web analytics

Turf is the way to go


Real grass seems to be headed out with the dinosaurs these days for Kearny’s municipal playing fields.

The town is applying for $743,000 in Hudson County Community Block Grant funds to put toward the acquisition and installation of synthetic turf at Veterans’ Field on Belgrove Drive near Bergen Ave.

Veterans’ Field accommodates one Little League baseball field and a combination football/softball field.

Mayor Alberto Santos and the Town Council held a public hearing on the CDBG application at the March 16 council meeting and no one from the public had any comments on it.

This is the second municipal recreation complex that the town is aiming to resurface, the other being the Gunnell Oval facility off Schuyler Ave., although the motivation for that project is keyed to an environmental cleanup of the site.

When all is said and done, the proposed Oval improvements, according to the town’s engineering experts, could run upwards of $16 million. The fix-up would include raising the elevation of the land, putting in a pump station and drainage system and a retaining wall as a buffer for E. Midland Ave. homeowners. The town is seeking outside funding sources to pay for it all.

Meanwhile, Santos said that the town is focusing on Veterans’ Field as a desperately needed temporary replacement for the several fields at the Oval that are currently off-line.

Santos said that playing area is used by both adults and more than 250 youngsters ages 18 and younger.

“There’s a high demand on our fields and installing synthetic turf will allow for increased usage,” Santos said.

Fourth Ward Councilman Michael Landy, who chairs the Recreation Committee, said that with the Oval off limits, “The hope is to minimize the impact on our [municipal] sports programs,” but he said that would be tough to achieve, given that Veterans’ Field hosts football and fall baseball from August through Thanksgiving and girls’ softball and Little League during spring and summer.

Assuming the town gets the CDBG money and goes ahead with bidding out the turf job, “one option we’re looking at is to do the baseball area at one time and leave the other end of the field open and schedule the other part of the field for another time.

“But we’re wary of shutting down Little League because we’d only have one field available [East field at the Oval],” he said.

“If we could do the work from, say, July, to when the winter starts, that’s all well and good, because we’d have two fields. The third option is we wait and do the Oval first. We should decide in the next month or two.”

Still, even if the town succeeds in getting the CDBG cash, it will need a lot more dough to do the work, Santos said, since the total project cost has been estimated at $1,786,000.

And the outlook for snagging the CDBG funding isn’t good, the mayor conceded. He said the expectation is that, given the full-court pressure by Republican legislators to button down federal spending, “the expectation is that Congress will reduce the pot of federal dollars available. We don’t know if [the CDBG allocation to counties] will be fully funded.”

 – Ron Leir 

‘Dream’ plan nixed by council


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


The township is retreating on one prospective real estate development front while pondering a 180-degree flip by the would-be builder on another.

By a 7-0 vote last Tuesday, March 24, the Belleville governing body rejected an ambitious redevelopment plan that pitched several thousands of housing units in towers extending up to 50 stories at the old Jacobs property at 630-632 Washington Ave. and stretching down to Main St. on the old Kidde property.

In doing so, the Township Council turned aside a Planning Board recommendation made in December to approve the plan.

In a pre-meeting public caucus, attorney Anthony J. Frese, representing O&R Urban Renewal Co. LLC, and its principal Joe Orlando, asked the council to consider allowing his client to shift gears on development plans for the old School 1 property on Stephens St., by installing a Quick Chek retail store/gas pumps.

Frese said that O&R “has run into serious issues developing this property as a 60-unit apartment complex.” A Quick Chek, on the other hand, would be “clean and simple” and would offer a chance for “hiring 40 people” to work there in shifts around the clock.

But several council members had reservations about the plan: Kevin Kennedy wondered if the township would run into legal problems with a rival bidder who had proposed a retail use for the site; Marie Strumolo Burke and Dr. John Notari worried about safety issues that a 24/7 operation might generate; and Steven Rovell had concerns about adding to existing traffic congestion on the approach to the Rutgers St. bridge.

Mayor Ray Kimble ended the discussion by saying, “The next step is to discuss this among ourselves and our attorney.”

During the regular public meeting, the council dealt with the Northeast Area Redevelopment Plan by passing a resolution that found that, “… the proposed density, building height and intensity of development proposed development Option 3 [which called for at least one 50-story high-rise and others ranging from 10 to 20 floors] is out of scale with the existing and planned land use character of Washington Ave. and its surrounding neighborhoods.”

And it further determined that, “… there is no evidence in the near future, beyond development occurring along the Hudson River in Hudson County or Bergen County, that development [as proposed under Option 3] would ever find a feasible market in Belleville.

“That said, it makes no planning sense to approve a redevelopment plan for an unrealistic development of this scale and invite unforeseeable legal or zoning challenges.”

At the same time, the council unanimously voted down a resolution that would have send the Northeast Redevelopment team’s application back to the Planning Board “for further fact finding and deliberation and possible revisions.”


Photos by Ron Leir O&R attorney Anthony J. Frese (l.) and Quick Check’s John Carafello try to make a case for replacing proposed housing with a commercial use at the now vacant School 1 site (shown at l.).

Photos by Ron Leir
O&R attorney Anthony J. Frese (l.) and Quick Check’s John Carafello try to make a case for replacing proposed housing with a commercial use at the now vacant School 1 site.

Rovell told The Observer: “We’re not into the type of extreme density being proposed by the developer. As I understand it, [one member of the team] already has prior approvals to put up a 135-unit apartment building on a portion of the site but nothing has been built.”

Going along with such a huge project “is a lot to ask for in a bedroom-type community like Belleville,” Rovelle said. “Why would you change the look and feel of the community? It’s not that I’m against development but I’m a proponent of reasonable and rational development.”

The council decision was warmly greeted by residents Vincent Frantantoni and Jeff Mattingly.

“I’ve finally got a reason to thank the council for doing the right thing,” Frantantoni said, “because this project is so out of scale with Belleville. In our entire town, we have 11,800 housing units. This developer wants to come and add between 4,500 and 6,000 units and this town cannot handle this.”

Mattingly chose to take hope from the council’s action, “if it was meant as sending a signal to the developer to come back with a smaller project.”

Otherwise, he said, granting the team carte blanche would amount to nothing less than “a land grab to take over a [contaminated] property 10 years in the process of being cleaned.”

Putting a 50-story highrise “only 100 feet away from a utility electric tower is not a place for a residential development,” he added.

What the development team will do next remains to be seen.

Stepping up in the ranks


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


These days, Kearny is paying attention to its public safety personnel rosters.

Just a few weeks after hiring six new cops, the Kearny governing body voted last week to authorize promotions in both the Police and Fire Departments.

The Town Council named four fire captains and two police captains to fill slots vacated via retirements but in both cases, they are viewed by department heads as only temporary reprieves as the wave of departures by veteran employees continues.

Nonetheless, an SRO crowd of relatives and fellow bluecoats and firefighters and well-wishers jammed the Town Hall assembly chambers to celebrate the occasion.

Mayor Alberto Santos characterized the elevations in rank as “overdue” and lauded the recipients of the new ranks as “deserving of the honors they’re receiving.”

Those honorees are: Police Capts. Anthony Sylvester and Timothy Wagner; and Fire Capts. David Russell, William Solano, Andrew O’Donnell and Arthur Bloomer.

All go on the town payroll, as of April 1. The police captains will earn an annual base pay of $141,519 and the fire captains will take home $103,637 a year in base pay.

Police Chief John Dowie recalled that when he was elevated to captain, he was assigned to “train the new guys” after they had completed Academy training. “They were my little team,” he added. Guys like Sylvester and Wagner.

“Six made rank, three received Cop of the Year awards, two made detectives – not a bad batting average for my team,” Dowie said. Dowie called Sylvester, a 20-year veteran, “the Comeback Kid,” who, he noted, “a year ago, was down on his feet [due to a serious health issue] – the New England Patriots’ comeback in the Super Bowl paled in comparison.” That issue aside, however, Dowie said that Sylvester has never been one to shirk from his police duties; in fact, he always wanted to go where the action was, even as a superior officer, gladly taking on “a lot of night tours.”

“He never asked out of work – he always helped out,” the chief said.

And even while serving as a desk lieutenant, Dowie said, Sylvester may have been “stuck inside answering the phone,” but he still functioned as an able field commander under pressure, like the night a call came in to HQ at 10 p.m. that a man had kidnapped a mother’s two babies and headed out of town.

Organizing the moving pieces “all fell to Tony” that night, Dowie recalled, and by 5 a.m., the suspect – and the infants – were traced through a cellular phone to North Bergen.

Dowie also credited Sylvester with overcoming enormous odds by organizing a motorcade to rescue motorists stranded in South Kearny by Superstorm Sandy.

Wagner, who joined the force in 2001, has developed into what Dowie characterized as “an outstanding street cop and investigator,” having also served in tactical services and as an EMT.

Wagner applied those investigative skills to help track the accused killer of a Kearny Ave. jeweler through the DNA taken from a burglar’s tools that matched the murder suspect, Dowie said. And he has been commended for the work he has done while assigned to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Homicide Squad.

“Timmy’s the kind of guy who seeks out any type of training, sometimes on his own dime, and currently he’s going for certification as an arson investigator,” Dowie said.

He’s also in training for the Police Unity Tour, a four-day bicycle trek in May designed as a fundraiser to heighten awareness of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.

Wagner is now assigned to the department’s Internal Affairs unit.

On the Fire Department side, Fire Chief Steven Dyl commended Russell, who was hired in early 1999, as “the type of guy who always does what you ask and then some.”

As part of the Rapid Intervention Crew, Russell and his crewmates responded to a Harrison fire that erupted during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March 2013 and helped rescue five members of the Jersey City Fire Department who were assisting at the fire scene. And, in 2007, Russell received a commendation for giving CPR to a fire victim.

Solano, a member of the department since 2000, is another firefighter “always willing to help,” Dyl said. Currently assigned to Fire HQ, Solano is a member of the Swift Water Rescue Team. He was awarded a citation for his work during Super Storm Sandy in 2012.

O’Donnell, who joined the department in 1999, was named 2013 Firefighter of the Year in recognition of his work in helping rescue two individuals trapped at a Devon St. fire. He was also cited for his work during Super Storm Sandy. And he received an exceptional duty citation in connection with dousing an early morning Laurel Ave. house fire. He has also served as a contract negotiator for the local FMBA.

Bloomer, a KFD member since 1988, “comes from a true firefighter family,” Dyl said. Bloomer’s grandfather, Knowlton Pierce, became Kearny’s first career fire chief in 1921 and Bloomer’s two sons Andrew and Sean and daughter Danielle are members of the Brick Fire Department.

Bloomer helped set up the KFD’s ambulance program, is a certified SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) repair technician, has helped design three KFD rigs and serves with the KFD’s Technical Rescue Team.

On his off-time, Bloomer is an instructor with the Fire Department Institute Corps in Indianapolis and is a member of the N.J. Task Force 1, which performs urban search and rescue service. He served at the WTC site after the 9/11 attack.

Dyl said that all of the new captains will be facing “a pretty serious challenge” in the upcoming months because, “by July 1, we’re going to have a combined 345 years of [firefighter] experience walk out the door.”

Between February and July, 13 members of the KFD will have retired, leaving the department three short of the 25 captains recommended under the department’s Table of Organization, Dyl said. By July 1, the department will be down to 78 members – far short of the 102 called for by the T.O., he said.

More library staffing sought


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


The Kearny Public Library, struggling to maintain its services in the face of diminished finances and staffing, is calling on the town for help.

Library Board President Barbara Pollock appealed to the mayor and Town Council Tuesday to help take up the slack since the state Department of Community Affairs eliminated all of the library’s $17,000 in state aid.

Municipal libraries are required to meet certain staffing levels tied to the populations they serve. Kearny was obliged to staff four full-time librarians for its population of nearly 40,000 but currently has only two.

“It’s upsetting to us that we’re not meeting those state standards,” Pollock said.

One librarian was among several civilian town employees laid off in 2011 and another retired. Neither has been replaced. And a full-time administrative clerk is retiring shortly.

“We can only claim half the amount of [full- and part-time] employees we had in 2000,” Pollock said.

As for the part-timers, of whom several are still in college or newly graduated, “As soon as they get a better job, they leave so there’s no responsibility for the long-term,” Pollock said.

And, because there is insufficient staff, she added, “we don’t have enough hours.”

In late 2012, the library cut back two evening hours on two weekdays at the Main Library and sliced a full day (Friday) at its branch facility.

“There’s only one night [Wednesday] during the week we’re open until 8 p.m.,” Pollock said. “This isn’t good for people working.”

Despite these disadvantages, she said, the library has managed to acquire computers and new reading tables and lamps for its patrons.

Additionally, she said, largely through the efforts of library director Josh Humphrey, it has expanded its mission as a “community” library by offering programs for adults and children and by completing its outdoor reading garden that will be used for musical, theatrical and poetry events.

Given these successful efforts, Pollock concluded, “Let’s not have the state tell us we’re not worth funding.”

Mayor Alberto Santos sought to assure Pollock that, “it’s not just the library” where budget restraints have been applied.

Actually, the municipal budget introduced by the council March 16 increases dedicated local tax funding for the library, from $1,074,000 last year to $1,130,529 for this year.

That adjustment should allow room for some attempt by the town to address the library’s personnel quandary and, indeed, Santos said the council plans to adopt an ordinance that would increase pay rates for entry-level positions to $10 per hour in hopes that will entice employees to stay longer.

As for adding full-time librarian slots, Santos said he has directed town CFO Shuaib Firozvi to meet with Humphrey to discuss “whether we should advertise, for example, for two library assistants or a librarian or however we set about restoring some of the director’s staff.”

If there was determined to be a need for a “bilingual librarian,” for instance, “that’s not a [job] title we now have and I don’t know what the [job] market would dictate for such a position,” the mayor added.

Humphrey, who outlined his personnel needs to the mayor and council during a closed caucus held after Tuesday night’s meeting, declined to discuss details with The Observer but noted that since he became director in April 2010, “we’ve lost four full-time employees and a couple of part-timers. It just comes to a point where that has to be addressed.”

“It seems like a lot of libraries have lost people through attrition,” Humphrey said. “You can see that trend.”

Pat Tumulty, executive director of the New Jersey Library Association, noted that, “Since 2005, property values across the state have gone down by 13% and that has a direct impact on local funding for libraries.

“In 2009, the average per-capita state funding for libraries in New Jersey was $67 and as of 2013 [the year for which the most recent figures are available], it’s at $57,” she said. “What we’re seeing now is the sixth straight year of cuts in this program and local libraries are finding it more difficult to meet the state’s standards.”

Reduced hours in Kearny notwithstanding, patrons’ use of the library has continued unabated, with library records showing a rise of about 3,000 in total circulation volume to more than 83,000 between 2013 and 2014, Humphrey said.

Probably the single most popular items, Humphrey said, are “graphic novels” for juveniles (meaning comic books). “Picture books go out like crazy,” he said. “The companies that put out e-books haven’t yet found a way to replicate them.”

Of the 83,164 books and tapes in circulation, more than half – 46,695 – are juvenile books, records reveal. More than 1,500 residents – adults and kids – took out new library cards and about 21,000 adults and youths came in to use the library’s computers last year, records show.

“For now,” Humphrey said, “we can tread water. I would hate to see us cut our hours more than we have already.”

Jaycees fete 5 for ‘distinguished service’











Photos courtesy Walter Smith
Clockwise from top l: Alphonse Petracco, John Maiello, Mike Nisivoccia, Steven Picciano, Michele Fleitel

The Nutley Jaycees will present their 2015 Distinguished Service Awards at the 44th annual community awards banquet Thursday, April 9, at the Valley Regency, 1149 Valley Road, Clifton.

The event starts with a cocktail hour at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 and can be reserved by calling Dr. Steven Clarke at 973-235-1515.

This year’s honorees are: Steven Picciano Jr.,Outstanding Young Man of the Year; Michael Nisivoccia, Public Health & Public Safety awardee; John J. Maiello, Educator of the Year; Michele Fleitell, Civic Affairs awardee; and Mayor Alphonse Petracco, Businessman of the Year. Picciano Jr. is being feted for his role as a leader in the Holy Family Knights of Columbus and devoting many hours of service to the less fortunate. He founded and coordinated the annual Chef’s Night at Holy Family Church and runs a Bingo Night that raises money for special needs youth in Nutley. He has also organized trips to food kitchens in Newark and run blood drives in Nutley. Picciano Jr. is director of business and development for the Church of St. Catherine of Siena & Dominican Friars Health Care Ministry of New York.

Nisivoccia is a recently retired Nutley fire lieutenant who has served as the local FMBA president for the past 18 years. In 2001, he led the Nutley Fire Department’s Boot Drive that raised $5,000 for the New York City firefighters who perished in the 9/11 attack. He and colleagues served at Liberty State Park, decontaminating members of the public who fled New York after the attack. For two decades, Nisivoccia served as head coach/manager of the Nutley National/East Little League and started Little League trips to Cooperstown. In 2009, the team he coached was rated among the top four nationally. He also coached the Nutley Junior Raiders and was head coach and president of the league. And he supported the Nutley High School theater program by selling auditorium seat sponsors during the renovations.

Maiello is band director for Nutley High School. His teaching responsibilities include concert and marching bands and multiple jazz ensembles. He’s completing his 24th year as a teacher. This past fall, the Nutley Raider Marching Band was crowned USSBA Northern States Champions for best music, percussion and effect honors and was grand champion at the 2015 Gator Bowl, Tournament of Champions, which brought $10,000 in prize money to the high school. In 2009, the Nutley High music program was honored with a gala at Carnegie Hall and in 2008, the NHS Wind Ensemble gave a world premiere performance of Frank Ticheli’s “Angels in the Architecture” in the Sydney Opera House in Australia. The Wind Ensemble has won first place awards at festivals in Toronto (2005), Anaheim (2006), New York City (2007) and Jackson (2009). Maiello, selected as Teacher of the Year in 2009, performs as a trumpeter with the Ridgewood Concert Band and New Sussex Symphony.

Fleitell is a former two-term member of the Nutley Board of Education who served as guidance director and supervisor in the local district until her retirement in 2008. She is past president of the Radcliffe School PTA. She is a board member of the Nutley Family Service Bureau and is a past president of the NFS Women’s Auxiliary and chaired the Charity Ball. She is a founder and president of Nutley Thriving Survivors, a support program for women who live or work in Nutley who have battled breast cancer. The group organizes an annual walk/brunch, provide food for those undergoing treatment and companionship to women in need.

Petracco is the owner of Petracco and Sons, a local deli and catering facility. Petracco started in business many years ago when he began leasing and running the meat department at Foodrama on Washington Ave. Eventually, he opened his own business on Union Ave., eventually outgrowing that space and relocating to the site of the former Radcliffe Deli on Bloomfield Ave. For many years, Petracco has donated to a variety of causes and has supplied food and beverages to local senior citizens and athletic programs and community organizations. Petracco has coached baseball, basketball and other youth sports and sponsored Little League teams. He has helped provide residents with transportation to doctors’ offices and has donated food and supplies to the needy. In 2010, Petracco was elected mayor and serves as director of public safety.

This year’s honorees were selected by a panel consisting of chairman former Township Commissioner Walter Smith, Dr. Clarke, businessman John Brown, Schools Superintendent Russell Lazovick, community volunteer Anne Lynne Eisenfelder, former NJ Hometown and Nutley Sun editor Phil White and former Assemblyman Fred Scalera.

Now he’s running Montclair schools


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

Former Kearny schools chief Ron Bolandi has a new administrative school post, this time as interim superintendent of schools for the Montclair public schools.

Bolandi, who was appointed by vote of the Montclair Board of Education March 16, will begin his new job on April 1 and his term will end June 30, 2016. He’s replacing Penny MacCormack, who has resigned to take an education job in New York.

Superintendent’s pay in Montclair is $177,500 but Bolandi said his salary will be prorated, based on 260 days of service, so it will be about $680 per day.

For Bolandi, who served in Kearny from July 1, 2011, to Jan. 4, 2013, it will mark his first time in 22 years as a chief school administrator that he will be working for an appointive school board whose members are appointed by the mayor and whose budget is struck by the Board of School Estimate.

He foresees no problems adjusting to the system.

What he will be facing, however, is a local maelstrom over the recently administered first round of the state-mandated PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College & Careers) to grades 3 to 11.

The Montclair Times recently reported that possibly as many as 1,000 parents – in a district with close to 7,000 students – refused to allow their children to take the PARCC because of various concerns they have about the test. The district, according to the newspaper, has refused to share the number of opt-outs.

“They’re going through a lot of controversy and I’m going to do my best to calm things down,” Bolandi said. “My main objective is to bring all the different groups together and stop the arguing.” He also pledged to release the opt-out figures.

Still, when asked if he supported the use of PARCC, Bolandi didn’t try to hide his suspicion of the new testing vehicle. (Many Kearny parents reportedly kept their kids from taking the test although the district has yet to release the figures.)

“It’s hard to jump on board,” said Bolandi, “when you don’t know what it’s going to do to adjust instruction as an assessment tool.”

And compounding the uncertainty, he said, is the fact that, “The state [Department of Education] did a really bad job of presenting the PARCC to parents and educators. There’s been a lot of confusion around it. And if I as an educator have problems understanding it, I can’t blame parents [for having their kids opt out].”

Bolandi added that with all the emphasis placed by local districts preparing for the PARCC, regular classroom instruction took a back seat to the test. “If you’re going to take this much time, you’d better have a Cadillac system,” he said.

Before landing the Montclair post, Bolandi spent the past two years as interim superintendent in the Bedminster public school system. Asked if he wished he were back in Kearny, Bolandi said: “I do miss Kearny. I don’t miss the politics but I miss the people. There were a lot of good teachers, administrators and staff. And the kids were great but they were cheated by the crazy politics of the town. I always felt good about what I did there.”

He said he still maintains contact with some Kearny educators “and it seems like they’re doing a good job under [Superintendent] Patte [Blood],” who was director of secondary school instruction under Bolandi.

“I always want them to do well,” he said.

Thoughts & Views: Drive the lane you’re in & don’t foul up


It’s down to the Final Four. No, not NCAA teams. (Since I don’t follow basketball, I have no idea who’s still playing, if anyone.) I am talking about the Final Four in the NJDHTS tournament.

That acronym stands for the N.J. Division of Highway Traffic Safety. (Does Jersey have a Division of Local Streets Traffic Safety? It damn well should. Somebody talk to Christie, if he’s not wandering around somewhere in the Midwest.)

Anyway, the Final Four in the NJDHTS “March Driving Madness” tournament are: Texting & Driving, Yielding, Move Over Law and Headlight Use.

Speeding, Tailgating, Directional Use and Left Lane Travel have already bitten the blacktop. No surprise there. Jersey folk consider speeding, tailgating and left-lane travel to be constitutionally protected rights. As for misuse/nonuse of directional signals, many have no idea such equipment exists.

Before you become more confused, I shall explain.

Recently, we received a NJDHTS press release about “March Driving Madness,” which is “an online poll that is asking the state’s drivers which bad driving habits need to be fixed on the Garden State’s roads.”

My answer was, “All of them,” but that was not an option.

The tournament idea apparently was spawned in February after the division posted queries on Facebook and Twitter regarding N.J. drivers’ flaws.

Hundreds responded, with 28 different complaints.

From these, eight (cited above) were chosen for a tourney. More than 1,000 votes were tallied, resulting in the four finalists.

“The bad habits with the most votes will be the focus of public service announcements that the division plans to run on New Jersey’s radio airwaves in the coming months,” the release noted.

Personally, I think the Final Four are wise picks.

Headlights: Just as some drivers don’t know their car has directional signals, many obviously are unaware of low beams.

Yielding requires courtesy, and yo! this is Jersey. (BTW, on the Manhattan side of the Lincoln Tunnel, a N.J.-bound multi-lane approach route now carries signs saying “TAKE TURNS.” I fear for drivers who may be unfamiliar with colloquial English. Think about it.)

Re: texting and driving: I wonder how many voters in the poll sent their online responses while behind the wheel.

As for the Move Over Law, I always move over whenever any type of emergency vehicle approaches with lights flashing and siren wailing. If I am on a local street, I move over and stop until the vehicle passes by, which, it being an emergency vehicle, takes about 6 seconds. Even so, invariably the driver behind me starts honking in fury.

Someday, I know I will become the victim of road rage. I can only hope that the vehicle for which I have moved over is a police car so its occupant can arrest the motorist who has shot me.

For more about the “March Driving Madness” tournament (they may be down to the Terrible Two by now), visit the division’s web page, its Facebook page (New Jersey DHTS) or tweet @NJTraffic- Safety.

The champion will be announced April 6.

– Karen Zautyk 

Cops use Narcon to save life: NPD

Police intervention prevented a suspected drug-induced fatality, Nutley Police Chief Thomas Strumolo said. A Nutley PD press release said that police responded to a 911 medical call for help on Sunday, March 15, at 11:15 a.m., and, upon arrival, they found a 48-year-old Hillside Ave. man unconscious.

The release said that Officer Ted Duran determined “a possible overdose of prescribed medications and administered Naloxone (also known as Narcon), the intranasal spray which the NPD equipped officers with this year.”

The release said the victim was taken to an area hospital for further treatment. His identify was not provided.

Strumolo commended Durand for his quick action and noted that this incident marked the first such use of Narcan by Nutley PD. He said that police in several communities, similarly equipped with the spray, have saved numerous lives with it.

Mayor/Police Director Alphonse Petracco said that Narcon has great value, adding that now first responders – along with medics and doctors – can offer overdose victims a higher chance at survival.

• • •

Between March 21 and 27, the NPD responded to 28 medical calls, 15 motor vehicle accidents, 15 disputes, 16 suspicious incidents and the following:

March 21 

The manager of a Harrison St. business reported an attempted fraud by a Latino who reportedly tried to buy Visa gift cards by using several different credit cards for which he could not produce ID. The customer then fled, leaving a credit card and a wallet with the identification of its owner who later told police that the wallet had been stolen earlier that day from a gym in Clifton. Detectives are following up.

March 22 

Police responded to a Park Ave. location on a report of a low-hanging fire escape ladder. The victim told police they were walking east on Park when they hit their head on the ladder. Police managed to push the ladder up and secure it.

• • •

A Centre St. resident reported they had received a call from their neighbor that their apartment door was damaged and forced open. Police asked the resident to check if anything was missing. Detectives are investigating.

March 24 

Anibal Nieves, 34, of Newark, was stopped after he was reportedly driving erratically on a local street. Nieves was arrested on a DUI charge and taken to HQ where officers learned he had an active warrant from Newark. Before he was released to Newark PD, Nieves was issued additional summonses also charging him with refusal to take an Alcotest, careless driving and improper passing a double yellow line.

March 25 

A Hillside Ave. resident reported receiving a voicemail from someone claiming to be an IRS representative giving them final notice before being penalized monetarily for unpaid taxes. Police were unable to contact the caller.

• • •

The owner of a vehicle parked on Clement St. reported that someone entered their vehicle and removed a plastic jar containing change.

March 26 

Police responded to a Washington Ave. location on a report that a man wearing a tan Seahawks jacket and blue jeans was seen walking out of a neighbor’s driveway. Police arrested Edward Pancaro, 45, of Newark, after learning he was wanted on an active warrant from Clifton. Pancaro was turned over to Clifton PD.

• • •

Police were dispatched to a Washington Ave. business after a caller reported seeing two men in a white Ford van at the property. Police pulled over the van and, in questioning the pair, discovered that the driver, Danny Earp, 54, of Newark, was wanted on three warrants from Newark, one from Belleville and one from Parsippany. Earp was also given summonses for failure to exhibit a license and driving while suspended/revoked. He was turned over to Belleville PD.

• • •

Police conducted a motor vehicle check on Centre St. and arrested the driver, Geraldine Oquendo, 26, of Clifton, on charges of suspended license, expired registration and active warrant from Elizabeth. She was released after posting bail pending court dates.

March 27 

Police performed a traffic stop on River Road of a vehicle that came up as having an expired N.J. registration. Aldo Duran, 51, of Newark, was ticketed for driving without a license and expired registration. Police said he had two active warrants from North Bergen. He was released after posting bail pending court appearances.

– Ron Leir 

KPD blotter: You can run but . . .

A 16-year-old Kearny youth who was where he should not have been could have ended up with a trespassing charge. Instead, he ended up with that and several others, including possession of drugs with intent to distribute. Lesson:

When police say, “Stop!,” stop.

KPD Chief John Dowie said the youth, who is barred from being anywhere in or around Kearny High School, was spotted on the school property at 12:30 p.m. last Wednesday, March 25, by Officer Jack Grimm. When the officer approached, the kid ran, ignoring orders to halt, Dowie said.

He fled south on Devon St., west on Garfield Ave., across Kearny Ave. and down Afton St., with Grimm chasing him on foot the entire way, until the officer lost sight of him at Afton and Windsor Sts.

However, police knew that he lived on Windsor.

Sgt. John Taylor and Officer Adriano Marques went to the address, got permission to enter the building and found the door to the teen’s apartment open. Which conveniently permitted the scent of marijuana to waft into the hallway, police said. Inside, in plain view, was a large clear plastic bag, which was reportedly found to contain 23 smaller bags full of suspected weed.

Police left the building, but Marques kept his eyes open, observed the suspect walking in the area and took him into custody.

The teen was charged with defiant trespass, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, and possession with intent to distribute. He was released to a guardian pending a court appearance.

• • •

Other recent reports from the Kearny police blotter included the following:

March 21 

Officer Kevin Arnesman was on patrol near Davis Ave. and King St. at 5:30 p.m. when his random license-plate reader “pinged” on a passing 2002 Honda Civic, noting that its registered owner had a suspended license. The driver/ owner, Carissa Savage, 33, of North Arlington, was charged with the offense.

 March 23 

At 5 p.m., units were advised that the occupants of a 1992 Toyota had just fled a shoplifting at Kmart. Sgt. Peter Gleason, with Officer Phil Finch as backup, located and stopped the car at S. Midland and Passaic Aves.

Meanwhile, Officer Malinda Esposito went to the store and viewed security videos of the suspects, including a female who allegedly had stolen a phone charger. Police said the driver, Daniella Miranda, 19, of Kearny, was ID’d as the thief and was charged with shoplifting.

Gleason recognized the passenger, Jalen Diaz, 18, of Kearny, from prior interaction and confirmed that he had an outstanding contempt-of-court, no-bail warrant from the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, police said. He was taken into custody and the HCSO was notified.

• • •

Vice detectives at Chestnut and Hoyt Sts., at 5:10 p.m., saw a man standing between two parked cars, inspecting a small plastic bag. As they approached, he tossed it to the curb, but it was recovered. Victor Colon, 20, of Kearny, was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

March 25 

Shortly before midnight, headquarters received a complaint that a Ford pickup was wandering the Walmart lot, its occupants begging for money.

Officers John Travelino and Christian Medina, arriving in separate patrol cars, boxed it in.

Police said the driver, Danny Eli, 29, of Queens, N.Y., was found to have a suspended license and three warrants: a $2,500 criminal complaint out of Woodbridge and $100-bail MV violations from Newark and Cranford. He was arrested and also charged with driving while suspended, driving an uninsured vehicle and failure to have a car seat for an infant. (Police said there was a baby lying across the laps of two women in the back seat.)

The truck was impounded and towed. One of the women and the baby were escorted into the store so she could make arrangements to be picked up.

The other apparently accompanied Eli to HQ.

March 26 

Officers Ben Wuelfing and Tom Pontrella were dispatched to a 2:45 a.m. accident between a Honda CRV and a Jaguar on Rt. 7 near Fish House Road in South Kearny. As Wuelfing was interviewing the Honda driver, he reportedly detected the odor of alcohol. After field sobriety tests and an Alcotest, Pauline Ksepko, 21, of Bayonne, was charged with DWI, reckless driving, and driving against the flow of traffic. Police said the driver of the Jaguar — a 27-yearold West Orange woman — declined medical attention. Both cars were towed from the scene.

• • •

Anthony Joana, 40, of Kearny, was arrested at 9 a.m. at a Belgrove Drive residence by Officers Steven Hroncich and John Fabula and Sgt. Paul Bershefski pursuant to a $1,000 Kearny contemptof- court warrant stemming from a July incident in which he allegedly made threats against KPD officers.

• • •

At 3:30 p.m., Officer Pat Becker responded to the report of a Walmart shoplifter fleeing in a gold-colored car on Harrison Ave. toward Rt. 280. Becker and Sgt. John Taylor stopped a gold 2002 Chevy operated by Charles Robinson, 51, of East Orange, who was arrested after he was found to have a suspended license and a $4,000 Roselle Park warrant (for driving while suspended), police said. His passenger, Eric Jackson, 49, of Newark, was charged with shoplifting after Walmart security ID’d him, police said. He allegedly had tried to take two speakers.

• • •

At 4:05 p.m., Officer Brian Wisely saw a 1999 Mitsubishi travelling erratically and at a high rate of speed from East Newark into Kearny. He followed it to Johnston Ave. and Maple St., where the driver parked in a prohibited zone and both occupants exited the vehicle. During questioning, passenger Anthony Parker, 24, of Bloomfield, appeared to be “very nervous,” police said. Sgt. Scott Traynor and two vice detectives went to the scene and separated driver and passenger, who reportedly gave conflicting stories. Police said Parker then admitted to having a hypodermic needle and heroin.

A search reportedly produced the needle, a glassine fold of heroin and three vials of cocaine. (Editor’s note: For once, a fold of heroin did not bear a “brand” name; it must have been generic.) Parker was charged with possession of all the prohibited items.

The driver, a 24-yearold Kearny male, was issued summonses for careless driving and the parking violation.

– Karen Zautyk

34-month sentence for embezzler


A receptionist who embezzled nearly half-a-million dollars from a medical office in Kearny and used fraudulent credit cards to obtain more than $200,000 in goods and services was sentenced last week to 34 months in prison, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Gwendolyn Muller, 53, formerly of Kearny, had pleaded guilty in Newark federal court in October to one count each of embezzlement, credit card fraud and tax evasion. At the time, authorities said she faced up to 25 years — 10 each on the fraud and embezzlement counts, five for tax evasion.

The 34-month term was handed down March 24 by U.S. District Judge William J. Martini, who also ordered Muller to pay restitution of $556,000.

She will face three years of supervised release following incarceration.

While employed at the medical practice from 2007 through 2011, authorities reported, Muller used her position to take, cash and conceal more than $446,000 in checks paid by insurance companies for services to patients.

Court documents noted that, as the receptionist, she handled the mail and had unsupervised access to the office computer system, which she used to conceal the embezzlement.

During the same period, Muller also fraudulently obtained 10 credit cards in the name of a principal of the practice and used these to charge approximately $218,000 in personal goods and services.

Fishman’s office said Muller also admitted to filing a false tax return to evade taxes on the illegally obtained income.

Authorities did not disclose Muller’s post-Kearny place of residence.

Fishman’s office also told The Observer that, since it was not part of the public record, they could not reveal the name of the medical office where she had worked.

– Karen Zautyk