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To the editor, 

My family and I are deeply saddened and offended by a flyer that was recently distributed via U.S. Mail to the residents of Lyndhurst by cowardly individuals who implied that I am one and the same as mass murderer, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian Adolph Hitler. Never in my political career have I ever witnessed an attack that rises to this level. I consider it to be defamatory and criminally biased in nature, not only to myself but also to Commissioner DiMaggio.

The flyer makes reference to Hitler’s SS and Secret Police and their tactics, drawing a direct comparison to the affairs of my administration. In addition, the flyer makes reference to me facing criminal charges, which is a ridiculous allegation.

I have made numerous statements over the past seven months since my forced redesignation as Commissioner of Public Safety dealing with suspicious lawsuits being filed naming the Township and myself as the defendants, and issues related to the Joint Insurance Fund (JIF). Read more »

Still hunting store robber: NPD


Police are continuing to search for a man who robbed a Centre St. convenience store on Feb. 22.

At 8:30 a.m., police said, a man entered the store, and, placing his hand in his jacket pocket, demanded money from the clerk, saying, “I don’t wanna hurt you.”

No weapon was produced and no one was hurt, police said.

Police declined to say how much money was taken.

The suspect was described as white, age 18 to 25, 5-foot- 3 to 5-feet-5, thin, wearing a tan jacket with a gray hooded sweatshirt underneath, a dark cap with some type of symbol, a face mask, blue jeans and brown boots.

Police said they followed footprints in the snow to Union Ave. where the trail ended. Police are asking anyone with information on the incident to call detectives at 973-284-4940.

Det. Sgt. Anthony Montanari told The Observer that detectives are working with Bloomfield and Montclair PD, comparing robberies executed recently in those communities with scenarios similar to Nutley’s – and in one case in Bloomfield in particular where the physical description of the suspect appeared to match the Nutley suspect.

Montanari said Nutley detectives have also reviewed footage from the convenience store surveillance camera in trying to track the suspect.

Probe shooting in Nutley home


The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide/ Major Crimes Task Force is investigating a Friday night shooting in Nutley involving a former cop.

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray said in a press release issued Saturday night that retired Belleville Police Officer John Towey, 62, of Nutley, has been charged with aggravated assault for the shooting of his 58-year-old brother.

According to Murray, the shooting happened in Towey’s home. His brother had been staying with him for the past few days, she said.

Towey’s brother is in University Hospital, Newark, where he is listed in stable condition, Murray said. One bullet pierced the victim’s spine, she said.

The alleged shooter is being held at the Essex County Jail, Newark, on $75,000 bail.

No motive was given for the attack.

Murray did not disclose the victim’s first name or how many rounds were fired.

He’s delivered to jail: KPD

A Newark man was remanded to the Hudson County Jail on $10,000 bail for allegedy stealing packages left on the doorsteps of Kearny homes, Kearny police reported.

The suspect, Valentino Rogers, 27, was arrested Feb. 19 by Officer John Fabula, who had responded to a 2 p.m. report of a man taking items that had been delivered to the 200 block of Devon St. Fabula canvassed the neighborhood and saw Rogers, who fit the thief’s description, walking on Boyd St., carrying a large bag over his shoulder, police said.

The office confirmed that Rogers was wanted on a $250 Kearny warrant, and a search incident to arrest on that revealed three packages and a crack pipe, police said. (The crack pipe had not been among the deliveries.) Rogers allegedly was also in possession of a credit card bearing a woman’s name.

He was charged with three counts of theft, and one count each of theft of property lost or stolen (the card) and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Police said they recovered a $70 jacket, stolen from the 200 block of Devon St.; soap and specialty coffee, taken from the 300 block of Devon; and baby items, from the 100 block of Laurel Ave.

• • •

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

Feb. 18 

At 5:30 p.m., Officer Jordenson Jean pulled over a Chevy TrailBlazer for an illegal turn and failure to yield to pedestrians at Kearny Ave. and the Belleville Pike. Police said driver Jose Lameda, 42, of Lyndhurst, was arrested on an outstanding $500 warrant out of Bound Brook and was released after posting the bail.

Feb. 19 

It was disorder at the Kearny Municipal Court at 11:15 a.m., when Officer Jack Grimm heard a “loud and boisterous” individual in the lobby. Grimm went out to the hallway and cautioned the man, identified as Vanquan Rush, 30, of Jersey City, about causing a disturbance. A short time later, police said, Rush began loudly playing a music video — containing profane language — on his cell phone. Grimm returned to the hall and again warned him. Strike three, police said, came when Rush, apparently arguing with his girlfriend, began loudly spewing the F word. He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

Feb. 22 

At 3:30 p.m., Officers Jay Ward and Philip Finch responded to Kmart on the report of a shoplifter fleeing the store on foot. Ward spotted the suspect running from the lot and into heavy Sunday-afternoon traffic on Passaic Ave. Police said that after the officer blocked him with the radio car, the suspect began flailing at Ward in the street, a fight ensued, Finch joined the fray, and Santino Zaccardo, 20, of Belleville, was forced to the ground and cuffed. A search incident to arrest reportedly produced a glassine envelope of heroin, stamped “Out of Stock.”

Zaccardo was charged with possession of the drug and paraphernalia, robbery and resisting arrest. Store security reportedly had seen him removing the tags from boxes of Oxytrol (which, in case you are curious, is an overthe- counter treatment for an overactive bladder).

Feb. 23 

Officer Daniel Esteves, on patrol at Passaic and Johnston Aves. at 4 p.m., stopped a 2001 Buick for a headlight violation and saw that driver Ramon Leston’s license was suspended, police said. He reportedly also saw a plastic bag containing white powder in the center console. Leston, 55, of West Orange, was charged with possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia, operating a motor vehicle while in possession of a CDS, failure to surrender a suspended license, and failure to maintain lamps (i.e., headlights).

• • •

Officer Jean recognized Richard Stevens, 29, of Kearny, walking on Elm St. near the Pike at 5:30 p.m., and confirmed that he was the subject of several warrants: a $700 DWI from Stafford Township; $100 for a Newark traffic offense, and a $5,000 one, also from Newark, for “wandering in a known drug area,” police said. He was taken into custody and turned over to the Newark PD.

• • •

At 8:30 p.m., Officer Fabula stopped a 2002 BMW that had been in the left-turn-only lane at Bergen and Harrison Aves. but then failed to turn. Police said a warrant inquiry revealed that driver Victor Mendez, 28, of Kearny, had a $1,000 drug-related warrant out of Newark. He was charged on that and given a summons for the traffic violation.

Feb. 25 

After stopping a 2006 BMW at Schuyler and Arlington Aves. at 1 a.m., Officer Christian Medina confirmed that passenger Herve Chavez, 24, of Kearny, had a $500 warrant from Belleville, police said. As identification, Chavez reportedly produced a suspended driver’s license and was charged with its possession and failure to surrender it.

– Karen Zautyk 

Rolling on to the Eastern Regionals


By Kevin Canessa Jr.

Observer Correspondent 

Ryen Pezzolla probably never gave much thought to playing roller hockey at a Division I university when he first started playing the sport when he was a 3-year-old.

But now, more than 15 years later, the grandson of The Observer’s general manager Robert Pezzolla is doing just that — and he’s so good he’s been named a finalist for the Eastern Collegiate Roller Hockey Association’s Division I Player of the Year.

Pezzolla plays roller hockey for Rutgers University.

The St. Peter’s Prep alum scored an astonishing 52 goals in just 17 games played this season, the most of anyone playing college roller hockey in the entire country. But the modest Pezzolla was hardly ready to take credit for his personal accomplishments. Instead, he was more interested in the team’s overall accomplishments.

“We’re 11-6-1 in the Eastern Conference,” Pezzolla said. “But when you play with a guy like (teammate) Jeff O’Connell, it’s a lot easier. We have a lot of great chemistry when we play together.”

Last year, when Pezzolla was a senior playing ice hockey for the Marauders of St. Peter’s Prep, he says he got four offers to play ice hockey in college. He had a great senior season and even played an outdoor game at Yankee Stadium, something that was possible because of the NHL’s Outdoor Stadium Series that saw the Devils play the Rangers and the Rangers play the Islanders.

Despite this — and playing four years of ice hockey at the Prep — Pezzolla says his true love was for roller hockey.

“I love ice hockey and I miss it, but I’ve been playing roller hockey much longer than I played ice hockey,” he said. “I knew the coach at Rutgers. I really liked him. So really, it was a decision I had to make. I wanted to play roller over ice. “It’s a decision I don’t regret at all.” Of course, he says he does miss the game on ice.

“I do miss it, but I know I made the right decision to play roller,” Pezzolla said.

And, he says, playing roller hockey has actually offered him greater opportunities.

Soon, he’ll be playing in the Eastern Regionals in Pennsylvania, and the team that wins the tournament gets a cash incentive to be used by the team (individual players don’t make money).

“There’s $10,000 up for grabs,” he said.

He’ll also play in another tournament in Pennsylvania.

“The competition is great — and the sport is growing,” Pezzolla said. “In just a few years, there have been a lot more teams playing roller. I’m very happy to be playing the game and the sport.”

And with luck, fairly soon, he’ll be recognized as the country’s best player in that sport.

Concern over falling ice: NPD

Nutley public school officials are following up an incident involving ice falling from schools in the wake of an incident at the John Walker Middle School on Feb. 21.

Police responded to the Franklin Ave. school on a report of a section of ice blocking the sidewalk. Upon arrival, police observed a large piece of ice that had rolled off the school’s roof and damaged part of the retaining wall in front of the school.

Police said a Board of Education employee was dispatched to remove the ice from the walkway.

No individuals were hurt and no parked vehicles were hit by the ice, police said.

School board President Charles Kucinski told The Observer last week that he had been made aware of the incident and that he has asked the board’s maintenance crew to check on the conditions at all of the district’s schools.

Kucinski said there’s likely going to be more such reports, given that the cold weather is continuing “and there’s quite a lot of snow packed on our schools’ roofs.”

“Most of our roofs are flat,” he said, “but the Walker School and our high school have sloped roofs and Walker has the dome,” so those two schools will get more focused attention.

Asked if any type of shelf construction could be affixed to those roofs to prevent ice slippage, Kucsinki said that possibility could be explored. “We expect to have more information by Monday,” he added.

Another school-related episode occurred Feb. 22 when police responded to a report of a burglary to two school buses parked at Monsignor DiLuca Plaza.

A driver told police that an unknown person entered one bus, removed the fire extinguisher and left the roof escape hatch open, allowing snow to accumulate in the interior.

Then, the driver said, someone entered another school bus and sprayed the inside with the fire extinguisher taken from the first bus.

Detectives are investigating.

• • •

Between Feb. 21 and 27, Nutley PD responded to 10 suspicious incidents, 26 motor vehicle accidents, 10 disputes, 37 medical calls and these incidents: Feb. 21  A motor vehicle stop on Passaic Ave. resulted in the arrest of Erica Smith, 31, of South Orange, on charges of DWI, driving while suspended and failure to signal turn.

• • •

A Brookline Ave. resident reported the theft of a package that was ordered and shown to be delivered to the residence but never received.

• • •

A patron got away with shoplifted items from a Harrison St. business, police said. The store manager told police that after hearing a commotion in the deodorant aisle, he went to check and found a man kneeling on the floor rummaging through a backpack, secured on his chest. The man then left the store. Police said the store’s surveillance footage showed the man grabbing several deodorants and other items and stuffing them into his backpack. Police described the suspect as Latino with a heavy accent, 5-feet-5 to 5-feet-9, wearing black pants, a black vest, a beige turtleneck sweater, black watch cap and carrying a black backpack with a red object on its side

• • •

A snow plow operator working on Quarry St. told police someone reportedly twice shot BB pellets at them. On the first pass, the plow was hit on the passenger side of the truck and, on the second pass, the driver’s window was struck, the driver said. Police said they noticed a small circular mark on the passenger front door. Detectives are investigating.

Feb. 22 

Police pulled over the driver of a vehicle whose plate and description matched that of a vehicle that was reported to have left the scene of an accident in Clifton as the vehicle was traveling erratically on River Road. David Camero, 23, of East Orange, was arrested and charged with DWI and was ticketed for failure to notify DMV of change of address. He was released with a mandatory court date.

• • •

Cheryl Niemira, 46, of Nutley, was arrested following an accident on Harrison St. Police issued Niemira a summons charging her with DWI and released her to a family member pending a mandatory court date.

Feb. 23 

Police responded to a call about a vehicle that had crashed into a snow bank on the Rt. 21 exit ramp to Nutley. The vehicle’s occupants told police that the driver lost control of the vehicle on the ice as he was turning onto the exit ramp but police said they saw no ice in that area. One of the car’s occupants, Jaquan Ruffin, 24, of Hoboken, was arrested after police said they learned he had an active warrant from Jersey City. He was released with a mandatory court date and taken to the bus station.

• • •

A River Road resident reported that upon returning to their apartment, they found the front door and dead bolt unlocked. Police said there were no signs of forced entry but the tenant told them that two packs of cigarettes and a piece of jewelry were missing from the apartment.

Feb. 24 

Police responded to a Centre St. location where residents had reported a male running through yards. Police found Timothy Moran 27, of Belleville, who reportedly had cheated a cabbie out of his fare. Police said Moran was wanted on warrants from Garwood and Roseland. He was arrested on the warrants and on a charge of theft of services. After posting bail on the Nutley charge, Moran was turned over to Garwood PD.

Feb. 25 

Police issued summonses to property owners on Darling and Union Aves. and Harrison St. on the charge of failing to clear their sidwalks of snow in the allotted 36-hour time frame.

• • •

A township resident told police that while stopped in traffic on Park Ave. near River Road, an Hispanic man driving a black GMC Suburban rolled down his window and punched and shattered their vehicle’s passenger side rear view mirror, causing $200 in damage. The driver then sped away, north on Rt. 21. The resident characterized the action as a road rage matter.

Feb. 27 

Responding to a call about a “suspicious” individual on Franklin Ave., police found Pedro Rivera, 35, of Newark, who reportedly gave them two fictitious names and then gave officers consent to search his backpack. Inside, police said they found six syringes, two Similac infant formulas, one Enfamil infant formula, a screwdriver, a scissors and eight empty suspected heroin folds. Rivera was charged with providing police a false name and possession of drug paraphernalia. At HQ , after Rivera provided an accurate date of birth and social security number, police said they learned that he had two active warrants from Belleville and one apiece from Bloomfield, Newark and Clifton and that he had allegedly shoplifted the baby formula from a CVS in Clifton. Rivera was then additionally charged with hindering apprehension and turned over to Clifton PD.

– Ron Leir 

Dr. Mark Schachman joins Smile Center

Dr. Blair Schachtel of The Smile and Implant Center welcomes Dr. Mark Schachman to his practice in Kearny. Dr. Schachman is a board certified endodontist and has joined the dental practice as part of the Center’s team of specialists. The Smile and Implant Center is a unique practice which offers not only general and cosmetic dentistry but also all dental specialties in one location (periodontics, pedodontics, oral surgery, and endodontics) and a dental anesthesiologist offering IV sedation and general anesthesia for pediatric and dental phobic patients.

Dr. Schachman received his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Dental School, in 1987. He practiced general and restorative dentistry for two years followed by an additional two-year post graduate residency in endodontics from New York University College of Dentistry. He has had a practice limited to endodontics in New Jersey since 1993. Dr. Schachman is a diplomat of the American Board of Endodontics and former district director of the American Association of Enzootics. He is a clinical attending in endodontics at both Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Morristown Medical Center where he gives lectures, presentations and clinical instruction on various topics of endodontic therapy.

For more information on Dr. Schachman or any of the services offered by The Smile and Implant Center, call 201-991-1055 or visit www.TheSmileandImplantCenter.com and www.Sedation.NJ.

Early, late and Saturday appointments are available for your convenience.

around town


Belleville Public Library, 221 Washington Ave., holds Storytimes for toddlers and preschoolers every Wednesday at 11 a.m., beginning March 11. There is also a special St. Patrick’s Day program set for Saturday, March 14, at 2 p.m. For more information, call the library at 973-450-3434.

The Woman’s Club of Belleville meets the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at their clubhouse, 51 Rossmore Place. Prospective members are welcome. For more information, contact Terry Landon at 973-751-6529.

Belleville Elks Lodge 1123, 254 Washington Ave., announces the following:

  • A corned beef and cabbage dinner will be held on Saturday, March 14, from 5 to 8 p.m. Admission is $15 and $10 for children under age 12.
  • The monthly breakfast is set for Sunday, March 15, 9 a.m. to noon. Admission is $6 for adults; $3 for children under age 10; and free for children under age 3. In case of inclement weather, the breakfast will be cancelled. Call the lodge at 973-759-9623 to check if the event is still on.


Bloomfield Public Library’s Book Club, 90 Broad St., has released its program schedule for March:

  • An adult craft program is held the second Wednesday of each month, beginning March 11, at 6 p.m. Materials needed: discarded books, magazines, newspapers, paper, scissors, various scissors, various beads, decoupage glue. If you have extra supplies, feel free to bring them for the other crafters.
  • Actress Maggie Worsdale portays Martha Washington March 14 at 2 p.m. Through March 14, the library is accepting donations of new or lightly used prom dresses which will be distributed to young women who might otherwise not be able to afford a prom gown. Dresses may be dropped off in the main library. All sizes and styles are welcome.


Holy Cross Church sponsors a trip to Las Vegas, April 29 to May 5. The group departs Newark Airport Wednesday, April 29, at 7:15 a.m., for a nonstop flight via United Airlines and returns Thursday, May 5, at 6:15 a.m. The group will stay at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino. The $771 per-person cost covers air, hotel and taxes. A $250 per-person deposit is required to guarantee reservations. Call Gina at European Travel, 973-484-4023, or Joan at 973- 481-2434.

Harrison Recreation Department announces Little League, Minor League and Tee-Ball registrations will be held at the Community Center, 401 Warren St., through March 20. All children who are age 5 and will not turn age 13 before May 1 are eligible to register. Children must be age 9 or older to be placed on a Little League team. All returning Little League players must also register at this time. A registration fee is required when the child picks up his or her uniform. For more information, contact the Recreation Department at 973-268-2469.


The Kearny High School Athletic Hall of Fame Committee is seeking candidates for induction at a dinner to be held in November. Nominees must have graduated at least five years ago.

Teams to be inducted at a dinner to be held at the Lithuanian Catholic Community Center April 17 will include the 1977 boys soccer team, 1985 boys baseball team, 1980 girls relay team, 1986 boys lightweight crew team, 1980 girls basketball team and the 1968 football team.

For information on the team dinner or on nominating individuals, contact John Millar at 201-955-5051 or Zibbie Viscuso at 201-998-5961.

Kearny UNICO meets Wednesday, March 4, at 7 p.m. To arrange to attend, contact Chapter President Lou Pandolfi at 201-368-2409. Kearny UNICO is a member chapter of UNICO National, the largest Italian American service organization in the U.S.

St. Stephen’s Church, 141 Washington Ave., is selling tickets for a raffle set for Friday, March 20. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15. For tickets email cyndie1522@verizon. net or call St. Stephen’s rectory at 201-998-3314.

Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., announces the following programs:

  • A new series of Lego Robotics Workshops, for children in grades 2 and up, will meet for four weeks on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m., beginning on March 11 on the lower level of the Main Library.

Class size is limited and registration is required. While the library is contributing most of the funding needed, there will be a $10 registration fee per child for the four-week session. Registration is currently open online by following this link: http://www.blockscool.com/class-locations/ kearny-public-librarykearny- nj.

Make sure you apply coupon code ‘kpl0315’ at the check-out screen to get a special discounted rate. Call the library or stop in if you have any issues with the registration system. Register soon to save your spot!

  • A free screening of the blockbuster sequel Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (PG-13 / 123 minutes) is set for 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13 on the lower level of the Main Library. For more information on any of our many programs, call the library at 201-998-2666 or visit our website at www.kearnylibrary.org.


A benefit dinner for Jennie Gossweiler-Renna, now in her fifth year with ovarian cancer, will be held March 28, 5 to 9 p.m., at the Amvets post hall, 323 New York Ave. The $45 admission includes dinner, dancing and support for a wonderful person. For tickets, more information, or to make a donation, call Melissa Alfano at 201-736-1584 or visit www. jenniebenefit.myevent.com.

Dress in the style of your favorite decade for “Dancing through the Decades” March 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lyndhurst firehouse, 299 Delafield Ave. Admission is $35. All proceeds go to the Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary. For tickets, call Cristy at 201-742-2411.

Lyndhurst Girls’ Association hosts a pancake breakfast Sunday, March 22, 8 a.m. to noon, at the Senior Center, 250 Cleveland Ave. Proceeds go towards maintaining and operating Libbie Lindsay House, a meeting place for Girl Scouts and leaders in Lyndhurst. Admission is $5 and tickets may be purchased at the door.

New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (now part of the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority) announces “Owls Alive,” presented by Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, is set for Sunday, March 8, 2 to 3 p.m., at the Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park. See some of these amazing nocturnal raptors and learn about these feathered ambassadors’ behavior, physiology, adaptations and natural history. Admission is $8; $6 for Meadowlands Environment Committee members.

Pre-registration is recommended and appreciated.

To register, go to www.njmeadowlands.gov and click on “Events.”

Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst sponsors a children’s Tricky Tray for grades pre-k to 5 Saturday, March 28, at the Senior Citizens building on Cleveland Ave. Admission is $5. Doors open at noon and the raffle begins at 1 p.m. Lunch items will be sold. No outside food is permitted. For tickets or more information, call Janet at 201-935-1208.

The Lyndhurst Health Department holds its bi-annual Women’s Health Clinic on Wednesday, April 1, at 9 a.m. This free event, made possible through a partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center, includes education on breast self-examination, a PAP test and a pelvic exam. The Lyndhurst Women’s Health Clinic is open to all female Lyndhurst residents age 18 and over. Call 201-804-2500 for an appointment.

Sacred Heart School, 620 Valley Brook Ave., hosts a spring auction Tricky Tray Friday, March 13. Proceeds benefit the Sacred Heart School Margaret Engle Endowment Trust. Tickets are $10 and nonrefundable. Deadline to purchase is March 4. No one under 18 will be admitted and no alcoholic beverages are permitted. For tickets, call Patty at 201-803-9580 or the school at 201-939-4277.

Lyndhurst Public Library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., hosts a St. Patrick’s Day craft program, open to grades 1 to 4, Monday, March 16, 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Registration is required for both. To register, call the library at 201-804-2478.

The library offers a museum pass for World of Wings Butterfly Museum and Children’s Play Land. The pass can be used for free general admission for up to four people (two adults and two children or one adult and three children). The pass is available in the library’s children’s room to patrons with a valid Lyndhurst Library card. For more information, call the library at 201-804-2478, ext. 7, or email romeo@lyndhurst.bccls.org.

North Arlington 

Hayden’s Heart third annual 5K run/walk is set for Saturday, March 7, at Riverside County Park South. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the 5K run/walk starts at 11 a.m. Entry fee is $35. Hayden’s Heart raises awareness for congenital heart disease and helps families struggling with CHD in their time of need. To register in advance, visit haydensheart.org.

North Arlington Elks Lodge 1992, 129 Ridge Road, hosts a St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage dinner on Tuesday, March 17, from 4 to 7 p.m. Cost is $12 for a dinner and $8 for a sandwich. Eat-in or to-go orders will be available.

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Road, announces the following:

  • Irish music performance with Clarence Ferrari begins at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 7.
  • A screening of the film “From Here to Eternity” is set for Monday, March 9, at 6 p.m.
  • A motorcycle jacket themed photography exhibit by Bobby Travieso is on display at the library through March 7. The exhibit includes photos of people of all walks of life wearing the photographer’s old leather jacket along with a brief statement about who the person is and how they came to put on the jacket. For more information, visit Travieso’s website www.hairyhand.net.
  • Sit and Stitch Knitting  and Crochet group meets Tuesday, March 10, at 7 p.m.
  • Basics of Computing Class meets Mondays, March 16, 23, 30 and April 6, at 6 p.m. each day. For more information, call the library at 201-955-5640.

North Arlington High School Crew announces its 2015 season kick-off party fundraiser Saturday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m., at the Pourhouse, 584 Ridge Road. The $40 admission includes three hours of open bar, light food and music. Bring your family and friends (age 21 and over). North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Road, hosts a St. Patrick’s Day celebration Friday, March 13, starting at 8:30 a.m. with a continental breakfast, followed by bingo at 10 a.m., lunch at noon and dancing at 1 p.m. For more information and reservations, call 201-998-5636.


Shelter Love Events hosts a comedy night fundraiser March 14 at The Old Canal Inn, 2 E. Passaic Ave., with proceeds going to help purchase items needed by Happily Efur After, a not-for-profit, no-kill, all-volunteer cat rescue and adoption group. The event features a prize raffle, 50/50 raffle, and the comedic stylings of emcee Jeff Howard, Ken Perlstein, Joe Messina, Paul Goldenberg, Mike Celona and Steve Schwarz. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. Food orders and raffle ticket purchases will not be available once the show starts. Tickets are $25, which includes a $5 food voucher. Tickets can be purchased at http://slecomedynight.brownpapertickets.com.

Nutley’s Ferinde, QP’s Velez bring home Region 4 wrestling gold

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

A year ago, Joe Ferinde had to face the reality that he lost in the NJSIAA Region 4 wrestling finals.

At the same time, Jeff Velez was at another venue altogether, winning the Region 3 championship.

Last Saturday, Ferinde, the Nutley senior, and Velez, the Queen of Peace senior, were crowned as Region 4 champs at West Orange High School.

Ferinde, the top seed in the 126-pound class, defeated Kareem Askew of Clifton, 8-4, to earn his first Region championship. Ferinde also defeated former teammate Anthony DeLorenzo, now wrestling for Queen of Peace, 3-1, in the semifinals.

“I was the runner-up last year, so I really wanted to win this year,” said Ferinde, who improved to a stellar 35-2 after winning three matches in the Region 4 tourney. “Going into the tournament, I knew I was in one of the toughest weight classes. I knew I was going to have to battle.”

Velez, who won the Region 3 title last year wrestling for Brearley Regional, transferred to Queen of Peace this year to be with coach Scot Weaver.

Weaver formerly coached at Brearley, but decided to come back and restore the QP program that he initiated several years ago.

“Coach Weaver has helped me so much,” said Velez, who defeated Mauro Altamura of Hasbrouck Heights, 6-2, to claim the 195-pound championship. “I don’t know what I would do without him. I’m just blessed to have him as a coach.”

Velez spoke of the difficulty of leaving Brearley for QP in his senior year.

“It was very tough, leaving all my best friends behind and coming to a new school,” Velez said. “But it was the best decision for me down the road. It’s going to help me get back to Atlantic City.”

Both Ferinde and Velez are now headed to the NJSIAA state championships this weekend, along with the others who finished either second or third in their respective regions.

For Ferinde, it will be his third sojourn down the Garden State Parkway to compete with the state’s best grapplers. He qualified as a sophomore two years ago, but last year, he won three matches in Boardwalk Hall to finish eighth overall in the state at the same weight class (126).

Needless to say, Ferinde is pumped to get another chance at winning the elusive state championship.

“I feel better than I have all year,” Ferinde said. “Both mentally and physically, I feel great. It’s the end of the year for me and that’s when I really shine. I start getting better and better. That’s when I usually shine.”

Ferinde knows that winning a Region gold medal gives him a first-round bye Friday night in Boardwalk Hall.

“But I can’t look at it any differently,” Ferinde said. “I can’t be too relaxed. I have to be sharp, both physically and mentally. The goal all year was to get back to the podium in Atlantic City. I wanted to do better than I did last year. That’s my main goal, to keep getting better than I was the previous year. I’m really comfortable wrestling in Atlantic City. The atmosphere is amazing. I’m just going to let it fly.”

Ferinde hopes that a good performance this weekend could lead to a college offer. Right now, Ferinde is totally undecided about college. A few wins with the entire state watching might force a college coach to take notice.

Velez said that winning Region 4 was nothing different than winning Region 3, except for the competition being a little tougher.

“I had the same spirit and the same goals,” Velez said. “I just want to win every period, win every match and win the tournament. It really didn’t matter to me what Region I was in. I knew what I had to do. My weight class was pretty tough. Altamura gave me a tough match. I just had to go out there, wrestle and do my thing.”

Unlike Ferinde, Velez has some schools already chomping at the bit, namely Rider and Newberry, both with excellent wrestling programs.

“I have a couple of others, but I want to see what happens this weekend,” Velez said. “Going down there, I’m still going to be a little nervous. But I’m going to be me. I’m going to do what I have to do to win. I’m not going to be as nervous as I was last year. I’m just going to do my thing and make my mark.”

Velez was asked if he was totally healthy for the state tournament.

“I feel very strong right now and I feel good about the way I’ve been wrestling,” Velez said. “I keep getting better each and every week. I’m really excited for this week. I’ve been preparing myself all year for this weekend. I’m going to let it all go on the mat.”

Ferinde and Velez might have been the area’s only champions, but they are not the only local wrestlers to be headed to Atlantic City.

Nutley, led by Region 4 Coach of the Year Frank DiPiano, will have two wrestlers competing this weekend in Ferinde and Darwin Pena, who lost in the finals at 145 pounds.

Queen of Peace, headed by the aforementioned Weaver (a Lyndhurst native), will have four wrestlers on the mats in Atlantic City.

Besides Velez, the Golden Griffins will be represented by Mike Scaravelli, who lost in the finals at 132 pounds by a tough 6-4 decision to Matthew Rose of Hasbrouck Heights/ Wood-Ridge.

The Golden Griffins also have Ray Wetzel, the third place finisher at 120 pounds, and Joe Rocca, who was third at 152 pounds. The Golden Griffins just missed having another state qualifier, when Garrett Beam dropped his consolation round match at 138 pounds.

Three other locals just missed going to Atlantic City. Nutley’s Andrew Aiello lost in the consolation final at 160 pounds. Lyndhurst/North Arlington’s Devin Yunis lost in the semifinals at 120 pounds and Belleville’s Jordan Greene suffered a tough loss in the semifinals at 160.

So the local title hopes rest on the shoulders of Ferinde and Velez, two very capable wrestlers and two Region 4 champions.

For Harrison bowling coach Cucci, labor of love pays off


For more than 20 years, Joe Cucci has taken the Harrison High School bowling team to local lanes in the area and watched the Blue Tide generally come up on the short end of the bowling sheet.

Just two years ago, the Blue Tide won all of four varsity matches.

But last year, Cucci began to see the fruits of his dedication pay off a little.

“We were 12-8 last year,” Cucci said. “That was our second winning season. I’ve watched them develop over the years. They’re such a great group of kids. They’re wonderful to be around.”

Cucci usually gets kids to come out for the Blue Tide who have very little bowling experience, so patience is definitely a virtue.

“But I’ve watched these kids grow up, not just as bowlers, but as people,” Cucci said. “They would get together all the time before the season to bowl together. I knew that this year would be a different year.”

Senior leader Joe Ussery also saw the change in the Blue Tide this season.

“Everyone generally has a good time together,” Ussery said. “We really have a lot of fun. I think that helps with our progression.”

Cucci speaks highly of Ussery.

“He’s very friendly with everyone,” Cucci said. “All the other coaches in the school love him and the other bowlers look up to him and respect him. He’s a wonderful kid to be around.”

Ussery is also the top bowler on the team, with an average around 175 per game.

“I tried to see if I could get that average up a bit this year,” Ussery said. “That was my goal.”

Ussery reached his goal, improving by almost 10 pins per game.

Cucci started to see the progress of the Blue Tide early on this season.

“All of our kids started to bowl well,” Cucci said. “If one (bowler) was off, then another came along to pick the other one up. But they were consistently bowling above their averages.”

The camaraderie of the Blue Tide paid off this season, as they amazingly posted an 18-2 record, which was good enough to capture the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference-Patriot Division title.

It was the first time in Cucci’s 20-year coaching career that the Blue Tide captured a divisional title. The Blue Tide also finished fifth in the recent NJSIAA North Jersey 1A Sectionals that was won by Lyndhurst en route to the overall state championship.

The Blue Tide clinched their divisional crown recently with a solid win over Queen of Peace.

“It was a very emotional day,” Cucci said. “It was emotional especially since they’re such a great group of kids who are respected not only as bowlers, but as people.”

That is a point that Cucci wanted to drive home, the way that his team was adored and loved as young men and women, even after they leave the lanes.

Senior Felipe Henriques has also been a solid bowler for the Blue Tide for the past four seasons.

“He’s a lively kid with a good sense of humor,” Cucci said of Henriques, who owns a 160 average. “He’s a little off beat.” Junior Sam Mota, who has a 165 average, is more of a silent assassin. “He’s very quiet, but he’s very consistent with his game,” Cucci said. “He’s never too up or too down. I like his consistency.”

Junior Josh Kelly is another with an average of 165. Kelly and Mota will be asked to continue the winning ways next winter.

Senior Ken Lee graduates this year, but was a solid contributor, especially when Cucci had to bowl five starters instead of the conventional four.

“He might have gotten lost in the shuffle a little, but he was there with us,” Cucci said.

Ussery thought that this could be the year that he and his teammates gave Cucci a championship.

“I was hoping for it,” Ussery said. “I thought that maybe it could really happen this year. But to see us pull this off meant the world to me. My coach finally gets his first conference championship after all these years. I’m so proud of my teammates. I’m proud of everyone.”

Ussery is headed to Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida in the fall. Full Sail is a school that focuses on the world of entertainment and media, the behind the scenes electronic work in movies, television, sports, video games and web and technology. Ussery is going to study audio engineering in the recording arts program.

“I think the key to our team was consistency,” Ussery said. “We knew that if we put the ball in the same spot, the ball would roll into the pocket and the pins would go down. I know it sounds simple, but that was the goal. We went from four wins two years ago to winning the conference title. How awesome is that? We got 18 wins in my last year. It’s phenomenal.”

And the dedicated coach can now say he coached a champion. It borders on the unthinkable, considering the Blue Tide’s past.

“We just hope that they can continue to develop,” Cucci said. “Our JV (junior varsity) team was undefeated, so there’s a lot of promise. I just hope we can represent Harrison well again next year.”

Win or lose, Cucci’s teams always represent the town and the school well, so when a championship is involved, it makes everything so much sweeter.