Metuchen police arrest two men for alleged vehicle burglaries

May 19, 2017: Metuchen police arrested Nahuel Buonarrigo, 19, of Perth Amboy, and Donte Guiste, 18, of Carteret, for allegedly breaking into a vehicle and stealing various items, police said Thursday.

The two men were charged with three counts of burglary, three counts of theft, three counts of theft of a credit card, one count of receiving stolen property and one count of possessing a controlled dangerous substance, police said.

Police responded to an initial call of burglary by a Metuchen resident whose vehicle was broken into around 2 a.m., police said. Police searched the area and discovered two men in the area of Coan Place and Amboy Avenue, police said.

Police stopped the men, found items on them that had been reported stolen from three different vehicles in the borough, including a laptop computer, credit cards and cash, police said. The two men also allegedly had controlled dangerous substance that was prescribed to one of the men, police said.

The two men were later taken to Middlesex County Adult Correction Center where they are being held on the charges.

The investigation is active and continuing, police said. Anyone with information is asked to contact Metuchen Police Detective James Keane at 732-632-8561.

Boro girds for fight on Main St. truck ban

Feb. 23, 2017: The Main Street truck ban is moving forward. But to make it happen, Metuchen may have a long fight ahead.

Council will consider a resolution on the plan to ban trucks from Main Street, possibly in the first meeting in March.

Once Council approves the plan — which must provide an alternate route for trucks to use around Metuchen — it gets forwarded to Middlesex County and the state for approval.

At a meeting last year, Mayor Peter Cammarano said the ban would be based on certain weights and lengths, but would definitely include the kind of big tractor-trailers that keep getting stuck under Metuchen’s Truck Eating Bridge.

Communities impacted by the ban also have to see the plans; in this case, the only community impacted would be Edison, according to Cammarano.

Edison would not get veto power over the plans but the County would solicit the township’s input, Cammarano said.

Cammarano said in a follow-up call he would be able to disclose the alternative route soon.

There is no timeline for how long the process could take. “This is unknown territory,” Cammarano said. He said it could be six months or a year.

At the Council meeting Tuesday, Cammarano characterized the process as potentially being a “fight.” He said the fight would not be with Edison, but could come with trucking companies that use Metuchen as a shortcut.

The ban would not include delivery trucks, which have to be able to deliver to local businesses.

“We’ve been talking about this since I was a kid,” Cammarano said last year about trucks getting stuck under the Main Street bridge, which is owned by Amtrak. “This seems to be a reasonable way to prevent bridge strikes as well as get the trucks off of where they don’t belong. It’s been a long time coming.”



Parking authority eyes $60k from parking deck this year

Feb. 10, 2017: Metuchen’s Parking Authority restructured late last year, moving from five to three employees and removing its executive director Thomas Crownover in favor of a part-time business manager.

The reorganization is expected to result in savings of about $50,000 for 2017, Parking Authority Commissioner Leonard Roseman told me in an email response to several questions.

The Parking Authority hired Metuchen resident Cory Zaneto as part-time business manager. The Authority also shifted long-time employee Art Moore to facilities manager. Employee Dorothy Wyzykowski will maintain business and customer records.

The Authority also entered an agreement with borough Public Works Department for plowing and other maintenance at remaining parking lots, Councilman Jay Muldoon said at a Council meeting in November.

The decision was made to shrink the organization as part of the development of the Pearl Street parking lot. That lot was the Parking Authority’s largest, and with Nexus Parking Systems managing the 750-space parking deck, the Authority has a reduced scope of responsibility, Muldoon said.

Metuchen’s Parking Authority leased the land for the parking garage to Nexus, which financed construction of the structure. The Parking Authority will receive 30 percent of net income from the parking facility, Roseman said.

“The PA budget for 2017 will anticipate $60,000 income from Nexus. As occupancy increases the PA income will increase. My own estimate is $90,000 to $100,000 after a year or two,” Roseman said.

Amboy Bank buys Metuchen bonds at 1 pct interest rate

Metuchen sold short-term bonds of about $2.4 million at a 1 percent interest rate in September for various projects, including major repairs to the borough sewer system.

The bonds were purchased at face value by Amboy Bank, a commercial bank, on Sept. 11, Borough Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Cuthbert reported. Cuthbert’s report was reviewed at a Borough Council meeting in October.

Cuthbert did not respond to a request for comment. No one at Amboy Bank responded to a request for comment.

Metuchen issued the debt to fund sewer plant upgrades that became imperative after a near-catastrophic failing in a pump station, according to minutes from Council’s June meeting. Read more here:

The bond ordinance Council approved in June slated funds for improvements to sewers, including the Jersey Avenue pump station; repairs to Oakland Park, including acquisition of a composite play structure; and the acquisitions of a street sweeper and a garbage truck. Funds were also pledged for reconstruction of Durham Avenue and curb and sidewalk repairs, the ordinance said.

The bonds are backed by the borough’s tax revenues, according to the ordinance.

Metuchen has about $18.6 million of outstanding bonds (it’s unclear if the recent float is part of that total). Interest on bond principal of $2,030,000 in 2016 was $580,678, or 13.76 percent of the current budget, according to the borough’s budget report.

Local community banks like Amboy Bank are natural buyers for short-term municipal debt. Here’s an interesting write-up about this type of deal:

The direct purchase of bank-qualified bonds by commercial banks is attractive to localities – even for smaller bond issues in the $500,000-$2 million range. With this approach, an issuer directly places bonds with a bank. Professional fees, which can make smaller deals uneconomical, are substantially reduced because there is typically no placement agent, remarketing agent, letter of credit bank (and all their additional associated legal fees), rating, and possibly no trustee (or the bank that purchases the bonds will act as trustee and paying agent) as well on these transactions. Bond pricing may be higher, but the offset of the lower fees and costs can have a significant impact on the effective cost of borrowing for smaller deals.

Does debt ever go anywhere but up, like taxes? Current year debt in the 2016 budget report: $2,610,678.00. Prior year debt: $2,113,300.00.

Metuchen has a Moody’s rating of Aa2, which means the borough’s credit is rated as high quality, low-risk to pay back short term debt.





Metuchen Councilman James Wallace passes away

Nov. 7, 2016: Councilman James Wallace, who died early Monday after a long battle with illness, could give the history of any house on any given street, Mayor Pete Cammarano said during Borough Council meeting Monday.

Cammarano gave a warm tribute to the man who several people at the meeting said epitomized the volunteer spirit of the borough.

Wallace, who was born in 1941, spent hours talking about the borough — the people, the streets, the houses, Cammarano said. Wallace was a “historian extraordinaire for Metuchen,” he said.

“He was quick to name a house on any given street and he would give the history of every resident that lived in that house since the 1960s, often he knew the color of the houses as it evolved over time,” Cammarano said.

Wallace spent his life in service of the borough. He worked as a postal carrier for a few years, then joined the Metuchen police department and served as a volunteer firefighter. He held various leadership roles with the fire department, including as chief. He was also past president of the Middlesex County Firefighters Association and instrumental in creation of the county fire academy, Cammarano said.

He retired from the police department in 1992. He joined Borough Council in 2010.

Wallace struggled for the last years of his life with illness. But he never stopped fulfilling his council responsibilities, Council President Ronald Grayzel said. “He wouldn’t have it any other way,” Grayzel said.

Councilwoman Allison Inserro said: “The past year or so was not easy for him but I always admired his sheer will and force to persevere.”

The Metuchen Democratic Committee will present Borough Council with three names to fill Wallace’s seat through his term, which ends this year. Council has authority to pick one of the three people to fill the seat.

Wallace did not run for re-election this year, so one of the successful candidates in Tuesday’s election will eventually fill the seat starting next year.



Updated: Police arrest Lake Ave. bank robbery suspects

Nov. 7, 2016: Update: Middlesex County Prosector’s Office provided an update on the Metuchen bank robbery Saturday:

Police arrested brothers Donell Cheek, 32, and Dashawn Cheek, 27, both of Carteret, with robbery, theft and making a false public alarm, according to a statement from the Prosector’s office. Bail was set at $250,000 for each of the men, who were apprehended in Piscataway as they allegedly attempted to flee from police, the statement said.

One of the men allegedly entered the TD Bank on Route 27 in Metuchen around noon on Nov. 4, 2016, dressed in black and wearing a mask and demanded cash, according to the statement.

The man allegedly fled with an undisclosed amount of cash, but was traced by police, who followed him and his brother and pulled them over on Barbour Place in Piscataway, the statement said.

An hour before the robbery, one of the brothers allegedly anonymously called in a in bomb threat to Metuchen High School to create a diversion, the statement said. About 800 children at the school were evacuated and remained outside for two hours while the school was searched. No bomb was found and no one was injured, the statement said.

The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to call Metuchen Detective Sgt. Robert Belluscio at 732-632-8541.

Nov., 5, 2016: Crazy Friday in the old borough today!

Metuchen police Sergeant Arthur Flaherty provided the below update earlier today and declined further comment. I’ll update if and as I hear more:

It has been determined by the Metuchen Police Department that today’s bomb threat at Metuchen High school was hoax and possibly a diversionary act for a bank robbery at a TD Bank on Lake Ave in town. Piscataway police with the assistance of the New Jersey State Police and The Metuchen Police have apprehended both suspects in Piscataway. The incidents are still being investigated by The Metuchen Police and the FBI.

Company bids for Metuchen A&P liquor license

Oct. 28, 2016: An entity called Chase Spirits LLC made a $200,000 bid for the Metuchen retail distribution liquor license held by the bankruptcy estate of The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc, which controls A&P stores. The company filed for protection from creditors last year.

The bid has to be approved by federal bankruptcy court in White Plains, New York, where A&P’s case is lodged. It’s not clear when a hearing for approval will be held.

Chase Spirits LLC is based in Hillsborough, New Jersey, according to bankruptcy documents. An individual named Dipen Shah is listed as contact for the company in court documents. Shah did not respond to an email request for comment this week.

A law firm called Pasricha & Patel LLC, based in Edison, is also listed in documents as a contact. Rishi Desai, an attorney with the firm listed in bankruptcy documents, did not respond to a request for comment.

Shah, controlling an entity called Chase Spirits – Ridgewood LLC, applied for a transfer of liquor license in the Village of Ridgewood in 2013 for a business called Super Cellars.

Earlier this month, Borough Council changed rules to eliminate distance requirements between businesses that sell alcohol for consumption. This was done to accommodate the Whole Foods and the Woodmont developments.

Council, however, left intact a distance requirement of 300 feet between businesses that sell alcohol for distribution, rather than consumption. Council left that rule in to keep control over the A&P liquor license.

“We aren’t certain where the A&P license is going … and we didn’t want two stores next to each other,” Metuchen Mayor Pete Cammarano said this week.

Will update if more info (or anyone gets back to me) becomes available.




Boro eases liquor rule for downtown developments

As the borough moves through early stages of managed development of the commercial district, older laws will have to be updated to account for the changing face of downtown.

Council dealt with one of the rules at the most recent Borough Council meeting, approving an ordinance that amends an older rule governing distance between businesses that sell alcohol for consumption.

Specifically, the old rule governs how far such businesses have to be from each other. The older rule set the distance at 500 feet; that distance limitation was removed from the ordinance as part of the amendment Council approved at the meeting.

Businesses that sell alcohol strictly for distribution rather than consumption still must abide by a required 300-foot separation. Council kept that rule in place to keep control over the one remaining liquor license in the borough, a distribution license that is part of the A&P bankruptcy proceedings.

“We aren’t certain where the A&P license is going … and we didn’t want two stores next to each other,” Metuchen Mayor Pete Cammarano said in an email response to questions.

The impetus for the changed rule was the two new developments downtown — Whole Foods and Woodmont Properties — that hold inactive “pocket” liquor licenses, according to Susan Jackson, Metuchen borough clerk.

“We had to make the accommodations so that there won’t be any issues when they transfer them into active licenses,” Jackson said in an email response to questions.

“The change was because of concern that the new licenses at Whole Foods and the Woodmont project could be in conflict with existing licensed establishments,” Cammarano said.

Cammarano added he wasn’t sure why the original distance restrictions were created. “My best guess is it was intended to [not] have too many establishments congregated in one spot in town,” he said.

Metuchen has 11 liquor licenses: two club licenses; six plenary consumption licenses (which include the two currently inactive licenses); and three plenary distribution licenses.

Municipalities are granted liquor licenses based on population. Check out this guy’s blog for information about the various types of liquor licenses.

Police arrest Metuchen accountant for alleged theft of more than $495K

Aug. 29, 2016: Metuchen police charged Aaron H. Katz, 63, of Edison, with theft for allegedly stealing more than $495,000 from a Metuchen doctor and an attorney, police said.

Katz, a partner with accounting firm Stolz, Katz & Co. of Metuchen, allegedly used his position as the two professionals’ accountant to carry out the theft, police said. Police arrested him twice for each incident: once on July 29 and once on Aug. 24.

The alleged thefts from the Edison doctor began in 2014 when Katz began issuing himself checks from the doctor’s accounts, police said. Katz allegedly issued himself more than 80 checks without the victim’s authorization or knowledge, police said. He allegedly stole more $140,524 from the doctor, police said.

Police said Katz also allegedly stole $354,490 from a Metuchen attorney. Those thefts began in 2013 when Katz allegedly began issuing himself checks from the attorney’s account, police said. Katz allegedly cut himself more than 100 checks without authorization, police said.

Katz is charged with two counts of second degree theft and two counts of forgery.

No one answered the phone at Stolz, Katz & Co. Monday. The firm’s website listed on its Facebook page appears to have been taken down.

Metuchen PD arrest Elizabeth man for Clinton Place burglary

Well, this is unsettling.

Metuchen Police arrested Alfred Jones, 58, of Elizabeth, for allegedly breaking into a home on Clinton Place on June 7 and taking several items, police said.

Jones allegedly entered the home through a first floor window attached to the front porch between midnight and 6 a.m. June 7, said Metuchen police Sgt. Arthur Flaherty. The residents were at home and asleep at the time, police said.

Detectives arrested Jones within three hours of the call on West Grand Ave. in Elizabeth, police said. He was allegedly in possession of all the stolen property from the residence, police said. Jones was arrested for burglary and theft and transported to Middlesex County Correction Center with bail set at $50,000, police said.

Police are continuing to investigate whether Jones could be tied to other cases in the borough and other places. Last October, we reported on a rash of at least five incidents of home break-ins or attempted break-ins. It’s not clear if anyone has been arrested in those incidents.

“Someone breaking into a home during the day, 99.9 percent of the time is not looking for a confrontation,” Metuchen police chief David Irizarry said at the time. “Usually they’ll knock a few times, wait for someone to come and if no one comes, they usually bang the door.”