Friday, March 27, 2015

Report: Woman hit by cop's car fell with feet in crosswalk

The Hackensack Police Department report on the March 9 pedestrian fatality on Jackson Avenue and Kennedy Street includes a diagram showing that the victim, Hue D. Dang, landed with her feet in the crosswalk after she was struck by a detective's unmarked car, above. The police officer who wrote the report says the diagram is "an approximation."



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Hackensack police will not be filing any charges against a Bergen County Prosecutor's Office detective in the death of a woman, even though their report shows she landed with her feet in the crosswalk after he struck her with his unmarked car on March 9.

This afternoon, police insisted they still do not know where the victim, Hue D. Dang, 64, of Hackensack, was standing or walking when she was struck and fatally injured by Detective Sgt. John C. Straniero's car.

Police Director Mike Mordaga and Capt. Nicole Foley were not available for comment today. Foley, head of the traffic division, was quoted in The Record's March 11 story on the accident.

Mordaga was chief of detectives in the Prosecutor's Office until 2007. He took over as director of the Hackensack department in February 2013. 

Maureen Parenta, communications director for Prosecutor John L. Molinelli, said the office would have no comment because one of its members was involved.

Hackensack Police Officer Timothy Sroka said the diagram in his report is "an approximation," adding police still do not know where the woman was when she was struck by Straniero's silver Ford Crown Victoria.

The report, apparently based on statements from Detective Straniero, cited a fence with aluminum slats "which partially obstructed view on northwest corner of Kennedy Street and Jackson Avenue."

"There was also a large amount of sun glare from the west as the sun was low in the sky at the time," the report says.

Sroka wouldn't answer a natural question: How can a driver kill a woman and not be charged with anything?

The documents turned over to Eye on The Record after an Open Public Records Act request included a report that Sroka took a video statement from Detective Straniero at 10 a.m. on March 10, the day after the accident.

Today, Eye on The Record filed an OPRA request for the transcript of that interview. 

Eye on The Record also has contacted the state police and state Attorney General's Office to express concern that the detective escaped even a traffic charge, such as failing to yield to a pedestrian.

See previous posts:

Residents: Detective's car struck woman near crosswalk

Cops won't release fatality report without OPRA request



The "RR" markings on the pavement show the car, driven by Detective Sgt. John C. Straniero of the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, stopped with the right rear wheel in the Jackson Avenue crosswalk after knocking down the 5-foot, 100-pound woman.
After the accident on March 9, the victim's blood stained the pavement, right. Police said she was bleeding "from her ears, eyes, nose, and head," and was pronounced dead less than an hour later at Hackensack University Medical Center. The woman landed on her back parallel to the passenger side of the car, police said, so her feet could have been in the crosswalk, left.

The crosswalk and corner where the woman was fatally injured, in a photo I took from behind the wheel of my car today. The police report cited the fence, right, as "partially" obstructing the view of the corner. Aluminum slats on the fence were removed after the accident.


Who was Hue Dang?

Hue D. Dang lived in an apartment building on Hudson Street, between Route 80 and Kennedy Street, only a few blocks away from where she was fatally injured.

People who live nearby said she was carrying plastic grocery bags when she was hit by the detective's car.

She worked as a cashier at the ShopRite in Paramus until 2013, one of her relatives said.

In 1975, Dang and seven siblings came to the United States with their parents as refugees from the Vietnam War.

Today's paper

Editor Martin Gottlieb again screws North Jersey readers with a front page dominated by an air disaster in Europe and Sen. Bob Menendez's legal troubles (A-1).

The Local front is filled with a huge, gee-whiz accident photo from Route 208, and Pages L-1, L-2 and L-3 have lots of court and police news for crime and lawsuit junkies.

'Wildly expensive'

Staff Writer Elisa Ung chose the "wildly expensive" Grissini in Englewood Cliffs to review.

She and a co-worker blew hundreds of dollars on two dinners of Italian-American food, rating the noisy restaurant Good to Excellent (BL-14).

Ung gorged on a $48 rack of lamb, but didn't bother to grill the owner on whether the meat was naturally raised. Ditto for a hunk of filet mignon at $45.

And she had to sample two artery clogging desserts, zabaglione at $30 for two and a ricotta cheese cake with tiramisu for $9.

Her Friday reviews continue to run with the same coy thumbnail photo she has been using since 2006, but it's time to update it and include her double chin.



Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's simple: Put hike in gasoline tax on the November ballot

The Record's Peter Sampson, the reporter assigned to the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack, above, is covering the federal corruption trial of onetime Democratic Party chief Joseph Ferriero in Newark. Kibret Markos has been shifted from the Passaic County Courthouse in Paterson to cover court stories in Hackensack. Are readers being shortchanged?



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

When Governor Christie vetoed a hike in the state's minimum wage, proponents put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, and prevailed.

The same thing happened when the GOP bully threatened funds to acquire open space.

Now, The Record is declaring doomsday has arrived for a gasoline-tax hike to fund road, bridge and rail repairs in the Garden State (A-1).

Why not put a hike in the nation's second-lowest gas tax on the November ballot and let voters decide?

That would take the debate away from The Record and other media who love to stir up controversy instead of condemning the state fiscal crisis caused by Christie's rigid stance against any kind of tax increase.

And it would silence the crackpots who run Americans for Tax Reform and motorist groups that oppose a gas-tax increase to boost the state Transportation Trust Fund (A-7).

Hiking the gasoline tax would put the burden of fixing roads and bridges on the drivers who use them most, including the thousands of out-of-state residents who tear up the turnpike and parkway.


More corrections

Three more corrections appear on A-2 today, evidence that six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton and the copy editors she supervises aren't doing their jobs.

Houlton was promoted from chief of the features copy desk, even though she earned the title of "Queen of Errors" for failing to correct repeated spelling and other mistakes in her sections.


Crappy food group

The Record's Business section gives major coverage to the merger of Kraft Foods Group with H.J. Heinz, even though neither has plants in New Jersey.

The merger certainly isn't consumer news, because executives promise billions in cuts from shedding employees and other expenses.


Nowhere do Kraft or Heinz promise to improve the quality of the crappy processed food they sell.


They would form the third-largest food and beverage company in North America.

BIGLIE plate

The Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers is suggesting Staff Writer John Cichowski apply for a personalized license plate, such as HASBEEN, BIGLIE or IMKIDNG.

Houlton, the production editor, plays a big role in allowing publication of the literally hundreds of errors that have appeared in Cichowski's column in recent years -- few of which are ever corrected --including a boner in his Sunday column on personalized license plates.

Cichowski reported the NJMETTS plate is "fastened to the bumpers of two Toyotas residing in Rutherford with Bill and Shirley Metts" (Sunday's A-4), but it would be illegal for the couple to have the same plate on two cars.

They don't, however, as readers could plainly see from the Page 1 photo that ran with the Road Warrior column.

It's Houlton's job, as supervisor of the news and copy editors, to reconcile such blatant factual conflicts from a reporter who has clearly lost it.

And her refusal to correct them further erodes the credibility of the Woodland Park daily.

See:

Road Warrior's license to commit errors



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Christie's indecision, waffling shouldn't be front-page news

Hackensack's open-air venue, which also has been called a downtown park, is taking shape along Atlantic Street, near Main Street.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Editor Martin Gottlieb of The Record continues to ignore the close relationship of real estate mogul Jon F. Hanson to both Governor Christie and the Borg family, publisher of the Woodland Park daily.

Today, as on too many days in the past, a Page 1 news story by Melissa Hayes and a Charles Stile column on Christie's on-again, off-again presidential aspirations opens the editor to charges that the fix is in (A-1).

Hanson, founder and chairman of the Morristown-based Hampshire Real Estate Cos., is a top Christie fundraiser as well as his adviser on state gambling and entertainment policy.

He also co-owns a business jet with Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg, chairman of North Jersey Media Group.

Local news?

In Local today, the sixth-grader who won the 78th annual North Jersey Spelling Bee gets far more space than Lesley Renee Adams, the first black woman to serve as a municipal judge in Bergen County (L-1 and L-2).

What is the lead local-news story today?

A dispute between Korean restaurant owners in Palisades Park who have liquor licenses and those who allow patrons to bring their own beer and soju (L-1).

A better place for that story would be the thin Better Living section, where the editors pretend to cover the North Jersey food scene.

Editing lapses 

Staff Writer Kibret Markos is filling in on his old beat, the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack, while Peter Sampson covers the Joseph Ferriero trial in Newark federal court.

Today, the headline and Markos' first paragraph both report two men were indicted on vehicular homicide charges in separate crashes (L-1).

But the second case isn't discussed until the continuation page (L-2). 

Another editing lapse is saying the men "face trials," far from a certainty. They could take a plea deal.




Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Another one of Christie's many cronies takes a powder

A little red paint dresses up this building on Hudson Street in Hackensack.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

How many key Christie administration officials once worked for the GOP bully when he was the crime-busting U.S. attorney for New Jersey?

You'd expect The Record to have informed readers long ago about the large number of cronies who got jobs from Governor Christie, but the editors don't sweat the details.

After all, they just got around to tallying the 300-plus vetoes he's used to get his way since he took office more than five years ago and inherited a Democratic-controlled state Legislature.

Sandy aide

Now, Richard Constable is stepping down as Christie's commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, the agency that is taking all the heat for screwing up the recovery from Superstorm Sandy (A-3). 

Constable is a former federal prosecutor who worked for Christie in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark. 

Staff Writer Melissa Hayes actually wrote Constable worked with Christie [italics added]. 

And the reporter neglected to tell readers how much Constable is paid and how much more he will be making in the private sector. 

I guess that information wasn't in the press release she rewrote.

Constable is one of the many former assistant U.S. attorneys who got jobs from Christie, even though a good prosecutor doesn't necessarily know anything about being a good administrator.

I was shocked to see by the photo on A-3 today that Constable is black, because minorities complained the state's Sandy recovery program discriminated against them.

Fire series flaws

Today's front page carries the last of three parts of "AFTER THE FIRE," focusing on Englewood and Paterson families "coping after disaster" (A-1).

The poorly edited series neglected to emphasize some basics of fire safety, including the importance of smoke detectors, as was evident in the Brooklyn fire that killed seven children early Saturday.

Editor Martin Gottlieb just threw tens of thousands of words and some photos at readers, neglecting to break out some basic fire-safety rules in a graphic or box.

This from a former editor at The New York Times. Sheesh!

Elizabeth Branch

The best story on Page 1 today is by transportation reporter Christopher Maag, who interviewed Elizabeth Branch at a party celebrating her 50th anniversary as a Port Authority toll taker (A-1 and A-6).

Maag answers a natural question: 

How could Branch, of Bergenfield, love a job that forced her to breath in fumes for 50 years?

"The air is fresher," said the queen of the midnight shift.