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Easing the way over

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent LYNDHURST – State officials are still pondering what to do about the century-old DeJessa Bridge which links Lyndhurst and Nutley across the Passaic River but, in the meantime, Bergen County has done its part to try and relieve congestion there. At the urging […]

Last chance to sound off on dog park

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent KEARNY –  The town is preparing to let the dogs out but first it wants the owners in. For a public meeting, that is, on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 7:30 p.m., in the second floor Town Council chambers at Town Hall […]

Ice storm took its toll on local roads

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  By the time you read this, we all may be trapped inside by a blizzard — if the current weather forecasts are correct. But it doesn’t necessarily take heavy snow to create havoc. Sometimes, a coating of ice is sufficient. […]

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Bracing for funding shift

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  For the past 37 years, the Kearny nonprofit Pathways to Independence Inc. has helped those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live independently in their communities. Currently, from its 3-level, 18,000 square foot headquarters at Kingsland and Bergen Aves., it offers on-site […]

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A new ‘acquisition’

Tim Bixler, of The Bixler Group Real Estate and Insurance and his wife, Charissa Bixler, welcomed their daughter, Addison Paige Bixler, on Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 1:20 p.m. Big brother Brayden is beyond excited. Only a few more years until […]

 
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Nutley girls’ hoop squad experiences growing pains

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By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

Larry Mitschow knew this was going to be a tough season for his Nutley High School girls’ basketball team.

After all, the Maroon Raiders graduated four top players from last year’s squad.

Then, the powers-that-be in the Super Essex Conference decided to move Nutley into a new division of the SEC, the powerful American Division with girls’ basketball mainstays like Mount St. Dominic, Shabazz, East Orange and Montclair, which means the schedule instantly became tougher.

Finally, to throw a complete monkey wrench into the situation, the Maroon Raiders lost two key players to injury, as senior center Brielle Feaster and sophomore forward Angeli Bossbaly were lost for the season. Feaster suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee and Bossbaly was battling a bad back.

“It’s very frustrating,” Mitschow said. “It’s unfortunate, but you have to deal with it.”

So the Maroon Raiders have started out the 2014-15 season with a 3-5 record, the latest game a solid 47-29 victory over neighboring rival Bloomfield last Saturday night.

In the win, junior center Blair Watson scored 30 points, her third game this season with 30 or more points, collecting the 1,000th point of her career in the process.

Watson started off the season with a 40-point performance against Weequahic and had 34 in a win over Newark Tech.

The 6-foot-1 Watson, who is averaging 23 points and 12 rebounds per game, has already given a verbal commitment to the University of Maryland.

“It’s been frustrating for her, because teams are double and triple teaming her,” Mitschow said. “She’s also getting pushed around a little. But she has been doing her best.”

Mitschow believes that having Watson get the recruiting process out of the way early is a blessing.

“There’s no more pressure on her. No one is going to come in to talk to her about school. She’s not going to receive calls or texts. It’s just all made common sense to make the decision now. Maryland is a great program, one of the best in the country. It’s a solid decision.”

Another key returning player is 5-foot-8 senior point guard Carly Anderson.

While Anderson has developed a reputation for being one of the best softball pitchers in New Jersey, she is also a fine basketball player. “She controls the game when she has the ball,” Mitschow said of Anderson. It’s much like what she does when Anderson is in the pitching circle in the spring.

Senior Sara Grueter is a 5-foot-7 shooting guard who has great shooting range, as evidenced by the three 3-pointers Grueter connected on during the win over Bloomfield.

Senior forward Olivia Llaneza is a 5-foot-9 forward who Mitschow likes for the intangibles she provides.

“She’s a good rebounder and good defender,” Mitschow said of Llaneza.

Because of the injuries, Mitschow has been forced to use freshmen players right away. One of those newcomers is Sydney Kunz, a 5-foot-7 guard who is the younger sister of former Nutley baseball and basketball standout Austin Kunz, currently playing baseball at Alvernia College in Pennsylvania.

Another freshman is forward Giavanna Modica, who is a 5-foot-8 diligent worker.

“She started for us our last game,” Mitschow said. “She works very hard.”

Sophomore Jen Callaghan is a 5-foot-5 guard who serves as the backup to Anderson at point guard.

Mitschow knew that it would be a struggle this season with everything that was going on. The graduation, the divisional shift, the injuries, they can all add up to a coach’s frustration.

“We knew it was going to be tough,” Mitschow said. “It’s tough to lose so many players to graduation. Our goal all season has been to hover around the .500 mark and see if we can get into the (NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III) state tournament, so we can play teams we can better compete with. The girls’ basketball in Essex County is so competitive, so with what has happened to us with graduation and injury, it’s all we can hope for.”

It should be interesting to see how far Watson can lead the Maroon Raiders, because she is clearly one of the top juniors in the state of New Jersey and has been producing at a top level, considering she’s topped 30 points in three of eight games already this season.

Kearny coach Hill reflects on late father

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By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Growing up as a female athlete in a male-dominated world in highly competitive Harrison was nothing in comparison to what Jody Hill had to endure last week. Serving as a teacher and a high school girls’ basketball coach for the last decade was a walk in the park next to saying goodbye to the most influential man in Hill’s life, namely her father, Anthony, who died after a 15-month battle with brain cancer.

Anthony Hill was 67 years old.

“To me, he was the greatest person in the world,” Hill said, choking back tears three days after her father’s funeral. “He ended up with three daughters, but I was the next best thing to him having a little boy. Just having him as a Dad was the greatest experience in the world.”

Lee-Ann Hill is two years older than Jody. Melissa came 13 years after Jody. All three Hill girls had sports as a part of their lives – Lee-Ann running cross country, Melissa playing softball and soccer – but it was Jody who took athletics to a new level as one of the finest girls’ basketball players in Harrison High School and Hudson County history.

Growing up in Harrison, Hill always played with and against the boys. She was a standout Little League baseball player and was constantly holding her own, playing with some of the best athletes in the town, including long-time friend and classmate Ray Lucas.

But the inspiration to compete came from her father.

“Growing up, my father worked two full-time jobs,” Hill recalled. “He worked for an oil company, repairing heating systems and then came home and went back out to work as a teller at the Meadowlands Race Track. He took the bets. He enjoyed that, because he really loved the horses.

Added Hill, “But between jobs, for that 30-to-45 minutes, Dad would always play Whiffle ball or football in the yard, pitch baseballs to me even when it was raining – we would be doing dive plays in football in the living room. “My Dad was a volunteer coach in Little League. He had a unique way about him in that he didn’t push us to do anything we didn’t want to do. He didn’t push me into sports. But he encouraged me and supported me. He made me feel like I could accomplish anything. He made me feel like I was on the top of the world.”

Most of the time, Hill was indeed that.

Throughout her brilliant All-State career at Harrison and later Pace University, Hill was a dominant basketball player, scoring 2,000 points in high school and 1,000 more in college, eventually earning induction into the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame.

And Anthony Hill was there every step of the way.

“He was loving and caring and pulled the most out of me,” Hill said. “He was constantly complimenting me and praising me.”

Anthony Hill was a fine athlete in his days growing up in Harrison, especially in baseball. He passed the athletic gene on to his middle daughter.

“I was shy about playing baseball with the boys, but it was comforting to me to have him there,” Hill said. “I can’t even explain the impact he had on me. I knew back then that if I could play with the boys, I could play anywhere. I wanted to surround myself with the best competition. Dad never tried to steer me away from it. He just always wanted me to be happy. He wanted my sisters to be happy. He energized me and encouraged me to let it all happen.” Anthony Hill lived for his wife, Kathy, and his three daughters and eventually his grandchildren.

“He worked so hard his whole life,” Jody Hill said.

Anthony Hill finally retired last year and was given a fond sendoff by his friends and co-workers. A month after his retirement, he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

“He always put everyone before himself,” Jody Hill said. “We all wanted him to finally enjoy his time and he never really got the chance.”

Going through the rigors of chemotherapy and radiation took its toll.

“Especially over the last three weeks, it got real hard,” Hill said. “He lost his ability to speak. It was hard seeing him like that. He never once raised his voice to any of us. He was giving, loving and mentoring. Every person I bump into all say, ‘You have the greatest Dad.’ And I did. I was very lucky for a long time.”

Last week, as the end drew near, Jody Hill had to make arrangements for her assistant coaches to take over her team. Anthony Hill died Monday night and the Kardinals faced Hudson Catholic a day later. Hill turned the reins over to assistant coaches Jeanine Wallace and Vicky Zicopolous to coach that game.

The Kardinals won the game and dedicated it in memory of their top fan.

Two days later, while services for Anthony Hill were being held, the Kardinals were scheduled to face North Bergen in a crucial game. But the Kardinals knew they couldn’t try to play without their leader.

“They all texted me and said that they wanted to postpone the game so they could be there for me,” Hill said. “At 4:30 p.m., the whole team walked in single file and wanted to be there for me. I thought they were going to play without me. I hadn’t missed a game for anything in 12 years.”

Saturday morning, Jody Hill returned to coach her team against Clifton after enduring those tough four days. But she was moved to tears again when she saw her team go through pre-game warm-ups.

“They pulled off their shooting shirts and underneath, they all wore a T-shirt that said, ‘Kearny Basketball,’ on the front and ‘In loving memory of A. Hill’ on the back with a grey ribbon for brain cancer,” Hill said. “It would have been a perfect ending if we would have won the game.”

Sometimes, Hollywood endings don’t always take place. The Kardinals lost to Clifton.

“But I feel so blessed to have those girls in my life,” Hill said. “They gave me strength. You think that you’re the adult and you’re the one who is supposed to lead them. Well, Saturday, they led me. I found my strength in them. I felt really lucky to be coaching those girls. They showed such maturity, thoughtfulness and a great understanding of family.”

And Jody Hill finally had a sense of serenity after the months and weeks of turmoil going through her father’s illness and subsequent demise.

“I knew somewhere my Dad was smiling,” Hill said. “He was their No. 1 fan. One of his favorite things to do was to come watch us play. He was just enjoying his life in retirement with his grandchildren. It’s sad that it all ended that way.”

Anthony Hill may be gone, but certainly not in spirit.

“It was amazing to see those kids come the way they did,” Hill said of her father’s wake. “Finally, I had something that uplifted me and got me through it.”

And the season will resume this week, with the Kards’ No. 1 fan looking down and offering support to his daughter, the coach.

Kearny’s Baez comes of age in a hurry

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By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer

Joe Baez knew that this was going to be a crucial year for him as a member of the Kearny High School boys’ varsity basketball team.

As a junior, Baez had to prove he could be more of a vital performer.

As a young man, Baez had to prove to himself that he could remain focused on the matters at hand and stay away from the trouble that plagued him in the past.

“I knew that I had to step it up,” Baez said. “Throughout my freshman and sophomore years, I had problems. I wasn’t disciplined enough to play organized basketball. I was basically playing street ball. I knew I had to be a leader and I had to get better all around.”

Kearny head coach Bob Mc- Donnell realized that fact as well, that if the Kardinals were going to be successful this season, he needed a big season out of Baez.

“Without a doubt, he had to become more of a leader on the team,” McDonnell said. “Even though he’s only a junior, he had to become more of a main focus on the team. I thought the talent was there. He just had to be more mentally prepared. He had to focus on being the leader, be more mature, more responsible both on and off the court.”

Baez admitted that he was a little immature in the past.

“At times, I would go a little crazy,” Baez said. “I would also get into a little bit of trouble. But that’s the past. I focus on doing what I have to do now, staying out of trouble. I can’t afford to get into trouble anymore. I’ve become a better person and a better player.”

Baez is certainly a gifted athlete. He’s a fine shortstop and pitcher on the Kearny baseball team in the spring, but he has all the tools in the world to be a fine basketball player as well.

A year ago, Baez averaged 7.2 points per game as someone who played both the point guard and shooting guard slots.

However, with a new-found focus and attitude, Baez has elevated his game to new heights.

Baez is averaging close to 16 points per game with six assists. He’s a scorer with a playmaker’s mentality. “He’s made a conscious effort to change his focus,” McDonnell said. “He’s learned that everything he does is so important to us.”

“It just clicked for me,” Baez said. “I worked hard and just want to play the game the right way.”

Baez is certainly doing that and more for the Kards these days. Last week, Baez had 14 points in a win over American History of Newark, had 18 points and six assists in a big win against Queen of Peace and topped his week with a 24-point, six-assist outing against Lyndhurst, another win, giving the Kardinals three wins in a row, improving to 6-3 overall in the process.

For his efforts, Baez has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

“He just realized his capabilities,” McDonnell said. “Not just as a scorer, but as the team leader. He’s taken on that role and has done well. He’s just taken control of the team, playing either the one (point guard) or two (shooting guard), depending upon the opponent. It’s nice to have a guard who is under control.”

Baez said that his recent performances have helped him to gain faith in his own abilities.

“I definitely have a lot more confidence,” Baez said. “I think this proves to me that I can do it. I’m helping the team with scoring and my passing. It’s good to be consistent, because it helps us win and that’s the biggest goal.”

The Kardinals had eight wins all of last season. They have six already this year.

“He’s accepted his role, even on defense,” McDonnell said. “He’s become a very good scorer. I am surprised how much he’s improved.”

So far this season, Baez is averaging close to 16 points per game, a huge leap from last year’s seven point-per-game average.

“I feel like I’m a better player,” Baez said. “I played a lot of basketball over the summer to get ready for this year. It really is almost like a complete transformation.”

Baez was asked if his success on the hardwood would help him get ready for the baseball diamond.

“They are two totally different sports, but of course, this is going to help my confidence,” Baez said. “What I do in basketball does carry over to the baseball field. I feel like I’m a building block for the future. As long as we keep winning, because I never want to lose. I’m still developing, still growing. I still have to work hard.”

McDonnell believes that Baez is a college basketball player for the future.

“He’s already focusing on getting his grades up,” Mc- Donnell said. “He’s made a concerted effort to get better both on the court and the classroom. We’ve had conversations about college and not just from an athletic standpoint. He realizes he has a bright future.”

It might have taken a little while, but Joe Baez has the world on a string these days.

“I’m just grateful to have the chance,” Baez said. “I just needed a chance.”

Join the Lions & become a volunteer

ShopRite of Lyndhurst, an Inserra Supermarkets store, is hosting a full roster of “New Year, New You” health and wellness events throughout January. Julie Harrington, in-store registered dietitian, will lead each of the LiveRight offerings and provide easy-to-implement nutrition and wellness advice. The following free events are being held for local residents. All programs are open to the public, held at the store and do not require advance registration, unless otherwise noted:

• Walking Club group  meets every Thursday throughout January at 8 a.m. for a one-mile trek through the store, starting at Dietician’s Corner. Membership cards and prizes are awarded to all participants.

• Julie’s Produce Pick fea tures ShopRite’s dietitian mixing the week’s produce pick into a delicious new dish on Wednesday, Jan. 14, from 1 to 3 p.m. Stop by for samples and recipe cards.

• LiveRight with Shop – Rite Kids’ Day Cooking Class allows youngsters age 6 and up to try and create new things while preparing a simple, healthy snack on Wednesday, Jan. 28, from 4 to 5 p.m. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required.

• ShopRite Cooking  Class: Veggie Power Edition invite folks to join Shop- Rite’s dietitian on Thursday, Jan. 29, from 2 to 3 p.m., to learn how to prepare a vegetarian meal while gaining the inside scoop on how going meatless once a week can improve one’s health. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required.

ShopRite of Lyndhurst is located at 540 New York Ave. In addition to developing a full roster of store-based wellness programs, ShopRite’s retail dietitians can serve as guest speakers/instructors at wellness events hosted by local organizations. For more information or to pre-register for a program, contact Harrington at 201- 419-9154 or email Julie.harrington@wakefern.com.

Bianchi focused on meadows redevelopment, spending checks

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

NORTH ARLINGTON – 

North Arlington selected a group of new professional staffers at the borough’s reorganization meeting Jan. 6.

After the victors in the November election were sworn in – Joseph Bianchi as mayor and Daniel Pronti and Kerry Cruz as Borough Council members – the governing body approved a slew of appointments of new professionals, reflecting the new 4-2 Republican majority. And the council picked Republican Richard Hughes as council president.

Among the changes: Hackensack attorney Randy Pearce, who had served as borough attorney a few years ago, was returned to that post on the recommendation of Bianchi and his fellow Republicans. Pearce, who takes over for Doug Bern, had represented the borough in an expensive lawsuit against the Passaic Valley Water Commission which the borough ended up settling last month.

The borough hired the Saddle Brook law firm of Eastwood, Scandariato & Steinberg to provide the services of municipal prosecutor at $15,000. And it hired Wiss & Bouregy of Westwood as labor counsel and Rogut McCarthy LLC of Cranford as bond counsel.

Lerch Vinci & Higgins of Fairlawn is the new borough auditor.

Brought back as borough engineer was Neglia Engineering Associates of Lyndhurst, replacing Remington Vernick of Secaucus. Neglia had many years of prior borough service. And the Alaimo Group of Mt. Holly was hired as consulting engineer.

In his public remarks – his first as the borough’s new chief executive – Bianchi pledged to make every effort to find redevelopers for the borough’s meadows area, to control municipal spending and to maintain municipal services.

Bianchi also sent kudos to all borough employees and volunteers “for the excellent work they have undertaken over this past year, under very difficult circumstances.”

In the future, to try and tackle “financial problems that we have been left with,” such as rising water rates – resulting from the borough’s sale of its water system – Bianchi said the borough “must be smarter and not play politics” and “cannot continue to push [its] financial problems down the road, from budget to budget.”

The borough, Bianchi said, must find a way “to find new ratables … by using our redevelopment powers while at the same time, keeping the character of the community.” That, he said, means “that we are not planning to build any high-rise, high density or low-income housing” because “that would change what North Arlington is about.”

Borough Council committee assignments were parceled out this way: Hughes will chair Finance; Pronti heads up Public Safety; Cruz leads Recreation; Democrat Al Granell gets Administrative & Executive; Democrat Tom Zammatore leads Health, Transportation & Welfare. The chair for Public Works, Buildings & Grounds is currently vacant.

Still to be determined is who will be picked by the council to fill the unexpired term of Bianchi’s council seat.

Elsewhere, Harrison’s governing body also convened its reorganization meeting last week, swearing in James Fife as mayor and Town Council members Jesus Huaranga, Anselmo Millan, Laurence Bennett and James Doran.

Photos courtesy Borough of North Arlington TOP: Mayor Joseph Bianchi and family members at reorganization meeting. From l., are grandchildren Isabella and Frankie, spouse Kathy and grandson Anthony. ABOVE: From l., are Councilman Dan Pronti, Fire Chief John Inzinna, Assistant Chief Brian FitzHenry, Deputy Chief Robert Kairys and Freeholder Steve Tanelli.

Photos courtesy Borough of North Arlington
TOP: Mayor Joseph Bianchi and family members at reorganization meeting. From l., are
grandchildren Isabella and Frankie, spouse Kathy and grandson Anthony. ABOVE: From
l., are Councilman Dan Pronti, Fire Chief John Inzinna, Assistant Chief Brian FitzHenry,
Deputy Chief Robert Kairys and Freeholder Steve Tanelli.

 

Villalta was picked as the new council president.

Several of the town leaders talked about seeing come to roost much of the hard work by the late Mayor Raymond McDonough in promoting the Harrison Waterfront Redevelopment Area and luring redevelopers to the sprawling site.

As examples, Fife mentioned the Pegasus Group/ Ironstate starting phase 3 of its mixed-use project for more than 1,000 new apartments (studios and one-bedroom units) next to the PATH station; Advance Group preparing for a new A.C. Marriott hotel at Guyon Drive and Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. and Carlstadt developer Ed Russo moving ahead with construction of a 5-story, 400-unit apartment building with 15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail near the Red Bull Arena.

In considering its list of professional staff, the town was continuing to review four bid proposals submitted for town attorney: the incumbent Robert Murray of Shrewsbury, who proposed an hourly fee of $165; Cleary/Giacobbe/Alfieri/ Jacobs LLC of Oakland, who bid $150 an hour; DeCotiis, FitzPatrick & Cole of Teaneck, $175 an hour; and Eric M. Bernstein & Associates of Warren, $125 an hour.

The town is also reviewing four proposals for the services of tax appeal attorney received from the incumbent Castano Quigley of West Caldwell, who offered to work at the bid criteria specified by Harrison; William J. Rush of Wayne, $125 an hour; Eric Bernstein, $125 an hour; a

Obituaries

Gregory S. Cerstvik

Gregory S. Cerstvik, of Newark, entered into eternal rest, after battling cancer at his sister’s house in Lyndhurst, on Jan. 9. He was 62.

The funeral was conducted from the Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave., Harrison, on Tuesday, Jan. 13. A funeral Mass followed at St. Cecilia’s Church, Kearny. Interment took place in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. For information, directions or to send condolences to the family, please visit www.mulliganfh.com.

Born in Newark in the Ironbound, Gregory was raised there and spent most of his life there. He worked as a dairy manager for several food chains for many years. He was a member of UFCW Local 1262, Clifton. He was also a plumber on the side. He was a friend of Bill W. and an avid sports fan who enjoyed fishing and NASCAR. He greatly enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. A fan of music, he was a vocalist for several bands, mainly SCID.

Gregory is survived by his loving daughters Jennifer Cerstvik and her fiancé James Hartkopf and Mimi Antonio and her husband Trijilio; his cherished grandchildren Mikey, Julia, Jayden, Kennedy and Aiden; his dear brother and sister Peter Cerstvik and his wife Marion and Patricia “Sis” Ebbe and her husband Michael. Gregory is also survived by his nephews Christopher, Michael, Richard and his wife Marisa, Richard and Peter Jr.; his greatnephew Ryder Thomas; his beloved ex-wife Michelle Cerstvik and many cousins, friends and extended family. He was predeceased by his parents Peter and Jennie (nee Jusinski).

In lieu of flowers, an expression of sympathy may be made to the American Cancer Society in care of Mulligan Funeral Home in loving memory of Greg.

David Anthony Collazo 

David Anthony Collazo died on Jan. 8. He was 23.

Born in Belleville, he lived in Kearny before moving to Towaco in 2006.

Visiting will be on Tuesday, Jan. 13, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass will be on Wednesday, Jan. 14, at 10 a.m. at Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington and entombment will follow in Holy Cross Cemetery. (www.armitagewiggins.com)

David is the beloved son of Jose and Maria Collazo and grandson of Carmen Sanpedro Davila. Brother of Brian, Jessica and the late Nicole Collazo, he is also survived by his uncle and aunts, Adolfo Rodriguez, Maria T. Vazquez and Maria C. Collazo, along with many loving cousins and friends.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Make A Wish Foundation.

Mary Devaney 

Mary Devaney (nee Brechin), 83, of Kearny, and formerly of Harrison, died on Jan. 6.

Arrangements were by the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. Funeral services were at the funeral home, followed by interment in Holy Cross Cemetery.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Mrs. Devaney lived in Harrison before moving to Kearny four years ago. She was a cashier with A & P Supermarket in Kearny and Jersey City for 30 years, retiring in 1993.

She was the beloved wife of 62 years of James Devaney. She was the dear mother of James P. (Lisa) and Neil Devaney, grandmother of James P. Devaney Jr., Keth Devaney, Valerie Bradley and Paul Roman and greatgrandmother of Lillian Pires.

John B. Dowie 

John B. Dowie, 89, of Jupiter, Fla., passed away on Jan. 4.

Born and raised in Kearny, John attended Kearny schools where he excelled as an athlete and lettered in baseball, basketball, soccer and football; played shortstop and was captain of the baseball team that won the Greater Newark Tournament in 1943; and was inducted into the Kearny High School Athletic Hall of Fame for baseball.

Upon graduating from Kearny High School in June 1943, he entered the United States Army in August 1943 at the height of World War II and served as an infantryman with the 163rd Regimental Combat Team of the 41st Infantry Division in the Pacific where he took part in several island assaults against Japanese forces during the war and was wounded by enemy fire during the Battle of Biak Island for which he was awarded a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Combat Infantry Badge.

Upon his return to Kearny, he attended John Marshall College and was active in area baseball and basketball organizations. In his free time, he devoted countless hours to coaching and managing Kearny youth baseball, something that he truly enjoyed.

Mr. Dowie was appointed to the Kearny Police Department in 1955 and then in 1962 to the Kearny Fire Department where he was honored as Fireman of the Year in 1977 as the result of a lifesaving event. After 32 years of service to the Town of Kearny, he retired to Spring Lake Heights, prior to moving to Jupiter, Fla.

John is survived by his wife of 65 years, Anne V. Dowie (nee Kelly); son, John Dowie and his wife Ann; daughter, Suzanne DeLuca and her husband Jeffrey; and grandchildren, Catherine and Jonathan Dowie and Jeffrey, Joshua and Jesse DeLuca. His parents, William and Rubina Dowie, a sister, Ruby and three brothers, William, Robert and Walter, predeceased him.

A memorial service was held Jan. 7 at Taylor and Modeen Funeral Home, 250 Center St., Jupiter, Fla. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Sunflower Team, Hospice of Palm Beach Foundation, 5300 East Ave., West Palm Beach, Fla. 33407.

Stephen B. Haggerty 

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Stephen B. Haggerty, 71, formerly of Williamsburg, Va, passed away peacefully, Friday, Jan. 2, in Burke, Va., with his wife at his side.

Steve was born Sept. 9, 1943, in the Bronx to Joseph Francis and Bridget Anne (Hughes) Haggerty. He graduated from St. Peters Preparatory School in Jersey City and from the then- St. Peter’s College. Steve was employed as a systems analyst for the mobile phone industry before his retirement to Williamsburg, Va.

Steve is survived by his wife of 50 years, Mary Ann Haggerty, son Brian Haggerty, daughter Laura Socha, brother William Haggerty, sister Marianne McGarry, eight grandchildren, and many loving nieces, nephews, and extended family. Steve was a loving father, husband, grandfather and friend to all. A memorial Mass will be held at 11 a.m., Monday, Jan. 19, at the Church of the Nativity, 6400 Nativity Lane, Burke, Va. 22015.

Memorial donations may be made to Capital Caring Hospice in Stephen’s name so that others may be blessed by their loving support at 2900 Telestar Court, Falls Church, Va. 22042 or capitalcaring.org.

Condolences to the family may be sent by mail/common carrier to: The Haggerty Family, c/o UPS Store, 5765-F Burke Centre Parkway, Burke, Va.

Have you seen this alleged NA shoplifter?

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On Jan. 7  at 5:20 p.m., an individual described as a white man,  approximately 5’10” with short brown hair, wearing a black jacket with blue hoodie, is alleged to have shoplifted from a CVS at 579 Ridge Road. Police say the man fled on foot west on Jauncey Ave. toward River Road.

If you have information to report that could help lead to an arrest in this crime/crime activity, please contact the North Arlington Police Department at 201-991-1400 or by sending an email to napddispatch@northarlington.org.

NA Senior Center being kept open through Thursday for residents who need warmth

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North Arlington Borough Administrator Steve LoIacono announced Thursday, Jan. 8, that, “Due to severe cold and in case certain citizens, including and especially seniors, are experiencing trouble keeping warm, the North Arlington Senior Center, 10 Beaver Ave., is being made available as a warming center.

“The building will remain open through the night tonight (Thursday) for anyone who needs warm shelter. Police officers on patrol will monitor the building during the night and Health Department employees will do so during the day.”

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In other news, the borough announced that Acting Tax Collector Theresa Vola will conduct office hours on Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., instead of Tuesdays as previously announced.

Break-ins disrupt holiday week

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

HARRISON –

In the 24 years that his family has operated Fulger’s Golden Beer & Liquor, there’s never been any trouble from the outside. “It’s a nice, friendly neighborhood,” said owner Hitesh Patel.

Now, however, Patel is applying for a permit to carry a gun. Christmas week was marred for Patel and several other Harrison merchants when their shops – all within a few blocks of each other on Harrison Ave. – were burglarized – possibly by the same individual.

Harrison Police Capt. Michael Green said the first incident was reported at 4:18 a.m. on Christmas Day, from Fulger’s, at Harrison and Davis Aves., where – as the store’s surveillance tape revealed – a black male with a hoodie emerged from a pickup truck parked outside and smashed the glass front door with a brick.

Once inside, the burglar removed two cash registers with an undisclosed amount of cash and cigarettes and fled, probably in the pickup truck, Green said.

Last week, Fulger owner Patel told The Observer he was asleep in an apartment above the store when he was awakened by a call from one of his longtime customers informing him that, “my main door is shredding – they broke in.”

Patel said he immediately went downstairs to investigate. He found a brick – the one believed to have been used by the burglar – at the store entrance. And, he said, “I saw everything was on the floor and my two registers were missing.”

Surprisingly, Patel said, the shop’s alcohol stock was not disturbed.

Patel said an examination of his store’s surveillance footage shows that the same pickup truck the burglar was reportedly driving is seen circling the block – apparently casing the location – after the owner got his last delivery for the night.

“I work hard – 13 hours a day, seven days a week,” Patel said. “In the 24 years we have been at this location, we have known honest, loyal customers.”

Four years ago, Patel recalled, he secured security gates for the front entrance to his store, but given the level of comfort formed with his neighbors and patrons, he said he’s never given them a second thought.

Photo by Ron Leir Hitesh Patel holds brick that a burglar used to shatter his glass door.

Photo by Ron Leir
Hitesh Patel holds brick that a burglar used to shatter his glass door.

 

Since the break-in, however, “I use them,” he said.

Then, on the night of Dec. 30 and continuing into Dec. 31, a series of shops were victimized by an intruder who, Green said, could be the same individual who got into the liquor store earlier in the week.

At 12:15 a.m. on Dec. 31, police got a report of an attempted burglary at Hinze’s Deli, Harrison and Sixth St.

Deli owner Ted Toth told The Observer he was getting ready to lock up, at about 11 p.m., when he and an employee heard the sound of glass breaking in his front door. “It sounded like a BB gun shot,” he said. “We turned the lights on real quick, hoping we’d scare off whoever was there.”

It cost him $300 to replace the broken glass, Toth said.

The only consolation was that the culprit was denied entry.

Not so fortunate, however, was Pepita’s Beauty Salon, Harrison and Fifth St. At 1 a.m., police got a report that someone had shattered the glass in the salon’s front door window, got inside, removed $25 from the register and fled.

And, at 1:35 a.m., a police officer discovered a partly broken glass door at Harrison Grocery, Harrison and Third St. Here, though, no entry resulted, according to Green.

“We’re assuming,” he said, “that all these incidents are all connected, possibly the same individual,” looking to exploit the fact that with the holiday season, there figured to be more inventory and cash available.

Merchants said two other stores – a pizzeria and a Mexican eatery – were the targets of attempted burglaries but this couldn’t be readily confirmed with police.

In the meantime, police released an image of the suspected burglar captured on surveillance tape and asked anyone with information on any the incidents to call police at 973-483-4100.

4-year contract for cops

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

NORTH ARLINGTON – 

The borough has nailed down a new labor pact with the police union and narrowly approved a two-year extension of its contract with Police Chief Louis Ghione.

At a special meeting Dec. 29, the mayor and Borough Council unanimously voted to enter into a new agreement with Patrolman’s Benevolent Association Local 95 that will provide annual pay increases of 1.25% for four years, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014, through Dec. 31, 2017.

The prior three-year contract had expired Dec. 31, 2013. The new agreement, which covers all 28 members of the North Arlington Police Department, except the chief, calls for annual pay raises of 1.25%, with no other changes to the existing steps in the salary guide or benefits.

As of last week, no new salary guide spelling out how pay levels for each police rank will change over the life of the contract had yet been prepared, according to Borough Administrator Steve LoIacono.

It took a state arbitrator, Frank Mason, to settle the prior contract: Mason awarded no pay increase for 2011, a 2.5% pay hike effective April 1, 2012; and an additional 2.5% raise effective April 1, 2013. Mason called for an 11-step process for a police officer to reach maximum pay, starting at $42,079 and topping off at $106,107 per year.

According to LoIacono, the old PBA contract set $121,510 as the base pay for police sergeant, $132,446 as base pay for lieutenant and $144,356 as base pay for captain. The chief’s contract entitles him to a salary at least 9% above captain’s pay and that provision is retained under his extended contract.

In a phone interview with The Observer last week, outgoing Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat, hailed the new four-year agreement as “one of the lowest settlements in the (South Bergen) area. I commend the PBA for accepting my counter-proposal.”

And, Massa added, “I’m doing the new administration (led by incoming Mayor Joseph Bianchi, a Republican) a favor by wrapping up an important labor contract before I go out the door.”

PBA Local 95 President Robert Evans said the union negotiating team recommended approval of the pact to the membership, which, he said, voted overwhelmingly Dec. 30 for ratification.

Given the financial pressures felt by the borough, Evans said the union did what it could to “hammer out a deal to serve the interests of the officers and the taxpayers” – and without having to resort to a third party intervening.

Still, while the borough government may have achieved some measure of labor peace with the new contract, the Bianchi administration may soon find itself having to deal with the issue of maintaining sufficient personnel in the police ranks, given that, according to Evans, six members of the department – one officer and five superiors – representing about 20% of the force — are currently eligible for retirement.

“They can walk out the door tomorrow,” he said. At this point, it‘s unclear whether any or all of them will do that.

One key figure who will be presiding over this situation is Chief Ghione, whose term of employment, under his old contract, had run from Dec. 31, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2015, and which now continues through Dec. 31, 2017.

The Borough Council had deadlocked 3-3 along party lines on the Democrats’ proposal to lengthen the chief’s contract and it fell to Massa to cast the tie-breaking vote in the chief’s favor.

Bianchi told The Observer last week that he and his fellow Republicans opposed the contract extension because the chief’s old contract specifies that a new contract “can’t be talked about until September 2015. There are to be no negotiations until 2015.” By voting now to give the chief another two years, “we broke the contract and it was wrong,” Bianchi said.

Asked for his reaction, Massa said he interpreted the language in the old agreement to mean that, “it encourages the parties to negotiate prior to the expiration date of the contract. To keep stability, the chief agreed to an extension with no additional benefits. He’s done an exemplary job during his 10 years as chief. He’s kept the crime rate low, he’s managed the department well with minimum manpower and he’s helped secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in (police) grants.”

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