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    A new reporting project looks at New Jersey's economy through the lens of all the hustlers in the state. Watch video

    We want to hear how people in New Jersey are hustling to make ends meet.

    You could be in the circus. You could be selling jewelry on Etsy. You could be working five jobs. Whatever it is you're doing, we want to hear about it.

    Here's why we are launching this summer project: New Jersey is at the bottom of the list of states in terms of economic growth. For many people, jobs are hard to come by. For others, their paychecks don't cover the bills.

    In spite of this, people choose to stay and live in the Garden State, even though they have to hustle to make it work. We want to celebrate that.

    We want to highlight all of the hardworking people of the Garden State who are doing wonderful and unique things to get by.

    Through our reporting, we hope to understand better how New Jersey got to where it is today, how people have coped - or thrived - and what life might look like for people in the future.

    We can't do this without you.

    We want our project, "The Jersey Hustle," to be driven by you, the people of New Jersey. We're looking for people to tell us their stories or stories about others in their communities.

    If you're interested in speaking with us, please fill out the form below. If you want to provide information about someone other than yourself, there is a dedicated space for that in the form.

    We can't wait to get started, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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    The next monthly installment to the hospitals was due June 18, but that won't happen.

    New Jersey hospital CEOs just received a worrisome statement from state Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal alerting them that money they count on to pay the tab for uninsured patients and educating new doctors will be late, NJ Advance Media has learned.

    On Tuesday, Elnahal told hospital executives in a conference call not to expect their mid-June payments from the charity care fund, which are shared among all 70 acute care hospitals in New Jersey based on how much care they provide to uninsured, low-income patients.

    And the 43 hospitals won't receive their monthly share of the graduate medical education fund to support teaching programs, either, Elnahal said.

    Gov. Phil Murphy recently announced he was freezing spending in the current budget or face ending the fiscal year in the red. 

    Elnahal blamed the Christie administration, which cut taxes, with "creating a structural imbalance" that has starved the part of the budget not paid for by income taxes, which can only be used for property tax relief. 

    The charity care fund contains $252 million, the same amount proposed in the budget year that begins July 1. 

    "The Treasurer and the Office of Management and Budget have informed the Department of Health the state will have to delay charity care and GME (graduate medical education) payments normally scheduled for distribution in mid-June," Elnahal said. 

    "It is our hope to make these payments in a timely manner. But the timing of distribution will dependent on the ongoing budget process," he said. "This is not the news the department wants to deliver, but we have no choice at this time."

    He did not take questions.

    Gary S. Horan, President and CEO of Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, called the delay "especially these dollars are literally our lifeblood."

    The delay means Trinitas won't receive this month $2.5 million in charity care reimbursements and $250,000 to teach future doctors, Horan said.

    "As one of the state's largest recipients of charity care (funding), we serve one of the most vulnerable populations in the state," Horan said.

    Rick Remington, a spokesman for University Hospital in Newark, the largest charity care provider in the state, said hospital officials "are monitoring the situation closely, as the result could impact the hospital, our patients, and the Newark community we serve."

    Unspoken in Elnahal's statement is the fact that Murphy and the fellow Democrats who control both houses of the New Jersey Legislature, are having a tough time agreeing on next year's budget.

    Phil Murphy may not like this possible counter-offer to his budget plans

    Murphy released a budget in March that calls for more than $1.5 billion in tax hikes to help pay for more funding for education, transportation, and more. The proposal includes raising taxes on millionaires, and spends money on making community college tuition-free.

    But leaders of the Democrat-controlled state Legislature have pushed back against the new Democratic governor's proposals, saying they come at a bad time for an already overtaxed population. 

    The Democrats' counter-proposal includes a 3 percentage point increase in the Corporation Business Tax and a tax amnesty program to bring in cash from delinquent taxpayers.

    Cathy Bennett, president and CEO for the New Jersey Hospital Association, a lobbying group, said in a statement she was "of course concerned and disappointed by Commissioner Elnahal's decision to delay charity care and graduate medical education payments."

    "Our members depend on charity care funding, which only covers an average of 42 percent of the cost of care, to maintain their ability to stabilize and treat all who walk through their doors," according to Bennett's statement.

    The graduate medical education fund is also critical, Bennett said.

    "New Jersey's hospitals and residents also depend on graduate medical education funding to train the next generation of providers and mitigate the impending physician shortage. At a time when we are working to strengthen New Jersey's position as a leader in equitable care, this seems like a step backwards," she said.

    Suzanne Ianni, president and CEO of the Hospital Alliance of New Jersey, which represents 16 urban hospitals, said the delay may jeopardize federal matching funds if it extends passed June 30, under Medicaid rules.

    "A delay in making these vital payments could cause our state to lose over $23 million in federal healthcare dollars," Ianni said. "We hope that Trenton policymakers will be able to arrive at a resolution quickly."

    State Treasury spokeswoman Jennifer Sciortino disagreed with Ianni's statement. "The timing of the payment is not expected to affect the federal claim," she said.

    The decision to delay payments is likely to be seen as a hardball tactic against Senate President Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex.

    Increasing the sales tax or the Corporate Business Tax would provide more money to the depleted pot of cash used for things like hospital charity care. 

    Last month, New Direction New Jersey, a group aligned with Murphy announced it would be sponsoring ads this month promoting the governor's agenda. The lawmakers said they saw the ads as a way to negotiate the budget through television spots.

    A spokesman for Sweeney declined to comment.

    Staff Writer Samantha Marcus contributed to this report.

    Susan K. Livio may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find Politics on Facebook.  

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    Prosecutors said that for almost a decade, his drug-dealing gang presided over a "reign of terror" that included carjackings, kidnappings and killings.

    A notorious Newark gang leader who dodged a federal death penalty prosecution prior to trial was sentenced Tuesday to 45 years in prison after eventually admitting his role in an almost decade-long wave of violent crime that included five homicides.

    U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, who imposed the sentence Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Newark, in January had ruled Farad Roland, 33, ineligible to face the death penalty because of an intellectual disability.

    Just over a month later, however, the onetime leader of the South Side Cartel appeared in front of Judge Madeline Cox Arleo to plead guilty to seven of the 27 charges against him in exchange for the 45-year sentence.

    Roland's lead defense attorney was not immediately available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

    From 2003 to 2011, federal authorities said, members of what became the South Side Cartel were responsible for what prosecutors later called a "reign of terror" that encompassed crimes ranging from carjackings and kidnappings to street killings.

    Investigators said the South Side Cartel had its roots in the Carter Boyz, a neighborhood gang in the South Ward that later became part of the 93 Bloods set.

    Operating out of buildings in the 500 block of Hawthorne Avenue known as the "Twin Towers," the gang had about 20 members at its peak, many of whom had tattoos of the buildings or the gang's initials, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

    By the late 2008, the gang's members had gained a stark notoriety among Essex County law enforcement. Describing for The Star-Ledger how a single group of criminals could drive the city's violence, then Newark Police Deputy Chief Samuel DeMaio pointed to the South Side Cartel as a "perfect example."

    Amin RolandAmin Roland (Essex County Correctional Facility)

    Amin Roland, Farad Roland's older brother and a co-founder of the gang, has since also wound up in federal prison, where he's serving a 10-year sentence for weapons possession. He's scheduled to be released in 2020, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

    Other members of the gang weren't so lucky. In court filings, prosecutors said two of the five people in whose killings Roland was involved associates who ended up on his bad side.

    Investigators believe Roland shot and killed Fuquan "Fu" Billings for fear he would cooperate with police and implicate Roland in a Feb. 20, 2005, robbery during which Newark resident Jamar Stewart was fatally shot.

    An indictment obtained by prosecutors said Roland later fatally shot Abdul "Dubird" Billups after South Side Cartel members came to believe Billups had been involved in the killing of a fellow member of the gang.

    The final two victims, Kasan Prince and Maurice Silas, were shot dead in front of Oasis Liquor & Bar on Lyons Avenue on March 27, 2008 in what prosecutors said was an attempt at retaliation for Roland's shooting by rival Bloods gang members, who often congregated at the bar.

    At least one of Roland's accomplices in those killings, a 15-year-old boy was himself gunned down in an apparent retaliatory shooting, according to court filings. Prosecutors said many other South Side Cartel members have since been slain in various gang-related killings.

    Roland was first charged in the killings in December 2013 under a 24-count indictment, which also levied criminal charges against gang members Mark Williams and Malik Lowery. Lowery was sentenced in August to more than 26 years in prison after pleading guilty to racketeering, conspiracy, carjacking and other charges.

    Records show Williams, who took a similar plea deal in 2016, is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

    The U.S. Attorney's Office said Roland, Lowery and Williams were the South Side Cartel's last remaining active members.

    Roland's case had been only the second federal death penalty prosecution ever pursued in New Jersey, a choice that required then U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman to obtain authorization from the Justice Department.

    The last capital case in the District of New Jersey, the prosecution of a drug dealer who ordered the killing of an FBI informant, ended with a sentence of life in prison after the jury could not agree on whether the man deserved to die.

    In addition to the prison term, Salas sentenced Roland to five years of supervised release.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.

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    Newark East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador claimed victory in a tight runoff race against Anthony Campos.

    Two incumbent Newark City Council members and a newcomer -- who all ran with the support of Mayor Ras Baraka -- won their respective races in Tuesday's runoff elections, and will serve four-year terms overseeing the state's largest city.

    In the most contentious fight, in the East Ward, longtime Councilman Augusto Amador inched out his opponent, Anthony Campos, a former police director for the city, according to a spokesperson for Team Baraka. 

    Amador earned 51 percent of the vote (or 1,824 votes), preliminary results show, with 96 percent of precincts reporting. 

    The two top vote getters in three council races, who did not earn more than 50 percent of the vote in May's elections, moved on to Tuesday's runoffs.

    In the East Ward, the runoff pitted two members of the Portuguese community against one another in an area of the city dealing with its share of growth and fears of gentrification. 

    Calls to Amador and Campos Tuesday night were not immediately returned. 

    Central Ward (1).jpgLaMonica McIver (right) and Shawn McCray (left) sought the Central Ward Council seat vacated by Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, who ran for mayor and lost. McIver claimed victory on Tuesday. 

    A new councilwoman will take the reins of Newark's Central Ward, overseeing the hub of growth and development in the city's downtown. LaMonica McIver, who ran on Mayor Ras Baraka's slate and is his former student, was victorious in Tuesday's runoff elections against her opponent Shawn McCray.

    Preliminary results from the Essex County Clerk's Office show McIver earned 56 percent of the 2,802 votes cast, with all precincts reporting.  

    McIver is the personnel director for Montclair Public Schools and a trustee of the "Believe in Newark" Foundation. 

    "I'm feeling amazing," McIver told NJ Advance Media Tuesday night. "It was a humbling campaign; a humbling experience."

    "In the Central Ward they were looking for fresh face, some consistency in leadership and they were ready for something new," she said. Among her priorities is bringing more jobs to residents, safer and cleaner streets, and a focus on the city's youth. 

    Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins unsuccessfully challenged Baraka for the mayor's seat in May, leaving the Central Ward position open.

    McCray did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment. 

    West Ward (2).jpgTomecca Keyes challenged incumbent West Ward Councilman Joseph McCallum. McCallum won.  

    West Ward Councilman Joseph McCallum Jr. also beat his opponent Tomecca "Mecca" Keyes, a community liaison officer for the Heart of Vailsburg Block Club Coalition. Keyes ran on Chaneyfield Jenkin's slate and was the block's only candidate to make it this far. 

    Keyes mounted a strong campaign against McCallum, who faced also challenges from two of his former aides: Marcellus Allen and Artice Norvell, in May's election. 

    Preliminary results from the Essex County Clerk's Office show McCallum earned 56 percent of the 2,461 votes cast, with all precincts reporting.  

    Keyes declined to comment through her campaign manager; McCallum could not be reached. 

    Though all three of Tuesday's winners ran on Team Baraka in May, in recent Facebook postings and on the Team Baraka website, residents were urged to support McCallum and McIver. Seemingly omitted from campaign materials for the runoffs: Councilman Amador, who arguably faced the toughest race.

    The Team Baraka campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

    Karen Yi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook

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    The Port of New York Harbor, which stretches from the marine terminals in New Jersey to Red Hook in Brooklyn, is the busiest on the East Coast. Why are the labor costs here the highest in the nation?

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    The state released an audit of spending in the Belleville school district.

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    How the N.J. superintendent might be defended following the crappy predicament Watch video

    While the superintendent accused of defecating on a high school track said nothing in his Tuesday court appearance, some lawyers from around the state have offered insight on what might come next for the man the internet has dubbed the "Pooperintendent."

    Thomas Tramaglini, 42, the superintendent of Kenilworth Public Schools, faces municipal court charges in Holmdel for public urination/defecation, littering and lewdness. Using security footage to identify the alleged mystery pooper, Holmdel police arrested Tramaglini around 6 a.m. on April 30 at Holmdel High School while he was running the track.

    Tramaglini is currently suspended with pay until June 30.

    "I can't see how he cannot be found guilty of lewdness, presuming the video shows him committing the act," said Phillipsburg attorney Gregory Gianforcaro, who has dealt with municipal court cases for nearly 30 years.

    "If I were the superintendent's attorney, I'd probably inquire what the prosecutor looks for by way of a plea," he added. "And if I were the prosecutor, I would expect the lawyer to reach out to me prior to the case going to trial to see what deal could be made."

    "I'd think under these circumstance, it's unlikely to go to trial -- unless there's a defense where they have the wrong person," he said.

    Gianforcaro also noted that a majority of municipal court cases in New Jersey don't go to trial.

    "I would venture to say 99 percent are plead out in some fashion or another."

    Joe Compitello, an attorney based in Tinton Falls, said this case may be difficult to defend, since authorities say the mystery poops occurred on multiple occasions. However, Tramaglini may have some hope in regard to the lewdness charge.

    The key when it comes to lewdness cases, is that the state criminal code's disorderly persons' statute specifically says a lewd or offense act is an incident in which "he knows or reasonably expects is likely to be observed by other nonconsenting persons," Compitello said.

    "It was before 6 a.m. at a high school track," he added. "The expectation that no one would be at the track at that hour and observe him is a reasonable one, and it could be a viable defense with respect to this count."

    Hamilton attorney Les Hartman shared a similar view.

    "It's not like hiking on the Appalachian trail, where it's not reasonable to expect someone will see you," Hartman said. "But with a track, it still might be something where he said, 'there's no one here, I didn't think anyone would observe me.'

    "Based on the fact he was going to the bathroom, it wasn't reasonable to expect being observed," Hartman added.

    As for the public urination and littering charges, Compitello said the only real defense is improper identification.

    "This is why his attorney is pressing the issue with respect to surveillance cameras and any potential witness identification," he said.

    In Tuesday's court appearance, Tramaglini's attorney Matthew Adams stressed that the footage officials released is not the entire surveillance video. He claimed that his client only received "snippets" of the surveillance.

    Tramaglini did not comment on his court appearance, and headed straight to a black SUV on his way out, ignoring a crowd of reporters along the way.

    Defense attorney and TV commentator Remi Spencer noted that challenging the authenticity of the surveillance video is "a sound defense."

    "Common sense says we should assume that's accurate, the law says the state should show more," Spencer said. "That can lead to proof problems."

    "Challenging the authenticity is a sound way to try and defend this case," she added. "I haven't seen (the video), but you may have a real issue with whether you can identify the individual. It could be someone else."

    Gianforcaro added, "I would also review the reports, the video surveillance, any pictures or statements, police investigation -- if there is any doubt that it was my client who did this, then that might be a reason why I'd take the case to trial. It's the burden of the state to prove superintendent committed the acts."

    But an important question still remains, and it has stumped lawyers as much as the rest of the public: why would the superintendent do it?


    Gianforcaro concluded, "If I were the judge, then when or if he were either to plea guilty or be found guilty, I would want to know why or for what reason he did this before I impose a fine."

    Spencer stressed two things: Tramaglini has not been proven guilty, and that the prosecutor should make sure the surveillance footage is authentic.

    "I think it's easy for people to rush to judgement," Spencer said. "Rules exist to protect the innocent. Until there's some proof this video is real, knowing how easy it is for anyone to create something, we should remain open-minded."

    "For now, he's an innocent man," she said.

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at gdelia@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find on Facebook.


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    Counting down from No. 50

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    Featuring a cast boasting a dazzling collective resume of stage and screen success, the show at Paper Mill Playhouse adapts the 2008 documentary "Gotta Dance."

    You know that undeniable urge you've always had to see an alum of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" rap? Well thanks to the new musical "Half Time" at the Paper Mill Playhouse, Georgia Engel is happy to oblige. She also dabs, tuts and professes a love for 2 Chains.

    We're a long way from TV Land.

    Or maybe we're not: "Half Time" is a feel-good story about a geriatric hip-hop dance crew that revels in the tropes of sitcom humor and tried-and-true plot lines that have carried countless television shows and movies from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" days well into the present. Its warm moral that the humanity of the elderly ought not be ignored connects despite the show's inability to avoid the easy one-liners about old folks' vision problems and distaste for youth fashion.

    Featuring a cast boasting a dazzling collective resume of stage and screen success, the show adapts the 2008 documentary "Gotta Dance," which tells the true story of The NETSationals, the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets' senior-citizen dance troupe. A basketball team's hot-shot young vice president for entertainment, Alison (Tracy Jai Edwards), cooks up the idea and charges dance coach Tara (Haven Burton) with recruiting and coaching an over-60 crew to dance a hip-hop number convincingly and entertainingly at half time in just a few weeks.

    You can figure out how the rest goes. Surely you've seen "The Bad News Bears," "The Mighty Ducks, "A League of Their Own" or some other iteration of this tale: Despite the forces of self- and collective doubt, occasional squabbling and external pressures, the crew comes together as a unit and silences the doubters by dazzling beyond all expectations. We all learn a valuable lesson, and everybody lives happily ever after.

    If Bob Martin's script is formulaic, and lyrics and music by Nell Benjamin and Matthew Sklar are similarly prosaic, the duty of uplift for the show falls to director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who won a Tony for his work on "Kinky Boots." Here Mitchell mostly strives to craft a suitable star turn to allow each of his marquee names to shine.

    Engel comports herself well in several rap and hip-hop numbers. Andre De Shields shows the youngsters a few classic steps in "The Prince of Swing," which is fitting because Andre De Shields may in fact be the Prince of Swing. Donna McKechnie plays a former professional dancer who shows that she can still achieve grace, and Lillias White has a lot of fun being a protective grandmother.

    But although the climactic half-time dance is exciting and fun, the best number by far belongs to Nancy Ticotin, who plays Camilla, a senior Latina deeply offended by any notion of "age-appropriate." Her salsa-inspired "Como No?" is full of passion and dazzling choreography -- it's as though Anita from "West Side Story" has become a grandmother but lost none of her energy.

    If the exuberance of the opening-night crowd is any indication, this show hits a lot of notes that people love. Jokes seem frequently hackneyed, but there is no denying they killed, and the plot may be recycled, but it has worked so many times before that it's a safe bet that it will work again here. The opening-night crowd was on its feet before lights came up for curtain call.

    Mostly it seems like the novelty of seniors pulling off hip-hop dance moves (and make no mistake about it: Mitchell and cast pull it off) coupled with the heartwarming story of passion enduring despite time's merciless creep is enough to make the show a winner.


    Paper Mill Playhouse

    22 Brookside Drive, Millburn

    Tickets: Online at Running through July 1.

    Patrick Maley may be reached at Find him on Twitter and Instagram @PatrickJMaley. Find on Facebook.

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    Prominent N.J. businessman recalls how Jersey City had a positive impact on him.

    Whether it was hitting tennis balls against old school chain-linked nets or delivering newspapers after school, Bruce Schonbraun couldn't imagine a better place to grow up.

    "When I think of first playing on a chain-linked net it brings me back to early Jersey City roots," said Schonbraun, owner of Orange Lawn Tennis Club. "I'm fortunate enough to now play at Orange Lawn."

    The head of a four-person ownership group that includes Eric Witmondt, Evan Ratner and Ryan Schinman, the 71-year-old Schonbraun is in a mission to restore Orange Lawn Tennis Club in South Orange to its previous grandeur.

    "We've gotten a bunch of new members from Jersey City," said Schonbraun, a senior managing director and co-head of real estate group at FTI Consulting and chairman of the board of trustees at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. "It's welcoming to see Jersey City members."

    Schonbraun attended School 34 and Snyder High School in Jersey City. When he wasn't in class, the tennis enthusiast spent hours in various local parks such as Audubon, Bayside, and Lincoln Park.

    Audubon Park used to be the go-to spot for the best basketball players while Bayside was more known for its chain-link tennis nets. Lincoln Park, however, was the "beacon of tennis," according to Schonbraun.

    "Lincoln Park doesn't get the credit it should," he added.

    Despite his passion for tennis, before he hit the courts Schonbraun had a job delivering The Jersey Journal -- in the days when it was an afternoon newspaper.

    "There were other newspapers like the Hudson Dispatch and Bayonne Times," he said. "But the Jersey Journal was the paper in Hudson County."

    Throughout his business career, Jersey City has remained close to Schonbraun's heart. He recalled sharing stories of his early in Jersey City during a meeting with Joseph Scott, CEO and president of the Jersey City Medical Center and executive vice president at RWJBarnabas Health.

    "My blood runs deep in Jersey City," Schonbraun said.

    Now, Schonbraun and his ownership group are rejuvenating the 138-year-old club with a focus of family-oriented and children activities, pool facilities and restaurants.

    He emphasized that Orange Lawn is a social club with tennis as its main wheel. In fact, for years the club annually held one of the most prestigious tournaments in the country, and the list of winners is a who's who of tennis lore. Names like Bill Tilden, Don Budge, John McEnroe, Chrissie Evert and Dick Savitt, the Wimbledon champ from Bayonne, are on a plaque at the club.

    Schonbraun says tennis tournaments may be held in the future.

    Orange Lawn offers a handful of different types of paid memberships, one of which, the full family membership, allows full access to all facilities and services such as heated swimming pools and tennis courts, cafés with lunch and dinner, and locker rooms.

    The club also offers a children's summer camp as well as a venue for weddings and other major celebrations.

    Anyone interested in becoming a member or planning an event can  visit the club,s website, or call the club for more information.

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    The complaint seeks damages for what the family says are "severe, grievous, permanent and painful injuries" caused by negligence.

    The parents of one of 43 Paramus middle school students injured in a school bus crash that claimed the lives of a student and a teacher last month are suing the Belleville-based owners of a dump truck that collided with the bus, claiming negligent actions by the truck driver contributed to the crash.

    The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in state Superior Court against Belleville-based Mendez Trucking, said Asher Amir Majeed suffered "severe, grievous, permanent and painful injuries," for which he remains hospitalized.

    An NJ Advance Media reporter previously viewed Department of Transportation video of the crash that appeared to show the dump truck swerving in an attempt to avoid hitting the bus, which was attempting a U-turn via a cut-through in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 80 in Mount Olive.

    The driver of the dump truck has not previously been accused of wrongdoing in the crash.

    The 77-year-old driver of the school bus, which was taking students from East Brook Middle School on a field trip to Waterloo Village in Sussex County, has since been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide in the deaths of Miranda Vargas, a 10-year-old student, and Jennifer Williamson, a 51-year-old teacher.

    The bus driver, Hudy Muldrow Sr., has been released from jail pending indictment after surrendering his driver's license.

    But the complaint alleges the driver of the dump truck -- named in the complaint only as "John Doe (1-10)" -- contributed to the crash by driving the truck in a negligent and careless manner, failing to make "proper observations" and failing to maintain a safe speed.

    The family is being represented by attorney Bruce Nagel of the Roseland-based firm Nagel Rice --  a high-profile civil litigator with a lengthy track record of multi-million dollar jury awards and settlements.

    Nagel told NJ Advance Media on Wednesday that the family also has given notice of their plans to sue the Paramus School District after the six-month waiting period required by state law for litigation against a public entity.

    The lawsuit seeks damages in an amount to be determined by the court.

    Reached by phone, an attorney for Mendez Trucking said the company had not received or seen a copy of the complaint as of Wednesday evening.

    The attorney, Bryan Schwartz, said the company would respond to the complaint but that he could not comment further.

    Tom Troncone contributed to this report.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.

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    Weequahic High School held their 2018 prom at The Fiesta in Wood-Ridge Wednesday with the students dressed to impress dancing the night away. A toast off was held earlier at the school in Newark.   2017 Weequahic Prom (PHOTOS) 2016 Weequahic Prom (PHOTOS) Check back at for other local high school prom coverage. And be sure to check out our complete  prom coverage at BUY THESE...

    Weequahic High School held their 2018 prom at The Fiesta in Wood-Ridge Wednesday with the students dressed to impress dancing the night away. A toast off was held earlier at the school in Newark.  

    2017 Weequahic Prom (PHOTOS)

    2016 Weequahic Prom (PHOTOS)

    Check back at for other local high school prom coverage. And be sure to check out our complete  prom coverage at


    Are you one of the people pictured at this prom? Want to buy the photo and keep it forever? Look for the blue link "buy photo" below the photographer's credit to purchase the picture. You'll have the ability to order prints in a variety of sizes, or products like magnets, keychains, coffee mugs and more.

    Aristide Economopoulos can be reached at and you can follow him on Twitter at @AristideNJAM and Instagram at @aeconomopoulos  Find on Facebook

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    Americana? Something that makes you feel 'at home.'

    "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet" - Chevrolet commercial first aired in 1974

    The term "Americana," which covers a diverse range of things, is often the result of the mixing of cultures that make up America. I say it's something that makes you feel "at home."

    As far as I can tell, even if something wasn't truly born in the U.S.A., but makes you think "homegrown," it qualifies as "Americana."

    For instance, it has now been pretty much conclusively established that Abner Doubleday did NOT invent baseball in Cooperstown in 1839; the game evolved from ball games played in England, France and Germany.

    Hot dogs are, of course, frankfurters named for the German city where they originated. Apple pie has been baked anywhere apples grow as long as there have been pies; according to, China outproduces U.S. growers, and supplies 40% of the world's apples.

    And since I'm on a roll, Louis-Joseph Chevrolet was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, and developed his mechanical skills in France. Hot dogs WERE first put 'on a roll' in the U.S.; at least there's that.

    Americana? If it takes place in the country and makes people feel good, it can be almost anything at any time.

    In this gallery, we've touched on just a few of the countless ways 'Americana' could be illustrated. If you've got photos that you think would do the job, send them in -- Americana comes from everywhere.

    And here are some links to other galleries you might like.

    Vintage photos of N.J. Americana

    Vintage photos of how things have changed in N.J.

    Vintage candid photos from N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    They're scampering down sidewalks, running across streets and hiding out in garbage cans.

    First, the rats were scarce -- one or two in the grass every once in awhile. Then, they started showing up more frequently, scampering across the street in front of Carlos Lopez's home. 

    Now, Lopez is seeing the rodents on or near his Hillside property just about every week, and he wants the township to fix it. 

    "I don't think it's right paying the amount of taxes that we do in Hillside, because they're extremely high, and yet we got to be going outside and double checking the radius of the house (for rats)," Lopez said in a recent phone interview. 

    Rat.jpgCarlos Lopez, who lives on Silver Avenue in Hillside, said he has seen rats near his home almost weekly recently. He's worried about the diseases they might carry and wants the township to help fix the problem. (Courtesy of Carlos Lopez)

    Lopez has lived in his home on Silver Avenue for five years and began noticing rats when construction began in the area a few years ago, he said. Since then, the rats have shown up increasingly frequently -- leaving droppings on his property and chewing the wood fence around his house, he claimed. 

    Although he said he has hired an exterminator to come to his home four times, spending hundreds of dollars in the process, the rats remain. Lopez said he recently saw five rats in four days and worries the rodents might pass disease to his two young sons. 

    Some residents wrote on Facebook that they had also seen rats in other sections of the township, although other people said their neighborhoods were rodent-free. 

    Mayor Dahlia Vertreese on Wednesday said she was aware of rats in Hillside when she campaigned for the mayoral seat last fall. Health department employees have been inspecting properties every three months - laying down bait, picking up dead rats and checking for new burrows, Vertreese said. 

    "Some of the residents have brought up these concerns because they've seen dead rats, which means the extermination efforts are actually working," she said by phone. 

    Other people living on Silver Avenue recently said they had spotted rats on the sidewalks in front of their homes, in the street and in their garbage cans. One man said he found two rats dead in his living room. 

    Some people said they worried the rats might carry disease, while others simply did not want to have to see the unsightly rodents. 

    Richard Lewis, who has lived on Silver Avenue for almost 15 years, said he saw a rat on his property a few weeks ago. He said last fall he found some outside that were dead from apparent rat poison. 

    "I want something to be done about it, because I don't want to have rats around here," Lewis said in an interview at his front door. 

    Vertreese said the rodent problem was likely caused by many factors, ranging from utility work to the proximity of Newark's Lake Weequahic. The mild winter made the rats more active, she said, which she hopes will help the township catch more than they have done in past years.

    Residents should always put their garbage in cans, cut their grass regularly, and report to the township any burrows or properties violating township ordinances, Vertreese said.

    Rats can spread more than 35 diseases through bites, saliva and excretion, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ticks, mites and fleas that have fed on an infected rat can also share diseases. 

    Bloomfield, too, recently has seen an infestation of rats. The Essex County township's health department told it has set up eight stations to bait and poison the rodents.

    Marisa Iati may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Iati or on Facebook here. Find on Facebook

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    The presentations are free and open to the public.


    SOUTH ORANGE -- Village Apartments of the Jewish Federation, a senior living community in South Orange, invites older adults to join residents for two free senior programs this month.

    On June 19 at 5:30 p.m. dietitian Jackie Philbin will discuss weight management and living a healthier lifestyle. On June 26 at 5:30 p.m. art lecturer Judy Ebright will present a program titled "Children in Art."

    The programs will take place at the the community located at 110 Vose Ave. Those wishing to attend should call site manager Cheryl Kasye at 973-763-0999. Village Apartments is one of four senior living communities owned and managed by the Jewish Community Housing Corp. of Metropolitan New Jersey. More information can be found at    

    To submit news for the Senior Spotlight column, please call 973-836-4922 or email

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    Roseland Councilman Richard Leonard entered a not guilty plea in Essex County Superior Court Thursday to a criminal misconduct charge. Watch video

    Roseland Councilman Richard Leonard entered a not guilty plea when he appeared in Essex County Superior Court Thursday on a criminal misconduct charge.

    Leonard stood before Judge Sybil M. Elias in Central Judicial Processing Court for a two-minute hearing during which his attorney Vincent C. Scoca entered the plea on his behalf.

    The councilman only spoke when he answered the Judge, with his address, when asked where he lived.

    court02.JPGCouncilman Rich Leonard appeared before Judge Sybil M. Elias in state Superior Court. (Ed Murray | NJ Advance Media for

    On the way out of the courtroom his attorney, Scoca, said, "like everybody else, he's presumed not guilty." Then, the two men and Leonard's wife, Lee Ann, boarded an elevator together and left. 

    The Essex County Prosecutor charged Leonard on May 15 with conspiring to commit official misconduct, a second degree offense. If convicted he could face fines of up to $150,000 and five to 10 years in prison, Elias said.

    The prosecutor's office alleges that Leonard, 68, demanded free snow removal for a property he owns in exchange for a "yes" vote on a redevelopment designation for a neighboring property.

    Leonard allegedly made the threat in front of other council members and later abstained from voting on the redevelopment designation after the right-of-way issue was resolved.

    Leonard, who owns Arcadia Realtors on Eagle Rock Avenue, served as mayor of Roseland from 1975 to 1986. He has served on the borough council from1973-74; 1987-2004 and from 2011 to the present. He is currently the chairman of the capital improvements committee, liaison to the West Essex Board of Education and sits on the historic preservation committee, the board of adjustment and Camp Wyanokie committee.

    The councilman also found himself in the limelight last year when he publicized a thread of racially and religiously insensitive text messages between borough officials.

    Leonard is due back in court on July 9.

    Allison Pries may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AllisonPries. Find on Facebook.


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    The Greater Newark Fresh Air Fund kicks off another campaign to send city kids to camp and it needs your help.

    The girls from Newark went to the same camp five years apart, and both were crying for the same reason.

    Shaheedah Johnson, who was 12 years old, and Mariyam Kayjay, who was 7, had never been to an overnight camp. And this one would last for two weeks.

    "It was not sitting well with me," said Johnson, now 20, reflecting on that period in her life, thinking, "What am I going to do without my parents?"

    Even her dad, James Johnson, had second thoughts. He remembers seeing the hands of his distraught daughter pressed against the bus window as it pulled off toward Frost Valley camp in Claryville, New York.

    It wasn't any better for Kayjay, now 20.

    MORE: Recent Barry Carter columns  

    "As the bus is leaving, my brother is laughing and I'm crying my eyes out," Kayjay said.

    Within days, however, the tears had dried for both of them. The homesickness was gone. Johnson conquered her fear of darkness and heights. Kayjay learned to be responsible, and that being on her own wasn't bad after all. She became a camp regular, returning each summer for nearly five years. They both made friends, staying in touch with several of them today.

    The Greater Newark Fresh Air Fund had worked its camp magic again, just as it has been doing since 1882. That's how long the summer program, operated by the Newark Day Center, the oldest social agency in New Jersey, has been sending city kids to camp.

    Last year, 150 kids had the opportunity to leave the city streets to be outdoors and in the woods. The fund is targeting another 150 this year to attend its 11 camps, where there's overnight and day camp programs. Kids with special needs and disabilities are not left out, either. There's camp for them, too.

    They just need generous support from you to get there.

    "We're going to send as many children as we can until the money runs out," said Donna Johnson-Thompson, executive director of the Newark Day Center.

    The fund counts on public donations and money raised from the Battle of the Barristers, a softball tournament among law firms that usually nets about $100,000 annually.

    "I wish I could bring in a million dollars," said Stephen R. Turano, an attorney with the Connell Foley law firm in Roseland, which is leading the fundraising campaign for the tournament that it won last year.  "The goal is to get as many kids to camp and give them the chance to have that amazing moment that's going to change their life."

    If you would like to donate, send your check to the Greater Newark Fresh Air Fund, 43 Hill St., Newark N.J. 07102, or you can give by credit card at The names of contributors will be published on Sundays, starting this week in The Star-Ledger.

    Johnson and Kayjay had so much fun at camp, they didn't want to leave.

    "We (campers) huddled up with our counselor and cried," Shaheedah Johnson said. "I didn't want to go back home."

    She bonded with her friends. Kayjay did, too, cherishing the relationships and experiences that have helped both young ladies now that they are in college.

    Kayjay, a junior and a psychology major at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, said camping taught her to be independent.

    "I loved it so much, I chose to go away to college out of state," she said. "I like taking care of myself, knowing that I can do something on my own."

    Johnson leaned on the social skills she learned at camp when it was time to head to Montclair State University. A senior and a psychology major, Johnson said she was able to adjust to college life and create relationships.

    "It (camping) made me a better person," Johnson said.

    The positive experience they had should trickle down to campers who will board buses next month.

    Johnson-Thompson said the first session for Camp Winonah in upstate New York is already filled and she's working on the second session. The first two sessions for Life Camp, a program kids attend for the day, are full, too.

    "People are still interested in the Fresh Air Fund," Johnson-Thompson said. "They want to put their children into something new. They want them to experience nature."

    James Johnson, of Newark, sent Shaheedah for the same reasons, even though he was scared when he attended camp through the Fresh Air Fund.

    MORE: Newark fathers and male role models step up for kids without dads | Carter  

    The crickets, the darkness, the noises had him on edge.

    "I wasn't used to that," he said.  "I'm used to cars and airplanes. I was jittery when I left. I was jittery when I came back, but I had fun."

    When he decided to let his daughter, Shaheedah, attend overnight camp, Johnson said parental nerves kicked in and his heart was beating with worry as the bus drove off. He would soon learn, though, that he had made the right decision.

    Newark resident Marie Holley hasn't reached that plateau. She's still apprehensive about allowing her 11-year-old daughter to attend overnight camp.

    "l believe she can do it," said Holley, an employee at the Newark Day Center. "It's just me."

    For the past three years, her child has been going to Life Camp, a day program that she lets her daughter attend because the kids return home in the evening.

    "I'm going to work on her," Johnson-Thompson said.

    I know you will.

    When her daughter is 20, she'll have a story to tell, just like Shaheedah Johnson and Mariyam Kayjay.

    Barry Carter: (973) 836-4925 or or or follow him on Twitter @BarryCarterSL

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    CarmenPoodle gets along well with other dogs and rarely barks.


    WEST CALDWELL -- CarmenPoodle is an 8-year-old female poodle in the care of Rosemarie's Rescue Ranch.

    Rescued from a high-kill shelter in Kentucky after she had been surrendered there, volunteers say she is happiest in someone's lap and "loves, loves, loves people."

    CarmenPoodle gets along well with other dogs and rarely barks; she has been spayed and is up-to-date on shots

    For more information on CarmenPoodle, email, text or call 973-220-1900 or go to

    Shelters interested in placing a pet in the Paw Print adoption column or submitting news should call 973-836-4922 or email

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    Check out the final ranking for the 2018 season.

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