Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Planned Hackensack park now called 'open-air venue'

A controversial plan to convert this parking lot, between Atlantic and Warren streets, into a downtown park has been discussed at meetings of the Hackensack City Council, which last week approved a $650,000 bond to help pay for it. Now, The Record reports, the plan is called "an open-air venue" that will complement the city's planned Performing Arts Center (old Masonic Hall, rear right).


An outdoor stage and a green; a groundbreaking set for the end of October, and, eventually, a 300-seat performing arts center.

New details of what has been called the Atlantic Street Park in downtown Hackensack were reported today in The Record (L-1).

The space -- to replace a parking lot used mainly by law firms lining Atlantic and Warren streets -- is now being called an "open-air venue for entertainment and community events."

A $650,000 bond approved by the City Council last week and a $268,085 Bergen County Open Space Trust Fund grant will pay for the work.

Renovation of the old Masonic Hall the city acquired in 2010 is estimated to cost $1.3 million, but it hasn't been funded yet.

Bad headline

The story makes clear groundbreaking for the new green space must take place by the end of October or the city risks losing the county grant, but the headlines refer incorrectly to Hackensack starting work "on art center," presumably meaning the Masonic Hall.

Where was Production Editor Liz Houlton, who gets paid six figures to keep such errors out of the paper.

Real estate and business interests, including prominent members of the Main Street Business Alliance, pushed for the new green space to make downtown Hackensack more attractive for redevelopment.

Still, the group has refused to pay for it.

First the Shell station on Cedar Lane and River Road in Teaneck went out of business, and now the Cedar Lane Grill next to it has closed, above and below.

The shuttered gas station has been an eyesore for years. 

This is local?

A Page 1 story today reports New Jersey colleges are enrolling many more foreign students (A-1).

But the editors of our daily local paper decided to use a photo from Rutgers University in New Brunswick on the front page instead of one from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck (A-1).

More than once, the story makes it a point of reporting the wealthy international students chose Rutgers and Fairleigh because they are "close to New York."

So, Fairleigh students likely won't even notice the sad condition of Teaneck's main business district, including the double eyesore of a long-shuttered gas station and diner at Cedar Lane and River Road, less than a block from the campus.

Where is Starbucks Coffee when you really need them? The nearest company store is on Essex Street in Hackensack.

Sad state of TV

The sad state of television is exposed in today's coverage of the Emmy Awards (A-1 and BL-1).

The awards for top drama and best actor in a drama went to "Breaking Bad," described as the tale of a "cancer-stricken high school science teacher who turned into a crystal meth kingpin" (A-1).

Julia Louis-Dreyfus won for best actress in a comedy for "Veep," one of the un-funniest shows I have ever had the misfortune to watch (one or two episodes) -- especially in view of the paralysis in Washington.

Wake up, Marty

Editor Martin Gottlieb, the former editor of The New York Times' international edition, seems to forget he no longer works in Paris.

Gottlieb keeps on putting international news on Page 1 and burying local stories, such as the terrific interview with one of the last farmers in Bergen and Passaic counties (L-9).

Todd Kuehm, the fourth generation at the 120-year-old Farms View in Wayne, refuses to sell out to developers, and has "turned down huge numbers that would boggle most people's mind, but I don't care."

Neither does Marty, who probably lives in Manhattan and could care less about the Garden State.

What a poor choice Gottlieb was to replace the incompetent Francis "Frank" Scandale.

Monday, August 25, 2014

There's a huge hole in expose of hospital takeovers

A senior living residence in Saddle River on Sunday played host to more than a dozen great jazz musicians and singers performing at a benefit for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, including vocalist Dianne Reeves, above, and Cuban-born pianist Chucho Valdes, below. The drummer backing Reeves is Steve Williams.

Introduced as the "greatest living jazz pianist," Valdes' pounded the keys at Sunrise Senior Living, where chairman emeritus of Blue Note Records, Bruce Lundvall, now lives as he struggles with Parkinson's disease. Lundvall organized the jazz festival.


The Record already has published many thousands of words in its three-part expose on for-profit hospital ownership, but not the ones local property tax payers want to see (A-1 today and Sunday).

In Hackensack and Englewood, two huge, non-profit medical centers pay little or no taxes to their communities, drastically shifting the burden onto homeowners and businesses.

Hackensack University Medical Center alone owns more than $180 million in tax-exempt property, and returns nothing to the city in lieu of taxes.

Unfortunately, there is no sign either Hackensack or Englewood will lose their non-profit hospitals soon.

But amid all the negatives The Record's local-news editors list in the shift to for-profit hospitals, one big positive development was overlooked:

Those other hospitals began paying property taxes for the first time, and that could mean lower bills for residents, landlords and merchants.

Who edited this?

On Sunday, the first part of the series reported, "... After several pending sales are completed, one in six of the state's 72 hospitals will be run by health care entrepreneurs and investors.... (A-1)"

Why are readers asked to do the math? Does the paper mean 12 hospitals?

Singer Norah Jones.

Guitarists Ed Laub, left, and Bucky Pizzarelli.
Pianist Bill Charlap performed with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington.

Not much worth reading

I didn't see much worth reading in the rest of the paper today or Sunday.

More than a quarter of today's front page -- on a golf tournament in Paramus -- is a huge waste of space, testament to how little news the Woodland Park newsroom generated on a sleepy Sunday.

Dogs figure prominently in two stories on today's Local front (L-1).

How appetizing is it to go to a farmers' market for fresh produce and buy fruit or vegetables with dog hairs on them?

That was a possibility in Hawthorne, where a half-dozen therapy dogs were available for hugging two weeks after a woman at the market was killed by the deranged driver of a pick-up truck (L-1).

Apples and oranges

What does the 2008 fatal police shooting of an Hispanic man in Denville after a high-speed chase have to do with Ferguson, Mo., where an unarmed teen was killed by police this month?

Absolutely nothing, but that didn't stop the befuddled Road Warrior from writing an entire column on police stops of drivers (Sunday's L-1).

The best story in Sunday's paper is the obituary of Frank "Candy Man" Ix III of Cresskill, a cheerful retiree who attended every morning Mass at a convent in Tenafly (L-1).

Tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano performed with his group and his wife, singer Judi Silvano.

Miguelli sang his own songs.

Holders of VIP tickets were served tapas, as well as beer and wine at two open bars.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Home-delivery mix-up: Features and opinion, no news

A small but vocal group of residents nagged Hackensack officials to start twice-a-week garbage collection this year. But the city caved in before encouraging more recycling and starting a composting program to reduce the waste stream.


The Record's plastic bag in my driveway this morning contained two Better Living sections, two Opinion sections, two TV books and some advertising.

When I called, I was told the news sections would be delivered "after 10 a.m.," but at 10:45, I decided to sit down at the computer, because I have things to do and places to go today.

Crappy burger

It's clear from Elisa Ung's Sunday column, The Corner Table, this ignorant woman hasn't read Consumer Reports in many years, and has no idea the magazine has been exploring such important food issues as harmful animal antibiotics and salmonella in poultry.

In fact, Consumers Union, the magazine's policy and advocacy arm, called on Trader Joe's "to stop selling meat and poultry raised on a steady diet of antibiotics."

Ung refers to Consumer Reports as "the magazine many of us use to buy a washing machine" (BL-1).

This is what you get with a restaurant reviewer who spends most of her time writing about celebrity chefs and the problems facing wealthy restaurant owners while ignoring customer issues.

Her column today discusses a new entry in the crappy hamburger sweepstakes in North Jersey, but doesn't compare the beef used and whether any of the patties are made from antibiotic- and hormone-free beef.  

Atlantic Shitty

On the Opinion front, burned-out Columnist Mike Kelly -- he of the inimitable shit-eating grin -- delivers a 40-year recap of Atlantic City (O-1).

The resort and its economic problems are of so little interest to the vast majority of North Jersey residents, you have to wonder why he bothered. 

The most incisive commentary on Atlantic City is not Kelly's.

Margulies delivers another hard-hitting cartoon on O-2 today.

Free travel

Travel Editor Jill Schensul reports on another free press trip today, this time to East Berlin (T-1).

I would never pay $118.60 to drive one of the world's unsafest cars, but she makes it sound so wonderful.

The Travel section was delivered with Saturday's paper.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Chief restaurant reviewer forgets she is a reporter first

Parking in front of Joyce Chinese Cuisine and other tenants at Kress Plaza, a strip mall in River Edge, requires the skills of a constitutional scholar to interpret all of the signs warning customers about time limits, towing and other bad news.

The Record's rave review of Joyce Chinese Cuisine in Friday's edition makes no mention of the parking restrictions or that customers who use the bigger lot in back of the strip mall won't find a rear entrance to the restaurant. This photo was taken today before the restaurant opened at 11 a.m.

The restaurant, at 478 Kinderkamack Road, also has a sign on parking regulations, above, in addition to two others on nearby stores, below.

This sign means that if you park in front of the restaurant, you have to finish your meal in 30 minutes.


Some River Edge residents were incredulous when they learned town fathers had approved a large Chinese restaurant for a Kinderkamack Road strip mall where parking is notoriously difficult.

Then, two friends joined a second couple for dinner at the new restaurant, Joyce Chinese Cuisine, and were incredulous they were charged an introductory price of $6 for a pot of tea that is free just about everywhere else.

Now that the restaurant has had its grand opening that pot of tea is listed on the menu at $8.

Starry eyed

You won't learn any of this by reading Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung's rave, 3-star review of Joyce Chinese Cuisine in The Record on Friday (BL-16).

But there is lots of gee-whiz reporting on the "more than $1 million" the owners spent to turn a vacant space "into an elegant restaurant" -- when every restaurant reviewer knows or should know readers can't eat the wallpaper.

Difficult parking at a suburban restaurant and an $8 charge for a pot of Chinese tea are two turnoffs that will keep me away no matter how good the Sichuan food might be at Joyce Chinese Cuisine. 

Lan Garden on Route 46 west in Ridgefield also serves Sichuan cuisine, and that restaurant, which is now having a soft opening, and Lotus Cafe in Hackensack have plenty of convenient parking out front.

Today's paper

Don't expect The Record to do any serious reporting on some lawyers' outrageous hourly rates or the roughly one-third they collect after huge monetary settlements of civil lawsuits.

In fact, Staff Writer Kibret Markos has filed numerous stories on settlements of many hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars without ever mentioning how much of that goes to the lawyers.

The rare byline of Jean Rimbach apears today over a front-page story on the $615,000 in legal fees Bergen County will be paying for two county police officers who were found not guilty in a police shooting (A-1).

On Aug. 16, The Record also reported in a Page 1 story the law firm that whitewashed Governor Christie's role in the George Washington Bridge scandal has billed "taxpayers" $6.5 million.

Hourly rates

Doesn't the county or state have the right to ask a judge if the fees are reasonable? Is that being done in these cases?

What about an investigative story on lawyers' hourly rates and whether they effectively deny due process to plaintiffs who cannot afford to pay for representation?

And are any lawyers in North Jersey actually doing significant pro bono work? 

Local news?

There is so little local news in today's paper a reporter was asked to write a story even after finding out no North Jersey activists are demonstrating over the shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Mo. (L-1).

On L-6 in Local, the local-assignment editors scrambled to fill huge holes with wire-service obituaries of two people no one has ever heard of.

Friday's paper

Page 1 of The Record on Friday read like a regional edition of The New York Times with stories on Ferguson, Mo.; the beheading of an American journalist in Syria, new DEA limits on a painkiller, Ebola and the national 'knockout' game (A-1).

In Local, the only real news was the death of Violet Cherry, former director of Englewood's Health Department (L-1).

Her obituary shared L-1 with a story on "a study" of a DPW access road in Paramus.

And why didn't head Assignment Editor Deirdre Sykes and her deputy, Dan Sforza, do more with a Teaneck Police Department tradition of bidding goodbye to retirees with a parade and party (L-2 photo)?