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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    The former state assemblyman is the city's first openly gay mayor.

    Leadership in Trenton changed hands Sunday as long-time State Assemblyman Reed Gusciora was sworn in as the city's 48th mayor. 

    Gusciora will be the capital city's mayor for the next four years after beating out Paul Perez by 355 votes in the runoff election. He will also serve as the city's first openly gay mayor. 


    "We have an awesome and tremendous responsibility, and I have enjoyed serving with all of you. These are going to be among the best memories of my life," Gusciora said on his last day in the legislature. 


    Gusciora served as a state assemblyman for 22 years, representing the 15th district which includes Hunterdon and Mercer counties.

    At the swearing-in, Gusciora announced he was appointing Mercer County Undersheriff Pedro Medina as Trenton's interim police director. 

    He also named Senator Shirley Turner, former Senator Peter Inverso, Rep. Bonnie Watson-Coleman, County Executive Brian Hughes, Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Freeholder Samuel T. Frisby, Sr. and New Jersey Manufactures President & CEO Mitch Livingston to his transition committee. 

    "I am honored that these distinguished individuals agreed to help my team as I prepare to be Trenton's mayor," Gusciora said earlier this week. "Trenton needs people who'll come from both the ranks of government and the private sector to partner together and lift our capital city."


    During his campaign, Gusciora planned to focus on competency within the administration during his first year in office --  including addressing issues like the vacant positions in Trenton Water Works, and ensuring the city's residents feel safe, he said.

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

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    At the end of the day, both matches were decided through penalty shootouts, and just one of the pregame favorites survived.

    While many thought Spain would roll past Russia, the host team had other ideas Sunday, in the second day of the 2018 World Cup round-of-16 play.

    Similarly, Croatia was expected to cruise past Denmark.

    At the end of the day, both matches were decided through penalty shootouts, and just one of the pregame favorites survived.


    Spain 1-1 Russia, Russia advances 4-3 on penalties

    Croatia 1-1 Denmark, Croatia advances 3-2 on penalties


    Igor Akinfeev, Russia

    The easiest choice to the tournament. The Man of the Match with an 8.88 rating made two saves during the penalty shootout, to lead Russia into the quarterfinals

    Danijel Subasic, Croatia

    Just like his Russian counterpart, Subasic saved the day for Croatia. He made three saves in the shootout, to send the Croatians into the quarterfinals against Russia.

    merlin_140612844_b8d6534e-b09c-4e97-8d4b-47f67fc5c341-master768.jpgDanijel Subasic makes the save on Denmark's Christian Eriksen


    There were not many people who gave Russia a chance to advance out of the group stage, but the host team did just that. The same doubt was shown Sunday, as the Russians had to meet Spain, the Group B champions. While the Spanish side was not great in the group stage, they were thought to have a new life.

    But much like Argentina and Portugal Saturday, the poor play carried over to the knockout stage, and Spain struggled mightily after it scored the opening goal. Russia drew even through a penalty, then watched as Spain did little other than complete passes in front of the two lines of defenders.

    Round of 16: Kylian Mbappe steals the show; Cavani leads Uruguay

    Russia held on through regulation and 30 minutes of added extra time, and saw keeper Akinfeev make two saves, to send it into the 2 p.m. quarterfinal Friday (FS1 and with 

    Croatia had a chance to win it in the 116th minute, but Luka Modric's penalty was saved by Kasper Schmeichel, to send the game into penalties. While Schmeichel saved two more in the shootout, Danijel Subasic saved three, to lead the Croatians into the quarterfinals. Modric got redemption in the shootout, slotting his penalty down the middle to beat the Danish keeper.

    Russia continues the success of host teams at the World Cup. Since the tournament went to a round-of-16 in 1986, eight of the nine home squads have reached at least the quarterfinals, with the exception of South Africa in 2010, which did not get out of the group stage. Four of the last five have also gone on to reach the semifinals, with France (1998) the lone team to make the final. 


    On FS1 at 10 a.m. EDT, Brazil will take on Mexico, while at 2 p.m. EDT on Fox, Belgium will play Japan.

    Both games can be seen on as well.


    Can either of the two underdogs give the two group winners a match?

    Mexico and Japan are heavy underdogs to Brazil and Belgium, with the two winners set to meet Saturday in the quarterfinals.

    Belgium rested players and still won Group G, while Brazil is coming into its match Monday flying, and with ever-shrinking tournament favorite odds.

    After the poor showing for Mexico in its final Group F contest, will 2018 be another round-of-16 exit for CONCACAF's last hope?

    Will the only Asian team to qualify for the knockout stage continue to surprise? Japan will have to play its best game ever to beat this Belgian team that is looking like a threat to win the tournament.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here

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    New Jersey shelters and rescues have hundreds of animals available for adoption.

    According to the Washington Post, new dog owners can expect to spend between $1,200 and $2,000 in the first year, and as much as $14,500 over their pup's lifetime for routine care costs alone. Unexpected accidents and illnesses also happen, and it can get expensive when they do.

    Having the essentials can help alleviate the financial aspect of bringing home a puppy. Pet parents should plan for the following:

    1. Good quality food: Read the ingredients to make sure the food is formulated for puppies and has meat as the first ingredient rather than food that is full of filler.

    2. Comfortable bedding: Make sure the puppy has a warm and quiet place to rest.

    3. Treats and toys: Treats are great training tools for a new puppy but should not make up more than 5% of his or her daily diet. When a new puppy comes home be sure to have a few interactive toys to keep them busy and help them learn to self-entertain.

    4. Collar, ID tag, leash, and microchip: Safety is key. Microchipping a pet can save their life. Having a collar and nametag to identify the pet in case they get lost is also important.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    Day three of the 2018 World Cup Round-of-16 established the pre-tournament favorite as the clear favorite heading forward into the quarterfinals, and had the biggest comeback of the tournament. RESULTS  Brazil 2-0 Mexico Belgium 3-2 Japan MONDAY'S THREE STARS Willian, Brazil The diminutive play-maker set up Neymar's goal with a gorgeous pass, and was everywhere on the pitch. Willian...

    Day three of the 2018 World Cup Round-of-16 established the pre-tournament favorite as the clear favorite heading forward into the quarterfinals, and had the biggest comeback of the tournament.


    Brazil 2-0 Mexico

    Belgium 3-2 Japan


    Willian, Brazil

    The diminutive play-maker set up Neymar's goal with a gorgeous pass, and was everywhere on the pitch. Willian was the Man of the Match with a 9.27 rating.

    Nacer Chadli and Marouane Fellaini, Belgium

    Down 2-0 after 52 minutes, Roberto Martinez turned to his bench. It could not have worked out better, as his two substitutes came on and caused havoc. Fellaini had the tying goal in the 74th minute, and Chadli had the winner with the last kick of the match.

    Round of 16 Day 2: Penalty shootouts see Russia, Croatia advance


    After an upset of Germany in the first group stage match, and a good first half against South Korea in the second match, the wheels started to fall off the Mexico bandwagon.

    Monday, the wagon broke down for good at the 2018 World Cup, in a familiar place.

    Brazil took charge of the match after the first 20 minutes, and took the lead through a Neymar tap-in in the 51st minute. Substitute Roberto Firmino came onto the pitch and scored in the 88th minute to put away the match, in a 2-0 win. 

    The Mexican story once again ended in the fourth game, as it has at every World Cup since 1990, as Mexico exited before the quarterfinals for the seventh straight time. For Brazil, it heads to the last eight for the seventh straight tournament.

    In the second match, Belgium fell behind 2-0 after the break, and then came storing back to come away with a 3-2 victory.

    Fellaini and Chadli scored off the bench, as the Belgians, who many considered as one of the tournament favorites, pulled a result out of the fire.

    Belgium will take on Brazil Friday at 2 p.m. on FS1 and in the second quarterfinal.


    At 10 a.m. on FS1 and, Sweden will play Switzerland. The second match of the day will see Colombia play England at 2 p.m. on Fox and


    Will some team establish itself as the favorite on this side of the bracket.

    After Spain lost and Croatia struggled Sunday, the opportunity is there for one of the teams playing Tuesday to throw down a marker. 

    Which of Sweden or Switzerland will make a quarterfinal?

    The two teams are very evenly matched, but one will get a chance to advance into the quarterfinals.

    Is football coming home?

    The English fans sure think so. With a rested squad, can the Three Lions take care of Colombia, led by Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard?

    Will James Rodriguez play for Colombia?

    With a recurrence of the calf injury that kept him out of the starting lineup in the first group stage match, Rodriguez would be a huge loss, if he is unavailable. 


    Switzerland 1-0 Sweden

    England 3-1 Colombia

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here

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    But the players in the Thunder clubhouse will have watched Loaisiga take his chance and run with it.

    Three weeks ago, Jonathan Loaisiga made just his sixth start in Double A for the Trenton Thunder.

    He left that game after 49 pitches, with rumors swirling that the young right-handed fireballer would be heading to the Bronx for a lone spot start in place of Masahiro Tanaka, who had gone on the DL.

    But as anyone who watches baseball (or any sport) will know, if a player performs, he is going to get more opportunities to play.

    Monday night, Loaisiga will make his fourth start with the Yankees, as they take on Atlanta in New York. The rookie is 2-0, with a 1.93 ERA, in his first three starts, with 18 strikeouts in 14 innings of work. So far in his burgeoning career, Loaisiga has grasped his opportunity with two hands. If he can continue to pitch the way he has in his first few starts, he now has to be considered for a spot once Tanaka returns, especially the way Sonny Gray continues to struggle.

    Of course, all this may change over the next couple weeks, as the trade deadline edges closer. But the players in the Thunder clubhouse will have watched Loaisiga take his chance and run with it.

    Trenton manager Jay Bell has watched as the Yankees have built the majority of their 25-man team out of players from the organization, and that should give the players on his squad a lot of hope for the future.

    But there are also recent Thunder players, like Oakland's Dustin Fowler, that have found a path to the big leagues in with other teams, after a trade. With the Yankees expected to be very active in the trade market, some players in the current clubhouse may get that chance as well.

    "Even with Drury, Bird, and McKinney being here (on rehabs), it has given the position players a sense that they are not that far away too," Bell said. "They are a potential broken thumb away.

    "There is no secret that our strength lies in our pitching. Again, we want to help create New York Yankee major leaguers. That is our objective. 

    "But, there are a lot of former minor league Yankees that are playing in the big leagues elsewhere. We believe in our system. We believe in the quality of our players, and we want them to be Yankees, there is no doubt about that.

    "But we also want them to be big leaguers, and that is part of that process too."

    Thunder reliever Caleb Frare hit off-season reset, comes back as an All-Star


    Two Trenton players were honored Monday for their strong performances last week.

    Abiatal Avelino was named the Eastern League Player of the Week, for the week of June 25th through July 1, while Michael King was named EL Pitcher of the Week.

    Avelino hit .524 in six games last week, while King threw a complete game shutout Saturday night against New Hampshire.

    After Sunday's 4-0 defeat, the Thunder sit 1.5 games back of New Hampshire for first place, and 5.5 games ahead of Hartford for the second playoff spot.

    While many things can change in the next two months, Trenton could be in good shape, even if the Yankees trade some prospects, because of the sheer quantity of arms up and down the organization.

    The Thunder sit only behind Akron in ERA, WHIP, and saves, and ahead of the Rubber Ducks in other categories. The last two seasons, during which Trenton played in the Eastern League Championship Series twice, could be a blueprint for the current campaign.

    With Domingo Acevedo, Ryan Bollinger, Michael King, Dillon Tate, and whoever else may come up or down before the playoffs (if Trenton can hold on to one of the top two spots), there may be mid-September baseball at Arm & Hammer Park once again in 2018. 

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    On June 11, the Princeton Council voted to approve a $36,000 contract with Passport Services, a Charlotte, North Carolina, company that will provide pay-by-phone capabilities for parking in the town.

    The ubiquitous parking meter: they sprout up like dandelions on the sidewalks and lots of our towns and cities. Now the low-tech, coin-operated parking meter that has been the bane of all drivers looking for a spot to park in a busy downtown area is getting a decidedly high-tech overhaul in Princeton.

    On June 11, the Princeton Council voted to approve a $36,000 contract with Passport Services, a Charlotte, North Carolina, company that will provide pay-by-phone capabilities for parking in the town.

    Now, instead of fumbling around for some quarters to feed the meter, you can use an app on your smartphone to pay for parking. Passport says its mobile software has been adopted by more than 450 cities, universities and private operators around the world.

    There is an app for just about everything these days. Why not one for parking.

    But Princeton is taking this technology a step further in the hopes of freeing up more public parking.

    The idea is to have private property owners offer up unused parking spaces to the public and fees paid by those parking in those spaces would be channeled to the owners.

    Merging N.J. towns won't fix crushing taxes, experts say

    It could be a welcome source of income for churches or businesses with underutilized parking spaces that lie fallow on weekdays and overnight.

    Parking has always been a hassle in the downtown section of Princeton, particularly around Palmer Square, where shoppers have to vie with employees for a place to park. Add to that commercial and university traffic and you can quickly put a lot of pressure on finding a place to safely and legally pull over.

    To help ease that problem, Princeton commissioned an in-depth parking study. The goal was to enhance the accessibility and vibrancy of Princeton's downtown while keeping residential neighborhoods free from spillover parking. The study also sought to provide strategic accommodations for cycling and walking.

    One of the key recommendations of the 2017 study was to "rebalance parking demand" to "make the most use of available parking capacities and to maintain consistent space availability across all parking options."

    Opening up underutilized parking spaces is one way to accomplish that goal.

    Princeton is hardly unique in dealing with parking problems. Other towns that sprung up in the horse and buggy age are in the same boat. It would be worth their while to keep an eye on how well Princeton's parking strategy works.

    In the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to have some quarters in your pocket.

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


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    Trenton Central High School, known by some as TCHS, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019

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    With one home game to go Tuesday night against New Hampshire, the Thunder are sitting pretty at the All-Star break for the third year in a row.

    While the Eastern League season will be over 60 percent completed by the time the Thunder break after Sunday's game in Altoona, the All-Star Game is the perceived halfway point of any baseball campaign.

    So how is Trenton doing this year?

    With one home game to go Tuesday night against New Hampshire, the Thunder are sitting pretty at the All-Star break for the third year in a row.

    Trenton (47-35) came into Tuesday night just a half game back of the Fisher Cats (47-34), after taking three of four to start the five-game series. A fourth win in the set would catapult the Thunder into first place, before they hit the road for five with Altoona (which sits at 42-36, good for second place in the Western Division) before the break.

    Here are the grades for the first half of the campaign.

    Coaching Staff: A

    This is Jay Bell's first campaign with the Thunder, and he has come in and continued to keep the team playing well.

    Bell has a very good staff around him: defensive coach Raul Dominguez, bullpen coach Luis Dorante, hitting coach Ty Hawkins, and pitching coach Tim Norton. Each plays a vital role in the continued development of players, many which have gone to Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, and some who have gone on to play in the Bronx with the Yankees this season.

    Yankees' Jonathan Loaisiga shows path for Thunder players

    Starting Pitching: A-

    The organization continues to crank out starters, and the top 30 prospect list is filled with starting pitching.

    Dillon Tate (4-2, 3.48 ERA) is an All-Star, and has gotten better each month. Michael King (2-1, 1.91) is the reigning Eastern League Pitcher of the Week. Domingo Acevedo (2-1, 2.84 ERA) has missed some time through injury, but is starting to work back into shape.

    The pitchers that have move up were very good while they were with the Thunder as well. Jonathan Loaisiga (3-1 in Trenton) just pitched his fourth game with the Yankees Monday night, before he was optioned to Scranton. He was 2-0, with a 3.00 ERA, and looks to have a bright future.  

    Erik Swanson was 5-0, with a 0.44 ERA, in Trenton. 

    Relief Pitching: A

    Once again, the bullpen has been the backbone of the team.

    Caleb Frare is an All-Star, and has been the best relief pitcher in the league. He is 4-1, with a 0.71 ERA and 50 strikeouts, in 36 innings of work over 25 appearances. 

    Stephen Tarpley was 5-0, with a 1.26 ERA, in 19 appearances before he was called up to Scranton.

    Kaleb Ort is 1-1, with a 2.03 ERA and 50 strikeouts, in 31 innings of work over 21 appearances.

    James Reeves is 1-1, with a 2.43 ERA and 50 strikeouts, in 37 innings of work over 21 appearances.

    Trenton leads, or is second, in almost every major pitching category in the Eastern League.

    Hitting: C+

    While the pitching has been dominant at times, the offense has found it difficult at times this season.

    With all the injuries early in the season, especially in the major leagues, the first month of the season saw some players in the everyday lineup that probably would not have been there otherwise. 

    Abiatal Avelino is an All-Star, if he is still here next week. He has been up at Scranton for half the season, but when he has been with Trenton, he has lit up the league. He is hitting .347, with 10 home runs and 28 RBI, with the Thunder.

    Devyn Bolasky has returned from injury and torn up Double A. In 19 games, he is hitting .394 (28-for-71).

    But the team average is .245, which is 10th of 12 teams, while the OPS is .705 (ninth). The Thunder have scored 349 runs, have 648 hits, and have struck out 703 times, which are also 10th in the league.

    Defense: A

    In almost every interview with the pitchers, they credit the defense. The organization has been built on strong pitching and defense, and the Thunder have played well in the field.

    It is one of the reasons a team that has sometimes struggled at the plate looks to be headed to the playoffs for a third straight season.


    Mandy Alvarez had a career high six RBI Monday night, and two home runs, in the 8-6 Thunder win.

    He had an inside-the-park home run in the sixth and a grand slam the following inning, and his six RBI are a Trenton season high.

    Frare threw 2.1 innings of scoreless relief, and continued to show why he has emerged as the top reliever in the league.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    The incident was caught on a bystander's dash cam. Watch video

    An erratic driver swerved, crashed and spun out during a harrowing 10-mile odyssey last week on I-195 that was recorded on a dashcam by another driver who called police and helped avert a potential catastrophe.

    When John Barrett saw the car all over the road, he said he knew he had to intervene until police could arrive.

    "For me, it was more important to basically put my hazards on, drop behind him, to document. Not to try to pull him over," Barrett said in a phone call with NJ Advance Media Monday. "My wife and kids wouldn't like that too much if I started playing fake cop." 

    Barrett's dashboard camera captured the blue car as it initially started veering out of its lane. Then things got crazy.

    The car speeds ahead and is barely visible in the footage for a few minutes. Eventually, it crashes into a sign on the ride-hand shoulder, but crosses back and continues at a high rate of speed in the left lane. 

    22 N.J. gas stations cited for violations after surprise inspections

    "The only time I thought there was going to be an issue was when my car was hit my debris," from when the car hit the sign, said Barrett, who is the finance director for Hamilton Township in Mercer County. "I'm never going to put myself at risk. I was more concerned about the safety of others." 

    Several minutes into the more than 10-mile pursuit, the car goes completely off the roadway and into the grassy median, spinning around and coming to rest alongside opposing traffic. The driver then makes a U-turn, and pulls back into the eastbound lane, re-entering the roadway. 

    "He just went off the road," Barrett says in the video. "He's back on." 

    As the car continues into Ocean County, Barrett said he could see a police cruiser approaching, about a mile behind. Just then, the car crashes into a white SUV, running it off the road. 

    A trooper arrives almost immediately after, stopping the car around mile marker 23 in Jackson Township. 

    NBC New York reported that the driver, 29-year-old Joseph Scott, was taken into custody and faces criminal charges for having heroin and a syringe in the vehicle, as well as multiple driving violations. 

    Barrett said he hopes the video will remind people ahead of the 4th of July holiday of the dangers of impaired driving. 

    "They should really think twice, and certainly get an Uber or something or just decide not to drive," he said. 

    Amanda Hoover can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find on Facebook

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    Murphy's veto on the removal of Trenton's strict state oversight surprised city leaders Tuesday morning

    The press conference was planned for Tuesday morning on the front steps of City Hall.

    Days-old Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora was going to announce that the city was no longer going to be under the state of New Jersey's oversight in the transitional aid program.

    But it turns out Gov. Phil Murphy line-item vetoed the termination of the oversight - called a memorandum of understanding (MOU) - when he signed the $37.4 billion budget on Sunday.

    The press conference was canceled not an hour before its 11 a.m. Tuesday start.

    NJ Advance Media reached out to Gusciora for additional comments, but he's yet to respond. Murphy's office referred inquiries to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which does the oversight.

    Prior to the veto, the mayor's office hailed the lifting of the MOU as a "hard-fought win" for the city, allowing it freedom from the DCA.

    Gusciora's office called it Trenton's own "Independence Day" from the MOU.

    For years, the MOU has heavily restricted the city's ability to hire essential personnel by requiring DCA approval, in exchange for transitional aid funding. Under the MOU's terms, large city contracts and expenses also must be approved by the DCA.

    The city's fight to break away from the DCA's oversight isn't over though, the mayor's office said in a statement.

    Sen. Shirley Turner and Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson will continue to work in the legislature, while Gusciora reaches out to Murphy, the office said Tuesday morning.

    Lisa Ryan, a spokeswoman for the DCA, said Gusciora met with the director of the DCA's local government services division, they agreed to collaborate on an MOU that reflects not only the Division's prime concerns for Trenton, but also the Mayor's priorities for the city."

    A face-to-face meeting will be held next week, Ryan said, in which the Gusciora and leaders in the local government division "will begin the process of drafting an MOU in a spirit of partnership that moves the city forward."

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at gdelia@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find on Facebook.

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    In a tournament with a heavy European presence, the quarterfinals were completed Tuesday with two more European teams, to make it a total of six of the final eight.  Emil Forsberg shimmied away from the Switzerland defense in the second half to deliver for Sweden, while England finally exorcised its penalty demons, with a huge save from Jordan Pickford....

    In a tournament with a heavy European presence, the quarterfinals were completed Tuesday with two more European teams, to make it a total of six of the final eight. 

    Emil Forsberg shimmied away from the Switzerland defense in the second half to deliver for Sweden, while England finally exorcised its penalty demons, with a huge save from Jordan Pickford.


    Sweden 1-0 Switzerland

    Colombia 1-1 England, England wins 4-3 on penalties.


    Emil Forsberg, Sweden

    In a match where not much separated the two European teams, Forsberg provided the moment of magic to send Sweden into the quarterfinals.

    Harry Kane, England

    Scored from the spot in regulation, then stepped up first in the shootout and scored again. He rated a 8.63 on, just behind Kieran Trippier for Man of the Match

    He was the Man of the Match with a 7.8 rating.

    Round of 16 Day 3: Brazil dominates Mexico, Belgium stuns Japan


    Colombia and England battled for 120-plus minutes, in what was the most physical match of the tournament. New Jersey native Mark Geiger blew for a penalty 10 minutes into the second half, which Harry Kane eventually dispatched in the 57th minute, to give England a 1-0 lead.

    But Yerry Mina equalized in the 93rd minute, to sent the match to extra time and penalties. Jordan Pickford made a save on the fifth Colombia kick, and watched as substitute Eric Dier, who lost Mina for the goal, converted from the spot to move England into the quarterfinals.

    The match was the record third round-of-16 contest to be decided from the spot.

    In a battle if two European teams, Sweden did just enough to beat Switzerland 1-0, thanks to Forsberg. He moved across the top of the box and fired it off Swiss defender Manuel Akanji, to give Sweden the only goal of the match in the 66th minute.

    Sweden reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 1994, which is also the last time it reached the semifinals.



    Uruguay vs. France, 10 a.m. EDT FS1 and

    Brazil vs. Belgium, 2 p.m. EDT FS1 and


    Russia vs. Croatia, 10 a.m. EDT Fox and

    Sweden vs.   , 2 p.m. EDT Fox and


    Can the current two tournament favorites continue on their collision course?

    Both France and Brazil played well in the round-of-16, and now have challenging contests with group winners on the docket.

    Les Bleus scored four times against Argentina, and will look to attack a tough Uruguay defense that has allowed just one goal in the whole of 2018.

    For the Selecao, they have their hands full with a Belgian side that came back from two goals down Monday to stun Japan 3-2, as Nacer Chadli scored with the final kick of the game.

    Brazil has become a heavy favorite to lift the cup, but this Belgium team will prove to be a tough test.


    France 2-0 Uruguay

    Brazil 4-3 Belgium

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here

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    Six days after gunfire echoed through Art All Night, killing one person, injuring 22 people and adding a somber note to Trenton's signature cultural event, artist Bentrice Jusu unveiled her gift to the capitol city. Watch video

    You may not have heard of Bentrice Jusu - yet - but you owe her a debt of thanks.

    The artist, who describes herself as a performer, musician, poet and photographer, has just pulled off a minor miracle: bringing sunlight to her community during a period of darkness.

    Six days after gunfire echoed through Art All Night, killing one person, injuring 22 people and adding a somber note to Trenton's signature cultural event, Jusu unveiled her gift to the capitol city.

    It's in the form of a huge photo montage covering the entire side of a house at the intersection of North Clinton and North Olden avenues. If you're driving or waking anywhere in the vicinity you can't miss its bright colors and uplifting message.

    The mural is the combined work of East Trenton teenagers, enlisted by Jusu to capture elements that they love about their neighborhood, as well as photos contributed by residents, historical images and pictures Jusu took as the artistic project was under way.

    The home bearing the colossal artwork belongs to Gloria Scott, whose daughter Rhonda was killed in Camden five years ago.

    How Trenton can heal after Art All Night shooting

    A smiling Rhonda has a cherished place on the mural.

    "Every place she went, she'd holler, 'East Trenton for life," Scott said at a ceremony marking the mural's unveiling. "I'm so proud to have my daughter up here on the wall."

    One of the most satisfying aspects of Jusu's undertaking is its community spirit.

    Not only did the visionary join hands with local printers Blue Ink Studios to render the 44-foot-by-33-foot design, but she also solicited the input of young people - the people who have the largest stake in the neighborhood's future.

    "More than anything, I want the youth to be involved in the storytelling of their communities," the artist said. "I want them to take ownership, and to creatively change the community in which they were raised, that they love."

    Kiyah Johnson and Sarai Martin are two of the teenagers who responded to Jusu's outreach. Now their contributions have pride of place in the huge mural.

    As the founders of Art All Night recognized a dozen years ago, when they launched their baby, art has the power to transcend the day-to-day woes that beset us and to bring people of all backgrounds together.

    Benrice Jusu couldn't have known how timely her creation would be, how it would serve as a rallying point for a community in mourning.

    But we thank her for gracing us with this morale-booster just when we needed it most.

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


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    They came from 29 countries and became Americans aboard the Battleship New Jersey in Camden. Watch video

    Olivier Franck Duverneau, 21, was a boy in Haiti when the 2010 earthquake devastated the island. In the chaotic aftermath, he was impressed by the members of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, who were helping people and handing out ready-to-eat meals.

    "I said I want to be one of these guys. If I get the chance, I'll take it," Duverneau said.

    That chance came when he emigrated to the United States two years ago, and found out he could enlist though he only had a green card.

    And on the Fourth of July, clad in his Army fatigues aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey in Camden, Duverneau took the oath making him an American citizen. Of the 42 who became citizens at the ceremony Wednesday, at least 10 were military members or veterans who swore allegiance to the country they'd already served.

    Asked if he felt different after taking the oath, though he was already pledged to serve in the Army, Duverneau's face transformed with an enormous smile.

    "Hell yeah. I'm an American," the Ewing resident said. "That's really important."

    At the annual naturalization ceremony aboard the historic battleship, the 42 immigrants stood together, raised their right hands, and repeated the oath that made them citizens. After speeches from officials including U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, they each received a certificate and dispersed to hug their family members and friends. Some registered to vote on the spot. Some scooped hot, tired toddlers into their arms and carried them toward shore and more celebrations.

    They hail from 29 different countries, some from as far away as Vietnam and Cameroon and others from as close as Canada and Mexico.

    In his address, Booker, D-N.J., urged the new citizens to help the United States to become "a more perfect union" with more love and equality among its residents. He said true patriotism isn't just loving the country, it's loving all its people.

    "America has always been aspiring to be about love. Love sees the worth and sees the dignity of everyone, understands that we all have something to contribute, that we need each other, that we share a common destiny," Booker said. "That indeed those Latin words so associated with the truth of our nation, 'e pluribus unum,' is about love. At a time when we often see such hatred and bigotry and meanness in our country, we need to hail the truth of our nation: that we are here because of love."

    Booker said he often tells people, "If this country hasn't broken your heart, then you don't love her enough."

    "Because sometimes our nation is wrong. We have a history of being a nation that's committed making ourselves a more perfect union... If you love something, you want to elevate it and improve it," he told the crowd.

    He said Americans had to unite and go toward that common goal, and quoted an old African saying: "If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together."

    cherie-morad.jpgNew citizen Cherie Morad, 37, second from left, gets a hug from her children Gloria Abdelshahid, 13, and Andrew Abdelshahid, 11, and her husband, Ayman Abdelshahid, 47. 

    After the ceremony, new citizen Cherie Morad, 37, of Cherry Hill said that saying stuck with her.

    Morad is from Egypt but has lived in the United States for five years with her husband and two children. Asked about her feelings on being an immigrant at a time when immigration is one of the most hotly debated issues nationally, she said she doesn't feel like one anymore. "I'm an American. Thank God."

    "It's a great feeling. I can't tell you. It's amazing," she said.

    Her son, Andrew Abdelshahid, 11, said he was also excited about his mom's citizenship for a practical reason: Her status now means the family can travel abroad.

    "We couldn't go anywhere because my mom couldn't go," he said.

    fernandez-by-scott-anderson.jpegDavid Fernandez, in black, takes the oath of allegiance along with 41 others and led by John Thompson, left, Newark District director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, at a naturalization ceremony on the Battleship New Jersey on July 4, 2018. 

    David Fernandez, 24, was born in Costa Rica but has lived in the United States for 15 years. He serves in the Army and said becoming a citizen will help him further his career.

    "It doesn't feel any different," he said. "I always felt like a part of the nation, but now it's official."

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find on Facebook.

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    John Swem hopes Trento's new mayor will get it done Watch video

    How long does it take to get a one-block, grass alley paved?

    In Trenton, it's been over 10 years that Villa Park resident John Swem has been waiting.

    It was back in 2008 when city officials informed him via a letter that the alley behind his Emmet Avenue home in Villa Park - Sage Alley - was scheduled to be paved.

    And now he's waiting on new Mayor Reed Gusciora to hopefully get it done.

    Gusciora should be familiar with the alley.

    In 2008, while a state assemblyman, Gusciora came to Swem's aid, writing to Trenton officials on his behalf, urging them to pave the alley.

    The city wrote back to Gusciora, who passed it to Swem, and reported: "I am happy to include (Sage) Alley as part of the City of Trenton's upcoming 2008 paving season."

    It was signed by Eric Jackson, then director of public works, who Gusciora just succeeded as mayor.

    In the letter, Jackson explained that almost all of the other alleys in the East Ward had been paved, but the city had to move on to other alleys in other areas of the city.

    Jackson also wrote that he knows Swem, had worked with him in the community, and said he was an "asset" to the city.

    "Please assure him that we will pave that alley during the 2008 paving season," Jackson wrote.

    It never happened.

    The exchange with Jackson and Gusciora is just one of the many Swem has had over the years. He's shown up at City Hall and talked with public works officials, written letters to everyone imaginable and has yet to hear someone - anyone - answer the basic questions:

    So what's the deal? When's it going to be done?

    Expo preview

    Jackson could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and Gusciora did not immediately respond on this issue.

    "It's frustrating," Swem said Tuesday. "All those years that it should have been done."

    And, Swem says, nobody seems to be explain anything - ever. "They just don't comment. Nothing."

    Swem has live in the Emmet Avenue home his entire life. He's almost 53.

    He wants Sage Alley paved for a lot of reasons.

    First, the city said it would.

    But mostly, it's for appearance and cleanliness.

    It's overgrown a lot - less so in the winter - but it can be impassible to vehicles, although tire tracks mat down the growth in spots.

    It can be riddled with trash and bugs, and some homeowners do not cut or trim it. It's not really their responsibility, he says, but years ago more of his neighbors helped prune it.

    The city will not collect trash in Sage Alley - one of the reason for an alley, Swem notes - and in times of snow, plows will not dare start down the alley.

    And it just looks awful.

    Swem is hoping Gusciora will be swift in his actions.

    In another of those letters - Swem has kept them all - the now-mayor and still then assemblyman wrote to Trenton public works again, in June 2016, asking why the job had not been completed in 2008.

    "We are contacting you to check on the status of this project in response to constituent inquiries," Gusciora wrote. "I would greatly appreciate your comments on this matter and the status of any ... action."

    Maybe he could answer it himself now, now that he's mayor, Swem said.

    "I'd like him to come out and see it," Swem said.

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

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    A Trenton man charged with drug possession and intent to distribute drugs after police pulled him over in Secaucus, authorities said. Alejo Burgos, 44, was stopped by Secaucus police at 9:32 a.m. on June 27, Secaucus police Capt. Dennis Miller said. During the stop, police found more than 40 bags of suspected heroin and they also found that Burgos...


    A Trenton man charged with drug possession and intent to distribute drugs after police pulled him over in Secaucus, authorities said.

    Alejo Burgos, 44, was stopped by Secaucus police at 9:32 a.m. on June 27, Secaucus police Capt. Dennis Miller said. During the stop, police found more than 40 bags of suspected heroin and they also found that Burgos had two outstanding warrants totaling $1,233 from Camden and Pennsauken.

    He was charged with possession of heroin and possession with the intent to distribute heroin. Burgos was then taken to Hudson County jail.

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    Police say they arrested the men, one after a police chase, who were attempting to steal thousands of dollars worth of beauty products

    A late night robbery Wednesday at a North Brunswick warehouse led to three arrests and the recovery of the merchandise, North Brunswick police said Thursday afternoon.

    Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 2.57.25 PM.pngA warehouse on Jersey Avenue near the location of Wednesday night's robbery (Google Maps)

    Armed with a handgun, the three men assaulted an unarmed security guard and stole nearly $1 million worth of cosmetics from a commercial building on the 1600 block of Jersey Avenue, police Capt. Brian Hoiberg said.

    The security guard escaped and called police. Upon arriving at the scene, officers saw the suspects attempting to flee the building, township police said in a statement. One of them jumped into a box-style truck and headed northbound on Jersey Avenue.

    Officers pursued the vehicle until the suspect crashed it in New Brunswick, and police captured him when he tried to run away.

    While police pursued the truck, officers found two other suspects hiding near the building and took them into custody, police said.

    Police arrested Axell Mendoza, 30, of North Bergen; Alex Pelerigo, 50, of Elizabeth; and Jun Jang, 31, of Iselin, and found all the cosmetics.

    The three men were charged with robbery, burglary, theft, possession of a weapon, resisting arrest and eluding. They are all in police custody Thursday.

    The crime is still under investigation.

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at gdelia@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find on Facebook.


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    The family event is free

    The Capital City Community Coalition's car show - postponed from last month - takes place this Saturday at Arm & Hammer stadium at Waterfront Park.

    The free event, which runs from 10 a.m to 2 p.m., will feature an assortment of classic vehicles, from muscle cars to antiques, motorcycles, Jeeps and many police and fire and tactical vehicles.

    The vehicles will be on display in the parking lot behind centerfield. Food trucks and ice cream vendors will be on hand, as well as a DJ, and door prizes.

    The event is sponsored by the Trenton Police Department and the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office.

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    The firefighters also teach local children and others about their fire hoses too Watch video

    If you want to stay cool in Trenton's West Ward this summer, find out when fire Capt. Dave Dombroski is working.

    Dombroski enjoys using Engine Co. 9's apparatus to create a "pop up" water park  in front of the company at West State Street and Lee Avenue on hot summer days - as long as the firefighters are not needed for an emergency.

    The firefighters also teach local children about fire hoses and other the equipment they use, and let them squirt water from the hoses, and at each other.

    Expo preview

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    We live in the sixth most expensive state in the nation, according to the National Income Housing Coalition and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.

    Pare down the square footage from 2,300, say, to 300. Furnish the basics: sinks, bathroom facilities, kitchen appliances. Then build enough of these so-called "tiny homes" to ease the housing burden that has left at least 8,500 of our state's residents without shelter.

    That's the goal of a program two Democratic state senators are pushing to provide at least a partial solution to New Jersey's affordable housing crisis.

    Sens. Troy Singleton (Burlington) and Brian Stack (Hudson) hope their three-year pilot program can capitalize on a national trend that has potential buyers or renters forgoing McMansions in favor of more compact living spaces.

    And by compact, we mean the size of a one-car garage ... or smaller.

    Perry Shaw, chairman of the Mercer County Reentry Task Force, believes the project could help several populations, including homeless veterans, ex-felons who have served their time and are returning to society, and young adults who are being frozen out by the state's soaring home-rental prices.

    Stack and Singleton are looking to federal funds to underwrite the building process, which they say would be administered by the state's Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency and run about $5 million.

    Tiny houses could be the answer to N.J. housing problems

    The agency would choose the municipalities, making sure they represent all parts of the state; as an incentive, participating municipalities would receive grants for the housing, as well as two credits toward their affordable housing obligations for every tiny unit they erect.

    Last month, the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee unanimously approved the bill, S-177. But don't hire a moving van quite yet. We've been here before.

    In December of 2016, the same bill cleared the same committee, but it died when members of the Senate Budget Committee failed to come on board.

    But the need for a remedy didn't die with it.

    We live in the sixth most expensive state in the nation, according to the National Income Housing Coalition and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. In plain terms, that means too many renters can't afford an average studio apartment without spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

    The Singleton/Stack bill is far from a done deal. Among other obstacles is the existence of zoning laws which require minimum square footage for homes that is greater than the tiny homes envisioned.

    There's also the dreaded NIMBY effect: Not in My Back Yard, thank you. We saw that in Tuckerton in 2016, when officials nixed a proposal by an organization to build 10 micro-houses when residents of two nearby developments objected.

    If lawmakers eventually pass this measure, they'll have to start selling it hard to convince a dubious populace that these small houses present a viable answer to a huge problem. We hope they succeed.

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


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    Officer Louis Trocchio Jr. was honored at a Trenton Thunder game last month after saving people with Narcan Watch video

    It had only been a week since he was honored for bringing 13 people back from the brink of a fatal overdose when Louis Trocchio Jr. had to save one more life. 

    Trocchio, an officer in the Camden County Police Department, was conducting a traffic stop when a woman pulled up. Her son was in the car and needed help; he had overdosed on an opioid and was breathing heavily.

    The color was leaving his face.

    Trocchio paused his work on the traffic stop to go administer Narcan, a nasal spray that can bring one back from an opioid overdose. The drug has saved 16,000 people in New Jersey since 2015.

    The man came to as the 14th person saved by a single officer.

    Trocchio then went back to the traffic stop.

    Last month, the Trenton Thunder minor league baseball team honored the officer as a "Hometown Hero" for saving lives and his community work.

    trocchio jr.jpgOfficer Trocchio with Cloudman, the Trenton Thunder mascot at a game against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. (Camden County Police Department photo) 

    Trocchio, a Mets fan, said it was great to be at the ballpark with family and to see himself on the scoreboard. He appeared in a photo with Chase, the Thunder mascot, at a game against the Binghamton Rumbleponies (the Mets' farm team which features former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow). 

    Trocchio is far from ungrateful, but as great as the event was, he didn't want it to distract from the issues.

    "The heroin epidemic is real, and it's terrible, and everyone out there using is somebody's brother, sister," Trocchio said in an interview.

    The overdose-related calls for service in the department's south district often describe a person slumped behind the wheel of a car -- usually parked, but sometimes the car is running. (And in that case, the driver can get a DUI for driving while on heroin).

    A Camden police spokesman said the department had 335 Narcan saves by officers since 2014, when they began carrying the drug. A handful of other officers also have double-digit Narcan saves, he said. EMS likely have many more, and there were more saves by individuals who carry it.

    Trocchio's a Narcan veteran: he remembers the first doses officers administered were more fragile, with a nozzle that could crack and break if squeezed too hard (rendering the whole dose unusable).

    Today's doses are more durable, and "the hardest part is trying to put the gloves on in the heat," he said, while showing the contents of a Narcan kit to a reporter.

    Trocchio remembers another time in Camden when he had to administer two Narcan doses to one man.

    "Half in this nostril, half in the other," Trocchio said of the first dose. Same for the next dose.

    Last week, he celebrated 11 years since graduating the police academy; he joined the Camden force when it reorganized as a county department in 2013, after a stint in Bradley Beach at the Jersey Shore.

    He now lives in Jackson Township, and he and his dad, also a former cop, are both on the Neptune City Board of Recreation. (The community work that the Thunder recognized was Trocchio's work with recreational basketball teams in the area.)

    IMG_1926.JPGTrocchio in the Camden County Police station on Mt. Ephraim Avenue. (Joe Brandt | For 

    He's not always around to see the results when someone is given Narcan -- he often hands the patient off to EMS, and they'll give him "a hat tip." The game against the Thunder was a chance at further commendation.

    "It was a great moment to be recognized there, in front of my family and my friends," Trocchio said. "But it also puts awareness out there that the heroin epidemic is a problem."

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

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