News in brief …



An old stone bridge on Mill St. in Belleville that reportedly once led to the entrance of the former Rolling Hills copper mine camp has itself been seriously undermined, residents said last week.

Work crews assembling a new residential complex at Mill and Franklin Ave. have been hauling in building supplies across and around the bridge, which dates from the 1830s, and are erecting a new bridge adjacent to it, possibly having caused gaps in its stone walls, residents said.

At around the same time, neighbors said they discovered a stream of cascading water under the bridge which was later found to stem from a water main break in the area. Resident Mary Higgins, who lives near the site, speculated that vibrations from the heavy equipment used at the construction site may have weakened the pipes underneath, causing the rupture.

Deputy Mayor/Councilman Steven Rovell said that when the township Planning Board green-lighted the restricted age housing project, it set down as one of the conditions of approval that the developer restore the bridge, which, he said, has been “in deplorable shape.”

But Higgins and others fear that the township has turned a blind eye to the bridge’s integrity by allowing its demise to open up more space for the developer to expand.

“Nobody’s taking it down,” Rovell said. “We all agree that it’s something to be preserved. People are creating havoc over nothing. When you have this type of construction, maybe the vibrations may have accidentally caused damage. Who knows?”

Nonetheless, Higgins – who, as a child, used to play in the “Peter Pan” caves below the bridge – bemoaned the loss of a once bucolic space with the removal of many sycamore trees and disruption of wildlife. She worried that the environmental hit, combined with construction and the compromised bridge structure, could cause the Second River to flood from winter drain-off. “This is no less than destruction of neighborhood history,” she said.



Efforts by Harrison to strike a tax settlement with the owners of the Red Bull Arena property have been stalled again.

Both sides, along with the Hudson County Improvement Authority, have been conducting negotiations through a court-appointed mediator to resolve the matter.

But the parties were unable to meet the April 25 state Supreme Court deadline to nail down terms – on which the town had previously signed off weeks ago – that proposed a compromise, giving Harrison an initial PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) of $1.3 million and escalating a bit each year thereafter and directing the HCIA – as, essentially, the new owner of the property – to issue up to $1 million in bonds for future improvements to the stadium as needed.

Now, according to Harrison Mayor James Fife, the court has extended that deadline until after the summer.

Fife said the mediator recommended that the court allow more time for the parties to continue talks so the case “is now off the court agenda and on again for the fall session, possibly for October.”

Asked to account for the delay in reaching consensus, Fife said it has to do with “the guarantees we have to make if something [unexpected] happens.” He declined to elaborate, other than to say, “it’s a very complicated matter.”

HCIA counsel William Netchert couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Red Bull ownership have taken the position that both the land and the stadium should be designated as tax-exempt property.


The Archdiocese of Newark is looking to dispose of part of the St. Anthony’s parish property in East Newark and the borough is putting itself in a position to take the property.

On April 13, the mayor and Borough Council adopted an ordinance that would authorize the borough to acquire the parish center/recreation facility, including [through] the exercise of eminent domain, if advisable.”

Archdiocesan spokesman Jim Goodness confirmed that the Newark Archdiocese, which controls the property, has been putting out feelers for potential buyers but that no firm decisions have been made to date.

East Newark Mayor Joseph Smith said that, “the Archdiocese is looking to consolidate by getting rid of the property – they’re serious about selling it.”

“Back in 2005 or 2006,’’ when the borough had informal discussions with the Archdiocese about the property, Smith said, “we did a study and we found some environmental issues associated with the building,” including the presence of asbestos and a 1,000-gallon underground fuel tank.

Now, he said, “we’re still talking about it,” but the borough isn’t quite ready to pull the trigger. Asked what use the borough intended for the property, Smith said the site is zoned “for public use. You could put a parking lot or some type of school there.”

If there are plans for possibly a new school or school addition to aid the already cramped East Newark Elementary School, nobody has shared such a vision with Patrick Martin, the school’s superintendent/principal, who said no one from the borough has mentioned that possibility to him.

Martin said he has been searching for additional educational space, on behalf of the East Newark Board of Education, including the vacant Holy Cross School in nearby Harrison, thus far with no results.

On paper, the 0.135 acre parish center, at 446 No. Second St., is listed as being assessed at $450,000 and its 0.15 acre adjoining parking area (three lots with John St. addresses) at $58,200.

At this point, Smith said, whether the borough can perhaps negotiate a price with the Archdiocese or seize the land via eminent domain, is unclear. “It’s still up in the air,” he said. – Ron Leir

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