Fire destroys abandoned house

31 07 2008

Passaic N.J. –A three-alarm fire demolished a vacant home in a sleepy neighborhood atop a steep hill in the city of Passaic.

Authorities and the owner of the house at 483 Harrison St., Barry Fredson, blamed the blaze on vagrants who had been squatting inside it since its last tenants left 10 months ago.

While the home had been boarded up, vagrants repeatedly broke in through the three-story building’s rear windows. Firefighters found scraps of food, empty liquor bottles and homemade ladders believed to have been used to sneak into the house.

The alleged squatters were nowhere in sight when firefighters arrived about 2:40 a.m. Wednesday to find the house fully ablaze, said Passaic fire Chief Patrick Trentacost.

And while there were no reported injuries, firefighters still struggled to contain the fire with low water pressure. Because of the elevation of the house, firefighters were forced to stretch hose lines several blocks to reach hydrants with sufficient pressure, he said.

“The water pressure was just horrible,” he said.

Part of the house collapsed during the fire, Trentacost said, leaving firefighters with no other option but to battle the blaze from the outside.

The fire was under control by about 4:50 a.m., although the house continued to smolder throughout the day. The Fire Department ordered a backhoe to demolish part of the house so that firefighters on scene could hose down any hot spots that they could not reach from the outside.

Fredson, the home’s owner, had drawn up plans to redevelop the property into condominiums, but has not yet presented a proposal to the city’s building commission.


NJ Assemblyman Resigns in disgrace

29 07 2008
Disgraced Assemblyman Neil Cohen (second from right), Assemblyman Gary Schaer  and State Sen. Loretta Weinberg  look on as Gov. Jon Corzine signs bills into law in the Ahavas Israel Shul in Passaic. Rabbi Ron Eisenman is behind the disgraced assemblyman.

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey legislator resigned Monday amid reports that he’s under investigation for suspected possession of child pornography.

The clerk of the Assembly received a one-sentence letter from Assemblyman Neil Cohen just before 9:30 a.m. Monday. Cohen said his resignation is effective immediately, but he did not offer any explanation.

Cohen has not been charged with a crime.

Colleagues who use the same legislative district office as the 57-year-old Democratic lawmaker said last week that they told law enforcement authorities about images of child pornography found on his computer.

State Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, who shared a district office with Cohen, said the investigation began after a staffer in the Union Township office found a printout of a nude girl, possibly in her early teens or younger.

Cryan and State Sen. Raymond Lesniak said they referred the case to the state Attorney General’s Office. Attorney general spokesman Peter Aseltine said the office does not comment on whether it is investigating cases.

Cohen, an unmarried divorce lawyer, has served in the Assembly in 1990-91 and continuously since 1994.

Regarded as one of the most liberal legislators, Cohen is also considered one of the busiest, having introduced 342 bills this legislative session — 94 more than any other legislator.

“Assemblyman Cohen was a respected legislator who dedicated his life to the State House and whose legacy would have been great,” said Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts. “Unfortunately, all of that will now be forever overshadowed.”

“We sincerely hope he receives the help he desperately needs,” Roberts said.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine issued a statement Monday calling the allegations “deeply disturbing.”

“All of us who have worked with him are shocked by the reports,” Corzine said. “Child pornography reflects a horrible debasement of children that is totally intolerable. Creating, distributing and using child pornography should be pursued vigorously by law enforcement wherever it is found.”

Cryan said Cohen remained hospitalized for psychiatric treatment on Monday.

Cohen did not return a call to his cell phone Monday morning.

Is it a miracle that Route 21 in Passaic is clean!

29 07 2008

PASSAIC – The usual piles of litter — old tires, beer bottles and flyaway papers — along the sides of heavily traveled Route 21 have suddenly disappeared.

It’s not an environmental miracle, but the hard work of 10 young people — nine teenagers and a 24-year-old — hired to prune, cut grass and clean up eight grassy strips adjacent to the highway.

The Downtown Merchants Corp., a non-profit dedicated to beautifying the city, hired them to work for five weeks during the summer. They are being paid $9 an hour through a $35,000grant that Downtown Merchants received from the state Department of Transportation this year. Wearing long pants and long-sleeved T-shirts and armed with machetes and weed-whackers, the crew worked seven hours a day, five days a week, cleaning up the debris in the blazing summer sun. They said that although it’s hard work, they are learning valuable life lessons.

“It gives you respect for people who do it year-round,” said Branden Valenzuela, 18, who recently graduated from Passaic High School and plans to attend Bergen Community College this fall. Valenzuela wants to study business.

And with college tuition rising, Valenzuela said the summer job will help defray the cost. “I’m trying to take the weight off my parents’ shoulders for college,” he said.

The Downtown Merchants Corp. applied for the $35,000 competitive grant through the DOT’s Urban Gateway Enhancement Program. The program provides jobs and employment opportunities for urban youth in the fields of forestry, landscaping and streetscaping. This year, the Passaic group was among 10 awarded grant money for the summer program. It is the first time in two years that a city group has received such a grant.

City officials have lauded the program for helping young people find jobs in the summer, when traditionally the part-time job market is crowded with college students. At a time when the economy has taken a downturn and families may need the extra money, the summer program is a good opportunity, they added.

“They are making money, they are keeping busy and, third, they are learning skills,” said Victor Santiago, Downtown Merchants director, as he drove around the city on a recent sunny afternoon, pointing out some of the newly manicured spots.

One local businessman, Jaime Delgado, owner of JFJ Delgados Landscaping & General Contractor, of Passaic, is working with the crew, teaching them pruning techniques and how to use the equipment.

At the end of the summer, those who successfully complete the program will receive a diploma listing the job skills they have acquired, Santiago said.

Some of the workers said the money they earn this summer will give them extra cash for things like a new laptop computer or pay for public transportation.

“If my mother is in a good mood, she’ll give me money,” said 15-year-old Yusef Reaves, “but usually I have to buy my own ride or [movie] ticket.”

Reaves said he is saving money so he can attend college out-of-state and not make his parents pay the extra tuition costs.

“It’s going to cost a lot of money to get a dorm room,” he said.

Darnell Burrells, 24, said the summer program was teaching him something more important than just landscaping. Burrells said he understands how important it is to get a college education so he won’t have to do menial jobs. He wants to work in a field he really likes: music.

Burrells said he sings in the church choir at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church on Autumn Street and operates a recording studio out of his home.

Although he was happy to have a job, Burrells said, he was less than enthusiastic about the cleanup work.

“The only thing is the bugs and allergies and stuff,” Burrells said. “It has got me thinking, do I really want to do this for the rest of my life? Definately no.”

Police Car Crashes, Sgt. Curses at Hatzolah Volunteers Trying to Offer Aid; Delays Care

28 07 2008
NYPD police care after the crash. Witnesses stated the car was speeding with lights on, but no sirens, and failed to slow at the intersection.

NYPD police car after the crash. Witnesses stated the car was speeding with lights on, but no sirens, and failed to slow at the intersection.

CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn — A police cruiser slammed into a 15 passenger van at around 9:30 Sunday night. The incident took place in the intersection of Albany Avenue and Carroll Street where a 15 passenger van, driven by a Jewish man, heading down Carroll was broadsided by a police cruiser coming down Albany.

Multiple eye witnesses stated that they observed the police car driving with only its lights flashing and no sirens, and when approaching the intersection the police car did not slow down. Police officers on scene said the police car did not appear to be responding to an emergency.

The two vehicles collided and the van ended up on the sidewalk.

Hatzalah and the police arrived on scene within moments, but the lack of professionalism on the police’s behalf reared its ugly head on scene.

One Hatzalah member immediately walked up to the police car and began giving care to one of the officers and just as he began stabilizing Sgt. Walls of the 71st Precinct walked up to the member and told him to “take his @#$! and move away”, the member was taken aback and walked away.

Other Hatzalah members evaluated the driver and passenger from the van, both of whom did not require medical attention, B”H.

After the sergeant gave Hatzalah the boot some 7 Hatzolah members were seen standing on the side along with other curious onlookers instead of giving the care they are supposed to.

After 7 minutes the first EMS ambulance arrived on scene and 25 minutes later the second ambulance arrived on scene. Both officers were transported to Kings County Hospital for checkup and observation. (

Record Number of Jewish Ambulances in Passaic on Sunday!

28 07 2008
File photo of a Hatzolah Ambulance in Passaic

File photo of a Hatzolah Ambulance in Passaic

Passaic, NJ – Sunday evening between 6:30 and 6:45 pm, a record number of Jewish ambulances were spotted in Passaic.

And here is the rundown (can I have a drumroll please):

1 Hatzolah of North Jersey ambulance driving down Bond Street.

2 Hatzolah of North Jersey ambulances parked on Reid Avenue (facing in the appropriate directions!).

1 Hatzolah of Passaic / Clifton EMS ambulance parked on the corner of Brook Avenue and Dakota Street (probably distant enough from the corner to avoid ticket-hungry and possibly tape-measure-toting cops).

1 Rutherford Volunteer Ambulance parked in the bus stop (yes, illegally, as all ambulances except ones with Hebrew lettering can do in Passaic) across from the kosher pizzeria on Main Avenue. (Jewish volunteers deserve pizza too.)

1 Pulse Medical Transportation ambulance (marked “SCTU”) driving down Van Houten Avenue in Passaic, with two yarmulka-wearing EMTs inside.

1 Pulse Medical Transportation ambulance (not marked “SCTU”) driving down Main Avenue in Passaic, with one yarmulka-wearing EMT inside.

Get the world records book people on the line! Now Passaic can boast of not only holding the (dubious) record for the town with the most Hatzolah organizations (2), but also of the most Jewish-operated ambulances at one time within a 6 block radius!

In related news, while parked on Main Avenue, someone was overheard asking the driver of the Rutherford ambulance if they were the third Hatzolah in town! PCJN Staff

Will Gary Schaer really run for Mayor this coming November?

28 07 2008

Acting Mayor And Assemblyman Gary Schaer

Editor’s Note  We at PCJN believe that Acting Mayor and Assemblyman Gary Schaer has to much to lose to run for Mayor in November. If Gary Schaer would run for Mayor, and win he would only be Mayor for several months, and have to give up his Assembly seat. If he gives up his Assembly seat and lose the Mayor Race next year he is pretty much out of politics’s.

 Why would Gary Schaer pretend to run for Mayor?  Gary Schaer would pretend to run for Mayor to build him self up for the Mayor election next year in 2009.

Also interesting to note that Gary Schaer may try to put a weak Mayor in, this way he can run for Mayor next year and win the Mayoral seat easily.  PCJN Exclusive

Schaer weighs mayoral run in Passaic

28 07 2008

PASSAIC – To be in Trenton, or not to be in Trenton, that is the question for Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), who became the acting mayor of Passaic in May when a federal judge found Mayor Sammy Rivera guilty of corruption.

Initially, Schaer, who received the chief executive’s job by virtue of his position as council president, figured he would serve long enough to hand off to whoever wins a Nov. 4th special election.

But about three weeks into his service as acting mayor, with no stunning personality on the city’s horizon line, by his reckoning, Schaer began mulling the idea of pursuing his own mayoral run. 

“We can’t afford to have a mayor who’s not going to build on some of the positive things we’re doing,” said Schaer, who implemented local ethics reforms, imposed a 37% cut to the mayoral salary (from $117,000 to $72,000), and a municipal hiring freeze.

Now he wants to help stand up some key new public development projects in the economically downbeat Passaic, including a federally qualified health clinic and four school projects.

Pulling the trigger on a run for mayor will not be easy.

That’s because Schaer, a dual office holder who serves as vice chair of the Assembly Budget Committee in addition to acting mayor, also sees the potential for another opportunity in Trenton.

If state Sen. John Adler (D-Camden) beats Medford Mayor Chris Myers in their 3rd Congressional District standoff, that would probably mean that Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-Voorhees), chair of the budget committee, would move up to assume Adler’s Senate seat.

A Manhattan investment consultant now in the middle of his second term in the Assembly, Schaer says he wouldn’t mind serving as budget chair, and would probably lobby Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) for the job should it become available.

He wouldn’t be the only one.

Fellow budget committee member, Assembly Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro), would also be interested in the position – that is if he doesn’t end up running for U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews’s (D-Haddon Heights) 1st Congressional District


“It’s a real holding pattern right now,” Burzichelli told “I’ve expressed an interest in the Congressional seat, but it’s not my call. If that doesn’t happen and the budget chair becomes available if John Adler wins, and if Lou moves up, I’d be very interested.”

Prior to last year’s Assembly session, Schaer’s dilemma would have provided him with no big Hamlet moment, as the law would have allowed him to assume both the mayor’s post and his assembly seat. Grand fathered as a simultaneously serving councilman and assemblyman, he will be able to continue serving at the municipal level in the event he opts to stay in the Assembly.

But if goes for mayor and wins, Schaer won’t be grand fathered – and will have to relinquish his Assembly seat.

He knows he will have to decide soon – at least before the filing deadline come September. The trouble from a planning standpoint is he won’t know if the committee chairmanship is free until after the Nov. 4th congressional election – the same day of Passaic’s special mayoral election.

When he considers the two opportunities – mayor or assemblyman – “I’m in an enviable position,” he admitted.

Schaer loves his work in Trenton, yet he’s long nursed an ambition to be mayor of his beloved city, the third most densely populated in the country. As the city’s senior orthodox Jew on the city council in the polyglot Passaic where that demographic reliably punches in with 2,200 votes, he enjoys considerable political clout.

“We need a mayor who can appeal to all ethnic groups,” he said, and he has demonstrated the ability to draw votes from beyond his base, as 40% of his support in the last two municipal elections came from outside the 3rd Ward.

Latinos compose the lion’s share – or roughly 62% of registered voters among the four wards of Passaic – but their numbers are broken up into different groups: Puerto Ricans and Dominicans chief among them.

A month and a half before deadline day, the candidates include community development director Vincent Capuana; businessman Jose Sandoval; Council people Joe Garcia, a veteran; and relative newcomer Maritza Colon-Montanez; potential rising star School Board member Alex Blanco; and Ritzy Morales, an aide to U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson).

Schaer already trounced Sandoval – a Republican – in a 2005 Assembly match-up, and was moving away from onetime ally Rivera even as Maritza-Colon cozied up to the self-combusting former executive.

If anyone out there is gathering signatures for him to run for mayor, he hasn’t personally dispatched them and doesn’t know about them, Schaer insisted.

Passaic sources say Schaer and Blanco – a physician who practices in Passaic – are close, but the acting mayor denies that he and his potential rival for the mayor’s seat would hammer out a deal for one of them to stand down in the event that the other runs.

“I don’t anticipate that we will have those kind of talks,” Schaer said.

At least one political ally believes Schaer should stay focused on the Assembly rather than run for mayor, and that’s fellow District 36 legislator, Senate Deputy Majority Leader Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen).

“Gary is great in the Assembly, where I think he has an obvious opportunity to continue to grow and move into a leadership position,” said Sarlo. “The next mayor of the city of Passaic is also in an important position, in part because that person will have to bring all of the various ethnic groups together.

“If I were to encourage Gary, it would be for him to remain in the Assembly, where with (Assemblyman) Fred Scalera (D-Nutley) we have a great team,” Sarlo added.

Similarly grand fathered out of the new law that prevents dual office holding, Burzichelli serves as mayor of Paulsboro in addition to his Assembly duties.

“Gary and I are friends,” said Burzichelli. “He’s solid, good people, and very smart. But I understand his interest in being mayor. The mayor’s role is very hands-on. I serve as the mayor of a small town, and I love it.”