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Abducted Delaware child could be in NJ, NYC

Top: Elinor Trotta; Bottom: Michael Trotta.

Top: Elinor Trotta; Bottom: Michael Trotta.


The New Castle County, Del., police seeks your help in locating a missing child.

Elinor Trotta, a 3-year-old, 60-pound girl with brown hair, was last seen wearing a purple coat, pink pants, and “Frozen” shoes.

The New Castle County Police Department is investigating a domestic-related incident that occurred in the community of School Side Apartments in New Castle, Del. At approximately 6:48 p.m., county police responded to the 800 Block of East Basin Road on a report of a domestic-related assault. The reporting person advised that her ex-boyfriend, 39-year-old Michael Trotta, came to her residence, assaulted her and took their 3-year-old daughter.

Police are currently looking for Mr. Trotta. He is a white man, 5’8” tall, approximately 160 pounds, balding/short haircut, scruffy beard and mustache last seen wearing all black clothing. The suspect fled the scene in a 1989 gray Mazda 626 bearing Delaware registration 247457 with his 3-year-old daughter.

Police believe the child is in imminent danger and that Mr. Trotta may have fled with her to the state of New Jersey, possibly heading to New York City.

Anyone with information is asked to call 9-1-1 immediately, the New Castle County Police Department at (302) 573-2800 or visit www.nccpd.com.

Nutley police: Did you witness Centre St. robbery?

A surveillance image of a man who is alleged to have robbed a Centre St. convenience store in Nutley.

A surveillance image of a man who is alleged to have robbed a Centre St. convenience store in Nutley.


Police are seeking the public’s help locating a man they say robbed a Centre St. convenience store over the weekend.

On Sunday, Feb. 22, at 8:30 a.m., a man entered the convenience store, placed his hand into his jacket pocket and demanded money from the store clerk, police said.

He stated: “I don’t wanna hurt you.”

Police said the clerk told them no weapon was displayed, and the suspect made no threats.

The suspect is described as a white man, 18 to 25 years old, 5’3″-5’5″ tall, thin, wearing a tan jacket with a gray hooded sweatshirt under it, a dark cap with some type of symbol on it, a face mask and blue jeans with brown boots.

Police said they followed footprints in the snow to Union Ave., but didn’t locate the suspect. They continue to investigate.

Police are actively following all leads and ask that anyone with information about the incident call detectives at 973-284-4940.

NAPD sees upswing in residential burglaries

napd-shield-transparentThe North Arlington Police Department wants to ensure residents are aware that there have been a series of residential burglaries in recent weeks that had similar characteristics and asks that all necessary precautions be taken to aid in preventing further incidents.

Five burglaries have taken place in apartment building/complex facilities in the last several months.

The suspects identify units that have unlocked doors and/or windows. They have focused on ground-floor apartments with air conditioning window units in which they’ve been able to push (or pull) the unit out of the window to gain entry, or have entered through unlocked windows.

All residents are asked to identify and correct any issues that may make their residence a potential target.

Anyone with any information, or assistance needs, can contact Det. Feola with the North Arlington P.D. at 201-991-4400, ext. 139.

As always, immediately contact the police to report suspicious activity.

NA’s Ryen Pezzolla a semi-finalist for ECRHA’s top award

Ryen Pezzolla

Ryen Pezzolla, center, whilst playing a hockey game for St. Peter’s Prep at Yankee Stadium last winter.

Ryen Pezzolla, of North Arlington, a graduate of St. Peter’s Prep and the grandson of Observer GM Robert Pezzolla, who is currently a student at Rutgers University, has been named a semi-finalist for the Eastern Collegiate Roller Hockey Association’s Division 1 Player of the Year. He faces competition from three other universities. The winner will be announced at the association’s annual awards banquet later this year. Click here to read the announcement.

Up and running


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


The Kearny Police Department’s enhanced 911 emergency communications system at its South Kearny Precinct that Super Storm Sandy wiped out two and a half years ago has finally been finally restored.

“Tuesday, Jan. 13, we went live,” said Police Sgt. John Manley, deputy coordinator for the Kearny Office of Emergency Management. “It’s been a long haul.”

As part of the recovery effort, the town ended up ordering several trailer units that it had installed inside the combined police/ fire facility to provide separate offices for firefighters and police and space for fire rigs.

Then the town had to shell out $240,000 just to replace the 911 system which took months to set up, with the vendor Carousel Industries of Bensalem, Pa., working with Verizon to get everything humming. Kearny has applied for reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The last step was the KPD’s training superior officers in using the new system so that a rotating schedule of officers assigned to the precinct for 911 duty could be set up.

From the precinct, the officers can handle not just 911 calls – medical calls are routed from a 911 center at the Jersey City Medical Center and nonmedical calls from the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office in Jersey City – but also regular police calls.

For emergency situations, the system allows the officer handling the calls to link up with the appropriate outside law enforcement or local and/ or regional civilian agency to respond.

All 911 calls are logged and can be played back as needed. The system is also outfitted with TTY capability, a telecommunications device for the hearing impaired.

The system also is equipped with a video mapping capability that can help an officer trace the location of a caller, should that communication be interrupted or abruptly ended.

“We have 98 surveillance cameras positioned around South Kearny so that area, (which is largely industrial), can be monitored from our 911 center,” Manley said. “And because the town arranged to run fiber optic cable through the area, we’ll be getting a better picture quality.”

With the trailer units situated three feet above ground level, the hope is that elevation will protect officers and the electronic gear against an incursion of flood water. And KPD has backup phone lines for its 911 and regular police communications, both in South Kearny and uptown at KPD headquarters on Laurel Ave.

However, if another monster storm hits the area and the precinct is inundated again, there is a fail-safe system in place, Manley said.

Part of the 911 system features new technology – a portable unit designed so that it can be disconnected from its precinct-based housing and re-attached to a laptop computer for operation on a mobile basis and continue to provide a 911 capability.

“So if we get another surge from the (Passaic) river that’s going to flood us out of South Kearny, we will pull out the portable unit and our vehicles – as well as the Fire Department rigs – to redeploy uptown,” Manley said.

Other safeguards being taken by the town in case of heavy flooding include readying the installation of backup and/or new generators at various pumping stations and other critical local facilities, he said.

For example, Manley said, the town will be arranging for the placement of a backup generator at Schuyler Elementary School in the event that the school is put into service as an emergency shelter. Neglia Engineering, the town’s consulting engineers, is drafting specifications for that project, he added.

Does girls crew row vs. bias?


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


A Kearny parent has filed a federal civil rights complaint against the Board of Education.

The complaint, filed in December 2014 by Paula Cavalier, alleges that the high school has violated Title 9 of federal education law which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex in federally-supported education programs.

Cavalier’s complaint alleges that the high school is favoring the boys crew over the girls crew team by denying the girls the chance to participate in regionally competitive races in which the boys crew participates.

And, the complaint says, the school discriminates against the girls crew by giving the male crew priority access to equipment.

Kenneth Lindenfelser, attorney for the school board, said that, “there was a complaint filed by a parent alleging Title 9 violations” and that the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights “has asked for information that we are in the process of gathering and which we will be providing.”

Lindenfelser said the feds wanted the materials “by Feb. 18” but because the scope of the information sought involves all interscholastic sports activities in which Kearny High participates, collecting all the information – items including each program’s “budget, number of participants, age of uniforms and type of equipment” – collection of the data has become “tedious to assemble.”

For that reason, he said, he is asking the feds if the district can limit its research to crew but, if not, “we’ll probably ask for an extension.”

The district, the attorney said, “is confident we’re in compliance, but we’re going to cooperate with them and if they find that some type of adjustment is needed, we’ll make it.”

He declined to elaborate. In her complaint, Cavalier attached a spread sheet detailing the boys and girls crew competitions for 2014. From an analysis of those events, Cavalier drew this conclusion:

“The boys raced against 151 more teams than the girls, mainly because they raced on Sunday, when the most competitive races occur. These are the races most likely to draw college recruiters, so that girls who cannot race on Sundays have reduced access to scholarships, as compared with boys. This is mostly due to the fact that the girls’ crew coach declines to work on Sundays, for religious reasons. The majority of competitive rowing on the east coast occurs on Sundays. … Under Title 9, the school district is required to afford equal opportunities to female athletes. Because the Kearny school district could easily find a solution to this inequality, I have contacted the Office of Civil Rights ….”

Ironically, according to logs obtained by Cavalier, more girls participated in crew than boys last year. “For 2014, 40 girls signed up, as compared with 36 boys,” she told The Observer.

Under the projected schedule for 2015 competitions, Cavalier said, “The boys will be racing 296 more teams than the girls, which is worse than last year’s inequality of 151 more teams.”

And getting less exposure than the boys crew in bigger competitive races “attended by regional, Ivy League college recruiters” means that girls’ chances of landing athletic scholarships are negatively impacted, she said.

Although her daughter is a member of the girls crew team, Cavalier said that she filed the discrimination complaint as an advocate for the entire girls crew team, and not just as her daughter.

“I hope she realizes that sometimes, you have to do what you might be afraid to do for the bigger picture, to right a wrong,” she said.

Last year, Cavalier said, it was embarrassing for the girls crew members when “our immediate regional competition, like the girls teams from Nutley, Belleville, Rutherford, for example, were at the Sunday Philadelphia Rowing Association races, and Kearny was not represented.”

Possible solutions, Cavalier suggested, include allowing assistant crew coaches for boys and girls to “work out a schedule so that both teams can attend the same competitions,” merging the boys and girls crew “so that they can compete in the same races as a unit” or replacing the girls’ crew coach.

Back in 1983 when Cavalier was a student at Kearny High and an avid cyclist, she asked if she could go out for crew, only to be told there were no girls permitted “because they had no separate showers or bathrooms.”

Three years later, she recalled, a girls crew team materialized.

“Today, ironically, more than 30 years later, we’re still running into a situation of inequality for girls,” she said.

Last year, Cavalier revived her high school dream by taking lessons with the Passaic River Rowing Association and has relished the experience. “When you’re a crew and rowing as one unit, it all clicks together. Together, you become one quiet, beautiful machine.”

How to ward off the cold

With predictions of continued frigid weather, including wind gusts of up to 40 mph and wind chills of -15 to -20 degrees, across The Observer’s coverage area, here are some tips from the Essex County Office of Emergency Management.

* Clothing: Dress in layers. Cover exposed skin, and wear a hat and gloves.

* Stay dry: Moisture, even sweat, increases heat loss. * Stay hydrated: Increased hydration means increased blood flow and less chance of frostbite.

* Frostbite: Signs of frostbite include white, gray, numb, or waxy skin. Victims are often unaware of frostbite until someone else notices it. Frostbite victims should be brought indoors and gently warmed with body heat or warm water. Never use a heating pad, oven or other source of extreme heat, as numb skin will burn easily.

* Hypothermia: Persons with a low body temperature will exhibit slurred speech, drowsiness, low energy, or shaking of the hands. Hypothermia victims should be brought to a warm indoor location as quickly as possible and have their body warmed as quickly as possible. Body temperatures below 95 degrees require immediate medical attention.

And from The Observer: During extreme weather, you might also consider checking up on your neighbors, particularly senior citizens. Do they need any help? Do they have heat and hot water? If they are unable to leave home, offer to run errands, such as food shopping.

Photos tell his story


By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent

Last year, Bobby Travieso was doing some spring cleaning when, in the back of a closet, he found an old leather jacket he hadn’t worn in decades. Most people might think “thrift shop.” Travieso thought “art.”

“It was the last remnant of my high school days,” he said, explaining that his yearbook and 1980 class ring from Park West High School in Manhattan, where he grew up, had disappeared over the years. “It was the absolute final item I have from that era. I didn’t want to throw it out.”

He also couldn’t wear it. “It doesn’t fit me anymore. Somehow, my arms got longer,” he said with a laugh.

So the pop artist started taking photos of friends and family members wearing the jacket. Then, he branched out. “The project soon took a life of its own, and throughout the summer different people from different walks of life all shared the same theme,” he said. In the end, he had 50 portraits, each one with its own meaningful backstory for the photographer.

His “conceptual art” exhibit, “Black Jacket,” was featured at the Monroe Center for the Arts in Hoboken last November and at the Secaucus Library last month.

It’s now on view at the North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Rd., through March 7, although due to space, only about half the photos are displayed. Still, it’s more than worth a visit. At 11 a.m. this Saturday, Feb. 21, the library will host a reception at which the public can meet the artist and hear some of his stories. There will be refreshments and a Q&A session.

Photos by Bobby Travieso TOP: Bobby Travieso at Black Jack Exhibit at North Arlington Pu blic Library. ABOVE: Scarlett Lewis displays T-shirt.

Photos by Bobby Travieso
TOP: Bobby Travieso at Black Jack Exhibit at North Arlington Public Library.
ABOVE: Scarlett Lewis displays T-shirt.


Travieso and his wife, Fran, live in Secaucus, but he has a North Arlington connection. He’s a Fedex courier whose route covers the borough.

That’s his job, but his true calling is art. You can see examples of his work at his website, http://www.hairyhand. net

“People usually ask me when did I start painting and drawing,” he said.

“The answer is a bit sad, but the truth nevertheless. I lost my dad when I was 7 years old. He was killed in a holdup in the Bronx.

“Back then, there was no such thing as counseling — not for me anyway. It simply wasn’t available.

“After the funeral, life continued as if nothing had happened. So basically I started drawing to express my sadness and anger. Art became my therapy.

“It also became a source of communication . . . I was able to express emotions that I wasn’t able to verbally.”

After high school, Travieso spent a semester at Syracuse University; then he decided to return to the city and enrolled at Baruch College. But he still wasn’t thinking of art as a possible career choice. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have gone to an art school,” he said.

Photography is a new direction for Travieso. In the art world, he is known primarily for his conceptual “cereal boxes” and satirical “movie posters.”

“I started exhibiting my work to the public about 10 years ago,” he said, explaining, “Before that, I simply thought my work was not worthy of public display. It took a very long time for me to come to that point of confidence. And longer to actually part from (sell) one of my works.

“The very first time I exhibited in a professional manner was (in October 2004) at the Armory in Jersey City during their annual Artist Studio Tours. That was a turning point because I not only showed my work to the raw public, but I was amongst other artists from all walks of life!”

Although Travieso did not go to art school, he cites two factors in his life that have inspired him.

For about a decade, mid-’80s to mid-’90s, he lived in Greenwich Village, where he “caught the tail end of the art scene that had exploded down there.”

He went to shows and met artists like Peter Max and Keith Haring. “The freedom of expression there had an everlasting influence on me and my art,” he said.

The other inspiration has been his wife, Fran, who majored in art history at William Paterson University. “Her favorite place,” he noted, is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. “She has fond memories of her dad taking her there when she was a child. Now, she takes me and becomes a tour guide teaching me about the masters!”

Photo by Bobby Travieso

Photo by Bobby Travieso


Returning to the “Black Jacket” exhibit, Travieso talked about one photo in particular that affected him. Back in June, in the early stages of the project, he brought his camera to a graduation party at a friend’s home in Secaucus. There, he was introduced to one of the guests, Scarlett Lewis, the graduate’s aunt, who was also an artist.

“She had such a positive spirit,” Travieso said. “During our conversation, I was shocked to learned that this woman — with a heart and soul as big as everyone there put together — was the mother of one of the kids that was gunned down in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut two years ago.

“I couldn’t describe how I felt,” he continued. “She was wearing a necklace with a picture of her son. I was in the presence of tragedy, but she had so much love and forgiveness. At that moment, I knew my summer fun project had taken a serious turn.

“She asked me if she could be a part of it. I was honored. Her only request was that she let her T-shirt show, because it shows the words that were scribbled by her son on the school blackboard shortly before the tragedy.”

You can see that photo at the library.

Lewis’ T-shirt reads, “Nurturing Healing Love.”

When Travieso told that story, we couldn’t help think about how he became involved in art in the first place, after his father was killed.

Art helped nurture and heal Bobby Travieso, who found in it a special kind of love.

Outlet for grieving over loss of pet


By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


If you’re not someone who loves animals, you can skip this story — because you probably won’t understand.

If you do love animals, and especially if you are a pet owner, read on. It will warm your heart.

Recently, we got a press release from Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers, who noted that after he had met “with several residents who are having a very difficult time coping with the loss of a pet,” the Department of Public Affairs “has established a program to provide grief counseling and other resources for pet owners and family members who are facing such a difficult time.”

Rogers continued: “As an animal lover who has lost a pet, I fully understand how devastating such a loss is. It is a matter very difficult to cope with, to understand, and to speak about. Such a loss is especially hard on children, and elderly residents who have no family members.”

There is a sad irony here. The commissioner was talking about his past experience with losing a pet, but after we had made tentative plans for an interview with him and his wife, Natasha, who is helping with the new program, we had to reschedule. One of the couple’s beloved chihuahuas, 14-year-old Max, had just died.

“I was all in tears,” Natasha told us when we finally did meet. “It was complete devastation.”

Having had pets of our own all of our life, and, of course, having lost them over the years, we knew exactly what she meant. Luckily, like her, we have had people around us to comfort and lend support. But some people, especially seniors, have no one with whom to share their grief. “Who do they grieve to?” Rogers asked.

And, yes, it is true grief. “Obviously, the death of a human being is more devastating,” Rogers said. But, as pet people know, an animal companion becomes a member of the family. Its death is a death in the family. The home itself, which had been full of play and cuddles and barks or purrs, is empty. For someone alone, it becomes a void. As Rogers noted, “There is a depressing silence.”

For those who don’t understand this, who might say, “What’s the big deal?” Rogers has a response: “I dare them to look into the eyes of someone, especially a senior, whose pet has passed away and ask them the same question.”

The commissioner is urging Nutley residents who are having a difficult time in coping with the loss of a pet, or who know someone who is facing the same difficulty, to refer them to the Department of Public Affairs, 149 Chestnut St., 973-284-4976. “We will do all we can to walk with them through this most difficult and lonely time,” he said.

Natasha Rogers has set up a Facebook page — Nutley Department of Public Affairs Pet Heath Resource Center — where you can find advice and share your thoughts with other pet lovers via a supportive message board.”We are letting them know there is someone to talk to,” Natasha said.

For those who do not have internet access, Rogers said the department can print out the page and also hopes to include material in upcoming department newsletters. For more information on the Facebook outreach, residents can call 973-284-4976 or email commissionerogers@ nutleynj.org.

Along with dealing with grief, sharing one’s experience can help with the particular sorrow that is compounded by guilt, when the owner has had to make the heart-wrenching decision to have an ailing, suffering pet put down.

“They feel guilty,” Rogers said. But, he added, they need to realize that “the ultimate act of love is to make that final decision.”

Some pet owners, although left bereft, are hesitant to get another pet. They don’t want to feel like they are “replacing” the one that died. Or, as more than one friend has told us, “I couldn’t go through that loss again.”

The Rogers experienced these emotions when Max died, but they have since gotten a new dog. Natasha said her husband assured her, “You didn’t replace Max. You continued his legacy of love with another dog.”

Now sharing the Rogers’ home with their other chihuahua, Marshall, is a German Shepherd puppy, Bear. Yes, a chihuahua and a German Shepherd. But the little-bitty one rules the place. They have become great buddies, but Marshall is the alpha dog. We know. We’ve seen the video.

The commissioner, who spends part of every Saturday going door-to- door to chat with his constituents, noted he had met several senior citizens who had lost a pet and were having an especially difficult time: They wanted to get a new pet but were reluctant because they feared the animal would outlive them.

For such individuals, Rogers suggests that, in their wills, they designate someone to be the animal’s caretaker. If no friend of family member is willing, or suitable, the pet owner can note that it should be given to a no-kill shelter or an animal sanctuary.

Hopefully, that advice will help, for people who love animals need animals in their lives. “Dogs and cats and other pets are very therapeutic,” Rogers said.

“They’re life-savers.”

And he noted, “Where else do you get that unconditional love? Spell the word ‘DOG’ backwards.”

Fire roster beefed up but still shortstaffed


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Seven additional firefighters are being hired by Kearny but, because of upcoming retirements, it will still leave the Fire Department short of the recommended number of personnel, Fire Chief Steven Dyl said.

The Kearny Town Council voted last Tuesday to authorize the new additions to the KFD payroll, effective Feb. 23, pending approval by the newly assigned state fiscal monitor Terry Reidy, a former city manager of Montclair and Asbury Park. He replaced monitor Steve Pannella on Jan. 29.

In November 2014, the council green-lighted hiring up to 12 firefighters with the hopeful expectation, at the time, that the town would be successful with its application for federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) funding which pays for two years’ salaries and benefits.

But the town never got the funding so it put off the hirings.

Meanwhile, as overtime costs soared, the town felt it had no choice but to go ahead with some hirings to partially replenish the gap in the fire personnel ranks.

It wasn’t easy. “We started out with 100 [applicants] and we ended up with seven,” Dyl said.

Looking down the road, it won’t get any easier since nine members of the department – mostly superior officers – have filed pension applications with two more possible, according to Dyl.

The department’s Table of Organization calls for up to 102 employees and currently there are 82 aboard. The seven new hires will push that total up to 89 but when the nine retirees are gone, the department will be down to 80 and if the two others contemplating retirement leave, that will bring the number down to 78, Dyl said.

At last week’s meeting, Councilwoman Eileen Eckel, liaison to the KFD, declared that, “We are looking to hire even more [firefighters}” as more department members leave but she didn’t say how many more or when it would happen.

Mayor Alberto Santos, noting that six of the new hires were Kearny residents (the other is from Newark), said that local residency “reflects what we wanted to do for the past two years,” after the town’s labor attorney Fredrick Danser negotiated with the NAACP an amended federal consent decree on public safety hirings.

That amendment contracted the candidate pool area, from Kearny and Essex County, to Kearny and Newark, on the presumption that the prior arrangement “was not giving a fair opportunity to Kearny residents,” he said.

And the latest results show that “it’s working,” the mayor added.

Noting the presence of two of the new hires, Steven Yerkes and James Corbett Jr., in the council chambers, Santos congratulated them and said: “They need you yesterday. … We have a large local area to protect and that puts a tremendous strain on our Fire Department.”

Since a good portion of the KFD’s veteran members have been departing in recent years, Santos told the recruits that they and their colleagues “will be the core of the group” representing the department’s future.

Two of the rookies – Corbett and Kyle Plaugic – have local police legacies: Corbett is the son of retired Kearny Dep. Police Chief James Corbett and Plaugic’s dad, John Plaugic, is currently serving as a detective with the KPD.

Steven Yerkes, a Kearny resident, previously worked as a mechanic for a private firm.

James Corbett Jr., a Kearny resident, has served as an investigator for the New Jersey Dept. of Health. He has a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in criminal justice and sociology.

Kyle Plaugic, a Kearny resident who holds a degree in business administration from Caldwell University, has worked as a financial analyst for a private company. His late grandfather was a member of the Newark Fire Department.

Joseph Socci, who lives in Kearny, has worked as an assistant rental manager for Penske Truck Leasing in Jersey City. He has a B.A. degree in communications from the University of Albany.

Donald Alexander, a Newark resident, is a graduate of Bishop George Ahr High School, Edison, and has worked as a private security officer.

John Digrivina, of Kearny, has attended classes at Essex County College and Hawaii Pacific University. He has worked as a painter.

Jeffrey Paredes, a Kearny resident, has worked as a computer technician and fitness instructor. He has attended classes at Essex County College and the County College of Morris.

The recruits are scheduled to begin their fire training March 22 at the Essex County Police Academy building and, upon successful completion, should be ready for duty in Kearny “by the end of June or beginning of July,” Dyl said.

During their academy tenure, the rookies’ starting pay will be $33,000, plus benefits.