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    NJ Advance Media breaks down the biggest things to track heading into the season.


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    The women claim they were assaulted by therapists at Massage Envy locations in Piscataway, Closter, Mays Landing and Short Hills.

    Four women in New Jersey have sued Massage Envy, claiming they were sexually assaulted while on the massage table and then discouraged by management from going to the police.

    The suit, filed Thursday in Middlesex County by the law firm Laffey, Bucci & Kent, claims the assaults occurred from January 2015 to November 2016 at franchises in Piscataway, Closter, Mays Landing and Short Hills. The allegations include claims of penetration and massaging of intimate areas without consent.

    All of the allegations involve male massage therapists who allegedly assaulted female customers.

    The women allege vicarious liability, conspiracy and fraud.

    According to a BuzzFeed report last year, more than 180 women have made allegations of assault at Massage Envy locations nationwide.

    "We allege that Massage Envy knew about the problem of sexual assault at its Massage Envy locations and, beyond simply doing nothing, in fact discouraged reporting to police and other authorities," Stewart Ryan, an attorney for the women, said in an email.

    In a letter released on Monday, Massage Envy CEO Joseph C. Magnacca said the company has strengthened existing policies to prevent inappropriate conduct in its therapy rooms.

    "One incident is too many, which is why our rigorous commitment-to-safety plan is in place to identify and implement measures that will keep the clients and therapists at Massage Envy franchise locations safe," Magnacca said.

    A woman identified as "Jane Doe #1" claims she was assaulted at the Piscataway location by a therapist who repeatedly massaged her buttocks, breasts and nipples. When she asked him to stop, he "touched the area between her legs and made contact with her vaginal area," the suit says.

    Another woman who sought a massage in Mays Landing for a shoulder injury claims the male masseuse brushed up against her with his erect penis, "wrapped his hands around her neck, choking her," and then "penetrated (her) vagina with his finger."

    The woman, identified as "Jane Doe #2," claims she was terrified during the massage.

    "She froze and was unable to stop (the massage therapist) from physically or sexually assaulting her," the suit claims.

    Attorneys claim the therapist had an extensive criminal history and was not properly licensed by the New Jersey Board of Massage and Body Work Therapy.

    A woman in Short Hills claims that she was sexually assaulted by her Massage Envy masseuse and then tried to report it to management.

    "She was told that if she reported the incident to law enforcement there was a lot of red tape and it was unlikely any action would be taken," the suit claims.

    In Closter, a woman claims a Massage Envy therapist penetrated her vagina with his finger and that when she went back to the business to complain, she was told the man had resigned.

    The business owners have refused to give the woman or her attorneys the therapist's name or say where he is working now, the suit states.

    Company CEO Magnacca said the company created an eight-member safety advisory council to provide training for all franchisees and managers.

    The attorneys for the New Jersey women, however, say Massage Envy should warn customers about "the dangers associated with" its therapists.

    Have you been sexually harassed?

    "Every person who receives massage therapy, whether for medical reasons, stress relief, or otherwise, deserves (a) full reporting of all the instances of sexual misconduct committed by Massage Envy massage therapists as well as preventative and remedial measures taken by the company to prevent future assaults," Stewart said.

    "We hope that Massage Envy, through these lawsuits and otherwise, will begin to put the priority of its customers' safety above profits and protecting its brand," the attorney added.

    The lawsuit seeks exemplary and punitive damages to punish Massage Envy "and deter other such persons from committing such wrongful and malicious acts in the future."

    In addition to the New Jersey franchises, the suit names Massage Envy corporate headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona.

    The law firm said in a statement that it has filed similar lawsuits against Massage Envy in California and Florida and that "similar state-wide lawsuits are being processed and will be filed in other states across the country in the coming days and weeks."

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at tattrino@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    In exchange for taking their money, he agree not to arrest the brothel owners, federal officials said

    Instead of arresting brothel owners, a Newark police officer solicited cash and took more than $100,000 in protection money from them, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said in a statement Friday.

    The officer also didn't account for the cash from the owners in his federal income tax returns, Carpenito said.

    Julio Rivera, who is no longer a police officer, has been charged with extortion under color of official right, bribery and aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns.

    According to the indictment, Rivera, a 49-year-old from Old Bridge, approached each of the brothel owners between 2011 and November 2016 while he was in uniform, and asked for regular cash payments. In exchange, he agreed not to arrest them for committing, facilitating, and promoting prostitution, according to the statement.

    Since he didn't include the payment on his taxes, Rivera's returns from 2012 to 2016 understated his total income, Carpenito said.

    It's unclear how long Rivera worked as an officer, or when and how, he left the department. A Newark police spokeswoman said that information would be available later Friday.

    If convicted, Rivera faces more than 60 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. 

     Robin Wilson-Glover may be reached at rglover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @RobinGlover. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Roberson Burney had worked as a contractor at the home in the fall of 2015. He returned on Dec. 25 brandishing a shotgun, tied up the victims and left with two Amazon Kindles, credit cards and jewelry.

    A 60-year-old Newark man who burst into a Bloomfield home on Christmas night in 2015 and bound a woman a two girls during a robbery was sentenced to life in prison Friday.

    Photo of Roberson Burney.jpgRoberson Burney 

    Roberson Burney had worked as a contractor at the victim's home in the fall of 2015. He returned on Dec. 25 and brandished what appeared to be a shotgun, tied up the victims and left with two Amazon Kindles, credit cards and jewelry, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office said in announcing the sentence.

    Burney is a longtime robber with several convictions who records show was released from federal prison in October 2014, as Robert Burney, after serving over a decade for a 1997 carjacking and crime spree - a case in which he was charged as an armed career criminal. 

    When Bloomfield police arrested him for the 2015 home invasion, four days after the crime, he was still on federal supervision.

    An Essex County jury convicted Burney in March of first-degree robbery, burglary, three counts of aggravated assault, three counts of criminal restraint and a firearms charge, Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor Roger Imhof said in a ststement.

    "Life in prison was appropriate given this defendant's extensive criminal record. He was previously convicted of first degree armed robberies on three other occasions," Imhof said in the statement.

    When Burney was arrested in 1997 for the crimes that went federal, he was pulled over in Fairfield with another man while driving a Jeep that was carjacked in Newark and used in an armed robbery in New York. They had cocaine, and Burney had a loaded handgun reported stolen in Detroit in 1975, the Star-Ledger reported.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     


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    There have been no zeroes in Week 0 in N.J., check out some hot takes from the first and second day of games from the Garden State.


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    New Jersey got drenched again with lots of rain in August, just like it did in July. Here's exactly how much rain fell in each of the state's 21 counties.


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    The summer was filled with N.J. celebrities putting their homes on the market.


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    Bovada, an online gambling site, release its odds last week, giving Newark a low chance that it will be picked.

    An oddsmaker is betting it'll be a long shot for Newark to land Amazon's second headquarters, ranking it 18th among 20 finalist cities. 

    Bovada, an online gambling site, released its odds last week, favoring Northern Virginia as the pick, followed by Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas.

    But should New Jersey's largest city come away with a win, the spoils could pay off. Newark was listed low on the list -- above only Miami, Florida and Los Angeles, California -- and given a moneyline of +5000. That means if you bet $100 on Newark, and it lands HQ2, you could win another $5,000. 

    Officials at Amazon said the company continues vetting finalist cities.  

    Newark, meanwhile, is plowing ahead. The city cemented into law its $2 billion incentive package for Amazon, which would offer long-term property tax exemptions and a payroll tax waiver. The state already approved a $5 billion tax break of its own. 

    HQ2 is expected to bring 50,000 jobs and a $5 billion investment to whichever city is chosen. 

    Here's Bovada's full list and odds: 

    • Northern Virginia, Virginia +240
    • Washington, D.C. +350 
    • Austin, Texas +400 
    • Boston, Massachusetts +450 
    • Toronto, Ontario +500 
    • Atlanta, Georgia +900 
    • Montgomery County, Maryland +1200 
    • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania +2000 
    • Raleigh, North Carolina +2500 
    • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania +3000 
    • Nashville, Tennessee +4000 
    • Chicago, Illinois +4000 
    • New York City, New York +4500 
    • Dallas, Texas +5000 
    • Denver, Colorado +5000 
    • Indianapolis, Indiana +5000 
    • Columbus, Ohio +5000 
    • Newark, New Jersey +5000 
    • Los Angeles, California +6000 
    • Miami, Florida +7500

    Karen Yi may be reached at kyi@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook

     

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    Cops had to shut down the concert when they received an anonymous threat saying the headlining act would be shot

    A Newark hip-hop festival meant to kick off the new school year was canceled this weekend when a reported death threat was made toward one of the headlining rappers, police said.

    Bronx rapper A Boogie wit da Hoodie was set to headline the show at Newark Symphony Hall, along with PnB Rock and Funkmaster Flex, but the show was shut down after Newark police received an anonymous phone call Friday saying Boogie would be shot at the concert.

    The plan was to host an end-of-summer festival, titled "Leaders of the New School: Back to School Jam," in an effort to "start this year off the right way" when kids go back to school, Dexter Thomas, the event's organizer said.

    Thomas said he was heartbroken when police called to tell him the event had to be canceled.

    "I was shocked," he said Sunday morning. "I was crying, begging them to keep it on."

    The police department has told media the event was canceled "in the interest of public safety," and did not have any additional updates Sunday morning. The symphony hall has not yet posted information about ticket refunds and was closed on Sunday.

     

    Meanwhile, Boogie took to Instagram to vent his frustrations about the show's cancelation and deny the death threat. 

    "I got no static with ANYONE," the artist posted Saturday afternoon, along with a screenshot of a news article. "It's nothing but love over here."

    Thomas, an event planner who owns the company The Promo Kings, said the festival was supposed to promote a positive message of nonviolence and bring kids in the city together.

    He said he's working with the city to reschedule the concert, and hopes to give Newark kids the show they'd been anticipating since March.

    "I believe music can change these kids," Thomas said. "This is how you get their attention."

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

     

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    Dogs and cats throughout the Garden State await adoption.

    Some fun and interesting facts about cats and dogs from Nationwide pet insurance:

    *  Dogs only sweat from the bottoms of their feet, the only way they can discharge heat is by panting. Cats do not have sweat glands.

    *  Dogs have about 100 different facial expressions, most of them made with the ears.

    *  A cat can jump as much as seven times its height.

    *  Dogs do not have an appendix.

    *  Cats have over one hundred vocal sounds, while dogs only have about ten.

    *  Using their swiveling ears like radar dishes, experiments have shown that dogs can locate the source of a sound in 6/100ths of a second.

    *  A cat's tongue is scratchy because it's lined with papillae--tiny elevated backwards hooks that help to hold prey in place.

    *  When faced with the choice of going the way around something that untangles herself or the way that makes it worse, my dog will choose the wrong way 101 times out of 100.

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


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    A look at legal action letters from the Department of Health show the most common reasons medical personnel lose their licenses


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    A Top 10 upset shifted the NJ.com football Top 20 after an eventful Week 0.


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    Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange opened its newest flamingo exhibit on Wednesday.

    What do you call a flock of flamingoes? And what exactly is the nub in the middle of their long legs? 

    The answers to these questions and more are now on display at Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange. Last week, county officials debuted the new flamingo exhibit, featuring 24 of the long-legged, pink-feathers birds. 

    "It's kind of preconceived notion that flamingoes are very island tropical but the truth is they actually are very hardy to colder temperatures," Zoo Director Michael Kerr said. He said flamingoes live in Florida and South America but also in the Andes Mountains. 

    The flamingo exhibit is named after the Drill family, who helped build the zoo when it first opened in 1963. The outdoor exhibit replicates the flamingoes' natural environment; an indoor pool will house the flamingoes when temperatures drop below 30 degrees. 

    Four full-time staff members will care for the birds that range between one and 18 years of age.

    "With their unique appearance and colorful feathers, the flamingos are sure to become a favorite of our visitors," Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said during a press conference. 

    Here are some fun flamingo facts:

    How long do they live? The birds can live 50 years or more in captivity and usually have a 20-30 year lifespan in the wild.

    How can you tell males and females apart? While there are some differences between male and female flamingoes, the best way to tell the sex of the bird is through a DNA sample, Kerr said. He said the zoo houses nine male and 14 female flamingoes and two are babies that have not been tested yet. 

    Is that their knee? No. The backward-bending joint in the middle of a flamingo's leg is its ankle. A flamingo's knee is closer to the body under its feathers.

    What do you call a flock of flamingoes? A flamboyance, a stand, a colony or a regiment. 

    Why do flamingoes stand on one leg? To preserve body heat. They tuck one leg into their plumage to stay warm. 

    What do flamingoes eat? Flamingoes enjoy shrimp, snails and algae. On average, a flamingo can weigh about 8 pounds and be about 40 inches tall.

    Karen Yi may be reached at kyi@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook


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    The Manalapan resident hit a guardrail as he prepared to enter Interstate 78 west

    A 36 year-old Monmouth County man was killed in a single-vehicle crash near a New Jersey Turnpike toll plaza Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

    Rene Melendez Jr., of Manalapan, was driving a Ford van when he struck a guardrail that separates the local and express lanes of Interstate 78 in Newark, according to State Police. 

    77-year-old Bayonne woman killed riding bicycle

    Melendez had just passed through the Interchange 14 toll plaza when the the crash took place at 4:38 p.m. He was pronounced dead at 5:13 p.m.

    There were no passengers in the van.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     


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    Architectural Digest released a list of the best-designed museums in every state.

    A museum celebrating the late legendary Yankees catcher Yogi Berra has earned top recognition for its design and the glass-box atrium that greets passers-by on the Montclair State University campus. 

    Architectural Digest named the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center the best-designed museum in New Jersey, ranking it along with other nationally recognized buildings like the Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

    The Yogi Berra museum underwent a nine-month $3.5 million renovation in 2009 designed by Ikon 5 Architects.

    "We're very proud of that and feel wonderful about it," Joe Tattoni, the design principal on the project, said. "It's a small museum that not too many people know about but its mission is really important and it's very unique to the state."

    The renovation added a 1,000 square-foot flexible exhibit area encased in glass walls. Tattoni said Berra used to sit in the gallery space -- in a way becoming part of the exhibit. 

    The Yogi Berra Museum first opened in 1998 and offers educational programming to promote Berra's values of sportsmanship, respect and social justice. Located in Little Falls on the Montclair University campus, the museum thanked the publication for the nod on its website

    The museum was closed on Monday. 

    In its rankings, released last month, Architectural Digest wrote that it was recognizing the most "beautifully designed museum in each U.S. state"

    "Since one of the roles of any structure is to welcome its visitors, it makes sense that these public venues are stunning designs meant to entice patrons into its doors," the publication wrote. 

    Tattoni said he wanted the space to match Berra's character and personality. 

    "This place had to be pretty open and inviting because that's who he is," he said. "(Berra) would talk to you like he's known you forever, and was very unguarded and very casual." 

    Berra, who lived in Montclair with his family, died in 2015. After serving in the Navy, Berra started his sports career in the minor league Newark Bears (formerly a Yankees affiliate). He debuted with the Yankees in 1946 and was named MVP three times, as well as inducted to the Hall of Fame. 

    "His heart was really in New Jersey," Tattoni said of Berra. "He was a Jersey boy and I think Architectural Digest recognizing this is kind of a nice way of elevating the state of New Jersey."

    Karen Yi may be reached at kyi@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook


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    The giant M&M's went missing after a KIDZ BOP concert in August.

    The search for two missing three-foot tall N.J. candy legends that were reported stolen after a concert in August has been called off by State Police.

    The Mr. Red and Mr. Yellow M&M display was returned Saturday, according to a State Police Facebook post.

    State Police did not divulge any details of how the M&M candy display was returned, but thanked Live Nation, the PNC Bank Arts Center, and M&M Mars Corporation for helping locate the display. 

    The characters were on display during a KIDZ BOP concert at the Arts Center and are thought to have been swiped sometime after the show Aug. 19 or Aug. 20. 

     

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at tharris@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyo.

    Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The Newark crash killed a motorcyclist around 10 a.m. on Labor Day

    A motorcyclist was killed Monday morning after a crash with a car in Newark, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office said.

    The collision took place at the intersection of Montclair and Summer avenues around 9:57 a.m., the office said Monday afternoon.

    The motorcyclist was rushed to a nearby hospital with severe injuries, but was pronounced dead about 30 minutes later, authorities said.

    The individual has not been identified, as police are still trying to locate his next-of-kin, the office said.

    The crash is still under investigation by the county's Major Crimes Task Force.

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


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    The median salary in the top district is more than $100,000.


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    A poem about street life in Orange mirrors a teen's life and steered him toward a future with hope when he sat down to write one of the verses.

    Al-Safeek Jackson doesn't know who wrote the poem describing street life in Orange.

    Nonetheless, the first verse resonated with him two years ago when he was just 12-years-old, reading the following words on Facebook about his town.

    'I'm from Orange N.J. Where It's Shoot Or Get Shot.

    "You a Opp or Thot."

    (The first is a slang term for an extremely attractive girl, the latter is fast and loose).

    ''Bullets Fly Bodies drop, I'm From Orange, N.J.''

    This line stuck with Al-Safeek, now 14, who saw his friend lying on the ground not moving, dying from gunshots in 2016.

    "His eyes were half way closed,'' he said.

    Al-Safeek started writing, too, continuing the theme of the poem. He added a verse with his thoughts, then reposted the poem to his Facebook page that same year.

    "I'm From Orange N.J. Where Mamas are burying their sons,'' he wrote.

    His mother buried her son, Rhasan Heath, who was his older brother. He said Heath, in his early 20s, was shot and killed over a girl. Two years before that in 2014, his dad Rhasan Jackson, in his early 40s, died from stab wounds following an argument.

    He said friends shared the poems many times, asking if he had penned the thoughts. Only this portion.

    This summer, it was posted to the Orange NJ Real Talk Facebook group. Some members agreed with his writing. Others who had moved away years ago couldn't identify with this new reality.

    Karen Wells, a resident, posted the poem, after someone sent it to her, saying that it was a girl from Orange.

    "It moved me,'' she said. "I was like, 'wow, if this what these kids are feeling, grown folks need to get better. Somebody needs to be talking to them if they feel like they have to express that out there in public.'"

    Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren said the township provides many cultural and educational opportunities for youth to thrive. He spoke of the Orange Police Athletic League and the Orange Peer Council, in which young people sponsored the debate series for this year's municipal election. Since 2013, he said the Mayor's Circle of Excellence has provided children with academic programs to help them improve in reading, writing, and math.

    "While violence in most urban communities is an unfortunate fact for some teens, there are countless other children - our children - within these same communities that make positive, life-affirming choices that lead them away from gangs and drugs," Warren said.   

    Still, the city has been struggling with violence.

    Orange had four homicides in the first six months of 2018, compared with none in the first six months of 2017, records from the Essex County Prosecutor's Office show. 

    Donna Williams, an at-large council member, shared the poem with others in the community, too. She saw desperation reading the words and called out to coaches and clergy.

    Since then, she's talked with Al-Safeek over the phone and understands that his writing became an outlet for him. There were several deaths the year his friend died.

    "Art reaches the unreachable," she said. "Here's the case of a poem that allowed a kid to articulate his feelings."

    Al-Safeek can express himself again on Sept. 13 if he accepts Williams' invitation to Washington D.C. There's a bus trip that she sponsors for young people and Williams would like Al-Safeek to attend the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative weekend. They'll have the opportunity to participate in a town hall about current issues, and experience something new beyond their neighborhood.

    Al-Safeek is surprised by the attention from the poem. He says he was writing what existed in his young eyes.

    "Even 14/15 Year Olds Dont Go Nowhere Without a Gun. I'm from Orange N.J. Where Making It To 18 is a Miracle. And 21 Is A Blessing.

    Al-Safeek said he hasn't been involved with gunplay, but he feels isolated sometimes because he's big for his age. He looks older than 14 and doesn't have friends his age. Consequently, Al-Safeek said he finds himself with 18-year-olds he shouldn't be hanging around.

    This is where Al-Safeek needs his dad, a man he said would discipline him and explain why. He misses him, his firm hand, his conversation.

    "He didn't play about school," Al-Safeek said. "He'd snatch me up." Even now, he hears him saying: "You know better. You know right from wrong."

    Vicki Wright, his former basketball coach at Oakwood Avenue Elementary School, said he's telling the truth.

    "All I had to do was call him up," Wright said, speaking about Jackson's father.

    Since his death, Wright said Al-Safeek has struggled to do the right thing all the time. She stepped in to be his Godmother, and so has Cynthia Jackson, an administrative assistant at Oakwood Avenue School, to keep him on track as best as they can.

    One of 10 kids, the boy and his family have been displaced by fire when they were in Orange. He and his brothers and sisters lived with different relatives. He's been in an out of three middle schools for fighting.

    Al-Safeek, who now lives in Newark, labeled the disputes as "he said, she said stuff," or "tit for tat" trash talking. Rivals, he said, taunt each other on social media or in passing with hostile lyrics from a rap song until they eventually come to blows.

    Al-Safeek, however, said he has dreams. He loves football but doesn't have the grades to play for West Side High School's team in Newark. He'll be a sophomore there this year. The future, though, is still wide open for him. He's thinking about a law enforcement career, maybe a firefighter.

    "That's challenging," he said.

    Al-Safeek said though his thoughts about his hometown haven't changed, if he were to add more to the poem now, he would take a forward-looking approach. He would put himself into it and change the direction of his life.

    This time, it would say:

    "I'm from Orange N.J.''.

    "I know I'm going to turn it around.''

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    Barry Carter may be reached at bcarter@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BarryCarterSL. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    A look at the top players at ball-handling positions for the 2018 season.


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