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Happy Thanksgiving!


More apartments eyed for Bergen Ave.

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 […]

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Local taxes up again in borough

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 […]


Vets’ photos wanted for ‘Wall of Honor’

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 […]


Carved in stone

    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. […]


‘Rectify’ explores life after prison


By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

Imagine what it must be like knowing you’re innocent of a crime.

Then, somehow, you’re charged with the crime, go through a trial, get convicted and then sentenced to death. You’re spared the death penalty for 19 years, and thanks to DNA evidence, your sentence is vacated — and you’re released from prison.

Such is the scenario for fictional character Daniel Holden in the Sundance Channel’s “Rectify,” a series that debuted a year ago and that is currently in its second season.

Daniel Holden’s background 

Holden stood accused, at age 19, of raping and murdering his then-girlfriend, Hanna, 16, in 1994.

When he’s released, it’s 2013 — and just think for a moment how radically different things are now than they were in 1994. For starters, there’s this new thing called the Internet. TVs are flat. Computers are everywhere. Cassette tapes are obsolete. Life as Holden knew it in 1994 is nothing as it is upon his release.

This incredible drama deals with how Holden, now 38, deals with life on the outside. And is it ever a challenge. Now keep in mind this — it’s one thing to be released from prison. It’s a completely different scenario when that release happens in a small town in the rural South — in the fictitious town of Paulie, Ga.

In small-town life, everyone knows everyone’s business. Everyone has a formed opinion. Everyone believes their opinion is the one that matters the most.

Sound familiar?

Such is the life Holden faces back in Paulie. There are countless people — including the sheriff, the prosecutor and a state senator who is the former prosecutor who tried and convicted Holden back in 1994 — who won’t rest until he’s put back into prison.

Aden Young as Daniel Holden in ‘Rectify.’

Aden Young as Daniel Holden in ‘Rectify.’


But then, there’s a faction of people who truly believe — just as they did 19 years ago — that Holden wasn’t responsible for the death of the 16-year-old.

It all takes an already-divided community — and divides it even further — to a point where people truly learn to despise one another.

The writers of the show do a brilliant job of making it all seem so real.

Holden’s character is portrayed brilliantly by actor Aden Young. At times, the man you see in the Holden role is the same 19-year-old who went away for as many years. At times, you find a man who is curious — who wants to learn how to get a driver’s license, what wants to discover what Target is, wants to learn to play games on a Playstation instead of his old, ancient Sega Genesis.

Yet throughout it all, you find in Holden a man who is completely lost — who really doesn’t know what life outside the walls of a prison is supposed to be like … who doesn’t know his place in the world … who can’t seem to figure out whether he even believes in his own innocence … who longs just to be touched by another human being.

What makes “Rectify” a hit is that it’s not like anything else you’ll find anywhere on TV. It tackles a quite taboo subject. It’s not a typical crime drama where the crime is the main focus of the show. It’s not in a hospital. It’s not in a police station. It’s not in a law office.

Instead, it’s in real America. It doesn’t take us to the absurd. And it portrays what this writer would imagine would happen in a nosy little town forced to deal with a man being released from prison for a crime that divided everyone.

As TV Guide said in its review, “Rectify is “one of the most captivating and poignant TV series” currently on the air.

Couldn’t agree more. Season 1 is available now on Netflix and Season 2 is currently underway. New episodes air at 9 p.m. Thursdays on the Sundance Channel.

Doran’s return still up in the air


Whether Harrison Schools Superintendent James Doran will return to his job remained in limbo as of last week. Board of Education members met June 25 in hopes of resolving the unsettled issue but came away empty. Doran’s contract was to expire June 30, the end of the school year. He’s been at the district’s helm for the past five years.

At stake, aside from the question of who would lead the district if Doran departs, is the salary for the chief school administrator, which is regulated by state law. If he stays, Doran – whose current pay is more than $200,000 a year – would have to take a big cut in salary in order for the district to comply with the mandated pay restrictions keyed to a district’s enrollment.

Also up in the air is a new contract for Christine Griffin, the board secretary/business administrator.

But the school board did come to terms with two other school officials, one an educator and the other in the business office.

It reappointed Michael R. Pichowicz as assistant school board administrator, tendering him a one-year contract running through June 30, 2015, at a yearly salary of $173,748, reflecting a 2% increase from his previous salary.

And it ratified the appointment of Michael Landy as principal assigned to Washington Middle School for the 2014-15 school year, at an annual pay of $131,626. Landy, who also serves as a member of the Kearny Town Council, had been serving as the school’s “administrator-in- charge.”

At the meeting, Doran announced that the opening of the community pool at Washington School for the summer season was slated for July 1 and that the pool would have afternoon hours on July 4. The pool is available for use, at a nominal fee, for both adults and children. Swimming lessons are provided for $10.

In other summer activities, the Harrison Recreation Volleyball Camp is running at the Harrison High School gym, July 1 to Aug. 7; and the Harrison Recreation Tennis Camp will operate at the high school tennis courts, July 7 to Aug. 1.

– Ron Leir 

Breathtaking Manhattan views prevail at Battello Restaurant & Catering


By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 


The views at Battello are stunning. In fact, on three sides of the restaurant, you’ll have a direct look at the New York City skyline, including the soon-to-be-completed 1 World Trade Center (formerly known as the Freedom Tower). You’ll also be surrounded by some of the most beautiful yachts and boats you’ll ever see.

And if you’re looking for a great meal — or a venue for a wedding or corporate event … or even a prom — it’s tough to look at Battello and think of anywhere else, frankly.

It’s been open since April.

And General Manager Fia Berisha says business has taken off beyond what anyone, including owner Cory Checket, could have dreamed.

“It’s been just amazing so far,” Berisha said. “Our owner lives in Jersey City and owns another bar in Hoboken. One day, he saw what was going on here and he wanted to buy it immediately. He fell in love with the space, found investors — and did just that – he bought it. And it’s been wonderful since.”

Indeed it has.

Two weekends ago, Battello hosted its first-ever wedding.

“Imagine having a wedding with a view of the Freedom Tower?” Berisha said. “It just never gets old. We have about eight more weddings booked the rest of the year, and we’re hoping to be able to book even more as we get closer to 2015.”

What separates Battello from other restaurants, Berisha says, is the staff, the menu and the location. Almost everyone on staff is younger than 35, the head chef is a top-25 rated chef in New Jersey and the overall team works brilliantly together.

“We’re open seven days a week, and we’re doing about 300 dinners a night and 200 lunches or brunches a day,” Berisha said. “We spent a lot of time putting the menu and cocktail list together. We actually used a mixologist for the cocktails and the offerings are amazing.”

Since the Newport section of Jersey City continues to grow as a hotspot — especially for young professionals — Berisha says she hopes, one day soon, the area is seen as similar to what’s happening in parts of Brooklyn.

“And we hope to attract tourists,” she said. “With the Westin and Marriot hotels so close, we want them here. We want the Montclair foodies to come here as they would elsewhere. And we’re certain they’ll like what they see.”

The menu at Battello is mostly Italian with a seafood flare. But there are also daily specials that allow the chefs to “think outside the box,” Berisha says.

“It’s another thing that helps us to stand apart from the rest,” she said. “Each day, we give the chefs a chance to come with something new, something different. And they appreciate being able to prepare outside the box. Not every restaurant gives that opportunity to its chefs. We do.”

Aside from an outstanding menu, which you can find at www.battellojc.com, there’s an acoustic happy hour every Thursday from 5 p.m. on. The music is mellow enough that bar-goers enjoy it — as do those who are dining.

And then, Berisha says, every Friday and Saturday, the lounge stays open from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

“And we hope more and more people come to eat first, and then make their way to the lounge,” she said. “We’ve got live music — and I hope we’re soon able to bring in more bands for the weekends.

“We really want to have a City Winery feel — and I think we’ve accomplished that on this side of the river. And in the future, we hope to include more dinner and a show events other nights of the week. We’re truly doing our best to show that we are, indeed, the best.”

Battello is located at 502 Washington Boulevard, in the Newport section of Jersey City on the Hudson River waterfront. Visit them online at www.battellojc.com for hours of operation, to make reservations or to see photos of the facilities. Call 201-798-1798.

KPD: Beware of phone scam

Kearny detectives are investigating the attempted extortion of more than $1,300 from a local woman by telephone scamsters, one of whom pretended to be a police officer.

Police Chief John Dowie said the 30-year-old target was first contacted June 11 by a caller who identified himself as “Jimmy Brown,” representing an online loan company, and who demanded immediate repayment of borrowed money.

Suspicious of the call, she hung up, only to be contacted several hours later by another man who identified himself as a police officer phoning on behalf of Brown. If she did not make immediate restitution, the “cop” warned, she would be arrested.

The woman was advised to buy several hundred dollars’ worth of Green Dot Money- Pak prepaid debit cards and then phone back for more instructions. When she did so, the “cop” asked for her address, saying he would be mailing her pertinent documents. After no documentation arrived, she phoned the number from the initial call, only to be told by yet another man, “Julius,” that she now owed an additional penalty and should buy more debit cards, Dowie said.

In total, the intended victim reportedly purchased $1,357 worth of cards, but wisely never mailed them. Instead, last week she filed a report with the KPD.

The case has been turned over to the Detective Bureau.

Other recent reports from the Kearny police blotter included the following:

June 21 

Officers Jose Canela and Pat Becker responded to an 8:45 a.m. report of a boyfriend/girlfriend dispute near Elizabeth Ave. and Morgan Place, where the male had allegedly pushed the female to the ground and fled with her cell phone.

Located and arrested in the area was Michael Vargas, 32, of Kearny, charged with assault and robbery and on two outstanding Kearny warrants.

 June 22 

Officer David Rakowski, on patrol at 8 a.m., saw an SUV run a red light and make an erratic turn from Belgrove Drive onto Bergen Ave., police said. When the cop stopped the vehicle on Bergen, the driver allegedly identified herself as Sandra Ezpinoza. The SUV was impounded when headquarters reported Ezpinoza had no license. Further investigation revealed that the woman was actually Sandra Arevalo, 38, of Harrison, who had a revoked license, police said. When she showed up at HQ to claim the SUV, she was charged with driving while suspended, disregard of a traffic light and careless driving.

 June 23 

At 6:30 a.m., Officer Tom Bannon, Sgt. Paul Bershefski and Chief Dowie responded to a report of a disorderly man at Elm St. and Quincy Ave. and encountered an “intoxicated” Nelson Santiago, 51, of Newark. He was warned about his behavior and sent on his way. Shortly after, however, Bannon saw him walking in traffic on Kearny Ave. near Quincy. Advised to get out of the street, he allegedly became defiant and profane and, with Bershefski and Officer Joseph Vulcano providing backup, was arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with transportation.

At 9 p.m., Vice detectives witnessed what they believed to be a drug transaction in a double-parked car on Halstead St. near Kearny Ave. Approaching the vehicle, they reportedly saw a clear plastic bag containing suspected marijuana on the occupant’s lap. Hugo Villanueva, 22, of Kearny, was charged with possession of pot and drug paraphernalia.

June 25 

At 3:40 p.m., Officer John Fabula was checking Sanford Ave. near the railroad tracks, an area police say is known for criminal conduct and drug use, when he encountered Christopher Horn, 34, of Harrison, who was reported to be the subject of a $2,500 warrant out of Caldwell. Horn was arrested, and Caldwell authorities were notified.

– Karen Zautyk

 (Editor’s note/public service announcement: In recent days, a number of vehicles, most of them left unlocked and with valuables clearly visible inside, have been hit by thieves in the northern section of town, from Midland Ave. to the Belleville Pike. Once again, the KPD politely requests that you lock your cars. Your correspondent not so politely suggests that you unlock your brains.)

Around Town


Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave., hosts:

• The Mad Scientist’s Laboratory on Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m., offers crafts and activities, open to all ages. Topics covered for  July will be: Planet Earth on July 8, The Seasons on July 15, Rocks  on July 22 and Water on July 29.

• School-Age Children’s Storytime is open to K to grade  6, every Wednesday, beginning July 9.

• Children’s films will be screened Fridays at 2 p.m. Here’s the schedule: July 11 – “Frozen,” July 18 – “Wall-e” and July 25 – “Finding Nemo.”

For more information on these programs, call the library at 973-450-3434.

Belleville Dutch Reformed Church, 171 Main St., kicks off Independence Day festivities at 10 a.m. July 4 at the church’s cemetery. The annual event honors Belleville’s first troops, the 66 Revolutionary War  soldiers buried there, one of the largest group of 1776 patriots buried at any one site in the U.S. To participate or for more information, call Michael at 973-780- 7852 or email bell1776patriots@  yahoo.com. After the ceremony, the Belleville Historical Commission and Historical Society  host the designation of the former Dutch Reformed Church, which is now known as Iglesia Pentecostal “ La Senda Antigua” C.L.A. as a historic landmark.


Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., offers the following:

Adult Programs:

• Summer Yoga Class is held  for one hour on the second and fourth Mondays at 6 p.m. on July 14 and 28 and Aug 11 and 25. Registration is required. To register, call 973-566-6200, ext. 602, or visit http://www.bplnj. org/programs/.

• Author Rick Wright dis cusses his newly-released birding field guide on Tuesday, July 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. Books will be available for purchase.

• The library Board of Trustees meets on the first Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. The public is welcome.

• Monday and Thursday movies are screened at 12:15 p.m. The schedule: July 3 – “White House Down,” July 7 – “Nebraska,” July 10 – “Lone Ranger,” July 14 – “Wolf of Wall Street,” July 17 – “Prometheus,” July 21 – “American Hustle,” July 25 – “Book Thief,” July 28 – “Catching Fire” and July 31 – “Saving Mr. Banks.” Children’s programs:

•Kids ages 10 and up can learn cartooning skills and make a comic on July 16 at 4 p.m. Participants can register online at www.bplnj.org/programs.html for this program.

• Kids in Pre-K and up can meet Ronald McDonald  on Wednesday, July 9, at 2 p.m. Registration is required.

• The Essex County Environment Center presents a pro gram on “Drummer Birds” for children ages 5 to 8 on Wednesday July 16 at 2 p.m. Registration is required.

To register, call 973-566-6200, ext. 212. Participants must  be Bloomfield residents and library cardholder for programs where registration is required. All other programs are open.


Kearny Health Department, 645 Kearny Ave., offers the following programs for Kearny  senior citizens:

• Vouchers for the Kearny Farmers Market are now avail able for low-income senior citizens. Vouchers are limited  and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants must be age 60 and over, show proof of residency and of limited income. Applications will be accepted until all vouchers have been distributed. All applicants  must also sign statements attesting to their income qualifi cations for the vouchers. Each qualified senior will receive four $5 vouchers to be used  only with the farmers signed up with the voucher program. Interested seniors may apply at the Health Department, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday, excluding holidays. For more  information, call the Health Department at 201-997-0600.

• Cruise aboard the Spirit of New Jersey on the Hudson River. Tickets are limited and advance sign-up is required. Buses will depart from the  Henrietta Benstead Senior Citizens Center, 60 Columbia Ave., at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday, July 30. Lunch is included. Tickets  will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 9 a.m. Monday, July 7, at the Kearny Health Center. Anyone unable to walk unassisted is  advised that there is a long two-block walk from the bus parking area to the ship’s docking area.  For more information, call the Health Department.


New Jersey Meadowlands  Commission hosts the following:

• First Sunday-of-the-Month Bird Walk, with the NJMC and Bergen County Audubon So ciety, features a free two-hour guided nature walk in DeKorte Park on Sunday, July 6, at 10 a.m.

• Butterflies for Beginners, with the NJMC and BCAS, is a 30-minute talk and slide show about butterflies, and a walk around DeKorte Park, set for Sunday, July 6, at 1 p.m. For both these programs, check meadowblog.net for last-minute updates and weather  advisories. Guests must sign a standard liability release. To R.S.V.P., contact Don Torino of the BCAS at greatawk4@ aol.com or call 201-230-4983.

• Pontoon boat rides for  seniors, offering two-hour cruises along the Hackensack River, depart from River Barge Park, Carlstadt, Monday, July 7, at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (Rain date – July 15). Admission is $7 . Bring cameras and sneakers. Note: The boats cannot accom modate wheelchairs. Advance registration and payment are required. To register, call 201- 777-2431.

• Seniors are invited to join staff from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC)  and learn about the mysterious lives of marine mammals and sea turtles, and the problems  facing these creatures and their environment Thursday, July 10, at 7 p.m., at the NJMC Science Center, 3 DeKorte Park. Reg istration is recommended and appreciated. To register, call 201-777-2431 or 201-460-8300.

The Lyndhurst Public Library Children’s Room, 355 Valley Brook Ave., hosts the following  events during July:

• Children in pre-k to grade  2 are invited to hear a story and do some coloring Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. No registration is required.

• Children in pre-k to grade 6 can learn how to make origami every Monday and some  Wednesdays (July 2, 7, 9, 21 and 30), from 3 to 4 p.m. No registration is required. Registration is required for the following programs. Call the library at 201-804-2478 to  register.

• Children of all ages may  register for a screening of the Disney movie “Finding Nemo,” set for Tuesday, July 8, 2:15 to 4 p.m.

• Children ages 7 to 14 will  get a chance to become a scientist as they erupt volcanos, examine a geode mineral and more at Art Kids Academy Thursday, July 10, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

• Children in grades 2 to 6 get some insider tips on playing checkers Tuesday, July 1, Thursday, July 3 and Monday, July 7, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

• Children in grades 2 to 6, can be part of a checkers tournament and must be committed to all three rounds. Tournament schedule: First round – Wednesday, July 9; semifinal round – Tuesday, July 22; and the final round – Tuesday, July 29, 2 to 4 p.m. each day. A prize  will be awarded to the champion Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2 to 4 p.m.

North Arlington 

Chief Louis M. Ghione of the North Arlington Police Department announces that applications are available for residents to sign up for a block party during National Night Out, Tuesday, Aug. 5. That evening,  residents are encouraged to meet their neighbors and leave a porch light on overnight as a  show of unity against crime.

Stop by the Police Department, 214 Ridge Road, for an application. The Police Department will seek borough approval for closing down a street to traffic from 5 to 9 p.m.

The first 10 blocks organized  will receive a free barbecue package, courtesy of the Borough’s Crime Prevention Unit.

Police officers and elected officials will visit block parties  with giveaways.


Total Soul takes the stage at Memorial Park I (Mud Hole) July 17 for a Recreation Department sizzling summer concert. The free show, which begins at 6:30 p.m., includes everything from Motown, to today’s pop and R&B, to the jazz/Big Band standards of the 1940s. The rain  date is July 28. For further information, call 973-284-4966 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Nutley Public Library, 93  Booth Dr., announces the following programs:

For children:

• Babygarten is available only to township residents  who can register children ages 23 months and under for this program, set for Tuesdays, starting July 8, at 10 a.m.

• For “Lego Movie,” children of all ages can make a movie-themed craft (while supplies last) Tuesday, July 8, at 2 p.m. No registration is required.

• For Preschool Storytime, registration is open for Nutley residents only, ages 3 to 5. The program will be held Wednesdays, starting July 9, at 10 a.m.

• Tech Workshop: “Lego Robots” for ages 3 to 6 is set for Wednesday, July 9, at 2:30 p.m. Kids ages 3 to 6 may be registered for this program.

• Essex Environmental Workshop on “Drummer Birds” is open to ages 5 to 8  who must be registered to participate in the program scheduled for Thursday, July 10, at 11 a.m. • Science Workshop: “Magnets” is open to ages 8 and up and will be offered Thursday, July 10, at 2:30 p.m. Registration is required.

• Two-Year Old Story Time is for Nutley residents only, ages 24 to 35 months, Fridays, starting July 11, at 10 a.m. Registration is required.

• Play Fridays, with Legos,  tech gear, toys and video game, is held Fridays, starting July 11, at 1 p.m.

• Science Scavenger Hunt, with registration open to library patrons ages 4 and up, is set for Monday, July 14, at 2 p.m.

For adults, the library offers First Friday Films, with a new film shown the first Friday of each month, opening  with a screening of “Philomena” Friday, July 11, at 2 p.m. Check the library’s event  calendar for a schedule.

Nutley’s Montgomery named Observer Female Co-Athlete of the Year

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By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

Grace Montgomery never thought she was doing anything special. The recent Nutley High School graduate just gravitated from soccer in the fall to basketball in the winter and outdoor track, particularly the javelin, in the spring. Just one after another. No big thing.

“During that season, whatever the sport was, I put my whole heart and soul into that sport,” Montgomery said. “In the summer, we would have captains’ practice for soccer, then I’d go play basketball in the summer league and then do running and workouts for track. Sure, it was difficult, but I had fun. I loved all three sports I played. It wasn’t that big of a deal because I had been doing them all my whole life. I couldn’t imagine just doing one of them.”

Soccer was the first sport in Montgomery’s life. Along with twin sister Meghan, the two formed a terrific twosome playing defense from a very young age, like from kindergarten on.

“They called them the ‘Twin Towers,’” said their father, William. “They were so tall and strong back there.”

“I think I was pretty good in soccer right away,” Grace Montgomery said.

Basketball then followed a year later.

“I guess I was pretty good in basketball as well,” Grace Montgomery said. “My parents were both good athletes, so that helped.”

William Montgomery played baseball and track and field at Bayonne High School, while mom Ellen played basketball at Secaucus High School and later was part of the swim team at St. Peter’s College.

“It helped that they were both into sports and got us into sports,” Montgomery said.

The javelin was the last of the Montgomery trifecta.

“I didn’t start throwing the javelin until the end of my sophomore year,” Montgomery said. “My uncle sort of mentioned that if I became good in the javelin, it would help me get into college.”

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The results were staggering. Montgomery was a standout defender on the Nutley girls’ soccer team that went undefeated in league play and won the Super Essex Conference- -Liberty Division title. She also averaged 13 points per game for the Nutley girls’ basketball team that posted a 10-2 SEC Liberty Division mark, good for second in the league.

But the cherry on the sundae was the latest. Montgomery came from way back in the pack to unleash a monstrous throw of 136 feet, two inches to become the overall state champion at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions last month. Montgomery entered the last day of competition as the 10th  seed in the entire state, saving her career best throw for last, capturing the gold. A week later, Montgomery went to the United States Track and Field High School Nationals in Charlotte, N.C., and Montgomery finished 14th out of 60 competitors nationwide.

For her efforts, Montgomery has been selected as the 2013-2014 Observer Female Co- Athlete of the Year, becoming only the second Nutley girl to receive the honor.

Former softball standout Kelly Rauco was the only other former Maroon Raider great to receive the award, getting the nod in 2006.

Montgomery is one of two recipients for the award given to the top local female high school athlete. The other Female Co-Athlete of the Year will be revealed in next week’s editions of The Observer.

“It’s incredible,” Montgomery said. “I’m pretty impressed. It’s a pretty huge deal. It’s all still pretty crazy to me. I worked so hard to get there.”

Her coaches all knew that Montgomery was someone special.

“She was a lock down defender for a team that won 18 games and won a league title,” said Nutley girls’ soccer coach Mike DiPiano. “We also reached the top 20 in the state for the first time. She never shied away from a tackle and always played a physical game. She was the stopper her sophomore year and we moved her to outside back and she never once complained about the move.”

DiPiano was asked what he would always remember about Montgomery.

“I think it’s her toughness,” DiPiano said. “She was banged up most of the time and yet, she was a three-sport athlete. I don’t know how many true three-sport athletes there are anymore. It’s a dying breed. She’s one of the last true three-sport athletes.”

Nutley girls’ basketball coach Larry Mitschow agreed.

“Grace was an unbelievable leader for us, both on and off the court,” Mitschow said. “She did a whole bunch of things for us.

She brought the ball up the floor. She was our second leading scorer. She was our top defender and she played injured for most of the season. She managed to work her way through it. She would defensively play the top player on the other team. She really was an important player for us.” Mitschow was asked what he would remember about Montgomery.

“Her personality,” Mitschow said. “She was just a joy to coach. I loved talking to her, being able to speak to her as an adult, speaking freely about anything and everything. There were no barriers between us. We jelled well right away. She was easy to talk to.”

Track coach Robert O’Dell raved about Montgomery’s accomplishments.

“She had an outstanding career,” O’Dell said. “She’s the first Meet of Champions winner we’ve had in 39 years and just the second in school history. It was a perfect ending to a great career, with the drama of the last throw. She had an outstanding season that won’t be replicated for a long while.”

O’Dell was also asked what he would remember.

“Her ability to compete,” O’Dell said. “She competed and competed and was able to pull out that clutch throw.”

Montgomery will now take her immense talents to Rowan University, where she will solely compete in the javelin. Her soccer and basketball careers seem to be over.

“It’s going to be pretty different, competing in just one sport,” Montgomery said. “But I know that if I concentrated the whole year on one sport, I could be really good. It was always about three sports, but now, I’m excited to focus on just the javelin the whole time.”

Montgomery is still undecided about a major at Rowan, but one thing is for sure: She left Nutley High School with a legacy of greatness, of determination, of playing through pain and never giving up. That’s the reason she has been selected as the area’s top female athlete – or at the very least, a share of the top billing.

We’ll learn about the other Female Athlete of the Year next week.

Local MMA fighter wins her first bout in debut as a pro

7-2 Sports View_web

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

Kearny resident Katlyn Chookagian spends most of her time working as a bartender at Lulu’s, the nightclub inside the W Hotel in Hoboken.

Four days a week, you’ll find Chookagian mixing cocktails at the popular bar in the Mile Square City.

During the rest of her time, she’s busy training at the All-Star BJJ in Kenilworth, working with five other mixed martial arts fighters who are part of Team Renzo Gracie.

“He comes and runs the classes sometimes,” Chookagian said of the legendary mixed martial arts master. “I’m generally training six days a week. It’s hard, because I go to bed at 4:30 a.m. after bartending and I’m up at 6 a.m. to train. Sometimes, I get yelled at, because I’m overtraining, but that’s what I do. If I’m not training, what else am I going to do? I like it. It keeps me prepared.”

The hard work paid off last weekend, as Chookagian, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 115 pounds, won her professional debut, taking a three-round unanimous decision over Rebecca Heintzman at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia in the Cage Fury Fighting Championship series.

Chookagian’s bout was the lone female bout in the 11-bout card Saturday night.

Chookagian, a native of Quakertown, Pa., attended Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, graduating in 2011 with a degree in business management.

But getting in the cage was always something that Chookagian dreamed of doing.

“I always did martial arts,” Chookagian said. “I started doing karate when I was four years old. I then did a lot of kick boxing as part of staying in shape, so I always had it in me.”

She also had the boxing down pat, winning the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves when she was 16 years old.

“I’m a very competitive person,” Chookagian said. “About a year and a half ago, I put it all together and got involved in mixed martial arts. There weren’t that many girls involved at that time, but the numbers of women in the sport are growing. My goal was always to do MMA.”

In 2012, Chookagian was spotted by manager Jamal Patterson, who took Chookagian under his wing.

“He helped me get to where I’m at,” Chookagian said. “I was having trouble finding fights and it was hard for me to develop in the sport. Jamal planned out my career and gave me a strong path to build it up.”

There were seven amateur MMA fights, all of which the 25-year-old Chookagian won.

“He saw me right away and took the extra time to help me,” Chookagian said. “I improved a lot in a short period.”

So Chookagian was ready for her pro debut last weekend.

“I was really excited to get my first pro fight,” Chookagian said. “This is what I wanted. When I started, it seemed so far away. I remember seeing a girl fighting MMA and saying, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I never thought I would actually do it. It’s crazy.”

Chookagian, who used to live in Jersey City before moving to Kearny a few months ago, doesn’t know how long she will continue in the mixed martial arts world. She’s only 25, so she has a very bright future.

“I have done everything to prepare for this first fight,” Chookagian said. “There’s no better time than now to get this career going. I do think the maturity is going to help me a little bit, because I’ve been through a lot.”

Chookagian is not going to let one win get to her head.

“I’m always trying to get better,” Chookagian said. “That’s all I think about when I get into the cage. I’m looking to get better. But I definitely like this.”

As long as she keeps winning, then Katlyn Chookagian will like MMA fighting almost as much as she likes bartending.

Katlyn Chookagian can be followed on Twitter @ blondefighter.

Farinola takes over as girls’ soccer coach at North Arlington

7-2 Farinola NA_web

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

Dan Farinola already had been one of the busiest coaches around, coaching bowling, golf and soccer all year long, so when the opportunity to take over the girls’ soccer program at North Arlington High School, where Farinola is a teacher, he had to jump at it.

Former coach Sharon O’Brien Romer stepped down at the end of last season to attend to her growing family, leaving the vacancy at the helm of the girls’ soccer squad.

Farinola, who coaches bowling and golf at North Arlington, had been the head boys’ soccer coach at Secaucus for the past six seasons. Farinola is a graduate of Secaucus and spent 10 years with the boys’ soccer program there.

“For a while, I always wanted to coach soccer where I was teaching,” said Farinola, who guided the Secaucus boys to a 10-10-2 record last season. “If ever the opportunity came around, I wanted to be considered. I spent 10 years at Secaucus and I left them in a good situation. It was tough to leave. I felt bad for the seniors that I coached for three years. I had mixed emotions about leaving. But I’m looking forward to the new challenge.”

Farinola said that the transition becoming the new girls’ soccer coach has been smooth.

“The girls really listened to me right away,” said Farinola, who has already entered his team in the Kearny summer league. “Sharon was very gracious and helpful in the transition. She reserved the spot in the Kearny league for us. We are good friends. She’s the one who got this started. I owe a lot to her.”

The 30-year-old Farinola said that the returning players have been receptive to the new coach.

“They’ve been very responsive to me,” Farinola said. “There is a certain way I’m going to coach the team. In terms of fitness, in terms of conditioning, they are going through walls so far. They’ve done everything I’ve asked of them.”

Farinola knows that he lost a number of players from last year’s team that won eight matches.

“I know we’ve lost a lot of girls numbers-wise,” Farinola said. “But we have a good group that has a lot of good varsity experience.”

High-scoring midfielder Joanna Seca, forward Taylor Barth and standout defender Sarah Palma all return this season for the Vikings.

“They are the captains and they give us good leadership,” Farinola said. “We do have a lot of pieces to fill, but I’m optimistic from what I’ve seen. I think we can be competitive right away. The biggest thing for me right now is trying to find a goalie. I have some girls in mind for the defense. But we can be competitive this year. I definitely believe that.” Farinola said that it will be a big help to him that he will be in the building every day as a teacher.

“I think it’s going to make a big difference for me,” said Farinola, who guided the NA golf team to a berth in the NJSIAA state sectionals for the first time two months ago. “I can see the kids during the day. I will see them excited in the building. I’m really excited to be able to coach the girls.”

Farinola said that it also helps that he knows most of the girls already from being a teacher at the school for the past few years.

“I think that is a big asset,” Farinola said. “It took me so long at Secaucus to get to know the kids. That’s half the battle. If I can get along with the players and they trust me and have trust in the system, that’s a big step. I feel I’m already there with these girls. They trust me and want to learn.”

Farinola already has reached out to the North Arlington Recreation soccer program and had a clinic for seventh and eighth graders.

“We had a good turnout for that,” Farinola said. “I’m looking forward to doing more, so the kids could make a commitment to come to North Arlington High School and play soccer for us. We’re also looking forward to getting kids who never played soccer before and turning them into soccer players. It’s a big challenge to get girls to commit to playing soccer. One thing I’ve been talking to the girls about was having three-sport athletes.

Added Farinola, “I know we have a lot of girls who played soccer in town and maybe lost interest. It’s up to me to get them back.”

Farinola said that he already has received a commitment from veteran coach Gino De- Pinto to serve as his assistant. DePinto was the long-time girls’ soccer coach at Secaucus who retired two years ago.

“He’s going to be a big asset,” Farinola said. “His background in coaching is big and he knows the league well.”

So Farinola will continue to coach bowling in the winter and golf in the spring, but he now adds a third sport, like many of the athletes do, at North Arlington High School.

Missing girl returns/ NPD blotter

A Nutley teen reported missing on Thursday, June 26, is back safe, police said.

Eva Simon, 14, returned home on Friday to get some clothes and officers picked her up on Washington Ave., according to Sgt. Anthony Montanari.

June 22 

Someone removed the rear bumper from a 2004 silver Subaru Impreza parked on Stager St. and left it on the steps next to the front entrance of the victim’s residence during the night. Police said there were handprints on the vehicle’s roof and small dents on the hood.

June 23 

At 1:29 a.m., police responded to the New Jersey Transit Garage on Washington Ave. on a report of criminal mischief. At the location, police found a homeless man with several big cuts to his face and pieces of glass in his hair and luggage cart and a broken glass pane at the bus stop waiting area. The man told police he was resting in the bus stop, heard the sound of glass breaking and noticed he was bleeding.

A San Antonio Ave. resident reported that, since May, the block has experienced several incidents of flat, punctured and slashed tires on parked vehicles. Police said they have no suspects at this time.

June 24 

A Washington Ave. resident reported an illegal dumping incident. The resident told police that for the second straight week, during the late hours on Monday into Tuesday, someone has been tossing garbage at their curbside. In the most recent episode, Police said they found multiple empty boxes of Dixie Belle peaches and Del Monte Gold pineapples at the location.

At 1:01 p.m., police were sent to a Franklin Ave. business where the front door window had been shattered from the outside, causing an estimated $500 in damage.

June 25 

An intruder broke into a Passaic Ave. apartment and, once inside, pushed the thermostat all the way up for high heat, the tenant told police. Police surmised that the burglar entered through a window near the rear door of the building. Police said they found two clear handprints on the window, indicating that the intruder pushed it open, breaking both panes, reached through and unlocked a storm window to gain entry. It appeared that nothing was missing and it’s unclear how the intruder got out, police said. The incident was logged at 1:33 a.m.

A resident parked their vehicle in a High St. lot and, upon returning, noticed that a tire rim was bent, leading the resident to suspect that someone tried to pry off the hubcab. Police received the report at 11:50 a.m.

At 5:30 p.m., a Hagert St. tenant called police about a burglary. Upon returning home, the resident said they found their bedroom closet door open and a guitar and case, both valued at more than $2,000, missing. Police believe the thief got in through the apartment’s rear window. Detectives are investigating.

While on patrol, at 10:48 p.m., police noticed a water fountain in Flora Louden Park on Hancox Ave. spouting water. After discovering that the spigot had been damaged, police alerted Parks Department personnel responded to shut off the water.

June 26 

At 6:27 a.m., patrol units found that someone had used what appeared to be blue spray paint to write graffiti in various locations of Yanticaw Park off Vincent Place. Police said that words they described as “foul, discriminatory, and too distasteful to print” were painted on the pedestrian bridge, the bridge wall, park benches and a concrete pad. Police notified the Essex County Sheriff’s Office of the incident.

At 11:14 a.m., police responded to the AT&T site on Cook Road on a report of theft. A company employee told police that while making his rounds, noticed that two copper ground plates, valued at $100 apiece, had been stolen. Police said the equipment is surrounded by a fence and a gate, which was locked when the employee arrived to conduct his check.

At 7:38 p.m., a Stager St. resident reported the theft of a white iPad Mini, a black Samsung Galaxy phone and a black iPod Touch, with a combined value of about $1,182, from their home.

 June 27 

Between 2:15 and 2:50 a.m., police received reports of car alarms set off along Cathedral, Glendale and Grant Aves. A Grant Ave. resident told police they saw two individuals running from behind their vehicle after the alarm had sounded. One was described as a heavyset black male, bald and wearing a dark-colored T-shirt and light-colored shorts. Police said they noticed no damage to any of the vehicles whose alarms had sounded and no entry was made to the car parked on Grant.

– Ron Leir

Then & Now


The ‘Then’ photo, from what was apparently a local postcard, is not dated, but those postcards usually come from the pre-World War I years. The view is of Stuyvesant Ave. from Grand Place in Kearny. When first seeing it, we wondered how we could figure out the precise perspective so we could take a current photo. We shouldn’t have worried. Look at the house on the far left. A century later, it still stands on the northeast corner. The home now is a pretty cream color, and wrought iron has replaced the wooden porch pillars, but little else on the exterior has changed. Architectural details like the shutters and the bay window have been preserved.

The view is looking east, past Kearny Ave. to the meadows beyond. We can’t be sure, but along the curb are what could be hitching posts and mounting blocks, accoutrements for horses and riders. We also can’t tell if the street is paved, but that hardly mattered since there’s no traffic, equine or otherwise.

– Karen Zautyk