Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ex-Record staffers will be crying in their beer tonight at a big Irish pub in Clifton

Cartoonist Daryl Cagle believes Republicans will be committing political suicide, if they back Trumpcare as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. The New York Times reports today "is a big day in the House of Representatives -- and for millions of Americans at risk of losing their health insurance."

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

A farewell party is being thrown tonight for about 50 reporters and editors who are among the latest victims of the Gannett-inspired bloodletting at The Record of Woodland Park.

Among retirees expected to attend the bash at The Shannon Rose in Clifton are:

Former Production Editor Bob Cunningham, who also wore the hat of newsroom enforcer in Hackensack; and Vinny Byrne, onetime head of the copy desk, which edits stories and writes headlines.

This week's layoffs involve a total of 141 employees of North Jersey Media Group, the publishing company Gannett Co. bought from the Borg family last July for more than $40 million.

So far, Gannett has cut more than 350 jobs at the Woodland Park daily.

Who is going

The latest round of layoffs includes Jill Schensul, who was the award-winning travel editor; Better Living Editor Marc Schwarz and feature staffers Kara Yorio and Ray Edel.

Food Editor Esther Davidowitz and food writer Sophia Gottfried are keeping their jobs for now.

So are feature writer Jim Beckerman and Joan Verdon, the reporter whose shopping-center beat focuses on some of The Record's biggest advertisers.

Verdon is the only member of the business staff who escaped the layoffs.

Three veterans of the news staff, Deirdre Sykes, Jay Levin and Pat Alex, also are leaving.

Record Columnists Mike Kelly, John Cichowski, Bill Ervlino and Charles Stile are being retained for their ability to fill yawning holes in news and feature pages now that so many writers have been given the heave-ho.


Kara Yorio, a writer on The Record's Better Living staff, was laid off.
Columnist Mike Kelly is keeping his position.

Today's paper

The Zisas appear to be up to their dirty tricks in Hackensack again, according to a story in The Record today (Local front).

Caseen Gaines, a Hackensack High School English teacher, also is campaign manager for Hackensack United for Progress, the Zisa-backed slate in the City Council election in May.

Staff Writer Rodrigo Torrejon reports Gaines "appears to have distributed campaign material" to the media "during school time and on school grounds, according to emails and public records" (1L).

"The city schools' policy prohibits some political work during school hours," Torrejon says.

Gaines' actions were defended by Richard Salkin, a longtime Zisa loyalist who is school board attorney and legal counsel for the Hackensack United for Progress slate.

"If you look at the policy, no way he's done anything wrong," Salkin says of Gaines.

Anthony Zisa

In last April's school election, another Hackensack High teacher, Anthony Zisa, apparently supplied the addresses of members of the teachers union to Team Hackenack, which backed three school board candidates. 

Over the objections of the teachers union president, Team Hackensack, created by the Zisa family political dynasty, invited the teachers to a meet-and-greet barbecue at Anthony Zisa's home, 337 Maple Hill Drive in Hackensack.

Anthony Zisa, son of disgraced former Police Chief Ken Zisa, lives in the home of his grandfather, the late Frank C. Zisa, family patriarch and onetime mayor of Hackensack.

Trumpcare

Here is The New York Times' take on today's scheduled vote to replace the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act:


"Today is a big day in the House of Representatives — and for millions of Americans at risk of losing their health insurance.
"House Republicans are planning to bring up their health care bill for a vote, and it’s not clear whether the bill will pass. A quick summary:
"The bill would take away health insurance from an estimated 24 million people and raise costs for many older Americans. It would channel the savings into large tax cuts for the affluent."


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Food shopping: Fish, fruit and everything else taste so much better when on sale

Pacific Dover Sole Fillet was on sale for only $6.99 a pound at Whole Foods Market in Paramus, allowing me to prepare a one-dish dinner for four for about $5 a person, below, after I added organic spinach, organic diced tomatoes, capers, grated cheese, mushrooms, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and pesto, all of which I had on hand.
Dinner was ready in about 10 minutes, once I layered the spinach, thin fillets and all of the other ingredients in a pan lined with parchment paper and placed the pan in a preheated 400-degree oven.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The Whole Foods Market app on my smartphone alerts me to sales and coupons at the Paramus store only a couple miles from my home.

So, it's easy for me to run out and take advantage of a discount coupon on Wild Gulf Shrimp or a sale on Pacific Dover Sole and organic pears.

On the same day I picked up the fresh, wild-caught sole, the Paramus Whole Foods at Bergen Town Center had a sale on Organic Bartlett Pears from Argentina ($1.99 a pound).

They ripened on my kitchen counter in a couple of days, and were sweet and juicy, perfect as a dessert with cheese.

ShopRite has unveiled Wholesome Pantry, a label for antibiotic-free chicken, previously sold under the Readington Farms brand; organic food, and other items free of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.

I found Wholesome Pantry Organic Garbanzo Beans on sale for 88 cents a can at the Paramus ShopRite (normally $1.31 each), and added them to organic brown rice, organic diced tomatoes, organic chicken stock and chopped fresh garlic in an electric cooker.

This is a great side dish, but can also serve as a light dinner when topped with organic spring mix, cucumbers and tomatoes dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

A light dinner of salad over organic brown rice.

Costco coupons

Costco Wholesale doesn't have sales, but does mail booklets of instant coupons to members of the discount warehouse in Teterboro and Business Center in Hackensack (you don't have to clip the coupons, but they're not interchangeable).

For example, three 46-ounce cans of Dole 100% percent Pineapple Juice are only $4.09 with an instant coupon at the Business Center through Saturday.

The Teterboro warehouse sells a limited selection of skinless-and-boneless Icelandic fish fillets -- cod, haddock and flounder -- for a rock bottom $7.99 or $8.99 a pound.


Korean markets

The H Marts in Little Ferry and Ridgefield have lower sale prices for produce, rice and other items than other stores in the same Korean chain.

And the H Mart at 25 Lafayette Avenue in Englewood offers a 50% discount on any sliced dessert rice cakes left after 4 p.m.

I got $7 off a 2-pound package of Jinga-brand Assorted Rice Cakes that was marked $13.99.

But stores in the H&Y Marketplace chain can beat H Mart on some items.

This month, I found a box of 16 Ataulfo or Champagne Mangoes for $9.99 (regularly $15.99) at the Little Ferry H Mart.

These intensely sweet mangoes were available at the Teterboro Costco for about $1 each.

H Marts also are known for low prices and sales on fresh wild-caught whole fish.


Organic Bartlett Pears on sale for $1.99 a pound this month at Whole Foods Market, Route 4 east and Forest Avenue in Paramus.
Champagne Mangoes from Mexico on sale at the H Mart, 260 Bergen Turnpike in Little Ferry. Buyer beware: Parking lot is filled with potholes and often flooded.
When I found Organic Garbanzo Beans on sale at the ShopRite in Paramus, I added them to organic brown rice, tomatoes, chicken stock and chopped fresh garlic in an electric cooker for dinner.
Organic brown rice with garbanzo beans, diced tomatoes and garlic.
A 1-pound package of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, above, or Wholesome Garden Organic Spring Mix was selling for $3.69 this week at the Costco Wholesale Business Center, 80 S. River St. in Hackensack.
Costco's Kirkland Signature Organic Brown Eggs were introduced at $6.99 for two dozen, but the  price went down to $5.99 and has stayed there.

Dole 100% Pineapple Juice is free of genetically modified ingredients, and comes in BPA-free cans.
On Tuesday, I bought about 1.75 pounds of boneless-and-skinless Icelandic Flounder Fillets at Costco Wholesale in the Teterboro Landing Shopping Center off of Route 46 ($7.99 a pound), and prepared them with Asian Indian spices, organic spinach and other ingredients for dinner, above and below.
This one-dish flounder dinner for four with leftovers was ready after 15 minutes in a preheated 400-degree oven.
At Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St. in Englewood, complete restaurant-quality dinners to go are cut to $5.99 from $7.99 after 4 p.m., if there are any left.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

FBI, NSA say Obama wiretapping is just another big LIE from PresidentTrump

Cartoonist Adam Zyglis of The Buffalo News is referring to proposed Republican cuts to the Public Broadcasting System, left, and the endless stream of falsehoods and baseless nonsense from President Trump.


-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The Trump administration is singing "Gloomy Monday" after FBI and NSA officials testified there is no evidence that Barack Obama wiretapped Donald J. Trump's campaign headquarters before the election.

In effect, intelligence officials liken President Trump's tweets to so much bird poop.

As the president's approval rating hits a new low, Page 1 of The Record runs down all the bad news for the Liar-In-Chief:

"The FBI and Justice Department do not believe Obama wiretapped Trump.
"The FBI is investigating whether Russia interrfered with the 2016 election.
"The FBI is also looking into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"The U.S. did not seek help from the British to conduct surveillance" (1A).

According to the The New York Times' opinion page today:

"He lies the way no American politician has lied before. The occasional untruths that other recent presidents have spoken — often unwittingly — do not compare with the frequency, intensity and deliberateness with which Donald Trump offers falsehoods. 
"Monday brought the remarkable spectacle of the director of the F.B.I., James Comey, calling out the president of the United States for being untruthful. Even more remarkable, Comey acknowledged that the F.B.I. was investigating possible collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government."

Front page

The rest of The Record's front page is a waste.

Readers wonder why Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson is reporting for the umpteenth time that Sen. Bob Menendez "expects to be vindicated of corruption charges when he goes on trial in September" (1A).

After all, Jackson has no independent knowledge of the evidence against the senior New Jersey senator; he's just parroting a defense attorney who is paid hundreds of dollars a hour to say just that, as long as he can fool gullible reporters like Jackson to quote him.

Menendez, a Democrat, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he took $1 million in bribes in return for using his office to benefit his long-time friend, Florida eye specialist Salomon Melgen.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Menendez's bid to overturn the indictment.

Melgen is on trial in a Florida federal court for allegedly bilking Medicare out of as much as $105 million.

Dog of a story

I'm for keeping animal stories off of Page 1, such as today's piece on Rocco, a dog that calms seniors with dementia.

Human news is far more important.

Today's story is by Jay Levin, the local obituary writer who is one of the 141 North Jersey Media Group employees Gannett is laying off this week.

Levin also was assigned to an "aging beat."

On Monday, most of The Record's front page was taken up by two large photos of a Teaneck father and his son, who were both ordained as rabbis.

But that was just a teaser for the actual story and a third photo, which appeared on the Local news front.

Many readers are wondering whether the Reinsteins got so much attention and space, because Gannett editors were desperate to fill huge holes in their news pages as more and more newsroom employees are let go.

Monday, March 20, 2017

$35 bowl of pasta, loud group ruin dinner; plus, a tasty falafel sandwich close to home

PASTA WITH STICKER SHOCK: Pearl Restaurant in Ridgewood served a special menu on Sunday for the Feast of St. Joseph, but didn't list the price of the Sicilian Pasta con le Sarde or Pasta with Sardines. When I got the check, I gulped. An entree portion was $34.95 -- more than a large bowl of Italian fish stew.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

In an email from Pearl Restaurant, the lure was an authentic version of Pasta con le Sarde or Pasta with Sardines as it is made in Sicily.

The sauce of bread crumbs, sardines, fennel, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and other ingredients was to be served over bucatini, a thick, straw-like pasta, made by none other than Nona Carmella from the big Italian island itself.

I've been preparing a cruder version of pasta with sardines at home for years, using a bottled red sauce and canned fish, so was eager to try the Sicilian original at Pearl, where we ate once before, in February 2015.

When we got to the Italian-American restaurant in Ridgewood on Sunday afternoon, we were given the regular menu and the special Feast of St. Joseph menu, which listed the pasta, stuffed artichoke, zuppa di pesce and other dishes, but no prices.

I didn't think anything of that, and the waiter said he could split the entree portion of pasta between me and my wife without imposing the usual penalty of $6. 


My wife loved her entree of Broiled Florida Red Snapper Livornese with capers, Kalamata olives, tomato, garlic and shallots ($26.95).
Pearl's menu also lists red snapper as one of the ingredients in a large bowl of Zuppa di Pesce ($32.95), but I was upset to find my fish stew came with a wedge of tuna, which I usually try to avoid because of its high mercury content. Plus, the chef overcooked it, and when I mentioned that to our server, he took $3 off the price.

Noisy group

Everything we ate was delicious, but we were seated near a large group of about 14 who had washed down their food with plenty of wine, and were talking loudly between two tables, reminiscing about previous gatherings, renovations to their homes and other subjects.

One of them, a short, plump woman, got up from her seat and stood next to the second table for at least 20 minutes, saying at one point, "My kitchen table is so big ...."

I asked our server whether he had brought them the check, but he said they hadn't had dessert yet.

So, our agita or indigestion had two sources -- those inconsiderate noisemakers and the price of the Pasta con le Sarde.

After we got our check and I saw the price of the Pasta with Sardines ($34.95), a couple and their son were seated at the next table, and each of them ordered a bowl.

As they dug in, my wife sent me a text: "That's already $105 for them."

See Pearl's website: 

How much is that pasta in the window?


Pearl's House Salad was filled with a delicious variety of fresh greens and dressed in a mixed-herb vinaigrette ($8.95).
My wife liked her Caesar Salad, but complained she couldn't taste the anchovies in the dressing ($10.95).
Pearl is a BYO. A hummus of red pepper and white beans, above right, is served with small rolls, along with extra-virgin olive oil.
Just before we left, the noisy group lost the second table of kibitzers, and the short, plump woman returned to her seat after her loud stand-up performance.

Falafel in Hackensack

The world is divided between people who want their falafel sandwich made as a wrap, and an equally enthusiastic group who prefer the deep-fried, ground-chickpea balls in a pocket.

At Mazza Falafel in Hackensack, not far from where I live, the falafel, tomato, lettuce and cucumber in this meatless Mideast classic are wrapped in a whole pocket bread, forming a sturdy sandwich, with tahini and hot sauce on the side ($5.49).  

Although I've known about Mazza Falafel for a couple of years, we didn't try the food until Saturday night.

Me and my wife both loved the tasty and filling falafel sandwich, but I missed the pickles in the wrap served in the cafe at Fattal's on Main Street in Paterson, though that sandwich fell apart as I ate it.

The Moroccan owner at Mazza Falafel says he uses only ground chickpeas in his falafel, which he formed and fried after we ordered our sandwiches.

Fattal's uses both chickpeas and fava beans.


Mazza Falafel's sturdy wrap contains three ground-chickpea balls and is served on a plate, with squeeze bottles of tahini and hot sauce on the side. Delicious.
We also shared an order of cold Grape Leaves stuffed with vegetables and rice ($5.99). They were great, but I'll ask for them warm next time.
At Mazza Falafel, seating is at an inside counter, above, or at sheltered but unheated tables, below.
Mazza Falafel, at 365 Essex St. in Hackensack, has no parking lot, so customers usually park across the street in a large lot that serves a medical arts building and Starbucks Coffee.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

What the Borgs started at The Record, Gannett is finishing with a vengeance

Trevor Irvin of PoliticalCartoons.com calls this caricature of Kellyanne Conway, former campaign manager and now counselor to President Trump, the "I-have-no-evidence con job."

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

In less than a week, 141 employees at Gannett's North Jersey Media Group -- publisher of The Record of Woodland Park -- will have worked their final day.

This the second major slashing of the payroll since November, when Gannett redesigned the print edition and NorthJersey.com website.

Gannett has laid off a total of about 350 employees since buying NJMG from the Borg family last July.

See: Borgs take the money and run

This second round of 141 includes about 50 reporters and editors, who were offered one week's pay per year of service and told they can apply for unemployment. 

But Gannett hasn't said who will stay after March 25 and who will go, so readers scanning bylines in today's paper have no way of knowing whether Travel Editor Jill Schensul, for example, has written her last column (Better Living cover).

Ex-staffer's take

When the second major round of layoff notices went out in late January, a former reporter had this reaction on a restricted Facebook page called Bergen Record Cast of Characters:
"So my former employer, The Bergen Record, recently sold for $44 million or so to Gannett.
"First the top editors got renamed 'directors' of bla bla. Then, artists and photographers largely were gone. People who could retire did.  
"Today, 141 talented, iconic Record reporters, writers, editors...etc. -- those whose knowledge as tenacious truth-seekers, wordsmiths, and fine-tuners of copy -- GONE.  RIP Bergen Record.
"I hope the Borg family -- who I always will be grateful for for owning and supporting a fantastic newspaper -- can manage on $40 or so million.
"Their distasteful handling of the sale -- having talented, dedicated, long-term employees read about it in The New York Post -- is about as shocking to anyone who knows Mac Borg as it is that his family empire would collapse with his son Stephen Borg at the helm.
"The foreshadowing began the day Stephen got named heir apparent many years ago and, in his first staff meeting, compared our toils -- the "product" -- to having the 'shelf life' of a box of cereal. That and no socks in the winter and no eye contact ever -- real fourth-generation charm.
"Today, a great newspaper died.
"And to every single talented person who lost a job today -- I hope and pray your talents are valued elsewhere.
"To Gannett -- and your soulless bottom line and mid-level henchmen who specialize in takeovers and layoffs -- please know being the largest newspaper chain in the biz ain't even close to being the best."

Borg layoffs

The downsizing of NJMG and The Record began about a decade before Gannett bought the Woodland Park daily in 2016.

First, then-Publisher Stephen A. Borg moved printing of the paper to the company's press plant in Rockaway Township, and laid off more than 50 press operators who were printing other newspapers, including USA Today.

About two years later, in 2008, Borg downsized the newsroom staff, including laying off the photography director, copy editors, photographers and other employees who had worked there for decades. 

That came several months after NJMG gave Borg a $3.65 million mortgage to buy a McMansion in Tenafly.

In 2009, The Record and NJMG moved out of its River Street headquarters in Hackensack -- where the paper and family had prospered for more than 110 years -- to an office building overlooking Route 80 in Woodland Park.

In Hackensack, businesses -- including Solari's Restaurant, Naturally Good and others -- lost the patronage of hundreds of customers who worked at 150 River St.

Borg's major editorial changes included:

Folding the award-winning Food section, starting a highly promotional Real Estate section to boost advertising revenue, and permanently assigning a reporter to write expanded obituaries about prominent North Jersey residents. 

Fourth Edition

Now, Borg will likely use millions of dollars from the sale to Gannett to give his four sons the best Ivy League education money can buy.

His big sister, former Vice President and General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg, has joined Pashman Stein, the Hackensack law firm she retained on numerous occasions to represent NJMG.

The Borgs have formed a new company, Fourth Edition, which has offices in the same Woodland Park office building that houses the newsroom of their former daily and weekly papers, magazine and website.

Today's paper

The lead story on Page 1 today is another long, tortured account of alleged fraud in publicly funded charter schools that have their "roots in New Jersey's Turkish community" (1A).

The focus is on a school in Union County, which is far from the paper's circulation area.

Even more space is devoted to a third front-page column in only six days about Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to President Trump whose lies have conned so many voters and reporters, including Record Columnist Mike Kelly (1A).

Local news?

In Local, Road Warrior John Cichowski tackles the ordeal of pedestrians who had to walk in the street because crews failed to clear sidewalks after last Tuesday's big snowstorm (1L).

Is he really that concerned?

No. This is the first time in the more than 13 years he has written the column that Cichowski has bothered to report on how pedestrians are endangered by sloppy snow clearing.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

If you must eat fast food, don't be fooled by such words as premium, supreme, best

At the Grover Cleveland Service Area on the New Jersey Turnpike, concessionaire ReFresh & Co. seems to suggest the "premium" meat served there is a cut above the rest, but never actually says it was raised naturally. So, you can assume the beef and chicken were raised on harmful human antibiotics, and the hot dogs were cured and contain nitrates as a preservative.
The I-95 Burger and an Angus Beef Footlong are two of the items available. ReFresh & Co. also operates pizza and salad stands.


-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Meaningless phrases like "premium cuts" is the best some fast-food restaurants can do to mask the low quality of the beef and poultry they serve.

At the Grover Cleveland Service Area -- which boasts the New Jersey Turnpike's first new food-service building in many years -- travelers can choose among Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, ReFresh & Co. and Starbucks Coffee.

Starbucks is the only one where you can find food that is organic or naturally raised or grown. We ordered coffee, and I had a Yogurt Parfait with granola and fresh fruit ($4.80).

We stopped there last Saturday on the way home from a trip to Willow Grove, Pa.

Why worry?

Why should you be concerned whether the fast-food meat and poultry you buy came from an industrial farm?

"Many factory farms use and abuse antibiotics," according to Consumers Union, the policy and action division of Consumer Reports magazine.

"Here is why this is so dangerous: 70 percent of the most important antibiotics -- the ones we need to survive deadly illnesses -- are used on animals instead of people in the U.S.

"Overusing antibiotics accelerates the process of antibiotic resistance. Already, more than 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant superbugs."

Fried chicken

And when we got back to Hackensack, my wife wanted to try Chicken Supreme on River Street, where she ordered a special of 8 thighs and drumsticks for $8.99 and a large coleslaw for $2.99.

With most meals at Chicken Supreme, you pay about $1.50 per piece -- pricey considering the poultry is nothing special.

Back in 1976, a Greek immigrant bought a fried-chicken restaurant in Paterson called Chicken Unlimited, and changed the name to Chicken Supreme.

Now, without providing any evidence, the company website declares the fried chicken sold at the Paterson and Hackensack restaurants is "the best in New Jersey."

There is no information on whether the chicken was raised with harmful human antibiotics, so you have to assume the worst.

Appeal to KFC

Consumers Union has appealed to KFC restaurants to stop serving fried chicken raised with antibiotics.

"Many fast-food chains have already committed to sourcing antibiotic-free meat. Not KFC.

"If this practice continues, antibiotics will become less and less reliable for saving human lives -- until we face a full-blown epidemiological health crisis."

You can sign a petition to KFC here.


The new food-service building at the Grover Cleveland Service Area in Woodbridge replaced one that was damaged beyond repair by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. The service area is between turnpike Exits 11 and 12 in the northbound lanes.
New Jersey hoodies are for sale in the gift shop.
The Starbucks franchise is operated by HMS Host, a highway and airport food-service company that is a subsidiary of Italy's Autogrill.
Two features I haven't seen at older food-service buildings on the New Jersey Turnpike are touch-screen ordering, above, and a family bathroom, in addition to separate men's and women's restrooms, below.
In Hackensack, the Chicken Supreme restaurant is at 366 River St.
The booths offer a view of traffic-choked River Street, but the parking lot behind the restaurant is on a scenic stretch of the Hackensack River.