By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY– The three young men, pictured above in their Kearny High School yearbook photos, had their whole lives ahead of them. Who knew where the future would take them? No one would have guessed that, a bit more than a decade later, it […]
TRENTON – An accused serial robber has admitted to playing a role in 11 robberies, primarily of drug stores, in Harrison, Newark and Jersey City over a period of eight months, it was announced by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman. On July 21, Christopher Mojica, 23, pleaded guilty to […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent LYNDHURST – Talk about parallel life paths: Joseph White and Matthew Giunta went to pre-school (St. Michael’s) together, then to Franklin Elementary School, then Lyndhurst High. And, last Friday, they entered the Bergen County Law & Public Safety Institute in Mahwah to begin […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent BELLEVILLE – It’s been a year and two months since Gov. Chris Christie presided at a ballyhooed groundbreaking for Franklin Manor, an age-restricted 137-unit apartment complex for those 55 and over – the first such senior development for Belleville in more than three decades. […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent HARRISON – A property dispute between a longtime Harrison business and some neighbors that has been simmering for a few years now appears to be coming to a boil. Smack in the middle of the controversy are Bergen St. homeowners Victor and Eleanor Villalta […]
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
When Joe Fischer decided to take over the Belleville High School football program once again for a second stint, he wanted to change the perception more than anything.
“We were starting from scratch,” said Fischer, who was the head coach for four seasons from 2004 through 2007. “I had to put together a plan.” And what did that plan include?
“We had the players pick up garbage,” Fischer said.
Simple enough, no? A day after the Belleville Class of 2014 went through their commencement exercises at Belleville Stadium, Fischer had the 40 or so returning football players go to clean the stadium top to bottom.
“It shows the kids that no one is above picking up garbage,” Fischer said. “It instills pride in their surroundings, where they practice and play. They have a nice field, a nice facility that they should be proud of. And it stops them from throwing stuff on the ground.”
Fischer said that the plan showed its first signs of working when a player went up to a teacher and told the teacher that they can’t throw empty bottles on the ground.
“One of the players ran over, picked up the empty bottle and said, ‘You can’t do that,’” Fischer said. “They know that if they’re going to pick up garbage to play, then they’re going to pick up garbage. It’s that simple. I knew I had to start from scratch. I knew that these kids had no pride in their program.”
The clean-up program was a sign to the players that times had indeed changed.
“They knew that things were changing,” Fischer said.
In May, the Belleville football players picked up 25 bags of garbage from the area around Belleville Stadium. After graduation, there was more of the same.
“Discipline doesn’t work if the kids don’t care,” Fischer said. “The kids simply had no pride in their program. It is a form of discipline when they have to take care of where they spend most of their time. We have a nice field. They should take care of it.”
Fischer said that the cleanup routine has already filtered down to the players.
“I told one of the seniors, Nick Nardicchone, that if I found any bottles around, we were going to run gassers for every bottle,” Fischer said. “He made sure that there were no bottles. That’s just the way it is. I’m not a yeller or a screamer, but they are following through with what I say.”
Fischer said that he instituted a similar plan when he became the head coach in 2004.
“We had a bad locker room with old rusty lockers and animals lived there and that ran in and out,” Fischer said. “So we re-did the entire locker room and built new wood lockers. They’re still there. It’s a team building concept.”
The Buccaneers were in the midst of a 33-game losing streak, the longest in the state, when Fischer took over the first time. They snapped the slide and eventually made the NJSIAA North 1, Group IV state playoffs in 2007, the last time the program reached the postseason.
Fischer said that the players received a treat in May, when 25 of the Buccaneers were treated to partake in the National Football League draft at Radio City Music Hall.
“I have a friend, Gerhardt Sanchez, who used to be the recreation director in Montclair,” Fischer said. “He ran a 7-on-7 for the NFL in Montclair. We’ve become friends. He now works for the NFL. He called me and asked if I wanted to take some kids to the draft. So we brought 25 kids.”
The Belleville gridders got to meet Giants punter Steve Weatherford and Jets running back Chris Ivory while watching the draft.
“There were coaches and general managers walking around,” Fischer said. “It was really a nice day, another day toward team building. Half of the players had never even been to New York City before. It might be only 12 miles away, but it’s totally different to them. It was such a great day. The kids are still talking about it.”
The Buccaneers might not set the world on fire this season, but there’s one thing for sure. There’s a new sheriff in town. Actually, it’s the old sheriff, but he’s making sure that things are being done the right away and being done with a sense of pride.
“We’re starting from the bottom, but we’re moving in the right direction,” Fischer said.
Ninety-four golfers took to the green at the St. Michael’s Medical Center (SMMC) recent Golf Outing. The daylong event, held at Cedar Hill Golf and Country Club in Livingston, began with an outdoor lunch, followed by 18 holes of golf, and concluded with a cocktail hour, dinner, raffles and a silent auction. More than 120 guests attended the evening festivities.
The event raised $100,000 to support The Connie Dwyer Breast Center at SMMC.
“The funds raised will help us acquire the resources we need to continue our mission to provide top-quality breast care—from screening and diagnosis to treatment and follow-up—for all women,” said Connie Dwyer, founder of the Connie Dwyer Breast Center. “We are truly touched by the outpour of support and the generosity demonstrated by the event’s attendees and sponsors.”
A comprehensive, state-of-the- art facility, The Connie Dwyer Breast Center provides expert diagnosis and treatment of breast disease, breast cancer prevention, early detection, and educational outreach programs in northern New Jersey. The Breast Center conducts over 20,000 procedures annually, including mammograms, ultrasound and biopsies. In addition, the Breast Center reaches out to more than 1,500 women annually through a series of free educational sessions and breast cancer screenings at the hospital and in the community, with outreach performed at churches, schools, community centers, and other local organizations.
Phoenix Physicians, LLC, served as the event’s main sponsor. To view photos from the Golf Outing, visit the SMMC Facebook page at facebook.com/SaintMichaels- MedicalCenter.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise recently accepted early endorsements of Harrison Mayor James Fife, Kearny Mayor Al Santos, East Newark Mayor Joseph Smith, Freeholder Al Cifelli and several other local leaders in West Hudson.
These pledges of support come on the heels of the recent endorsements DeGise received from two North Hudson political leaders, State Sen./North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco and State Sen./Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
The West Hudson event was held at the Harrison Parking Center, which provides parking for the Red Bull Arena and commuters using the Harrison PATH station. The parking facility was developed by the Hudson County Improvement Authority, which, DeGise said, is playing a vital role in the area’s economic revitalization.
“I’m very honored and humbled to receive the endorsements of these mayors and local leaders here in West Hudson,” said DeGise, who is running for reelection in 2015. “My job as county executive is to help provide them the county resources they need and assist them in serving their communities.”
DeGise pointed to the site of the press conference, in the midst of the burgeoning Harrison Redevelopment Project, as a particular point of pride in his administration. Under his leadership, HCIA built the parking garage and helped finance the construction of the soccer stadium, which, he said, are anchors in the area’s rebirth.
“I couldn’t be prouder to lend my voice to saying we need Tom next year, and we in Harrison are 100% dedicated to keeping him in the job,” said Fife, who hosted the press conference.
“We are grateful for having the county executive on our team,” said East Newark Mayor Joseph Smith. “The help Tom has given us with our seniors has been nothing short of spectacular. He helped refurbish our senior center, helps with our lunch program and has always been there when we have needed him.”
“It’s an honor to be here endorsing Tom DeGise wholeheartedly. He’s the right person for the right office and the important redevelopment project we are standing in that could not have happened without him is evidence of that,” said Kearny Mayor Al Santos. “Sometimes we are the forgotten portion of the county, but never with Tom DeGise.”
“Harrison’s redevelopment is alive and well and it could not have happened without the help of the county and Tom DeGise,” said Freeholder Al Cifelli. “Tom has been a great friend of West Hudson and he has stood shoulder to shoulder with leaders like the late Ray McDonough to make projects like this happen. Tom is an excellent county executive and I am proud to support him.”
Arthur W. Anderson
Arthur W. Anderson, of Kearny, died July 5, in University Hospital in Newark. He was 83.
Memorial visitation will be on Wednesday, July 9, from 4 until 8 p.m., at the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral service will be held on Thursday, July 10, at 11 a.m. from the funeral home. Entombment of his ashes will follow in Holy Cross Cemetery. To leave online condolences, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com
Arthur served in the United Sates Navy. He was a firefighter in Kearny and retired as a captain. He was a member of Copestone-Ophir Lodge, the F.M.B.A. and had coached Pony League Baseball all in Kearny.
Husband of Patricia Ann (nee Veasey) and father of Cynthia, William E., Arthur J. and Lynda Anderson. He is also survived by his sister Lillian Hedden and his grandchildren Mitchell, Erik, Zachary, Amanda, Max, Alexis and Nicholas.
In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
John J. Kaletka
John J. Kaletka, of Kearny, died June 24 in The Alaris Health Care Center at Belgrove. He was 94. He was a lifelong Kearny resident. Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass was held at St. Stephen’s Church, followed by burial in Holy Cross Cemetery. To leave an online condolence, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.
John was a paratrooper during World War II. He saw much action in Italy, France and Belgium. He was a Purple Heart recipient and also served in Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s security detail. He was a fourth degree Knight of Columbus and was active with the St. Stephen’s Seniors, The Benstead Center and had been vice president of The Lithuanian American Citizens Club. Husband of Frances (nee Tunkavige) and brother of the late Anna Mack, he is also survived by nieces and nephews Diane Moroses (late Jack), George Moroses (Carol) and Carolyn Moroses along with their families. John also leaves behind his best golf buddy Frank Gonzalez.
In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to your own favorite charity.
Jean L. Metcalf
Jean L. Metcalf (nee Laidlaw) died peacefully on July 3 at home. She was 89. Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., she lived in North Arlington and Lyndhurst before moving to Hackettstown five years ago. Arrangements are by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral service will be on Tuesday, July 8, at 11 a.m. from the funeral home. Private cremation will follow. To leave online condolences, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.
Jean had been a para mutual clerk at the Meadowlands Sporting Arena for many years.
She was wife of the late James Metcalf; mother of Frank (the late Karen) Metcalf, John (Janice) Augustine, Harriet (Larry) Raymond, James (Barbara) Augustine, and William Metcalf; sister of Margaret Lower, John Laidlaw and the late Thomas Laidlaw. She is also survived by her grandchildren Cara, Katie-Rose, JR, Stacey, Kelly, Kyle, Rebecca, Alyson, Brittany and James and her great-grandchildren Trevor, Jesse and Brody.
In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to First Presbyterian Church of Arlington, in Kearny.
Robert James Oldknow
Bob Oldknow, 83, passed away peacefully on June 30.
Born to James and Lillian Oldknow on August 29,1930, he was a longtime resident of Kearny. He graduated from Kearny High in 1948 and joined the U.S. Army, serving with the Army Occupation Forces in Germany before returning to Bordentown, where he served until 1955. Bob joined the Kearny Police Department, serving until 1962, when he joined the Kearny Fire Department as a firefighter and finally assistant to the chief before his retirement in 1990.
Bob was committed to his community, and was an active member of the West Hudson South Bergen Optimist Club. He was elected and served with distinction as governor of the Optimist International for the State of N.J. from 1987 to 1988. He was a member of the Copestone-Ophir Masonic Lodge and served as the Lodge Master Mason. He also had a great passion for local politics. He was a member of the Third Ward Harry S. Truman Club, the Tantaqua Club and was an elected Hudson County Democratic Committee member for over 25 years.
Bob’s second home was Ocean Grove where he ultimately retired with his beloved wife of 59 years, Frances, who predeceased him in November 2013. He made many friends in Ocean Grove, among them was his group of coffee buddies who met every morning on Main St. and landed the group a part in the opening scene of Hillary Duff’s movie filmed in Ocean Grove. Bob had a great sense of humor and loved to talk to everyone he met, making friends wherever he traveled. Bob is survived by his son, Keith Oldknow, Indianapolis. Ind., granddaughters, Meredyth (husband Josh), Katie and great granddaughter, Zoe, daughter Sharon Marshall (husband Steve) Anchorage, Alaska, son, Kent R. Oldknow (wife Joan) Windham, N.Y., grandsons, Bryan, Sean and Kent II (Kerry), daughter, Marlynn Haslund (husband Leif), Tacoma, Washington state, grandchildren, Leif Andrew, Anna, Peter, favorite nieces Missy and Maura, nephews, Mark and Michael and many, many friends.
Visiting will be on Wednesday July 9, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., at the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive. A funeral Mass will be on Thursday, June 10, at 10 a.m., at St. Cecilia Church and the cremation will be private.
In lieu of flowers, contributions to the Optimist International organization would be greatly appreciated.
Joan M. Smith
Joan M. Smith, 80, died June 24 at the Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville.
Born in Newark, she lived in Kearny before moving to North Arlington in 1960.
In 1954 she graduated from the nursing program at Jersey City Medical Center, received a Bachelor of Nursing in 1973 and a master’s degree in nursing in 1976, both from Jersey City State College. She worked as a registered nurse at East Orange General Hospital from 1981 to 1992.
She was the beloved daughter of the late Ann (nee Martin) and late Alfred Smith, the cherished sister of the late Alfred Emmet Smith, the dear sister-in-law of Agnes P. Smith of Parsippany, the adored aunt of Kevin Smith, Brian Smith and his wife Anne, and the loving great-aunt of Cathryn Smith.
She was a member of the Jersey City Medical Center Alumni Association, a former member of the Parish Council of Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington, and a member of the Literacy Volunteers of America at the Kearny Public Library.
The funeral was from the Parow Funeral home, 185 Ridge Road, North Arlington, on Friday, June 27, with a funeral Mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington. The entombment followed in Holy Cross Chapel Mausoleum, North Arlington.
Donations in her memory may be made to the Queen of Peace Church Restoration Campaign, 10 Franklin Place, North Arlington, N.J. 07031
Viola Scott Thomsen
Viola Scott Thomsen (formerly Viola Mocarski) passed away at the age of 89, on June 20, at Lytton Gardens Senior Communities in Palo Alto, Calif. Her death was attributed to cardiovascular failure.
Visitation will be on Friday, July 11, at the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral service will take place at The Fewsmith Memorial Presbyterian Church in Belleville, 10 a.m., Saturday, July 12, with burial to follow in Crest Haven Memorial Park, Clifton.
Viola was born on August 8, 1924, and was raised in Walker Valley, near Pine Bush, N.Y. During World War II, she worked as a secretary at Stewart Field in upstate New York. She married Edward Mocarski, and they raised their three children in Belleville. Viola worked for many years in physician’s offices and then as executive assistant to the head of chemistry at Hoffman La Roche Pharmaceuticals in Nutley. After her marriage to Carl Thomsen, she lived in Sparta and later retired to Port St. Lucie West, Fla. Viola recently joined her children and their families in California, residing at Lytton Gardens Assisted Living in Palo Alto.
Throughout her life, Viola maintained many close relationships with family and friends. Wherever she lived, Viola was active in the Presbyterian Church, serving as an Elder at churches in Belleville, Sparta and Vero Beach. She loved to travel and enjoyed entertaining as well as the latest in fashion and design. Viola participated in social clubs, card clubs and dinner groups, as well as all aspects of the performing arts, regularly attending local and regional theater with friends. She loved decorating the house for every holiday. Over the last three decades, Viola became a regular golfer.
Wife of the late Edward S. Mocarski and the late Carl Thomsen, she is survived by her son, Dr. Edward S. Mocarski Jr., and his wife Dr. Christine L. Martens, daughter Nancy L. Zarra, daughter Susan J. Mocarski and her husband Darrell E. Elwell.
Also surviving are grandchildren Anthony J. Zarra Jr., Emily C. Mocarski, Shannon S. Lee, Cassandra L. Belt and Ryan C. Elwell.
Please consider a donation to the American Heart Association in honor of Viola.
To leave online condolences please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.
Because of the forecast of severe weather, the Essex County Fireworks Display and Concert with The Infernos and Joe Piscopo scheduled for tonight, Thursday, July 3, in Essex County Brookdale Park has been postponed to Tuesday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m.
By Karen Zautyk
Fans of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission’s DeKorte Park took notice when the NJMC recently announced that the Saw Mill Creek Trail has been closed and will likely remain so until next year.
Readers unfamiliar with the wildlife preserve might have just shrugged.
But, lo and behold, it turns out the closure is part of a multimillion-dollar energy project that affects most of our Observer towns. It’s called the Northeast Grid Reliability Project, it’s costing an estimated $907 million, and PSE&G has been working on it since 2012. Completion is projected for June 2015.
Your correspondent admittedly noticed PSE&G workers busy at the power lines on Main St. in Belleville for some months now but never thought to make inquiries. It was the NJMC announcement that caught our attention, and we have since learned much. Read more »
By Ron Leir
Public Service Electric & Gas pays about $18 million a year in Energy Tax Receipts (ETR) aid to the state for its properties in Kearny and the state passes that money along to the town’s coffers.
That’s nearly a quarter of the town’s overall budget but Mayor Alberto Santos – who’s looking to extract as much revenue as he can to soften the local tax impact for property owners – said Kearny deserves more.
“At our peak year in 2002, we were getting $21.5 million a year from the state for PSE&G,” said Santos. But since then, he said, the state has elected to keep more of the state-wide utility tax for its own budget-balancing purposes.
The mayor’s assertions are echoed in a “Friends of Local Government Policy Paper Series” March 2013 report on “Appropriating Energy Tax Receipts: The New Normal for New Jersey,” written for the N.J. League of Municipalities Educational Foundation by Alan Zalkind and Angie McGuire of the Rutgers Center for Government Services. Read more »
Nearly a year after Belleville resident Dante Cespedes was gunned down in a fusillade of bullets fired by three township cops in his apartment, an Essex County grand jury has been convened to investigate the fatal shooting.
Katherine Carter, spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, wouldn’t confirm or deny the grand jury activity but Marc Bengualid, the New York attorney representing Cespedes’ widow Judy Breton, said his client was called to testify June 20.
Other witnesses who appeared before the grand jurors included several Belleville police personnel, according to Bengualid, who said he was unable to identify the officers.
Bengualid said he believes that, “more witnesses are coming,” including the Essex County medical examiner. Read more »
By Ron Leir
The Kearny Police Department has scored an additional police superior but it still leaves the department scrambling for more bodies, according to Police Chief John Dowie.
For now, though, the chief said he’s thankful that the town governing body has seen fit to promote Sgt. John View, 45, to the rank of police lieutenant. View was sworn in at the June 24 meeting of the mayor and Town Council, at an annual base pay of $124,608.
Because the town has applied for state transitional aid, View’s promotion was contingent on approval by the state Division of Local Government Services but no objections were foreseen.
At last week’s meeting, Dowie, addressing Mayor Alberto Santos and members of the council, said that when he recommended the move to them, he realized that the town was under fiscal restraints. “This was not easy to sell,” the chief said, “but my hat’s off to you for rising above it.” Read more »
By Ron Leir
Last week, the Belleville school community learned the awful truth: The township’s public school district is $3.6 million in the red and deep cuts are being made to get the district right for the coming school year.
And the situation could actually have been worse: CPA Jeffery Bliss, a partner with Lerch, Vinci & Higgins, the Belleville Board of Education’s Fair Lawn auditors, told a massive crowd assembled in the high school auditorium June 23 that overexpenditures for the current school year totaled $4.8 million.
But to soften the blow, the board is applying its surplus funds to restore a portion of the money it now needs to balance its budget by June 30, according to BOE Secretary/ Business Administrator Raymond Jacobus.
In a phone interview last week, Jacobus told The Observer that in April, he met with Executive County Schools Superintendent Joseph Zarra and Belleville Schools Superintendent Helene Feldman to sound the alarm of a looming deficit and to outline specifics. Read more »