The Ashe family of 29 West 40th Street has opened the first Little Free Library in Bayonne. "Off-Broadway Books," located in their front yard, offers the community free books for children, teens, and adults. LFL steward Taryn Ashe is a lifelong Bayonne resident, high school English teacher, and mom of three. Her reason for becoming a steward? Ashe says, "I wanted to support literacy in my hometown. My children are always swapping books with their friends. I have seen the LFL in my travels elsewhere. I thought Bayonne should have one." Her father-in-law, Frank Ashe, recycled an old medicine cabinet to build the beautiful green and white library with the signature red door. Many locals have visited since the December opening. Young neighbors have exclaimed, "This is just the best thing!" The Ashe family hopes more people will stop by and leave a book, borrow a book, or swap books. Donations of gently used books are always welcome. For more information on how the LFL works, visit https://littlefreelibrary.org/
Zoning Board to hear final plan for Muslim Community Center
The Bayonne Zoning Board is scheduled to hold a meeting on January 23 for major site plan approval for a new Muslim Community Center in the Second Ward. Bayonne Muslims, a nonprofit organization, has been renting the basement of St. Henry’s School on Avenue C for community and prayer services for six years.
The group proposed to convert what is currently an unoccupied warehouse on 109 East 24th Street into a community center, including a mosque, classrooms, and a soup kitchen, according to Bill Finnerty, the attorney representing the group.
The proposed plan has been tabled since a zoning board meeting last January after some protest from Second Ward residents.
At that meeting, opponents of the plan cited concerns about traffic and noise. Residents asked how long and frequent prayers might be, how much traffic increase they can expect, and whether mosque-goers will be walking through their yards.
In June, a 75-year-old resident was reportedly threatened by a man at her home for displaying a sign that read “Stop the Mosque.” In October, a Bayonne man vandalized the façade outside the entrance to the Muslim Community Center on Avenue C with spray paint, writing hateful and Islamophobic slurs, as reported by the Bayonne Community News. Jonathon Hussey, the man responsible, was sentenced to 12 months’ probation on January 3. As part of his probation, according to a statement from the Hudson County Clerk, Hussey penned an apology to both the Muslim Community Center and St. Henry’s Church.
The Bayonne Zoning Board will meet at the Nicholas Oresko School, 23 East 24th St., at 5:30 p.m.
Home of pastor opposed to mosque vandalized
The home of a Bayonne pastor who opposes the local Muslim Community Center’s move across town has been vandalized for the third time. Pastor Joseph Basile told multiple local and national news outlets that his home was spray-painted with hateful and Islamophobic phrases, such as “[Expletive] you,” with an arrow pointing to the word, “Islam.” Basile believes the vandals targeted his home because of a sign displayed in his window that opposes the mosque.
Basile’s wife was reportedly harassed on the street last year for her stance. The vandalism this time seems odd, given that the vandal seems to also oppose the mosque’s move.
But Islamophobia is unfortunately on the rise across the country. According to the latest hate crime statistics released by the FBI in November, 2015 ranked second among years with the most reported hate crimes against Muslims. 2001 ranked first.
Decision to reverse layoff may come soon
The Civil Service Commission pushed back a decision on whether to reverse the layoffs of three former city employees, who later sued the city. A November 2 decision granted an appeal to the former employees who allege their layoffs in June of 2015 were not carried out in good faith.
Judge Thomas R. Betancourt’s decision was sent to the Civil Service Commission for final decision, saying that the “appellants should be restored to their previous positions of employment immediately.”
The decision was expected to come after a meeting on Wednesday, December 7, but the commission still has to review testimony. A decision is possible for the meeting on December 21.
Employees Gary Parlatti and Michael Smith worked as field representatives for citizens’ complaints, while Michael Mulcahy was a housing inspector enforcing property maintenance codes. The three worked under the Department of Municipal Services.
Judge Betancourt previously found the testimonies of Bayonne Business Administrator Joe DeMarco and former Director of Municipal Services Robert Wondolowski “not credible,” after giving conflicting testimony that showed inconsistencies in the city’s rationale for the layoffs. DeMarco and Wondolowski were two of 17 witnesses who testified.
Record passengers in 2016 at Port Authority's Cape Liberty Cruise Port
In 2016, Port Authority’s Cape Liberty Cruise Port handled a record 509,306 passengers, surpassing the previous annual record of 497,780 passengers set in 2015, an increase of 2.4 percent. The passengers were onboard Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, Celebrity Cruises’ Summit, and a brief stay from Azamara Club Cruises’ Azamara Quest.
“2016 has been a record year for Cape Liberty Cruise Port with throughput peaking over 500,000 passengers. We look to 2017 and beyond by welcoming more cruise lines and their passengers to Cape Liberty Cruise Port for an effortless and operationally sound experience,” said Captain Thomas Hinderhofer, Director of North East Port Operations Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. “This fall we will add to the schedule, Royal Caribbean International's Vision of the Seas and TUI Cruise's Mein Schiff 6. Royal Caribbean is looking forward to another record year at Cape Liberty Cruise Port with vessels sailing from Lady Liberty's front door.”
“This new record of passengers highlights the growing interest in the Port of New York and New Jersey as an attractive location for the cruise industry,” said Molly Campbell, Port Authority’s Port Department Director. “The Port Authority looks forward to a continued relationship with Royal Caribbean.”
Cat Colony Rescued From 24th Street Home
A cat colony of 40 cats was found last month at an abandoned and foreclosed 24th Street home, and 32 were rescued, according to a press release from Mayor James Davis. After receiving word from City Council Secretary Beth Polera in late 2016 that at least 40 cats were living without humans in the home, Mayor James Davis asked that the problem be addressed immediately.
City Community and Cultural Affairs Officer Dorothy Roszkowski, a member of the CARE Organization, set up a visit to the house with volunteers. The house, which is in foreclosure, is owned by a bank in Florida. The bank gave permission to Roszkowski to enter the building to help the cats.
Volunteers found that the cats had not been fed for some time. The group trapped the cats humanely, and moved them to a secure location. Of the original group of 40 animals, eight died of starvation, due to the lack of food since the departure of their previous human owners. Roszkowski and others brought the animals to local veterinarians and animal hospitals. Ten of the remaining 32 cats have been vaccinated and spayed or neutered. One of the animals required a tooth extraction. This process has prepared them for adoption by permanent owners. Having been abandoned in a cold house, some of the animals have upper respiratory issues. However, in general, the cats are in good health.
Davis thanked the City of Bayonne’s Health Division for helping to coordinate activities with the various parties involved with the cats. He also credited the city’s animal control contractor, NJ Animal Control and Rescue, for providing traps and animal carriers, extracting the cats from the house, and transporting them to People for Animals in Hillside. The latter organization has spayed and neutered cats, and has assisted with finding people to foster or adopt the animals. According to Roszkowski, NJ Animal Control and Rescue has provided an employee to assist the city with the cats “every step of the way.”
The cost of providing initial healthcare has cost an average of $100 per cat. Funds are needed to provide healthcare services to the other 22 cats. The CARE Organization has set up a post office box to receive donations to pay for veterinary services for the animals. Anyone interested in donating to assist the cats should write a check payable to The CARE Organization, P.O. Box 4252, Bayonne, NJ 07002. Please write “24th Street Cats” in the memo portion of the check to ensure that your donation will go to this particular group of animals.
Some local businesses have already offered their help. International Matex Tank Terminals (IMTT), Carepoint Health, Ken’s Marine, and other local businesses have been assisting the animals. More business supporters would be welcome.
The CARE Organization also needs various supplies to help the cats. These items include blankets, cleaning supplies, paper towels, cloth towels, dry food, wet food, and kitty litter. The group would also appreciate the services of additional volunteers. To discuss donations of goods or of time, please call (201) 858-6011, in order to coordinate activities with the organizers.
Meetings this week
The Bayonne City Council is scheduled to hold a meeting on Wednesday, January 18 at 7 p.m. at City Hall on 630 Avenue C. The agenda is posted on the website at bayonnenj.org, as well as at city hall.
The Bayonne Board of Education is holding a meeting on Thursday, January 19, at 6 p.m. at 669 Avenue A. At the meeting, they are expected to ratify a two-year teachers’ contract.