Jayson Berg: Jersey City’s own Ted Cruz?
The next time perennial candidate and frequent council speaker Jayson Berg runs for office, and there will probably be a next time, he has a new moniker he can add to the ballot under his name: “horrendous.”
Earlier this year when Berg ran for the Ward A City Council seat he embraced and adopted the term “gadfly,” after being dubbed as such by NJ.com. Berg added the gadfly tag to his ballot and began using the term on the campaign trail.
But now Berg, who is known to ask questions about every single matter put before the City Council, no matter how routine or mundane, has been called a new name.
On Oct. 9 as the council meeting dragged well into the night, and Berg made what had to be his seventh or eighth trip to the microphone to address the council, a frustrated David Donnelly, an aide to Mayor Steven Fulop, finally yelled, “Jayson, you are horrendous. You are worse than Ted Cruz filibustering the Senate.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently tried to have the federal Affordable Healthcare Act defunded by speaking against the law from the floor of the senate for about 21 hours.
Berg, who said he asks questions “to educate people,” later retorted, during yet another trip to the mic, “Democracy works both ways. As toastmaster, you lost, I won.”
Spectra Energy begins preliminary operations on natural gas pipeline
Spectra Energy last week notified Jersey City that it would begin testing its gas pipeline on Monday, Oct. 7 in preparation for full pipeline operations on Nov. 1.
According to the city, nitrogen will be used for initial tests. Beginning on Oct. 16, Spectra will begin to run natural gas through the pipeline, at low pressure at first then at full pressure beginning on Nov. 1.
According to information Spectra provided to the city, natural gas will be release into the atmosphere at two valve stations, one at Pacific Avenue near Grand Street and another location at 17th and Coles streets.
According to the city, Spectra is required by state and federal law to make notification of any planned gas release to the Jersey City Police Department, the Jersey City Fire Department, and property owners near these valve stations.
“Since 2010 when we first heard about this proposed pipeline, the entire city government and the vast majority of our residents and business owners have opposed the Spectra natural gas pipeline, as clearly this high-pressure pipeline does not belong in [an area] the size and density of Jersey City,” said city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill. “We are extremely concerned about the immediate and long-range safety hazards this pipeline poses and the Department of Public Safety will continue to monitor and investigate these operations.
Morrill added that the Jersey City Department of Public Safety is monitoring these operations and the Fire Department will assign a fire company to be on standby for each release.
Despite opposition to Spectra Energy’s natural gas pipeline among many Jersey City residents and elected officials, Spectra has for months been on track to have the pipeline completed and operational by November.
For more than two years, the city tried to block construction of the pipeline, which is about 30 inches in diameter and will have a possible pressure of 1,200 pounds per square inch, arguing that it is the first of its magnitude to be built in a densely-populated urban area near several transit hubs such as the Holland Tunnel, the New Jersey Turnpike, and the Hoboken NJ Transit and PATH terminals.
After the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Spectra Energy’s pipeline project in May 2012, last May, Jersey City filed an appeal asking the agency to reconsider. This appeal was denied and the city filed a Petition for Review last December.
In its petition the city argues that since FERC’s annual budget comes from fees it collects from the energy industry it regulates, its decisions are biased in favor of that industry and do not adequately protect communities like Jersey City from problems that may arise from natural gas pipelines and other energy-related infrastructure.
“We are continuing our lawsuit, which is pending in federal district court in Washington, D.C., in our efforts to protect the residents of Jersey City,” Morrill said.
Once the pipeline is in operation, some legal observers have said it seems unlikely the federal government would force Spectra to suspend operations.
Most of the natural gas that is to be transported through the pipeline will be used to meet the energy needs of Con Edison customers in New York, although Spectra has said it will also supply energy to power facilities operated by Bayonne Plant Holding and boilers at the International Matex Tank Terminals, also in Bayonne.
The pipeline includes 19.8 miles of new and replacement pipes, six new stations, and other related modifications in Jersey City, Bayonne, and Linden, New Jersey.
Spectra spokeswoman Marylee Hanley has said the pipeline is safe and is a “critical infrastructure project” that will deliver “clean and affordable natural gas to the New Jersey and New York regions.”
Former Jersey City Housing Commissioner sentenced to 33 months
Edward Cheatam, a former commissioner with the Jersey City Housing Authority, has been sentenced to 33 months behind bars for his role in the Operation Bid Rig scandal of 2006.
In their case against Cheatam, prosecutors alleged that he operated as a bag man who passed more than $230,000 between various public officials, who were also arrested, and Solomon Dwek, a government informant who posed as a real estate developer looking to expedite Hudson County real estate projects in exchange for cash.
Cheatam pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to commit extortion in 2009.
Residents in Van Vorst neighborhood threaten lawsuit to fight planned ‘microunit’ development
Jersey City residents in the Van Vorst Park neighborhood are vowing to fight a planned development at the corner of Bright and Varick streets and have threatened to file a lawsuit against the city to block groundbreaking next year.
In a tense and often hostile meeting with the developer on Tuesday night, a standing room only crowd of residents heard details of an 87-microunit residential development planned for a site at 268 Varick Street, at the corner of Bright Street.
The small studio apartments planned by Michael Rushman and his business partner Don Dillon of the development company Rushman Dillon will be diminutive in size – 325 to 350 square feet – but will include a sleek, cutting edge architectural design that will appeal to young single professionals who are increasingly bypassing New York and moving to Jersey City instead.
The development will not include any parking since the city’s redevelopment plan for this site does not require parking, Rushman told residents Tuesday night in his presentation to the community.
The site is currently a blacktop lot used for classroom trailers for the Frank R. Conwell School (PS 3). As a result of the planned microunit development, Conwell students are already being bused to schools outside the neighborhood.
At a meeting held last week at the Brightside Tavern residents argued that the development, which Rushman said will be designed for the twentysomething generation, does not belong in the family-oriented historic Van Vorst neighborhood. In addition, residents also expressed concerns about the affect the development will have parking and quality of life issues during construction.
Condo owners who live in the building next to the Bright and Varick site also suspected that the building might be too close to their home to continue required maintenance to the façade of their building.
Several residents said that the downtown neighborhood associations are exploring the possibility of a lawsuit against the city for approving this development on Oct. 4 and for creating the redevelopment plan that covers the corner of Bright and Varick streets.
Should a lawsuit be filed it would filed it could prevent Rushman Dillon from its planned groundbreaking in the first quarter of 2014. The development company had planned to complete the rental residential development by the end of next year.
The city hopes to avoid a lawsuit.
“There was no community opposition in 2011 when this was proposed, but the community has now raised many valid concerns,” city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill said last Thursday. “The administration is in 100 percent agreement with the community. However, the challenge is the legal options that the city has at this point. We will do everything we can to further the community interests here.”
Off-duty Jersey City police officer to stand trial for alleged vehicular death of pedestrian
An off-duty Jersey City police officer who allegedly struck and killed a pedestrian crossing the street in April will head to trial on charges of death by auto, aggravated manslaughter, and leaving the scene of a fatal automobile accident, according to NJ.com.
Officer Michael Spolizino will stand trial for allegedly hitting Stephen Clifford on the night of April 19 as Clifford was crossing Kennedy Boulevard near Fairmount Avenue.
At the time of the accident, which took place at around 10 p.m., Spolizino said he did not see Clifford. It is unclear whether Clifford was crossing at the intersection, or walking between cars near the intersection when he was hit.
That night an on-duty cop issued Spolizino a ticket for speeding in connection with the accident.
Spolizino was off-duty at the time of the accident and has been placed on desk duty since the incident.
Conference to help businesses & towns make most out of Super Bowl
The Conference, the kick-off event of “The Conference/The Party,” will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 22, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Maritime Parc, 84 Audrey Zapp Dr., in Liberty State Park.
The affair is an event for New Jersey and New York businesses, government, community, tourism, and civic organizations to educate them on how to leverage the influx of 200,000 to 450,000 spectators who will be in the area for Super Bowl XLVIII. The Conference is designed to provide the tools needed to stimulate immediate growth and future opportunities.
This event will further provide opportunities for attendees to network and engage in broader discussions on how hosting an event like the Super Bowl can impact the region, enhance its position as a global destination, and translate into doing business beyond its borders.
Speakers include TV journalist Soledad O’Brien; former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, currently director of the Jersey City Employment and Training Commission; Tracye McDaniel, president and chief executive officer of Choose New Jersey; and Wayne Hasenbalg, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.
For more information, or to register, visit www.theconferencetheparty.com or contact Radia Funna at firstname.lastname@example.org or (201) 706-3686.
Prosecutor labels odd Jersey City death suspicious; investigation continues
Hudson County Acting Prosecutor Gaetano T. Gregory announced in a press release Tuesday that the Homicide Unit is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a 66-year-old man found in his Corbin Avenue apartment in Jersey City on Tuesday afternoon.
On Oct. 8, 2013, at approximately 3:35 p.m., the Jersey City Fire Department Responded to 55 Corbin Ave. in Jersey City to check on the well-being of a resident in one of the apartments and to investigate a foul odor.
The Fire Department made a forced entry into the apartment and discovered the unidentified deceased man in the bedroom. The man was found with clothing piled on top him and hardened cement on top of the clothing and body.
A preliminary investigation has revealed that the victim was the resident of the apartment and lived there alone, however investigators believe a relative may have been staying with him recently.
Anyone with information about this investigation is asked to contact the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office Homicide Unit at (201) 915-1345. All calls will be kept confidential.
Husband pleads guilty in death of waitress wife
In another grisly murder that also included cement (see brief, above), the husband of Randy “Amanda” Lehrer has pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in her 2011 death.
Lehrer, a waitress who worked at a Central Avenue restaurant, went missing in August 2011 after leaving work, but her husband, Steven Acuna, did not report her missing until after she had been gone for several days.
Lehrer’s remains were found the next month in a cement-filled drum in the basement of the home the couple shared in the Jersey City Heights with their young daughter.
Acuna was last week sentenced to 25 years in prison.
PS 27 Parent Teacher Association to host fall harvest flea market
The Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of PS 27 is inviting the community to take part in its upcoming Fall Harvest Flea Market on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The flea market will include up to 40 local vendors promoting a range of products including jewelry, clothing, and health/fitness products. In addition to local vendors, the community will have the opportunity to support the students of PS 27 by participating in several 50/50 raffles, buying food and beverages, and providing donations for their initiatives.
The entire community is welcome and encouraged to attend this fundraiser.
Any vendor who would like to participate in the Fall Harvest Flea Market should contact Joel Torres, PS 27 PTA president directly via e-mail at JoelTorres.JC@gmail.com or cell phone at (201) 682-9010. Space is limited and there is a $20 fee per table/space. All proceeds go towards student initiatives and programming at PS 27.
Jersey City School District names 28-year JCPD vet as new security director
Retired Jersey City Police Department lieutenant Arthur Youmans took over as director of security for the Jersey City Public School District on Oct. 7. While Youmans was approved by the Board of Education on Aug. 27, he takes over his new position just weeks after the school district began a controversial school security assessment that angered some parents, teachers, and school personnel.
Youmans is a veteran of the JCPD, from which he retired as a lieutenant after 28 years. He then spent another 15 years working in the private sector as director of campus security at St. Peter’s University.
“I look forward to serving the people of Jersey City once again, particularly our children,” said Director Youmans. “I’m fortunate to be stepping in with a vital resource such as an assessment already initiated by Dr. Lyles. We must be proactive and implement a comprehensive security and safety plan that addresses the current day risks and challenges and makes our schools the safest learning environments possible.”
The security assessment Youmans referred to was recently conducted by the private security firm Strike Force. The manner in which this assessment was carried out by Strike Force personnel was criticized by parents and school security staff, who alleged that security personnel was not notified that such an assessment would be undertaken.
While a spokesperson for the school district admits that Strike Force personnel was armed at the time of the security assessment, Superintendent of Schools Marcia Lyles and one member of the School Board, Sangeeta Ranade, have repeatedly insisted that security staff was indeed notified that Strike Force would be making visits to various schools in the district.
Strike Force has since resigned from working with the Jersey City School District.
Despite the controversy, Youmans will use the report drafted by strike Force, “Exterior Perimeter Facility Vulnerability Assessment,” to revise the district’s security protocols. According to district spokeswoman Maryann Dickar, the report recorded more than 200 potential security problems at 29 schools, and made security recommendations for the city’s six public high schools.
Some of the observations cited included unsecured doors, windows, and gates; dozens of instances of broken or inadequate lighting; instances of trespassing; student behavior issues such as fighting; traffic control issues; and the need for additional security cameras in high risk areas.
According to Dickar, the district is responding to these observations and is in the process, with guidance from Youmans, of developing a plan to address the need for additional security systems.
Jersey City science teacher receives prestigious Milken Award
Middle school teacher Robert O’Donnell Jr., a middle school teacher at the Christa McAuliffe School (PS 28) in Jersey City was has received the prestigious Milken Educator Award.
O’Donnell teaches science to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders and through Project Reservoir, which was featured in the Reporter, gives them hands-on experience as they work to on experiments in Jersey City’s Reservoir No. 3 in the Heights. Project Reservoir has become a nationally recognized program that has helped boost achievement at Christa McAuliffe School.
More than 83 percent of O'Donnell's eighth graders pass the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge science exam each year, outperforming the state average. During the 2012-2013 school year, his students won more than $56,000 in savings bonds from science competitions.
O’Donnell, who has taught for 11 years, joins up to 40 other national Milken Educator recipients who will receive the award this year, but is the only New Jersey educator to receive the honor in 2013.
The Milken Educator Award was created by Lowell Milken to attract, retain, and motivate outstanding talent within the teaching profession and it is the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program. Since 1987, the Milken Family Foundation has devoted more than $136 million in funding to the awards.
As part of his honor, O’Donnell will receive an unrestricted $25,000 award.
O’Donnell did not know he was a 2013 Milken recipient until the award was announced at a school assembly held on Oct. 9.
Community blood drives this month
The Super Bowl Host Committee and New Jersey Blood Services (NJBS), a division of the New York Blood Center (NYBC) are partnering for a series of community blood drives. The drives will be held at the following locations:
• Thursday, Oct. 17: Newport Towers, 525 Washington Blvd., 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
• Wednesday, Oct. 23: Harborside Center Plaza, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
• Thursday, Oct. 31: Hudson County Community College, 70 Sip Avenue, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In addition to these three blood drives in Jersey City, there will also be a fourth one held on Friday, Oct. 25 in Union City at Union City High School, 2500 Kennedy Blvd. from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
All presenting donors at these blood drives will receive a red community blood drive wristband and will have the opportunity to enter for a chance to win two tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014. Walk-ins are welcome, but donors are encouraged to schedule an appointment in advance: by calling (800) 933-BLOOD or by visiting www.nybloodcenter.org.
Landmark Loew’s seeking submissions for 2014 StageFest
The Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre is now taking applications for the second annual StageFest,, a festival of one-act plays, scheduled to take place March 14 through 16, 2014.
The inaugural StageFest, held earlier this year at the Loew’s, was a great success and included 50 performances, over 20 hours of programming, and work from 18 individual artists and performing companies. Next year, the Loew’s hopes to continue this success by presenting another festival of vibrant and diverse one-act plays, performance installations, and site-specific work, dedicated to the celebration and advancement of theater in our region.
Theater and performance companies, as well as individuals based in the greater Northern and Central New Jersey areas, are invited to submit scripts and proposals for the 2014 StageFest. The deadline for submissions is Sunday, December 1, 2013.There is NO application fee. For additional information or to download an application, visit www.loewsjersey.org/StageFest. For questions about the festival, e-mail StageFest.Loews@gmail.com.
In an effort to push conventional boundaries, StageFest performances take place in every practical useable space within the Loew’s, not just onstage. Performances can be held in the lobby, salons, promenades, and hallways.
StageFest is produced by Friends of the Loew’s Inc., a nonprofit organization that restores, maintains, and operates the Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre, located at Journal Square
Animal League holds wine tasting fundraiser
The Hudson County Animal League is inviting everyone to help them celebrate their 20th Anniversary of saving the lives of homeless and abused animals through a wine tasting event sponsored by Bridgeview Liquors of Bayonne.
The wine tasting will be held on Nov. 9, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Bayonne Museum, 8th Street and Broadway in Bayonne.
Tickets, at $15, can be purchased in advance by contacting Barbara Devaney at email@example.com or (201) 436-1848. You can also pay through PayPal by visiting the group’s “Donate” page. Tickets, at $20, can also be purchased the day of the event.