EDITOR’S LETTER BLP
Season’s Greetings
Jul 29, 2015 | 111 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print

When a magazine comes out only twice a year, you sometimes find yourself seasonally haywire. You’re tromping around in the snow, slipping on ice, and braving bitter winds for stories that will appear in spring and summer. Hats off to our photographers, who did yeoman work to get images that were not frozen in time. In fact, a couple of stories are quintessentially spring. Photographer Chris Loupos captured Hudson County Freeholder and Washington Community School principal Kenny Kopacz playing baseball with our writer, Randi Roberts, on the Pony League field. Behind them, in a postcard from Bayonne, huge container ships move slowly toward the bridge. Max Ryazansky shot Nestor Lenin Uraga in the act of painting a mural on a Bayonne building. The Bayonne Nature Club’s Joan Brunner and Patricia Hilliard shot some beautiful pictures of some of the city’s non-taxpaying residents for our wildlife photo essay, along with our own Victor M. Rodriguez, who has done scores of shoots for BLP. Other stories are evergreen. Tara Ryazansky was on the job with folks from McCabe Ambulance Service. Make no mistake. These EMTs have your back. On a lighter note, Tara came away star struck after hanging out at the Starting Point with astrologer Judith Aurora Ryan. By far, one of our most poignant writing teams was Patty Smith, collaborating with her Dad, Neil Carroll, for our retrospective on the Bayonne Bridge. She helped him marshal his memories of the city’s most iconic structure, as it goes through its massive raise-the-roadway project. You were no doubt struck by the compelling portrait on our cover. That’s Cailin Brodel, Bayonne’s first woman firefighter—and probably the last person you want to see at your door. Read about her and much more as we celebrate life on the Peninsula—BLP
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Blazing a Trail
A first for the BBFD
by Kate Rounds
Jul 29, 2015 | 61 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cailin Brodel
Photos by Maxim Ryazansky
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Spend just a few moments with Cailin Brodel, and you know why she made the grade. Women who are the first do to anything often are uber-qualified—and also very humble. That’s how she comes across: as a professional, gracious, good-humored, straight-forward, take-charge kind of person who manages to be multi-talented and unpretentious at the same time. She had three formidable careers before joining the Bayonne Fire Department. She worked in the finance industry and was an EMT and a registered nurse. As a “probie,” or probationary firefighter, Brodel will learn her job by watching and working with the experienced and skilled men who surround her. When we visited the new firehouse for the photo shoot, firefighters were in the modern kitchen, watching TV, talking about hunting, the cold winter just past—and fires. Bob made fried-egg sandwiches for his fellow firefighters. Soon, Brodel sailed in with two large boxes of cookies from Judicke’s. When I commented that the cookies were a nice gesture, one of the men joked, “They’re required.” Bayonne Raised Brodel grew up on North Street downtown and attended a mosaic of Catholic institutions: St. Vincent DePaul RC Elementary School, Holy Family Academy, and Boston College. “I wasn’t specifically looking to go to a Jesuit College,” she says, “but I wouldn’t change anything about going to Catholic schools. I made great friends and had great role models.” She points to Holy Family as an institution that honors “women and men of vision,” and Boston College, whose motto is “Men and women for others.” “I didn’t have a clear-cut vision of a job or career,” Brodel says. “I went to college with the idea that I’d figure it out.” Like a lot of students, she chose what “felt like the most marketable major.” In her case, economics. After college she got a job as a brokerage operations representative for an investment company in New York City. She lasted less than a year and then, not surprisingly, “I did not like working in an office 9 to 5,” she says. “I didn’t see how my role was impacting anyone positively. I started spending a lot of time trying to decide what career would allow me to feel emotionally, spiritually, and professionally fulfilled.” Right after she left the investment firm, she submitted an application for the Bayonne Fire Department civil service exam. Five months later she took the written portion of the exam, which involved word problems and some critical thinking. She also had to watch a short video with vignettes of various scenarios. The applicant is asked to choose among different options for handling the situation. It seems, she says, as if the exercise was meant to test your ability to be a team player and remain level-headed. Rx for Finding Fulfillment In May of the following year, she took the physical portion of the civil service exam, for which she had to wear a vest weighing about 45 pounds and go through “a bunch of obstacles.” She had to drag a hose and a dummy, lift a box of equipment and a saw, and carry a 50-pound bag up and down a flight of stairs 12 times. “Lifting the weighted bag up and down stairs was the most difficult in terms of energy expended,” she says. “The test is extremely challenging. Whether you are in the greatest or worst shape, no one would find it easy.” Brodel, who is 27 and five-foot-nine, does not disclose her weight. She participated in sports throughout her educational life, including swimming at Holy Family and playing on its volleyball team. She currently goes to the gym. “I work out, but not like crazy. I want to maintain my strength and improve upon it.” Meanwhile, a medical career seemed to be calling her, and by September 2011, she was enrolled in a 14-month accelerated nursing program at NYU. “When I decided to become a nurse,” she says, “I wanted to gain some experience in medical care, so I became an EMT and worked part time as an EMT at McCabe through nursing school.” [See our story on McCabe on Page TK] Soon after graduation she landed a job working at the NYU Langone Medical Center in the department of inpatient adult medicine. “I liked nursing. I had a lot of great friends and liked my coworkers,” she says. “Nurses definitely deserve all the credit in the world, but the difficulty of the job is underestimated. It’s stressful and challenging because there’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s rewarding.” Her department dealt with a broad range of illnesses and conditions. “I could have had a successful, happy career as a nurse,” she says. Fire! That is, until the Bayonne Fire Department called. She quit her nursing job in August 2014 and by Aug. 18, she was sworn in to the Bayonne Fire Department. She graduated in a ceremony on Oct. 30, 2014. When Brodel describes her first months on the job she sounds like the opposite of NBC anchor Brian Williams, who exaggerated his exploits during the Iraq War. Brodel minimizes hers, using phrases like “providing support” and acknowledging that her first fire was already out by the time her company got there. Civilians usually look at the job in terms of the danger and the fear factor. “The only thing I’m afraid of is not doing my job correctly,” she says. “I’m not thinking about what is physically harmful or scary. I want to operate as safely as possible and do the right thing to mitigate the harm the fire is doing.” She says, “This is your job, you signed up to do it for the rest of your career, you get paid to do it, and the sooner you get accustomed to the danger, the better off you’ll be.” You’d think that her training as a registered nurse would come in handy on the job, but she says she’s not allowed to practice nursing interventions on people while working as a firefighter. Proud Parents “When I first told my parents about taking the test, they supported it, because I don’t think they anticipated that it would ever come to fruition,” Brodel says. “Once I realized it was within reach, they got nervous,” reminding her that she already had a great job as a nurse. Brodel told them, “I love you both, and I would appreciate your support.” From that point on, she says, they were “super supportive.” She emphasizes that they always believe in her and are proud. “I think they kind of hold back letting me know how nervous they are,” she says. “They don’t want me to worry for them.” Her mother is an administrative assistant for a law firm in New York City. Her father is a ship superintendent for Ports America’s Bayonne Auto Terminal at the Military Ocean Terminal. The company imports and exports cars. Brodel’s firehouse is the new one on Chosin Few Avenue at the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, a stone’s throw from her father’s workplace. She tells the story of passing him when her company was on the truck on their way to a fire on the pier “in his neck of the woods.” A crew was “putting down asphalt on the pier,” she relates, “and the tar-heating truck caught fire and was completely engulfed in flames.” Brodel lives in Bayonne with her boyfriend, who is an officer with the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office. “He gets the whole civil-service frame of mind,” she says. “He has a dangerous job, too. We worry about each other, but we try to stay positive and support each other.” If You Can’t Stand the Heat OK, so you have to be brave to enter a burning building, but what about braving the kitchen of a firehouse? Firefighters are notoriously good cooks, and everyone has to do apron duty. “I would not call myself an expert chef,” Brodel acknowledges. “I cook at home, but cooking for 10 hungry guys? That’s another ballgame, and I was stressed out.” Nevertheless, she stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and pulled off an Ash Wednesday shrimp-and-pasta dinner that her fellow firefighters gave a “great” review. And that was no mean feat. Members of the Bayonne Fire Department took top honors last year and this year in the statewide Ultimate Fire Department Cook-Off. Brodel says she has had no problems whatsoever being the first woman in the department. “I’ve never had an issue,” she says. She shares a bunk room with the guys that has about 11 twin-size beds. There’s a curtained partition if she needs it. “They very nicely extended that courtesy,” she says, “but I haven’t used it yet.” Recollections and Aspirations Many of us have had the sensation of remembering something deep in our childhoods and realizing in hindsight that experiences from long ago can influence the here and now. Brodel’s mother’s first cousins were both Bayonne firefighters. “When I was a kid, I knew they were firemen,” Brodel recalls. “When we’d run into them at the grocery store, I’d jump in the truck and sit in the driver’s seat, and they’d let me pull the horn. This was my first interaction with firefighters.” Brodel was about 6 at the time and maintains she was too young to focus on being a firefighter herself. “I remember thinking that this is really cool,” she says, “and not something that was out of my reach but something I could do if I wanted to.” It’s hard to imagine that “pulling that horn” hasn’t been marinating in her subconscious for the past two decades. But it was Sept. 11, 2001 that may have clinched it. Brodel was a freshman at Holy Family at the time. “I was affected by it,” she says. “It became important to me to honor and emulate the firemen who lost their lives. The respect I had for them led me to want this job.” And excel at it. “I want to make the best of the career I chose,” she says. “I want to come at it full force, learn as much as possible, do really well, study for promotional exams, and one day become an officer. Of all the places I’ve been in my professional life, this is the first time I’ve felt at peace.”—BLP
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Spanning the Decades
Recollections of our iconic bridge
by Neil Carroll and Patty Smith
Jul 29, 2015 | 51 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bayonne Bridge
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAYONNE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
PHOTO BY AL SULLIVAN
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With the raise-the-roadway project, slated for completion in 2018, the Bayonne Bridge is going through a transformation never envisioned when it debuted in 1931. As it undergoes this massive change, we thought it would be a good time to call on one of Bayonne’s most revered citizens to share his memories of the bridge back in the day. My dad’s first memories of the Bayonne Bridge begin at the age of 4, in 1931. He remembers sitting on his grandfather’s front porch, listening to him tell of how that very house was picked up from its original site on Margaret Street and moved a few blocks to where it stands today, on John F. Kennedy Blvd., between Juliette Street and West 4th Street. The reason for this move was to make way for the entrance to the Bayonne Bridge. His own father’s reminiscences of the grand opening of the Bayonne Bridge are as grand as the opening itself. "My father was a motorcycle cop on the Bayonne Police Department at the time,” Dad relates. “He had the privilege to be one of the motorcycle escorts of the dignitaries as they traveled from Bayonne to the Staten Island side. The mayor of Bayonne was the first passenger car over, driving his 1928 Rolls Royce. After a number of introductions and speeches, the day ended with the entire entourage having a celebratory dinner at the Bayonne Elks Lodge, where all the participants of the day received a commemorative medal for their efforts. I still have that medal.” At the age of 9 while attending PS1, now Henry Harris School, Dad recalled a visit from a special guest. It was 1936, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt was running for re-election. On his way to campaign appearances in New York City, President Roosevelt passed through Bayonne in his motorcade and crossed the Bayonne Bridge. The entire school, along with bands and other spectators, lined the bridge entrance as the President, in his car with the top down, waved and flashed that FDR smile upon the people of Bayonne. Iconic Connector Dad recalls that he and his Bergen Point friends spent a lot of time on Staten Island. For a nickel, you could walk across the bridge; upon arrival in Staten Island you were greeted by movie houses, stores, and the Staten Island Pool, were you could cool off in the summer months. If you didn't have five cents, you’d hitch a ride with one of the motorists going over to the island. Despite its many attractions, Staten Island was still rural, with vast areas of farmland and open fields for picnics and playing ball. If you were energetic enough and walked a bit more, you’d come upon Clove Lake, and the Clove Lake Zoo. The Bayonne Bridge opened this entire new world to the denizens of downtown Bayonne and beyond. While to the right of the bridge, industry began to spring up, on the left side, from 1st Street to the Kill van Kull, were beautiful beaches. The best section of beach was from the bridge east to what is now Collins Park. There were “life stations” along the Kill, but the favorite was the one beneath the bridge, always manned by a lifeguard, where most kids in downtown Bayonne learned to swim. From time to time, the bravest of these swimmers would save the nickel and swim across the Kill to Staten Island. This was done with great caution and a knowledge of the tide charts. To go to the island, kids set out with the tide, from the bridge area. They’d arrive on the island across from what today is Brady Dock. To get back, they’d swim with the tide from the Brady Dock area and land near the bridge. Dad remembers a small diner called Cal's in the vicinity of what is today 1st street and JFK Blvd.; the soda was always cold. Ocean and Air In what is now Collins Park was Townsers Terminal, where tugs brought in old barges, no longer in service, for dismantling and scrap. As time went on, and the nation became embroiled in WWII, Elco Boat Works would test all the newly built PT boats before shipping out for service in the Pacific theater. Dad remembers hearing those big engines all over downtown, and the speed of them on their shakedown cruises was incredible. Just about that time, a guy who was a little older than Dad, and a bit of a local legend, threatened to do something daring. This man had his pilot's license and promised to fly his plane under the Bayonne Bridge. He did not disappoint; on the date and time designated, he flew directly under the bridge. He went on to serve in the Army Air Corps during WWII. "He lived on 3rd Street, and just as he promised, he pulled off that stunt,” Dad says. “There was a lot of stuff like that in those days. Downtown Bayonne was always abuzz, always something to do, and the bridge area, 1st street and the beach area, was always alive." My father recalls that in 1956, the Port Authority donated the land under the bridge at Julliette Street for a park, and in 1966, he recalled the collision of two passing ships, the Alva Cape and the tanker ship, Texaco Massachusetts. The fear at the time was that the bridge would be damaged by the heat and flames of the blaze. Another memory of great ships was the ocean liner Normandie, which had to be cut down to fit under the bridge. In 1942, it caught fire while being converted into a troop ship and could be seen being hauled to Kearny for scrap. Semicentennial In 1981, while working for Representative Frank Guarini, Dad took part in the ceremony celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Bayonne Bridge. As it did some 50 years earlier, the day's events ended with a celebratory dinner at the Bayonne Elks Club. "It was exciting,” Dad says. “I remember exchanging stories and memories with everyone there. Each of us had our own fond memories, and mine were of my father and grandfather." (Dad was named for his grandfather.) I asked my dad what he thought about the bridge and what it meant to him. The great arch adorns so many things here in town. Was it the symbol of Bayonne? Was it the engineering feat? It was for many years the longest steel arch bridge in the world. His answer speaks to a different time in Bayonne and in the world. "Life was simple back then,” Dad says. “We looked at the bridge like it was ours, it belonged to Bergen Point, and it was filled with lore—the daredevil pilots, and who could swim to Staten Island the fastest. We lived around the bridge, and nobody seemed bothered by it. We lived through burning barges, colliding ships, blasting and trenching the Kill. We watched huge cargo ships being guided deftly by tugs, and felt the excitement of seeing foreign flags attached to those ships as they entered and left our little slice of the globe. Nobody complained. Everyone accepted it and enjoyed it. I can see the bridge to this day from my front window. In 2001, I watched as the ever-present white lights became red, white, and blue. Many great memories I have." It was Dad’s final thought that touched me the most. "If it weren't for the Bayonne Bridge, I would have never met your mother over in Bayway in Elizabeth," he says. “I never thought about that before, but that bridge was an integral part of my story. My story, one of many that evoke the iconic structure that spans the Kill van Kull—the Bayonne Bridge.”—BLP
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Unmasking Captain Bayonne
Avengers Assemble!
Jul 29, 2015 | 51 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jimmy Olson
CAPTAIN BAYONNE
PHOTOS BY JOSEPH PASSANTINO
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Superman may be a more apt model for Captain Bayonne than Captain America. Captain Bayonne’s Jimmy Olson job is to work in admissions operations for Columbia University. But when he’s not at his day job, he’s seeking truth, justice, and the American Way in his hometown of Bayonne. A Jersey City native, Brian Rocheny has been living in Bayonne for 23 years. Rocheny, 43, has been working at various jobs since age 11. But there was a time back in his college days when he was studying to be an actor. That didn’t work out, but it may be the defining moment for his avocation as Captain Bayonne. That, along with some gigs as a standup comic in Manhattan. “I wanted to be an actor,” he says, “and being Captain Bayonne is like playing a role. It’s just natural. I have a creative mind and get bored very quickly. This character is something different, and I found it appealing.” But perhaps one of the most surprising things on his bucket list was to compete in the New York City Marathon. The first chance he had to do it was in the fall of 2001. “It was extremely emotional,” he says. “They weren’t sure that it would come off.” He continued to run in marathons, and it was while running on a hometown street that Captain Bayonne was born. “It was five years ago,” he says, “and I was running at night and almost got killed by a car barreling down Avenue A. The car managed to stop inches away from me; otherwise I would have gone through the windshield. It was then that I started to think of ways that I could stand out so that people could see me.” Enter Captain Bayonne He’s a constant presence at Bayonne’s many parades, festivals, and other events. And also on Facebook. That’s not a site where he’d planned on appearing, but two people who’d seen him around town started a Facebook page. In fact, they were the ones who dubbed him Captain Bayonne. Before that, he’d called himself Fat Flash Super Hero. “Now I’m on the Facebook page to respond to people who ask for any kind of help,” he says. He cites as examples fire victims, whom he has helped by raising money through the sale of Captain Bayonne T-shirts and mugs. Bayonne citizens gave him clothing, cribs, furniture, and electronics for the victims. He also helped the family of a Bayonne teacher who died in California to bring the body back to Bayonne. “I contacted senators in California, who contacted the coroner,” he says. When he’s at an event he’ll take “a little old lady shopping cart” and fill it with kids’ goodie bags stuffed with bubbles, pencils, toys, and clown noses. He gets his outfits on eBay. After the tragic events at the Boston Marathon in 2014, he is not allowed to wear his mask in marathons. “My goal is to help people and make people smile and laugh a little bit,” he says. Not Captain Jersey City Brian Rocheny may have grown up in Jersey City, but Bayonne is definitely a better town for a superhero. “I’ve run through Jersey City a couple of times,” he says, “and it hasn’t gone as well. People have threatened me. One guy early in the morning went off on a rant, saying he would kill me and other stuff. I don’t get that kind of reaction in Bayonne. They take a picture, say hello. It’s a lot friendlier.” He also gets a good response from his Columbia coworkers. “A lot of them are very supportive and have bought T-shirts,” he says. “They get it. They have a sense of humor.” His wife is supportive, too, but he acknowledges that she has a hard time calling him “Captain” in public. “I always liked Bayonne growing up,” he says. “My mom took me to the park in Bayonne, and I was very fond of it. It’s a nice town, a good community with good people. They come together anytime somebody is in need.” Rocheny says he’s always in Bayonne supporting local businesses. His future plans call for creating a video declaring war on litter in Bayonne. “I’m out every week, and do what I can,” he says. “Everyone should pitch in an hour a week.” Aye, aye, Captain.—Kate Rounds
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City Critters
Jul 29, 2015 | 34 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Critters
Feral cat by Victor M. Rodriguez
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In a city the size of Bayonne you can still find vestiges of our rural past. In our parks, on our waterfronts, and even in ragged lots left vacant by demolished or abandoned buildings, you can find a surprising variety of wildlife. These images come from the cameras of Bayonne residents who have caught our untamed friends in the act of being themselves. We will be publishing more wildlife photos in future issues. Send yours to krounds@hudsonreporter.com.
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