News in Brief


A Belleville man has been sentenced to two years in prison for accepting bribes in exchange for smuggling contraband into the Essex County Correctional Facility while he was employed there as a corrections officer.

The former guard, John Grosso, 42, previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit extortion, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reported. U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler imposed the sentence Dec. 2 in Newark Federal Court.

According to authorities, Grosso admitted that, in December 2013, he agreed to accept cash bribes in return for his assistance in smuggling cell phones and cigarettes to an inmate at the jail, a federal pretrial detention facility in Newark.

Grosso reportedly met with a relative of the inmate in Secaucus to accept the items and bribe before delivering them. In addition to the prison term, Grosso will serve one year of supervised release.

– Karen Zautyk 


By state law, a place of worship or a charitable organization is tax-exempt but a partial exception will soon be made for one Kearny church, Town Assessor John Peneda said.

Last Wednesday, the Kearny Planning Board authorized Verizon Wireless to install nine cellular antennae 69 feet above the ground atop the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church, 663 Kearny Ave., to remedy a communications coverage gap in the area, according to testimony by Verizon representatives.

Aside from the antennae, which the company plans to partly mask by enclosing them in a container, Verizon represented that it will also be placing some equipment in the church basement, setting up a generator in a 15-foot-long by 9-foot-wide and 4-inch deep concrete slab, along with fencing and shrubbery on the grounds, Peneda said.

Verizon witnesses told the board that in order to be properly maintained, the company planned to run the generator one hour every two weeks during daylight hours.

Since the church will be collecting a fee from Verizon for allowing the company to utilize its property for its profit-making enterprise, Peneda said the town has a right to assess the portion of the church property being used for that purpose and collect the appropriate taxes.

As a parallel case, Peneda cited the American Legion Post 99 on Belgrove Drive where OmniPoint Communications installed cellular equipment on a flag pole in the post’s parking lot for which the town nets $5,163 a year in taxes.

Records in the town construction office show there is at least one other cellular installation in the Arlington Memorial Park cemetery that is also taxed.

Peneda said he plans to confer with a commercial appraiser for guidance before placing an assessment on the relevant portion of the church property.

– Ron Leir 


Ten months after the application was filed, the Belleville Zoning Board of Adjustment has nixed plans by a property owner/developer to add more apartments to his Brighton Ave. building.

After having heard numerous concerns from neighbors about potential problems arising from density, parking and flooding issues – plus conflicting testimony by the applicant’s experts about a survey of the property – the board voted 6-1 last Thursday to reject the application.

The applicant, Anthony Calandra, of Brighton Gardens LLC, had proposed back in August 2014 to install eight new basement rental apartments in his two-story with basement, 33-unit residential building at 138-146 Brighton Ave. which was built in 1972.

The original application called for 11 new apartments but it was later downsized to eight.

Belleville attorney Robert Gaccione represented Calandra at several board hearings on the application. It is not known whether the applicant plans to file an appeal of the board’s decision.

Calandra had hoped to lease or buy land near the apartment building that was determined to be part of the old Morris Canal and, therefore, owned by the township, which, according to a representation by township attorney Tom Murphy, declined the offer.

Calandra had proposed to increase the number of onsite parking spaces, from the current 43 to 63, and undertake improvements to drainage, lighting and traffic circulation at the site. He also was seeking bulk variances for what he characterized as pre-existing conditions.

– Ron Leir 

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