New rec boss eyes expansion

Photo by Ron Leir Ralph Cattafi
Photo by Ron Leir
Ralph Cattafi


The Town of Kearny has a new Parks & Recreation director, although the individual in the post is by no means new to the job.

Ralph Cattafi, a former one term-councilman from 1996 to 1997, has been the No. 2 man in the Parks & Rec Department since 2007 and has been running the office with a part-time clerical assistant since his predecessor Philip Martone retired about two years ago.

On June 9, the town governing body voted to appoint Cattafi as director at an annual salary of $84,020.

Mayor Alberto Santos said that Cattafi “meets the [town’s] qualifications” for the job, based on education and experience in the recreation field.

No state Civil Service exam is required for the position, Santos said.

While there is only one part-time clerical employee in the department, Santos noted there are “numerous recreation programs, along with umpires, referees and coaches” that a director is called upon to oversee.

“Ralph is a levelheaded person and has acquired the supervisory skills needed for a job of this kind,” Santos said, “and I think he’s a good choice for the position.”

After working for Driver Harris, a manufacturer of metal products, Cattafi applied for a municipal job and began his career in the town’s Parks & Rec Department as a clerk in 1998.

After a few years, Cattafi said he “went back to college” and got a degree in recreation administration from Kean University in 2006. Soon after, he was promoted to assistant supervisor and has continued in the post until his most recent elevation.

“I’m very grateful to the mayor and council, especially to Councilman [Michael] Landy as recreation liaison, and to the Recreation Commission, for showing confidence in me,” Cattafi said. “I truly appreciate that.”

“We’ve got close to 2,000 kids – ranging from pre-K to eighth grade with some from high school – in our programs and our numbers have been growing in most sports,” Cattafi said.

During the next few years, Cattafi said he hopes to expand the offerings for the teens and to include adults, possibly starting with a volleyball program.

Meanwhile, there is the matter of the turfing work planned for Veterans Field on Belgrove Drive where the fall football teams normally play but the field will be off-limits while work progresses between August and Thanksgiving, he said.

“It’s not going to be difficult [to relocate those games],” Cattafi said. “[Kearny High School athletic director] John Millar has assured me that the Board of Education will be giving us the use of Franklin School field and the high school football field so we’ll use both for our practices and the high school field for our home games.”

And, once the artificial grass surface is in place at Veterans Field, all weather-related issues that can force cancelation of games should be a thing of the past, Cattafi said.

An added benefit, Cattafi said, is that as part of the Veterans Field job specifications, the contractor will be laying down lines for lacrosse which he hopes to break in as a new town rec sport by fall 2016.

“We’ll probably start with junior high kids and then introduce the game to some of the lower grades,” he said. “It’s an up and coming sport.”

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