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Category: News

Target parking lot for new school

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 


If no significant environmental issues arise, the municipal parking lot across the street from Washington Middle School will become the site for a new school for kindergarten and pre-K students in Harrison to help relieve overcrowding at Lincoln and Hamilton elementary schools.

And the $33 million project will cost taxpayers not one dime to build, school officials insist, because the Board of Education owns the property and because the state has committed to picking up the entire tab.

So reported James Doran, the district’s director of personnel, and Michael Pichowicz, the board attorney, in an interview with The Observer at the BOE office last Thursday.

Doran said the BOE – which has yet to vote on designating the lot as the place where the new facility will rise – nonetheless want to forewarn residents now because during the Easter holiday period – between April 6 and 16 – the parking lot at Washington St. and Harrison Ave. will be closed.

That’s when the N.J. Schools Development Authority has directed the Morristownbased Louis Berger Group to drill holes in the lot, take soil samples and analyze them to see if a school building can be safely supported there, Doran said.

Residents who rely on the lot for overnight parking will have more access to street spaces in the neighborhood during that time because the town will be suspending street cleaning on Washington St. and on Harrison Ave., between Fifth and Sixth Sts., so residents with the required stickers will be able to park during the night on those blocks, Doran said. Looking ahead, Doran said there has been “preliminary discussion” with the BOE about replacing the lot, once the SDA officially greenlights the school project.

“The goal is that before any construction starts, we would have an engineering firm look at relocating the underutilized Shields Park (which is next to Washington School) to an area near Harrison High School and extending the resident parking lot at Patterson St. and Harrison Ave. to the area now occupied by the park,” Doran said.

That reconfiguration would, he said, “double the size” of the existing Patterson St. parking area while also accommodating school staff from Washington School and the new school.

Meanwhile, plans for the new school – (no name has been designated for it yet) – will be unveiled publicly for the first time at a special BOE meeting set for 6:30 p.m. March 24 at the board offices, 501 Hamilton St. [Please note time change to 6:30 p.m.]

“This has been three years in the making,” said Doran, who talked up the idea during his previous service as the district’s superintendent of schools, as a strategy to ease the pressure of growing enrollment, particularly in pre-K to grade 5.

“As of 2008-2009, we were already at capacity in our elementary schools,” Doran said. Since then, enrollment district-wide jumped from 1,866 to 2,096 currently. Lincoln School, which houses kindergarten through grade 3 with the aid of trailers, climbed from 557 to 651 and Hamilton, which has grades 4 and 5, went from 262 to 302, district records show.

In prior years, the SDA had proposed expanding Washington School’s population – which handles grades 6, 7 and 8 – by adding grade 5 which, according to Doran, would have required placement of trailers along the Hamilton St. side of the school. It never happened.

Now the plan is to construct a new two-story school on the roughly one-acre parking lot site to accommodate nine kindergarten classrooms, nine first-grade classrooms and two pre-K special education classrooms. The facility would have an elevator, a combination cafeteria/ auditorium and gym. There would also be some type of outdoor play space. The entrance would be from Washington St. The existing vehicular traffic pattern would remain.

SDA regulations mandated the district to conduct an inventory of potential school sites, with priority given to district-owned property first, then municipal-owned. Pichowicz said the district identified 38 parcels for consideration and “it came down to Roosevelt Park outside the town library and the parking lot.”

The district had acquired the parking lot site some years ago with the idea of putting a new school there at some point, he said.

The new school would accommodate a capacity of 420 students and could be ready for occupancy by September 2018, Doran said. The Berger firm will design and build it, he added.

Of the 360 Harrison youngsters currently in pre-K programs in outside facilities, all but the 15 currently housed at the town Community Center would stay where they are but the 15 would shift to the new school, Doran said.

As part of the district’s grade realignment, both Lincoln and Hamilton would handle grades 2 through 5, he said.

With the reconfiguration of space, Doran said, “We could expand our cafeterias at Lincoln and Hamilton, add a computer lab and music room at Lincoln, add an instrumental music room at Hamilton and possibly make room for additional class sections, where needed.”

Many parents still wary of PARCC

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent 

The N.J. Department of Education has adopted a “no opt-out” policy for the administration of its newly mandated PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) online test for grades 3 to 11.

But it has left the implementation and enforcement of that policy up to the discretion of local school districts.

And while school districts in The Observer coverage area have (some more strongly than others) encouraged participation – since they risk having some of their fderal aid sliced if too few students take the test – many parents have instructed their kids to refuse to take it.

Since the test is administered to different grades over different times during a multi-week period, it is difficult to secure precise figures on the number of students who have opted out.

But, based on phone interviews with various district officials, it is clear that many students in Kearny and Lyndhurst, primarily on the secondary level, did not partake.

In Kearny, where testing – as in most districts – began March 2 and was due to continue through March 27, there were reportedly as many as 400 high school students opting out in the early going.

KHS Principal Al Gilson declined to confirm that figure and referred The Observer to Superintendent Patricia Blood, who said she’d heard there were “a lot of sophomores” among those sitting out the test, but she couldn’t provide actual figures.

“We had a handful in our elementary schools,” Blood said.

Blood reasoned that some parents read or heard information on the internet or in the media that the questions posed by the PARCC were too difficult, that it was unfair to subject their kids to it and that concern spread by word of mouth.

“I think it just snowballed,” she said.

Parents should realize, Blood said, that the PARCC “does give us valuable information” about areas where students are weak and that it will take three years for the PARCC phase-in.

In any case, Blood said, parents who did not want their kids taking the test were asked to “notify the district in writing” and on testing days, their kids “were provided an alternate setting” where they could do school-related work.

Some of the students who did take the PARCC “reported back to their teachers that the test was not as difficult as the test samples they had been exposed to for practice,” Blood said.

At the same time, she said, those students were saying that there appeared to be more types of test problems that relied on students’ “critical thinking” skills, rather than simply multiple-choice questions.

On the technical end, Blood said that everything was “smooth running. The only glitch was on the first day, and it was on the Pearson [the test distributor] end,” but she said it was quickly remedied and did not interfere with the testing itself.

In Lyndhurst, Schools Superintendent Tracey Marinelli said the district had a “seemless transition” to the PARCC. “There were no glitches and our kids were prepared – students arrived at the high school with their iPads fully charged and ready to go and our elementary school kids took the test in their computer labs,” she said.

There were, however, “quite a few opt-outs,” Marinelli said. Of the district’s 200 third-graders, 10 did not take the test; of 1,000 students in grades 4 to 8, 91 opted out; and of about 550 kids in grades 9 to 11, 155 sat out the test, she said.

Although the district sought to educate parents about the test and offered practice sessions, Marinelli said that there was an “active campaign” by some who had concerns about the PARCC.

In Harrison, Personnel Director James Doran said the district experienced a “very good” implementation of the test, with only “a couple of computer glitches but the students didn’t lose any of the work.” And “about a dozen” students were instructed by their parents not to take the test, he said.

Newly installed Belleville Schools Superintendent Richard Tomko reported that despite some serious computer infrastructure issues previously encountered by the district, “all of our schools have the equipment needed for the testing on track.”

Adapting to the technology “was a little bit of a learning curve for our teachers,” Tomko said, “but we made sure that we had extra IT support on hand for the first day of testing to get us through.”

By Tomko’s reckoning, the district had 270 students who opted out that first day and they were “evenly distributed throughout the district.”

“I don’t have a strong hold on why that happened,” Tomko said. “I assume that parents read something negative about the test on an internet posting or elsewhere.” Before the PARCC was administered, Tomko said he met with PTO leaders in an effort to dispel any fears about the test.

Nutley Board of Education President Charles Kucinski said the district was “more than prepared” for the PARCC, having set aside between $300,000 and $400,000 annually for the past three years to acquire sufficient numbers of computers and technical equipment to accommodate the new testing protocol and ensuring that “our teachers were comfortable” with the testing environment.

“A couple of glitches” developed with computers which Kucinski attributed to the state connection.

As for opt-outs, Kucinski said that, “according to the last count the superintendent (Russell Lazovick) gave us, there were 20 throughout the district.” The purpose of the PARCC, Kucinski said, “is really to assess what students might not know and make adjustments annually” so the aim is to achieve “positive results.”

Prior to the test, Kucinski said administrators “met with parents offline with the expectation that they could enlighten them, not frighten them.”

It took a while but MUA rehab is done


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


After year and a half of occupying temporary trailers, the Kearny Municipal Utilities Authority has finally moved back into its Central Ave. headquarters now that a makeover is pretty much done.

KMUA Executive Director Kevin O’Sullivan said the contractor, Daskal Construction of Wallington, began the $680,900 rehabilitation job in September 2013 with the expectation that the job would be finished by January 2014. But the pace of work continued to be snagged – which the contractor blamed on delays in delivery of construction materials, harsh winter weather conditions and some change orders, O’Sullivan said.

“He was granted one month extra time,” O’Sullivan said, but it was still slow going.

Last week, the five employees bade farewell to their temporary quarters and returned to their home building which got a new façade, roof and refurbished administrative offices, along with a new HVAC system.

O’Sullivan said the MUA board of commissioners still hasn’t accepted the job as complete because, “the contractor is still waiting for a warranty from the roof manufacturer and there are also a few punchlist items to complete.”

Until those issues are taken care of, the MUA is retaining “more than $40,000” on the overall job contract, he said.

O’Sullivan said he was confident that the job would come in at or near the original contract price.

“And the contractor will be required to post a two-year maintenance performance bond,” he said.

The building at 39 Central Ave. dates from 1955 and needed a lot of work to remedy a variety of problems, including leaks, insufficient heating during the cold months when staff had to rely on space heaters, and lack of air conditioning, according to O’Sullivan.

“Now we have a new roof, a climate-controlled building, new offices and a conference room,” he said. ‘I’m anticipating that we’ll be holding our annual rate study session and public meeting here for the first time, on April 22.”

Regular MUA commission meetings will continue to be held at Town Hall, he said.

The MUA, which recently adopted its 2015 budget of $3,997,707 – up from last year’s $3,850,891 – is gearing up for two big projects this year: rehabilitation of the Kearny Point pump station which services upstream MUA customers and the Harrison pump facility which handles the northern edge of the MUA collection district.

Both facilities were compromised by Super Storm Sandy, O’Sullivan said.

Coppola Services Inc. of Ringwood was awarded the jobs in December for about $4.5 million, most of which the MUA will get reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), he said. And the MUA will also apply a $250,000 grant from the state Office of Emergency Management’s Hazardous Mitigation Fund to offset the cost of a new generator.

The work is expected to take a year and half to complete, he said.

When the job is done, O’Sullivan said, “We’ll have fully functioning pumps and reliable service for our users.”

Local government left in the dark


The roll had been called, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited and the Kearny governing body was about to tackle its agenda when, suddenly, its members were left in the dark.

It was the Town Hall Power Outage of 2015.

Emergency battery-powered exit lights provided limited illumination and a backup generator kicked in to feed police and fire communications systems.

Several Town Council members powered on their cellular phones for the light, gamely hoping at the time that they could carry on somehow.

But those hopes dimmed after town officials noticed that some apartments and shops on Kearny Ave. had also gone dark as light rain fell outside.

And, after learning from PSE&G that the situation was not going to be remedied anytime soon, Mayor Alberto Santos – speaking in virtual darkness – made a command decision.

The council would adjourn its meeting, he said, to 6 p.m. Monday, March 16, and conduct its business then.

But when it was pointed out by town CFO Shuaib Firozvi that Kearny faced a Monday deadline to submit its application for $2,125,000 in state transitional aid, along with its introduction of the 2015 municipal budget, the mayor said that the town would ask Trenton if it could get a one-day extension.

If not doable, Santos said, then the council would convene Friday, March 13, in special session to consider both matters.

As it turned out, Trenton – and its fiscal monitor assigned to Kearny – granted the town the extra day to complete the process, Santos said last week, so the council was expected to meet on the 16th to deal with those financial issues, along with other agenda items, including the appointment of six new police officers.

During the early stages of the blackout, police personnel relied on portable radios and firefighters used a backup radio console at the Maple St. dispatch center for communication until a power supply could be run from a transmitter to a phone line at Town Hall, according to Fire Chief Steven Dyl.

Soon after darkness descended on the Municipal Building and a five-block stretch of Kearny Ave. — (for safety reasons, the Avenue was blocked off to local traffic between Oakwood Ave. and Liberty St.) – Dyl said the Fire Department was alerted to smoke seen coming from a manhole at the intersection of Kearny and Quincy Aves.

And there were reports of other underground burning at nearby corners, the chief said.

“We suspect that had something to do with the power going out,” Dyl said.

Interestingly, exploding manholes were reported at around 5:30 p.m. last Tuesday on Bloomfield and Claremont Aves. in Montclair, according to The Patch website. The Montclair fire chief was quoted as saying that the bursts were likely triggered by a short in an electrical vault. PSE&G had no explanation for the incidents.

Still, PSE&G spokeswoman Erica Jordan said Tuesday night that, “The Kearny outage was not a result of the manhole pops. It is related to an issue with a network circuit and our crews are working to restore power.”

Early Wednesday, PSE&G spokeswoman Lindsey Puliti reported that, “A contractor was digging in the street and damaged an underground cable near Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. and Scott-Mobus Place in Harrison. PSE&G crews are on site making repairs today.”

Puliti said the area in Kearny that experienced the outage “is tied to the same circuit network as Harrison. When the cable in Harrison failed, it also affected customers in Kearny.

“There were approximately 26 customers without power in the vicinity of Kearny Ave. The outage occurred around 8 p.m. and all customers were restored by 2 a.m.”

Images from the 2015 West Hudson St. Patrick’s Day Parade

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All Photos By Karen Zautyk

Admitted bank robber faces June sentencing

An East Orange man has pleaded guilty to robbing a PNC Bank in Bloomfield last June, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reported.

Kenneth Grant, 47, entered the plea March 9 before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark Federal Court.

Authorities said Grant had entered the bank on Broad St. on the morning of June 13, 2014, and handed a teller a note, written on the back of a deposit slip, which read: HAVE GUN 100, 20, 50 NO DIE PACKS. The robber reportedly also told the teller not to trigger an alarm or he would shoot her. She handed over approximately $1,300, and he fled.

According to published reports, another customer — an off-duty corrections officer — followed Grant from the bank, stopped him a short distance away and held him at bay until Bloomfield police arrived.

Grant faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced June 15.

Fishman credited officers of the Bloomfield Police Department, under the direction of Chief Randy Foster, and special agents of the FBI with the investigation leading to the guilty plea.

– Karen Zautyk 

Business Review: Vito’s Hotdogs brings Sabretts to Harrison & so much more






Photos Courtesy Vito Casale

By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 


Most hotdog lovers enjoy a good Sabrett. Or two. Or three or more. But there’s always something even better about eating a Sabrett when it comes from a hot dog truck. Enter Vito’s Hotdogs. Sure, they deliver the Sabretts. But it’s what they put on top of the hotdogs that make them so much more — and better — than just a basic Sabrett.

Owner Vito Casale says there’s a reason why his hotdogs should be rated better than anyone else’s in the area — the freshness of the ingredients. Too often, he says, hotdog venders used canned ingredients. Not him, though. Not by any means.

“Everything I use is top of the line,” Casale said. “I use the best Sabretts, the best buns, the best everything. When you use canned stuff, people know it. When you taste my dogs, you know the difference and a lot of it is because of the freshness of the ingredients that I use.”

And it’s more than just the freshness of the ingredients, too. It’s the little things people don’t often think of when it comes to hotdogs.

“When I was deciding what kind of mustard to use, I tried 13 different brands before I chose one,” Casale said. “We settled on a deli-style mustard, and yes, sometimes, this means people will pay a little more for my hotdogs, but in return, they’re getting better quality. I serve my customers like I’m serving my friends and family — just the best.”

Going into business 

Casale and a business partner of his, prior to opening the truck, tried their hand at a deli business in Newark. When it didn’t work out — Casale says he didn’t pick the right location — he decided he wanted something new and outside the box.

With help from his brother, he decided on buying a truck for the hotdog business. So he got one at a great price out on Long Island. And in August, after three months of work with his uncle, Jimmy, the former potato chip truck was now ready for business. It never would have been possible without his uncle.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how much my uncle Jimmy had to do with my success,” Casale said. “I owe that man everything. And my fiancée, Nicole, who has stood by me the entire way.”

Of all the styles he sells, he says his pride and joy is the Shore Dog.

“They’re all great, but the Shore Dog [see below] is what we’re most proud of,” Casale said. “We really believe when people come to us for the first time, no matter what they order, they’re going to want more — and they’ll be coming back.”

Vito’s Hotdog truck is parked weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the intersection of Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard and Guyon Drive in Harrison. Find out more by visiting www.VitosHotDogs.com or by calling 732-773-9713. Like them on Facebook at www. Facebook.com/vitoshotdogs.

Vito’s Hotdogs menu: 

Basic hotdogs with mustard and/or ketchup: $1.75.

Additional toppings for 50¢ each, including: relish, fire onions, sweet or raw onions, kraut, homemade chili, potatoes, cheese, sweet peppers, long-hot peppers, coleslaw.

Specialty dogs: 

The Ol’ Salty: sweet relish, crispy bacon, sea salt.

The Dom Dog: Chicago style.

The Dragon Dog: Asian mustard, fire onions, longhot pepper, habanero sauce, seeds.

The Shore Dog: Coleslaw, sriracha and Jersey tomato.

The Junk Yard Dog: Ask for details.

around town


Belleville Public Library, 221 Washington Ave., is holding registration, beginning March 23, for a Teddy Bear Tea Party set for Saturday, May 9, at 2 p.m. The library also hosts a puppet show on Saturday, March 28, at 3 p.m.

For more information, call the library at 973-450-3434.


Holy Cross Church sponsors a trip to Las Vegas, April 29 to May 5. The group departs from Newark Airport Wednesday, April 29, at 7:15 a.m., for a non-stop flight via United Airlines and returns Thursday, May 5, at 6:15 a.m. The group will stay at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino. The $771 per-person cost covers air, hotel and taxes. A $250 per-person deposit is required to guarantee reservations. Call Gina at European Travel, 973-484- 4023, or Joan at 973-481-2434.

Harrison Recreation Department is registering for Little League, Minor League and Tee-Ball at the Community Center, 401 Warren St., through March 20. All children who are age 5 and will not turn 13 before May 1 are eligible. Children must be age 9 or older to be placed on a Little League team. All returning Little League players must also register. A registration fee is required when the child picks up his or her uniform. For more information, contact the Recreation Department at 973-268-2469.

Harrison’s fifth annual Volleyball Tournament to benefit Project Graduation is set for Thursday, March 19, at 6 p.m., in the gym at Harrison High School. Admission is $5 for adults; $3 for children, ages 5 through 18. Alumni of all ages and teams of teachers, police and firefighters, from Harrison and East Newark will play for the grand trophy and for the ultimate goal of raising money for Project Graduation. Now in its 24th year, Project Graduation will provide an all-night, safe and substance-free extravaganza for the Class of 2015. Call Joan McNichol at 973- 482-5050, ext. 1519, for more information.


St. Stephen’s Church, 141 Washington Ave., is selling tickets for a raffle set for Friday, March 20. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Admission is $15. For tickets, email cyndie1522@verizon.net or call St. Stephen’s rectory at 201-998-3314.

Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., announces:

  • Celebrate “Cinderella” with screenings of Disney’s classic animated version of the film (G / 74 minutes) Friday, March 20, at 4 p.m., and “Ever After,” (PG-13 / 121 minutes) starring Drew Barrymore and Angelica Huston, Saturday, March 21, at 11 a.m.
  • See a screening of “The Theory of Everything” (PG- 13 / 123 minutes) at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 27. Eddie Redmayne took home the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of famous physicist Stephen Hawking.

For more information on any of the library’s programs, call the library at 201-998-2666 or visit www.kearnylibrary.org.

Fraternal Order of Eagles Lodge 2214, 166 Midland Ave., announces a fish fry fundraiser to benefit The Wounded Warriors on Saturday, March 21, 6 to 8 p.m. Dinner includes fish and chips, clam chowder and soda. Cost is $15 in advance and $17 at the door. For more information, call 201-991- 9865. No refunds.

West Hudson Christian Center, 557 Kearny Ave., hosts a Rock n’ Roll Easter Egg Hunt, open to ages 2 to 10, on March 28 at 1 p.m. For more information, call 201- 997-7762.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1302, 300 Belgrove Drive, sponsors a Veterans Benefits Day on Saturday, March 21, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with speakers covering V.A. home loans, county benefits, state benefits, estate planning and eldercare.


A benefit dinner for Jennie Gossweiler-Renna, now in her fifth year with ovarian cancer, will be held March 28, 5 to 9 p.m., at the Amvets post hall, 323 New York Ave. The $45 admission includes dinner, dancing and support for a wonderful person. For tickets, more information, or to make a donation, call Melissa Alfano at 201-736- 1584 or visit www.jenniebenefit.myevent.com.

Lyndhurst Girls’ Association hosts a pancake breakfast Sunday, March 22, 8 a.m. to noon, at the Senior Center, 250 Cleveland Ave. Proceeds go towards maintaining and operating Libbie Lindsay House, a meeting place for Girl Scouts and scout leaders in Lyndhurst. Admission is $5 and tickets may be purchased at the door.

Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst sponsors a children’s Tricky Tray for grades pre-k to 5 Saturday, March 28, at the Senior Citizens building on Cleveland Ave. Admission is $5. Doors open at noon and the raffle begins at 1 p.m. Lunch items will be sold. No outside food is permitted. For tickets or more information, call Janet at 201-935-1208.

Lyndhurst Health Department announces:

  • The department’s biannual Women’s Health Clinic is set for Wednesday, April 1, at 9 a.m. This free event, made possible through a partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center, includes education on breast self-examination, a PAP test and a pelvic exam. The clinic is open to all female Lyndhurst residents age 18 and over.
  • A free eye screening is scheduled for Wednesday, April 15, at 1 p.m. This exam will include a check for glaucoma. This screening is open to all Lyndhurst residents age 18 and older.

For an appointment for these programs, call 201-804- 2500.

VFW Post 3549, 527 Valley Brook Ave., hosts a karaoke party Friday, March 20, at 7:30 p.m. The hall is available for rental for all occasions. Call the post for more information at 201-939-3080.

Mary Lou Mullins monthly bus trip to Atlantic City to Resorts Casino is set for Sunday, March 29. Cost is $30. Cash return is $30. For reservations and more information, call Mary Lou at 201-939-2186.

Kingsland Lyndhurst AARP Chapter 4866 sponsors its annual entertainment night, Tricky Tray and raffles Thursday, April 16. Doors open at 6 p.m. The show features music of the ‘50s and ‘60s. No alcohol is permitted. Admission is $20. For tickets and more information, call Jo Oleske at 201-438-2118 or Kay Roberts at 201-438-3611.

Lyndhurst Public Library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., announces:

  • An exhibit by local artist Carol Joy Vérité is on display through April 6.
  • “We’re Talking Baseball,” a slide and lecture program on the golden age of New York baseball, presented by Dr. James P. Kane, is set for Wednesday, April 1, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Learn about the N.Y. Giants, the ‘61 Yankees and more. Space is limited and registration is necessary. Call the library at 201-804- 2478, ext. 7, or email romeo@lyndhurst.bccls.org.

North Arlington 

North Arlington Seniors, Inc. (Tuesday Club) sponsors a trip to Sands Casino in Pennsylvania on April 9. The group leaves from Borough Hall at 9 a.m. Nonmembers are welcome. Call Rose Florio at 201-991-2423.

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Road, announces:

  • Basics of Computing Class meets Mondays, March 23, 30 and April 6, at 6 p.m. each day.
  • A screening of the documentary “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs” is set for Friday, March 20, at 11 a.m.
  • On Saturday, March 21, the library hosts two sessions with BlocksCOOL, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)- oriented education company that provides LEGO based enrichment programs for school-aged children. The first session, open to grades K to 2, will run from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m., and registration is now closed. The second session, for which registration is still open, is offered for grades 3 to 6, and will be held from noon to 1:15 p.m. Links for registration can be found at: http://northarlington. bccls.org /children.html. Registration is required.

For more information, call the library at 201-955-5640.


The Women’s Initiative of Nutley presents the Art Exhibit of Women’s History Month at the Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Drive, throughout March and April. Works in oil, watercolor, pastel, pencil, and photography are featured in both the gallery and showcase. The exhibit spotlights the artwork of local artists Susan Farr, Jackie Hanlon, Margot Parker, Teresa Ruffo, Edith Sirmons and Dianne Louise Wilson. All have won awards in local, regional and national competitions.

Commissioner Steven Rogers and the Department of Public Affairs are sponsoring a Food Allergy Support Group for Nutley parents with food-allergic children Tuesday, March 31, at 7:30 p.m., at the department offices, 149 Chestnut St. A township public health nurse, a school nurse and a parent advocate are the group’s co- facilitators. Call 973-284-4976 for more information.

How the feds saw the crime

Here, contained in a March 9 press release, is how the U.S. Attorney’s Office described John Leadbeater’s role in a $13 million mortgage fraud conspiracy that occurred between 2006 and 2008:

“Leadbeater and the conspirators located for purchase condominiums overbuilt by financially distressed developers in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest …. [and that they] recruited ‘straw buyers’ from New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Arkansas, and California, to purchase those properties.

“The straw buyers had good credit scores, but lacked the financial resources to qualify for the mortgage loans. The conspirators created false documents such as loan applications that contained fraudulent financial and employment information, to make the straw buyers appear more credit-worthy than they actually were in order the induce the lenders to make the loans.

“To prepare the straw buyers’ false loan applications, Leadbeater and his conspirators caused fraudulent loan applications in the name of the straw buyers to be submitted to mortgage brokers that the brokers knew were false, attributing to the straw buyers inflated income and assets. Once the loans were approved, Leadbeater and his conspirators created and signed fraudulent closing documents in order to induce the mortgage lenders to send the loan proceeds in connection with real estate closings on the properties. Once the mortgage lenders sent the loan proceeds, Leadbeater and his conspirators took a portion of the proceeds, having funds wired or checks deposited into various accounts they controlled. They also distributed a portion of the proceeds to the other members of the conspiracy for their respective roles.

“Leadbeater admitted to personally participating in fraudulent activity related to nine properties in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest. He admitted to causing mortgage lenders to fund $4,711,557 worth of mortgages based on false and fraudulent loan applications and closing documents prepared by him and his conspirators. As part of his guilty plea to the wire fraud conspiracy, prosecutors agreed to dismiss a charge of money laundering conspiracy.”

Thus far, 12 others of the alleged conspirators who, during 2013, pleaded guilty to roles in the scheme are awaiting sentencing. They are: Deborah Hanson, 52, of Sewell; Michele Martinez, 50, of Brick; Ernesto Rodriguez, 46, of Brick; Paul Watterson, 54, of Maplewood; Joel Tirado, 51, of Woodbridge; and Sweet Briar Development Corp. of New Jersey; John Bingaman, 45, of Benton, Ark.; Diana Wisniewski, 45, of Kings Park, N.Y.; Angela Celli, 42, of Somerset, Mass.; Robert Horton, 40, of Nashport, Ohio; Dana Rummerfield, 48, of Los Angeles, Calif.; and Justin Spradley, 37, of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Daniel Cardillo, 49, of Wildwood, who was charged in 2013 with Leadbeater with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, is scheduled to go to trial June 8.

‘Don’t forget his public service,’ says Santos

Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos had this reaction to the news of John Leadbeater’s guilty plea:

“The initial charges came as a surprise to me,” said Santos, who defeated Leadbeater in the 2009 mayoralty contest. “And the guilty plea was a disappointment in that John devoted so many of his years to public service, both on the Town Council and Board of Education.”

Nonetheless, Santos said, there was money lost through the criminal enterprise and “those who lost money are the ones who suffered damage here and they need to be made whole. This was not a victimless crime.”

If there can be said to be an up side in this situation, Santos said, it is that the criminality charged to his onetime political rival was “not related to his past services as a councilman or member of the school board.”