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the New York Red Bulls professional soccer team should pay taxes on the stadium and the land it occupies in Harrison, the town has hired an outside law firm to […]


Staffing Skyway fire-watch

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY – For the first time, members of the Kearny Fire Department will have a shot at off-duty pay, much like their counterparts at the Police Department have enjoyed for many years, although there is a sunset provision for the privilege. This opportunity […]


New No. 2 has seen it all

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  LYNDHURST –  The Lyndhurst Board of Education has revived the position of assistant superintendent, albeit on an interim basis, with the hiring of 50-year educator Jeffrey P. Feifer. Feifer, who came aboard Sept. 25, was appointed to serve “no more than 120 days,” to […]


Kearny Police Blotter

On Friday, March 16, Det. Mike Gonzalez was in Newark around 2:45 p.m. in an unrelated investigation and sees a carload of people known to him as longtime drug offenders in Kearny. During this time, he saw what appeared to be a drug transaction and saw the car travel back to Kearny. Once in Kearny, he attempted to stop the vehicle on Highland Ave. near Woodland Ave. Before the vehicle came to a stop, Gonzalez observed a lot of commotion coming from the vehicle with packages being thrown out the window of the vehicle. The car stopped on Rose St. between Highland and Alexander Ave. Gonzalez advised headquarters of what was going on and receives backup in the form of Sgt. Charles Smith and Officers Mike Andrews and Neil Nelson. The group begins to canvas the area on food and came up with three wax folds of suspected heroine labeled, “Dreke” and three hypodermic needles. The occupants of the vehicle were placed under arrest. A further search of the individuals found Xanex pills in the front pocket of one of the males and eight hypodermic needles in the handbag of one of the females. Two males and two females were arrested and taken to Headquarters.

While in the cell, officers observed one of the individuals discard something into the toilet of the cell. Gonzalez and Officer Paul Bershefski went into the cellblock and found a black plastic bag containing two more wax folds of heroine.

John Bradley, a 42-year-old Kearny resident, was charged with Possession of CDS, Possession of paraphernalia, and attempted destruction of evidence. His younger brother Stewart, a 33-year-old Kearny resident, and one of the females Christine Ketz, 41, from North Arlington, were charged with possession of CDS, possession of paraphernalia and trying to discard evidence. Mary Ackerson, a 27-year-old Kearny resident was charged with possession of paraphernalia and trying to discard evidence. Given his history, John Bradley was held for $10,000 bail.

Later that day around 6:30 p.m., Officer Neil Nelson was on patrol and observed a vehicle parked on Halstead St. in the area of Kearny Ave. and observed the occupant of the vehicle engage in what appeared to be a hand to hand transaction. Nelson saw the occupant reach into a bottle and pull out what he believes are packaged narcotics and then attempted to leave the area in the car. Nelson followed the vehicle from Halsted St. to Chestnut St. and stopped at Chestnut St. and Garfield Ave. Nelson detects a very powerful odor of marijuana and saw the plastic bottle that Nelson had seen during the transaction. Nelson took the operator from the vehicle and conducted a plain view search, which turned up 14 plastic bags of marijuana packaged for sale. Brian Restrepo, a 25-year-old Clifton resident was charged for possession of marijuana over 50 grams, manufacturing or distributing CDS, distributing near a school zone, possession of paraphernalia, and operating a motor vehicle in possession of a controlled substance.

Later that night, Officers Steve Hroncich and Paul Bershefski were on patrol when they observed a vehicle on the Bergen Ave. extension traveling at a high rate of speed westbound. The officers caught up to the vehicle and pulled it over at Schuyler and Bergen Aves. The driver exited the car in a very irate matter, ranging at the officers saying that he was doing nothing wrong. The man had a powerful smell of alcohol and appeared to be off balance. He was asked to perform balance tests, which he was unable to complete, at which point the man, 35-year-old Sergey Gaston, told the officers, “Lock me up, I’m drunk.” Gaston was then placed under arrest. A search of the vehicle found two small red cap vials of suspected cocaine and a bottle of Bacardi Limon. Gaston was charged with driving while intoxicated, possession of CDS, possession of paraphernalia, careless driving, driving while suspended, driving while in possession of CDS, and failing to surrender a suspended Driver’s License.

Early on the morning of March 17, Officers Derek Hemphill and Ben Wuelfing responded to Beech St. between Kearny and Oakwood Aves. on calls of obnoxious juveniles causing a disturbance. They responded to the scene and checked the area. In the hallway of a basement, they came upon several juveniles in the doorway of the building and can smell both marijuana and alcohol. The officers contain everyone in the area and inquire as to what is going on in the area. The officers then take three males into custody, two 17-year-old males and a 16-year-old male, all from Kearny. The juveniles were charged with underage possession of alcohol, possession of marijuana, and possession of paraphernalia and turned over to their parents.

On March 19 around 9 a.m., Kearny Police were advised by Garfield School of a written bomb threat within the school. Officers Cesar Negron confirmed that in fact there was a threatening note found at the scene and advised to respond help in a sweep of the area for suspicious packages. Sgt. Robert Maguire, Sgt. Rick Poplaski, and Cpt. Edward Rygiel responded to the school, which was evacuated as a precaution. A bomb dog was requested and Jersey City Officer Patterson responded with his K9 Rommel. Rommel swept the area with officers. Once it was confirmed with administration, the building was safe to return. The note left was recovered as evidence and the feeling was that it may have been written by a student. The Juvenile division under Maguire is following up the investigation.

On March 20 around 2:30 a.m., Officers Hemphill and Wuelfing were patrolling the north section of Kearny and came around someone crawled up in a ball laying on the ground. They approached the individual and wake him up, realizing he is in possession of a GPS that he cannot account for. The 21-year-old Belleville male was arrested and turned over to North Arlington after the GPS came back to a North Arlington resident.

In the afternoon of the same day, Officer Mike Andrews was on patrol in the area of Kearny and Pavonia Aves. when he saw a group leave the Kearny Federal Bank Lot and proceed through the fence down the railroad embankment. Knowing that narcotics violators often go there, Andrews advised Officer Nelson who joined him. When they came across the group, they detected an odor of marijuana and make a field inquiry as to what they are doing and what they have in their possession. One individual turns over a marijuana cigar and is placed under arrest. The other individuals submitted to  search, but were found not to possess anything. The 16-year-old male was taken to headquarters and charged with possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia and turned over to a parent.

On March 22nd before midnight, Officers Tim Castle and John Trevelino came upon an intoxicated individual at Kearny and Quincy Aves. who is quite agitated and animated. The officers attempt to calm him down and the man replies that the Kearny Police don’t do anything and that, “they allow people to act up on Kearny Ave.”

The officers note his characterization of them and ask him to cease and desist his behavior. He begins to throw up his hands and walk away. The officers offered him a ride home, to which the male responded with an explitive-laden response. Feeling that the man would not cease and desist, he was placed under arrest and taken to headquarters. The man, 23-year-old Pawel Zajac, continued to carry on while at headquarters, screaming at any officer that past by.

Celebrating Bloomfield’s history BLOOMFIELD CENTER:


Bloomfield Bicentennial Kickoff

By Jeff Bahr

Over 200 years ago, the large chunk of real estate now known as Bloomfield existed in relative anonymity as a part of the City of Newark. The vast tract of land, originally purchased in 1666 from the Yantecaw (a sub-tribe of the Lenni –Lanape Indians) and encompassing what would later spin-off into the neighboring towns of Belleville, Montclair, Woodside, Franklin (present-day Nutley), and Glen Ridge was quite rural in nature, but it certainly wouldn’t remain that way. English settlers from Connecticut would colonize the southern section, while Dutch settlers from New York’s Hudson River Valley would set up farms in the zone’s northernmost reaches.

Through the years the region would grow in leaps and bounds. This expansion was helped along by thriving industrial outposts that centered on three waterways: The Second River, Third River, and Toney’s Brook. Drawing perpetual energy from these liquid-enablers sawmills cut prodigious quantities of lumber and gristmills ground innumerable pounds of grain. As a result, progress across the region was steadfast and swift. Eventually, this industrial base would include paper mills, tanneries, factories; all of the necessary ingredients for a self-sustaining village.

In 1812, it was decided that this parcel should be separated from Newark and turned into a town. Planners mulled over an appropriate name. They eventually settled on Bloomfield, lifting the name from the Presbyterian Parish of Bloomfield (itself named for General Joseph Bloomfield) that existed at the former Old First Church (today’s Church on the Green) since its opening in 1797.

Two centuries later I’m sitting in the beautifully renovated Bloomfield High School auditorium, awaiting the kickoff of the township’s bicentennial celebrations. Bloomfield has seen oodles of history transpire from those days of yore, and a number of scheduled speakers were on tap to try to bring that flavor across to the audience.

Eloquent, heartwarming, folksy and fun were the warm recollections and rich stories of Bloomfield told to the audience by former citizen Rich Ruffalo. A motivational speaker, author and educator, Ruffalo’s unabashed love for the town was as obvious as the town’s much-celebrated Church on the Green. Introduced as a “Bloomfield boy done good” by the Hon. Janice Litterio (Chairperson of the Bloomfield Bicentennial Committee and acting master of ceremonies for the evening), Ruffalo, who is unsighted, was led to the lectern. He wasted no time in putting the crowd at ease before getting on with his tales. “You’re a beautiful-looking audience,” said Ruffalo to the throng, who took a few seconds to get the humor of the comment. Just as it registered and the audience began to chuckle, Ruffalo added the show-stopping, “I was a blind spear thrower” during my school days. Not surprisingly, uproarious laughter ensued and the audience was his.


Photos by Jeff Bahr/ Clockwise from top left: Joseph Cataldo as General Joseph Bloomfield. Mayor Raymond McCarthy. Members of Bloomfield High School’s Madrigal Singers


Ruffalo spoke of high times at Foley Field watching the Bengals Football Team squash the competition. He recalled poignant if bittersweet moments spent at Brookside School, the place where he learned reading, writing and arithmetic, which has since morphed into a nondescript condominium complex. He talked of scary and unsure moments listening to blaring airraid sirens during our nation’s Cold war period, but most of all he spoke of the people that he encountered while growing up; everyday types who helped to make Bloomfield the “great town that it is.”

“There’s a saying that all roads lead to Rome,” Ruffalo said to the crowd with emotion in his voice. “As far as I’m concerned, all roads lead to Bloomfield… (Even though I now live elsewhere) This is still my home. Good ol’ Bloomfield, U.S.A.”

Throughout the evening, others spoke in similar fashion about the town and its profound effect upon them. Mixed in with these trips down memory lane were performances by the Bloomfield Girl Scouts, who presented the flag and led the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Bloomfield Madrigal Singers who were in fantastic voice as they sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Bloomfield, U.S.A.”

A multimedia presentation showing Bloomfield in its many phases was cast on a large screen, as was a timeline cataloging Bloomfield’s upcoming Bicentennial events.

And then, seemingly from nowhere, it happened.

A town crier, dressed in early nineteenth-century garb, hurriedly ascended a platform on the auditorium’s north side to introduce the arrival of General Joseph Bloomfield (played by John Cataldo) who in turn commenced to read Bloomfield’s original town charter. This led to a reenactment of the 1812 Town Charter Signing by a group of “actors.” Who were these rather stoic looking thespians dressed in three-pointer hats, felt jackets, skin-tight leggings and squarebuckle shoes? None other than the illustrious Bloomfield Town Council comprised of Councilpersons Carlos Bernard, Elias N. Chalet, Peggy O’Boyle Dunigan, Bernard Hamilton, Nicholas Joanow, and Michael Venezia. And who was the fearless chief who led the brave group to the signing table? Fittingly, ‘twas the very same gentleman that presides over regular Town Council meetings. That’s right. Mayor Raymond McCarthy, like his compatriots, sacrificed his personal dignity in order to make sure that Bloomfield’s story was told. The selfless overture certainly wasn’t lost on New Jersey Assemblyman Rob Caputo who later quipped with a grin, “If I was on the town council dressed like that, I would resign!”

After the mock signing concluded, along with the mocking of said signing, McCarthy thanked all involved for helping to make the event a reality. “This is a great event for a great community” the mayor said with pride in his voice. “Our future is great; our past is magnificent; Happy Birthday Bloomfield!”

Nightmare for folks on Elm St.

Photos by Ron Leir/ Neighbors say drivers double-park around the blue awning, (l). impeding traffic flow. They say ambulances rarely use the bay (r.) reserved for them.


By Ron Leir


Living near a property whose primary function is to support a nursing home, you’d be inclined to think you had a good neighbor policy ensured.

Not so, apparently, for some residents of Elm Street whose homes border or stand across from the old West Hudson Hospital facility at Bergen Ave. and Elm St., now owned by Health Care Renewal, a private company based in South Amboy. Medical labs are also in the building.

At their March 13 meeting, Mayor Alberto Santos and the Town Council got an earful from neighbors airing their frustrations about double-parked traffic, blocked driveways and noise at latenight hours they say they’ve endured in recent years.

One of those residents, Alejandro Tammaro, has been documenting the problems by maintaining a pictorial chronicle of the offenses as they’ve occurred and he promptly displayed the evidence to The Observer when a reporter visited his home last week.

Tammaro pointed to a blue awning that stretches over an Elm St. entranceway to the nursing home on the east side of the block where he says much of the unwanted activity takes place.

This canopied site lies almost directly across from his home, which he recently accessorized with a wroughtiron railing and gate leading to his asphalt driveway.

Tammaro gripes that delivery vehicles and ambulances, alike, habitually double-park in the middle of the street, sometimes in front of his driveway at all hours and sometimes park for as long as 45 minutes.

“Sometimes there are two ambulances at a time, with a police car, behind them, blocking four or five cars,” Tammaro says.

But there’s no reason for them to do that, he says, since the health care facility has a clearly marked ambulance bay and loading dock, with yellow striping, closer to the Bergen Ave. intersection. He says he sees one vehicle, in particular, consistently parked in that yellow zone but that car is never ticketed, he claims.

Things are particularly bad during employees’ changes of shift, at around 7 a.m. and, again, at 11 p.m., he says.

“At 11 p.m. you have people coming out from the blue awning location like it’s a bar making lots of noise,” says Tammaro. “I have two kids, (ages) nine and 16, and my neighbors have small kids, all of them trying to sleep.”

Plus, he says, there’s the noise from the radios in the ambulances and police cars that residents have to contend with.

But even more irksome, Tammaro says, is having to deal, periodically, with seeing dead bodies being carried out from the blue awning access point and loaded onto ambulances.

“It’s not right for my children to be exposed to that,” he says.

First Ward Councilman Albino Cardoso, whose ward encompasses the west side of Elm Street, said he’s visited his constituent and agrees that there is “an ongoing situation” involving “illegal parking” in the ambulance zone.

Cardoso said that Town Administrator Michael Martello “sent an email to the (police) chief asking for more enforcement of our parking regulations.” Since then, Cardoso said, “I believe some tickets have been issued but the problem is not really solved.”

The problem that really impacts neighbors is “ambulances and delivery vans double parking, especially in front of driveways. Of course, we cannot have a policeman sitting there 24 hours a day – we just can’t afford that.”

Yes, he said, “with more enforcement (by patrol units), the message is going to pass through. But it didn’t pass through yet.”

A solution, however, may be in sight, according to Mayor Santos and Cardoso. The property owner has applied to the town Construction Dept. for permits to do interior work designed to create a same day surgery center, separate from the nursing care facility and other space in the building – and, significantly, that center would be accessed only through the blue awning location, they said.

To get to and from the nursing home, people would have to use a separate access point, probably via Bergen Ave., they said. If the Construction Dept. sanctions the work and if the work can be done to the specifications of the construction code, that “should go a long way to solving the residents’ problems,” Santos said.

Cardoso and Tammaro echoed that expectation.

With the same day surgery center in place, Cardoso said, “there’s not going to be ambulances bringing old, sick people back and forth through the blue awning site. They will have to use a different door so, hopefully, that’s not going to affect the neighbors.” As for Tammaro’s complaint about seeing cadavers being transported through the blue awning access point, Cardoso said he hasn’t seen that happen. “I have to take the resident’s word for that,” he said. “But if it’s true, that is completely not authorized by our ordinances. … They should bring the ambulance to the bay on the Forest St. side of the building to receive the bodies. The dead bodies shouldn’t be shown to anybody (in public).”

No jail time for woman accused in ID theft

By Jeff Bahr

Facing a charge of identity theft for her alleged role in creating a fake and highly defamatory Facebook profile, Dana Thornton, 41, of Belleville, was accepted into New Jersey’s Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI) on March 19.

The charge – which carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison – was quashed provisionally when Morristown Superior Court Judge David Ironson accepted Thornton into the program for a period of one year.

The case raised many questions about what is and what is not permissible in a society where electronic communications have now become the norm.

According to Morris County authorities, Thornton set up a Facebook page in such a way that it appeared to have been created by her former boyfriend – a Parsippany police detective. After creating the bogus site, she allegedly posted comments, purportedly from the detective himself, that said such defamatory things as, “I’m a sick piece of scum with a gun,” and “I’m an undercover narcotics detective that gets high every day.” The profile page also contained items about the detective “going to prostitutes” and suffering from a case of “Herpes.”

Under the rules prescribed by the program as well as those laid out by the court, Thornton will be required to meet with a probation officer regularly, successfully complete 50 hours of community service, and submit to a psychological evaluation. At that point, the outstanding charge would be dropped.

But the judge also explained that the PTI program isn’t a guarentee, and that the charge could be reinstated if the requirements aren’t met.

Thornton’s application for acceptance into the PTI program comes as something of a surprise given the fact that when it was initially offered to her, she rejected it out of hand claiming that she “didn’t do anything wrong.” However, after her attorney, Richie Roberts, withdrew from the case based on her rebuff of the program, Thornton’s new attorney, Vincent Sanzone, assisted her in applying for PTI.

Despite the fact that the PTI program offered Thornton a potential exit strategy for his client, Roberts was emphatic that the charge as drafted shouldn’t be applied to his client based upon his interpretation of the applicable statute. “The statute as it exists really is aimed at people who actually go into a store with a phony credit card, for instance, and use that number and assume that name while committing a crime,” said Roberts.

“When you’re talking about things that get put on the Internet you’re getting into free speech…. The legislative history of our statute makes no mention of electronic means. The statute doesn’t fit the crime, which we don’t even admit was a crime,” Roberts reasoned.

The court, however, declined to dismiss the complaint against Thornton but did agree to admit her into the PTI program on the condition that she comply with the program’s requirements.

Lyndhurst Little League dealing with major league issue

Photo courtesy EPA/ The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are overseeing dredging the lower Passaic River at the Diamond Alkali Superfund site off Blanchard St. in Newark.


By Ron Leir


The township has placed off-limits – at least for now – its two Little League fields and Tball field, all in Riverside Park, after deeming them at risk to kids.

Mayor Richard DiLascio and Commissioner Tom DiMaggio, overseer of public parks and recreation, said the township had no choice but to suspend play on those fields, based on preliminary findings of toxins in the soil.

“We’re not going to open up (those fields),” DiMaggio said, unless and until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives the township an all-clear.

“I’m not an expert,” DiMaggio said, adding that the township has been guided by the counsel of professionals to take the appropriate actions to safeguard the children who normally play on those fields.

DiLascio said that the fields are in a low-lying area on the banks of the Passaic River, which has been found to contain contaminants from industrial sources further up the river and spill from last fall’s Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee washed over the area, prompting a series of tests.

The testing, conducted by the township’s consulting environmental engineers, Remington Vernick & Arango, of Secaucus, “came back with elevated readings of BaP (benzopyrene).”

According to a fact sheet put out by the EPA, BaP “is a polycyclic hydrocarbon that is a by-product of incomplete combustion or burning of organic (carbon-containing) items, e.g., cigarettes, gasoline and wood.” It is “commonly found … in cigarette smoke, in grilled and broiled foods, and as a by-product of many industrial processes.”

The EPA says that BaP is chemically modified in the body of humans and animals “to form a number of metabolites that may elicit toxicity” and, which “can interfere with or alter DNA replication … and may be associated with an increased risk of several forms of cancer” for children.

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Lyndhurst’s Little League Field


“Children,” the EPA notes, “may also have greater exposure than adults to contaminated soil in areas where BaP-contaminated soil from industrial contamination may be present, because of behavior patterns, particularly hand-tomouth activity.”

DiLascio said that tests taken about a month ago have been sent to EPA and the township is awaiting the federal agency’s review of the data.

In the meantime, the mayor said, the township is directing its engineers to “do another set of tests” on soil samples extracted from a depth of six inches at the fields.

“Our other concern,” the mayor said, “is relieving any future overflows from the river.” The township is reviewing various strategies, including placement of a berm – barrier wall – to keep out the excess water.

For his part, DiMaggio is trying to keep cool about finding and scheduling alternate playing sites for T-ball and Little League games for the rapidly approaching season, which opens the second week of April.

Ever optimistic, DiMaggio added: “I’m not going to panic until we get clear information on the situation.” If the Riverside Park fields remain off limits, though, “it’s going to cause a little bit of a traffic jam,” he acknowledged. We can use Jefferson School for T-ball, possibly, but Little League’s going to be hurting the most.”

Lyndhurst Little League President Bob Laverty is also trying to stay calm amid a growing sense of uncertainty about playing space availability.

But the pressure is on, given that the opener for the league’s 16-game season is the Monday after Easter, with the traditional Opening Day Parade slated for April 14, and that, as of now, “we have no home (field),” Laverty says. Sadly, the township only recently installed new bleachers at the Riverside Park fields.

Matera Field off Page Ave. is an option, Laverty said, but the league will be competing for playing time with teams from Felician College and Queen of Peace High School. Another possibility, he said, is using the township’s Recreation Field complex on Valley Brook Ave. About 350 boys and girls are signed up to play Little League this year and T-ball registered about 125 children, according to Laverty.

“The most frustrating part for T-ball is that the township added two additional teams for this season,” he said. Whether those kids will be accommodated remains to be seen.

The township could end up backloading the schedule, DiLascio suggested.

Meanwhile, environmental activists like former Lyndhurst resident Ella Fillippone, executive director of the Passaic River Coalition, continue to push for the EPA to follow through on promises made to remove factory-produced contaminants from the river bottom.

“There are hot spots all along the shore in places like Kearny and North Arlington,” Fillippone said. “And the tide is spreading (the contaminants) every day; eventually, it will reach Newark Bay. … And when we get a storm like Hurricane Irene last year, it churns the stuff all along the river. The whole thing should be dredged and cleaned out. … It’s hard to know what’s taking the EPA so long.”

Asked whether Kearny had any reservations about the teens who crew along the river, Mayor Alberto Santos said he’s received no alerts from the EPA, or the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or any other government agency advising against boating on the Passaic.

As The Observer’s production deadline neared, the EPA – at the paper’s request – released a March update on Lyndhurst recreational fields sampling results which appeared to indicate no justification for any remediation at the site.

An EPA statement said that while “relatively high concentrations of contaminants, including dioxins/furans, PCBs and mercury were detected (during 2011) in the tidal mud flats adjacent to Riverside County Park in Lyndhurst,” the agency followed up with further tests of surface soil from the park on Jan. 30 and 31, 2012, to determine whether public use areas in the park “were potentially impacted by sediment that migrated from the Passaic River during recent flooding events and (mixed with the soils).”

The EPA review “assessed the cancer risks and noncancer hazards associated with potential exposure to dioxins, PCBs and mercury” and concluded “that the measured concentrations of dioxins, PCBs and mercury are present in soil but are well below levels of concern.”

Therefore, the agency said, “EPA does not plan on further sampling of the recreational areas in the park and deems that park soil cleanup actions are not warranted in this instance.”

The EPA statement contains no mention of the BaP contaminant tracked by Lyndhurst’s consulting engineers.

Downtown businesses squeezed by college’s plan to expand its campus

Photos by Ron Leir/ Business owners Avnish Patel (above) and Greg Cancro (below) are playing the waiting game with their landlord, Bloomfield College.



By Ron Leir


After several years of studying and planning, it appears that Bloomfield College may be on the brink of moving forward with extending its innercity campus into the heart of the township’s Downtown retail area.

But not everybody is greeting this development with open arms.

On March 5, the mayor and Township Council voted to designate the college as the redeveloper of a narrow two-story commercial property at 37-59 Broad St., off Franklin St., which it purchased about three years ago.

According to the resolution, the college “intends to demolish the existing building improvements on the site and seek approvals to develop it with a mixeduse project consisting of ground floor retail along the Broad Street frontage, a ground floor parking area and offices along the Franklin Street frontage, and a five-story residence hall above the ground floor.”

Because the project site lies within the so-called “Phase II plan” of the Bloomfield Center Redevelopment District, development of the college property “is subject to all the requirements of the Redevelopment Law and the Phase II plan, including, but not limited to, the execution of a redevelopment agreement between the Township and Bloomfield College and site plan approval by the Township’s Planning Board.”

College spokeswoman Jill Alexander said the college currently has an agreement with Rutgers University and the University Center in Newark for the placement of international students and Korean teachers learning English in private homes and they are transported to and from classes in Bloomfield.

“We want to bring them back to the Bloomfield campus (to be housed in Bloomfield),” Alexander said.

And the college would like to accomplish that by constructing the proposed 124,000 square foot residence hall, she said. As for the retail ground floor space, Alexander said, the college is planning for “a little less than 8,000 square feet” to be set aside for retail use.

“The Bloomfield Center Alliance (BCA), the college and the township will collaborate to get merchants in that space,” Alexander said.

However, Stuart Koperweis, executive director of the BCA, an advocacy group for the Downtown business community, said last week that the college has yet to consult with the BCA on its plans for the proposed retail space. Those commercial tenants who remain at the Broad St. property continue to wonder whether the college will actually follow through on its plans.

Greg Cancro, manager of Traveler’s Village, Inc., a corporate travel management firm which has been a fixture at the property for four decades, said: “We’ve known of (the college’s) plans for close to five years. Are we happy about it? Of course not. We’d like them not to do it (tear down the building). We have extensive clientele who come from all over. We’re so established here, it would be a shame to lose this location.”

Like most of the other tenants, the travel firm pays its rent to the college on a “month-to-month” basis, Cancro said.

Over the past few years, as many as seven tenants have relocated rather than deal with the uncertainty of their situations. Windows in those spaces are filled with Bloomfield College promotional materials. Cancro said he’s more or less reconciled to the notion that, one day, his business will also have to leave.


Photos by Ron Leir/ Vacated retail space is covered with the college’s promotional materials.

But Avnish Patel, owner and operator of Gallagher Wine & Liquor, the biggest tenant with close to 5,000 square feet of space, is furious about his predicament.

“The college won’t be interested in renting space to a liquor store,” he said.

Patel, who has a yearly lease with the college, said he’s been scouting around for new locations but “we’re up against certain restrictions,” in terms of the territory where he can transfer his alcohol distribution license, available space and proximity to schools and houses of worship.

The liquor store has also been a longtime tenant – 40 years in the same spot – and Patel has been operating the last two decades. “We are the only liquor store in the center of town,” Patel said. “Now the township wants to take away central retail business and give it to a non-profit entity – that’s not right.”

“Why doesn’t the college use any of the ample space it has on its campus?” Patel wondered.

Other tenants still at the property include a deli, nail salon and offices occupied by a realtor and insurance agent.

Township tax records show that for 2011, Bloomfield levied a total of $71,200 in real estate taxes on the three Broad St. lots the property comprises. Much – if not all – of that revenue figures to be eliminated, once the college replaces the existing building with its presumably tax-exempt dormitory.

There is scuttlebutt that some or all of the proposed retail space could be filled by a college bookstore and/ or cafeteria, which could also be considered taxexempt.

When the college will be filing construction plans and site plan application with the Bloomfield Planning Board is anybody’s guess. Alexander didn’t know and Florham Park attorney Glenn Pantel, the college’s legal representative, couldn’t be reached.

Asked how the project would be financed, Alexander said the college would likely apply to a bank for a construction loan. “That’s all in the works,” she said.

“We’re hoping in the next two to three years to occupy (the new facility),” Alexander said.




By Lisa Pezzolla

Last week, we at The Observer began our fun in the sun, so to speak, with an article about places to visit without burning a hole in your wallets and enjoying a memorable day out. In weeks to come, we will continue to map trips to places such as Princeton, N.J. and Hyde Park, N.Y..

One of our readers, Alexander MacDonald of Harrison, took the time out to share his recent trip to New Hope. He was excited to have had visited this newfound gem. His letter is featured below.

In the coming weeks we would like to invite our readers to share other places for us to feature.

If you have photos of the places you suggest, it would be nice if you can send them in so we can post them online. We have so much beauty around us, so I say get out the road map, hit the road, and enjoy our wondrous region!

What happened to variety in rock music

While listening to the faint, static-filled transmission of 105.5 WDHA, a rock music station out of Dover, N.J., I couldn’t help but be frustrated when as the results of their “Rock Madness” contest, I couldn’t hear the winner.

Depending on which side of Kearny Ave./ Ridge Rd. that you’re on, you can either get WDHA, or you get the static-filled mess that was bestowed upon me.

Ever since the ending of 92.3 K-Rock in early 2009, I’ve been searching for that one radio station to get hooked on. It baffles me that still in New York, there are no modern rock stations and only one classic rock station.

If that part doesn’t infuriate you, even worse, we are stuck with virtually the same three stations in Z100, 92.3 Now (took over for K-Rock in March 2009), and 103.5 KTU.

I’m not trying to put down the Top 40 stations, but the amount of times I’ve turned from one station to the other and heard the same song is just plain ridiculous. Sorry Katy Perry, but I don’t need to hear about what you did last Friday night 24 times on my five minute trip to work.

Since K-Rock’s ultimate demise, Q104.3 has remained the only station playing any sort of rock music, and even they play the same Zeppelin, Floyd, and Sabbath songs every day.

One station, 101.9, had a brief run as a New York rock station, billing themselves as, “The only station in New York playing modern rock,” but just months later the brash styling’s of Foster the People were replaced with dull talk radio.

Will there ever be a rock station in the biggest city in the world? Personally, I don’t see it coming until there is another band that just changes the landscape in the rock genre. Bands today know what makes money, and it’s simply not in rock music.

Hopefully someday that will change, until then, I’ll continue to listen to old rock music on Pandora radio.

-Anthony J. Machcinski


Dear Publisher,

I took the trip to New Hope on Wednesday and followed the guidelines set forth in the article. What a great trip I had in New Hope. I watched the people walking around while having lunch, did some shopping in the candle shop and sat by the river and the canal. I found the railroad and went on to Lahaska for dinner and looked at unique shops. It was a very interesting trip. I went on a weekday and was told the town is normally busier on the weekends. I will go again to ride the train and ride on the river. I just wanted to express my thoughts on this and to ask if this will be a weekly feature of this paper. What an exciting time I had. It was just great to travel someplace and not have to break the bank.

I am sure there are other places to visit in this great state. Here is hoping that this will be a weekly feature in The Observer and I am looking forward to going on more trips on one tank of gas.

Thank You,

Alexander J. MacDonald


Penque Jr. rides to new adventure



Photo courtesy of Ronnie Penque/ Ronnie Penque will bring his legendary skills on the bass guitar to Donegal Saloon in Kearny on March 31.



By Anthony J. Machcinski

After noticing that his son had been faking it on the bass guitar, playing just one string and earning the moniker, “One String Ron,” Ron Penque Sr. gave his son a few lessons. One day, Penque Sr., an accomplished bass player for 20 years, saw his son Ron admiring his ‘57 Fender Precision Bass in the closet. Penque Sr. said to his son, who now had become passionate about his play, “Ron, this bass is yours to borrow until the day you stop playing.”

Thirty-seven years later, Ron Penque Jr., known as Ronnie, still has that bass. The bass currently resides in the office of one of the most influential bass players of all time.

“My two brothers and I were all musicians,” said Penque.“Music was always a love.”

Penque is a member of the recently revived New Riders of the Purple Sage, a jam band that featured some of the most influential musicians of all time, including the likes of Jerry Garcia and members of the Grateful Dead. Since 2005, Penque has been the bass guitarist for the New Riders, a band he originally grew up listening to.

“I was sitting eighth row center at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic,” Penque recalled. “My friend and I were sitting there with binoculars trying to get the chords from the New Riders so we could play them at home.”

Penque’s seven-year-tenure with the band has been marked by stability, retaining the same members during that time — a record its predecessor band couldn’t match. Since his involvement with the New Riders, he has been a part of three studio records and a DVD.

“Absolutely not,” Penque responded when asked if he ever envisioned himself with the New Riders when he was young. “It’s like a TV movie. I would dream I want to be in the coolest band on earth and it’s been unbelievable to wind up in that band and end up on a couple records with them.”

While with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Penque has tried to branch out and perform his solo act, Ronnie Penque & Friends, who will visit Donegal Saloon in Kearny on March 31.

“I just felt like I needed to start recording these songs,” said Penque, who plans to play some of his solo works as well as some covers from his time with the Jerry Garcia Band. “‘Only Road Home’ (Penque’s most recent work) started as a glorified demo and it just kind of turned into a record.”

Penque’s solo debut was a successful one, as “Only Road Home” was the number one record on Jam Bands Radio in March of 2011 and was number two on the same list for January and February of the same year.

“It took me almost two years to get it produced and out to the public,” Penque explained. “I have many more and I’m thinking about getting back into the studio.” Penque’s songs off ”Only Road Home” are very similar to the style that Penque played with both New Riders of the Purple Sage and with the Jerry Garcia Band. Penque’s soft vocals help accent the relaxing feel that his playing produces. American Junkie, a tune off “Only Road Home,” showcases the natural flow that a jam band needs to have in order to be successful.

Regardless of what band he is playing in, Penque loves just one aspect of every show.

“Every musician likes big crowds at their shows because the energy is great,” Penque said.

Anyone with even the slightest ear for music will have no problem providing Penque with all the energy he needs.