By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent LYNDHURST – After what Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso characterized as “33 years of starts and stops,” the township – with help from Bergen County – is finally beginning to see the start of improvements to the intersection at Kingsland and Riverside Aves. The changes […]
A Belleville man was among three defendants convicted earlier this month in federal court for their roles in a $15 million mortgage fraud scheme involving condominiums in New Jersey and Florida, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reported. Last month, another Belleville resident pleaded guilty in the same scam. According to […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY – The Walmart in Kearny is conveniently located on Harrison Ave., with easy access to Rt. 280, the N.J. Turnpike and feeder roads to Newark and Jersey City. This is a boon for shoppers. However, according to Kearny police, it is […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Four former Kearny workers, including a union chief, have lost the first round of a bid to reverse their New Year’s Eve dismissals nearly three years ago. In a 21-page ruling issued Sept. 3, the state Office of Administrative Law […]
Don your favorite pink attire and join St. Michael’s Medical Center for a Breast Cancer Awareness Month event — Breast Health & You — on Saturday, Oct. 25, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at SMMC’s Connie Dwyer Breast Center, 111 Central Ave., Newark. Dr. Nadine Pappas, director of […]
Two incidents regarding a fake public works agent have taken place this week. Two residents of different locations were approached by what they described as a male, possibly Hispanic, of average height and build with dark hair.
Upon gaining entrance into a Pavonia Ave residence, the man, who claimed he was checking the water, managed to get to the second floor and steal jewelry from.
After these incidents, Kearny Police Chief John Dowie wanted to send a message to residents of the area, to not only be on the lookout for this man, but to watch out for other incidents.
“You should know the condition of your own house, and not have someone tell you that,” Dowie explained. “Also, be aware of the time and day of the week. Town employees work 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.”
Town employees are required to have town-issued identification cards. Most town and public services vehicles are marked.
“Don’t be afraid to question them,” said Dowie. “You can ask them who sent them, where they’re from, and why they were sent.”
Deputy Chief James Corbett backed up Dowie’s statement by saying, “Anytime you have the least bit of suspicion, call the police department. People shouldn’t be nervous or embarrassed to call us. We’ll determine if the person is legitimate. That’s what were here for.”
For inquiries, call the Kearny Police Department at (201)- 998-1313. The fake public works official is currently on the loose. The suspect is described as a Hispanic male of average height and build with dark hair and a blue pea coat.
— Anthony J. Machcinski
By Lisa Pezzolla
Each week, The Observer reports the news and views of the general population of East Newark, Harrison, Kearny, North Arlington, Lyndhurst, Belleville, Nutley, and Bloomfield. Obviously, we cannot voice everyone’s opinion within a limited space every week, but there is one demographic we have always tried to place in the paper.
Our “Bridging the Gap” column featured the work of young writers culled from our eight-town coverage area who, like us, had the passion to write and tell a good story. I felt it was a nice way to target our young readers and future journalists each week.
Unfortunately, “Bridging the Gap” fizzled after a few of our young writers moved on to college. The issues and opinions posed by our young readers and writers are ones you don’t see on an everyday basis, and should be valued as such.
The idea behind “Bridging the Gap” was to afford young writers an opportunity to publish their pieces. These published pieces help writers prep for their college careers and in their future in general. So, parents and teachers, if you know of a child with an affection and talent for writing, please direct him or her to The Observer and let them take advantage of those talents!
It spread across the news outlets like free beers at a “kegger.” Four American Marines had done the unthinkable to the corpses of Taliban fighters who had once opposed them. If you missed it, suffice to say that, in a final show of supremacy, our boys indignantly trained their “weapons” on the combatants’ dead carcasses, effectively treating them as urinal pucks.
“Oh, the humanity!” the talking heads screamed.
“What were these vile young men thinking when they peed on the enemy?” asked a gaggle of high-placed politicians and press members whose feigned shock was worthy of an Academy Award.
To answer that, a football metaphor might prove helpful. The gridiron gang is trained with one goal in mind: to destroy the opposition at almost any cost. As long as a fairly liberal set of prescribed rules are followed, all is hunky-dory. Everybody loves a winner, especially team owners, so the men are drilled and then drilled some more until the squad becomes a crushing force to be reckoned with. When a player ultimately scores a touchdown, he has done all that he was trained to do. Hooray!
But at that instant, woeful is the player who dares to celebrate too exuberantly. We’ve now been told that this sort of thing is akin to “bad sportsmanship,” that “rubbing it in” isn’t the “American way.” Put another way, it’s perfectly alright for players to kick the living hell out of those standing in their way – in fact the most violent players are cheered on for their boneshattering “hits” while enroute to a goal – but it’s somehow bad form to execute a celebratory dance once that goal is achieved. Is it just me, or is there something ridiculously screwy with this rationale?
Human beings never cease to amaze me. Some of the very same people currently taking these soldiers to task for their “yellow” celebration have no problem at all with the idea of killing in the first place. It’s the “chest puffing” that occasionally comes afterwards that seems to annoy them. Here’s a question for these “concerned” Americans.
After you train a soldier to kill, after you systematically destroy and/or remove every instinct that a soldier once held regarding the sanctity of life, how can you then act surprised when that soldier turns tribal and decides to “take a whiz” on the bad guys? In the pre-politically-correct football era, this would be considered nothing more than a spiked ball; in tennis, it would be a ball hit into the crowd. You simply can’t have it both ways. When you encourage the taking of lives in the national interest you shouldn’t be too surprised when the participants sometimes forget their post-kill manners.
Some argue that this “outrageous” act will serve to incite the Taliban and its sympathizers and will be used as a propaganda tool to further their cause. That may be true, but I have a newsflash for those who labor under such a mindset: These extremists and extremist factions are going to hate us anyway. Period.
At this point, I’d be far more concerned with sending mixed messages to our soldiers – a seriously exploited group who receive precious little in return for saving our asses. In an allvolunteer military, where the perception that a soldier will receive a fair shake is basically everything, it’s mighty bad form to pick our heroes apart for their “bad manners” after the fact—after they’ve done the job that we asked them to do.
For those who don’t approve of such celebrations, I suggest you visit the local recruiting office. Then you can head off to boot camp and show us all how it should be done. Until that time comes, let’s cool it with the political correctness. “War is hell,” said Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman – a ruthless but effective warrior who knew a little something about the carnage of this ultimate human failing. If the taking of lives is considered necessary in order to preserve the American way of life, then an impromptu “Pee party” should be no big deal. Just ask some real soldiers – they’ll tell you. After they zip-up, of course.
At 5:14 p.m. police arrested Skye Rivera, 18, of Warwick, N.Y., on charges of trying to pass a bad check and forgery at the Chase Bank on Stuyvesant Ave. Police said Rivera tried to cash a fraudulent check made out to her in the amount of $1,087.82. She was sent to the Bergen County Jail, Hackensack, on $15,000 bail with a 10% cash option, pending court action.
At 9:50 p.m., police discovered three Lyndhurst teenagers consuming beer while sitting in a car parked in the N.J. Transit lot on Park Ave. Three girls, two aged 16 and one, 17, and one boy, age 17, were charged with underage drinking in a motor vehicle and having open containers of alcohol in a motor vehicle. They were released pending appearances in juvenile court. Police said the car was registered to the mother of one of the teens.
Police were called to the Sidowski Shell station on Ridge Road at 9:13 p.m. where an attendant told them that two males had just taken two cigarette lighters without paying and left. Police said the pair were spotted entering a residence about a block away and were grabbed there. Police charged John Sanchez, 19, of Fairlawn, and his pal, a 15-year-old Paterson boy, with disorderly conduct and shoplifting. They were released pending court action.
Police went to the Lyndhurst Diner on Riverside Ave. at 3:51 a.m. to deal with an unruly customer. After she began yelling at the officers, Tiffany Crespo, 29, of Manhattan, was given a summons charging her with disorderly conduct and released pending a court appearance. Police said Crespo may have been intoxicated.
By Anthony J. Machcinski
Just think, if only for a minute, what it might be like to lose something that affected what you do the best, whether it be a writer losing his hands or a marathon runner losing a foot.
This is what happened to former Kearny resident David Guerrero.
Two years ago this April, Guerrero was diagnosed with brain cancer and had a tumor removed. After the surgery, a stroke compounded his already formidable challenge.
“After my surgery, my first fear was thinking that I would never be able to do anything again,” explained Guerrero, who now resides in Houston. “I used to be fluent in Portuguese. Don’t remember much of that anymore. I had to relearn how to speak English and how to Salsa dance. My main concern was that I lost my taste.”
Guerrero, who at the time of his setbacks was employed as a personal chef by NBA basketball player, Tracy McGrady, had lost the one thing that a chef relies on most; his taste buds.
“I couldn’t see myself doing anything else in a real profession,” said Guerrero, who also lost much of the functionality in his left hand.
Then, one single discovery allowed Guerrero to continue pursuing his passion.
“I learned that about 80 percent of your taste comes from your nose,” Guerrero said. “I had only lost about 10 percent of my ability in my nose.”
Guerrero’s grit and determination got him back into the food business. After becoming a Sous Chef at Samba Grille – a South American inspired restaurant in Houston – Guerrero was promoted to the position of Executive Chef.
Despite all that he has been through, Guerrero has managed to stay positive.
“I believe that God gave me a second chance. I’m not perfect, but I want to do my best to prove to people that there’s always hope; that no matter what, you can follow your dreams. It’s all about hard working and believing in yourself.”
Now that Guerrero has started to get back on his feet, he has dreams of his own that he would like to see completed.
“I really want to open my own restaurant and I’m going to do it,” said Guerrero with newfound confidence. “I want to open a French and American Restaurant with a twist of South America—it’s a fusion. (South Americans) have tons of foods that people have never seen before in this country.”
By Anthony J. Machcinski
In the music culture, a band being together for over twenty years seems like an eternity. Many bands such as Metallica, the Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith have become legends not just because of the music they produce, but for the longevity of their careers. One band, who will play the Kearny Irish Feb. 4, can be considered with those names because of their members’ ability to stay together.
The Pietasters, a ska band out of Washington D.C., was formed in 1991 and still remains together today, playing wherever crowds appreciate its music. Ska music, which originated in Jamaica in the 1950s and moved into American culture in the early 1980s, is characterized by a walking bass line and rhythms on the upbeat.
“It’s pretty much rock and roll with a different beat,” explained Pietasters’ vocalist Steve Jackson.
The Pietasters got started while Jackson and other members were in college.
“We were a bunch of friends who tried to put together a punk rock band,” Jackson said. “We had a friend do ska, so we gave it a try. We started playing it at parties and people seemed to enjoy it. It was a fun thing.”
Since its inception in 1991, the band has seen its share of lineup changes.
“This band’s been around a long time. It’s hard to reinvent it,” explained Alan Makranczy, the Pietasters’ saxophone player who became part of the band around 1993. “(Joining the band was) the best opportunity as a horn player like that. Truth is, I wasn’t that into ska.”
The band’s longevity can be attributed to a passion that exists in all of the members.
“I just want to keep playing music,” Jackson said, inspiringly. “We’re older, we have kids and have other responsibilities. Everyone in the band is proud of where we’ve been.”
“Our love is playing live and having a huge stack of songs to choose from,” Makranczy added.
Even with longevity, good music is required to continue to be able to perform live in front of audiences. This is a statement that the Pietasters definitely back up. With a strong horn section, definitive beat, and soulful vocals, the Pietasters give the evidence needed to make a statement on their longevity.
“Told You the First,” a very funky number that can’t stop listeners from moving to the beat of the song, showcases the band’s horn section with the right amount of grittiness in the vocals similar to a James Brown song or any song from the late Sublime lead singer Bradley Knowell.
While none of the songs make listeners feel unhappy, the band’s rowdier side comes out in the song “Maggie Mae.” In what can only be described as a modern day drinking song, the Pietasters use strong beat and an equally strong horn rhythm to create a song that just oozes good vibes. The multi-man vocals also stay consistent to another band the Pietasters have traveled with, the Mighty Mighty Bostones.
In their travels across the nation and the world, the Pietasters have been able to perform with several headline acts, but none larger than when they were able to play in their hometown with one of the greats.
“(One of the greatest moments was) playing with James Brown,” Jackson remembered. “We were approached by a local radio station and told James Brown was going to play here. He was the tie into the older generation of music and asked if we thought we could play his music. We went in the garage for a night and just did his songs. Three days later, James Brown and his guitar player came in. We were the backing band for James Brown at the MCI Center.”
While the Pietasters have been able to perform at highlevel gigs, the band has no reservations as to where it plays.
“Everywhere you have a good time and it’s a good crowd (are our favorite places to play),” Jackson explained. “It doesn’t have to be huge to be a great show.”
The band is in the process of making another album, although a date and name have yet to be released.
At 1:16 a.m., a police officer stopped a loud Acura on Hancox Ave. and learned that the driver, Matthew Rullo, 20, of Belleville, had several outstanding warrants and was driving while suspended. He was issued a summons and released after posting bail.
Police stopped motorist around 9:57 p.m., DiAntonio, 25-year-old resident of Nutley, off of Vincent Pl. for failure to wear a seat belt and found that she had an outstanding warrant for $300 out of Old Bridge. She was released with a motor vehicle summons after posting bail.
A Franklin Ave. tenant reported around 9:11 p.m. someone had smashed in the apartment’s front door to get inside. While checking further, police discovered that a second burglary had been committed in the same building, with entry gained the same way. Detectives are investigating.
Police responded to a family dispute at a Hillside Ave. residence at 3:19 p.m., culminating in the homeowner’s adult son, Nicholas Zappula, 23, reportedly kicking in the front door after an argument with his mother who refused to let him inside. Police charged Zappula with criminal mischief. Police said Zappula also had an outstanding warrant out of Newark for $800. He was released pending a court appearance.
At 5:36 p.m., an E. Passaic Ave. homeowner returned home to find an open door and broken glass. After searching the home, police said they found everything appeared to be in order.
A resident called police at 4:26 p.m. to report two men appeared to be checking out local businesses on Darling Ave. Police found two Newark men at the scene with a vehicle that was initially listed as stolen and officers detained the pair, but they were released after officers learned that the vehicle wasn’t stolen after all.
A River Road resident reported at 11:05 a.m. that a virus turned up on her computer instructing the user to turn on her camera and lift her shirt to get rid of the virus. Police said the resident suspects it’s the work of a repairman who visited recently. Police are investigating.
Police went to a Centre St. location at 11 a.m. where a 65-year-old man was pulling his pants down. The man told officers he was only fixing his clothes. Police advised him not to disrobe in public and permitted him to leave.
A Franklin Ave. traffic stop resulted in the arrest of Marlon Seogiva, 21, of Nutley, on a charge of driving while suspended. Police said Seogiva also had a $500 outstanding warrant from Nutley. He was released pending a court appearance.
At 11:12 a.m., police recovered several hypodermic needles on the road near King St. and Wesley Place. Police are investigating.
A Joerg Ave. resident leaving a Centre St. pub at 9:55 p.m. was bitten by a dog being walked by its owner. Arriving at the scene, police detained the dog and learned that its license had expired in 2007. The resident, a female, had several cuts and was treated by Emergency Medical Services. She refused to go to the hospital. Police issued the dog owner a summons for having an unlicensed dog.
Police responded to Elm St. at 4:43 p.m. where two neighbors were fighting. Both were advised of their right to sign complaints against the other if they wanted to do so.
A neighbor of a Passaic Ave. convenience store called police At 10:39 p.m. about a delivery truck running its engine while making a late night delivery. The neighbor said the delivery company had promised that its drivers would shut off the engine when making a delivery at night in consideration of the residents.
At 4:13 p.m., police went to an E. Centre St. location in response to a complaint about a blocked driveway. Police found that the vehicle parked in the driveway’s path had an overnight parking ticket affixed to the windshield. Police impounded the vehicle and issued an additional traffic ticket.
Police investigated a report of a hit and run incident at Cambridge Heights at 12:12 p.m.. There, police learned that the motorist had hit a control box used to activate the electric gates at the complex and had also struck a lamp post and had then fled the scene. Police are investigating.
A Hudson St. resident reported at 9:50 a.m. to police that she’d gotten a phone call telling her that she’d won $5 million and a new car but that she first needed to send $1,100 to cover insurance for the exchange. Police are investigating a suspected scam.
At 7:31 p.m. police were called to an E. Passaic Ave. bar where a patron who had argued with another customer went outside to smoke when he was assaulted. The injured patron, who told police he thinks he was attacked by the same person he’d been arguing with inside the bar, was treated by EMS. Police are investigating.
A Hillside Ave. resident reported that a theft of a $400 I-phone occurred during gym class at Nutley High School earlier in the day. Police are investigating.
At 3:44 p.m. a Harrison St. resident reported that someone tried to get into his building by kicking the front door. He showed police footprints on the door and a damaged door lock. Police are investigating.
A Hopper Ave. resident reported at 3:34 p.m. that fraudulent charges were placed on her credit card. Police are investigating. Police went to Municipal Lot 1 a t 12:43 p.m. after an anonymous caller reported that someone was vandalizing a car parked there. The caller said the vandal had poured soda on the car’s hood and was kicking the vehicle. Police are investigating.
A warehouse in the south end of town was burglarized and about eight rolls of copper wire, valued at $30,000, were stolen. The theft is under investigation.
Two vehicles parked at a private lot on Essex St. were broken into. A GPS unit and sunglasses were taken.
A 2000 Honda Civic was stolen from the municipal parking lot on Essex St. and another car was broken into while it was parked in the same lot.
A passenger who took umbrage at the price he was charged by a taxi driver reportedly took out his wrath on the driver, according to police. Antonio Perpiglia, 23, of Orange, was arrested on a robbery charge after police say Perpiglia punched the driver on Frank Rodgers Blvd. South and took back the $60 fare that he’d paid for his ride. The cabbie, 31, of Sunnyside, N.Y., was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital, Newark, for treatment of his injuries. Perpiglia was taken to the Hudson County Jail, Kearny, to await court action.
Tyrone Manns, 51, of Newark, was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Newark after he was seen checking an alleyway in an area of Frank Rodgers Blvd. South. He was released by Newark Police pending a court appearance in that city.
Jonathan Velarde, 38, of Kearny, was issued a summons for urinating in public on Harrison Ave. Police said Velarde was drunk at the time. A bit later, police said Velarde was observed operating a motor vehicle in the same area. He was stopped and placed under arrest on a DWI charge. He was released pending court action.
Gregorio Laos, 23, of Harrison, was arrested on Frank Rodgers Blvd. North on a Superior Court warrant stemming from a Harrison charge for allegedly stalking a minor. Laos was transported to Hudson County Jail, Kearny, to await court action.
A Franklin Ave. resident reported that a package delivered by the U.S. Postal Service was stolen from her hallway.
The Bloomfield Public Library is partnering with Bloomfield resident Gene Nichols to preserve family stories. Nichols, a retired journalist and public relations executive, is offering to videotape community members 65 and older as they recount memories and milestones in their lives.
Life Story Cam sessions will be held free (for those age 65 and over) at the Bloomfield Public library, by appointment (Call Gene Nichols at 347-560-8056). Nichols will conduct an on-camera interview with each participant, which he will format, edit and create a DVD. “If anyone is unhappy with the results, the material will be discarded,” says Nichols. However if people like it, Nichols will instruct them how to upload their “story” to a website that, with proper access codes, can be viewed by friends and family from far and wide.
Samples of the questions he will ask as well as a video explaining the process can be viewed on his website at http://www.lifestorycam. com.
Currently, the sessions are by appointment and will (mostly) take place at the library (90 Broad St.). To find out more information and to arrange an interview time, please contact Gene Nichols at 347-560-8056.
Bloomfield Public Library announces the following schedule for its Thursday Afternoon at the Movies program: Feb. 2 – “The Adjustment Bureau” (R) (Matt Damon); Feb. 9 – “Murder, He Says” (NR) (Fred Mac- Murray); Feb. 16 – “Nothing But a Man” (NR) (Ivan Dixon); Feb. 23 – “The Reader” (R) (Kate Winslet).
The following schedule is for the library’s Monday Afternoon at the Movies program: Feb. 6 – “Rachel Getting Married” (R) (Anne Hathaway); Feb. 13 – “For the Love of Ivy” (G) (Abbey Lincoln); Feb. 20 – “Bridesmaids” (R) (Maya Rudolph); Feb. 27 – “No Name on the Bullet” (NR) (Audie Murphy). Films for both programs start at 12:15 p.m. in the library theater. Admission is free and all are welcome.
West Hudson Brave Women Fighting Breast Cancer meets on the last Friday of every month from 7 to 9 p.m. at the East Newark Senior Center, 37 President St. The group will provide an atmosphere of warmth and comfort for patients and family. For more information, call Emma at 201-998-6828, Rosa 201-246-7750, Fatima 973-485- 4236 or email emidura2@ yahoo.com. Together we will fight this disease.
Health educators from the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) will conduct a free poison prevention education program, sponsored by Washington Middle School, on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 1 N. 5th St., Harrison, at 3:30 p.m. Programs are designed to give New Jersey residents necessary information to adhere to poison safe practices in their home, workplace and community. Interactive activities and a question and answer period are included in each session, which is about an hour in length. Free educational materials are provided to all participants. The New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES), also known as the Poison Control Center, is a non-profit organization. It is the state’s only poison control center and its free, 24/7 emergency and information hotline (1- 800-222-1222) is answered by specially trained healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses and pharmacists). They can assist callers who speak many different languages.
Molly the Therapy Dog made her first visit to the Harrison Public Library. Over 20 children attended the program. Molly will visit the library every month. Contact the library for future dates at 973-483-2366.
The Rosary Society of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 136 Davis Ave., Kearny, will hold its first meeting of the new year on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. in the church hall. Snow date is Thursday, Feb. 9.
Cecilian Seniors announce a trip to Resorts Casino on Feb. 8. The bus will leave at 9:30 a.m. from in front of St. Cecilia’s Church. If interested, call Johnnie B. at 201- 997-9552 after 6 to 9 p.m.
Mater Dei Academy presents its Annual Raffle Auction on Friday, Feb. 17. On the RED Carpet will be held at St. Stephen’s church hall on Kearny Avenue. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are only $15. Thousands of dollars in prizes! You can purchase tickets at the school office. Tickets sell out quickly so don’t wait!
The Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst has placed a decorated Valentine box on each floor of the Lyndhurst Public Library. Please support this project by placing a Valentine card in one of the boxes for a veteran.
The library is collecting nonperishable food items for the Lyndhurst Health Department’s Food Pantry. The drop-off box is located inside the library’s back entrance. It will remain there year-round. For questions regarding the Food Pantry, call the Lyndhurst Health Department at 201-804-2500.
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, One Dekorte Park Plaza, Lyndhurst, will host “Mad Science: Wonders of Water!” on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 1 p.m. Marvel as the mad scientist performs wondrous experiments with ice and liquids to illustrate amazing scientific principles in this educational entertainment program perfect for children and their parents.
Admission is $5 per person and $4 for MEC members.
Lyndhurst Knights of Columbus Council #2396 is hosting its third annual Tricky Tray on Friday, Feb. 10, at the Senior Citizens Building, 250 Cleveland Ave., Lyndhurst. Tickets are $10, which includes coffee and cake. You can bring your own appetizers for your table. Doors open 6 p.m. Contact Sal Russo 201-446- 7244, Michelle Rogan 201- 438-2444 or Maria Lesny 201-507-9766.
The Lyndhurst Health Department is hosting a monthly health lecture series, made possible through a partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center. The next lecture will be held on Friday, Feb. 17, starting at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be served.
February’s lecture topic will be: Preventing Heart Attack and Stroke. Please call the Lyndhurst Health Department at 201-804-2500 to reserve a seat.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Queen of Peace Parish will be conducting a blood drive on Sunday, Jan. 29, beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 1 p.m. at the LaSalle Center (located across the street from Queen of Peace Church) on Church Street. Every successful donor will be given a $10 Shop-Rite gift card.
The North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Road, announces a Valentine luncheon and dance will be held on Friday, Feb. 17, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A trip to Mohegan Sun Casino with a St. Patrick’s Day show in Mystic Village is scheduled for Saturday, March 17. For more information, call 201- 998-5636.
The Wednesday Afternoon Knitting Club meets at the Nutley Public Library every week from 1 to 3 p.m. Come share your love of knitting and crocheting with both beginning and experienced knitters. Meet fellow knitters, brush-up on your skills, and learn some new techniques. Please bring your own supplies. This group meets every Wednesday.
Adult Scrabble Night will be held at the library on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for first and second place scores.
Matinee Fridays: Classic Films program will be held on at the library every Friday at 2 p.m. Please check the monthly calendar, flyer or Facebook for the titles of the films.
Saturday Story Time and crafts for children of all ages is held at the library on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Registration is not required
By Jim Hague
Ted Sochaski fondly remembers his glory days as a basketball player at Belleville High School.
After all, Sochaski remains the school’s all-time leading scorer in boys’ basketball, collecting a total of 1,742 points when he graduated in 1988. That year, Sochaski led the Buccaneers to 15 victories, which also remains the program’s high-water mark.
Five years ago, Sochaski returned to his alma mater to take over the head coaching reins of the Bucs.
“When I came back, I could see things were changing,” Sochaski said. “But I just wanted to make the kids see that hard work pays off.”
However, the hard work and diligence didn’t exactly pay off in the term of victories. The Bucs won all of four games in Sochaski’s first season, then won three the next year and two the next. Needless to say, Sochaski was taking an emotional beating, coaching so many losses. He kept a stiff upper lip and trudged on.
“I knew we were going to take our lumps,” Sochaski said. “But I knew that better things would take place.”
A year ago, Sochaski’s Bucs won seven games. It was definitely a sign of improvement.
“We also lost eight games by a total of eight points or less,” Sochaski said. “We were close.”
Sochaski knew that there would eventually be a breakthrough when he decided to start players like Julian Rodriguez, Tommy Rosario and Keith Everett two years ago when they were sophomores. He might have raised some eyebrows when he did and left himself susceptible to criticism, but Sochaski knew it was for the good of the entire program. Eventually, the Buccaneers would improve, as long as the talented trio developed and matured.
“Those kids put a lot of hard work in over the last four years,” Sochaski said. “I just think it all comes down to experience. All the games they’ve played together are huge. They all know what they have to do. They all know each other. It’s a big plus.”
Well, the Buccaneers are reaping the benefits of that valuable experience right now. After winning three straight games against Oratory Prep, neighboring rival Nutley and Glen Ridge, the Buccaneers have a 7-4 record. They have already tied their entire win total of a year ago.
“It’s very exciting,” Sochaski said. “The close games we lost last year, we’re winning now. They know how to conduct themselves late in games. They know all the game situations, making the extra pass that leads to an easier basket. They are handling clock management.”
Sochaski said that the turning point of the season came in the win over Oratory Prep, when they faced top-ranked prospect Matt Billups, a 6-foot-10 center who is receiving his fair share of college offers.
In that game, both top seniors Rodriguez and Rosario fouled out of the game, but the rest of the Bucs found the resilience necessary to get the victory.
“That really turned things around,” Sochaski said. “That win boosted our confidence and showed how well we can play together and how we can rely on each other.”
Rodriguez has been a mainstay all season. The 6-foot-4 power forward is averaging 13.5 points per game and has emerged as the team’s leader.
“It’s safe to say that without Julian, we’re not where we’re at,” Sochaski said. “He carried the team for the first part of the season. He’s become our go-to guy. He’s accepted that challenge and has gone with it.”
Rosario is a 6-foot-3 senior forward who is averaging 11.3 points per game. There aren’t a lot of teams in the Super Essex Conference that can roll out that much size and talent in the front line.
“I think most teams have to plan their game plan and strategy around trying to stop them,” Sochaski said. “I always can depend on Tommy. He does a lot of the dirty work for us, gets physical, gets rebounds. He also runs the floor well.”
Everett is the third of the Bucs’ senior leaders. The 5-foot-11 Everett is the team’s shooting guard and he’s averaging close to nine points per game.
“Keith has come a long way,” Sochaski said. “He used to be strictly a 3-point shooter, but now he’s putting the ball on the floor and going to the basket. He absolutely opens things down low for Julian and Tommy and also gets to the foul line. He’s an all-around player now.”
Junior Dominque Isaac is another backcourt performer. The 6-foot Isaac is averaging 8.9 points per game as a perimeter player.
“He’s a guy who can score, play good defense and shoot the 3-pointer,” Sochaski said of Isaac. “He is also putting the ball on the floor and challenges defenses. When he does that, we’re a dangerous team.”
Sochaski likes the idea that there’s so much balance between his top four scorers.
“My game plan over the last two-to-three years was to get everyone involved in the offense,” Sochaski said.
The fifth starter is senior point guard Kevin Cebello. The 5-foot-9 Cebello transferred to Belleville this year from Pennsylvania and has fit right in.
“He’s done a great job running the offense, especially in transition,” Sochaski said. “He gets the team running and going.”
The first player off the bench is 5-foot-11 junior point guard Shaq Richards, the football standout. Sochaski likes Richards’ leadership qualities so much that he made him a team captain, despite being a junior.
“He’s a great defender who provides a lot of energy,” Sochaski said of Richards. “He has such a great personality. Everyone loves him. He does all the right things.”
Nicholas Martinez is a 6-foot-2 forward who comes in to give Rodriguez and Rosario some rest. Martinez came up big in the win over Oratory Prep, defending the muchtaller Billups.
“He had eight rebounds in that game and was huge in the fourth quarter,” Sochaski said. “It wasn’t easy for him to chest up with someone 6-foot-10, but Nick did it.”
Junior Kamal Miller, another gridiron standout, is a 6-foot junior guard who is very athletic.
“He’s one of the fastest kids around and he comes to play,” Sochaski said.
At 7-4, it’s not too early for the Bucs to be thinking about a possible SEC Independence Division championship and a berth into the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoffs.
“I just think the kids are loving it,” said Sochaski, whose team finished 7-18 last season. “I think they’re looking forward to the challenge of playing big games from now on. We have a lot of important games coming up. I think the team that catches fire down the stretch will have the best chance to win the league. We went to the states last year and saw what it takes.”
For now, the Buccaneers are a legitimate and prominent basketball program. It’s been a while.
“I think we’re able to show people that we have a serious team,” Sochaski said. “It’s a credit to the kids. They’re the ones who put all the hard work in, had the dedication to stick with it. They understand the goals we have and they’re willing to work hard to reach the goals.”