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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

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Photos Courtesy Vito Casale

By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

HARRISON – 

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 

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.

Harrison 

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.

Kearny 

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.

Lyndhurst 

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.

Nutley 

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.

STATE CHAMPS!

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Nutley wins NJSIAA North 2, Group III title as No. 13 seed

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

Pardon Sara Grueter if she’s not familiar with the popular and inspiring movie “Hoosiers.”

One just assumes that everyone and their mother has seen the Gene Hackman flick, about an underdog basketball team from a small town in Indiana going on to miraculously win the state championship.

Grueter, the Nutley High School senior, is one of the perhaps 11 people in America that hasn’t seen the 1986 classic about Norman Dale, Jimmy Chitwood, assistant coach Shooter, diminutive Ollie and the Hickory basketball team.

All’s forgiven with Grueter, because she didn’t need to see the movie. She just happened to live it.

Grueter and her Maroon Raider teammates defied the odds last week when the No. 13-seeded squad traveled once again to western New Jersey and knocked off a higher seeded team on their home floor.

Led by the sensational junior forward Blair Watson, who scored 29 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, the Maroon Raiders did the unthinkable, defeating Voorhees, 57-53, last Monday night to capture the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III championship.

The Maroon Raiders, the lowest seeded girls’ basketball team to win a state sectional title in 20 years, became the first Nutley squad to win a state championship since 1976.

That’s almost 40 years since a Nutley girls’ basketball team had a chance to hang a banner on the gym walls. Grueter, who added 18 points in the sectional title game, will hold onto that memory for a lifetime.

“If my kids go here, they can look up at the wall and say that I had a part of that,” Grueter said. “That banner will be there forever and I was a part of that team. It’s really a speechless feeling. It’s so hard to put it into words. No one believed that we could go this far. I’m just so glad to be a part of the experience.”

Try this on for size. Just a little over a month ago, the Maroon Raiders were 7-12 and appeared headed to miss out on the postseason altogether.

“We barely made the playoffs in the first place,” Grueter said. “I couldn’t even imagine about winning the whole thing.”

Being the 13th seed meant that the Maroon Raiders had to load up the bus and play every game on the road. So it meant traveling to places like West Morris and Mendham in western Morris County and even Orange before heading to the remote spot called Glen Gardner in Hunterdon County.

“We knew we were going to be on the road and playing in some hostile environments,” said Nutley head coach Larry Mitschow. “It’s just not expected to happen.”

But the Maroon Raiders climbed aboard the shoulders of Watson, who should have secured her spot as an All- State player with her playoff explosion. Watson, only a junior, but already committed to the University of Maryland, was just sensational in the state playoffs, averaging close to 30 points per game.

“She’s not one of the best players in the state,” Mitschow said of Watson. “She’s one of the best in the country. Maryland is one of the best women’s basketball programs in the country. They’re not recruiting players unless they are great.”

Mitschow was still trying to process the idea that this team was indeed a state champion.

“It’s beyond our wildest dreams,” Mitschow said. “We had so many injuries and illnesses that we had to cancel our JV (junior varsity) team this year. At times, we had to practice with just seven or eight girls. We had to have our assistant coaches practice. We had to be creative with our practices.”

Mitschow truly believed that his team could be competitive come playoff time.

“When we sat down and tried to construct our schedule, we knew that there was a chance we would be under .500 come playoff time,” Mitschow said. “We play in one of the toughest leagues (the Super Essex Conference) in the state. So if we got in, we knew that we would have a lower seed. The No. 13 seed wasn’t too much of a shock. But being a low seed and winning? That’s just not expected. It doesn’t happen. That’s why this hasn’t even sunk in yet. They’ve definitely outplayed expectations.”

That’s why the loss to Old Tappan in the overall Group III semifinals two days later really didn’t sting that much. No one could take away the state trophy and the banner that will come with it or quite possibly the rings that will come later on.

“We finally accomplished our goals,” said senior Carly Anderson, who can now begin to focus on being a pitcher on the great Nutley softball team. “I have so much pride in my team. It was very exciting to be a part of this. It was a great feeling.”

Grueter said that she loved playing with Watson.

“I can’t even explain what it’s like to get her the ball and watch her go,” Grueter said. “Just giving her an assist is a great feeling. Looking back, I can say that I was part of her career, having the ball go through my hands to hers. It’s just amazing.”

That’s Watson’s take on the whole situation as well.

“It’s honestly amazing,” Watson said. “I’m really speechless. I didn’t expect this. I couldn’t be more proud of my team. In my heart, I knew that we had a chance if we got there. All the time we spent on the bus, taking those long drives, really brought us together. We also had an unbelievable fan base that followed us to those games. It was insane how they came all the way out there. I think everyone in Nutley wanted to see how far we could go.”

If the Maroon Raiders were a recreation of the Hickory team from “Hoosiers,” then Watson was clearly the Raiders’ version of star Jimmy Chitwood.

Mitschow said that Anderson was the one who served as the calming figure.

“She looked at me during the game when we were losing and said, ‘Coach, don’t worry, we got this,’” Mitschow said of Anderson. “She made me calm down quickly.”

Mitschow said that he had nothing but pride for his team and their miraculous run.

“The kids who stuck this out and made it through the tough times,” Mitschow said. “It’s a testament to them. I tried not to tell them that they achieved more than I believed, but deep down, they did. It’s something we’re all going to remember for a very long time.”

Kearny suffers huge loss with grid coach Edwards’ resignation

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By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It was only two years ago when there was a sense of joy and pride coming from the Kearny High School football program.

In May 2013, the Kearny Board of Education made perhaps one of the best personnel moves when it hired Nick Edwards as the new head football coach.

Edwards seemed to be perfect for the position. He was a longtime assistant in the program. He was already a teacher in the district. He was young, energetic, a familiar face to the community.

Plain and simple, Nick Edwards was going to restore some pride in the Kearny football program. He was going to work with the youth program to serve as a feeder system. He conducted free clinics to get kids interested and involved in the game.

Edwards was going to break the long-standing stigma that Kearny is a soccer town and nothing more. Hell, it has the nickname of “Soccertown, USA” already in place. How could football dare to compete with that?

But Edwards was definitely the man and sure sounded that way when he took the job two years ago.

Try these words on for size.

“I know what I’m getting into,” Edwards said in May 2013. “I want to be here. I’m well aware of what has happened in the past. I plan on being here for a long time.”

Athletic director John Millar felt the same way.

“At this time in his life, Nick is well prepared,” Millar said when Edwards was hired. “He’s ready. He’s desired to be a head coach all his life. Hopefully, he achieves all of his goals. We’ve had a lot of good guys who have tried to turn this thing around and make us a successful football program. Down the road, we will be successful. Nick is going to make this successful, not just for the school, but the whole community. I hope that Nick is a long-term guy and he’s here for a very long time turned out to be only two years, because Edwards submitted his letter of resignation last week.

“I’ve told everyone that I’m leaving for personal reasons,” Edwards said last week. “I sat down with my family and my girlfriend and talked about it for quite some time. I knew it was time for me to walk away and do what’s best for me. I’m just tired. Right now, I want to take some time and take care of me. It’s not about getting another job. It’s about taking some time for myself. It’s a difficult position to be a head coach. It takes a lot of hours and a lot of time. There are more issues than just football and that took its toll.”

Edwards did not elaborate as to what those issues were. He did not comment when asked. Instead, Edwards took the high road.

“I was fighting with the decision for a while,” Edwards said. “The only thing that was telling me to stay was the kids. I’m definitely disappointed, especially for the kids, because they have to go through another coach again and not having that stability.”

It is true that the position of head coach with the Kardinals has been a revolving door. There was Rich Howell, Matt Occhipinti, then the program was shut down, brought back once again with Howell, then Oscar Guerrero, then Pete Llaneza and now Edwards. All of that change has taken place within the last decade.

Edwards made some inroads this past season, as the Kardinals posted a 4-6 record and flirted with qualifying for the NJSIAA state playoffs for the very first time.

Just that fact alone tells you something. Kearny has never made the state playoffs in the 40-plus year history of the NJSIAA state playoffs. They are the only Hudson County program to never make a state playoff appearance and one of only a handful throughout the state.

Edwards said that he felt like he was making some progress during his brief stint.

“I think I’ve done a lot,” Edwards said. “I put a lot of time and a lot of effort into it. We went from 30 kids in the program to 70 kids. We brought back the freshman program. The kids’ academics were in place. We had only one kid to go to summer school last year. I thought I helped to bring some excitement back to Kearny football.”

Then why leave?

“Who knows if I could have stayed one more year or 10 more years?” Edwards asked. “I know I leave with my head held high.”

Edwards would not budge when pressed about his reasons for resigning. It appeared as if he had a bright future as the Kearny grid coach.

“The reasons are personal and I’ll stick with that,” Edwards said.

Edwards won’t get into it – but we will.

It’s been written here several times over the last decade or so that a complete commitment is necessary to make football work in Kearny. And if the powers-that-be, namely the Board of Education and the school’s administration, aren’t willing to go the full nine yards, then they should just fold up shop and not have a football program.

You can’t go half way – or in Kearny’s case, one-quarter of the way – and think that a program is going to succeed.

Kearny is in desperate need of an overhaul with its weight training and locker room facilities. In fact, the conditions there are disgraceful. There have not been improvements made to the facilities at Davis Field in 70 years.

Sure, FieldTurf was put down about a decade ago, but even now that surface is in dire need of reconditioning. The weight room never has heat. During the winter months, the players were subjected to sub-freezing conditions in the weight room, forcing the coaching staff to regularly close the doors and send the kids home.

Those two decrepit buildings that flank the football field are hideous. They should be totally knocked down and have a nice state-of-the-art facility constructed.

Can it be done? All you need to do is look a little to the north and see what they now have in Lyndhurst and North Arlington. Those schools now have beautiful facilities.

Even Queen of Peace has a better weight room than Kearny. You can’t even call what Kearny has as a weight room. It’s just a room.

The time has come to tear down those wretched buildings and get a brand new one. And if the Board of Education did it the right way and built a new training facility, they could probably sell memberships to the residents to defray some of the cost.

Put a referendum on the ballot and see if the voters wouldn’t float a million or two to build a new weight training complex.

That would be the first step. Then, there would have to be better support from the administration, parents, residents, you name it. Everyone should rally together and back the Kardinals’ football program, not go at it like it’s a weak ugly stepsister to soccer.

If not, then just scrap it. Forget about football and be what you already are, a soccer town.

Losing Nick Edwards was a major blow to the entire Kearny athletic program, not just football. He’s only 34. He should have been a treasure to embrace and enjoy for many years, not tossed aside like so many other football coaches over the years.

It’s either you do it the right way or don’t do it at all. It sounds like a broken record, because I’ve written it more practically than my own name over the last decade. This is shameful. Maybe Edwards’ departure might open some eyes and get things done the right way. It’s doubtful, but one never knows.

NJIT experiences March Madness in CIT tourney

3-18 NJI_web

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

NEWARK – 

Eight years ago, when the New Jersey Institute of Technology arranged for its athletic programs to compete under the NCAA Division I banner, the Highlanders have fought hard for respectability in all sports.

It’s been an uphill battle for the men’s basketball program, which once had to endure an NCAA-record for consecutive losses with 51. So in years past, the final regular season game would mean the final game of the season for the men’s basketball program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

A team without a conference since the Great West Conference disbanded three years ago, the Highlanders, the nation’s lone independent, would collect the uniforms, put the balls in a closet and call it a year.

However, the Highlanders knew this year that they knew they had something to play for, namely a berth in the postseason and the College Insider.com Tournament.

The CIT extended its first invitation to the 32- team field to 18-11 NJIT and even gave the Highlanders a home game against the University of New Hampshire, a game that was played at the Fleisher Athletic Center Monday night after press time.

Needless to say, the people at NJIT are ecstatic to be extending their basketball season by a few weeks.

“It’s really hard to put it into words,” said NJIT head coach Jim Engles, who has spent the last seven years at the school. “It’s a special moment for everyone involved. From where we were to where we are now is pretty special.”

When Engles took over the program seven years ago, the Highlanders were winless the season before (0-29) and in the midst of an NCAA record 51-game losing streak. In fact, Engles won only one game during his first season.

But the improvements soon began. The Highlanders won 10 the following season, then 15 in 2010-11. They won the Great West Conference regular season championship in the league’s final year in 2012-13, winning 16 games, which was the NCAA Division I high before this season.

NJIT helped its reputation earlier this season, when the Highlanders traveled to Crisler Arena and the then-No. No. 17-ranked Michigan. It helped the Highlanders gain national recognition.

“We came full circle that day,” said senior forward Daquan Holliday, who hit the clutch free throws in the final minute to secure the 72- 70 victory over the Wolverines. “Before then, no one knew what NJIT was. After it, everyone would say, ‘Hey, you go to NJIT.’ It’s just amazing how far we’ve come in such a short time.”

The Highlanders did have to pay an entry fee of $36,000 to get into the CIT, according to athletic director Lenny Kaplan. But the school gets to keep all revenues in ticket sales for the game, so that’s why they’re making a push to sell out the 1,500-seat Fleisher Athletic Center.

“It’s still a positive for us,” Kaplan said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had an opportunity to play in the postseason. Getting a chance to host a game in the postseason doesn’t come around often. As an independent, just getting a chance to play in the postseason is tough. But we’re getting a chance to play in front of our own fans. We’re excited to offer that opportunity.”

“We want people to know we have a good team here,” Engles said in a recent postgame press conference. “To be honest, it’s been a whirlwind. The amount of recognition and exposure we’ve received has been tremendous; the amount of people who have reached out to contact us. It’s been humbling for all of us.”

And the Highlanders are the lone Division I program in New Jersey still playing. Everyone else is on the outside looking in.

NJIT has been battling for the last three years to find a permanent conference. The Highlanders once played in the Great West Conference with schools like Chicago State, South Dakota and North Dakota, but that league disbanded when the remaining schools all found suitable leagues, except NJIT. This marks the second straight season that the Highlanders are the nation’s lone Division I independent.

“I want to see us get in a league,” said Engles, who led the Highlanders to a 13-16 record as an independent a year ago. “I think it would help the school, but also help the entire city of Newark. We’re going to continue to do what we have to do. We need to get in a league and we need more of that. A game like this definitely has to be a selling point and has to put us back in the conversation. It has to be used as leverage.”

Engles said that he gets choked up thinking about all the players who endured that horrific losing streak.

“I get emotional when I think of all the players who had to go through all of that,” Engles said. “We can’t forget about that, because that’s part of who we are. It’s always going to be with us.”

Kaplan said that the postseason berth comes on the heels of the announcement that plans are underway to build a new $100 million athletic facility that should be ready for occupancy by 2017.

“We would much rather get a postseason bid through a conference tournament,” said Kaplan, who continues discussions with several leagues in order to gain possible admittance. “It’s tough enough right now operating as an independent. If this is an opening to take it to the next step, then we’re going to do it.”

Kaplan said that he has already scheduled meetings with officials from the Mid- Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), which is comprised of mostly all-black institutions.

“We’ve also reached out to others as well,” Kaplan said. “We’ve had some conferences tell us that the No. 1 reason why we didn’t get in was our athletic facility. Well, now we’re getting a new one, so that will hopefully reenergize conversations.”

In the meantime, the Highlanders will get another game – a home game at that – and maybe more.

“I think we look at it as a challenge,” said sophomore guard Damon Lynn, the Highlanders’ leading scorer who collected the 1,000th  point of his career in a recent win over Howard. “We feel like we’re going to make the most of it.”

“It feels great to know that my last practice wasn’t my last practice,” Holliday said.

Engles knows that the program has to start somewhere.

“It’s definitely a reward, but we don’t want to be too happy about it,” Engles said. “We need to get into a conference. Before people weren’t ready to entertain us as a member of their conference because we were so bad. Now no one might want us because we’re good. We’re getting some national recognition and that’s a good experience for us moving forward.”

So how much has NJIT mania gripped the nation? Well, it has definitely stirred up the sales of athletic gear at the school’s book store.\

Peter Maranzano, the book store manager, said that sales have increased an estimated 258 % since the win in December over Michigan – with a lot of those online sales coming from places like East Lansing, Michigan and Columbus, Ohio, the Wolverines’ two biggest rivals in the Big Ten Conference.

“To say sales have exploded would be an understatement,” Maranzano said. “It’s kind of amazing. On a typical Monday morning, I’d come in and have 3-to- 5 online orders. I came in Monday and there were 90 orders. It was incredible. Roughly half of the orders came from Michigan and Ohio, so we’re theorizing that it was Michigan State and Ohio State fans trying to razz the Wolverines. To get T-shirt sales from East Lansing is not at all what I expected.”

Maranzano said that a majority of the sales were from New Jersey, from alums and students.

“We had a lot of students coming in,” Maranzano said. “It was a nice little victory for everyone.”

Lynn knows that the Highlanders have to build on their new-found attention.

“It was only one game,” Lynn said. “We can’t stop here. We’re the ones stuck without a conference.”

Obituaries

Audrey M. Borkowski 

Audrey M. Borkowski (nee Mohr) of Kearny entered into eternal rest at Select Specialty Hospital in Rochelle Park on March 10.

Arrangements were by the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass was held at Our Lady of Sorrows and burial followed in Holy Cross Cemetery. www.armitagewiggins.com

Born in Newark, Audrey moved to Kearny after getting married and resided there until her death. She leaves behind her beloved husband of 58 years, Chester Borkowski, and her loving children Emily and Peter, also of Kearny. She also leaves behind her sister Harriet Ellison, along with several nieces and nephews. Her brother Richard Mohr passed away in 1988.

Donations may be made to The Children’s Memorial Garden in Winding River Park in Toms River. This garden is in memory of children that have left us too soon. Donations are tax deductible and can be sent to TCF Garden Fund, P.O. Box 485, Toms River, N.J. 08754 (www.oceantcf.com/memorialgarden.htm ) or a charity of your own choice.

Jose D. Domingo

Jose D. Domingo, of Harrison, entered into eternal rest at Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, on Wednesday, March 11. He was 82.

Funeral arrangements were under the direction of the Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave., Harrison. A funeral service was held at the funeral home. His cremation was private. For information, or to send condolences to the family, please visit www.mulliganfh.com.

Born in Argentina, Jose emigrated to the U.S. in 1962 settling in Queens, N.Y., before moving to the West Hudson area 43 years ago. Jose worked as a printer for Paquet Corporation, Passaic, for many years before retiring in 1998. He was a parishioner of Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, Harrison. In his free time he enjoyed hunting, fishing and collecting stamps.

He is survived by his beloved wife Blanca Paulina Domingo (nee Scattolini), loving children Walter Domingo and Miriam Domingo Pace, cherished grandchildren Gabriela and Alyssa Pace, dear siblings Haydee Mateosian, Sonia Arraez and Maria Clara Oliva. He is also survived by many nieces, nephews and cousins.

He was predeceased by his parents Palmira Angeloni Domingo and Pablo Domingo.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the American Diabetes Association, P.O. Box 11454, Alexandria, Va. 22312 or in care of the funeral home in loving memory of Jose.

Joseph A. Poland Sr. 

Joseph A. Poland Sr. entered into eternal rest on March 13 at home. He was 76.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, he lived most of his life in North Arlington.

Arrangements were by the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass was held at Queen of Peace Church followed by burial in Holy Cross Cemetery. www.armitagewiggins.com

Joe was a retired foreman at Holy Cross Cemetery. He was an active member of Queen of Peace Church serving as an usher and also was in the Knights of Columbus.

He is survived by his devoted wife Maureen (nee Kavanagh), his loving children and their spouses Denise B. and Dominick Orovio, Joseph A. Jr. and Angelica Poland and Lisa E. and John Minervini. Brother of Nellie Hennessy, Clare O’Neill and Carleen Doyle, he is also survived by his cherished grandchildren Anthony, Christopher, Travis, Kali-Bridget, Jessica, Joseph, Melissa, Michael and Jeremy. In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to The Wounded Warrior Project.

Thomasina Stoner

Thomasina Stoner (nee Dougan) died March 14. She was 74.

Born in Kearny, she moved to Carteret 20 years ago.

Visiting will be on Tuesday, March 17, from 9 to 11 a.m., at the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. from the funeral home and burial will follow in Arlington Cemetery. www.armitagewiggins.com

Thomasina was the wife of the late Ronald Stoner and Jack Gross. She is survived by her loving companion Frank Hervin, her daughter Kathy and her husband John Planer and grandchildren Rachel and David. She was predeceased by her brother Sam Dougan.

She was a secretary at Paquet Oneida in Clifton. She loved to bowl and had been a member of the Liberty Chapter Order of Eastern Star. In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to the American Cancer Society.

Dorothy Warzenski 

Dorothy Warzenski (nee Osmul), of Harrison, entered into eternal rest at Alaris Health at Kearny on Friday, March 13. She was 89.

The funeral will be conducted from the Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave., Harrison, on Tuesday, March 17, at 10:30 am. A funeral Mass will be offered at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, Harrison, at 11 am. Friends may call on Tuesday from 9:45 am. Interment Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. For information, directions or to send condolences to the family, please visit www.mulliganfh.com.

Born in Kearny, Dorothy was a lifelong resident of Harrison. She worked as an administrative secretary for many years for RCA, Inc., Harrison. She was a parishioner of Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, and was active in many of the churches organizations and activities, volunteering much of her time following her retirement. She often volunteered at bingo and was a member of the OLC Rosary Society. She was also a member of the Holy Cross Seniors, Holy Cross Church Cancer Guild and the Newark Seniors.

Predeceased by her husband, Alfred Warzenski (2004) Dorothy is survived by her close friends Anna Barbosa and family and Wafaa Chia and family as well as many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. She was predeceased by her 11 brothers and sisters.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, 115 S. Third St., Harrison, N.J. 07029 or in care of the funeral home in loving memory of Dorothy.

‘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.”

Don’t shovel, get ticket: NPD

It may be getting a trifle warmer but in Nutley, police have been no less vigilant in trying to keep residents safe from slipping on snow- and/or ice-covered sidewalks.

On March 7, officers responded to an Alexander Ave. location on a report of a hazardous condition and, after seeing that the sidewalk was topped by ice, issued a summons to the property owner for failure to clear their sidewalk within a 36-hour period.

On March 10, patrol units were advised that a home on Ravine Ave. had a dangerous condition and, upon arrival, found the sidewalk hazardous, causing pedestrians to walk in the street to avoid falling. The homeowner ended up getting a summons.

And on March 11, police said they observed a Bloomfield Ave. homeowner removing snow from their property and dumping it on Bloomfield and Vine St. Police advised the owner to discontinue that activity and to put the snow back on their property. They also gave the owner a summons.

All the tickets issued carry a mandatory court appearance, police said.

• • •

Between March 7-13, Nutley PD responded to 34 motor vehicle accidents, 10 disputes, eight suspicious incidents, 36 medical calls and these incidents:

March 7 

Taha Aziz, 26, of Bergenfield, was arrested on a DWI charge after police said he was observed weaving over the double yellow lines and traveling in excess of the posted speed limit at Kingsland St. and Washington Ave. Aziz was also ticketed for speeding, failure to keep right and careless driving.

• • •

An individual walking along Whitford Ave. was bitten on the right leg by a small Chihuahua, the victim told police. Nutley Rescue Squad transported the victim to an area hospital for treatment and police issued the dog’s owner a summons for unlicensed dog. Police advised the owner to quarantine the dog for no less than seven days pending a follow-up visit by the township Health Department.

March 9 

Police said Krystie Cruz, 27, of Clifton, was intoxicated when she crashed her vehicle into a snowbank on Coeyman Ave. Cruz was charged with DWI and failure to produce an insurance ID card.

March 11 

A fraud victim came to HQ to report that they had noticed multiple unauthorized withdrawals from their bank account. Police said that two separate withdrawals totaling more than $300 were made from an ATM in Bloomfield. The victim told police that their bank card was neither lost nor stolen.

• • •

A Centre St. resident reported a burglary to a basement storage bin. The building owner told police that the wooden door to their basement storage bin had been pried open and the lock damaged and that a gray metal shelf about 4-by- 4-feet and three or four metal radiator covers were missing.

March 12 

A Passaic Ave. resident reported criminal mischief to their auto. Upon returning to their vehicle, the resident noticed that the entire right side had been scratched.

– Ron Leir