Passaic mayor ousts a top official

20 10 2009

PASSAIC — Mayor Alex D. Blanco fired Jane Grubin, director of human services, late last week, in the biggest personnel move since he named a new business administration in June. And there may be more changes soon.

Sources with firsthand knowledge said Monday that the next employee on the chopping block is Planning Director Glenn Carter, who declined comment.

Grubin, who was appointed by former Mayor Sammy Rivera in 2001, was let go Friday. Business Administrator Anthony Iacono said Monday that there could be more restructuring. “Like all administrations, there are changes and that is our prerogative,” he said. “This is one of a few moves and other personnel moves are coming.” He declined to elaborate.

Attempts to reach Blanco were unsuccessful.

Iacono said that Grubin’s dismissal was not a political decision, even though Grubin’s husband, Simon Grubin, supported Blanco’s opponent, Vincent Capuana, in May’s mayoral election. Jane Grubin said she was proud of her work and both she and Iacono said her termination was unrelated to her performance.

“I serve at the pleasure of the mayor or at the whim of this mayor,” Grubin said. “It is their prerogative, that’s all. It wasn’t because I did a poor job. It had nothing to do with my job performance. I just hope they have someone from Passaic to fill that position and someone who cares about the people of Passaic.”

Grubin, who grew up in one of the city’s most prominent families, the Gurtmans, said her eight years in the job offered her a chance to give back to the community.

Her grandfather, Max Gurtman, owned a sheet company in Passaic, Max Gurtman and Son. He and the rest of the family contributed to local families and charities. Her father, Nathan, an architect, designed some of the city’s buildings, including the former Ginsburg’s Department Store on Madison and Lexington avenues, and the Ahavas Israel synagogue on Van Houten Avenue.

“Anything I can do is very important, because I have been blessed and this was the perfect way to give back to the community,” Grubin said. “These things are important. It wasn’t a job. I loved going to work every day.”

The Human Services Department is the fourth largest department in the city and oversees a wide range of programs that help city residents, from free HIV testing and food programs for children to running a health clinic.

Grubin, who made $77,000 this year, said one initiative of which she’s particularly proud was rehabilitating the city’s animal shelter, which was slated for closure by the state in 2003.

“I was able to get money to redo the shelter to become a state model for animal shelters,” she said.

Grubin thanked her staff, which numbers 55, for their work. She specifically cited those health professionals who developed a pandemic flu plan, after which the state modeled its program.

Grubin said she will remain active in the community, remaining as board chairwoman of the Mental Health Clinic of Passaicand continuing her work on the Jewish Family Service Board.

P.C.J.N would like to thank Jane Grubin for all she has done for our City and especially the Jewish community. We wish her all the best.

(News Source: NorthJersey.com/PCJN)

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Learn in honor of the people who were murdered in the Mumbai attacks.

15 12 2008

Join in the community-wide Passaic-Clifton Siyum. Five years ago, over 300 people – representing every shul in the community – participated in a siyum on Torah, Neviim, Kesuvim, Mishna, and Shas Bavli. Take part in the upcoming siyum scheduled for Shavuos 5769. Demonstrate the Achdus and Ahavas Hatorah that is sure to have an impact on world, community and personal events





Experts speculate gas may drop below $1 a gallon

15 12 2008

A worker lowers the price of regular unleaded gasoline in Independence, Mo. in November
How low can the price of gas fall? With drivers paying the cheapest price to fill their tanks in nearly four years, it is a question many consumers are pondering, with some experts speculating it is possible prices could even drop below $1 per gallon.
Prices already have decreased to below $1.25 per gallon in some parts of the Midwest. With the economy in a freefall, analysts do not rule out crude oil, which traded Friday in the mid-$40 range, sinking to $20 per barrel, a price that could translate to gas at $1 per gallon.

“Right now, you look at the way demand is retreating, it tends to predict lower prices,” said John Kingston, global director of oil for Platt’s, a provider of energy information. “A drop to $20 per barrel is not out of the question.”

In New Jersey, the price of unleaded regular fell to $1.60 Friday, the lowest it has been since March 2004, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for Oil Price Information Services in Wall Township. In July, the state recorded its highest ever average price for unleaded at $3.99.

“I’m not in the camp where we’ll see prices fall to $1 per gallon or less,” said Kloza, who thinks crude could dip below $40 per barrel, but if so, only briefly. “Here, (in New Jersey), we will see some numbers below $1.50 per gallon.” Read the rest of this entry »





Capuana ops stay up and running in advance of next year’s contest

9 12 2008

PASSAIC – It stands right across from City Hall, and although he came up 400 votes short in last week’s mayoral election, sources close to Vinny Capuana say his headquarters isn’t going anywhere.

It will remain open and active.

There is a mayor’s race next year, after all.

As mayor, Capuana’s conqueror, Alex Blanco, will enjoy the advantage of incumbency in next year’s mayoral contest for a full, four-year term.

But both Blanco and Capuana are trying to secure the backing of those other contestants in last week’s race to fill the unexpired term of Sammy Rivera: real estate developer Jose Sandoval, City Councilman Joe Garcia, and bail bondsman Carl Ellen.  PolitickerNJ.com

 

Vinny Capuana's headquarter's





Reminders of Jersey greeted Corzine throughout Israel trip

27 07 2008

New Jersey Governor Corzine

As he soaked up the sights and culture of Israel during a five-day trade mission halfway around the world last week, Gov. Jon Corzine often felt like New Jersey was just a Turnpike exit away.

From the first day of his journey to the last, Corzine stumbled upon reminders of his home state in all corners of the country.

Tourists recognized him during breakfasts at the hotel. Summer interns in the Knesset government headquarters told him they hailed from the Garden State. A cluster of Jersey schoolteachers descended on him at the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

“It feels like I’m in New Jersey most of the time when I am in a public forum,” Corzine said early on in the trip.

New Jersey and Israel often invite comparisons over their similar size and population, as well as specializing in some of the same industries. New Jersey’s large Jewish community also makes for strong cultural ties.

But for the governor and his traveling posse, last week took the link to another level.

Bradley Abelow, Corzine’s chief of staff, took to calling the New Jersey state Legislature “our Knesset,” after the famously combative Israeli legislative branch.

Parallels popped up when driving around the country. Spotting a nasty traffic jam on the main north-south highway leading to the urban center of Tel Aviv, Ambassador Asaf Shariv, consul general of Israel in New York, pointed to the green exit signs and grinned. “It’s like the Turnpike, no?”

The governor’s motorcade – led by a blue stretch limousine provided by the Israeli government — was itself an attention magnet. Curious passers-by who were told the governor of New Jersey was inside sometimes asked if he was the one who romanced an “Israeli guy,” Shariv said.

Corzine’s predecessor, former Gov. James E. McGreevey, resigned from office after admitting a homosexual affair with Israeli national Golan Cipel, who claims McGreevey sexually harassed him.

One-on-one connections were equally bizarre. Visiting Israel’s leading technical university on Tuesday, Corzine made small talk with a professor showing off a surveillance camera embedded in a miniature helicopter. Soon they found common ground: both used to live in Summit.

Another random encounter brought Corzine face to face with Kenny Kleinerman, who said he worked with former Gov. Thomas Kean on developing E-ZPass.

By Thursday morning, it was hardly a surprise when Tal Brody – the Trenton Central High School graduate who achieved Israeli basketball superstardom – stopped by Corzine’s hotel.

“It was like musical chairs in terms of people coming to meet with him,” said Abe Foxman, a Bergen County resident and national director of the Anti-Defamation League who stumbled upon the governor in the hotel dining room one morning. “He’s so comfortable, you’d think he was in Jersey.”

The constant stream of connections clearly amused Corzine as he hawked Jersey as a home for Israeli business. On a tour of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot Thursday afternoon – the last public stop on his official trip – Corzine was shown an exhibit of dangling mirrors meant to portray chaos.

Want chaos? “Come to New Jersey,” he said.

“You’re from New Jersey?” asked his young tour guide, Hadas Cahalla.

“Yes,” said the governor. “Are you?”

For once, the answer was no. NJ.com





Squad leader claims ‘harassment’

22 05 2008

Letter says Jewish group not up to code

PASSAIC — The city has told one of two Passaic-based Orthodox Jewish volunteer ambulance squads that it must shut down because the squad isn’t up to city code.

But the squad’s founder called the city’s action “harassment” and questioned why the other Jewish squad wasn’t scrutinized.

On Monday, the city sent a letter signed by its law firm, Scarinci & Hollenbeck, to David Kaplan, 26, founder of Hatzolah EMS of North Jersey, saying the squad wasn’t in compliance with city law.

The letter said Hatzolah must shut down operations by the end of the day on May 19 if it did not fulfill the requirements of proving that all volunteers are qualified and that the squad has insurance that covers any legal action against the city up to $2 million. The requirements are outlined in a 2004 ordinance.

Kaplan said his squad does meet city requirements and showed necessary proof to the city last September. A letter to Kaplan from former Mayor Samuel Rivera, dated Sept. 12, states that Hatzolah is qualified to provide emergency medical services in Passaic and that a certificate remains in effect for two years from that date.

But Acting Mayor Gary Schaer said to the best of his knowledge Hatzolah had not met all the city’s requirements.

Hatzolah is licensed to operate by the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services, although a license is not necessary to operate, said spokeswoman Marilyn Riley.

As of Wednesday, Hatzolah had not provided documentation to the city, Kaplan said. But Hatzolah is continuing operations anyway, he said, because Kaplan believes the city’s letter is unfair and unfounded.

To complicate matters, a second Hatzolah ambulance service with a similar name — Hatzolah of Passaic/Clifton — has never been used informally by the city and is not on the list of squads the city uses. Hatzolah means “rescue” in Hebrew. The squads are local chapters of a worldwide organization that has volunteer ambulance squads in Jewish neighborhoods.

Greg Hill, the business administrator, said the city has not checked whether the second Jewish squad is violating city law. Schaer, an Orthodox Jew, said he asked Hill on Tuesday to verify that all private ambulance squads comply with city law. Passaic has only the two Hatzolahs as private squads.

The city’s paid squad, which has two ambulances, is overseen by the Police Department. When both vehicles are in use, the city calls other municipalities and private squads to ask if they can dispatch an ambulance immediately. Andy White, police spokesman, said Kaplan’s Hatzolah has been called in recent months after the Clifton squad and a private company based at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Last week, the City Council entertained a resolution that would formally add Kaplan’s Hatzolah to the city’s list of mutual aid services. But the resolution was defeated by a 3-3 tie vote. A tie means the measure is rejected.

The three Orthodox Jewish council members voted against the resolution, while the three Hispanic members voted in favor.

Schaer, who proposed the resolution, said he voted against it because he believes Hatzolah was stoking ethnic divide in the city.

“Picking up an ambulance group that’s working primarily in one part of town — I don’t think it’s a good idea, if we’re continuing our fight to unite Passaic,” Schaer said.

Kaplan said Hatzolah serves the entire city, not just Jews.

“It’s ludicrous, because the whole point of doing 911 is we service anybody. We don’t ask them, ‘Are you Jewish? Are you Orthodox?’ when someone calls,” Kaplan said. “Gary Schaer has furthered the stereotype that we only want to help ourselves.”

Hatzolah gets an average of 600 calls a year to its direct line, Kaplan said. He did not know what percentage was Jewish.

Councilman Gerardo Fernandez said he supports the squad.

“We never had a problem before. We voted for it. I voted ‘yes’ because they’re providing a service with the community. They’ve been doing it all along,” Fernandez said.

On Tuesday, Schaer said that the letter sent to Kaplan was purely out of concern for public safety.

“It’s not my personal feelings at play here. This affects the health and welfare of city residents,” he said. “What’s relevant is what’s in compliance.”

Reach Karen Keller at 973-569-7158 or kellerk@northjersey.com myheraldnews.com





As many as 700 arrested in Iowa illegal immigration raid at the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant

12 05 2008
POSTVILLE, Iowa — A raid by federal immigration officials at the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant may have resulted in as many as 700 arrests, immigration officials said Monday

Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement entered the Agriprocessors Inc. complex in northeast Iowa Monday morning to execute a criminal search warrant for evidence relating to aggravated identity theft, fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and other crimes, said Tim Counts, a Midwest ICE spokesman.

Agents are also executing a civil search warrant for people illegally in the United States, he said.

Immigration officials told aides to Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, that they expect 600 to 700 arrests. About 1,000 to 1,050 people work at the plant, according to Iowa Workforce Development, the state’s employment services agency.

Chuck Larson, a truck driver for Agriprocessing, was in the plant when the agents arrived. “There has to be 100 of them,” he said of the agents.

Larson said the agents told workers to stay in place then separated them by asking those with identification to stand to the right and those with other papers, to stand to the left.

“There was plenty of hollering,” Larson said. “You couldn’t go anywhere.”

When asked who was separated, Larson said those standing in the group with other papers were all Hispanic

ICE spokesman Harold Ort in Postville did not confirm or deny that anyone had been detained, but went on to say that the children of those detained would be cared for and that “their caregiver situation will be addressed.”

“They were asked multiple times if they have any sole-caregiver issues or any childcare issues,” Ort said.

Aides to Braley said they have been told that “hundreds” of arrests are expected because the action is more of an “investigation” than an immigration raid, and specific individuals are being targeted for arrest as part of the investigation.

Counts described the events in Postville as a “single site operation.” He said he was not aware of any other immigration raids being conducted elsewhere Monday.

Postville Police Chief Michael Halse said he did not know anything about the raid until Monday morning.

Postville is a community of more than 2,500 people that includes natives of German and Norwegian heritage and newcomers who include Hasidic Jews from New York, plus immigrants from Mexico, Russian, Ukraine and many other countries.

The Agriprocessors plant, known as the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, is northeast Iowa’s largest employer.

About 200 Hasidic Jews arrived in Postville in 1987, when butcher Aaron Rubashkin of Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood reopened a defunct meat-packing plant with his two sons, Sholom and Heshy, just outside the city limits. Business boomed at the plant, reviving the depressed economy while pitting the newcomers against the predominantly Lutheran community.

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said that the Postville immigration investigations were warranted despite concerns that federal official violated the constitutional rights of people in past raids.

“Remember our concern has not been about whether or not there should be raids,” Vilsack said. “It’s the way the raids have been conducted and the way in which American citizens’ rights have been violated by virtue of sort of a roundup process that’s used and what we think are inappropriate and unconstitutional actions on the part of immigration officials.”

Vilsack and others have alleged that immigration officials used humiliation, opposite-sex searches and long periods of secrecy in the Dec. 12, 2006, raids at Swift & Co. in Marshalltown, Iowa, where 90 people were arrested on immigration charges. UsaToday.com