By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Carlstadt builder Ed Russo is looking to expand a residential development project already in progress in a Kearny redevelopment area at Bergen and Schuyler Aves. Russo told The Observer last month he has a contract to purchase an additional 2.25 acres of […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent NORTH ARLINGTON – Borough residents should be getting their property tax bills by the first week of December, CFO Steve Sanzari said last Thursday, after the Borough Council finally adopted the 2014 municipal budget. Passage of the budget, introduced back in July, has […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent NUTLEY – This township, which has been in the forefront when it comes to offering support and assistance and recognition to veterans, has launched yet another project to pay tribute to the men and women who have served our nation. This time, going […]
Photo by Karen Zautyk On Veterans Day, the Township of Kearny added this new memorial to Monument Park on Kearny Ave. It will commemorate local members of the armed forces who make the supreme sacrifice in the War on Terrorism. […]
Kearny Police Chief John Dowie, who has repeatedly warned that his ranks are being stretched thin with a recent spate of retirements, will be getting some relief.
Dowie came away from last Wednesday night’s Town Council caucus with a tentative sign-off on his proposal for five promotions: one lieutenant and four sergeants, Mayor Alberto Santos said.
Based on the current promotional lists certified by the state, the lieutenant rank would go to current Sgt. Peter Caltabellotta, while the four new sergeants look to be current Officers Joseph Vulcano, Scott Traynor, John Corbett and Len Reed.
Before the chief’s recommendation can be implemented, however, the state monitor assigned to Kearny must sanction it, Santos said.
If he got the requested promotions, Dowie told the mayor and council members, he would then have enough personnel to staff the South Kearny Police Precinct on a 24-hour-a-day basis.
And, Dowie advised, filling in those ranks – while, at the same time, preparing to hire more rank-and-file cops – should help trim the massive overtime in the Police Department, which has topped $1 million for the year to date, according to town CFO Shuaib Firozvi.
Another sales point the chief served up was that additional four sergeants would bring that rank up to one below the optimum number of 19 called for in the Police Department’s Table of Organization while increasing the number of captains to the T.O. standard of nine.
Sergeants currently earn about $124,000 a year, plus health benefits, while lieutenants collect about $140,000, plus benefits. Santos and Dowie said the town should see some savings in the long run, however, because under the current PBA contract, it will take two years for superiors named after Jan. 1, 2013, to reach their maximum pay level.
The mayor and council have agreed in principle to hire up to 10 more rank-and-file cops, according to Dowie, who said the town should also see some savings down the road because it now takes 12 years for officers to reach their maximum pay grade.
A newly issued appointment list, as certified by the state Civil Service Commission, for police officer in Kearny triggered frustration voiced by a member of the Kearny PD during the public portion of Wednesday’s council meeting.
Det. Steven Podolski, a veteran member of the police force, spoke on behalf of 10 Kearny residents who applied to take the state Civil Service test for police officer and were upset about the process which involves a procedure mandated by U.S. District Court, dating from 1991, which stems from an NAACP lawsuit alleging that Kearny’s municipal hiring practices were discriminatory.
The court stipulated initially that, to achieve “racial diversity” in its employee mix, Kearny was compelled to establish an applicant pool drawn from residents of Kearny and Essex County. Kearny challenged that pool as too broad and unfair to its residents and in 2002 the court modified the territorial pool to Kearny and Newark residents.
Earlier this year, Santos said, things became muddled when in anticipating of hiring more cops, Kearny asked Civil Service to certify an updated appointment list and, in response, the mayor said, the agency inadvertently issued a Kearny resident-only list, reportedly containing the names of 75 Kearny residents as potential hirees.
Then, the mayor said, the agency ended up retracting that list and issued a new list with the names of only 16 Kearny residents and the balance from Newark. Some of the contingent that showed up Wednesday at Town Hall are no longer on the list while a few now find themselves farther down on the list, Podolski told the governing body.
Podolski reasoned that it makes more sense for the town to appoint Kearny residents, since cops who live in town will have more of a stake in keeping the town safer and will be more likely to spend their money in town.
“We agree that it’s important to hire local residents for security and economy reasons,” said Santos, “but unless there are changes in federal law that would allow us to challenge the consent decree that obligates us, we can’t ignore it.”
Meanwhile, the town is responding to other public safety needs. On Wednesday, the council voted to introduce a $2 million bond ordinance that would earmark $600,000 for the “acquisition of patrol sport utility vehicles with equipment” and $300,000 for “computer infrastructure and equipment” for the Police Department, along with $350,000 for “equipment and turnout gear” for the Fire Department.
Other projects to be funded from the bond – which must be approved by the state Local Finance Board – include “acquisition/installation of fiber optic and computer infrastructure town-wide” for $400,000 and acquisition of a “dump truck, a pickup truck and a utility van” for the Public Works Department.
The council also authorized the Fire Department to apply to the federal Assistance to Firefighters grant program for $950,000 toward the cost of a new aerial ladder truck and for $600,000 to subsidize acquisition of more than 40 self-contained oxygen packs. Each would require a 25% local match. Fire Chief Steve Dyl said the new rig would replace a 1990 truck which has required more maintenance each year. He said the department’s current oxygen packs are “over 20 years old” and need to be replaced.
By Ron Leir
At Washington Middle School in Harrison, nearly 75% of the more than 400 enrolled are just as busy with school-related projects after 3 p.m. as they are during their regular day of classes.
And that’s partly by design of the school administration who made a point this fall of expanding its menu of an already busy after-school extracurricular schedule.
Principal Michael Landy extended an appreciative nod to the Board of Education, acting Superintendent Fred Confessore and his staff for being “tremendously cooperative in supporting all additional programs that we proposed.” Students’ voluntary participation in such activities are important, Landy said, because studies show that there is a positive carryover on the academic side.
“If a student has an extra reason to come to school – if they’re looking forward to being in a club or sport program – it almost always translates to a better performance in the classroom,” he said.
Mixing with other kids can also be instrumental in changing a painfully shy or introverted youngster’s personality, Landy said.
If they’re interacting consistently with a smaller group of peers all sharing a common interest, “their whole outlook is different,” the principal said. “They walk down a [school] hallway and they realize, ‘Hey, there’s my friends.’ ’’
Landy provided a list of the various student activities offered by the school, as follows: There are two after-school homework assistance programs known as Family Friendly and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).
Family Friendly, which includes a fitness component, is funded by a state grant combined with a local match, and is designed for grades 6 to 8. It has been operating in Harrison for the past eight years and, with more than 100 kids and between 10 and 12 instructional staff participating, “it’s our biggest after-school program,” Landy said. The group meets Monday to Friday, from 3 to 5 p.m.
CHIP’s function is similar to Family Friendly but is geared specifically for special needs youngsters and meets Monday to Thursday, from 3 to 5 p.m. About 50 children are in this year’s group.
“We have an expanded Fine and Performing Arts program,” Landy said, “that includes one day of Chorus, two days of Step dancing, two days of regular dance, one day of actors workshop, one day of play writers workshop, one day of crew/public relations and one day of set design.”
Chorus, with some 30 youngsters involved, meets Wednesdays and performs holiday shows and at special events like the Winter and Spring Concerts.
Step dancing “is our version of hip hop and this year, it’s really taken off,” Landy said. The group, led by physical education/health teacher Uril Parrish, rehearses on Mondays and Thursdays and struts its stuff at different events during the school year. This Halloween eve, its members offered a special dance tribute to Michael Jackson.
Parrish also assists the regular dance team which practices their routines on Tuesdays and Fridays.
“Between the two dance groups, we have to close to 30 participating,” said Landy.
Kids in the various performance- related groups, with some overlapping, work together as a part of a drama production team, starting in the winter session, to prepare for the annual Spring Musical. They get help from music teacher Steven Fink and technology instructor Eileen Winkleblech.
There are also clubs focused on Art, School Newspaper, Yearbook, Environmental, Explorers (with fields trips to big metropolitan cities to learn more about history), Student Council, Fitness, Canstruction, Gifted & Talented and Chess, which has grown to 20 members who meet a couple of times a month to play each other.
The school’s sports program has also expanded. In the fall, it offers girls’ volleyball and soccer and boys’ soccer; in the winter, there is boys’ and girls’ basketball and swimming; and in the spring, boys’ volleyball, baseball and softball.
A Belleville man who was a Jersey City fire inspector pleaded guilty last week to accepting bribes from brothels, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reported.
Authorities said Phillip Procaccino, 56, took money from two Jersey City massage parlors that were fronts for prostitution. In one of the cases, his cut was a percentage of the profits. A
ccording to prosecutors, Procaccino admitted that, in October 2013, he accepted $2,500 in exchange for his official assistance in obtaining a certificate of occupancy for one of the businesses. He also agreed to provide notice of impending inspections by Jersey City authorities so the owner and employees could hide evidence of their other, oldest, profession.
Dealing with a separate prostitution operation, Procaccino agreed to provide a certificate and one day’s notice of any police plans to target the parlor, this in exchange for 10% of its future profits.
Appearing before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden in Newark federal court last Wednesday, Procaccino pleaded guilty to one count of extortion.
He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced in February.
– Karen Zautyk
…Or by crook
An Essex County corrections officer from Belleville was arrested last week by special agents of the FBI for allegedly taking bribes to smuggle contraband, including cell phones and cigarettes, into the county jail in Newark, authorities reported.
John Grosso, 41, was taken into custody Thursday morning at the jail, a federal pretrial detention facility. He was arraigned that afternoon in Newark federal court on one count of conspiring to commit extortion and was released on $100,000 bail.
According to the complaint filed by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, on multiple occasions between November and December 2013, Grosso accepted cash bribes of approximately $1,000 in return for smuggling phones and cigarettes to an inmate. The officer reportedly met with the inmate’s associate in the parking lot of the Best Buy store in Secaucus to accept the contraband and bribes, before delivering the packages to the prisoner.
If convicted, Grosso faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Fishman credited the FBI and the Internal Affairs Division of the Essex County Correctional Facility, under the leadership of Warden Roy Hendricks, with the investigation leading to the arrest.
– Karen Zautyk
Authorities last week identified the second person killed in a fiery multi-vehicle crash on Rt. 21 on Nov. 3 as Terrence Morris, 26, of Newark.
According to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris was the driver of a Chevy Cavalier that collided with a tractor-trailer in the southbound lanes in Belleville. Both Morris and his passenger, Jonathan Fontenot, also a 26-year-old Newark resident, were pronounced dead at the scene.
The truck driver and the driver of a Dodge Dart that was involved in the 7:25 p.m. crash were reportedly unhurt.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Task Force and the Belleville Police Department. Anyone with information is asked to contact Task Force detectives at 877-847-7432 or 973- 621-4586. – Karen Zautyk
Kearny driver who told police they were violating his legal rights ended up facing the weight of the law.
Responding to a report of a hit and run in the 270 block of Stewart Ave., at 4 a.m., Officer Derek Hemphill spotted a 2008 Saab leaving the area at a high rate of speed and pursued the vehicle, forcing the driver, Louis Moreiradejesus, 35, of Kearny, to pull over.
When asked for his paperwork, police said the driver lowered his tinted window a few inches, produced his license and informed Hemphill that his “constitutional rights were being violated” and that the officer “had no right to pull him over.”
Police said he also refused to submit to a sobriety test, instead, inviting Hemphill and backup Officer Brian Wisely to, “Arrest me.”
At HQ , police said Moreiradejesus had a change of heart and agreed to take an Alcotest.
It didn’t help.
Moreiradejesus was charged with DWI, careless driving, having tinted safety glass and failing to produce registration and insurance.
Other recent reports logged by Kearny PD included these incidents:
Officers Ben Wuelfing and Tom Floyd responded to the 90 block of Hoyt St., at 3 a.m., on a report of an accident. There, they found a 2012 Toyota embedded in the passenger side of a parked Nissan. Police said the officers detected an odor of alcohol from the Toyota’s driver, Claudia Barrow, 45, of Kearny, who, police said, may have passed out when the crash occurred. Barrow was charged with DWI, careless driving and refusal to take an Alcotest.
While on patrol in the 200 block of Kearny Ave., at 3:45 p.m., Officer John Travelino spotted a man, later identified as Sidnei Antunes, 28, of Kearny, drinking from a 16-ounce can of Budweiser on the street. Antunes, who was issued a summons for drinking in public, had an outstanding warrant from East Newark charging him with the same offense, police said.
At 7:45 p.m., Officers Chris Levchak and Phil Finch responded to 125 Passaic Ave. on a report that someone using an ATM appeared to be drunk. In the parking lot at the site, police said the officers found a vehicle occupied by Edison Vera, 32, of Belleville, who, they said, smelled of alcohol. Asked to step out of the car, police said Vera’s eyes were bloodshot and he was unsteady on his feet. Enroute to HQ , Vera fell asleep in the back of the police cruiser. After being charged with DWI and refusal to take an Alcotest, Vera was placed in a cell where, police said, he began doing headstands.
Sgt. John Taylor, while patrolling the parking lot of the Walmart store on Harrison Ave., at 10 a.m., came across a 2004 Hyundai with its engine running and driver slumped over the steering wheel, police said. After being roused, the driver, Edlaus New, 44, of Wheeling, W. Va., was charged with driving while suspended and operating an uninsured vehicle.
At 3:45 p.m., Officer Jordensen Jean responded to a S. Hackensack Ave. location on a report of an assault. There, police said, he found a 33-year-old Jersey City man bleeding from a head wound and Junell Santanapujols, 33, of Jersey City. The victim was taken to UMDNJ, Newark, where he was questioned by Det. Ray Lopez. Police subsequently arrested Santanapujols on charges of unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose. The suspect is alleged to have struck the victim several times with a vehicular anti-theft device which police recovered. He was taken to Hudson County Jail on $30,000 bail with a 10% cash option.
Officers Tom Sumowski and Derek Hemphill responded to the Hamburgao Restaurant in the 200 block of Kearny Ave., at 11 p.m., on a report of someone stealing a tip jar from the front counter and running away. A short time later, a man matching a description provided by witnesses was seen at Kearny and Bergen Aves. and was detained by the officers for a positive drive-by ID. Searching the man’s backpack, police said the officers found a Toshiba laptop marked with the word Princess (which police traced to a Franklin Place owner), along with a counter display of cigarette lighters taken from an unknown location, two thin strip “loids” (used to pry open locks) and a rachet-type device. Police said he also had on his possession “currency consistent with the contents of the tip jar.” Mareus Rawls, 46, of Newark, was arrested on charges of receiving stolen property, theft of movable property, theft of property lost or mislaid and possession of burglar tools.
More than 20 tools, including pipe threaders, power saws and power drills, impact guns and sockets, were reported taken from a construction site during the weekend. Police said the burglary was reported by a sprinkler fitting company working at a residential development under construction at Bergen and Schuyler Aves. The tools were valued at about $10,000, police said.
A taxi driver called for help, at 9 p.m., after his fare reportedly refused to exit the cab, police said. Officer Jay Ward responded to Beech St. and Oakwood Ave. where he found passenger Michael Miller, 36, of Kearny, asleep in the back seat. When Ward woke him and tried to get him to leave the cab, Miller reportedly argued with the officer and tried to grab his flashlight. At that point, police said, Ward and backup Officer Travelino began removing him and Miller then pushed Ward. Police said the officers grabbed and handcuffed him and took him to HQ where Miller refused to leave the patrol car and had to be carried inside. After he was booked on charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest, he was taken by EMS to Clara Maass Medical Center for observation.
– Ron Leir
What started as a hit and run led Kearny PD to a suspect who, initially, eluded them while leaving his small child home alone, according to police, but who ultimately gave himself up.
At 8 a.m., on Nov. 5, Office Peter Jahera responded to a report of an accident at Passaic and Bergen Aves. where the driver of a 2012 Toyota said her car was struck by a white vehicle which then left the scene with extensive front end damage.
A few hours later, police said Officer Damon Pein was called to the 30 block of Highland Ave. where the owner of a white 2010 Nissan told the officer his car had been hit overnight while parked at that location.
But after conferring with Jahera, who observed that the Nissan matched the description of the hit-and-run car and that the Nissan was allegedly missing certain body parts that Jahera had recovered from the hit-and-run site, Pein confronted the Nissan owner, Jayme Diaz-Cobo, 23, at his residence about the prior incident, and police said Diaz-Cobo admitted having fled from the scene because his license had been suspended.
When asked to accompany the officer, however, police said Diaz-Cobo replied that he couldn’t leave because he was the “sole custodian” of a 2-year-old girl, slammed the door in the officer’s face and ran out the back door.
Police said Pein remained with the child and notified the state Division of Child Protection & Permanency Involved Families who arranged to turn over the child to the custody of a relative.
Meanwhile, police issued warrants for Diaz-Cobo’s arrest on charges of driving with a suspended license, resisting arrest, hindering prosecution and endangering the welfare of a child. Police said Diaz- Cobo was also wanted on a Clifton warrant for allegedly leaving the scene of an accident.
On Nov. 7, police said Diaz- Cobo surrendered peacefully to Kearny PD pending a court appearance on the charges.
– Ron Leir
What’s in a name? Plenty if it happens to be Avery Fisher, for example. That’s the name that – for now at least – is seen by visitors to the Lincoln Center hall where the New York Philharmonic plays its home games, in the world of musical spheres.
The music philanthropist gifted Lincoln Center $10 million more than four decades ago to keep the venue going and now, as The New York Times recently reported, the home team is reportedly proposing a $15 million buyout in hopes of snagging a bonus baby that’ll give the hometown crowd something to really roar about.
Maybe they’ll use the extra dough to put in reclining seats, more concession stands, bigger bathrooms, a special booth for the organist.
And maybe they’ll sew numbers on the back of the musicians’ tuxes – with a roster listing in the programs – so the patrons can either cheer or razz ‘em, depending on how they play on any given night.
Whatever the L.C. brain trust decides, fans of Avery Fisher will be glad to see that “Buck” Fisher won’t be forgotten: He’s getting a “League of his Own,” with a special wing of exhibits, photos and remembrances.
Yes, naming rights can be tricky. No doubt, people in Houston were mighty upset when Enron – whose moniker was tacked on to the Astros’ baseball field – went bust and the team’s owners, thirsting for a new benefactor, came up with Minute Maid Park.
Looking for University of Louisville’s basketball arena? Just watch for the sign reading: “KFC Yum! Center.”
In keeping with the culinary theme, the Corpus Christie Hooks minor league baseball team in Texas welcomes fans to home games at the Whataburger Field.
And the owners of the minor league team in Manchester, N.H., offer their fans a name they can really sink their teeth into: Northwest Delta Dental Field.
Here at The Observer’s home base in Kearny, where the mayor often laments that there aren’t enough tax dollars to go around, it’s a wonder that the town hasn’t tried to market its Municipal Building, the South Kearny Fire Station/Police Precinct or the Kardinals gridiron stadium to someone with a fat wallet looking for a tax write-off.
How about building a new Town Hall in the redevelopment area on the west side and naming it … you guessed it … Trump on the Passaic. Add on a floating casino and just like that, you’re all set.
Harrison, which – like Kearny – has a state monitor checking its finances, already has the Red Bulls but it should take advantage of its school nickname, the Blue Tide, and explore the possibility of a naming merger with the detergent.
No one has approached me, as of yet, but I’m open to all comers. For a long-term deal, at say, five bucks a week, maybe some town would be willing to put my name above a basement closet door?
You could use it as a repository for all present, past and future columns and keep them under lock and key. For my own protection. Thanks for listening.
– Ron Leir
Does turkey show up regularly on your table? Americans are gobbling more and more of this lean bird.
U.S. turkey consumption has more than doubled since 1970, the National Turkey Federation reports. What’s more, we’re not just flocking to turkey around Thanksgiving. Year-round, we’re buying a variety of sizes, shapes, and textures of turkey.
In your grocer’s case, you’ll find whole turkeys and parts — fresh, frozen, and smoked. You’ll also see ground turkey, turkey cutlets, turkey hot dogs, turkey sausage, and turkey burgers.
A well-stocked deli offers sliced turkey a half-dozen ways, from roasted to barbecued. And how about turkey pastrami? Ground turkey can be a great, lower-fat alternative to ground beef in spaghetti sauce, chili and stews. Just be sure to choose lean ground turkey.
On the lean side
With the current health concerns about saturated fat, people are searching for the leanest cuts of meat and/or poultry, and turkey can be lean. Also, turkey offers more iron and vitamins than most fish.
Some turkey products draw criticism for being too tough or too dry, but that’s often because of how the turkey is cooked. Turkey can dry out easily because there’s not much fat to maintain moistness.
A meat thermometer can help ensure a moist meal. The bird’s internal temperature is the true indicator of readiness: 165° F (74° C) for the breast, and 165° to 170° F (74° to 77° C) for the thigh. And when it’s done, it’s done.
More than one-fourth of all households consume turkey deli meats at least once every 2 weeks.
A 15-pound turkey has about 70% white meat and 30% dark meat. The white meat has fewer calories and less fat.
Benjamin Franklin proposed the turkey as the official U.S. bird and reportedly was dismayed when the bald eagle won out.
Only tom turkeys gobble. Hen turkeys make a clicking noise.
The top five most popular ways to eat leftover turkey? A sandwich; soup or stew; salad; casserole; and stir-fry.
To learn more, stop in and see in-store registered dietitian Julie Harrington at the Shop- Rite of Lyndhurst, 540 New York Ave. For information on health and wellness events contact Julie at 201- 419-9154 or Julie.harrington@ wakefern.com.
The Salvation Army Corps of Greater Kearny kicked off its annual seasonal Kettle Drive last Thursday, Nov. 13, in front of Kearny Town Hall, with Mayor Alberto Santos and members of the Town Council in attendance.
Corps leaders, Capt. Sherry Moukouangala and Lt. Maurice Moukouangala, presided at the ceremony which featured the performance of traditional Christmas holiday music by Salvation Army personnel.
Lt. Mike Barney of the Plainfield Corps and Mike Hslop, bandmaster of the Greater Kearny Corps Church, both on cornet, were joined by Dean Farrar, music director of the Salvation Army in New Jersey and Lt. Moukouangala, both on the euphonium.
Lt. Moukouangala said that last year, the Greater Kearny Corps netted a total of $65,000 in its kettles stationed around its service area, which encompasses Kearny, Harrison, East Newark, North Arlington and Lyndhurst.
He said the Corps has set this year’s fundraising goal at “between $70,000 and $100,000.”
“We know that’s not easy to achieve but we do what we can and Kearny has always been supportive,” he said. “Each and every dollar counts because the need is very big.”
Money collected goes for emergency food supplies, rent subsidies and clothing where most needed, Lt. Moukouangala said. “There are many families out there who cannot afford essential items,” he added.
People who wish to donate are invited to deposit funds in any of the Salvation Army kettles or to visit the Greater Kearny Corps Church at 28 Beech St. or its offices at 443 Chestnut St., both in Kearny.
– Ron Leir
Following a two-week investigation, officers of the Lyndhurst Police Department and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Task Force last week arrested a 43-year-old township man on charges of possession and intent to distribute cocaine and oxycodone, Prosecutor John L. Molinelli reported.
The suspect, Charles Quiroz, was taken into custody without incident last Thursday, Nov. 13, at his Kingsland Ave. home after detectives executed a search warrant there. According to Molinelli’s office, multiple bags of cocaine, numerous oxycodone pills and $5,998 in currency were found inside the residence. The street value of the seized narcotics was estimated at $2,000.
Quiroz, who reportedly is single and unemployed, has been charged with two counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance and one count of intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school zone, specifically the Lyndhurst High School Lighthouse Campus.
Authorities said detectives had begun surveillance of Quiroz’ home after they became aware of suspected drug dealing taking place there, and the search warrant was subsequently issued by Bergen County Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian.
Quiroz was arraigned Thursday before Judge Jay Y. Kim and remanded to the Bergen County Jail in lieu of $35,000 bail, with no 10% cash option.
– Karen Zautyk