Made famous for jokingly asking for Viagra as part of a bribe payment, former Freeholder William Braker was found dead in his home on Dec. 21.
Braker, 71, a former police officer, served five terms a freeholder before resigning in 2004 after being charged with accepting bribes.
As a cop and freeholder, Braker was well-respected, but most believe that his dedication to the Janiszewski administration brought about his downfall.
Seen as a staple in the community for most of his career, Braker served as a model for many young blacks who struggled in poverty, according to friends. As cop, freeholder and later as the head of the local chapter of the NAACP, Braker involved himself in the community and improving the quality of life for people he dealt with.
Braker was part of a corruption scandal that involved former Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski, and was targeted as a result of Janiszewski plea deal to reduce his own sentence for corruption.
Braker’s attempt to unveil a wider net of corruption failed when a court refused to allow him to use federally protected recordings in his defense.
Braker eventually pled guilty to one charge of extortion, for which he was sentenced to three years in federal prison. Years after his release, he was elected as the head of the local chapter of the NAACP, but declined to seek reelection after a tape surfaced showing him in an alleged intoxicated state.
For those close to him, Braker was a classic tragic hero, reflecting old style Hudson County politics in which he meant the best for his community but was unable to escape the corruption that infected Hudson County at that time.
Violent crime down slightly in Jersey City
Although the first half of 2017 in Jersey City started out as violently as 2016, alterations in police strategy appear to have curbed some of the violence in the second half, said officials last week. In an hour and half interview, Mayor Steven Fulop and Police Director James Shea talked about changes made and future strategies that they hope will reduce crime in the future.
Violent crime, murder in particular, fell in the second half of the year. Murders, according to a report issued by the city, shifted from predominately the result of gun play to stabbings, suggesting that the city’s efforts to remove guns from the streets may be having an effect.
The results of the interview will be published in the Jan. 7 edition of The Jersey City Reporter, covering a full range of topics, including anti-gun initiatives, police training, and the selection of a new police chief.
The department has been operated under an acting police chief for most of 2017. A new chief is expected to be named in early January.
Islamic Center suspends imam for anti-Semitic remarks
The Islamic Center of Jersey City has suspected suspended imam Aymen Elkasaby, who allegedly delivered an anti-Semitic sermon earlier this month.
According to several media reports, Elkasaby said, “So long as the Al Aqsa Mosque remains prisoner in the hands of the Jews, this nation will remain humiliated.” The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) says the imam called for the destruction of “plundering oppressors.” According to the media reports, in the sermon, Elkasaby, imam at the Islamic Center for Jersey City, allegedly called Jews “apes and pigs” and prayed for Allah to kill them “down to the very last one.”
This came as a response to the announcement by President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the nation of Israel.
Jerusalem contains holy places for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and past American presidents have resisted naming the holy city as the capital in order not to worsen tensions in the area.
The United Nations Security Council voted on a resolution Thursday morning condemning Trump’s proclamation. But the president warned any countries that supported the resolution might lose U.S. foreign aid.
While other mosques have reacted throughout the area, including the posting of a sign at a mosque in Union City saying “Hands off Jerusalem,” the Jersey City speech has drawn significant criticism from a number of groups.
In a statement issued to the press, Islamic Center president Ahmed Shedeed denounced Elkasaby’s comments and said the imam has been suspended without pay and will undergo training.
The Islamic Center of Jersey City on Park Street has been on the forefront opposing rise of “Islamophobia” in America, exacerbated by what they called inaccurate and inflammatory statements by public figures like Trump and another Republicans.
Jewish groups have been very vocal in condemning Elkasaby’s statements, calling them “anti-Semitic and dangerous.”
In a letter to the center, U.S. Senator Cory Booker called the remarks “abhorrent.”
The local branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) condemned the anti-Jewish statements.
The Islamic Center has a history of cooperation among local faiths, and regularly holds meetings among Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who has been on the forefront of battling anti-Muslim rhetoric from the Trump Administration, said the statements by Elkasaby do not reflect the community.
“Jersey City is one of the most diverse cities in the nation, and as an administration we have held our values of inclusion, acceptance and celebration of differences above all else,” Fulop said. “We know that our residents share these values, and as a city, we stand together against instances of hate and division, whether they occur on a federal level or a local one. There is no place for intolerance among the hundreds of thousands of diverse residents who call Jersey City home.”
Micro unit building wins in court
The NJ Supreme Court’s recent refusal to hear a neighborhood association’s appeal clears the way for developer Rushman-Dillon to move forward with an 87-unit, five-story building near Bright and Varick streets in the city’s Van Vorst Park neighborhood. A Hudson County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the developer in 2014 after the city failed to approve the project within the timeframe required by law.
East Coast Warehouse expands facility in JC
East Coast Warehouse & Distribution announced that it has expanded its Jersey City facility by adding 200,000 square feet of warehousing space, including the addition of a temperature-controlled and ambient area. East Coast Warehouse is a leading provider of temperature-controlled logistics services the food industry.
McKnight donates toys to CarePoint toy drive
More than 50 children receiving care at CarePoint Health–Bayonne Medical Center this holiday weekend and next week will be a little bit happier thanks to the generosity of one of their local representatives.
On Thursday, Dec. 21, in a presentation at the hospital, CarePoint officials accepted over 50 toys donated by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, D-31st, whose district includes Bayonne and part of Jersey City.
“Assemblywoman McKnight is one of our biggest supporters,” said Randy Minniear, executive vice president of external affairs for CarePoint Health, in thanking her for the donations.
“This is what partnerships are about,” said McKnight while commending Bayonne Medical Center’s service to the community. “I look forward to continuing and growing our relationship.”
The assemblywoman said that in addition to the toys, she would also be donating three bicycles to BMC over the holiday weekend, courtesy of Guarini Plumbing & Heating in Jersey City. She also pledged to triple the number of toys she will donate to the hospital next year, to 150.
This is the second year of McKnight’s toy donation program at BMC.
Hudson County CASA is seeking volunteers
Learn how to become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer and help foster children find safe and permanent homes. The next information session will be held at the Hudson County Courthouse, 595 Newark Ave. Rm. 901 on Tuesday, Jan. 9 at 6:30 p.m.
Hudson County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is a non-profit organization committed to advocating for the best interests of abused and neglected children. CASA works through trained community volunteers to ensure that needed services and assistance are made available to children while helping to move them toward safe and permanent homes. Hudson County CASA volunteers are everyday people who make a direct impact in foster children’s lives. They are trusted, dedicated adults who seek to improve children’s well-being. CASA volunteers get to know their assigned child and his or her circumstances and provide valuable information to the court. Judges rely on the volunteers’ recommendations to make the best decisions about the children’s futures.
For further information, visit www.hudsoncountycasa.org.
Expungement bill is now law
Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, and Senator Raymond Lesniak designed to help New Jersey residents who have criminal records were signed into law by the governor in mid-December.
“A minor criminal offense should not lead to a lifetime of punishment,” said Senator Cunningham. “These laws are about removing barriers for residents and helping them to overcome the obstacles that exist in finding employment, taking care of their families and setting their lives on the right path. These laws are a great step to providing offenders with the second chance they deserve.”
An expungement is the removal and isolation of all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement agency, criminal justice agency, or juvenile justice agency concerning a person’s apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of an offense within the criminal or juvenile justice system. Unless otherwise provided by law, if an order for expungement is granted, the adult arrest, record of law enforcement taking a person into custody as a juvenile, conviction, adjudication of delinquency, disposition, and any related proceedings are considered not to have occurred.
HCCC to hold auditions for after-school string ensemble program
The Hudson County Community College (HCCC) Department of Community Education will hold auditions for an After-school String Ensemble program during the week of Jan. 15. The audition is open to all string players (violin, viola, cello, and bass) playing at or above Suzuki Book IV level.
The After-school String Ensemble program will be composed of experienced student players who wish to deepen their knowledge of music, and develop their artistic skills alongside peers. The program will concentrate on advanced technical and expressive skills in chamber and full ensemble settings. Students will receive weekly rotating group instruction with emphasis on technique development, musical expression, and collaborative playing. Public concerts will be given to enhance learning and reward accomplishment. The String Ensemble will run for 10 weeks from Jan. 30 through April 24 at the Journal Square campus. The price is $350 per student.
The program will be led by Izabella Liss Cohen, who has enjoyed a multifaceted career as a solo, chamber, and orchestra musician. She has worked with many great conductors, was a member of the Philharmonia Virtuosi, Westchester Chamber Orchestra, and American Russian Young Artists Orchestra, and has toured the U.S. and abroad.
Membership for the After-school String Ensemble program will be very selective. Placement is done via the auditions process and at the discretion of the instructor. Audition requirements: Violin/Viola – any three octave scale and arpeggio and a solo piece of applicant’s choice. Cello/Double Bass – any two octave scale and arpeggio and a solo piece of applicant’s choice. Students may be asked to demonstrate standard bowing technique, and sight reading.
Additional information on the After-School String Ensemble program may be obtained by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (201) 360-4224.