.

2012: A Year in Review

A month-by-month recap of the year that was in Fair Lawn and Saddle Brook

In the past 12 months, Fair Lawn teachers signed a new contract, Saddle Brook stopped providing health benefits to newly elected or appointed township officials and both towns endured another historic natural disaster. 

Here's a month-by-month recap of the year that was in 2012:

January

Business

  • A controversial yellow billboard that questioned passersby whether they could urinate popped up on Broadway, courtesy of a Maywood-based urology practice.

Government

  • The year opened in Fair Lawn with a changing of the political guard, as Republicans became the council majority for the first time in over a decade. Gov. Chris Christie attended the council's reorganization to usher in the new Republican majority and swear in Mayor Jeanne Baratta.
  • The new Republican majority selected a new manager to run the town, opting to bring back Tom Metzler.
  • New council members John Cosgrove and Kurt Peluso, who had been elected a few months prior, took their seats on council. 
  • Prominent Democratic political maven Vi Etler died at age 83 and council proposed to name a park near her home in honor of both Vi and her husband, Marty, a former Fair Lawn mayor.

Police, Fire and Emergency Services

  • Volunteer emergency service organizations in town welcomed new leaders as Eric Reamy took over as fire chief and Peter Yuskaitis took charge of the rescue squad.
  • Tensions came to a head within the police department when the rank-and-file took a vote of "no confidence" in Chief Erik Rose and Capt. Joseph Cook. The vote came on the heels of a bevy of lawsuits filed by police officers against the department, Rose and Cook since 2007, that alleged harassment, discrimination and retaliatory tactics.

February 

Government

  • In an effort to generate more revenue for borough coffers, council approved a water billing increase and mandatory alarm registration amid protest.

Police, Fire and Emergency Services

  • In the wake of a number of anti-semitic attacks throughout the county, including swastikas found spray painted in a Fair Lawn park, Fair Lawn police coordinated an interfaith initiative to take on bias crimes.

Schools

  • After 19 months of working with an expired contract, Fair Lawn public school teachers reached an agreement with the Board of Education on a new three-year deal.
  • The Board of Education voted to move elections, historically held each April, to November so they could coincide with political elections.
  • The parents of a Fair Lawn High School junior who had been booted from the district after administrators learned he'd moved out of town unsuccessfully plead their case for allowing their son to finish out his high school days in Fair Lawn.

March 

Government

  • Fair Lawn public library was forced to reduce hours and re-assign staffas a result of budget cuts.
  • The Planning Board kicked off nine months of contentious hearings on Landmark's proposed development of Daly Field into a 165-unit housing development.

Police, Fire and Emergency Services

  • A 22-year-old Hasbrouck Heights man, whom authorities said was driving drunk, was charged with vehicular homicide after his passenger died in an early morning crash on Route 208 near the Fair Lawn Avenue exit.

Schools

The Board of Education passed an $86 million school budget that called for a 1.9 percent tax increase.

April 

Government

  • Partisan tensions escalated during a work session to finalize the municipal budget and it failed to receive the support of Democratic council members Lisa Swain and Kurt Peluso.

Police, Fire and Emergency Services

  • To avoid the risk and expense of further litigation, the borough settled one of the two lawsuits filed by former police Sgt. Michael Messina for $550,000. 
  • Firefighters battled two simultaneous fires that broke out within minutes of each other in the southeast section of Fair Lawn. The first fire destroyed Brookdale Park playground and second caused extensive damage to a Zachary Terrace home. The playground fire was started by juveniles from Saddle Brook who were playing with matches, police said.
  • A glut of burglaries, including five businesses hit in one night, prompted police to expand night patrols to deal with the problem.

Schools

  • An outpouring of support for district custodial workers prompted the Board of Education, which had planned to privatize 13 of its in-house custodial positions, to vote to retain them -- at least temporarily.

May 

Government

  • Democratic council members Lisa Swain and Kurt Peluso called on Republican Mayor Jeanne Baratta and Deputy Mayor Ed Trawinski to resign for voting to replace longtime borough auditor Steve Wielkotz. Wielkotz, whom County Executive Kathleen Donovan called the "poster child for pay-to-play," had been Fair Lawn's auditor for over a decade.
  • Council chose to relocate its modular skate park, which was removed shortly after being installed in 2011 due to resident complaints, to the former Walsh Pool area.

Police, Fire and Emergency Services

  • In a story that became national news, a Fair Lawn woman was arrested and charged with child endangerment after her unattended minivan with her two infant children inside rolled backwards out of its parking spot at the Radburn CVS and into parking lot traffic. She pleaded not guilty in municipal court.

Schools

  • Memorial School principal Natalie Lacatena was tapped to replace Judith Moran as the district's next assistant superintendent.
  • The Board of Education approved the privatization of eight custodial positions rather than the initially proposed 13. As a result, the district was forced to refrain from hiring four of the 11 proposed teacher and staff positions included in this year's budget, postpone part of the bleacher repair at Sasso Field and eliminate the planned remedial full-day kindergarten program.

June

Government

  • Memorial Pool, which had been devastated by flooding during Hurricane Irene, opened on time for the summer thanks to the hard work of borough employees.

Police, Fire and Emergency Services

  • Police officer Juan Rodriguez, who had joined the force in November 2011, resigned to accept a position with the Paterson Police Department.

Schools

  • Challengers Vladimir Itkin, Jeffrey Klein and Mark Spindel announced their candidacies for the upcoming Board of Education election.
  • The Fair Lawn Boys Volleyball team repeated as state champions.
  • Superintendent Bruce Watson agreed to a 30 percent pay cut and was reappointed to run the district 2013.

July 

Government

  • Some residents and business owners expressed outrage over the amount their taxes had increased following the recently-completed reassessment. The reassessment, conducted over the winter, was undertaken in an effort to minimze the growing number of lost tax appeals

Police, Fire and Emergency Services

  • Following an internal affairs investigation into the conduct of Fair Lawn Police Capt. Joseph Cook, he was given the option of accepting a demotion or taking a suspension, according to his lawyer. He declined both and instead chose to fight the charges in court.
  • A resident was struck and killed by a train at the Broadway-Fair Lawn station. An NJ Transit spokeswoman said Yelena Gorovits made no attempt to move from the tracks as the train barrelled toward her.

August

Part way through the month, Fair Lawn Patch became Fair Lawn-Saddle Brook Patch, as we welcomed our neighbors to the south.

Business

  • Construction work continued on an upscale Fair Lawn development that abuts Route 208. The mixed-used development, called the Fair Lawn Promenade, is set for occupancy by fall.

Government

  • Amid lingering fear that Fair Lawn's in-house dispatch services may be consolidated, council agreed that outsourcing dispatchers is currently "a dead issue."
  • Fair Lawn residents received an extensive survey that was to be filled out and returned to the town with thoughts about the quality of the town's current services, among other things.
  • At the urging of residents, Saddle Brook's council voted to end health benefits for elected and appointed officials.

Police, Fire and Emergency Services

  • A Fair Lawn man was charged with aggravated arson and burglary in connection with a suspicious fire that police allege he intentionally set in the basement of an unoccupied single family Berdan Avenue home after burglarizing it. The accused, who had burns to his upper body, hands and face, lived just two doors down from the house he allegedly tried to burn down.
  • A violent crash on Route 208 in Fair Lawn left four injured and a Paterson man facing charges of aggravated assault by auto and driving while intoxicated.

September 

Courts

  • A state superior court judge approved an affordable housing unit transfer agreement between two developers that paved the way for the creation of dedicated senior housing in Fair Lawn.

Government

  • Saddle Brook council authorized the purchase of an old nursing home on Caldwell Avenue as the spot for a new low-income senior housing development
  • A group of Saddle Brook residents led by Omar Rodriguez who were unhappy with the council's decision to grandfather themselves in to receive the health benefits they eliminated for future elected officials retained an attorney and decided to fight the issue in court. 
  • However, a superior court judge ruled that two resident-proposed ordinances that sought to immediately end health benefits for part-time elected and appointed officials in Saddle Brook would not appear on the township's November ballot.
  • Longtime Saddle Brook councilman Joseph Setticase decided to remove his name from the election ballot just two months before election day. The Democrats selected Joseph Camilleri to take his place on the ticket.
  • After Fair Lawn's borough website host went belly up, the town changed hosts and began discussing expediting an already-planned website overhaul.

Police, Fire and Emergency Services

  • A 27-year-old Clifton High School teacher who grew up in Fair Lawn was indicted on charges that she engaged in sexual contact with one of her students.

October 

Business

  • In what became a national story, a Fair Lawn man took issue with the television policy at McDonald's after the owner of the Broadway franchise wouldn't turn off Fox News while he and his young daughter ate.
  • The state seized Fair Lawn staple Daniella's Track Side Grille for .

Police, Fire and Emergency Services

  • A string of seemingly related child luring attempts across the county, including one false alarm in Fair Lawn, put the police on alert.
  • Two Fair Lawn teens were charged in the knifepoint drug stick-up of a high school student near the Fair Lawn High School football field. The FLHS student whom police said was robbed at knifepoint during the drug deal was charged for allegedly setting up the deal.
  • A man wielding a claw hammer robbed the Chase Bank on Saddle River Road in Fair Lawn.

Superstorm Sandy

  • Superstorm Sandy, the region's second historic natural disaster in just over a year, wreaked havoc in both Fair Lawn and Saddle Brook in late October. 
  • In Fair Lawn, a woman was struck and pinned by a downed tree inside her home. In Saddle Brook, an abandoned toy factory caught fire during the downpour and firefighters battled it late into the night.
  • Both Fair Lawn and Saddle Brook rescheduled Halloween at the request of the governor. Fair Lawn held a trunk-or-treat at the middle schools rather than having kids go door-to-door.

November  

Superstorm Sandy

  • Fair Lawn and Saddle Brook schools did not resume classes until more than a week after the storm due to power outages and downed wires at or near the schools.
  • PSEG's estimates on how long it would take them to restore power to the thousands of homes and businesses without it were repeatedly pushed back. 

Elections

  • Florence Mazzer, Joseph Camillier and Andrew Cimiluca won seats on the Saddle Brook council. 
  • Eugene Banta, Jeff Klein and Mark Spindel won seats on the Fair Lawn Board of Education.

Government

  • After nine months of hearings, the Planning Board reluctantly approved the Landmark development on Daly Field with conditions.

Police, Fire and Emergency Services

  • A Fair Lawn man was found guilty of molesting his ex-girlfriend's 15-month-old daughter.
  • West Orange police released surveillance video of a prolific smash-and-grab burglar suspected in a number of commercial break-ins in Fair Lawn over the past few years 

December

Government

  • Fair Lawn's redesigned website is expected to be operational by late January.
  • Brookdale Park, which burned to the ground in an accidental fire in April, reopened to the public.

Schools

  • Saddle Brook public schools have started searching for a new superintendent after Kathryn Fedina announced she would retire when her contract was up at the end of the school year.
  • Polce in both Fair Lawn and Saddle Brook increased their visibility around schools in the aftermath of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Police, Fire and Emergency Services

  • Members of the Fair Lawn Volunteer Fire Department elected Jeff Greco to serve as their chief in 2013.
  • After a two-month lull, from 2011.
  • Fair Lawn's burglaries may be down slightly across town, but it hasn't stopped a Maple Avenue store manager who's been burglarized three times this year from considering leaving Fair Lawn.
  • According to the annual Uniform Crime Report, Fair Lawn's number of index crimes reached a four-year high in 2011 while Saddle Brook's crime rate was down 6.5 percent.
  • Fair Lawn police announced the . The new officers will be sworn in at the Jan. 15 council meeting before entering the police academy. 

--

Follow Fair Lawn-Saddle Brook Patch on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to receive our daily newsletter in your inbox each morning

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something