Clifton Merchant Magazine - January 2022

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Turn to page 42 and read the wishes, ideas and suggestions offered by 30 more Cliftonites as we enter 2022.

Here is my suggestion for 2022: let’s build a real Clifton Community Recreation Center. This stately structure on the corner of Main and Washington Ave. is beautiful but not a Rec Center. Built in 1935 as a US Post Office, it functioned that way until 2000 when a new postal station was opened at Madison and Main. Cliftonites deserve a Rec Center with facilities where they can play indoor sports like volleyball and basketball, then hang out and shoot pool or play table tennis. The Rec Center should be part of the facilities at the James Anzaldi Recreation Complex on Clifton Ave., where we have outdoor fields. A city of 85,000-plus people deserves a Rec Center to meet our varied interests.

As far as this beautiful but obsolete building on Main Ave? The best use would be to sell it for creative reuse. There is plenty of parking on site as well as a municipal lot across Main on Putnam. It could be a stately law firm or medical facility. My preference would be for a restaurant, a dining destination to bring life and people into Downtown Clifton. That’s my wish for 2022—that we sell this outdated structure, build a real Rec Center and do something bold to breathe life into Downtown Clifton. From the Editor, Tom Hawrylko Editor & Publisher Tom Hawrylko, Sr.

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Last January, we dug into the foundation of Clifton and told of new projects as they emerged throughout our city. “Project Watch ’21” was the theme and spotlighted the Border War at On3 (former Roche complex), plans for the once Black Prince Distillery on Paulison and Clifton Aves. into a Transit Village. We bid a solemn farewell to two beloved bowling centers, Garden Palace and Van Houten Lanes. We served up a historical retrospective on the late Ronnie Italiano, who had owned Ronnie I’s Clifton Music in Downtown Clifton. Our issue recounted how one-of-a-kind singer Frankie Lymon’s honorary tombstone ended up at the store until it shuttered its doors in March 2012. With an eye toward the future, we looked at the three-generation legacy of Mikula Contracting as it entered its 75th year. As we’ve done for the past quarter century, we presented a photo review of Clifton events that took place throughout 2020, like the retrospective you are reading today.

Kelly Douglass. Clifton Health frontline workers Jenn Kidd and Layal Helwani received their vaccines.


January 2022 •

Mikula Contracting is recognized as New Jersey’s Family Business of the Year. The three-generation family business, on Rt. 46 West at Hazel St., started with a shovel, a pick-up truck, and Nick Mikula’s vision. From left front: uncle Leonard Wieczerzak, brothers Ryan and Dennis Jr.. In rear, brothers Drew and the late Dennis Sr. Left column, the Habal family along with Joanna Huster showed in 2021 how Clifton is a community of volunteers. CHS 2015 grad Kelly Douglass was featured ahead of her induction into the CHS Athletic Hall of Fame as possibly Clifton’s greatest girls basketball player.

Former Fighting Mustangs coach Ron Anello was inducted into the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association (NJSCA) Hall of Fame. We remembered Barbara Appel, who enjoyed a 40-year career with the Board of Education as a bus driver. She especially enjoyed driving the hockey team. Owner Mukesh Patel of Quick Mart at 115 Lakeview Ave. sold the winning ticket in New Jersey to a customer who matched all six numbers in the Jan. 23 Powerball drawing. The late Ronnie Italiano’s legacy reminded us how he helped bring a slice of doo-wop to Downtown Clifton. CHS Athletic Director Tom Mullahey was made to be a Mustang. • January 2022





Above, Tom and his wife, Donna (Casapulla) DeVita. Right column from top left, Dwayne Williams and Yanitza Acevedo. Ryan White and Heather Ranges. Kayla and Joey George. Nicole and Steve Turi. Kelly and Mandi Bevando. Jamie Zarrett and Jennifer King with their daughter Samantha.


January 2022 •

Love is in the air every February, and we had it front and center with our traditional Clifton love stories. We are also looking for submissions for our February 2022 edition. Last year, we also featured a different type of love: a love of one’s community. We heard from Clifton’s Community Emergency Response Team volunteers who were on the frontlines to ensure our city’s vaccine clinics ran smoothly and without obstacles. Despite the challenges of the previous year, Clifton proved that the show must go on, including in the arts as it gradually became safer to gather in larger groups. That included the Theater League of Clifton, who coming off its September 2020 outdoor musical revue was planning more future performances to celebrate 15 years as a community cultural organization.





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Zoom! That’s how students learned and teachers instructed for the majority of 2020—and a significant portion of 2021. Despite the learning curve associated with Google Classrooms and beginning Remote Learning, Clifton proved they were up to the task if it meant providing students with the thorough and effective education they deserve. From Clifton students to teachers to supervisors to parents, we asked what the main obstacles were while learning at home. The most common response? The social and emotional component of learning and isolation from friends. But the responses also focused on the benefits, including a greater understanding of technological tools at an earlier age and improved time management skills for people of all ages. We also remained optimistic as Clifton Health Department’s total vaccine distribution reached 7,693 by the end of the month for adults ages 55 and older.

The Walsh family, namely father Frank and brothers Bowen and Sage, continued to safely bring music into the homes of Clifton residents. Paige Sciarrino’s sophomore film “the blue light stays on” premiered at the Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park. Stu Palfreyman in Vietnam as a US Army Captain, before he became Clifton’s first health officer. Clifton kids showcased their artistic talents from home during Distance Learning.

Former Clifton Police Chief Gary Giardina (pictured with his wife Cindy on March 10, 1984) recounted how he was clipped and nearly killed in a routine traffic stop on Rt. 3 when he was a new Clifton Police officer. Pre-pandemic, PRAISE met at Ethan and the Bean on Sunday mornings once a month. The Little Falls coffee shop employs individuals with disabilities and PRAISE reports, has awesome coffee and baked goods. One of their favorite servers, Thomas, is pictured with some of the moms.


January 2022 • • January 2022





In the process of arranging a photo for this story, Editor Tom Hawrylko not only set up the photo above right of Clifton’s COVID Angels, but top angel Jessica Farrell scheduled the 64 year-old photographer for a vaccine shot. Some of the Covid Angels from left: Melissa Morales, Laurie Zampella, Laura Gemignani, Dan Marino, Kristin Garibell, Danielle Quinlan, Tejal Desai, Jessica Farrell, Sherry Avella, Laurie Jaeger, Tammy Castro. Hawrylko qualified as a senior citizen and is seen receiving the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Clara Maass Medical Center from pharmacist Lakhini Vyas on March 16.

The fundraising machine known as Bingo is back at The Club in March with workers Kathy Illescas, Tracy Cirasuolo, Linda Scancarello, Chris Rizzuto. In rear, John DeGraaf, Joe Holmes, Linda Declet, Patty Jewell.

We featured the Mustang Sports TV show with host Vincent Cianicullo and director Nevaly Placencia.


January 2022 •

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Clifton voters went to polls on April 20 to vote on a $168 million school referendum question, which passed by a more than two to one margin. The Board of Education had approved the bond referendum question earlier that year in a January meeting. The referendum was slated to include HVAC updates throughout the school district, enhanced security entrances at each school, and bathroom renovations throughout the district. It would also address locker room and weight room upgrades at Clifton Stadium, as well as a new turf field and fieldhouse at Woodrow Wilson Middle School. Meanwhile, the Census brought surprising news to New Jerseyans. The state’s population was reported to have expanded to over 9.2 million people. The notably higher and unexpected count meant that the state could keep its current 12 U.S. House members.

Clifton sophomore 285-pounder Joe Abill appeared in the NJSIAA/Rothman Orthopaedic State Championships, as the #11 seed. Abill scored a second round pin over Watchung Hills sophomore Hunter Seubert before earning a 2-1 decision over Colts Neck junior Matthew Jannucci. He was pinned in the semifinals by eventual champion David Szuba, a senior from Brick Memorial, but wrestled back to a fourthplace finish. Abill finished the season 13-4.

April 16 marked the reopening of Corso 98 under the ownership and culinary direction of Clifton’s Beverly Lacsina. Nova UA presented a $50,000 grant on April 25. During the pandemic, Nova provided $63,000 of grant money to NJ parishes and almost $300,000 in grants to non-profit organizations negatively affected by COVID-19.


January 2022 • • January 2022





On Memorial Day, we paused and gathered at services across town to remember The Fallen and recall the names of those who died serving our nation. Along the Avenue of Flags, 2,167 American flags surrounded City Hall in tribute to veterans, both living and deceased. Our cover featured 2021 Mustang soccer players Amer Lukovic and Erik Dymora, as they prepared for the High School AllAmerican Game in St. Louis on May 29. They followed a long tradition of Clifton All-American athletes as our magazine recapped the storied high school sports career of every Mustang All-American. Among the athletes we recalled are Stacey Veech and Cara Boseski, who played and coached Mustang Softball, Bobby Boettcher, Frank Pecci, Larry Kondra, Nicole Krzysik and Keiko Tokuda.

Bill Van Eck at left, helps dress city hall grounds with 2,167 flags for Memorial Day. On May 27, Frank Petriello’s family. brought out a small fleet of people to his Lakeview home to honor Petriello’s 100 years of life and US Navy service. NJEDDA’s new director is Rachel Herrington as Dr. William G. Weiss said his goodbyes at the special needs school. Pictured are All-Americans Bobby Boettcher and Keiko Tokuda.


January 2022 •

Our ongoing “Working” series featured psychic and medium Gia Qamar, music minister and paralegal Robert Harsághy, aerial trombonist Julie Krygsman, restaurant manager Tony Wizner, pro ice skater Deana Sroka. • January 2022





As summer kicked off in June, we honored 2021 Clifton area high school graduates. We spoke with graduating seniors, and they shared how they overcame pandemic obstacles and told us about their plans for Fall of 2021 and the future. Among those featured included seniors from Clifton High School, PCTI, Paramus Catholic, and DePaul. The warmer weather also encouraged us to take a stroll through the Dutch Hill section. We featured a neighborhood tour looking at the section’s history, which meant exploring the creation and development of Weasel Brook Park. We also assessed the area’s property value and spoke with those who live in the area about what makes Dutch Hill so viable.

Even though they didn’t travel to the New Jersey Summer Games this year, Clifton Recreation came up with their version of the Special Olympics called Canteen Olympics, held June 5 in Stefan Tatarenko Memorial Park. At left, on June 19, the city raised the Pride flag along with America’s Red, White and Blue in a ceremony on the great lawn in front of city hall. Also at left, Alvin “AJ” Tyrone Hinton was inducted on June 30 into the Naval Academy Class of 2025. Trainer Tom Cutalo announced his retirement after 30 years at CHS.

Class of 2021 grads from CHS and Paramus Catholic: Emery Taveras, Gabriel Maksymiw, Hadeel Aref, Adrian Baran, Gabriella Bermudez, John Sendy, Arianna Dubas, Istvan Tamas. Morese Lattimore, Lynette Rivas, Max Rubin, Mia Dubac, Nicholas Plaskon.


January 2022 •

On June 29, Dr. William Weiss of the North Jersey Elks Developmental Disabilities Agency on Main Ave. in Downtown Clifton retired after 43 years of service. The trustees and staff of NJEDDA, which provide social, therapeutic, educational and various other services to those with disabilities, feted his service, leadership and love with a permanent plaque for the building. Weiss was director since 1979 and initiated and established a high school and adult school. More info at

The New Jersey Torch Run for Special Olympics always winds its way through Clifton and it did so again on June 11 thanks to retired Clifton Police Officer Frank Dara, pictured right.

The Back2School Outreach program that has helped alleviate poverty for Clifton families over the past 10 years needs the community’s help in 2021. “Education is the best solution to ending poverty,” said Power of One’s Director Kim Castellano, who worked with Clifton Schools principals to identify students in need. In a “then and now” setting, here is a view from a circa 1940 photo from the Passaic County Parks Commission Archives, Passaic County Department of Cultural & Historic Affairs with a “now” photo. Below and on the cover of this magazine is a circa 1936 photo of Weasel Brook Park as it was being developed by Passaic County. • January 2022


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A remarkable shot of the 1970 Marching Mustangs in Paris greeted readers for our July edition, thanks to John Kuzmich Jr. (CHS 1961). As band director he took the Marching Mustangs to perform in Paris and Europe. We also connected with Mustangs from 1951, 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011 who shared stories about their lives in the decades since graduation. Some of their journeys sent them around the world; others stayed and served their communities in politics, public safety, education and medicine. In July 2021, live music was enjoyed at the Bob Obser Music Series in Main Memorial, as well as Historic Botany shows and Jimmy Sturr & His Orchestra in Passaic’s Third Ward Park.


At the Hot Grill in 2011 Joe Padula, John Celentano, Bob Stier. At right in ’51.

The class of 1981, Severin Palydowicz and at left, Mary Wyka.

Among the Mustang Alum we met: Class of 1981, Luz Escobar and George Foukas. Class of 1991, Lori (Koehler) Ritz and Kevin Collucci. At right, Class of 2011 Priya Shah and Stephanie (Peterson) Yoda.


January 2022 • • January 2022





Eat with Pete Genovese listed Clifton’s three hot dog joints in his top 25 ranking of weiner joints in the state. Genovese is a writer for the Star Ledger and his list appeared in the Sunday July 25 edition. He called Jersey the hot dog universe and said “there are probably more hot dog trucks, carts and store fronts crammed into Passaic, Essex and Bergen Counties than any comparably sized area in the country.”

Assistant Superintendent Mark Tietjen at his retirement celebration. with Mrs. Park and Mrs. Kathy from School 3. In the not-so-distant past, of 2011, we featured Christy Zoecklein and James Fraunberger at graduation and above right, Mr. and Mrs. Fraunberger in July of 2021. Troop 8 Eagles: Dylan Spies, Jason Gentilello, Michael Gentilello, Ian McCarrick. Main Memorial’s Library Assistant Tess Iwachow painted a beautiful mural on the wall of the lobby of the second floor.


January 2022 • • January 2022





As Hurricane Ida made landfall on Aug. 26, it became the second-most damaging and intense hurricane in Louisiana, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Its impact was felt here, too, from floods in Dutch Hill and Downtown Clifton to Montclair Heights. In its aftermath, schools were delayed for reopening until after Labor Day. The damage extended to ruining School 5’s gym floors and flooding in School 12’s basement. Meanwhile, School 16 continued remote instruction for a period after trees were knocked down in the area and the principal’s office was ruined. There was also another type of storm brewing in the city that continued into the month of September. Despite a call for unity in the wake of the hurricane, some residents stood in opposition to a mural promoting Clifton’s diversity with that same hopeful message under the Garden State Parkway underpass at Allwood Road.

WORKING The machine that is the Marching Mustangs continues to earn accolades. Take for instance rising seniors Luke Kulesa and John Rivas, who were named to the NJ All State Band. Meanwhile, the Peruvian Parade danced through Clifton on Aug. 1. Leading the charge was Grand Marshal Guillermo Garcia.


January 2022 •

Dolly Parton sang it “the 9 to 5” but these days we seem to do it 24/7. Above are some of the folks we wrote about in our ongoing “Working” series: Jeffrey Muddell, Senior VP of Wealth Services, Thomas Jones, Health & PE Teacher, Brian Berlinkski, Empowerment Director and his brother Michael, Director of Emerging Technologies for the Philadelphia-based company, Customized Energy Solutions. • January 2022





Some 250 people attended a flag raising on Aug. 24 at Clifton City Hall to mark the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence from Russia. Helen Newmerzyckyj opened the ceremony by singing the National Anthem. The event, and the concert and celebration at the Ukrainian Center on Hope Ave. in Passaic which followed, was coordinated by Marika Duplak and a committee comprised of directors from the Passaic chapter of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.

We celebrated Camp Clifton, the former Boys & Girls Club sleep-away camp in August. Our guides to the lookback are pictured in 2011, at the Grande Saloon, Tom DiDonna, Karen Dominick, writer Julie (Generalli) Dominick, Robert Lipala, Keith Oakley, Ray Kalas.

Corradino & Papa, a Personal Injury Law Firm at 55 Allwood Rd., has been a long-time Clifton supporter, contributing time and resources to community charities, events and good causes for over 20 years. Last year, they commissioned a 9-foot bronze statue of CHS’ Mustang mascot.


Purple Heart Day was commemorated Aug. 7 at the Clifton Public Library’s Purple Heart Memorial. The late Jerry T. Scrosia of Clifton served and was wounded in World War II.

January 2022 • • January 2022





May Yuasa encouraged her community to use their voices in a quest for unity, and that’s the message we echoed on our September magazine cover. The CHS 2020 grad painted a new mural for the community, highlighting the importance of diversity and the “infinite possibilities” we can achieve when we work together. However, the mural made headlines for the wrong reasons when a small group of people likened a painted fist, associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, to communism. Meanwhile, Father David Monteleone was installed as a pastor of St. Philip the Apostle Church on Sept. 26 by Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney. And on the Clifton Public Schools front, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Mark Tietjen retires after 23 years in the school district.

Clifton skaters used their voices as well. The city’s Skatezone, at 85 Third St., reopened in May and after months of advocating, skaters made sure that it became a more chill place with relaxed rules. We learned from Ernest Scheidemann that Richard David Rosenthal, at right, was the tenth person from Clifton lost on Sept. 11, 2001. Our October story celebrated his life. As St. Peter’s Haven prepared to celebrate its 35th anniversary, the food pantry and family shelter remained an essential piece of our city’s support system. Helping unload the regular delivery from other food sources from left, Sara Sorce, Paige Sorce, Grzegorz Iwanicki, Alex Schimmel, Gustavo Orales, Doreen Balbuena, Juliann Miskowsky, Kristen Nicolien, Brianna Norris.


January 2022 • • January 2022





The Clifton Boys & Girls Club’s 8th Annual Car, Truck & Motorcycle Show on Sept. 8 set records with 400-plus vehicles on display and over 6,000 visitors. Held at the Allwood Atrium, the show’s goal is to raise funds for Club programs. The Athenia Business Association’s Classic Car Show was Sept. 19 in the lot across from Shook Funeral Home. At right, that is Shook’s Roy Garretson with his 1942 Cadillac, which he displayed at both events.

The Annual John Samra Scholarship Memorial 5K Run/Walk & 1 Mile Family Fun Run/Walk was on Sept. 26 at City Hall. Right, in the aftermath of Hurrican Ida, volunteers collect donations at the Elks and then transport items to the Power of One for distribution at Grace Church on Hazel St. From left, Councilwoman Lauren Murphy, Keith Oakley, Cathy Callahan-Linker, Robin Gibson, Gina Matano-Scaduto and Janina Lapczynski. They are all nearing 91 but these Mustangs recalled their three years at Clifton High with smiles and pride. The June CHS Class of 1948 enjoyed their 17th reunion in the 73rd year after they graduated CHS on Sept. 16 at Mario’s.


January 2022 • • January 2022





October began with the marking of 20 years since the start of the War in Afghanistan. In our October issue, we also paid tribute to former Mustang Richard David Rosenthal who we had learned was unintentionally omitted in our September 20th year tribute for 9/11. The city also saw some upgrades throughout the month. On Oct. 10, Clifton Ace Hardware & Paint Supply reopened as part of the Ace Hardware team with store renovations and over 1,000 new items. The Health Department also marked Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Oct. 13 with a new Emergency Response trailer, funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. We featured bios on all the candidates for political office. Thousands visited The Hot Grill on Oct. 9 and 10 for two-all-the way two! then returned on Sunday night, Oct. 10, for an awesome fireworks display. Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of The Hot Grill on Oct. 9 and 10, nothing less than a spectacular fireworks display would do to show how much owners and sisters Maria and Cristina LaMendola appreciate and value the patronage over the years. “Along with our devoted employee family, led by Ricardo, Adam, Cesar, Zulema, and Chef Julian,” they wrote, “we are proud to be carrying on our father Carmen’s commitment to good, quality food at reasonable prices. We look forward to continuing family traditions with you and yours!”


January 2022 •

Board of Ed candidates: Judith A. Bassford, Avraham Y. Eisenman, Lucy Danny, Vita Marlena Cowan, Mark J. Brunciak, Robert D’Arco, Daniel Gaudet, Frank W. Kasper, Alan Paris. Passaic County Government candidates: Assad Akhter, John Bartlett, Zoila Cassanova, Nicolino Gallo, Sandi Lazzara, Aisha Mamkej, William E. Marsala, Lucy Aileen Rivera. State Election candidates: Tafari K. Anderson, Clenard Childress Jr., Irene DeVita, Thomas P. Giblin, Britnee Timberlake, Scott Pollack, Nia Gill.

We profiled Edward Kovacs and his service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He is pictured here, above left, with his wife of 56 years Evelyn. Top right, Mike Doktor with Paul Boyko On Oct. 10, the CHS Athletic Hall of Fame welcomed and honored former Mustangs from across the decades at a Brownstone luncheon to make it all official. Clifton’s Halloween Parade & Harvestfest went down Van Houten Ave. into city hall campus on Oct. 24 as our magazine pages showed. Among the winners: the Gutierrez family, dressed as Sour Patch kids; Aiden and Alexander Flores, (aka) Super Mario Brothers, and Lena Bryson as recycle girl.

At left: “Sammy the Sock” author Shanna Polan helped keep feet warm with her Clifton Schools sock drives. Botton left: Trisha Wishard surprised herself by becoming a voice for cancer awareness. • January 2022





Our editor and publisher, Tom Hawrylko, shared an important message in his November edition column: “Be engaged. Vote Nov. 2.” Clifton residents cast their ballots on local, county, and state levels, slecting from among with nine Board of Education candidates, eight candidates for Passaic County roles, and governor, senate, and assembly members’ races. The Health Department participated in the Community Resource Expo at the Boys & Girls Club with activities, COVID-19 vaccines, coat giveaways, and free health screenings. The late Police Officer John Samra was honored with a street named for him 18 years after he was killed in the line of duty. John Samra Way was dedicated on Nov. 21, four months after the Council voted in July to name the entrance to the James Anzaldi Recreation Complex for the city’s only police officer to die in the line of duty. Clifton saluted its veterans Nov. 7 as bands and patriots marched from Huron Ave., along Van Houten Ave. and into the Avenue of Flags during the annual Veteran’s Parade. Clifton honors its veterans at least twice a year with parades and tributes. We profiled parade grand marshal US Navy CWO 4 Bill Hartmann and featured speaker, US Army Major Celia Murray, RN.

Above, Jacob Zschack with his parents, Matt and Joanna. The Temple University grad and former Mustang decided to join the Silent Service, which means his new ride is a Nuclear Submarine courtesy of Uncle Sam. Other vets we profiled, from left, clockwise, US Navy Engineman David Soltis, US Army Major Celia Murray, RN, US Navy Petty Officer Paul Holowacz, US Navy CWO 4 Bill Hartmann, US Air Force SSGT. Rebecca Mendoza.


January 2022 •


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On Nov. 8, 1961, 26 US Army recruits from Clifton and vicinity died in an air plane crash on their way to boot camp. The grim milestone was recalled in our pages. Some of the Fallen: Joseph Kandravy, Donald R. Kaplan, David N. Moore, Richard J. Vanderhoven, Bernard B. Olster, Donald N. Gurtman, Stephen P. Soltesz, Robert J. Marositz.

Power of One and the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton announced its first Community Resource Expo. The Expo took place on Nov. 21 at The Club. The organizers, including Kim Castellano, pictured left, recognized how challenging it can be to find certain resources in moments of need. From our Fighting Mustang history of coaches, Ralph Cinque, Ron Anello, Steve Covello.

Andy Mooney and his father Ken had operated Mooney’s Garage at 817 Clifton Ave. since 1957. But they closed the doors in November; from left: Andy, Ken, Hector and Patrick. At right, B & G Club Executive Director Bob Foster and Development Director Ivonne Salazar with Hot Grill General Manager Ricardo Camacho ahead of the BGCC’s 2022 Annual Campaign.


January 2022 •

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The call on the final play of the Fighting Mustangs’ championship football game against East Orange was not one that put many people in the holiday spirit. However we tried to do just the opposite with our December magazine cover. Pictured quite a few Christmases ago is our editor and publisher Tom Hawrylko, more recognizable here as “Saint Nick.” Beside him are his sons Tom Jr. and Joseph. In our December edition, we highlighted the Boys & Girls Club’s “Mission Unstoppable” campaign. We asked current and past Club members, as well as parents, what makes The Club so special. The common response? It sets children and adults up for success in all stages of life.

Center left, The Voice finalist Hailey Mia and West Side Story’s Rachel Zegler. Above: The Clifton Health Department, Berkeley College and Mountainside Medical Center teamed up to administer 183 Moderna booster doses on Dec. 15. Call the COVID-19 hotline at 973-470-2039 for an appointment in January. At left, volunteers from Clifton Cares and Avenue of Flags sent thanks to the Clifton Tank Pull for their contribution to the two non-profit organizations.


January 2022 •

Clifton PBA 36 members and members of the SOA (Superior Officers Assoc.) loaded over $5,000 worth of toys, gift cards and other items to be distributed in time for Christmas. Pictured from left: Captain Darren Kester, PBA President Tom Sucameli and his VP Justin Vallier, SOA President Alan Fiorilla, officers Dave Pereda and PBA 36 State Delegate Derek Fogg. “Chief Tom Rinaldi allowed us to relax grooming standards for No-ShaveNovember as long as we contributed to the toy drive,” explained Sucamelli. “Our team jumped on it and we are sure it will become an annual good will project.” Members of the Muslim community delivered 100 toys to be distributed as part of the Clifton FMBA Local 21 toy drive. Pictured standing left: Mahmoud Ijbara, Bachar Balkar, Sal Farhan, Clifton Firefighters with (seated) Layal Helwani and Fahim Abedrabbo. Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin and Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake joined with staff and students of Montclair State’s Student Development and Campus Life for the 2021 Holiday Toy and Book Drive. Giblin has organized the drive with MSU for 12 years now.

There is no such thing as a rocket scientist. NASA says there are “rocket engineers and there are scientists,” and they get lumped into the term of rocket scientist. In reality, rocket science is a major part of aerospace engineering. And if anyone knows the ins and outs of NASA, it’s Louise Jandura (CHS 1980) who is in fact is the former Mustang rocket scientist we featured in December. • January 2022


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By Ariana Puzzo

During December, we asked residents, business owners and workers to tell us their wishes, ideas and suggestions for 2022. Among the most common responses, regardless of age, were wishes for unity, community strength, and an end to the coronavirus pandemic. Some people also offered their suggestions for how Clifton can improve or continue to grow in the new year. We would like to thank all those who responded and those who helped spread the word. LoriAnn DeSimone wants to see that her young children are put on the right path at an early age. But in order for that to happen, she hopes to see an improvement in the transportation system within the school district. DeSimone, 36, and her husband, David are parents to Rosalie, 5, and Henry, 3. Both children currently attend Clifton Early Learner Academy on Brighton Road. One concern that she has raised to the district is her son’s late arrival on the bus. “My son has an IEP … and I felt that these buses are cutting it really close for special needs students who need that routine [and] need to get to school on time,” said DeSimone. DeSimone expressed a sense of encouragement about Superintendent Danny Robertozzi’s plans for the school district and looks forward


January 2022 •

LoriAnn and David DeSimone with, Rosalie and Henry. At left, Ali Zeidan.

to seeing more of these plans in 2022. These plans also include her supporting the improvements that will occur following the April referendum. Separately, DeSimone’s other hopes include seeing the city “continue to revamp the recycling program” so that residents find that it is easier. “We’re able to mix glass now, and that was a big thing,” she said. “These revamps are important because I do think that recycling is very important for the environment, but when it makes your life difficult, people are hesitant to do it.”

Margaret Kardasz.

Education took a hit during the past two years, but Ali Zeidan remains optimistic for 2022. The School 11 second grade teacher said that he hopes to see more enrichment opportunities for students in the lower primary grades. “For third graders and up, we have Gifted and Talented programs, but it would be great to have a district-wide initiative for K through 2,” said Zeidan, 30. Zeidan continued that for students who can meet greater challenges or have specific talents, offering enrichment and extracurricular opportunities is classroom and teacher based rather than even school-based. He went on to say that looking ahead, he would like to see more targeted learning with a more diverse curriculum so that students “feel more reflected.” “There’s a whole bunch of data that can be extremely useful … that we don’t always take advantage of because of following our block scheduling,” said Zeidan (CHS 2008). “If we create more targeted activities that [focus on] certain reading and comprehension skills … and let that drive our instruction,” he added, “it will make a huge difference.”

Zeidan would also like to see schools emphasize the value behind professional development. He said that while he enjoys being part of learning experiences outside of his work hours, the initiative falls on the individual. He thinks that everyone would benefit from schools providing lists of learning experiences based on personal and professional interests. But perhaps more than anything, Zeidan hopes to see the community find common ground with one another. For him, it starts with how everyone exchanges ideas and perspectives with each other. “Everyone should express their perspectives, but we need to find a better way of doing it,” said Zeidan. “Ultimately, it’s for the betterment of our students, our community, and us.” As a small business owner, Małgorzata Kardasz knows the importance of community support. For 2022, she hopes that Clifton people continues to “shop local” rather than making the trek to chain businesses or shopping online. “I think the priority should be within Clifton,” said Kardasz, 29, often referred to as Margaret. “Even if you pay a little more, you’re spending it in the city and that way, you’re supporting your own people.” In January 2016, Kardasz became the owner of George’s Coffee Shop in Botany Village, which has been located there for more than three decades. She is also now the president of Botany’s Special Improvement District. One of the other things that Kardasz would like to see is a city-wide action to promote local businesses in different neighborhoods. She noted that the success seen from Main Avenue hosting small business weeks could also translate elsewhere. • January 2022


“There are lots of opportunities and great organizations to do a lot of it,” said Kardasz. “I think there just has to be someone to put it all together.” On a personal note, Kardasz wished the city a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and she hopes that the community will remain healthy in the new year. That includes, she said, both physical and mental health, as well as checking in on each other and supporting the “little guys.” “Clifton is an amazing city and you can find everything you need here,” she said. “The people are amazing and very supportive, but we just need to give them a chance and opportunity.” Santiago Guiran is proud when he sees his hometown tackling tough conversations, and he hopes to see the community continue to put forth that energy in 2022. Some of these conversations include topics like institutional racism. Guiran, 22, would like to see a focus on how social institutions like law enforcement and education “disproportionately affect … people of color.” “That includes comparing a school that is maybe closer to Paterson versus a school closer to Montclair,” said Guiran, above left. “They should obviously be at the same level, but making sure those things are done, I think, is a huge priority.” He also emphasized how he would like to see everyone involved in the conversation. Guiran added that the new arrivals deserve a voice since these institutions affect everyone. “Clifton is greatly predispositioned to do it because of its diversity,” said Guiran (CHS 2018) “The stakeholders in the city are able to push forward these conversations, [but] I would love to see everyone from town get politically engaged in 2022.” In May of 2022, Guiran will graduate with a sociology degree from Princeton University. He will be moving to New York City, where he will work for Boston Consulting Group. He said, though, that he would love to eventually settle in his hometown.


January 2022 •

What draws him to his hometown is the “top notch” education that he received in the Clifton Public Schools. Later in life, he said he would love to get involved in parent-teacher groups, along with possibly of serving on the Board of Education or even running for mayor. “I’m very thankful for my hometown and every lesson that I’ve learned, for better or worse,” said Guiran. “I don’t think I’d be able to be the professional that I am without that background.” CHS Principal Ahmad Hamdeh has many hopes for the new year. Hamdeh, who became the high school’s principal this past August, would like to see changes include the expansion of courses and extracurriculars. Noting that there is always room for growth, part of that means adding more AP courses so that the school grows from 17 courses to more than 20. “We are a large school, but we have everything that an individual would need,” said Hamdeh. “I’d like for us to [also] have more electives to give students the option to study something that they have a passion for.” “That’s really my biggest thing for the upcoming school years,” he continued. Another focus in 2022 is seeing more parent involvement around Clifton students’ education. He acknowledged the strength and great work of CHS’ Home and School Association. However, he would like to see parent enrollment double, or even triple, in size. “Education needs to be a partnership between school and home,” said Hamdeh. “We only have kids for eight hours of the day.” Hamdeh also expressed an eagerness to see the effect of the referendum changes on all district buildings and at CHS. The lifelong Cliftonite and CHS graduate (2008) believes these changes will contribute to the further success of Clifton’s students, which is his top priority and wish. “In 2022, I would love for every single one of our seniors to graduate and all of our students to do well in their classes,” said Hamdeh. “It lies on all of our shoulders, but I want to have a personal role in moving everybody toward success.” • January 2022


John O’Reilly’s priority for 2022 is to continue creating a positive and responsive classroom environment. O’Reilly has taught American History, Psychology, and Government and Politics at CHS for eight years and was selected as CHS’ Governor’s Educator of the Year. He also hopes that Clifton’s school district and others around the country receive any necessary post-pandemic infrastructural needs. “My hope for Clifton is [for the] schools to run as efficiently as possible,” said O’Reilly, 31. He also hopes to see continued support from Central Administration, who he credits for its past efforts toward teachers. He would also like to see more involvement from Clifton’s parents. “Clifton has a pretty active parent community, don’t get me wrong. But like anything else in life, it could get better,” said O’Reilly. “Allowing schools to have their own autonomy, but for parents to have a greater role in that process is important for the sake of democracy and the welfare of the child.” Looking at the team of school, hone and students, he added: “Teachers and parents often get a lot out of children that way.”

Abire Sabbagh loves working with her community and hopes to continue that calling in 2022 alongside the Palestinian American Community Center. Sabbagh, 27, is the Community Outreach and Palestine Education Director for the center, on Lakeview Ave. She expects 2022 to see the center furthering social service efforts. The organization’s work has included civic engagement in local and national elections, as well as making sure everyone has a “voice and seat at the table.” “There is a lot of power when groups come together and do good things together,” said Sabbagh. As a non-profit, she said the organization appreciates support in any form. These efforts can involve showing up to help, sharing social media posts, and any financial support. What she would also like to see continue is people building connections. “We love sharing our culture through food, music and dance,” said Sabbagh. “We host a good amount of events virtually and in-person to … share it with people.” “We really want to connect more with folks because if we can build those connections … it can bring a lot of good for everyone in Clifton.”

Dr. Marc Haspel

Dr. Nader Ghobrial


January 2022 • • January 2022


Councilwoman Mary Sadrakula is a proponent of smart development in Clifton and hopes to keep advocating that message in 2022. When she considered opportunities for growth in the new year, she said that Mary Sadrakula, Roxanne Cammilleri, and John Biegel. any over-development would be a mistake. ing people opportunities to learn about the world with“Let’s face it; Clifton is basically fully developed,” out having to travel. she said. “We have to take into consideration the effect “We’re trying to do more because Clifton has so it has on first responders … and schools, as well as the much diversity,” said Cammilleri. “We’re hoping, movquality of life, like traffic.” ing forward, to do different kinds of exhibits focused on Sadrakula would also like to see retention rates imcultures, artwork, and unique talents artists have.” prove for the Clifton Police Department. She added that “Art is like a vehicle to help us all understand differstarting salaries aren’t the issue, but rather the steps ent … histories.” along the way and how Clifton “[loses] officers in the 3to 6-year category [because] they can make more money Despite two years of challenges with the pandemic, in other municipalities.” John Biegel’s wishes for 2022 remain optimistic. Other goals she said she has for 2022 include advoIs there anything Clifton’s Chief Health Officer would cating for Clifton neighborhoods. She added that part like to see eliminated in 2022? “All diseases,” said Bieof that requires updating city ordinances so neighborgel, 56, with a laugh. More seriously, he added, “I’d like hoods do not have to go in front of the Zoning Board to to get COVID under control so that lives can go back to oppose certain projects. As for her own goals for 2022, somewhat normal.” Sadrakula plans on remaining for residents a “voice in Finding normal means getting more people on the protheir government.” verbial same page. “Some people don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said of the latest round of COVID worries, “but Roxanne Cammilleri hopes that art continues to bring ask people who were really sick or those with family people together in 2022, both in Clifton and beyond our members who died. They’d have a different perspective.” city’s borders. Cammilleri is the Director of Clifton Arts To that end, Biegel would like to see more people reCenter and Sculpture Park and views community enspect the pandemic’s severity and “try to do the right gagement as more than coming to view art exhibits. thing.” That means getting more people vaccinated, en“I’d like to see the Center move forward in trying to couraging people to mask up as often as possible, and do outreach classes and projects, not necessarily always get tested and stay isolated when they feel sick. here, but mobile. ‘Arts on the Go,’” said Cammilleri, 53. Biegel noted that between Jan. 6 and Dec. 9, our city Last summer, she said, the Center worked with Pashas distributed a total of 16,362 vaccine doses. Although saic County to do an arts camp for children ages 6 to 13. he would like to see a firm resolution, he said that the Her hope is seeing it extend to adults and for them to Health Department will continue offering vaccines for work with the Main Library. as long as necessary, and he is grateful for those he CAC will also partner with The Butler Institute of works alongside throughout multiple city departments. American Art to present Gary Erbe’s “Fred Staloff: Ori“Every shot we give brings us a little closer to endgins of a Modernist”, an art exhibit collection. The exing this pandemic,” said Biegel. “I hope the community hibit will run from Jan. 20 through Feb. 26. CAC has does its part, and we’ll continue to do our part.” more plans for exhibits throughout 2022, including giv-


January 2022 • • January 2022


Board of Education President Jim Smith is excited for 2022, especially as far as the school district is concerned. He hopes to see shovels in the ground around April to start upgrading Clifton schools thanks to the approved $168 million bond referendum. “It will be an exciting time to see renovations done to all buildings,” said Smith, 57. “I’m so grateful to the public for recognizing the schools’ needs.” Smith would also like to see the continuation of collaboration on all levels within the district. Part of it includes wishing the Board continues to support Superintendent Danny Robertozzi’s “ideas and programs.” His other wish is for the Board to focus on specific issues, like overcrowding in the schools and finding additional space to house buses. But he also wishes to hear from the Clifton students in 2022. “One of my goals is to … give the Board opportunities to speak to student leaders,” said Smith. “They can tell us what good things are happening and what things they’d like to see changed.” “We need the student perspective as well because they live through what we do in their schools every day.” Gabriella Marriello has seen the ways Clifton P.R.A.I.S.E. provides more inclusive experiences for Clifton children, and wishes for more of that love and respect for others in 2022. P.R.A.I.S.E., short for Parents Requiring Action and Information for Special Education, is one resource for Clifton families. But Marriello hopes Clifton will offer more programs as well. “My wish is to see more inclusive communities in


January 2022 •

Robert, Thomas, Daniel and Gabriella Marriello.

schools,” said Marriello. “I think everyone has a purpose and a unique ability. We all have a place to live as one in our communities.” She added that communication is crucial in better understanding and appreciating each other’s similarities and differences. “Everybody wants to be a part of something,” she said. “There’s got to be more involvement from all of us to create that change we’re looking for.” “The more we get involved, the bigger changes that we’ll see and faster.” Feras Awwad wishes for a return to a sense of normalcy. His wish for 2022 not only extends to the Clifton community, but also the state and the country. “One main thing that definitely comes to mind is a sense of unity,” said Awwad, 27. “We live in a time when everybody’s on guard.” “I want to see everybody easing up (on social media and in person) and bringing people together.” • January 2022


The BoE commissioner said that “I have a really strong supportthe city is “doing a great job with ing cast and all of my coworkers development.” He noted that alare really supportive of each oththough construction results in chaer,” said Boutillier, 30. “I wish that os, it is possible to see the potential we can continue down that path so if you view it through a long-term our patients can feel both the care lens. He also expressed a desire to we have for each other and that we see money invested more in Downtry to give it back to them.” Feras Awwad, Frank Prezioso. town Clifton to increase its attractions, similar to cities like Montclair or Morristown. Mayor James Anzaldi’s continued prayer in 2022 is for As for the city’s politics, Awwad also offered his perClifton to remain a good environment for families. He also spective that he would like to see the community’s diversees the potential for growth in our constantly evolving sity reflected in city politics. In terms of his personal goals, city. “Economically, the city has been extremely strong for helping any individual in Clifton is what he strives for in his years and we have so many good things continuing to haprole as commissioner. “I take being on the Board of Ed with pen,” said Anzaldi. “Especially on the old Roche property, great pride,” said Awwad. “If I can help one person and imwhich is creating good ratables and jobs.” pact them positively, it’s like helping a million. Hopefully I He also has wishes that he would like to see happen can help every student and staff member.” with the city government. One priority is finding a property for another fire house. His other goal is seeing the city’s Despite not hailing from Clifton, Frank Prezioso considimprovements to parks completed. But one of his biggest ers Clifton as the city he grew up in and expressed a great wishes is seeing greater civility and positivity at City Hall. respect for the community. Prezioso has spent 27 years here “I wish for there to be less stress placed upon many of us and became the Fire Department’s chief on Jan. 1, 2019. in local government,” said Anzaldi. “They do not deserve His hope for the New Year includes eliminating the corosome of the antics that have made their job difficult.” navirus pandemic to keep residents and the Department’s “It might take a miracle, but I am a believer in miracles.” personnel safe. “We’ve been through a tough time,” said Prezioso, 50, of For Michele Morgan it is the good things happening in the infection rates. “At one time, we had 23 firefighters out Clifton that she would like to see shared and talked about and then 27 were out at another time.” as 2022 gets underway. “I think Clifton has to be one of the “We may not ever see it go away … but my hope is that most generous places around,” said Morgan, 68. more people get vaccinated,” Prezioso continued. “I know She has witnessed some of that generosity in her role a lot of questions arise with the vaccine, but the more peoas president of the Clifton Education Foundation, a nonple get vaccinated, the safer we’ll be.” profit which supports students and staff. Moving forward, Prezioso’s other focus for 2022 is restoring Station 1 on she would like to make more people aware of the organiMadison Avenue. The firehouse got flooded during Hurrization and its efforts to help Clifton schools. cane Ida, meaning that the city is currently down to five “So much that has been done over the last 20-plus years fire stations. “The city is working well with me to ensure … and some of the things that kids are doing or have in that we get that fire station back to where it was … and get schools has come from the foundation,” said Morgan. members back in it,” said Prezioso. “I look forward to conThese efforts have included giving grants, helping with tinuing to serve Clifton as I have for the last three years.” musicals, and supporting art, math, and science programs. Spreading the word in 2022 is further driven by the hope Striving to make patients confident in her and her colthat the foundation can grow its presence on its Facebook leagues’ daily work is important to Casey Boutillier. The and Instagram, @cliftoneducationfoundation. Jag-One clinical director’s wish for 2022 is to make more “We just want to make people aware of the foundation people aware of their services. In doing so, she said, they and that every dollar they contribute can make a differcan help more people get back to their regular lives. ence,” said Morgan.


January 2022 •


Casey Boutillier, James Anzaldi, Michele Morgan, Andrew Sieradzki, Justine Tomczak. Jim Anzaldi is a lifelong Clifton resident dedicated to our city and its people. He has been a special part of the city’s civic and charitable causes, helping people from all walks of life. He is an outstanding public official who is respected throughout the community.

Andrew Sieradzki’s personal wish for 2022 is to get Jim Anzaldi deserves our support and help on November 6. more positive communications going in his high school. The CHS senior is a student liaison and Senior Representative to the Board of Education. One of his hopes is that students, the Board, and administrators can develop stronger communication. “One representative cannot know every issue that students are facing,” said Sieradzki, 18. “Ideally, we can reach a point where students are willing to make their voices heard and understood.” “We have strong opinions on our schools,” he added. “The next step is to make them known.” Part of achieving that is reaching out to more clubs and organizations. Sieradzki said he would like to see underthe-radar groups highlighted for their accomplishments in the community. He also wants to see Clifton acknowledge the issues in our daily lives so we can start solving them. “I hope that as we continue to push through this pandemic, we can create a more unified, tight-knit community in Clifton,” said Sieradzki. “I truly feel that in recognizing division and issues, you can then find solutions that benefit everyone.”




Justine Tomczak wishes for more people to regain confidence in getting out in public and involved in civic and community life again. The director of the Clifton Public Library added that she hoped the efforts from Clifton departments to provide services to the city will be appreciated. Tomczak also hopes to see more people return to both the main and branch Clifton Public Library. “It’s hard for us because the library is a third space [in people’s lives],” said Tomczak, 46. “They have their home, work, and then any community space like a library.” The library still has safety restrictions, but Tomczak remains hopeful that their capabilities will expand in 2022 for visitors. Many people, she said, have taken advantage of virtual programs and curbside services. She said it’s all about personal comfort levels, which she also would like to see the Clifton community prioritize next year. “It has become so important to recognize what your limits are and what you can handle, both physically and mentally,” said Tomczak. “I hope people can get whatever help they need to be able to do that in their personal lives.”

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The first thing on Pamela Fueshko’s 2022 wish list is increasing awareness of St. Peter’s Haven, Clifton’s nonsectarian, charitable organization that feeds the hungry and helps the homeless. She said they want to make residents in need Pamela Fueshko, Gustavo Orales, Kevin Cruz, Gloria Nolan. more aware of their services. “I think just since Greater representation is Kevin Cruz’s hope for Clif2020, there has been a 42% increase in the number of famiton in 2022. The senior is President of the CHS Gender & lies coming through our pantry doors,” said Fueshko, 66. Sexuality Alliance, and it’s a role that he takes as a great Fueshko currently serves as the acting executive direcresponsibility. “I just want there to be more of a commutor. In the coming year, she hopes to hire a full-time exnity,” said Cruz, 17. “I feel like Clifton talks about how ecutive director to take responsibility for the day-to-day diverse we are, and I do believe that. But at least in CHS, work. She would also like to see more progress and actual it’s easy to feel like queer students aren’t represented as construction following the Haven losing its offices in the much, or they feel singled out.” aftermath of Hurricane Ida. “I want more of a community for them,” he added. “I “That’s one of the things we’re hoping to start; the rehope students feel more at home at Clifton.” build,” said Fueshko. “So we can get ourselves organized Cruz’s top priority for the club next year is continuing again in a more appropriate manner.” to develop it as a family. Helping to guarantee that everyone feels safe amongst their peers is a big part of making Gustavo Orales, St. Peter’s Haven’s Pantry Manager, that a reality. sees firsthand the value of volunteers. In 2022, he hopes “Safety is the top priority because in past experiences more people realize how much their efforts are needed of mine, it hasn’t always felt welcoming because I didn’t and appreciated by the Haven. know if there were other queer kids in the school,” said “We can do many projects and activities, but without Cruz. “I want them to know that they’re not alone … and volunteers, it’s not possible,” said Orales, 37. “I think for feel safe enough to feel empowered to share their story.” 2022, we can do better with [additional] help.” Orales sees that happening by everyone spreading the Beginning with the next response and those on the followword about their existence and services. In doing so, he ing page are comments we received via email and thus are hopes it also brings about a volunteer coordinator and presented verbatin from the writers: possibly a social media coordinator to help get more donations. Gloria Nolan: Road improvements and improved parkHe is also enthusiastic about the pantry’s forthcoming ing to attend events. We seem to have a lot to offer, but renovations and hopes the addition of a walk-in fridge and we don’t know about something until afterwards when freezer helps further their mission to serve their commuthe chance of participation has passed. I would like to see nity. But he also has some personal goals for the new year. listings for arts and music events, and of merchants for “My personal wish is to communicate more with clitake-out, eat-in, and outside areas. My other wish is to see ents and to spend more time with them and serve them in improved TV quality for city politics. You can’t hear it a better way,” said Orales. clearly to understand what is going on. Go to to help or for more info.


January 2022 • • January 2022


Jacqueline Cupoli: Since I will have a granddaughter in the new year, I hope that COVID becomes less of a threat so that I can safely be with her. My wish is that we settle into a new normal. I wish for kindness and unity to help us navigate our way to our new normal. Speaking of navigating, I wish for something to be done about the new traffic circle on Valley Road. It is treacherous. Brody DeGennaro: My wish for 2022 is for COVID to go away and that no one ever has to go through this again. Anu Chandrasekhar: My wish for 2022 is that if we can’t defeat COVID, we can at least tame it so that we can all go back to enjoying our families and loved ones, near and far. Elizabeth Martinique: My wish for the new year is that families will come together without fear of getting sick.

From left top: Jacqueline Cupoli, Brody DeGennaro, Anu Chandrasekhar, Elizabeth Martinique, William Colligan, Robyn Gibson.

William Colligan: My wish for 2022 is for COVID to be over so it can go back to normal and I can spend time with my family and friends without masks. Robin Gibson: I hear that Sprinkler Parks are in the works for the upcoming year in Clifton. I sure hope so. It’s such a wonderful sight to see children running around with their friends playing in the water. It’s also great to see parents spending a nice afternoon together, packing a lunch, and having good conversations. All good for the soul. Come on, Clifton. Let’s get these Sprinkler Parks. Romelo Tables, Freshman (CHS 2025), Incoming QB: “It is a statement year for me. I have to try and fill Kyle [Vellis]’s shoes. He played in a lot of big games, and it’s a lot of pressure, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t wait to see what our team does. And in the first and second marking period, I only made regular honor roll, but I want to make distinguished honor roll. I want to work to balance school and sports a little better [in 2022].”


January 2022 • • January 2022



Back, from left, Janae Catala, Nicole Abreu, Jacklyn Nelson, Jayr Abad, Brianna Gonzalez, Aleksandra Kot, Nicolle Leitner, Kayla Ortiz. Middle, Nicole Modla, Shantal Moquillaza, Camila Vargas, Kelsey Dubravsky. Front, Serena Cassese, Captain Ariana Castro, Captain Nahioly Almonte, Captain Patricia Scouten, Alexa Miller.

The Clifton High School Competitive Cheer Team consists of 17 talented athletes — one male and 16 females. “We have been working hard since August,” explained Gina Matano, CHS Head Cheer Coach. “The team has been attending stunt clinics, choreography sessions, and tumbling lessons.” In short, she said, it is much more than just cheering.


January 2022 •

CHEERLEADING Jan 9 Jan 10 Jan 17 Jan 24 Jan 31

@Saddle Brook

TBD @River Dell 7pm Clifton High 7pm @Paramus 6:30pm @Paramus Cath 7pm

The Mustangs compete in the Big North Conference as well as non-conference events in Saddle Brook and Wayne Valley. “It feels great to be back to in-person competitions. They energy level is so high.” said Matano who teaches Kindergarten at School 11. She hopes readers will come and support the Mustang Cheerleaders on Jan. 17 when they have a home competition. • January 2022


All Sports Stories By Tom Szieber

WRESTLING Many of Clifton’s sports programs were hit hard during the pandemic, but perhaps none felt the impact as much as Mustang wrestling. The Mustangs went 7-5 a year ago, but truly only had about three weeks of practice during the 2020-21 season, thanks to the havoc wreaked by COVID-19. The Mustangs also find themselves young and rusty, as Clifton football’s lengthy championship run kept several key members of the lineup off the mat. Combined with the fact that six starters are in their first year of organized wrestling, 2021-22 is shaping up to be one of building and learning.


January 2022 •

Jan 5 Jan 7 Jan 8 Jan 12 Jan 14 Jan 15 Jan 19 Jan 21 Jan 22 Jan 26 Jan 28 Jan 29 Feb 2 Feb 4 Feb 5

Wayne Valley

@Eastside @Bloomfield PCTI @TBA @TBA @Passaic @Hackensack @TBA Wayne Hills JFK @W. Milford @Mt. Olive @River Dell @Elmwood Pk

6pm 6pm 9am 6pm TBD TBD 6pm 7pm 9am 6pm 6pm 9am 7pm 7pm 9am

From left front: Najati Salim, Adam Salman, Jack Seyka, Yousef Saleh Middle: Imran Shaweesh, Jacob Maldonado, Michael Santillo, Deven Desai. Rear: Adam Matari, Aquib Salam, Nick Doktor, Reily Garcia, Nick Burgess, Joe Abill, Omar Aboudayya

“It has improved a little bit,” said veteran coach Dan Geleta. “But there have been a lot of cancellations already. And I am very happy for the football team, but the kids [coming over from football] are a little beat up.” They did win the Mustang Invitational Tournament to kick off the year, grinding out a first-place finish

over a tough Princeton squad, but suffered early-season losses to Morris Hills and Paramus Catholic. Junior Joe Abill, state-fourth at 285 last year, is looking to return to form after winning a sectional title in football. Geleta expects him to take some time to re-acclimate to wrestling, but figures he will have a strong second half of the year. “He is still our stud,” Geleta said. “At the end of the season last year, he was tactically very good on the mat. He has the tools, he just needs to put them all together.” Senior Jacob Maldonado, another football player, is back on the mat at 175. His explosiveness on the field carries over to the mat and he should be a key point-getter once fully recovered from hand and toe injuries. Sophomore Najati Salim, an aggressive offensive wrestler, and junior Deven Desai, a defensive grapper, will compete at 120 and 126, respectively. returning senior Daniel Goodson, a physical 157-pounder, is back, as well. Sophomore Numan Kitapci takes that mat at 106, while Imran Shaweesh, a junior, wrestles at 113. Junior Adam Salmon will wrestle at 132, with sophomore Jack Seyka and junior Ronnie Sandoval seeing time at 138. Junior Adem Kitapci returns to the lineup at 144. Sophomore Reily Garcia is the 150-pounder. The remainder of the lineup consists of freshman Nick Doktor (165 pounds), sophomore Yousef Saleh (190), and senior Nick Burgess and junior Omar Aboudayya (sharing time at 215). “We are in a similar boat every single year,” Geleta said. “We have a lot of guys that don’t

wrestle all year long. If it was just football winning, you can deal with that. But with COVID I have so many kids who have never wrestled before.” “We are trying to win small battles and achieve small goals. We can still accomplish things. We have great coaches and we will develop our kids at their own pace.” • January 2022


Clifton’s hope for a hot start was dashed by Wayne Hills, Ridgewood and Bloomfield, but the Mustangs still believe this season will be one that brings great success. Sixth-year head coach Mike Cadmus thinks his team has the same chops as the group that went 20-8 three years ago. The Mustangs have gone just 15-26 since, but did go 7-5 in the COVID-affected 2020-21 season. Senior guard Kyle Vellis (14.8 ppg last year) is Clifton’s top returning star, having already carved out a legacy as perhaps the Mustangs’ greatest three-sport athlete in recent memory. He led the Clifton football team to a North II, Group V championship, and one has to figure his competitive juices are flowing as much as ever after being the victim of a botched call that cost him a regional title.


January 2022 •

BASKETBALL Jan 4 Jan 6 Jan 8 Jan 11 Jan 13 Jan 15 Jan 18 Jan 20 Jan 25 Jan 27 Feb 1 Feb 3 Feb 8 Feb 10 Feb 15 Feb 17 Feb 22 Feb 25


4:30pm @PCTI 4pm Nutley 1pm @JFK 7pm Passaic 4:30pm W.NY Mem 1pm @BCTI 7pm @West Milford 7pm Fair Lawn 4:15pm @Saddle R. Day 7pm PV 4pm @Eastside 7pm PCTI 4pm JFK 4:15pm @Passaic 4:30pm BCTI 6pm @Don Bosco 7pm @Morris Knolls TBD

Front from left: Luis Vega, Omar Muheisen, Ismael Espinal, Kevin Arroyo, Antonio Bordamonte, Louis Rivera, Aidin Seferagic. Rear: Saif AlDeen Saleh, Aidin Seyka, Kyle Vellis, Robert Polanco, Elyjah Vaz, Justin Blackman, Malik Mbaye

Vellis is a lights-out shooter who needs roughly 20 points per game this season to reach 1,000 for his career. He is also a serviceable passer and can drive to the hole. Most of all, he is a winner. “He has done well, but definitely hasn’t hit his stride on the court,” Cadmus said of Vellis. “He is still getting acclimated [from football]. But he is consistent, he is usually going to get you 15 to 20 points per game. I think we just need to get other guys to step up and fill the scoring void when teams zero in on Kyle like Ridgewood did.”

Vellis was shut out against the Maroons. Senior guard Luis Rivera provides a 5’10” frame that can pass, shoot and play defense. Having transferred from Paramus Catholic, Rivera is a creator and fierce defender. Junior Aidin Seferagic will run the point after a big second half of last season. Versatile senior Kevin Arroyo is a guard/ forward hybrid that usually guards the opposing team’s top scorer while playing the fourspot on offense. Saif Saleh, a 6’7” sophomore, leads the Mustangs in blocked shots and rebounds and has emerged as an offensive force down low. The Clifton bench features a talented group that includes junior guard Luis Vega, sophomore forward Jayden Neumann and junior guard Justin Blackman. “I think we are getting better. We have played three really tough teams. I knew we were going to challenge ourselves. We’ve competed and it hasn’t been perfect and there are some things we need to change, especially in the fourth quarter, but a lot of the role players are really young and adjusting the pace of the varsity game.” • January 2022



Shirah Wittwer knew there would be tough times when she took over the Clifton girls basketball program. The Mustangs were sure to be a project, but Wittwer felt she was up to the challenge. A six-year assistant for the program who has also served three years as Clifton’s boys tennis coach, Wittwer took the reins looking to build a winner. So far, the Mustangs are 0-2, blown out by good teams in Wayne Hills and Ridgewood. But there have been positives. “I think that I was prepared for some growing pains, for sure,” Wittwer said. “Every day, I think it gets a little better. The girls are starting to talk about the scouting reports.


January 2022 •

Jan 4 Jan 6 Jan 8 Jan 11 Jan 13 Jan 15 Jan 18 Jan 20 Jan 22 Jan 25 Jan 27 Feb 1 Feb 3 Feb 8 Feb 10 Feb 15 Feb 17 Feb 19 Feb 25


PCTI Wallkill JFK @Passaic Nutley BCTI West Milford @West NY @Fair Lawn Immac. Heart @PV Eastside @PCTI @JFK Passaic @BCTI PASC @Saddle Brook

4:30pm 4pm 11:30am 4:15pm 4:30pm 11:30am 4:30pm 5pm TBD TBD 4pm 4pm 4:30pm 4pm 7pm 6pm TBD 11am 4pm

From left front: Nyah Negron, Zayda Murphy, Anissa Fraser, Leslie Suritam, IdaLee Grande, Kiara Coy. Second row: Kaylee Miller, Tamera Mohammed, Alyse Turk, Nikki Zlotkowski, Mariam Ebeid, Jichelle Rodroguez, Kendall Reed. Not pictured Gianna Delgado.

We watch a lot of film.” The Mustangs do have some talent, starting with senior forward Nikki Zlotkowski. Strong with the ball in her hands, Zlotkowski can create opportunities for herself and is a smart player defensively. Sophomore guard Gianna Delgado, whose availability is sometimes limited due to soccer commitments, is fast with quick hands and superior conditioning.

“Gianna is a really confident ball handler,” said Wittwer. “She is not fazed by pressure and she isn’t afraid to have the ball in her hands.” Junior guard Kaylee Miller is a strong shooter who Wittwer has asked to take on a greater scoring role. She can also run the point. Senior forward Tamara Mohammad can hit from beyond the arc, while sophomore guard Leslie Surita-Perez has demonstrated Rodman-esque toughness and rebounding. Freshman guard Kendall Reed is a player the Mustangs can build around. Physical and unafraid to play down low, she is quick, tall and agile. The Mustangs have a way to go, as shown by their 42 turnovers against the Maroons on Dec. 21. But with each practice, they are mastering little things and building a foundation for what Wittwer hopes will be a prosperous future. “I think for us, being successful is seeing more kids putting points on the board,” Wittwer said. “I know as a varsity coach, I am supposed to prioritize wins, but for me, I just want the kids to start to become better basketball players. I think if they trust each other a little bit more, and get a little more comfortable, we will be fine.”

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Call the Covid Covid--19 Hotline at 973 973--470 470--2039 to book your appointment and for more information. The Clifton Health Department is a contractual health agency serving the Township of Little Falls. • January 2022


Bottom left: Joe Avella, Tom Nicol, Ian Cosgrove, Nathan Pendola, Joe Petriella, Grace Romano. Top left: Athena Fruit, James Troller, Jurij Dubas, Patrick Biernat, Joseph Wiebe, David Doremus, Attila Tamas, Coach Mike Santosuosso. Not pictured: Faith Poplawski, Vlastimil Ciberej, Logan Serwedes, Managers Haley McFarlane, Emily Krawiec and Paulina Garbowski.

The season hasn’t gotten off to the Clifton will look to step up its supstart Clifton’s third-year head ice port for Dubas, with junior James hockey coach Mike Santosuosso was Troller and senior Joe Wiebe leading @ River Dell 5pm the way. Junior David Doremus will hoping for, but the Mustangs are play- Jan 2 Pascack Valley 4pm continue to provide valuable minutes. ing hard in every outing and remain Jan 7 hopeful for some positive results down Jan 14 Passaic Valley Offensively, the Mustangs will need 4pm the stretch. to turn things up in a big way, having Jan 16 @ W. Milford 4pm The Mustangs, who went 2-10 in been shut out in all six of its losses. Jan 20 @ Kearny TBD the COVID-affected 2020-21 season, They showed that they can find the net are off to a 1-6 start and have struggled Jan 21 Fair Lawn 4pm in their Dec. 3 6-1 victory over Passaic to score goals, but have some valuable Jan 23 @Paramus 5pm Valley, but will need to do so on a more pieces that should make the second regular basis if they hope to make a Jan 28 Kearny 4pm half of the year more prosperous than late-season run. Feb 4 Paramus Cath 4pm the first. Seniors Patrick Biernat and Vlad CiAmong them is senior goalie Jurij Feb 5 @Tenafly 7pm berej and junior Faith Poplawski will Dubas, who was a second team Alllead the offensive effort. Clifton will Feb 9 @ Old Bridge 4pm Passaic County selection as a junior. also look for offensive contributions “He is a rock for us,” Santosuosso from Troller, junior Attila Tamas and said. “If we can keep the shots to the outside, he is going freshmen Tom Nichol and Joe Petriella. to stop them all.” “When we face teams of similar skating ability, we do Indeed, Dubas has been solid, tallying 288 saves real well,” Santosuosso said. “We are starting to underthrough seven games with a 0.92 save percentage. The stand how to get the puck deep, settle the puck, and do what reality is that Dubas has seen a lot of shots, and has perwe can in the zone with the time we are given. We need to formed admirably against some high-quality offenses. be in the offensive zone more than we are.”



January 2022 •







Offer valid on all annual membership. Annual fee and applicable taxes apply. Pricing and amenities may vary by membership and location. Additional fees and restrictions may apply. Offers ends 1/31. See club for details. © 2022 Crunch IP Holdings, LLC • January 2022


Jacob Heredia, Christian Grant, Harrison Schimpf, Sahil Khan, Jossue Xochipa, Laith Saleh, Hisham Ettayebi and Ben Nelken. Not pictured: Chance Blount, Harsh Prajapati and Shivam Mehta.

It may be a new era for Clifton’s last. He has this incredible fire and indoor track teams, but the expecdrive to get the best out of himself.” tations are the same as always. The Junior Ben Melkin will compete in Jan 3 @TBA 4:30pm Mustangs are a perennial contender in sprinting events, currently boasting BCTI 4pm personal records of 6.7 seconds in the Passaic County, and new head coach Jan 4 Jacque Murphy plans on keeping them Jan 8 @Garfield 9am 55m, 23.42 in the 200m and 53.19 in as such. Jan 10 @TBA TBD the 400m. Melkin figures to be among Murphy has coached the sport for the best short-distance runners in the 5pm county. five years and is herself a veteran of 11 Jan 17 @Garfield TBD marathons and 37 half marathons. She Jan 24 @TBA Senior Chance Blount will be a analso coaches with the New York Road Jan 29 @Garfield other valuable piece of the Clifton ef9:30pm Runners’ “Run for the Future” profort. Blount is an outstanding jumper Feb 1 Mul. Schools 4pm gram, designed for rising high school and hurdler and is an emotional leader Feb 7 @TBA 4:30pm seniors in New York City. on the squad. Blount has a personal She knows the sport and is ready for Feb 13 @TBA 9am best of 10.6 seconds in the 55m hurdles the challenge of guiding the Mustangs and a top triple jump of 34’6”. to continued success. Senior Harsh Prajapati will be a key “They had a very successful cross country season,” distance runner for the Mustangs. Murphy said of her athletes. “Our distance program is The Clifton girls, meanwhile, are led by junior distance very strong. The boys can be county contenders, and the runner Remy Dubac, the Group IV cross county girls girls have a real strong underclass foundation.” champ. With a Clifton cross country record of 18:13 in The boys are led by senior phenom Jacob Heredia, who the 5000m, Dubac is poised for a big winter campaign. placed fourth in this fall’s cross country Meet of Champi“She is very similar to Jacob,” said Murphy. ons. Heredia is decorated in all three seasons, and com“They are cut from a similar cloth,” she continued. petes in the 800m, 600m, 3200m in the winter. He may “Remy pushes herself to be the best she possibly can and contribute in relays this season, as well. she is always looking at how she can support the other “He is just so consistent, so passionate and so dedicated girls, especially the distance girls.” to the sport,” Murphy said. “He was doing mile repeats Senior Taniya Giles is, in Murphy’s words, the “shot and each mile, he was about two seconds faster than the put queen” for the Mustangs, having a 37’9” P.R. A pres-



January 2022 •

Deborah Amoh, MaryJo Martinez, Taniya Giles, Janae Roberts, Emma Green, Naila Flores, Denise Dubbels, Lylah Flores. Not pictured: Nahioly Almonte, Remy Dubac and Hilary Amoh.

ence, her style draws comparisons from Murphy to U.S. Olympian Raven Saunders. Junior Denise Bubbels competes in a host of shortdistance and jumping events, as does sophomore Deborah Amoh. Then of course there is the legacy of Mustang track: Clifton legend John Pontes, will continue to be a

major asset as a winter assistant coach. “I feel very fortunate to be working with Coach Pontes,” Murphy said. “He has so much history with the program and so much to give to the athletes, but also to me. I have a lot of energy and passion for this and would love to see the program continue as it had in the past.” • January 2022


From rear left: Tyler Murray, Daniel Trelles, Daniel Dominguez, Mahki Laws, Demian Ramesar, Coach Alex Berberich. Front: Rosalynn Guido, Jamille Martinez-Hernandez, Wells Abellard, Alexander Sardella, Dyemer Jackson, Jelyna Reyes.

As a Mustang bowler for Clifton in the early 2000s, Alex Berberich did it all. His teams won division titles, county titles, and sectional and state titles, as he became a standout for the Mustangs. Now, he has taken over the Mustang program as its head coach, looking to lead it through a rebuild and back to a period of sustained success in a competitive league. “We were able to get a full boys squad and we are hoping to get some more girls out next year,” Berberich said of his time rebuilding and recruiting players. “We have a few upper classmen


January 2022 •

who we want to get to enjoy the game,” he continued. “We also have a guy in Tyler [Murray] with a high skill level, and we are hoping to help him improve his average.” Murray and Makhi Laws, both juniors, have performed well in Clifton’s .500 start to the year (as of Dec. 21). Laws’ 146 average in league play is a team-best, while Murray’s 133 isn’t far behind. Both will look to continually improve this year and set themselves up for a big 2022-23 season. Senior Daniel Dominguez has picked up valuable pins during the Mustangs’ first four games, bowling

BOWLING Jan 3 Jan 4 Jan 6 Jan 10 Jan 12 Jan 14 Jan 19 Jan 21 Jan 25 Jan 28

Old Tappan

Indian Hills Demarest

Hackensack JFK


Eastside PCTI



4pm 4pm 4pm 4pm 4pm 3pm 4pm 4pm 4pm 4pm

a respectable 367 series in a seasonopening loss to Bergen Tech. Seniors Daniel Trelles and Dyemer Jackson have both seen action, as well. The Clifton girls are still searching for their first victory, which could be tough to come by as they currently have just three bowlers on the roster. Junior Rosalynn Guido is the squad’s top performer with an 88 league average. She is joined by sophomore Jamille Martinez-Hernandez and junior Jelyna Reyes as the trio looks to build a foundation for the next several years. • January 2022



Pascack Valley 3pm Seniors, pictured with the entire team, Clifton swimming has been slow out Jan 6 @PCTI of the gate, but the Mustang boys did Jan 8 9am include Julia Bil, Oscar Pereda, Saif Ellithy, Jayr Abad, Emily Seelogy, Larissa score a big win and head coach Brit- Jan 10 @Old Tappan 7:30pm Lora, Samantha Linares, Kayla Certany Yannetti is trying to keep things Jan 18 Wayne Valley 3pm rone, Khushi Mistry, Rossy Cabrera. in perspective. 3pm breaststroke. Senior Adrian Flores Given the challenges presented by Jan 20 Passaic the pandemic, Yannetti is hoping to Jan 25 River Dell 3pm swims the 500-yard free and is among the best on the team in terms of endurmake small gains and keep a steady Jan 27 @Kearny 4pm ance. Sophomores Nicholas Hawran routine in the face of potential COVFeb 1 @PCTI 4:30pm and Matthew Rhodes will be valuable ID-created disruptions. pieces of the Mustangs’ future. “It can be tough if you don’t have The girls are rebuilding, but have a skilled senior leadall the kids at practice every day,” said Yannetti, now er in Emily Seelogy. Seelogy’s best event is the 100-yard in her third season leading the Mustangs. “Things can back, but she also competes in the 200-yard individual change the day of a meet because a swimmer has to quarmedley. antine. If you don’t have the one swimmer, the most chalJunior Abigail Chaky is another Clifton Seahawk who, lenging part is getting used to adjusting last-minute.” as a lifeguard at Clifton Boys & Girls Club, is always The boys, who scored an early-season 93-75 win over around the pool. Chaky’s top event is the 100-yard fly. Wayne Hills, are led by junior Frank Coste. A member of A third Seahawk, Renata Chushkeuch, is a freshman the Clifton Seahawks club team, he competes in the 200who has shown great potential in the 500-yard free and yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 200-yard medley re50-yard free lay and 200-yard freestyle relay. “I am just hoping that we don’t end our season like “Frank definitely pushed himself,” Yannetti said. last year because we had to quarantine,” Yannetti said. “Last year, he did more sprinting events. He swam all “I want to get through the whole season, grow the team, year round.” move forward, past the pandemic and for the seniors to Senior Saif Ellithy swam a 33-second 500-yard free get to finish their season.” against Wayne Hills, and also competes in the 100-yard


January 2022 • • January 2022


Declan Eineker, Stefanie Feliciano, Joe Abill, Luke Santiago.

Here are the Mustangs of the Month for January 2022.

The vice principals from each Clifton High wing have spotlighted four students, one from each grade, who are contributing to making CHS a great place to learn and grow. Declan Eineker, Freshman When Clifton High School freshman Declan Eineker considers his inspirations, he looks no further than his own family. “The people that inspire me the most are my parents,” said Eineker (CHS 2025). “I’ve noticed how hard my parents have been working to keep us and our relatives safe during these times and how they have taught me important things that I’ll need for the future.” These lessons have proven useful in his adjustment to life in high school. Eineker credits hard work and trying his best when discussing how he has earned good grades thus far. Eineker is not only involved in the classroom. He ran Cross Country at the start of the year and is doing distance for winter track so that he is ready for the next Cross Country season. As far as his favorite course, Eineker has a strong appreciation for World History with Paul Hlat. “Not only is the teacher, Mr. Hlat, very fun and always ready to share lessons but he made World History a lot more interesting to me than I originally ever thought it would be,” said Eineker. Eineker also chose Hlat as his most influential teacher up over his 10-plus years of study. “He always makes sure that we understand the subject and tries to keep everyone focused and learning ready,” said Eineker.


January 2022 •

Stefanie Feliciano, Sophomore Stefanie Feliciano has no shortage of inspirational figures. The sophomore explained that the reason why is because she is frequently motivated by her classmates. “I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by remarkable students every day, whose ambition and intelligence constantly push me to strive for higher goals,” said Feliciano (CHS 2024). Feliciano added that her “competitive nature” also allows her to enjoy the challenge of keeping up with her peers. It is that same motivation, and her stable work ethic, that she believes has kept her on the right path in high school. “I firmly believe in having small victories for yourself to get you through the week and avoid burnout,” she said. “No matter how disheartening a defeat could be, I could never call myself a failure because I know regardless of my losses, I completed tasks that will aid me in reaching my goals.” Feliciano’s extracurriculars include the Spring Musical, MadCaps Choir, Athletic Training Club, Heroes and Cool Kids, Girls Learn International, Psychology Club, and the End Racism and Sexism Club. She is also interested in CHS’ academic programs. “Some programs that I see myself taking advantage of are the college courses at Montclair State University and possibly getting my Associates’s Degree,” she said.

Joe Abill, Junior Junior Joe Abill has certainly had a unique high school experience. Despite the struggles that the coronavirus pandemic caused for students, his time at CHS was not without triumphs. Abill played with the Fighting Mustangs, alongside the 2021 State Championship team. “I led the team in tackles and sacks,” said Abill (CHS 2023). “I also wrestle for our school. Last year, I placed fourth in the State Tournament and this year, I am currently ranked third.” Abill’s passion for sports sees him pursuing a professional sports career and hoping to play football when he goes to college. But the Mustang is also passionate about his academics, saying he wants to major in Criminal Justice in college. Currently, his favorite CHS subject is history. “I like to learn about what happened in the world that we live in [to] not make mistakes from the past,” said Abill. He went on to say that his current history teacher, Chris Fackina, is his most influential teacher. “His way of teaching really helps me learn easier,” said Abill. “He talks about real problems going on in the world and teaches us great lessons.” Abill’s other great inspiration is his brother, who he said motivates him to be a “better man, athlete and student.”

Luke Santiago, Senior Luke Santiago knows his life’s passion and is already putting in the work in his Allied Health Terminology course. “My future desire [is] to become a nurse and to participate in the healthcare field,” said Santiago (CHS 2022). His journey to becoming a Registered Nurse will begin this autumn at Seton Hall University. In his youth, Santiago watched as his uncle worked in the same field and how he helped support Santiago’s family. “He has also commented on how fulfilling the job is, and how useful the skills that are learned in the field are when it comes to medical emergencies outside of the hospital,” said Santiago. Santiago’s extracurricular activities include attending the pre-Med club on a monthly basis. He did not join CHS athletics, but he is active outside of school. Santiago previously participated in local taekwondo tournaments in Paterson, Queens, and Mahwah. He currently attends a boxing gym about three to four times a week. He acknowledged his mother, Lucel, as his greatest inspiration. “My mom came from the slums of the Philippines and made a good life for herself there,” he said. “But when she got pregnant with me, she … came here to America to give me an even better life.” • January 2022


East Orange: 30 Clifton: 24 (3OT) It was a game that will surely become as big a piece of Clifton football lore as the Oyster Bowl game of December 7, 1946. Instead of Norfolk, Virginia, the scene of the robbery was Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium on December 5, 2021. Instead of legendary Clifton running back and All-American Bobby Boettcher, the victim was a sure-to-be Mustang legend—senior quarterback Kyle Vellis. And instead of an unofficial national title game against Granby (Va.), this tilt was against East Orange Campus for a 2021 NJSIAA-sanctioned North, Group V regional crown. But the guaranteed infamy of the December 5 afternoon to Fighting Mustang fans will be recalled as a heartbreaking and legendary Robbery on the Raritan.


January 2022 •

Courtesy: Zone6ix LLC.

This One Became a Part of Fighting Mustang Lore By Tom Szieber The Controversy The game was everything it was hyped up to be. A 97-yard touchdown pass from Vellis to senior wide receiver Donovan Swasey gave Clifton a 17-7 lead late in the first half. Vellis had put the Mustangs on the board in the middle of the first quarter on a oneyard sneak, and junior kicker Ryan Liszner hit a 33-yard field goal with 6:40 to go until the intermission. Jaguars senior Geraldo Gibson cut the Clifton lead to seven with a 28-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.

Two touchdown connections between Jags senior QB Raeden Oliver and junior wide out Joshu Richards—one in the fourth quarter and one in double overtime—put the Mustangs at a deficit. Senior running back Bryan Feliciano then scored a three-yard rushing touchdown to knot the game at 24. Now in triple overtime, Vellis appeared to have scored a go-ahead touchdown on another one-yard sneak. But out of the scrum that formed around Vellis, sprinting toward the opposite end zone, came Jaguars senior line- • January 2022


backer Ahmad Nalls, football inhand. After 100 yards, Nalls crossed the goal line, leaving Mustangs fans in disbelief and Jaguars fans in euphoria. With advanced replay capabilities, the officiating crew took another look at the play. After what seemed like forever, the referee emerged. “After review, the ruling on the field . . . stands,” the ref said, pausing between the last two words as if dreading having to say them. Just like that, East Orange Campus was a 13-0 regional champion, and Clifton ended an otherwise magical year in a state of dejection. That is the Robbery on the Raritan.


January 2022 •

The Reaction From Vellis, the composed outrage was immediate. “I 100% know what happened,” he said. “I took the snap, reached the ball over the plane. I was probably a yard in the end zone and [Nalls] just rips it from me and takes it back, but I know for a fact I was definitely in. It’s crazy, we are at Rutgers. They have seven cameras, I heard, and you can’t make the right call on that? It’s mind-boggling.” At first, it seemed appropriate to describe the incident as a controversy. After all, who knew for sure if Vellis had scored? But soon, several smoking guns emerged,

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changing the most common descriptor from “controversial” to a likely “miscarriage of justice.” High school sports media is generally deferential to officials. In the end, it is scholastic athletics, and unless a call is clearly wrong, most writers do the respectful (and professional) thing and refrain from much boat-rocking. But surprisingly quickly, several local writers expressed doubt about the correctness of the call. And within hours after the game, images from Zone6ix (Instagram: @zone6ixfootball) and Sorce Media (Facebook: The New SORCE MEDIA GROUP) went viral. Both were particularly damning to the call on the field.


January 2022 • • January 2022


“When I saw [the images], they just reinforced what I saw live,” said Clifton head coach Ralph Cinque. “I knew Kyle was in. He is 6’1”, we were at the 1 and had the surge going forward. Scientifically, it doesn’t make sense to me.” The Fallout It is important to note that even had the play been ruled a touchdown, East Orange would still have had a chance to answer in the bottom half of the third overtime period. They had come back from 10 down earlier in the game, so the Jaguars clearly had the fortitude to respond.


January 2022 •

It is also only fair to recognize that the officials are human beings, prone to mistakes as we all are. But the umpire was clearly in position to make the correct call, and if the officiating crew truly wasn’t sure what had happened, it might have been more prudent to make the call that did not end the game. At least if Vellis’ carry had been ruled a touchdown, the game could have been decided on the field instead of at the replay booth. The incident was the second of its kind that weekend, as Woodrow Wilson of Camden lost to Cedar Creek in the South/Central Group III regional title game on a controversial call that was upheld upon review. • January 2022


The situation prompted Clifton superintendent Dr. Danny Robertozzi to tell the NJSIAA Executive Committee that the blown call was a “travesty” (as reported by on Dec. 8). “When you feel like your kids have been wronged—

and that is how I felt, that our boys had been wronged—I felt it was imperative to say something,” Robertozzi said of his earlier comments. “I just didn’t want this to happen again in the future.” NJSIAA football coordinator Greg Bailey told the Press of Atlantic City in December, the subject will be discussed when the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations meets this month. The Legacy The Robbery on the Raritan prevented the Mustangs from earning the program’s first-ever regional championship. Before 2018, the New Jersey high school football postseason ended with the sectional finals. Next year, the NJSIAA will crown group champions for public school football for the first time. A win for Clifton would have been historic. The loss was still that, but not for the reason the Mustangs would have preferred. Still, Clifton football deserves to savor its 17th sectional championship. The 2021 North regional final will no doubt live on as an important piece of Mustang history, but its result won’t diminish the accomplishments of what was an extremely special team. “It was a great game,” Vellis said several weeks after the fact. “Every time I talk about it, it is a little frustrating. But what are you going to do now? It was a great year. We did something no other team has done in Clifton in 15 years. We broke the program record for most wins in a season. That play doesn’t define our season.”


January 2022 • • January 2022





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To the right, you will find the Street Key to the City of Clifton. In addition, to help readers, we have provided a number of landmarks found below, and to the right, with corresponding numbers which are found on the map.






5 10






Advertise On The 2022 Map 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

– – – – – – –

City Hall/Recycling Center Clifton Memorial Public Library Clifton Library Allwood Branch Clifton Recreation Center Lester Herrschaft Senior Center Historic Hamilton House Morris Canal Park and Nature Reserve 8 – Weasel Brook County Park 9 – Evergreen Manor Senior Citizens Housing 10 – Clifton Arts Center




Join These and Other Advertisers th


11 – Historic Botany District 12 – River Front Center 13 – Styertowne Shopping Center 14 – Market Street Shopping Area 15 – Clifton Plaza Shopping Center 16 – Botany Plaza Shopping Center 17 – Clifton Commons 18 – Delawanna Shopping Area 19 – Richfield Shopping Plaza 20 – Downtown Clifton 21 – Lakeview Ave. Shopping 22 - The Promenade Shops


on the

33 6

31 32 27


January 2022 •



Call us at 973-253-4400

or email 19

61 Since 1948

Consulting Engineers, Land Surveyors, Planners, Landscape Architects, Traffic Engineers & Municipal Engineers

Styertowne AC Moore (973) 470-8885 Antonio’s Hair Stylist (973) 472-1011 Avant Garde Salon (973) 778-0557 Bertelli’s Liquors (973) 779-0199 C2 Education Center (973) 778-7300


of the Map of Clifton

34 Park Ave., P.O. Box 426, Lyndhurst, New Jersey 07071 Phone: 201-939-8805 • Fax: 201-939-0846 Email:




Chiropractic Center (973) 777-6995 Cleaners 2000 (973) 614-1400 Dayton Homemade Chocolates (973) 574-0444 F.Y.E. (973) 778-8759 Corbo Jewelers (973) 777-1635

CVS Pharmacy (973) 778-7630 Dollar Tree (973) 249-7530 Dress Barn (973) 249-0233 Dunkin Donuts & Baskin Robbins (973) 473-9631 Footnotes Bookstore (973) 779-6122

Use This Directory of Stores When Shopping GNC (973) 779-1500 InSight Eye & Vision Care (973) 594-0020 Jembro (973) 779-1200 Kim’s Nail Salon (973) 471-8118 Largo House Nail & Spa (973) 777-9784 Lucille Roberts (973) 249-2966

Modells (973) 779-5253 Muscle Maker Grill (862) 899-7111 Seasons Kosher Supermarket (973) 339-0900 Sherwin-Williams (973) 773-1738 Styertowne Bakery (973) 777-6193 Subway (973) 685-9992 Taste of Tuscany (973) 916-0700

The Season’s Fine Chinese Cuisine (973) 777-8073 US Post Office (973) 473-4946 Valley National Bank (973) 777-6283




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381 Valley Road ✦ Clifton, NJ, 07013 ✦ (973)925-4191 • January 2022


Birthdays & Celebrations - January 2022

Happy Birthday to.... Send dates & names....

Angely Sotomba will celebrate her 10th birthday on Jan. 26. Shaun LaGala.................... 1/1 Marek Rzasa...................... 1/1 Connie Zangara................. 1/1 Chrissy Cetinich.................. 1/2 Matthew Delaney................ 1/2 Amanda Esposito................ 1/2 Kristin Reilly........................ 1/2 Steven Hrina...................... 1/3 Rosalie Konopinski.............. 1/3 Ray Krenc.......................... 1/3 Emily Zawicki..................... 1/3 James Dohm....................... 1/4 Rich Peterson...................... 1/4 Mohamad Bekheet.............. 1/5 Missy Fazio........................ 1/5 Alexander Ortiz.................. 1/5 Jeremy Delaney.................. 1/6 Gay Eaclie......................... 1/6 Amanda Curtiss.................. 1/9 Ariana Hryckowian............. 1/9 Joseph Perzely.................... 1/9 Fatma Bekheet.................. 1/10 Ronald Calo..................... 1/10 Richie DeMarco................ 1/10


January 2022 •

Austin Blesing turns 16 on Jan. 17. Kyle Stone Osborne is 16 on Jan. 19. Gloria Gibba Kieley will be 75 years young on Jan. 9. Skylar De Santis turns 17 on Jan 17. Cindy Hawrylko is 31 Jan. 22. Alyssa Philhower & Becca Potocki shared a birthday on Jan 1. Vicky Petrovic will party on Jan. 5. Kevin Gorman turns 64 on Jan. 29. And many birthday wishes to Bob Sandri who celebrates on Jan. 6.

Isabel Victoria Calvo will be 7 on Jan. 12. Michael Gorny................. Katy Sokolik..................... Nicole Unis...................... Megan Duffy.................... Daisy Colman................... Olivia Dohm..................... Rob Generalli................... Joe Musleh....................... Ernie Rodrigues................ Mark Stuart...................... Kyle Santiago................... Susan Hernandez............. Jennifer Montanile............. Matthew Soprano............. Anna Tatarenko................ Kim Barilari...................... Erica Pangilinan................ Lindsay Dueben................ Luke Falzo........................ Payton Bogatch................. Douglas Ciallella.............. Matthew Gorun................ Daniel Shackil.................. Evelyn Montague.............. Cheryl Vigh...................... Catherine Coloccia...........

1/11 1/11 1/11 1/12 1/13 1/13 1/14 1/14 1/14 1/14 1/15 1/16 1/16 1/16 1/17 1/18 1/19 1/20 1/20 1/21 1/21 1/21 1/22 1/23 1/23 1/24 • January 2022


Birthdays & Celebrations

January 2022

Jonathan Lotz (CHS ‘08) and Stephanie Capone (Paramus Catholic ‘08) married Dec. 11.


January 2022 •

Greg Collucci................... Jamie Mikolajczyk............. Anna Redling................... Larissa Unis...................... Robert Duffy..................... Ashley Gagnon................. Debbi Koch...................... Michelle Nahass............... Karen Rice....................... Michael Bandurski............ Gianna Caramucci............ Nicholas Grippo............... Scott Crawford................. Patrick Ferrara III............... Robert C. Henn................. Stephanie Smith................ Alexis Camp.................... Donna Chipura................. Laura Kuruc...................... Sean Sabo....................... Evangeline Joy Kohler........ Jessica Sonn.....................

1/24 1/24 1/24 1/24 1/25 1/25 1/26 1/26 1/26 1/27 1/27 1/27 1/28 1/28 1/28 1/28 1/30 1/30 1/30 1/30 1/31 1/31

Birthday greetings to Barbara Bivaletz (Jan. 5) and hubby Steve (Jan. 9) who both celebrate 67!

Time to smile! Makayla Rodríguez is 10 on Jan. 24.

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