Thursday, November 13, 2008

Film Festival in Teaneck

Fort Lee and vicinity is a tough place to find independent films (unless you count the time you spend on the couch watching the Sundance Channel.) So when you see an event like the Teaneck International Film Festival (running Nov 14 - 16)--it's like finding a present at the breakfast table when it isn't even your birthday.

It's an eclectic mix of documentaries and feature films, and brings cinematic life back to the area that was once the home of the film industry. If you've got kids, check out the Kids Flicks, a full 70 minutes of children's films hosted by "Bob" from Sesame Street! Other highlights include "The Golem," a classic silent film accompanied by live orchestra, "Take Out," a chronicle of a Chinese immigrant's experience, and "The Sandwich Generation," documenting a family's struggle with caregiving for an elderly parent.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dinner Dance Fundraiser

The Church of the Good Shepherd is hosting its second annual Fall Dinner Dance on Saturday November 1, 2008, a fundraiser for doing capital repairs to its historic building.  (It's next to the Judge Moore House, which serves at the Fort Lee Museum.)

Definitely a family-friendly event, with music, food, and dance demonstrations by couples taking lessons at the Recreation Center.  Lots of fun for a good cause (much needed bell tower and roof repairs!)

Call 201-461-7260 for further info.  Tickets are $25 per person.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Support Groups Formed

The Church of the Good Shepherd in Fort Lee in forming two support groups, one for caregivers to adults, and the other for grief support. A professional social worker will facilitate at group meetings. For more information, contact Ms. Olga Derick or Rev. Allison Moore at 201-461-7260. or email

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dining for the Cure

The Italian eatery Franco's Metro in Fort Lee is supporting the fight against breast cancer this entire week--one meal at a time:

"It is a week long event where Franco’s Metro will be donating a portion of each check to the fight against breast cancer and cancer awareness. It is something that we are very passionate about, as Breast cancer has touched our friends & family in a number of ways. Obviously, we want to make the largest donation possible in our inaugural year, but in order to do that, we need support from friends like you to help fill our seats all week long.

Together we can find a cure."

Gene Bazzarelli

The effort is part of "New Jersey Restaurants for a Cure" which benefits the Susan G. Komen Women for the Cure North Jersey. Other restaurants in the region include Bazzarelli Ristorante in Moonachie, Bensi in Clifton, Hasbrouck Heights, Hillsdale, Moonachie, North Arlington, Paramus and Wayne, the Cornerstone in Hillsdale, and the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn.

Hungry for more information about dining in North Jersey? Check out the Record's Food blog, Second Helpings, and Jason Perlow's numerous postings on dining around the area on his blog.

A New Cop in Town: The Furry Side of the Law

The State Trooper academy recently graduated a fresh crop of 14 police dogs, and Fort Lee was one of the lucky towns to receive a K9 cop.

Greener, a 20-month-old German shepherd, is new on the scene. All dogs who graduate from the academy are trained to a uniform state-wide standard, and it looks like Greener's training has already been put to use cracking down on drugs.

These dogs are trained by the Seeing Eye folks in Morristown, and have such sensitive training to narcotics that even some forms of legal medication (like Tylenol with codeine) can trigger their detection training.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rock the Olympics: Hsu-nami

If you haven't caught the local band Hsu-nami in person, get ready to be blown away. I heard them at an outdoor festival at the Fort Lee Community Center last summer, and can honestly say I never expected this level of musicianship from a free concert. A virtuoso of the erhu (a Chinese 2-stringed violin), band frontman Jack Hsu (a Fort Lee High School graduate) is electrifying with energy and a completely unique rock sound. You can catch their music airing during the Olympics when the Beijing athletes are on screen, and a local shows throughout the fall, including a gig at Ramapo College on September 20.

Their album, Entering the Mandala, is a fine example of good old fashioned indie rock--I bought my copy from a a bored looking Asian woman manning the Hsu-nami table at the summer festival, presumably Hsu's mom, and was really pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the music. She may have no idea how talented her son is. Click below to see their video for the "Rising of the Sun."

Friday, August 8, 2008


This is a big weekend for summer fun--not only is the annual San Rocco festival happening through August 10, 2008 along Martha Washington way (rides, food, games) the Mitsuwa Japanese supermarket is having a traditional festival tomorrow, August 9, 2008, (taiko drumming, masks, food, lanterns.) I plan to gorge and sausage and peppers and mochi ice cream all weekend long.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Driver Kills Deer on Fletcher Avenue

From this morning's Record:

A motorist struck and killed a deer in Fort Lee this morning, police said. The incident occurred around 4 a.m. at Fletcher Avenue near Lemoine Avenue, police said.

It's amazing there are any deer left in this area, especially so close to the major roadways.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Political Refugee's Story: Russian Lawyer Flees Moscow for New Jersey

Fort Lee is home to a growing population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, which leads me to wonder--what are some of the conditions that led our neighbors to come to the U.S.? Here's an article from the recent edition of U.S. News and World Report that sheds some light on the political conditions that recent emigres have left behind:

From the July 28 edition of U.S. News & World Report:

MOSCOW—Just over a year ago, Boris Kuznetsov moved to the United States, dream destination for would-be migrants all over the world. Now living in a two-room apartment in Fort Lee, N.J., the 64-year-old ex-Muscovite has a view of the Hudson River, and he is adapting to his new life by taking English and driving lessons. Read the full story.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

UPCOMING EVENTS: Outdoor Film/Music Series

The Fort Lee Film Commission presents 2008 Movies & Music Under the Stars

Series runs now through the end of August. All programs start at 7 p.m. with live music, and films start at sunset. Location: Fort Lee Community Center outdoor stage / green at 1355 Inwood Terrace. Rain location: inside Community Center. Admission is free - please bring blanket and or beach chairs. For further information, please call the Fort Lee Film Commission office at (201) 592-3663 or visit

Thursday, July 24, 2008

UPCOMING EVENT: Blood Drive on August 1

Fort Lee Emergency Services is sponsoring a blood drive for Friday Aug. 1, from 2:00 - 8:00 p.m. at The Fort Lee Community Center, 1355 Inwood Terrace. Appointments are preferred. For further information call 201-585-1294 or email

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Local Storeowner Killed in Leonia Blaze

The Parisenne Bakery has become a major stopping point for food and socializing on Main Street, but it is the scene of another kind of activity today, as regulars stopped to mourn the sudden death of Hirokazu Sano last night in a fire at his home. The bakery is housed in the same corner building as the VFW Post (right on the corner of Center Avenue) where the newly established Veterans' Square is located.

The owner of a Fort Lee pastry shop was killed this morning in a fast-moving fire that quickly engulfed his Leonia home. Witnesses said the flames were 40 feet high.

Hirokazu Sano, 48, apparently was alone when the blaze broke out shortly before 4:30 a.m.

“There were flames 40 feet high,” said next-door neighbor David Ash, 64, who watched from outside his Highwood Avenue home on the otherwise quiet dead-end street. “I never saw such high flames from a house fire.”

The full article is in today's Record, the photo gallery really shows the level of devastation that ripped through that house.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Real Treat--TASTeatery Cafe

This cool little dining spot opened up on Anderson Avenue, and serves all natural sodas, fresh baked items, sandwiches, and now has a burger menu. The coffee is smooth, the ingredients are organic, and the atmosphere is definitely hip. There is even a kids menu, serving up veggies on the side!

You can check out the whole menu on their myspace site. (Can an eatery really be a 33 year old male? And how do you pronounce the name, anyway?)

Fort Lee Resident Named United Rentals New Chief

From the Stanford Advocate, July 22, 2008

After a $4 billion merger with the parent company of Chrysler failed last year, United Rentals Inc. of Greenwich has elected Jenne Britell, 66, of Fort Lee, N.J., as chairwoman of its board.

A United Rentals director since 2006, she takes a post that Bradley Jacobs had held until he resigned Aug. 31.

Jacobs co-founded United Rentals in 1997. The company had sales of $3.73 billion last year and is the largest U.S. construction equipment rental company.

Britell will continue in her role as chairman and chief executive officer of Structured Ventures Inc., which advises U.S. and foreign companies on financial services and product strategy.

She was a senior executive at GE Capital of Stamford from 1996 to 2000. Britell has a bachelor's and master's degree from Harvard University and a master's and a doctorate from Columbia University.

Monday, July 21, 2008

After A Church Burns, The Faithful Still Have Hope

A fire this Saturday night destroyed a Korean Church that occupied the 2nd and 3rd floors of a building on Hazlitt Avenue, but the next day, congregants gathered in an outdoor worship service. No one was injured in the blaze. Read the full article.

From the Record, July 21, 2008--

FORT LEE - Authorities continue to investigate a late Saturday-early Sunday fire that gutted a three-story Hazlitt Avenue building that housed a Korean church. Foul play is not suspected.

One woman, who was in the third-floor church when the fire started, escaped without injury, said Fort Lee Fire Chief Jeff Bernard.

Instead of congregating at the Podonamoo (or "Grape Vine" in English) Church, about 150 members gathered nearby on the banks of the Hudson River for their Sunday service.

"We're very certain that this experience is going to help us and bring us together," said member John Ou, 43, of Ridgewood.

Nostalgia: Palisades Amusement Park

This fabled local amusement park has long since closed, and was a already a nostalgia item when I was a little kid. Nevertheless, memorabilia and fans of the old park are still around, and you can see posters at local businesses. The area where the largest salt-water wave pool was located is now the site of the Horizon House apartment complexes.

Now that Callahan's hot dog hut is also gone (its now a bank--as if Fort Lee didn't have enough), the only remainder of the old amusement era is Hiram's hot dog stand.

If you get in the mood to get nostalgic, visit the online tribute site at

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Children's Room Blog

Although I haven't looked up the latest on the demographics of Fort Lee, you can definitely see that activities for kids tend to be overshadowed by activities for senior citizens. We have jitney stops for seniors all over town, but the town doesn't pay for schoolbuses (parents have to pay privately.) The schools are well-organized and highly regarded, but the recreation program for kids centers on families with a stay-at-home parent, and the hours are not friendly for people who have to commit to daytime working hours.

Nevertheless, there are some real bright spots for kids, the best of which is the Fort Lee Public Library. The children's room is bright, clean, and friendly, with materials on display and helpful staff. The reading corner is very lounge-like, and there are tables for leafing through materials and a dollar section for discarded books (I recently picked up a barely-used copy of the popular young adult book, Holes, in that section.) They even have their own blog site: for events and recommended reading.

Dollars for Doggie Care

Puppy care is catching up to child care in popularity and cost, and one Fort Lee resident is making a business catering to canines and other furry companions. If you don't read the whole article, at least skip to the paragraph where she describes being asked to stroke a cat because otherwise it won't eat its dinner. Reminds me of a very high-powered doctor I once knew who resigned from the board of an international aid organization because she had to devote more time to her diabetic cat. Who says Americans don't have their priorities straight?

From The Record, July 20, 2008:
"Deborah Jack of Fort Lee worked on Wall Street for 20 years before she found an investment opportunity she got excited about. It’s an investment, she says, with lots of growth potential, low start-up costs, and legs — and it lets her spend time with her favorite creatures — the four-legged kind.

Jack left Wall Street to become one of North Jersey’s first Fetch Pet Care franchise owners. Her business serves busy pet owners willing to pay a premium for dog walkers, cat sitters and various kinds of pet pampering."

Read the full article.

If You're Thinking of Living Here...

Fort Lee had its rotation in the NY Times series, "If You've Thinking of Living in (fill in your town)" more than a decade ago. (Hint, time for an update!) Still, most of the information is relevant.

Also, here's a guide to the town that was posted in the Village Voice.

Every Corner of This Town

This is an unbelievably comprehensive set of photos of Fort Lee, taken by Flickr poster Jag9889. The photos were taken between 2001-2008, so there are some changes (the Good Nature store where the Korean newsboxes was taken is now closed, and the Metropolitan Plant Exchange has moved to an incredible new space on Linwood overlooking the entrance to Route 4.) Overall, though, nearly every corner of Fort Lee is in here, including the numerous apartment complexes.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fort Lee Bodysnatcher Sentenced in Brooklyn

It seems that whenever there is something underhanded and criminal, there is always a New Jersey connection. Don't get me wrong, I actually really believe the Garden State is absolutely the best place in this entire country. (Location, location, location.) Nevertheless, we have our share of the tragic (9/11), the bizarre ("what's actually buried in the Meadowlands?"), and the downright creepy.

Case in point, the strange tale of Michael Mastromarino, the one-time oral surgeon who turned to the grisly business of human butchery and organ sales out of his Fort Lee business, Biomedical Tissue Services. Recently sentenced to 18-54 years for his crimes, Mastromarino apologized in court for running the multimillion dollar operation that passed along diseased body parts to hospital patients for transplants.

Surreal Fort Lee Photos

This is from a series of infrared photos taken by Flickr poster Rneves--there are some beautiful images of Fort Lee and Englewood that can only be captured with a film camera. Check them out.

City by the Bridge

Ever since I was a kid, I've wanted to live in Fort Lee. I grew up in a much ritzier town in Bergen County—big houses, bright green lawns, the sounds of sprinklers in the summer and huge bags of leaves in the fall. Elaborate sweet sixteen and mitvah parties, and when it came time for driving, the student parking lot in the high school filled up with shiny new sportscars, while second hand Fords occupied the teacher lots. I couldn't wait to leave.

By the time I was old enough to sneak out of the house and take the bus into the city, I took off every chance I got. The sight of the George Washington Bridge always perked up my spirits--an adventure was a short bus ride away--the vast array of experiences that never make it past the filter of suburban cleanliness. After I left home, the Bridge diner was the spot where I would meet friends, or pick up a ride in and out of town, and the lights of the GWB meant I was home again.

I find myself in a curious circle now, having come back to the place I grew up, and raising my own family here. Fort Lee, by its location between New York and the New Jersey suburbs, is a prime place for people to cross their personal boundaries--immigrants moving out of the city into the suburbs, older people moving out of empty nests into amenity-rich high rises, couples starting out in first apartments.

So this blog is about the city that I've grown to think of as my hometown, and hopefully, to meet neighbors who make Fort Lee one of the best places to live in New Jersey.