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Easing the way over

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent LYNDHURST – State officials are still pondering what to do about the century-old DeJessa Bridge which links Lyndhurst and Nutley across the Passaic River but, in the meantime, Bergen County has done its part to try and relieve congestion there. At the urging […]

Last chance to sound off on dog park

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent KEARNY –  The town is preparing to let the dogs out but first it wants the owners in. For a public meeting, that is, on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 7:30 p.m., in the second floor Town Council chambers at Town Hall […]

Ice storm took its toll on local roads

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  By the time you read this, we all may be trapped inside by a blizzard — if the current weather forecasts are correct. But it doesn’t necessarily take heavy snow to create havoc. Sometimes, a coating of ice is sufficient. […]

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Bracing for funding shift

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  For the past 37 years, the Kearny nonprofit Pathways to Independence Inc. has helped those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live independently in their communities. Currently, from its 3-level, 18,000 square foot headquarters at Kingsland and Bergen Aves., it offers on-site […]

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A new ‘acquisition’

Tim Bixler, of The Bixler Group Real Estate and Insurance and his wife, Charissa Bixler, welcomed their daughter, Addison Paige Bixler, on Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 1:20 p.m. Big brother Brayden is beyond excited. Only a few more years until […]

 
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Challenges don’t faze educator

Photo by Ron Leir/ Denis Williams is the new Nutley High School principal.

 

By Ron Leir

NUTLEY–

Just spend a few minutes with Denis Williams and it becomes immediately apparent that the restless 46-year-old educator is itching to get on to the next task at hand.

Williams will need lots of energy now that the Nutley Board of Education has appointed him principal of Nutley High School, effective July 1, on the strong recommendation of Supt. Russell Lazovick.

“We were committed to fi nding the best possible candidate and we feel (Williams) is the most qualifi ed,” Lazovick said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with him for a year and, with his passion, I know he’s the right person to lead the (high school) through the challenging process ahead.”

Williams was picked from among more than 80 applicants for the post which has been filled by interim principal Edward Barry since the retirement of longtime educator Gregory Catrambone in June 2011. Williams will earn $117,568 a year.

Other administrative appointments approved April 22 included: Keith Cortright, replacing the retiring John Calicchio as principal of Walker Middle School; Joe Materia as district foreign language coordinator; and Alain Mollinedo as district director of special education.

Williams is following in a proud legacy, beginning with his granddad, Louis J. Williams, who was inducted into the Kearny High School Hall of Fame as a member of the football state championship team in the ‘20s; and continuing with his dad, Louis F. Williams, who, as president of the Nutley Board of Education, ushered in the first wave of academic technology advances during the early ‘80s.

Acknowledging his family’s West Hudson roots, Williams said: “My mom’s side came from Harrison and my dad’s side, from Kearny.”

And that family was predisposed to the importance of book learning. “I came from a household that valued education early on,” he said. “I grew up in a neighborhood in the ‘70s where people would lean across their fence and exchanged ideas about ‘Why Johnnie Can’t Read.’ ’’

Williams’ sister, Maureen, became a special education teacher in the Nutley school system and Williams, after completing his undergraduate degree in political science and history at Rutgers University and getting his teaching certification at Montclair State University, started his career in education in 1992 as a history/ social studies teacher at Kearny High.

For several years he taught in North Carolina while his wife was doing her residency at Duke University Medical School. When they returned in 1999, Williams got a teaching job with Nutley where he served as district test coordinator from 2007 to 2010 when he was named high school vice principal.

Along the way, he spent three years coaching the Nutley High crew team, having previously rowed for crew during his student days at the high school.

He also handled a number of student advisor positions, including a stretch with the high school debate team which won the state championship in 2003.

And he mentored the “Deliberating in a Democracy” program, an “international initiative designed to improve student understanding of democratic principles and civic deliberation skills” as part of “school to school exchange” with a high school in Kiev, Ukraine.

Williams shared the lessons he and his students learned during that experience as a “selected presenter” at a “Deliberating in a Democracy” international conference held at Lake Ohrid in the Republic of Macedonia during the summer of 2009.

For two years Williams advised the Audubon/Outdoors Club, which was right up his alley since he’s always had an affinity for nature. “I’ve been hiking all over New York State with friends,” he said. Birding is another activity he enjoys in the wild.

Starting in September, Williams is anticipating implementing a series of new educational strategies at the high school.

“I’m looking forward to focusing on more student-centered instruction,” he said. That’s keyed to moving away from the traditional “teacher as lecturer” approach to “problem-based instruction” where students are oriented to more independent learning but still keyed to mastering all state-mandated proficiencies.

At the same time, he said, teachers will be introduced to an evaluation system known as the “Danielson method,” which takes into consideration factors such as planning, classroom environment, student performance and professional growth.

With the application of this system, Williams said, teachers will learn “what they need to improve on” so that they, in turn, can help students achieve individually.

“We’re also looking to develop the STEM (Science Technology English Math) program which integrates different curricula in, for example, such as robotics,” Williams said.

Other plans include developing a policy on the use of hand-held technology devices such as cellular phones and BlackBerrys and the introduction of a web-based student information system that will generate such things as student attendance, grades and a host of other variables to which parents and teachers will have access.

When he’s not concentrating on educational matters, Williams is focused on “raising two daughters” (Megan, 16; and Devon, 11) and “multiple animals,” including cats, fish and guinea pigs, at the Williams household in Hunterdon County where the family has spent the last 14 years.

N. Arlington woman killed in Rt. 7 accident

By Anthony J. Machcinski

West Hudson commuters headed home last Wednesday (April 25) evening were snarled in traffic after a four-car pileup near the 2.46-mile marker on Belleville Turnpike in Kearny that resulted in one fatality.

As a result of the accident, 59-year-old North Arlington resident Karen Augustine was killed from injuries sustained in the 5:39 p.m. accident.

Police believe the accident happened after Augustine, driving her 1997 BMW westbound on Route 7, slowed down for traffic and was rear-ended by a 2011 Mazda MPV operated by a 71-year-old Glen Ridge resident. The impact sent Augustine’s BMW into the eastbound lane, sideswiping a 2000 Ford van driven by a North Arlington resident before colliding head-on with a 2008 Ford Explorer driven by a Saddle Brook man.

Augustine, who taught at Public School 38 in Jersey City, was taken by Kearny EMS to Clara Maass Hospital, Belleville, where she was pronounced dead from her injuries at 6:42 p.m.

Also hurt in the crash were a couple in the Ford van who had apparently suffered minor neck and back injuries, and the Explorer driver who had neck, back, and chest injuries who was kept overnight at an area hospital.

The accident closed down a nearly two-mile stretch of Belleville Turnpike, from the Rt. 7/County Road 508 fork to Schuyler Ave. The accident itself took place near the overpass that crosses the old Erie Railroad tracks. The road was reopened around 9:15 p.m. that same night.

Kearny Police are investigating the cause of the accident.

Jim Thorpe, PA – America’s ‘Little Switzerland’ beckons your visit

Photo by Jeff Bahr/ Street traffic through Jim Thorpe, Pa.

 

By Jeff Bahr

Europe in our backyard A land of enchantment, seemingly locked in a time-warp, exists roughly 100 miles to the west of Kearny, yet many from our region have never even heard of it. That’s a shame, because this “Little Switzerland” – as it has come to be known – offers a wealth of things to see and do – and one needn’t cross the Atlantic to get there. The town features its very own “first” plus a bona-fide mystery that’s sure to stand your hair on end. But that’s getting ahead of the story.

A town rises

Founded in 1815 as the village of Coalville (not too surprising given its proximity to a major anthracite coal seam) the town’s name eventually evolved into Mauch Chunk (a Native-American word meaning Bear Mountain). This new settlement, surrounded by lofty mountains, drew life from the seasonal transport of anthracite coal along the Lehigh Canal, and later via railroads.

In 1834, former Connecticut carpenter Asa Packer rose to prominence in the region. Using venture capital, Packer parlayed his assets into a sizeable share of the coal market. So sizeable, in fact, that by 1850 he had become the wealthiest man in Mauch Chunk. In 1861, this master-of-all-he-surveyed built a magnificent Italianate mansion on a bluff overlooking the town. The house stands to this very day.

In 1954, Mauch Chunk found itself in economic decline. Looking to bolster its faltering economy, the town fathers struck a deal with the widow of famed 1912 Olympic Decathlon Champion Jim Thorpe (1888- 1953) who spent his teen years in Carlisle, Pa.. In order to promote tourism, they would reinter Thorpe, then buried in Oklahoma, in a fitting memorial site in return for her permission to name the town after him. She agreed and the name change took effect.

The gambit worked. Today, the village of Jim Thorpe stands transformed. From its restored Victorian shops and restaurants, to the myriad outdoor activities that act as an additional lure, the town has become a great American success story. Let’s check it out.

Victoriana in all its glory

The thing about Jim Thorpe that strikes most people is its supremely quaint look. If a visitor arrives via Route 209, they will first see the town from high above. The word “dramatic” falls short in describing their first view of this Euro-styled village. As one moves closer, they’ll notice that Jim Thorpe is one of the best preserved slices of Victoriana left in this region. From a wealth of pretty boutiques and shops (including a throwback 5&10-cent store replete with original wooden floors) to great restaurants and inns that cater to one’s every need, this town’s a genuine keeper. But there’s a lot more to do here than shop and eat. Trust me.

Photo courtesy Anthony J. Machcinski

 

 

Outdoor central

At the center of town, visitors will find a circa 1888 train station that features scenic excursions. It’s the perfect starting point to get a feel for the town and the coal concerns that once reigned supreme in the area. Glen Onoko Gorge is situated just north of town. It contains hiking trails that lead to 75-foottall Onoko Falls, as well as a multitude of scenic overlooks. The Lehigh Gorge trail also runs through here. Bicyclists will delight in its relative flatness as they follow it north toward White Haven, Pa., some 25 miles away. If that seems too tame, Jim Thorpe is noted for some of the wildest and woolliest single-track mountain bike trails in the east. Bicycle shops located in town can hook visitors up with maps of these mountainous trails as well as rentals. The Lehigh River cuts a swath directly through town. At certain times during the year, an upstream dam releases water. When this occurs, there is nothing quite as exhilarating as shooting the whitewater. A number of commercial rafting enterprises are located in and around town to help visitors get “frothy.”

Mansions and murder

The 18-room Asa Packer Mansion and Museum is open to the public for guided tours. Visitors can step back into the past to learn everything about this unique man, while catching a great view of the town located below it. The Harry Packer mansion was built in 1874 for Asa’s son. It now functions as a bed-and-breakfast and features “murder mystery” weekends. It’s located beside the Asa Packer mansion and, rather appropriately, just below a cemetery.

The world’s greatest athlete

A visit to Jim Thorpe, Pa., should start with a visit to the Jim Thorpe memorial. The great decathlete’s final resting place is located on Route 93 just across the Lehigh River from the town proper. Contemplative boards tell Thorpe’s unique story and show how immensely talented he was.

America’s first roller coaster

In order to get coal out of the mountains and into canal boats, a unique 18-mile railway known as the Switchback Gravity Railroad was constructed in the mountains above town. Two inclined planes working on steam power raised the loaded cars where necessary, and gravity took over from there. After the route was abandoned in 1873, the coal cars were modified to carry passengers. One can only imagine how scary it must have been to ride this original “thrill ride” down the mountain at speeds of over 60-mph! In its day, the attraction was said to be second only to Niagara Falls in popularity. It is considered to be America’s very first roller coaster.

A ghostly tale

Jim Thorpe features tours of a very spooky place called the Old Jail Museum. During a 19th century labor uprising against local mine owners, a clandestine group known as the “Molly McGuires” allegedly struck back against their oppressors. They were blamed for everything from sabotage to murder. A number of the “Mollies” were tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang. Half of the executions took place at the Old Jail. Now here’s where things get interesting. Charged with murder, prisoner Alexander Campbell was held in cell # 17 while awaiting his execution. He, above all others professed his innocence from the start. Just before Campbell went to the gallows, he said, “I am innocent, I was nowhere near the scene of the crime.” He then slapped his grimy hand against the cell wall and said, “There is proof of my words. That mark of mine will never be wiped out. It will remain forever to shame the county for hanging an innocent man.” Despite repeated scrubbings and re-plastering, the mark remains to this day.

Moving to improve borough data retrieval

Photo by Ron Leir/ Borough Administrator Terence Wall displays an old municipal government minutes log stored in the basement of Borough Hall.

 

By Ron Leir

NORTH ARLINGTON –

So this is a story about municipal records.

Uh-oh, I see your eyes starting to glaze over and I guess I can’t blame you.

But just hold on a bit because, as Borough Administrator Terence Wall points out, “It may be a boring topic but it’s at the heart of what government is.

” A couple looking to buy a house may want to research previous ownerships to make sure that the title is clear so they need to check property records.

Maybe a homeowner preparing a tax appeal may want to check assessments of similar sized residences on the same block.

Or a lawyer representing an applicant in a land use case may need to examine how properties in a given neighborhood are zoned.

What these examples all have in common is a dependence on availability of official municipal documents, all of which take up lots of storage space, sometimes not in ideal conditions.

In North Arlington, official records are spread among three locations: Borough Hall, the Health Center and FileBank, a private climate-controlled records storage facility in Oakland for which the Borough pays about $10,000 a year for the use of the space, according to Wall.

Until a few months ago, altogether, those records accounted for 1,096 cubic feet or close to 800 boxes of paperwork.

But between Feb. 9 and Feb. 27, a team of workers, led by the Concorde Group, Inc., a performance management consultant based in Media, Pa., and funded by a state Public Archives & Records Infrastructure Support (PARIS) grant, “reboxed and organized records not eligible for destruction into standard one cubic foot boxes, assigning box numbers and labels to eachbox,” the consulting firm reported.

Photo by Ron Leir/ This page shows an excerpt from the minutes of a meeting from 1944 dealing with local taxes.

 

Then, that information “was entered into an electronic inventory for the Borough,” which, in turn, “will allow for faster retrieval of records and act as a time saver for employees.”

So, of the original 1,096 cubic feet, about 467 cubic feet are targeted for “purging” and the balance – about 629 cubic feet – has been reorganized and boxed for permanent keeping, Wall said.

But while records may now be a bit easier to find, there remains the issue of how to better keep them.

In a report filed with the Borough governing body, the consultant said: “The storage room in the basement of Borough Hall is fairly dusty, lighted poorly and is lacking adequate shelf space. There is also evidence of previous water damage ….”

Further, the consultant said, “Extreme fluctuations of temperature and humidity will hasten records deterioration.” As a precaution, the Borough was advised to “(p)eriodically inspect the storage area, monitoring for plumbing issues, window leaks, standing water and excess humidity.” And “(r)ecords storage boxes should be examined randomly for mold, contamination, or any other signs of deterioration.”

That, Wall said, may be a temporary solution to the potential problems noted by the consultant but the Borough wants a more permanent remedy so it’s applying for a second PARIS grant for improved archiving strategies.

Wall said the Borough “is migrating toward developing a data base on the Borough website that will be available to the public at no cost. We already have it for ordinances on the books but we want to expand to a more complete data archive.”

During the next 12 months, Wall said, the Borough plans to “scan in” such information as local tax and assessment records, property block and lot data, building permit applications and more.

“We also want to facilitate paying taxes on line,” he said. “We hope to develop a website that’s evolving into a full-service site.”

At the same time, Wall said, the Borough is working toward preserving its permanent collection of records – everything from government meeting minutes (once taken by longhand), to locations of underground utilities, to planning and zoning records – but also what Wall characterized as “records of intrinsic value, such as mayoral addresses or official comments “that reflect the philosophical tone of that day and age.”

One example he mentioned was the referencing by the then-mayor of the historic launching of the Sputnik satellite in October 1957 as being something “worthy of permanent archiving” because “words are irreplaceable.”

Among the things stored in those piles of cardboard boxes are plaques, awards, “die-cut licenses,” and various arcane items “akin to finding an old Buffalo nickel,” said Wall.

But ultimately, Wall said, the primary goal “is to find records more quickly. Ultimately, it’s about serving the taxpayer – so they can find what they want, when they need it. It’s for us to give them that information in a reasonable period of time.”

Changing West Hudson’s skyline

Photo by Ron Leir/ Members of the team developing a new apartment building in East Newark, from l., are: John Golemis, his brother Van Golemis, dad George Golemis and general contractor Joe Corallo. Missing is James Golemis, another brother

 

By Ron Leir

The overall economy may still be sluggish but pockets of West Hudson are showing signs of rebirth.

In East Newark, for example, the Golemis family – which owns and operates Tops Diner – has begun construction of “The St. George,” a 60-unit market rental apartment building at 400 President St., just across from the diner.

Also, in neighboring Harrison, Heller Urban Renewal, the redevelopment arm of Heller Industrial Parks, has completed an environmental cleanup and begun the demolition of the vacant industrial buildings at the old Hartz Mountain site on Frank Rodgers Blvd. as a prelude to building 747 luxury rental apartments.

To ease public and private transportation infrastructure into the region, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has pledged a $275 million upgrade of its Harrison PATH station to accommodate an increased ridership base and state, county and local transit experts are studying ways of improving access to and from Rt. 280.

Plus, the Town of Harrison on April 24 approved amendments to its waterfront redevelopment plan to permit a more diverse land use plan that will allow for additional hotels, technology, health care facilities and garages to mix with the thousands of new residential units to be built in the zone.

Back in East Newark, Mirage Construction Corp., of Fort Lee, is completing the first level of what will be a four-story slab-on-grade with transfer deck structure that will contain a heated parking garage with a ground-floor lobby and 60 apartments.

Project developer Van Golemis said the garage is being built to a 15-foot height “so everyone who lives on the first floor (and above) will get an unobstructed view of the New York skyline.”

The lobby will house a dropoff dry cleaner, health club, community room and management office. Tenants will also have access to an outdoor interior courtyard patio.

Monthly rents for 45 one-bedroom units, averaging 1,000 square feet, and 15 one-bedroom apartments, averaging 1,200 square feet, will range from about $1,500 to about $1,800.

Joe Corallo, Mirage’s boss, said he’s equipping all apartments with “central air and forced hot air, so utility bills will probably average $90 a month.” The roof will be outfitted with solar panels as another energy savings strategy.

All apartments will have washing machines and dryers, white oak hardwood floors, tiled bathrooms and kitchens, stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, refrigerator, dish washer and range. Tenants will get remote devices to access what Golemis characterized as a “gated community.”

Construction, expected to generate 500 temporary jobs, should be finished by April 2013. “Thanks to a mild winter, we’re six weeks ahead of schedule,” Golemis said. The project, financed by Golemis Investment Group, figures to cost $6 million.

The Golemis Group also financed Fort Lee’s West Pointe Brownstones, 18 townhouses which opened in September 2011. “By Christmas the whole project was rented out,” Golemis said.

At the Hartz site in Harrison, Jeffrey J. Milanaik, president of Heller Industrial Parks, Inc., said: “Things are moving along right according to plan and we are so excited to be making progress on this vital project for Harrison. Over the next year, the Heller team will work diligently to properly demolish the 750,000 square feet of blighted industrial buildings at the (10.5-acre) site to make sure we set the proper foundation for Harrison Station.”

Heller expects to seek site plan approval from the Harrison Planning Board this spring for construction of six residential mid-rise towers that will house a combination of one- and two-bedroom luxury residences and about 30,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. Tenants will have access to a glass-enclosed gym and meeting rooms.

The first phase of construction is targeted for 2013. Harrison Station, which is within walking distance to Red Bull Arena, will also provide sheltered access to the adjacent PATH station.

In 2003 Heller was named redeveloper of the former General Motors site, previously home to the Hyatt Roller Bearing Co., in Harrison. Heller’s founder was Isaac Heller, who was the creative force behind Remco Toys in Harrison.

In making changes to its redevelopment plan, Harrison planning consultant Susan Gruel said, “The core vision remains the same; we’re just refinining the implementation and strategies to get there.”

In terms of land use, for example, the category of “wellness centers” – defined as “facilities having programs intended to promote and maintain a state of physical wellbeing for optimal performance and health” – has been added as a principal permitted use.

The plan now includes a “Railroad Ave. Corridor District,” running from Frank Rodgers Blvd. to First St. “as an active retail service corridor with destination type uses” such as “retail sales and service, financial institutions, restaurants, theaters, catering facilities, mini-storage, indoor recreation and entertainment uses including fitness center, food stores, art galleries, farmer’s market, home design/ home furnishings, offices (including medical), dance studios, karate schools and the like, small business incubators, schools, travel and insurance services, real estate offices (and) structured parking. No drive-thru uses shall be permitted.”

These types of uses “may require wider facades, have larger floor areas and are more auto dependent than ‘window small business incubators, schools, travel and insurance services, real estate offices (and) structured parking. No drive-thru uses shall be permitted.”

 

Photo Courtesy Heller Industrial Park/ Heller Urban Reneral Contractor begins demolition at Harrison Station

These types of uses “may require wider facades, have larger floor areas and are more auto dependent than ‘window shopping’ uses in the Riverbend Drive commercial corridor.”

As an “interim” step, the Railroad Ave. corridor will stretch “through the ‘temporary’ adaptive reuse of the 147,000 square foot industrial building between Second and Third Sts. and potentially the 73,000 square foot industrial building between Second and First Sts.”

A Commercial District is now designated for two areas:

The 2.5-acre site fronting Harrison Ave. and First St., which is “proposed to contain a 3- to 5-story medical office/wellness center with parking on site.

And the site east of Frank Rodgers Blvd. and north of Guyon Drive., which is targeted for a “signature” office building 10 to 25 stories in height, which integrates the (upgraded) PATH station into the site design.”

A Planned Office District is designated for the 20-acre PSE&G site, south of the PATH station. Here, there are plans for “office towers, 10 to 25 stories in height …. The ground floors may contain restaurants and other uses that will provide amenities to the occupants of the buildings. The upper floors may contain offices, hotel space and health clubs.”

Because the utility property “is constrained by underground utilities and contamination … the extent of development and location of the buildings will be determined by these constraints (and will) likely require small building footprints.”

An Office/Technology Center District is designated for “the vacant area north of Guyon Drive and south of Rt. 280.” Technology Center is defined as “laboratories and service center facilities which include a mix of office, lab, service, showroom and storage space (and) may also include training space for technicians and staff. Storage space shall be limited to 30% of the gross floor-area of any building.”

A Food Oriented District that would host “wholesale food and associated retail food establishment (and/ or) retail sales, restaurant and/or offices” is designated for “just north of the main entrance to the (Red Bull) Arena.”

A Structured Parking District calls for between 1,000 to 1,200 (parking) spaces to provided in the former American Bridge Co. building, whose façade shall be maintained.

A Parks/Walkway District would accommodate a “public promenade” “parallel to the (Passaic River’s) edge.”

Gruel estimated it will take “15 to 20” years for final build-out of the redevelopment zone. So far, she said, “over $1 billion of private investment has been expended or committed” for the projects and “almost $300 million of public funds has been committed.”

A WORD WITH THE PUBLISHER: Salute the Salvation Army

publisher@theobserver.com

 

By Lisa Pezzolla

This year, the Salvation Army is holding its 8th annual fundraiser dinner on May 17. The honorees at this year’s fundraiser dinner are Charles Dolan and the late Kenneth E. Russell. Both men have gone above and beyond the call of duty in helping the community become a better place and help the Salvation Army in their presence in the community. Each honoree deserves his moment in the spotlight. If you would like to be a part of this fun-filled evening, or if you would like to place an ad in the Salvation Army Event Journal, call (201)-991-1115. I’m looking forward to seeing all of you there!

Enjoy Life to the fullest…while you can

Photo Courtesy of Associated Press/ The wreckage of the van from the April 29 accident

Every now and then, I lose my sense of appreciation for life around me. Everything from a walk to work on a nice spring day to a fresh home-cooked meal can lose its freshness with the everyday blandness of life.

Unfortunately, there are moments that then force me to rethink my approach on life.

This week, I was left with two such incidents that rejuvenated my appreciation for the little things. In a matter of a few days, our area experienced two tragedies: the fatal car accident on Belleville Turnpike on April 25 (covered in this week’s edition) as well as the van that lost control on the Bronx River Parkway and went over the guardrail, off a bridge, and falling nearly 60 feet into a closed off section of the Bronx Zoo, sending seven people to their death.

In situations like this, my mind always drifts to the families who lost these loved ones in such horrific ways. I could never fathom losing someone close to me in the manner it had occurred in the past week. I can almost feel the pain that they are suffering through, wishing they could enjoy just one more dinner, one more laugh, or one more moment with the recently deceased.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets a reality check when it comes to these tragedies. If there’s one thing that can come out of tragedies such as these two, it’s that life needs to be appreciated.

One event that especially hits home to many in our area would be the 9/11 attacks, which believe it or not, will be coming up on its 11-year anniversary. While I was lucky enough to not have lost anyone in the attacks, the emptiness of the skyline after the attacks was enough to make me realize I have to appreciate what is around me, even if it only is a few minutes a day.

That being said, I have just one last reminder: Don’t make it so that you need a tragedy to remind you to appreciate life. Enjoy life to its fullest extent, even if that means just five minutes a day in a park enjoying the weather. Life is far too short to take for granted.

-Anthony J. Machcinski

Oops…

In the April 25 issue of The Observer, in the story, “Meadows parcel is taxing issue” on North Arlington’s battle with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission over property taxes, misstated the names of two members of the North Arlington Borough Council. Those members are Richard Hughes and Chris Johnson. The Observer apoligizes for those errors.

This dog’s a real ‘Bruiser’

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Kearny police and firefighters had their hands full on April 26 when a dog slipped out of its choker and attacked another dog and its owner.

The incident occurred at 1:54 p.m. near the intersection of Garafola Place and Forest St. when members of the Kearny Fire Department saw a man running across the street in an urgent manner.

Members of the Fire Department investigated and discovered that a larger dog had been attacking a smaller dog, with the two owners attempting to separate the canines.

Kearny Police arrived soon after to aid in the struggle. According to their report, “Bruiser” a large Pitbull/ Greyhound mix, proved to be too strong for the owner’s girlfriend, slipped his leash and attacked a smaller Pug, “Rocky”.

Firefighters Damien Caceres and John DiGiovanni attempted to pull the dogs apart using their hands and feet, even using a CO2 fire extinguisher and a water extinguisher, but to no avail.

Eventually, with help from the Kearny Police, the dogs were separated and Bruiser had his leash restored.

Both Rocky and his owner sustained injuries, but neither was seriously hurt and the owner refused medical attention.

Officer Neil Nelson later followed up with Bruiser’s owner, who had been away, and found that the dog wasn’t licensed. A violation notice was expected to be issued for that infraction.

‘Sticks And Stones’ provides inspiration for the bullied

 

By Jeff Bahr 

At its least effective music acts as background sound, a sort of “pink noise” that gets lost behind the grinding din of our conscious thoughts. At its best, it touches us – often in ways that we hadn’t anticipated before listening to it.

“Sticks and Stones”, a new CD released by former Harrison resident Jo-Ann Barton is aimed squarely at the latter. Through the magic of music the singer/ songwriter hopes to inspire the children of gay parents who may be dealing with bullying issues. But in a larger sense, Barton’s songs are intended for any and all who need reassurance that things can and will get better, just so long as they put one foot before the other and keep going.

Twelve years in the making, the CD has finally come to fruition. But the journey wasn’t an easy one. “My partner and I wanted to have children and I had major anxiety over it because I didn’t want my kids to be picked on or bullied for having gay parents,” explained Barton about the uncertainty that she and her civil union wife Darlene faced before having kids. “I never did anything about it (putting together the CD) until my old drummer, James Pesler, talked me into doing the project. He said, ‘What are you doing? Get off your ass and do it!’ It was the nudge that I needed. The children were my main inspiration.”

“Sticks and Stones” signals a move back to the music scene for Barton. As the proud and doting mom of two boys, Brandon, 12, and Bryan, 9, the former singer (who now works in the investment banking industry and resides in Clifton) “came out of retirement” after more than a decade to produce the collection of eight songs.

Despite her lengthy absence from the music scene, Barton’s credentials are impressive. Her last CD, “Pop and Circumstances”, spawned a number one hit song “Weekend” at college radio stations across America. In 2001, Barton released a 9/11 tribute song entitled, “Ordinary Day”. It was played at the World Trade Center during the second anniversary observance.

Barton stressed how important her bandmates were in making the CD a reality. They include Vincent Cinardo, formerly of Harrison, who Barton describes as “a very talented musician who plays everything”; Mark Radice, Barton’s “go-to guy who also plays everything – he toured with Aerosmith and wrote music for Sesame Street and Elmo,”; and Paul Ippolito, who played bass and lead guitar on a “couple of songs,” according to Barton.

The eight tracks on “Sticks and Stones” range from the light and bouncy rocker, “There for You” to the more subdued ballad, “Watch What You Say”. The aptly named title-track, Sticks and Stones, imparts a feeling of empowerment to any who have suffered the slings and arrows of others bent on bringing them down, while “We All Cry” demonstrates how quickly even the worst situation can turn around:

Sometimes life is hard

And it can tear you apart

You hold your little head in your hands

Because you don’t understand

But I can tell you a secret about this crazy thing called life

You may not want to believe it, but it changes overnight

My personal favorite – “Long Way to Go” – maps Barton’s personal search for acceptance in an oftencruel world. Much like her other inspirational tunes, the song somehow manages to remain uplifting. Given the weightiness of the subject matter, that’s no easy trick.

“Sticks and Stones” is a well-crafted rock & roll CD that not only sends out an uplifting message of hope, but is a genuine blast to listen to. “If I can help just one kid it would make it worthwhile,” says Barton about her hopes for the CD’s overall impact. “It all came from my heart and soul.”

Groups that endorse the new CD include:

Itgetsbetter.org

Collage.org

Thesuicidepreventionlifeline.org

“Sticks and Stones” can be purchased at the following locations:

ITunes, Amazon.com, and other online outlets.

Or send check or money order for $8.99 to: Magical Music Entertainment, 1360 Clifton Ave. #182 Clifton, N.J. 07012

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