CEO TO STEP DOWN FROM EMBATTLED PUBLIC HOSPITAL IN NEWARK

LILO H. STAINTON | DECEMBER 7, 2018

NJ Spotlight

University Hospital president and CEO John Kastanis

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The head of University Hospital in Newark will step down at the end of next week amid ongoing concerns about the quality of patient care, including a recent bacterial outbreak that may have contributed to the death of three premature infants.

Hospital representatives announced yesterday that president and CEO John Kastanis would leave his position at University Hospital on December 14 to return to his work as a healthcare and hospital consultant.

Kastanis, who was hired in 2016 and is paid $900,000 annually, signed a new three-year contract earlier this year, according to media reports. Hospital and state officials declined to say if he was offered a buyout or other financial package in return for his departure, or where funding for such a deal would originate.

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‘TERRIFIED’ STAFFER: MURPHY’S TEAM DID NOT TAKE ALLEGATION OF RAPE SERIOUSLY ENOUGH

JOHN REITMEYER | DECEMBER 5, 2018

NJ Spotlight

Katie Brennan, center, at yesterday's Select Oversight Committee hearing

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Two branches of state government are bending over backwards to convince the public that they expect New Jersey to be more responsive to women who are victims of sexual assault. Yet testimony from an alleged victim who works in the government held the Legislature spellbound yesterday, as she described her assault and the subsequent indifference to her complaints.

A special legislative committee held a lengthy meeting yesterday to hear testimony about events that happened after an alleged rape involving two former staffers who served on Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign last year. The governor himself issued a statement of support for the alleged victim that reiterated his commitment to improving state government’s approach to such incidents.

The testimony from alleged victim Katie Brennan came as she appeared for the first time before the joint legislative committee that is reviewing her case. Brennan told the lawmakers she was constantly afraid of running into her alleged attacker in Trenton after they both went on to get jobs in the Murphy administration this year — even after she sounded numerous alarms about his conduct. In a particularly poignant moment, she said she persisted through an extremely difficult situation because she didn’t believe her alleged rapist’s career goals should trump hers

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A Water Crisis in Newark Brings New Worries

By Liz Leyden

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Dec. 3, 2018

Danielle Fienberg and her 4-year-old son, Theo, who has been diagnosed with autism and a form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Theo’s blood lead level surged after he started drinking tap water.

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NEWARK — As evidence mounted that Newark’s drinking water was contaminated by lead, top officials began an urgent giveaway of tens of thousands of filters and told residents that the problem was limited to one of the city’s two treatment plants.

But city documents and other records show that an engineering study that led to the distribution of filters, which was made public in October, only focused on one plant. Now the state is directing Newark to assess whether treatment methods at the second plant are protecting water from being contaminated by lead. Since 2017, samples of tap water taken at residences served by that plant have shown elevated lead levels.

The extent of Newark’s water problem is still unfolding. For nearly a year and a half after high lead levels were first discovered in the water system, Mayor Ras Baraka and other officials blamed aging lead pipes, insisting on the city’s website that the water was “absolutely safe to drink.”

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Oprah, Michelle Obama give N.J. high school students the surprise of a lifetime

Posted Nov 29, 2018

Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama surprised a group of girls that included four students from West Orange High School this summer.

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Students from West Orange High School thought they were just getting to visit the headquarters of Oprah Winfrey’s magazine “O" in Manhattan, but didn’t know that they would be leaving that day with a surprise they would never forget.

Oprah and former First Lady Michelle Obama actually showed up at Hearst Tower in New York City, much to the shock of the four students.

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GREWAL ANNOUNCES NEW RULES FOR HOW NJ LAW ENFORCEMENT DEALS WITH ICE

COLLEEN O'DEA | NOVEMBER 30, 2018

NJ Spotlight

State AG Gurbir Grewal explains his directive on how NJ law enforcement should deal with federal efforts to detain and deport undocumented residents.

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New Jersey law enforcement officials have been ordered to no longer cooperate with most federal agents’ efforts to detain and deport undocumented residents. Under a new directive issued Thursday by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, this makes the state among the most “fair and welcoming” to immigrants in the nation.

Grewal was quick to say his directivedoes not make the state a “sanctuary” for criminals and does not prevent police, prosecutors and jail officials from assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents with proper requests. But it directs officials not to enter into so-called 287(g) partnerships that essentially deputize local law enforcement as immigration agents or detain immigrants for ICE without a warrant signed by a judge. Police and others will no longer even be able to ask an immigrant’s legal status in most instances.

“We are issuing new rules that draw a bright line between federal civil immigration authorities on the one hand and state and local law enforcement officers on the other,” he said. “And we’re telling our friends and our neighbors who have been living in fear, ‘You can trust state law enforcement. You can trust state prosecutors here in New Jersey.’”

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‘Productive’ Talk, but No Deal Between Trump and Cuomo on Hudson Tunnel

By Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Patrick McGeehan

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Nov. 28, 2018

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said his meeting with President Trump to discuss the Gateway project tunnel under the Hudson River was productive. But there was no deal over funding.

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He made a video to show President Trump how a critical tunnel under the Hudson River is falling apart. He flew down to Washington to make his case in person — again.

But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York left Wednesday’s lunch meeting at the White House empty-handed, without a promise of funding from Mr. Trump for what is arguably the most important infrastructure project in the Northeast.

Still, Mr. Cuomo said he was optimistic, and that the president understood the urgency of building a new train tunnel and wanted to find a solution.

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The November snow crippled N.J.'s largest city. Officials don't want it to happen again.

Posted Nov 26, 2018

New Jersey's largest city was paralyzed when the mid-November storm took officials by surprise and forced the state to shut down four major highways that lead in and out of Newark.

As Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose put it: "Our heart stopped pumping and all of our arteries got clogged."

Hoping to avoid another gridlock, Mayor Ras Baraka on Monday announced a new regional task force among local and county leaders in the public and private sectors to plan for unanticipated emergencies -- whether natural disasters or terrorism-related.

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Study Shows How Newark's Lead Problem Got So Bad

NEWARK, NJ - It's "not possible" to pin down exactly when lead started dissolving from pipes and into Newark's water because of possible inconsistencies in testing, according to a city-commissioned report.

The city had CDM Smith, an Edison-based engineering firm, investigate what was causing elevated levels after Newark received its first notice of noncompliance from the state in 2017. Preliminary results from the 143-page study were received by officials last month and prompted the city to distribute lead filters.

The report mirrors what Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has been telling reporters and residents. City officials on Oct. 12 held a press conference to announce what the report had found, but the mayor was unsure when the chemical that is used to prevent lead from dissolving in pipes had stopped working. 

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How Leaves, Icicles and an Old Bridge Can Complicate Commutes

By Patrick McGeehan

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Nov. 9, 2018

 

Every day this week, New Jersey Transit has heaped more frustration onto its customers by warning them that their morning trains could be delayed by “slippery rail” conditions.

To some beleaguered riders, that explanation sounded like a concocted excuse for the railroad’s continuing struggle to operate on time. A few even challenged it.

Slippery rails is, in fact, a problem and is just one of the reasons New Jersey has cited to explain the delays and disruptions that have plagued its service. Others have included “manpower shortage,” annulments, a malfunctioning Portal Bridge and the mysterious “ice patrol.” (One explanation that veteran commuters take seriously is “trespasser incident,” which they know means someone was hit by a train.)

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All eyes are on Newark as mayor insists he didn't hide lead problem from residents

Posted Nov 8, 2018

As the city of Newark faces heightened national attention over elevated lead levels in its drinking water, Mayor Ras Baraka on Thursday defended the city's actions and messaging before a crush of media. 

He said it was "BS" that he deliberately misled residents. 

Responding to allegations that the city spent months downplaying the issue, Baraka said he didn't know it was a "widespread problem" until last month when outside experts found the city's water treatment wasn't working.

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