Friday, May 30, 2014

Christie, arrogant staff are a bunch of greedy pigs

The Oritani Field Club on Camden Street in Hackensack was sold in July 2011, and is scheduled to close its doors at the end of 2015.


Foul-mouthed Michael Drewniak -- Governor Christie's press secretary -- got a raise to $134,000 from $129,000, probably $500 for every time he used the F-word to describe a reporter who was digging too hard.

Twenty-two other members of the GOP bully's staff got average raises of 23.1% -- this while the state budget is being balanced on the backs of the middle and working classes, and unemployment remains high.

There's no word in today's Page 1 story in The Record on what Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, was paid for her dirty tricks in Democratic Fort Lee, summed up by the e-mail that broke open the George Washington Bridge scandal in January:

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

Papers pay far less

The Record reports "some of those who received the biggest boosts temporarily left state government to work on Christie's reelection campaign last year, then returned with new titles and higher salaries" (A-1).

One deputy press secretary left with a $75,000 salary and returned as the $110,000 deputy communications director. 

I can just see Staff Writer Melissa Hayes -- one of Christie's chief boosters -- looking at the state employee salaries in the story she wrote, and wondering why she is stuck in a relatively low paying job at The Record.

Houlton and Borg

The only person who likely got a raise anywhere near 23% at the Woodland Park daily is Liz Houlton, the six-figure production editor who was promoted from supervisor of the features copy desk, where she was dubbed "Queen of Errors."

Or Stephen A. Borg, who pushed his father aside, grabbed the titles of publisher and president of The Record, and got a $3.65 million North Jersey Media Group mortgage to buy a Tenafly McMansion.

Hackensack news?

Christopher Maag, the new Hackensack reporter, was pulled off his beat again, this time to write a front-page story on five New Milford High School students who are charged with counterfeiting $5 and $20 bills (A-1).

Maag tried his best to polish this turd, even invoking two huge counterfeiting cases in Georgia and California before he even mentioned the students. How pathetic.

The students reportedly used the fake bills to buy snacks or food at Dunkin' Donuts, 7-Eleven and the high school cafeteria -- in all cases, low-quality food not worth paying for (A-4).

Today's Local section is dominated once again by Law & Order coverage, with no municipal stories from Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood and many other towns.

'Mediterranean' food

If there is anything worse than another Turkish restaurant, it's another casual Greek place, but that doesn't stop Staff Writer Elisa Ung from ferreting out every slice of baklava cheesecake in North Jersey (BL-16).

She gives Sofia's Mediterranean Grill in Hasbrouck Heights two and a half stars (Good to Excellent) despite botched cooking that would send customers racing for the door.

Why should she worry?

NJMG picked up the tab for dry sea bass ($28), oversalted octopus ($12.95) and overcooked pork and chicken ($16.50). 

What a waste of money.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

For the hundredth time, could that possibly be right?

An NJ Transit train pulling into the new Anderson Street station in Hackensack on Tuesday morning. The door-less structure, below, opened at the end of March, but still has no sign. And The Record of Woodland Park has ignored it.


Port Authority reporter Shawn Boburg doesn't seem to know much about the sources of the behemoth agency's revenue, judging from his front-page story in The Record today.

The lead paragraph notes "the public will bear an ongoing and significant financial burden for the multiple probes into the George Washington lane closure scandal" (A-1).

That gets all readers interested in the story on mounting legal bills, but not everyone supports the Port Authority, which relies on tolls, fares, rentals, aviation fees and other revenue.

The agency doesn't receive "public" tax money outside of the $1.8 billion left over after Governor Christie cancelled the Hudson River rail tunnels and hijacked those funds for road and bridge repairs.

The error is repeated in the sub-headline, which is reporting old news: "Public to pay tab in GWB inquiry."

Boburg also incorrectly reports the bistate agency is "supported largely by tolls on the Hudson River crossings," but that accounts for only half of the six agency operated bridges and tunnels, and ignores income from PATH fares, rentals, fees from four airports and other revenue.

In other news

Today's paper is unusual for three major obituaries on Page 1 (poet Maya Angelou) and the Local front (historian Katharine Auchincloss, formerly of Ridgewood; and Sister Mary Victor Waters, Tenafly's oldest resident).

Christie continues to make excuses about why he has failed to deliver federal Sandy aid -- five months before the superstorm's second anniversary (A-3).

Law & Order

Don't look for much local news today from the assignment desk of Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza, but fans of court and police news will find plenty to read (L-1, L-2, L-3 ad L-6).

A story on L-3 reports Paramus has added six police officers.

There's no word whether Westfield Garden State Plaza -- a major source of North Jersey Media Group's advertising revenue -- will be hiring any of them to beef up security at the mall, where two incidents in a six-month period panicked and endangered shoppers.

Rich get richer

On the first Business page today, Staff Writer Kathleen Lynn reports how "garden-apartment magnate Richard Kurtz" cut energy costs in half at two of his many apartment complexes, and plans to do the same at his other properties, a total of 14,000 apartments in the Northeast (L-8).

Kurtz also is hoping to get $49 million for a 30,000-square-foot, 12-bedroom mansion he had built in Alpine.

Lynn doesn't ask Kurtz whether he plans to pass along the energy savings to his thousands of tenants.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

2 hours of vandalism? Where were Teaneck cops?

William D. Hunt, the volunteer chief of the Moonachie Fire Department, isn't paid, but he gets to use this official SUV, shown in the driveway of his home on Prospect Avenue, between Euclid and Ross avenues, in Hackensack. I tried without success to reach the borough administrator to ask if it is proper for Hunt to use the Fire Department SUV to tow his boat, which is in front of the vehicle, as he was doing on Sunday.


The biggest news in The Record today is a vandalism spree that damaged nine cars and three houses in a Teaneck neighborhood -- as reported a day late on Page 1 and on the front of Local (A-1 and L-1).

The story by police reporter Stefanie Dazio notes "the incidents, which began about 9:50 p.m. [on Monday, Memorial Day], appeared to have lasted about two hours, police said."

Where were the normally aggressive Teaneck police, who were said to have overreacted to the senior prank at the high school and who lie in wait for drivers who don't yield to pedestrians on Cedar Lane?

If the incidents began about 9:50 p.m., that explains why The Record -- with its early deadlines and skeleton holiday newsroom staff -- didn't have the story in the paper on Tuesday.

But were the ranks of township police thinned by the holiday or did they just not bother to respond?

Although police are quoted as saying "they don't believe the victims or neighborhood were targeted," Detective Lt. Andrew McGurr also "confirmed that there have been similar incidents in the neighborhood."

That's confusing, and given Teaneck's celebrated diversity, why isn't the neighborhood hit by a bicycle-riding brick and rock thrower identified?

Do many of Teaneck's Orthodox Jews live on the streets where houses and cars were damaged?

Here is another example of a story The Record makes a big deal of, then reports and edits poorly, thanks to the inept local assignment desk run by Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza.

Boring front page

The rest of Page 1 today is a boring mix of stories on the pope, tree-damaging insects, a pregnant woman stoned to death (as reported by The Record's bureau in Lahore, Pakistan), and an incomprehensible expose on political contributions and New Jersey's pension funds (A-1).

Is the story saying Governor Christie's questionable ethics are at fault? Hard to tell.

The editors seem to think readers have nothing better to do than to plow all the way to the end of this overlong story, searching between the lines for clues to its meaning.

More rollover news

Today's Local section has two Ridgewood stories, but nothing from Hackensack outside of a criminal case (L-1 and L-3).

The editors needed a large, drive-by photo of a rollover accident to fill the section today with a photo caption that, as usual, tells readers nothing (L-3).

A real fish story

Food Editor Esther Davidowitz makes choosing between wild-caught and farmed-raised fish overly complicated, and her story isn't as consumer friendly as it could be (BL-1).

Davidowitz, who called only expensive markets, fails to tell readers where they can buy relatively inexpensive wild fish, such as Costco Wholesale and the H Mart chain of Korean supermarkets.

And Davidowitz also doesn't mention in her long she said/he said story that Whole Foods Market is the only retailer that guarantees its farmed fish are free of antibiotics and preservatives.

She also could have listed resources such as Blue Ocean Institute for information on mercury in fish or even make the simple point that such small fish as sardines and whiting have far less mercury than bigger fish, including tuna.

Tuesday's paper

After the long holiday weekend, the editors put another tedious Mike Kelly column on the top of Page 1.

In other words, they led the paper with more back-and-forth on the Teaneck High senior prank -- 26 days after it occurred.

Local provided coverage of only three of the many Memorial Day parades (L-1).

And another filler accident photo provides readers with no information, but does identify the makes of the two vehicles involved (L-3). 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Defense attorney, U.S. senator in Englewood parade

Famed criminal defense attorney Frank P. Lucianna (with white hair, center) marching today in Englewood's Memorial Day Parade arm in arm with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (hidden). The Englewood-born Lucianna is 91. See Page 1 of The Record today for a lame Herb Jackson column on Booker that suggests voters should decide whether to reelect the Democrat based on his record as Newark mayor, not what he's done since he succeeded the late Frank R. Lautenberg in the Senate.

The annual parade along Palisade Avenue passed City Hall, above. Participants included members of churches in the city, public and charter school students, Civil War and Revolutionary War reenactors firing their rifles or muskets, and overweight middle-age men riding and revving their loud motorcycles.  

The Englewood Corps of the Salvation Army.

Students from Dwight Morrow High School, above and two photos below.

A supercharged Auburn boat-tail speedster.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

North Jerseyans are beached by all that shore news

A homeless woman stopping to do a little housekeeping on West 34th Street, near Sixth Avenue, in Manhattan on Friday night.


Page 1 of The Record's Sunday edition delivers a shore outlook story like every one I've read or edited in the past 30 years.

Even Staff Writer Christopher Maag was pulled off his Hackensack beat to write a sidebar on how beach communities hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in late 2012 seem different now.

"Drive nearly any street from Sea Bright to Beach Haven," Maag reports, "and you're likely to see streets still ripped apart, houses jacked into the sky, and contractors' dented and oversized pickups that seem to occupy every bare piece of ground." 

Those sound like some jacks. And hundreds of pickups.

More on the shore

There is more shore news in Travel today (T-1).

Feature writer John Petrick recently returned from several years of exile covering trials and suits at the Passaic County Courthouse in Paterson -- and he's rusty, as you can see by the wordy, poorly edited lead paragraph of his piece on working at the shore as a teen.

That one paragraph has a "speeding car," "Garden State Parkway," "steamy Friday afternoon," "every Memorial Day weekend" and "another subsequent summer in my now grown-up life."

I stuck with it, and enjoyed his insider's look at "the endless bore" of a low-paying job running a wheel of chance during the day, which he refers to as "dayside," a newspaper term.

Payback for advertisers

Today's Local news section is from hunger.

In return for hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue, The Record continues its intense coverage of malls and its neglect of Main Street (B-1).

At Westfield Garden State Plaza, Staff Writer Joan Verdon reports, a new wing has "double-height store facades" to resemble "a downtown street."

Isn't that rich?

And God forbid the editors suggest owners of the Paramus mall spend more money on security after crowds were panicked by gunshots and the fear of gunshots in the past six months.

Boring Kelly is back

A desperate Mike Kelly tries to wring meaning from the dinky Anderson Street Bridge, which was reduced to one lane in each direction from two a couple of years ago because of structural problems (O-1).

The biggest disruption has been experienced by low-wage workers and others who use hundreds of buses that were rerouted, but The Record has never interviewed any of those riders.

I drive over the bridge linking Hackensack and Teaneck a few times a week, and one lane in each direction is enough -- I've never seen a traffic jam there. 

But the stupid headline tries to give readers the impression this is big local news: "Hackensack's bridge going nowhere."

Is it really "Hackensack's bridge"? And it wasn't "going" anywhere before the lane closures.

Look at the shit-eating grin in Kelly's photo. He's pulled another fast one on his editors and readers.

Calling all fat readers

The Better Living cover promises "foodie news" on BL-2.

OK. But with three of the five items devoted to artery clogging ice cream, gelato, chocolate-covered frozen bananas and frozen shakes, this feature should be labeled "fattie news."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

LOL: Cops make Page 1 for enforcing traffic laws

A long, elaborate wheelchair ramp connects the Avalon luxury apartment complex on Hackensack Avenue in Hackensack with the Home Depot Shopping Center. The rent for a 483-square-foot studio is $2,165 a month, according to the Avalon Communities Web site. The apartments, built between two shopping centers, are perfect for shopaholics.


The Record's Dave Sheingold seems to have a bug up his ass that the annual police crackdown on seat-belt and child-restraint violators is catching a growing number of uninsured, drunk and reckless drivers (A-1).

Is there something wrong with that or with the extra revenue collected by cash-strapped towns, where property taxes seem to climb inexorably amid declining services?

During the two-week 2013 Click It or Ticket Campaign, Hackensack police issued 1,587 summonses -- triple the number given out in other communities -- but only 17.4% for seat-belt violations (A-8).

Does anybody care but the law-breaking drivers who were undone by the aggressive enforcement of traffic laws that began with the appointment of Police Director Mike Mordaga in February 2013.

Quoting morons

The anal Sheingold, the paper's computer-assisted numbers cruncher, even quotes Steve Carrellas, the moron who calls himself the "New Jersey coordinator" of the National Motorists Association, whatever that is.

"It's turning into a stop-and-fleece program. You're stopping people and taking their money away," claims Carrellas, who proves reporters will quote the most idiotic person they can find just to stir up needless controversy (A-8).

Someone should tell Carrellas driving is a privilege, not a right, and if reckless drivers, speeders, drunks, car thieves and other law-breakers are taken off the road, that's great.

We need the money

And if there is even a small chance Hackensack can use the extra money to help it climb out of the deep financial hole dug by Zisa family allies in the past decade, I say hooray.

As  a property taxpayer, I can't wait for the time when hundreds of red-light and speeding cameras are installed to generate real money for towns.

That's especially the case in Hackensack, where officials have been reluctant to ask Hackensack University Medical Center and other tax-exempt entities to contribute financially to the city, which was fleeced by Ken Zisa, the corrupt former police chief and state assemblyman.

Hackensack should follow Jersey City, which is seeking $400 million from the Port Authority in a federal lawsuit that alleges the bistate agency "is not giving enough financial assistance in exchange for dozens of tax-exempt properties" (A-3).

Lazy reporting

Why does reader Dom Calicchio have to point out problems at NJ Transit's Kingsland rail station in Lyndhurst (A-15 letter to the editor)?

Transportation reporter Karen Rouse and Road Warrior John Cichowski should get off their duffs and give commuters firsthand reports on rail and bus service.

Apparently, they've been infected by the lazy bug that long ago bit Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza, who run the local-news assignment desk.

Sykes and Sforza had to fill today's thin Local section with two long wire-service obituaries for an obscure Venezuelan ex-president and a screenwriter nobody knows (L-5).

Friday, May 23, 2014

NJMG retirees, employees have own pension woes

The Record's old headquarters on River Street in Hackensack, in a photo taken before North Jersey Media Group leased parking spaces to Bergen County, replacing those lost to construction near the courthouse.


The Record has been filled lately with bad news for the public employee pension fund, which has been raided by New Jersey governors who can't balance their budgets any other way.

Now, Governor Christie is drastically cutting the contribution to the underfunded public employee pension system, plus making other cuts totaling $128 million, to balance the budget by June 30.

The Record's stories are filled with numbers, but no explanation of how this will affect public employees.

Meanwhile, I wonder what retirees and employees of the Woodland Park daily are saying about the annual notice sent out last month by the North Jersey Media Group Pension Plan.

I recall newsroom employees -- Corny, Vinny, Ron and other suckers -- who are close to or past retirement age and working under a pension system that was frozen "for participants who were actively employed on March 31, 2007," according to the annual notice.

"Benefits as of that date remain intact," the notice states, "but will not increase beyond their value as of March 31, 2007."

I left in May 2008 and now receive a monthly NJMG pension of less than $1,000 -- this after more than 29 years at the paper as a reporter, copy editor and food writer.

My pension was reduced -- I can't recall by how much -- because I chose the option of allowing my wife to receive half of my monthly benefit after my death.

Unfunded liabilities

As of Jan 1, 2013, the NJMG Pension Plan had total assets of $71,711,475 and liabilities of $86,607,254.

"This figure is the estimate of the amount of assets the plan needs on Valuation Day to pay for promised benefits under the plan," the notice states.

The funding shortfall is listed in the notice as $14,895,779 to $31,657,952, and the minimum required contribution to the plan by NJMG is $4,855,096 to $7,355,065.

Let's hope the greedy Borgs don't do a Christie on their workers and retirees.

The total number of participants in the plan is given as 1,903, including 465 active participants, 746 retired or "separated from service" and receiving benefits, and 692 retired or "separated" and entitled to future benefits.

Today's paper

The story on A-3 today -- a roundup of jokes about the George Washington Bridge scandal -- only reminds commuters of how Governor Christie screwed them royally through a combination of higher tolls everywhere and no expansion of mass transit.

In the last few days, The Record has been revising the total contribution the GOP bully will be withholding from the public employee pension system.

First, it was reported as $900 million. Then, that was upped to $1.57 billion.

Today, Staff Writer John Reitmeyer reports on A-4, Christie plans to take funds allocated for the pension system -- "nearly $900 million this fiscal year and $1.57 billion in the fiscal year that begins on July 1"(A-4). 

Heavy Teaneck news

Today's Local section continues recent heavy coverage of Teaneck, with a glowing story on the high school prom, complete with three photos (L-1 and L-6).

Did Hackensack High School hold a prom? Why wasn't that covered? 

The only Hackensack "news" is an obituary for Joseph Bracchitta, 86, "one of the finest ballplayers" from the high school (L-6).

Also on L-1, Staff Writer Colleen Diskin reports on the reaction  of seniors to another postponed state property tax rebate Christie is hogging to balance the state budget.

More than 1 million residents enrolled in the Homestead program are affected.

Noisier jets?

On the first Business page, Staff Writer Richard Newman reports on current and planed longer-range business jets at Teterboro Airport (L-8).

But as usual, Newman has his heads in the cloud, never mentioning whether the new aircraft are any quieter than those that terrorize Hackensack high-rise residents and wake up everyone else in towns near the airport that caters to the rich and famous.

Pigging out

Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung bestows 3 stars on Lan Sheng, a Chinese restaurant serving spicy Sichuan food in an industrial area of Wallington (BL-14).

But Ung didn't make much of an effort to sample non-meat dishes, mentioning only three, including a fish with "a skimpy amount of flesh for the $22.95 price tag."

Even the tofu dish she liked contains pork.

She quotes a friend, who sounds retarded:

"I'm afraid to try the white rice. What if it's a revelation?"

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Christie's budget hits middle class, spares millionaires

First Student school-bus drivers taking a break this morning in the outlying parking lots of Bergen Town Center in Paramus, above and below. On Tuesday morning, a heavy set woman appeared to be sleeping in the driver's seat of one of the buses, her arms folded across her chest, her head down and her eyes closed.


You've got to love the Trenton press corps, including The Record's reporters, for never challenging Governor Christie on balancing yet another state budget on the backs of the middle class (A-1).

The Woodland Park daily's lead story today delivers more bad news for long-suffering property tax payers as the GOP bully scrambles to balance a budget without asking millionaires to pay a little more.

And there is no sign Christie is cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks wasted on wealthy business owners who don't create jobs in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

No reporter at Christie's news conference on Wednesday asked whether he will now agree to a tax surcharge to raise an estimated $1 billion from millionaires.

In fact, judging from The Record's story, no reporter challenged Christie on anything he said; they merely regurgitated his cockeyed reasoning for cutting state employee pension contributions by $1.57 billion, and postponing the small property tax rebate.

Maybe, none of these so-called journalists own a home in New Jersey or they see their role as stenographers.

Instead of any hard questioning, The Record brings us another long, boring Charles Stile column on the "politics" of Christie's decision to nominate Chief Justice Stuart Rabner for tenure (A-1).

A banana peel and what appeared to be part of a baked potato were left behind in a locker at 24 Hour Fitness in Paramus. As an indication of how poorly the gym is run, they were still inside the locker, with the door open, more than 30 minutes after an employee was informed.

Hospital news

In Local today, the lead story on The Valley Hospital in Ridgwood is more evidence of how The Record screwed Hackensack residents who objected to the many expansions of Hackensack University Medical Center, which owns hundreds of millions of dollars in tax exempt property.

In contrast to numerous stories on the Ridgewood hospital's plan to expand within the boundaries of its campus -- 
first unveiled in 2006 -- there were many fewer stories about HUMC's uncontrolled expansion in Hackensack.

Today's Local section contains two stories from Paterson (L-2); two large filler photos of minor accidents in Wyckoff (L-6) and Englewood (L-3), with captions that supply little real information, but nothing from Hackensack.

I didn't even see a reporter for The Record at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

Deirdre Sykes must be back and running the local assignment desk again after a long absence.

Second look

Road Warrior John Cichowski's Sunday column on major construction projects contained the usual errors, according to the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers.

For example, Cichowski confused the cost of repaving the New Jersey section of the Palisades Interstate Parkway in 1996 and this year ($7 million and $14.5 million, respectively).

He said it cost $14.5 million in 1996.

He also gave the wrong location for a new service road in Woodland Park. See:

Confused Road Warrior makes more errors

Editor Marty Gottlieb has defended Cichowski, despite these and hundreds of other errors the reporter has committed in the past decade, trying to fill the shoes of Jeff Page, the original commuting columnist.

These are the kinds of errors that would never be tolerated at a serious newspaper or go uncorrected, especially at The New York Times, where Gottlieb worked for many years.

His tolerance of repeated errors by the Road Warrior and the news and copy editors under six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton may go a long way toward explaining why Gottlieb is no longer at The Times.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Christie's latest broken promise breaks media backs

Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse, right, reads a proclamation at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, accepting an oil painting from Parisian-born artist Marius Sznajderman. The artist painted the winter scene of the old Masonic Temple from his apartment window at Atlantic and State streets in 1956. The building is slated to become the city's new Cultural Center. The artist was accompanied by his wife, Suzanne Messing, a onetime reporter for The Record.

An editorial in The Record today condemns Governor Christie's plan to cut $900 million from this year's pension payments in a desperate bid to plug an enormous hole in the state budget (Page 1).

The anonymous editorial writer notes Christie is blaming federal tax policy, previous administrations and public employees, but calls that "a snow job" (A-10).

That should be "latest snow job," given all the lies the GOP bully has told about lowering property taxes, job creation, surging state revenue under his obstinate no-tax policies, Sandy aid and the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Christie's first term was all smoke and mirrors, but that didn't stop The Record's editors, reporters and columnists from falling all over themselves to be the first to promote the mean-spirited conservative for a White House run.

Knows nothing

The politically motivated lane closures at the Fort Lee end of the bridge last September exposed Christie's infamous Office of Governmental Affairs, which ruthlessly pursued endorsements from Democrats before his reelection last November.

Matt Mowers, who worked in that office, became the latest former or current Christie aide to tell investigators he knows nothing about the lane closures, which critics have blasted as an abuse of power (A-3).

But Mowers testified Bridget Anne Kelly, then deputy chief of staff for Christie, called him on Aug. 12 to ask if Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich was endorsing the governor, and he told her no.

Bully out of loop?

That was one day before Kelly sent the explosive e-mail, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," to Christie's Port Authority crony, David Wildstein, who has been blamed for carrying out the lane closures.

Wildstein, who has since resigned, claims he told Christie about the lane closures last Sept. 11, during the 9/11 memorial ceremony in Manhattan.

Lynne Hurwitz, the political muscle behind Zisa family allies defeated in last May's municipal election, returning to her seat after speaking at Tuesday night's City Council meeting in Hackensack. Hurwitz asked City Councilman David Sims if he had used the N-word to refer to himself, as alleged by a police officer. Sims would not comment.

Hackensack news

News of Hackensack shared the front page of The Record on Tuesday with a story about nasal strips for a racehorse.

Editor Marty Gottlieb ran an inspirational photo of Hackensack High School senior softball team manager Erin Kelly, who was paralyzed for two years by illness, but has recovered.

The story on L-1 doesn't say whether her "rare ailment," a virus, was connected in any way to the mediocre food at the high school, where the cafeteria and presumably the kitchen is infested with roaches.

This is 'news'?

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, residents saw The Hackensack City News, an 8-page tabloid filled with upbeat stories on the accomplishments of the new administration.

The "newspaper" was written by Thom Ammirato, the former campaign official who was given the $78,000-a-year job as the city's chief spokesman.

Council officials said the tabloid will be distributed by The Record, but didn't give the cost of printing or distribution.

Ammirato's one-year contract expires in July.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Kean's Rutgers speech ignores gridlock in Trenton

Spring has sprung in Hackensack.


Former Gov. Thomas Kean looks awfully pleased with himself in the photo on Page 1 of The Record today.

And Staff Writer Mike Kelly heaps praise on Kean's message to Rutgers University graduates: 

"We need to restore the fabric of our society. Our country is becoming ... more and more divisive" (A-6).

But Kean was referring to Washington, not Trenton, where a fellow conservative Republican, mean-spirited Governor Christie, rules with a veto pen.

What compromise?

The GOP bully also remains locked in battles with Democrats over education funding, appointees to the state Supreme Court, a tax surcharge on millionaires and other issues.

State finances are a disaster under Christie, as is job creation, mass transit and pride in our Garden State -- even as he courts wealthy donors for a possible
White House run (A-1 and A-3).

Did Kean ignore Trenton's dysfunction lest critics jump all over the deficits he ran up when he was governor from 1982 to 1990?

Kelly and pal Kean

Kelly wrote numerous columns lionizing Kean when the former governor was co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission.

In view of that pronounced bias, why did Editor Marty Gottlieb think Kelly was the best reporter to cover Kean's speech? 

In Kelly's thumbnail photo on A-1, his shit-eating grin tells you as much: The reporter seems to be saying, I got away with another Kean love fest.

Guns in Paterson

Oneil "Fuzzy" Linton, 23, survived the island of Jamaica's notorious gun violence, only to die in Paterson, where he was beaten and shot early Sunday morning (L-1).

The story sends the message that if you live in Paterson or visit Silk City, you can't rely on the police to protect you.

Noisy pigs

On L-5,  A photo of the Renegade Pigs, a club that rides noisy Harleys, appears under this over line:


It should read:


Sunday, May 18, 2014

This Sunday edition is one boring page after another

The directional signals, but not the brake lights, worked on this Sphinx jitney I was stopped behind in Ridgefield on Saturday. During the workweek, the jitneys relieve rush-hour crowding aboard NJ Transit buses heading for Manhattan, one of the stories ignored by The Record's clueless Road Warrior.


The Record's front-page today reports on gambling "competition" between North Jersey and New York State, even though expanding casinos beyond Atlantic City won't happen until 2016, if then. 

The Business front reports on another war between the states, this one over jobs.

Why doesn't Editor Martin Gottlieb revive the New Jersey-New York rivalry at the Port Authority or the war over mall shoppers?

GOP agenda

A Page 1 column dredges up the stale controversy over Benghazi, and the story below that discusses a shake-up in the president's Cabinet (A-1).

Are you bored yet?

A readable story

The most readable story on A-1 is Staff Writer Bill Ervolino's takeout on a "different world" for gay teens.

Ervolino does a far better job on this subject or when he is writing about food. So why doesn't Gottlieb pull the plug on the reporter's Better Living column?

Of course, the story on gay teens is sure to fan speculation in the newsroom about Ervolino's own sexual orientation.

Confusing figures

Almost every road or transportation construction project takes forever, but surely Road Warrior John Cichowski can find something more worthy to write about (L-1).

Also on L-1, a story on the proposed Atlantic Street Park in Hackensack carries the byline of Jennifer Vazquez, a reporter for the weekly Hackensack Chronicle.

The $585,000 cost figure in the text and sub-headline on the front confuse readers, who learn on the continuation page the city is eligible for a county grant that would reduce the price tag to less than $318,000 (L-7).

The Local front story on Woodland Park's centennial is an example of the increased coverage of the Passaic County borough since The Record moved there in 2009.

Celebrity news

Better Living delivers two boring stories:

Staff Writer Elisa Ung's column on "good" extra-virgin olive oils (BL-1) is almost as tedious as her Friday review of Bareli's, a restaurant on Route 3 in Secaucus that requires customers to sit in Lincoln Tunnel traffic for the privilege of paying $55 for a 2-pound lobster.

For that hefty tariff, the restaurant doesn't even remove the meat from the shell and claws. 

The larger element on BL-1 is devoted to an endorsement of an Edgewater bagel store and Starbucks Coffee in Englewood by Daphne Oz, the spoiled daughter of multimillionaire Dr. Mehmet Oz of Cliffside Park.

Paterson mansions

Given the negative coverage of Paterson in the past decade, a Real Estate front story on the city's Eastside mansions is an eye opener (R-1).

The Opinion front is a snoozer, with a second long column on the 9/11 museum by Mike Kelly, and another in the endless string of stories and columns speculating on Governor Christie's political future (O-1).

Sinking feeling

Travel Editor Jill Schensul's cover story on "tempting cruises" ignores the hassles of using Cape Liberty in Bayonne, where departing or arriving passengers face a long, winding, slow-moving traffic jam of vehicles (T-1).

After a recent cruise to Bermuda, one passenger complained she had been waiting 90 minutes for her taxi.

The large, open area next to the ship is unusable, because it is filled with construction debris. 

Passengers are directed to a long, tented shed many hundreds of yards away, requiring them to use shuttle buses to board the ship.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Editor blesses Road Warrior, dismisses critics

In late 2007, Publisher Stephen A. Borg paid $3.65 million for this McMansion on the East Hill of Tenafly, using a mortgage from North Jersey Media Group, publisher of The Record, Herald News and (201) magazine. Several months later, Borg implemented the biggest downsizing in NJMG history. 


When I was a news copy editor at The Record, Staff Writer John Cichowski, who began writing the Road Warrior column in late 2003, was among the reporters who couldn't be relied on to be accurate or complete.

More than a decade later, the Road Warrior column continues to peddle misinformation -- whether its about driving regulations and laws or North Jersey's troubled mass transit.

His workload -- three columns a week -- might have been to blame, and recently, he appears to have been cut back to only two, and most of those are based on inane questions and comments from readers who love seeing their names in print.

In the last two years or so, a retired engineer in Hackensack has been fact-checking Cichowski, something the editors of The Record don't do, and e-mailing critiques to Vice President Jennifer A. Borg, Editor Martin Gottlieb, Production Editor Liz Houlton and others, including the reporter himself.

Circles the wagons

Now, Gottlieb has come out swinging in defense of Cichowski and dismissed all criticism of his inaccuracies and faulty reporting over the last decade.

The e-mail is an example of the fortress mentality at The Record and many other newspapers, where editors and reporters regularly express contempt for complaining readers and refuse to appoint an ombudsman to deal with sloppy, inaccurate reporting and editing. 

Still, Gottlieb's e-mail only addresses a recent Road Warrior column about the midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, which is across the street from The New York Times, where Gottlieb reported and edited for many years under much higher standards than he enforces at the Woodland Park daily.

Here is Gottlieb's e-mail to the Hackensack critic, who began the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers:

You have sent, by your count, more than 160 e-mails with complaints about the Road Warrior in less than two years. They have been filled with ad hominem attacks, inaccuracies, and nitpicks magnified to gargantuan proportions, all of which stand in complete contrast to the praise you heaped on the column after you asked for - and received - Mr. Cichowski's help several years ago. Quite frankly, I'm tired of this, and I have no interest in hearing from you or reading these defamations anymore.
Your first "clueless false statement" contends that the bus terminal, which opened in 1950, is not 64 years old because it opened in December and is therefore only 63 years old.... Please, by any fair standard, 1950 plus 64 is 2014, which is the year we're in now. Only someone with an irrational animus would make the point you do, much less at the head of a laundry list of supposedly serious errors.
Your second point is that there is a study going on about what to do with the bus terminal, and that this shows that Cichowski is wrong in saying "there is no relief in sight" for the run-down terminal. There is no relief in sight. The Port's recently passed $27.6-billion capital budget includes no CONSTRUCTION money for bus-station improvements. Port officials have told us there are no plans in place. A Port commissioner has argued against providing more assistance to a proposed office tower at Ground Zero when nothing is being done to meet the challenge at the bus terminal. John is right. You are wrong. You are reading an awful lot into a study months from completion that, at best, won't beget a remedy for years and years - in other words, for any time in sight.
Your points are not fair-minded. They are driven by an irrational hatred of the Road Warrior, despite your earlier solicitation of his help. I've stopped reading.
Martin Gottlieb

In response to Gottlieb's e-mail, the Hackensack critic noted, referring to himself:

- The only things the critic hates is clearly false, misleading, or unsafe reports, and information that contradicts N.J. statutes. The Road Warrior columns continually contain some portions of these irresponsible items.
- Gottlieb seems to be in total denial about the extensive inaccuracies in around 80% (165) of the total Road Warrior columns over the past two years.
- The Road Warrior has regularly provided information and advice that has proven to be unhelpful, unsafe, or conflicting with New Jersey statutes, published studies that are the focus of his columns, transportation experts, New Jersey transportation and Motor Vehicle Commission websites, scientific evidence and facts from reliable sources.

See the Facebook page for Road Warrior Bloopers:

Ex-Times journalist OKs fuzzy reporting