This special “Year in Review” issue replaces your regular weekly editions of the Reporter in Hoboken, Jersey City, North Bergen, Guttenberg, Secaucus, Union City, Weehawken, and West New York.
Next week, Jan. 6, we’ll have a special “Year in Photos” issue. We will still include newsworthy briefs, so send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will resume regular issues on Sunday, Jan. 13, including letters and all our other popular features.
The Reporter offices will be closed on Monday, Dec. 31, and Tuesday, Jan. 1 for the new year. Happy new year! We reopen Wednesday, Jan. 2.
To place an ad, call 201-798-7800 or email Tishk@hudsonreporter.com. Keep watching hudsonreporter.com for breaking news. Happy new year!
10,000 toys, books donated to needy around county
Area children and families in need or who were affected by Hurricane Sandy on Dec. 21 received a special holiday gift of toys, games, and books at the Secaucus Recreation Center. Barnes & Noble worked in conjunction with the town of Secaucus to distribute over 10,000 toys, games, and books to area towns that were affected by Hurricane Sandy including Secaucus, Hoboken, Weehawken, Union City, as well as Bergen County towns like Carlstadt, Moonachie, and Little Ferry.
Secaucus resident Lisa Wandell, who has four children, said that her family had a difficult year and the toys were “a blessing.” Her husband and daughter are both in the hospital and the family has faced challenges living on one income. She added that when she got her most recent paycheck, she was faced with the decision of whether to pay her car insurance or buy her children presents for Christmas.
“This is a godsend,” said Wandell.
Danny Conroy and Ryan Goor of the Secaucus-based company Commercial Furniture Transport also gave 10,000 pieces of Mattell and Hasbro toys through Angel Wish.
Local officials, school administrators, and Board of Education members were present for a special ceremony at the Recreation Center where Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli presented Barnes & Noble CEO Mitchell Klipper with a plaque in recognition of the company’s contribution to the local community. Assemblyman Vincent Prieto and Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez were also in attendance.
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, Board of Education President Richard Barsa, and Township Manager Jim Marchetti were present to receive a contribution, which will go to local flood victims as well as to future emergencies. Turner said that nearly 350 families were affected by Hurricane Sandy in Weehawken.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said the donations were going to organizations that serve youth in need throughout the city as well as ones that were affected by the storm such as Daycare 100, which was flooded during the storm, the Jubilee Center, and the Boys and Girls Club.
Union City Superintendent of Schools Stanley Sanger said that the donations would go toward the families who were displaced due to the recent fire. He said that locally the school district had collected $9,000, and while the cash donation was helpful to provide the families support as they get back on their feet, the toys are “very special…for the kids.”
Free to park at meters in Hoboken through new year’s
People may park at meters for free in Hoboken until 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 2, 2013. The City Council extended the holiday parking meter measures recently as a way to promote shopping local for the holidays.
Also, on New Year’s Day, alternate side parking rules are suspended.
Director of operations of North Bergen Housing Authority pleads guilty to extortion
The director of operations for the North Bergen Housing Authority, which oversees the town’s federally subsidized public and senior housing, admitted on Thursday, Dec. 20 to extorting employees of a maintenance company contracted by the Authority, according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman in a press release.
John T. Kennell, 49, of North Bergen, was arrested in August 2012, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark federal court to information charging him with extortion under color of official right and by fear of economic harm.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:
While the director of operations for the NBHA, Kennell used his official position to extort cash payments from employees of a company (Company One) that provided repair and grounds maintenance services. Kennell, who supervised the employees of Company One working for the Authority, accepted cash payments in amounts ranging from $100 to $400 from employees for, among other things, securing additional paid vacation days for these employees. Kennell assisted in securing these additional paid vacation days by falsely reporting to Company One that the employees were working at the NBHA, when they were, in fact, traveling outside of the United States. Between February 2008 and June 2011, Company One compensated employees for approximately 80 days of unauthorized vacation, totaling $12,498, because of Kennell’s actions. Kennell accepted $2,000 to $2,500 in payments for his official assistance in this fraud.
He also accepted cash payments of $50 to $100 from an undocumented alien employee of Company One for permitting that employee to twice change the alias that employee was using to continue working. Using his position of authority, as well as the threat of termination of employment, Kennell also regularly extorted the employees of Company One – sometimes as frequently as twice a month – for cash payments in amounts ranging from $10 to $20 per employee.
According to the press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the extortion count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
According to Town Spokesperson Paul Swibinski, Kennell was terminated from his position on Friday, Dec. 21 and there is currently no replacement as of yet. Sentencing is scheduled for March 25, 2013.
Jersey City honors victims of Newtown
At press time last week, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy and members of the Jersey City Council were scheduled to hold a candlelight vigil for the 26 victims of the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The vigil was timed to take place on Friday, Dec. 28, the two-week anniversary of the tragic incident that has reignited debate about gun control in the United States. The vigil was scheduled to take place at City Hall, 280 Grove St.
“This unspeakable horror devastated all of us across the nation, and the Jersey City community wants to pay tribute to all of the victims and let the families know that we are continuing to pray for them,” Healy said last week.
Healy, a charter member of the gun control advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns – which is chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino – recently signed a letter calling on President Barack Obama to implement policies to curb gun violence.
Specifically, the organization is calling for: 1) requiring every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check; getting high capacity rifles and ammunition magazines off our streets; and making gun trafficking a federal crime, among other measures.
Healy has long been an advocate of anti-gun legislation and has passed legislation at the local level to limit handgun purchases to one per month. That legislation, along with a companion bill regarding the reporting of lost and stolen firearms, was adopted at the state level and is now law in New Jersey.
Since taking office, the Healy administration has also organized several gun buyback programs which have collectively resulted in the removal of 1,297 firearms from the streets of Jersey City.
Should the gun control debate continue into next year, it is possible that gun control and gun violence could become a campaign issues in the upcoming May 2013 Jersey City mayoral race.
The Dec. 28 vigil was organized by Jersey City resident Daniel Rodriguez.
No further development in attempted Hoboken carjacking
Police are investigating an attempted carjacking at gunpoint in the Maxwell Place development that took place the night of Dec. 2, police confirmed this week.
A victim and a witness were visibly shaken up when they were found by Hoboken police, according to a police spokesman.
One of the victims, who is a personal trainer, was placing gym apparatus in his Jeep with a client when a man (approx. 5’11”, 180 lbs, facial hair, African-American) came up behind them and allegedly said, “Give me your keys; I have a gun,” according to a police report.
The witness spotted a black handgun and ran, yelling to call 911. The victim also ran and then locked his truck remotely. The carjacker ran toward a garage, according to the victim.
The detective on the case has not yet been able to sit down with the victim, a police spokesman said on Thursday.
Guttenberg parking rules, senior activities
During the new year, the town of Guttenberg will be looking to extend the programming for senior citizens in town. Any senior citizen who is interested in participating in the programming should call (201) 868-2315, extension 152, to register for upcoming events.
From Dec. 17 at 7 a.m. to Jan. 2, 2013, all parking meters in the municipality will be free. However, regulations for resident parking will remain in effect.
Appleview development hearing this week
The latest Planning Board meeting to discuss the Appleview development in North Bergen will be held on Thursday, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. at North Bergen Town Hall. The proposed Appleview condo development is controversial for a number of reasons. Residents are concerned that it will be built near a natural gas line. It’s also being built at the Palisade Cliffs, and preservationists are concerned about removing portions of the land.
The town and county planning boards have been holding hearings on the application for over three years.
Arts group in Union City announces winter and spring wellness programs
The Arts at St. John’s will host an open house on Saturday, Jan. 12 from 8:30 to 3:30 p.m., showcasing its wellness program, ASJ Wellness, which will be offered throughout the winter and spring seasons. There will be free classes starting at 8:30 a.m., a kids Gymnastics open house at 12:30 p.m., and a "Wellness Party" at 2 p.m.
ASJ Wellness, a non-profit community outreach group, is housed in historic St. John's Church on the corner or 16th Street and Palisade Avenue in Union City. Started in June 2012, the program offers high quality yet affordable group fitness, meditation and kids gymnastics classes to all levels.
The party will feature demonstrations of the classes being offered at the program, including tai chi, bellydancing, Vinyasa yoga, Kundalini Yoga, zumba, and meditation. Free food and beverages will be served.
The open house event kicks off the ASJ Wellness winter/spring schedule which continues every Tuesday night and Saturday morning until May 18. Adults can drop in anytime to group fitness classes or purchase a variety of subscription packages. Kids’ gymnastics is offered in 12-week or six-week sessions.
Special one-time promotional pricing will be available at the open house allowing students to sign up for 6 weeks of their favorite class for $8 per class ($48 total, a $120 value) or get a universal 10 class pack for $10 per class ($100 total, $200 value).
Parents interested in kids’ gymnastics will also be able to register their child at the event. Classes for ages 7-12 are $132 for a 12-week session: 4-6 year old classes are $66 for a 6-week session.
For more information call (201) 301-8340 or visit StJohnsUC.com.
Weehawken Volunteer First Aid Squad hosting annual fund drive
WEEHAWKEN – Weehawken Director of Public Safety Jeff Welz wrote a letter to the residents of Weehawken this past week, urging residents to donate to the township’s Volunteer First Aid Squad, comprised of an ambulance corps and Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
Due to economic downturn, the squad is facing a tough year ahead. According to the letter, the state will no longer be funding training for the volunteers. In order to prevent the volunteer squad members from absorbing that cost, the squad and township has covered the cost.
“The Weehawken Volunteer First Aid Squad is in jeopardy of losing the ability to provide free, quality emergency medical service to the community due to cuts in funding and donations,” said Welz.
Additionally, Welz announced that the squad is looking for new members. The squad has been a great starting point for those who are looking for careers in the medical and health care fields.
“The squad is proud that over 100 of its alumni and current members have become medical professionals, including paramedics, registered nurses, and doctors,” the letter read.
For more information, call the township’s Public Safety office (201) 319-6046.
Free month of PATH service for 30-day Smartlink cardholders
According to officials, Hoboken residents who have a 30-day Smartlink card will get another 30 days of PATH service free. The free rides are a show of appreciation for waiting out the lengthy closure of Hoboken PATH station after Hurricane Sandy. The 30-day free passes will automatically be added to the cards of Hoboken residents who were previously registered Smartlink customers with 30-day passes.
“We truly understand the extreme difficulties that closure of the Hoboken station put on our loyal resident riders,” Stephen Kingsberry, PATH’s acting director and general manager, said in a news release.
Weehawken garbage collection has holiday schedule
There will be no garbage collection in Weehawken’s 3rd Ward on Tuesday, Jan. 1. Residents of the 3rd Ward are advised to put their garbage out Tuesday night, and it will be picked up Wednesday, Jan. 2. Garbage pickup schedules in the township’s other wards remain the same, as to township-wide recycling schedules.
Man loses six fingers in work accident
According to North Bergen Police Captain Patrick Irwin, on Dec. 19 at 6:24 p.m., police responded to Eagle Recycling at 4711 Dell Ave. on a report of an injured party. The victim, a 22-year-old Union City man, was working and attempting to pull cardboard from a feeder belt that was clogged when both his hands became stuck inside it. The machine was then shut off but his hands became tangled in the feeder, which led to six of his fingers being severed.
Captain Irwin believes the man lost four fingers on his right hand and two on his left.
West New York EMS along with North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue responded to free him from the machine. The man was transferred to Jersey City Medical Center.
According to Irwin, OSHA was notified and responded. OSHA investigates industrial accidents. Eagle Recycling representatives were unavailable for comment.
Seminar on weight loss surgical options Jan. 3 at Palisades Medical Center
A seminar on weight loss surgical options will be presented for free on Jan. 3 at Palisades Medical Center in English and Spanish. The featured speaker is Stefanie Vaimakis, MD.
Registration is 6:30, and the seminar runs from 7 to 9 p.m. Free food, refreshments, parking. Free transportation available from 60th Street and Bergenline Avenue starting at 5:30 p.m.
More than 60 percent of the U.S. population is overweight and about 30 percent is classified as being obese. Today, there are many Bariatric (Weight Loss) Surgical Options for people who have been unable to achieve significant weight loss through diet and exercise.
For more information, contact Nikki Mederos, (201) 854-5702. Palisades is located at 7600 River Road.
North Bergen Health Department has fee collection change
As of Jan. 1, 2013, the North Bergen Health Department will only accept the following as payment of various fees: personal check, bank/teller check, or a money order. There will be absolutely no cash accepted for any fees.
Christmas Eve heist at Hoboken shopping center
The shopping center at 301 Jackson St. in Hoboken was burglarized on the night of Christmas Eve, for a loss of over $13,000 in stolen goods and cash. A dollar store and a liquor store were hit sometime overnight from Christmas Eve to early Christmas morning, a police spokesman said.
The initial robbery took place at the dollar store with a reported loss of $375 in cash and goods. The burglar(s) had cut through the wall. A liquor store in the same plaza had $4,500 in cash stolen, 90 cartons of cigarettes (50 not full, 40 full) estimated at $5,600, 24 bottles of vodka estimated at around $840, and 10 cases of mixed liquor estimated at $2,500. Walls were also cut at that property.
Construction workers were repairing floors and other hurricane damage at an adjacent store. It was unclear whether any doors left open by the workers aided in the accessibility.