Clifton Merchant Magazine - September 2020

Page 1

From the Editor

- Tom Hawrylko, Editor & Publisher

Work sure is different in a Covid-19 era. While some are enjoying the stay-at-home and Zoom-to-work in your pajamas, many of us would prefer to be back in the office. While a few of us have been coming into the office and practicing social distancing at 1288 Main Ave., we miss the visits from readers, advertisers and friends. I enjoy the face-to-face in the office with my staff, shooting ideas back and forth and responding to whatever comes in the door, over the phone or via email. For many commuters, the ritual of stopping into a neighborhood deli for a coffee and bagel are nothing but a memory. People now start their work day in their homes, hustling around their spouse and pets, laundry that needs to be folded and the blaring music and surly attitudes (ok I’m generalizing) from their teenagers. As we go to press, the good news is Gov. Murphy is adding more partial openings, allowing us ways of doing business, starting on Sept. 4. But the workplace we go back to in 2020 bears a facemask, lacks a water cooler (is there still such a thing?) and we’ll probably be working remotely a few days out of the week. Looking ahead— who knows what’s up in 2021?

To get a feel of what the upside down world of work is like right now, Associate Editor Ariana Puzzo virtually met with a cross section of people who work or live in Clifton. She has found that some of us have prospered through the pandemic, finding unique ways to make money. Most of us have adjusted, not quite limping along but finding a new path to earn a living. Speaking of adjusting, 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of this magazine. We were hoping to make it a big whoop-de-do with an event and a special edition. Instead, beginning this month on page 32 and for a few months to come, we’ll be celebrating by publishing some favorite stories from our archives. So Autumn beckons... let’s get back to work. As you leave the house, be organized: get your keys and wallet, the phone, your mask and maybe even gloves. And remember, the pandemic isn’t over just because you are over it. Continue to respect the rules of social distancing, wear your mask and try and stay positive. 16,000 Magazines

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Jack DeVries, Joe Hawrylko, Irene Jarosewich, Tom Szieber, Jay Levin, Michael C. Gabriele, Ariana Puzzo, Patricia Alex

Editor & Publisher Tom Hawrylko Art Director Ken Peterson Associate Editor & Social Media Mgr. Ariana Puzzo Business Mgr. Irene Kulyk • September 2020


Clifton’s Community Police officers in the blue and khaki uniforms from left: Kevin Collucci, Randy Colondres, Jaime Kincherlow and David Pereda. Pictured center is Chief Thomas Rinaldi and Sgt. John Cusack who heads up the new team.

Building Bridges & Problem Solving

By Tom Hawrylko

Community Policing

David Pereda served with the Marines during the first Gulf War, helped find remains at Ground Zero after 9/11 and has been a Clifton Police Officer for 23 years. What does he see as the biggest challenge a cop faces in 2020? A lack of communication. “Human interaction is at the center of everything we do,” explained Pereda, one of the five officers assigned to Clifton’s new Community Policing Division. “Five people are not going to build the bridge alone,” said Pereda. “But our role is to find the time to make positive encounters, bridge the gap and we hope our work will make all officers more approachable.” Seen above with their sergeant and chief, the officers will work in pairs, walking the streets of business districts and neighborhoods to visit residents and business owners in five sections—Botany, Lakeview, Main Ave., Valley Rd. and Market St. Sgt. John Cusack explains: “We’ll be a liaison to city services, from zoning issues to homelessness, our job is to let residents know who they can call to help solve problems.”


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Community policing is not new to Clifton. It has been hailed across the country as a crime-fighting strategy built on improved communication and collaboration between local police officers and community residents. First formed in April of 1995 by the late Chief Frank J. LoGioco. Community Policing was first deployed in the Lakeview neighborhood. It was originally established with a lieutenant, Crime Prevention Officer Bill Hernandez and officers Roger Schneider and David Kishbaugh on mountain bikes. It was well received and soon Schneider and Kishbaugh were pedaling into other neighborhoods, visiting kids at schools and attending events in neighboring business districts. The two outgoing cops were visible, friendly and approachable. With more bikes and cops, the division rapidly expanded to a staff of 19 and the highly visible “Yellow Jacket” division (called so for their yellow and black uniforms) had storefront offices at 209 Parker Ave., 217 Lakeview Ave. and 653 Van Houten Ave.

As police needs changed and budgets tightened, officers from what was a large division were reassigned and moved into other roles and Clifton’s Community Police unit has been dormant for a few years now. The nationwide change When Thomas Rinaldi was named interim Clifton Police Chief on March 1 of this year, among his proposals was to bring back that division at some future date. But as Rinaldi took the oath as the 12th Clifton Police Chief on June 1, US cities had been ablaze with protests against racism and police violence after the May 25th killing of George Floyd groaning “I can’t breathe” as a white Minnesota policeman kneeled on his neck, On June 2, two Clifton High grads announced a rally for social justice and by 5 pm on that day, some 3,000 people showed up for what was a peaceful rally. Certainly an interesting start for Rinaldi’s second day as chief. The Clifton Police were there, some of the younger officers walking into the crowd, interacting with residents who came to have their voices heard. New Jersey State Police and Passaic County Sheriff officers also were on hand. It was a strong but mutually respectful presence. Speeches were delivered, the message was clear—Black Lives Matter—and perhaps it was this incident which escalated the need to launch the Clifton Community Police team.

Ask Officer Kevin Collucci what has changed most in his 20 years as a Clifton Police Officer and he cites the lack of communication and misinformation. “People call us for the simplest things—the kind of calls we didn’t get before,” he explained. “Parents asking us to deal with their kids. Neighbors fighting about parking. We’ve become a social worker, a mediator and parent.” Collucci grew up in Clifton so he knows his way around. He’s tall and lanky and usually has a friendly smile to disarm an interaction. “People need to communicate,” said Collucci. “I’m hoping we can get away from being reactive and become much more proactive.” Officer Jaime Kincherlow said her goals in the new unit are to increase understanding, communication and respect—for residents and officers.

To be a better cop While plans were in the works, soon after the June 2 rally, Rinaldi asked Sgt. John Cusack to head up the Clifton Community Policing team. After the ask, Cusack said he had one question—and that was to himself: How can I be a better cop? To Cusack, who has been a Clifton Police officer for nearly 25 years, the answer goes back to 1995 when he considered the career he was about to embark upon. “Protect and serve is still at the core of what we do,” said Cusack. “I like starting conversations with people, building bridges, knowing residents. That’s how I become a better cop. And the people we have on this team share that philosophy.” • September 2020


Above in 1997, what was then called the Mountain Bike Unit, from left front: Crime Prevention Officer Bill Hernandez, John Cusack, Randy Colondres, Sgt. Gerald Wyhopen, Lt. Gary. F. Giardina, and Dave Kishbaugh. Second row Mark Centurione, Esly Panduro, James Flanagan, Philip Cibiniak and unidentified. Top row: Thomas Lanzalotto, Jon Michael, Joseph Klein, Roger Schneider, Thomas Campbell, and Carmine Petrone.


By the year 2000, Clifton’s Community Policing program continued to expand and be a successful part of public safety. While the bicycle patrols cover the entire city, satellite offices were then located in Lakeview and on Van Houten Aves. and Market St. Pictured at their Lakeview Ave. substation, from left, are some of the “Yellow Jackets”: Carmine Petrone, Joseph Klein, Thomas Campbell, Sgt. Gerry Wyhopen, David Kishbaugh, James Flanagan, and Jon Michael. September 2020 •

“People must understand that we are humans too. We make mistakes. And some cops do make bad decisions,” said Kincherlow, citing the George Floyd killing and the outrage and the calls for change which have followed. She has been a cop for 15 years, the last eight-and-ahalf years here in Clifton. “I see a lot of frustration. We feel that frustration too. Our job as Community Police is to help change those perceptions.” The three key components of community policing are organizational transformation, community partnerships, and shared problem solving. Kincherlow said the new unit will help build trust and make Clifton Police more accountable to the community. For officer Randy Colondres, this is his third tour with the Community Police unit. He grew up in Paterson, enlisted in the Army during Desert Storm and was sworn as a Clifton Cop 25 years ago with his two superior officers, Chief Rinaldi and Sgt. Cusack. “It really is good to be back on the street in this capacity,” said Colondres. “When Chief put us to this task, he said this is a long term assignment. He wants us to go out and make a difference. And really, that is why we all came to the job. To make our department more responsive and to make Clifton a better community.” • September 2020


From healthcare to home improvers, to schools and retail stores, every one of us is finding new ways to work, dine and play. All stories by Ariana Puzzo A helping hand Casey Boutillier is familiar with the stress and uncertainty of keeping a business open during the coronavirus pandemic. Boutillier is the clinical director at JAG-ONE Physical Therapy’s Clifton location, at 50 Mount Prospect Avenue, and she said although she “never felt unsafe,” she still feels an “internal struggle” about the risks that come with keeping their doors open. However, she is reassured by the efforts and changes the company underwent during the early months of the pandemic, as well as their continued safety precautions. “We went from [an on-site] team of 10 to a team of three,” said Boutillier, 29. “Basically reorganizing how we did things to fit the COVID model.” “We spread patients out and instead of scheduling appointments for every 15 minutes … we did every half hour to social distance,” she added. “From my standpoint, it was kind of readjusting to our new normal.” Another change to their essential service is, although they remained open and operated under the same hours, they now provide teletherapy. As a busi-


September 2020 •

ness that “always prided ourselves on face-to-face contact,” Boutillier said she is not aware of any prior use of teletherapy since their patients were not actively asking for it. Although it is a challenging adjustment and the number of teletherapy patients has decreased since April and May, Boutillier said that it can have its benefits. “I think it’s something that could have a place in our health care system,” she said. “It’s a great compliment for people who are maybe close to being done with physical therapy and it is a way to encourage them to be independent with exercises.” Still, she stressed that it is best as a supplemental option to in-person treatment given the loss of manual, hands-on instruction during a virtual visit. The cancelation of community events like street fairs that often introduce JAG-ONE to local residents has reduced new patients. However, social media and an established community rapport are two elements in their favor. “We were always there for patients that needed us and I think that encouraged people to come back when it was safe,” said Boutillier.

Facing page, Casey Boutillier of JAG-ONE physical therapy with a patient. At left, John Federle and his daughter Ariele with grandad Jim of Affordable Homes in April 2019.

“People continued to come and felt safe with us,” she continued, “and I think that was one of the best compliments.” Our customers are worth it The home improvement industry experienced a faint flush in late March and early April, but once people were grounded due to COVID-19, they started directing their expendable funds to fixing up their

homes. Homeowners who planned destination vacations to warmer climates redirected the savings that they found to doing projects with their homes. “I’d call it a blip,” said Jim Federle of Affordable Homes, referring to the initial shut down in mid-March. On Feb. 26, his company started a major renovation of a home in Butler in which the owner had planned to move for a few months to their parents home while the work got underway. Federle said since the project was essentially a “tear-down”, code enforcement at the municipality was able to work with the Affordable project manager in getting the approvals they needed in order to complete the project. “While a lot of what we do is outside work,” said Federle, “we’ve enhanced our protocols both indoors and outside.” The firm does a lot of roofing, siding and window work, so they are letting neighboring homeowners know that they will begin work after 8 am, do frequent clean ups of the project and end the work day long before dusk. “Our guys are wearing masks and protective gear and if we are working inside a home, we erect thick plastic sheeting to minimize dust,” said Federle. “Does it cost us a little more? Yeah, sure. But our customers are worth it.” • September 2020


Thinking outside the COVID box The biggest challenge Ihor Andruch (at right) encountered with the shift to complete remote learning is student engagement. Although the Berkeley College career counselor and adjunct instructor is used to teaching both onsite and online, he did see the difference for some students. “What I miss is the camaraderie with the students and working off the students,” said Andruch, 44. “I had set up a Friday night career corner via Zoom last semester every week, and I think I had only one or two show up. It was not as popular as I thought it would be.” Andruch started at Berkeley in June of 2016 and became an adjunct instructor this past January after earning his master’s degree at Caldwell University in 2019. He taught in Paramus for the Winter 2020 semester, but he has used a Learning Management System since April and plans to continue doing so this autumn. Working remotely, he said, isn’t without positives. Although it isn’t live instruction, he does go onto the class discussion boards to encourage students to take conversations to the level they would normally be in a classroom setting. There are also positives from the career services end of his work. “We’re being very effective working from home,” said Andruch. “Students and graduates are disciplined as well. They are searching for in-office jobs, but getting hired for remote jobs working from home.” “It goes to show you the importance of office space,” he added. “Employers spend so much money on rent, and is it really needed? We’re being as effective, if not more effective from home.” Additionally, he said, working from home has given everyone involved the opportunity to engage in “more creative thinking” and envision how the workforce may look several years from now. He admits that he cannot speak on behalf of the unemployment


September 2020 •

rate, but Andruch is encouraged by the dedication and passion that he has witnessed among students and colleagues. “I’m not saying we’ll be virtual forever, but it’s amazing what good people can do,” said Andruch. “It really gives a lot of people the opportunity to recreate themselves and look at things [through] different lenses.” “If you’re as positive as you can be and you work hard, things will work out.” Partners in progress Working from home is natural for Rich Ruggiero, but Promethean’s territory director for New Jersey and New York knows that isn’t the case for everyone. Ruggiero, 61, and pictured at left has worked in his role for the K-12 interactive solutions company for nearly five years. His job is maintaining relationships with the company’s distribution partners and working with schools so clients fully utilize their “solutions,” which includes ActivPanels. “A big selling point of our ActivPanels is the ability for multiple students to interact [and] touch the panels, which are at the front of a classroom and used instead of chalkboards, whiteboards, [or] projectors,” said Ruggiero.

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John Blesing of Blesing Floors, Moe Mezei, Steve Davis, and Greg Miller of Clifton Hardware and Paint Supply.

“Fortunately for us and our customers,” he continued, “our panels do way more than that.” Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, 80% of Ruggiero’s work week was spent traveling to schools and districts in New Jersey and upstate New York. Although he has used teleconferencing in the past, he transitioned fully to working from home after March 10 and continues to communicate with customers through Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Additionally, instead of focusing on selling their products, the company redirected their efforts to assisting customers with how they can adapt and best use the products in a “unique educational environment.” The biggest challenge, Ruggiero said, is finding the best way to help customers without “trying to overwhelm them or appear too ‘salesy.’” “Nearly all of my customers are K-12 based and many of them were [and still are] scrambling to redefine how they were going to teach students,” he said. “I wanted to make sure my team was assisting without getting in the way.” One way they did that was introducing a webinar series geared toward customers in need of advice. “People in our industry were shell-shocked and needed help,” said Ruggiero. “Fortunately, Promethean as a company felt the same way.” Although Ruggiero doesn’t anticipate his job “re-


September 2020 •

turning to how it was any time soon,” there are changes that he said may not be bad. The realization that employees are capable of working from home is one that he points to, acknowledging it will lessen business travel and expense. However, the overriding hope is that students will be served regardless of their learning environment and customers will feel Promethean’s support. “We’re hoping that this assistance will be remembered and that we’re seen more as partners rather than vendors.” Providing for Clifton homeowners When Clifton homeowners couldn’t leave the house during lockdown, Clifton Hardware and Paint Supply was there to bring supplies to them. The Van Houten Ave. store manager, Moe Mezei, said that making sure they stocked hard-to-get, never before sold items, such as hand sanitizer and paper towels, was important in order to “make it easier for our customers.” “I’m a people person. I’m here to help the customer, I’m here for the relationship,” said Mezei. “I felt bad saying, ‘No, we don’t have it.’” “That was my driving force - to make sure everybody had what they did and we had it to provide.” Mezei, who has worked at the store for two • September 2020


years, noted one of the biggest changes was that they dropped their $150 minimum delivery to zero during quarantine. More so, for individuals who couldn’t go to stores for health concerns, all of the workers took turns running deliveries. For an essential business that never closed their doors, they were busier than ever. That meant there were nights that even after the store closed, they were there until midnight to prepare the orders for the next morning. Additionally, the lack of supplies in production meant they spent a great deal of time researching where they could find certain items. “We had an overwhelmingly great demand. Way more than we thought it would be,” said Mezei. “It did slow down, but [at one point] we looked at each other like, ‘We bit off more than we could chew.’” “Thank God we could provide for everyone,” he added. Although the store does intend to raise the minimum delivery rate again to ease the strain on the busi-


September 2020 •

ness, they offer curbside pickup and Mezei said that will continue for as long as people want it. Through all of the changes and unforeseen challenges, Mezei expressed gratitude for the community. “I just want to thank my customers for being loyal and coming in,” he said. “I know it’s hard to walk in with masks and gloves and come in for products that you don’t have.” “We appreciate it and will continue to help them in any way that we can.” Still Blesing floors John Blesing always kept one rule: only book a job a week out. It’s a practice once reaffirmed at a seminar, but the owner of Blesing’s Hardwood Flooring booked three jobs in mid-August since the demand during his typically busiest time of the year was even greater. “I’m booked until the end of August, and I don’t like to do that,” said Blesing, 59, last month. “[The industry is] all busy right now. People want things done.” What’s the biggest challenge he’s encountered these last few months? “Keeping up with the amount of work coming in,” he laughed. “More people are fixing up their homes and going away. Others who wanted work done in the last three months really want it done now.” “Everybody throws me the keys to their house in August.” As for the changes made to meet the demand, his crew increased from eight workers to 10 workers since last year. Still, they are keeping with COVID-19 safety precautions. While working on floors, the workers are spread out and Blesing said the closest they get is when they are inside a van or bringing equipment inside the house. However, during the first two to three months, he sent workers directly to a project rather than leaving from their 13 Sebago St. showroom. Among these adjustments, Blesing said there was one thing that wasn’t unfamiliar to them. “We were used to wearing masks,” he said. “I wear a mask all the time. I don’t feel like I look weird, this is normal.” • September 2020


Adapting to turbulent times For Jeffery Zdanewicz and Dipti Desai, health care work during the COVID-19 era is more stressful and frightening, but it isn’t without hope. The Clifton residents both work as respiratory therapists at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center. Desai works with pediatric patients and Zdanewicz works with adults, but they both agreed that despite the initial inherent challenges of adult COVID-19 patients filling beds or parents’ inability to stay with their children, they adapted based on their training. “The care for pediatric patients has never changed for me,” said Desai, 55. “Everybody was in fear, including myself, but we had to stay focused and continue the same care we provide to each and every patient.” Although the work hours were long, Desai said, that was not uncommon before the pandemic. Zdanewicz, 61, added that some patients required teams to handle their daily care and that it was a much more involved process. However, both said the hospital offers consistent support. “I’m used to working here for longer hours with good co-workers, including nurses, doctors, all hospital personnel,” said Desai. “[It makes it a] manageable, wonderful working environment.” When Zdanewicz considers those early months of the pandem-


September 2020 • • September 2020


ic, he recalls a time when a 28-bed unit was filled with 28 COVID-19 patients on ventilators. When it came to turning a patient from front to back or vice versa, he said it required teams to go into the rooms with masks and PPE. “We were expected to handle more than we normally did, and the nurses and doctors helped us to fulfill our jobs that we needed to do,” said Zdanewicz (CHS ’78). Although the adult unit is “less taxing” now due to a decline in COVID-19 patients, Zdanewicz, who has worked at St. Joseph’s for 38 years, described it as ongoing because patients will recover and get discharged, and then sometimes return due to another onset Jeffery Zdanewicz and Dipti Desai at St. Joseph’s Hospital. of symptoms. It’s a reality that makes it important her “great colleagues”, are a large part of what moves to use offtime to do enjoyable activities. For Zdanethings forward. wicz, the activities include spending time in his backHowever, she does still look for positive ways to yard doing projects like brickwork, birdhouses, and refocus when she is home so she can recharge for the grasswork. “I work in my backyard more than ever,” next day to “help the best way I can.” A big part of that he said. “All this stuff outside to keep active rather than is thinking about the children. just worrying about COVID.” “The children are more resilient,” she said. “They While working in the pediatric unit, Desai shared a are the ones who give us and give me hope.” different experience. The uncertainty and fear remain, Similarly, Zdanewicz finds hope through the acts of but the beds have less COVID-19 patients. Still, it’s kindness and appreciation shown in the community for important to make all of the children feel at ease. health care workers. Sometimes it’s the parents, De“What we were taught to do is compassion … besai said, who call or write them once their children are cause [children] are more fearful at first looking at us,” home. Other times, Zdanewicz added, it’s the restausaid Desai, an RT at St. Joseph’s for 36 years. “But rants and vendors who send food to the hospital workthen we talk to them … and because it’s the same perers. son like me every day, they get to know us and I get to “What touched my heart was kids writing on the know them.” sidewalk, ‘Thank you for taking care of my mother’ or “You develop a bond,” she continued. “You do the ‘father,’” he said. best for them and they will let you.” “The hospital was very caring and helpful,” continDespite less COVID-19 cases, Desai said certain ued Zdanewicz, “but when you see the outside comsafety practices like face shields, protective gear, and munity pitching in and lending a hand to us, how do constantly washing their hands are standard, especially you say, ‘Thank you’ to these people? It’s very heartsince she works both in the pediatric intensive care unit warming.” and neonatal intensive care unit. These practices, and


September 2020 •


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Keeping the community fed Dana Beltran never imagined a time when she would walk through her supermarket and see empty shelves. As the coronavirus pandemic hit the country hard in March, there was a time early on when she was frequently worried about receiving products. “For two to three weeks, we were the sole Hispanic supermarket in the area that was open and I worried about not being able to supply food for the neighborhood,” said Beltran, 29. Beltran, a city resident and member of the Clifton Board of Education, is the third generation owner of Kikos Supermarket, in Fairview. Since March, Beltran said she and her father, Felix, witnessed the business change in terms of how they buy items and what they are able to buy. “For a long period, pretty much every supermarket went without sales because you didn’t know what was going to come in every week,” she said. “You would place an order for 1,000 cases, and 300 cases would show up.” While that adjustment was difficult as a business owner, she said that it only caused further problems with customers. The supermarket’s enforcement of face masks also resulted in backlash from some customers. “It was the attack of the ‘Karens,’” she laughed, “because you don’t have a brand of milk they want or a specific flavor of cereal.” “Sometimes they actually attacked,” she continued, seriously. “People threw eggs at me because they refused to use a mask. Others chucked lemons.” It sometimes led to calling the police when a customer couldn’t be convinced to leave, which was another entirely unfamiliar, and oftentimes upsetting, scenario. “It’s not a part of normal life to throw people out of the store.” Despite the many challenges of working at this time in the industry, the store’s employees have shown their strength. The passing of Beltran’s grandfather, Rober-


September 2020 •

“Sometimes they actually attacked, people threw eggs at me because they refused to use a mask. Others chucked lemons.” - Supermarket owner, Dana Beltran to, who was the original 1974 store owner, and their floor manager, Esteban “Puma” Herrera, has meant Beltran and Felix are on their own and without an assistant manager. Emotionally, what keeps them going is that they are an essential business that is “supplying a service to the community.” However, it means Beltran is no longer strictly in the front office. “I need to build relationships with vendors, and it’s rare to have female buyers in the supermarket world,” said Beltran. “I’m one of two that I know of.” “They don’t expect a girl to be unloading the truck. Some come in and … they’re still looking for our manager who was with us for 30 years,” continued Beltran. “Same with my grandfather - he was there from the beginning and was one of our receivers.” However, their employees truly stepped up during the last six months. At times, she said, they stayed from opening at 6 am until midnight closing due to the “dire need.” “We gave bonuses for two months and everyone got a raise,” said Beltran. “We’re still working on raises to give them a boost to come into work.” “Most of them are minimum wage and risking their lives,” she continued. “We can only ask so much of them.” Looking ahead, Beltran simply requested greater kindness for supermarket workers. “We have been out here since March without a break,” she said. “We have to wear masks and we won’t have things in stock. We’re trying to do our best.”









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Respect found in the aisles Supermarkets are the lifeline of the community, and the Paulison Avenue ShopRite workers help make that possible. The supermarket, part of Cuellar Family Markets, is an essential place where people have bought what they needed throughout the pandemic. For Hector Arroyo, a dairy clerk, and Waskar Cordero, a frozen foods clerk, the supermarket is gradually returning to normal. “When the first wave of this hit, it became very busy with people stocking up on milk, eggs, and dairy items,” said Arroyo, 78. Arroyo, who has worked with ShopRite for 15 years, found that his job became more difficult in those first few weeks. Despite not looking his age and working like someone several decades younger than he, Arroyo was conscious of the health risks. Waskar Cordero and Hector Arroyo at Paulison Avenue Shoprite “I took some time off,” he said. “I have to be careful because of my age.” done in an effort to create a barrier between himself Once he felt confident that things were more unand the disease. Although things seem to be improvder control and safeguards were put in place, he came ing, he still remains vigilant and is glad to see shopback from furlough and resumed his work. Like many pers doing the same. other workers, he was already used to wearing gloves “People have become used to what they’re supon the job, though he donned extra protection like posed to be doing. They practice social distancing and other essential workers. generally are respectful of each other,” said Cordero. Since then, things at the Paulison Avenue ShopRite “Our customers have been kind and followed procehave started to return to normal, with cases of milk dures and know what to do now.” and other store items becoming more readily available. Students open up to counselors One aisle over, Cordero is similarly concerned Every day was different for Jamie Nash after about health and safety during the pandemic. Cordeschools closed in response to the coronavirus panro, 20, emigrated from the Dominican Republic a few demic, but, in many ways, each day was different for years ago and has worked at ShopRite for one year. the school counselor beforehand. During the early months, he was not concerned for The Clifton resident is entering his 10th year as a his own health, but more for his loved ones. counselor at Boonton High School. Nash worked pre“I would disrobe in the garage because I wanted viously in college admissions for 13 years at Caldwell to take extra precautions at home,” said Cordero. “I University. His background encouraged him to seek wanted to make sure my family, my parents were a more one-on-one role with students so that he can safe.” assist them in preparing for college or provide any Anything he could do — like washing hands, soone-on-one emotional support. cial distancing, and wiping down surfaces — was


September 2020 • • September 2020


The shift in communication was among the biggest challenges in the COVID-19 era. Oftentimes, Nash said, he would contact students directly to check on them since sometimes students were unsure of how to initiate a dialogue. Additionally, the lack of faceto-face contact proved difficult. “Usually you can have longer conversations with students when they’re sitting in front of you and talking about their interests and what they want to do in college,” said Nash, 46. “That’s where I felt we lost the 1-to-1 connection with students.” Another adjustment was navigating the changes students were experiencing at home. There were times when Nash and teachers would reach out to students because they saw that they had incomplete assignments. At times, it led to the discovery that family members had suffered from COVID-19 and students were helping with younger siblings. “There was a lot of added pressure,” said Nash. “They took on a lot more family responsibilities, including helping make dinner and making sure siblings were getting schoolwork done.” “I think teachers did a great job being flexible with when assignments were due,” he added. Despite the changes, Nash did see benefits to remote counseling that he expects will continue as the school stays remote for their first marking period. Most of the counseling was done by using Google Meet and in some instances, he found students were more comfortable opening up to him because if they were crying, they could turn off the camera and feel safe speaking in their bedroom environment without anyone seeing them. That feeling of comfort and safety during the four months of remote learning is what makes Nash most proud. “If a student reached out to you at 7 or 8 pm and you got back to them saying, ‘We can meet’, I think they appreciated that,” said Nash. “Students knew counselors were still there for them even though they can’t go down to their office.”


September 2020 •

“If a student reached out to you at 7 or 8 pm and you got back to them saying, ‘We can meet’, I think they appreciated that,” - School Counselor, Jamie Nash Missing the hands-ons learning For Alvin Dixon, the coronavirus pandemic not only led to him witnessing changes in the classroom, but also in the national conversation. The CAST teacher has taught at CHS for 24 years and said prior to the pandemic, the nation was focused on combating shootings and school violence. “The talks went as far as to say teachers should be armed,” said Dixon. “But now with this monster germ that has spikes that drill in inflammation to lungs and other vital organs in the body, … planning remote, in-person and hybrid learning schedules [was] thrown into the mix.” Dixon added that the shifting national discussion on the safest way to reopen schools is enough to “give anyone mixed emotions and understanding.” However, if those four months of Distance Learning were any indication, he said that adapting is possible. The transition was difficult at times for Dixon’s classes because normally, he and the students are working in a classroom with access to a studio, an editing suite, and a control room. When the time came to edit videos, he said, it is a hands-on task, so instead he gave students notes and detailed information on the functions, as well as supplemental YouTube videos. “I thank God that I was able to do that with editing because that’s definitely hands-on, and they did well,” said Dixon. “Virtual is not the same as in person, but we can share a screen to show what we’re talking about.” • September 2020


That time from March to June, he added, was “practice” and in many ways helped teachers “start to get comfortable.” Dixon embraced the new circumstances by creating a makeshift studio at home to show new students in the fall how to operate the camera. Although he reiterated that school is “meant to be in person”, he said the positive parts of how the job has changed is what you make of it. Dixon also extended credit to the Clifton Education Association, superintendent, principal, Clifton Health Department, and educational associations. “It’s not just one person. They have all gotten together to decide what’s good for education and what’s not during this virus,” said Dixon. “It is always better to be secure in our planning of safety for those who enter our nation’s school buildings.” The spiritual side of education Stephanie Macaluso takes pride in her own family’s legacy of Catholic education and strives to share that pride with the families at Paramus Catholic High School. “I believe in the spiritual piece of educating the child,” said Macaluso, who has worked at the school for 19 years. “I strongly believe in Catholic education.” As principal for the last four years, Macaluso has made student wellness a priority. The focus is to encourage the “maximum potential coming from each student”, which includes supporting the students physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. One method of furthering that is by not assigning any tests or assessments on Mondays. The thought behind the practice is it gives students the opportunity to recharge over the weekend and spend time with their families. However, student wellness became more nuanced when PC transitioned to remote learning in March and during preparations for September its reopening.


September 2020 •

“Virtual is not the same as in person, but we can share a screen to show what we’re talking about.” - CHS Teacher, Alvin Dixon “During the course of the pandemic, I kept in contact with our students, and numerous families reached out,” said Macaluso. “Unfortunately, we kept a list of tragedies … that was given to the guidance counselors to reach out to students in the first week of September.” Beyond the first week, Macaluso said that there will be a 6-week post-COVID experience and wellness group that is provided by the guidance counselors. Those involved will include the director of guidance, Heidi Godau, and Father Hummel, who will offer support to faculty and staff members who lost loved ones. The value of supporting the Paramus Catholic community has never changed, Macaluso said. It was crucial throughout those months of virtual learning, she said, to also check-in with teachers and make sure they had everything they needed. Now, reflecting on the greater intricacies of this year’s September reopening plan that she has worked on since June, Macaluso said that ensuring safety is a top priority. “When I first started my plan, I looked at two things: comfort and ease,” she said. “I wanted everyone - faculty, staff, families, students - to walk through the door feeling comfortable.” “When somebody comes into the building, they have to know what to do. The building has to speak to them,” Macaluso continued. “If there’s apprehension, then there’s no productivity, or good teaching or learning.” • September 2020


“When I first started my plan, I looked at two things: comfort and ease. I wanted everyone faculty, staff, families, students to walk through the door feeling comfortable.”

- Paramus Catholic Principal, Stephanie Macaluso Paramus Catholic planned in mid-August to introduce a hybrid schedule, with the option to go 100% virtual. Whether a student is learning from home throughout the academic quarter or on “off-days”, or in the classroom on their designated days, there will be cameras installed in the classrooms so no child misses live instruction. Anyone with any confusion or apprehension, she added, is encouraged to call or email or look at the distributed monthly calendar so students know exactly what day they are meant to learn in school and what day they are meant to remotely learn. When it came to adapting, despite daily challenges and differences, Macaluso said it all came down to the strength and commitment of their community. “I think that good educators and good staff can adapt to any form of teaching … and we did so,” she said. “We’re ready to go back enthusiastically.” “It’s the young people that generate the beautiful energy and grounds,” she added. “The fields outside were made for young people to play on them and the classrooms are ready for young people to learn.” “We’re PC strong right now.” Hope for a better tomorrow When places of worship were required to close their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, Imam Shaykh Osamah Salhia said that the Islamic Center of Passaic County - Clifton felt the strain that many businesses and institutions experienced.


September 2020 •

However, although the community was unable to gather at 259 Pershing Rd. for daily prayers, Imam Osamah noted other ways that the mosque’s congregation stood strong together. “We used online platforms … like Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook, and they were very helpful in terms of continuing operations of the mosque, especially as a non-profit organization,” he said. “When the community saw the mosque was going through a bit of struggle [back in April and May],” he added, “they were very supportive.” That support, he said, makes him hopeful that the community will only continue to grow stronger in the coming months. Since re-opening their doors for prayer in June, safety protocols were put in place, including requirements for individuals to bring masks and their own prayer rugs. The imam said that people have followed the rules without many conflicts. “We make them social distance when they do their prayers and we follow the maximum capacity of 100 people for religious places of worship,” said Imam Osamah. “Also, now for the past few months, there are three Friday sermons instead of one, and if there is any overflow, we let them pray in our parking lot.” Although prayers are now possible in the mosque, live-streamed services are a feature that Imam Osamah said will continue as an option, especially given its proven ability to further expand their community and congregation. • September 2020


Although the community was unable to gather at 259 Pershing Rd. for daily prayers, he noted other ways that the mosque’s congregation stood strong together. “We used online platforms … like Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook.”

- Imam Shaykh Osamah Salhia “I think we’ve realized that even if we can’t meet in person, we can still continue our personal growth together,” he said. That growth includes continued community support both during remote study circles and during moments of grief. “I pray the situation we’re going through is alleviated and gets better, and we mention that at every Friday sermon,” said Imam Osamah. “I hope for a better tomorrow.” Getting the stories When I first started writing for Clifton Merchant in June of 2015, I never imagined how much I would learn about our city and the people who help give it that “small town” feel. Over the last five years, I’ve spoken to many people - former and current Mustangs, local business owners, government and health officials, members of the public school district - and I grew comfortable sharing their stories. However, I never imagined the way that I would learn about their stories today. The coronavirus pandemic changed how we communicate with each other, and it is no different at Clifton Merchant. We strive to tell stories with the same personal feel so the reader feels like they caught up with an old friend. However, the way that we find these stories changed for us.


September 2020 •

Those who know our editor and publisher, Tom, know that he is quick to speak to anyone on the street. There were many times when he would call me and say something like, “I met someone at an event and shot their photo - let’s do something on them.” Today, we live in an entirely different reality. During the early months of the pandemic, social media maintained Clifton Merchant’s presence. We relied on Instagram and Twitter (@cliftonmagazine), as well as Facebook, to connect us to the community so we could share your stories. Additionally, telephone interviews became the norm. As a writer, there is no replacement for face-to-face interviews and the ability to detect subtle nuances during them. However, the pandemic required us to adjust, and so we did. When I finish an interview, my first priority is thanking whomever I spoke with for taking the time to share their story. So, once more, thank you to everyone who follows us on social media and continues to make it possible to learn about your stories during these times. Thank you for making it possible to continue sharing Clifton stories, as well as convey the same Clifton connection that we rely on now more than ever. by Ariana Puzzo

Our founder, Joseph M. Shook, Sr. was born

#3969, a member of the Clifton Elks Lodge

on March 15, 1924 and on June 7, 1955, the

#1569 and an active parishioner of St. John

NJ State Board of Mortuary Science granted

Kanty RC Church.

approval to operate Shook Funeral Home.

On June 9, 2008, at the age of 84, Joe died

Joe was a member of the Athenia Veterans

peacefully in his home above the funeral home,

Post, a Charter and Honorary Life Member of

where he started his business and raised his

Regina Mundi Knights of Columbus Council

family. We are proud to continue his legacy. • September 2020 


25 Clifton Magazine turns 25 this month and we’re taking a look back at...

A History of Newspapers

Cliftonites love reading newspapers. Here is a look back to their origins. Our love of local newspapers was aptly illustrated when city hall was graced with two life-sized sculptures by J. Seward Johnson. From left are Point of View which visited in the early 2000s and Keeping Up, displayed 2010-2013.

Clifton has existed as a city for a little over a century, but it has a heritage of local journalism that predates its 1917 founding. Clifton Magazine has been part of that history since 1995 and while we are a relative newcomer, we proudly carry the title as Clifton’s Storyteller into our 25th year. Long before us, the Directory of New Jersey Newspapers 1765-1970, published by the New Jersey Historical Commission, tells of many Clifton newspapers, with the oldest being the Weekly Echo. Founded about 1869, the Weekly Echo long has been absent but it was the first in a long line of hometown publications originating in what is now known as Clifton. The only remaining general interest weekly newspaper serving the city, The Clifton Journal, now published by USA Today Network, traces its roots through purchases and mergers to when The Journal of Acquackanonk Township made its appearance in 1914. In the 45 years between the debut of the Weekly Echo and the birth of The Journal, a number of publications rose and fell, trying to fill the news gap left by the daily newspapers in Paterson and Passaic.


September 2020 •

Clifton Merchant Magazine premiered in October 1995 with a 24-page guide to shopping in what is now Downtown Clifton. As we enter our 25th year, the magazine averages 70 to 90 pages and is known as Clifton’s Storyteller. That’s Tom Hawrylko at right, part of a profile written about the magazine that appeared in the Record’s business section on Aug. 29, 1997.

Some publications were offshoots of the Passaic-based rivals, General Advertiser and Independent. The Clifton & Athenia Weekly News, which published between 1895 and 1906, was the result of the merger between the Athenia News and the Clifton Independent, both of which were started by the General Advertiser in 1887. The Independent’s next contribution to Acquackanonk Township was the Clifton & Lakeview

Press, which lasted from 1900 to 1902. The 1890s also saw the publication of the picturesquely titled Grumbler, perhaps a predecessor of today’s national tabloids, which gave way to the Township Record and Weekly Grumbler, that seems to have folded in 1899. Another paper, the Clifton Weekly, appeared from 1896 to 1898. Into the second decade of the 20th century, two new publications came onto the scene. • September 2020


A History of Newspapers

In an undated beefsteak photo taken at the Elks Lodge, Kroll family brothers Seymour and George with their dad, Max of the Clifton Journal, which he purchased in 1938. Below, George and Lorraine Kroll in 2015.

Clifton Times, started in 1912, lasted until 1937 when it was cut down by the Great Depression. It was owned by the Herald News of Passaic. Clifton Press, first published about 1913, was out of business by the start of the Roaring Twenties. Hometown papers The Journal of Acquackanonk Township, started around 1914, an ancestor of Dateline Clifton, was owned by Col. Charles F. H. Johnson. Johnson had served in World War I, was president of Botany Mills and also owned the Clifton Printing Company, located at 699 Main Ave., (currently, 1088 Main Ave.). Following the township’s incorporation as the City of Clifton in 1917, The Journal of Acquackanonk Township, changed its name to The Clifton Journal. During the 1920’s, Augustine (Gus) La Corte edited the publication. He soon left to begin his own publication, The Clifton Leader, and created a rivalry that lasted more than a half-century. Following Gus La Corte’s departure, Col. Johnson brought in Max Kroll, a special editions developer who was working on a project with Paterson’s Morning Call, recalls George Kroll, Max’s son and later editor and publisher of the paper himself. Max eventually purchased The Clifton Journal in 1938. In a 2015 interview, George Kroll noted that his


September 2020 •

father covered everything in town, from sporting events to City Council meetings, and he knew everyone. George and his brother Seymour joined their father in the business, with George’s interest primarily on the news side, while his brother focused on production. In 1947, the Kroll brothers bought the Clifton Printing Company from Peter Van Lenten and Peter Baker, who themselves had purchased the firm 10 years earlier. • September 2020


A History of Newspapers

Terry LaCorte with his dad, Gus, the founder of The Clifton Leader, at right, which began in 1926.

Clifton Printing continued to print The Clifton Journal through World War II, and then the Kroll brothers acquired the printing company. Kroll noted that his father was editor, publisher and principal reporter for The Journal and the paper continued to add pages and prosper as Clifton went through a booming growth period after World War II. His father also wrote the Old Timer column that was popular with local readers. Max Kroll became ill in 1959 and turned over the operations of the newspaper business to his sons before he died in 1961. George Kroll took on the newspaper full time, while Seymour took over the printing company and ultimately bought George’s share. George began his heavily followed As I See It column, in which he kept close tabs on public officials. “Following the war, Clifton enjoyed a tremendous boom with home construction and new businesses quickly filling up former farm and dairy land in the city,” he recalled. “There was a lot going on and I kept an eye on public officials. I made sure that they remained accountable to public opinion, but not in a mean-spirited way as some publications did.” In 1975, Kroll acquired a competitor, The Clifton News, which was operated by insurance executive Richard DeMarco, creating Clifton News-Journal. Seven years later, George merged with the Matzner publication, Dateline Clifton, which had been launched


September 2020 •

in 1981 with 23-year old Tom Hawrylko (founder and currently editor and publisher of Clifton Merchant Magazine) as editor. The merged publication was called the Dateline-Journal. Harold Matzner ultimately sold all of his newspaper holdings to the company that had purchased The Herald-News and George Kroll retired from the Dateline-Journal in 1985. From there, he went on to serve as a sales representative for The Jewish Community News. Main Avenue rivalry A few blocks from where the early issues of The Clifton Journal were printed at the Clifton Printing Company, Gus La Corte set up North Jersey Press in 1941 at 1414 Main Ave., to publish his Clifton Leader and do printing for businesses, other publications and individuals. He was the editor, publisher, principal reporter and everything else at the small paper, except book keeper. He entrusted that duty to his wife, Sarah. The Clifton Leader came into existence in 1926, when Gus La Corte went out on his own after serving as editor of The Clifton Journal. The first 15 years at The Leader were a great struggle for the young editor, who had dropped out of Clifton High School to help his family, despite his wish to become an attorney. • September 2020


A History of Newspapers Indicative of his single-mindedness, La Corte did earn a law degree in 1935, despite the pressures of a growing business and a family. Much like Max Kroll, La Corte too had an interesting road to success. After doing odd jobs around the Passaic Daily News, Gus La Corte became a reporter at the age of 15. He studied journalism at New York University part time The Independent Prospector’s final edition masthead, which published on Dec. 30, 1982. Alex Bidnik, died on Dec. 27, 2019 at the age of 85. and then was offered the editor’s position at The Clifton Journal. He remained there until starting the Leader. George Kroll recalled that when Gus La Corte was The Leader was first printed in Paterson, but with elected to the City Council in the 1950’s, the Main Ave. time, La Corte determined that he could do the job more rivalry became a bit more heated. However, rivalry cost-effectively himself; he acquired a hand-fed press aside, after his brother Seymour’s death, George Kroll and operated out of a number of Clifton locations. had his publication printed by North Jersey Press. Later he bought a web-fed press but because monReflecting on the past, both George Kroll and Gus’s ey was tight, he could not afford to move the press to son, S. M. “Terry” La Corte, noted that the 20-year Clifton and printed out of Hackensack. Then in 1941, post World War II period was one of great growth and he incorporated North Jersey Press at 1414 Main Ave. activity for their families’ publications. With Clifton Printing Company and North Jersey They attributed the booming post war economy which Press both located on Main Ave., a commercial and fueled Clifton’s growth, a time when neighborhood stores journalistic rivalry grew. were the main source for consumer items and weekly In an effort to gain more market share, La Corte newspapers were often the main source of information. converted the Clifton Leader into a daily publication in A discordant note 1950 and called it the Morning Leader. That venture A history of newspapers serving Clifton would not be lasted only about a year. complete without a note on The Independent-Prospector and its editor and publisher, Alex Bidnik Jr. Begun in 1933 as the Jersey Prospector, Bidnik purchased the paper in the mid-1960s from Paterson’s Patrick Dwyer. Bidnik, like La Corte and Kroll, rode the crest of Clifton’s heyday during the late 1960’s, right up to the final edition of the IP on Dec. 30, 1982. Even among those that have incurred his wrath, many would agree that Bidnik had talent and was dogged in his news-gathering style. His downfall came when his doggedness led him to pursue advertisers too aggressively. In 1981, a jury convicted Bidnik on five of six counts of extorting advertising or information from city merchants Ari Tasiou of The Hearth and Edward Looney of Henry’s Deli. The publisher also was found guilty of telling Edward Hahn, director of advertising for the New Jersey Bank, he was going to organize a boycott of the bank unless advertising was expanded.


September 2020 •

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A History of Newspapers

Dateline Clifton, which was launched on Dec. 2, 1981, with Tom Hawrylko as editor. At age 24, Tom Hawrylko wrote the slogan “Clifton Our Heart’s In It…We Care” as a gift to his adopted city. In 1983, he is pictured seated with Mayor Gloria Kolodziej and at center Barbara DiDonna and Bill Walters of Community Development. The man at left is unidentified.

Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor Bruno Mongiardo said he believed the verdict was just. “The freedom of the press was not involved in this case,” he said. “Bidnik used his newspaper as an extortion vehicle.” In his final column, appropriately titled, “The Pleasure Was All Mine,” he wrote, “I’ve been at bat many times in the past 20 years. I’ve pitched and fielded and occasionally threw a curve, although unintentionally.” Going into the 1970s, the environment changed drastically for weekly papers. Larger daily publications began covering local news more aggressively with their regional sections and offered other media options. Evolving media options Page counts were steadily decreasing and the Leader ended its nearly 55-year run in 1980. In 1981, Matzner Publications/Today Newspapers, which served several Passaic County communities, launched Dateline Clifton with Tom Hawrylko as editor. The formula to its success appeared to be that it was mailed to 31,000 homes weekly, insuring delivery, an attractive feature to advertisers. By the end of 1982, Bidnik’s Independent Prospector had folded, and The Clifton News-Journal, acquired by


September 2020 •

Matzner Publications, had merged with Dateline Clifton to become Dateline Journal. Around the same time, the Paterson News folded and the Drukker family sold The Herald News to Media News Group, a company owned by Dean Singleton and Richard Scudder. In the mid-1980s, Matzner sold Dateline Journal and all other Today papers to a national concern that allowed out-of-towners to manage the publications. Late in the 1980s, these papers were again sold to Singleton’s Media News Group. Reflecting the dramatic changes in the newspaper business, once again in the 1990s, the Herald News, Dateline Journal and its sister publications in Passaic and Bergen counties were sold, purchased by Macromedia, the parent company of The Record of Hackensack. The scramble of newspaper mergers and acquisitions was still on in 2016 when the Borg family sold North Jersey Media Group to Gannett Co., Inc. and the USA Today Network. Seeing an opportunity in the community, Clifton Merchant Magazine was launched in Oct. 1995 as a monthly by editor and publisher Tom Hawrylko. He was the owner of Tomahawk Promotions, a firm • September 2020


A History of Newspapers

Some newspapermen who covered Clifton: From top left, Bob Whiting, Augie Lio, Joe Lovas, Vic Winkler, Tom Sullivan, Jerry Costello, Richard Sokerka. At right, photographer Jack Anderson and George Homcy.

he founded in 1990 which did “advertorial” writing for newspapers as well as public relations. The goal of Clifton Merchant Magazine, Hawrylko said, was to create an independent publication that could tell Clifton’s story in-depth and in ways a weekly or daily newspaper could not and were not doing. For the first two years of its existence, Clifton Merchant tried hard to reach that goal of being “Clifton’s Storyteller” but due to a lack of advertising sales, it remained a skinny little “rag” of 24 pages or so. From 1995 to 1997, the magazine was mailed to 31,000 homes along with other junk mail. Printed in black and white on newsprint, Clifton Merchant was lost in the pile of junk mailed that arrived in mailboxes. In Oct. 1997, Hawrylko made the change into a glossy magazine. He added pages, hired writers to expand stories and used space to play up photos. He cut the print run to 16,000, stopped mailing and instead started asking merchants to display the magazine on their shelves. With the glossy cover, brighter and whiter stock, and without the expense of mailing the magazine, the magazine has grown significantly.


September 2020 •

Over the next two decades, Clifton Magazine has come to be known as Clifton Storyteller and now averaging from 70 to 100 pages of news, photos and advertisement not found in other area publications. The good news of the Paterson Diocese While general interest weekly newspapers may be in decline, Clifton’s journalistic heritage has expanded into newer spheres. Today the city is the base for a variety of publications with very focused audiences. For instance, the Beacon is the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson’s weekly tabloid newspaper that circulates among more than 32,000 subscribers. Previously headquartered on Valley Road in Clifton, the publication radiates from Clifton through all of Passaic County, as well as Morris and Sussex counties. • September 2020


A History of Newspapers Begun in 1967, the paper has had three very able editors guide its progress. They are Jerry Costello, who later worked for the Archdiocese of New York, Vic Winkler and current Editor and General Manager Richard Sokerka. The publication features stories on churches, schools and other facilities affiliated with the diocese, a lively opinion page and weekly column by the new Bishop of Paterson, Kevin J. Sweeney. According to Sokerka, who had a long career as editor at Today Newspapers before joining the Beacon, the paper has won numerous journalism awards. He added that the paper’s role is to be an advocate for social justice issues and a voice for churches and schools. “Our focus is to tell the good news of the Paterson Diocese,” said Sokerka. He added that one of his favorite projects was a special edition the paper did to commemorate the 1995 visit by Pope John Paul II and the celebration of the Mass at Giants Stadium.


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A final tribute Fifty-eight years ago, Chester Grabowski decided that Polish Americans needed a voice. With the help of his friend, Gus LaCorte of the Clifton Leader, Grabowski started The Post-Eagle, a national weekly newspaper from his home and office on Van Houten Ave. While Grabowski died on April 25, 2012; just seven months before the Post Eagle’s 50th anniversary, the newspaper is still published digitally from the Grabowski home in the heart of Athenia. Now managed by his daughter, editor Chris Grabowski-Witmyer, The Post-Eagle remains dedicated to Polish-American causes and preserving their ethnic heritage. Stalwart in its defense of the Polish-American image, the paper, published in English, has helped the ethnic group strengthen its political power by supporting Polish-American candidates in various elections. The newspaper also is active in charity work as it has helped raise money to bring Polish children to America for medical assistance and help Polish immigrants locate jobs and assimilate into American culture. The paper continues to report on accomplishments of people from Polish communities, entertainment (festivals, cruises, dances), sports, news from Poland and issues in the American community which affects Poles. • September 2020


A History of Newspapers

Recalling columnist Tom Sullivan and his impact on Clifton news and our community.

Down Sullivan Street If Clifton ever had a golden age of newspapers, it was the four years from 1966 to 1969. As it had been for decades, the city was being covered by three dailies, The Herald News, The Paterson News and The Morning Call, but never were there more vibrant or competitive, talented newsmen to report on Clifton life. And while they were good friends, George Homcy of The Herald News, Bill Power of The Paterson News and newcomer Tom Sullivan of The Morning Call were always fierce competitors. There were also three weeklies competing for reader loyalty and advertiser dollars: George Kroll’s Clifton-Journal, Gus La Corte’s Clifton Leader and Alec Bidnik’s Independent-Prospector. Homcy had covered the city for years and was respected by both the ‘official family’ and the residents. If anyone was going to break a big story or leak confidential information, Homcy would probably be the first to be called.


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Mastheads from top: The Paterson Evening News, The Morning Call and The Herald-News, along with a clip from Sullivan’s column in the Dateline Journal. • September 2020


A History of Newspapers Bill Power, who lived in Richfield Village, was a tough and aggressive reporter, always digging for news the others didn’t have and commanding great loyalty from those who knew him. Sullivan was assigned as The Call’s Clifton reporter in May, 1966 after the financially troubled paper had been purchased by Donald Borg, owner of The Bergen Record. The Record dominated Bergen’s communities and Borg believed The Call would allow him to build dominance in Passaic County. In Sullivan he had a very young man who had served nine years as the New Jersey reporter for the New York Journal American, the flagship of the Hearst chain, which had recently merged with another Manhattan paper and literally ceased to exist. Sullivan was also a capable and aggressive reporter and a top notch writer of human interest stories, which found favor with Cliftonites. Sullivan Square in Botany? Shortly after he arrived, the City Council was debating what to do about the Botany Section, the oldest corner of Clifton, then blighted and at risk of turning into a slum. The Botany and Forstmann Mills had moved south in the late 1950s and their 14,000 person payrolls that had kept Botany strong were vanished. The thinking was to tear down many of its old structures and put in federally subsidized low to middle income housing. Sullivan recalled he told City Manager William Holster that would be a crime since the section had great charm and it would be more positive to undertake a historical restoration, returning the area to its original look of the 1890 to 1910 period. Holster told him it was a great idea but asked who would make it happen. “It’s your idea, do you want to take it on?” he said.


September 2020 •

Tom Sullivan in the mid-1990s accepting awards in a photo provided by Sarah Lombardo.

“You bet,” Sullivan replied, and for the next six years he took the leadership role, getting all parties to agree, coming up with the most intricate details of the concept, and putting in almost full time, all without pay. Shortly before the dedication in June, 1972, the City Council, at the request of the Botany Businessmen’s Association, voted unanimously to name the central plaza, which the newsman had designed and actually helped DPW crews to build, Sullivan Square. “Botany was largely an Italian-American neighborhood,” Sullivan recalled, “so I wanted that central point to look like the square of an Italian village with its fountain, seating areas and gardens. It was odd for an Irish name to be attached to it but I was very honored.” The year after he arrived in Clifton, Sullivan took an active role in another significant event for the city as 1967 was the 50th anniversary of its incorporation. He created the logo for the observance, worked with the committee on a year of nonstop events and wrote a book on local history which remains a well thumbed reference work in the city’s libraries. Again, all without pay. Try as he did, Donald Borg was unable to make The Call profitable, and in 1969 he sold it to the owners of The Paterson News, who lost no time in closing it down. Sullivan had the option of remaining at The Bergen Record, where he was also writing movie and television reviews, but accepted an offer from Richard Drukker, owner of The Herald News, to join that paper as Clifton reporter and entertainment editor, starting January 1, 1970. He remained there until the summer of 1985 when the paper was sold. The absentee owner, Media News Group, immediately slashed the staff in the name of economy, starting with the highest paid, which included Sullivan. • September 2020


A History of Newspapers Onward from Sullivan Street Always a busy freelance writer for magazines, and somehow managing to maintain a second career in television, which started in 1960 at CBS, Sullivan was never less than fully employed. He might have ended his association with Clifton at that time but George Kroll invited him to continue his popular column Sullivan Street in The Journal. When that paper was sold and became The Dateline-Journal, he Beyond a newspaperman, Tom Sullivan was a bon vivant and worked continued the column until his retirement. with Frank Oz, creator of Miss Piggy and Jim Henson of Muppet fame. Over the years Sullivan was involved in a variety of other projects in the city, usually Another project Sullivan points to with pride began in seeking no public credit. One he takes great pride in is 1978 when United Artists Columbia Cable began to wire the Canfield Amphitheater in the heart of Clifton High Clifton and the Mayor Gerald Zecker asked Sullivan to School. get the city into cable access. Using his own equipment, Sullivan recalled he and School Superintendent Sullivan put Clifton on the air from the old city hall on Bill Shershin were walking through CHS one day and Main Ave., and after a year was given a budget to buy Shershin, himself an accomplished newsman for The Paequipment. He built and equipped a studio on the second terson News in his younger days, pointed to the rugged floor of the new city hall, and Clifton was the first to have area outside the cafeteria and said, “I have been trying for its own regular programming. years to think of some use we could put that to.” Sullivan Sullivan retired from the Cable Television Committee looked at it and said, “Its slope suggests an amphitheater. and its station operations in 1999 after 21 years and reI could design one.” mains proud of the fact that in that time no one, including “Do it,” said the delighted Shershin, and Sullivan did, himself, was ever paid so much as a dollar in connection working with DPW Chief Arthur Mazowiecki and his with cable operations. men, Gil Kelly, Cesare Feltrin and others who had worked Since that time and up until his retirement, he has been on the Botany project. Sullivan also suggested that Caneditor of trade magazines for the apparel industry in New field be remembered, since as Clifton’s Congressman he York and is often invited by foreign governments and had been instrumental in getting the acreage from the fedtrade groups as their guest. eral government on which the school was built. Sullivan has visited 63 countries, traveled around the world six times, alternating the direction and visited EnPutting Clifton on the air gland no fewer than 76 times, since London is his favorIn 1974 he took on the task of organizing the city’s ite city after New York. participation in the national observance of the Ameri“For someone with an adventurous streak, I have realcan Revolution Bicentennial, creating a commemorative ly been blessed,” he said, “but I can also say that my almedal which was struck in bronze, silver and gold, which most 35 years covering the life of Clifton has been richly was sold to pay for the celebration. rewarding. There is nothing I would have changed.” The City Council advanced $500 to pay for the medal’s “When I think about wonderful people like Bill Hollaunch and got it back in a couple of months, with sales ster, Bill Shershin, Aaron Halpern, Arthur Mazowiecki, that yielded more than $50,000. By 1976, 200 BicentenBen Delancy, Harold Dinzes, Doc Surgent, Fred and Sarnial medals had became collector’s items, Clifton’s was ah Lombardo, Alex and Lilian Conway, Gerry Zecker, the first and was featured with a photo and story in the Jack Kuepfer, Lou and Mary Oakley and so many more, Sunday New York Times, with the result that mail orders it has been a fantastic chapter in a very full life.” were filled from 32 states.


September 2020 • • September 2020


A History of Newspapers

The Pezzanos in 1999, from left are Curt, Craig, Clay, Chuck Jr., and their dad Chuck Sr. who died in 2015 at the age of 86.

First Family of Bowling

The Pezzanos have long been bowling’s first family in Clifton. The clan was headed up by Chuck Pezzano Sr., a member of both the Professional Bowlers Association and American Bowling Congress Halls of Fame, two of the highest honors the sport can bestow. Chuck Pezzano Sr. was the first national collegiate bowler to bowl an 800 series while a student at Rutgers University in Newark. He captained some of the most successful teams in New Jersey history and was one of the 33 pioneers who formed the Professional Bowlers Association in 1958. A sportswriter who specialized in bowling, Pezzano Sr., wrote for more than 50 publications around the world and 12 books on the sport. He took part in more than 1,000 network TV bowling shows and served as president of the New York, National and World Bowling Writers Associations. Pezzano was a television pioneer, working with hall of fame broadcasters Mel Allen, Chris Schenkel, Jack Buck, Brent Musberger, Al Trautwig and others. He worked as a consultant on television, movie and instructional videos, and traveled the country serving as an emcee and guest speaker at hundreds of bowling functions. His bowling skills and contributions to the sport earned the 40–plus year Albion resident election to 17 halls of fame. Sons Chuck Jr., Craig and twins Curt and Clay have carried on their father’s tradition. All were varsity bowlers at Clifton High School.


September 2020 •

As Mustangs, their teams won league, county and state championships. Clay posted the highest average ever for a high school bowler at that time, 205 in 1980. Meanwhile, Curt rolled a 299 single game. Curt was named all–county four times and Clay three. They were also named high school athletes of the year by the North Jersey Old Timers. Chuck Jr. went on to star at Pace University, Curt at the University of Miami and Clay at William Paterson University. During the early part of the decade, Chuck Jr. conducted the Junior Bowlers Tour, a tournament group in which young bowlers can win scholarships. Craig operated the bowling pro shop at the fondly remembered Van Houten Lanes, which closed in 1999. Curt, when this story originally appeared in 2000, was the general manager of a bowling center in Delaware, while Clay was an outstanding pro and on the circuit until sidelined by back surgery. The Pezzanos are in the bowling record book as a family, the first father and four sons to all have rolled a sanctioned 300 game. Chuck Pezzano passed away in January 2015 at the age of 86. He is survived by his four sons, grandchildren Amanda Rose Pezzano and Jarod Charles Pezzano, and brothers Russell and Arnold Pezzano. He was preceded in death by his wife Lila (nee Grosser) in 1983, brother William and sister Joan. • September 2020


New Jersey City University’s women’s soccer head coach Anthony Tuesta has been elected to the Clifton High School Athletic Hall of Fame, in recognition for his All-State career for the Mustangs from 1998-2001. Tuesta, who is now in his fifth season as Gothic Knight head coach in Fall 2020, was among a group of Mustangs to be inducted in October. Unfortunately the banquet has been postponed to 2021 but we are continuing recalling their glory days as Mustangs. David and Anthony Tuesta during the ’02 season with Coach Fernando Rossi and on the facing page, soon-tobe CHS Hall of Famer Anthony Tuesta today.

Class of 2020 Inductees Tom Acton - Class of 1987 • Soccer Anthony Giordano - Class of 2007 • Football Jeremy Hernandez - Class of 2014 Cross Country and Track John MacLean - Class of 1985 • Baseball Jackie Pangilinan - Class of 2004 • Swimming Anthony Tuesta - Class of 2001 • Soccer Kelly Douglas - Class of 2015 Girls Volleyball and Basketball Michael Doktor • Boys and Girls Volleyball Coach Jack Whiting - Class of 1969 • Contributor 2005 Boys Volleyball Team


2007 Softball Team September 2020 •

A 2002 grad of CHS, Anthony Tuesta played four seasons (1998-01) of varsity soccer for one of the most storied programs in New Jersey history. Part of a thick roster of Mustangs who played under late legendary coach Fernando Rossi, Tuesta was instrumental in the school winning four consecutive Passaic County and Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (NNJIL) championships. The Mustangs won the 2000 state sectional title and advanced to the 2000 overall state finals. Tuesta produced 226 career points in just over three seasons at Clifton. Individually, Tuesta scored 93 goals and delivered 40 assists for a remarkable 226 points in four years for Clifton, but essentially in three years as he missed much of his junior campaign in 2000 with a leg injury. He was a three-time First-Team All-State sectional, All-Passaic County, All-Area and All-NNJIL league selection in 1998, 1999 and 2001 and the 1999 Herald News Area Player of the Year as a sophomore. In 1999 and 2001, he was listed as one of the Top 51 Players in the state by the Soccer Coaches Association of New Jersey as a first-team selection; as a freshman in 1998 he was listed as a third-team SCANJ Top 51 pick. “While I certainly accomplished a lot, in terms of goals scored and individual awards, what was most important to me during my high school career was playing

under Coach Fernando Rossi and beside my brother, David.” Tuesta continued: “I am eternally grateful for the belief, guidance and support Coach Rossi provided for me throughout my career. I would not be the man I am today if it was not for Coach Rossi. I wish he was still alive today to see how far I’ve come, from a struggling student to a Division III college head coach. Additionally, playing alongside my brother David, and winning championships with him is something I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to do. Playing with my brother is one of the fondest memories of my life and I will cherish those moments forever.” Tuesta made an immediate impact as a freshman in 1998, scoring 23 goals with 18 assists for 64 points. The Mustangs scoring leader, he was voted Third-Team AllState, First-Team All-Group IV, First-Team All-County, First-Team All-Area, First-Team All-NNJIL conference. Clifton won the Passaic County Tournament Championship and was crowned Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League champions.

Tuesta’s sophomore year saw him produce a career-best 76 points, netting 32 goals and 12 assists for a Clifton squad that finished the season ranked No. 2 in the country. In addition to winning the Herald News Player of the Year laurels, Tuesta was named FirstTeam All-State and First-Team Top 51 by the Soccer Coaches Association of New Jersey. He repeated with FirstTeam All-Group IV, First-Team All-County, First-Team All-Area, First-Team All-NNJIL conference honors and the Mustangs again were Passaic County and NNJIL champions. His junior season was cut short after just five games in 2000 with a broken leg, but he still managed to score six goals. Clifton was Passaic County and NNJIL champion for the third time in his career and was the Group IV state finalist. Healthy and back on the pitch for his senior campaign in 2001, he again scored 32 goals while adding 10 assists for 74 points. • September 2020


In a mirror image of his sophomore season, he was First-Team All-State, First-Team Top 51 SCANJ, FirstTeam All-Group IV, First-Team All-County, First-Team All-Area, First-Team All-NNJIL conference honors and the Mustangs again were Passaic County and NNJIL champions for the fourth straight year. He played two seasons at Mercer County Community College, leading the Vikings to back-to-back National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national finals in 2002 and 2003 under Coach Charlie Inverso.


September 2020 •

He then went on to Kean University for his junior and senior seasons. A 2009 Kean alum, Tuesta was a two-time First-Team All-NJAC selection in 2006 and 2007, taking home the league’s NJAC Offensive Player of the Year as a junior. The outstanding forward claimed 2006 and 2007 NCAA Division III/NSCAA First-Team All-Metro Region honors. In 2006, he was a Second-Team All-America choice and Kean’s Player of the Year and was a three-time First-Team All-State selection. Today, Tuesta is the second winningest coach in NJCU women’s soccer program history with 24 victories over his first four years while playing in one of the top conferences in NCAA Division III. Tuesta was named the 15th head women’s soccer coach in program history in November 2015 and in August 2016, was elevated to full-time—the first-ever full-time coach of the sport at NJCU. In his first four seasons at NJCU, the Knights have had their greatest success in non-conference games, posting a 20-8-1 record for a .707 winning percentage. NJCU was 5-1-1 out of conference in 2016, 5-1-0 in 2018 and 7-2-0 in 2019. Tuesta has coached one of the best players to ever take the pitch for the Gothic Knights, Mallensy Vargas (North Bergen, NJ/Memorial), who became the program’s third all-time leading scorer and one of the most prolific in league history, producing 139 points on 59 goals and 21 assists from 201619. Vargas became the first Gothic Knight to ever be named FirstTeam All-NJAC three times and the fourth NJCU women’s soccer player to earn a spot on an All-Conference team in four seasons playing in Jersey City. Academically, the 2018-19 team earned an impressive 3.208 grade point average and the 2016-17 club produced a 3.068. In all, 20 of his student-athletes have earned Academic All-NJAC honors. • September 2020


The Clifton

Sculpture Park

Have you visited

OUR OBVIOUS GEM? By Ariana Puzzo


September 2020 •

Barry Raphael knew his father, Jerry, had a lot to offer our city, and Clifton’s Sculpture Park supports that belief. Originally known as the Sculpture Garden, it wasn’t too long before the artistic landmark grew so large that it required a more appropriate name. While many may consider it an obvious gem today, Jerry’s love of art and network of artists, and the Clifton Beautification Committee’s desire to share art with the community, made the artistic landmark possible. “Dad was an independent thinker and an independent doer,” said Barry, 68. “He took the opportunity from the connections that he had made with artists because of his love of art to bring those pieces to the town. He loved making it happen.” Jerry was also trusted by the Clifton Beautification Committee’s chair, the late Councilwoman Gloria Kolodziej. “Jerry Raphael ran with it and did a phenomenal job,” said Jeff Labriola, president of Clifton Arts Center’s Advisory Board. “Gloria fully trusted him and his ability to network with artists.”

Among the unexpected but obvious gems you’ll find on the city hall grounds, from left: Masi-Watutu by Leon Wilburn and below at the entrance to city hall, Eagle Alights by Mike Bertelli. On this page, a tribute to Dr Jerry Raphael (pictured above) also by Mike Bertelli .

From hobby to passion While Jerry always had an interest in and appreciation for art, it was later in his life after his retirement that he got more immersed in the art world. The former Clifton resident, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 82, was an orthodontist by trade and an aesthetic at heart. Although his interest in art would increase following his retirement in September of 1988, Barry said that his

father did start to collect some of his art pieces in his mid-orthodontic career. “He was originally turned on to art after purchasing a water color and … he really started getting an interest in that,” said Barry. “But it really took off when he discovered art glass.” At the time, Barry continued, there were certain galleries in New York City that were starting to specialize in the medium. The Heller Gallery, in particular, caught Jerry’s attention. • September 2020



Above that is Mike Bertelli looking up at the Spartacus bust and next to it is a bronze relief. Both are created by Reuben Kadish. At left, Chrysalis by Gerald Lynch which is found in front of city hall. Facing page, the Bust of Hercules After Lysipposatop a brick pedestal. The Girl with Blanket is by Judith Peck also in front of city hall. Peace Offering by Michael Alfano can be found at the main entrance to the Clifton Arts Center.


September 2020 •

“Dad became very close with them and bought many of his pieces through them,” said Barry. “And it especially took off after he retired … at age 65. Then it became a full-time hobby for about 15 years.” What started as a hobby became important both to Jerry and his wife, Barbara. Having collected fine art since 1950, Jerry purchased his first glass object in 1979 and later studied glassblowing at Penland School of Craft, as well as the New York Experimental Glass Workshop, during the early to mid-1980s. From that point, it was a natural progression. He went on to found and become a member of multiple groups, including his role as the founder and first president of the Metropolitan Contemporary Glass Group. Later, he would become a member of the board of directors for the Creative Glass Center of America, as well as the president of Raphael Appraisal Services, specializing and limited to Contemporary Studio Glass. “He became a certified appraiser after he retired from orthodontics,” said Barry. “He went back to NYU for his certification.” “Then, he started making relationships with artists all over the country,” he added. “Some in Europe as well, and he would take these road trips and visit artists and collectors.”


Although it wasn’t his medium of choice, Barry said that the Sculpture Park was a source of pride for Jerry. “He had developed relationships with sculptors not because he had that interest in sculptures, but it was sort of a spin-off from his interest in glass,” said Barry. “It just sort of blossomed where he could make Clifton a little more beautiful of a place.” An obvious gem From humble beginnings to an expansive park, Clifton’s Sculpture Park opened in 1994 and remains unique nearly 30 years later. Around 2000, not long after the Clifton Arts Center was founded, Labriola said that it was “recommended the Arts Center assume responsibility of the Sculpture Park.” Initially, he said, artists would loan their work for two years, but some pieces are now there for over 20 years given the expense and effort involved with installations. “They are loved by the residents and the artists are happy to have their artwork enjoyed by the public,” said Labriola.

One of those sculptors includes Michael Bertelli. After making some phone calls, Bertelli connected with Jerry and donated his sculptures to locations like CHS and Jubilee Park. Later, while owning and working in Bertelli’s Liquor Store in Styertowne, he was asked if he would get involved and be on the Board of Clifton Arts • September 2020



Spring Flight by Miles Van Rensselaer and Scorpion by Matthew Johnson. Below, Asteroid Girl by Charles Austin.

Center and care for statues in the park, which he still does today alongside Thomas Dzubina. Although the upkeep requires a great deal of work, its value to the community makes their labor worthwhile. “A tremendous amount of people go through [the Municipal Complex] and they’re not looking for art, but it hits them in the face,” said Bertelli, 73. “Clifton’s unique in that way.” “You’re not going to find a Sculpture Park with more activity.” Labriola echoed Bertelli’s sentiment and emphasized the Park’s current importance. “Right now, during this pandemic, having the ability to view art outside on the beautiful Clifton municipal campus is a treat


September 2020 •

for our residents and for all our visitors,” he said. “The Sculpture Park continues the initial planning for the Arts Center to serve as Clifton’s cultural gem.” As for Jerry’s memory, it lives on throughout the complex but also through the tribute marble statue of a fictional character sculpted by Bertelli. A plaque on it reads: “A Clifton resident whose dedication, aesthetic vision and perseverance made possible the creation of Clifton’s Sculpture Park. We are forever grateful.” Barry said the public’s enjoyment would be more than enough for his father. “If he were here, he probably wouldn’t want any adulation about it at all,” he said. “He wanted it there for people to enjoy. For Clifton to appreciate. It’s a cool piece of history, something that’s lasting.”


Visit the Sculpture Park on 9/11 and you’ll see over 2,000 American flags billowing on the city hall complex. In 2002, Avenue of Flags founders (the late) John Biegel, Walt Pruiksma and Keith Oakley.

On September 11, at least 2,145 American flags will be posted at dawn on the roads and walkways around city hall in tribute to veterans, both living and deceased. Walk the grounds that day before dusk and take in a red, white and blue celebration of service to our nation. Clifton’s Avenue of Flags marks its 18th year since its premier on Labor Day, September 2, 2002. The display began with 230 flags, each purchased by a family member to honor a veteran for his or her service. “We began it on Labor Day in 2002 but by 2004 when 9/11 became known as Patriot’s Day, we felt it was more appropriate to do it then,” said organizer Keith Oakley. Oakley is one of the three founders—and among the hundreds of volunteers—who helped bring the patriotic display to fruition. They include the late John Biegel Jr. and Walter Pruiksma, who now lives in Toms River. Dozens of volunteers also help put up flags on Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day and July 4. Many return at dusk to take down and store the flags in a former barn on the city hall property. On 9/11, that barn is where you will find Oakley and other volunteer directors Marie Schultheis, Bill Van Eck, Joe Tuzzolino and John McGuire who have a registry of names of the sponsored flags. They’ll direct visitors to sections on the campus where a specific flag is located. The city’s official 9/11 service is at 9 am at the memorial in front of City Hall. The quiet service recalls Cliftonites who died that day: Zuhtu Ibis, Kyung Cho, Francis Joseph Trombino, Ehtesham U. Raja, Edward C. Murphy, Edgar H. Emery, Port Authority Officer John Skala, as well as brothers John and Tim Grazioso.

The grounds around the city hall campus still offers plenty of sections where the committee hopes to continue the display, perhaps to as many as 3,000 flags. To do that they need more folks to purchase flag sets to honor a veteran, either living or deceased, who served in peacetime or in combat. To purchase a flag to honor a veteran; find a form at Mail it with a $110 check and proof of veteran’s service. The purchase includes a pole with a 3 feet by 5 feet nylon embroidered flag, a protective sleeve, a name plate for your veteran, and a ground socket. The veteran’s name, branch of service, and the donor’s name will be placed in that previously mentioned registry which is essentially a guide to every name listed. Looking forward to a special celebration on Veteran’s Day, November 11, Oakley said there will be an unveiling of a stone monument with the names of Cliftonites killed in action during WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq and Afghanistan. On that day, 97-year old Walter Pruiksma, the other living co-founder of the Avenue of Flags, will join in the 11 am ceremony to unveil the monument. “It is a granite slab with the names etched in so family member can use a paper and pencil to trace names like they do on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington or Holmdel,” said Oakley. Funding for the monument was provided by a private source. Oakley is asking those who have family member killed in the line of duty during war to contact him so that special arrangements can be made for visits. Call Oakley at 201-774-6666 with any questions. • September 2020



Coming this October

That’s the COVID-ready 2020 Marching Mustangs Seniors and Fighting Mustang Junior Quarterback Kyle Vellis in a 2019 photo.

Clifton sports look different this year and, as a result, so did Clifton Merchant’s September issue which normally features Mustang sports teams. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Fall 2020 Sports start date was pushed back to October. Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Aug. 17 that fall high school sports can proceed with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s new time frame. Official sports practice will begin on Sept. 14. Games can begin on Sept. 28 for girls tennis, with other sports starting on Oct. 1, except for football’s Oct. 2 start date.

While we may need to wait a little longer before we can take to the stands as we normally do to support the Mustangs, Murphy reiterated that all decision makers are prioritizing the health and safety of communities. “We know the NJSIAA is taking extremely seriously the need for protecting everyone in our school communities, and will only pursue a sports schedule if they feel the proper health and safety requirements can be met,” said Murphy during his press briefing. Clifton Merchant’s coverage of Mustang sports will return next month.

Have Clifton Merchant Mailed. $35 per year $60 for two • Mailed via first class to your home

Name:____________________________________________________________ Address:__________________________________________________________ City:___________________________ State:_____________________________ Zip:___________________ Phone:____________________________________ Email:____________________________________________________________ Please make checks to Tomahawk Promotions, 1288 Main Ave., Clifton NJ 07011


September 2020 •


WALK UP CLINICS: Tuesday, October 13th: 10:30am-1:30pm Thursday, October 15th: 10:30am-1:30pm Tuesday, October 20th: 10:30am-1:30pm Thursday, October 22nd: 10:30am-1:30pm Location: Clifton Senior Center Parking Lot #9, Barn C-5 900 Clifton Ave., Clifton, NJ 07013 *******************************************************************************

DRIVE THRU CLINIC: Saturday, October 24th: 9:00am-12:00pm Location: Clifton DPW Garage 307 E 7th St., Clifton, NJ 07011

When you arrive at the site, you will remain in your car through out the registration process. Residents must wear masks when opening windows or exiting vehicles and practice social distancing at all times. *********************************************************************************


Call: 973-470-5760 Visit: to register and for more information on these clinics. The flu clinics are open to residents of Clifton & Little Falls 6 years of age and older. The Clifton Health Department is a contractual health agency serving the Township of Little Falls. • September 2020



Members of the New Jersey Battle of the Badges conducted a backpack drive for kids attending summer camp at the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton. Some 100 kids received a backpack full of school supplies from members of the non-profit group. NJBOTB utilizes mentoring events like this to unite police, fire, corrections and first responders and provides the opportunity to network and celebrate the lives of fallen comrades. “Utah,” a pastel landscape by Clifton artist Michael Gabriele (inset) has been selected by the Allied Artists of America for the organization’s 107th juried annual exhibition. Gabriele is a member of the Clifton Arts Center board, an author of various books and is a frequent contributor to Clifton Magazine. He and his family have lived in Clifton since 1990.

This pastel landscape by Michael Gabriele will be part of the Allied Artists of America’s 107th annual exhibition which will be displayed “online only” at The landscape is based on drawings done by Gabriele during his visit to Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah. “Being accepted into this prestigious exhibition is one of the highlights in my career as a local artist,” Gabriele said.


September 2020 •

Robert Foster, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton was named 2020 Executive of the Year by the Club’s Professional Association. CHS Soccer Coach Stan Lembryk, and assistants Marlon Flores and Frank Pajulo, heard of the accolade and provided Foster with a signed soccer ball and team picture of the 2019 undefeated (22-0) New Jersey State Champions Mustangs Boys Soccer Team. “Our Fighting Mustangs all started playing at an early age with the Winter Indoor Soccer League,” said Lembryk. “The Club is the foundation of our program and we are so thankful that Bob and his staff provide a great learning environment for our future and current Mustangs. As the message says on the side of the building,” Lembryk said, “Great Futures Start Here.”

Congressman Bill Pascrell secured a $100,235 grant for the Clifton Fire Department through the CARES Act Assistance to Firefighters. Clifton FD will use the funds to purchase life-saving personal protective equipment, such as masks, shields, and gloves, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “Bill is always there for Cliftonites and our public safety officers have always been a priority for him and his team,” said Mayor Jim Anzaldi. Through his FIRE Act, Rep. Pascrell helps procure hundreds of thousands in federal support for New Jersey firefighters. The CARES Act provided $100 million in funding for the AFG program to help fire departments purchase personal protective equipment and supplies. The HEROES Act, which was passed by the House in May, has been held up in the Senate for 103 days. “I know Clifton’s firefighters are working every day to keep us safe and I will continue to fight for every federal dollar they need to weather this crisis,” said Pascrell. “And I will not stop pushing the Senate to pass our HEROES Act with the urgency this moment demands.” In the last few weeks alone, Rep. Pascrell has announced more than $200K in federal grants for North Jersey fire departments.

The Theater League of Clifton will present “Showtune,” a revue of music by Broadway legend Jerry Herman, on Sept. 12, at 7 pm at Weasel Brook Park. The show is free but those planning to attend must reserve tickets at in order to accommodate safe Covid-19 social distancing Pictured are Jalmari Vanamo, musical director; Mark Peterson, president of the Theater League; and John Traier, producer of the show. • September 2020


Birthdays & Celebrations - September 2020

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

John and Debbie Tauber, Clifton’s Animal Control couple, celebrate their 42nd anniversary on Sept. 2nd. Deb’s birthday is Sept. 3rd. Happy birthday Nick Hawrylko who will be 25 Sept. 12. Father-to-be Eddie Bivaletz will be 32 on Sept. 8. Jarah Tamayo turned 11 on Sept. 1. Happy Birthday to Annamaria Menconi who celebrates on Sept. 21. Happy belated to Donald D. Dunn who celebrated on Aug. 22. Arlene Gibba Dooley is 76 on Sept. 19. Michael Capwell.................9/1 Allison Di Angelo................9/2 Liam Robert Martin..............9/2 Bill Federowic......................9/3 Dave Gabel........................9/3 Jennifer Martin ....................9/3 Sharon Holster.....................9/4 Natasha Mendoza..............9/4 Joseph Shackil.....................9/4 Eric Wahad.........................9/4 Linda Ayers.........................9/5 Christy Gordon....................9/5 Mohammed Othman............9/5 Ana Stojanovski...................9/6 Darren Kester.......................9/7 Helen Albano......................9/8 Eddie Bivaletz.....................9/8 Shannon Carroll..................9/8


Liz Tresca............................9/8 Geoff Goodell.....................9/9 Annamarie Priolo.................9/9 George Andrikanich...........9/10 Nicole Moore....................9/10 Dolores Wyka...................9/10 Ronnie Courtney................9/11 Andrew Orr......................9/11 Andrew Shackil.................9/11 Lee Ann Doremus..............9/12 Wayne Funke....................9/12 Thomas Wayne..................9/13 Sarah Bielen.....................9/14 Anthony Dorski..................9/14 Emily Duchnowski..............9/15 Manny Monzo...................9/15 Hagar Ibrahim...................9/16 Stacey Corbo....................9/16

September 2020 •

Nancy Ann Eadie...............9/16 Joe Genchi.......................9/16 Jaclyn Scotto.....................9/16 Cindy Murcko...................9/17 Kathleen Gorman..............9/18 Amanda Meneghin............9/18 Dawn Smolt......................9/18 Daniel Smith......................9/18 Gloria Turba......................9/18 Mickey Garrigan...............9/19 James Graham .................9/19 Rickie Ojeda.....................9/19 Louis DeLeon.....................9/20 Sara Gretina.....................9/21 Lynne Lonison....................9/21 Annamaria Menconi..........9/21 Peter Skoutelakis................9/21 Valerie Carestia................9/22

Barbara Ann Bush Griffith celebrated her 90th on Aug. 9. Beverly Duffy.....................9/22 Ryan Gorny......................9/22 Timothy St. Clair................9/22 Keith Myers......................9/23 Brian Salonga...................9/23 Brian Engel.......................9/23 Pam Bielen.......................9/25 Deanna Cristantiello..........9/25 Donato Murolo..................9/25 Corey Genardi.................9/26 Saverio Greco..................9/26 Richard Van Blarcom.........9/26 Kenneth Chipura...............9/28 Barbara Mascola..............9/29 Thomas E. Moore...............9/29 Mary Perzely.....................9/29 Lauren Hrina.....................9/30 Ryan Lill............................9/30 Daniela Santos celebrates her 24th birthday on Sept. 5. Happy 20th anniversary to Greg & Margaret Nysk on Sept. 17. Arlene & Villeroy Hard will be married 62 years on Sept. 14. • September 2020 


As gyms, indoor dining establishments, and movie theaters reopen with limited capacities, the COVID-19 story continues to evolve. Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 181 on Aug. 27, permitting gyms and health clubs, in addition to amusement and water parks, to reopen their indoor premises. The order went into effect on Sept. 1, under the condition that the facilities follow the Department of Health’s health and safety standards. Murphy later announced on Aug. 31 that indoor dining would resume and movie theaters would reopen on Sept. 4, similarly operating at 25% of the stated maximum capacity. The latter decision was made in an effort to continue moving forward. “Reopening responsibly will help us restore one of our state’s key industries while continuing to make progress against #COVID19,” wrote Murphy in a tweet on Aug. 31. The reopenings came after Murphy signed an executive order earlier on Aug. 27 that extended the Public Health Emergency, originally declared on March 9. As the state continues to reopen under mandatory guidelines and regulations, and its residents choose whether to take advantage of these openings, the businesses that are the backbone of our city will undoubtedly return with the goal of serving its community and doing so safely. “Clean, fresh and safe has always been our way at Crunch Clifton and we are even upping our standards and procedures,” said Rafael Cuellar, (pictured) owner of Crunch Fitness located at the intersection of Paulison and Clifton Avenues.


September 2020 •

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