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Year in Review, Jan Through June 2012 in Fort Lee

A look back at the first half of the year that was in local news: Fort Lee 2012.

January

The Fort Lee Board of Education hosted its second of three community forum meetings in advance of the school bond referendum on Jan. 24. Turnout at the Fort Lee Community Center was slightly better than at the board’s first forum on Dec. 12, as school officials for the most part reiterated what they detailed at that meeting and directed voters to the district’s special “Bond Referendum 2012” website as people in attendance for the most part expressed their support.

A pipe burst in the Fort Lee High School library, and what was thought to be a “smoke incident with a light” at Fort Lee School No. 1 earlier in the day turned out to be a heat pump in the ceiling.

The Fort Lee Mayor and Council held its annual reorganization meeting at Borough Hall, where Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich and Councilmen Armand Pohan and Michael Sargenti, all of whom were reelected in November, took the oaths of office; Councilman Joseph Cervieri was selected as Council president for 2012; borough attorney Lee Cohen was reappointed for another year; and Sokolich delivered his annual State of the Borough Address before the governing body went through a litany of statutory, Council and Mayor’s appointments and nominations.

BOE Approves Engravalle’s Contract as ‘Interim’ Superintendent

Formerly Acting Superintendent of Schools Steven Engravalle is officially “acting” in the role no longer, after the Fort Lee Board of Education approved a walk-in resolution at its regular business meeting approving his contract as Interim Superintendent through Feb. 29.

Weehawken Man Charged with Attempted Murder Outside Fort Lee Nightclub

A Weehawken man was charged with attempted murder after allegedly hitting a man in the head and neck with a bottle outside a Fort Lee nightclub, police said.

Keith Sabatino officially took over as Fort Lee Fire Chief on Jan. 1, when Mark Sulcov became Deputy Fire Chief and former department chief William Chiappane became Battalion Chief of the Fort Lee Fire Department. All three were officially sworn in and took the oaths of office—along with First and Second Lieutenants and Captains of the borough’s all-volunteer fire department—at a special ceremony at Borough Hall before the regular meeting of the Fort Lee Mayor and Council.

Fort Lee voters approved the Fort Lee Board of Education’s third school bond referendum since September 2010 by a margin of more than 500 votes. That positive outcome—after two failed attempts at getting larger referendums passed in 2010—authorizes the school district to raise funds through the sale of bonds to finance boiler replacements, roof replacements, science lab renovations at Fort Lee High School and Lewis F. Cole Middle School, masonry repairs and other infrastructure renovations across the district that school officials have called “critical.”

February

Redevelopment Area 5 Begins Final Approval Process

After remaining an empty eyesore for over four decades, the property known as Redevelopment Area 5, a 17-acre property near the George Washington Bridge, could be nearing final approval on the eastern parcel. The Fort Lee Planning Board hosted the first of two meetings on at the Fort Lee Community Center for residents who filled the room to near capacity.

Superintendent Search Firm Could Hold Stakeholder Meeting After All


After appointing a firm to conduct a search for a permanent Superintendent of Schools at its last regular business meeting on Jan. 23 but first removing a clause from the firm’s proposal offering to meet with stakeholders prior to conducting its search, the Fort Lee Board of Education voted to request that Leadership Advantage put the clause back into the contract without changing the cost to the district.

Two New York men were charged in connection with a high-speed chase that started on the George Washington Bridge and ended in a head-on crash with a Port Authority police car on Lemoine Avenue, authorities said.

BOE Votes 5-4 to Move School Board Elections to November

The local school district joined hundreds of other districts in New Jersey when the Fort Lee Board of Education narrowly approved a resolution  that will move school board elections from April to November and remove the need to vote on the school budget provided it’s kept within the state-mandated cap.

Fort Lee Man Charged with Murder in Connection with Hit-and-Run Death of Girlfriend

A 26-year-old Fort Lee man was charged with murder in connection with the hit-and-run death of his girlfriend outside the Fort Lee Community Center, where he allegedly struck her with his car and then drove over her multiple times, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli announced.

Water Main Break Leaves Residents with 'Little or No' Water Pressure

What was described by borough officials as a “large water main break” at Palisade Avenue and Bluff Road Wednesday evening forced closure of a portion of roadway and left an unknown number of Fort Lee residents with little or no water pressure.

Fort Lee Man Pleads Not Guilty to Murdering Girlfriend in Hit-And-Run

HACKENSACK—A Fort Lee man pleaded not guilty to charges that he killed his girlfriend in a brutal hit-and-run attack outside the Fort Lee Community Center on Feb. 21. Bergen County prosecutors charged Charles J. Ann, 26, with murder after he allegedly ran down his girlfriend, Aena Hong, 25, of Fort Lee, with his car after an argument, and then drove over her repeatedly in front of multiple witnesses.

March

In light of a recent increase in motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians in the borough, Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas O. Ripoli issued a statement to residents urging them to take proper safety precautions “while navigating our streets.”

Fort Lee High School was in the national spotlight, when MSNBC broadcast its morning shows, Way Too Early and Morning Joe, live from the high school gymnasium. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was one of the featured guests, along with Rev. Al Sharpton, Howard Dean, Michelle Rhee and many others on a show with a special focus on education reform. Fort Lee Interim Superintendent of Schools Steven Engravalle was the main subject of a pre-recorded piece that aired on both shows, and he also joined Christie, Newark Superintendent of Schools Cami Anderson and Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist, in a live segment.

Car Nearly Crashes into Front Doors of School

Nobody was injured when a car jumped the curb, and went up the front steps of Fort Lee School No. 1 on a school day morning, stopping about three inches from the front doors.

Engravalle Faces Criticism Over TV Appearance 

Residents questioned some of Interim Superintendent Steven Engravalle’s comments on a recent live broadcast of MSNBC's “Morning Joe” from Fort Lee High School, but school officials, including Engravalle, said they oppose charter schools.

Film Production Returns to Fort Lee

Justice For All Productions was on location at Fort Lee's Borough Hall filming "Snapshot," an independent film directed by Eric Etebari and produced by Kenneth Del Vecchio, featuring Joyce DeWitt of Three's Company fame.

Four-Alarm Fire Rips Through Townhouse

Nobody was injured, but it took about 100 firefighters to put out the blaze on West Street. The fire remained under investigation.

Contractor Charged With Child Endangerment

Police said a 22-year-old New Milford man allegedly engaged in inappropriate conduct with a minor at Fort Lee High School, including transmitting obscene images. A food service worker from an outside contractor was arrested at Fort Lee High School and charged with endangering the welfare of a child and promoting obscene material, both third degree crimes.

The Fort Lee Planning Board unanimously approved FLRA’s site plan for Redevelopment Area 5 East parcel, including the two towers with 902 luxury residential units, a 1.7-acre public park, a restaurant and a small movie theater, among other amenities.

Interim Assistant Superintendent Appointed 

At a meeting devoted largely to discussion of the new school budget, the Fort Lee BOE passed a walk-in resolution appointing former Fort Lee District Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction for ESL, Bilingual and World Languages Sharon Amato to the role through June pending county approval.

April

Engravalle Appointed to State Task Force

New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno appointed seven representatives from the public and private sectors to the newly created New Jersey Education Funding Task Force, and Fort Lee’s Interim Superintendent of Schools was among the appointees.

Community Center Goes Blue For Autism 

The Fort Lee Community Center was lit up blue each night throughout April in recognition of Autism Awareness Month, thanks to Fort Lee Councilman Harvey Sohmer, who recommended the borough do something to acknowledge those who struggle with autism spectrum disorders.

Fort Lee Man Convicted In Cop Shooting 

A Fort Lee man and his accomplice were convicted in a string of armed robberies that included the shooting of a Wayne police officer. The pair terrorized highway businesses in the spring of 2010.

North Bergen Prosecutor Charged With Money Laundering In Drug Probe

The former law partner of the Fort Lee mayor helped a pair of large-scale marijuana dealers establish a relationship with a crooked bank manager, authorities said. Marcanton Macri, a North Bergen municipal prosecutor, was accused of "facilitating" a relationship between the banker and two Edgewater men authorities said imported as much as 1,000 pounds of marijuana into New Jersey from Northern California since the start of 2012.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said this week he was "surprised, stunned and beside myself" at money laundering charges filed against his longtime friend and law partner before severing professional ties with Marc Macri.

State Education Chief Visits Fort Lee School

New Jersey’s Acting Commissioner of Education, Chris Cerf, discussed the state’s new school funding formula on a brief visit to Fort Lee School No. 2.

Local and regional residents, young and young at heart, gathered at Fort Lee Historic Park to witness Space Shuttle Enterprise's historic visit before its retirement at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Troopers Seize More Than $780K in Traffic Stop

A routine traffic stop on Interstate 95 in Fort Lee led state troopers to seize more than $783,000 and arrest two Bronx men on money laundering charges, according to state police.

Police Renew Call for Caution After More Pedestrians Struck

Fort Lee police are once again urging caution after yet another pedestrian was struck by a vehicle in the borough, the second such incident to occur in a week, the third in two weeks and the fifth since February.

May

Red Bulls Player Charged With Assaulting Fort Lee Police Officer

Fort Lee police arrested Wilman Conde, a player for the New York Red Bulls, charging him with aggravated assault on a police officer at an apartment where officers were responding to a noise complaint.

Fort Lee Police Cracking Down on Jaywalkers

Police are writing jaywalking tickets in an effort to curtail incidents of pedestrians getting hit by cars. Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas O. Ripoli held a press conference to urge drivers and pedestrians to remain vigilant and follow traffic laws or face fines.

Mayor to Drivers: Police Are Watching You Too

On the same day the Chief of Police announced a crackdown on jaywalkers, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said the Fort Lee Police Department is also cracking down on drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians legally crossing the borough’s streets.

Students Speak Up To Save Teachers' Jobs

The Fort Lee High School auditorium was packed to near capacity, as parents, students, faculty and community members attended the Fort Lee Board of Education’s regular business meeting to express their support for two Lewis F. Cole Middle School teachers whose contracts recently were not renewed.

Steven Engravalle said he was at a meeting in the Washington, D.C. area that had been planned for a long time, but that he’s proud of the Fort Lee students who spoke out at the school board meeting in support of their teachers.

Woman Hit by Car in Parking Lot Dies

A 92-year-old Fort Lee woman badly injured at Whiteman Plaza died early the next morning at a local hospital.

Fort Lee Police Chief clarifies crackdown announced late the previous week, saying the police department is doing what it can to raise awareness of the dangers of not paying attention when crossing borough streets but not necessarily "cracking down on texting and walking" as some media outlets reported.

Woman With Stuck Foot Rescued From GWB

A Leonia woman told police she walked over the George Washington Bridge's lower roadway, Port Authority officials said.

People showed up at the Fort Lee High School library thinking they would have a chance to address their concerns to Interim Superintendent Steven Engravalle, but school board president Arthur Levine said Engravalled had a serious family medical emergency and couldn't make it to the meeting.

Gas Station Attendant Charged In Golf Club Assault

Police originally received a call of a fight between co-workers at a gas station on Anderson Avenue. Seven police officers responded and determined that it wasn’t much of a fight, charging one of the men with assault after he allegedly attacked his co-worker with a golf club.

Memorial Day Celebration Goes On Without VFW Commander

While about 200 Fort Lee residents of all ages waved American flags and fought back the heat in front of the Fort Lee Cairola Barber Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post 2342 building on Center Avenue, one absence did not go unnoticed, that of VFW Commander Jimmy Viola.

June

Teen Dies in Fall from Fort Lee Cliff

Area rescue crews were called to Palisades Interstate Park late on a Friday night after a A 16-year-old Fort Lee High School student fell off a cliff in Fort Lee’s section of the park and died. As the school community and friends of the victim mourned the loss, school officials mobilized its Crisis Response Team in preparation for school the next Monday.

Six Candidates To Vie For Three Seats on Fort Lee School Board

At appeared initially that Fort Lee was going to have a crowded field of candidates for three seats on the Fort Lee Board of Education, according to information released by the Bergen County Clerk in June. But two current board members said they would not seek reelection.

Principal Attacked During Field Day

Police charged Joseph Dimino with aggravated assault and a litany of other charges, including violating a restraining order, after he allegedly punched Fort Lee School No. 3 principal Robert Kravitz in the head outside the school.

Fort Lee Teen Gets Heart Transplant

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich Thursday talked about two events—one tragic, and one a triumph—that he said “eclipsed” what would, in any other week, have been the biggest news in Fort Lee.

Students turned up in full force again to urge the school board to overturn the interim superintendent’s decision not renew two of their teachers’ contracts. But the board took no action, putting an end to more than a month of lobbying efforts.

Lewis F. Cole Graduates Celebrate 'Promotion'

Parents, relatives and friends filed into the Fort Lee Community Center to commemorate the successes and milestones of the Class of 2012.

Fort Lee High School Graduation 2012 in Photos

It was graduation day for the Fort Lee High School class of 2012, the members of which received their diplomas at a ceremony at the Lewis F. Cole Middle School athletic field.

An 82-year-old Mahwah man called his daughter on a June morning to tell her he had just killed her mother and was going to turn the gun on himself, authorities said. When police arrived at the couple's home in Mahwah, they found 79-year-old Barbara Ellis, a former, longtime Fort Lee school nurse, with a gunshot wound to the head and her husband, Harry Ellis, lying facedown in the grass outside, with what police believed was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Engravalle Appointed Superintendent 

The three-year appointment, which was not a unanimous decision on the part of the school board, was pending county approval, while the Fort Lee Board of Education also voted to appoint Dr. Sharon Amato Assistant Superintendent of Schools through June 2013.

Man Dies In Fall From Palisades Cliff

A 45-year-old Spring Lake man was killed in a 225-fall from the cliffs along the Hudson River at the Rockefeller Lookout on the Palisades Interstate Parkway in Englewood Cliffs, according to police. It was the second death resulting from a fall from the cliffs in June.

Check back Friday as Patch reviews Fort Lee news from the second half of 2012.

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