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Kearny realtor a success story


Fernando Semiao and his family came to America in 1965. They originally moved into the Ironbound section of Newark and then Kearny when he was 5 years old. His parents are immigrants from Portugal and Brazil. They struggled to work multiple jobs to give their kids a better life in America. Fernando graduated from Franklin School in 1979 and Kearny High School in 1983. After graduating from ITT Technical School in Nutley, he worked at ITT in Nutley for 5 years. During that time his father took both him and his brother down to Florida to buy their first property. It was that start in buying a building lot that excited Fernando and gave him the taste for a career in real estate.

In 1989 Fernando obtained his real estate license and worked selling properties in Florida before settling in with a local realtor for a few years before moving on to work for K Hovnanian Compainies, one of New Jersey largerst new home builders. It was there that he learned about customer follow-up and developing new properties. In 1992, Mr. Semiao obtained his New Jersey broker’s license.

Century 21 Semiao & Associates was franchised in July 1993 and has grown to be one of the most successful and respected real estate brokerage firms in the Bergen, Essex and Hudson County areas. The company grew during the next decade to have five locations and over 300 licensed agents within the organization. In addition, Fernando started a development company that developed many projects that included one family, multi-family and condominium and commercial projects. He currently manages two offices in Lyndhurst and Kearny.

Mr. Semiao currently is the President Elect of The Meadowlands Board of REALTORS® and past president of The Greater New Jersey Brokers Council. He is past president of The Meadowlands Board of REALTORS® and was REALTOR® of the Year in 2002. He also is a State Director for The New Jersey Association of Realtors. Fernando is a part President of Greater New Jersey Brokers Council within The Century 21 International Corporate world. He has served twice as President of Rutherford Rotary Club. Rotary International presented him with The Paul L. Harris Fellowship Award in 2002 for his outstanding community service. Easter Seals of New Jersey has present him with the The Round Table award many times for the Companies generous charity work. Century 21 Semiao & Associates as a company has raised over $100,000 in the last decade.

Belleville burglar finds himself behind the ‘eight’ ball

On Sept. 5, officers arrested Travis Mackoy, 26, of Belleville, on Fairway Avenue when they found him holding burglary tools. He also carried outstanding warrants from undisclosed municipalities. According to Belleville authorities, the arrest was fruitful as it cleared eight other burglaries dating back to 2011 including a Sept. 3 robbery at a Fairway Avenue home where a purse, credit cards and personal identification were reported missing. Mackoy was arrested for possession of burglary tools and held on his warrants. His bail was set at $50,000.

In other Belleville Police happenings:

Sept. 6

• At 8:42 a.m., officers stopped a car on Harrison Avenue for suspicion of D.U.I. After confirming their suspicion, Richard Johnson, 54, of Belleville was charged with D.U.I. He was later released.

• At 4:25 p.m., a shoplifting was reported at the K-Mart shopping center, 371 Main St. Wanda Fuentes, 38, of Newark was found with $54 of unpaid merchandise in her possession. Fuentes was also found to be carrying an outstanding Newark warrant for $500. She was charged with shoplifting and held on $200 bail.

• At 5:51 p.m., a would-be burglar attempted to gain entry into a Belleville Avenue house. Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful.

September 5

• At 9:13 a.m., at 125 Franklin St., Kathlyn Mattos, 20, of Newark, was found with stolen property from two previous burglaries including the Uncle Bob’s Storage heist of Sept. 4. She was charged with receiving stolen property and later released.

A truck trailer was reported stolen from Mill St. at 12 p.m. The trailer is reportedly valued at $50,000.

Sept. 4

• At 5:21 p.m., a burglary was reported at Uncle Bob’s Storage on Franklin Sreet Locks had been cut to gain access into the storage area. Two flat screen televisions were reported missing. Two mink coats were also taken. Police would make an arrest in connection with this burglary one day later (see September 5).

Sept. 3

• At 12:38 a.m., officers stopped a vehicle on Washington Avenue After running an identification check, Edgar Quinto, 23, of Bloomfield, was found to be driving while on the revoked list. Quinto also had outstanding traffic warrants from East Orange, Newark and Toms River totaling $1450. He was transferred to East Orange on the warrant.

Sept. 2

• At 5:37 a.m., a 32-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint while walking along Washington Avenue The thieves made away with $110 in cash, an IPhone, keys and a wallet. The perpetrators were described as “four black males in a dark colored four-door car.” Police are investigating.

-Jeff Bahr


Robert Bajkowski

Robert Bajkowski died Sept. 9 at home. He was 79. Born in Eynon, Pa., he lived many years in Kearny before moving to Bloomfield 10 years ago.

Visiting will be on Tuesday, Sept. 11, from 4-8 p.m. at the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass was held on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 10:30 a.m. in St. Stephen’s Church, followed by entombment in Holy Cross Mausoleum.

Bob served in the Army from 1954-62 and was a retired mechanic from Leaseway in Port Newark. He was an avid fisherman and poker player.

Husband of the late Audrew (nee Lake), he is survived by his children and their spouses Robert L and Patricia Bajkowski and Richard and (Devorah) Bajkowski, his sister Ann Slowikowski and his grandchildren Christina, Robert and Joshua. His sister Loretta Renkart predeceased him.

In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to The American Diabetes Foundation.

Dona Marie Boyle

Dona Marie Boyle, 88, of Kearny, passed away Friday, Aug. 10, at Clara Maass Hospital, Belleville.

Born in Fennville, Mich., she moved to Kearny in 1948. She was a longtime member of Grace United Methodist Church and The Salvation Army Home League. Dona enjoyed her cats and taking pictures.

She was pre-deceased by her husband, Alexander W., and her son, Alexander. Dona is survived by her four children: two daughters, Constance Foster and her husband, Herbert of Seattle, Wash., Joan Hodge and her husband, Douglas of Milltown; and two sons: Geoffrey of Santa Cruz, Calif., James and his wife, Michele of Kearny; six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to: The Salvation Army, 28 Beech St., Kearny, N.J. 07032 or Grace United Methodist Church, 380 Kearny Ave., Kearny, N.J., 07032. Cremation was private. A memorial service will be held at Grace United Methodist Church, Kearny. The date has not yet been set.

Vera B. Cifelli

Vera B. Cifelli, (nee Bulger) entered into eternal rest on Sunday, Sept. 2, at home in Kearny. Formerly of Harrison, she was 90.

Arrangements were by the Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave. Harrison. A funeral Mass was held at Holy Cross Church, Harrison, followed by interment in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. For information or to send condolences to the family please visit mulliganfuneralhome.org.

Vera was the beloved wife of the late Albert D. Cifelli (1993), proud and devoted mother of Kearny Councilwoman and Deputy Mayor Barbara Sherry and her late husband Dennis (2004) and Hudson County Freeholder Albert D. Cifelli, Esq. and his wife Joan Walsh Cifelli. She was the cherished grandmother of nine grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren and dear sister of the late Thomas Bulger and his wife the late Agnes Wetzel Bulger.

Born in Harrison, Vera lived there for 76 years, moving to Kearny in 1998. She owned and operated Cifelli’s Restaurant, 440 Harrison Ave., Harrison, where she was affectionately known as “Mom” to everyone. She owned the restaurant for over 50 years with her late husband Albert D. Cifelli retiring in 1996.

Vera was proud of her Irish heritage and was selected Deputy Grand Marshall of the 1999 St. Patrick’s Day parade by the United Irish Associations of West Hudson. She was also the Matriarch of the Al Cifelli Association of Harrison.

Frances A. Farrow

Frances A. Farrow, (nee Biscobel), 88, of Harrison, passed away on Monday, Sept. 3, at home. Born in Newark, she lived in Harrison for the last 49 years.

Frances worked as a secretary for Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Co., Newark, for 17 years, retiring in 1988. Very active in her church, she was a member of Holy Cross Church’s Rosary Society. She was also a Eucharistic Minister who often brought Communion to the sick and homebound parishioners of the church.

Predeceased by her husband, Raymond V. Farrow, Sr. (1992) and a son, Raymond V. Jr., she is survived by her beloved children Richard, Valerie and James Farrow and Sue Ellen Matonis. She was the cherished grandmother of Mrs. Lisa Fairola, Eileen, Michael, Bridget and Jane Farrow. She was an aunt to many nieces and nephews. She was also predeceased by her siblings Mrs. Marie Stanwise, Mrs. Eileen MaGee, Stanley J. Biscobel and Dorothy Egan.

Arrangements were under the direction of Mulligan Funeral Home, Harrison. A funeral Mass was held at Holy Cross Church, Harrison. Her Interment was in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. For information or to send condolences to the family please visit mulliganfuneralhome.org.

For those desiring, a donation may be made to Holy Cross Church, Harrison, in care of the funeral home, in loving memory of Frances.

Albert V. Goddard

Albert V. Goddard, formerly of Kearny, passed away on Tuesday, Sept. 4 at home, surrounded by his loving family. He was 94.

Born in Sheffield, England, Albert served in the British Royal Army during World War II, came to the United States in 1950 and settled in Kearny. He worked as a purchasing agent for Central Uniforms in Belleville. Albert was a long time member of the Triune and Copestone Masonic Lodge F&AM of Kearny.

Devoted husband of Elizabeth (Sang), he was the loving father of Irene Breiten and husband Rich and Allyson Graeme and husband Bob, dearest grandfather of Rick, Ken and James Breiten and Miranda and Courtney Graeme and beloved greatgrandfather of five.

A memorial gathering and prayer service were held on Sept. 8 at Leber-Lakeside Funeral Home in Landing. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Holy Redeemer Hospice, 1228 Route 37 West, Toms River, N.J. 08755 or to North Shore Animal League, 25 Davis Ave., Port Washington, N.Y. 11050. For further information and to share a fond memory of Albert, please visit www.leberlakeside.com.

Viola Grusenski

Viola Grusenski died on Aug. 23 in Forest City , Pa. She was 91. Born in Eynon, Pa., she lived many years in Kearny before returning to Pennsylvania in 2006.

Private cremation and services were handled by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home in Kearny. Viola’s ashes will be interred with her husband at Barranacas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Fla. To leave an online condolence, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com

Mrs. Grusenski loved to play bingo and to bake. Viola’s true joy in life was to watch and care for her beloved grandchildren.

Wife of the late Stanley, she is survived by her son Robert and his wife Katherine and her daughter-in-law Gail. Viola’s son Stanley, Jr. predeceased her. She is also survived by the loves of her life, her grandchildren, Jason, Keith, Kyle, Ryan (Elizabeth), Kathleen and Suzanne and her great-granddaughter Sophia.

In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to St. Peters Prep, 144 Grand St., Jersey City, N.J.

Kenneth G. Neer Sr.

Kenneth G. Neer Sr., of Kearny, died on Sept. 6 at home. He was 83.

Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral service was held in the funeral home, followed by burial at Holy Cross Cemetery. To leave an online condolence, please visit www armitagewiggins.com.

Ken worked many years ago at Monarch Savings and retired as the credit manager at West Hudson Hospital, both in Kearny. He joined the Marine Corps at the end of World War II.

He was a member of the Kearny Optimist Club and Copestone Ophir F. and A.M. He was past president of the Kearny High School Booster Club.

Husband of the late Gloria (nee Sluzis), he is survived by his children and their spouses Karen and Andy Jones, Gregory and Rita Neer, Lori and Doug Wiedman, Scott M. and Kathleen Neer and Kenneth G. Neer Jr.; five grand and two great-grandchildren and his devoted caregiver Bobby Donelan.

In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to Kearny High School Booster Club.

Walter Robinson

Walter “Big Dog” Robinson, 65, died on Sept. 1 in Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend a memorial funeral mass on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 11 a.m. in St. Cecilia Church, Kearny.

Walter was born in Jersey City and was a lifelong resident of Kearny.

He served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968.

Mr. Robinson was a truck driver for over 40 years most recently driving for U.P.S. He retired three years ago.

He was a member of Teamsters Local 560, Union City and the Scots-American Athletic Club of Kearny. He thoroughly enjoyed fishing Raritan Bay with his son.

Walter is survived by his wife Patricia (Narbut); his children Cheryl Ann Robinson and Walter Joseph Robinson; siblings Ann Marie O’Keefe and Kevin Robinson and his nephews Steven and Kevin O’Keefe. He was predeceased by his sister Judith Robinson.

Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thiele-reid.com.

Remember the Titanic @ the KPL

In remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy in 1912, the Kearny Public Library would like to invite everyone to come see a series of films on the disaster. All films will be shown downstairs at the Main Library, 318 Kearny Ave., Kearny. Start times for each will be 2 p.m. Popcorn and light refreshments will be served. Everyone is welcome. The schedule is as follows:

Friday, Sept. 14 –“Titanic: Death of a Dream” (100 minutes) This 1994 History Channel documentary chronicles the story of the Titanic, from its design and manufacture in Ireland up to its collision with an iceberg, including detailed accounts of its two-hour sinking and the rescue of survivors.

Friday, Sept. 21 – “A Night to Remember” (123 minutes) This 1958 film, starring Kenneth More and Ronald Allen, is a portrayal of the White Star Line’s luxury liner R.M.S. Titanic’s sinking from the standpoint of 2nd Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller, himself the most senior of the ill-fated ship’s Deck Officers to survive the disaster.

Friday, Sept. 28 – “Titanic” (194 minutes / rated PG13) A newly remastered edition of the Academy Award-winning 1997 film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, which chronicles the ship’s demise through the budding romance of a young man and woman from differing social backgrounds.

For more information on these or other programs, call the Main Library at

(201) 998-2666 or visit www.kearnylibrary.org.


Works By Emerging Artists On Display at NJMC Flyway Gallery

Works in several mediums by new and emerging artists will be on display at the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission’s (NJMC) Flyway Gallery in DeKorte Park through Friday, Sept. 28. The exhibit, “Emerging Artists: Now and New,” is presented by the Bergen Museum of Art & Science. The show includes 40 abstract paintings, oil works, acrylics, mixed media and sculptures.

The Flyway Gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, excluding holidays. DeKorte Park is an urban oasis encompassing one-square-mile of wetlands, water views and nature trails. The park is a great place for bird watching and enjoying nature.

Directions to DeKorte Park are available in the “About Us” section of the NJMC’s website, at www.njmeadowlands.gov, or by calling (201) 777-2431.


Clara Maass Medical Center Foundation Presents Lifeline Challenge to Healthy Living

A Walk to FundSchool Programs to Fight Childhood Obesity

On Sunday, Sept. 30, at 9 a.m., Clara Maass Medical Center Foundation will host The Lifeline Challenge to Healthy Living Walk, a family-friendly 1 mile or 5K walk at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange. Participants will register to walk to increase public awareness and raise money to fight childhood obesity.

Proceeds support after-school programs that empower young children and their families to practice healthy eating and active lifestyles. Now in its third year, The Lifeline Challenge To Healthy Living after-school program is a collaborative effort between Clara Maass Medical Center (CMMC) and 10 local elementary schools. Through fun, interactive lessons and activities, students learn how to make healthy food and beverage choices and how to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines.

“It’s not a secret that childhood obesity is on the rise,” said Michelle Faulkner, RD, Lifeline Challenge registered dietician. “This program brings a common-sense, all-encompassing approach to balanced nutrition and physical activity. In order for these kids to grow into healthy, fit, knowledgeable adults, we need to give them the tools and resources to achieve that goal. Reaching out to them via community-based programs such as Lifeline Challenge to Healthy Living is a great first step.”

Clara Maass Medical Center is committed to educating the local youth on ways to stay healthy and encourages individuals, families and businesses to walk to eliminate and prevent childhood obesity.

Visit www.claramaassfoundation.org to register or become a corporate sponsor for the Lifeline Challenge to Healthy Living Walk. Registration fees are $25 per adult and $5 per child (zoo admission included). Prizes will be awarded to individuals who raise the most money through donations. Prizes include: iPads, iPod Nanos, Amazon Kindles, and Family Memberships to Turtle Back Zoo. Sign up to walk with your friends, family and business colleagues today.



A tour of 9/11 Memorial through Kearny guide’s eyes



By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

Virtually every Thursday, Kearny’s Marty Nystrom takes the No. 40 bus and PATH train to Lower Manhattan to what used to be known as Ground Zero but what is now called the National September 11th Memorial.

There, Nystrom escorts visitors on 90-minute walking tours of the eight-acre memorial plaza which takes up about half the space where the World Trade Center’s North and South Towers stood until a terrorist attack took them down in 2001.

Nystrom is one of the volunteer guides for the 9/11 Tribute Center, 120 Liberty St., created by the September 11th Families Association.

Its mission, according to its website, is to offer visitors “a place where (they) can connect with people from the September 11th community. Through walking tours, exhibits and programs, the 9/11 Tribute Center offers ‘Person to Person History,’ linking visitors who want to understand and appreciate these historic events with those who experienced them.”

Nystrom, who’s been doing tours since March 2012, qualified for the job by virtue of having been among the myriads of first responders who served at Ground Zero. At the time he was chief of the Maplewood First Aid Squad. Other categories of volunteers and victims’ family members are also eligible to serve.

“There are approximately 400 of us, so, conceivably, you could take this tour 200 times, and not get the same (guide’s) story twice.” Nystrom said.

Guides-in-training attend orientation classes, held on weekends, and receive thick binders containing fact sheets on the World Trade Center’s history, beginning with its construction in the 1960s to revitalize Lower Manhattan, and continuing to the present day.

“Our mission,” Nystrom said, “is to remind people, ‘Let’s not forget what happened here,’ and it’s also a daily tribute to the people who lost their lives here.”

The Observer accompanied Nystrom on a recent tour at the WTC memorial pavilion. In our group were individuals from England, Italy, Belgium and Germany.

Factoid: More than 300 people from 83 countries outside the U.S. were among the 2,749 victims who perished at the WTC on 9/11.

Before we proceed, Nystrom asks if anyone is a law enforcement agent carrying a service weapon.

“Sometimes, I have to ask police officers to check their firearms (at the Tribute Center) before going onto the site,” he notes.

At Liberty and Greenwich streets on the side wall of the New York fire station housing Ladder 10/Engine 10, Nystrom points out a 54-foot-long, six-foot-high bas-relief memorial dedicated to the 343 firefighters who died at the WTC site.

Factoid: The sculpture project was underwritten by the New York law firm of Holland & Knight in memory of a partner in the firm, Glenn J. Winuk, a Jericho, N.Y., Fire Commissioner and volunteer firefighter, who went into the South Tower to rescue people but never emerged. Winuk had previously volunteered during the 1993 WTC bombing.

One block further east on Greenwich near Cedar Street, we pass O’Hara’s Pub, a favorite stopping place for cops, firefighters and construction workers. With the owner’s ready cooperation, it became a makeshift triage center for those injured in the aftermath of the attacks, Nystrom tells us.

Now we are on the 9/11 site, in the shadow of the new One World Trade Center (formerly known as the Freedom Tower) slated to open in 2014, and Nystrom recalls the original Twin Towers’ enormity of scale when they were dedicated in 1973.

“Twenty-five-thousand people worked in each tower and each building was visited daily 100,000 times,” Nystrom says. “The two towers were occupied by 430 companies from around the world.”

Throw in all the retail consumer space – 130 shops which took up two levels below each tower – and you come up with “the third largest mall in the U.S at the time in 2001.”

Photos by Ron Leir

Photos by Ron Leir

Photos by Ron Leir/ Photos from top: Martin Nystrom briefs tour group on bas-relief dedicated to fallen N.Y.C. firefighters; plaque inside the “Ten House” fire station paying tribute to six members who perished at 9/11; and a collage of 9/11 victims on view at Tribute Center.


As we walk around the 9/11 Memorial Plaza, designed by architect Michael Arad, we get an appreciation of his concept, “Reflecting Absence,” the centerpiece being two oneacre granite recessed pools of waterfalls flowing down the sides, with names of all the people who died on 9/11 inscribed on bronze plates along the outside edges of the pools’ parapet walls.

Each of the pools sits in the footprints of the WTC’s North and South Towers.

On one level, Arad’s design reflects tears streaming into the void. On another, as the water collects at the top of the 200-foot parapet walls it symbolizes the victims as a collective, together; as the water cascades down the walls, it falls as individual rivulets, symbolizing the diversity of the victims.

Factoid: When the sunlight hits the names during certain times of the day, like a sundial, the names reflect off the water before the water tumbles down the walls. The water is temperature-controlled – in summer, warm water is pumped through the system; in winter, warm water circulates – so that the visitor placing a hand on a victim’s name will derive some sense of physical comfort.

Victims’ names are grouped according to what the Tribute Center characterizes as “meaningful adjacencies”. For example, WTC workers grouped together by association, by common employer, or by requests from families.

Opposite the south pool is a Callery pear tree, known as the “Survivor Tree.” Dug out of the rubble from the WTC site near Church Street, the 8-foot tree – planted during the ‘70s – was badly burned and had one remaining living branch. It was relocated to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx where it withstood a storm in March 2010 and was then returned to the WTC site in December 2010 where it weathered Hurricane Irene last year.

At the plaza’s four perimeter points there are planted 218 white swamp oak trees which have been found to be indigenous to Shanksville, Pa., and Washington, D.C, where the other 9/11 tragedies occurred.

“They will grow to 60 feet and put a nice canopy over here,” Nystrom says. “They’re trying to get to a total of 440 trees to match the number of first responders (New York City firefighters and police, Port Authority Police and EMS staff) killed on 9/11.”

Factoid: Under each of these trees is a computer chip designed to automatically transmit an alert to a laptop being monitored by a staffer in a nearby office that something is amiss and that the tree needs attention, such as lack of water, termites or some type of disease.

Now we look up at the eight-sided building formerly called the Freedom Tower – since renamed One World Trade Center – which, at 104 floors, will be six fewer than its predecessor but still attain the same roof height of 1,368 feet.

Nystrom reminds us that on Feb. 26, 1993, two levels below the lobby of Tower 1, “Al Qaeda took its first swipe at America,” setting off a bomb that killed six people, including a pregnant secretary, and created a 70-foot deep crater.

As our group takes a break, Nystrom shares his experience at Ground Zero as a volunteer first aid worker helping with rescue and recovery efforts on the early evening of 9/11. Assigned to work at the “northeast corner of the pile” for more than 30 hours spread over Sept. 11 and 12, he recalls how “everything had to be hand-picked; everything was like pixie sticks. We were not finding anything but carnage everywhere. To this day … I can still see it.”

Then, after 9 p.m., Nystrom said, the silence was broken by the sudden sound of chirping from firefighter emergency locator beacons coming from under tons of steel and debris from the stricken towers.

“That was a tough pill to swallow, knowing that you just can’t get to (the firefighters).”

Nystrom tells us why he’s pursuing this weekly task.

“I want to educate the kids because we can’t have this (type of catastrophe) anymore. We can’t have this stand.”

Factoid: It took some 10 years to build each of the Twin Towers. But the North Tower collapsed in just 9.2 seconds and the South Tower in 7.3 seconds. The fires ignited by the planes’ impact burned 100 days at temperatures exceeding 1,300 degrees.

Between the north and south footprint stands the 110,000 square foot WTC Memorial Museum, still in preparation. Some exhibits have been moved into the building and are visible through the odd-shaped structure’s transparent frontage.

There are two of the original 72 “tridents” – two-story tall anchors that held together the structural steel on the outside of the towers – and the “Survivors’ Staircase” – described by Wikipedia as two outdoor flights of stairs and an elevator connecting Vesey Street to the WTC plaza – which served as an escape route for some people exiting the North Tower.

Factoid: A group of New York firefighters, in rotating pairs, carried a disabled woman in a wheelchair down from the 60th floor of the North Tower and used the “Survivors’ Staircase” to emerge safely.

On Sept. 7, at 1:45 p.m., Kearny High School will hold its annual 9/11 tribute to all victims, including seven Kearny residents, at the stadium, with the raising of two new American flags and a third flag commemorating the 9/11 victims, all donated by the September 11th Families Association.

Postal worker ‘delivered’ drugs, cops say

By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent


A U.S. Postal Service worker and her boyfriend were officially charged on Aug. 27 in connection with a plot to allegedly use the postal system to intercept drug- laden packages from Puerto Rico to New Jersey.

Christina Nunez, 30, a mail carrier in Secaucus, and Luis A. Vega, 36, both of Lyndhurst, were charged with the alleged scheme, according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman in an official press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office –District of New Jersey.

Nunez and Vega were arrested on Aug. 24 after law enforcement linked them to a package containing cocaine mailed from Puerto Rico.

Around February 1, 2011, “inspectors with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service seized about 1,569 grams of cocaine from an express mail package that was addressed to ‘Linda Schwartz’ at 5000 Riverside Station Blvd., Secaucus,” according to the criminal complaint.

Federal lawmen say that, through her line of work, Nunez was supposed to deliver the package; however, officials seized it.

Further investigation revealed that Nunez had received packages of a “similar weight and sequential tracking numbers from approximately three locations in Puerto Rico since October 2010.”

In December 2011, law enforcement discovered similar packages to the one seized in February of that same year.

“Once again, (these packages) were being sent from Puerto Rico to addresses that would be assigned to Christina Nunez’s mail route,” according to the complaint.

In each case, the name of the recipient of those packages, did not match the delivery addresses.

The complaint goes on to say that, roughly, between February 2011 and May 2012, at least four packages “suspected of containing controlled substances were mailed to Luis A. Vega’s former residence in Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey” –though he currently resides in Lyndhurst with Nunez.

Though on medical leave between February 2012 until May 2012, Nunez was still receiving packages “suspected of containing narcotics at her residence in Lyndhurst.”

On Aug. 22, law enforcement agents were made aware of a package, similar to others in the investigation, which was en route from Dorado, Puerto Rico. After the package arrived at the U.S. Postal Service Express Mail Facility in Kearny, law enforcement discovered that the delivery address on the package would be assigned to Nunez’s mail route.

After authorities were drawn to a package, with the aid of a trained narcotics canine, law enforcement officials opened the package and discovered a “white powdery substance” that tested positive for cocaine and weighed about 600 grams. They replaced the cocaine with a “sham” similar in consistency and appearance to cocaine and placed the package into circulation for it to be delivered, according to the complaint.

Additionally, officials conducted “physical surveillance” and lawful monitoring via video of Nunez’s mail truck. They also placed a GPS tracking device within the package.

After ending her shift — and having failed to deliver the package — Nunez returned home to Lyndhurst with the parcel where she was taken into custody along with Vega, according to the complaint.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged Nunez with “conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine, (as well as) mail theft.”

Vega has been charged with “conspiring with Nunez to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine.”

Fishman has credited U.S. Postal Inspection Service inspectors, U.S Postal Service –Office of Inspector General, and special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, with the investigation leading up to the arrests of Nunez and Vega.

Nunez is represented by Assistant Public Defender – Newark Carol Gillen, Vega is represented by Hoboken based attorney Paul Casteleiro, The Government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary E. Toscano.

Making room for little ones at Veterans Park field

Photo by Ron Leir/ Veterans Park Soccer Field


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Soccer is catching on with the younger generation in East Newark and the borough has tried to satisfy the demand but officials say it hasn’t always been easy – for various reasons.

Therefore local lawmakers want to place an age restriction on who can use the borough’s single soccer facility as a way of ensuring that younger, smaller kids at least have access.

During the 1990s the borough made a point of setting up an artificial turf field dedicated to soccer for youth recreation. “In fact,” says Mayor Joseph Smith, “we were one of the first communities in Hudson County to get the Astroturf type surface.”

Kids from the borough’s lone elementary school are permitted to use the field for outdoor exercise, weather permitting, during the school day.

Still, the field’s primary use is for soccer.

These days, however, the problem, according to Smith, is: “The big people – kids (ages) 18 to 20 – push the little ones out.” Or, at best, the smaller kids have to share the field with the bigger ones and the field isn’t that big to begin with, the mayor says.

“It’s not a regulation size soccer field,” Smith explains. “It’s smaller in length and not as wide as a regulation field because it’s designed for smaller children.”

One girl interviewed by The Observer during a recent visit to the borough’s Veterans Park Soccer Field on Sherman Avenue said that sometimes the smaller kids “split the field” with the bigger ones. “Really it’s based on how many kids are here,” she added.

There are times, she said, when borough police have locked down the field when “some of the older kids fight” among themselves.

Smith said he’s had “parents call me up complaining their kids can’t play” because there’s too much competition from the older youths.

And when the different ages do share the field, there can still be problems, Smith said, because “when the older kids kick the ball on a smaller field, it has a lot more impact and the smaller kids can get hurt.”

Councilman Charles Tighe, who used to coach recreation soccer at the field, agreed with that assessment, saying, “We don’t mind people coming to our field to play. We just don’t want the older ones. Especially if they’re wearing cleats. Anytime I see them in there (with cleats), I kick them off.” Cleats – even rubber ones – are banned at Veterans Park because they “rip up the field.”

“We let the big guys play (games) once in a blue moon but we get a permit and do it right,” Tighe said.

Sometimes, Tighe said, “the big ones throw plastic and bottles around the field,” forcing the borough to clean up after them.

The field has taken a beating, too. “The nets are in shambles, one of the posts on one of the nets is broken – that’s like the third or fourth time it’s happened,” he said.

A lot of older kids from neighboring Harrison (where most East Newark kids attend high school) and Kearny come to use the field, Smith and Tighe said.

“The Harrison (soccer) Courts are mobbed with kids all the time,” Tighe said, so some of the overflow ends up in East Newark. And while soccer is played at the Gunnel Oval off Schuyler Avenue in Kearny, Smith said that “the teens don’t want to walk down to Schuyler,” which is a heavily-traveled north-south throughway in the region.

Since the borough received state Green Acres funding to improve its field, it cannot prevent out-of-towners from using the facility “but we can regulate the age limit,” Smith said.

And, to that end, the Borough Council voted Aug. 9 to introduce an ordinance amending the “Use, Care and Protection of Borough Parks” to say that, “No person age 13 and over shall be permitted on Veterans Park Soccer Field unless supervising a younger person or allowed by permit issued….”

Additionally, the revised ordinance mandates that, “No person (is) allowed in Veterans Park Soccer Field or Playground under the age of 6 without (a) guardian.”

If the ordinance passes a public hearing on Sept. 12, it will be up to the borough police to enforce it.

And if it does pass, Smith figures parents of soccer-starved youngsters will be happy but Tighe wonders if that will be enough to help them.

Up until about two years ago, Tighe said, “we used to run a soccer clinic for grammar school kids, five days a week, from 6 to 8 p.m., during the fall, when it’s still light out.” While the younger ones turned out, kids in grades 6 to 8 shied away from the clinic. “They’d rather play,” he said.

Of late, though, aside from the reliable Jim Lynch, who is “from Scotland and knows the game,” it’s been tough getting volunteers to help coach because a lot of people “just don’t want to be bothered” getting the mandated background checks, said Tighe, even though the borough pays for the security checks.

A lot of parents “will show up to watch” kids play but don’t have any interest in volunteering, he added.

“You need adult supervision,” Tighe said, to make sure the youngsters are properly trained. Smith readily agreed.

“We tried to set up leagues but the problem is getting volunteers,” he said.

Another issue, Tighe said, is that some kids “depend on their parents to bring them and pick them up and that doesn’t go over well.”

But Tighe remains hopeful that “by spring,” things will start to pick up again.

Time will tell. The ordinance gets a public hearing Sept. 13 at 5:30p.m. at Borough Hall.

Happy surprises when a host family becomes an extended family

Photo courtesy Emma Quintana/ Emma Quintana (l.) with foreign students Anh Tuan Alain Dao and Virginia Cristina Catalano.


By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent


Globalization is a reality of modern times. People from all walks of life, ethnicities and cultures are intertwined in this seemingly “shrinking” world, thanks in part to the Internet, traveling and modern technology. Nonetheless, it seems to be that the best way to get to know a group of people, their culture and their way of life is the old fashioned way –getting to know them.

Opening one’s eyes to the beauty of each and everyone’s cultures is paramount. Many find this to be true – in particular, young students who want to broaden their horizons and future educational prospects by polishing up their second language, social and communication skills. After all, it is because of this reasoning that the presence of foreign exchange students and host families is a common phenomenon in many places.

Case in point: Emma Quintana. This Kearny woman took on the duty, of not only inviting into her home one young foreign student, but two, for roughly three weeks in August – a feat in itself. However, what makes her personal story a tad more interesting is the fact that both these adolescents came from different countries: a 17-yearold boy and a 17-year-old girl from Italy. The fact that Quintana is Peruvian made her house an eclectic cultural haven for the period that she, along with her family – husband Jorge, 23-year-old daughter Diana and 21-year-old son Jorge “Al” – hosted the two students.

Quintana’s social journey began in July on a day when she visited a farmer’s market in Summit.

“I saw a banner that said ‘International Students’ and, for me, anything that has to do with students and education grabs my attention,” Quintana enthusiastically recalled.

Intrigued, Quintana approached the table and started speaking with two young women who explained to her that they were there to promote being a “host family” for an exchange students during their stay in the U.S.

After giving her contact information to the two representatives of “Education First (EF) Language Travel” program, Quintana assumed she would hear back from them, if at all, in the upcoming months. That was not the case.

“The very next day I received an email asking me to fill out an application,” she said. “I filled it out thinking (the program) is something I’d like to do in the future.”

She figured she’d explore “what requirements they are looking for because they have to take many precautions since these are (minors) – high school students from different countries.”

After filling out their application and subsequently being approved, the entire Quintana family had to go through a background check. After the family successfully passed that step, EF staff came to visit the Quintana residence.

Within a few weeks, Quintana was notified that she and her family were chosen to host a young girl from Italy named Virginia Cristina Catalano. They accepted. A short time later, they were asked if they’d be willing to accept a French boy. Anh Tuan Alain Dao, whose plans with a previously assigned host family did not come to fruition. Quintana accepted.

“I couldn’t say no,” she said. Amid laughter, Quintana remembers how the whole family had to scramble and plan sleeping arrangements to accommodate the newly “extended” family, particularly since her son and daughter were going to be back home from college.

“Virginia slept in Diana’s room,” she said. “Anh in my son’s room. My daughter slept with me in my room, while my husband and son slept downstairs in the basement!”

The young students had a set schedule – with English classes Monday through Friday at The College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown. They were picked up around 7:30 a.m. from a Harrison bus stop and dropped off there after classes around 6 p.m., according to Quintana.

“We would pick them up, come home and have dinner,” she said. “Then I would hurry them up so we could go on our own field trips. The family took them to New York, Hoboken, all over.”

The host family has a specific role in the program, according to Quintana. They are supposed to provide a safe environment for the students, provide them with breakfast, lunch and dinner and make them feel welcome. EF provides the host family a weekly stipend of $100 per student for food –no monetary gain.

Quintana said the EF Language Travel program is very well organized with a smooth communication flow between host families and coordinators; students and coordinators; host families and biological families; and students with their families.

“If we had any questions or concerns, the coordinator was always there to help us,” she said.

The experience of having these young students stay with her and the rest of her family was an entirely positive experience, according to Quintana.

“We were supposed to welcome and teach them,” she said. “But they taught me a lot too. I’m grateful everyday that I had the chance to participate in this experience.”

The students’ stay at the Quintana’s was so memorable and impactful that Quintana has no hesitation in sharing some of her fondest memories, such as going to Central Park for a Peruvian folk music concert.

“I got up and started teaching Virginia how to dance that type of music,” she recalls. “She got up and the two of us were dancing like crazy women… The last day that they were here was a Sunday, and I am a very upbeat and positive person, so I put on a song from Celia Cruz — La vida es un carnaval. All of a sudden I see Virginia coming down the hall dancing!”

Quintana attributes part of the program’s success with the fact that EF carefully matches up students with their host families.

The application process includes a section where everyone in the host family lists their interests and hobbies.

“They find similarities so you have something to build on,” Quintana said.

Quintana’s son practiced karate – aiming for a black belt. Dao also enjoyed this martial arts form. Quintana’s daughter studied abroad in Florence and speaks some Italian, so she and Catalano formed a bond because of this fact, according to Quintana.

Quintana notes that the foreign exchange students come to live with the host family already equipped knowing “an intermediate level of English.”

This program was such a fantastic experience that Quintana hopes to take part in it once again. In the meantime, she still keeps in contact with not only the students she and the rest of her family warmly welcomed into their home, but with their parents as well. She hopes that her family, the students she hosted and their families can one day get together because they are “now part of each other’s families.”

According to an official EF guidebook, the company was founded in “Sweden in 1965 to bridge cultural gaps and break down barriers of language and geography by promoting educational travel, intercultural exchange and language learning….EF Language Travel is a nonprofit organization which encourages international understanding through cultural exchange.”

The organization started in 1979 and brings student groups from over 15 countries to the United States and Canada for language study programs lasting between two and eight weeks.