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Jersey City high school principal, others removed pending probe into alleged grade-fixing
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The Jersey City school district on Friday removed the principal of Lincoln High School along with three other employees while school was still in session.

School board member Sean Connors confirmed to the Jersey City Reporter that the removal took place and the employees were reassigned to the school district office pending an investigation. Connors said the investigation was looking into allegations that the grades of some Lincoln High School athletes were fixed to allow them to remain eligible.

Connors said he was informed by schools superintendent Dr. Charles Epps before the removal took place and after.

The removed employees identified so far are Prinicipal Jeannette Braswell-McRae and Athletic Director Artie Williams.

Connors said it would be "sad" for Lincoln if the allegations were true. He noted that the high school has enjoyed great press recently due to the success of their football team and the school's soccer coach, Wexford Boateng, being honored by the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League.

For more on this story, check for updates. - Ricardo Kaulessar

Posted on: 2011/1/16 3:45

A year after re-election, Fulop considers state of city - Hudson Reporter
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A year after re-election, Fulop considers state of city

Downtown councilman looks back at ?lost year? and what?s to come

by Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter Staff Writer

Jersey City councilman Steven Fulop calls the past year since his reelection to his Ward E seat last May a ?lost year? for Jersey City.

?The city, under the Healy administration, could have seen changes in government to make it run better,? said Fulop in an interview last week. ?With the July 23 corruption scandal, with Governor Christie cutting state aid, and the people coming to the council meetings, the city could have made the necessary cuts in government, but that didn?t happen, which is disappointing.?


?I find I am learning more from the people.? ? Steven Fulop

Fulop, 33, was returned to the council in the May 2009 municipal elections in which Mayor Jerramiah Healy was reelected to a second full term in office after spending a record $3.5 million on his campaign. Eight of the nine City Council candidates who ran on Healy?s ticket were also elected. Healy was offered an opportunity to answer the same questions as Fulop, but he declined.

Fulop has served on the City Council since 2005. He won his second term last year by over 30 points against Healy-backed challenger Guy Catrillo, who was later arrested in the July 23, 2009 corruption sweep and is currently serving time in federal prison.

Fulop looked back at a year for him that was both politically and personally tumultuous, yet also rewarding, since he has become the front runner among the political figures who could next seek the mayor?s office.

A year of pursuing change

Fulop said the slogan for the Healy election ticket ? ?Delivering change you can see? ? was an ironic counterpoint to the ?unfavorable? changes the city has experienced.

?We have seen a massive tax increase in the city, a budget that was ten months late, and of course, the July 23 arrests,? Fulop said. ?And what those arrests have done is cripple government and not having an engaged, effective government.?

The arrests of 44 political and religious figures last July included a number of Jersey City residents who ran for office, including several on Mayor Healy?s team ? Catrillo, Phil Kenny and Mariano Vega ? as well as his deputy mayor, Leona Beldini, who was found guilty of two counts of bribery by a federal jury in February. She appealed the two counts but they were both upheld by a federal judge on Monday.

Fulop thinks the July 23 arrests created ?a window of opportunity? that enabled the passage in September of a pay-to-play ordinance, sponsored by him. It prevents developers from making campaign contributions while negotiating to become the designated contractor in any redevelopment agreement with the city.

Fulop also said the November election of Republican Gov. Christopher Christie ? who has pushed for $14 million in cuts in state aid to Jersey City for the upcoming fiscal year ? created a ?climate? of fiscal responsibility in which councilman proposed cost-cutting measures to balance the city?s recently passed $509.8 million budget.

?It?s good to have someone on a senior level touting some of the same things,? said Fulop of Christie, with whom he disagrees on other issues, such as how he has dealt with public employees.

The measure Fulop proposed, which the City Council rejected, called for eliminating health benefits for board members of the Jersey City Incinerator Authority and Municipal Authority, which would have saved the city about $2 million. Instead, the council passed a bill crafted by the Healy administration that called for the board members to pay 20 percent of their health costs, which Fulop called ?disheartening.?

He was also disappointed that he didn?t get more support when he proposed a bill to eliminate cars for city employee use. That legislation was voted down as well.

Instead, the council approved an ordinance in March forbidding reintroduction of rejected legislation for at six months, a move widely seen as targeting Fulop?s persistent efforts to introduce reform measures.

What he looks to change

Fulop said the past year has changed him for the future. More time has been ?demanded? of him to not only study issues but also meet with more people, not just in Ward E but across the city.

As an ?undeclared? future mayoral candidate, Fulop has been doing more ?Meet-and-Greet? events in the homes of residents, where they pose questions to him. Fulop said he forwards any complaint from constituents outside his ward to the council member representing that individual.

?I try to educate them on the issues affecting the city, as many of them have become more concerned about how this city is being run,? Fulop said. ?But I find I am learning more from the people.?

However, Fulop feels not ?completely comfortable? with being the mayoral frontrunner because while the local Democratic Party has a ?lack of leadership? that gives him an advantage, it has created a situation where he is not able to gauge who will oppose him in the next mayoral election in 2013.

In the meantime, he is proposing legislation and studying issues that address residents? concerns for the coming year.

One of the issues he is looking at in the near future is the upcoming tax revaluation, which he opposes. The revaluation is an appraisal of all real estate in the city to determine its value for taxation, with the expectation that properties will be appraised at or near their current market value. However, some residents are concerned that their homes will be found to be worth more and they will have to pay higher taxes.

Also, Fulop will push for a restructuring of both the city?s police and fire departments to eliminate excess positions that have been created for reasons of ?cronyism.? He pointed to the promotions last week of five Fire Department captains to battalion chiefs, saying the city cannot afford them even though the firemen are foregoing the raise that comes with the promotion (see related story).

?Ultimately, I will be judged by my performance on the council in serving the people until my term ends,? Fulop said.

Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at

Posted on: 2010/5/30 4:57

Hudson Reporter - JC resident Wes Moore discusses new book "The Other Wes Moore"
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Wes Moore on ?The Other Wes Moore?

JC resident?s bestseller explores two men with same name, different paths

by Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter Staff Writer

Right now, a Jersey City resident named Wes Moore has a successful job working at Citigroup in their global markets division. He has been a Rhodes Scholar, a captain in the U.S. Army, a White House Fellow, and has spoken at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He is also the author of a new book, ?The Other Wes Moore? (Spiegel and Grau, April, 2010) that debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List last month at number 5 for nonfiction.

The ?other? Wes Moore, as referred to in the title, is serving a life sentence without parole at the Jessup Correctional Institution in central Maryland in connection with the 2000 murder of an off-duty Baltimore police officer.


?After he finished reading, he told me how impressed he was by how I got the facts right.? ? Wes Moore

So how did two men ? both of whom were born in Baltimore (albeit three years apart) and raised in single-parent households ? have such different paths?

Moore, 31, explores this in his first book, as well as the convergence of their paths and the realization of how both men could have had the other?s life.

?The chilling truth is that Wes?s story could have been mine; the tragedy is that my story could have been his,? Moore writes in the epilogue of the book.

Moore in an interview last week said he was ?thankful? that the book has resonated not just with African-Americans or even with people who had upbringings similar to his and the other Wes.

?I am thankful that people who are reading the book understand the point to the book,? said Moore, ?that this book is about much more than two kids, that it is much more than one neighborhood; it is about all of us.?

Moore continued, ?It is the choices we make in our lives, and the people who help us make those choices.?

Moore is on a book tour that takes him this week to Atlanta, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. When he is not traveling, he lives with his wife Dawn at their home in the Port Liberte community on the Jersey City waterfront.

Seeing himself in the other

Moore first encountered the other Wes in 2000. It was in an edition of his hometown Baltimore Sun newspaper where there was a short article about himself ? then a graduate of the local institution, Johns Hopkins University ? being named a Rhodes Scholar, a prestigious, international award given to those who pursue postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford in England.

The newspaper was also running an article about the death of Bruce Prothero, an off-duty Baltimore police officer who was killed while trying to stop some robbers of the jewelry store where he worked, and about the four men who responsible for his death.

One of them was also named Wes Moore.

After earning a Rhodes Scholarship, the author Wes Moore went on to Oxford, where he earned a degree in international relations. Yet the story of his ?doppelganger? never left him.

?Two years after I returned from Oxford, I was still thinking about the story. I couldn?t let it go,? Moore writes in the book. ?If you?d asked me why, I couldn?t have told you exactly.?

Whatever the reason, Moore started a correspondence with the other Moore, and learned a lot about him that suggested some eerie parallels.

Eerie parallels

Both lost their fathers at early ages. Wes the writer saw his father collapse in front of him, while Wes the prisoner hardly saw his father at all. Both also moved around with their families, whether in different areas of one town or to different cities. And both began to get into trouble at an early age.

But the author Moore found salvation after his mother enrolled him in a Pennsylvania military school, which began him on the path that he continues to take. The other Moore never had that fortune, and drifted into a life of crime.

So what did the prisoner Moore think of the book about their similar, yet radically different existences?

?After he finished reading, he told me how impressed he was by how I got the facts right,?

Moore said. ?The other reaction he had, after reading the book, was he was amazed at how little he has done with his life ? which was tough to hear.?

To learn more about the book, http: the

Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at

Posted on: 2010/5/24 17:56

Hudson Reporter - Parking meter rate going up
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Parking meter rate going up

Fifty percent increase starting this summer

by Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter Staff Writer

The Jersey City Parking Authority plans to raise the citywide parking meter fee from 50 cents per hour to 75 starting this summer, something that has Jersey City Heights resident John Seborowski frustrated.

Jersey City already has some 25-cents-per-20 minute red-colored meters in certain business areas in the city, but the new increase would apply to the rest. Some of the areas with meters are downtown Jersey City on sections of Newark Avenue and Jersey Avenue, as well as Central Avenue in the Heights.

Seborowski brought up the matter at the City Council meeting on May 12. He said at the meeting that he was surprised little has been mentioned or discussed by city officials about the increase, which he found out about after coming across information listed on the council?s agenda in the Petitions and Communications section.


The Jersey City Parking Authority plans to raise the citywide meter fee by 50 percent.

In fact, business owners contacted by this newspaper last week said they were unaware of the coming change, although they did not consider the increase significant.

A May 6 memo from the Parking Authority?s executive director Mary Paretti to Mayor Jerramiah Healy addressed the increase, claiming it was done to increase turnover, since monitoring at certain metered spaces has revealed they are occupied all day by people feeding quarters. The increase was approved by the Parking Authority Board of Commissioners at their April 27 meeting and did not need to be confirmed by the council. It will go into effect later this summer after certain other steps are taken.

At the meeting, Seborowski said the increase is ?not fair? to residents of Jersey City and that the Parking Authority should instead enforce current regulations to ensure available parking.

?Punish those responsible for abusing parking regulations, not those who abide by the regulations,? Seborowski said. ?Or is this just another way to squeeze the residents and increase the income of the Parking Authority??

He also took the Parking Authority to task for the statement in the memo saying approval to increase meter fees was not needed from the City Council because the city?s municipal code stipulates that the Parking Authority is responsible for the ?regulation, control, maintenance, operation and use of parking meters.?

Seborowski pointed out that the Parking Authority found time to come in front of the council in November to convince them to approve a $4.6 million bond for the Parking Authority to purchase 392 Central Ave., the building where it is currently headquartered.

Paretti could not be reached last week at her office or on her cell phone for comment on the meter rate hike. An employee at the Parking Authority said she was on vacation.

Mentioning other cities? rates

The memo by Paretti says the increased rate would be comparable to meter rates in cities of similar size such as Newark, Camden, and Paterson, which are currently .75 per hour.

In most Hudson County towns with meters, the fee is .50 per hour, with the exception of Hoboken, whose $1 per hour is the highest in Hudson County.

The next step ? unless there is a repeal of the increase as requested by Seborowski at the council meeting ? is for the meters to be recalibrated to reflect the increase, starting sometime between June 1 and July 1.

Paretti?s memo also states that public notices and flyers will be sent out to let residents and businesses know about the change.

Business owners unaware

Two downtown business owners interviewed last week said they only found out after being told by a reporter about the increase.

Phillip Stamborski is owner of Gallerie Hudson, a frame shop located on the corner of Jersey and Newark avenues in downtown Jersey City that is only a few feet away from metered spaces. He was somewhat taken aback, yet not too surprised.

?Fifty to 75 cents is not a big deal,? Stamborski said. ?The bigger issue is creating more parking spaces, since I have customers who drive in here and get frustrated from not finding any parking.?

Stamborski continued, ?I understand we need money, but we need some other kind of parking solution.?

Jennifer Smith, owner of Jack?s Toy Shop on Jersey Avenue, also didn?t know about the meter fee increase, but didn?t seem concerned since most of her customers walk to her store.

?A quarter for 20 minutes, I don?t think the average person will notice,? Smith said. ?

Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at

Posted on: 2010/5/23 21:06

Re: State calls for renegotiating 'too expensive' Jersey City police and fire contracts
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?Simply too expensive?

State recommends that raises for police, fire officers be renegotiated

by Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter Staff Writer

?While I believe our police officers and firefighters deserve every penny, I understand that these salary increases are high in light of our current economic and budgetary situation,? said Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy last week in response to questions from the media regarding the city?s stance on the contracts negotiated between the city?s fire and police unions and city officials.

The new contracts for the members of both unions offer 3 percent retroactive raises for 2009, then raises of 3.3 percent for 2010, 3.4 percent for 2011 and 3.5 percent in 2012.

These contracts were negotiated with the condition that both unions would choose a new health care coverage plan that would save the city over $1 million a year, because the employees will have to contribute money to the plan.


?This is not one of those rich contracts.? ? Jerry DiCicco, president of the POBA

The contracts have been negotiated since January 2009, but recently, Gov. Christopher Christie has cut state funding to most towns in New Jersey, leaving them to re-examine their contracts and other spending ? especially contracts on which they had not yet voted.

The City Council withdrew the police and fire contracts from the agenda of its March 10 meeting so that the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) could review them. Now the DCA has weighed in on the contracts, and the news for police and firefighters is not good.

In a March 31 letter to Mayor Healy and the City Council, Marc Pfeiffer, acting director of the state DCA?s Division of Local Government Services, said the contracts were ?simply too expensive.? He said the 13 percent pay raise over four years is ?unaffordable? for the city and the taxpayers. He recommended the contracts be amended for more savings before they are approved.

?While it may be ?comparable? and consistent with recent settlements of other entities in the area, this contract is simply too expensive and we recommend that the parties go back to the table and negotiate lower increases that are consistent with the city?s fiscal condition,? Pfeiffer said in the letter.

While Pfeiffer judged the choice of the new health care coverage plan positive for lowering costs, he said that the salary increases will erase those savings.

Meanwhile, Healy?s statement said that it would be up to the City Council to decide whether to ratify the contracts. The state?s consent is not needed before granting approval, but the city did allow for a review of both of them since Jersey City was granted $14 million in special state aid earlier this year.

The contracts are scheduled to be back in front of the City Council at its next meeting on Wednesday.

Police: Reasons it?s justified

The unions involved are the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association (POBA) and the International Fire Fighters Association, Local 1066.

Representatives from Local 1066 did not return phone calls to their office for comment, but Jerry DiCicco, president of the POBA, a 700-member union, commented last week.

DiCicco defended the contract as ?far ahead of the curve? in terms of achieving the kind of health care savings the state has asked for from public sector unions. Specifically, effective July 1, there will be a new co-payment, for mail order prescription drugs costing $1,000 or more, of $50 per 30-day supply, where previously there was no co-payment.

For retail prescriptions costing $1,000 or more, the co-pay will cost individuals $100 instead of the current $20.

DiCicco also called the contract ?reasonable? when compared to the contracts being sought by Hudson County police, police in Bergen County towns, and even Jersey City teachers, who are seeking a 4-plus percent raise each year for four years.

He also said the 500,000 calls for service that the police answer every year justify the contract, which has been pending since the last one expired Dec. 31, 2008.

?When you look at this contract, look though these things, this is not one of those rich contracts,? DiCicco said.

As of September 2009, without factoring in the increases called for in the current contract, a first-year Jersey City police officer earns $46,903. By year seven, that salary goes up to $83,965. If an officer gets to a 25th year of service, they can make $93,844.

Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at

Posted on: 2010/4/11 4:40

Former Assemblyman Manzo calls out U.S. Attorney's office for alleged misconduct in FBI sting
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From the Hudson Reporter:

JERSEY CITY AND BEYOND - Former state assemblyman Louis Manzo at a press conference in Jersey City on Monday blasted the federal government's July 2009 corruption probe, claiming it was tainted by misconduct by prosecutors involved in the case.

Manzo was arrested on July 23 as the part of the sting, which netted public officials and religious leaders on bribery and money laundering charges. Manzo and his brother Ronald were both charged with allegedly accepting $27,500 in corrupt cash payments from government informant Solomon Dwek in exchange for Manzo?s official assistance on development matters once he became mayor.

Manzo at the press conference took to task assistant U.S. Attorneys prosecuting his case and others.

He said they ran afoul of federal law with actions such as donating to the campaign to former U.S. Attorney, now Gov. Chris Christie. Many of them were hired for jobs in Christie's administration, he said.

"It is shameful that this once great symbol of law and order has denigrated into the characteristics of a political ward club," Manzo said.

Also, Manzo called for an investigation of the attorneys by the federal government. Manzo said he filed a motion of misconduct regarding the attorneys with U.S. District Judge Jose Linares and will be in court on Monday for a hearing on the matter. - RK

Posted on: 2010/3/15 20:02

Exclusive interview: Guy says goodbye - Catrillo speaks to Hudson Reporter
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Exclusive interview: Guy says goodbye

First man to go to jail in corruption bust talks about sting, Dwek, and taking responsibility

by Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter Staff Writer

When Guy Catrillo reports to Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution in southern New Jersey on Monday at noon, he will begin spending the next 18 months as inmate 30121-050.

The 55-year-old Catrillo, a former Jersey City planning aide and City Hall employee who ran for City Council last year, has been saying his farewells to family and friends as well as taking care of remaining business in his beloved hometown.

Last week, he spoke about the July sting operation that netted him and dozens of other officials. The downtown Jersey City native is the first of the officials and religious leaders in Operation Bid Rig to report to prison.


?Now the brakes are on.? ? Guy Catrillo

Catrillo pleaded guilty in September to accepting $15,000 cash in three payments from the federal government?s ?cooperating witness? Solomon Dwek, in exchange for helping Dwek to get approvals on his purported development project on Garfield Avenue in Jersey City.

In an exclusive interview with the Jersey City Reporter last week, Catrillo said that, in a way, he welcomes jail because it will give him time to compose a film music score for a Christmas play that he has written, and complete other songs he has wanted to write.

?This is giving me a chance to put on the brakes, because my life has been nonstop,? Catrillo said. ?Now the brakes are on.?

And Catrillo is singing anything but a sad song about the government?s treatment of him, calling it ?absolutely professional? even though he is now a convicted felon stripped of his right to vote and bear firearms. Catrillo surrendered his passport permanently, can?t hold another government job and most of all, can?t appeal the government?s case against him because he has pleaded guilty.

Catrillo says he has readied himself for prison by trying not to dwell too much on the unfortunate turn his life has taken. He also has been constantly monitored by federal agents, who checked on his physical and mental well-being. Last July, a Jersey City political consultant who was arrested, Jack Shaw, was found dead in his apartment five days later. The matter still has not been ruled either a suicide or accidental, but the coroner has reported valium in his system.

Catrillo is optimistic about his future beyond his incarceration, saying he has some jobs lined up upon release in a year and a half.

6 a.m. knock at door

Catrillo repeated during the interview, ?I don?t want to talk about the case,? but he did ?take responsibility? for his actions, citing his violation of the Hobbs Act ? a U.S. federal law that prohibits actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce ? by accepting money from Dwek. Dwek wanted Catrillo use the money for Catrillo?s campaign.

?It was a fairly high price to pay for something like that,? Catrillo said.

Catrillo described the day of his arrest, when federal agents came to the door of his home at 6 a.m. Thinking they were there to tell him that his cousin had died due to his work as a fireman, Catrillo said the plainclothes agents entered his home very ?discreet.? He was not read his Miranda rights.

Catrillo admitted in the interview that he had in his house the bulk of the $15,000 that Dwek gave to him to hold, minus a couple thousand dollars he spent to help keep some friends from eviction.

Political reunion in jail

He was brought to Newark by federal authorities and placed in a jail cell awaiting his appearance in court. He looked around and saw many of the arrested public officials, including Jack Shaw, Jersey City Councilman Mariano Vega, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, and Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano.

?I?m looking at these people and thinking, they are so seasoned, how did they caught up in this?? Catrillo said. ?I know why I ended up here is because I was na?ve.?

In the next jail cell was a Jersey City employee who, unlike the other officials, didn?t keep a low profile, according to Catrillo. Catrillo says that the employee cursed out Dwek and other people whom he blamed for his downfall.

?I said ?Shut the f--- up, this place is being videotaped,? ? Catrillo said.

Catrillo also met some of the Jewish religious leaders arrested, including Rabbi Saul Kassin, the leading Syrian Sephardic Jewish cleric in the United States, who said a prayer for Catrillo. Some of the leaders had been implicated in a money laundering scheme and were charged, but they have not entered a plea.

Dwek, Chris Christie, and Healy

Catrillo was fairly diplomatic about some of the major players in the corruption scandal.

Gov. Christopher Christie was, until he resigned last year to run for governor, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey overseeing the investigation. Ultimately, the arrests occurred during the gubernatorial campaign season, shining a poor light on Christie?s Democratic opponent, then-Gov. Jon Corzine.

Catrillo said he was a supporter of Christie for governor. Catrillo cited Democratic New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo possibly using his position to ?ruin? the careers of current New York Gov. David Patterson and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, also both Democrats, but Catrillo did not elaborate further. Cuomo is currently considering a run for the New York governor?s seat.

As for Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who gained notoriety for meeting with Dwek twice but hasn?t been charged with a crime, Catrillo said he doesn?t think Healy is ?corrupt.? Several of those arrested said the money they collected was for Healy?s re-election campaign, but there are questions as to whether Healy knew of the terms of the donations.

On the subject of Dwek, whom Catrillo knew as ?David,? he recalled running into him when he was processed for prison and seeing him shake his head. Catrillo said he recalled how the rabbi Kassin described Dwek.

?I remembered Kassin saying that Dwek was ?an instrument of God sent to us for a reason, and we were not to be angry with him,? ? Catrillo said.

Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at

Posted on: 2010/3/15 1:49

Re: City staffer retires with huge payout then rehired by City
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You can read the whole story below or go to

Retired with benefit$ ? then rehired

Also: Appointments to boards upset Fulop

by Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter Staff Writer

How do retired municipal employees come back on the job after getting compensated well for retiring?

The City Council answered that question at a special meeting on Wednesday when they approved two resolutions by a 7-0 vote (with two abstentions) that called for ?shared services? agreements between City Hall, and the Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) and the Jersey City Free Public Library.

Those five-year agreements call for those entities to ?utilize each other?s employees to perform certain services? as determined by the city?s business administrator, the directors of the public library, and the MUA.

In the agreements, no names are mentioned. But city spokesperson Jennifer Morrill confirmed before the meeting that the agreements apply to Roger Grego, who worked for the city for over 30 years, and Kathleen Dealy, who had over 25 years experience, until both retired on Feb. 1. Under the agreements, Grego will now work for the Public Library and Dealy will work for the MUA, and both will be paid a salary by those respective agencies.


?Every single dollar you pay in that tax bill that we voted for goes to those two people.? ? Steven Fulop

Grego, an assistant business administrator, was earning $127,104 per year when he left the city?s employ. Dealy was the city?s budget director, earning $103,969, according to various city sources.

They both retired before pending state legislation would have capped payouts for unused sick leave at $15,000 for retiring public employees. Instead, Grego was to be paid $238,138 by the city for 127 vacation days, 356 sick days, and six personal days. Dealy was scheduled to receive $133,447 for 60 vacation days, 269 sick days, and six personal days.

They can still earn those amounts and now come back to new jobs.

City Business Administrator Brian O?Reilly gave the reasons for both being hired back in a Feb. 9 memo to the council asking them to approve the agreements.

O?Reilly said the Public Library and MUA wanted to retain the services of Dealy and Grego, even though it would only be until the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30.

He also noted the pending state legislation capping payouts is a factor in public employees like Grego and Dealy retiring, and taking with them ?skill sets which are difficult to replace in the short run.?

O?Reilly also mentioned the pair?s expertise in the city?s business matters, with Grego?s specialty being labor negotiations and Dealy with the city?s budget.

City Hall sources who preferred to remain anonymous said the real reason both were brought back was because of the city?s current problems with the budget. These sources questioned rehiring the pair when the city is in a fiscal crisis with furloughs and layoffs happening to city employees. (See cover story.)

While seven of the nine council members voted in favor of the resolutions, council members Steven Fulop and Viola Richardson abstained. They said later that while they respect Grego and Dealy, other city employees could have stepped in and fill the void.

Not everyone?s on board

The City Council also voted 8-1 to appoint two people to the Jersey City Incinerator Authority board.

Councilman Steven Fulop was the lone vote against the appointment of both Roger Hejazi and Frank Cecchia due to the issue of health benefits. He has sponsored several ordinances that would strip health benefits of board members for the Incinerator Authority (JCIA) and the MUA as well as the City Council, in order to save the city money.

Those ordinances will be on the agenda at this Wednesday?s council meeting.

Board members for the JCIA and the MUA are not paid, but receive health benefits that Fulop estimates to be $400,000 for the two boards combined. Each board has seven members.

Fulop?s initiative to cut health benefits is based on the fact that both boards have part-time members that meet at a minimum for 12 hours per year, or one hour per monthly meeting.

At Wednesday?s meeting Fulop wanted to know if Hejazi was willing to serve on the JCIA board even if Fulop?s health benefits ordinance was passed.

When Fulop was informed by Richardson that Hejazi told her he would serve without benefits, Fulop then wanted the resolution for Hejazi?s appointment to be revised to indicate that Hejazi would serve without benefits.

Fulop?s request provoked opposition from several council members.

Michael Sottolano wanted the appointment of Hejazi to go through, saying the council could revisit Hejazi?s appointment in the future to remove his health benefits when Fulop?s ordinance has been passed.

Councilman Bill Gaughan took exception to Fulop?s comments about JCIA and MUA board members serving for a few hours, saying, ?You make this stuff up.? Gaughan?s daughter, Eileen, is the chairperson of the MUA board.

When it came time to vote, Fulop took one last stand against the appointments by reminding the small audience at the meeting about the city?s recent 25 percent tax hike, the result of the city?s $195 million tax levy in the $507 million municipal budget introduced by the council last month.

?Every single dollar you pay in that tax bill that we voted for goes to those two people,? Fulop said.

Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at

Posted on: 2010/2/21 19:13

Healy still against 77 Hudson Street abatement change - Hudson Reporter
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Healy still against 77 Hudson Street abatement change

The grand opening of the two-tower 77 Hudson Street complex in downtown Jersey City happened on Thursday.

Attended by Mayor Jerramiah Healy, associates of K. Hovnanian and EQR, the developer partners in the project, and other guests, the opening for the two buildings ? a 420-unit condo building and a 481-unit rental building ? was not without some intrigue.

Last month, Healy in a letter to the City Council advised them to not vote for a change being sought by K. Hovnanian to the initial 20-year tax abatement. The change would extend the abatement to 30 years with the payments spread out to 11 percent for the first 5 years, 13 percent for the next 5 years, and then 16 percent for the final 20 years. He said in the letter that 77 Hudson Street is located in an area that will see a consistent stream of residents moving into the condo building and does not need the abatement to survive the tough economy.

However, Healy when interviewed said he will ?not change his mind? on the standing against the abatement.

K. Hovanian official Tom Graham said at the opening that his company will make a presentation next week in City Hall to convince the council to approve the change when it comes time to vote on the abatement when it is up for a vote at a future meeting - RK

Posted on: 2009/10/11 18:56

Re: Jersey City Council President Vega, charged in corruption sting, says he won't resign
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From the Hudson Reporter:

Fulop says Vega and Lopez should not vote on Kenny's replacement

Jersey City Counclman Steven Fulop said on Wednesday that his City Council colleagues Mariano Vega and Nidia Lopez should not vote for a replacement for former Ward B Councilman Phil Kenny, who resigned from his seat on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to accepting $5,000 in bribes from the federal government's cooperating witness, Solomon Dwek.

?While I recognize that the remaining council will be responsible for filling the vacant seat with a temporary representative for the citizens in Ward B, I think that both Councilman Vega and Councilwoman Lopez should refrain from voting for the replacement until their individual legal situations are resolved. To think that temporary council people will select a temporary representative, who will vote on important decisions, for the citizens of Ward B is not fair to the residents of the city. I would hope they both take the proper and fair steps in this matter and abstain from voting.?

The "legal situations" that Fulop refers to are Vega's arrest on July 23 as one of the 44 implicated in the public corruption/money laundering scandal, and Lopez's legal issues with her residency in New Jersey and Florida, which affects her status as a council member.

Vega, when reached for comment, said it was "absurd" for Fulop to ask for him to abstain.

"It is the people who elected me to serve on the council, not Fulop the emperor," Vega said. -- RK

Posted on: 2009/10/8 1:58

Re: You know you're a JC old-timer if you remember...
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Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Here's a few things that I am old enough to remember:

Liss Drugstore in Journal Square

Two Guys and Valley Fair on Route 440

Shop Rite on Christopher Columbus Drive

The FotoMat near Acme Supermarket on Garfield Avenue

The road known as Heckman Drive that ran through Curries Woods

Dixon Pencil Company (my mom worked there)

The old Bay Cinema at City Line Plaza (Too young to go in but recall it showing porn flicks)

Posted on: 2009/9/26 23:42

Re: Plane from Hudson River crash in Jersey City today
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The plane is being transported to Harrison. I will be writing more about it for the Hudson Reporter website breaking news section, for those who read the website. Nice video, I wish I could have seen it being transported. Take care.

Posted on: 2009/2/1 2:09

Edited by Webmaster on 2009/2/1 7:42:06

Re: Plans for a single building of 45 Affordable Housing Units in the Heights
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I wrote a sidebar to my story in the Hudson Reporter on the 110 First St. project on the 45 housing units. It is posted on JC List in the thread "Three 40-plus story towers on 110 and 111 First Street sites."
I did not write too much since I was not able to attend the portion of the Planning Board meeting when it was discussed and I did not have enough space for my overall story. Any other questions, let me know. Take care.

Ricardo Kaulessar


110 First St.'s affordable housing obligation

When Councilman Bill Gaughan spoke at Tuesday's Planning Board meeting in favor of the 110 First St. project and the city's settlement with the owner of the property, it wasn't just because the settlement saved City Hall from losing an expensive lawsuit.

It turns out the settlement calls for 70 units of affordable housing to be built among 110 First St. and another site.

Twenty-five affordable housing units are designated for 110 First St., but another 45 will be at 1201-1217 Summit Ave., located in the part of the city that Gaughan represents on the City Council.

The entire project consists of the 45 units and 2,332 sq. ft. of retail.

The Summit Avenue project also was presented at Tuesday's Planning Board meeting and was approved unanimously by the board, who praised the project for its design.

The project will be built by the Franklin Development Group, LLC with $2.5 million in funding from the 110 First St. developers.

According to the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), a state organization that sets guidelines for municipalities to meet their affordable housing obligations, "affordable" rental housing in New Jersey should not cost more than 28 percent of a person's income. - RK

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Posted on: 2008/2/2 23:44

50,000 residents get unusual postcard - Hudson Reporter
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50,000 residents get unusual postcard

Healy still shooting for 'one gun a month' bill

By Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter Staff Writer

It looks like a postcard sent out by alarmists - STOP ILLEGAL GUNS NOW!!!

On the back of the postcard is the name and address of the person responsible for sending it out to more than 50,000 Jersey City residents: Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, City Hall, 280 Grove St., Jersey City, NJ 07302.

As it turns out, the postcard unfolds into a letter from Healy asking recipients to fill out the accompanying card at the bottom with their name, address, telephone number, and e-mail, and send it back to City Hall.

Healy seeking support for the "One Gun A Month" Bill currently up for a vote in the state Senate. It is legislation that stems from a Jersey City ordinance passed last year by the City Council.

The local ordinance limits dealers and buyers in Jersey City to the sale or purchase of no more than one handgun every 30 days, except for members of law enforcement agencies and state or local correctional facilities.

But in December of 2006, the ordinance was overturned by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli, who ruled that it subjected gun dealers and buyers in Jersey City to a different standard than their counterparts in the rest of the state.

That was when local state legislators such as Assemblyman Joan Quigley (D-32nd Dist.) and former State Senator and Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria championed Healy's cause by sponsoring the bill.

It was approved in the Assembly in June by a 51-25 vote, but there is concern by Quigley that it may not even come up for a vote in the Senate during the current legislative session that ends on Jan. 7.

Thus, it would have to be introduced again for a vote in the Assembly in the next legislative session starting on Jan. 8.

3,000 send it back

Healy said last week that more than 3,000 of the letters came back to City Hall as of last week.

He said he received mostly positive responses, including one woman who wrote an interesting reply. "She listed the names of friends and relatives who were shot and injured by gunshot," Healy said.

He is optimistic that they will convince Senate legislators to move forward in passing the bill. He said he plans to address the Senate and present the letters at one of the three remaining dates in the current session.

What's behind the legislation?

Healy stated in his letter, "The rationale behind the ordinance was that individuals who purchase handguns in bulk are frequently what are known as 'straw purchasers,' people who legally purchase a gun and then transfer it to someone who is prohibited from purchasing a gun, usually because of prior criminal convictions."

The "one gun a month" legislation continues one of Healy's passions as an elected official - gun control. In particular, it's stemming the flow of illegal guns into Jersey City and throughout the state.

Healy has also pursued measures that require gun owners to report a lost or stolen gun to the police within 48 hours, and prohibit the possession of low-grade, lightweight firearms known as "Saturday Night Specials.

He also initiated a gun buy-back program in January 2005 that saw approximately 900 guns turned in at various sites in Jersey City.

He is also one of the early members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

But his fight to stop illegal guns has met with opposition from various gun rights advocates, including longtime Jersey City gun dealer Frank Caso and the New Jersey chapter of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

They have argued that it would infringe on their Second Amendment right to bear arms and that Healy's objective to stop the flow of illegal guns as a way of lowering crime would be better served if there were tougher sentences for those involved in shooting crimes.

Wants it passed soon

Healy said the letters were first sent out in late November to all registered voters and started coming back to City Hall on Dec. 6.

He said he realized there would be "some resistance" from representatives out of rural areas of the state, but believes most of the legislators in the Senate will come to an agreement and vote "handily" in favor of the legislation.

"We think by and large, the people of this state and the representatives they send down to Trenton realize we need to do something about illegal guns," Healy said.

However, Quigley said last week she was "hopeful but worried" about the legislation.

"The legislature is focused on so many issues, that this isn't rising to the surface," Quigley said. "Many of the legislators think it is really a city problem."

Quigley also said there was heavy lobbying by the NRA and other gun rights groups that has slowed down the legislation in the Senate.

"There were two types of opposition - there were the people who just like buying lots of guns, and there were the Second Amendment rights people who didn't want us to trample on their constitutional rights," Quigley said. Quigley finds hope in the fact that the "one gun a month" legislation is being considered for inclusion as one of many bills as part of an anti-crime package to put forward next year by Gov. Jon Corzine and Attorney General Anne Milgram.

Local opponents

Some interviewed for this article said they either saw the letter and didn't pay attention, or hadn't opened it.

One who did receive it at his home was Lorenzo Richardson, an accountant for the Urban League of Hudson County and aide to City Councilwoman Viola Richardson (who is a relative). Richardson also lost a cousin, Michael James Taylor, in Jersey City in July 2004 when young Taylor was shot as the result of mistaken identity.

Richardson said he had not filled out the form, but he plans to do, as the issue personally impacts him.

"What's really the motivation to the resistance?" Richardson said. "Those who are pushing for it not to happen, they are not thinking of the human factor."

Richardson continued, "I realize the biggest problem is why those on a federal level don't do something about this problem, but you have to give the mayor credit for trying to deal with this problem."

Another who got the letter was Frank Caso, who owns Caso's Gun-A-Rama on Danforth Avenue in Jersey City.

Caso was referred to in the letter as the "Jersey City gun dealer" who challenged the ordinance in court and won. "I have nothing against the mayor, but he shouldn't be wasting the taxpayers' money on this letter," Caso said. "How much do people have to be told that the state of New Jersey has some of the toughest [gun] laws in the country?"

Caso is referring to the New Jersey state law that requires gun buyers to go through a state-based criminal background check in addition to the federal NICS check, and it also requires handgun buyers to obtain a license from law enforcement prior to purchasing a handgun.

Caso said he sees it as a "political thing" on the part of Healy and other politicians.

"Put more policemen on the streets and get these [criminals] off the streets, and crime will go down," Caso said.

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Posted on: 2007/12/17 1:38

Will JC home sellers face new fee? - Hudson Reporter
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Will JC home sellers face new fee?

Realtors fight proposal for local realty transfer tax

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

The ad was recently seen in various newspapers across the state with the phrase, "Don't let the politicians crack you nest egg."

Under a photo of a smashed eggshell, the words said, "Your home is your nest egg. But some Jersey City politicians want to crack it."

The ad was referring to a proposed "home sales tax" that would force home sellers to pay an extra fee to the city when a property deed is transferred. Such a fee already exists on the state level, but Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy wants to have a separate local fee to go to Jersey City.

But the Liberty Board of Realtors (formerly the Hudson County Board of Realtors), who paid for the ads, say that the tax would force homeowners to pay hundreds of dollars more upon sale of their homes, thus creating additional hardship in an already slumping home sales market.

The Realty Transfer Fee is actually imposed when the deed for the transfer of title is recorded.

The Liberty Board wants to stop legislation that was first proposed by Healy last year to state legislators. In the proposal, cities such as Jersey City and Newark could impose a local realty transfer fee of 50 cents for every $500 of sales when property is transferred from buyer to seller.

That's in addition to the realty transfer fee imposed by the state. The state fee starts at $2 per every $500 for houses under $150,000, and rises to $6.05 per every $500 for a $1 million sale. It can sometimes reach $12,000 and higher.

Right now, the legislation is still pending in the state legislature, and there is speculation it will be introduced in the new year.

Unveiling the ad

But the Liberty Board isn't waiting for the legislation to be introduced.

They have not only unveiled the ad attacking the proposal, but also are part of the New Jersey Association of Realtors' effort to create a website on the matter (

Mayor Healy in a recent interview said he is still supporting his proposal and believes it will be passed.

Healy said the reason he is seeking the legislation is because the city does receive any revenues from the state's transfer fee.

Fighting for the fee

Last week, Healy said, "Here's what occurs on say, a $100,000 sale. There's a $500 fee, and ... Trenton takes $400 of that money and sends $100 of that money back to the county."

Healy continued, "What does the city get out of that? Absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, we are doing all the background work with the tax searches and other searches for this closing to happen."

Healy said the city just wants a $100 share for every $100,000 of property. He said this would bring $1 to $2 million in revenues into the city's coffers.

He also said he had seen the ad. He said it is "foolish and inaccurate."

"You know that on a $100,000 sale I was talking about, what fails to be mentioned is that the Realtor gets $6,000 from a closing," Healy said. "I just want a measly 1/10 of 1 percent, yet these people are saying on TV, criticizing Jersey City politicians for imposing a tax, and it's not a tax."

He said this new realty transfer fee for Jersey City and Newark would actually be a "benefit" in that the revenue going to the city would ease the tax burden on homeowners.


Joseph Hottendorf, executive director of the Liberty Board of Realtors, said recently that Healy's legislation is a "horrible, horrible proposal" that stands a good chance of failing in the State Legislature.

"We have been talking to politicians here in Hudson County and throughout the state, and we are gaining support, as this tax will do more harm than good," Hottendorf said. "I hope legislators change their mind and see that this will have a negative impact on home sales."

Longtime Jersey City realtor Albert Cupo said that Healy's proposal was not popular with local realtors, but they understood what he is trying to achieve.

"Last thing we want is to make Mayor Healy look bad, but this was not an initiative that was well-thought out," Cupo said.

Comments on the story can be sent to

Posted on: 2007/12/3 3:58

Re: They want to hit, too - Hudson Reporter
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To Pazman: No problem. Thank you for reading.

Posted on: 2007/11/29 3:34

Re: HONORING Jersey City's Greatest Preservationist
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Model maker who was model citizen

The legendary Theodore Conrad being honored with dedication at courthouse

By: Ricardo Kaulessar, Reporter Staff Writer

When there was a historical landmark or quality-of-life issue in Jersey City that needed to be addressed, the late Theodore Conrad was usually either in the middle of the fray or leading the charge.

Among some of Conrad's accomplishments as an activist for the last 35 years of his life was helping in the creation of Liberty State Park, helping preserve the Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre in Jersey City, and stopping Kennedy Boulevard from being turned into a superhighway.

And then there was his effort in the 1960s to save the old Hudson County Courthouse at 583 Newark Ave. from being demolished to make way for either a building or parking lot. He fought for about 20 years to save the courthouse (now known as the Justice William J. Brennan Court House) until it was restored to its original glory and reopened for business in 1985.

He was also responsible for having the courthouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, preventing it from demolition.

This coming Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. he will be honored for his efforts at a dedication ceremony. The courthouse rotunda will be known as The Theodore Conrad Memorial Rotunda, with a plaque describing who Conrad was.

Ceremony coming

Sam Pesin of the Friends of the Liberty State Park, who spurred the ceremony by mentioning at a Hudson County Freeholders meeting last year that there had never been a dedication, called Conrad a "pioneer" for his activism.

Conrad passed away on Aug. 19, 1994 at the age of 84. A memorial service in honor of Conrad was held at the courthouse a month after his passing.

Conrad's daughter, Doris Brown, said last week the news of the dedication ceremony is a testament to the dedication her father showed in serving his community, and the example he set for activists to follow.

"I hope people will learn, when they study what my father and others like Audrey Zapp, Morris Pesin, and Dr. Ethel Lawner did, are that it is the efforts of regular people who can make change in the world," Brown said.

Born in 1910, designed NYC building models

Conrad was born on May 19, 1910 to German immigrants in a house on 31 Griffith St. in the city's Heights section. According to Brown, her father's interest in architecture and design was piqued at an early age by seeing his grandfather construct homes and buildings in his neighborhood.

Conrad studied draftsmanship at Dickinson High School in Jersey City, and then attended Pratt Institute in New York City. He then landed a job with the prestigious architectural firm of Harvey Walley Corbett in 1932 during the Great Depression. There, he designed the models for the Metropolitan Life Insurance building and Rockefeller Center, and became a respected figure in the architectural world, working alongside such giants as his good friend Phillip Johnson as well as developing friendships with icons such as the late John F. Kennedy.

Even with his success in the field of model making, he still maintained a deep love for his hometown, always keeping a home on Ogden Avenue, which his family still owns.

"Everything that he did was a passion because his family had lived [in Jersey City] for so long," Brown said. It was that love that led to him, upon turning 50, to pursue a new chapter in his life: activism.

Brown said it started with his beloved Riverview-Fisk Park, located on Ogden Avenue not far from his longtime home, being considered as the site for a senior housing complex.

Nearby residents like Conrad fought that plan and it was scrapped. Then, he heard of plans to take down the old Hudson County Courthouse on Newark Avenue.

Saving the courthouse

Conrad called the courthouse in an article he wrote in the 1960s an "architectural gem." As a student of architectural history and a world-class model maker, he had good reason to make such a claim. Built in 1910, the courthouse designed by Jersey City resident Hugh Roberts was constructed in the beaux-arts or "Modern Renaissance" style for $3.3 million.

Resembling Italian Renaissance palaces of old, the six-story courthouse exterior of the courthouse was built with granite walls, bronze window frames and doors, Corinthian columns, and a low flat copper dome. Also, eight columns of Italian green marble rise from the second to the fourth floor in the center of the building forming an interior court covered by a dome.

But the highlight of the courthouse is the works of muralists Edwin H. Blashfield, Charles Yardley Turner, Kenyon Cox, and Howard Pyle throughout the building, depicting the history of Hudson County.

However, in the 1960s, Hudson County government looked to relocate courtroom operations to the then recently opened Hudson County Administration Building next door at 595 Newark Ave.

The historic theater

Conrad's prot?g?, Colin Egan, met Conrad in the early 1980s. They worked alongside each other throughout the 1980s and 1990s until Conrad's death to save the historic Loew's Theatre in Journal Square from being demolished. Egan had many conversations with Conrad about the efforts to save the courthouse, and looks forward to Thursday's dedication ceremony.

"The courthouse battle set the mold for all other preservation battles to come," Egan said. "When Ted and others were fighting to save the courthouse, not many people knew about preservation."

Egan said among the things that Conrad did to save the courthouse was go to numerous freeholder meetings, lead the collection of 20,000 signatures to stop demolition and pulled off one of the great citizen-led coups over the Hudson County government run by legendary powerbroker John V. Kenny.

"When Ted stood up at a freeholders meeting and says they can't tear down the courthouse because he put it on the National Register, I could only imagine the gears of the political machine at the time grinding to a halt," Egan said.

Brown said her father in later years looked back with pride at what he did in saving the courthouse but without being boastful.

"Dad had a thing where while he had a sense of accomplishment, but to him, it's what you're supposed to do," Brown said. "He always told me, 'If you live in a community and you're not participating, then you have no right to complain about it.' "

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Posted on: 2007/11/29 3:30

They want to hit, too - Hudson Reporter
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They want to hit, too

Downtown Little League will start league for mentally, physically disabled kids

By: Ricardo Kaulessar, Reporter Staff Writer

Daniel Rivera still recalls the time a youngster in a wheelchair stopped near the fence of the Roberto Clemente Little League Field on Sixth Street in downtown Jersey City.

"One day we were here playing, and there were a couple of kids in wheelchairs [heading] to Newport Mall," Rivera said. "One of them said 'I'll bet you that I can hit that ball off the kid that's pitching.' "

That memorable comment spurred Rivera to resurrect an idea for a new baseball league that had been proposed in the past for that field - a "Challenger" division for disabled youngsters from across the area.

Nationally, the Challenger Division was established in 1989 as a separate division of Little League Baseball, Inc. to enable boys and girls ages 5-18 with physical and mental disabilities to play.

The word "challenge" is also apropos for this undertaking by the Roberto Clemente Little League, a sports fixture in downtown Jersey City for 35 years.

Over 750 kids play in the league every year, according to Rivera. The league has produced major leaguers including John Valentin and Willie Banks. They play on the fields on Sixth Street and Ninth Street.

According to Roberto Clemente spokesperson David Masten, the league will have to raise $2.5 million to convert the current field into one compatible for "Challenger" play. He also said the fundraising has already kicked off, and he hopes to start play for the Roberto Clemente 'Challenger" Little League for the opening of the season in April 2008.

"It's a lofty goal and a major, major challenge but one that is absolutely necessary," Masten said.

Masten is scheduled to meet with Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy at City Hall on Monday, where Healy is expected to present a check for an undisclosed amount from the Jerramiah T. Healy Foundation.

Opening baseball to everyone

Miguel Lugo has been involved in the league since 1977 as a player then a coach, and has served over the years as a manager and president of the league. Now he is the public address announcer for their games - and walks noticeably with a cane.

But that is not by choice, as he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), is a disease that affects the central nervous system and causes a variety of symptoms including visual problems, muscle weakness, and problems with balance.

Masten said he is also afflicted with MS, as it affects his eyesight. Both say that's one of the influential factors behind the push for this league.

Lugo said, "We have a big umbrella here at Roberto Clemente, and we want to have the Challenger league under that umbrella."

Lugo also said there were a handful of disabled children over the years who have approached him about joining his league. And there were others who wanted to, he thinks. "Maybe they didn't know how to ask or were afraid they wouldn't fit in," Rivera said.

Baseball in a different way

According to guidelines set down by Little League Baseball, teams like Challenger are set up according to abilities, rather than age, and can include as many as 15-20 players participating in one of three levels: Tee-Ball, Coach-Pitch, or Player Pitch.

Each player gets a chance at bat, and Little League recommends that no score be kept during games. The side is retired when the offense has batted through the roster, when a pre-determined number of runs have been scored, or when three outs are recorded.

The Challenger players wear the same uniforms as others: shoulder patches and safety equipment.

The registration fee for the Challenger Division is $18 per team (same as for all other divisions of Little League). Accident insurance is set at the same low cost as other Little League divisions and is available through Little League Headquarters in Williamsport, Pa.

Also,Challenger Division baseball encourages the use of "buddies" for the Challenger players. The buddies assist the Challenger players on the field, but whenever possible, they should encourage the players to bat and make plays by themselves. However, the buddy is always nearby to help when needed.

Making commitments

Masten also pointed out the enormous amount of money that has to be raised, because the field on Sixth Street will need to be converted for use by both the "Challenger" league and the baseball teams that already play there. He said the field itself will have to be changed for its current natural grass surface to artificial turf; there will need to be breakaway bases with sound, for those who are blind, and other refinements.

Rivera said that the Jackie Robinson Little League, which plays out of Bayside Park in southern Jersey City, previously tried to get a Challenger league off the ground, but it failed because of economic constraints.

Masten said there is a commitment by the Jersey City Board of Education to get the information out about the league as well as provide personnel to help coach the players in the league.

Also, there are commitments from city officials to get the league running in April.

Masten said this would be the only Challenger league in Northern New Jersey, but there is one in South Jersey. And most importantly, Little League Baseball is providing a financial grant to get the new league started. Masten said he has also received commitments from some businesses that have sponsored the Roberto Clemente Little League in past years. But they are doing a publicity push including ads in newspapers and unique sponsorships.

He guarantees the league will be a reality.

"This is going to work, and I don't care if I have to write the checks," Masten said.

For more information on the "Challenger" league, call David Masten at (201) 344-2422 or e-mail

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Posted on: 2007/11/29 3:20

'You only die when someone forgets about you' - Hudson Reporter
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'You only die when someone forgets about you'

Survivors of WWII, Iraq, and Korea plan for Veterans Day

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

What do one current City Councilman, one former councilman, and a retired pharmacist have in common?

Jersey City residents Steven Fulop, Jaime Vazquez and Carmine Varano can all call themselves veterans - and they've all got interesting history to share.

Varano spent four years as an Army medic in the fields of northern France and Germany during World War II.

Vazquez was a teenage Marine in the late 1960s in the jungles of Vietnam.

Fulop, a current councilman and rising political star, was a Marine who entered Iraq in 2003.

As Veterans Day (technically Nov. 11) approached, the three talked about the struggles of veterans today, and about an upcoming ceremony to honor them.

A primer on Veterans Day

Veterans Day is an American holiday once known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, always falling on Nov. 11. That day - the 11th day of the 11th month - is the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.

On the Veterans Administration website, it explains, "Veterans Day does not include an apostrophe ... because it is not a day that 'belongs' to veterans; it is a day for honoring all veterans."

Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. Then-President and four-star Army general Dwight D. Eisenhower stated, "On that day, let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain."

This Veterans Day, since it falls on Sunday, will be observed this Monday.

Remembering David

Vazquez last week was planning a Veterans Day ceremony to take place on Monday.

It will be held at the Heights Vietnam Veterans Memorial Community Center in Pershing Field, in the Jersey City Heights section of the city.

This ceremony will be special in that it will be a tribute to the life of Vazquez's best friend and fellow Vietnam War veteran David Cline, who recently passed away.

Cline, who became an anti-war activist, knew Vazquez since the mid-1970s.

Cline, a native of Buffalo, N.Y. who settled in Jersey City in the 1970s, had served in Vietnam in the U.S Army in the 35th Infantry Division from 1967 until 1969.

Cline was left disabled from wounds suffered in Vietnam, but he went on to work for many years as a postal worker and was a union representative.

He headed the Jersey City Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee, which in 1998 got the community center in Pershing Field renamed. He also led the city's largest Memorial Day ceremonies.

Cline was also a member of the Vietnam Veterans against the War since the 1970s and was president of the organization Veterans for Peace for six years.

Vazquez said the ceremony, which will take place at 2 p.m., will include the dedication of a metal plaque with two photos of Cline to be placed on the north wall of the community center.

It is for Vazquez a fitting tribute to a man that he said was not without admirers.

"David was the most generous man I ever knew, and he touched everyone he ever met," Vazquez said. "We were all beneficiaries of his kindness and his death; it's not only a loss to our city, but a loss to our country."

Vazquez also remembers a man who would keep his commitments to his fellow veterans even if at the risk of his health.

"I had spoken to him few weeks before he died, and he said had some fluid that was accumulating in his body," Vazquez said. "I told him he had to get lots of rest, and next I know he's traveling to the Veterans for Peace convention in St. Louis."

But Vazquez said even though his best friend may have passed away, he doesn't believe Cline is really gone.

"You only die when someone forgets about you," Vazquez said. "And I expect to see a lot of people at this tribute."

Being veterans on Veterans Day

Carmine Varano was honored Wednesday morning as one of 20 military veterans who had graduated from Emerson High School in Union City.

The 85-year old Varano lives in the Muhlenberg Gardens, a senior citizen apartment complex in Jersey City Heights.

There, Varano keeps a sizable collection of audio tapes with recording of Big Band music, a scrapbook of newspaper clips from 30 years ago about getting a harmful solution known as "camphorated oil" taken off the shelves of pharmacies, and most importantly, the nine medals he earned during World War II.

They include a Bronze Star (awarded for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service on the battlefield), and a Silver Star (awarded in action against an enemy).

Varano said while he appreciates being honored by his alma mater, he still thinks war veterans are for the most part forgotten.

"I wonder if the politicians really respect us, rather than worry about their political lives," Varano said. "They never have enough money to help us, yet President Bush is always saying what a great job we did in serving this country."

Less respect

Vazquez also echoed Varano's sentiment, especially as Director of Veterans Affairs for the city of Jersey City. Vazquez helps local veterans get their benefits from the Veterans Administration.

Vazquez remembers a time when there was the annual Veterans Day parade in Jersey City that ran from the Abraham Lincoln statue in Lincoln Park to Journal Square.

Vazquez also remembers the respect accorded to veterans, recalling his father serving as a 25-year Army veteran in World War II and the Korean War.

"We don't even have a parade anymore, and there was a time when you would see thousands of veterans like it was the Macy's Thanksgiving parade," Vazquez said.

"In my opinion, veterans are not as respected as they once were, and now we're losing them by the thousands."

A study released last week by the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimated New Jersey has more than 6,500 homeless veterans, or nearly 2 percent of its overall veterans population.

Vazquez said based on his research, up to 1,500 World War II veterans die every day, although the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has it at 1,100 veterans.

He said, "When they die, a piece of us dies with them."

Fulop said growing up in Edison, N.J., Veterans Day was just "a day where you just spent a few minutes thinking about the veterans and then you went on with the rest of the day."

But that changed when he joined the Marines in 2001 just after 9/11. Fulop served as part of the 6th Engineer Support Battalion in the early days of the occupation of Iraq. After he returned to the United States in July 2003, he has made a point to meet with his fellow soldiers every year around Veterans Day.

"You definitely gained an appreciation for Veterans Day once you have served, and especially when you serve with people who become like your family," Fulop said. "Especially now when we don't see each other as often, and when many of the guys I served with are being deployed for a second or third tour back to Iraq."

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Posted on: 2007/11/11 23:51

Question #3: yes or no - Hudson Reporter
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Question #3: yes or no

Voters to consider approving funds for open space on Election Day

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

This Election Day, citizens of Hudson County and across the state will be faced with four statewide ballot questions at the polls.

One of those is Question No. 3, which asks voters to approve the Green Acres, Farmland, Blue Acres and Historic Preservation Bond Act of 2007.

If passed, it would authorize the state to issue $200 million in general obligation bonds to provide funds to continue New Jersey's open space, farmland and historic preservation programs for a year or more, and to support the state's Blue Acres program to purchase flood-prone properties.

Funds provided over the past ten years from the Garden State Preservation Trust (GSPT), a financing authority that manages funds for the highly-successful Green Acres and the farmland and historic preservation programs, dried up after Governor Jon Corzine and the N.J. Legislature were unable to agree on funding for the trust.

And it was only apropos that a press conference last Monday was held at Jersey City's Reservoir No. 3 to tout the benefits of Question No. 3, and to encourage the public to answer "yes" to the question.

Speakers for the event included Mayor Jerramiah Healy, City Council President Mariano Vega (in his role as the head of the Hudson County Department Of Parks, Engineering & Planning), State Assemblyman Louis Manzo (N.J.-31), Hackensack Riverkeeper Captain Bill Sheehan, NY/NJ Baykeeper Greg Remaud, Gary Rice of the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, Steve Latham of the Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance (responsible for the upkeep of Reservoir No.3) and Kevin Moore of Newark's Weequahic Park Association.

Also in attendance were members of various open space preservation groups both on a local and state level.

Among them was Eric Stile of the N.J. Audubon Society, one of the spokespersons of the N.J. Keep It Green Campaign, a consortium of over 90 environmental groups working to promote Question No. 3.

"It's fair to say the gas tank is empty," Stile said. "A vision without funding is a hallucination...bottom line is we're out of money."

Why Question No. 3?

The "question" of Question No. 3 is - why is it on the ballot?

In June, Governor Jon Corzine and the N.J. Legislature agreed to leave it up to voters to decide whether or not they want to continue funding the GSPT for another year.

Ballot Question No. 3, if approved by voters, would allow the State Legislature to issue bonds that would be paid back in the next 30 years from existing revenue sources, such as the state's income tax and sales tax. Thus, it will require a tax increase.

The $200 million gained from the sales of the bonds would be allocated as follows: $109 million for open space and park development, $73 million to preserve farmland, $6 million for historic preservation and $12 million to acquire flood-prone properties along the Passaic, Raritan and Delaware rivers and their tributaries.

Local municipalities usually apply for grants from the state's Green Acres program in order to use the grants for the acquisition of open space for new parkland or preservation of existing land from any pending development.

According to Gary Rice of the DEP, who cited the data on grants issued by the Green Acres Program in 2004, the last year when data was collected on the amount of money municipalities were given, Jersey City received $1.5 million. The monies have gone to the development of such parks as Bayside Park, located off Garfield Avenue, currently undergoing renovation.

But Question No. 3 is facing opposition from various groups such as Americans for Prosperity, led by Bogota Mayor and longtime Republican activist Steven Lonegan. Lonegan claims that there should be no bonding by the state government when it is currently over $33 billion in debt. He also said that the state will increase taxes in the future to pay off the debt incurred from paying off the bonds.

Their answers to the question

With the backdrop of Reservoir No. 3, its lake and the birds that occupy the reservoir, speakers touted the importance of answering Question No. 3.

Healy said the funds that would be generated from bonding if Public Question No. 3 passes is money "well-spent" to develop open space.

Jersey City has plans to develop the reservoir in future years as a passive recreation site, and will depend on Green Acres funding for that endeavor. The city also completed a recreation master plan for the renovation and development of all the city's parks.

"Those funds can be used to maintain [Reservoir No. 3], make it more accessible so it can be used by more people and make it safer," Healy said.

Manzo said voters should "feel good" about voting for the ballot issue on Election Day.

"It's something that will pay back dividends for Jersey City and for the residents living in the urban areas in one of the state's most densely populated areas," Manzo said.

Latham said the funding will not only benefit the development of Reservoir No. 3, but also other open space in years to come.

"Future generations are going to look back and wonder why we didn't save things," Latham said. "To say we didn't have enough money is a ridiculous thing to say."

Comments on this story can be sent to: Ricardo Kaulessar at

Posted on: 2007/11/4 2:24

Re: State may close Greenville Hospital
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Greenville Hospital is saved - for now

State health board puts off recommendation to close

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

Greenville Hospital has two deadlines: Six months if Jersey City can come up with $1.5 million to keep it open, or 90 days if the city can't.

That was the outcome of a hearing at the Hyatt Regency in Princeton Thursday, when the NJ State Health Planning Board convened to make a determination on the closing of the 100-bed hospital located in the southern part of Jersey City.

LibertyHealth Systems, the organization that operates Greenville Hospital, has looked to close it since April, citing a $3 million deficit. LibertyHealth also claims a duplication of medical services offered by the Jersey City Medical Center, the other Jersey City hospital it operates.

The company filed a certificate of need application with the NJ Department of Health and Human Services to close the hospital. If the board decided that the hospital should be closed, members would have recommended their decision to the state's Health Commissioner Fred Jacobs.

Instead, the board took Mayor Jerramiah Healy up on his offer made during the meeting to commit $1.5 million to keep the hospital open for another six months. But the board added a condition: if the city did not produce the money within 90 days, they will convene another meeting to decide whether or not to recommend closing Greenville Hospital.

The board made the decision after four hours of hearing public comments which unanimously opposed closure, as well as presentations from those who advocated for closing.

The result was that the 200 people who showed up to save Greenville Hospital got something of a minor miracle. And it didn't go unappreciated, as members of the public offered rousing applause and handshakes to the board members.

After the meeting, Healy was happy, but remained realistic about the board's decision.

"Today, the decision bought extra time," Healy said. "Now we must work with the city's business administrator and the City Council to locate additional funds to try to keep Greenville Hospital open."

Just some more time and accuracy

For those who wanted the hospital to stay open, one key word was time.

Mayor Healy and other officials at the meeting pleaded with the health board to offer a little more time before they made a decision, to allow Jersey City government to work with elected officials on county, state and federal levels to find fiscal and operational solutions to keep the hospital alive.

For officials, and especially for patients, it was the time that would be tacked on if they had to travel the extra three miles to the Jersey City Medical Center. It could make the difference between life and death, some said as they cited the problems with daily traffic and the decreases in public transportation.

That was the sentiment expressed by local resident Linda Jackson, who credited Greenville Hospital for saving her life when she suffered from a staph infection. She claimed she could have had tougher time she had to travel to the Medical Center.

"My health does not depend on a clock," Jackson said. The other word bandied about during the meeting was inaccurate.

As in state Senator-elect Sandra Bolden Cunningham made a plea for the board to delay their decision, she said testimony from a number of speakers at the meeting would shed light on "a lot of inaccurate and misleading information" in the certificate of need filed by LibertyHealth.

Lorenzo Richardson, aide to City Councilwoman Viola Richardson (also a relative), pointed out that by closing the Greenville Hospital, LibertyHealth has projected spending $6 million total for retirement benefits and the commercial mortgage of the hospital building if they close - twice the amount of the hospital's deficit. It doesn't "add up," he said. He also added that other information provided by LibertyHealth to close Greenville Hospital, ranging from the claims of duplication of services and the convenience of public transportation for patients to travel to other hospitals, should be scrutinized further.

Still making his case

After the hearing ended, LibertyHealth CEO Stephen Kirby tried to mask his frustration when he was told that plans to close the hospital would have to wait. He decided to play the role of the good sport.

"I'll work with Mayor Healy starting tomorrow, and will continue to work with him if he can put up the $1.5 million," Kirby said. "But even if the hospital survives, it won't be an acute care facility because there would be too many beds."

Kirby also said that he would like to see a federally qualified health center (FQHC), which is a clinic receiving funding from the U.S. government, take over the Greenville Hospital space.

Kirby said he was "most sensitive to lies" from various speakers during the public comment portion, who criticized him for everything from fiscal mismanagement to insensitivity, to the plight of the patient, to not reaching out to the community enough.

But he also appeared to have earned accolades from the board for detailing the financial plight of the LibertyHealth system, only for the same board to question whether or not LibertyHealth has done enough to keep it from closing.

Comments on the story can be sent to:

Posted on: 2007/11/4 2:11

Anniversary screening of early talking pic 'The Jazz Singer' at historic Loew's
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'You ain't heard nothin' yet!'

Anniversary screening of early talking pic 'The Jazz Singer' at historic Loew's

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

It was known as the movie that popularized the use of sound in motion pictures and pretty much ended the silent picture era.

Now in its 80th anniversary year, people will have an opportunity to view "The Jazz Singer" in one of its few screenings on the East Coast before year's end, when it shows at the historic Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre in Jersey City on Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

The 1927 movie starring the legendary entertainer Al Jolson is the story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a young Jewish boy who bucks the cantor tradition of his rabbi father and grows up to become popular "jazz singer" Jack Robin, only to return to his estranged family as his father is on his deathbed.

The film is first-rate melodrama that doesn't necessarily distinguish it from the many of the films of its era. But it became one of the top films for Warner Bros. Pictures the year of its release and was nominated for two Academy Awards. It currently ranks No. 90 on the American Film Institute's 100 greatest films list.

It is acknowledged by film historians for being the first feature-length Hollywood film to feature sound not just for a score and sound effects but also for dialogue and musical numbers. This was done by utilizing the Vitaphone process, a sound-on-film technology used on features and nearly 2,000 short subjects produced by Warner Brothers from 1926 to 1930.

"The Jazz Singer" also benefits from Jolson's oversized presence on screen, whether it is performing show-stoppers such as "My Mammy" and "Blue Skies," or literally stopping the show to utter improvised dialogue such as the immortal "You ain't heard nothin' yet!"

The Vitaphone Project

The screening, which will also include the showing of early sound shorts, will be introduced by film aficionado Ron Hutchinson of the Vitaphone Project, a group of record collectors and film buffs who have since 1991 have sought out missing soundtrack discs and film elements of Vitaphone talkies.

"It's a great film because of its success and it gets to be seen in a historic movie palace like the Loew's," said Hutchinson about the theater that opened only two years after the Jazz Singer hit the big screen.

From LA to JC

Colin Egan, co-founder of the Friends of the Loew's volunteer group, said last week the screening is taking place thanks to help from a former Loew's employee.

"A technician who used to work with us at the Loew's now works on West Coast, and he contacted me about screenings that took place out there," Egan said.

Screenings of "The Jazz Singer" were held earlier this month in California at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood and at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills. There was a showing on Turner Classic Movies on Oct. 6, and a three disc DVD set has been issued this month by Warner Home Video.

Egan continued, "We weren't planning to screen The Jazz Singer, but since this is the 80th anniversary and it's a pretty important film, we felt what better place to show it than at the Loew's, one of the first theaters designed for sound."

Egan said what also moved forward the special anniversary screening was their longstanding relationship with Warner Bros., as the Loew's theater has over the years held hundreds of screenings of classic movies in new and restored prints provided by Warner Bros. including a new, pristine 35 mm. print of the Jazz Singer.

Egan said while the Friends group is elated to show this classic, he is not sure how many people will be showing up and is not going to get too preoccupied over audience size.

"To be honest, it will be an experiment, as it's slightly more esoteric than what we normally show," Egan said. "But I am not doing it for the audiences, but for the historic value of the film."

What is Vitaphone?

People think of movies before the 1930s as being all-silent, with piano music playing over the action and characters were moving quickly.

But there were attempts at meshing sound technology with motion pictures since the turn of the 20th century.

It wasn't until the late 1920s when Warner Bros. and Western Electric developed the Vitaphone process that would see its greatest success after the Jazz Singer took audiences by storm.

This is how it worked: A 35mm projector had a turntable on which 16-inch disks (about the same size as an LP record) were played just like a record player. That turntable was connected to the same gears that moved the film, and if started at the same time as the movie, both film and record would play in sync.

With the Vitaphone Project, Hutchinson has tracked over 3,000 12- and 16-inch shellac soundtrack discs around the world, and has assisted on the restoration of over 35 shorts and 12 features. Amongst those disks found were two for a 1929 MGM movie that had been stored in a cabinet in the projection booth at the Loew's. Egan said he has kept those disks in the same cabinet, and the theater also acquired two non-operating Vitaphone projectors in recent years.

He said Vitaphone helped bring top stage performers of the day to the neighborhood movie theater.

"Instead of people paying hundreds of dollars to go to New York to see Al Jolson or some other top act of the day, they could see a Vitaphone short and hear them perform," Hutchinson said.

Dealing with blackface

The Friends group also is working with the Afro-American Historical & Cultural Society of Jersey City to create a display to be placed in the lobby of the Loew's Theater on the history of entertainers, both black and white, performing in blackface.

Blackface is a style of theatrical makeup that originated in the United States, used on actors to affect the countenance of an iconic, racist American archetype.

Jolson, as was customary amongst his peers at the time, performed numerous times in blackface during his career, including several numbers in "The Jazz Singer."

Egan points out Jolson while employing blackface in the movie, does not engage in gestures in the movie that was blatantly racist, but said the public should be informed about how and why the practice was done.

"The Jazz Singer, like many movies of its time has a less enlightened view about various racial and social groups, not just with the blackface, but also the Jewish caricature," Egan said. "With that said, Jolson performing in blackface was not him trying to imitate black people, but it's just Jolson in makeup."

The Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre is located at 54 Journal Square in Jersey City.
Admission for the Nov. 10 screening will be $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, students with ID and children 12 years old and younger. For more information, call (201) 798-6055.

For comments on the story, contact Ricardo Kaulessar at

Posted on: 2007/10/28 5:46

From the 'rice-pudding tax' to the Hudson Eight - Hudson Reporter
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October 27, 2007

From the 'rice-pudding tax' to the Hudson Eight

Ex-JC mayor's provocative memoir 'The Powerticians' reaches 25 years

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

A provocative but out-of-print book called "The Powerticians" documented the larger-than-life political happenings of Jersey City from 1901 to the end of author Thomas F.X. Smith's term as mayor in the 1980s, including his failed attempt for the state's governor seat in 1981.

Try mentioning the book to old-time Jersey City residents, and they remember that 25 years ago, Smith actually handed out thousands of copies of the work.

Told in a unique fly-on-the-wall style, the book is an invaluable peek into a century of Jersey City life, both good and bad.

The tome was published by Lyle Stuart Books of Secaucus (now Barricade Books located in Fort Lee) a quarter of a century ago. A few used copies can still be found at the Jersey City Public Library or at the online book seller

Best-selling memoirist and Jersey City native Helene Stapinski recently cited "The Powerticians" as an "invaluable resource" when she was writing her acclaimed 2001 book "Five Finger Discount" about several generations of her colorful family in Jersey City.

"The Powerticians was sort of the Bible for me on Hudson County politics," Stapinski said last week. "It came out when I was still pretty young, and was the first book I held in my hands that was written by someone I actually knew."

Smith passed away in 1996, but years after the book's publication, its influence lingers on.

The powerticians of years past

Much of the book is devoted to legendary Jersey City Mayor Frank "I Am The Law" Hague and his rise and fall in his 30 years in office in the middle of the 20th century. Hague was the iron ruler (or benevolent despot, depending on your point of view) of Jersey City, whose influence reached all the way to Franklin Roosevelt's White House.

In one passage in the book, Roosevelt is implored by a political consultant to sever his ties with Hague, because the mayor's ironfisted actions in Jersey City are becoming an embarrassment to the president. The moment is described thusly: "Once when a close associate said, 'We shouldn't bother with Hague; he's a son of a bitch,' FDR had nodded in agreement. But then he shook his head: 'Yes, but he's our son of a bitch,' he replied."

The book also covers the time before Hague, when Protestant Republicans like Mark Fagan ran the show in Jersey City, and the post-Hague era, when men like John V. Kenny, Thomas Whelan, and Smith assume the mayoral mantle, only to have their own power struggles.

The book also covers the colorful characters surrounding the great men, whether it was Hague's right hand man John "Needlenose" Malone, or a longtime Hague critic, the burly Alabaman James "Jeff" Burkitt, or evergreen politico Barney Doyle.

The book chronicles the city's colorful and dark moments: Hague somehow becoming a millionaire on an $8,000 salary; the hated "rice pudding tax" (the popular name for Hague's fabled requirement of employees to kick back 3 percent of his earnings to him); the large-scale BINGO game organized by Kenny to get out the vote for his 1953 re-election, and the infamous 1971 Hudson Eight trial, which saw revelations of millions of dollars of kickbacks and the end of careers of Kenny and Whelan.

A teenager at City Hall

The book also functions as a semi-autobiography, as Smith recounts his political coming-of-age, starting as a teenager on the steps of City Hall on Election Day in 1949 when the Hague machine was swept out of power. He shares his own rise from campaign worker to city clerk to ultimately winning the Mayor's seat in 1977 in his famous campaign of walking the streets to get the votes.

If there is criticism to be made about "The Powerticians," it is that Smith does not engage in the same critical evaluation of his own term in office from 1977 to 1981 that he does of preceding mayors. The book also lacks an index or a chapter page.

Admirers and detractors

Besides Stapinski's ebullient comments, what do others have to say about the book?

Mayor Jerramiah Healy has mixed feelings.

"This book contains much historical information about our city, our government and our politics," he said last week, "and should be read by every elected official in Jersey City and probably in Hudson County. Having said that, the book is not particularly well-written."

Robert Knapp, deputy director of the Hudson County Division of Welfare, cut his teeth in politics in the early 1960s when he campaigned for the late Thomas Gangemi in his Jersey City mayoral bid. The book chronicles how Gangemi, a successful businessman who won the mayoral election in 1961, resigned in 1963 when it was found he had no proof of his U.S. citizenship.

Gangemi would campaign two more times, but lose both times. Knapp said the book archives the political history of the city that should not be forgotten.

"It is a powerful book and a wonderful book that Tommie Smith put together in telling Jersey City's own history," Knapp said.

Longtime political consultant Tony Amabile of Jersey City said, "The book is well-written, but lacks a deep political perspective and could be seen as self-serving. It also stopped me from writing a book because it sold so few copies."

However, Amabile said he has recently resumed working on a book about his nearly 50 years in the political arena.

But did he write it himself?

Smith states in the book his intentions for writing "The Powerticians": "To give the reader a picture of the times and characters. To make him or her understand how intelligent men used and abused their power over others requires more than a line or two of philosophical musings."

But is that eloquent statement really Smith's words?

During the research for this article, a number of people who wanted to remain unnamed out of respect for Smith intimated that he may not have been the author.

One theory is that the book's real author is the late J. Owen Grundy, the city's official historian during Smith's term and a friend of his. (If Grundy's name sounds familiar to newcomers, it may be because there is a pier on the Jersey City waterfront that is named for him.) Another theory is Grundy and the late longtime politico John Longo were co-authors.

Evidence of these theories can only be gleaned from the acknowledgements page of the book, as both men were thanked for "patient editorial suggestions" and both are mentioned prominently in several of the book's chapters.

However, another person listed along with Grundy and Longo is Donald H. Dunn.

Dunn, still alive and residing in New York's Hudson Valley region with his wife, claimed when contacted last week that he did the research and wrote the book during an eight-month period between 1981 and 1982.

Dunn provided to the Reporter a photocopy of an $8,000 contract signed with Lyle Stuart Books that called actually for Dunn to edit and rewrite Smith's manuscript, then titled "The Rise and Fall of Bossism."

"He might have had some notes, but I can say with confidence that I can look through the book and see much of it reflects my writing style," Dunn said.

Dunn said his comments are not meant to embarrass Smith's family, but to speak with candor about the practice of ghostwriting, or writing a book for someone else. Dunn said he also did the same for TV personality Steve Allen.

But some believe Smith did write the entire book, such as current City Clerk Robert Byrne.

Byrne worked under Smith for a few years in the 1980s in the city clerk's office, and before that, had been a volunteer on Smith's failed 1981 gubernatorial bid.

"Tommy was a well-read man," Byrne said. "He loved to read and write poetry. And when he wrote to other city officials or to the City Council, they were usually two pages or more. So I believe the man wrote the book."

For comment on the story, contact Ricardo Kaulessar at

Posted on: 2007/10/27 10:52

New developments rising from the ashes - Hudson Reporter
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I know there has been talk on JClist about wanting to keep the bulletin board from being taken over by postings of newspaper articles. But I will post this one article of mine to spur comments, questions and the like, encouraged by WEBMASTER (a.k.a. Dan Falcon) to do so. Take care and enjoy reading.


New developments rising from the ashes

Director of Redevelopment Agency discusses Powerhouse, Journal Square, other projects

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

For Robert Antonicello, his first 18 months as the executive director of the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency have seen a flurry of activity across the city.

The Jersey City Redevelopment Agency is an autonomous agency created in 1949 to revitalize blighted and economically depressed areas in the city to promote economic growth.

The city can designate an area as in need of redevelopment, then find developers to fit a certain plan. Formerly industrial districts are converted to vibrant communities.

"I think the last 18 months for the Redevelopment Agency, we have tremendous progress," Antonicello said in a recent interview. He was named the executive director in April 2006 by Mayor Jerramiah Healy after spending over 20 years as a real estate broker and consultant.

That "progress" has included designating a developer for Journal Square near the PATH Station, choosing a developer for the old Hudson/Manhattan Powerhouse on Washington Boulevard, spurring long-stagnant development on Martin Luther King Drive, and receiving a $99,290 Smart Future Grant from the state's Department of Community Affairs to study parking for redevelopment areas in downtown Jersey City.

But the activity was almost derailed recently when Antonicello was considered to head the city's Department of Housing, Economic Development and Commerce. However, Antonicello decided to stay with the Redevelopment Agency. Mayor Healy's former chief of staff, Carl Czaplicki, instead was given the nod for the other job. "I love my job of being in a critical role for the residents of Jersey City," Antonicello said.

How it works

A redevelopment plan provides for the reuse or redevelopment of property within a municipality. The Jersey City Planning Department designates an area in need of redevelopment, then drafts a redevelopment plan.

After that, the plan is introduced in front of the Planning Board for their consideration. If the plan is approved, then it goes to the City Council, which introduces the plan at a council meeting, where it is read into the record.

At the next council meeting, the council holds a final vote to either approve or not approve the plan.

The JCRA then sends out requests for developers to bid on the area. The agency designates a developer or developers for the redevelopment area.

Future redevelopments

Antonicello said among the long-term projects for the JCRA is the development of 15,000 residential units on property behind the new Jersey City Medical Center, located off Grand Street and near Garfield Avenue.

The projects will be known respectively as Canal Crossings and Harbor Place.

Also, the Redevelopment Agency is working with Bayonne developer Lance Lucarelli to eventually develop Holland Park, to be built on Jersey Avenue near the Jersey City-Hoboken border, near the Holland Tunnel.

If built, it would be a mixed-use project that would include residential housing, retail, park space, and a light rail station.

Developing the Powerhouse

In July 2006, Baltimore-based developer David Kordish was designated by the Redevelopment Agency as the developer of the Powerhouse. The Powerhouse is a steel-framed 200,000-square-foot edifice with 28-inch thick brick walls that once provided electricity for the massive Hudson Manhattan railroad (the precursor to the PATH system).

Kordish developed the old Baltimore Power Plant into the ESPN Zone Restaurant and a Barnes and Noble bookstore on the waterfront, and the city would like to see similar development of Jersey City's Powerhouse.

The huge building is the cornerstone of the Powerhouse Arts District, a redevelopment zone that runs from Washington Boulevard to Marin Boulevard.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey still uses it as a power substation. Antonicello said the Redevelopment Agency has been negotiating with the Port Authority to relocate the power station equipment in order to move forward development of the Powerhouse District.

He also said the Port Authority is currently doing a study on the best site for the substation. They are considering either a triangular piece of land located about a 100 feet north of the Powerhouse, or inside the old Butler Brothers building located across the street from the Powerhouse.

"Either we move the substation and save the Powerhouse, or we leave the substation and lose the Powerhouse," Antonicello said. "Every day that the Powerhouse sits vacant and is open to the elements, we lose a little bit more of the building."

Journal Square taking new shape

Whenever there's discussion of Journal Square redevelopment future, one name comes to mind - Harwood.

As in the Harwood Family, who has maintained businesses in Journal Square for the last 70 years. They were designated in March 2006 by the Redevelopment Agency as developers near the Journal Square PATH Station, on the site of a dilapidated set of buildings torn down last summer.

The Harwood Family plans to build a $500 million two-tower development with a seven-story base of retail and parking, and two residential towers - a 58-story tower and a 38-story tower - springing from the base. There will be a total of 1,500 units when the project is completed.

The project is to be built by the Harwood family under their development arm, Harwood Properties, as well as The Multi-Employer Property Trust based in Bethesda, Md. and the Fairfield, Conn. development firm Becker + Becker. Antonicello said the project is expected to break ground early next spring and will be vital to Journal Square's future.

"Journal Square is an important part of Jersey City and it has been forgotten," Antoncello said, "and we are basically going forward with the framework for how Journal Square should be developed."

A HUB-bub of activity

The HUB (Holistic Urban Building), as it is known to most people, is a six-block 83,000-square-foot plaza located along MLK Drive and bordered by Virginia, Ocean, Kearny and Ege Avenues in the Bergen-Lafayette section of the city.

The major tenant is Extra Supermarket, with other tenants including Burger King.

From its opening in December 1999, it was expected to jumpstart the revitalization of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. But it then became mired in red tape and bickering amongst the partnership that helped develop and run the HUB, the nonprofit Neighborhood Development Corp. and the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation. And several retail tenants over the years left the plaza, creating a financial decline.

A new partnership replaced the old one in recent months, consisting of the JCRA, the Neighborhood Development Corp. and two Philadelphia-based builders, Universal Companies and Brandywine Construction & Development Services.

Antonicello said that he hopes to get the HUB operating on the right track, pointing out that there will be a groundbreaking next month of the Harriet Tubman Homes, eight units of affordable housing within the HUB, part of a plan by the new partnership to develop 230 units of low, moderate and market rate housing in the HUB area.

He also cited the opening of offices in the HUB in December for the city's Division of Commerce and the Police Department's Community Relations Unit.

For comments about the story, contact Ricardo Kaulessar at

Posted on: 2007/10/21 0:19

Re: Steve Fulop op-ed on referendums in NY Times Jersey section
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Quite a regular

JC residents may get to vote on ethics, dual-job holding

Councilman Fulop writes of issues in New York Times; pursuing referenda

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

"We can take the issue directly to the voters and force politicians to live by a stricter code of ethics. Voters in Jersey City can demand transparency and make it more difficult for unscrupulous, greedy politicians to steal taxpayers' dollars."

Those were words of City Councilman Steven Fulop in a New York Times op-ed piece published last Sunday, Oct. 7.

He was referring to his pursuit of two referendums to be placed on the November 2008 general election ballot. A referendum allows the public to vote on an issue. Previously, Fulop encouraged his fellow council members to vote for his proposals, to no avail.

The first referendum would prevent elected officials or government employees from collecting more than one taxpayer-financed salary. The second referendum would make it illegal for any entity that does business with the city, like a developer or contractor, to make a political contribution to a local candidate for a one-year period.

While there is a version of the second issue already existing in state law, Fulop's version would be much stricter.

Needs petitions to place them on ballot

Fulop held a meeting on Oct. 3 at the bar/restaurant LITM on Newark Avenue in Jersey City, where he explained his referendums to a crowd of over 100. After the meeting, attendees were asked to submit their names and addresses for a list Fulop is putting together of volunteers who would eventually go out and collect petitions for the referendums to be placed on the ballot for next year.

Fulop must collect the amount of petitions equal to 15 percent of the total voter turnout in Jersey City from the 2005 November general election. But if he waits and does so after Nov. 6 of this year, it would reflect the turnout of this year's general election.

That number of petitions, which would be around 6,000, would determine whether the initiatives are placed on the ballot. But it is believed he would have to collect double the amount necessary, just in case some are disqualified.

Not new for Fulop

Last month, the City Council voted down Fulop's resolution that would have made the city's ethics code the strictest in New Jersey.

The resolution banned holding more than one public office or multiple salaried and appointed public positions within Hudson County - whether elected or appointed. It also would have barred public officials from using a city automobile for personal use, and banned city officials from lobbying the city or city agencies for three years after they left office.

The majority of city council people in Jersey City also have a full-time job with another branch of city or county government.

Fulop was criticized by his City Council colleagues for not discussing the resolution with them before introducing it, and for instead going to the press with his proposal.

Earlier this year, Fulop pushed for passage of a version of the state's "pay-to-play" laws, which ban political contributions from contractors doing business with the city. Fulop's version would have also applied to real estate developers, but it was voted down by the City Council.

Addressing the people

It was a Wednesday night in a somewhat unusual place for Fulop to speak to people on his ethics initiatives, as he stood behind the bar of LITM.

"This is my first time being a bartender," Fulop joked. "But I am probably the only politician who has not been behind a bar."

Fulop went on to explain his referendum initiatives to attendees and what he hopes to achieve.

"The fundamental change in Jersey City will have a lasting impact on government here in Jersey City," Fulop said.

He continued, "It's about dysfunctional leadership at the top, where things like multiple jobs and other practices are accepted that take taxpayer monies. It takes away incentive to serve in government for the wrong reasons."

He also said he will be collecting names and addresses to send packets with petitions, information on his referendums, and voter registration paperwork.

His attorney, James Carroll, gave out contact information for him and other attorneys for those with further questions on the referendums.

The public gave their reasons for signing on to Fulop's initiatives.

Michael Heydenburg, a downtown Jersey City resident for 10 years, said Fulop's initiatives represent a "change" for how Jersey City is governed.

"It will force people to make a choice," Heydenburg said. "It wakes up old ways of thinking of the way Jersey City is run."

For comments on the story, contact Ricardo Kaulessar at

Posted on: 2007/10/13 18:44

Re: Fulop: Let's tighten our ethics rules
Quite a regular
Quite a regular

Fulop's ethics measure is not dead

Voted down at council meeting, but he wants a referendum

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

The City Council voted down a resolution 6-1 on Tuesday that would have made the city's ethics code the strictest in New Jersey.

City Councilman Steven Fulop had drafted the resolution with political ally and local attorney Jim Carroll, and was the lone vote in favor of it.

The resolution bans holding more than one public office or multiple salaried and appointed public positions within Hudson County - whether elected or appointed.

The legislation would also bar a public official from using a city automobile for personal use, and ban city officials from lobbying the city or city agencies for three years after they leave office.

This bill may have hit too close to the council members, as five out of nine of them simultaneously hold positions in Hudson County government, and a sixth works for an autonomous city agency. A seventh is a retired city employee who is collecting a pension for that job.

Some council people have said that they are forced to hold two positions, as City Council is a part-time job that pays about $25,000 per year, with the City Council president earning $30,000.

Had this ethics legislation been approved, it would have been sent to the city's Ethics Board and then to the state's Local Finance Board for approval.
Public may agree

Fulop said before the meeting that he had wanted to propose the bill to follow the ethics bill passed recently by Governor Jon Corzine that also calls for a ban on dual office holding. After the meeting, he said he would pursue the resolution through a referendum, which means that if he gets enough signatures on a petition, the matter could go to a public citywide vote.

Fulop has addressed the issue of ethics before. Last September, he asked the city's Ethics Board if City Council President Mariano Vega and Councilwoman Mary Spinello's involvement in voting on the AMB Warehouse project was a conflict of interest, since both of them also work for the county, who had different ideas about the fate of the project than the city did.

The city's six-member appointed Ethics Board found there was no conflict of interest on the councilpeople's part.

Earlier this year, Fulop pushed for passage of a version of the state's "pay-to-play" laws, which ban political contributions from contractors doing business with the city. Fulop's version would have also applied to real estate developers, but it was voted down by the City Council.

After Tuesday's meeting, Fulop commented on the council's vote.

"We gave the council the opportunity to enact it and they didn't," he said.

The reasoning behind their votes

Fulop said his legislation would only go into effect on July 1, 2009 when the council begins a new, four-year term. Thus, it would only affect the current members if they were re-elected.

Of the nine council members, only Fulop and Journal Square Councilperson Steve Lipski have jobs outside county or city government.

Fulop works for the New York-based financial firm Citigroup and Lipski is the principal and founder of the CREATE Charter School, located in the Greenville section of the city.

Lipski, however, offered a simple "No" before leaving for a community meeting.

Before the council meeting, he explained why he was opposed to the legislation. He said that a legal opinion offered to the council by Assistant Corporation Counsel Joanne Monahan said the resolution violates the state's Faulkner Act, which created the current form of government under which Jersey City operates.

Some of the other council members who stayed were more vocal.

Councilman Bill Gaughan, who also voted down the legislation, said, "You cannot legislate honesty and integrity."

Councilman-at-Large Peter Brennan, who served as the acting council president in place of an absent City Council President and Councilman-at-Large Mariano Vega, accused Fulop of failing to discuss this legislation with his council colleagues in the days preceding the meeting. He said that instead, Fulop chose to speak first to the local daily newspaper.

Brennan also defended the council members' having two jobs, since their council positions are part-time and pay an average of $25,000. "I am proud to say we work very hard for the people of Jersey City, but we are not paid enough," Brennan said.

Brennan also called into question Fulop's motives for the legislation, saying he is using it as a platform for running for mayor, and that his ethics legislation would allow only for millionaires like Gov. Jon Corzine and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to serve in politics.

Fulop struck back at Brennan, saying his criticism was just to give himself an excuse to vote against the proposal. He also said the council job was about serving the public, not earning another salary.

While other council members did not vote for the ethics legislation, some did show an open mind towards its purpose. Richardson did not like the idea that the legislation put her integrity into question. She noted that she was the only council member and county employee who supported late Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham's policies while he was immersed in political infighting, thus showing that she doesn't always follow the party line.

But she did say she agreed with various elements of the resolution.

Richardson and Brennan both called for the council positions to be made full-time.

Spinello agreed there should be an ethics bill, but said she abstained because she was subjected to Fulop's inquiry into her conflict of interest over voting on the AMB Warehouse project last year.

The next step

Fulop announced on Thursday he will start the process of gathering signatures and initiating two ballot referendums.

The first ballot initiative will force elected members of the City Council who hold more than one government position to collect only one taxpayer salary, similar to the ethics legislation that was voted down last week that banned dual office holding.

The second ballot initiative would resurrect the developer pay-to-play ban similar to the one that the council rejected earlier this year.

Fulop said he is confident the public will vote for these measures if the council does not do so.

"I am certain the public will see it as an issue and I guarantee these initiatives will be successful," Fulop said.

He continued, "This action will quell any thoughts that I am doing it for the headlines."

City Clerk Robert Byrne said Fulop would have to collect the amount of petitions equal to 15 percent of the total voter turnout in Jersey City from the 2005 November general election. That number of petitions, which Byrne estimates would range from 6,000 to 7,000, would determine whether the initiatives are placed on the ballot.

Specifics on the ethics law

Besides the facets of the resolution that were mentioned, it also defines and regulates the following: personal use of city property, business arrangements between city employees and elected officials, the employment/appointments of relatives or household members to paid positions, inappropriate financial benefits and gifts, definition of permissible representation, post-public service employment activities, and public disclosure mandates of political activities and municipal real estate transactions.

For comments on this story, contact Ricardo Kaulessar at


Who has which job

Here are the public jobs held by six of the nine members of the Jersey City Council.

City Council President and Councilman-at-Large Mariano Vega is the director of the Hudson County Director of Parks, Engineering and Planning.

Heights Councilperson Bill Gaughan is Chief of Staff for Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise.

City Councilman-at-Large Peter Brennan is a confidential aide to DeGise.

City Councilwoman-at-Large Willie Flood currently serves as the Hudson County registrar.

City Councilwoman Viola Richardson works for the county, dealing with juvenile offenders and with people previously incarcerated to help them settle within the county.

West Side City Councilwoman Mary Spinello works for the Jersey City Incinerator Authority - an autonomous agency - but she has had to abstain on votes in the past regarding business between the city and the agency. She abstained from voting on Fulop's legislation.

Greenville Councilman Michael Sottolano is a retired city employee. - RK

Posted on: 2007/9/16 2:44

Jersey City's official song
Quite a regular
Quite a regular


Singing the praises of Jersey City

NJ second largest city has an official song - who knew?

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

Is there an official song for Jersey City? And what would that song sound like?

Isn't there some tune with the words, "Jersey City is my kind of town" or "Smells like Jersey City"?

The second largest city in New Jersey has been called "Wall Street West" and "New York's Sixth Borough" due to development that has brought Goldman Sachs and Donald Trump. Such accomplishments may be music to the ears of some residents, but what most of them don't know is that the city has an official song.

Commissioners named it in 1947

Just as New York City has "New York, New York" as its official tune, Jersey City has "Jersey City, N.J." (See sidebar for lyrics.)

It was made the official song of Jersey City when the Board of Commissioners of Jersey City (a forerunner of the present-day City Council) adopted the song at their April 1, 1947 meeting. A resolution states, "The words and music...have caught and given expression to the pride and spirit of this community."

And it all sprang from the mind of a Pennsylvania coal miner.

In the winter of 1946, the city was under the rule of legendary Mayor Frank "Boss" Hague in what would his next to last year in office. The song began as an effort by the operators of the old State Theater in Journal Square, the semi-pro Jersey City Giants football team, and a local daily newspaper to foster civic pride and to be performed at all official functions.

The triumvirate came up with a song contest. The grand prize was that the song would be performed before a live audience, and would be recorded on vinyl. There was also a cash prize.

By late March 1947, the contest ended with 293 entries from as far away as the West Indies.

On March 24, the winning song was chosen from 20 finalists by a panel of judges that included comedian and composer Morey Amsterdam, who achieved fame later on "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

37-year-old supported 'invalid brother'

"Jersey City, N.J." was submitted by then 37-year old Ted Lovick, a coal miner and amateur songwriter from Starford, Pa. In the March 25 edition of the Jersey Journal, he was described as the "young man from the 'sticks'" supporting his sister and invalid brother.

That edition also reported that there was to be a live performance at the State Theater by local singers Marion Sharkey and Kerwin McMahon accompanied by Joel Herron and his orchestra, to be aired on radio station WHN.

However, a worker strike prevented that from happening.

In April, the show went on. The song was recorded on vinyl. However, the record, like the song, has faded into obscurity, somewhere lurking the recesses of one's memory or basement.

Not music to everyone's ears

Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy said he never knew there was an official song. But upon reading a copy of the lyrics provided by the Jersey City Reporter, he didn't sound too impressed.

"I think we can do better if the lyrics are any indication," Healy said.

Healy who is known to belt out a tune or two from time to time said he would like to see a new song along the lines of renowned jazz vocalist and New Jersey native John Pizzarelli's "I Like Jersey Best".

"I know someone who is a friend of a friend of Pizzarelli's and I would love to get [Pizzarelli] to write a new official song about Jersey City," said Healy. He then sang a line in Pizzarelli's song that gives a shout out to the city: "And have no pity, Jersey City/ Once again will shine".

Bayonne resident and Jersey City native Bruce Brandt, works in the New Jersey Room of the Jersey City Public Library, said he only knew Jersey City had an official song because of the information on Jersey City-related songs retained in the New Jersey Room.

"I never heard it performed when I was growing up," Brandt said. "As far as what I think about Jersey City having an official song, I have no feeling one way or the other."

Local resident Cliff Perkins, lead singer with the R&B group Soul Generation and an employee with the city's Division of Cultural Affairs, said he has not heard the song performed in his lifetime and particularly at official functions.

"I think this should be performed before ceremonies in, say, an instrumental form," Perkins said. "But the words need a bit of upgrading for the current day. What the song describes is what Jersey City was in the past."

Besides reactions of curiosity and surprise, there was a lot of laughter from other people interviewed.

Shakimiah Garretson and Desire Marte, receptionists in the City Council office inside City Hall, couldn't hold their amusement at the lyrics of the song.

"'There's a smile on each face...Little friendly words of cheer,' " quoted Garretson, laughing. "That's not the Jersey City I know."

Marte said, "I can't believe this is the official song for the city. I'm going to write my own."

Anyone with suggestions on how to update the city's official song, or a new official song, can send their submissions to and they will be printed in a future issue of the Jersey City Reporter.


Let's all sing 'Jersey City, N.J.'

These are the lyrics of Jersey City's official song, adopted by the City Commissioners in 1947, in case there's the urge to croon:

"I've been around'/And I'm nobody's fool.
I know where folks/Obey the golden rule.
I tell you, friends, It's something nice to see/ And talk about their hospitality.
When you're walking down the street/Everybody that you meet/Greets you with a smile so gay.
It's a friendliest place/'There's a smile on each face/ In Jersey City, N.J.
It will warm your heart to hear/Little friendly words of cheer; Howdy neighbor, happy day.
Hearts are always so light/Skies are always so bright/ In Jersey City, N.J.
And if you're lonely by chance/Whether it be March or June/You're sure of finding romance/Underneath the Jersey moon.
So when you are feeling blue/And you don't know what to do/Take a trip down Jersey Way.
And in just a short while/You'll be wearing a smile/In Jersey City, N.J." - RK

Posted on: 2007/8/4 16:17

Re: Jersey City may get some local control of schools
Quite a regular
Quite a regular

After 18 years, schools back to local control?

Two segments of Jersey City district return to city supervision

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

Certain functions of the Jersey City School District will soon be placed back under the district's control after having been run by the state since October of 1989.

The state will return two out of five key areas to local control because those areas earned high scores during state monitoring, but the district will still have to improve in three other areas, including "instruction and program."

Eighteen years ago, control of the Jersey City schools was transferred to the N.J. Department of Education as the result of a bill that gave the state power to take over failing school districts.

The Jersey City school district is one of three New Jersey districts under state control, along with Newark and Paterson.

State Education Commissioner Lucille E. Davy recommended on Tuesday a change in the governance and fiscal management sectors of the Jersey City school system based on an examination of certain monitoring reports.

The NJ QSAC (Quality Single Accountability Continuum) monitoring is a process in which the state investigates the school district for signs of progress in five areas: instruction and program, personnel, operations management, school governance, and fiscal management.

A team of QSAC monitors visited the district earlier this year, where they had to determine that adequate progress has been made in any of the five areas in order for the state to return control to local officials.

"[The state] DOE does not want to run school districts, but we have a responsibility to make sure they are well-run," Davy said. "QSAC was built on the principles of uniform monitoring standards, efficiency, prevention, early identification of significant problems, and DOE involvement only for the time necessary and only in areas of need."

The announcement was greeted with elation by the Jersey City Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Epps and some members of the school board.

But others aren't so excited, or even sure what to be excited about.

Two out of five ain't bad

The reason the fiscal management and governance sectors of the Jersey City school system were singled out by the state was because they scored high marks, according to the QSAC reports.

Jersey City scored 89 percent in governance and 92 percent in fiscal management.

If a district meets more than 80 percent of the indicators in a given component, the district is deemed to be "high performing" in that area.

The district could return to full local control, but only if they remedy their scores in the other three sectors studied in the QSAC reports.

Jersey City met 57 percent of the indicators in instruction and program, 58 percent of the indicators in personnel, 74 percent in operations management. The state requires that if a district achieves between 50 percent and 80 percent, they must put together a corrective action plan for those areas within 45 days.

Epps said last week, "I am ecstatic over this announcement and believe that this is a tribute to my entire team and most importantly, my board members."

The school board members are elected by the public each year.

Epps added in a statement, "These past years have required a great deal of hard work and commitment by many individuals, and this is a confirmation that all of our efforts on behalf of our students are appreciated."

Also happy to hear about the prospect of Jersey City moving toward local control of the school system was William DeRosa, Board of Education chairman.

"I am pleased and I look forward to going back to local control," said DeRosa, who was a social studies teacher at Lincoln High School at the time of the takeover. "The difference is, I can't say anymore it is the state's fault if someone complains why something is not right in the schools. And I embrace the responsibility."

Mayor Jerramiah Healy also was happy about the news, saying, "it's a credit to everyone in the Jersey City schools who work so hard to do the best job possible."

But apparently it's not all good

Not impressed with the news was board member and former mayor Gerald McCann.

The takeover in 1989 took place while he was in the mayor's office for a second time.

"What I was told and what I actually read was two different things," McCann said last week, taking issue with the areas where the school system supposedly showed improvement.

"What is governance? That just means the school board knows what they are doing," McCann said. "And the Finance Department knows how to take care of their business. But what about the other areas?"

McCann pointed out that the schools scored lowest in the area of Instruction and Program, which means the teaching of the students. But McCann did say he saw a positive in the recent news.

"I was in favor of the takeover, but I realize that the state has no idea what they are doing," McCann said. "It's a step in the right direction, because ultimately, Jersey City knows what's best for their schools."

Also expressing skepticism is Lorenzo Richardson, an accountant with the Urban League of Hudson County and a frequent presence at Board of Education meetings.

"There were audits done that found all kinds of wasteful spending," Richardson said. "If that goes back to local control, I would like to see the books."

What's next?

DeRosa said Davy is scheduled to meet with school officials and with the school board to discuss the QSAC reports further.

Also, by the end of next year, the Jersey City Board of Education must request a special election to determine whether the locally-controlled new board will be elected or appointed by the mayor.

Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at

Posted on: 2007/7/29 17:34

Re: July 30 fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton at a Newport tower
Quite a regular
Quite a regular

Hillary's coming to town

Dem presidential frontrunner in JC for private fundraiser

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

Note: The web version of this article is different from the one published in the printed edition of the Jersey City Reporter.

Former First Lady and current U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton is coming to Jersey City this Monday, July 30.

The 2008 presidential contender will appear at a private fundraiser in Newport.

Clinton is the leader in a pack of Democratic hopefuls, including popular U.S. Senator Barack Obama from Illinois and Ohio Sen. Dennis Kucinich, both of whom already have visited the city.

Hosting Hillary Clinton's appearance are Downtown City Councilman Steven Fulop and developer Jaime LeFrak of Newport Associates. According to Fulop, last week he received confirmation that Gov. Jon Corzine and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, both of whom live in Hoboken, will join Clinton.

"She has the correct and reasonable perspective on policy to end the war in Iraq, in which I still have friends serving," Fulop said last week.

According to Fulop, he and other local Clinton supporters worked for months to schedule the event, and they are looking forward to seeing her address the public.

"There was certainly a demand and this will be great, as it is her first appearance in Hudson County," Fulop said. "And I am just happy to be a part of it."

Clinton's appearance is the third by a Democratic presidential candidate in Jersey City in the last three months. In April, Kucinich met with a small group of Downtown Jersey City residents for a dinner discussion at the Brownstone Diner on Jersey Avenue. In May, Obama held a fundraiser at the Liberty House Restaurant in Liberty State Park, hosted by Obama supporters Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Healy said last week that he chose to support Obama because he has "the right temperament." Healy also pointed out that Obama reached out to him for support early in the campaign.

"This is not to take away from Hillary Clinton, who I respect a great deal," Healy said, "but he's very good one-on-one with people; he's terrific one-on-10. And I believe he is the best person."

Hillary is their woman

It is not the first time a Clinton has come to town. Former President Bill Clinton came to Jersey City in 2005 to lend support to Menendez in his successful run for the U.S. Senate.

Clinton is coming into friendly territory on Monday. Various polls show she leads in popularity amongst Hudson County residents over her Democratic rivals.

Fulop said that as a Iraq War veteran who served there in 2003, his respect for Hillary Clinton is borne out of her stance on the war.

Fulop said, "As a veteran of Iraq, this issue is important to me, and she has been a strong and vocal supporter of veteran issues."

Fulop added, "On the domestic front, she will be good for business and the economy."

Other Jersey City residents weighed in last week on Clinton as candidate.

Newport residents weigh in

Sonia Maldonado, a Newport resident for over 10 years, said she will be meeting with Clinton at the private fundraiser and has sent out numerous e-mails to friends and acquaintances informing them of her appearance.

"I think it's time for this country to have a woman president," Maldonado said. "I think when she is in office she will do a tremendous amount of work in terms of health care reform."

Richard McCormack is an employee of the Hudson County Division of Welfare and a longtime freelance photographer whose work has appeared in this newspaper.

"I believe she is the strongest of the Democratic candidates running," McCormack said. "And I am not afraid it will be a Bill Clinton administration, as some people I know are worried that she will have his people running things. If there is an overload of Bill Clinton, what's wrong with that? What did Bill Clinton do to hurt this country?"

McCormack joked, "That's one Bill she won't veto."

McCormack, who is a diabetic, said that he also believes her presidency will lead to more funding for juvenile diabetes research.

But one longtime unnamed Jersey City resident, currently living in the city's Heights section, said she doesn't "bet on going there" unless she could question Clinton one-on-one.

"She funded the war in Iraq, but now calls for the troops to be immediately withdrawn," the resident said. "I would ask her if all the troops are pulled out, how she thinks this will affect this country."

Why Jersey City?

Jersey City has become a popular destination for presidential candidates this year.

Fulop believes next year's early presidential primary in New Jersey on Feb. 5, 2008 is one reason why candidates are showing up here.

"The primary moving up has had an impact and the wealth of the state makes it an important place for politicians to get their message out," Fulop said.

New Jersey residents donated $16 million to Democratic and Republican presidential candidates in 2004, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics. Jersey City residents alone donated approximately $2.6 million to 2004 presidential candidates.

City Councilman Steve Lipski, who represents the city's Journal Square area, said there is another factor attracting presidential hopefuls.

"The Democratic Party [in Hudson County] is split on who it's going with, so there's an opportunity for candidates to pick up some major support here," Lipski said.

Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at

Posted on: 2007/7/29 17:29

Re: Council unanimous for 'got-to-hire-locals' rule - put local residents to work at construction sites
Quite a regular
Quite a regular


Local residents can benefit from development boom

Ordinance requires developers to use JC residents on construction projects

Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter staff writer

The City Council approved an ordinance by a 9-0 vote on Wednesday mandating that developers with projects worth $25 million or more use union labor, and that 20 percent of the apprentices should be Jersey City residents.

Developers will face penalties if they don't comply with the ordinance.

Prior to last week's approval, local politicos had discussed such a project labor agreement, or PLA, for nearly 10 years.

They explored putting more Jersey City residents to work on city construction projects because residents complained of being deprived of the recent development boom's financial rewards.

The ordinance was first proposed in February and called for developers getting tax abatements to use union labor for private projects costing over $15 million and city projects costing over $5 million.

That ordinance also included penalties for non-compliance: The private developer's tax abatement deal would be terminated, or he'd be fined.

But that ordinance was tabled at a Feb. 27 City Council meeting because the council wanted to study the labor agreement further, to clarify issues such as how much control a developer had over hiring.

The new ordinance applies only to developers with tax-abated projects worth $25 million or more. It also allows developers the option to use only 10 percent if there is a scarcity of available apprentices.

A tax abatement is an agreement to exempt a developer from regular, fluctuating property taxes. There is usually a separate revenue deal for the developer to pay money to the city over 20 or 30 years. The agreement is meant to encourage developers to build in certain areas.


The ordinance that was passed on Wednesday states that developers would have to pay $1,000 per day for filing a late report on the hiring. After 14 days, there would be a monthly penalty of 2 percent of their payment in lieu of taxes (PILOTS).

More than a hundred laborers from various local unions packed the council chambers Wednesday to encourage the council to approve the ordinance. Among them was Eric Boyce, president of the Hudson County Building and Construction Trades Council, who addressed the council.

"The council has their best chance ever to achieve everyone's longstanding goals here, that the residents of Jersey City are able to enjoy constructive, meaningful careers in the construction industry," Boyce said.


At Monday's council caucus that preceded Wednesday's meeting, City Councilman Bill Gaughan had taken issue with some aspects of the ordinance.

Gaughan wanted the ordinance to apply only to developments worth $35 million or more, not $25 million. Gaughan also proposed to decrease the penalty for filing a late report from $1,000 a day to $500. Gaughan also wanted to specify in the ordinance that construction projects must be comprised of 80 to 90 percent of union laborers.

He said his changes would help developers with smaller projects.

But Bill Matsikoudis, the city's corporation counsel, disagreed strongly with Gaughan's proposed changes, saying they would allow more nonunion construction workers on the city sites, and would allow developers to escape signing the agreement.

At one point, Gaughan yelled at Matsikoudis for "disagreeing" too much with him about the changes.

By Wednesday's meeting, Gaughan had a change of heart and supported the ordinance without changes. He apologized to those involved in constructing the agreement.

"I intend to vote for the ordinance as it was introduced," Gaughan said. "My concern was on Monday night, knowing this document would be voted on this evening, and I wanted to make sure we got it absolutely right."

Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at

Posted on: 2007/7/1 17:22

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