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Superintendent's Resignation, Alleged Mobster, Blue Laws Top January's News

Here's a look at the most popular stories from the past month in Westwood, Hillsdale and Washington Township.

Alleged Ramsey Mobster 'Papa Smurf' Accused of Running Trash Scam

A reputed mobster and former Hillsdale business owner known as "Papa Smurf" was charged Wednesday in a widespread federal sweep targeting a mob-run conspiracy to control the trash-hauling industry in New York and New Jersey. 

Ramsey resident Carmine Franco, a 77-year-old Genovese Crime Family associate who had two prior convictions in connection with organized crime in the trash removal industry, was allegedly the ring leader of a scheme to control crooked waste management companies, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. 

Franco and a brother formerly owned the Sal Car transfer station in Hillsdale, which they later sold to Waste Management.

Zoeller Resigns As Westwood Regional Superintendent

Dr. Geoffrey Zoeller, the superintendent of Westwood Regional Schools, resigned from his position effective April 25 via a letter to the school board. The board unanimously voted to accept his resignation at their meeting Thursday.

The board also voted to grant Zoeller a paid leave of absence from January 25 to April 24.

Board Member and former President Carol Mountain, who introduced the motion, said the board and Zoeller had come to a "mutual agreement" that he would resign his position.

Westwood Resident Seeks to Repeal Bergen Blue Laws

One Westwood resident is fed up with Bergen County's "blue laws" and is working to have the "old fashioned" rules appealed.

"All I want is more revenue for the state and more jobs," Rosemary Shashoua said.

Shashoua has found some like-minded county residents and started a new group called "Modernize Bergen County" with the goal of repealing the blue laws, the rules which prohibit the sale of items like clothing, furniture and appliances on Sundays.

New Year's Eve Crash Sends Four to Hospital

A three-car accident injured four Hillsdale residents New Year's Eve, according to Police Sgt. Dan McLaughlin.

The accident occured at about 6:17 p.m. on Hillsdale Avenue between Saddlewood Drive and Yessler Way, according to McLaughlin. A 77-year-old man rear-ended another car driven by a 17-year-old girl. The car then crossed into the opposite lane and collided head-on with a third car.

The drivers of all three cars, as well as a woman who was a passenger in the third car, were hospitalized after the crash, McLaughlin said. 

Hillsdale Mom Needs Bone Marrow Transplant

A Hillsdale resident diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia is seeking a bone marrow donor.

Karen Takla-Farag, the mother of a kindergarten student at Meadowbrook School and a parishioner at St. John's, was diagnosed with cancer last month. She requires a bone marrow transplant.

Big changes are in the works at a once-popular local bagel place.

Ronnie's Hot Bagels, located at 118 Broadway in Hillsdale, recently reopened with new owners who have a number of changes planned for the shop, including lower prices — they've already lowered them, but the changes aren't final — better quality food made fresh on location and better service, according to Anthony Minuto, one of the new owners.

"We want to improve it," Minuto said. "We're happy to have the opportunity to build it up and see it grow."

Minuto and his family have experience running a small chain of successful bagel shops around the area under the "Binghamton Bagel" brand.

Westwood Buys Three Flood-Prone Homes With Grant Money

Westwood closed on three flood-prone properties last week, allowing homeowners who had been in limbo since Hurricane Irene to finally move on with their lives.

The borough closed on 55 and 46 Harding Avenue Thursday morning and 60 Harding Avenue Friday morning, according to Borough Administrator Robert Hoffmann. The purchases were made with a portion of $2,068,057 in grants, including about $1.5 million from FEMA and the rest from the Department of Environmental Protection's Green Acres program.

As a part of the buyout program, FEMA required the borough to have the homes appraised, which set the prices to be paid. Grant money was also used to cover costs like the appraisers. The amounts paid for the three homes were $324,357.87, $420,000.00 and $297,716.00, according to Hoffmann.

Objector Comes Forward Against Westwood 7-Eleven Plan

A plan for a new strip mall on Kinderkamack Road is facing some opposition near the end of its application.

Bruce Meisel, a local property owner and the president and CEO of Pascack Community Bank, announced at the Westwood Zoning Board meeting Monday that he planned to formally oppose a plan to build a 8,051-square-foot, five-unit strip mall at the former Chevrolet of Westwood on Kinderkamack Road.

At the same meeting, the last of the applicant's experts completed giving testimony about the plan.

Meisel said he was concerned about a requested use variance to allow a convenience store, likely a 7-Eleven, to occupy part of the shopping center. That use was not included among the borough's recent changes to its Master Plan, a document which sets what uses and types of buildings are allowed in different areas of towns.

Judgments Against Assemblyman Schroeder Exceed $13M

Plaintiffs suing State Assemblyman Robert Schroeder have been awarded a total of more than $13 million by judges in New Jersey, court records show.

There were 14 judgments filed against Schroeder since February of last year, totalling $13,079,841.40 owed to different plaintiffs.

Hanlon Named Westwood School Board President

The Westwood Regional Board of Education picked Roberta Hanlon as its president and Darlene Mandeville as its vice president for 2013 during the board's annual reorganization meeting last week.

"We've had some great accomplishments in the district and I'm proud to take over and continue the momentum," Hanlon said.

Hanlon told Patch she was aware that many people were focused on some recent controversies in the district, but hoped to focus on continuing positives like the recent state approval of the district's teacher evaluation instruments.


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