By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – A proposal by NJ Transit to build a backup power system in South Kearny to run its trains in cases of emergencies like another Superstorm Sandy threatens to derail a redevelopment plan […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent HARRISON – James Fife, who taught history to a lot of Harrison High School students over the years, is now in the official Harrison history books. Fife, who will mark his 73rd birthday on […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY– A man who was severely burned in a Feb. 12 house fire at 131 Schuyler Ave. succumbed to his injuries last week at St. Barnabas Medical Center, authorities reported. The victim, Manuel Lampon, 66, […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Seven persons were displaced last week when a three-alarm fire left their Dukes St. home uninhabitable, authorities reported. As of press time, the exact cause of the blaze was still under investigation. […]
A10-month multi-agency investigation culminated Thursday in the arrests of 23 New Jersey men in connection with an international carjacking ring, one of whose alleged leaders is a Belleville resident, authorities reported. At a press conference, state Acting Attorney General […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Three more firefighters will be added to the rolls of the Kearny Fire Department later this year – assuming they make it through their training. But it still won’t be enough to make […]
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Before he became a standout safety with the New York Giants, Stevie Brown was a big fan of the Dr. Seuss children’s books.
“I did the ‘Six by Seuss,’ growing up,” said Brown, a native of Dallas, Texas, who grew up in Columbus, Indiana. “I read them all the time And I still read a lot for fun.”
So when Brown was asked to come to Lyndhurst and read for the third and fourth graders of the district, as part of the “Read Across America” program, he was all for it.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Brown, who had a breakthrough season with the Giants in 2012. “It’s a lot of fun. Anything that encourages the kids to read is a great idea.”
Brown was brought into the high school gymnasium to read the Dr. Seuss classic, “I Wish I Had Duck Feet.”
Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, was born on March 2, 1904. A little over a decade ago, the National Education Association deemed every March 2 as the “Read Across America” day in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
Since then, people from all walks of life have volunteered their time to read some of the Dr. Seuss classics to grade school students.
Since March 2 fell on a Saturday this year, the celebration in Lyndhurst took place on Friday – with Brown as the guest of honor.
In reading the book, Brown said that if he had duck feet, “nobody could stop me, nobody at all.”
As it turned out, nobody could stop Brown last season when Brown had a historic year. He was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week twice. He recorded two interceptions and a fumble recovery in a win over Dallas and had two interceptions and a forced fumble in a win over New Orleans. His 48-yard interception return a touchdown off a Michael Vick pass broke open the Giants’ 42-7 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles.
All totaled, Brown had eight interceptions, which was second in the NFL and his 307 return yards set a new team record and was the fourth highest total in NFL history.
His eight interceptions was the highest total for a Giants defensive back in more than 35 years.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t even start the year as a key member of the defense, who only got his chance to play this season because of injury.
And considering that Brown was first drafted by the Oakland Raiders, then spent time with both the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers before signing with the Giants as a free agent last April, the 2012 season was like a dream come true.
Brown’s status with the Giants is still up in the air for the 2013 season, but he figures to be back. He’s a restricted free agent, which means any team that would want him could sign him, but the Giants get first chance to match the contract offer Brown receives.
“I think I’ll be back,” Brown said. “I’m just waiting it out. It’s tough to see a lot of my friends and teammates go. I’m close to guys like (Michael) Boley and (Chris) Canty (two players that the Giants already released to get relief under the NFL’s salary cap). I’m not used to seeing friends go like that, but it’s definitely part of the business. They’re my good friends.”
Brown said that last season was a major disappointment for the Giants, who finished 9-7 and missed out of the playoffs, denying the team a chance to defend the Super Bowl championship they won the year before.
“We’re extremely hungry,” Brown said. “With the New York Giants, it’s usually the Super Bowl or nothing. That’s how we look at it.”
After Brown was done reading, he was besieged with a series of questions from the youngsters, ranging from the well thought out to the sublime.
“Do you know Eli Manning?” one kid asked.
“Do you like the other Giants?” another asked.
But some questions were interesting.
“How old were you when you starting playing?”
“I was in fifth or sixth grade,” Brown said.
“What’s your favorite position to play?”
“Well, I’m a safety, but if I was a little taller, I’d love to be a defensive end,” Brown said.
“Who inspired you to play football?”
“I have an older brother who played and I wanted to be just like him,” Brown said. “I wanted to do everything that he did, only do it more and do it better.”
After Brown finished answering the questions, he posed for a picture in the bleachers with the students and bid his farewell after hearing a chant of “Go Giants” from the youngsters.
Needless to say, Brown’s appearance brought a lot of smiles to the kids of Lyndhurst.
“It brought a lot of excitement,” said Lyndhurst Superintendent of Schools Tracey Marinelli. “Whenever a professional athlete comes, it sends such an important message, because Stevie is such a role model and hero. And he did a fantastic job of reading. He read and showed the pictures at the same time. He had experience doing it.”
Brown said that the first time he read in front of youngsters was at another appearance earlier Friday.
Marinelli said that she called the Giants to see if they would be able to send a player for “Read Across America.”
“We have a great relationship with the Giants,” Marinelli said. “We consider the Giants to be good friends.”
Two years ago, several Giants came to Lyndhurst, along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, to initiate the league’s “Play 60” program, actually breaking in some new playground equipment while also playing games with the youngsters.
“The Giants are always there when we need them,” Marinelli said. “They’re a great colleague.”
And hopefully, Brown will be a friend and neighbor for the years to come.
“I have to earn it,” Brown said. “Coach (Coughlin) always says that nothing is handed to you. That’s the way I have to look at it.”
By Ron Leir
Residents from five attached buildings on Warren Street in Harrison were evacuated from their homes Monday night, Feb. 25, after a fire ignited in the cockloft of 209 Warren St. and quickly spread to the adjoining structures, officials said.
No injuries were reported in the four-alarm blaze that started shortly after 7 p.m. and took several hours to quell.
Ultimately, occupants of 201, 203 and 211 Warren St. were allowed back in their apartments but 205, 207 and 209 Warren St. were tagged by Town Construction Official Rocco Russomanno as unfit for habitation because of damage to the properties.
Harrison Fire Director Harold Stahl characterized the cause of the fire as “accidental,” based on an investigation by Fire Official George Kondek.
Stahl said members of the Harrison Fire Department “did one fantastic job” containing the fast-spreading fire, with a big assist from firefighters from East Newark, Kearny and Jersey City. The Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department provided stand-by help at local firehouses.
Stahl also credited members of the Harrison Police Department with assisting firefighters with getting everyone safely out of their apartments as the fire began to escalate. He also thanked the Harrison Public Works Department for providing a shuttle bus to transport displaced residents to an emergency shelter at the Harrison Senior Center.
Be sure to check the March 6 edition of The Observer for more details on the fire.
By Karen Zautyk
It appears that the pen really is mightier than the sword. Especially if there’s ammo in it.
The 1,770 weapons turned in to authorities by Essex County residents during a two-day state-sponsored gun buyback included handguns, rifles, sawed-off shotguns, submachine guns — and one ballpoint pen that had been converted into a firearm.
This particular weapon, with a spring-operated trigger, can fire just one bullet before it needs reloading, a law-enforcement source told us. But, then, just one can be lethal.
The buyback, held at churches in five Essex towns the weekend of Feb. 16-17, was the third such initiative since December, and the first in this area since 2009. The other two were in Camden County (1,100 guns collected) and Mercer County (2,600).
Police officers were at the churches to collect the weapons, but this was a “no-questions- asked” effort.
Those who turned in their weapons were paid from $50 to $250 per gun, with a maximum of three per person.
According to N.J. Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, the total paid out in Essex was $242,225, the money coming from state and county criminal forfeiture funds.
At a press conference at the Newark Police Department, Chiesa reported that, in addition to other weapons, the weekend buyback brought in more than 1,100 handguns and 31 semi-automatic assault weapons. Among the semiautomatics were an AR-15 rifle (similar to the type of weapon used in the Newtown, Conn., school massacre), two Uzis, several nine-millimeter, 40 caliber and 380 caliber handguns and “numerous” sawed-off shotguns.
About 95% of the firearms were operable. Reportedly at least six were stolen and approximately 70 were illegal to own “because they feature unlawfully high ammunition capacities, have sawed-off barrels or are otherwise modified.”
Displaying the pen gun, Chiesa said, “What other use does a pen gun have other than to conceal it and go kill somebody?”
The Montclair collection site, the Union Baptist Church, recorded by far the largest number of guns: 716.
The other tallies were: Irvington, 311; Newark, 308; East Orange, 231, and Orange, 204. “By any measure,” Chiesa said, the gun buyback “was a success, and another step forward in our continuing effort to make New Jersey residents safer by taking dangerous guns out of circulation.”
That effort targets not only weapons that could be used in criminal activity but also those that simply might get into the wrong hands, like the hands of a child, and lead to tragedy. Many individuals who turned in firearms apparently did so for the latter reason. “They just didn’t want the gun in the house anymore,” said Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio.
Gun buybacks continue to be controversial, but in a statement issued by his office, the attorney general acknowledged that these initiatives alone “can’t solve the complex and multi-faceted problem of gun violence,” but he called them “an important aspect of a larger strategy to get firearms out of communities and reduce the number of shooting deaths and injuries.”
“Since we began this buyback program,” Chiesa stated, “we’ve taken more than a 5,000 firearms off the streets. That’s 5,000 weapons that can never be used to commit a crime, terrorize someone, or maim or kill an innocent person.”
The Rev. Ron Christian of Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington, one of the buyback sites, commented: “Every gun (turned in) is a reflection of one less funeral, one less suicide or one less homicide in our community.”
The reverend can speak from experience. In 2009, the New York Times profiled the pastor, noting: “In some recent years, Mr. Christian estimates, as many as two-thirds of the people he has buried have been under the age of 30.”
The Essex buyback was a cooperative effort involving the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the East Orange, Irvington, Montclair, Newark and Orange Police Departments, N.J. State Police, the state Division of Criminal Justice, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, the “faith-based community” and the mayors of the five host municipalities.
By Ron Leir
Police are seeking three men in connection with an armed robbery that took place last Thursday evening at Stuyvesant and Kingsland Aves.
Lyndhurst Police Detective Capt. John Valente gave this account of the incident:
At about 6 p.m. on Feb. 21, police received a 911 emergency call reporting that a man had been robbed at gunpoint and that shots had been fired. The caller directed police to a location in the 500 block of Stuyvesant Ave.
The 26-year-old male victim told officers he’d just walked up from the ground floor to his second-floor apartment, with three individuals having followed him inside.
As he opened the apartment door and started to go inside, he was pulled from behind and down to the first landing where they demanded money from him.
Instead, the man began struggling with his assailants and, after apparently hearing the commotion, the man’s 21-year-old girlfriend, holding a cellular phone, stepped out of the apartment and saw them fighting.
Spotting her, one of the intruders turned to her, produced a handgun and demanded the phone but, believing the weapon to be fake, she refused and stepped back into the apartment.
Soon after, she called 911 and reported hearing shots fired. The three attackers fled on foot in an unknown direction. Responding to the location, police recovered a few spent shell casings which have been sent to a police ballistics lab for testing. They also found that one round had grazed a wall and another had been fired into the ceiling of a hallway leading to the secondfloor apartment.
No one was hurt in the incident but $200 in cash was taken from the victim.
Police released this description of the suspects: One is white, in his late 20s or early 30s, about 5-foot-eight, about 185, with short slick-back black hair; the second is white, about 30, about 6 feet, of slender build, with short blond hair; the third is possibly Latino, in his mid- to late-20s, about 5-feet-eight, about 185.
Police are asking anyone with information about the incident to call the Lyndhurst Police Criminal Investigation Division at 201-939-2900, ext. 2740, or the LPD’s Anonymous Tip Hot Line at 201-804-9346. All information will be kept confidential.
By Ron Leir
So far, a longtime civic activist, a former cop and a re-designed slate headed by Mayor Robert Giangeruso are all in the running for five seats on the Township Board of Commissioners.
Records at the Township Clerk’s office show that nominating petitions have been filed by Annette Bortone, Louis Bilis and the new Giangeruso team, which has three new faces, to be placed on the ballot for the May 15 municipal election.
Giangeruso told The Observer he’ll be heading a ticket that includes Commissioner Tom DiMaggio, a businessman who oversees the township’s Parks and Recreation Department; Theodore J. Dudek, John J. Montillo Jr., an electrical contractor; and Matthew T. Ruzzo, a part-time township public works employee.
Three incumbents – Commissioners Richard DiLascio, Joseph Abruscato and Brian Haggerty – have decided not to seek re-election.
Others have picked up petitions but haven’t yet filed as candidates. Anyone interesting in seeking office has until 4 p.m. on March 11 to file, according to Township Clerk Helen Polito.
Bortone, who made an unsuccessful bid for a commission seat in 1997, has previously served in elective office as a member of the Lyndhurst Board of Education for 21 years, from 1977 to 1999.
During her tenure as a school trustee, Bortone said the district transitioned to the computer age, upgraded school entrances, removed asbestos from school buildings, updated curriculum and adopted an anti-nepotism employment policy.
Bortone worked nine years for the Lyndhurst Parks & Recreation Department where she ran the summer day camp program for 370 children ages five to 13 and the handicapped adult program. She also coached girls’ softball for 15 years, winning championships in all but three years, and founded a softball league for girls ages eight to 12.
A past president of the Lyndhurst Women’s Club, Bortone remains an active member, looking after the Food Pantry and serving on the state level as program assistance chairwoman.
She’s also a longtime parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, where she runs trips for the Senior Club, and is a member of the AARP Board’s Local 4866 where she oversees veterans’ activities and community service projects.
In 2010 Bortone was nominated for the N.J. State Governor’s Jefferson Award for her volunteerism in the Lyndhurst community of which she’s a lifelong resident.
Why is she now running for office? “I’ve known these guys [on the Board of Commissioners] all my life and they’re all great guys,” Bortone said. “But there are a lot of little things happening around town that have been bothering me and I think I could be an asset to this board.”
One of those annoyances is the township’s decision to move the Board of Health offices from the Public Affairs Department offices at 253 Stuyvesant Ave. to The Heritage residential complex at 601 Riverside Ave. and to relocate the Township Clerk’s office into the vacated health offices on Stuyvesant.
“Before the move, the health offices were centrally located and convenient to get to,” Bortone said. “Plus they were right next to the Carucci Apartments so the seniors living there had a short walk over.
“But where the offices are now is in a bad location. It’s dangerous driving there because the entrance to the parking is on a curve; there are no lights.” Walking there is no picnic, either, she said, since people have to brave a heavily-traveled Riverside Ave. to cross over to the building.
Once a resident reaches the building’s entrance, Bortone added, “you have to walk down a long hallway, past a bar and a gym, to get into the health offices. Plus, the door to the front office isn’t locked so anybody can get in. And once you’re inside, there’s no privacy when they do marriage licenses and death certificates. In the examination rooms, there’s just a sliding partition. In the main room, everybody is in the same area: you’ve got the [Public Affairs] Commissioner’s secretary, medical transport drivers, health inspector, health coordinator and nurse. At Stuyvesant Ave. everybody had an office with a door that closed.”
Additionally, Bortone griped, there isn’t enough parking for people visiting the health offices. “The [Heritage] residents take up most of the parking.”
The township has justified the move as a way of getting a bigger, rent-free space in a more modern building.
Transferring the municipal clerk and staff and records makes no sense, either, Bortone said. Given the periodic updates of the building, including the addition of a “sallyport” for the transport of prisoners and an elevator, “how absurd is it now to move the clerk’s office and the staff away from Town Hall – where residents go to pay taxes, water bills, etc.”
The township has said switching spaces will give the clerk and her staff more room to operate and store current and archival municipal records and it will ensure that physically impaired visitors can easily access the office. People visiting the old clerk’s office had to climb several steps to get to staffers or ask a staff member to come down to assist them.
“If handicapped accessibility was the problem because of three steps … was there any thought of perhaps a desk area two to three days a week for those unable to climb those three steps?” Bortone wondered.
Soon after the clerk’s office at the Municipal Building was emptied, municipal workers began alterations to prepare it as a new office for the mayor in place of his former upstairs office which is now slated to be occupied, rent-free, by staff of Ninth District Rep. Bill Pascrell. Office hours have yet to be announced.
Bilis, a retired Lyndhurst police officer, couldn’t be reached for his views and, as of last week, Giangeruso said he and his team were still assembling election press releases. Residents Anthony J. Giarrusso, Ronald M. Szwec, Elaine Stella, Joseph Sarnoski, Hilda Monaco, Christopher G. Lopez, William Barnaskas, Dan Perrotta (on behalf of Charlene Perrotta) and Darius Hughes have picked up nominating petitions but, as of last week, none had submitted completed papers to the clerk’s office.
By Karen Zautyk
What can you do with a can of tuna? I mean other than open it and mix the contents with mayo. Or use it as a paperweight.
If your imagination is equally limited, you should talk to the kids at Kearny High School. They look at a tuna can and see a statement against world hunger. Last year, the students joined in a nationwide hunger-awareness effort called “Canstruction, which entails the design and building of “massive structures” composed entirely of donated canned goods. After the projects are finished, and displayed, all the food is given to local food pantries or community food banks. The participants built a huge globe from cans, to illustrate global hunger, and a replica of the KHS stadium, complete with New York skyline in the background.
The 2012 KHS effort was such a success that the students are participating in “Canstruction” again this year. Formal announcement of the kick-off was made last week at a meeting of the Kearny Optimist Club, which is among the community sponsors of the event and whose president, Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle, has been instrumental in bringing the local project to fruition.
Among those in attendance were KHS Principal Al Gilson and Kearny Superintendent of Schools Frank Ferraro,along with representatives of the Kearny Fire Department, which provides the heavylifting: picking up purchases and donations, delivering them to the Kearny Museum (where the canstructions are initially built) and then moving same to the high school for display.
Paul Rogers, a retired KFD captain, is co-chairperson of the project, along with Julie Smith, vice president of Valley National Bank in South Kearny.
It was Rogers who first approached school administrators last year with the “Canstruction” idea after seeing one of the exhibits in New York. Although “Canstruction” is technically a nationwide competition, KHS has not officially entered its works in the contest. The students are doing it just for the love of it, and to help the less fortunate. Melody LaRossa, the KHS teacher supervising “Canstruction,” said she had 35 students participating last year, “and all of those who have not graduated are back on board.” As of last week, 30 teens had signed up, “and I know I’m going to get more,” she said.
“Every student who participated said it was the best experience they had had in school,” LaRossa added. “They love being part of something that’s giving back to people and raising awareness of hunger.”
The project chairpersons help solicit monetary donations (about $20,000 was raised in 2012) and, within the budget set for the project, the students buy the canned goods they need — based on size and colors to be incorporated into their architectual plans. There also are contributions; last year, Kearny ShopRite donated 7,500 cans of food. And what was the total number of cans used in the globe and the stadium?
At the Optimist meeting, Rogers apologized for the tally. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Last year, I said we’d get 20,000, and we got only 19,963.” Yes, 19,963.
Rogers, who is studying art history at Rutgers Newark, has recruited fellow students from that campus to help out. Kathy Lopez, a master’s degree candidate who works in the school’s Office of Student Life & Leadership, is coordinating their participation, which includes shopping for the food and serving refreshments to the KHS kids while they are devoting endless hours to building the “Canstructions.”
Rogers explained that when the project is over, the Rutgers volunteers then make a final count of the cans, divide the food into categories (veggies, fruit, tuna, etc.), box and label them and “help bring them to all the places that are getting donations.” This year, that includes the food pantries at St. Cecilia’s, St. Stephen’s and the First Presbyterian Church.
An example of raised awareness of hunger came at the meeting itself, when the pastor of Cecilia’s, the Rev. Michael Ward (“Father Mike”) told the group that his church pantry feeds “on average, about 100 families a month in the town of Kearny.” Several gasps were audible.
“It (the “Canstruction” food) does stay local,” he said. “It does help people in our town. Without the food pantry, they just wouldn’t have enough food for their kids.”
So, last year it was a massive globe and the KHS stadium. What will the students build this year?
“We have three ideas so far,” LaRossa said, “but it’s a secret.”
The “big unveiling” will come sometime in May.
By Ron Leir
During the First and Second World Wars, countries on both sides of the fighting lines promoted “victory gardens” – a grow-your-own agrarian movement as a patriotic and pragmatic way to keep the home veggies sprouting.
While there’s no overt skirmishing on this home front, Kearny is looking to revive the practice of turning your own soil through a “Kearny Community Garden.”
Wilson Ave. residents Jenny and David Mach – the couple who created the butterfly garden in Riverside Park – along with a supporting cast that includes Erin Donnelly, Laurence and Susan Mach, Peg and Ed Bixler, and Cecilia Lindenfelser – are pitching the concept.
Jenny Mach, a 32-yearold middle school science teacher in Tenafly, outlined the proposal to the Kearny governing body last Tuesday with a 15-minute power point presentation and Mayor Alberto Santos, for one, said he liked what he heard.
While she doesn’t claim to be an expert agronomist, Mach has had “field” experience: Her first job during high school days was working on a farm in Cinnaminson and, in college, she did a year-long work-study project assisting a Rutgers biology professor in strawberry research.
She and her husband do organic gardening at home in their front yard, growing a variety of vegetables and flowers.
The garden hopes to accomplish;
• “Beautify the Kearny community, Educate the community about sustainable organic gardening and good nutrition,
• Promote a sense of community and cooperation for all Kearny residents, and
• Providing nourishing organic food for garden members, Kearny citizens and others.”
Sounding like the science teacher that she is, Mach said the garden would be a plus for “improving the urban environment by recycling organic waste, filtering rain water, releasing oxygen [and] reducing pollution, increasing biodiversity and reducing fossil fuel consumption from food transport.”
Mach credited her mother as the springboard for the garden concept. “My mom – as moms will do – sent me a [newspaper] clipping on a straw bale garden in the south Jersey area and David and I and our in-laws, the Bixlers, all thought it was a great idea.”
Kearny’s garden, according to Mach, would be modeled on the three-year-old Rutherford Community Garden which, she said, is maintained by community volunteers and has grown from six to 25 plant beds cultivated by disabled gardeners, the Woman’s Club and other groups, with some reserved for the town’s food pantry.
And, Mach said, the Rutherford Green Team has offered to assist Kearny in “seed swapping, resource sharing and ordering materials in bulk.”
The Kearny contingent, like Rutherford, figures to “start small” in its initial season, with local Girl Scout troops enlisted to start growing vegetable seeds behind the scout building by next month month or April.
Then, when it’s warm enough, the seedlings would be transported for planting at the garden site where its “core group” members will maintain them. Any surplus would donated to Kearny residents or local food pantries, Mach said.
Pumpkins, basil, tomatoes, squash, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage are some of the anticipated products.
“In subsequent years,” Mach said, “we plan to expand by opening the garden to local businesses, schools, organizations and Kearny residents. Separate plots will be available and we hope to provide – or allow others to provide – educational activities for both children and adults.” While the garden is envisioned as a non-profit operation, Mach said the group “is considering charging a nominal annual deposit, refundable at the end of the growing season to ensure that beds are properly maintained.”
Ultimately, Mach said, the hope is to see community gardens pop up “throughout the town, maintained by other motivated individuals, but cooperatively working together. This is part of our vision to make Kearny a beautiful and attractive place for visitors, businesses and all residents.”
The plan is to use straw bales – instead of wooden raised beds – as planting beds because they’re less costly – “about $3 per bale,” according to Mach – as well as easily maneuverable, provide “warmth and nutrients as they decompose,” attract fewer critters, are more adaptable to children and those in wheelchairs, and can be used as mulch or compost for next year’s crop.
The bales would be arranged in circular or rectangular forms with topsoil in the center and a drip irrigation system on top.
Where will the garden best grow? Mach and her team favor a section of Riverside Park off Passaic Ave. north of Skinner Brothers Automotive and south of the future dog park site and butterfly garden. A small parking lot is nearby and water could be drawn from a street hydrant. As a backup location, the team has suggested a grassy area next to the American Legion Post off Belgrove Drive.
Here are proposed rules for using the facility:
• Organic gardening only: no chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer permitted.
• Each gardener is responsible for his/her own plot.
• Excess produce will be provided to Kearny residents on a designated day of the week at no charge or will be donated to a local pantry.
Mach said the team would look to the town to finance acquisition of garden supplies such as straw bales, galvanized wire netting, potting soil, peat moss and compost, drip irrigation system and water hookup, seeds and plants, compost area, low picket fence with chicken wire around bottom, a picnic table and waterproof bulletin board. “If the mayor and council grant us permission to start the garden,” Mach said, “we are certain that it will be a success for all the people of Kearny.”
By Ron Leir
What’s going on here?
Earlier this month, the Kearny Board of Education (BOE) came together in recommending Daniel Esteves to fill the vacant seat – a choice ultimately ratified by the acting county superintendent.
Now the BOE and Kearny’s municipal government – often distrustful of the other – are looking to be potential partners in an endeavor to upgrade two municipal playgrounds that sit on land owned by the BOE.
At its meeting last Tuesday, the BOE agreed that, if the town applied for state and/or county grants to fix up those play areas, it would endorse those applications – conditional on the BOE reviewing any restrictions that might apply under the grants’ award.
“Mayor (Alberto) Santos is really leading the charge on this,” said BOE Attorney Kenneth Lindenfelser. “The mayor and (Town Administrator) Michael Martello have become aware of funds that may be available to upgrade town playgrounds including two owned by the board.”
Lindenfelser identified the potential funding sources as the state Green Acres and the county Open Space Trust Fund account.
The two board-owned properties are known as the Rogers Playground, the larger of the pair at about three quarters of an acre, bordered by Hickory St. to the west, Oakwood to the south and Spruce St. to the north; and Pettigrew Playground, about 40 feet by 40 feet, in the rear of Washington Elementary School, at Highland and Woodland Aves.
Over the last decade or so, Santos said, the town has improved most of its play facilities. “These are the last two to be upgraded,” he said.
And both are showing signs of aging.
Rogers Playground, which takes up a square block, offers half-court basketball and typical playground equipment but, as noted by Santos, the basketball court’s asphalt surface is marred by cracks and the play facilities are old. Additionally, the playground’s walkways’ stone pavers are either uprooted by trees or are simply deteriorating, he said.
At the Pettigrew Playground, the matting on which the play equipment sits is hardly protective: The “safety’ surface is uneven at best and, is punctuated by depressions that can easily trip toddlers coming down off a slide. There are a handful of primitive swings and a small hardscrabble play area that, in bad weather, turns into a mudflat. And, in warm weather, there is an absence of overhang or trees to offer shade.
But, essentially, it’s the only outdoor recreational facility for small children in the neighborhood.
Santos estimated the improvements for both playgrounds could run between $200,000 and $300,000, with a good portion likely to be spent for drainage work at Rogers Playground.
BOE President Bernadette McDonald said the trustees were receptive to the town’s overture but added, “We have to make sure, with the grant money, that nothing hinders the board.”
For example, if the town secured a Green Acres grant, and if sometime in the future, the board decided it wanted to take down the Rogers Playground to put up another school, the grant’s conditions could prevent the board from disrupting the play area, Mc- Donald suggested.
Years ago, the town had title to the Rogers Playground but around 1990/1991, it swapped that parcel for property across the street so that the old Emerson School – which had been closed in 1965 after Lincoln School was updated – could be torn down to clear the way for construction of the Spruce Terrace senior apartments.
Some 13 years ago, the then-Kearny schools superintendent had pushed for building a middle school on part of the town-owned Gunnell Oval off Schuyler Ave. and, turn, the town would turn over the Rogers Playground to the district but that never happened.
Asked about the possibility of the board reviving the notion of a new middle school somewhere in Kearny, Mc- Donald declined to speculate on what the board might do in the near future. “That’s what we’d have to look into [if the town got the grant],” she said. “We don’t want to tie the hands of future boards.”
In the meantime, McDonald said, the board has to focus on moving forward with converting the old Midland Ave. tire factory it acquired several years ago to accommodate central office staff and the board under one roof plus two basement classrooms. It’s been undergoing environmental remediation, she said.
In other business at its Feb. 19 meeting, the BOE granted a request by three of its current members (George King, John Plaugic and John Leadbeater) and one former member (Paul Castelli) for legal defense against an ethics complaint filed by former Kearny High School Principal Cynthia Baumgartner.
Those four individuals voted against renewing her contract despite a favorable recommendation by the then-Interim Superintendent Ron Bolandi. Four other board members voted to renew – one short of the five affirmative votes needed. In her complaint, Baumgartner alleges that the four who voted against improperly went beyond the scope of their duties as school trustees.
King, Plaugic, Leadbeater and Castelli will be represented by Brenda Liss, of the Morristown law firm Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti, at $250 an hour.
However, if the New Jersey Ethics Commission determines that Baumgartner’s complaint is valid, the board won’t pay any legal fees incurred, according to Lindenfelser.
Hollywood vs. history
Did “Lincoln” win the Oscar for Best Picture? Don’t know, since this is being written pre-awards. I have yet to see the film, but my attention was called to it this week in an email noting a small problem in the screenplay.
In a scene depicting the final balloting on the 13th Amendment, two members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation are portrayed as voting “no.” Or, more accurately, “nay.” But neither is accurate at all. In fact, all four Connecticut representatives approved the amendment.
Current Nutmeg State Rep. Joe Courtney, rightly appalled at the inaccuracy, fired off a protest letter to director Steven Spielberg, noting that “placing the State of Connecticut on the wrong side of the historic and divisive fight over slavery is a distortion of easily verifiable facts.”
According to a report on CNN, screenwriter Tony Kushner “conceded the discrepancy but defended the film.”
Kushner, CNN said, “explained that the alterations were made to serve the narrative that the outcome of the vote was in doubt until the very end.”
Other defenders noted that “Lincoln” is not a documentary but historical fiction, and, hence, the filmmakers were permitted some poetic license. Well, what the heck, it’s only history, right? And who the heck cares about history these days? I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even taught in schools anymore.
Two anecdotal notes.
1) Some months ago, I was watching one of those “person- in-the-street” TV bits in which they question passersby on this and that. The subject was Abraham Lincoln.
“Do you know how Lincoln died?” one woman was asked.
“Yes,” she said. “He was assassinated.”
“And do you know the name of his assassin?”
Her answer: “Lee Harvey Oswald.”
I repeated this story to two twenty somethings the next day, and they both looked at me as if I were mentally challenged. One, because he thought “Lee Harvey Oswald” was the correct answer. The other, because he didn’t understand why this bothered me so much.
2) This one I know was on “Jaywalking.” Jay Leno was at a college commencement, questioning the grads, including one woman still wearing her cap and gown and clutching her degree.
“Have you ever heard of the Gettysburg Address?” Leno asked.
“Of course,” she sniffed.
“Do you know it?”
Her answer: “Well, I don’t know the EXACT address.”
I do believe that young woman has a bright future in Hollywood.
Kearny Police Chief John Dowie surmised it might have to do with “a post- Valentine’s Day sugar rush,” but whatever the cause, from noon until midnight Feb. 15, the KPD was called to respond to an inordinate number of incidents: 55 in that 12-hour period.
“It just didn’t stop,” the chief said. “It was like a starter’s pistol went off at noon.”
We cannot list all 55, but here is a sampling.
At 3:15 p.m., police were called to Tappan St. and Davis Ave. on the report of a possible burglar person lurking near the window of a house. Sgt. Anthony Limite and Officers Sean Kelly, Jack Corbett and Giovanni Rodriguez set up a containment perimeter while additional units searched the area. Corbett spotted a man exiting from the rear of the house and also saw a broken window. Arrested on charges of burglary and an outstanding drug-related warrant from Newark was 28-year-old Rocco Cartem, who had no known address.
At 6 p.m., Sgt. Charles Smith and Officer Frank West set up surveillance at Belgrove Drive and New Lawn Ave. after getting a tip that a man wanted by North Arlington police might be in the area. They soon took into custody James Hamilton, 22, of Kearny, who was sought in connection with an incident involving threats and a handgun. He was turned over to North Arlington.
Vice squad officers, at Highland Ave. and Rose St. at 8:30p.m., spotted a man they knew to have warrants from Kearny, Newark and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office.
A search of the suspect reportedly revealed five glassine folds of heroin. Daniel Chipelo, 32, of Kearny, was charged with possession of heroin and paraphernalia.
At 9:30 p.m., P.O. Frank West was dispatched to Seabra’s on Schuyler Ave. on the report of a shoplifter. The 18-year-old suspect, who reportedly had stolen liquor and was already wanted on a Kearny warrant, appeared already intoxicated and was very combative, police said. At headquarters, he reportedly kicked West and punched P.O. Chris Medina. Thus, in addition to charges of shoplifting and underage possession of alcohol, Denis Caballero of Kearny was charged with aggravted assault on two police officers.
To end the eventful night, at midnight Applebee’s called to report a drunk and disorderly patron who had apparently brought his own bottle to the restaurant. P.O. Jay Balogh asked the man to cease and desist, which “produced negative results,” said Dowie. Arrested and escorted out by P.O. Mike Santucci, he had to be forcibly placed in the patrol car, police said. Keith Cunningham, 21, of Newark was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and he reportedly had an outstanding criminal-mischief warrant from the Essex County Sheriff ’s Office.
Other recent reports from the Kearny Police blotter include:
P.O. Ben Wuelfing, on patrol near Kearny Ave. and Hoyt St. at 11 p.m., was advised by people in the area that two intoxicated and combative individuals had been trying to pick fights. Finding two individuals fitting the description in a car, and reportedly detecting an odor of alcohol on the driver, the officer asked for credentials and was handed a Valley National Bank check card.
The driver eventually found his license and was asked to step from the vehicle. At that point, the proprietor of a local restaurant approached and told Wuelfing that the two had just run out on a $168 tab. Dowie said the passenger overheard this and put himself in the “cuff position” and “the officer obliged.”
At HQ , however, that passenger, Miguel Paz, 42, of Kearny, reportedly became disruptive and attempted to hurt himself in his cell and required medical attention.
Paz and the driver, Vito Alfieri, 41, of Kearny, were both charged with theft of services. Additionally Alfieri was charged with DWI and refusal to take an Alcotest.
Officers Melinda Esposito and Rene Crawford responded to a report of a possible drunk driver at 7 a.m. on Wilson Ave. near Kearny Ave. They found an unoccupied black Mitsubishi, “with heavy front-end damage,” sitting on the sidewalk. Soon after, the driver returned to the area and pleaded with the cops to allow him to move the car, Dowie said. This, they did not permit.
The driver, Kevin Padilla, 21, of Kearny, was arrested on charges of DWI, DWI with a suspended license, leaving the scene of an accident, failure to report an accident, careless driving, and parking on a sidewalk.
At 5 p.m. at the ShopRite on Passaic Ave., P.O. John Fabula saw a motorist whom he knew to have an outstanding parole-violation warrant from New York State.
After confirming this, he stopped the car on Belgrove Drive and arrested 52-yearold James Williams of Kearny as a fugitive from justice. Williams was sent to the Hudson County Jail to await pickup by New York authorities.
At 4 p.m., P.O. John Travelino was dispatched to the Street Smart store on Passaic Ave. on the report of a theft.
He broadcast a description of the suspect, who had just fled, and Sgts. Charles Smith and Peter Gleason saw a man fitting that description running along Passaic. The suspect was reportedly found to be in possession of two bottles of perfume from Street Smart and a green handbag from Payless. He was also found to be wanted on a Newark warrant, police said. Alesis Santana, 30, of Newark, was arrested for theft and on the warrant and was taken to the county jail.
— Karen Zautyk