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Two Fires Lead to Tragedy

Civic officials here and in Newark are asking citizens to help with the relief efforts of those suffering from two separate fires - including one that killed five family members, on Dec.7-8.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Sharon Fields and Tyshammie Cooper are working in concert with Mayor Lester E. Taylor III and Fire Chief Charles Salley in bringing food, clothing and other non-monetary items to the city's fire stations. The items will go to three families who were burned out of their homes on 12-18 North 17th Street Sunday morning.

Donated items will be particularly going towards the Horton/Love family, who lost five of their own at 16 No. 17th St.

The Essex County Prosecutor's Office released the following names Dec. 8 as killed in the fire: Alice Horton, 79; Ronnie Horton, 60; Randy Horton, 56; Breiona Love, 20; and Lanore Carter-Love, 6 weeks.

A sixth family member, who remains unidentified, was treated at the scene by local first responders for minor smoke inhalation.

Four more people, who were living at 18 and 14 No. 17th St., were also burned out and rendered homeless. 14 and 16 No. 17 were leveled. The heavily damaged 18 No. 17th building will also face the wrecking ball.

Newark's North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, Jr. is meanwhile looking to help up to 29 people among the seven families displaced by a fire that gutted or damaged three row apartment buildings on the 81 block of Bloomfield Avenue Dec. 8. Those three apartment buildings with ground floor stores are to also meet the wrecking ball.

Councilman Ramos is receiving particular help from the nearby McKinley Elementary Public School and Paquito's restaurant as drop-off sites. Two of the affected children are McKinley students; Paquito's is taking canned food, useable clothes and good-condition furniture.

Newark Fire Department spokesman Capt. John Brown said that two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

The Dec. 7 East Orange and Newark Dec. 8 fires are among several blazes in the Local Talk area that have displaced residents the last few cold weeks. There have been several injuries. Abraham Ragin, 19, was found dead after the fire at 656 Springfield Ave. East Orange, was put out Nov. 9.

The Dec. 7-8 fires were also pre-dawn blazes put out by fire department crews despite gusty wind. The fires' causes are still being investigated by presstime. The American Red Cross' Essex County Chapter helped with relocations.

EOFD Chief Salley said that the first units from the Grove Street Station responded to the report of a fire at 16 No. 17th at 6:08 a.m. They found 14, 16 and 18 No. 17th "engulfed in flames."

Firefighters promptly pulled two more alarms and rescued a woman from the third floor of 16 No. 17th St. Up to 80 personnel from Bloomfield, Irvington, Montclair, Orange, South Orange, West Orange and Millburn converged on North 17th Street's southernmost block.

Salley said that it took six hours to bring the fire under control due to the string wind. The wind blew smoke some 1.5 miles southeast, from East Orange's "Teen Streets" through Newark's Roseville neighborhood into Fairmount Heights.

Firefighters determined that 14 No. 17th was vacant - and that five people were missing - by 7:30 a.m. "Local Talk" also noticed WCBS TV footage of Irvington Ladder Truck 41's crew spraying one of the houses' attic or third floor.

18-12 No. 17th St. are or were three story wood frame houses, built 1900-30 for single family residents.

"Local Talk" found four EOFD units, a Yannuzzi excavator and a Trenton-based fire extinguisher company van on that block 3 p.m. Dec. 8. Officials had blocked the street at Eaton Place and had police tape separating sidewalkers from the scene from there to 25/26 No. 17th.

A man was seen leaving 18 No. 17th with a milk crate full of objects. That building's third floor was destroyed. The back vertical half of the building was charred. Vynal siding along its front half had deformed from melting.

The Yannuzzi excavator has already done its work at 16 and 14 No. 17th. Both houses, except for an intact garage at 14's rear, were piles of debris. 12 No. 17th appeared intact - but its front door window bore one of the city's infamous orange code enforcement "do not inhabit" sticker signs.

"The vacant house (14 No. 17th St.) is being demolished," said Salley late Dec. 7, "to stage a platform for arson investigators to systematically disassemble 16 No. 17th St. - where the fire started," said Salley.
Those wanting to donate food, clothing or other non-monetary items may be dropped off at the following locations 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.:

- EOFD Headquarters, 468 Dr. MLK, Jr. Blvd.
- Fire House 2 60 MLK Blvd./"New Main St."
- Fire House 3: 321 Dodd St.
- Fire House 5, 205 Elmwood St.
- OEM, 402 Springdale Ave.

Firefighters also arrived early and stayed late at the fire at 77-81 Bloomfield Ave., Newark. Capt. Brown said that the first NFD crews arrived at 1 a.m. All three three-story buildings were built around 1900 and shared common walls.

The 29 people, representing seven families among the two upper floors, were evacuated and put on an NJTransit No. 29 RTS bus to keep warm. Seven of NJT's bus routes would be rerouted around the fire scene until about 3 p.m.

NFD pulled three more alarms to bring up to 80 firefighters to the Lower Broadway section scene. An Irvington Fire Department spokesman said that one of its units covered the Mt. Prospect Fire House farther up the North Ward. Gusting wind, however spread the flames from 79 Bloomfield Ave. to the adjacent buildings.

Ramos, on his webpage, said that the two McKinley School students are 5 and 8 years old. He is particularly looking for 5-6 sized clothing and size 1 shoes for the 5-year-old; size 18-20 clothes and 4 size shoes for the 8-year-old.

Above said clothing and related items may be delivered to McKinley School 1 Colonnade Place, during school hours.

Non-perishable food, useable clothing or furniture may be delivered to Paquito's, 879 Broadway.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Recognizes the Orange Housing Authority for Exceptional Management

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has given the Orange Housing Authority (OHA) its highest marks in recent memory for strong performance.

OHA scored in the 90th percentile of housing authority's nationally for its complete management performance under the federal "Public Housing Assessment Score," which evaluates the agency's performance in such categories as physical, financial, capital and overall management.

The assessment evaluates the status of each property supported by HUD. This measurement is used to underline good practices by each housing authority and draw attention to inefficiencies.

Since 1998, all public housing authorities across the nation are required to participate in HUD's annual assessment.

In 2005, OHA scored as low as 49 for its overall management operations, putting the agency in jeopardy of losing federal and state resources. In the latest assessment, OHA scored an impressive 92, higher than most other housing authorities in the state and nation. This is the second year in a row the Housing Authority has been ranked as a "High Performer."

Under Dr. Walter McNeil's leadership, as executive director, OHA has been able to responsibly develop safe and decent affordable housing for its residents, while assuring the responsible use of its resources.

"OHA has proven over time to be a trusting steward of state and federal money for the community," McNeil said. "We are extremely proud of our progress, to date. Our most recent federal score underlines the quality work we are doing here."

OHA and the Orange Housing Development Corporation have worked collaboratively to revive the East Ward's community, a neighborhood once ridden by crime and violence. Their success is evident throughout Oakwood Avenue, Parrow Street and North Parrow.

One prime example is the redevelopment of the Dr. Walter G. Alexander Court Public Housing Development. In 2010, the OHA was awarded tax credits and financing from the New Jersey Housing Mortgage and Finance Agency (NJHMFA) with a total value of $23.3 million to revitalize the buildings.

The redevelopment resulted in a $32 million total investment for the first two phases of the project, comprising 114 residential units, 48 affordable housing units for seniors and 66 affordable housing family units.

In 2013, the NJHMFA awarded OHA another $7.4 million in tax credits to complete the redevelopment with an additional 42 units and a 4,500-square-foot community room.

"Because of the hard work of many, hundreds of families now have a safer and more nurturing place to raise their children in Orange," said Coram Rimes, Jr., chairman of the OHA Board of Commissioners. "We are certainly pleased with our latest HUD score, but not satisfied. More work is needed as we march toward becoming the top housing authority in the nation."
OHA offers 250 residences, 642 "Section 8" vouchers, 114 tax credit units and is constructing 42 more. The public agency is committed to improving the community by buying properties, improving their worth and stabilizing streets and neighborhoods.

Learn more at

Orange Library Facing Budgetary Deadline

The City Council has invited Orange Public Library Director Timur Davis - and asked city CFO Joy Lascari - to appear before them at their Dec. 16 meeting.

Council President Donna K. Williams and her colleagues are inviting Davis in case he and the OPL Board of Trustees want to ask for part or all of the $200,000 city elders had set aside as a reserve in the Calendar Year 2014 Municipal Budget.

Lascari is to meanwhile show whether the $200,000 OPL reserve remains intact, has been partially tapped into - or if it still exists at all.

The council, by ratifying the CY 2014 budget, approved the allocation of an overall $703,000 for OPL operations and some capital spending. The first $503,000, by state law, is the calculated minimum a municipality of Orange's size needs to keep its public library open.

Council members set aside an additional $200,000 which Davis and the trustees said is need to meet its payroll and make needed repairs. A majority of the council was left with the impression that Davis was to come before them to demonstrate a need to tap into that reserve. The allocation, if given council permission, would be disbursed monthly.

"It was last summer when the director came her and said he needed the $200,000 to run the library," said Councilman At-Large Elroy Corbitt. "I want to know if the money is there - either it's there or we'll have to raise property taxes."

Corbitt broached the subject in response to South Ward Councilwoman Jamie Summers-Johnson's OPL report on the trustees' Dec. 2 meeting. Summers-Johnson, who presents monthly library updates, follows predecessor Edward Marable, Jr. as the council's liaison to the trustees.

Council members had meanwhile received a report from their budget consultant, Dieter Lerch, CPA, stating that, as of Sept. 30, both library line items have been spent. Lascari - in place of the absent Lerch and Mayor Dwayne Warren-appointed Finance Director Adrian Mapp - rose to the public speakers' podium to explain.

"What the budget consultant report was a projection of budget expenditures among all departments," said Lascari. "He took the expenditures and balances as of Sept. 30 and projected them to Dec. 31."

Williams has asked Lascari to have a budget report - including the $200,000 OPL supplementary fund's status, ready for Dec. 5 delivery to the City Clerk's office.

Lascari, responding to Williams' question on the status of preparing next year's municipal budget, said that she has not received proposed budgets from all department heads. The Warren-appointed CFO did not indicate whether she had received or not OPL's proposed 2015 budget.

Corbitt, in his questioning Summers-Johnson, said he was favoring the proposed funds transfer from unspent funds to expended line-items. That comment brought challenges from public speakers Jeff Feld and Bruce Meyer.

"I respectfully suggest that Councilman Corbitt reconsider his support of transferring CY2014 appropriated money," said hardware store owner Feld. "How a prudent fiduciary of a public trust can announce his support of legislation that hasn't been yet drafted is outrageous."

Meyer, a six-year Citizens Budget Advisory Committee member, urged the council to not tap into the supplemental fund until the library trustees have shown what he considers as fiscal restraint. The retired airline pilot presented how the trustees' choice of a roofer earlier this year behaved as a caution for prudence."

The trustees chose, out of three bidders for the roof and rotunda work, a contractor, who was not qualified, who said he would patch the roof," said Meyer. "He then put in a $1.1 million change order to replace the slate roof tiles with another material when the slate tiles last 100 years. He tried to stick the library, the city and the taxpayers."

Meyer added that, early in his time on the CBAC, the library trustees presented a budget "for the first time in six or seven years.

"What is going on is malfeasance," added Meyers, "illegal and borderline criminal."

Summers-Johnson's report noted that the $750,000 matching grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust would be used for the $1.2 million roof and rotunda repair. The grant, which OPL and/or its partners are to make a dollar-for-dollar match, has been extended into May 2016.

Another $100,000 in grants are being used away from OPL operations. A $48,000 Community Development Block Grant from Essex County is pending to repair the High Volume Air Conditioning and chiller system. A U.S. Department of Education Full Services Community Schools Grant - $52,563 to be spent over five years, will be applied to an OPL-Montclair State University partnership for student Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program.

The council's Dec. 2 and Nov. 17 meetings video may be available by the time you read this. The council has hired a camera operator to record and transfer the video onto YouTube since Oct. 21. Access may be had through

Family Intervention Services' Annual Holiday Food Drive Proves to Be a Huge Success

Photo_1_3Members of the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders pose with local union leaders and staff and volunteers of Family Intervention Services (FIS), which accepted donations of turkeys and gift cards to be distributed to the local needy. The event was part of FIS's annual holiday food drive, in which area families receive all the ingredients of a full holiday meal, courtesy of the generosity of donors. FIS provides approximately 200 holiday meals each year. FIS extends its gratitude to the Passaic Central Labor Council Business Agent Turnpike Local 194 and the Passaic Central Labor Council ADBR Machinist Union, District 15.

From Left to Right:


Photo 1:

Bruce James, Freeholder of Passaic County

Lori Henry, Director of Community Development, Family Intervention Services, Inc.

William F. Mullins, Sergeant-At-Arms, Passaic Central Labor Council
Business Agent Turnpike Local 194

Jeanne M. Warnock, President/CEO of Family Intervention Services, Inc.

Juan Negron, President, Passaic Central Labor Council
ADBR Machinist Union, District 15

Karen Zaledzleski, FIS Board Member

Gino Arevalo, Family intervention Services, Passaic County Office Director

Hector Lora, Freeholder of Passaic County


A Dream Come True


Aminata Dukuray lives in East Orange, NJ. She is a hardworking, humble, calm, and family-oriented lady, devout in her Muslim faith. Over ten years ago, she achieved her dream and started her own business, buying and mixing Shea butter for a nice cosmetic product.

For over 10 years, I had the honor of printing the labels for her fine products. In the beginning, she was selling her products to local stores like Olive May Health Food stores. She was innovative. Her popular product was 100% organic Shea Butter and Super Hair Grow. Slowly and gradually, she improved and introduced more products in the market.

Now, she has Products like Mango Shea Butter, Shea Butter, Super Hair Grow, Shea Butter Lotion, Shea Cocoa Butter, Lavender Lotion, different Body Washes, and over 10 varieties of Black Soaps. She also produces natural Shea Butter shampoos as well.

Ms. Dukuray was born in Sierra Leone. One day, her daughter developed an aggressive ringworm that resulted in baldness on the top of her head. Traditional physicians prescribed a myriad of topical ointments and shampoos that did nothing to eradicate the condition. Out of desperation, Aminata created an ointment with shea butter and an assortment of herbs that she began using on her child. She also created a shampoo using these ingredients and a number of minerals as well. Within days, Ms. Dukuray noticed significant hair growth in her daughter's bald spot. Within days the skin condition was cleared up, and within weeks the bald spot was replaced by healthy growing hair.

Desperately in need of working capital and guidance, Aminata turned to the New Jersey Small Business Development Center at Rutgers-Newark for help. She attended the Center's Introduction to Entrepreneurship Q&A, which she says, "It helped me to understand how to start a business and get really helped me a lot. They made it so easy because my English was not very good at the time."

Thereafter, the Director referred her to one of the business counselors who assisted her with the development of a business plan as well as assistance in the development of additional business skills and expertise. Upon completion of the business plan, Ms. Dukuray was able to secure a microloan from a lender. With this early success, African Secret financed initial inventory development and product promotion. She was able to convince the buyer at one Walmart store to carry a couple of her products on a trial basis. Today, she is in 9 Walmart stores in Northern New Jersey and is looking to expand into the tri-state area. The NJSBDC at Rutgers-Newark is currently working with her on developing her distribution channel in order to expand her operations.

Two years ago, she came in contact with Paul Profeta, head of the Profeta Foundation. He came into her life and tried to change a simple vision into a business empire. He helped her to acquire a lease on a prominent spot on Halsey Street in Newark, across from the Federal Building between Warren Street and Raymond Boulevard. He also helped her to redesign the look and presentation of the store and her products. From Africa Secret, they now will be running under the name of Ancient.
This is a good story of a local woman and role model in our area. Local Talk congratulates Aminata Dukuray and wishes her much success.

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