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BREAKING: Ambulance involved in crash in Lyndhurst



An ambulance was involved in a crash earlier today on Ridge Road, according to reports.

The ambulance was a Lyndhurst Police Emergency Squad rig.

There were several injuries, according to reports, and one EMT had to be pulled from the ambulance to be rescued. None of the injuries are life threatening, according to the LPES’ Facebook page.

We’ll bring you more details as soon as they’re available.

Harrison police seek suspects in two armed robberies



Police are seeking suspects in two armed robberies that happened a little more than a half-hour apart in the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 14, in Harrison.

Police said the first incident happened at about 12:30 a.m. at Cross St. and Davis Ave.

As a man and woman were walking to the front door of the woman’s residence, police said the male was pushed to the ground from behind by one suspect while a second tried to grab the woman’s bag. Police said the man wrestled with his attacker who hit him in the mouth with a black handgun while the apparent accomplice grabbed the bag and ran away.

Police said the first suspect also fled and both suspects entered a black SUV on Cross St. and drove away. Read more »


No language barrier

Photo courtesy Ana Placencia
Members of the Peruvian Civic Association with KFD Chief Inspector John Donovan and Firefighter Juan Barroso.

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 


“Permanezca en la cocina mientras esta friendo o cocinando con aceite o grasa.”

Despite our high school Spanish, we do not know what that means. (And we apologize for our ignorance.) However, it is certain that more than a few Kearny residents understand it completely.

As the demographics of the town have changed, there is an increasingly bilingual aspect to the town. But for some Kearnyites, especially newcomers, Spanish is the primary language, which can  and in certain instances, that could compromise their safety.

This is why the Kearny Fire Department on the afternoon of May 5 held a comprehensive fire safety seminar for Spanish-speaking residents. Read more »

‘Can’-do spirit aids pantries

Photo courtesy Melody LaRossa



By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Six area food pantries are the beneficiaries of this year’s Kearny High School Canstruction project, dividing up more than 28,000 cans containing a variety of fruits and vegetables.

That haul, collected with the help of community donations fundraised by a team led by indefatigable volunteer Paul Rogers, topped last year’s total by about 8,000 cans, according to KHS business teacher Melody LaRossa, who helped coordinate this year’s effort.

LaRossa and science instructor Chuck Polk co-advise the KHS Engineering Club whose members assembled several colossal structures made entirely out of full cans of food to heighten awareness of world hunger.

Since the charity Canstruction was founded in 1992 as a means of providing some measure of hunger relief, projects like Kearny’s have helped raise more than 25 million pounds of food in North and South America, Australia, Europe and Asia, according to the Canstruction website.

The cans collected by Kearny volunteers – making the third straight year the high school has participated – were distributed among pantries run by St. Stephen’s, St. Cecilia’s and 1st Presbyterian Churches in Kearny, the Salvation Army of Greater Kearny and Apostle’s House and St. John’s Soup Kitchen, both in Newark.

It took the brainpower and sweat of 31 KHS students – sophomores, juniors and seniors – to make the finished project possible.

After debating on a theme for the project – “Under the Sea” and “World Cup Soccer” were considered – students opted to go with an image of the Pac-Man video game, with its scenario of Pac-Man “eating” all of the dots before the ghosts get him evoking the idea of eliminating hunger.

Top photos courtesy Melody LaRossa; Pac-Man Canstruction project, undertaken by Kearny High's Engineering Club, was displayed at Salvation Army of Greater Kearny.

Top photos courtesy Melody LaRossa; Pac-Man Canstruction project, undertaken by Kearny High’s Engineering Club, was displayed at Salvation Army of Greater Kearny.



The students are given a budget of $18,000 – the sum amassed by Rogers and his team from individual and corporate donors — which they can use to put together their project: a giant Pac- Man model, four ghosts, an Atari game system with joystick and a couch for the imaginary player – all to be made from cans of food.

Armed with paper, pencils and rulers, the future engineers of Kearny High set aside time several mornings before classes to do their calculations, sketch out building concepts and do some simulations before devising a final plan of attack.

They divided themselves into teams for each part of the can puzzle and team leaders helped facilitate the planning, trial runs and actual construction.

Their “building materials” were metal cans of mandarin oranges, pineapple chunks, peas, green beans and spaghettios, each category of food represented by a different colored can.

As expected, the Pac-Man model posed the toughest calculation: how to design its open mouth. Seniors Anthony Belo, 18, president of the Engineering Club, and Kevin Zajac, 17, who’s been admitted to NJIT’s civil engineering program, said the challenge was how to best stack the cans so that gaps between layers (to simulate the open mouth) would be solidly supported.

They practiced with different offsets until they achieved the right balance. And, when they realized that sections of cardboard wedged between layers for support were sagging in spots, they replaced those with thin sections of plywood.

Students used milkcrates as makeshift ladders as they built up the ascending layers of yellow-colored pineapple cans to assemble their Pac- Man creation. The finished product, consisting of 2,800 cans spread over 16 layers, stood 8 feet tall.

Senior Pablo Galarza, 18, vice president of the Engineering Club, took charge of assembling the four ghosts, each model consisting of 1,200 cans stacked in 12 layers to a height of five feet. Each ghost had a different primary colored can with a varying colored can to fashion its mouth.

Photo by Ron Leir Seniors Kevin Zajac (l.), club president Anthony Belo (c.) and club vice president Pablo Galarza played key roles.

Photo by Ron Leir
Seniors Kevin Zajac (l.), club president Anthony Belo (c.) and club vice president Pablo Galarza played key roles.



The completed project was placed on public view in the gym at the Salvation Army of Greater Kearny before it was taken apart so the cans could be distributed to the pantries.

KHS Principal Al Gilson congratulated the students for demonstrating the principles of “service, team building, critical thinking, authenticity and being community-oriented. And, although it was a lot of work, they made it look easy.”

Here’s a list of the participating students: Alexander Almeida, Alexander Parreiras, Anthony Belo, Benjamin Miranda, Brianna Serrano, Bryan Rodrigues, Bryan Veloso, Damian Swider, Daniel Amaro, Eduardo Garcia, Emanuel Montalvo, Gabriela Oliveira, Gabriella Pereira, Kelly Martins, Kevin Zajac, Lacey Burton, Maciej Sudol, Marco Martins, Melanie Hill, Melissa Rosales, Michael Fiedziuk, Nereida Barrios, Nicol Vargas, Pablo Galarza, Ricardo Silva, Samantha Ayala, Samantha Pires, Susana Freire, Tiffany Olivera, Tyler Hemphill and Tyler Pacheco.

In 2013, Canstruction events across the world donated over 4.7 million pounds of food serving 3.9 million meals to needy families.

Trial date for Kearny’s Leadbeater

Observer file photo
John Leadbeater



By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent


John Leadbeater, a former Kearny Town Councilman and a current member of the Board of Education, will be going on trial later this year for his alleged role in a $13 million mortgage fraud enterprise.

Leadbeater’s Jersey City attorney Thomas Cammarata told The Observer last week that the federal government has assigned a trial date of Dec. 1 for his client.

A federal indictment unsealed March 22, 2013, charges Leadbeater, 54, of Kearny, and Daniel Cardillo, 49, of Wildwood, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Leadbeater is additionally charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Cammarata said that his client is innocent of the charges and expects to demonstrate that the accusations are false during the trial which will take place in Camden Federal Court.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office will set out to prove that Leadbeater and Cardillo were involved in a scheme that used fake documents and “straw buyers” to “make illegal profits on overbuilt condos at the Jersey shore.”

The indictment alleges that Leadbeater and several co-conspirators – including Angela Celli, 42, of Somerset, Mass.; Robert Horton, 37, of Nashport, Ohio; and Justin Spradley, 35, of Cincinnati, all of whom have previously entered guilty pleas in connection with the scheme – and others — recruited straw buyers, including Cardillo, to purchase oceanfront condos overbuilt by financially distressed developers in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest between May 2006 and August 2011.

The indictment says Leadbeater and Cardillo illegally obtained mortgage loans for the straw buyers “who had good credit scores but lacked the financial resources to qualify for mortgage loans” by using fraudulent loan applications and other phony supporting documents, thereby causing $13 million in “losses to various lenders.”

The defendants allegedly “transmitted by means of wire communications in interstate commerce certain writings, signs, signals, pictures and sounds” to facilitate the scheme, the indictment says.

The government alleges that Leadbeater and his coconspirators told the straw buyers that “in exchange for purchasing the properties in their names,” they would avoid paying deposits or closing costs to acquire the properties, wouldn’t have to pay monthly mortgage fees, would receive an upfront payment after the closing for allowing their names and credit information to be used for the transactions and wouldn’t have to manage the properties because Leadbeater and others would maintain the properties, find renters, collect rent and make mortgage payments.

The government says the conspirators got mortgage loans for the straw buyers “through fraudulent loan applications by providing false information concerning the employment, income and assets of the straw purchasers” and “created false documents such as fake W-2 Forms, income tax returns, investment ‘statements’ and rental agreements to make the straw purchasers more creditworthy than [they] actually were in order to induce the lenders to make the loans.”

According to the indictment, the conspirators had fake documents prepared “that were supposed to accurately reflect the amounts of money due from the straw purchasers and to be paid to the sellers to close the sales of the properties” and “to falsely show that the straw purchasers brought their own funds to the closing when, in fact, [they] did not.”

And, the indictment alleges, the conspirators “took proceeds from the fraudulent mortgage loans by having funds wired or checks deposited into various accounts that they controlled [while] the straw purchasers … were paid a portion of the funds.”

Eleven of the condo properties involved in the alleged scheme were located in Wildwood, in the 200 block of E. Pine Ave., in the 600 block of W. Burke Ave., in the 4600 block of Niagra Ave., and in the 300 block of E. Poplar Ave.; and 15 properties were in Wildwood Crest, in the 400 block of E. Stanton Road, in the 200 block of W. Buttercup Road, in the 5600 block of Park Blvd., in the 100 block of W. Sweet Briar Road, in the 200 block of E. Denver Ave., in the 5500 block of Atlantic Ave., in the 400 block of E. Buttercup Road, and in the 400 block of Heather Road.

The indictment alleges that between May 2006 and March 26, 2008, Leadbeater and others engaged in “conspiracy to commit money laundering” by extracting proceeds from the fraud through wire transfers and checks to … Leadbeater and [two] co-conspirators who, in turn, transmitted a portion of these proceeds to the straw purchasers.”

If Leadbeater is convicted on the money laundering charge, the government will seek to compel Leadbeater to pay $2,961,518, “representing the amount of proceeds obtained as a result of the offense…” or, failing that, “to seek forfeiture of any other property of … Leadbeater” that will satisfy that amount sought.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline M. Carle is representing the government in the case.

Lady Liberty moving on

Image courtesy Glen Pinder/Build with Purpose
A rendering of new Lady Liberty Academy Charter School.



By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


After a three-year sojourn across the county line, Lady Liberty Academy is going home. The Newark charter school, which was forced to leave its original location on Pennsylvania Ave. after failing to come to terms with its landlord, migrated across the Passaic River to Harrison.

Beginning in fall 2011, it rented space in the former Holy Cross Parish School on Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. South in Harrison where it has remained since.

Now, however, with its lease due to expire July 31, Lady Liberty Executive Director Glen Pinder said the school is ready to return to the Brick City to occupy a 25,000 square foot modular addition to an existing school building on Sanford Ave. in the Vailsburg/Ivy Hill section.

Build with Purpose, a non-profit real estate development and consulting firm based in Metuchen, is the owner and developer of the new school site. The company’s website says BWP is a “national leader in charter school facility development.”

BWP says the $10.5 million Lady Liberty project, featuring 27 modular classroom units, represents the 26th charter school it has developed. This one, BWP says, has financing from Royal Bank of Canada and tax-exempt bonds issued by N.J. Economic Development Authority.

Lady Liberty has “engaged in a long-term lease” with the developer, Pinder said. According to BWP, the deal calls for a 30-year lease with an option to purchase at any time.

Steel River Building Systems of Pottstown, Pa. is the manufacturer of the modular units and Gluck+ of New York is the architect and construction manager. BWP says the project also includes the gut rehabilitation of the neglected St. John’s Ukrainian School on the corner of Ivy St. and Sanford Ave., next to the new school building.

Pinder said the new facility will afford Lady Liberty some room to grow in the future. At the Harrison site, It currently serves 468 children in kindergarten to grade 8 but, with its new digs, “we could fit an additional 50, at most,” he said.

“We will move in Aug. 1,” Pinder said. “We’re very excited about it.” Being back in Newark “is going to help us with academics and with our after-school program where we should get more participation. Being out of the [Newark school] district creates a strain on everybody. Now we’ll have a home.”

The only drawback, as seen by Pinder, will be that “the new building doesn’t have as much closet space as we have in Harrison but we knew about that going into the project so staff will have to adjust.”

Looking back over the school’s 3-year stay in Harrison, Pinder said, “The first year was extremely difficult. We had to take a step back. We lost a lot of kids. We had to bring in new students. But our last two years have been better. It’s a matter of adjusting to your new environment, timing and traffic.”

But, through it all, Pinder said, “the town of Harrison has been great to us. The former mayor [Raymond McDonough, who died earlier this year] and the Harrison schools superintendent [James Doran] were very supportive, for example, making sure we had crossing guards.”

Additionally, Pinder said, the local police and firefighters “were extremely responsible on all things. If we called them on a particular issue, they’d show right up. They were professional. They’d help us troubleshoot the problem, whether it was fire alarms or a complaint from a parent. They gave us the use of a soccer field and playground. They treated us as if we were an actual Harrison [public] school. If we could take our present situation and put it in Newark, we’d have kept it as is. We want to thank the Harrison community for being excellent hosts.”

As for student performance, Pinder said the school “took a dip our first year – an implementation dip – but last year we had moderate growth and this year, after testing is completed, we should see more growth.” Lady Liberty will be field-testing the state’s new PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers] exam before the end of the school year, he said.

Overall, Pinder said, “I’m very proud of accomplishments we’ve had in our last five years. It’s been slow growth but at least it’s been growth.”

In its new setting, Lady Liberty will become what Pinder characterized as “part of the One Newark centralized enrollment process.”

The Rev. Joseph Girone, pastor of Holy Cross Church, said the parish is exploring other possible tenants for the former school building.

Relay will light up the night

Photo by Karen Zautyk
Nutley Commissioner Mauro
Tucci and Brenda Sherman of the
Nutley Irish American Alliance are
ready for the Relay For Life.

By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


Come this Friday night, and all through the dark hours until Saturday morning, DeMuro Park will be aglow with luminarias. These are small sand-filled bags holding lighted candles — and so much more. Each will represent someone who was lost to cancer, or who is battling cancer, or who is a cancer suvivor.

In addition to the candles, these luminarias will hold memories. They will hold hope. They will hold love.

The Olympic-size track around the park will be lined with them, marking the town’s 8th annual Relay For Life, sponsored by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

More than 800 people, representing 50 teams, are expected to participate in the overnight event, with the goal of raising at least $110,000 for the battle against cancer. Since Nutley joined the nationwide program — Relays are held in 4,800 communities across the U.S. — the town has raised more than $700,000 for the American Cancer Society. The hope is to hit $1 million in the next two to three years. And to continue on from there.

“Relay For Life is a unique event that raises community awareness of prevention and detection of cancer and of services for those currently battling the disease, while raising much-needed funds in the fight for the cure,” Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mauro Tucci said in a statement.

In person, he said, “Last year, when we raised $131,000, we were pleasantly surprised, because of the state of the economy. Our teams are breaking the odds. Our teams are overachievers. They just outdo themselves.”

We interviewed Tucci and Brenda Sherman of the Nutley Irish American Alliance at the commissioner’s office last week. (Editor’s note: In the interest of journalistic credibility, it should be noted that your correspondent is technically a member of the Nutley Irish, although she is delinquent in her dues.)

The Nutley Irish have been sponsoring a team since the beginning of the Nutley program and are extremely active in promoting the Relay and securing donations for the cause. Over the last seven years, the club has raised a total of $37,000.

Last week alone, the Irish held both a fund-raiser party and a yard sale.

They also sell raffle tickets, T-shirts (new this year) and offer luminaria sponsorship, at $10 per bag. “You can decorate them any way you want with the name of a loved one,” Sherman said.

She explained that this year’s event will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, when the participants will begin to gather and there will be an opportunity to register if you haven’t already. The actual Relay begins at 7, with the “Survivors’ Lap.”

Photo right courtesy relayforlife.org Luminaria tribute

Photo right courtesy relayforlife.org
Luminaria tribute


The American Cancer Society notes, “All cancer survivors at the event take the first lap around the track, celebrating their victory over cancer while cheered on by the other participants who line the track. Relay For Life events also recognize and celebrate caregivers, who give time, love and support to their friends, family, neighbors and coworkers facing cancer.”

Then, until 6 a.m. Saturday, each team will have at least one member on the track at all times — running, jogging, walking.

At DeMuro Park, the various teams and the town will have a number of activities tents, featuring a tricky tray, sand art, removable tattoos, a bake sale, etc., all of which will also raise money for the cause.

In support of the Relay, you can also purchase “Finish the Fight” wristbands for $3 apiece at the Parks & Rec Department, 44 Park Ave., from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Tucci explained that Nutley first became involved in Relay For Life after he was told about it by his son Mauro Jr., who had attended a Relay in West Orange. Nutley responded with enthusiasm.

“Nutley people are always ready to volunteer,” the commissioner said. And, he added, “we all have someone or know someone who has been affected by this horrible disease.”

Tucci said that his entire staff is involved in planning the event. The lead people are Chrissy Frusteri and Linda Hamilton.

Note that, although fund-raising is the primary purpose, Relay For Life is about so much more. It provides a support group. Just being there will lift your spirits, and your hopes, and, if needed, offer you comfort.

Citing the “anger, fear and frustration” that dealing with cancer brings, Sherman said that the Relay “offers a way for you to share your experiences, both positive and negative” with others who will understand.

“It’s not just about raising money,” Sherman continued. “It’s about the community of people who come together to share their experiences.”

And why has the Nutley Relay For Life become such an important event for township residents? Tucci summed it up: “It’s a testament to the town, to the organizations involved. It’s one big family.”

“That’s why Nutley is Nutley,” he said. “It’s the people. It’s the town. It’s tradition.”

(For further information on the Nutley event, contact Parks & Rec at 973-284-4966, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For information on the nationwide Relay For Life program, visit www.relayforlife. org.)

NAPD: Bank heist foiled

by Karen Zautyk; inset photo courtesy North Arlington PD
Frankie R. Ortiz was apprehended near TD Bank on Ridge Road.




“If you see something, say something.” A concerned citizen heeded that advice, and North Arlington police responded, leading to the arrest of an armed man who was believed to be plotting a bank robbery in the borough, authorities reported.

Officers were dispatched to Ridge Road and Noel Drive at 1:28 p.m. Friday, May 2, after receiving a report of a suspicious individual in the area. Police Chief Louis Ghione said the man, wearing gloves and carrying a black backpack, appeared to be scoping out private driveways in the neighborhood.

Sgt. Joseph Prinzo and Officers David Ryan and Sean MacDonald located an individual fitting the suspect’s description and found him to be in possession of a 9mm automatic, Ghione said.

A search of the backpack, incident to the man’s arrest for unlawful possession of a handgun, reportedly uncovered a black wool hat with a full facial mask, black gloves, clear rubber gloves, sneakers and a folded-up black duffle bag.

The suspect was identified as Frankie R. Ortiz, 20, of Paterson. Further investigation by Prinzo and Det. Michael Horton determined that he had been conducting surveillance of the TD Bank at 454 Ridge Rd., located at the corner of Noel Drive, and apparently was planning a hold-up, Ghione reported.

In addition to the weapons count, Ortiz was charged with attempted bank robbery. His bail was set at $20,000, with no 10% option, and he was remanded to the Bergen County Jail.

– Karen Zautyk 

Thoughts & Views: Sealing up the borders of our minds

There’s been a lot of talk among our lawmakers these days about how the U.S.A. should restrict the flow of illegal immigration into the country.

They gripe about how these “intruders” steal our jobs, force down wages by agreeing to work on the cheap, drive up health care costs by getting free emergency care and, of course, don’t pay taxes. Or so goes the litany of the anti-illegal immigrant crowd.

So we build miles of barrier walls along our southern border, double the number of border patrol agents, demand that voters in certain border states produce special ID cards. And those caught in our protective net, we deport as fast as we can.

And still they come, sacrificing everything, willing to take extraordinary risks – including exploitation by the “coyotes” – to pass through our “Golden Door” – even when its welcome lamp isn’t lit.

For those immigrants who play by the rules and formally apply for entry to this country, each year the U.S. – with a population of more than 300 million – admits up to 480,000 immigrants on “family-based visas,” an additional 140,000 on “permanent employment-based preference” visas, another 70,000 on “refugee” visas and 55,000 more on “diversity lottery” visas, according to the U.S. Immigration Policy Center (IPC).

“Currently, no group of permanent immigrants (family-based and employment-based) from a single country can exceed 7% of the total amount of people immigrating to the United States in a single year,” the IPC notes.

Those who seek to become naturalized citizens are asked to take a Civics Test to see if they have a basic understanding of how the U.S. government operates so that they can “fully participate in the American political process,” as explained by the government in an introduction to a practice test booklet.

Having secured a copy of such a booklet and perused its sample questions, I wonder how many of us who were born here with citizenship rights already conferred on us could provide satisfactory answers to the questions the Civics Test poses.

Here are some samples to test our own civics knowledge: (Answers are provided below. Don’t cheat.)

1. How many amendments does the Constitution have? And what are the first 10 collectively known as?

2. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?

3. Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now?

4. Name your U.S. Representative.

5. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?

6. Name three of the original 13 states.

7. The Federalist Paper supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.

8. Name one American Indian tribe in the U.S.

9. Name one U.S. territory.

10. How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?

Well, how’d we do? Well enough to teach new arrivals to the U.S. a thing or two? Or maybe we need to remind ourselves – as the government tells us in its mini civics lesson – that, “The Founders of this country decided that the United States should be a representative democracy. They wanted a nation ruled by laws, not by men.”

The ultimate irony 

It makes me think of the scene in the Reginald Rose play “12 Angry Men” where a foreign-born juror extolls the virtues of the American judicial system and scolds a fellow juror for failing to take his responsibility seriously.

Incidentally, we are reminded by the government’s Civics Test that serving on a jury is one of two responsibilities that are required of U.S. citizens; the other is voting in a federal election.

Many of us try to get out of doing jury duty and many more can’t be bothered voting, even for President. That’s why the power elite can sit back and do as they please in a country that the Founders liked to think would be a “representative democracy.”

Immigration reform, anyone?

 (Answers to test: 1. 27; Bill of Rights. 2. 435. 3. Cory Booker/ Robert Menendez. 4. Albio Sires/Donald Payne. 5. John Roberts. 6. New Hampshire/ Massachusetts/Rhode Island/ Connecticut/New York/ New Jersey/Pennsylvania/ Delaware/Maryland/Virginia/ North Carolina/South Carolina/Georgia were the original 13. 7. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay were the writers. 8. Here’s a complete list: Cherokee, Navajo, Sioux, Chippewa, Choctaw, Pueblo, Apache, Iroquois, Creek, Blackfeet, Seminole, Cheyenne, Arawak, Shawnee, Mohegan, Huron, Oneida, Lakota, Crow, Teton, Hopi and Inuit. 9. Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and Guam are all U.S. territories. 10. 18.) 

– Ron Leir