By Ron Leir
NORTH ARLINGTON –
Two Passaic men driving two stolen cars were collared in North Arlington early on March 12 after they led police from several surrounding communities on a wild chase that included a foot pursuit through Holy Cross Cemetery.
North Arlington Police Capt. James Hearn gave this account of the episode:
At 3:01 a.m., a borough patrol officer traveling on Hendel Ave. near Ridge Road observed a dark-colored Mercury make a sharp turn off Ridge on to Hendel, followed by a silver Toyota, both ignoring a stop sign. Read more »
By Ron Leir
A piece of Lyndhurst history is destined for the scrap heap as a casualty of economic pressures.
This time – without having to go to the voters – the township and Board of Education are working in concert to replace the 126-year-old Lincoln Elementary School with a new building to rise on Matera Field.
But residents can still expect to see a referendum toward the end of 2015 when they’ll be asked to approve spending of up to $10 million for improvements to other schools: possibly “specialty” facilities for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) and language arts, and adding vocational training classes at the high school.
Last November, the township Board of Commissioners set the stage for taking the school property at Valley Brook Ave. and Ridge Road after having designated it an “area in need of redevelopment,” and, last Tuesday, the commissioners and Board of Education executed the coup de gras.
At a special joint meeting held at the Municipal Building, the members of each board voted unanimously to authorize a professional services contract – not subject to bidding laws – with three professional firms to draw up “preliminary design and logistics work [for] replacement of Lincoln School” for a total of $130,000 in fees.
The firms which, officials said, will “work as a team,” in consultation with school and municipal officials, to assemble a conceptual plan during the next three months. Once there is agreement on the details, then the school board will solicit bids for construction at the 5.8-acre Matera Field site, between Marin and Page Aves.
Robert Benecke, the township’s financial consultant, said: “The township of Lyndhurst will buy the [Lincoln School] property for redevelopment purposes and, in turn, the Board of Education will agree to have the new school built.”
As provided in the township’s 2014 master plan, “The proceeds from the sale of the Lincoln School property, together with proceeds from the sale of any or all related properties in the town center redevelopment area could be used to help construct the [new] school.”
Under this arrangement, bonds will be issued to provide up-front financing for the new construction and that debt is expected to replace the existing principal and interest the township still owes on the EnCap development fiasco which, officials hope, will be paid off by then.
The township has designated the properties between Stuyvesant Ave. to Ridge Road along the railroad tracks, and from Freeman St. to Valley Brook Ave. on Ridge, and Matera Field as parts of its redevelopment area.
Richard DiLascio, the attorney for both the BOE and the township, said that under state redevelopment law, because both the Lincoln property and Matera Field are connected to the redevelopment area, the BOE has no obligation to seek voter approval to abandon Lincoln and build anew because the funding is already accounted for under the pending sale of the Lincoln property.
DiLascio said he expected the entire process to take three years with the first classes entering the building by September 2018. Because plans, at this point, are unclear about its size and even which three grades it will accommodate, DiLascio said it’s impossible to predict how much will be needed to build the new school.
Although the master plan talks about a “middle school housing grades 6, 7 and 8,” DiLascio said that thought is being given to a possible alternate junior high school scenario of grades 7, 8 and 9. After the school is built, “then the superintendent will reconfigure the district.”
“The primary goal here,” DiLascio said, “is to eliminate as many trips as possible for parents with kids in different schools.”
In any case, DiLascio said, officials are looking at a population of about 160 students spread over eight classrooms for each of the three grades, with a total capacity of 650 to allow for “expanded enrollment over the next 20 years.”
Also envisioned for the new school are a 1,000-seat auditorium that would also be accessible to the community, a gym and a culinary arts program, according to DiLascio.
The three firms hired to develop plans for the new school and their fees are:
• CP Engineers of Sparta, who will evaluate existing schools’ needs and prepare an update of the district’s long-range facilities plan, for $60,000.
• Morris and Ritchie Associates of Baltimore, Md., who will serve as the “programming and site specialist” for the new school and will be the liaison to the public for all information, for $20,000.
• Hord Coplan Macht, also of Baltimore, Md., who will be the “design specialist for the replacement of the Lincoln School,” for $50,000.
BOE President Christopher Musto said he was “excited, both as a board member and parent, that we’re going to replace an old building with a state of the art school.”
By Ron Leir
Say goodbye to Kearny’s secondary post office.
The U.S. Postal Service has issued a “final determination” notice to permanently shut what is known as the West Hudson Station at 255 Kearny Ave., which has operated since April 1961.
USPS spokesman George Flood said the decision was made this month by the Postal Service’s Northern N.J. District after consultation with staff and community input, including a public posting soliciting comments from Jan. 29 to March 2.
There is a 30-day period for the public to file appeals of the decision but, based on an apparent lack of interest to date, the expectation is that the closure will stick.
Only two people showed up at a community meeting to talk about the proposed closure convened by the Postal Service on June 3, 2014, according to Flood.
Flood said that members of the public were invited to send letters on the subject to the postal service during on open comment period between April 23 and June 24, 2014, but the feedback did nothing to alter the course adopted for closure.
“Some [of the responders] said they didn’t want to travel the 1.3 miles to the main post office in Kearny [on Midland Ave.],” Flood said.
An “emergency suspension” of service at the Kearny Ave. station took effect Aug. 1, 2013, after plumbing leaks from an apartment above the storefront postal office – leased from a private owner – made the place unfit for occupancy and postal staff and postal boxes were relocated to the main post office.
Ironically, the postal service had just renewed its lease of the space.
It appears that no attempt has been made to have the office cleaned. Flood said questions about conditions there should be directed to the landlord. He said the postal service is in talks with the owner to renegotiate the 5-year lease.
Meanwhile, Flood said, there has been a “decline of business [at the West Hudson Station] over the last several years. In the last five years, revenue has declined by 39% and there are numerous outlets in close proximity for Kearny customers to conduct their postal business, including the Main Post Office.”
The closure decision, Flood said, “pretty much mirrors our national strategy of adjusting our infrastructure to match changes in market place. The first-class retail mail market for us is going in a different direction so we’re responding to those changes. On the positive side, we’ve noticed a significant jump in package volume from our business customers.
“Our customers’ habits have made it clear that they are looking for different ways to access postal products and services. Today, more than 35% of the Postal Service’s retail revenue comes from expanded access locations such as grocery stores, drug stores, office supply stores, retail chains, self-service kiosks, ATMs and our usps.com website, which is accessible 24/7.
“It is important to bear in mind that the Kearny Postmaster Ed Wynne has not received complaints about the relocation of the West Hudson Station to the Main Post Office …”
Appeals of the closure may be sent to the Postal Regulatory Commission, 901 New York Ave. NW, Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20268-0001.
On another Kearny postal front, meanwhile, Flood had good news about the N.J. Logistics & Distribution Center, 1200 Harrison Ave., which the Postal Service had eyed for possible consolidation as part of an overall budget cutting move.
“We’re not moving forward with that issue in Kearny,” he said.
That facility has 565 employees and is in the process of a name change to the U.S.P.S. Greater Newark New Jersey Processing & Distribution Center, Flood said.
By Karen Zautyk
A 70-year-old Kearny woman was fatally injured last Wednesday night when she was struck by a motor vehicle while crossing Devon St. at Midland Ave., KPD Chief John Dowie reported.
Dowie said the victim was walking across Devon from west to east shortly after 8 p.m., March 18, when she was hit by a Jeep that was attempting to make a left turn off Midland.
P.O. Jay Ward, the first officer on the scene, summoned Kearny EMS and paramedics and attempted to render medical aid while awaiting their arrival, Dowie said.
The woman was taken to Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, where she was later pronounced dead.
Dowie said the Jeep’s driver, a 25-year-old Kearny man, remained at the scene and was “very cooperative.”
The chief said the incident appeared to be “purely accidental” and there was no indication any alcohol was involved.
Given the severity of the victim’s injuries, members of the KPD Fatal Accident Unit — Sgt. John Taylor and Officers Adriano Marques and Peter Blair — were called to the scene, and “as a matter of course,” the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office was notified, Dowie noted.
The HCPO has “determined there was no criminality involved,” he reported.
Authorities were withholding the identities of both the victim and the driver.
By Ron Leir
Will Kearny receive state transitional aid? What will be the outcome of contract negotiations with the municipal nonuniformed employees union?
Will the town succeed in persuading the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security to pay for 12 new firefighters?
These and other financial considerations will play out during the balance of the year as the town’s governing body ponders how to pare down the proposed municipal budget of about $76 million introduced last Monday.
As the budget, up from $74.8 million last year, now stands – it will get a public hearing April 21 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers – overall spending is up from last year by 2.4% but the impact on the local levy – even with $2,125,000 million in transitional aid included – is a 6% increase, according to Town CFO Shuaib Firozvi.
If those numbers stick, Firozvi said, the owner of a house with an “average” assessment of $95,000 could expect to pay an additional $228 in taxes on his/her property. And that’s without any school and county tax hikes, if any.
But Mayor Alberto Santos has asked Firozvi and town auditor Steven Wielkotz to come up with recommendations for cuts.
“The number we want to be around is not higher than a 2% tax increase,” the mayor said. “If this budget lacks material amendments [that fails to reduce the tax impact], I’m not voting on it.”
That task, however, will be complicated, Firozvi said, because the town does not expect to know if it will be getting transitional aid by that point. And, he noted, “most budget line items are either flat or lower than last year.”
Expenses are up in such areas as employee health benefits, by $160,000; and contractual service fees to Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, by $158,000, he said.
And the amount of surplus is being trimmed, from $2.4 million last year, to $1.2 million for 2015, he added.
On the plus side of the ledger, Firozvi said the town is projecting a decrease of $800,000 in debt service payments; however, as Santos later pointed out, that savings will be partly canceled by the town bonding to finance the new Dukes St. pump station.
The town is projecting an additional $200,000 in revenues to the water utility, largely the result of increased user rates, but that will be partly undercut by an approximately $40,000 obligation to United Water as interim water utility operator. (Theodore Ferraioli, the $99,000-a-year assistant water superintendent, has delayed his previously announced March 1 resignation to April 1, according to Santos.)
The town has negotiated PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) agreements with the owners of Kearny Point, an industrial park in South Kearny, for one warehouse building the owners expect to lease to multiple tenants; and with builder Ed Russo for a multifamily residential complex at Bergen and Schuyler Aves.
Santos said that Russo expects to start renting the first two of six buildings now under construction by the end of the spring, “so we should get a half-year PILOT for that,” and that “at least a portion of the South Kearny building will be on line by the end of the year and the owner expects to lease space to one or two tenants so we should be seeing some revenue from that.”
Meanwhile, Kearny is waiting to hear how much – if any – transitional aid Trenton is willing to dispense this year. Per state protocol, Kearny is required to ask for 15% less than the amount it got last year.
One expense that remains a question mark is how much the town will end up paying the more than 80 civilian employees represented by Civil Service Council 11, whose contract with the town expired Dec. 31, 2014. Both sides are in talks on a new labor agreement.
Also up in the air is whether the town will commit to hiring any additional firefighters. Last Monday, the Town Council authorized making application to Homeland Security for a grant to pay salaries and benefits for 12 additional firefighters for two years. If the town fails to get the grant – as it has in two previous efforts – it’s unclear whether it will lay out any local funds to beef up the short-staffed Fire Department, which will be down another member with the July 1 retirement of 28-year veteran Capt. Gary Dye, who is due to receive nearly $70,000 in terminal leave pay and unused vacation benefits.
The separate arrests of two township men, one on a North Arlington burglary charge, the other on a hefty outstanding warrant, top the Kearny police blotter news this week.
At 7 p.m., March 16, Dets. Ray Lopez and Michael Farinola responded to a call about a suspicious person on the 600 block of Devon St. While they were checking the rear of a building there, they saw a man running away, Chief John Dowie said.
Following a short foot pursuit, during which the suspect reportedly discarded a cell phone under a parked car, they caught and detained Joseph Ferguson, 23, of Kearny.
Advised by a concerned citizen that Ferguson had possibly entered Devon St. from North Arlington, the detectives contacted police in that borough and were advised of a recent burglary there, Dowie said.
NAPD officers came to Devon St. and reportedly identified the cell phone and other items in the suspect’s possession as being among the stolen property.
According to North Arlington Police Chief Louis Ghione, the break-in occurred at a residence on Abbott Place and an Xbox, camera and assorted jewelry were also taken.
Ferguson was taken into custody by the NAPD.
• • •
On March 15, at 7:30 p.m., Det. Michael Gonzalez was on patrol when he saw Christopher Ochoa, 18, of Kearny, walking in the area of Kearny Ave. and Afton St. Dowie said the detective was aware of Ochoa’s having an outstanding warrant, confirmed same and arrested him.
That warrant, the chief said, was a $95,000 one out of Newark in connection with a “vicious” robbery on Garside St. in that city.
Ochoa was processed at headquarters and turned over to the Newark PD Robbery Unit.
• • •
Other recent reports from the Kearny police blotter included the following:
Officer Peter Jahera, responding to a possible hit-and-run on Passaic Ave, at the Belleville Pike at 8:15 p.m., learned that the driver whose car was struck had followed the fleeing vehicle, a pick-up truck, into Lyndhurst. where it had been stopped by North Arlington police on Riverside Ave. Following questioning by Jahera, and field sobriety tests, the truck’s driver, Marek Grotkowski, 51, of Wallington, was charged with DWI, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident. Police reported that the victim said he had been stopped in traffic in front of Stewart’s when his car was rear-ended.
Shortly after midnight, Officer Derek Hemphill got an alert on his mobile data computer that a 2008 Subaru he saw parked in the VFW lot off Belgrove Drive had a suspended registration. Approaching the car, he reportedly detected the odor of marijuana and observed inside: cigar shavings, a plastic grinder, a baggy containing suspected pot, a beer mug and an open bottle of rum.
Occupant Ana Sarmiento, 21, of Kearny, was charged with possession of pot and paraphernalia and was issued MV summonses for possession of CDS in an MV, having an open container of alcohol in same, and the registration violation.
The Subaru was impounded.
• • •
At 3:15 p.m., just as school was letting out, Officer Jay Ward received a report of a man walking past Franklin School on Davis Ave. consuming an alcoholic beverage. Ward saw and detained Robert Glasser, 51, of Harrison, at Davis and Wilson Aves., issued him a town ordinance summons for drinking (from a bottle of filtered vodka) in public — and arrested him on two warrants: one for an ordinance violation in Harrison and a $2,500 one out of Newark for allegedly “wandering in a drug area.” Harrison and Newark were both notified.
• • •
At 4:20 p.m., Officer John Fabula observed two individuals going door-to-door on the 100 block of Wilson Ave. Although they had credentials displayed, Fabula found they did not have Kearny-issued solicitation permits. Police said he also found they both had warrants — one each out of Clifton. Arrested were Khalid Gaston, 26, of Jersey City, and Amirian Gadzhiev, 22, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
In Kearny, they claimed to have been selling “energy,” said Chief Dowie, who also warned residents that sometimes solicitors go door-to-door “just to get your information.”
Officer Jordenson Jean responded to a 3 p.m. report of a suspicious individual possibly involved in attempted burglary of apartments on the 800 block of Kearny Ave., near Seeley Ave. Jean, armed with the suspect’s description, searched the area and detained Frank Fletcher, 47, of Kearny. Fletcher was subsequently charged with criminal attempted burglary and was remanded to the Hudson County Jail on $50,000 bail. Police said he also had a $500 drug-related warrant from Belleville.
• • •
Officer Kevin Arnesman responded to a two-car accident at 3:45 p.m. on the 100 block of Oakwood Ave. Police said one driver had fled the scene but later contacted them. Steven McGirr, 24, of Kearny — who was located on the 400 block of Elm St. — was reportedly found to have a suspended license and was charged with that offense.
– Karen Zautyk
By Karen Zautyk
A Paterson man who was involved in an auto accident on Passaic Ave. last week ended up under arrest after he bit two of the EMTs who had been called to render medical aid, Kearny police reported.
But then, he would have been arrested anyway, since police said he had four outstanding warrants. And was allegedly under the influence of marijuana.
The drama started at 9 a.m., March 17, when Officer Kevin Canaley responded to the report of a two-car crash at Passaic and W. Bennett Aves. and arrived to find two utility poles knocked down, one car up on the grass in the park and the second sitting sideways in the roadway.
Canaley summoned the Kearny EMS to assist both motorists, a 23-year-old Union woman, whose car had jumped the curb, and Joseph Williams, 42, of Paterson, operator of the vehicle that had spun around.
Police said that as the EMTs tried to aid Williams, he became “very combative,” and when attempts were made to restrain him, he began kicking, punching, spitting — and biting. He was eventually subdued and taken by ambulance, and under police guard, to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville.
When police approached Williams’ car, they reportedly detected the odor of marijuana and observed a blunt cigar wrapper with suspected pot. And, police said, when Canaley made a warrant check, he found that Williams had four: two from Paterson, one from Newark and one from the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office.
Williams was charged on those and with two counts of aggravated assault; possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia; operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a CDS; possession of a CDS in a motor vehicle, and driving while suspended and uninsured.
Police said he was to remain under guard at the hospital until Hudson County Sheriff’s officers took custody of him.
By Ron Leir
Six new officers – two with local public safety pedigrees – have been added to the Kearny Police Department but due to anticipated retirements, their arrival won’t provide much relief for a force already stretched thin.
Last Monday, the Kearny Town Council voted to appoint the officers, effective April 13, at the initial salary step of $44,821 a year.
The rookies will begin their mandated training next month at the Passaic County Police Academy and, if successful, finish in October, Police Chief John Dowie said.
“Then, we get them for two months field training and orientation to local streets,” Dowie said. “We’re hoping to get them on the street by December.”
With the new hirings, Dowie said his departmental strength is up to 100 – far below the 120 authorized by the department’s Table of Organization.
Dowie estimated that “12 to 15” cops – many of them supervisory officers – will be eligible to put in their pension applications between now and year’s end. A 27- year veteran, Capt. Stephen P. Durkin, just retired March 1 with $72,732 in terminal leave pay and unused vacation pay. And Capt. Tom Osborn, with 27 years on the force, will be leaving June 1. Plus, Sgt. John Becker, with 26 years, is retiring April 1.
So, in anticipation of an even further diminished roster, Dowie said he has asked for an “immediate recertification” of an appointment list for more rank and file cops.
Meanwhile, Dowie, who was authorized to hire up to 10 new cops now, said it was a struggle just to end up with the new six officers from an original list of 75 eligibles.
The new hires are Dominic Dominguez, Mina Elkadious, Victor Girdwood, Sean Podolski, Esteban Gonzalez and Christos Manolis.
Dominguez, 22, is a Newark resident who did a one-year tour in Afghanistan with the Army’s 508th Military Police Combat unit and, following his discharge from the service, got a job as a dispatcher with the Montclair PD in December 2011 where he will continue to work until he enters the academy.
Elkadious, 23, is a Kearny resident who has worked as a paralegal with a law firm in Orange.
Girdwood, 24, is a Kearny resident whose dad, Victor Sr., is a member of the Kearny Fire Department. Victor Jr. has worked about six months as a Hudson County Sheriff ’s officer and has attended college classes.
Podolski, 20, is a lifelong Kearny resident and the son of Kearny Police Det. Stephen Podolski. He has been working as a private security officer for a South Kearny firm and has been taking college courses.
Gonzalez, 34, is a Newark resident who has performed military service as a weapons specialist with the Air National Guard. He has worked as a security officer with the Newark public school system and has served with the Essex County Department of Corrections since August 2014. He is married with two children.
Manolis, 25, is a Kearny resident and Kearny High School graduate who served with the Army in Afghanistan, earning a campaign medal and two campaign stars. After his discharge, he worked in private security and has served as a Hudson County Sheriff ’s officer assigned to the courts. He is a member of the Kearny Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
The U.S. Secret Service wants $8 million from Congress to build a fake White House so its agents can practice guarding the real place against outside threats.
Good luck getting it. Good luck getting anything from Congress these days. You can’t even get a free ride; in fact, that’s the one thing you know they won’t cough up. Anyway, you can’t really blame the new director for trying. Judging from the recent lapses that have been spotlighted in the national press – (so much for the “secret” part of their service) – it sounds like those agents of his must have a lot of time on their hands.
So having a place to practice should be a good thing because it will keep those agents occupied doing the secret things they do.
And, what’s more, if I were the director, I certainly wouldn’t stop there.
I mean, think about it: Part of the mission of the Secret Service (yes, I looked at their website to verify this and they didn’t make a secret of it) is to guard and protect our embassies overseas.
Well, we’ve got a whole bunch of embassies around the globe so the director should be asking for replicas of those embassies, too. Like the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, for example, where in 2012 we lost an ambassador and foreign service employee, and another location there where two CIA contractors were killed.
Of course, this is not to say that even if we had been more vigilant about protecting these facilities and representatives that extremists still wouldn’t have found a way to carry out their deadly missions.
Maybe we still need more communication between and among our federal agencies set up to detect and penetrate those groups who are actively seeking to do harm to our governments and representatives. There still seems to be too much territoriality exercised by our security agencies and lessons that were supposedly learned from 9/11 probably have been forgotten.
The Secret Service seems to have been snake-bitten, literally from the day President Lincoln signed the legislation on April 14, 1865, which happens to be the day he was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth.
But don’t blame them for that outcome: the Secret Service was created as a creature of the U.S. Treasury to combat counterfeiting – then a scourge of the war-disrupted country.
An inept cop, John Parker, was assigned to guard Lincoln that night at Ford’s Theatre if you can believe the website todayifoundout.com which reports that Parker left his post at the president’s box to get a better view of the play and, during intermission, visited a nearby saloon, which probably didn’t help.
But the Secret Service did manage to thwart a counterfeiting gang’s scheme to steal Lincoln’s body and hold it for ransom in return for the release of a convicted counterfeiter.
After 1990, as its own website chronicles, the Secret Service widened its net to investigate any kind of threat, civil or criminal, to federally-insured financial institutions, including cyber-crime.
That, in turn, has led to several successful investigations including, notably, the arrest in 2004 of 24 suspects from various countries on charges of identity theft, computer and credit card fraud that caused the loss of more than $4 million to banks.
And in 2009, harking back to its original mission, the agency arrested nearly 3,000 counterfeiting suspects, nearly all of whom are convicted, and confiscated more than $180 million in phony U.S. currency.
Apparently, they did it without practicing on a currency replicator.
– Ron Leir
• Last week’s story previewing a special meeting of the Harrison Board of Education March 24 on a proposed new school misstated the time of the meeting. It starts at 6:30 p.m. in the board conference room on Hamilton St.
• Ron Leir’s March 10 column erred when it reported that Ford had accepted a U.S. government bailout. The auto firm originally said it would welcome the cash but then reversed itself, declining the offer. The Observer regrets the error.
A Brooklyn man who apparently came all the way to Kearny just to cash a check has taken up residence in the town. At least temporarily. His new address is the Hudson County Jail.
According to police, the suspect had tried to cash a check for $4,137 at the Chase Bank, Kearny and Johnston Aves., at about 11:30 a.m. last Thursday, March 12. Because there was no name on the check, he was turned away.
He returned at 4:30 p.m. with the same cashier’s check, which this time reportedly bore the name “David Abel.” Suspicious bank personnel, believing the check to be fraudulent, alerted the KPD, and Officers Richard Pawlowski and Dave Rakowski responded, Chief John Dowie said.
Asked for identification, the man allegedly presented a New York driver’s license in Abel’s name. However, when he was asked to spell the name, he could not, police said. Additionally, when asked to confirm his address, he could name the street but not the house number, police said. The license, they said, was determined to be fake.
A search incident to arrest produced other ID, which revealed him to be Thomas Des-Angus, 33, of Brooklyn. It also reportedly produced a New York identification card bearing a woman’s name.
Des-Angus was charged with: criminal attempted theft, identity theft, forgery, fraudulent checks, a false government document, and hindering apprehension.
He was remanded to the county jail on $20,000 bail, with no 10% option.
– Karen Zautyk