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Happy 70th Anniversary of the TV Dinner

Dear Editor:

July 18, 2022 marks the 70th anniversary of the passing of “TV” dinner inventor Mr. Gerry Thomas. His employer Swanson & Company overestimated the demand for Thanksgiving turkey in 1953. They were stuck with 260 tons of frozen turkeys. The birds were stored for many weeks in ten refrigerated train cars which traveled back and forth on a train between Nebraska and the East Coast. The train had to be moving so the compressors which supported the refrigerators preserving the turkeys could keep working.

In the early 1950s, Gerry Thomas observed how airlines provided passengers with meals in aluminum serving trays. He modified this by adding separate sections for the main course, vegetable and potato. This resulted in the first Swanson TV Dinner. For only eighty nine cents, over twenty-five million were sold in 1954 which was the first year of production. Many were consumed by customers watching television, which was also still a relatively new invention in the 1950’s. Mr. Thomas was the marketing genius for Swanson & Company who came up with the name “TV” dinner.

Growing up in the 1960’s as a teenager, my dad was a teacher during the day and a high school librarian several nights per week. On those evenings, I would have to prepare dinner for and my younger sister. When we tired of the local options such as McDonalds, Wetsons, pizza or Chinese take-out – TV dinners were a quick solution. Selections were provided by either Swanson’s, Banquet or Morton’s. They were the big three competitors during that era. The standard choices were either chicken, turkey, roast beef or meatloaf, referred to as mystery meat. Cooking time was 30 minutes in the oven as microwaves hadn’t yet been invented.

A real treat in those days were the TV diners which provided a fourth compartment, containing a brownie for dessert. Sometimes two TV dinners were required to satisfy your appetite as the portions were never that big. Recycling was unheard of in those days as millions of aluminum TV dinner plates went straight into the garbage can. I can only imagine today how much space was taken up at the local community landfill site over the decades.

The selection of TV dinners at your local supermarket today is much different from those of past generations. Besides Swanson’s, Banquet and Morton’s, there are many more competitors such as Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, Stouffers, Boston Market, Marie Callendar, Hungary Man and others. Their various product lines offer far more variety and selections. Far healthier choices are available for today’s generation on the go.

Even during college and post college bachelor days, TV dinners always found some space in the freezer compartment of my refrigerator.

Lucky for me, my wife Wendy is a great cook and I’ve learned some skills in the kitchen myself since then.

Perhaps the United States Post Office should consider issuing a stamp for Gerry Thomas and the TV dinner, still American as apple pie 70 years later.

Larry Penner


We “Let It Bleed” in the 1960’s

Dear Editor:

The 1960’s was an era of contrasts and contractions. It was a time of peace; we were involved in a long, strange, sad, and unwinnable Asian war. It was a period of equality and civil rights; yet segregation remained a part of life for many. It was an era of science, knowledge, and enlightenment; it also was a time marked by ignorance, hysteria, and paranoia. It was a decade where blood stained the pavements in the cities and the vegetation in the jungles. It was a time when we simply “Let It Bleed.”

The decade of the “60’s” ended on December 5, 1969; the date that “Let It Bleed” was officially released. Toward the end of the 60’s, the potent force that had been the Beatles disintegrated into pretentious, pointless ditties. The Beatles had to “Carry that Weight” in an “Octopus’s Garden” while fruitlessly harmonizing about “Mean Mr. Mustard” and his sister, “Polythene Pam.” The four Liverpudlian lads that had captured the hearts of a grieving America some five years before had the pompous audacity to sing the refrain “Love You” ad nauseam, some two dozen times, before giving us a hollow and shallow statement that closed out that turbulent decade: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

While “Abbey Road” represents a continuation of dysfunctional 1960’s sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops, “Let It Bleed” is its sinister, foreboding twin. “Let It Bleed” represents the end of the tumultuous “60’s” and the uncertainty – the anxiety – that engulfed the nation at the start of the “70’s.”

The 1960’s gave the nation a bitter wake-up call. For the country, it was the end of innocence. The dreams of “Camelot” were shattered in Dallas on a late November day, a man of peace who had a beautiful dream died from an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Sirhan Sirhan crushed the emerging hopes of a distressed nation at the LA Ambassador Hotel, and the number of “Homeward Bound,” flag draped caskets escalated as the costly war in Viet Nam continued to rage on. What a bloody decade!

Even before you listen to the first track of “Let It Bleed,” the album cover delivers a powerful message of prophetic doom, destruction, and chaos. The front cover shows The Rolling Stones record being played on an old phonograph. Above the record, on the spindle, there are a film canister, a clock, a pizza, a tire, and a cake. On top of the cake are figurines representing The Rolling Stones. The back of the album cover paints a grim picture. The rear cover presents the LP broken into pieces, a slice of pizza sloppily resting on top of the shattered record, the phonograph’s “arm” turned on its side, a slice of the cake removed, and the figurines disarrayed and lying on their sides as if they were dead.

Coincidentally, the release of “Let It Bleed” is draped in violence. The infamous free rock concert at Altamont Speedway occurred on December 6, 1969, a day after “Let It Bleed” was released. The Rolling Stones performed at that concert. A documentary, “Gimme Shelter,” was filmed to record the event. The Altamont concert was supposed to have been another “Woodstock.” Instead, that event is best known for its violence – to include a murder that was captured on film.

Contrary to the popular music heard on “AM radio” in 1969 – music that predominantly featured themes about love and peace – “Let It Bleed” is a collection of provocative, hard hitting songs about the dark side of society: Violence, murder, rape, sex, meaningless love, and drugs. Sure, those topics were covered by other artists. For example, Bobby Darin sang about a gangster, “Mack the Knife” and how “scarlet billows began to spread.” The Rolling Stones painted a darker picture with lyrics such as “You knifed me in my dirty filthy basement . . .” and “I’ll stick my knife right down your throat.”

On “Gimme Shelter,” Mick Jagger sings about the palpable “threatening storm” that was hanging over the nation toward the end of the 1960’s. “Gimme Shelter” tells us that war, rape, and murder are “just a shot away.” That, essentially, is how The Rolling Stones introduced the 1970’s – the new decade – to the world. In the last verse, you hear Mick sing “I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away.” Basically, with that verse, The Rolling Stones denounced the various messages of the “60’s” – “Flower Power,” “Make love not war,” “Peace,” and so forth – as futile attempts that yielded negligible results.

The Rolling Stones addressed the struggle for civil rights that overwhelmed the nation in the 1960’s. The “. . . Fire is sweepin’ our very street. . .” lyric refers to the riots that had inflamed the country during a decade where bands preferred to put on their optimistic rosy colored glasses to sing about peace, love, and understanding. Instead, The Rolling Stones brutally took us by the shirt collar and forcefully shook us into a very harsh reality. Not only was there death and destruction overseas (i.e., Viet Nam); the nation had experienced turmoil, chaos, and the loss of life in some of its largest cities. Indeed, “. . . [L]ove. . . it’s just a kiss away.”

“Let It Bleed” is a musical time capsule that chronicles the 1960’s. It captures the need for society to be dependent on someone to lean, dream, feed, and bleed on. Society has created emotional, passionate ties to heroes – and villains. By 1969, heroes, such as The Beatles, were exposed as mere mortals. They were just as confused – just as human – as the rest of us. At the start of the new decade – the 1970’s – society was searching for new superstars and scapegoats.

The Rolling Stones slapped us “out of the trance;” they slapped us wake. “Let It Bleed” made us realize that the dream was over.

Then again, a nightmare is also a dream. “Let It Bleed” reminded us that there always has been a more clandestine and an even darker part of society where some turned to sinister activities for support, comfort, and sympathy.

John Di Genio

Local students snag awards

“Protecting our earth should be a number-one priority and by becoming a meteorologist, I can help spread that message,” says Jeremy Lewan. The Bayonne resident has received a scholarship from the New Jersey Association of Counties Foundation and PSE&G.

A student at High Tech High School, one of the Hudson County Schools of Technology, Lewan was one of three students honored in August by the county Board of Freeholders for achievements in education.

Lewan received the PSE&G Scholarship; Brian Rivera and Melina Soriano, both of Jersey City, received the Investors Bank/NJAC Foundation Scholarships. Soriano was unable to attend the ceremony.

The PSE&G Foundation awarded the NJAC Foundation a grant of $12,000 for county vocational-technical school graduates who plan to study environmental science, green design, green technology, alternative energy, and other related subjects at a county college, state college,or university in the fall.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the NJAC Foundation, I commend PSE&G for its continued commitment and generosity to the communities in which it serves,” said Donald De Leo, president of NJAC, and a former Hudson County surrogate judge. “I look forward to working with our county vocational-technical schools in selecting talented students dedicated to creating green solutions and advancing their educations right here in the great state of New Jersey,”

Lewan loves the environment

For Lewan, who graduated valedictorian from Woodrow Wilson School in Bayonne before going onto High Tech High School, the scholarship came as a result of his “unwavering dedication to environmentalism.”

Lewan has a passion for meteorology, attending Penn State’s Advanced Weather Camp on a $1,000 scholarship from High Tech, where he experienced professional weather forecasting and received a realistic appreciation of the work that meteorologists do by touring the National Weather Service and Accuweather studios, according to the resolution passed by the freeholders.

At High Tech, Lewan is credited with revitalizing the school’s Environmental Club, serving as vice president and later president.

Under his leadership, the club initiated two annual Earth Day celebrations at the high school. In these events, the students brought in materials to be recycled and learned about environmental concerns, and what they might do to resolve them.

When Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, Lewan raised $800 at fundraisers to be used to help purchase solar power generators to help answer the island’s desperate need for electricity.

Lewan graduated in June, majoring in Environmental Science and earning a final grade of A-plus in 42 out of 42 courses at High Tech for an overall grade point average of 4.5.

“Everyone at High Tech has been like family to me,” Lewan said. “They nurtured my talents.” Lewan is enrolled in the Honors College at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, where he is majoring in meteorology.


Rivera gets grant to help pursue career in business

Brian Rivera of Jersey City is a graduate of County Prep, a branch of Hudson County Schools of Technology.

“Coming from a third-world country like Ecuador isn’t easy,” Rivera said. “I came when I was five years old, and when I came, everything was a struggle. But the one thing I was always attracted to was mathematics, and that’s something I always excelled at. For me, math is the same in every single country. So I was able to adapt quickly.”

Brian also received an NJAC Foundation Scholarship in conjunction with Investors Bank.The bank, through the Investors Foundation, awarded the NJAC Foundation a grant of $21,000 for county vocational-technical school graduates who plan on continuing their education at a county or state college or university.

“Investors Bank and Investors Foundation are proud to support the NJAC Foundation,” said Investors Bank President and CEO Kevin Cummings. “NJAC has been integral in providing educational opportunities to so many of our bright students here in New Jersey – work that is vital for the long-term success of our communities. We applaud NJAC and wish the scholarship winners all the best in their future endeavors.”

Deeply involved in church activities as well as organizing events, Rivera earlier this year took part in SkillsUSA, and won third place in the State Competition for Entrepreneurship.

Rivera plans to pursue a career in business, and plans to attend at Rutgers University in Newark.. But he also has an impressive legacy of advanced placement classes at County Prep that includes calculus, physics, banking and finance, along with taking part in the school’s business program.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

Meet the Bayonne man taking broadcast meteorology by storm

Jeremy Lewan says he’s wanted to be a meteorologist since he was five years old. And now the Rutgers senior has been awarded the 2021 American Meteorological Society (AMS) Orville Family Endowed Scholarship for $10,000, the top prize in the country offered by AMS.

Lewan, who was born and raised in Bayonne, is currently a senior at the Honors College at Rutgers University- New Brunswick majoring in Meteorology with a 4.0 grade point average.

Across the country, a total of twenty-three senior undergraduate AMS scholarships were awarded in 2021, designed to encourage outstanding senior undergraduates to continue pursuing careers in the atmospheric and related oceanic and hydrologic sciences.

Lewan is also the recipient of the 2019 Elizabeth and Arthur Reich Scholarship, 2019 Cook Education Assistance Grant Scholarship, 2019 School for Environmental and Biological Sciences Global Education Scholarship, and the Rutgers Trustee Scholarship, among many other acknowledgements and awards.

Bayonne born and raised

Before attending pre-K at Woodrow Wilson Community School, he went to Library School at the Bayonne Public Library. During elementary school, Lewan began becoming heavily involved in everything from science fair contests to winning the geography bee and other competitions. Although he still loved Bayonne, after graduating Woodrow Wilson as a valedictorian in 2014, he went to High Tech High School and majored in environmental science.

“While I was in high school, I was always interested in meteorology,” Lewan said, noting his interest dates back even further than that. “When I was five years old, I used to give the forecast in kindergarten. I’d bring in a little slip of paper and give it during homeroom.”

At High Tech, he was awarded a $1,000 grant from the Hudson County Schools of Technology Foundation to go to Penn State for a week at a “weather camp.”

“I spent a week there and got to learn about meteorology and see a first hand account of what meteorologists do behind the scenes while touring AccuWeather Studios and the National Weather Service,” Lewan said.

While he was there, he made a video log of the experience, which was aired on PBS Pennsylvania and the Weather Channel. That led to him being invited as a guest speaker for a gala to raise money for a new High Tech High School campus.

Lewan is a product of the Bayonne and Hudson County Schools of Technology school systems.

From Hudson County to Rutgers

“I was always inspired to pursue my passion for meteorology, and that’s why I went to Rutgers,” Lewan said. “It’s the only school in the entire state that offers meteorology as a major. They have a great program for meteorology, I’ve loved every minute of it.”

After graduating from High Tech, Lewan went on to attend Rutgers and now gives the weekly forecast broadcast across campus.

“I give the forecast for RU-TV every week on Monday afternoons,” Lewan said. “It’s also posted on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It’s giving me a realistic approach to actually learning what it’s like to be my future profession. I’ve always wanted to be a broadcaster also, not just a meteorologist behind the scenes.”

Lewan continues to be as involved on campus as he was since Woodrow Wilson, having received a slew of the aforementioned scholarships in addition to the AMS Orville Family Endowed Scholarship. He also works for NBC News for Al Roker on the Today Show, continuing his internship from over the summer.

“I write news articles for nbcnews.com,” Lewan said. “I fact-check reporters and provide them information to aid in the writing of their weather stories. I talk to on-air talent through their earpiece, answering their questions regarding the weather while they’re on commercial break. I also design the graphics projected behind Al and the other meteorologists. I even had the amazing opportunity of appearing on the TODAY Show.”

Lewan poses with Al Roker, whom he works for at the Today Show.

Still keeping busy

Amid his busy schedule, Lewan somehow found time to balance school and work with other extra curricular activities at Rutgers including but by no means limited to the Meteorology Club and the Weather Watcher Club among others such as being a walking coach for the Rutgers F.A.C.E. Modeling Team and writing for Green Print and EPIB Trail magazines on campus.

“I’m trying to take advantage of every possible thing I can because these opportunities won’t avail themselves to me once I’m graduated,” Lewan said. “I definitely want to make the most of college as much as I can.”

Other clubs Lewan is active in relate to his multi-racial heritage, including being a member of the Rutgers Fusion Club for Biracial and Mixed-Race Students and participating in the 2021-2022 Active Allyship for Racial Justice Living-Learning Changemaking Community.

“As a proud multi-racial minority individual, I embody a confident and competent leader with diverse perspectives and opinions,” Lewan said. “I am proud of my identity, and I aim to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion in the meteorology realm.”

Doing all that Lewan does was not easy. He joked that he can find time to sleep later in life.

“A lot of people say to me: ‘You’re living your dream. You’re so lucky to have it come to fruition, what you’ve always wanted,'” he said. “But it is an extremely difficult road and it would not have happened without my hard work and dedication, and diligence and perseverance. It’s not something that just came to me. It’s something I’ve worked my whole life for.”

Lewan in front of NBC studios where he works.

Next stop, national weather news

With the receipt of the scholarship, Lewan is set to graduate on May 15, set to have received an A in every class since elementary school with the completion of two more courses. And soon he will undoubtedly be broadcasting weather forecasts on TV, ultimately living out his dream.

“I do see my connections that I’ve made leading to a possible full-time job somewhere in the country where I can get my foothold on TV right away,” he said. “I’d love to be the next weathercaster on NBC News for the Today Show. That’s the goal really, because national weather is just so exciting and it’s different every day. There’s just so many facets of weather and delivering it nationally on a show like the Today Show is definitely the end goal. But it’s going to be a long journey.”

Lewan described meteorology like a ladder: “Everybody has to start from the bottom rung. So I’ll have to start small and work my way up to the big times.”

But no matter where he goes, he will always be from Bayonne.

“I will forever be a hometown Bayonne-ite,” Lewan said. “I was born in Bayonne Hospital, my mom worked as a nurse at the hospital. I’ve lived here my whole life and I will forever have a special connection. And Bayonne is such a special place given its location right next to New York City, it really gives me a springboard to jobs there. I live in a high rise and anytime there is a rainstorm, thunderstorm, or snowstorm, I see it come across Newark Bay from the West. It’s just amazing to see every storm with a bird’s eye view. My mom always said that she got an apartment perfect for a meteorologist and she was right about that.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

9th District, Hudson County Sheriff and Clerk candidates win unopposed primaries

While contested primary elections took place across Hudson County, including in 8th and 10th Districts, the primary contests in the 9th District, as well as for County Sheriff and Clerk, went uncontested as the party-backed candidates won on Tuesday night.

In the 9th District, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., who represents Secaucus and the northern part of Kearny, won the Democratic primary unopposed. A former mayor of Paterson, Pascrell is seeking a 14th term in the House of Representatives in the Paterson-based seat.

He will be facing a rematch against U.S. Air Force veteran William “Billy” Premph, who previously ran against Pascrell as a Republican in the 2020 election and was unopposed in the Republican primary this year.

For Hudson County as a whole, county-wide candidates for Sheriff and Clerk also went unopposed.

County Sheriff Frank Schillari and County Clerk E. Junior Maldonado won their Democratic primaries unopposed. Schillari is seeking an unprecedented fifth term, while Maldonado is running for a second term in office.

In the Republican primary, Hussain Kolani won an unopposed race for the Republican nomination as Sheriff. Beth Hamburger, a businesswoman and former State Legislature candidate, also won the primary for Clerk unopposed.

The 9th District is heavily Democratic leaning district, with a partisan lean of D+17, according to FiveThirtyEight. Hudson County also is one of the most heavily-Democratic leaning counties in all of New Jersey. The general election will be taking place on Nov. 8.

For updates on this and other stories, check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.

No Payne, no game: Rep. Donald Payne Jr. wins 10th District primary

Rep. Donald Payne Jr. has won the Democratic nomination for the 10th District of New Jersey, according to the Associated Press, defeating two challengers in the primary and setting him on the path for a potential fifth term in the House of Representatives.

Payne Jr. has been in office since 2012, where he succeeded his late father, Donald M. Payne, after serving as the president of the Newark City Council.

“This is a victory for the hardworking men and women of the 10th District who showed that they demand experienced, effective leadership that puts their needs first and always shows up for them, and that’s exactly what I have always strived to deliver as their Congressman,” said Payne Jr. in a statement.

The congressman touted his record in Congress, as well as the endorsements of a number of labor unions and other various organizations, while on the campaign trail. He was challenged by Imani Oakley, the former legislative director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, and Akil Khalfani, a professor at Essex County College.

Oakley had sought to run as a progressive candidate in the race. She conceded the primary after the election was called and took aim at the establishment in a statement posted on Twitter.

“I’m disappointed that the establishment’s dirty tricks and anti-democratic ballot line won out, but I still believe in this movement,” she said.

The 10th District covers the southern portion of Jersey City, being connected to Newark and other parts of neighboring Essex County, and is a majority Black-district. It is also the most heavily Democratic leaning district in all of New Jersey, with a partisan lean of D+58 according to FiveThirtyEight.

Payne Jr. will now face David Pinckney, who won the Republican primary with the county parties’ support over Garth Stewart, in the general election on Nov. 8.

For updates on this and other stories, check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.


Sophia Lewin grew up in Wayne, N.J., the product of a family that just loved sports.

“My first memory is me catching a football,” Lewin said. “I grew up watching football, loving the [Oakland] Raiders.”

Lewin played sports at Wayne Hills High School, but really was interested in football.

“I was like a fly on the wall,” Lewin said about her days at Wayne Hills, getting involved with the one of the state’s premier public school programs, coached by Wayne Demikoff. “I sat in on coaches’ meetings. I actually learned what it was like to be a coach. Coach Demikoff brought me in and allowed me to be part of the family. I did all the little things for them. Of course, winning was fun.”

But it was her experience with the Patriots’ program that insured the fact that Lewin wanted to be a football coach, despite being a girl.

“I think I wanted to be a coach before that,” Lewin said. “But being involved with the Wayne Hills program just kind of solidified that idea. I felt I could do it, because I’m immersed in it. I loved football.”

It wasn’t the first time that Lewin was a female in a male’s world.

“I played Little League baseball for eight years and I was the only girl,” Lewin said. “I knew what it was like. I’ve been coached by men my entire life. But I knew football. I just loved the game. I played football on the streets, but never thought of playing. I just wanted to coach.”

Lewin attended Monmouth University and again, just wanted to be a part of veteran coach Kevin Callahan’s successful program there.

Callahan has helped mentor numerous Hudson County football players over the years. Anthony Verdi, the head wrestling coach at St. Peter’s Prep, played football under Callahan at Monmouth.

“I met Coach Callahan at freshman orientation and right away told him what I wanted to do,” Lewin said. “The first season, I was just spotting the ball and setting up the field for practice.”

But then Lewin started working with T.J. DeMuzio, the wide receivers coach at Monmouth.

“I was basically his right hand person,” Lewin said. “I had the opportunity to learn a lot about coaching. I broke down film, compiled data. It was hard sometimes, especially early on. But then people could see my body of work instead of my body.”

After graduating from Monmouth with a degree in sociology and gender studies with a minor in sports communications, Lewin wanted to take the next step – to secure a job as a football coach.

“I always felt like I belonged in sports,” Lewin said. “I never felt like there was a gender barrier because I was born with different body parts. But I never thought of coaching anything else. I’m very determined and very stubborn. I was determined to be a football coach. I wanted to do what I love to do.”

Lewin knew Hudson Catholic assistant coach Chris Johnston from working Johnston’s assortment of summer football camps.

“I had been applying for jobs in the college game and nothing was happening,” Lewin said. “I called Coach Johnston and he told me about Hudson Catholic. I took one visit and said, ‘This is where I’m going.’”

The day after graduation from Monmouth, Lewin was in Jersey City, working with the Hawks’ grid team in the weight room.

The 22-year-old Lewin had the job she wanted. She was going to be the receivers and special teams coach at Hudson Catholic.

“It was such a relief,” Lewin said. “I thought no one would hire me. I was willing to do anything and coach football, anywhere in the world. I appreciated the chance so much.”

Lou Zampella, who has worked with Johnston for years, trusted Johnston when he recommended Lewin for a position on Zampella’s staff.

“I just appreciate Coach Johnston and Coach Louie so much,” Lewin said. “It was a great opportunity for me.”

After Lewin was hired as the receivers and special teams coach for the Hawks, she went home and watched videos of the Hawks from last season.

“I wanted to know what we had,” Lewin said. “I wanted to see who I was going to be working with.”

The gender issue never came up. Lewin became the first female assistant football coach in New Jersey.

“My specialty was working with the receivers and special teams,” Lewin said. “I’m so involved with the special teams side.”

Every day, Lewin takes her punters, kickers and long snappers before practice begins for workouts.

Christian Rodgers, a senior long snapper, never questioned Lewin’s abilities as a coach.

“It wasn’t surprising to me,” Rodgers said. “You see females in sports all the time now. I remember one time, she was helping me with my form.”

Rodgers said that he accepted Lewin as his coach almost immediately.

“At first, I was a little shocking,” Rodgers said. “But then after the ‘Oh my God’ thing was over the first day, she was our coach. She taught me things that I didn’t even know. It’s cool that it’s a little different, being taught from a female’s perspective. She really has taught me a lot of things about the game.”

Isaiah Decias is a senior receiver and kick returner.

“To me, it really didn’t matter,” Decias said. “I understood where she came from and I saw her knowledge of the game. Honestly, I was excited. It was different, but I was ready for it. We got along right away. The first day she was here, we were doing drills inside the school. She knew what she was doing. She taught us different ways to get off the ball and different ways to block. There was the importance of blocking, as well as route running. She really helped us a lot. We wouldn’t be in the position we’re in without her.”

After defeating Immaculata last week, 34-28, in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 2 quarterfinals, the Hawks move on to play Holy Spirit of Absecon in Absecon this weekend in the sectional semifinals.

Despite having a 4-6 record, the Hawks are just two wins away from the first state championship in the school’s history.

Decias likes Lewin’s approach.

“She has more enthusiasm than a lot of people,” Decias said. “I really don’t feel like it’s anything different anymore.”

Lewin doesn’t know what the future holds.

“We’re building something here and I don’t necessarily want to leave them,” Lewin said. “We have the foundation here. They need to have the right people around them. So we’ll see. So far, it’s been fun and sports are meant to be fun. We’re all together for the same goal.”

Regardless of what her gender may be.

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com, follow Jim on Twitter @ogsmar and listen to Jim’s Hudson County Sports podcast on YouTube, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Jersey City Zoning Board denies demolition of St. Peter’s Prep buildings

In a barn burner six hour meeting Tuesday night, the Jersey City Zoning Board of Adjustment refused to allow the demolition of the historic St. Peter’s Prep buildings, upholding a decision made by the city’s Historic Preservation Committee about three years ago.

St. Peter’s Preparatory School appealed the HPC’s decision that prevented them from tearing down the St. Peter’s Parish School Hall and the St. Peter’s Hall and Parochial School at York Street, which date back to the late 1800s, with plans to turn the site into a parking lot.

During the meeting, representatives from St. Peter’s argued similar points for taking down the buildings from previous hearings, saying that the buildings were in “dangerous conditions” that were exacerbated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and that it made it unfeasible or unsafe to restore them.

“Why we’re here tonight is [that] we believe that the Historic Preservation Commission was wrong,” said Chuck Harrington, a lawyer for St. Peter’s. “That their decision was arbitrary and capricious, and I say that because we believe they did not act consistently with their obligations under the ordinance.”

Thomas McGinty, an architect and a trustee on the St. Peter’s board, said that while he acknowledged the historic preservation, he argued that they wanted to take down the buildings because of the structural instability of the marshland soil that the grammar school is built upon.

Arguments were made that the buildings had shifted, saying that back in August 2020 that the western building is leaning about 11 inches, causing multiple cracks and fissures and has made it unstable.

“I think what’s troubling most to me at this point is the subsequent movements that we’ve seen since then,” said Alyson Sikorski, a principal at Case Consulting Engineers. “What concerns me is ‘When is this building going to move again? Not if it’s going to happen’.”

The applicants also warned of a potential collapse and made comparisons to the Surfside collapse in Florida last year that had killed 98 people.

“A sudden collapse would be devastating for the entire neighborhood,” said McGinty. “On top of that, there could be loss of life on the street and worse, asbestos, which is throughout the school, would be riddled throughout the neighborhood in a collapse.”

Stuart Lieberman, an attorney representing the Paulus Hook Neighborhood Association that opposed the potential demolition, had witnesses to testify against the applicants.

Donald Friedman, a structural engineer who works with Old Structures Engineering, said that he had reviewed the structure and argued that while there were various forms of damage, there wasn’t anything that was “systemic” structural failure.

He later continued that the buildings had only “ordinary” weathering damage and didn’t have any relationship to the foundation issues, and questioned the notion that the buildings had tilted that much, saying that if it had, the flashing would have pulled apart and the roof wouldn’t be in a good condition.

“I’m not seeing a connection between the various brick defects in the superstructure and the foundation problems,” he said. “They seem to be separate issues. Everybody has focused on Hurricane Sandy damaging the basement slab in the center of the building, which it did, but that doesn’t lead you to structural damage that requires demolition.”

Diane Kaese, the president of the association, also said that the Paulus Hook neighborhood has a number of other historic buildings that were taken care of after Sandy and called St. Peter’s attitude towards the buildings “very disturbing.”

“We can’t be ignorant of those past generations and what they have brought us and what they have given us,” she said. “We have to take it, we have to use it, we have to move it forward and we have to care for it. I think that is something that the association is very, very adamant about.”

When it came to public comments, many speakers overwhelming spoke against demolishing the buildings, including those within and outside of Jersey City, noting that many residents were able to repair their own buildings after Sandy, and accused St. Peter’s of attempting demolish by neglect.

“The question here is not whether or not these buildings can be preserved, but who has the appetite to take on the task,” said Chris Perez of the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, pointing to how other historic landmarks such as the White House, the Fairmont San Francisco hotel, and the Notre-Dame underwent restoration efforts.

“Preserving the external shell and facade of these buildings, while securing and rebuilding as necessary, will result in an ethical and environmentally conscious solution that preserves what is historically significant with these buildings,” he continued.

Another speaker, Susana Holguin-Veras, also warned of the precedence a demolition could mean for other municipalities. “Essentially you’re signaling to property owners who don’t have preservation as a goal that all they need to do to demolish a building is to neglect it just enough and it’ll be approved,” she said.

In the end, the board voted 6-1 to deny the appeal and uphold the HPC’s decision to not demolish the buildings, with Commissioner Ahmed Shedeed being the only dissenting vote.

“I didn’t feel like I got a consistent, clear, credible, understandable testimony from the applicant that made me feel that there’s no option here other than demolition,” said Chairman Josh Jacobs.

“Since this is such a significant building historically, I don’t think we have a choice other than to uphold the HPC ruling, which [is] certainly based on the exhaustive record made on solid merit and consideration,” he continued.

For updates on this and other stories, check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.

Lean on Us

When 42-year-old Ruvee Yao lost her life in a June fire that tore through her home at 793 Broadway, destroying a pizzeria and a learning center she ran, the Bayonne community came together to host a softball tournament fundraiser to support the family. The Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation and the neighboring FFP Wealth Management sponsored a mini-festival called the “Take Me Home Fundraiser” that included live music, food and drinks that raised thousands of dollars for the fire victims.

“Bayonne neighbors are always there to help,” said Bayonne Fire Chief Keith Weaver at the time. “It’s a positive that comes out of a negative situation. It’s amazing, the power of the community. Everybody here steps up to the plate.”

That was good for Bayonne residents to hear. Too often, praise is heaped on those with the most to give. But Oprah doesn’t donate her clothes when a Bayonne resident loses her home and all her possessions in a fire. Bill Gates doesn’t donate his furniture when Superstorm Sandy floods the living room. Warren Buffet isn’t on hand to help pay that outrageous medical bill when a kid has a brain tumor.

When families lose homes in fires, Judickie’s Bakery is always there to donate their famed donuts to all involved. C-Town, a supermarket on 36th Street and Broadway, also donates food in times of crisis.

Alex’s Story

When Alex Petisco, a second-grader at Henry Harris School, was diagnosed with a serious illness, Henry Harris got into gear. Alex’s mother, Margaret Weimmer relates, “Before Alex left for surgery, his teacher Mrs. Senerchia sent out a letter to the students to take a collection to buy him a huge bag of gifts: two Lego sets, a Lego blanket, stuffed animals, pajamas.”

Some of the kids showed their compassion, not just by donating gifts but by writing letters to their friend.

Mrs. Senerchia bought tickets to a Devil’s game for Alex and his family, a great gift for Alex, who’s a hockey and Lego fan.

These second graders will definitely carry on the tradition of their elders.

Aye-Aye Captain

A guy who ran marathons in a wrestler costume and now calls himself Captain Bayonne helps as much as he can, facilitating toy and food drives. “I meet so many nice people who share my values, sense of humor and love for Bayonne,” said Captain Bayonne, who considers fellow local do-gooders his heroes. “You are always stronger as a city if you support and encourage one another in good times and bad. “It is a great honor to know so many people in Bayonne are very willing to get involved and help others in need, or to just do a good deed and brighten someone’s day. I always feel it is vital to create more positive experiences and eliminate the negative altogether.”

His advice for others who want to help?

“I think the thing a community member should honestly ask is ‘What are the issues that bother me personally the most?’ Once you answer those questions, it will put you on to the path of being actively involved and passionate about working toward a positive change. It won’t seem like work, and the reward is helping to make a difference for all.”

Locals have answered Captain Bayonne’s question by proposing protections for feral cats, planting more trees, and advocating for affordable homes.

Neighborhood to Nation

Others have answered Captain Bayonne’s question by getting involved in issues that have worldwide significance.

Every month, the Bayonne Nature Club, led by Patricia Hilliard and her husband, Mike Ruscigno, organize shoreline cleanups to mitigate environmental pollution, create a cleaner city, and help the wildlife that also calls Bayonne home.

“We know how much the plastics harm the wildlife and in the course of cleaning up, we’ve learned a lot more about the habitats,” said Hilliard. “So, it’s been a learning process as well as trying to do good.” She and Ruscigno counted 1,600 bags of plastic removed from the shorelines since starting the club when they retired.

“When we were working it was much trickier to do this,” Ruscigno said. “When people have one or two days off a week, they have to take care of these other problems.”

You could say they’re setting an example for youth, but Bayonne teens hardly need it.

A group of Bayonne High School students has lobbied the city council to adopt greater environmental protections.

Immigration may be the most important issue that filters down from the global and national scene.

A coalition of local religious leaders, including those from Bayonne, has come together in recent years to advocate for immigrant rights when foreign-born people were dying in detention at Hudson County jail. They also came together to fight back against efforts to prevent the local Muslim community from converting an abandoned warehouse into a place of worship.

Group Charity

Sometimes it’s organizations, not individuals, helping those in need. Nonprofit organizations such as the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation, Hunger-Free Bayonne, the Knights of Columbus, and the Elks provide vital services to residents, including housing and utility assistance, delivering meals to the elderly, donating to social welfare charities, helping homeless vets, and raising drug awareness.

There are many more, some started by residents who experience a tragedy and want to help others. One of those is Pam O’Donnell’s Catch You Later Foundation. She founded it after her husband and daughter, Bridgett, died in a car crash in 2017. The foundation raises awareness about aggressive driving.

In the aftermath of this horrendous crisis, O’Donnell said, “I cannot thank the Bayonne community enough. There has been so much support and generosity sent our way that it boggles the mind. It is simply amazing what Bayonne can do during a time of crisis.”

Margaret Abrams launched “Remember Me” after her son, John “Jack” Santopietro died at age 21 when he was hit by minivan while riding his motorcycle. “Remember Me” is a nonprofit that promotes motorcycle awareness.

The organization awards a yearly scholarship to fire science majors at NJCU. Santopietro had planned to enter that program. It also offers scholarships to kids who want to attend Boy Scout camp.

A driving school offered by “Remember Me” helps survivors of domestic violence.

In 2015, Tyler Sellers was killed on Route 440 by a speeding motorist. His passion was skateboarding. A skate park in Bayonne that had fallen into disrepair was renovated. Mayor James Davis dedicated the entire park to Tyler.

“As a community, Bayonne has always been unique,” Davis says. “When something happens to our children, we come together.” He says that the families should “be commended for moving from their personal losses to positive activities that can improve or save the lives of others.” – BLP



Head start on hacking

The Liberty STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Alliance hosted its first annual Hudson County Hack-a-thon for fifth through seventh grade students at Liberty Science Center on Saturday, June 2. Over the course of seven hours, the one-day mobile app creation competition, nicknamed “Hack Hudson,” challenged 120 students from Union City and Jersey City public schools to use coding and technology to identify and solve a current problem facing Hudson County.
Along with providing a platform for students to compete, expand learning in STEM and develop skills in computer science, computing and engineering, the Hack-a-thon allowed Hudson County students to push the envelope in creative thinking, problem solving, and hands-on learning.
“We are thrilled to work with local students to help them develop their STEM skills and to apply them in creative ways to improve their communities,” said Christine Arnold-Schroeder, vice president of External Affairs at Liberty Science Center, and member of the Liberty STEM Alliance Steering Committee.
Before splitting into teams, the students were first treated to a keynote presentation by Eduardo McLean, a Google senior software engineer who shared the importance of technology throughout his career.
“You are all young and you have the amazing gift of time. Take today as an opportunity to refine your skills early and get a head start on being great,” McLean told the students.

Parents, too

Over 60 parents of participants also had the opportunity to acquire new skills at Saturday’s event, with the Hack-a-thon featuring a parent education program. The full-day workshop allowed parents to learn the basics of design learning, coding, and how to prepare for college and financial aid. Simultaneous translations were available for both Spanish and Arabic-speaking families.
“With the demand for STEM skills growing at such a rapid pace, we felt it was just as important to educate our participants’ parents on these topics, as it was to educate the students themselves,” said Jazlyn Carvajal, co-founder of Latinas in STEM and Chair of the Liberty STEM Alliance Hack-a-thon Planning Committee.
The Hudson County Hack-a-thon was hosted by the Liberty STEM Alliance, a community dedicated to enriching STEM opportunities in Hudson County by incorporating all voices, creating pathways, and serving as an information hub.
The Alliance has developed through the strong, existing relations among Hudson County stakeholders (such as Liberty Science Center, Jersey City Public Schools, Union City Public Schools and New Jersey City University) in the advancement of STEM learning.
Support for Hack Hudson was provided to the Liberty STEM Alliance by the New Jersey STEM Pathways Network via the Overdeck Family Foundation, Latinas in STEM, Jersey City Public Schools, the Union City Board of Education, and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.
Learn more about Hack Hudson by visiting www.hackhudson.com.

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