Sunday, June 26, 2016

Editors yawn when Bergen man's long life takes tragic turn

Ioannis E. "Yani" Kapantais, 69, of Park Ridge was head baker at the Pompton Queen Diner in Pompton Plains before he was fatally injured by an out-of-control car last Sunday. These photos were taken from the diner's website.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

When a husband, father of two and grandfather of four is struck down and fatally injured by an out-of-control car in Park Ridge, you'd think The Record's editors would work hard to bring readers the story.

In fact, Editor Deirdre Sykes has assigned her reporters to write hundreds of thousands of words about pedestrian deaths in recent years, including a column that appears on the Local front today (L-1).

But as in so many traffic fatalities that are dispensed with in a few paragraphs, the lazy, insensitive Sykes only treats Ioannis E. "Yani" Kapantais with contempt.

The 69-year-old Park Ridge man -- head baker at the Pompton Queen Diner on Route 23 in Pompton Plains -- was fatally injured last Sunday night when an out-of-control car mounted the Park Avenue sidewalk where he was walking with another man.

He died at Hackensack University Medical Center, where the other man, Moachia Hu, 64, of Montvale, remained in critical condition. 

Sykes didn't identify the men until Wednesday's edition, and then provided only the baker's name, age and the town where he lived.

19-year-old victims

Meanwhile, her reporters were churning out tens of thousands of words about two former athletes at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey who were killed when their luxury SUV hurtled off Route 287 and crashed into the woods last Sunday or early Monday.

Leo Vagias and Sam Cali, both 19, grew up together in Morris County. 

Vagias, who was driving, was using his seat belt. But Cali, the son of a police officer, wasn't and he was ejected from the vehicle.

Both attended college, where they were involved in athletics, so the extensive coverage included numerous interviews with grief-stricken friends and teammates, and culminated in Saturday's Page 1 story and photos on their separate funerals in Montville and Clifton.



Ioannis E. "Yani" Kapantais in a photo from the
website of Becker Funeral Home in Westwood.


Nothing on Yani

Sykes didn't bother covering the services for Kapantais on Friday at St. Athanasios Greek Orthodox Church in Paramus or mention his burial in George Washington Memorial Park.

His widow, Angeliki Kapantais, wasn't interviewed, and no reporter called the Pompton Queen Diner to ask about the victim.

A woman named Hanna wrote in the funeral home's guest book:

"I DO believe I had the pleasure of working with Ioannis at the Pompton Queen Diner about ten years ago. He was a jolly, sweet, and very kind man who showed me a thing or two of baking and always ALWAYS turned a frown into a smile.

"I enjoyed his spirit and this will live on."

Today's paper

Another pedestrian, this one killed by a tractor-trailer in downtown Teaneck on Saturday, gets the same short shrift as Kapantais (L-1).

Staff Writer Dave Sheingold identifies the victim as Felicia Sasso, who was 93 years old, but tells readers absolutely nothing else.

Sheingold mentions that on Christmas Day last year, a 59-year-old man was struck and killed on Cedar Lane, only a couple of blocks from where Sasso was struck.

And yet another pedestrian, a 21-year-old Ramsey man, was killed by a hit-and-run driver in a black Cadillac Escalade with New York plates early Saturday in Hoboken. 

Today's L-3 story contains no information on the victim, Zackhary Simmons.

Front page

The Record today continues a decade-long effort to pin wrongdoing on Michael Mordaga, former police director in Hackensack and former chief of detectives at the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office (A-1).

The allegations are based on a lawsuit filed by the family of a reputed mobster.

A second Page 1 story details how the Port Authority has botched the renovation of the George Washington Bridge Bus Station in upper Manhattan (A-1).

Staff Writer Paul Berger and his predecessors on the Port Authority beat don't realize the massive bi-state agency has always treated bus and rail commuters with contempt.

Agency officials, including all of the cronies appointed by the governors of New York and New Jersey, deliberately neglect money-losing mass transit operations in favor of maximizing revenue from bridges, tunnels, ports and airports.

When is Berger going to come to his senses?

Local news?

Road Warrior John Cichowski is off in La-La Land today with a column on an "eggshell-like layer on the surface of [a] car which would then glue [a pedestrian] to the front of the vehicle, thereby preventing further injury" (L-1).

Only later do readers learn "this human flypaper system won't be ready for some time -- if ever" (L-6).

Wouldn't it be nice if Sykes, with the backing of North Jersey Media Group, developed a similar system for Cichowski, a reporter whose hundreds of errors in the past dozen years have rarely been corrected?

That way, facts might stick to him, and readers would be spared his flights of fantasy.

In fact, Cichowski has seemed to side with drivers, despite all the pedestrian fatalities in New Jersey.

He's even quoted some of them saying they'd like to run down jaywalkers to teach them a lesson.

When is he going to urge police to suspend the licenses of drivers who don't yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and then confiscate their cars on a second offense?

Opinion

Check out the cartoon by Margulies, who has Governor Christie in a Robin Hood outfit threatening to take school funds from the poor and give them to the rich (O-2).

Indeed, he's been favoring the rich and warring against the middle and working classes since he took office in early 2010.

Yet, Sykes continues to publish flattering columns about Christie, like the one on Page 1 today.

Charles Stile claims Christie is serving as "a behind-the-scenes strategic guru" for wacko racist Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Friday night on HBO, satirist Bill Maher,  noting the Trump campaign is having trouble raising money, said that to make matters worse, Christie has eaten all of the remaining Trump Steaks.


Eye on The Record
will return in two weeks

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Britain's anti-immigrant vote shows Trump-like dark side

Wacko racist Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, commenting on the Brexit vote during a visit to Scotland on Friday. (Credit: Jane Barlow/Press Association)


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

In a state as diverse as New Jersey, a newspaper editor who ignores the dark side of Britain's vote to exit the European Union could be called a fool.

Both stories leading The Record's front page today focus on the so-called financial impact in Britain's former colony, even though Staff Writer Richard Newman says "it may take two years or more for the change to take place" (A-1 and A-6)

A third story focuses on "companies doing business with Britain" (A-10).

Doesn't Editor Deirdre Sykes know tens of millions of people in this nation of immigrants -- including those who live in North Jersey -- are horrified by a country that votes against immigration? 

In fact, Britons seeking to "control their borders" was the focus of coverage on Friday's CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.

And on HBO, satirist Bill Maher said 52% of Britons affirmed "Pride and Prejudice" over "Sense and Sensibilty."

Trump in Scotland

Wacko racist Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee, caused a stir on Friday when he tweeted:

"Just arrived in Scotland.... They took their country back, just like we will take America back."

That was met with a barrage of profanity directed at the billionaire businessman, who is despised in Scotland, his mother's homeland, which voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU.

I can't find any mention in The Record today of Trump putting both feet in his mouth in Scotland.

Of course, at home he is campaigning against Muslims, Mexicans and other immigrants in his futile quest for the White House.

Maybe the moron will try to run for British prime minister.

Trump and Christie

Saturday's front page reported Trump is considering Governor Christie for vice president or another job, in the unlikely event he wins the presidency.

The Record is the only major daily in the state that didn't call for the GOP bully to resign after ending his own doomed bid for the White House and endorsing Trump.

After the terror attacks in Paris last November, Christie sought unsuccessfully to bar Syrian immigrants, even children, from entering the United States, including New Jersey.

Since then, The Record's editors have published two or three Syrian refugee success stories, such as today's glowing portrait of night shift baker Hussam Al Roustom (L-2).

Local news?

Sykes continues to focus on two former Don Bosco Prep athletes killed in a highway crash this week while ignoring Ioannis Kapantais, 69, of Park Ridge who was struck by a car and fatally injured while walking on a sidewalk last Sunday night (A-1).

No death notice or obituary for Kapantais has appeared in the Woodland Park daily, which today publishes long wire-service obituaries of obscure musicians to plug holes in another thin municipal news report (L-6). 

Criminal cases

The Local front is dominated by charges against five people in the November 2014 sexual assault of a female Ramapo College student after a frat party (L-1).

A second story reports a four-year prison sentence for Donald DeWitt, 65, a former Bergen County Academies teacher who had sex with a teenage student.

Also on L-1 today is yet another story promoting the wonders performed at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Glowing stories about the partially tax-exempt hospital are more numerous than municipal news from Hackensack, which continues to be neglected by Sykes and her minions. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Football coach at HHS was suspended after sex allegation

Hackensack High School seniors will gather on the football field late this afternoon for the annual graduation ceremony. In 2015, they formed a processional and crossed the First Street pedestrian bridge for the ceremony, above and below.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Daniel Casasnovas was suspended with pay from his job as a health and physical education teacher at Hackensack High School after he allegedly had sex with a female student, according to reliable sources.

The Board of Education acted in closed session after learning that a complaint had been filed with officials at the state Department of Children & Families, the sources said.

The complaint is being investigated.

Casasnovas, who coached football at Hackensack High School, is married and has two children. He started working there in September 2009, according to his LinkedIn page. 

Cedar Grove job

On Wednesday, NorthJersey.com reported that Casasnovas had been "suspended" as Cedar Grove High School's head football coach -- a job he got in May, the same month the Hackensack school board took action against him.

A couple of hours later, the headline and story were amended to remove the word "suspended." 

The revised version from the Verona-Cedar Grove Times reported "a personal situation has prevented" Casasnovas "from beginning his tenure" as Cedar Grove High's head football coach.

The Web site is operated by North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record of Woodland Park.

Nothing new

The allegation that Casasnovas had sexual relations with a female student was well-known among other students at Hackensack High School, including last year's graduates.

Today, comments on the NorthJersey.com story included one from Kayla Benitez, whose Facebook page lists her as a student at the high school.

In her comment, Benitez said there had been a complaint about Casasnovas having had sex with another female student.

A short time later, a half-dozen comments, including Benitez's, were removed from the site.

Casasnovas' LinkedIn page lists him as head football coach at Cedar Grove High and as a mortgage loan specialist at High Quality Mortgage of Fairfield.

He also lists a job as varsity football linebackers coach at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey from May 2013 to May 2016.

Bear news

When Editor Deirdre Sykes leads The Record's front page with yet another story about a bear in Paramus or another North Jersey town, readers might as well go back to sleep (A-1 and L-3).

Sykes and her predecessors have been reporting about wildlife being crowded out by housing development since the 1980s.

The only compelling story on A-1 today is the sit-in on the House floor by Democrats demanding "a vote on legislation to restrict gun purchases by suspected terrorists."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., again demonstrates the Republican Party stands on the side of evil by ignoring those demands and declaring the House is in recess until after July 4.

Another in a long line of corrections in recent weeks appears on A-2 today.

Teens again

Road Warrior John Cichowski continues to ignore the challenges facing him and many other older drivers with yet another column on teens (L-1).

On the Better Living cover today, the culinary director of Chef Central Inc. in Paramus tells home cooks they can save money by buying whole chickens, breaking them down and removing the bones and skin themselves (BL-1).

The story -- "CHICKEN BASICS" -- is missing the most important advice of all: 

Buying birds that are vegetarian fed and free of harmful antibiotics.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

This isn't the first time Christie has vowed to lower our taxes

Visitors to the Great Falls in Paterson on Tuesday missed the usual roar of water at the main falls, above, but did better at the upper falls, which are accessible from Mary Ellen Kramer Park, below.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

If you promise to lower property taxes in New Jersey, you can get long-suffering homeowners to do almost anything.

That was the case in November 2009, when voters elected a Republican who has ruled by veto as he rolls up the worst record of any governor in state history.

His only so-called accomplishment is a 2% cap on municipal budget hikes that doesn't keep homeowners from tearing their hair out four times a year, when they pay their increasingly higher tax bills.

Now, Governor Christie is renewing his failed promise -- this time claiming he can lower the average property tax bill by $1,600 to $2,200 in 75 school districts that would receive more state education aid (A-1).

The Record's front-page story is silent on whether Hackensack -- the biggest Bergen County district -- is one of the towns that would get more aid under Christie's plan.

In fact, Editor Deirdre Sykes again fails readers across North Jersey by listing only three towns -- Fair Lawn, Teaneck and Wood-Ridge -- that would benefit by getting more aid.

To make that a reality, Christie would have to succeed in amending the constitution to allow the state to pay $6,599 per pupil in both rich and poor districts.

That seems unlikely in a Legislature controlled by Democrats.

Hackensack schools

Hackensack's Board of Education has been known to spend more money per pupil than Ridgewood's, yet the city has two failing elementary schools.

In the April school election, a small minority of registered voters approved a bigger school budget and elected two board candidates who were backed by the Zisa family political dynasty -- a story The Record ignored.

HUMC merger

The Page 1 story on a North Jersey-shore merger of hospitals skimps on how patients will benefit.

Deep on the continuation page, Staff Writer Lindy Washburn reports, "Recent studies have shown that when hospitals consolidate, prices go up" (A-6).

Then, she quotes Robert C. Garrett, president and CEO of Hackensack University Health Network, as saying "he did not expect it to be true in this case."

What else would he say? 

An A-6 photo shows Garrett with a big smile on his face as he contemplates his reported annual salary of about $3 million. 

As a public service, I'd like to see Washburn list the salary of all of the executives at Hackensack University Medical Center, which claims a non-profit exemption on $10 million in property taxes in the city.

Don't hold your breath.

Local news?

Sykes leads Local today with the results of a vote on a bond ordinance to finance a municipal parking garage in downtown Ridgewood (L-1).

This proposal has received more ink in The Record -- including a front-page story last Saturday -- than bigger projects in other towns, including the enormous expansion of HUMC.

Sykes also directed her reporters to cover every single hearing on the expansion of The Valley Hospital, even though none of the construction would be outside the Ridgewood hospital's campus.

In both case, readers' eyes rolled at the excessive amount of coverage, even as the local staff neglected the beleaguered downtowns of Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and other communities. 

Two elderly men

More than two days after two elderly men were run down as they were walking on a sidewalk in Park Ridge, Sykes finally identifies them on L-3.

Ioannis Kapatais, 69, a resident, was fatally injured and Maochia Hu, 64, of Montvale remained in critical condition at a hospital, acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal says.

He did not identify the 61-year-old driver, also a Park Ridge resident. His 2015 Volvo "left the roadway" and struck the two men.

Readers aren't told anything about the men who were struck on the sidewalk.

The Record also doesn't report the injured men were taken to Hackensack University Medical Center, where Kapatais died and Hu remained in critical condition, according to the acting prosecutor.

Why weren't they taken to a closer hospital? 

'Great athletes'

Meanwhile, two former Don Bosco Prep athletes, killed in a crash on Route 287 on Sunday continue to be accorded front-page coverage (A-1 and L-1).

Today, The Record corrects earlier reporting that both men were ejected when their luxury SUV went off the road and crashed in Mahwah, suggesting neither was wearing a seat belt.

The driver, Leo Vagias, who wore a seat belt, was found inside the vehicle. His passenger, Sam Cali, who wasn't wearing a seat belt, was found outside. Both were 19.