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3 sought in armed robbery: HPD

Two men held up and robbed a Harrison restaurant and drove away with an accomplice last Saturday, police said.

Police said they were called to the China Wok, 227 Harrison Ave., at 9:35 p.m., where the owner told them that about 10 minutes prior, the eatery, with its two female occupants, had been robbed by two armed men who had fled west on Harrison Ave. onto Second St.

The owner told police he had been making a delivery but was called back after the robbery had occurred so he could notify the police.

Translating for officers, the owner told police that two men, both believed to around age 40 and about 6 feet, placed an order for chicken wings but, while the food was still being prepared by the cook, one of the men produced a silver automatic hand gun, pointed it at the owner’s wife, told her to be quiet and to hand over the money, police said.

As she opened the register, the other man walked around the counter, grabbed the register drawer and removed it from the register. He then emptied the drawer of an estimated $300, dropped the empty drawer on the counter, and ran out of the store, police said.

At this point, police said the owner’s mother walked out of the kitchen, prompting the gunman to point the weapon at her and order her to return there. He then reached over the counter, grabbed a white Apple I-pad 2, valued at $599, next to the register, and fled from the eatery.

Police said the owner’s mother followed the holdup men out the door and saw them get into a small black car waiting in the bus stop in front of Economy Hardware at 206 Harrison Ave. which sped away north on Second St. before she lost sight of it.

Canvassing nearby business owners, police learned that the suspects had been looking in the window of a tavern prior to the holdup and a patron of a neighboring eatery told officers that they’d seen a driver in the car parked in the bus stop.

Based on the witnesses’ accounts, police said the man with the gun was wearing a black jacket and black cap while his accomplice had a grey hooded sweatshirt and a beard.

Viewing footage from a nearby private surveillance camera, police said they could see the suspects walk into China Wok after the man with the grey sweatshirt pulled up his hood to mask his face. A minute and a half later, police said they observed the suspects run from the shop, across the street towards Economy Hardware.

Police broadcast an alarm to surrounding police jurisdictions but a search yielded no trace of the suspects. Anyone with information about the robbery is asked to call the HPD at 973-483-4100.

• • •

In an unrelated incident on March 20, police said they apprehended a would-be burglar in the act on First St.

At 2:51 p.m., police responded to a First St. location on a report of a man trying to break into a house.

Upon arrival, police said they observed a man standing on a blue recycling trash receptacle in the alleyway on the side of the house. He was banging on the window, trying to climb inside, they said.

Further investigation revealed that the storm window had been removed and the double pane window was shattered, police said. While the window was open, the space may have been too small for the burglar to fit through, they said.

A check of the residence with the occupant indicated that nothing was missing, police said.

The suspect, Mark Banks, 59, of Newark, was arrested on the charge of burglary. He was taken to Hudson County Jail on $50,000 bail with a 10% cash option.

– Ron Leir 

Rock thrown at minivan: NPD

Nutley PD is investigating an attack on a vehicle that came on the heels of the driver parking on a local street.

Police said the incident was reported March 29 by a female resident who told them that she’d parked her minivan on Vreeland Ave., near Warren St.

Then, just after exiting her vehicle, a group of youths drove by and, as their vehicle passed, one of the youths threw a rock at the van, denting its rear door.

The woman was not hurt, police said.

At that point, police said, the vehicle turned onto a side street and left the area.

The three suspects were described as white males, with the driver listed as having blond hair and one of the passenger, brown hair, police said. No description was available for the third juvenile.

Police have a partial description of the vehicle but no plate number, according to Det. Sgt. Anthony Montanari.

Police are continuing an investigation of the incident. Police could provide no explanation for the attack.

• • •

Between March 28 and April 2, Nutley PD logged responses to 20 motor vehicle accidents, 12 disputes, 30 medical cases and these incidents:

March 28 

Officers patrolling along Kingsland St. observed a man standing in the bus stop on the north side of the block across from a restaurant, trying to conceal himself behind the bus stop stand while urinating on the ground. Police said James Harris, 60, of Union, turned out to be wanted by the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. He was arrested on the warrant and transported to the Essex County Jail after alerting the county sheriff’s office.

• • •

After observing a white Toyota traveling south on Washington Ave. at a high rate of speed, change lanes without signaling and pass a vehicle on the right side, police pulled over the vehicle and discovered that the driver was wanted on a warrant from East Orange. Ramon Cruz of Newark was arrested on the warrant and also ticketed for driving while suspended. After posting bail, Cruz was released pending court appearances.

March 29 

Police came upon an occupied vehicle which, after checking, was found to contain an open container of alcohol and a burnt marijuana cigarette inside. Police issued the driver, Marco Castellanos, 19, of Woodbridge, Va., two summonses charging him with possession of an open, unsealed alcoholic beverage container and possession of drugs in a motor vehicle. He was also charged with possession of marijuana under 50 grams.

• • •

A motor vehicle stop on Chase St. resulted in the arrest of Joseph A. Clay, 40, of Belleville, for an active warrant from Bloomfield. He was freed after posting bail, pending a court date.

March 30 

Officers responded to Adams Court on a report of a juvenile dispute. Upon arrival, the disputants had gone their separate ways, but the officers caught up with the pair. Both boys were treated for minor injuries and returned home, police said. The Juvenile Bureau will be following up.

March 31 

A resident reported being victimized by more than 30 unauthorized online charges, ranging from $20 to $50, and totaling $1,230, to a checking account, police said. Although the account has been suspended, police said there are still several additional charges pending.

April 1

A Nutley couple preparing to file their tax returns were informed by their tax preparer that their social security numbers appeared on an already filed 2014 tax return. The IRS has initiated a fraud investigation, police said.

***

A Satterthwaite Ave. resident reported the theft of a package left on their porch. The package, which contained children’s clothing, was valued at about $200. Police are investigating.

– Ron Leir 

around town

Bloomfield 

Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., announces the following:

  • Free movie screenings are set for Mondays and Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. Here’s the schedule for this month: April 9 – “Lucy” (R), April 13 – “Winter’s Tale” (PG-13), April 16 – “No Place on Earth” (PG- 13), April 20 – “Tyler Perry’s Single Moms Club” (PG-13), April 23 – “A Most Wanted Man” (R), April 27 – “Blue Ruin” (R) and April 30 – “Obvious Child” (R).
  • Union City Chamber Players perform Saturday, April 18, at 2 p.m. The program includes Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata, Romantic French and Italian Songs by Massenet, Faure and more.

St. Thomas the Apostle Home and School Association sponsors a Tricky Tray fundraiser Thursday, April 30, at Valley Regency, Clifton. Admission is $50, which includes dinner and an evening of extravaganza. The event is open to adults over age 21 only. Send ticket payment to St. Thomas the Apostle School, 50 Byrd Ave., Bloomfield, N.J. 07003. This year’s theme is “Run for the Roses, Kentucky Derby.”

Belleville 

Belleville Elks Lodge 1123, 254 Washington Ave., holds a blood drive Saturday, April 11, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Donors must be age 17 or older, be in good health and weigh at least 120 pounds. Donors must eat a light meal before donating blood, bring a signed form of identification and know their social security number.

Harrison

Holy Cross Church sponsors a bus trip to the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City Sunday, April 12, leaving from Holy Cross School at 10 a.m. Refreshments will be served in the school basement starting 9:15 a.m. Cost is $30 with a $30 rebate (ID required). For reservations, call Joan at 973-481- 2434 or Maria at 973-481-1799 (Leave name, phone number and number attending).

Kearny

The Presbyterian Boys-Girls Club, 663 Kearny Ave., hosts a spring dance Friday, April 10, 7 to 10 p.m. Guests are restricted to teenagers only. The dance will be supervised by former Lincoln School guidance counselor Thomas Fraser and club board members.

The Salvation Army, 443 Chestnut St., offers computer classes Mondays and Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $30 per 12 hours of instruction. For more information, call the office at 201-991-1115 or Pete at 201-889-1352.

Kearny Lions Club hosts a brotherhood luncheon Wednesday, April 22, at noon, at the Salvation Army, 443 Chestnut St. For more information, call Joann at 201-998- 3018.

The Kearny Public Library announces special events for children:

  • Kids in grades 2 to 4 are invited to submit one original poem for a poetry contest during vacation week, April 6 to 10. Contest entry forms are available in the children’s room. Submission deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, April 10. Winners will be notified by phone.

Contestants must live in Kearny, submit original work, (no more than one poem per entry), and include the poem’s title on the entry form and on the page with the poem.

Winners will be announced and prizes will be awarded on or after Monday, April 20. For more information, contact the children’s room at 201-998-2666.

  • Music Together of Rutherford will present a demonstration class Wednesday, April 8, at 11 a.m.
  • Kindergarten and first graders are invited to read aloud and discuss a funny book, “Henry and Mudge and the Big Sleepover,” Friday, April 10, 11:30 to 12:30 p.m. A craft and a snack will be provided. Registration, limited to Kearny residents, is required and will begin at 11 a.m. on April 10.
  • Friends of the Kearny Public Library host “A Night of Magic” fundraiser Friday, April 24, 7 to 11 p.m., at Michael’s Riverside Italian Restaurant, 528 River Road, Lyndhurst. Proceeds benefit the library.

The $50 admission includes appetizers, a full buffet dinner, and dessert.

To secure a seat or to make a donation to the Friends of the Kearny Public Library, mail a check to Friends of the Kearny Public Library, 759 Kearny Ave., Kearny, N.J. 07032. For more information, call Jennifer Cullen at 201-991- 6612 by April 20.

For more information on any library programs, call 201-998-2666 or visit www.kearnylibrary.org.

Lyndhurst 

Lyndhurst Public Library Children’s Room, 355 Valley Brook Ave., hosts Muscle Man Mike’s “Going Green” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) show Wednesday, April 15, at 3:30 p.m. Registration is required. To register, call 201-804-2478.

Lyndhurst Knights of Columbus hosts “A Taste of Poland” Saturday, April 18, at 2 p.m., at the Senior Center, 250 Cleveland Ave. Admission is $15. For tickets, call Steve Cortes at 201-657-0800 or Nick Garafalo at 201-893-2849.

Ladies Auxiliary of the Masonic Club hosts its annual Tricky Tray Sunday, April 12, at the Masonic Club, 316 Riverside Ave. Doors open at noon. Calling starts at 1 p.m. Admission is $5. For more information, call Kathy at 201- 997-1997.

N.J. Meadowlands Commission announces:

  • A free two-hour “Birding for Beginners” class with the Bergen County Audubon Society is set for Sunday, April 12, 1 to 3 p.m., at the Meadowlands Environment Center (MEC), 2 DeKorte Park. Participants are asked to sign a standard liability release that is good for NJSEA/BCAS events throughout the year. To register, contact Don Torino of the BCAS at 201-230-4983 or email him at greatauk4@gmail.com.
  • Grab your lunch and join Don Torino of the Bergen County Audubon Society as he demonstrates how to create a butterfly habitat in your own backyard Tuesday, April 14, at noon, at the MEC. Cost is $6; $5 for MEC members. Registration is recommended and appreciated. To register, visit www.njmeadowlands.gov and click on “Events.”
  • The Art Safari: An Interactive Exploration of the World Around Us, open to teens and adults, is set for Saturdays, April 18 and 25, and May 2, 2 to 4 p.m., at the MEC. Participants will learn how to use the traditional mediums of graphite and charcoal in an interactive way. Pre-registration is required. To register, visit www.njmeadowlands.gov and click on “Events.”

The $35 cost ($30 for MEC members) includes all three sessions and supplies.

Mary Lou Mullins’ monthly bus trip to Resorts Casino in Atlantic City is set for Sunday, April 26. Cost is $30 and cash return is $30. For reservations and more information, call Mary Lou at 201-933-2186.

North Arlington 

Queen of Peace High School holds its annual Golf Outing May 5 at the Knoll West Country Club in Parsippany. The $175 admission includes green fees, golf cart, buffet lunch and dinner and prizes. Sponsorship and advertising opportunities are also available. The due date for advertising is April 28.

Golfers and sponsors may register for the event by contacting the outing coordinator, Daniel Short, at 201-998- 8227, ext. 217, or by visiting www.qphs.org/golfouting. All checks should be made payable to Queen of Peace High School.

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Road. announces:

  • Celebrate the library’s 75th anniversary Saturday, April 18, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event includes music, giveaways, refreshments and activities for children.
  • A craft program, sponsored by the Woman’s Club, is set for Tuesday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. This program is open to grades K to 5. Registration is required. To register, visit http://northarlington.bccls.org/children.html.

For more information on library programs, call 201- 955-5640.

Nutley 

The Nutley Health Department has announced that the township was notified by the State of New Jersey that the rabies vaccine will not be available for the rabies clinic that was scheduled for April 13-14. The clinic for April is postponed until further notice.

The Health Department advises that if your pet license has expired, you will have to obtain the vaccine from your veterinarian.

Residents with questions can call 973-284-4976.

Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Drive, announces:

  • Twinkle Star Dance Class, open to ages 15 months to 6 years, takes place Monday, April 20, at 10:30 a.m. Registration is required.
  • The Friends of the Library announces a book sale, April 23 to 25, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Come out and stock up on hardcover books, paperbacks, CDs and DVDs at this semiannual sale. Donations are welcome April 20 to 22.

For more information or to register for programs, call the library at 973-667-0405.

Golden Bears’ baseball team looks to new coach Auteri

Photo by Jim Hague
The Lyndhurst baseball team will look to a strong pitching staff to help coach Patrick Auteri (c.) in his first season as head
coach. From l. are Nolan Kelly, John Leonard, Nick Carnevale, head coach Auteri, Andrew Fitzgerald, Christian Camilo and
Jordan Lopez.

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

Patrick Auteri said that he has been basically auditioning for the role that he currently owns for the last 14 years – that being the head baseball coach at his alma mater, Lyndhurst High School.

You see, Auteri, a former standout player at the school, spent that time as the understudy or assistant coach to long-time Lyndhurst baseball coach and athletic director Frank “Butch” Servideo, who retired at the end of last season.

“It has definitely been a smooth transition,” Auteri said. “I’ve been here so long that the kids all know me. I had chances to coach elsewhere, but it never felt right for me to leave. Butchie told me that I had to be patient, that I would get the chance. And to his credit, he let me do a lot of the coaching. He let me do most of the teaching.”

But still, Auteri is coming in and replacing a legend who spent more than 40 years of his life as an athlete, teacher, coach and administrator at the school.

“That part is very tough,” Auteri said of replacing someone who won more than 500 games, three state sectional championships and the overall NJSIAA Group I crown in 2008. “Butchie really set the standard and in the back of my mind, I feel like I have to live up to that standard. I have to be the one who keeps the program where it was. I have to be myself, but I also have to keep the tradition going.”

Auteri said that he has remained in contact with Servideo, who now spends some of his time in Florida.

“We’ve become good friends over the years,” said Auteri, who played for Servideo at Lyndhurst. “He’s really been a great role model for me, not only in baseball, but in life. As a matter of fact, most of the time that we talk, it’s not about baseball.”

The Golden Bears have played three games in the Auteri era thus far, posting a 1-2 record.

“We have only four starters back from last year,” Auteri said of the team that went 20-8 last spring. “So there has been a little bit of a transition on the field. We had some jitters Opening Day (in a loss to Becton Regional). We need to make the little plays and shape up a little better on defense.”

Auteri said that he expected some tough spots early on.

“I knew we’d have to get through some growing pains,” Auteri said. “Right now, we’re very inconsistent. My main focus will be trying to find some sort of consistency. We’re preaching fundamentals. Our pitching has been pretty decent, but it’s not where we want it to be. If we keep the morale up, we can get things going, once the weather warms up.”

Leading the way on the mound is senior right-handed pitcher Nolan Kelly, who had a great year last season, winning six games and saving an additional seven more.

“Nolan definitely eats innings for us,” Auteri said. “He throws three pitches for strikes and his change-up is his best pitch. He’s very consistent and I’m going to have to lean on him.”

Senior right-hander Jordan Lopez also returns. Lopez won four games on the mound last spring.

“He has a little better grasp of what it takes to pitch,” Auteri said. “He understands that he just doesn’t have to throw the ball and mechanically he knows how to pitch. His walks are down. He has pinpoint control now.”

Senior John Leonard is another Golden Bears starting pitcher.

“He’s going to need to step it up for us,” Auteri said. “He’s not an overpowering guy but he can get people out.”

Sophomore Nick Carnevale, a transfer from Paramus Catholic, is another right-handed hurler.

“He throws hard,” said Auteri, who might use Carnevale as a closer.

Junior Andrew Fitzgerald is another quality pitcher.

The Golden Bears will receive a big boost when senior Christian Camilo becomes eligible. Another transfer from Paramus Catholic, Camilo is a right-handed pitcher who can give Kelly some backup at the top of the rotation. Camilo has to sit out the first 30 days of the baseball season due to the NJSIAA’s transfer rule.

“Once we get him back, we’ll be good for the stretch run,” Auteri said.

The catcher is junior Edwin Rivera, who has developed nicely into a solid backstop.

“He’s a very solid kid,” Auteri said. “He has a good work ethic and has put the time in to become a good catcher. I am looking for a lot of big things from him.”

Lopez will spend time at first base when he’s not pitching. Junior Matt De- Marco and sophomore Ryan Donohue will also see time at first. Lopez and Donohue were both members of the Lyndhurst state championship bowling squad.

Junior Vincent Dorio is the team’s starting second baseman.

“He’s had a great spring and has become our No. 3 hitter,” Auteri said of Dorio, whose older brother was a great Golden Bear infielder before moving on to play at William Paterson. “Vincent has been hitting the ball hard.”

Senior Brandon Karlok has moved from third base to shortstop.

“He is just a great athlete,” Auteri said of Karlok. “He can go and get it. He’s more of a natural at shortstop.”

Carnevale is the starter at third base. He has already made some spectacular plays at the hot corner over the first three games of the season.

“He’s going to be a very good player for us,” Auteri said.

The outfield situation is a little bit of a logjam. De- Marco is in the mix, along with seniors Anthony Ferulli and Andrew Khantzian and sophomore Max Vigliotti. That group will rotate both in left field and right.

Junior Evan Kelly, Nolan’s younger brother, is the centerfielder. Kelly is a solid defensive centerfielder with excellent speed.

The Golden Bears have tough games this week against New Milford, Wood- Ridge, Secaucus and Harrison, so Auteri will have a better idea of how his team shapes up after this week.

“I really think we have a good team,” Auteri said. “I like the team chemistry, the camaraderie. They’ve all been together since Little League. A good core group of this team comes from Little League days. They’re a good group of kids who are very baseball oriented. But they also hang out together, enjoy each other. We are going to be fine.”

As long as the new head coach doesn’t get frustrated early, the Golden Bears are generally always golden in the spring.

Izod Center closes: End of an era

Photo by Jim Hague
The Izod Center, also known as the Brendan Byrne Arena and Continental Airlines Arena as well as unofficially as the
Meadowlands Arena, closed its doors for good last week.

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It was first the Brendan Byrne Arena, then the Continental Airlines Arena and finally the Izod Center, but from the minute the doors opened in the summer of 1981, it was more universally known, unofficially, as the Meadowlands Arena.

And it was a building that helped to put New Jersey on the national sports map.

Sure, we already had Giants Stadium for five years by the time the Meadowlands Arena opened to a string of Bruce Springsteen concerts. While Giants Stadium was definitely constructed in the New Jersey Meadowlands, making East Rutherford a household word in 1976, the Meadowlands Arena gave New Jersey its own sports identity.

It’s because the New Jersey Nets played there from the first year of the building’s existence. A year later, the Colorado Rockies of the NHL moved east to become the New Jersey Devils. These were New Jersey’s teams with a New Jersey name. The Giants, albeit housed in New Jersey, have still kept New York as their first name.

The Meadowlands Arena provided New Jersey with its own teams. Even if the Nets and Devils weren’t great teams back then, they were still New Jersey’s teams in name and spirit.

The Nets did become pretty good in 1983 and 1984, with Micheal Ray Richardson running the point and Darryl Dawkins giving us his Chocolate Thunder and Buck Williams becoming the franchise’s first NBA All-Star. The Nets knocked the defending NBA champion Philadelphia 76ers out of the Eastern Conference playoffs in 1984, sending shockwaves through the league.

Then, in 2002 and 2003, the Nets, led by all-time All-Star Jason Kidd, won consecutive Eastern Conference championships and went to the NBA Finals.

The Devils, the laughingstock of the NHL in their infant stages, a team that the immortal Wayne Gretzky once dubbed as a “Mickey Mouse operation,” ended up winning the Stanley Cup championship a total of three times during their days in the Meadowlands Arena.

The NCAA totally adored the Meadowlands Arena for its college basketball tournament. For a grand total of 11 times, the NCAA held either East Regional first round action or the East Regional finals at the Meadowlands. It became a regular jaunt.

There were some memorable East Regional moments, like 1990, when Christian Laettner hit a jump shot at the buzzer that lifted Duke past UConn, two days after Tate George’s miraculous’ catch-and- shoot enabled the Huskies to get past Clemson at the buzzer and advance to face Duke, a school that treated the Meadowlands like its home away from home.

In 1996, the NCAA Final Four was held there, with Kentucky winning the national title in coach Tubby Smith’s first year with the Wildcats.

There were also countless independent college basketball contests, mostly involving Duke, but there was a classic showdown between North Carolina and Kentucky when the arena first opened in 1981, a battle between No. 1 and No. 2 in the country, featuring North Carolina’s sophomore sensation Michael Jordan, a game won by the top-ranked Tar Heels, 82-69.

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference held its season-ending tournament there for several years. The Atlantic 10 tourney was also once held there. So the arena was a hotbed for college basketball events for decades.

From the high school basketball standpoint, the NJSIAA held the annual Tournament of Champions finale, both for the boys and girls, there for many years. It was also the home of the NJSIAA wrestling tournament for two years while Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City was under reconstruction.

It was also the home of the NCAA wrestling championships one year. The Maccabiah Games, the Olympic Games for those of the Jewish faith, were held there. Major track and field meets, like the Vitalis Meadowlands meet, were held there.

The arena was always a place of local prominence, not just for sporting events. Many local colleges held their commencement exercises there every year. There were countless concerts, kids’ events, circuses. The list can go on and on.

Needless to say, the Meadowlands Arena by that unofficial name or any of its other official given names was a major part of the local dichotomy for more than 30 years.

That was, at least, before last Monday, when the once-magnificent and once-majestic white edifice located in the swamps of the Meadowlands, making the Meadowlands an internationally renowned site, was closed by the state for at least the next two years, quite possibly forever.

It’s sad to think that the Meadowlands Arena could become so obsolete in such a period of time. One would figure that it would be there forever, serving the public and bolstering New Jersey’s image.

But the Prudential Center was constructed in nearby Newark and the Barclays Center followed in Brooklyn, turning the Meadowlands Arena into an ugly stepsister.

The Devils moved to Newark and the Nets to Brooklyn. Duke played UConn one last time at the Meadowlands last December, almost like a fitting swan song. The place was packed once again with rabid college basketball fans. It was like old times.

From my standpoint, it’s the location where I did the most amount of work in my adult life.

Before I became a sportswriter, I was a security officer/bodyguard for several of the performing acts who graced the Meadowlands Arena stages. I helped to protect performers like Styx, Kenny Rogers, Journey, Aerosmith.

On one memorable August afternoon in 1982, I had the great fortune to work with the late John Denver, who I played ping pong with, drove across Route 120 to the Meadowlands Racetrack to see the Hambletonian race (in complete anonymity) and watched as he gave daisies to my mother after a concert.

Those daisies were placed in a glassed frame and although they became a bit weathered after a while, they hung on the wall in our Jersey City home for years and years, right next to my mother’s shrine to the Kennedy brothers.

When I became a sportswriter in 1983, the Meadowlands Arena was where I got my first professional byline – yes, covering figure skating of all sports.

I was sent to the Meadowlands to do a story about former Olympic gold medal winner Scott Hamilton and interviewed him in the bowels of the arena. How would I have known that it would be the beginning of 30 years of covering events there?

I spent thousands of hours and hundreds of days covering the sporting events there, especially the Nets, who I’ve covered more than any other team in my career.

I was there when Shaquille O’Neill brought down the entire basket – frame, backboard and all – when he was just a puppy playing for the Orlando Magic in 1993. I was there for those great playoff runs in 2002 and 2003. I sat center court and watched Reggie Miller throw in a shot from right near where I sat and sent the Nets-Pacers playoff game into triple overtime in 2009.

I was there for countless Devils games, sitting both in the hockey press box at center ice, then getting shifted to the roof where the skaters looked like miniature figures. I was there when they won the Cup in 1995 and 2003, much to the delight of local fans.

Sure, I was there for a lot of those college games as well, the NCAA Tournament classics.

I was there to watch St. Anthony win its share of Tournament of Champions titles, especially the 1996 T of C when Rashon Burno, who I had the pleasure to coach as a child in Biddy basketball in Jersey City, steal his way to prominence by leading the fabulous Friars to the state title and winning the T of C Most Valuable Player award.

I felt like a proud father that night, especially when Burno acknowledged me among my friends and colleagues in a post-game press conference.

So there was a major sense of sadness driving past the place last week. It was raining, of course. Construction workers had installed concrete barricades to prevent any access. A lone security guard sat in a booth far outside.

It’s almost the same sickening feeling that I had when they tore down Giants Stadium five years ago. But at that time, there was hope for the future with the new MetLife Stadium. With this closing, there is no hope, just the finality.

I’ll forever remember the Meadowlands Arena, for what it meant to northern New Jersey, for what it meant to so many people who spent so much time escaping from life’s daily grind there. I did the math and counted at least 1,500 dates over 30 years that I covered events there. That’s almost five full years of my life.

It meant a lot to me, because it was not only a place that I went to on a regular basis, but it was also a place that gave us New Jerseyans a sense of pride. We weren’t the subject of jokes and ridicule. We had a big-time arena with big-time events. Yes, New Jersey, right across the river from Manhattan, was big time, right down to the names of the teams.

For that, we’ll forever have the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the people who ran the arena for ages, great people like Michael Graime and Helen Strus, to thank for making us all feel relevant and important, and not some joke about what exit we lived near.

Kearny softball squad hopes to pick up from last year

Photo courtesy Robert Rodriguez
Kearny junior Caralynne Rivera is seen circling the bases after hitting the
clutch home run that gave the Kardinals the Hudson County Tournament
championship a year ago. Rivera has returned as one of the top all-around
players in the county.

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

The 2014 high school softball season was a dream campaign for the Kardinals of Kearny High School, who rolled off 10 straight wins at one point last season en route to a 21-5 record and the school’s first-ever Hudson County Tournament championship.

As the 2015 season began last week, Kearny head coach Jimmy Pickel believes that the Kardinals can once again contend for top honors in Hudson County.

“With the pitching we have and the amount of players we have back and if we stay together, I think it’s possible to have another run at it,” Pickel said. “We have to click at the right time, like we did last year. That’s all it takes.”

The Kardinals are fortunate to have junior Caralynne Rivera back for another season. Rivera is one of the best players in the county, evidenced by her pitching and hitting performance in the county title win over Bayonne, hitting a homer that sealed the victory.

“I never have to worry about the pitching with Caralynne there,” Pickel said. “It always helps having a No. 1 pitcher like her. She plays softball all year round. She plays travel ball and goes for pitching and hitting lessons. She throws a number of pitches for strikes and has really improved her changeup. I would say she’s improved as a pitcher. She’s also now our leadoff hitter, so she’s the one who gets us going.”

When Rivera needs a day off from pitching, Pickel can go to sophomore left-hander Giovanna Scrimo, who did a fine job on the mound during the Kards’ recent excursion to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Scrimo’s older sister, Arianna, is the team’s returning starter at catcher.

“It helps immensely having your top pitcher and catcher back,” Pickel said. “They’re the keys to the team and they work well together. They’re always talking together about different hitters and different pitches to throw. They get along very well.”

Obviously, the elder Scrimo gets along with the team’s No. 2 pitcher as well. After all, she has to. It’s all in the family.

Senior Amanda DeSousa is the Kardinals’ starter at first base. DeSousa started at first on the county championship team as well.

“She’s a very solid fielder,” Pickel said. “She’s also our cleanup hitter. She’s a leader by example being a senior.”

The second base duties are being shared by juniors Caitlyn Crespo and Ryelle Feda and sophomore Jane Amadeo, who can also play the outfield and pitch.

“We’ve had her all over the place so far,” Pickel said of Amadeo. “She’s very active on the field.”

The shortstop is returning senior Daniella Echevestre, who was the starter at short last year.

“She’s really improved since last year,” Pickel said. “She’s already made some outstanding plays in the field.”

Junior Laura Vilar is the third baseman.

“She’s probably our most reliable infielder,” Vilar said. “She’s also our No. 2 hitter and is batting well over .500 right now.”

Junior Brianna Serrano is the starter in left field.

“She has never played for us before, but she’s done a great job so far,” Pickel said. “She’s come a long way.”

Serrano had a two-run triple in a win last week against defending state sectional champion Hoboken.

Junior Melissa McAndrew is the centerfielder.

“She’s done a very nice job out there so far,” Pickel said. “She’s also really stepped up at the plate. She’s taken the role of being the centerfielder and has run with it.”

Right field is being shared by a pair of juniors in Jillian Cullen and Erika Greenlee. Cullen was a first baseman who has been converted into an outfielder this season.

“She has done an outstanding job in learning the position,” Pickel said.

Junior Olivia Papa is the team’s jack-of-all-trades. Papa can play second base or the outfield.

The Kardinals have won two of their first three games and have games scheduled against Hudson Catholic and Ferris this week.

On Saturday morning, the Kardinals will play host to local rival North Arlington at 11 a.m. and the two teams will participate in the Strikeouts for Cancer fundraiser. The game will be played at the Gunnell Oval, the Kards’ home field.

There will be raffles and concessions at the game, as well as a T-shirt sale. All of the proceeds of the day will go to a local cancer-related charity that has yet to be determined.

“Every little bit helps,” Pickel said of the fundraiser, which should be a good event.

So the Kardinals are hopeful that it can be another exciting softball season.

“We have to expect that,” Pickel said.

Whether it means another county championship remains to be seen, but with Rivera leading the way, the pieces are certainly in place.

‘Take the load off,’ (accidentally)

crash_web

 

 

Photo courtesy Sgt. Dave Doyle

The driver of this tractor-trailer was eastbound on Harrison Ave. in Harrison, shortly after noon last Wednesday but as he stopped for the light at Seventh St., his truck’s load shifted, causing the left rear chain to snap and the load to fall from a flatbed onto the curb, damaging both, police said. The load was believed to be a piece of machinery weighing 50,000 pounds, police said. No summonses were issued.

Obituaries

Traci Lee Dunekack Carlen

Traci Lee Dunekack Carlen passed away on April 4 after a very courageous battle against pancreatic cancer. She was 57. Born in North Plainfield, she moved to Kearny 27 years ago.

Visiting will be on Wednesday, April 8, from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., at the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny.

Traci was a secretary for the Kearny Board of Education working mostly in Lincoln and Schuyler Schools. She loved the beach and everything “flip flop!”

She is survived by a very adoring family: her husband Paul, her children Eric (Mariana), Kevin and Jaime Carlen, her sisters and brother Tammi Nishimura, Bruce Dunekack and Toni Campbell and her beloved grandchildren Kaelyn, Kylee and Keira. Traci was the daughter of the late Bruce and Mary (nee Sullivan) Dunekack. She is also survived many loving nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Michael Leiner 

Michael Leiner, 48, of Milford, Pa., died March 29 at the Bon Secours Community Hospital, Port Jervis, N.Y.

Born in Jersey City, he lived in Kearny and North Arlington before moving to Pennsylvania in 2005. He was a 1984 graduate of Kearny High School.

He worked as a carpenter for 15 years for Aanensen Kitchen and Cabinets in Kearny. He was the beloved husband of Darlene E. (nee Bower), the adored father of Kaitlyn E. Leiner, the dear son of the late John and Lorna Leiner was the cherished brother of John N. Leiner, Maureen L. Bunnell and her husband Jim, and Tim Leiner and his wife Martha, and the loving uncle of many loving nieces and nephews.

The funeral service was held on April 2 at the Parow Funeral Home, 185 Ridge Road, North Arlington, followed by interment in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.

Laura Elaine Romaniak 

Laura Elaine Romaniak died April 1. She was 84. She lived most of her life in Kearny before retiring to Whiting.

Arrangements are by the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass will be held Tuesday, April 7, at 10 a.m. at Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington, and burial will follow in Holy Cross Cemetery.

Laura is survived by her children and their spouses Elaine and Robert Buchs, Barbara Urban (late Richard), John and Gloria Romaniak, Charles Romaniak, Mark and Rose Romaniak and Paul and Jennifer Romaniak. She was the sister of John L. Chatellier, Donald Chatellier, Jeannette Payne and Barbara Syme, 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

To view Laura’s entire obituary please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.

Martin James Ryan 

Martin James Ryan died April 4 at Chatham Hill Care Center. He was 78.

Born in Harrison, he lived in Kearny before retiring to Forked River.

Visiting will be on Tuesday, April 7, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., at the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass will be held on Wednesday, April 8, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Stephen’s Church and entombment will follow in Gate of Heaven Cemetery. www.armitagewiggins.com

Martin was a senior systems operator at PSE&G and was a 4th degree Knights of Columbus, Harrison and Forked River councils. He was a Navy veteran and a member of The Old Guard and The Elks.

Husband of Catherine (nee Zilinick), he is also survived by his children and their spouses Michelle and Dennis Bellog and Patrick and Jacqueline Ryan. Martin was the brother of Edward Ryan and Irene Bodendorf and cousin of Robert Kittredge. He is also survived by his grandchildren Sara, Ryan, Joseph, Ashley and James.

Rebecca VanDyke 

Rebecca VanDyke entered into eternal life on March 28 at home in Elizabeth. She was 83.

Arrangements were by the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home in Kearny. www.armitagewiggins.com 

A memorial Mass was held at St. John’s Church in Newark.

Rebecca was a very spiritual person and beloved in the deaf community of St. John’s.

Security guard roughed up in KHS melee; 3 boys charged with aggravated assault

Kearny High School

Kearny High School

KEARNY –

The dust is still settling from a brawl that took place last Monday, March 30, inside Kearny High School.

Police officials reported that six youths – all juvenile boys – were involved in a fistfight during the early afternoon in a hallway outside the guidance office, just off the main entrance to the school.

No reason was given for the skirmish.

Schools Superintendent Patricia Blood told The Observer that the struggle “lasted all of 15 seconds,” before administrators, teachers and school security managed to break it up.

Turns out that one security guard who apparently got in the middle of the scrape, just as it erupted, got roughed up, according to police, who said that the man got punched and kicked and suffered a broken tooth.

Three of the combatants – who were identified by review of footage from a school hallway surveillance camera – were subsequently charged with aggravated assault, said Deputy Police Chief George King. Their names were not disclosed because of their age.

King said the KPD is weighing whether to file separate charges, possibly simple assault and inciting a riot, against the other three brawlers. As of last week, police were trying to find any other video resources such as smart phones that could show different perspectives on the fight.

Sometime after the incident, reports surfaced on social media that the high school was in lockdown mode. Both Blood and King said there was no lockdown – but King said the KPD did bolster police presence at the school in response to postings reportedly threatening retaliation of some kind in connection with the fight.

“We were fielding a lot of calls from parents about these reports and, yes, we did put extra cops outside the school at dismissal time just to quell their concerns. In addition, school personnel locked the gates at the stadium to make sure we didn’t have unwanted people wandering around,” King said.

Normally, the KPD has someone from its Cops In School unit assigned to the high school but, as of last Monday, there was no one detailed there. The officer most recently assigned to that detail was off-duty on sick leave, reportedly because of a knee injury sustained while the officer was chasing a student in an unrelated episode a couple of weeks prior to the fight.

King said the KPD was not immediately notified about the fight but did, eventually, learn of the incident from school authorities later in the day.

When asked whether the fight could have been gang-related, Blood said that, “there is no gang activity in Kearny High” and that “fights are not rampant in the high school.”

Acclaimed by their peers

SONY DSC

By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

American Legion Post 99 on Belgrove Drive was the setting Friday evening for a ceremony honoring Kearny’s Finest of the Finest and Bravest of the Bravest for 2014.

Police Officer of the Year is Sgt. Paul Bershefski.

Firefighter of the Year is Jason McCabe.

Last week’s program was only the first of several community ceremonies that will spotlight the duo.

As Fire Chief Steve Dyl told the audience in the Legion hall, for both police and firefighters, “It’s all about rising to the challenge.”

In McCabe’s case, the challenge included a particularly hazardous rescue of a man trapped in a Schuyler Ave. fire in February 2014. He and two other firefighters entered the burning home searching for the victim who they had been told was somewhere in the basement. That basement turned out to be a hazard in itself — with narrow hallways, low ceilings and doorways less than 6-feet high.

The firefighters used a thermal-imaging camera to find the man, who was trapped in a bedroom. McCabe was the one who located him. Then they had to get the victim out, through the same cramped space. “Help couldn’t get to them, and they were running out of air,” Dyl recalled. But, against the odds, they succeeded in the rescue. “We very well could have had three Firefighters of the Year,” the chief noted. But the Meritorious Acts Review Board chose McCabe.

And it’s safe to say, the other two don’t begrudge it at all. Heroes are like that.

McCabe, who joined the KFD in February 1999, is assigned to Engine 1 on Davis Ave., the department’s primary mutual aid company. He has previously been cited for performing life-saving CPR and for water rescues in the Passaic River. Recently, he completed training for the KPD’s Swift Water Rescue Team.

He has also volunteered his time on humanitarian aid missions, to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, as well as tornado victims in Missouri. And, Dyl noted, “he spent countless hours at the Jersey Shore after Sandy,” helping people rebuild their homes. He also built playgrounds as part of the Sandy Ground project, launched to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

“He reminds me of the Energizer Bunny,” Dyl said.

Prior to becoming a fireman (following in the footsteps of his father, Joseph, who had been a battalion chief in Jersey City), McCabe served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1991 to ‘95, with deployments to Somalia, Okinawa, Korea and the Mediterranean.

He and his wife, Kristin, have three children: daughters Tyler, 17, and Lindsay, 13, and son Eric, 8.

In an interview prior to the awards ceremony, Dyl had cited McCabe’s “character and work ethic.” The chief told us, “He gives you 110%. When you’re going into a difficult situation, he’s the guy you want to have with you.”

Police Chief John Dowie expressed similar sentiments at the awards event, noting that the police officers and firefighters who receive the honor are the ones “who go above and beyond, time and again.”

Police Officer of the Year Sgt. Paul (“Bear”) Bershefski joined the KPD in 2005, served in the trouble-shooting patrol division and was promoted to sergeant in May 2012. He is a member of the Tactical Services Unit and a certified firearms instructor.

Over the years, Dowie noted, he has received awards for participation in narcotics arrests and in 2009 was recognized by the Valor Committee after, while off-duty, he saved the life of a man who had been choking to death.

He also has received the Meritorious Service Award, two Certificates of Merit and two Unit Citations.

Like McCabe, Bershefski was recognized for his overall job performance in 2014, but he also had a particularly notable incident on his record. And it occurred at the very start of the year, on New Year’s Day 2014.

At 7 a.m., a “known gang member from Newark,” armed with a .45, invaded a Tappan St. residence, terrorized, assaulted and robbed the family and then fled in their Lexis, after taking the keys. He lost control of the car on Devon St., abandoned it and started running.

It was Bershefski who spotted the suspect and attempted to detain him at Central and Passaic Aves., at the border of Kearny and East Newark. But the thug kept running, heading across the Clay St. Bridge. with the officer in foot pursuit.

Bershefski closed the distance and ordered him to freeze. At which point, the man apparently drew the gun from his waistband — and threw it into the Passaic. (All this could have ended much differently.)

He continued running, with Bershefski following him to an abandoned lot on the Newark side of the river. Police surrounded the site and the suspect was located and taken into custody. Also located on the property was ammo for a .45.

Bershefski’s handling of the situation was “just one of his many meritorious acts,” Dowie noted.

As for community service, the sergeant was an original organizer of Kearny’s Police Unity Tour Bicycle Team. He still rides in the yearly event, which now attracts nearly 2,000 officers from across the U.S. Participants cycle to the Police Memorial in Washington, D.C., to raise money for the families of officers killed in the line of duty. They now collect more than $1 million annually.

Bershefski and his wife, Heather, have two sons: Patrick, 9, and Brendan, 5. His father, Paul, is a retired N.J. State Police lieutenant, and his mother, Patricia, is a retired Harrison/ Kearny schoolteacher.

Bershefski grew up in Harrison, attended Queen of Peace High School, and majored in sociology and criminology at Montclair State University. In 2004, after graduating from the Essex County Police Academy, he joined the Harrison PD. But he transferred to Kearny early the following year.

“I stole him from Harrison,” Dowie said. “He’s the best thing I’ve ever stolen.”