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Cardenas, Mullen earn state gold at NJ state youth wrestling championships


Kearny Recreation sends 5 wrestlers to medal round

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer 

The Kearny Recreation wrestling program is certainly on the rise once again.

Need proof? Well, how about the fact that two products of the program, namely Jacob Cardenas and Jimmy Mullen, went to the Sun National Bank Arena in Trenton last weekend and came away with state championships in their respective weight classes at the New Jersey Youth Wrestling State Championships.

Mullen won his third state title in the last four years, capturing the 10-and-under championship at 125 pounds. The 10-year-old Mullen is a star waiting to happen.

Cardenas won his firstever state title, bringing home the gold in the 14-and-under 152-pound weight class. That classification is called intermediate because of the age.

“It’s great,” said Kearny Recreation head wrestling coach Tony Carratura Jr., the son of the veteran Kearny High School coach. “They’re all dedicated kids. The coaches and parents are also very dedicated. We had a good year last year, but this year, we exceeded expectations.”

Mullen was the second seed in his class. He took third last year and was anxious to get a chance to avenge that setback.

“After losing and taking third, I thought that was terrible,” Mullen said. “I just wanted to get back and do better. I also did a good job of staying under weight. I think that helped me a lot in all the different sports I play.”

Mullen is an accomplished basketball, baseball and football player, as well as a state champion in wrestling.

“It’s not easy,” said the fifth-grader. “But this was awesome. It’s so rewarding to win again after getting third last year.”

Cardenas lost to the No. 1 seed last year, but was determined to get another crack at state gold.

“I’ve been wrestling for seven years and this is the first time I won a state championship,” Cardenas said. “I’ve been training every day and practicing to reach this goal and I finally did it. Losing last year was a huge point of motivation for me. It’s what I wanted, to get another chance to win and I finally did it.”

Cardenas also plays baseball in the spring, but his focus is on wrestling.

“I really love it,” said Cardenas, who trains on the side with Kearny’s lone high school state champion David Cordoba at the Extreme Fight Club gym in Woodland Park. Cordoba won the 1999 state championship for Kearny and was a two-time state runner-up.

“Coach Cordoba pushes me a lot,” said Cardenas, who wasn’t even alive when Cordoba won the NJSIAA state crown for Kearny. “I have seen his name on the banner in the gym, so I knew what he did. He’s helped me a lot since I started going there.”

“Dave is a big supporter of our program,” Carratura said. “It definitely helps Jacob that he gets a chance to roll around with Dave, another Kearny state champ. Jacob now moves on to high school and we would love it if he sticks with us (meaning Kearny High). Jimmy has a great future ahead of him.”

Carratura said that he had a good feeling about his two wrestlers before they went to Trenton.

“We knew that Jimmy had a good shot,” Carratura said. “He has been wrestling at another level. He’s been wrestling seventh and eighth graders to get ready. So now when he’s wrestling kids his own size and age, he dominates. Jacob was down 5-0 in the finals and came back to win after bringing the match to overtime. It was great to watch.”

Besides the championships won by Cardenas and Mullen, Kearny Rec had several other wrestlers fare well at Trenton.

Third grader Joshua Baeza finished sixth in the 60-pound bantam class and had a fine tournament. Travis Witt was seventh in the Intermediate 160-pound class for eighth graders. Adam Chew, a seventh grader, was seventh in the 120-pound junior class and Artie Smith, a Kearny High School freshman, took seventh place as well.

“All of the kids wrestled very hard and we’re extremely proud of them,” Carratura said.

More than 140 teams with 100 different qualifiers participated in the weekend-long tourney in Trenton, so the achievements of the Kearny wrestlers were certainly noteworthy.

“These kids had to wrestle eight matches just to get to Trenton and some, like Jacob, had to win four there to win,” Carratura said. “That’s impressive.”

Carratura knows that these youngsters represent the future of Kearny wrestling. “No question, this is where it all starts,” Carratura said, as he was preparing his group for another tournament last weekend in Keansburg. “We have a great group of coaches who travel all over. We have great parents who do what we need them to do. The parents are willing to take their kids all over the state. We’re getting Kearny wrestling back to when I was a kid, what I remember. We’re all working hard together and it’s really great to see.”

Cardenas doesn’t know what school he will attend in the fall.

“I just know I want to keep this going, to keep working so I can win another state championship in high school,” Cardenas said. “I want to keep it going into college. It’s such a great feeling.”

Winning a state title is always so rewarding.

Belleville looks to pitching staff to continue winning ways


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

After two highly successful seasons, ones that saw his program win a total of 42 games, Belleville head baseball coach Joe Sorce now brings the Buccaneers to new heights – namely the highly competitive American Division of the Super Essex Conference.

It means that the Buccaneers will face teams like Seton Hall Prep, Livingston, Montclair and neighboring rivals Bloomfield and Nutley in the regular season.

“I look at it as a big challenge,” said Sorce, who guided the Buccaneers to a 19-7 record last season. “We’re the only team to jump up two divisions. So we’re excited about it.”

The Bucs were 23-4 and advanced to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV semifinals in 2013 and posted a 19-7 mark a year ago. “We had a good team last year,” Sorce said. “The returning players are excited about the challenge.” The Bucs lost to Passaic in the second round of the state playoffs last year and fell to Verona in the second round of the Greater Newark Tournament.

Sorce realizes that it has been tough for the Buccaneers to prepare for the 2015 season with the fierce weather conditions that have engulfed the area recently, especially an early spring snowstorm last week.

There’s only so much that a baseball team can do inside a gymnasium.

“We’re doing a lot of fundamental work, doing drills,” Sorce said. “Our pitchers just pitched live to hitters against Westfield. I like where we’re at right now, given the situation with the weather. We will get to know a lot more in the coming week.”

Sorce said that the Bucs have scrimmages slated for every day prior to the season opener next Wednesday against Millburn. The Bucs also have opening week games slated against top teams Lodi and Livingston, so Sorce will know a lot more about his team in the weeks to come.

Leading the way is senior right-hander Steven Basantes, who missed most of last season with a broken wrist.

Basantes will also play second base when he’s not pitching.

Senior left-hander Quazyre Smith is another of the Belleville pitching staff.

Sorce likes the way Smith has been throwing the ball so far this season. When he’s not pitching, Smith will play the outfield.

Senior right-hander Nick Bruno is another veteran member of the Belleville pitching staff.

“He’s done some good varsity work for us,” Sorce said. “I’m looking for those three to lead us.”

Sophomore right-hander Brayan Villar has been very promising and will more than likely be the fourth member of the Buccaneers’ starting staff.

Junior Adrian Alaracon is a left-hander with a huge upside. Sorce believes that Alaracon could serve as the Buccaneers’ main relief hurler this spring.

Senior Gio Vega is another right-hander who will get his chance to pitch this spring for the Bucs.

“We like the depth we have in our pitching staff,” said Sorce, noting that he will need pitching depth once the games begin to back up in late April and early May.

Sorce is fortunate to have the Walicky twins back for another season. The Walicky twins, juniors Dylan and Dustin, have been varsity starters since they were freshmen.

Dylan Walicky is a strong defensive catcher who was the Buccaneers’ leading hitter last year, hitting better than .420.

“He’s also a strong defensive catcher,” Sorce said. “I think he’s one of the best in the county. He threw out 75% of the runners who tried to steal on him last year.”

Dustin Walicky is a mainstay in the infield, playing both first base and third base.

Together, they form one of the most formidable 1-2 punches in the SEC.

Junior Allen Cruz will see time at both second base and shortstop. Junior Andrew Baez is a solid second baseman who will fit in according to whoever takes the mound that day.

The outfield also has some depth and quality.

Senior John Castro is a mainstay from last year’s team. Castro batted .500 in limited duty last season.

Seniors Mike Guercio and Gerard Cinolo will also get serious playing time in the Buccaneers’ outfield.

Sophomores Sam Abreu and Branden Basantes, the younger brother of Steven, have been very impressive in the offseason for the Bucs. They both will see playing time in the outfield, but the younger Basantes will also play first base, third base and pitcher.

Senior Luis Florencio is a solid defensive catcher who serves as a backup to Dylan Walicky and will spell Walicky from time to time, allowing Walicky to be the Bucs’ designated hitter.

“I like the makeup of our team,” Sorce said. “We had a good summer (playing American Legion baseball) and we have a good group of kids.”

But Sorce knows that the Buccaneers will have to scrape and claw for everything this season.

“It’s going to be a competitive battle every day,” Sorce said. “We have to bring our ‘A’ game every single day. Every day is a battle. I just have to make sure that each day is a productive day, that we keep moving forward. But I’m really excited about this team.”

The Buccaneers will certainly be a team to watch all spring, provided that the weather eventually warms up and the snow finally melts.

FDU coach Herenda headlines Kearny hoops awards dinner


By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

Greg Herenda remembers when he was an aspiring basketball player, growing up in nearby North Bergen, hearing the words of college basketball coaches like Lou Carnesecca of St. John’s and George Blaney of Holy Cross.

“I remember being at banquets and hearing guys like that speak,” said Herenda, now in his second year as the head men’s basketball coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck. “I’m an old-school guy. I know that when a kid hears something from his parents or a coach, it doesn’t always register. But when someone else says it, like a college coach, then he might listen a little bit more.”

Herenda was the guest speaker last Wednesday night at the Kearny High School basketball awards banquet at the American Legion on Belgrove Drive.

And Herenda definitely had a message to the 150 youngsters, from seventh grade through the high school, that had to resonate with all of them.

“I remember going on a recruiting trip when I was an assistant coach at Seton Hall,” Herenda said. “And I went to this kid’s house and his entire family was there, watching a basketball game on television together. And I said to him, ‘The heroes in your life aren’t the guys you watch on TV, but rather the ones that you watch TV with.’”

Herenda told the kids that no one thought his Knights would accomplish anything, but in one week last season, his team went to the Rutgers Athletic Center and beat Rutgers, then came up to the Prudential Center and beat Seton Hall. All in a span of one week. Pretty impressive to say the least.

“I say dream and dream big,” Herenda told the Kearny youngsters. “If you believe in yourself, you can do anything. It’s all about working hard, paying attention to your teachers, your parents and your coaches and doing your best. It’s that simple.”

Herenda said that he likes going to talk to high school kids and younger, going to awards banquets and making himself available.

“FDU reaches out and want to be the program in New Jersey that is accessible to the people,” Herenda said. “I want to reach out to the coaching community in New Jersey. I want to be able to have the local community recognize us. You have to be able to tell kids that there are opportunities out there, not just the teams you see on TV, but the local schools, the (NCAA) Division II and Division IIIs. There are all different levels for all different kids.”

Herenda was a standout basketball player at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, then went via scholarship to Merrimack College and started to map his journey as a basketball coach, traveling the nation before getting the chance to come home and head the program at FDU.

Kearny head coach Bob Mc- Donnell applauded the efforts of Herenda, who volunteered his time to come and speak to the players.

“He was fantastic,” McDonnell said. “When the kids found out that a Division I coach was coming to speak, they were all excited. He gave them good insight and advice. He’s a great speaker. He had them listening and they were interacting with him. He spoke directly to a few of them. The kids all talked about him after he left.”


Photos by Jim Hague TOP: FDU basketball coach Greg Herenda was the guest speaker at the Kearny basketball awards banquet and spoke of the relationships the players should have with their parents, teachers and coaches. ABOVE: Kearny head coach McDonnell (l.), senior Zack Latka (c.) and Fairleigh Dickinson University men’s basketball head coach Greg Herenda get together at the Kearny awards banquet last week.

Photos by Jim Hague
TOP: FDU basketball coach Greg Herenda was the guest speaker at the Kearny
basketball awards banquet and spoke of the relationships the players should
have with their parents, teachers and coaches. ABOVE: Kearny head coach
McDonnell (l.), senior Zack Latka (c.) and Fairleigh Dickinson University men’s
basketball head coach Greg Herenda get together at the Kearny awards banquet
last week.

The night was for postseason honors. The Kardinals had a highly successful season, improving from eight wins last year to 13 wins this season and qualifying for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV state playoffs for the first time in six seasons.

It was important to have a postseason awards program, according to McDonnell.

“In the past, the awards banquet was held inside the high school,” McDonnell said. “This year, we were able to get out and hold it at the Legion, including the seventh and eighth graders. It makes them all feel like they’re part of something special.”

More than 60 players attended the dinner including 10 student/managers.

“I think it was great, especially getting the young kids involved,” McDonnell said. “It gives the seventh and eighth graders something to look forward to when they get to high school.”

There were individual awards presented.

Joseph Baez, the team’s leading scorer, was presented with the Most Improved Player award.

Senior Zack Latka was presented with the Charlie Dolan Award, given to the player who best exemplifies dedication to the program and community service. The award is named after Dolan, the Hudson County Sports Hall of Famer who is one of the biggest benefactors of Kearny High School basketball. Dolan was in attendance to present Latka with his award.

Latka was pleased to have someone like Herenda on hand for the ceremony.

“It means a lot to me, because we don’t get to hear from college coaches a lot,” Latka said. “When he was talking about grades, that was a message that hit home to me. I hope to continue playing on the college level and I know that I need good grades to do that.”

Latka said that he was happy that the team improved so much.

“It meant that we all put in a great team effort,” Latka said. “We all put in the time. It was all about a team goal. We wanted double figures in wins and to make the state playoffs. We knew we’d all get better. I’m very proud of my teammates. I wouldn’t have wanted to play with anyone else. I hope that they can continue to build on what we’re leaving behind.”

The top hustle award went to senior Gus Chemin, while the top defensive player went to Gralen Vereen.

The Coaches’ Award, given to the player who best personifies the philosophy of the coaching staff, went to George Smyth. The award for academic achievement went to Jake Fitzpatrick, who posted a 3.4 grade point average.

“We had a good year,” Mc- Donnell said. “We improved in wins, improved in the county tournament and made the state playoffs.”

And the majority of the Kearny roster returns, other than seniors Latka and Chemin, so the future looks very good for Kearny basketball.

2 nabbed in meth bust


Two Bloomfield men, one of whom is confined to a wheelchair, were arrested last week after police executed a search warrant on their Franklin St. apartment and confiscated 224 grams of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $35,000, Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura reported.

Fontoura said the wheelchair-bound suspect, 54-year-old Gary Schuren, had been the target of a two-week investigation.

On the morning of March 17, Bloomfield police officers and detectives from the sheriff’s Bureau of Narcotics executed the warrant and made a forced entry into the apartment, where they found Schuren and his roommate, Marcus Irizarry, 32.

A patdown search of the suspects reportedly found Irizarry to be in possession of one gram of crystal meth and a glass pipe. The sheriff said $343 in cash was discovered in Schuren’s wheelchair.

Officers found an additional 223 grams of meth, a variety of drugprocessing and packaging materials and $2,350 in cash secreted in various locations throughout the apartment, Fontoura said.

Schuren and Irizarry were each charged with possession of a CDS, possession with intent to distribute, intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of Essex County Vocational School, possession of narcotics paraphernalia, and conspiracy.

The suspects were arraigned March 18 and were remanded to the county jail on a cash-only bond of $250,000 each.

– Karen Zautyk 


Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor, 54, died on Sunday, March 15, at home in East Stroudsburg, Pa.

Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home 585 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass was offered at St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny, followed by a private cremation. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thiele-reid.com.

Mr. Gaynor was born in the Bronx, N.Y., and lived in Kearny since age nine. He moved to East Stroudsburg, Pa., 11 years ago.

He was a postal worker at the Bloomfield Post Office for 27 years. Michael is survived by his wife Colleen (Quinn). He was the uncle of Allison Gaynor and Christopher Michael Gaynor.

He was predeceased by his parents Peter and Mary (Coyne) Gaynor and his brother Christopher Gaynor. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the VNA/Hospice of Monroe County at www.vnahospiceofmc.org.

Dolores Jeraldine Hanf 

Dolores Jeraldine Hanf, 85, of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., died on March 7 in Walterboro, S.C.

She was born in Jersey City, to the late Mrs. Philomina Berardo and the late Mr. Gabriel Richard Fuschillo.

Dolores served proudly in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean Conflict. She later worked in Lyndhurst as an insurance agent and in Hollywood, Fla., as a clerk in the Broward County Court system.

She is survived by one daughter, Deborah Ferrato, of Wallkill, N.Y.; two sons, Richard Hanf (Nancy), of Mount Pleasant, S.C., and Keith M. Hanf (Dawn), of Fairfax, Vt.; six grandchildren, Shawna, Michael, Daniel, Kelsey, Dana and Elizabeth, and nieces, nephews and loving friends. A memorial service was held in Beaufort, S.C., followed by a ceremony with military honors in Beaufort National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in her honor to the Veteran’s Victory House, 2461 Sidneys Road, Walterboro, S.C. 29488, or any veteran’s organization.

Expressions of sympathy may be viewed or submitted online at www.McAlister-Smith.com.

Arrangements were by McAlister-Smith Funeral Home, Mt. Pleasant Chapel, 1520 Rifle Range Road, Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

Betty Hinkley 

Betty Hinkley (Layton), 80, a lifelong resident of Kearny, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, March 17. Her final days were spent at home surrounded by family.

Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home, 585 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. The funeral service was held from the funeral home. Interment was to follow at Nicholson Cemetery in Nicholson, Pa., at a later date.

Betty was born in Jersey City on July 14, 1934, to the late Edward and Dorothy (Park) Layton. She grew up in Kearny and graduated from Kearny High School in 1952. Later, she worked as certified dental assistant for Dr. Edward S. Levy, D.D.S., in Kearny for many years.

Mrs. Hinkley had a passion for knitting and loved visiting her Point Pleasant beach house. The First Baptist Church of Arlington was a special place to her where she was an active member and matriarch. Betty was also a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Joseph E. Frobisher Post No. 99, American Legion, in Kearny.

She is survived by her husband of 60 years Robert G. Hinkley; two children Thomas Hinkley and his wife Joanne of Kearny and Lynda Hinkley and her life partner William Kirchoff of Sag Harbor, N.Y.; one brother Jack Layton and his wife Kathy of Hilton Head, S.C.; and two grandchildren Evan and Neil Cratz.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the First Baptist Church of Arlington, 650 Kearny Ave., Kearny, N.J. 07032 would be appreciated.

Rosemarie Klossek 

Rosemarie Klossek, 70, of Kearny, died Wednesday, March 18, at University Medical Center in Newark.

Born and raised in Newark, Mrs. Klossek lived in Harrison for 25 years before moving to Kearny. She was employed by various industries, including Brothers Bakery in Kearny and Mel Gambert Shirt Co. in Harrison.

The daughter of the late Frank and Lucia (nee Iacullo) Silva, Mrs. Klossek was also predeceased by her husband, Ronald Klossek, on Oct. 7, 2006, and three brothers, Anthony, Frank and Peter Silva. She is survived by one daughter, Lisa M. Sarni and her husband, Richard, of Stillwater; four grandchildren, Alisha Nichols and husband, Christopher, and Gabrielle, Alexis and Richard Sarni; one sister, Maryann Silva; and two brothers, Manuel and Joseph Silva. She is also survived by many nieces and nephews, as well as family and friends.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Memorial donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, Tenn., 38105.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Smith- McCracken Funeral Home, 63 High St., Newton. Online condolences may be offered at www.smithmccrackenfuneralhome.com.

Martin James Sharkey 

Martin James Sharkey died March 21. He was 70.

Born in Newark, he lived most of his life in Harrison. Visiting will be on Wednesday, March 25, from 4 to 8 p.m., at the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. The service will take place that evening. Private cremation will follow. www.armitagewiggins.com.

Mr. Sharkey loved fishing and the outdoors. He was an avid Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Bears fan. He had been a welder for Vac/U/Max in Belleville.

Formerly married to Shirley Sharkey, he is also survived by his children Lisa M., Brian S. and Jamie G. Sharkey; his brother Edward; his grandson Jamie; along with nieces and a nephew.

John Baptiste Solano 

John Baptiste Solano, 96, of Waretown, formerly of Colonia, died on Wednesday, March 11, in Stafford Township.

Born in Kearny on April 5, 1918, he was the son of the late Anthony and Mary Lico Solano. John was an inspiration to all he met. In the words of his great-granddaughter, he was “selfless, generous, hopeful and a lover of everything and anything.” He loved life and lived it fully to the last minute. He was a retired troubleshooter with Elizabethtown Gas Company.

He was predeceased by his wife, Marjorie Davis Solano, in 1997 and his son, Anthony John Solano, in 2004; his brothers, James Solano and Patrick Solano; and his sisters, Marian Solano Holowatch, and Elizabeth Solano Fash. Surviving are his daughter, Sharon Ann Savacool, and her husband, Donald, of Waretown; his six grandchildren, Dawn Taylor, Donald Savacool, Steven Savacool, Kristin Solano, Tony Solano and Brett Solano; eight greatgrandchildren; his brothers, Frank Solano and Joseph Solano; his sister, Sarah Solano Cadorette; and many nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were held on Friday, March 13, at the Holcombe- Fisher Funeral Home in Flemington and he was interred at the Hazel Wood Cemetery, Colonia.

Robert J. Van Volkenburgh 

Robert J. Van Volkenburgh, 71, of Hunterdon County, entered into eternal rest and joined his Savior Jesus Christ on Aug. 26, 2014.

Robert was born and raised in Kearny and briefly in North Arlington. He attended St. Cecilia’s High School and graduated from Kearny High School in 1962.

He lived the last 35 years of his life in Hunterdon County with his wife of nearly 51 years, Marianne, and raised two sons, Dr. Robert Van Volkenburgh Jr. and Dr. Daniel Van Volkenburgh. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather.

He is survived by his wife Marianne, his sons Dr. Robert Van Volkenburgh Jr. and wife Gwendolyn, Dr. Daniel Van Volkenburgh and wife Rebecca; six grandchildren; his sister Carol Costello and husband Angelo; mother-in-law Angie Raimondo; sisterin- law Evelyn Kaiser; and many nieces and nephews.

Robert was a kind, warmhearted and generous man famous for his dry humor and vivacious personality. He will be greatly missed. Mail may be sent to: P.O. Box 5301, Clinton, N.J. 08809.

Car thieves collared in NA after multi-town chase

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

Omar Hill

Omar Hill

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.

The officer then activated his overhead lights and attempted to conduct a motor-vehicle stop but, at that point, both vehicles sped up and fled the scene, with the officer in pursuit.

Aaron Deleon

Aaron Deleon

Both the Mercury and the Toyota made multiple turns and ran multiple stop signs, proceeding down to River Road where the Toyota continued straight on that road while the Mercury turned on to Boston Ave.

The officer opted to follow the Mercury for several blocks, eventually, on to Schuyler Ave. where the driver of the Mercury — which had sustained damage to one tire — lost control of the vehicle, which struck a curb, causing it to spin out of control and strike the curb on the opposite side of the street, where it came to rest.

At this point, the driver, later identified as, 23, jumped out, climbed a fence and fled through Holy Cross Cemetery.

Borough police conducted a search for the driver but came up empty.

But the NAPD had put out a call for help and, a short time later, with the aid of officers from the Kearny PD, Lyndhurst PD, Rutherford PD and East Rutherford PD, along with Bergen County Police Department, police spotted a man walking on River Road near the Belleville Pike and stopped him for questioning.

He was identified as Aaron Deleon, 19, who, investigators learned, had sometime earlier dumped the Toyota — the other vehicle involved in the original chase — in the middle of Biltmore St. and began walking through the borough.

After discovering that Deleon was wanted on an active no-bail warrant from Bergen County, police arrested him on the warrant.

Investigators later determined that Deleon and Hill had stolen the Toyota in Clifton earlier in the evening and, as the pair drove through Lyndhurst, Hill jumped out and stole the Mercury that the NAPD officer later ended up in pursuit of, along with the Toyota.

Meanwhile, police responded to Beaver Ave. and Legion Place after a resident had called about a suspicious party wandering in the area. That individual turned out to be Hill, who, police surmise, had crossed through the cemetery to the opposite end. He was placed under arrest.
Investigators determined that Deleon and Hill had stolen the Toyota in Clifton earlier in the evening and, while traveling through Lyndhurst, Hill had exited and stolen the Mercury before both took off in separate cars, ending up in North Arlington.

Both Deleon and Hill were charged with receiving stolen property (the vehicles) and eluding police and were also issued multiple motor vehicle summonses for driving while suspended, failing to stop for red light signals, failing to comply with stop sign, reckless driving, among others.

Hill was additionally charged with obstruction for fleeing the NAPD officer on Schuyler Ave. and defiant trespass by entering the cemetery after normal hours.

Both were sent to Bergen County Jail.

Bail for Hill was set at $23,500 with no 10% cash option; bail for Deleon was fixed at $20,000, also with no 10% option.


March 24 Harrison school board meeting time changed

A special Board of Education meeting to unveil plans for a new Harrison school will take place at 6:30 p.m., March 24 at the board offices, 501 Hamilton St. Officials originally said the meeting would take place at a different time. Please note the the new meeting time.

Former official guilty


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Last Monday, March 9, at his second day on trial in Camden Federal Court for his alleged participation in a $13 million mortgage fraud scheme that, according to the government, used fake documents and “straw buyers” to make illegal profits on overbuilt condos at the Jersey Shore, former Kearny lawmaker/school trustee John Leadbeater, 58, pled guilty to a single count of wire fraud.

In return for his plea, the government dropped a second charge of money laundering for which he had been indicted (along with wire fraud) nearly two years ago.

Leadbeater, a former Kearny Board of Education vice president and a former member of the Kearny Town Council who made an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2009, will be sentenced June 26 by U.S. District Court Judge Jerome B. Simandle in Camden.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, as a first offender, Leadbeater could face a minimum of 46 to 57 months to a maximum of 30 years in prison, depending on other factors, plus a fine of up to $1 million. He will also be expected to make restitution for any losses to the lenders.

His Jersey City defense attorneys, Thomas Cammarata and Jeffrey Garrigan, issued a statement last week which said that their client entered his plea “after lengthy negotiations with the U.S. Attorney’s office.”

In early October 2014, federal prosecutors had sought – and were granted – a three-month extension of the original Dec. 1, 2014 trial date to prepare their case against Leadbeater on the grounds that it was a “complex case,” because it required more intensive judicial management … involving multiple parties … geographically diverse witnesses … numerous expert witnesses, complex subject matter” and other factors.

In granting the government’s request for more time, Judge Simandle noted that the case involved allegations of wrongdoing involving a “voluminous” case file covering “a period of several years.”

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Matthew Reilly declined to say how many witnesses the government had prepared to call or how many days the trial had been expected to last.

Asked whether Leadbeater could hold public office at some future date, Reilly said he would have to research that question.

Leadbeaters’ defense team, in their statement, sought to narrow the extent of his participation in the conspiracy.

They said their client “pled guilty to conspiracy in that he advanced deposits for buyers in certain transactions involving homes in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest … without disclosing this fact on the closing statements sent to the lenders for the buyers.” But, they added that, “His admission of guilt did not include any involvement in activities of others regarding false loan applications. He regrets his bad judgment and is anxious to put this matter behind him.”

Cammarata said that his client received a “finder’s fee” for each property for which he – not the buyers — advanced deposits and that those fees were recorded in the mortgage closing documents. While Leadbeater is not licensed as a real estate agent, Cammarata said that has no relevancy to the crime to which he has admitted guilt.

According to the plea agreement, Leadbeater was involved in seven property transactions in Wildwood and two in Wildwood Crest for which he wired loan amounts from a variety of brokers totaling $4,711,556.86 between July 24, 2007, and March 27, 2008.

However, Cammarata noted that the total loss to the lenders has been reduced to the extent that the properties involved have been resold, accounting for a reduction in the overall loss to between $1 million and $2.5 million, which will be taken into consideration by the court at sentencing.

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.”