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1.7B to clean Passaic’s lower 8 miles

  NEWARK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last Friday, April 11, that it plans to undertake the most costly public waterway cleanup in its 43-year history. At a press conference held at Newark Riverfront Park, EPA Regional […]

Lost medal recovered from Pa.

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – For more than two decades, it sat – carefully preserved – in a Pennsylvania residence. Next month, however, the Purple Heart medal awarded posthumously to a long-dead Kearny serviceman will be returned […]

Feds won’t pay for more firefighters

Two neighboring West Hudson communities have been shut out in their bids to snag federal funding to hire more firefighters. Kearny Fire Dept. and Harrison Fire Dept. each applied for a share of SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency […]

Tribute to a teacher

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Fred Kuhrt died doing what he loved best – giving of himself to others. His former employer, the Kearny Board of Education, is honoring the automotive technology instructor’s selflessness by establishing the […]

Play ball! (and politics, too)

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent NORTH ARLINGTON – Saturday’s opening ceremony for the North Arlington Recreation Girls’ Softball season took on a political twist. Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat, complained that he was snubbed by League President Mike Tetto […]

News in brief

HARRISON – Harrison Mayor James Fife, 73, is spending time in St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark, where he is recovering from surgery. The hospital declined to provide any information but Councilman James Doran, who is serving as Fife’s campaign manager […]


EPA working on mudflat plan

Photos courtesy of Passaic River Coalition Samples of Lyndhurst parkland that the Passaic River Coalition has developed, together with the township, after acquiring small lots along the riverbank.

Photos courtesy of Passaic River Coalition
Samples of Lyndhurst parkland that the Passaic River Coalition has developed, together with the township, after acquiring small lots along the riverbank.


By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


By month’s end, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expects to complete a design plan for purging a 5-acre section of toxin-laden tidal mudflats alongside Riverside County Park in Lyndhurst, said Ray Basso, director of the Lower Passaic River Cleanup Project.

That would be the first phase – and demonstration model – of a longterm plan for cleaning up an 8-mile stretch of the river that experts believe is the most polluted part of the Passaic.

But the 70 corporate entities (the Cooperating Parties Group) who’ve accepted responsibility for the cleanup because their predecessor companies that polluted the Passaic – and others – have already voiced concerns that EPA’s plan will be too costly to implement or that it doesn’t go far enough.

So it remains to be seen what the final outcome will be.

In the meantime, Basso and the EPA are working diligently to create the design that, according to Basso, will accomplish, via dredging, excavation of the top two feet of contaminated sediments – an estimated 20,000 cubic yards of soil – containing predominantly PCBs, dioxin and mercury, and the application of sand and a woven “geotextile” fabric cap that would absorb any loose contaminants.

The dredging would extend, roughly, from the Passaic River shoreline to the navigation channel, he said.

The EPA has come up with a preliminary cost estimate for the job of $25 million – all of which would be financed by the CPG – although, according to published reports, that group would prefer remediating “pollution hot spots” along the Lower Passaic’s entire 17 miles.

At the same time, the Passaic River Coalition, an advocacy group that seeks to reclaim riverfront acreage for public access, also opposes the EPA design plan as insufficient. Since the coalition owns waterfront land at the most northern point of the Lyndhurst mudflats targeted for cleanup, it’s a “primary stakeholder” in the process, said Ella Filippone, executive director of the coalition.

Filippone said that both a state tidelands permit and a state waterfront development permit are needed for the cleanup to proceed but she says the coalition “won’t sign off” on approvals for those permits “because I want them to remove the total mass of dioxins or PCBs, not just scrape off the top 12 inches – that’s not cleaning up the river.” Read more »

Recalling local hero & national tragedy

Heroes of yesterday (Pervis Robison Jr.)

Heroes of yesterday (Pervis Robison Jr.)


By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent


On the morning of April 10, 1963, the USS Thresher (SSN 593), one of the U.S. Navy’s then relatively new fleet of nuclearpowered submarines, was conducting deep-diving trials 220 miles off the coast of Cape Cod.

On the surface, the ship USS Skylark maintained radio communications with the sub, which was circling beneath it, deeper and deeper into the sea. Then the transmissions from the Thresher became garbled, and gradually they ceased.

Continued attempts to contact the sub were futile.

Fifteen Navy ships were dispatched to try to locate her, another futile enterprise.

By 6:30 p.m., she was declared missing. She had been lost with all hands: 112 crew members and 17 civilian technical advisers. The Atlantic had become the grave for 129 souls; the Thresher, their coffin. Flags across the U.S. flew at half-staff. Read more »

Crumbling factory too close for comfort

Photos by Ron Leir Neighbor is fearful that roof of old factory will topple onto his house.

Photos by Ron Leir
Neighbor is fearful that roof of old factory will topple onto his house.

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


A distraught First Ward resident appealed to the Kearny governing body last Tuesday night for help. Joaquim Ponte said he lives at the lower end of Johnston Ave., with only a narrow alleyway separating his neat two-story home from the rotting former William Pries Iron Works building at 24 Johnston Ave.

Ponte said the old factory structure poses a clear danger, with sections of the west wall and roof exposed and beginning to separate. Only days ago, pieces of the crumbling infrastructure fell into the alley, he said.

While the building has been empty for years, now it is starting to show scary signs of neglected maintenance, Ponte said.

Directly across from the site is a municipal toddler park, Miglin Playground, at the corner of Sheridan Ave., so there is the possibility – however slight it may be – of children wandering too close to the old metal fabrication site and, potentially, into harm’s way. Read more »

A mile of meadows goes up in flames

Photos courtesy of KFD

Photos courtesy of KFD


By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent


A stubborn brush fire, fanned by strong winds, destroyed a large swath of the Kearny meadows last week and felled two firefighters, who required treatment for heat exhaustion.

The Kearny Fire Department was assisted by units from four other companies and by the Kearny Police Department in battling the blaze, which broke out about 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9. It was declared under control at 5 p.m., KFD Chief Steve Dyl reported. By the time it was over, flames had destroyed an area about a mile long and 500 feet wide, authorities reported. Read more »

Thoughts & Views: A story at any cost? No thanks

There is one aspect to a job in journalism that I have never quite understood, and with which I have never been comfortable.

I’m talking about the ghoulish pursuit of a) crime victims, b) accident victims, c) the families of crime victims or accident victims, and the worst d) the families of murder victims — done with the ignoble desire to get a quote. Read more »


Last week’s story about neighbors up in arms about a development proposal that would replace a vacant Belgrove Drive dental office with a two-family home incorrectly reported that the dentist who occupied that office had passed away. Dr. Charles Bridges is alive. We regret the error.

Housing could replace vacant school

Photo by Ron Leir Belleville is reviewing two development proposals for the old Elementary School 1 site. Both plans call for taking down the school building in favor of new construction.

Photo by Ron Leir
Belleville is reviewing two development proposals for the old Elementary School 1 site. Both plans call for taking down the school building in favor of new construction.


By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


It’s been sitting stagnant for years, except as a place for parking the township’s yellow school buses.

And then, even that activity ceased last year when the Belleville Board of Education relocated its bus fleet to another location in the Valley section.

So now the township is looking to market the old Belleville Elementary School 1 property – which takes up a square block bounded by Cortlandt, Academy, Stephens and Rutgers Sts. – and its solicitation for Requests For Proposal (RFP) has yielded two prospects. Read more »

‘Stuart Little’ takes the stage



The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) will present a stage version of E.B. White’s classic children’s book, “Stuart Little,” on Saturday, April 27 at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sunday April 28 at 1:30 p.m., at the W.H.A.T. Theater, 131 Midland Ave., Kearny.

This latest production from W.H.A.T. is made possible through a generous grant from the Kearny Education Association (KEA). “We are especially grateful to the KEA allowing us to bring our second family theater production to our stage, “ said W.H.A.T. President Gerald Ficeto. “Part of our mission is to reach the youngest theater fans and their families and help them embark on a lifelong love of live theater,” he added.

“Stuart Little” tells the story of a young boy named Stuart who, while born into a regular family of humans, looks curiously just like a mouse. His parents immediately accept him for who he is, but Stuart longs to see the world outside the comfort and safety of his home. At the wheel of his pint-sized roadster, Stuart sets off to see the world and encounters adventures and friends along the way.



“‘Stuart Little’ was one of my favorite books,” said director Mary Pat Shields, who also serves as the W.H.A.T. vice president and has been involved in many local high school and middle school productions throughout West Hudson. “The characters are wonderful, the adventures are exciting, and the idea that a little guy takes on the big world is a perfect message for the kids of our community.”

That cast includes Jack Haefner, Noelle Haefner, Tim Firth, Jonathan Pinto and Paula Reyes.

The audience can meet the cast after each performance and patrons are invited to bring their cameras.

General admission tickets are $5 for children (age 12 and under) and seniors; $8 for adults. Reserved seating is available for groups of 25 or more. For tickets and additional information, visit www.whatco.org, call 201-467- 8624, or stop at the theater box office 30 minutes before curtain.

Rooting for Kearny Library garden

Rendering courtesy Kearny Public Library The layout of the proposed Library garden.

Rendering courtesy Kearny Public Library
The layout of the proposed Library garden.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


The long-talked about outdoor reading garden for the Kearny Public Library is a step closer to fruition … if the town can find a way to put a little more green into the picture … cash, that is.

Last Tuesday, April 9, the Kearny Town Council voted to accept a $100,000 grant from the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund to facilitate what Library Director Josh Humphrey promises to be a real page-turner.

But the library may have to dig into its own coffers to seal the deal and complete the story.

Of the five contractors who picked up bid specifications, only two ended up submitting bids on April 1 for the project. Lou’s Landscaping and Design of Wayne offered to do the job for $245,303.50 and Brahma Construction Corp. of Wallington came in with a price of $297,856.

Simple arithmetic shows that even going with the apparent low bidder will leave the town short.

“The bids came in over our estimate,” Mayor Alberto Santos acknowledged last week. “We have 60 days to review the bids before we decide what to do.”

One option, Santos said, is for the library Board of Trustees to consider tapping its reserve account for library repairs and improvements which, he said, has “around $90,000.” That could help cover the gap, the mayor said.

Whatever the outcome, Humphrey is remaining optimistic that the garden can blossom.

“We’re looking at the section on the south side of the library, about 30 feet wide and as deep as the library building,” Humphrey said. “The plan is to landscape it and add in a patio for programming, such as outdoor music, perhaps a band on Saturdays, story time, yoga or some type of exercise, for example.”

And, of course, library patrons can sit and read during pleasant weather, too.

The library garden will shut at night, Humphrey said.

In the front of the garden area, bordering Kearny Ave., Humphrey said, “We’ll have plantings, trees, benches, a trellis – we’ll plant all around the perimeter.” Some type of sprinkler system will be installed for irrigation purposes, he added.

“We’re also going to get new fencing around the whole building and they’re going to fix some of the masonry that’s breaking off some of the adjoining properties,” he said.

Humphrey said the garden will be a welcome addition to a library building that’s cramped for space. “And our basement (where much of the library’s children’s and adult programs are held) – has no windows.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

Driven to (fatal) distraction



You may not be aware (pun intended) of this, but April is national Distracted Driving Awareness Month. These days, the distractions (along with daydreaming) are chiefly texting or yapping on your cell phone while behind the wheel.

Despite repeated warnings, and legal repercussions, motorists continue to do both, often with fatal consequences — to themselves or to some poor innocent who happens to be sharing the road with them while they are too busy “social networking” to concentrate on driving.

The N.J. Division of Highway Traffic Safety estimates that distracted driving was responsible for up to 160,000 motor vehicle crashes in the state in 2011, and the National Safety Council estimates that one of every four crashes is caused by a driver using a cell phone to talk or text.

Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 3,000 deaths nationwide in 2012 in distraction- affected crashes — crashes in which drivers lost focus on the safe control of their vehicles due to manual, visual or cognitive distraction.

In a statement released last week, N.J. Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa called distracted driving “an epidemic on New Jersey’s roadways.”

Chiesa said research has shown that a texting driver presents the same threat on the roads as a drunk driver.

“We know it’s wrong and irresponsible to drive drunk, and there are severe legal and personal consequences that accompany a drunk-driving arrest,” the AG said. “There’s equivalent danger here between drunk driving and distracted driving, and I believe we should approach the issues with the same seriousness.”

“Decades of experience with drunk driving and getting people to buckle up have taught us it takes a consistent combination of public education, effective enforcement, and the collective efforts of local, state, and national advocates to put a dent in the problem,” Chiesa noted.

Gary Poedubicky, acting director of the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety, said text messaging is of heightened concern because it combines three types of distraction — visual, manual and cognitive: “In other words, texting involves taking your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off the task of driving.”

Poedubicky said drivers should turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before driving. He said passengers should speak up when a motorist uses an electronic device while driving and offer to make the call for the driver.

New Jersey’s primary cell phone law went into effect in 2008. Motorists violating the statute face a $100 fine plus court costs and fees.

However, under a law passed in 2012, in certain crashes, proof that a motorist was operating a hand-held wireless telephone can give rise to charges of reckless driving, assault by auto, or, in cases involving a fatality, vehicular homicide.

–Karen Zautyk