Friday, April 24, 2015

No stars for dessert-obsessed restaurant critic Elisa Ung

The Bergen County Human Services Shelter for the homeless was built on South River Street in Hackensack opposite the Bergen County Jail, below. Police Director Mike Mordaga credits his quality of life patrols and cooperation by shelter officials for a reduction in the number of homeless on Main and Anderson streets.

The county shelter serves three free meals a day, attracting a large number of homeless. But police say many of those with criminal records appear to be staying away from Hackensack.


Despite a growing awareness in the United States of heart-healthy foods and the harm to humans of antibiotics used to raise animals, The Record's chief restaurant critic seems to be stuck in the 1970s.

Today, Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung gives only 3 out of 4 stars to the widely respected Esty Street in Park Ridge, and throws a temper tantrum over what she calls "a sad list of options for sweet-toothed customers" (BL-16).

Ung never explains whether the desserts are what led her to deny the 23-year-old "institution" that coveted fourth star (Outstanding), but slams the place for being "in expense account, price-is-no-object territory."


In the eight or nine years Ung has had this job, I'm sure she has reviewed far more expensive restaurants, especially steakhouses where she thinks nothing of dropping $85 of the newspaper's money for a huge hunk of aged mystery beef pumped full of harmful antibiotics and growth hormones.

Naturally raised?

I would think the $39 short ribs and $43 filet mignon she sampled at Esty Street were raised naturally and came from animals that were grass fed, justifying the prices.

But all Ung says about their origin is "the steak quality here cannot be contested."

She does complain the restaurant's menu doesn't "note" the prices of three steaks or such "enhancements" as crispy oysters.

Yet, she is guilty of praising the wine selection and "enticing" cocktails, but forgetting to tell readers how much they cost.

No sugar high

Then, she devotes an entire long paragraph to her disappointment over the "leaden" creme brulee, "too-thick chocolate" in another dessert and the lack of "lush creaminess" in an ice cream.

The first sentence of that paragraph, one of 10 in the review, is missing commas: "Avoid the leaden creme brulee pound cake French toast and a chocolate trio ...."

Anyone concerned about their weight or heart health would avoid all of those artery clogging desserts like the plague.

'Health vice'

And despite all the years she has been stuffing her face on The Record's dime, her writing remains rough, and she doesn't seem to get any editing.

She claims the restaurant's "finesse screeches to a halt at dessert."

A starter of grilled octopus with creamy gigante beans contains a "health vice," Ung reports, referring to a few slices of chorizo.

Yet, the overweight reviewer doesn't warn of a "health vice" in any of the desserts she sampled.

Ung's unhealthy eating habits don't serve the vast majority of readers, who are older and may be diabetic, watching their weight or trying to avoid heavy cream and butter.

Her departure would be no loss. 

Page 1

The 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide certainly deserves front-page coverage, but why didn't the editors assign any reporters to question North Jersey's Turkish residents on their views concerning the standard denials from officials (A-1)?

The Record's coverage of the two hostages killed by a U.S. drone doesn't contain a word on whether we will compensate the families or defend lawsuits filed by them (A-1).

President Obama's statement that the deaths were "not necessarily the result of negligence" suggests the latter (A-1 and A-8).

Clueless reporting

Another fatal accident exposes the deeply flawed editing and local reporting staff in the Woodland Park newsroom (L-1).

The first question any reporter should ask when a passenger is ejected from a vehicle is whether he or she was wearing a seat belt.

Instead, Staff Writers Andrew Wyrich and Stephanie Akin knock themselves out getting quotes on what a wonderful person Stephanie Morgan was before the Emerson High School senior died Thursday.

The first paragraph wasn't even edited. 

Morgan died from head injuries suffered, the reporters say, "when she was ejected from a single-car accident hours before" [italics added].

Of course, she was ejected from a vehicle, not an "accident." 


Cliffview quotes Prosecutor John L. Molinelli as saying Morgan, 18, wasn't wearing a seat belt, and that she was ejected through the vehicle's sunroof.

Jerry DeMarco also reports the driver will be charged with a juvenile offense, and he supplies details on how the vehicle crashed that you don't find in The Record today.

See: Emerson teen wasn't wearing seat belt

Nissan recall

From The Record's description of the one-vehicle crash, the 2008 Nissan Pathfinder involved may have had a mechanical problem, causing it to flip"numerous times," or the driver, Morgan's friend, could have been speeding.

According to, the 2008 Pathfinder was recalled in 2010 to replace a control arm in the front suspension for improper welds that could lead to separation and a crash. 

This kind of flawed reporting is evident in almost every motor vehicle or pedestrian fatality covered by the inept local assignment editors, Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza, and edited by staffers under the supervision of six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton.

Recall the single story on the March 9 pedestrian death of Hue D. Dang, 64, a Vietnamese-American woman who was run down in Hackensack by a detective driving an unmarked car from the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.

The story never mentioned a crosswalk at the T-intersection, Jackson Avenue and Kennedy Street, or that Dang was struck when she was walking in or near it. 

Hackensack police filed no charges against the driver, Detective Sgt. John C. Straniero, 49, of Wayne, but another prosecutor's office is investigating the accident.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Readers' eyes are rolling over upbeat Christie coverage

Volunteer jazz musicians entertaining visitors at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center on Wednesday.


Governor Christie was popular as late as November 2012?

That's the ridiculous assertion of The Record's burned-out political columnist, Charles Stile, who continues to try and sell the GOP bully's supposed bipartisanship in yet another Page 1 analysis of the 2016 presidential election. (A-1 and A-8).

What about the loss of $400 million in federal education aid in 2010 -- his first year in office -- followed several months later by Christie pulling the plug on new Hudson River rail tunnels and the biggest expansion of mass transit in decades?

What about repeated vetoes of a tax surcharge on millionaires and hundreds of millions in tax breaks for wealthy business owners?

Or rubber stamping higher tolls on Hudson River crossings operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, an agency he packed with his cronies?


A second story that gives a favorable spin to Christie's actions cites "weak economic growth" as the reason Christie "slashed legally required payments to the state pension system in recent years in order to balance the budget" (A-4).

But the governor is personally responsible for that weak growth as well as lagging tax revenues.

An editorial today blames Christie for not honoring the state's obligation to make full contributions to state pensions for teachers and other workers (A-10).

The editorial notes Christie claims making next year's full pension payments "would require raising the 7 percent sales tax to 10 percent or increasing income tax rates by 29 percent."

Of course, what Christie and The Record aren't saying is that a tax surcharge on millionaires would have raised about $1 billion a year for the last several years, making those pension payments and balancing the budget a lot easier.

Page 1

For the second day in row, Editor Martin Gottlieb leads the paper with a rabid coyote or possibly two (A-1).

The poor man. 

After years of practicing journalism for The New York Times, probably the best newspaper in the world, Gottlieb must find the suburbs really dull.

That likely explains his frequent slide into sensationalism.

Food promotions

The job description for food editor and food writer at The Record calls for someone who is willing to wildly exaggerate the greatness of restaurants and other food businesses that advertise in the Woodland Park daily.

That's the only explanation for why Food Editor Esther Davidowitz would call Callahan's a "legendary North Jersey hot dog restaurant" (A-1 and BL-1).

Maybe, she is referring to legendary heartburn or diarrhea.

Her Better Living cover story carefully omits describing the harmful preservatives, antibiotics and hormones that go into Callahan's deep-fried beef hot dogs.

Jon Hanson

I didn't see anything in The Record on this report from International Business Times:

"New Jersey rules require Republican Gov. Chris Christie's administration to cancel investment contracts with firms whose officials raise or donate money to the governor’s political campaigns. But his administration has paid more than $16 million in pension fees to the financial firm that was led by Christie’s chief fundraiser and top donor, Jon Hanson.
"The money -- far more than previously disclosed -- flowed to Hanson’s company, Prudential Financial, and its related funds that the state pension system has invested in. The new information, obtained through an open records request by International Business Times, comes as the Christie administration is facing a government investigation into whether it has fully disclosed all fees paid to financial firms -- some of whose executives have made donations to GOP groups backing Christie." 

Hanson is a close friend of the Borg publishing family, which owns North Jersey Media Group and its flagship daily, The Record.

The real estate company Hanson founded recently backed the sale-leaseback of NJMG's printing plant in Rockaway Township, a deal worth about $30 million.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Our slow justice system: Zisa is free years after conviction

In Hackensack on Tuesday, fewer than 1,000 of the city's 20,000 registered voters approved the $74.8 million tax levy to support the school budget, and returned three incumbents to their seats on the Board of Education. The board keeps the election in April to exploit voter apathy and ensure the status quo year after year. At the Fairmount School, above, poll workers far outnumbered voters on Tuesday evening.


An appeals court will decide whether "prejudicial comments by a prosecutor" are enough to overturn the official misconduct and insurance fraud convictions against former Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa, The Record reports today.

But thanks to our glacially slow justice system and a well-paid lawyer, the man who destroyed his family's reputation in a city they ruled for decades remains out of prison -- nearly three years later (L-1).

On May 16, 2012, a jury convicted the chief of Bergen County's largest police force of three counts of official misconduct, one count of a pattern of official misconduct and one count of insurance fraud.

Staff Writer Todd South, who covered an appeals-court hearing in New Brunswick, appears unfamiliar with trial reporting, and no editor seemed to notice.

On L-3, South reports in the same sentence "Zisa was convicted on charges of insurance fraud and official misconduct in May 2012 on allegations he tried to cover up a 2008 car crash involving his girlfriend, Kathleen Tiernan" [italics added].

Besides the redundancy, they stopped being "charges" and "allegations" when a jury found Zisa guilty.

School election

How does the Hackensack Board of Education ensure the status quo and exploit voter apathy?

Members have kept their election in April, rather than shifting it to the general balloting in November, and the polls don't open until 2 in the afternoon, meaning residents can't even cast ballots on the way to work or when dropping off their children at school.

Two challengers faced three incumbents in Hackensack, and the incumbents kept their seats. No surprise there.

The incumbents are so sure of success they don't even mail campaign material to residents or offer to debate the challengers.

Such issues as the low-quality of food service and lofty administrators' salaries in the high school aren't even addressed.

Mass transit

An editorial today is so unequivocal about Governor Christie's poor mass-transit policies and voodoo budget balancing readers are wondering why the editors and reporters who fill the news columns are so far behind (A-10).

"No way," the editorial states in reaction to an NJ Transit proposal to raise fares 9 percent and cut service.

The editorial notes Christie slashed dedicated state funding to NJ Transit to $34 million in 2013 from $309.4 million in 2012.

The editorial also notes Christie is "averse" to raising the low gas tax to fund road and bridge repairs, but The Record says a 9 percent fare hike "is just a tax by another name."

A letter to the editor on the same page notes mass transit isn't one of Christie's "favorite things."

"I guess he's more partial to helicopter rides," writes Jack Bell of New Milford.

But Michael DellaFave of Emerson, who bought a home "along the Pascack Valley line of the NJ Transit system," tries to garner sympathy for what he calls the "nightmare" of frequent weekend and holiday rail service in the past six years (A-10).

Of course, DellaFave's letter doesn't explain what exactly he was thinking when he made the naive decision to buy a house next to NJ Transit railroad tracks. 

More Christie lies

The New Jersey Education Association is joining other unions to challenge the GOP bully's decision to significantly cut the state's pension contributions (A-1).

NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer said a "memo describing concepts" the union signed "was misrepresented by the governor" as an "unprecedented" accord.

Photo captions

Two photo captions on L-3 today describe "fire crews working to control a two-alarm fire" and "an emergency crew working on one of seven people" led to safety from another fire.

But in the foreground of the first photo, a half-dozen backup firefighters are standing at the ready, and in the second photo, no one is working on the woman on the stretcher.

Nutrition advice

Clueless freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson advises readers to eat their veggies, but to make sure they top them with ham and poached eggs (BL-2).

Maybe Jackson is just trying to drum up business for cardiac surgeons.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why don't the editors just say it? Mass transit truly sucks

Traffic on Route 4 in Paramus this afternoon.


Seats on NJ Transit trains into the city are at a premium during the morning rush.

Homebound commuters continue to face gridlock-related delays at the antiquated midtown Manhattan bus terminal.

The PATH commuter rail system hasn't been expanded for decades, and NJ Transit's light-rail system still hasn't reached Bergen County, even though it was inaugurated about 15 years ago.

Yet The Record refuses to recognize that public transit is struggling and traffic congestion has worsened, especially since Governor Christie took office more than five years ago. 

He said/she said

Today's Page 1 story on NJ Transit's proposed 9% fare hike is treated like just another he said/she said account where everything is attributed (A-1).

That's because Staff Writer Christopher Maag likely hasn't taken any buses or trains since he was given the transportation beat, and doesn't know how the service can suck at times.

So, he quotes "commuters, legislators and transportation advocates, who say service has declined and who blame the Christie administration for not doing enough to support mass transit in New Jersey" (lead paragraph on A-1).

Christie himself is not to blame, according to the Woodland Park daily, which more and more resembles the GOP bully's elaborate P.R. machine rather than a newspaper.

It's the amorphous "Christie administration."

The Road Warrior column has largely ignored commuting issues for more than a decade.

And when you add this kind of uninformed reporting on mass transit, the editors give readers the impression of being in the pockets of the car dealers whose advertising revenue helps make the Borg publishing family rich.

Spring showers moistened flowers.

Torres, Speziale

In following up on the shooting death of basketball star Armoni Sexton, 15, The Record continues to give a pass to two political hacks, Paterson Mayor Joey Torres and Police Director Jerry Speziale (A-1).

The arrest of a suspect is little solace to a community that has seen three innocent young people die on the streets from random gunshots in less than a year.

At least an editorial today criticizes Torres for failing once again to be "the first and loudest voice of outrage" (A-8).

Why not call for his impeachment? The editorial is kinder to Speziale, who should be pilloried.

There may be no "simple solutions," as the editorial states, but at least Speziale should have police work harder to get rival gang members and illegal guns off the streets.

In the dark

On A-2 today, the editors admit they didn't know which county U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance was from when he was in the state assembly.

Lance, a Republican, was from Hunterdon, but the story said Burlington.

Christie polls

Editor Martin Gottlieb today also buried two polls on Christie's eroding approval rating and the poor job he is doing in New Jersey (A-7).

Neither are news to readers and residents.

Local news?

An animal story dominates the Local news section for the second day in a row (L-1).

Expect that little of the data in John Cichowski's Road Warrior column on pedestrian deaths is accurate (L-1).

But the clueless columnist ignores the reason for the rising toll -- mean-spirited drivers who have little regard for other human beings, even if they are in a crosswalk.

And did you see this gem of a paragraph?

"Like cheap toothpaste that prevents decay but rots gums, really bad news can come wrapped in good news" (L-6).

Hackensack news

The Record reports today that Jason Some, 25, sales director of family owned Some's Uniforms on Main Street, has been appointed to fill the City Council seat of Rose Greenman, who resigned (L-6).

I guess it's a coincidence the story is played next to the continuation of the Road Warrior column on pedestrian deaths.

In October 2013, Jason's father, Jerome S. Some, 87, was killed by a car after he left his building and started to cross Prospect Avenue on the way to a meeting at Bel Posto Restaurant.

The meeting room in his high-rise was being renovated at the time, forcing the building's co-op board to meet across the street.

The driver said she didn't see Some.