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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    "This state is custom-built to not only lead -- but to dominate -- the innovation economy," Gov. Phil Murphy said in a speech to business leaders Monday.

    Gov. Phil Murphy came to Newark on Monday and reeled off a few phrases that could easily be new slogans for New Jersey's most populous city. 

    He called it "a city clearly on the rise" and "a model for urban revitalization." 

    That, Murphy explained, is largely because Newark has been bolstered by what he calls "the innovation economy" -- in which technology companies, especially startups, move in to an area and help reinvigorate it.

    "Economic progress cannot be made without social progress," Murphy said in a speech to business leaders at a forum co-hosted by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association and Audible, the Newark-based audiobook company, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in the city. 

    "This is a city that has not ignored its roots or its people, and it is creating an entirely new energy off the recognition that those who stayed and fought for a better Newark were on to something," the Democratic governor added.

    Newark's Amazon proposal

    Plus, Murphy said, the state's other oft-blighted cities -- like Camden, Paterson, Trenton -- could follow a similar path. 

    "The real beauty is it does not have to only be a Newark story," the governor said. "Cities once were the economic engines of our state, and they will be again."

    Murphy said Newark's rejuvenation is why "no one is laughing" at the city's prospects at possibly landing Amazon's HQ2. The city is one of the Top 20 finalists for the online retail giant's new headquarters.

    The governor said Newark's proximity to New York City, major highways, a major port, a major airport, and a string of colleges makes it "uniquely qualified" for what Amazon wants.

    "Newark is absolutely purpose-built for a company like Amazon," Murphy said. "In particular for this notion it's got to work for the new folks, but it's got to work for the folks who fought and stayed."

    Murphy has long touted the need for New Jersey to focus on technology and science to boost its economy. 

    On Monday, he argued the state state should use its tax incentive programs to attract more startup businesses to the state, not just keep larger businesses from leaving.

    "This state is custom-built to not only lead -- but to dominate -- the innovation economy," Murphy said. 

    "We are here to be a partner in your growth and success," he added.

    Audible CEO Don Katz noted how his company moved to Newark in 2007 with only 100 employees and no perks from the state. Now, he said, its payroll is up to 1,400 workers. 

    Katz also said the company decided to "look past traditional resumes" and hire Newark residents.

    "People whose lack of privilege and background didn't make them an obvious on paper, and we figured out how to train them to join jobs, and our customer care division just brims with all this positive energy," he added. 

    What Murphy didn't mention Monday was his first state budget proposal, which includes $1.5 billion in tax hikes to help pay for more funding for education, transportation, public-worker pensions, and more.

    The event's co-host, the NJBIA, has been critical of Murphy's plan to institute a new tax on millionaires.

    On Monday, NJBIA president Michele Siekerka said her group shares many "priorities" with Murphy but added: "The pathway to funding those priorities has to be slow and steady -- small bites that New Jersey business and the economy can sustain in order for us to continue to grow."

    "No shocks to the system," Siekerka said. "We can't shock the businesses, and we can't shock our economy."

    Brent Johnson may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find Politics on Facebook.

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    These settlements not only provide justice for the individual victim, they also require employers to revise company policies, train managers on what is unlawful discrimination and how to avoid it.

    When J.D. was fired from his $12-an-hour job at the Trane manufacturing facility in Hamilton in 2016 he didn't let the multimillion-dollar company have the last word.

    Instead, he filed a complaint that was investigated by the Division on Civil Rights, part of the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.

    J.D., as he was identified by the state agency, claimed he was unfairly terminated after he became short of breath and asked permission to retrieve his asthma inhaler from his home in Trenton, just three miles from the plant.

    At that point, J.D. was told to gather up his backpack and lunch, was escorted from the work area by a supervisor and then left standing at the employee exit doors without an explanation.

    In another case, Ron Michael Lerner, a part-time worker at an Advance Auto Parts store in Hazlet, filed a complaint with the same agency alleging that the national auto parts chain that has more than 100 stores in New Jersey, failed to accommodate his religious beliefs and practices.

    Specifically, Lerner alleged that he was scheduled for fewer shifts each week after he advised that he was unable to work on Jewish holidays and, because of his observation of the Jewish Sabbath, also was unavailable to work on Fridays after sundown and on Saturdays, according to a statement released by the civil rights agency last year.

    State gets $45K for worker with asthma who was fired

    In both cases, it was a classic David vs Goliath situation or the little guy confronting a large and well-lawyered behemoth.

    Following extensive investigations, the Division on Civil Rights found in favor of both J.D. and Lerner.

    Trane ultimately agreed to pay J.D. $45,000, the equivalent of about two year's salary. And Advance Auto Parts settled with Lerner for $10,000.

    These settlements amount to peanuts for these big companies. What really hurts is the bad publicity that tarnishes their reputations.

    To ensure these companies learn from their mistakes, they have been ordered to implement new anti-discrimination training programs that must be approved by the state.

    Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and former Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino hailed these cases as important examples of safe-guarding the rights of workers.

    As Grewal pointed out, these settlements not only provide justice for the individual victim, they also require employers to revise company policies, train managers on what is unlawful discrimination and how to avoid it.

    The big take away from these actions is that all businesses in New Jersey should treat their employees fairly and, if they don't, there is someone looking out for the little guy who is wronged.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.


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    In one robbery in January 2014, Charles Walls shot a clerk several times in the back, resulting in spinal injuries.

    Charles Walls and Anthony Ervin developed a method to terrorize eight 7-Eleven stores across Camden, Burlington and Mercer counties, prosecutors said Monday.

    Between Jan. 10 and June 13, 2014, the men, both from Camden, would hop in a Chevrolet Sonic and arrive at one of the convenience stores in the early morning.

    Dressed in masks, hoodies and gloves, one would aim a handgun at a store clerk while the other raided the register and grabbed cartons of cigarettes. In four of the robberies, they used zip ties on the workers.

    A third man had joined them when their spree began at the 7-Eleven on Westfield Avenue in Pennsauken, just before 1 a.m. on Jan. 10, 2014.

    There, the three men encountered Adil Boutahli, who had just loaded a safe with cash from the register, according to court documents.

    The men demanded money and cigarettes. Boutahli wasn't fast enough, and they pistol whipped him. He got up, trying to get his balance and reach for a silent alarm to notify police. But Walls opened fire. He couldn't have given the men cash anyway; the register must remain locked for several minutes after a transfer to the safe, court documents show.

    "Walls ruthlessly gunned down a young store clerk, leaving him paralyzed, and their reign of terror continued with seven more armed robberies of 7-Eleven stores," Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a news release announcing the guilty pleas. 

    Paralyzed man becomes nationally-ranked athlete

    Boutahli was shot several times in the back and suffered serious spinal cord injuries. He is now bound to a wheelchair, but has made a name for himself as a nationally-ranked wheelchair tennis player.

    He is also suing 7-Eleven in federal civil court, saying the chain's security measures were "outdated, defective, inoperable, poorly maintained or in disrepair." That case has not moved forward, pending the resolution of the criminal case against Walls and Ervin.

    Walls was arrested at his Camden apartment on June 13, 2014, the same day he and Ervin robbed a 7-Eleven in Blackwood. Detectives acting on search warrants found the getaway Chevy, a .40-caliber Ruger, cigarettes, latex gloves and zip ties. Ervin was caught in October of that year.

    Walls, now 35, has pleaded guilty to attempted murder, robbery and criminal restraint. Prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 30 years in state prison.

    Ervin, now 27, pleaded guilty to robbery and prosecutors will recommend a 12-year sentence. 

    These are the stores the men robbed: 

    • Jan. 10, 2014, 7-Eleven at 6001 Westfield Ave. in Pennsauken.
    • April 27, 2014, 7-Eleven at 610 Kresson Road in Cherry Hill.
    • May 6, 2014, 7-Eleven at 7800 Maple Ave. in Cherry Hill.
    • May 15, 7-Eleven at 1 East Camden Ave. in Moorestown.
    • May 27, 2014, 7-Eleven at 1993 Arena Drive in Hamilton.
    • May 27, 2014, 7-Eleven at 2 Stokes Road in Medford Lakes.
    • June 3, 2014, 7-Eleven at 2 East Main St. in Marlton.
    • June 13, 2014, 7-Eleven at 508 East Church St. in Blackwood.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. 

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    Where is the property tax pain most pronounced in your county and all the others? Here's the list.

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    Who's the best of the best?

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    Our weekly look at New Jersey's best alumni continues.

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    See the May 1st edition of the girls lacrosse Top 20.

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    The accident occurred on Route 1 near Buffalo Wild Wings in West Windsor

    Bags of concrete flew off a landscaping truck on Route 1 in front of Buffalo Wild Wings Monday morning, leaving the highway covered in powdered concrete and causing traffic delays, according to

    concrete.jpgThe concrete flew off a landscaping truck on Route 1 Tuesday morning, leaving parts of the highway covered.  

    Multiple bags of concrete flew off a trailer headed southbound, landing in the northbound lane and striking vehicles in the northbound lanes, police said, adding that the incident is under investigation.

    The mess occurred north of Quaker Bridge Road, according to Drivers were told to expect delays of up to 15 minutes.

    Police could not confirm injuries, but traffic photos showed at least two ambulances at the scene as police directed drivers away from the mess.

    west-windsorconcrete.jpgDrivers were told to expect delays of up to 15 minutes after powdered concrete was strewn across Route 1 in West Windsor.  

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find on Facebook.

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    Owners failed to pay attendants minimum wage and for their overtime hours.

    Owners of 24 gas stations in New Jersey will have to pay attendants more than $2 million in back compensation for failing to pay workers minimum wage and overtime since January 2017.

    The federal Department of Labor's Wage and Hours Division found the stations violated fair labor regulations for 87 employees and failed to keep accurate time and payroll records, the agency said Monday. 

    "The Wage and Hour Division works to ensure that employees receive the wages they have rightfully earned," said the Charlene Rachor, WHD's Southern New Jersey District Office Director.

    Federal rules require a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and overtime for employees who worked more than 40 hours a week.

    The New Jersey stations that have to pay back wages and damages are:

    • Citgo, 469 S. Lenola Road in Moorestown
    • Citgo, 400 NJ-38 in Maple Shade
    • Citgo, 2006 Mount Holly Road in Burlington
    • Citgo, 1510 NJ-38 in Cherry Hill
    • Citgo, 102 Washington Crossing Road in Pennington
    • Citgo - Pitman, 690 Delsea Drive in Pitman
    • Gasco Yardville - 4364 S. Broad St. in Trenton
    • Gasco Greenwood - 1761 Greenwood Ave. in Trenton
    • Gasco Tri Star - 1685 Nottingham Way in Trenton
    • Gasco Chambers - 1140 Chambers St. in Trenton
    • Gasco West Creek - 439 Route 9 in West Creek
    • Gasco Lambertville - 32 S. Franklin St. in Lambertville
    • Gasco Southampton - 2344 Route 206 in Vincentown
    • Gasco Barnegat - 282 Route 72 in Barnegat
    • Lukoil, 2225 Admiral Wilson Blvd. in Merchantville
    • USA Gas, 206 Hanover St. in Pemberton
    • USA Gas, 106 W. Main St. in Maple Shade
    • USA Gas, 402 Landis Ave. in Vineland
    • USA Gas, 3970 N. Delsea Drive in Newfield
    • USA Gas, 47 Chestnut St. in Elmer
    • USA Gas - Mt. Holly - 2523 Route 206 in Mt. Holly
    • Valero, 554 River Road in Fair Haven
    • Valero, 65 N. Blackhorse Pike in Bellmawr
    • Xtra Power Gas, 1 E Evesham Road in Voorhees

    More than $1.4 million of the back pay is owed by one owner, Manjit Guleria, who operate five of the listed Citgo stations and the Merchantville Lukoil. The Department of Labor's investigation showed Guleria required employees to work at least 10 hours a day, seven days a week, authorities said.

    An additional Gasco station in Morrisville, Pennsylvania was also included in the investigation and will have to pay attendants their back wages and damages as well.   

    "The Department of Labor will continue to monitor New Jersey's gas station industry for compliance, and we encourage all employers to reach out to us for guidance," Rachor said. "We offer many resources to provide employers the tools they need to understand their responsibilities and to comply with the law."

    Caitlyn Stulpin may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @caitstulpin. Find on Facebook.

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    Our weekly look at New Jersey's best alumni continues.

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    Current Chief James Collins is retiring June 1 after over 40 years as a police officer

    It's Capt. James Stevens.

    For months now, after current Hamilton police chief's James Collins' June 1 retirement date approached, many in local law enforcement communities speculated on who would succeed him to lead the police in Mercer County's largest town.

    ham-stevens-portrait.jpgJames Stevens (Police portrait) 

    Mayor Kelly Yaede announced Tuesday afternoon she's chosen, Stevens, a 33-year township police officer for the job.

    "Not only does Captain Stevens possess an impressive background in areas critical to public safety, such as in criminal investigations, counter terrorism and school safety; he has also been an effective leader when it comes to transparency and communication with our law-abiding citizens," Yaede said in a statement.

    She made the choice as Hamilton's director of public safety, she said in the statement. "Additionally, Captain Stevens shares my same priorities when it comes to maintaining and enhancing public safety in Hamilton Township," she said.

    Stevens currently runs the detective division and is the main public spokesman. He's served in numerous other posts in his years in the department, including on the SWAT team and as a school safety liaison officer.

    In the same statement, Stevens said: "I am honored by the confidence that Mayor Yaede has placed in me to serve the law abiding citizens of our community as their next Police Chief. I look forward to continue working with Mayor Yaede in this new capacity so that we can continue to maintain what our entire community desires: a safe Hamilton Township for all of our families, neighbors and loved ones."

    Collins was named chief in 2002 and was also previously a captain. He's been a police officer since 1976.

    Stevens currently draws an annual salary of $176,800 and Collins $179,000, state pay records show.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find on Facebook.

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    He was nearing the end of a 5-year term when he was charged again

    A Virginia man who was serving time in the federal prison at Fort Dix - for child pornography - pleaded guilty Monday for his role in a child porn ring operating inside the prison, The U.S. Attorney's Office for New Jersey said in a statement. 

    Jacob S. Good, 26, of Fredericksburg, Virginia pleaded guilty in a federal court in Camden to one count of possessing child pornography.

    Good was nearing the end of his 60-month sentence when he was charged along with four others for utilizing the "dark web" to view and possess pornography.

    Later, three other men were charged following the FBI's investigation. 

    Good admitted that he used a smart phone to access to the dark web to view and possess child pornography. He was scheduled to be released a few days after he told an FBI informant in recorded conversations that he had his own micro SD card containing child porn and that he was planning on smuggling it out.

    "I'll be honest," the complaint states he told the informant. "I have no intention of stopping."

    Good faces at least 10 more years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release.

    Four of the eight men charged have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing, while four have charges that are still pending. 

    Good's sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 7 of this year.

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find on Facebook.


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    The Mercer County chapter of the Sunshine Foundation's annual Dreamlift, which flies a planeload of kids and their escorts to Walt Disney World Watch video

    What began as a beautiful spring day was about to get even better for 114 children with special needs.

    They began arriving at dawn at the Army National Guard aviation facility to meet and mingle with some of their favorite Disney characters ranging from princesses to Darth Vader and his storm troopers.

    Following a short program, they left the terminal and headed toward a Miami Air jet waiting to take them on a whirlwind trip, known as Dreamlift, to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

    dlstory.jpgJaleah Fitzpatrick, 9, Manalapan, is carried to the plane by NJ State Trooper Rafael Fernandez. (Michael Mancuso | For

    The walk to the plane was lined with supporters and well-wishers in the form of cheering, smiling and waving characters, mascots, and even actual cheerleaders.

    The last part of the walk was lined with New Jersey State Police troopers, applauding and encouraging the children, even cracking a few jokes along the way.

    Troopers did the not-so-heavy lifting of children who could not make the steps by themselves.

    The plane took off at exactly 8 a.m. as scheduled.

    The daylong excursion is sponsored by the Mercer County chapter of the Sunshine Foundation, whose mission is to answer the dreams of chronically ill, seriously ill, physically challenged and abused children ages 3 to 18.

    In a morning call from Disney World in Orlando, Cathy DiCostanzo, president of the Mercer County Chapter of the Sunshine Foundation exclaimed, "It's a beautiful day here! Ever year gets better and better."

    She went on to thank, "The whole community and everybody who contributes in whatever way they can."

    After a brief pause, she added, "We really want to thank the kids, for giving us the pleasure to have them with us.

    See more photos from Dreamlift 2018 

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso Find on Facebook

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    Spearheaded by Councilman Duncan Harrison, the internet exchange zone is a step in preventing similar crimes within the city, he said Watch video

    Trenton city council members announced Tuesday the creation of an internet safe exchange zone outside of City Hall for residents to use when buying or selling on the many online marketplaces.

    This comes after 20-year-old Trenton resident Danny Diaz-Delgado was brutally murdered while trying to buy a PlayStation for his little brother last month from an online seller.

    And a story on NJ Advance Media recently about how many major cities do not have such exchange zones, but several suburban towns do.

    Spearheaded by Councilman Duncan Harrison, who is running for mayor on May 8, the internet exchange zone is a step in preventing similar crimes within the city.

    "We believe it's important that when you purchase these items that it's important you don't purchase these items at night, two, that you do not bring large sums of money and three that you do not go it alone," Harrison said at a public announcement at City Hall.

    Found an internet deal? Here's the only place you should meet the seller

    The internet exchange zone will be set up at the back of City Hall on East State Street. There will be additional lighting, security cameras and a sign marking the area.

    Harrison said it was important for the exchange zone to be set up in a high traffic area, and encouraged city residents to follow basic safety measures when carrying out internet deals.

    Trenton Police Director Ernest Parrey Jr. also stressed the importance of safety when buying and selling items online.

    "The Trenton Police Department and the members of this department work tirelessly to keep the residents of this city safe. That we will keep this area as well as other areas of the city secure, but at least now we have an area where we can focus on where people will feel safe," Parrey said.

    Mayor Eric Jackson also commended Harrison's efforts in creating a safe space for Trenton residents to carry out internet transactions.

    Added Harrison: "We have taken the steps today here in the city of Trenton to be proactive so that this or something like this will never happen again and people will have a safe place to exchange items."

    Olivia Rizzo may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find on Facebook


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    A Trenton woman suffered minor injuries on May 1, 2018, after several bags of concrete came flying over a barrier and hit her car on Route 1 in West Windsor. Watch video

    A woman suffered minor injuries Tuesday morning after bags of concrete that flew off a trailer hit her car on Route 1 in West Windsor.

    A Ford F Series truck pulling a trailer filled with 30 50-pound bags of concrete was traveling south on the highway at 8:57 a.m. when it began to sway from the weight, according to a release from the West Windsor Police Department.

    The trailer began to sway from the weight and the truck went out of control. The driver, a 37-year-old North Brunswick man, began to brake, causing the trailer to crash into the center median, propelling about 15 bags of concrete over the top of the median, police said.

    A 22-year-old Trenton woman was driving in the left lane on the northbound side of Route 1 when some of the bags hit her windshield and roof. The woman suffered lacerations to her arms and was taken to Penn Medicine at Princeton Medical Center for treatment.

    The driver of the truck was ticketed for having an unsafe load and careless driving, police said.

    Two lanes of Route 1 north were closed for about 45 minutes following the accident.

    Chris Sheldon may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @chrisrsheldon Find on Facebook.


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    His partner in crime went to prison early last year

    A West Windsor man will spend nearly two years in a federal prison for using shell companies to hide over $1.5 million, a scheme which led to over $237,000 in lost taxes for the Internal Revenue Service.

    Albert Chang, 71, of Princeton Junction, who previously pleaded guilty to two counts of tax evasion, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Newark, the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's Office announced.

    His business partner, as well as partner in crime, Michael Q. Fu, of Cranbury, was sent to prison early last year for 37 months.

    For over 20 years, the duo owned United Products and Instruments Inc. (UNICO) in Dayton, South Brunswick, which the feds say primarily engaged in the sale and export of microscopes and centrifuges for medical purposes.

    Chang and Fu conspired to create two shell companies headquartered in China - Action Towers and Bench Top Laboratories.

    They funneled earnings to the companies and then deducted the funds from UNICO's corporate tax return, labeling it as the cost of goods sold or commission.

    They also had Shanghai Electric, a Hong Kong-based utility company, over bill UNICO by about five percent for legitimate invoices.

    Shanghai Electric then wired that money to bank accounts both men had in China, which they used for themselves, federal authorities have said.

    None of the money made its way to their federal income tax returns

    Chang failed to report $1,559,200, resulting in a tax loss of $237,064. Authorities said last year Fu failed to report $1,570,000, resulting in a tax loss of $321,141.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find on Facebook.


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    Who is standing out midway through the season.

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    Gov. Murphy campaigned on a pledge to halt the hunt, but hasn't followed up since taking office. Watch video

    Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on a pledge to halt New Jersey's controversial bear hunt, but has been mostly silent on the issue since taking office in January.

    Now some hunt supporters and opponents are questioning whether Murphy will follow through, as bears emerge from their winter hibernation.

    08ahunt (1).JPGA volunteer wildlife technician weighs a black bear killed by a hunter in Fredon, Dec. 4, 2017  

    The state's Fish and Game Council approved the hunts that took place annually under former Gov. Chris Christie and, barring intervention by Murphy, a ninth consecutive hunt is on track to begin in October.

    Phil Brodhecker, a member of the council, said he is hoping Murphy will back off his campaign pledge.

    "I don't know whether he had enough information when he was being elected. Maybe he didn't have accurate information," said Brodhecker, who supports the hunt.

    "I don't know whether he's made a decision either way, but I'm hopeful he's going to look at the science and the facts and the effectiveness in management," Brodhecker added.

    New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel, a hunt opponent, said he is unsure at this point where Murphy stands on the issue. 

    "We haven't heard anything. We're kind of waiting, and concerned," Tittel said.

    "The silence has been deafening. We are concerned that the hunt is going to happen and he's not going to try to stop it," Tittel said.

    Murphy, though, has restated his commitment to ending the hunt at least once in public since taking office.

    Asked about it on his radio show April 23, Murphy said, "Our team is spending a significant amount of time on this."

    "Apparently it's more complicated, and honestly, I'm not sure I could give you a quick answer as to why it's more complicated, but we're committed to ending it, and we will," Murphy said.

    Tittel, told about Murphy's radio comment, said it doesn't resolve his concerns.

    "The governor on so many issues says the right things but the proof will be in the actions that office and the different government agencies take. That's the key piece," Tittel said.

    Murphy's spokesman did not return repeated requests for comment.

    Eleven months before being elected, in December 2016, Murphy said he "would institute a moratorium" on the controversial hunt, during which more than 4,000 bears have been killed since the state resumed the hunt in 2003.

    Murphy, though, stopped short of saying he would never allow a bear hunt.

    He did not comment in January, days before taking office, after state wildlife officials issued a report asserting that the state's bear population could double by 2022 without a hunt.

    While the 12-page report did not mention Murphy, it disputed the potential effectiveness of alternatives, such as fertility control and relocating bears.

    Christie, a Republican, reinstated the bear hunt in 2010 after it had been blocked for four years under former Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat. He supported the hunt's expansion in 2015 from six days in December to a second, six-day season in October, with an additional four days at the end allowed last December.

    The Fish and Game Council authorizes bear hunting, but under a 2004 N.J. Supreme Court ruling, the state Department of Environmental commissioner appointed by the governor can override the council's decision.

    The council's next meeting is May 8.

    A spokesman for Murphy's acting DEP commissioner, Catherine McCabe, declined comment.

    Former State Sen. Ray Lesniak, who sought to halt the bear hunt before leaving office in January, said he doesn't know whether Murphy will follow through on his campaign pledge.

    "The folks who are concerned about unnecessary killings of bears are very concerned," said Lesniak, defeated by Murphy in the 2017 Democratic primary for governor.

    Lesniak sponsored a bill that in addition to stopping the hunt for 5 years would have stepped up efforts aimed at avoiding bear encounters, such as by requiring the use of bear-resistant trash containers.

    He said the feeding of bears, whether by accident or on purpose, is contributing to the recent spate of bear sightings in residential neighborhoods.

    "Certainly the governor hasn't been aggressive on this issue, to say the least, publicly -- and he really has to be," Lesniak said.

    Bear hunting has been a volatile issue in New Jersey, sparking protests and some civll disobedience arrests of protesters.

    Bill Crain, a 74-year-old City College of New York psychology professor, spent 12 days in the Sussex County jail in January following his 8th arrest since 2005 while protesting.

    While the hunt takes places in eight northern counties, much of the activity is in Sussex County.

    More than half of the 409 bears killed in the 2018 hunt were killed in Sussex County.

    Rob Jennings may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RobJenningsNJ. Find on Facebook


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    Gyula and Ileana Molnar of Roebling were killed in the crash, which occurred Tuesday on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Bear Creek Township

    A husband and wife from Burlington County were killed and another couple hurt when the SUV they were riding in Tuesday crashed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, authorities said.

    Gyula Molnar, 81, and Ileana Molnar, 71, both of the Roebling section of Florence Township, were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, according to Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Holly Reber-Billings.

    They were passengers in an SUV driven by Laszlo Bencze, 80, of Shamong. Bencze and his wife, Olga, 80, were taken to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, where they remained Wednesday.

    The SUV was headed south in the left lane when the driver apparently lost control about 3:20 p.m. at Milepost 106.1 in Bear Creek Township, about 50 miles north of Allentown, Reber-Billings said.

    The vehicle's left front struck the center concrete barrier, veered across the southbound lanes, struck a guardrail and rockfall fence before rolling multiple times and coming to a rest on its roof, the trooper said.

    The crash is under investigation, Reber-Billings said.

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find on Facebook.

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    Mayor Eric Jackson announced the $11.5 million project Wednesday

    Some of Trenton's neighborhood will looking a little different in the next few months as the city plans to demolish over 100 unused buildings throughout the city. 

    Mayor Eric Jackson announced Wednesday that the Urban Blight Reduction Pilot Program will knock down over 100 abandoned buildings in order to "stimulate development and economic activity."

    The $11.5-million partnership between the city, the governor's office, Greater Trenton, and the New Jersey Housing Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA), aims to be a " significant and long-needed investment in Trenton's revitalization," according to NJHMFA Executive Director Charles A. Richman.

    "We are grateful to Gov. Murphy and our partners in state government for helping us complete the details of this critical program and ensuring that the money to fund it started flowing," Jackson said. 

    The Urban Blight Reduction Pilot Program, is designed to stabilize neighborhoods and prepare them for new investment, will target vacant, unsafe, abandoned and obsolete properties in all four of the city's wards.

    Properties that will be razed are limited to those with one to four units, are owned by Trenton municipal government, and are located in the program's strategic demolition area. Residential properties with commercial space will also be knocked down.

    In addition to the Urban Blight Reduction Pilot Program, the city's Department of Housing and Economic Development's Division of Real Estate has begun foreclosure proceedings on other properties to bring them into the city's portfolio for either sale at city auction or to be demolished.

    "Polishing up an investment gem such as Trenton starts with reducing blight," Sowa said.

    "It enables the city to consolidate sites for development and create the modern, affordable housing stock that residents want and that housing consumers from nearby markets such as New York City and Philadelphia demand." 

    Olivia Rizzo may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find on Facebook


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