The North Arlington Police Department is currently investigating an incident involving use of counterfeit $100 bills at a 7-Eleven on Ridge Rd. A man, approximately 6′ in height, 150 lbs., wearing a baseball cap with a Seattle Mariners logo, a […]
W.H.A.T. presents ‘The Addams Family’ July 30-Aug. 5, including preview tonight at Angry Coffee Bean
KEARNY — Teen Drama, a theater company for teens celebrating its fifth anniversary this summer, in association with the West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) presents the modern classic Broadway musical “The Addams Family” this summer. The smash-hit musical […]
On Friday afternoon, regular traffic came to a halt on the Belleville Pike and Ridge Road to open the route for the funeral procession of slain Jersey City Police Detective Melvin Santiago. The 23-year-old rookie, promoted posthumously to detective, had been ambushed early Sunday, July 13, when he […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – The Rt. 7/Belleville Turnpike corridor which runs through Kearny’s meadows area and beyond is getting a lot of attention these days from state and federal transit agencies. For the past couple of years, contractors hired by the state Department of Transportation have […]
The following letter was sent last week to The Observer.
We have since learned from Mayor Alberto Santos that Kearny has approved a resolution ensuring the township’s participation in this tribute.
We are printing the letter in hopes that all our communities, and our readers, will participate.
To the Editor:
To ensure America never forgets the price that terrorism exacted in the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Senate recently approved legislation that asks all Americans to join together in a national Moment of Remembrance on Sept. 11, and I am glad that so many New Jersey communities have agreed to join our effort.
For one minute, everyone in our country should stop and remember the victims of the worst terrorist attack on American soil.
The Moment of Remembrance will occur at the same time across the country: 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time; noon in the Central Time Zone; 11 a.m. in the Mountain Zone, and 10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.
Governments and businesses, churches and railways, fire and police departments and others are called on to ring bells and sound sirens as we observe this Moment of Remembrance.
During these 60 seconds, the only sounds heard across our country should be this patriotic chorus as we remember the victims and confirm our determination to protect freedom for all.
Make no mistake: 9/11 changed our country forever – and a tragedy of this magnitude demands memory and vigilance.
Almost 3,000 people were murdered in the devastating attacks of 9/11, including 60 police officers and approximately 350 firefighters and other first responders. As a nation, we must keep alive the memories of these courageous Americans.
So let’s ask every American to stop, remember – and show the world how strong we are when we stand together.
To learn more about the Moment of Remembrance, visit www.lautenberg.senate.gov/stopandremember.
Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg
By Karen Zautyk
You can say this for natural near-disasters: They’re so educational.
Did you know, for example, that during a storm, your household appliances can get “fried”?
Granted, this is not a common occurrence (hallelujah), but it has been known to happen. And it happened on Sunday morning, Aug. 28, at three homes on Rutherford Place.
It was around 6 a.m. when the Kearny Fire Department responded to a report of a blown transformer at Stuyvesant Ave. and Argyle Place. Public Service Electric & Gas thought the cause might have been a lightning strike, said Deputy Chief Stew Docherty (who shared second-in-command duties with Deputy Chief John Harris during the hurricane weekend).
Over on Rutherford, residents reported a burning odor, which turned out to be, not from flames, but from melted electrical equipment, Docherty said. A power surge, apparently linked to the transformer explosion, had hit three houses: two adjacent to each other and one across the street.
“It blew the electric meter right off the side of one house,” Docherty reported. In all the residences, all the appliances — TVs, computers, dishwashers, etc. — were damaged or “ruined,” he said.
“How those houses didn’t catch fire is beyond me,” said Fire Chief Steve Dyl, who noted that the incident is under investigation.
Before the KFD left the scene, Docherty noted, “we checked all the houses [on Rutherford] with thermal-imaging cameras,” to ensure no flames were flickering.
Dyl said that event was one of about 100 incidents his department dealt with on Aug. 28.
During and after the hurricane—from midnight on Saturday, the 27th, until Monday morning—the KFD increased its on-duty manpower from the usual 17 to 25 firefighters. “Nothing went unanswered,” Dyl said.
Among the calls was a (luckily) minor fire at a warehouse on Campus Drive in South Kearny on Sunday afternoon and, also on Sunday, the collapse of a 15-foot-high retaining wall in the area of Forest St. near Davis Ave., threatening five homes on Davis. The building department is following up on that, Docherty said.
The firefighters also rescued at least eight people — that’s a preliminary number — from submerged motor vehicles during the storm.
Prior to the hurricane, the KFD had obtained five boats for use over the weekend: two from the Hudson County Office of Emergency Management, and three from the Kearny Board of Education (high school crew team boats).
(Editor’s note: When your correspondent first heard about the department borrowing the crew team boats, she thought Dyl meant those shells or sculls or whatever they’re called and couldn’t figure out how firefighters in full turnout gear could maneuver in the skinny things, much less rescue people. She has since learned they were actually the chase boats used by race officials. Duh. Go ahead, laugh. I did.)
The boats were stationed at the firehouses on Midland Ave., Kearny Ave. and in South Kearny, the better to get them quickly to where they might be needed.
No one had to be evacuated by boat from their home, but it was a different matter on the flooded streets, such as at Passaic and Johnston Aves., where four people were saved in one rescue from submerged cars.
“A big advantage of the boats,” Docherty explained, “was that we were abled to check stranded cars to see if anyone was trapped in them.”
The KFD also checked on downed trees to see how stable they were, and on downed wires. And then, when the storm was completely over and the streets were no longer in danger of flooding and the firefighters could breathe easily again, they started pumping out residents’ basements.
That work began at 4 p.m. on Sunday the 28th and continued through Tuesday the 30th.
So, KFD, what have you done for us lately?
By Karen Zautyk
This story is about some people who rarely get credit for the work they do. They are taken for granted, until something goes wrong. They fix it, and no one even says “thank you.” Consider this a “thank you.”
We’re talking about the folks at the Department of Public Works — and not just in this town, but in all our towns that are still recovering from Hurricane Irene. In this article, though, we’ll focus on Kearny, since it’s the Kearny DPW that has been most visible to us as we travel around our community.
They worked exhaustively through and after the storm, and part of their job was keeping you safe. The DPW set up the barricades that warned you of downed trees and, especially important, blocked the flooded roadways, to prevent drivers from getting in over their heads. Perhaps even literally, considering how deep the waters were in some places.
Last week, we spoke with Gerry Kerr, department superintendent — spoke with him, that is, after some phone tag, because he was usually out on the road, busy superintending. Well after the hurricane, DPW employees were still all over Kearny, monitoring things and cleaning up debris.
Prior to Irene’s visit, Kerr told us, the department obtained sheets of plywood and palettes of sandbags and loaded up its trucks with the aforementioned barricades, so they could be readily placed where needed.
Six of the DPW’s nine employees, including Kerr, went on duty at 11 p.m. on Saturday the 27th and worked straight through until noon the next day.
That Monday morning, all nine were on duty. “Everyone was committed to storm work,“ Kerr said.
Part of the job entailed checking and maintaining the town’s four storm water pump stations — one on the Belleville Pike, one on Harrison Ave. and two on John Hay Ave. east of Schuyler. These pumps take the storm runoff and deposit it in the meadows, where it is less of a threat.
DPW also provided dumpsters for residents of Devon Terrace and Hoyt St., where extensive flooding had occurred. “There was a lot of basement damage,” Kerr noted.
But the bulk of the post-Irene job involved the trees. DPW even brought in an outside contractor, Downes Tree Service of Hawthorne, to help with the extensive cleanup. We watched Downes at work on Hamilton Ave. in the Manor section last Wednesday morning, removing a massive tree from the roof of one home. This entailed not merely lifting it, but cutting off its branches and safely untangling it from electrical wires. The branches and trunk were then cut up and removed.
“We lost at least 20 large trees, mostly in the northern end of town,” Kerr said. “Ninety percent of the tree work was north of Midland.”
Tree removal went on continuously most of last week. “The last one was cleared on Thursday,” he said.
But the DPW work wasn’t over. “We’re going street by street, picking up broken limbs and removing those that are hanging in the trees,” Kerr told us late Thursday afternoon.
We recommend checking out the DPW page on the Town of Kearny’s website, www.kearnyusa.com. You’ll get a bit of an education as to the extensive responsibilities these municipal workers have. We did.
And by the way, DPW, thank you.
To the Publisher:
As the 10th anniversary of 9/11/01 approaches, I wish to share my story in memory of all pet owners who lost their lives.
My backyard in Harrison is an official National Wildlife Federation refuge. After the initial attack, we did not see or hear any wildlife for three days. It was as though nature sensed chaos and fear in the atmosphere and went into hiding.
On Sept. 14 at noon, a mourning dove came to our oak tree and for 15 minutes we observed it and heard its mournful call. It then took flight in a westerly direction. Shortly thereafter, the birds, etc., returned.
This event emphasizes the important relationship between humans, animals and nature.
To the Publisher:
On Sunday, Aug. 28, the full effects of hurricane Irene hit our town and the Lyndhurst Elks Lodge, in addition to the surrounding homes, sustaining major flood damage. We would like to thank the efforts of the Lyndhurst Fire, Police, and EMS in helping us to access our building via boats supplied by the township. All affairs have been cancelled for the lodge until further assessment of the flood damage can be ascertained and rectified. We would like to thank the residents of Lyndhurst for their continued support of our Elks lodge, and hopefully, we will be able to reopen our building within the next few months.
Lyndhurst Elks Lodge
To the Publisher:
September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. During the month, my friends and I are Turning The Towns Teal by tying teal ribbons throughout Kearny to raise awareness for ovarian cancer.
“Ovarian cancer is known as ‘The Silent Disease’ as the symptoms are often vague and subtle. Presently, there is NO early detection test.
Today, awareness of symptoms is the most critical factor in fighting ovarian cancer which is why this campaign is so very, very important,” said Jane MacNeil, president of Turn The Towns Teal.
Cards that identify the subtle signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer can be obtained at the Kearny Library and the Kearny Health Department during the month of September. Please pick some up and share them with friends, family or organizations that you belong to.
For more information or to volunteer, please visit our website, www.turnthetownsteal.org.
To the Publisher:
With the start of a new school year, parents’ attention is turning to school clothes, supplies, and lunches. Yes, school lunches.
Traditionally, USDA had used the National School Lunch Program as a dumping ground for surplus meat and dairy commodities. Not surprisingly, 90% of American children consume excessive amounts of fat, only 15% eat recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, and one-third have become overweight or obese. Their early dietary flaws become lifelong addictions, raising their risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
But the tide is turning. In recent years, Hawaii, California, New York, and Florida legislatures asked their schools to offer daily vegetarian options, and most U.S. school districts now do. The Baltimore public school system offers its 80,000 students a complete weekly break from meat.
Last December, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to replace junk food in school lunches and vending machines with more healthful options. In January, the USDA announced the first new school lunch guidelines in 15 years.
Parents should continue to insist on healthful plant-based school meals, snacks, and vending machine items. They can consult www.vrg.org/family, www.healthyschoollunches.org, and www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/.
By Ron Leir
The torrents from Hurricane Irene left a burdensome legacy in their path, and many residents are still reeling from the blow.
The town has filed an application with FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for $222,000 for relief from the destruction left in Irene’s wake. But Harold Stahl, the director of the Harrison Office of Emergency Management and town fire director, says that’s only a preliminary estimate of the damages.
“Normally, they give you a couple of weeks to submit your figures,” Stahl said, “but in this case, we had only a 24-hour window to get it done, so I made sure that I listed our application as ‘open,’ meaning that the numbers could change.”
“But it’s going to go up as more people let us know about their losses,” Stahl added.
The damage estimate filed with FEMA so far accounts for “about 20” Harrison households on Cleveland Ave., Warren St. and Sussex St. who lost property, largely as the result of their basements being flooded, but also includes the partial ripping of a roof at the condominium complex at 550 Central Ave., Stahl said.
Horror stories are plentiful, he said.
“One renter lost everything from his basement apartment and he had no insurance,” Stahl said. “Other people lost furnaces and hot water heaters, and to replace a furnace can run you $10,000 to $12,000.”
“We’re doing everything we can to help these people,” Stahl said, and those residents who did suffer from the ravages of the storm are strongly urged to have “photo documentation” of the damage and to save receipts for any repairs that may have already been made.
“You should be ready to prove your claim to FEMA,” he said.
But Stahl also cautioned that before people get their hopes up for reimbursement, they should know that – as of last week – federal bureaucrats had yet to declare Hudson County a “major disaster area” – the magic words that would trigger a FEMA inspection of this area and processing of damage claims.
“The governor has declared a state of emergency for New Jersey,” Stahl said, and President Obama has echoed that, “but we don’t yet have a declaration from Washington that we are a ‘major disaster area.’ That would open the door for FEMA to come in and help us out.”
Stahl said that the area’s political leadership, particularly Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York), was exerting pressure to make that happen.
In the meantime, people who have experienced losses attributable to the hurricane but who haven’t yet made that known to the Harrison OEM are invited to call Stahl at fire headquarters at (973) 483-3808.
Harrison officials are also pointing to Irene as the likely culprit for a major infrastructure issue that could have sprung from excess rain deposited by the storm. Related repairs could end up on the bill to FEMA, officials say.
A 5-foot-deep sinkhole was discovered early on Tuesday, Aug. 30, opposite Harrison High School, on Hamilton St. off Franklin Ave.
Fortunately, no vehicles were stuck in the hole and no one was hurt falling into it, officials said.
Public Works Superintendent Ron Catrambone said that a sewer main runs underneath the collapsed roadway and that several lateral sewer lines come off that main.
The town called in an outside contractor, Mauricio & Sons of Kearny, to check it out. As of last week, according to Catrambone, “we’re still not exactly sure where the leak is that has undermined the base.”
With help from the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, workers used a special camera to inspect the main “but it didn’t show any breaks,” Catrambone said.
As this area awaited the arrival of Hurricane Irene, there was fear that low-lying lower Manhattan was especially vulnerable. And what is situated down there? Ground Zero. The World Trade Center site. The below-ground “bathtub,” close to the Hudson River, where the 9/11 Memorial, which is to be dedicated this Sunday, is located.
Last week, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced that, “despite the rain, wind and storm surge,” the WTC site sustained “minimal damage,” and the 9/11 Memorial “remains on track for its opening on Sept. 11.”
Incredibly, the PA reported, the 60+ mph winds damaged not one of the 225 recently planted White Swamp Oak trees surrounding the reflecting pools that mark the footprints of the Twin Towers.
The Survivor Tree suffered no damage either.
This is a pear tree that stood on the WTC site long before 9/11 and was found amid the wreckage after the terror attack. Its branches had all been broken off, but it was still alive. It was taken to a Bronx nursery to be restored to health, was uprooted in a storm last year but was replanted and again began to thrive. It was returned to Ground Zero last December.
9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels said, “The Memorial has weathered tropical storm Irene, and it remains as strong as the hundreds of men and women dedicated to building it. And true to its name, the Survivor Tree is standing tall at the Memorial.”
Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni noted that PA employees “stayed on site for the duration of the storm and did whatever was needed to minimize any damage, including hours spent in the driving rain sandbagging and checking for wind damage. We made a sacred commitment to get the memorial open, and no amount of rain or wind is going to stop us.”
— Karen Zautyk
By Anthony J. Machcinski
As Labor Day weekend comes and goes on the calendar and the leaves on trees begin to turn, the 2011 summer movie season comes to a close.
This year, moviegoers have seen everything from romantic comedies like “Friends With Benefits” to science-fiction thrillers like “Super 8.”
With quality films coming out nearly every week, creating a top five list for the best movies of the summer is as tough as it has ever been. Several good movies ended up outside the top five.
The much talked about “Hangover: Part II” missed the list because it failed to live up to the standard the original created. “Green Lantern” also missed because, although the film was stunning visually, the mixture of comedy and action was not the right blend for the Green Lantern character.
Coming in at No. 5 was “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Captain America came into theaters July 22 and did not disappoint. While the film comes out of the same mold of other super hero films, the ending puts enough of a twist on the film to crack that mold and keep the audience waiting for “The Avengers” movie next summer.
Another hyped film that lived up to its billing was “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” What made the latest “Apes” movie a thrilling and interesting prequel to the original “Planet of the Apes” was a story that was the focus of the film. While all the action and cinematography were brilliant, the story remained the core of the film, as it should be.
No. 3 could have easily been No. 1. Shia LaBeouf identified with people searching for a purpose, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley successfully replaced Megan Fox as LaBeouf’s love interest and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” pulled in $97 million on the opening weekend to create a film that was successful in both money and story.
After a subpar second film, the third installment of the “Transformers” series included many things an audience could hope for: a love story, explosions, comedy and depth to many of the characters.
The second-best film came a bit early, having been released April 29, but it soon became the Rickey Henderson of the 2011 summer movie season, leading off the season with a bang.
“Fast Five,” the fifth installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, starred its consistent cast members Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster, as well as adding Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to the mix. The story continues as the audience meets up with Walker, Diesel and Brewster on the run in Brazil and trying to find a way out.
“Fast Five” could have easily been the No. 1 movie, with all the action, thrills, and drama that have been in the series since the first film nearly 10 years ago. What holds “Fast Five” back from being the best on the top five is the inconsistency. “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift,” released in 2006, seems to have been ignored, since one of the main characters in “Tokyo Drift,” who dies in that film, is alive in “Fast Five.” While many defending the franchise will say the films are just out of sequence, the ending of “Fast Five,” which alludes to a sixth film, has audiences too focused on how to piece the storyline together, instead of leaving the theater appreciating the story itself.
As for the top movie of the summer, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II” takes the cake. Audiences flocked to theaters to view the most anticipated movie of the season, and it did not disappoint, as evidenced by an opening weekend of $169 million and an estimated overall gross of $906 million in the first month. The film wowed audiences, with action, suspense, great visuals, and great acting to go along with all that.
The 2011 summer movie season has been as good as any in the past. One can only hope that the 2012 season will follow suit, filled with blockbusters such as “The Expendables 2,” “The Dark Night Rises,” “Star Trek 2” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
By Karen Zautyk
Further details have been released regarding that miraculous Passaic River survival story reported in last week‘s Observer. The apparent would-be suicide, who plunged into the raging waters during Hurricane Irene, and then managed to escape the lethal current, has been identified as a 46-year-old Belleville woman, although her name had not been released as of press time.
When she was found, walking in Belleville, there was indeed evidence that she had been in the flood-swollen river.
To recount: Shortly before 1 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 28, as the storm raged, Nutley police went to the DeJessa Bridge, which connects this town with Lyndhurst, in response to a 911 call.
A Belleville motorist, who had just crossed the span and was turning onto River Road, reported seeing a barefoot woman, clad in black shorts and blue shirt, running east down Park Ave. in the rain. He said he opened his window and asked her if she was all right, but she ran in front of his car and down onto the Dock St. boat launch. He followed and saw her jump into the river.
According to Nutley Det. Anthony Montanari, the man gave responding officers a very detailed statement as to what he had witnessed and, after being interviewed by Montanari at police headquarters, provided a two-page written statement.
Police from Nutley and adjoining towns “scoured the shoreline,” aided by emergency lighting provided by the Nutley Rescue Squad. Towns downriver also were asked to assist in the search.
A short time later, Montanari reported, Belleville officers found a woman fitting the jumper’s description and “covered in mud and river debris,” walking along River Road in Belleville.
She was taken to Clara Maass Medical Center for evaluation and interviewed there by Nutley Det. Robert McDermott. He stated that the details regarding how she was able to get back on shore were sketchy, and she was distraught and exhibiting signs of intoxication.
Police Director Alphonse Petracco praised all the emergency service personnel for their response and the way multiple jurisdictions and various departments worked together. Police Chief John Holland offered a special thanks to the witness who had called 911 and provided an accurate description, which assisted in locating the woman and getting her help.
Nutley police and other first responders were answering calls around the clock before, during and after Hurricane Irene. Please note that the following blotter for the week ending Aug. 31 reflects only a few of these:
2:41 p.m. — Police assisted a 58-year-old man on Vincent Place when his mobility scooter overturned after hitting an uneven sidewalk. The man suffered minor bruises and refused further medical attention.
8:45 p.m. — A Franklin Ave. grocer reported a woman left the store with unpaid groceries. Police were able to determine the identity of the Clifton resident and are investigating. Charges are likely.
10:25 p.m. — Police were called to the aid of a River Road woman who said she had just been assaulted by an ex-boyfriend. Officers observed his vehicle traveling south on River Road and stopped it with the assistance of Belleville police. Shyane Rodriguez, 20, of North Bergen was charged with harassment, possession of a weapon — a “collapsible police baton” — and resisting arrest. Unable to post bail, he was transported to Essex County Jail.
10:50 p.m. — Police and firefighters responded to a report of a car fire on Harrison St. and found a 1999 Chrysler van fully engulfed in flames. Both departments are investigating.
1:10 p.m. — An honest township resident found an envelope containing a large sum of money on Centre St. and notified police. The owner later responded to headquarters and arranged to get the envelope back.
1:40 p.m. — A concerned citizen called police when they saw a man acting suspiciously in the area of Bloomfield Ave. and Centre St. Officers on scene found that 37-year-old Paul Matusas of Belleville was wanted by the Essex County Sheriff’s Department and on a $750 warrant out of Newark. He was placed under arrest, transported to Police Headquarters and turned over to the custody of the Sheriff’s Department.
8:57 p.m. — On the shoulder of Rt. 21, police recovered a large truck that was reported stolen out of Elizabeth. Police impounded the vehicle and notified the reporting agency of its recovery.
2:56 a.m. — Police went to a Kingsland Ave. residence in response to a call for help. Officers had to force their way into the home, damaging the front door, and found a 93-year-old woman trapped in her electric reclining chair. She was not injured, but simply immobilized due to a power outage that kept her from sitting up.
6:17 a.m. — Police and Fire personnel responded to a ceiling collapse at a Hillside Ave. residence. Firefighters were able to pull the remaining ceiling down to ensure no one would be injured and to minimize the potential for water getting into electric boxes.
7:42 a.m. — Police responded to a Ridge Road home where a 53-year-old man had inhaled fumes while working on a generator. He later refused further medical attention.
8:17 a.m. — Police were called to Cross St. when a tree fell onto a home.
10:52 a.m. — An Oakcrest resident complained that their basement was flooded as a result of the neighbor’s actions. The resident said the neighbor had dug a trench along their fence to convey water that drained onto his property. The homeowner was advised of their right to sign a complaint.
12:20 p.m. — Police were called to the William St. Senior Building where a relative of a resident was creating a disturbance. Robert Davey, 49, of Nutley allegedly shoved one of the investigating officers and was arrested and charged with aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. Davey was later released pending a court date.
8:50 p.m. — A tree was reported down atop a Kingsland Ave. residence and hanging on live wires. The area was secured.
6:30 p.m. — Suspicious parents reported that a man was taking pictures of the 7th and 8th grade cheerleaders in back of Lincoln School. The parents said they had asked the man several times to stop photographing the girls. He was checked for warrants and was instructed to not take any more photos. Police said he claimed to have been photographing trees. Detectives conducted a search of the man’s home and found nothing illegal.
2:59 a.m. — A police officer conducting surveillance of a local convenience store that had reported frequent thefts of newspaper bundles observed a motorist stop his vehicle, pick up 50 papers, place them in the car — which fit the description of one used in previous incidents — and drive off. The officer stopped 58-year-old Sharad Pandya of Nutley and charged him with theft. Police said they are in the process of reviewing surveillance footage from nearly half-a-dozen other stores that reported papers being stolen and have already associated the suspect with a Centre St. theft.
By Ron Leir
This summer, public housing residents of Harrison Gardens are breathing free and easy.
That’s because it’s the first summer everybody has cool air flowing through their apartments, now that the Harrison Housing Authority has completed the installation of central air-conditioning at the Harrison Ave. complex.
“It’s the first time the agency is providing air-conditioning as part of the tenant’s lease,” explained HHA Interim Executive Director Zinnerford Smith.
“Tenants have to pay for a portion of the cost – it’s not a free ride,” Smith said. “We figure $25 a month is a reasonable fee. And if the tenant doesn’t pay the fee, we can turn off the individual units remotely.”
Before this, if tenants wanted to cool their individual apartments, they had to go out and buy a window unit and get it installed.
But last year, the HHA decided to give everybody a break from dealing with hot weather and hired AMCO, a Kenilworth firm, to put in the new system to service all 214 apartments in the complex for about $1.3 million.
Smith said the agency used in-house capital funds to finance the project.
The 54 units at Kingsland Courts, the other public housing cluster – on William St. – were previously air-conditioned.
Temperature of the A/C in the apartments can be regulated by thermostat.
As for how the new system’s been working: So far, so good.
Smith and HHA Commissioner Larry Bennett say they’ve heard no complaints from anyone. “As far as I know, everybody’s happy,” Bennett said.
And, certainly from a recent random sampling of residents at the Gardens, that seems pretty much true.
Longtime tenant Kay Glaser, who occupies a four-room apartment, has one unit in her living room. “This is enough for me,” Glaser said. “Before, I had my own air-conditioner in the window, but I got rid of it.”
Tenants Joan Fearns and Carol Schmidt said they were pleased with the service. “Mine works very well,” Fearns said. “You can set (the thermostat) and I like it at 70 (degrees).” And Schmidt said her unit cools her living room and a bedroom.
Another resident recalled having some initial mechanical problem with the unit but after notifying the HHA office, there was a quick response and now the A/C is working properly.
The only note of discord was sounded by tenant Marie Mattia who said that while her single unit – installed in her parlor ceiling next to the windows – is adequate for that room and the kitchen, it “can’t cool the two bedrooms around the corner from the unit.” So she bought two fans for the bedrooms.
In other developments, Smith said the agency was recently informed by Rep. Albio Sires’ Washington office that it has been awarded $630,000 in public housing funds for capital improvements.
It is likely, Smith said, that the HHA will apply those funds to the pointing of brickwork at the various Gardens buildings and to upgrade the children’s playground where “there is a high priority to remove any tripping hazards.”
Also, with the aid of its search consultant, Robert Graham of APM Management Consulting, the HHA board has approved a new solicitation for a permanent executive director.
The board hired Smith a little more than a year ago – on Aug. 19, 2010 – to replace Michael Rodgers, after a majority of the board voted to fire Rodgers with no announced reason. Rodgers subsequently sued, alleging he was dumped for enforcing a drug-free workplace rule involving a relative of Mayor Ray McDonough. Smith began his job Sept. 7, 2010, with the expectation that a permanent director would be on board within six months.
Eventually, more than 50 applications were received, but the board hired no one, agreeing only to extend the search period. On May 11, the board voted to temporarily suspend its search, claiming it had failed to attract sufficient qualified applicants, and directed search consultant Graham to redraft an advertisement for the position and then extend the search.
The new solicitation requires candidates to have “two years experience as an executive director or three years experience as a deputy executive director in a public housing authority” and “a minimum of five years . . . of progressively senior level experience in a public housing authority . . . .”
Additionally, the advertisement states: “An ideal candidate will have completed the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Local Housing Authority Training Program; have a baccalaureate or advanced degree in public administration, finance, business; and have exceptional references from previous employers.”
And the advertisement specifies a salary range of “between $80,000 and $100,000.” (Rodgers had been making about $160,000.)
The solicitation sets an application submission deadline of Oct. 21, 2011.