Top news stories reported in 2011


Some of the white stuff that pommelled the area this past winter.


Compiled by Jeff Bahr &
Anthony Machcinski

New Year’s 2011 literally came in with a bang in the town of Kearny when shots were fired at a New Year’s Eve party on Patterson St. A 19-year-old Newark man, unhappy that he wasn’t permitted access to the party, lost his temper and fired a handgun at a 25-year-old Harrison resident. Fortunately, the man survived. The shooter was later arrested and charged with attempted homicide and a slew of other serious charges.
Another episode of violence followed with the discovery of a dead body found in Belleville in a condo parking lot. The victim had been beaten and shot and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Harrison also saw its share of gun violence. A Quick-Chek convenience store clerk received the shock of her life when two men demanded “money, money, money” and proceeded to fire a shot into the floor for emphasis. After temporarily holding a customer as hostage, the two made off with approximately $700, the total contents of the cash drawer.
A 26-year-old North Arlington man with a penchant for viewing child pornography got his just desserts to the tune of 10 years in the federal pokey after he pleaded guilty to distribution of child pornography.
A revamped 911 system gave Hudson County residents a quicker and more reliable link to emergency services.
Kearny earned an inauspicious “honor” when Michael Trueba, 75, vice-president of the International Longshoreman’s Union and one of the town’s most prominent citizens, was indicted as part of a massive Mafia roundup. How large was it?  According to Attorney General Eric Holder, it was one of the biggest Mafia roundups in the agency’s history. No less than 120 alleged “wise guys” were indicted on charges ranging from illegal gambling and drug trafficking all the way up to murder. Trueba was charged with extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion.

Snow, snow and more snow continued to cover The Observer’s “coverage” area, a messy fact that saw town maintenance workers scurrying to find places to deposit nature’s frozen bounty. Somehow, they prevailed.
The month saw something other than snow fall when a new middle-school proposal was knocked down by Lyndhurst voters. Said Mayor Richard DiLascio of the failed proposal: “These parents who voted against it (the proposal), their actions didn’t help the children.” Ouch!
Bedbugs continued to bite but perhaps none was bitten harder than TVP Pest Control of Newark which was fined $860,000 by the DEP for misusing hazardous chemicals in its fight against the nasty little critters. Some 50 houses and apartments, including several in Kearny and Harrison, were tainted with dangerously inappropriate chemicals including Malathion and Carbaryl.
Two little “buggers” of the drug-dealing variety were nabbed in a sizable Nutley drug bust.  Heroin, marijuana, hashish and assorted drug paraphernalia were found at a Nutley residence when police executed a search warrant of the premises.
Three uninvited “stooges” were apprehended shortly after they crashed a Kearny birthday party and allegedly assaulted the guest of honor and his girlfriend. The three culprits (aged 16, 19 and 20) were charged with various offenses.

A suspect came up smelling nothing like roses after he was arrested for stuffing $180 worth of deodorants in his pants at a Kearny Rite-Aid. But the heist wasn’t the only thing that registered as foul. Eric Warren of Newark attempted to resist arrest when officers approached him.  The arrest was the 75th in a protracted criminal career. For his prolific law-breaking run, Warren received 15 years in the can. That’s “can” as in jail – not deodorant.
Speaking of foul, the Rev. James J. Reilly of Kearny’s Our Lady of Sorrows Church was arrested on Feb. 15 for allegedly lightening the church’s coffers by some $75,000 dollars.  Talk about fallen angels.


The Rev. James Reilly pleaded guilty to taking money from a Kearny church.

Other misadventures in the land of miscreants included a foiled burglary, compliments of capable Sgt. John Becker of the Kearny Police Department.  The one-man crime-buster singlehandedly subdued and handcuffed two alleged culprits who were holding two people at gunpoint. Well played, sir.
Proving that the town of Harrison is no slouch in reeling in the bad guys, the Harrison Police Dept. nabbed three suspects, all from New York, with $34,000 in stolen money from a Rennsselaer, N.Y. nightclub.
Kearny resident Fernanda Lois received a well-earned certificate of achievement from the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission for her environmental efforts focusing on the Passaic River. As a rower with the Kearny High School’s crew team, Lois saw firsthand the negative effects that litter and debris were having on the river. She took action by organizing a team of some 90 volunteers who removed over 20 yards of debris from the river. “I applaud Ms. Lois on her extraordinary efforts in not only helping to provide a cleaner environment, but also for setting an example for other local students to follow,” said the Commission’s Executive Director Wayne J. Forrest.

Tragically proving the cautionary statement  “speed kills,” three West Hudson people lost their lives on April 2 when their car impacted a steel pole on Rt. 22 in Hillside. Lost were Danilo Xavier, 23, and Robson Pinheiro, 21, of Kearny, and Luis Dossantos, 22, of East Newark.
Kearny formally announced their choices for the town’s Finest and Bravest of the year. Police Officer of the Year honors went to Neil Nelson, while William Crockett Jr. became Firefighter of the Year.
A federal grant for $285,000 helped offset the purchase of a $550,000 dollar pumper truck sorely needed by the North Arlington Fire Dept. The old truck, a 1984 model, had fallen short of meeting upgraded safety regulations.
“There are two sure things in life,” a popular saying tells us. “Death and taxes.” There’s also criminal charges for those who cheat on paying taxes as Bloomfield resident, Rigot Joseph, rather harshly found out. As sole owner of RJM Professional Tax Services in East Orange, Rigot was named in a 12-count indictment for knowingly aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of false tax returns.
It was announced that the Wittpenn Bridge, a hazardous depression-era span that crosses the Hackensack River linking Kearny with Jersey City, would be replaced. A waterfront walkway beside the new span was also mentioned.
Taking the “charity starts at home” idea to deceptive levels, Michael Arpaio learned that honesty is the best policy. The Belleville man was indicted by a federal grand jury in Newark for allegedly extorting a nonprofit company that collects used clothing from bins located in Bloomfield, Kearny, Belleville and other towns.

Teenagers and pranks are nearly synonymous but such “fun” acts can sometimes carry hefty consequences. Mark Burke, 18, of Kearny, was joyfully riding on the trunk of his friend’s Nissan.  When the brakes were applied Burke lost his grip.  In an instant, the young man’s life was snuffed out and his friend’s existence was forever changed.
Three suspects who had just taken part in a brazen home invasion in North Arlington received their comeuppance when their getaway car became wedged between a FedEx truck and a Jeep on Wilson Ave. in Kearny. Police quickly arrested the trio, and the three-man crime wave was vanquished.
William Ruff, a young actor from Harrison High School, flexed his thespian muscles forcefully enough to win the Governor’s Award for excellence in acting.
Proving when luck is with you, skill isn’t always necessary, a Kearny teenager lost control of his car as he was reaching for something in the glove compartment. After striking a curb, the car crashed into  a utility pole causing it to flip over. Perhaps no one was more surprised that the teen himself who managed to climb out of the vehicle completely unscathed.

In a bizarre bid for laughs, 53-year-old Sonia Horvaht of East Newark may have thought, “Why should youthful stupidity be wasted on the young?” seconds before she decided to steal a Kearny Police SUV and take it for a joy ride. Continuing her pursuit of high times, Horvaht unintentionally played “bumper cars” in a series of high-speed accidents, the last of which was serious enough to trap her inside the vehicle. After firemen extricated the fun-loving woman, police charged her with numerous crimes.  “All who play eventually pay ” is her lesson learned.
Kearny police officers did their part in carrying the torch during the 28th Annual Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey.
The three following West Hudson senior citizens were honored for their civic contributions: Joseph A. Cundari of Harrison, Hugh Dalzell of Kearny, and Carmen Britez of East Newark.


Hurricane Irene caused flooding throughout the region.


A Kearny woman pleaded guilty in Federal Court to wire fraud, money laundering, and impersonating a government official. Rosa Blake, 55,  “orchestrated a scheme to defraud dozens of immigrants out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by pretending she could help them become U.S. Citizens.”
Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos and the Town Council adopted stricter requirements for dealers of second-hand precious metals and jewelry to enhance the ability of law enforcement to identify stolen jewelry in a timely matter.
The Harrison Fire Department revised its “Table of Organization” by reducing the number of battalion chiefs from four to none and cutting the captains from 13 to five.
The Kearny Generals Cheerleading Squad took the division title at the Eastern Cheer Association National Championships in Virginia.
A 54-year-old East Orange man was fatally shot in his car in Belleville.

The Harrison Courts held a Legends game as part of the Major League Soccer All-Star game festivities. It was the first time that Tab Ramos, John Harkes, and Tony Meola, who helped give Kearny the moniker of “Soccertown, USA” were together at a soccer event in ages.
Harrison Fire Chief Tom Dolaghan retired after more than three decades of service with the Harrison Fire Department.
A Newark woman who does her shopping in Nutley was arrested after she left her children, including two babies, locked in a van at the ShopRite parking lot.
Several towns across the area held their National Night Out Against Crime.
The Observer started its annual Kentucky Care project, benefitting hundreds of families in the Appalachia region of Kentucky.
A 23-year-old Harrison man was accused of murdering his parents and 3-year-old niece in what was considered one of the most gruesome crime scenes of the year. Carlos P. Campos, a 2006 Harrison High School graduate turned himself into police shortly after the murders.
A man who held up the TD Bank in Lyndhurst escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash. The man entered the bank at about 9:50 a.m. on Aug. 15 and removed money from the cash drawers at several tellers’ stations.
Hurricane Irene slammed into the area, leaving thousands without power and leaving behind extensive damage. One person died in the aftermath in Kearny and several cars became stranded while trying to negotiate flooded roads. Extensive damage included downed trees and power lines, and flood damage to several homes and businesses.

September 11, 2011 marked the 10-year anniversary of the tragedy of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Many events around town were held to remember the victims of one of the most devastating attacks to ever take place on American soil. We will never forget.
Kearny Police talked a jumper off the railroad trestle at Passaic and Johnston Aves. The 44-year-old man was cooperative and was taken Clara Maas Medical Center for evaluation.
Nutley Police officer Matthew Canova saved a young woman trapped in a car after she got stuck in floodwaters resulting from Hurricane Lee at Rutgers Pl. and Passaic Ave. After she put the car in neutral, Canova pushed the car and its occupant to safety.
Soccer madness triggered three stabbings outside the Red Bull Arena after a game between Columbia and Honduras.
Kearny held its second annual Townwide Yard Sale with great success.

Volunteers load truck with supplies bound for Appalachia as part of The Observer’s Kentucky Care project.


George Pena, 21,  jumped into the Passaic River early October 1 after he was found shirtless in southbound traffic on Passaic Ave. Kearny Police attempted to help Pena, who appeared to be drunk, when Pena ran toward the river near the railroad trestle and disappeared. After a massive search by several townships, Pena’s body was found in the waters behind Pathmark on Passaic Ave.
Kearny resident Cheryl Olcheski was given the Betty Flood Award of Excellence award from PSE&G. Olcheski is a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Northern New Jersey whose job involves helping the victims of all types of natural disasters.
Tragedy occurred in Mountain Lakes after Kearny resident Leonardo Parera walked into his Mountain Lakes office and fatally shot office manager Christine Capone King. Parera called police, saying, “I just killed someone” and warned the dispatcher that he was heavily armed and that the situation could “escalate.” When officers arrived, he began shooting and police returned fire, killing Parera. Parera’s motives for the murder are unknown, but it may well have been a case of “suicide by cop.”
The Lyndhurst Board of Education changed its Math curriculum for primary students, focusing on a problem solving and model drawing. The program is directly aligned to the state common core standards and offers a good blend of both hands-on and ‘skill and drill’ exercises.
A freak October snowstorm hit the area on Halloween weekend. Many homes throughout the area lost power and several hundred anywhere from four to six inches of snowfall in what was the most bizarre weather-related incident of 2011.

Karen Comer announced her retirement as the Harrison health officer after 25 years on the job.
Nutley Police responded to a silent alarm at the TD Bank on Franklin Ave. between Church and William Sts. Police arrested 49-year-old Michael Evans and charged him with robbing the bank after tbey found him hiding in a nearby yard on Alexander St. in Newark.
Nine inductees were sent into the Nutley Hall of Fame. The honorees were Cathleen Benko, Larry Brancaccio, Tina Cervasio, Angela Christiano, Lloyd Goodrich, Frank Lautenberg, Earl Reeder, Al Welenofsky, and Linda Lautenschlaeger Stamato.
Designs came in for playgrounds at Washington, Jefferson, and Roosevelt Schools in North Arlington. The old playgrounds, which had been neglected and required much help, will be replaced in time for children to play on them by next spring and summer.
Harrison Schools Superintendent James Doran announced that students would be getting free breakfast. Research found that students who ate before testing and classes performed better in the classroom.
After minor delays, The Observer’s Kentucky Care project arrived in Cordia, KY. The project helped hundreds of families in an area where the average household income is $11,297 according to the 2000 Census.
Several acres of land off of Porete Ave. in North Arlington remained on the selling block. The former Bethlehem Steel and Bergen County Utilities Authority sites were put up for auction, but failed to lure buyers.

The former Bethlehem Steel and Bergen County Utilities Authority sites failed to lure buyers.


The coverage area kicked off the holiday season with tree lightings and holiday festivities.
Demolition began at the old Hartz Mountain complex in Harrison. The site, which is being developed by Heller Urban Renewal, will create 600 new residential units. The parcel is within walking distance of the Harrison PATH station.
The West Hudson Arts & Theatre Company opened at the Arlington Players Club with its production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The theatre performed the show roughly a month after the troupe’s inception – a remarkable feat considering the intricacies involved.
Nutley Mayor Joanne Cocchiola stepped down with five months left in her term. She vacated the position so the Township Council could appoint her to fill the vacancy created by the recent death of Judge Michael Viola.
Bloomfield unveiled a mural on the overpass on the east side of John F. Kennedy Blvd. that links the football complex with Maple and Spruce Sts.
Harrison Public Library celebrated its 100th birthday.

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