The news stories that made headlines in 2016

Compiled by Ron Leir & Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondents

It was another banner year for coverage of the news in the eight towns The Observer serves – Kearny, Harrison, East Newark, North Arlington, Lyndhurst, Nutley, Belleville and Bloomfield. Here, then, is a look back at the stories that made headlines in The Observer through 2016.


The year starts off with a splash – but not a good one, to say the least – when a 71-year-old man accidentally drives his Honda CRV into the Third River in Nutley. Residents, police and fire personnel jump into the river and save the man’s life. The Honda is submerged but a crane pulls it from the river ultimately.

In Holmdel, a Nutley man is arrested for pretending to be a NJ State Trooper. Unfortunately for the wanna-be cop, Richard Goldrick, while playing cop, he winds up pulling over an off-duty Woodbridge cop, Sgt. Charles Stab. Stab knows something isn’t right with the pullover and he calls for help, leading to Goldrick’s arrest.

In the middle of the month, the Rev. Joseph Girone announces he’s leaving Holy Cross Church, Harrison, as its pastor. Girone holds the position for one, six-year term. News of his departure upsets many in the parish community.

At the Kearny reorganization meeting, Mayor Alberto G. Santos announces his continued call for a train station to return to town. Kearny last has an NJ Transit Station in 2002 – part of the Boonton Line.

Meanwhile, at Harrison’s reorganization meeting, Dave Doyle, of the Harrison Police Department, is promoted from sergeant to lieutenant. Henry Zeinowicz, of the Harrison Fire Department, is promoted from lieutenant to captain and Stephen Spera moves from firefighter to lieutenant.

Tim Sharples, who was Kearny’s chief of police for a short term in the late 1990s, dies and is memorialized in a column written by Kevin Canessa. Shaples is 67 at the time of his death.

Axel Rodriguez makes the news but for all the wrong reasons. It’s the third time in just a few short weeks Rodriguez is arrested by the Kearny PD and charged with theft/shoplifting.

On Jan. 13, some 13 rookies are sworn into the Kearny PD, bringing the total number of officers to 109.

A year before 2017, Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos announces early-stage plans for a grand celebration of the town’s 150th anniversary. Linda Kraus D’Isa, a Kearny Urban Enterprise Zone consultant, is hired to submit a proposal to promote the milestone anniversary.

Kevin Esposito, the interim business manager in Belleville, resigns to focus solely on his role as assessor. He does this because a revaluation is forthcoming.

The Radiology Center, Lyndhurst, announces through an Observer Business Review that it operates a completely open MRI. It’s reportedly the only one in the area.

As January ends, friends, relatives and elected officials attend the dedication of the Dr. Stanley J. Siwek Health Center, Harrison. The clinic serves the underprivileged of the area – and is named after the doctor who, for six decades, served Harrison and West Hudson alike.

In Kearny, meanwhile, teachers declare an impasse in talks for a new contract. Teachers have been working without a contract since June 30, 2014.

Following a major snowstorm, all local towns remind residents about curb-to-curb plowing.

In North Arlington, Leo Bellino becomes the borough’s new library director, replacing Kristin Nelson, who vacated the position in 2015.

At Walmart, three employees – Rashonda Solomon of Bloomfield, Jasmine Williams of Newark and Katrina Robertson of Newark – are arrested after reportedly using a cell phone to film a 16-year-old girl using the ladies’ room at the store.

In Belleville, it’s Nutley Commissioner Maura Tucci who becomes the township’s new manager (though Tucci held the position previously.) There are some protests about Tucci being an elected official in the “next town over,” but Tucci settles into the position by January’s end, though he’s still, at this point, unaware of what his salary is to be.


The shortest month of the year begins with perhaps the biggest story of the year when Eric Pleger, then 45, is arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the killing his wife in the couple’s North Arlington Riverview Gardens apartment. A neighbor asks the North Arlington Police Department to perform a welfare check on Luisa Pleger – and when they arrive, the find her lifeless body inside the apartment. The cause of death is blunt-force trauma to the head. Eric Pleger is a 1988 alumnus of Kearny High School.

Meanwhile, Kearny’s police unions get a new 4-year contract, but they also agree to longer shift and an elimination of longevity pay for new hires. The department’s table of organization drops from 120 to 100 members.

Under a grant, eight new members join the Kearny FD. They eight new members’ salaries are paid by a federal SAFER grant. While at the academy, the probies are paid a $33,000 salary.

Officials in Harrison announce an anticipated 2019 opening for the town’s new primary school.

In Bloomfield, Councilman Elias Chalet, charged with accepting a $15,000 bribe from a local business owner, is indicted. New charges include official misconduct, bribery in official and political matters, acceptance of receipt of unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior, tamoering with or fabricating physical evidence and hindering apprehension or prosecution. Chalet was free on $100,000 bail.

In Nutley, 19 cars are burgled over a five-day span. The trend continues throughout the year in the normally quiet Essex County township.

February is also the first month Kearny resident Barbara Third-Drobovics spots bald eagles in uplands Kearny.

Kearny officials being to discuss how handicapped parking spaces are allotted.

In Belleville, interim Township Manager Tucci finally gets a contract – he’s paid $139,500 a year and is given a township vehicle he can use 24 hours a day.

The Lyndhurst police union receives a bump in salary – 2% for 2016 and 2% for 2017.

Hudson Arts & Science Charter School, opening for the next academic year, announces the maximum class size will be 20. It occupies the former St. Stephen’s School/Mater Dei Academy on Midland Ave., Kearny.

In Nutley, police Chief Thomas Strumolo announces an increase in ATM skimmers being found on machines in the township. He warns anyone using an ATM to check first before inserting a card into a machine.


In the third month of the year, the Township of Nutley sees an increase in ATM skimmers being found. Det. Sgt. Anthony Montanari, of the NPD, demonstrates what the skimmers look like – and offers recommendations on how to detect whether an ATM has such a device attached to it.

Officials in Belleville announce the possibility of taxing Clara Maass Medical Center. The news comes as a judicial decision allows taxation of Morristown Medical Center.

Officials in Kearny anticipate potential trouble with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority which owns the Keegan Landfill. Mayor Alberto Santos says he wants the NJSEA out when its contract expires June 30.

In North Arlington, a deer makes its way into North Arlington Middle School. It travels from office to office while school was in session – but no one was really ever in any kind of danger. The Bergen County Animal Shelter tranquilizes the deer to remove it.

Meanwhile, The United Irish of West Hudson hosts its 43rd annual St. Patrick’s Day along Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard and Kearny Ave. Though chilly, the weather holds up and a nice crowd formed along the parade route.

The Board of Education and Board of Commissioners in Lyndhurst announce plans for a $19 million referendum to pay for improvements to all elementary schools and Lyndhurst High School. This, of course, is in addition to building a new Lincoln School for grades 7, 8 and 9.

March also includes a feature story about Dr. Ayman Ibrahim, a Bloomfield neurologist who may be one of the world’s most educated doctors. Ibrahim completed medical school twice – once in his native Egypt and once in the United States several years later. Ibrahim says he wants to be well versed in the differences between medicine in Egypt and America.

The state’s Division on Civil Rights announces a civil rights suit against the owners of Kearny Auto Spa. A former employee, a lesbian, alleges she faced significant discrimination while on the job.

Meanwhile, the NJSEA tells the Town of Kearny it can stick it – they’re not vacating the Keegan Landfill after June 30.

In Harrison, reps from the town and New York Red Bulls announce an agreement – the team won’t pay property taxes, but they’ll pay an annual PILOT and will remain in Harrison for at least 20 more years.

After seeing a lot of ATM skimmers, now it’s car break-ins on the rise in Nutley. Chief Thomas Strumolo urges residents of Nutley – and everywhere, really – to lock car doors all the time. Too often, he says, items are stolen, or cars themselves are being stolen, when people keep their cars unlocked and/or running for what they believe will be a short period of time.

A home on Washington Ave., Kearny, just across the street from the St. Stephen’s rectory, suffers significant damage from a fire. The fire was quickly knocked down by the KFD with help from the Harrison Fire Department, but the damage was too significant for the residents – a teacher at Lincoln School, Kearny, and her son – to remain in the home.

The Nutley PD, meanwhile, announces the useful OD drug Narcan saved the lives of nine people over the previous 12 months who might have otherwise died from overdoses. All radio cars have at least one dosage of Narcan on board in anticipation of possible ODs.

The Observer’s Karen Zautyk, in a March 23 column, pens a reminder to readers that Joanne Chesimard, accused of killing an NJ State Trooper in the 1970s, is still at-large and living in Cuba. The column comes in response to President Obama’s normalization of relations with the tiny island nation.

In Kearny, town officials cut a ribbon to reopen Vets Field, Belgrove Drive, after the completion of the installation of turf at the field. Several town officials are on hand, including a nice contingency of members of the town’s recreation commission.

March comes to a close with a significant fire in Lyndhurst at an aged 2 ½ story building that had apartment and offices. The chief of the department notes there were flames “blowing out onto the street.” Fortunately, no one was injured, but the building appears to be a complete loss.

At West Hudson Park, parishioners from St. Cecilia’s church recreate Jesus Christ’s passion or, “The Way of the Cross.” Hundreds from the parish’s English-, Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking communities come together as one for the moving recreation. Prayers and the “script” were recited in all three languages of the parish.

The Kearny Police Department releases its 2015 crime statistics – and the news it good – crime is at a 15-year low. Police Chief John Dowie credits KPD officers with being “proactive and alert while on patrol. I also have to credit their use of the technology available to us in the form of Mobile Data Computers and license-plate readers. These proved very valuable in the mall areas at the end of the year, alerting us to stolen vehicles and/or stolen license plates.”

On March 22, some 18 new Kearny firefighters were sworn in by Mayor Santos. Fire Chief Steve Dyl says it’s the most new firefighters to be sworn-in at once since 1962, when 32 probies were hired.

As March ends, Kearny announces it’s in talks with SUEZ to take over the town’s water department and it announces a new dog park is to open sometime in April.


The month starts off with a major raid on what the KPD called a Kearny Ave. ‘drug fortress.’ Based on intelligence, the KPD expected to find drugs, firearms and stolen property. With help from the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office and the Branchburg PD, the KPD arrests Alan Arias, Anthony Robinson and Antony Desai. During the raid, police find, as expected, drugs, firearms and stolen property.

Red Bull Stadium is to host Peruvian elections in April. Under Peruvian law, ex-pats may vote in their new countries. Peruvian-born Harrison Councilmen Jesus Huaranga and (the-late) Victor Villalta coordinate the U.S. vote in the region.

CANstruction is up and running at Kearny High School. Taking the reign as leader is David Mach, founder of the Kearny Community Gardens. He replaces Paul Rogers, who had run the program since its inception. For the first time, Boystown on Belgrove Drive is used as a staging area.

In Kearny, veterans from the Vietnam War are saluted at a special ceremony. Communities throughout the country also honor Vietnam vets.

American Legion Post 99, meanwhile, honors the best in Kearny uniforms. Det. Michael Andrews is named Kearny Police Officer of the Year and Michael Kaywork is named Kearny Firefighter of the Year.

The Rev. Msgr. William Fadrowski, pastor at Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington, announces his retirement following nearly three decades of service to the Catholic parish, 17 as pastor. Fadrowski continues to work with the Order of Malta while living in and working as a parish weekend assistant in Morris County.

In Nutley, Det. Sgt. Anthony Montanari announces a rash of thefts of religious statues. Most are in the same neighborhood and are stolen from residents’ front lawns.

Meanwhile, the FBI investigates an April 2 Belleville bank robbery. Two suspects allegedly enter a Valley National Bank on Bloomfield Ave. that day. The bandits demand $20,000 but only get away with $1,000.

The Town of Harrison complies with a court order for beefed up security at municipal courts. Now, when residents enter Town Hall, they go through a metal detector and are wanded after passing through the detectors. The edicts came from the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts dating back to 2006, directing courts to upgrade security for all personnel assigned to the courts.

At a Kearny Town Council meeting, Mayor Alberto Santos and the Town Council recognize the Kearny Eagles for 80 years of “dedicated service” to the town.

Nutley Township officials eye upgrades to parking meters. If the meters are ultimately upgraded, drivers could use a credit card to pay for parking instead of coins – and could also use a mobile app to pay to park, as well.

Belleville’s intersection of Tiona Ave. and Nolton St. is renamed for Roger B. Crowell, a decorated Belleville veteran who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam in 1968.

The New Jersey Hall of Fame has quite a few noted New Jerseyans inducted, but one big name isn’t – Gen. Philip Kearny. Several interested Kearny residents announce a push to get Kearny into the Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, the Kearny governing body announces an anticipated tax hike. For an owner of a home assessed at $100,000, taxes would rise $324 for the entire year. The biggest reason for the hike? Mayor Alberto Santos says the town wants to forego state transitional aid that it accepted in 2014 and 2015.

In Nutley, Julie Glazer is named the township’s new superintendent of schools. Glazer, who comes from the Summit school district as an assistant superintendent, replaces outgoing Supt. Russell Kazovick. Some 32 candidates apply for the position that ultimately goes to Glazer.


May kicks off with word that the N.J. Civil Service Commission has approved Kearny’s plan allow SUEZ to take over the water department.

In the Kearny FD, Juan Barroso is named a new fire official. He replaces John Donovan who retired in June 2015 having spent 24 years with the department. Aside from his work with the KFD, Barroso previously spends time in the U.S. Army Reserves and as a Hudson County Corrections officer.

In Belleville, the Planning Board votes to approve a new Walgreens on Washington Ave. at the site of the former Motorcycle Mall. The new store replaces a current Walgreens several blocks to the north of the new site.

Dr. Amgad Hessein, a Belleville physician, loses his license to practice medicine after the state Board of Medical Examiners determine he gave unneeded steroid injections to patients, created fictitious patient records and indiscriminately prescribed pain pill to patients without medical justification.

On May 7, a long-awaited Habitat for Humanity becomes a reality for three Kearny families as they’re given keys to their new homes at 41 Kearny Ave.

The Kearny Board of Education announces the elimination of up to 37 non-tenured jobs.

Sentencing for former Kearny Councilman and Board of Education trustee John Leadbeater is postponed for the fourth time. Leadbeater is to be sentence for his involvement in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a $13 million mortgage fraud scheme.

Kearny teachers, meanwhile, sign a memorandum of agreement for a new contract retroactive to 2014 and continuing to June 30, 2017.

Amid much fanfare, Kearny’s dog park on Passaic Ave. finally opens. There are two separate areas – one for pooches under 25 pounds and one for dogs more than 25 pounds.

The Kearny PD marks “Police Week” by wearing black mourning bands across their badges to honor those lost in the line of duty – and the flags at KPD HQ fly at half-staff.

The Kearny FD honors its own – and The Observer’s Ron Leir – for their dedicated work. Among those also honored are Deputy Chiefs Robert Osborn and John Harris, Capts. John McCaffrey, Art Bloomer, Joe Mastandrea and Ed Ryan and Firefighters Luke Schappert, Nelson DaSilva, Kevin Becker, William Crockett, Sean Brady, Joseph Ferraro, Darell Szezypta, Stephen Yerkes and Mike Kaywork. Donna McClure, of Happy Time Day Care, Kearny, is also honored.

The Kearny PD charges two juvenile boys – one 11, the other 13 – with having a firearm on school property, aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a firearm. Police receive a tip from a passer-by who reports seeing two school-age boys near Franklin School, with one passing a handgun to the other.

May ends with a Food Truck Festival at the Frank Vincent Marina. The Kearny PBA Local 21 estimates around 10,000 people in attendance. The event raises money for the PBA’s participation in the annual Tour de Force, a bike ride that, in 2016, started near the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and that ended at the World Trade Center in New York. The festival is so popular that PBA President Det. John Fabula later announces another festival for October.

A fire at a mattress factory at the intersection of Bergen and Schuyler Aves. creates a massive traffic jam on both streets. No injuries are reported but the building sustains smoke damage.

In Nutley, Commissioner Joseph Scarpelli is sworn in as the township’s new mayor, replacing Commissioner Al Petracco. Scarpelli becomes mayor by way of getting the most vote in Nutley’s municipal election. In addition to the two aforementioned incumbents, Commissioners Thomas Evans, Mauro Tucci and Steven L. Rogers are all re-elected.


At a meeting of the Kearny governing body, Second Ward Councilman Rich Konopka takes exception to the length of time it’s taken to complete the Kearny High School construction project. His comments prompt anger among some members of the Board of Education. “As a resident of Kearny, I was embarrassed,” he said. “That school’s a disaster. What is going on over there?”

Longtime Harrison Councilman Victor Villalta dies at 67. Villalta was born in Lima, Peru, but served the United States Marines in Vietnam. Shortly after Villalta’s death, his wife becomes his replacement on the council, serving the Second Ward.

In Nutley, a home burglary occurs on Hay Ave. as residents sleep. Residents realized they were burgled after awaking to find their home in disarray.

Kearny Firefighter John Digravina wins a weight-lifting contest put on by the Linden FMBA.

Officials in Nutley recognize Nutley Boy Scout Troop 147 for 95 years of service to the township. Awards are given to the adult leadership team and Scouts who earned the most merit badges in the previous 12 months.

Meanwhile, PSE&G continues to warn residents of scams.

Queen of Peace High School President (and parish pastor) the Rev. Michael Donovan announces the high school must raise $1 million in a one-month span to prevent the school from being shut down at the end of June. Donovan makes the announcement only weeks into his new role at QP. Reports say the high school’s finances were mismanaged for years.

Rhudell Cruz-Snelling, 25, of Kearny, is arrested and charged in a June 3 shooting near the intersection of Wilson and Kearny Aves. A woman was shot in the hand, police say, and she’s treated and released the same day at University Hospital, Newark.

In Harrison, a baby, 2, is still alive because of the quick work of the Harrison FD. A woman appears at HFD HQ with a lifeless baby, but Fire Capt. Joe Nichirco, Fire Lt. Joe Faugno and Firefighter Ray Tremer bring the baby back to live by giving breaths to the baby with “bag valve mask and supplemental oxygen.”

Kearny Superintendent of Schools Patte Blood announces that 11 positions won’t be replaced in the next academic year. Two elementary school world-language slots, three elementary school teacher slots, five high school teacher slots and one special education teacher slot were the targeted positions.

Meanwhile, in a column, we introduce to our readers Skyler Whitehead, an 18-year-old Kearny resident, who has been taking videos and photos for The Observer at fire scenes. Whitehead hopes to one day become a Kearny firefighter – and the young man is already well known to the KFD. Whitehead credits Deputy Chiefs Joseph Viscuso and Robert Osborn as two of his biggest influences on the KFD.

Over the objections of several residents, the Township of Belleville adopts a formal affordable housing plan. Eternal township objector Vincent Frantantoni says he fears redevelopment will cause even more overcrowding in an already-crowded Belleville.

Nutley experiences yet another burglary where residents were home. This time, it happens while residents aren’t just home – they’re awake.

Meanwhile, the West Hudson Arts and Theatre Company (W.H.A.T.) puts on performances of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Several West Hudson residents – young and not so young – have roles in the musical.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark shares photos from a Memorial Day Mass celebrated in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington, by outgoing Archbishop John J. Myers. Myers is to retire as he’s reached the retirement age for bishops – 75. Masses are celebrated at all other archdiocesan cemeteries to recall all those who lost their lives while in the military.

The roof on the Davis Ave. Firehouse, Kearny, is on the verge of collapsing, Kearny FD Chief Steven Dyl says. As such, the station is closed and personnel and apparatus are moved elsewhere. Bids are sought for contractors to replace the roof on the 115-year-old building on Davis Ave. between Hoyt St. and Devon Terrace.

North Arlington’s schools chief Ollie Stringham announces his retirement. An internal search for a replacement immediately kicks off, North Arlington Board of Education President George McDermott tells The Observer.

Glen Glover of Lyndhurst, a former civilian DEA employee, is convicted after three hours of jury deliberations in a case that accused him of filing false paperwork concerning his ownership of a South Hackensack go-go bar. Regulations prohibit DEA employees from owning outside businesses.

Harrison school officials tell The Observer a new school for primary grades will be open by 2019. The new school is expected to cost $35.4 million.

In Kearny, Recreation Director Ralph Cattafi announces that chairs, cars and food won’t be allowed on newly turfed Veteran’s Field for the town’s 4th of July celebration. The new regulations are designed to keep the new field in top shape always.

Kearny’s Farmer’s Market reopens in June. It’s the 11th year for the market under the leadership of John Peneda of the UEZ and founding Councilwoman Susan McCurrie.

In Nutley, a woman drove her SUV into the Passaic River near the township crew launching site. A civilian rescues the woman and huge tow truck is used to pull the vehicle out of the water. Jason Moss, 30, of Secaucus is humbled by the attention he gets as a hero, but says he just did what anyone else would do in a similar situation.

Meanwhile, Kearny school computers are “attacked” and “held hostage” by someone threatening to hold the computer system until someone paid “ransom.” Superintendent of Schools Patte Blood, however, says the district’s computers weren’t “hacked,” but instead were infected with “malware after someone opened an email attachment that contained that malware.”

A Bergen County grand jury decides not to indict Lyndhurst cops involved in a shooting in 2015 at the township’s library. Kevin Allen, 36, of Lyndhurst, died from gunshot wounds sustained in the library shooting.

In Harrison, Ele Villalta becomes Harrison’s new Second Ward Councilwoman. She replaces her late husband, Victor, who died earlier in the year.

Some 24 days into its fundraising efforts, Queen of Peace High School is still more than $600,000 away from its $1 million goal.

As June ended, Harrison’s Eddie Acosta organizes a love walk from Kearny Town Hall to Harrison Town Hall in response the heinous massacre at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando. Nearly 100 people join Acosta on the peaceful walk.

Kearny’s Anthony Capitti is selected Kearny’s Veteran of the Year.

QPHS inches closer to its fundraising goals with two major gifts ($250K and $200K respectively.)

Retired Harrison Deputy Chief (and/or Capt.) Michael Green becomes Harrison’s new school safety officer. Green retired from the HPD on Dec. 1, 2015.


Belleville’s municipal governing body appoints Mark Minichini as the new township police chief. He replaces Chief Joseph Rotonda, who retired July 1 after serving in the post 16 years. Minichini, on the force since 1986, was named deputy chief in 2009.

Kearny taps Suez Water to take over operation of the town water utility. The company gets a 5-year contract, starting at $1.8 million a year, plus the $344,000 a year it has been receiving for handling the town’s water billings. Suez agreed to absorb half of the utility’s six employees.

After serving a year as high school principal, Stephen Yurchak is elevated to North Arlington superintendent of schools, taking over for longtime administrator Oliver Stringham who retired – with one year remaining in his contract – after 36 years as a district employee.

Kearny High alumna Jessica Zelaya becomes the second woman to join the Kearny Fire Department, following pioneer Martina Smith who came aboard in 2009. Zelaya is one of eight newly appointed KFD rookies.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. visits Kearny to announce the award of a $221,000 federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant to the KFD for new turnout gear. He previously helped steer AFG funding to the KFD for new air packs and computer software. And, last July, he helped the KFD get a $1,595,000 federal SAFER grant to pay salaries and benefits for 12 new firefighters for two years.

North Arlington’s Queen of Peace High School, on the brink of closing due to fiscal woes, is saved after a successful fundraising drive that nets more than $1 million. Substantial donations by two 1980 alums – Sabre Corp. head Tom Klein and Hormone Harmony PLCC owner Jeanette Cerna – helped.

Fifty-nine students from the Walker Middle School “graduate” from the Nutley Police Department’s Junior Police Academy, funded by the Nutley Municipal Alliance. The culminating activity was a visit to the USS Intrepid in Manhattan.

Former Kearny Councilman John Leadbeater is sentenced to five years in a federal prison by U.S. District Court Judge Jerome Simandle for conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a multi-million dollar home mortgage fraud involving oversold condominiums in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.

PSE&G begins upgrading five miles of gas lines and mains in Kearny as part of a state-wide program to replace 500 miles of aging gas infrastructure.

Thirteen Bigbelly solar-powered trash containers are installed at key points along the Kearny Ave. retail district. Kearny Health Director Ken Pincus hopes they will supplement his department’s crackdown on weekend litter.

Development continues to change Harrison’s landscape as the former Lombardi Funeral Home on Cleveland Ave. is torn down to make way for three new 2-family homes and a former auto parts shop on Bergen St. is converted to a new Seabra supermarket.

The N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority re-opens the William D. McDowell Observatory in DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst following repairs. It is open to visitors on Wednesday evenings.

Kearny PBA warns residents to be wary of “phishing” scammers operating on Craigslist by posing as home renters seeking to steal personal information from people responding to the fake ads posted.

The 118-acre Roche property straddling the Nutley/Clifton border is sold to PB Nutclif I, an arm of the Prism Capital Partners, a northern N.J. real estate investment firm. So far, the only new future occupant announced is a private medical school to be run by a joint venture of Seton Hall University and Hackensack Meridian Health.

Students in grades 6, 7 and 8 from public and private schools participate in Belleville’s first-ever week-long Junior Police Academy, sponsored by the Belleville Police Department.

Harrison settles a longstanding tax appeal dispute with Red Bull, owner of the professional soccer team that plays its home games at the Red Bull Arena. Under terms of the settlement, Hudson County Utilities Authority, which sold $40 million in bonds to acquire, clear and clean the site, will own the land and stadium; Red Bull will pay an annual rental fee to HCIA and a yearly amount to Harrison (for 2017, HCIA will get $185,000 and Harrison will pocket $1,115,000); HCIA will issue a bond for up to $2 million for any stadium upgrades as needed and a Red Bull affiliate will pay the debt service on the bond; HCIA can use the stadium for up to 48 “public use events” during the year; and Red Bull waives its right to $18 million in property taxes it has paid Harrison since 2006.

Harrison’s municipal website is rendered useless from July 7 to July 24 after an “attack” by hackers who were traced to California and who reportedly operated under a dozen different IP addresses. The town says no sensitive information was stolen. The revised website – – is a new domain name and has a new host provider.

A 4-year-old Kearny boy is the victim of a hit-run driver on July 20. Police say the boy was struck while crossing at Belgrove Drive and Woodland Ave. at night. He was treated at an area hospital for minor injuries and released. Police later located the errant vehicle and charged the driver with drunken driving.

Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso Jr. rules that the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority can use eminent domain to take possession of the Keegan landfill and continue its present use because accepting solid waste is a legitimate “public purpose.” Kearny, which has leased the site to the NJSEA (and to its predecessor the N.J. Meadowlands Commission) tried to evict the agency when its lease expired June 30 but the NJSEA balked at that move. Kearny continues to appeal the ruling.


The Kearny Board of Education loses its secretary/business administrator to the Cedar Grove BOE. Michael DeVita – whose contract had just been renewed by the KBOE – accepted an offer from the school board in his hometown for a comparable salary.

Federal Judge Jerome Simandle, sitting in Camden, orders convicted felon John Leadbeater and others to pay $3 million+ in restitution to lending institutions who, the feds say, were defrauded by multiple defendants in a multi-million dollar home mortgage fraud.

Bloomfield resident Alan Faynzilberg, 19, is charged with vehicular homicide in connection with a May 27 fatal collision on Belleville Ave., between Cottage St. and S. Franklin Ave., that killed Luis Davila, 33, of Belleville. Faynzilberg also faces charges of aggravated assault for severe injuries to his girlfriend who was a passenger in his car at the time of the accident.

A Roselle man leaps into the Passaic River to elude police on Aug. 3 and remains unaccounted for, according to authorities. Police say Keith Jean, 31, and another man, later ID’d as Aubrey Tucker of Bloomfield, were spotted casing parked cars at Second St. and Cleveland Ave. in Harrison, then sped away in an Impala. After they were pulled over by police at 900 Passaic Ave., East Newark, police arrested the driver Tucker on Newark warrants but Jean jumped out, ran behind Harrison Supply Co. and jumped into the river, reportedly telling cops he was “not going back to jail.” Jean, who was wanted on warrants from Orange and the Union County Sheriff’s Office, spurned police rescue efforts and, ultimately, swam to a storm water outfall on the west bank of the river. Despite searches by Coast Guard and Newark fireboat, Jean could not be found.

Queen of Peace High School gets another gift of $500,000 provided through the Archdiocese of Newark from an anonymous donor to apply to its sustaining drive.

A Mercer County homicide suspect, Carlos Ortiz, 50, is apprehended peacefully at the Belleville Motor Lodge. Ortiz is a suspect in the Aug. 16 killing of Rufina Castro, 51, in Ewing Township. He is accused of hitting her on the head with a bottle and then strangling here.

A 28-year-old Kearny man is the reported victim of a hit-run drive-by shooting on Aug. 20 in Harrison. Police say he was shot in the leg while he was standing in the area of Fifth and Hamilton Sts. Police recovered 12 bullet casings in the area and numerous bullets in three parked cars.

M&T Bank on Lewandowski St. in Lyndhurst is robbed Aug. 16 by a suspect who displayed no weapon, according to police.

BJ’s Wholesale Club opens as the anchor store for the redeveloped mall on Passaic Ave. in Kearny. Nearly one-fifth of its 140 employees are listed as Kearny residents.

Kearny municipal government authorizes a $3.75 million bond issue for water main and associated road repairs for sections of Devon St., Elm St., Peden Terrace, Forest St. and Davis Ave. Another $2.1 million bond ordinance will finance two new fire rigs, air packs and computers for the KFD and renovations for the Health Dept.

Harrison Police Officer Darren Raefski is credited with thwarting, at great risk, the theft of a tractor-trailer on Aug. 20. Police say Raefski – aided by a GPS unit in the truck – tracked the vehicle, swiped from a S. Second St. location, to Martin Luther King Boulevard and William St. in Newark where he pulled over the cab door and tried to get the key while the driver attempted a getaway but he prevailed and arrested suspect Kevin Hobbs, 48, of Newark, for theft.

Harrison’s John Jarzbek, 27, is found guilty of insurance fraud by Bergen County Superior Court Judge Susan Steele after falsely filing a claim that a used $139,000 Bentley that he and his parents purchased was stolen after the vehicle had been torched. His parents, Chester and Anna Jarzbek, are facing charges of falsifying a car loan application.

A Nutley man is charged with carjacking, aggravated assault, resisting, assault by auto and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose after a nasty encounter with police on Aug. 25. Police say they were called to Cathedral and Passaic Aves. where Edgar Ordonez, 22, was accused by the driver of an SUV of trying to get into his vehicle. Police say Ordonez then began fighting one cop, then allegedly appropriated an NPD patrol car, ran over an officer and sped off, only to crash into an SUV in Clifton near the Rt. 3 overpass. After getting out of the vehicle, police say Ordonez then began fighting officers. The injured officer was treated for arm, leg and head injuries.


Bennett Construction Co. – a Kearny firm hired by the KBOE to complete the final phase of the long-stalled KHS construction project – begins the process of installing steel, thereby compelling school officials to delay the start of the high school’s fall term by about a week. Meanwhile, the KBOE must deal with a crossing guard “coverage gap” for some elementary schools triggered, in part, by the newly opened Hudson Arts & Science charter school schedule.

Kearny and other Observer communities conduct Sept. 11 Remembrance Day ceremonies on the 15th anniversary of the tragic event. St. Stephen’s Church hosts an ecumenical service, featuring a viewing of an 18-foot-long pew from the Lower Manhattan-based St. Paul’s Chapel. The pew served as a resting place for first-responders who came to ground zero in the aftermath of the WTC attack. Trinity Wall St. Episcopal Parish consented to the pew’s transfer. Outside the church, Scout Troop 305 place 2,996 small American flags, standing for the estimated number of those killed in the attacks that day.

Schuyler Savings Bank on Davis Ave., Kearny, is robbed on Aug. 25. No report is issued on how much was taken.

Two armed robberies are reported, within minutes of each other, in Harrison on Sept. 4. In the first incident, three men in a BMW take cash and tobacco products from the Delta Gas Station in the 500 block of Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. S. In the second, two men, one reportedly carrying an Uzi-style machine gun, rob jewelry and an iPhone 6+ from an adult couple on the 300 block of Essex St.

Belleville public school teachers get a new 3-year contract running through June 30, 2018, providing no raise the first year, 4.5% the second year and 2.7% the third year, including normal pay increments but East Newark teachers are stalemated in their efforts to win a new pact.

Harrison’s Eddie Acosta is feted by Jersey City LGBT Pride Festival with a Young Activist Award in recognition of the lad’s effort to organize a “Walk For Love” through West Hudson communities in the aftermath of the killings at the Orlando, Fla., nightclub Pulse.

Suffering from shaky finances, Harrison American Legion Post 282 sells its two-story post hall to the Harrison BOE but post commander Bob Gerris pledges that the post will remain active in town.

For the fifth year in a row, the 15W Picnic for Those That Grew Up in Kearny in the ‘60s and ‘70s is conducted in Riverbank Park in Kearny on Sept. 24.

For the second time in two weeks, Schuyler Savings Bank in Kearny is robbed again, on Sept. 8. KPD Officer Steven Hroncich, responding to a broadcast alert, encounters a possible suspect “dripping in sweat” driving northbound on Schuyler, a few blocks from the bank, and pulls him over. After he sees the driver bend down to move something, he tries reaching inside for the key but ends up being dragged as the driver begins accelerating. Hroncich pulls free in the CVS lot.

Lyndhurst hires five new cops, including Matthew Dudek, son of the township’s Revenue & Finance Commissioner Theodore Dudek; Brian Kapp, son of Gail Kapp, the recently retired secretary to the police chief; and Elizabeth Hollenbeck, who becomes the second woman to join the LPD.

Kearny’s John Leadbeater, previously sentenced to a 5-year prison term for his alleged role in what the feds characterized as a huge home mortgage fraud conspiracy by multiple defendants, reports Sept. 19 to do his time in the U.S. Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa.

A Sept. 15 fire at a two-story plus attic residential building at 851 Pennsylvania Ave. in Lyndhurst leaves its occupants homeless.

Five members of the KFD are promoted to fire captain on Sept. 13. They are: William Crockett, son of a retired KPD captain; Matthew Mitchell, son of a retired North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue firefighter; and Kevin Becker, whose brother Patrick is a KPD officer.

Ten KPD members join with 270 police colleagues for the four-day Tour de Force bike-a-thon, from Washington, D.C., to New York, in tribute to the 9/11 victims and to honor all police officers killed in the line of duty. The 10 are: Capt. Scott Macfie, Capt. Timothy Wagner, Lt. Paul Bershefski, Lt. Michael Ryan, Sgt. Michael Gonzalez, Det. John Fabula and Officers Richard Pawlowski, Jonathan Dowie, Jason Rodriguez and Mina Ekladious.

One of two suspects reportedly involved in a Sept. 16 shoplifting incident at the Walmart in Kearny is shot while fleeing by a Kearny police officer. Sources say suspect Ramon Martinez, 43, of Newark, was driving away from the store at the same time an unidentified Kearny cop – who had heard an alarm broadcast on his car radio and who happened to be nearby – responded to the Walmart and, after heard a description of the suspect’s vehicle, fired at that vehicle and, in the process, striking the driver, who managed to get away. Sources say a tip subsequently led police to a Newark auto repair shop where they found, and arrested, Martinez on charges of eluding, receiving stolen property and shoplifting.

Despite a big loss of property-tax revenues after an unsuccessful tax appeal involving PSE&G, Harrison avoids having to pass along a big tax increase on property owners after the state awards the town $1.36 million in transitional aid for 2016. However, the town is still under state pressure to accept a plan for the Newark Fire Department to take over fire protection services as part of the terms of a still-unsettled labor contract with the local fire union.


A suspect in the Sept. 8 robbery of Schuyler Savings Bank of Kearny is arrested Sept. 23 after unsuccessfully trying to evade a police stakeout and pursuit ending with him crashing his vehicle near the Lyndhurst bridge.

As it faces an order to revalue all township properties for 2018, Belleville hires an outside law firm to challenge the tax-exempt status of Clara Maass Medical Center.

Several KHS students in a third-floor classroom are overcome by toxic carbon monoxide fumes after their teacher inadvertently opens a window, exposing the room to the fumes streaming from a generator on the pavement below where welders were working. All recover.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announces plans to undertake a $100 million+, 4-year design study for the cleanup of the lower Passaic River. The actual job will take an estimated six years and $11 billion to execute.

Former Belleville Library Board chairman Richard Yanuzzi, principal of Sarroween Inc., is indicted by a state grand jury Oct. 3 for his alleged failure to pay $442,000 in state sales taxes and tobacco product taxes from two cigar stores he owns in Lyndhurst and West Caldwell.

The KFD hires 13 new firefighters, including KHS alumna Haley Girdwood, the third woman to join the fire department; and Steve A. Dyl, son of the department’s chief.

North Arlington conditionally designates HC Development, an affiliate of The Hampshire Companies, to undertake redevelopment of a portion of the Porete Ave. Redevelopment Area in the borough’s industrial section.

Harrison’s Delta Gas Station is again the target of robbers on Oct. 12. Two armed men rough up the attendant and take cash and a Samsung tablet.

East Newark passes a bond ordinance to provide for, among other things, acquisition of the St. Anthony’s Social Center but the Archdiocese of Newark, the property owner, says no sale.

The KPD and KFD come to the rescue of a 51-year-old Irvington motorist on Oct. 13 after the driver’s Chevy Impala crashes into the rear of a truck hauling a 100-pound propane tank on the Belleville Pike east of Schuyler Aves. Sgt. Glen Reed and Officer Victor Girdwood are credited with extricating the driver who had apparently passed out.

A monument in tribute to Belleville’s role as a welcome host community for Chinese immigrants in the late 1800s, along with the former Dutch Reformed Church, is dedicated at the historic church site where the remains of an unknown number of Chinese lie buried under the church in a crypt. Dignitaries of the People’s Republic of China are among the guests at the event.

Kearny Bank in Harrison is robbed of $1,500+ by a man wearing a jacket marked “Security” on Oct. 21.

Raptors are at risk when alighting at the Kingsland landfill in Lyndhurst, as a result of methane flames singeing their feathers and tails. The NJSEA, owner of the landfill, is working with a consultant to devise a remedy.

A golf tournament at the Minebrook Country Club in Hackettstown to raise funds for next year’s celebration of Kearny’s 150th anniversary nets $30,337 to help offset expenses associated with the celebration.

Belleville resident Victoria Horvath, 44, is sentenced in Newark Federal Court on Oct. 30 to 92 months in prison after she’s found guilty of leading a conspiracy to illegally obtain and distribute oxycodone in the state between Feb. 3 and Aug. 13, 2014.

An Oct. 25 fire at a 3-family home at 90 Johnston Ave., Kearny, displaces 13 residents.

Phyllis Stewart, who, with her late husband Alastair, ran Stewarts Scottish Market on Kearny Ave. for decades, dies Oct. 27 in Florida.


Eight months after it opened its door, Harrison’s Dr. Stanley J. Siwek Health Center has yet to be issued a Medicare registration number by the U.S. Health & Human Services Department so it cannot be reimbursed for provided, uncompensated care. However, it has continued to see all patients while absorbing the lost revenue.

Lyndhurst voters approve a public referendum by a 2-1 margin authorizing the Board of Education to spend nearly $20 million on physical upgrades to its four elementary schools and the high school. It will also proceed, separately, with construction of a new $53 million junior high on Matera Field.

Despite reservations voiced by members of the governing body, Kearny applies for a N.J. Department of Transportation grant for a “bicycle-share/bike lane” project.

A Kearny physician, Dr. Mudasser Sharif, 41, owner of Garden State Primary Care, is sentenced in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia to five and a half years in prison for illegally dispensing prescription painkillers.

A municipal election in North Arlington sees Democrats pushing out two GOP incumbents to break up an all-Republican voting bloc on the governing body. Democrats Mark Yampaglia and Jean Williams will take the seats occupied by Republicans Rich Hughes and Marijo Karcic Jr.

Super Fresh takes over the former Pathmark in Belleville’s Silver Lake section. Pathmark, a subsidiary of A&P, closed last year as a casualty of its parent company’s bankruptcy and reorganization. Super Fresh also is operating out of the old A&P store in Bloomfield.

Former Rutgers University football standout Eric LeGrand, paralyzed from the neck down following a mishap on the gridiron, visits Kearny’s Washington Middle School on Nov. 18. Now a motivational speaker, LeGrand talked to kids from Washington and Garfield Schools about the importance of being the best they can be.

Hudson County government announces the award of $10 million in state DOT aid for improvements to torn-up roads in South Kearny’s industrial section, including sections of Pennsylvania Ave., Fish House Road and Central Ave.

East Newark’s licensed water operator Richard Ferraioli resigns and is replaced by Robert J. DeBlock. Ferraioli, who previously stepped down as Kearny’s water operator, continues in that post for Harrison.

A woman motorist involved in an accident on the northbound lanes of Rts. 1&9 on the Passaic River bridge in South Kearny on Nov. 26 suddenly hurls the center median, running through southbound traffic, climbs over a bridge guardrail and jumps into the river, eventually drifting to the Newark side. After spending about 20 minutes in the frigid water, she is pulled out by KFD members.

Seventeen Kearny tenants are forced out of their apartments on Nov. 23 when a fire strikes their 3-story residence at 197 Kearny Ave. They are treated to Thanksgiving-eve meals, courtesy of Tops Diner.

Queen of Peace High School is the beneficiary of a $50,000 sustainability donation by Investors Foundation.

A Nov. 23 fire, determined to be arson, ruins two rowing shells owned by the Passaic River Rowing Association at a storage facility in Bergen County Riverside Park South in Lyndhurst.

Benjamin A. Pezzolla, brother of Observer GM Robert Pezzolla and of Frank Pezzolla, owner of Frank’s GMC of Lyndhurst, dies at age 82 on Nov. 30.


Kearny unveils its 150th anniversary commemorative ornaments, offered for sale at $20 apiece.

The Belleville Historical Society launches a $75,000 GoFundMe drive on behalf of the historic Dutch Reformed Church (now known as La Senda Antigua) to preserve the structure against the ravages of a severe winter.

North Arlington’s Schuyler Co. 2 firehouse marks its centennial, paying tribute to founder George A. Eckardt and other locals.

Lyndhurst resident and Jersey City jewelry store owner Vinod Dadlani, 53, is sentenced to two years in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He was alleged to be part of a global scheme to fabricate false IDs and create false credit cards that led to defrauding businesses of $200 million.

Nutley Public Safety Commissioner Steven L. Rogers announces his candidacy for governor of New Jersey. He plans to run as a Republican.

Newark resident Jermaine W. Mason (AKA Asim Harris), 39, is charged Dec. 6 with the Nov. 29 robbery of Provident Bank in Kearny and is additionally charged with robbing Kearny Bank in Harrison on Oct. 21, PNC Bank in Jersey City on Nov. 3, Popular Community Bank in Newark on Nov. 17 and Provident Bank in Jersey City on Nov. 18. Authorities say Mason had been on federally-supervised release for bank robbery convictions dating from 2006 to 2007.

The N.J. Schools Development Authority pick Brockwell & Carrington, the Towaco firm that previously left a KHS renovation job in 2012 under a termination of convenience arrangement, to build a new Harrison school for some 400 pre-K, kindergarden and first-grade students for more than $25 million.

The N.J. Attorney General’s Office, in conjunction with the N.J. State Police, present a public forum in Belleville on Internet Safety for Parents and Students.

North Arlington contracts with Appraisal Systems to conduct a “rolling assessment” of all borough properties over the next five years at about $40,000 a year.

KHS places fourth among five top teams in the annual Quaker State Best in Class State Challenge.

A delegation from the Korean Education & Research Information Service (KERIS) visits the Kearny public school district.

Belleville Public Library director Joan Taub retires after 17 years in the post. Her replacement is Michelle Malone, who has headed the children’s department since July 2016.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.