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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 […]


Expect new firefighters on duty by Independence Day


Seven newly hired Belleville firefighters began training at the Essex County Fire Academy in Cedar Grove two weeks ago.

Those who successfully complete the eight-week program will then undertake up to six weeks of training as emergency medical technicians, to qualify as first responders, said Belleville Fire Chief Robert Caruso.

“We should have them ready for duty after July 4th,” Caruso said. “They’ll be dispersed across all four shifts.”

The additions will bring the department’s total strength to 68, according to the chief. The BFD peaked at 74 back in 2009-2010, he said.

Most recent prior hirings came in September 2013 when three new firefighters came aboard and, before that, nine were put on in September 2011.

Belleville positioned itself to appoint the new firefighters by applying for – and getting — $1.18 million in a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate and Fire Emergency Response) grant that pays salaries and benefits for two years.

After the two years, the township is obliged to take over full payment obligations.

It marked the first score for Belleville in several previous application efforts, Caruso said.

While they’re at the academy, the firefighters- in-training will earn $30,000. When they begin as full-fledged firefighters, they’ll advance to first-year pay of $39,000.

The benefit package’s value can range from $20,000 to $35,000 depending on the option chosen by the firefighter, Caruso said.

The new recruits, hired from a state Civil Service appointment list, certified Dec. 9, 2013, are: Andres E. Idrovo, Manuel Antonio, Nicholas Giangrande, Christopher Gammaro, Michael R. Corino, Anthony N. Malanga and Dennis J. Herrmann.

Meanwhile, on the equipment front, Caruso said the department was expecting delivery of a new ladder truck from the Florida manufacturer E-One within a month, replacing a 1991 truck which the chief described as “kind of worn out.”

“A new ambulance should also be coming at around the same time,” Caruso said. That will replace a 2007 vehicle. “We answer close to 4,000 calls a year,” he said. The new vehicle will be equipped with a heavier chassis which should make it more durable, he added.

The township previously authorized a capital bond ordinance to provide financing to acquire the ladder truck, for about $900,000, and the ambulance, for about $225,000.

– Ron Leir

Nutley girl missing since March 17; have you seen her?


A 16-year-old Nutley girl was reported missing on March 17, and Nutley police are still investigating her whereabouts. She frequents Passaic and Paterson and has been located in Montclair, S. Hackensack, Wayne and Little Falls as well. It appears that she is avoiding being located, and has spoken to officers on several occasions stating that she is going to return home but has failed to do so as of April 1.

Christina Simeonidis is 5’6” 140lbs, brown eyes and brown hair, fair skin with a tattoo on her left wrist that says “Heaven.”

Anyone with information to her whereabouts is asked to contact the Nutley Police Department at 973-284-4940

Evidence registered with cops

Matthew James

Matthew James

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent


From the Department of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: A suspect in the robbery of a Kearny store has been linked to an earlier heist in Belleville thanks to a cash register drawer he left in plain view on the back seat of his car, authorities reported.

The alleged bandit was identified as Matthew James, 28, of Monroe Township, formerly of Belleville.

The suspect apparently also has a penchant for lime green T-shirts and lime green/orange gloves, which police said helped in identifying him. Last Wednesday, March 19, Kearny police said, a ski-masked individual entered a liquor store/deli on Davis Ave. at 4:15 p.m. and asked for a pack of cigarettes. He then reportedly ran behind the counter and grabbed a fistful of bills from the register. A short struggle ensued with the proprietor, who was pushed and punched, but who managed to pull up the mask, partially revealing the man’s face, police said. The culprit then fled on foot. Read more »

Tragic death of beloved waitress


By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


It was her day off – Tuesday –and Barbara Gangi kept to her set routine.

Shortly before 6:30 a.m., Gangi dropped off her wash in front of the Riverside Laundry and started walking across River Road to the Arlington Diner, her home away from home, for a light breakfast.

This particular Tuesday, March 18, however, she never got to the diner because she was fatally struck by a car. Read more »

Meadows mulch ignites again


By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent


The pesky mulch pile in the meadows that kept the Kearny Fire Department busy last year has been slumbering all winter, kept quiet, pehaps, by blankets of snow and ice.

But last week, it appeared to be welcoming spring — in a rebirth of its annoying tendency to spontaneously combust.

On March 16, the mulch at Nature’s Choice Corp., 631 Belleville Turnpike – scene of several 2013 fires – was again aflame. A passing motorist reported the fire and the KFD answered the alarm at 12:37 p.m.

Fire Chief Steve Dyl said all Kearny units, along with North Arlington firefighters, responded to the two -alarm blaze, which was declared under control at 4:15 p.m. Dyl said the fire was prevented from spreading outside the mulch, but about an acre of mulch piles burned. Read more »

Zoners’ youth center OK nixed


By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


It took nearly a year for St. Mary & St. Mercurius Coptic Orthodox Church to get local approvals to build a dome-shaped youth center and parking garage on Academy St.

But neighbors went to court to block the project and, last month, they got a judge to do what they wanted by overturning the Belleville Zoning Board of Adjustment’s decision favoring the project.

And now, the church has to start all over again to make its case.

Still, the church’s attorney Frank J. Cozzarelli is optimistic that the church will ultimately succeed because he’ll be presenting a revised plan aimed at appeasing some of the neighbors’ concerns. Read more »

IRS warns of massive scam


By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

Recent police blotters from various towns have included reports of people who received phone calls from a person or persons claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service and demanding immediate payment of fines or back taxes.

In our March 19 edition, for example, Nutley police noted that a township resident had been warned by a caller that the IRS would freeze his bank accounts, credit cards and passport unless he forked over more than $3,600 in “money due.”

He was instructed to purchase eight Green Point money pack cards adding up to the total, scratch off the cards, return the call to the “IRS” at a number provided and read the account numbers over the phone.

He complied. Read more »

Japan was topic for this history lesson


By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


The “Land of the Rising Sun” got a rise out of some 60 ninth-graders at Belleville High School last Tuesday.

Two representatives of the Japanese Consulate General’s office – public relations specialist Jesse Taylor and Goro Watanabe of the Ministry of Education – wearing traditional Japanese garb – visited a World History class.

They’d responded to an invitation extended by social studies teacher Gary Klotzkin to bring their “School Caravan” program to schools in the metro region to share information about Japan and its culture in engaging ways.

They showed the students videos about Japan, highlighting traditional music festivals, like the four-day Awa Odori event held in Tokushima Prefecture, typically featuring 100,000 dancers and attended by four million spectators. Read more »

Rick’s has weathered the storm


By Anthony J. Machcinski
Observer Correspondent

In October 2012, when Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the area, Rick’s American and Foreign, a Bumper 2 Bumper store in North Arlington, was no exception.

The business, formerly on River Road, was flooded in the basement with over twoand- a-half feet of water. But the damage incurred was not only focused on floodwater.

“On the second floor, the roof had blown off and the rain destroyed everything,” said Rick’s American and Foreign owner Rick Garofola.

After 14 years at that location, Garofola tried to stay strong and keep Rick’s right where it was. Read more »

Thoughts & Views: Today, it’s Crimea, tomorrow, who knows?

Students of world history and geopolitics are likely burning the midnight oil these days, following the exploits of Russian President Vladimir Putin as he redraws the world map with the annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.

And the map’s contours could change even more, nervous Western observers note, if those thousands of Russian troops staging along the eastern border of Ukraine should happen to invade.

Perhaps Putin wants Russia to directly benefit from the tourism revenues from Crimea’s Black Sea resorts or perhaps Putin – with help from one of his loyal oligarchs – has picked out a prominent place on the coastline to build a posh hotel and fitness center where he can stay.

Frankly, with the rest of Ukraine’s economy reportedly in the tank, I’m not entirely clear why Putin is butting in, if for no other reason than to prevent the European Union from partnering with Ukraine and, of course, to gain control of the large Navy base in the region.

And he well knows how deeply many of the Union’s member countries like Germany and Poland and the Netherlands are dependent on Russia for their energy needs.

So Putin can afford to snub his nose at the sanctions that President Obama has mustered to try and deter his aggression against Russia’s neighbor.

Even Ukrainians themselves – the ones who haven’t declared themselves pro-Russian – haven’t seemed to kick up much of a fuss about being occupied and, apparently, being forced to relocate if they don’t wish to accept conditions of occupation.

Ill-equipped Ukrainian defense forces have folded quickly, offering little resistance to the masked intruders demanding their ouster and getting it.

One exception reported in a recent New York Times dispatch – which stirred memories of a famous scene in Rick’s Café in the movie “Casablanca” – was of a group of Ukrainian naval cadets who dared to sing their country’s national anthem in defiance of their “masters” who then ordered their allies to top them by vocalizing the Russian anthem even louder.

Somehow I don’t think this Crimea adventure portends a “beautiful friendship” between Putin and Chancellor Merkel of Germany in a new alignment of convenience. Perhaps, instead, it foreshadows new five year plan for Ukraine, with all the attendant hardships.

Did you read about the Weehawken teenager who managed to sneak through a hole in a construction fence, amble into the new One World Trade Center tower and take the elevator to the top?

It’s not exactly reassuring to know that the new symbol of America’s determination to stand up to terrorism and start over is so easily subject to such an embarrassingly simply “invasion.”

With the countless millions of dollars this country has spent on Homeland Security since September 2011, it is humbling to realize that simple human error – attributed to a lax security guard – opened the door to an enterprising youth’s indiscretions.

So you’re newly installed Knicks President Phil Jackson and you’ve watched your team come perilously close to blowing a huge lead to Phily after your coach clears his bench with five minutes to go in the game and then you see your team blow another big lead and lose to an injury-depleted Cleveland team after your coach allows the Knicks to sleep-walk through the fourth quarter.

Hey, Phil, the only system that you should be thinking of installing with this bunch is the Bermuda Triangle.

Good luck.

– Ron Leir