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A close-up view of the Affordable Care Act

By Jeff Bahr

With a positive nod from the Supreme Court on June 28, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has now become the law of the land. In the end, the vast majority of the plan remained intact – save for the “limiting” of the Medicaid expansion.

Major changes are slated to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. At this point, individual states are required to have health insurance exchanges set up for uninsured people to purchase coverage. According to the precepts of the plan such exchanges must operate in a nondiscriminatory way. Put another way, people with pre-existing medical conditions will be as welcome as anyone else, and subsidies will be provided to those who lack sufficient finances to obtain such coverage.

Like any piece of sweeping legislation, the Affordable Care Act invites probing questions and closer scrutiny. Just how will this new law affect the average citizen living in these United States? Let’s take a look.

For the unemployed and others who can’t afford healthcare

Starting in 2014, Medicaid will expand to cover people who are under 65 and earn income up to 133 % of the federal poverty level ($30,657 for a family of four in 2012). Families who earn between 100 and 400 % of the federal poverty level ($92,200 for a family of four in 2012) will be eligible for tax credits to help offset the costs of insurance plans secured through state-run exchanges.

Medicaid limited expansion ruling

One possible fly in the ointment, however, is the limiting of Medicaid expansion under the Supreme Court’s ruling. Expansion has now become an option for each state – not a requirement as it was originally cast. No one is completely certain what impact this decision will have over the long term, but this much is known: If a state opts to take advantage of Medicaid expansion, the ACA will provide enhanced federal matching funds – paying 100 % of the cost of expansion enrollees for 2014-2016 and up to 90 % thereafter. If a state declines, the same group of people will receive federal premium subsidies on a sliding scale, but will not benefit from cost-sharing caps available to those receiving subsidized premiums.

Is anything else limited in Medicare expansion ruling?

No. The rest of the law stands. Most importantly, states must set up health insurance exchanges. If they fail to do so, the federal government can step in and operate the exchanges itself.

For retirees receiving Social Security who purchase prescription drugs

Under the new law, the infamous Medicare drug coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole” will at first shrink dramatically and eventually be eliminated. This prompted praise from the AARP, who stand firmly behind the law. “(The) AARP supported this law because it helps many Medicare recipients avoid financially burdensome increases in prescription drug costs by closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap, or “doughnut hole,” reads a declaration on AARP’s website.

Help on this area arrives on two fronts. Pharmaceutical companies will be required to extend a 50 % discount on brand name drugs to anyone receiving Social Security benefits. Federal subsidies will fill in the rest of the gap by 2020.

For people who already have healthcare insurance

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that private health insurance premiums will increase by approximately 5.7 % each year, from 2012- 2020. Estimates provided by the CBO show that, relative to what would have occurred in the absence of the law, premiums in the individual insurance market would rise a little higher. For those working in large companies who are currently receiving employer-sponsored healthcare, premiums will be a bit lower. Employees enrolled in company sponsored healthcare plans at small firms (50 or less employees) will see their premiums stay about the same.

Will higher taxes arise as a result of this law?

The ACA will affect some people who are covered through their employers, especially those in higher tax brackets. Starting in 2013, Medicare tax will be increased by 0.9 % on earnings over $200,000 for individual taxpayers and $250,000 for married couple filing jointly. Additionally, a 3.8 % tax will be imposed on unearned income for high-income households.

What penalties will people be subject to if they don’t purchase coverage? And when will such penalties take effect?

By 2014, most Americans will be required to have health insurance. Federal penalties will be in place to make sure that people comply with the new law. According to the Commonwealth Fund, the penalty will be $95 or one % of taxable income whichever is greater. This penalty rises to $325 or 2.5 % of taxable income in 2016, up to a maximum of $2,085 per family.

How will the ACA effect small-businesses?

Employers with less than 50 employees are exempt from penalties that would otherwise be imposed upon them if they didn’t cover their workers. Companies with 25 employees or less that pay average annual wages below $50,000 and provide health insurance to employees will be eligible for a “small business tax credit” of up to 35 %. In 2014, the tax credit will rise to 50 %.

How can I learn more?

A good starting point is a visit to the official federal government website at: www.healthcare.gov. Managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the site reviews insurance options, provides tools for the comparison of plans and physicians, and details the ACA’s effect on individual consumers and their unique situations.

Spring Garden School goes green

Photos by Sharon Keseling

 

Photos by Sharon Keseling/ Schools Supt. Ruissell M. Lazovick (with visor) pitches in during Earth Day
activities at Spring Garden School.

 

By Ron Leir

It was actually her son who came up with the idea, SallyAnn Marino Ryder confessed.

Justin Joseph Ryder, who teaches math and journalism at Mid-Penn High School in San Francisco, also makes time for organic gardening at his home in San Mateo.

“He told me, ‘Go for it,’ “Ryder recalled.

And go for it she did.

Last fall, Ryder, a math/arts strategies teacher for grades 1 to 6 at the aptly-named Spring Garden School (SGS), applied to Whole Foods for a school garden grant.

But that was a tough row to hoe.

She eventually learned that her intended benefactor had as many as 3,000 schools wanting to sprout, so to speak, but that it could only accommodate a third of those – and, sadly, Nutley’s candidate wouldn’t be one of them.

Undaunted, Ryder turned to the school and corporate community and collected more than $1,200 for garden materials for growing vegetables and flowers.

And she got help from volunteers like paving contractor Anthony DeFranco, who dug out an area outside the school overgrown with a profusion of shrubbery which landscaper Brian Korbanick removed and made ready for planting. The effort was supervised by parent/organic gardener Lisle Hill the 3rd, a 30-year veteran of home gardening; and teacher Frank Sasso, also a master gardener for Home Depot.

Nutley Public Works Commissioner Dr. Joseph Scarpelli, with help from his DPW crews, arranged for donations of soil and compost.

And there were Spring Garden School parents, a cast of school administrators and employees, and, of course, students who gave their time and effort to make the school garden project a success, Ryder said.

Nearly 30 youngsters from grades 4, 5 and 6 pitched in to help with the planting.

Hill’s sons Lisle the 4th, a sixth-grader, and fourth-grader Tyler, 9, were among the gardeners-in-learning. “It was fun coming out here with my friends, planting,” said Lisle.

Even Schools Supt. Russell Lazovick got involved, participating in the district’s annual Earth Day observance by getting down and dirty, trying his hand as a Johnny Appleseed and probably having as much fun as the kids, which, on that day, including second- and third-graders.

The culmination of all the hard work, noted SGS Principal Laurie LaGuardia, came with another annual tradition – Teacher Appreciation Luncheon in May – when teachers and staff were served a scrumptious salad mixed, in part, with lettuce and kale grown by the children, along with sweet peas, spinach and strawberries.

“It was a good experience for the kids,” LaGuardia said. “They learned about taking care of the earth in the process.”

Just for good measure, school board member Charles Kucinski donated some new shrubs planted outside the school’s front entrance.

Already, there’s excitement growing about the coming school year and what offerings from Mother Nature will be forthcoming, with another helping hand expected from a newly renovated greenhouse.

Nutley High School business and creative arts coordinator George Ackerman and some of his students are pitching in by building shelves to hold the plants and a large table for the greenhouse, Ryder said.

“Next year, maybe we’ll try hydroponics (growing plants in mineral nutrient solutions in water, not soil),” Hill Sr. said. There’s anticipation of a fall crop of peas, lettuce, Swiss chard and spinach.

Enthusiasm for getting kids more in touch with the earth is growing. Toward the end of the school year, Nutley Parks & Recreation Commissioner Mario Tucci put out a call to all public schools in the township asking them to designate a piece of land that could be used for vegetable gardening by local youths.

Apparently, that’s still a work in progress.

Thoughts and Views

With the upcoming departure of Roche Pharmaceuticals, Nutley will lose its largest single taxpayer as well as some 1,000 jobs. Township planners are scrambling to find a suitable buyer for the 127-acre property. They certainly have their work cut out for them – especially if they intend to keep job replacement as high a priority as their ever-pressing need to secure a ratable.

If recent history is used as a predictor, however, those 1,000 jobs have likely gone the way of the Dodo. When a major concern like Roche packs it in these days, the search for a replacement is often a fruitless one. When and if another business supplants it, it’s all too often in the form a storage firm – the one industry where large vacant buildings aren’t perceived as losing investments or “white elephants.”

The trouble is such businesses employ very few people. In this regard, they represent a microcosm of the U.S.A. in 2012. Production and manufacturing jobs have all but left America – that’s no secret. So it will take an extraordinary effort, and more than a little creativity by Nutley’s Board of Commissioners to turn this thing around. Are they up to the task? For Nutley’s sake, I certainly hope so.

Fingers crossed.

-Jeff Bahr

Hip oldsters continue to be a ‘hit” with fans

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski 

For six men in their 60s, the passion of performing in front of a live crowd never gets old. On Friday, July 13, The Hit Men will fulfill their passion at Town Hall Park in Lyndhurst, showcasing three decades of experience in the music business.

The performance is part of Lyndhurst’s Summer Concert Series that extends from July 11 to 14.

“It’s no different,” Hit Men lead singer Lee Shapiro said, when asked about his opinion on performing in front of both larger and smaller crowds. “As a musician, it’s your responsibility to make everyone happy. It’s about whoever is at the show having a great time.”

The Hit Men formed over a year and a half ago, with members culled from such notable bands as Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Barry Manilow, Sting, Phoebe Snow, and Cat Stevens collaborating on the project.

“The group came together because people had been asking Gerry (Polci), Don (Ciccone) and me to get together for years,” Shapiro said. “When (the Broadway musical) ‘Jersey Boys’ came out, we said we were going to do it and we assembled friends and other people from the industry to help us.”

Since its inception, the group has moved quickly from a small show they performed for free to larger concerts across the state, with national tours anticipated in the near future. Shapiro got his start in the music business after he saw a relative play the piano.

“I loved what it sounded like,” Shapiro recalled. “I said to myself, ‘I can do this.’”

In a bit of foreshadowing, Shapiro and his mother watched the Ed Sullivan show when Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons performed.

“I was watching the show thinking, ‘See? This band has a piano player, so I know can do it,’ ” Shapiro said. Ten years later, Shapiro would be playing piano in that same band.

Through nearly three decades on the road, Shapiro was able to help form the band by creating a tightly knit group of musicians who have known each other for years.

“Our bass player and I go back to when we were eight years old (nearly fifty years ago),” Shapiro explained. “Jimmy (Ryan) and I go back at least 28, I’ve known Russ (Velazquez) for 20 years. It’s a fun thing to recreate our biggest successes.” Larry Gates completes the band.

With this chemistry, it’s easy to recognize why the group has had such longevity in the harsh music industry. Even though this band has traveled together decades ago, its newest travels continue to bring a lot of excitement.

“I love Frankie and the guys, and we can attach all of our credibility to them,” Shapiro said, explaining the value of his experience with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. “Now that everyone is hovering around 60, we can have the best times on the road. It’s truly like a brotherhood.”

The band has continued to wow crowds across the region by performing many of the Four Seasons covers that made them famous many years ago, including, “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Mony Mony.”

The creation of The Hit Men has spawned a new life for this group of dedicated musicians.

“This experience has been ridiculously good for me. Now we are actually playing the circuit,” said Shapiro, who, along with the band, will play in several states including Florida, Louisiana, and California in the coming months.

While all the members of the group continue to thrive working with their life’s passion, the group would still perform, even without the acclaim attached.

“I said to Frankie (Valli), ‘Had nothing happened, would you still be singing?’ and he replied, ‘Yes,” Shapiro said. “This is what we do, you wake up in the morning and music is your career.”

The Hit Men will take the stage at Lyndhurst’s Town Hall park on July 13 at 7 p.m. The Summer Concert series will also feature such acts as the Four Tops, Kenny Vace and the Planotones, and Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses performing throughout the event. For a full listing of bands, go to www.lyndhurstnj.org/calendar.

News from the Nutley Police Blotter

July 4

• A Denver St. resident called police at 5:01 a.m. to report that someone was making harassing calls to her cellular phone. Police said they tried to call the number provided but couldn’t make contact. They advised the resident of her right to sign a complaint if the caller’s identity became known.

• At 2:46 a.m. police were called to a Chestnut St. location where the driver of a truck told them someone threw an object at his vehicle and cracked the windshield. Police searched the area but couldn’t find anyone.

July 3

• A Warren St. resident reported the theft of a hot pink Huffy bicycle from the interior hallway of an apartment building. Police said there was no sign of a forced entry. The incident, logged at 8:45 p.m., is being investigated.

• Police are investigating an apparent scam perpetrated on the web reported at 6 p.m. The victim, who had offered something for sale on craigslist, told police the buyer and seller had agreed on a price for the item but when the victim received the payment, the check was made out for more than the agreed on price. Police said the victim told them that the buyer asked for the check to be deposited and the extra money returned via Western Union, which was done. After the transaction, however, the victim’s bank notified the victim that the check didn’t clear and that the bank wouldn’t be reimbursing the victim.

• A Coeyman Ave. resident called police at 12:15 p.m. to report the theft of the resident’s motorcycle license plate. Police entered the plate number into their data system as stolen property.

July 2

• Two auto burglaries were reported within an interval of about 50 minutes, between 8:46 and 10:06 p.m., in the area of Walnut St. and Rutgers Place. In one incident, police said someone broke the rear window of a Honda parked on Walnut St. and removed unidentified items; in the other, someone entered a Jeep parked on Rutgers Place and took unlisted items. Investigations are proceeding.

• A call about “an unwanted party” brought police to a Brookline Ave. location at 1:24 p.m. where officers arrested Anthony LaMarco, 43, of Clifton, for three active warrants from Paterson. He was later released, pending a court appearance the following day.

July 1

• An unidentified individual called police at 1:14 p.m. to report a lost wallet. Police said the individual recalled leaving the wallet on the counter of a Franklin Ave. coffee shop and, after returning a short time later to claim it, the wallet was gone. Police said no one at the shop knew anything about the wallet. Detectives are following up.

June 30

• A tenant in the process of moving into a new apartment on Centre St. suddenly realized that a personal laptop had been removed from the tenant’s vehicle. Police are investigating the incident, reported at 7:05 p.m.

• For the second time, a Lloyd Court resident reported that someone had scratched the resident’s car while it was parked in the resident’s designated space. The incident was logged at 5 p.m.

• A High St. resident called police at 11:22 a.m. to report that a vandal had taken down two street signs. After determining that the signs couldn’t be repositioned, police removed the signs to headquarters for safekeeping.

June 29

• Someone entered a 2004 Nissan while it was parked near New St. and removed several items from the vehicle, the owner reported to police at 11 p.m. An investigation is ongoing.

Around Town

Harrison

Zumba classes are held at the Centro Romeu Cascaes Portuguese American Community Center, 308 William St., Harrison, on Mondays and Thursdays and Zumba Toning class on Wednesdays. Each one-hour class starts at 7:30 p.m. For more information or to register, please call Maria Marieiro at or 201-401-0826 or email harrisonzumba@yahoo. com.

Kearny

The Presbyterian Boys- Girls Club, 663 Kearny Ave., will open during July and August on Tuesday and Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. Most members and guests are between the ages of 8 and 15. The summer program offers basketball, dodge ball, wiffle ball, kick ball, gymnastics, bowling bumper pool, air hockey, foozball, arts and crafts, ping pong and electronic games. Summer trips have been scheduled to the Mountain Creek Water Park (July 11), Red Bulls vs. Chicago (July 18), Tornadoes vs. Jackals baseball (July 25), Bowcraft Amusement and Miniature Golf (Aug. 1), pro wrestling (Aug. 17). All trips are chaperoned by Kearny teachers. The club will be supervised this summer by a professional staff including Tom Fraser, former Lincoln School guidance counselor and members of the P.B.G.C. Board of Directors.

Kearny Public Library will host a two-part class on jewelry making on Monday, July 16 and Monday, July 23 at 5:30 p.m. Participants will learn how to make a small beaded pendant. Beads, needles, thread, leather necklace, bead mat, patter and instructions will be provided. Please bring: scissors, ruler and a magnifier (if you have one). Class size is limited to 12. Please contact Pat at the library, at 201-998-2666 for a reservation.

The Rosary Society of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 136 Davis Ave., Kearny, is running a bus trip to Harrah’s Casino, Atlantic City, on Thursday, July 26. Cost is $10. The bus will leave from the corner of Bergen Avenue and Ivy Street at 9 a.m. Parking is available in the lot on Ivy Street. For seats and information, call, Lucille at 201-997-3781 or Jean at 201- 991-4732.

Lyndhurst

Mary Lou Mullins monthly bus trip to Atlantic City will be held on Sunday, July 29, to Resorts Casino. The cost is $25. The bus will leave St. Michael’s parking lot at 10:30 a.m. Refreshments will be served with Bingo and activities on the bus. Please make reservations early. Only 12 seats remain. Call Mary Lou at 201-933-2186 for more information.

St. Michaels Leisure Club will have a bus ride to Mt. Airy Casino in Pennsylvania on Thursday, July 19, leaving the church parking lot on Page Avenue, Lyndhurst, at 10 a.m. with cost of $22. For more info and registration please call Georgiana at 201-438-7847.

The Humane Society of Bergen County, 221 Stuyvesant Ave., Lyndhurst, has a supply of dog food and treats all brands, free, available to anyone due to unemployment, disability or any other financial hardship. Just stop by or call 201-896-9300 for more information. Hours are Monday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. -2 p.m.

Third-Tuesday-of-the- Month Special Event: Pontoon Boat Birding Cruise with the NJMC and Bergen County Audubon Society, a two-hour birding trip along the Hackensack River and its marshes, will be held on Tuesday, July 17, at 10 a.m. The two-hour guided trip has a suggested donation of $15 per person. Nature photographers are welcome, but you must be unobtrusive (no tripods). Check meadowblog.net for last-minute updates and weather advisories. Tour departs from River Barge Park in Carlstadt. Pre-registration required. For more information, contact Gaby Bennett-Meany at 201-460- 4640.

The Meadowlands Environment Center, DeKorte Park, Lynhurst, will host a free senior program, “Peek at the Past and Peek at Your Past,” on Tuesday, July 17, at 2 p.m. Have you ever wondered what the Meadowlands area looked like long before humans lived here? Clues can be found in the artifacts left behind. Dr. Angela Cristini will quiz you on the identity and uses of various found objects. Bring a treasured object from your own past to “show and tell.” Pre-registration is required. Call 201-777-2431. Note: Due to railroad repairs, visitors will not be able to access DeKorte Park via Valley Brook Avenue. Please visit www.njmeadowlands.gov or call 201- 460-1700 for an alternate route.

Knights of Columbus Communion breakfast will be held on Sunday, July 29, at the Lyndhurst Senior Building, 250 Cleveland Ave., Lyndhurst. Breakfast will be served from 10-11 a.m. Tickets are $7 each. No tickets will be sold at the door. Pick up tickets at Sacred Heart Rectory, 324 Ridge Road, Lyndhurst, or call (201) 438 1147 or Contact: Sal Russo at (201) 446 7244.

North Arlington

First Presbyterian Church, 153 Ridge Rd., North Arlington, is hosting a yard sale on Saturday, July 14, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the backyard. Benefits will go to the Order of the Amaranth Diabetes Research Fund. No early birds.

Kearny Police Blotter

Over the limit, under arrest

Around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, police said Sgt. John Becker observed a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed without any lights driving northbound on Passaic Ave. Becker pulled over the vehicle at S. Midland Ave. where the driver hit the curb while coming to a stop. When Becker walked up to the vehicle, police said he detected a strong odor of alcohol. Police said the driver failed a field sobriety test. Roselle Park resident Ryan Birmingham, 30, was charged with driving while intoxicated, careless driving, and driving with no lights.

Alleged robber caught, 2nd sought

Officers Rich Pawlowski and Sean Kelly responded to a Windsor St. location on a report of a robbery July 3. Police said that, upon arrival, they were able to locate and detain 47-year-old Gregory Cannell of Upper Saddle River who was grabbed while attempting to leave the area. Police said investigation determined that Cannell and a female had entered the victim’s apartment where the female stole a laptop, an iPad, and a cell phone while Cannell threatened and assaulted the victim. Cannell was placed under arrest, transported to headquarters, and charged with robbery, conspiracy, and burglary and held on $30,000 bail. Police have issued an arrest warrant for the female suspect who has been tentatively identified as Dara Mott, 20, of Wallington, on charges of robbery and conspiracy.

Pizza delivery intercepted

On July 4, Officers Jay Ward and Sean Kelly, Sgt. Anthony Limite, and Det. Scott Traynor responded to Van Courtland and Kearny Aves. on a report that a pizza deliveryman had been robbed by two men. Police said the officers located 21-year-old Elizabeth resident Louis Calles and a 20-year-old Carteret resident hiding in the basement of a nearby residence. The victim identified the pair as the men who robbed him, police said. Police recovered $55 in stolen currency and the pair were charged with robbery and taken to Hudson County Jail, Kearny, each on $50,000 bail.

Fireworks and hazy smoke

Officers assigned to the fireworks detail at Veteran’s Field on July 4 were advised of an unruly group smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol and becoming a public nuisance. Dep. Chief George King, Sgt. John Taylor, Det. Mike Gonzalez and Officer Rose Traynor went to the location and Gonzalez determined that 22-year-old Jersey City resident Elizabeth Andrews was in possession of marijuana and had been consuming alcohol in public. She was placed under arrest and charged with possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia and was given a town summons for drinking in public.

-Anthony J. Machcinski

Making a bad situation worse

On July 5, officers responded to 414 Main St. at 10:05 p.m. on a report of a burglarized vehicle. The owner of the car told police that she had left her car in the lot and gone shopping. When she returned, she saw a white bicycle beside her car door and also noticed that her car door was open. She saw a white male with a shaved head sitting in the driver’s seat. When he saw her, he fled north on Main St. Shortly thereafter, police found a man fitting that description on Little St. While being questioned, the man struck the officer in the chest and jumped back onto his bicycle. He continued to resist arrest until police used pepper spray to gain his compliance. Michael Mcinerney, 34, of Belleville, was charged with burglary, aggravated assault on police, and resisting arrest.

In other Belleville Police happenings:

July 7

Officers patrolling Joralemon St. observed a vehicle crossing over the yellow lines in an attempt to pass two vehicles. When they stopped the car near the Belleville Ave. and Celia Terrace intersection, the driver attempted to jump out of the vehicle. He was told to remain in the vehicle and asked for his credentials. After a few volleys where he refused to produce I.D., he finally relented and officers returned to their vehicle. With that, the man approached the police vehicle with his left hand in his pocket. He was told to remove his hand and return to his vehicle. After refusing to do so, Rogelio Fuentes, 34, of Newark, was placed under arrest for obstructing justice and issued motor vehicle tickets. He was later released.

July 4

At 8:08 p.m., officers were detailed to 20 Montgomery St. on a disturbance call. There, they encountered numerous individuals yelling and screaming. After separating the main groups, they learned that the occurrence was a family argument that had turned hostile. One man stated that another had a weapon, and that he grabbed a baseball bat to protect himself. The other man denied this, saying that he was the one being threatened by the man with the bat. With that, two men in the group turned irate. They were told to stop but continued and were arrested. Antonio Nieves, 28, of Newark, was arrested for disorderly conduct and a $125 warrant from Newark. Juan Nieves, 34, of Watchung, was charged with disorderly conduct.

July 2

Officers were dispatched to 6 Essex St. at 2:26 p.m. on a front-door alarm call. When they arrived, they noticed that the door had been forced open. No one was inside and nothing appeared to be missing.

July 1

An officer patrolling the area of Watchung Ave. and Newark Ave. observed a woman walking in the roadway at 9:08 a.m. Concerned for her well being the woman was stopped. Lisa Cirasella, 40, from Newark was found to have an outstanding $204 warrant from Belleville. She was held on that warrant.

-Jeff Bahr

Kearny’s Gomes collects Observer Female Athlete of Year

Soccer and basketball standout becomes second straight Kardinal to gather award

Photo by Jim Hague/ Recent Kearny High School graduate Stefanie Gomes (center, right) receives the 2011-2012 Observer Female Athlete of the Year award from Observer general manager Robert Pezzolla center, left). Also pictured, from left, are Kearny girls’ soccer coach Vin Almeida, Kearny Principal Dr. Cynthia Baumgartner, Maria Gomes, Stefanie’s mother, and athletic director John Millar.

 

By Jim Hague 

Stefanie Gomes’ amazing athletic career began when she was just seven years old. It started on a Kearny soccer field.

“It wasn’t the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but I certainly had to work at it,” Gomes said. “I didn’t have a lot of success. I had to work to get better. I actually started out playing defense, then moved up to midfield and finally became a forward when I was like 12. I was more comfortable at forward.”

The second half of her involvement in sports came a year later, when she signed up to play basketball in the Kearny Recreation program. But there, Gomes found herself playing with and against boys.

“I got used to playing with the boys,” Gomes said. “Actually, it really helped me to get better.”

What also helped Gomes was having an older brother, Michael, who liked playing sports.

“He always encouraged me and wanted me to always go play with him and his friends,” Gomes said. “He was my brother, but he was always like my coach. He’s three years older and helped me a lot.”

By the time Gomes got to Kearny High School, she was established as a soccer player, but she still needed help with her basketball skills.

“I had a lot to work on in basketball,” Gomes said. “I didn’t have a left hand. Coach (Jody) Hill helped me a lot, but I knew I had to improve.”

But her soccer game was already in full bloom.

 

“She was fantastic,” Kearny head girls’ soccer coach Vin Almeida said. “She was very consistent in scoring goals. Early on, she was very quiet, almost too quiet to a fault, but she eventually developed into more of a leader and did some really good things.”

Almeida tried to get a rise out of Gomes.

“She was like a lake, always so calm,” Almeida said. “We tried to get her intense. But it was pretty funny how she never really got upset or too excited.”

Gomes was instantly a success in soccer who gradually increased her goal production throughout her four years, scoring 21 goals as a junior and an astounding 37 times as a senior, ending her sensational career with 88 goals.

“Some of the games, she could have scored more, but she gave up the ball to allow her teammates to score,” Almeida said. “You never knew when she could do something special. She always had the potential to do so. Whenever there was a lull in the games, at any moment, something special could happen and more times than not, they did happen.”

Almeida thought that Gomes had a special ability to turn on the afterburners when needed.

“She was definitely deceptively quick,” Almeida said. “You’d be watching her and think that she couldn’t run any faster and then she would amazingly get there.” Hill had the opportunity to coach Gomes for four years in basketball.

“He’s naturally gifted,” Hill said. “She had quickness and great leaping ability. She definitely worked at it. There were times she was coming home from soccer practice and then would come to work a little extra on basketball.”

Gomes eventually became the latest member of the Kearny 1,000-point club, ending her career with 1,201 points, among the top 10 scorers in the history of the school.

For her prowess in both soccer and basketball, Gomes has been selected as The Observer Female Athlete of the Year for the 2011-2012 scholastic sports season.

Gomes received her award recently from Observer general manager Robert Pezzolla. She became the second straight Kearny female to receive the award, joining former soccer and basketball teammate Janitza Aquino and became the third Kearny girl to garnish the honor, joining Aquino and Allyson Dyl (2007-2008). Gomes is the eighth recipient of the year-end award.

“I think it’s a great honor and a great feeling,” Gomes said. “Looking back, I never would have thought I would end up doing all the things I did in high school. It’s amazing to think I was that successful. I have so many high school memories and everything was a good experience for me.”

Gomes was asked what sport she preferred playing.

“I guess I like playing soccer more, because I’ve played it longer,” Gomes said. “I love playing soccer. People think I’m better in basketball, but I think I’m better in soccer.”

Gomes said that when she was younger, she always wanted to be like Stefanee Pace, a three-sport standout who ended up playing soccer at Rutgers.

“I always used to watch her play all the time,” Gomes said. “She was so good in everything. She was the best athlete ever.”

Now, Gomes has earned her place in Kearny history, right along with Pace, Dyl and Aquino.

Hill marveled at Gomes’ abilities.

“She had incredible energy,” Hill said. “She could get a rebound on one end of the court, then bring the ball all the way down and score. When she turned it on, she would explode past people.”

Hill used the same term as Almeida.

“She’s definitely deceptively quick,” Hill said. “Sometimes, it may be easy to go through the motions, but Stefanie led by example. We had a little bit of a talk midway through the season, discussing that she needed to be more of a leader, be more vocal. I asked her how she wanted to end her career. I think that opened her eyes and she realized how good she was. She needed to be at a different level. She got inspired and had some mental toughness. She realized she had to lead the team and finished strong.”

Hill and Almeida both said it was a joy to coach Gomes.

“It was a pleasure to watch her develop and play at the level she did,” Hill said. “You knew that if Stefanie Gomes could get 20 points, we had a better chance of winning. It was a pleasure to coach her and see her phenomenal athleticism and spirit.”

“She really was a joy,” Almeida said. “She never complained and always worked hard. She was able to do some amazing things and it was great to have.”

Gomes credited her close-knit family for her success.

“My mom (Maria) would always tell me to work hard and good things would happen,” Gomes said. “She’s about 10 times more excited about this award than I am. My dad (Jose) doesn’t make every game, but he pushes me all the time and supports me. He’s a little quiet, but he’s always there for me. My brother was a huge help. They all mean a lot to me. I couldn’t have done anything without them.”

Gomes was happy to receive the same award that her friend and former teammate Aquino did a year ago.

“She’s a great friend and I’m glad we can continue the tradition,” Gomes said. “When she found out I was getting the award, she texted me and told me how proud she was.”

Gomes will now head to Montclair State in the fall – a school where Aquino already plays basketball. But Gomes will be a soccer player for the Red Hawks.

“I’ll see Janitza around school,” Gomes said. “I’ll be at her games and I’m sure she’ll be at mine. She’s great.”

“We’ve been blessed to have two phenomenal athletes back to back,” Hill said. “They’ve both represented our programs well.”

And who knows? Maybe there’s a third straight Kearny female athlete waiting to snare next year’s top athlete honor.

Lyndhurst held to 4 wins in tourney

Photo by Jim Hague/ Lyndhurst Little League ace righty Nick Carnevale delivers a pitch during the District 5 Little League All-Star tournament in Wood-Ridge last weekend. Lyndhurst won four games before getting eliminated in the semifinals.

 

By Jim Hague

Phil Mazzarella has been coaching in the Lyndhurst Little League for a quarter century. Eight times, Mazzarella has been selected to serve as the head coach of the program’s 11-and-12-yearold All-Star squad.

“I just love it,” said Mazzarella, who coached this year’s All-Star contingent as well. “It’s great when the kids listen and realize you know what you’re talking about. Baseball has always been a labor of love for me, since I was a little kid growing up in Lyndhurst. I played Little League in Lyndhurst. It’s always been a part of me. I always wanted to give something back.”

Mazzarella assembled a solid team to compete in this year’s District 5 tournament at Wood-Ridge.

“We really have so many talented kids in the town,” Mazzarella said. “We had a talented team and had a good shot to do well in the tournament.”

Lyndhurst did manage to win four games in the tourney, defeating host Wood- Ridge, North Arlington, Garfield and Hasbrouck Heights, to advance to the tourney’s semifinals.

However, their run in the District 5 tourney ended Sunday with a loss to Rutherford American. Lyndhurst lost both of its games over the weekend by a single run, ending a fine performance in the tourney.

“We got good pitching, but we just didn’t hit in the key points of the game,” Mazzarella said. “Of course, we’re proud. The kids played hard and tried their hardest. They just came up a little short. Both games, we were down early and fought back. Give our kids credit. The games came down to one run and ended up losing.”

One of the team’s top pitchers was right-hander Nick Carnevale, who displayed a ton of poise and promise in the team’s 4-3 loss to Kearny on Saturday. Carnevale was mixing up arm angles and pitch deliveries, amazing for a 12-year-old.

“He was definitely our best pitcher throughout the tournament,” Mazzarella said. “Numerous times, he made it look like he was throwing a different pitch, then came with the heat. He’s a smart baseball player.”

Carnevale is certainly one to watch in the years to come.

Corey Sowinski is another of the Lyndhurst pitchers who did a fine job. Nick Matarazzo pitched one game in the tourney and it turned out to be a shutout. Lefthander Max Vigliotti, who did a little bit of everything for the squad, was another solid hurler.

Ryan Donohue was the catcher who maintained all the pitchers.

“He did a real good job behind the plate,” Mazzarella said.

Although Donohue had to survive a bit of a scare Sunday, after he took a foul ball off the catcher’s mask.

Matt Tancredi was the first baseman who shared first sacker duties with Andrew Leonardo.

Isaiah Figueroa was the team’s second baseman, another player with a ton of promise for the future.

“He’s just an all-around player,” Mazzarella said. “He was our best hitter in the tournament. He also put down two bunts in one game. He’s got a bright future.”

When Carnevale wasn’t on the mound, he was the team’s shortstop and lead-off hitter.

Sowinski was the third baseman for most of the time.

Left field duties were shared by Nick Cutola and Conor Yunis. Vigliotti held down the fort in centerfield, blessed with an incredible throwing arm and with lightning in his bat.

“He hit five homers in the last five games of the regular season, then hit four homers in the tournament,” Mazzarella said. “He’s a good hitter with a great arm. He just has the right attitude all the time and he also has a very bright future.”

Right field was shared by Jonathan Karlok and Tom Terrana.

So the tourney ended for the Lyndhurst nine Sunday afternoon, a little earlier than what they hoped for. But there was no reason for sadness. They left with their heads held high.

“Definitely, they played hard,” Mazzarella said. “They tried very hard. They just came up short. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Not when you win four games in one of the toughest District tourneys in New Jersey. There’s reason for pride.