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1.7B to clean Passaic’s lower 8 miles

  NEWARK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last Friday, April 11, that it plans to undertake the most costly public waterway cleanup in its 43-year history. At a press conference held at Newark Riverfront Park, EPA Regional […]

Lost medal recovered from Pa.

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – For more than two decades, it sat – carefully preserved – in a Pennsylvania residence. Next month, however, the Purple Heart medal awarded posthumously to a long-dead Kearny serviceman will be returned […]

Feds won’t pay for more firefighters

Two neighboring West Hudson communities have been shut out in their bids to snag federal funding to hire more firefighters. Kearny Fire Dept. and Harrison Fire Dept. each applied for a share of SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency […]

Tribute to a teacher

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Fred Kuhrt died doing what he loved best – giving of himself to others. His former employer, the Kearny Board of Education, is honoring the automotive technology instructor’s selflessness by establishing the […]

Play ball! (and politics, too)

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent NORTH ARLINGTON – Saturday’s opening ceremony for the North Arlington Recreation Girls’ Softball season took on a political twist. Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat, complained that he was snubbed by League President Mike Tetto […]

News in brief

HARRISON – Harrison Mayor James Fife, 73, is spending time in St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark, where he is recovering from surgery. The hospital declined to provide any information but Councilman James Doran, who is serving as Fife’s campaign manager […]

 

Sewer rehab nightmare for locals

Sewer_web

HARRISON –

You can’t blame people living along the eastern stretch of Hamilton St., between Kingsland and Schuyler Aves., for feeling like they’re in a sort of war zone.

For many months, the area has been inundated with a tangle of above-ground pipes and barricades blocking traffic flow and uprooting curbside parking for the entire block.

Harrison Gardens, the sprawling public housing complex, sits on the south side of Hamilton and Harrison High School fronts on the north side.

The issue is a massive infrastructure project being tackled by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) which has dragged on since last summer, seemingly with no end in sight. Read more »

Move to create middle school

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY–

The Kearny Board of Education is on record endorsing a middle school campus.

The board voted 6-0 at a special meeting last Monday, March 24, to get the ball rollling. Missing from the scene were Vice President John Leadbeater and members John Plaugic and Dan Esteves.

On the subject of the middle school (grades 6, 7 and 8 combined into a centralized “campus”), the board authorized district officials to begin formal negotiations with the owners of the St. Stephen’s School (or, as it was most recently known, Mater Dei Academy) on Midland Ave. for its purchase and/or lease. Read more »

Brushfires plague meadows

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By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

Last week’s windy weather, combined with dry conditions in the meadowlands, kept local firefighters busy with brushfires, including three within one day.

On Wednesday, the first blaze was reported at 12:30 p.m. along the N.J. Turnpike in Kearny. Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl noted that it was a small one and, despite the winds, was “under control quickly.”

But as soon as that was quenched, a much larger brushfire was reported at 12:46 p.m. near Rt. 280 along the Harrison-Kearny border — and there, Dyl noted, “the wind played a major role,” with 35-45 mph gusts spreading the flames.

Crews from Harrison, Kearny, East Newark and Secaucus responded. Read more »

Guard smuggled drugs into prison

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KEARNY–

A former corrections officer at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center satellite unit in Kearny was sentenced to state prison Friday for smuggling heroin and marijuana into the facility, which houses sex offenders.

Acting N.J. Attorney General John J. Hoffman reported that Bobby Singletary, 55, of Paterson, was sentenced to seven years in state prison, including five years of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez in Hudson County.

Singletary was also ordered to forfeit his entire pension and is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. Read more »

Is N.J. going to pot? Cops hope not

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

Even if the state legislature legalizes the possession and personal use of small amounts of marijuana for people age 21 and older, it appears that several area communities would still look to ban the practice.

And that’s an option that municipalities could exercise, through the passage of a local ordinance, under the proposed law.

The bill, S1896, as introduced March 27 by State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), with a companion bill in the Assembly, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for further debate. Read more »

This ‘Sweeney’ sure to be on cutting edge

Photo courtesy Matt Boryszewski The Harrison High School Drama Club cast of “Sweeney Todd.”

Photo courtesy Matt Boryszewski
The Harrison High School Drama Club cast of “Sweeney Todd.”

 

 

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

HARRISON –

Ready for a bit of skullduggery flavored with some twisted Sondheim music?

Then you’ll want to see the Harrison High School Drama Club’s deliciously dark depiction of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

Yes, it’s the Broadway thriller musical with music by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler that featured Len Cariou as the British barber back from an Australian exile with a vengeance and Angela Lansbury as the doomed pie maker Mrs. Lovett in the original cast from 1979 which won a Tony for Best Musical. Read more »

Thoughts & Views: Once there was a ‘debris field’ in N.Y.

PHOTO COURTESY GOGOLE IMAGES

PHOTO COURTESY GOGOLE IMAGES

As the mystery and media feeding frenzy over Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continue, I have been thinking about another aircraft disaster, this one closer to home and a long time ago.

When I was with the N.Y. Daily News, I wrote about it for a New York City history series the newspaper was running. If you’re interested in that article, you can find it online; the headline is, “Red Snow: The Brooklyn Air Crash, 1960.”

At the risk of plagiarizing myself, I’m going to write about it here, because it affected me deeply.

That’s because I grew up in Down Neck, Newark, directly under the flight path to nearby Newark Airport, and back in those days air crashes were more common, so I felt that what happened easily could have happened in my neighborhood. Read more »

CORRECTION

Last week’s story about Barbara Gangi, the beloved North Arlington waitress who was tragically killed while crossing River Road, misidentified the funeral home that handled the arrangements. It was the Parow Funeral Home, North Arlington. The Observer regrets the error.

Kudos to detectives who cracked case

Photo courtesy Belleville PD Andy Kohut of AAY presents plaques to, from l. Dets. Matthew Dox, Joseph Mundy and Rafael Reyes.

Photo courtesy Belleville PD
Andy Kohut of AAY presents plaques to, from l. Dets. Matthew Dox, Joseph Mundy and Rafael Reyes.

 

BELLEVILLE –

Three members of the Belleville Police Department have been singled out for special credit for helping break a local theft case.

They are: Dets. Joseph Mundy, a 19-year veteran including the last eight years in the detective bureau; Matthew Dox, a 6-year officer in the bureau since November; and 4-year officer Rafael Reyes, also in the bureau since November.

At the March 25 Township Council meeting, the trio received plaques from AAY Associates, a Garden City, N.Y., security management firm, and T-Mobile in appreciation of their work.

Mundy said the case involved a theft at Uncle Bob’s Self-Storage, 125 Franklin St., reported on Nov. 18, 2013, by Andy Kohut, a retired NYPD detective who runs AAY Associates, which provides security services for T-Mobile, which has a cell-tower setup and related equipment in an upper level storage unit at Uncle Bob’s.

That unit had been tampered with during the night and someone had removed four 12-volt backup batteries, copper grounding rods and wireless equipment, all valued at more than $1,000, Mundy said.

There was no sign of forced entry to the storage unit.

Reviewing an electronic data base maintained by the storage facility to track access to storage units, the detectives discovered that the T-Mobile storage unit had been accessed, via a passkey, four times during the night, between 8:49 and 9:06 p.m.

Additionally, a review of internal surveillance video footage provided by AAY revealed a man in the storage facility elevator with a push cart containing materials covered by a tarp corresponding to the unit’s entry times recorded in the electronic log, Mundy said.

“So we came up with a suspect,” he said.

The detectives got another break when a member of Uncle Bob’s management team recognized the man caught on the surveillance tape as someone who lived a few blocks away who would often walk his dog near the facility.

And, Mundy said, detectives learned that the same man used to install equipment for T-Mobile. So, they reasoned, he would likely have familiarity with the company’s operations.

On Nov. 26, 2013, detectives arrested their suspect, Manuel Veliz, 26, of Belleville, at the suspect’s residence and charged him with burglary and theft. None of the items listed as stolen were recovered, Mundy said.

Because Veliz has a history of prior arrests on narcotics charges, detectives surmised that Veliz fenced the merchandise and used the proceeds to buy drugs.

Veliz subsequently pleaded guilty to the burglary and theft charge.

– Ron Leir

7 towns respond to Belleville blaze

Photos by Andrew Taylor The scene last Friday on Washington Ave. in Belleville.

Photos by Andrew Taylor
The scene last Friday on Washington Ave. in Belleville.

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By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent

BELLEVILLE –

A four-alarm blaze in two multi-family buildings on Washington Ave. on Friday night displaced 31 residents, Belleville fire officials said. All were evacuated safely, and no injuries, to either civilians or firefighters, were reported.

At the height of the blaze, fire crews from seven departments were at the scene. Along with the Belleville FD, there were responders from Montclair, Nutley, East Orange, Newark, Bloomfield and North Arlington.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Belleville Battalion Chief Richard Cavanagh said the fire broke out about 8 p.m. in a three-story structure at 472 Washington, between Little St. and Tappan Ave., housing a tattoo parlor on the ground level and two apartments upstairs.

Before it was declared under control at 11 p.m., the fire spread to an adjacent eight-unit apartment house at 476 Washington.

Complicating firefighting efforts was a very narrow light shaft between the two buildings. This shaft, Cavanagh said, was only inches wide, lined with asphalt shingles and acted “like a chimney.”

“Once it got into that [the shaft], it was difficult to contain, but they [the fire crews] did a great job,” Cavanagh said.

There was some fire damage to the apartments on the south side of the larger building, adjoining the shaft, but on the north side, thanks to the aggressive efforts to contain the flames, damage was reportedly limited to smoke damage.

Cavanagh said residents were later allowed to retrieve some of their belongings from their apartments, but both buildings were tagged as currently uninhabitable.

Although the blaze had been knocked down within three hours, the Belleville FD was still at the scene Saturday afternoon to ensure there were no flare-ups.

While the Belleville crews were fighting the blaze Friday night, the Orange, West Orange and Cedar Grove fire departments provided coverage to the town.