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    Gary Molenaar is recognized by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators and the New Jersey Association of Pupil Services Adminstrators.

    mx0617schoolpiscataway.jpgGary Molenaar, center, ESCNJ superintendent Mark J. Finkelstein, left, and business administrator Patrick M. Moran.

    PISCATAWAY -- Gary Molenaar, assistant superintendent for the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey, has been named the 2018 Special Education Administrator of the Year by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators and the New Jersey Association of Pupil Services Administrators.

    The award recognizes a special education administrator for "outstanding leadership in providing services to students with special needs, and whose work reflects the highest professional and ethical standards," as chosen by a committee made up of educators from every county in the state.

    As ESCNJ assistant superintendent, Molenaar has been responsible for several initiatives, including The Pathways to Adult Living program, an independent living support program for students age 18 to 21; personalized learning for students using Google Chromebooks; introducing higher functioning students to robotics and computer coding; creating a Special Education Review Service for districts; and expanding ESCNJ's collaboration with the New Brunswick Public Schools.

    Located in Piscataway, the ESCNJ operates six schools in Middlesex County for students age 3 to 21 with autism, multiple disabilities, and at-risk behaviors, and provides special education services to school districts.

    Molenaar received the award at the NJASA and NJASPSA 36th annual Spring Leadership Conference held last month in Atlantic City.

    To submit school news send an email to middlesex@starledger.com.


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    Pets throughout New Jersey await adoption in shelters and rescues.

    Some fun and interesting facts about cats and dogs from Nationwide pet insurance:

    * Dogs only sweat from the bottoms of their feet, the only way they can discharge heat is by panting. Cats do not have sweat glands.

    * Dogs have about 100 different facial expressions, most of them made with the ears.

    * A cat can jump as much as seven times its height.

    * Dogs do not have an appendix.

    * Cats have over one hundred vocal sounds, while dogs only have about ten.

    * Using their swiveling ears like radar dishes, experiments have shown that dogs can locate the source of a sound in 6/100ths of a second.

    * A cat's tongue is scratchy because it's lined with papillae--tiny elevated backwards hooks that help to hold prey in place.

    * When faced with the choice of going the way around something that untangles herself or the way that makes it worse, my dog will choose the wrong way 101 times out of 100.

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


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    Who were the best of the best?


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    NJ Advance Media takes a look at the best players from 2018.


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    She rear-ended a tractor-trailer in South Brunswick, according to police Watch video

    An off-duty corrections rescued an unconscious driver from a burning car Sunday night in South Brunswick after she struck the back of a tractor-trailer, police said.

    Donald Carson pulled the 59-year-old Monroe woman from the car as it erupted in flames after the airbag deployed at the intersection of Route 535 and Route 32, police said in a statement.

    Cason was headed north on Route 535 around 9:15 p.m. when he saw the woman slumped over the steering wheel and the car starting to catch fire, according to police.

    Carson ran to the burning vehicle, unbuckled the woman's seat belt and carried her to safety as the car became engulfed.

    Cops pull driver from burning SUV after he crashed into 12 parked cars

    The woman was brought to a local hospital to be treated for her injuries. The driver of the tractor-trailer, a 40-year-old Newmarket, Ontario, Canada man, was not hurt. 

    South Brunswick police Chief Raymond Hayducka praised the corrections officer.

    "Donald Carson's quick actions prevented a tragedy last night," Hayducka said. "His selfless actions were able to help save the life of (the motorist)."

    Carson is a corrections officer at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility in the Crosswicks section of Chesterfield.

    The road was closed for two hours as firefighters extinguished the blaze and police investigated the crash. 

    driver-rescued.jpgA 59-year-old woman was pulled from her burning car by a passing off-duty corrections officer following a two-vehicle collision in Sunday night in South Brunswick.  

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     


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    A fourth grade teacher lost her legal bid to to get her job back after being fired for shoplifting.

    A fourth grade teacher has lost her legal bid to to get her job back after being fired for shoplifting.

    The Superior Court Appellate Division ruled Friday in an 11-page decision that the Woodbridge Board of Education, a state arbitrator and a Middlesex Superior Court judge were justified in firing and upholding the firing of Michele Schawb, a tenured teacher with 16 years experience who worked at Robert Mascenik School in Woodbridge.

    The district filed paperwork in April 2016 to fire Schwab and a state arbitrator took away her tenure in Jan. 2017. 

    An attorney for Schwab, Edward Cridge, declined to comment Monday on the ruling.

    Schwab was suspended with pay from her $95,250 per year job as an elementary school teacher when administrators learned in March 2015 that she had been arrested in Feb. 2015 for allegedly shoplifting two NY Jets sweatshirts and a hat, valued at $225, from Sears in the Woodbridge Mall. 

    The charge was later dropped when a witness failed to appear in court and Schwab was put back in the classroom, even though she didn't report the incident to the district within the required 14-day window. 

    "We were hoping that this was a one-time incident, and we wanted to be compassionate to Ms. Schwab," Superintendent Robert Zega testified during the arbitration hearing. 

    But Schwab was arrested again, 13 months later, after the owner of Song of the Sea gift shop in Beach Haven posted on Facebook pictures of a woman captured on the store's security camera putting a $60 picture frame into her purse and walking out of the store without paying for it. 

    The March 2016 post was viewed more than 47,000 times, including by at least one of her fourth grade students and another teacher in the district. 

    Schwab pleaded guilty in May 2016 to the shoplifting charge in a deal that would allow her to have the charge dismissed if she completed one year of probation. 

    A psychiatrist who testified during arbitration hearings said that Schwab's prescription drug changes and high levels of stress in her life at that time led her to act out.

    Allison Pries may be reached at apries@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AllisonPries. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Two men allegedly broke into a warehouse in Edison and took a tractor trailer full of perfume to Delaware.

    Two men broke into a warehouse in Edison, loaded a tractor trailer with perfume worth $2.3 million, and took the goods down the New Jersey Turnpike into Delaware, authorities said.

    Yunior Estevez, 33, of Hollywood, Florida, and Carlos Duvergel, 53, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, were charged with conspiracy and interstate transport of stolen property, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

    According to a criminal complaint, Duvergel, who also had an address in Miami, Florida, owned a white Freightliner tractor trailer, and Estevez worked for Duvergel driving the truck.

    On Nov. 2, 2017,  Duvergel rented a Chrysler minivan at a Budget car rental near the airport in Louisville, Kentucky. After renting the van, he drove to Elizabeth and booked a room at a hotel, the complaint says.

    Surveillance footage at the warehouse in Edison showed the Freightliner and trailers entering the loading dock, and several men getting out of a van around midnight November 6.

    By 3 a.m., Estevez was spotted on toll plaza surveillance cameras passing through Exit 1 on the Turnpike southbound into Delaware.

    The men made initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Newark earlier this month. Duvergel was released on bail.

    The maximum potential sentence is five years in prison for conspiracy and 10 for interstate transport of stolen property. Both charges also carry a $250,000 fine.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips 

     

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    Zach Attianese, 20, was named Gatorade Player of the Year when he pitched for Old Bridge High School.

    An former Old Bridge baseball star was killed Friday night, along with his father, when six vehicles collided on a highway in Michigan.  

    Zach Attianese, 20, and Jude Attianese, 61, have been identified as the father-son pair killed in the wreck. 

    Michigan State Police reported a crash just before 11 p.m. Friday on northbound I-75 in Brownstown Township, a town about a half hour outside of Detroit.

    Four other vehicles were damaged in the crash and the road was closed for several hours. 

    Zach Attianese was named Gatorade Player of the Year for the state in 2014, when he was a sophomore at Old Bridge. He had a weighted GPA of 4.16 and spent his free time volunteering as a teacher's aid at his church.

    He went on to play for the University of North Carolina before moving to the State College of Florida in 2017, and was named the Suncoast Conference pitcher of the year after winning 10 games. 

    He had committed to playing for Florida State in the coming year. 

    A memorial service was planned for Monday evening at Lombardi field at Old Bridge High School. 

    "Our prayers go out to Zach's mom Natalie and his sisters, Ashley and Sabrina, as they endure this heartbreaking tragedy," Florida State baseball said in a statement on Twitter Saturday. "Zach was a wonderful young man with a bright future that was sadly stripped away. Zach was excited about coming to Florida State and he will forever be a part of the Seminole baseball family. We will continue to have the Attianese family in our thoughts."

    "Zach was a great kid," Tar Heels coach Mike Fox said during a postgame media conference at TD Ameritrade Park. "I want to let the Attianese family know how much the Carolina baseball family is thinking of them."

    Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on Facebook

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    The crash tied up traffic south of Exit 8A on Tuesday morning

    Several people were hurt when a coach bus, car and tractor-trailer collided on the New Jersey Turnpike in Middlesex County early Tuesday, authorities said. 

    The crash took place on the highway's northbound inner roadway near milepost 71 in Cranbury around 4:45 a.m., State Police Trooper Alejandro Goez said. 

    Ten people were aboard the bus, which is registered in East Windsor, Connecticut. Officials didn't have an exact number of bus occupants hurt, but said all of the injured were taken to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick to be treated for injuries not considered life-threatening.

    18-year-old killed, 2 teens seriously hurt in 3 vehicle crash

    The bus passengers were a mixture of adults and children, Goez said. 

    There were three people in the car but only the driver suffered minor injuries. The truck driver was not hurt. 

    State Police didn't yet have details about the cause of the crash, which backed up traffic for a couple of hours south of Interchange 8A. It remains under investigation. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     

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    A regular day on this job is 185 feet in the air and it takes nerves of steel for the daring bridge painters who work on the Port Authority's iconic spans. Watch video

    If you think painting the second story of your house is a daunting task, try doing it at a height of 185 feet or more, while dangling over water, as traffic speeds by beneath you.

    If you can carry everything you need to do the job up with you, tie it down, secure yourself and ignore the dizzying heights, you might qualify to be a Port Authority bridge painter.

    A crew currently working on the Outerbridge Crossing is part of an elite group of bridge painters formed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1934. Not everyone was cut out for the job then or now, said Kevin McSweeney, group maintenance supervisor.  

    "There is a practical test. You have to demonstrate knowledge of knots and rigging ability," McSweeney said. "You can practice for the knots and rigging, but you can't practice for the height test.You either have it in you, or you can't."

    The original bridge painters who passed the height test received the princely raise of 10 cents an hour over their regular salary for the seasonal job. It was made permanent, year round work in 1940, he said.

    When the temperature gets too cold to apply paint on the authority's big bridges, which is usually around Thanksgiving or when the temperature hits 40 degrees, the crew paints airport underpasses and other facilities in the winter.

    "It's not easy, but it's a great job and I love this job...being up here in the elements and the heights," said Paul Fredericks, a bridge painter on the Outerbridge. "It's critical work we do. It's not just putting paint on a bridge, it's keeping the structure safe so people can cross and get back and forth." 

    Larry Higgs may be reached at lhiggs@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @commutinglarry. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    As prom season winds down, NJ.com compiled a collection of some of the best dressed prom attendees from 2018.

    As prom season winds down, NJ.com compiled a collection of some of the best dressed prom attendees from 2018.

    BUY THESE PHOTOS

    Are you one of the people pictured at this prom? Want to buy the photo and keep it forever? Look for the blue link "buy photo" below the photographer's credit to purchase the picture. You'll have the ability to order prints in a variety of sizes, or products like magnets, keychains, coffee mugs and more.

    Be sure to check out the complete prom coverage at nj.com/prom.

    Ed Murray may be reached at emurray@njadvancemedia.com. Follow Ed on Twitter at @EdMurrayphoto. Find NJ.COM on Facebook.


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    A wild robbery played out in front of surveillance cameras inside a Wayne jewelry store Tuesday by a couple who brought everything they needed - and then some, according to police.

    A wild robbery played out in front of surveillance cameras in a Wayne jewelry store Tuesday by a couple who brought everything they needed - and then some, according to police.

    Marc Niedle, 30, and Emily K. Lopazanski, 34, burst into Massola Jewelers on Preakness Avenue about 11:15 a.m. and announced a holdup, according to police Capt. Laurence W. Martin.

    As Niedle pointed a shotgun at the owner and his son, Lopazanski is seen in a surveillance photo near jewelry in a lighted case.

    The exact sequence of events remain unclear, but at some point the robbers began struggling with the business owners.

    During the struggle, Lopazanski sprayed the owner and son in the face with a can of Mace, police said.

    Niedle then fled the store, leaving Lopazanski fighting with the owner and his son.

    robbery-couple.jpgMarc Niedle and Emily K. Lopazanski are charged with robbery. (Wayne PD) 

    The fight soon spilled outside onto the sidewalk where police found all three.

    The owner and his son were suffering from exposure of a chemical irritant - Mace - to their eyes and were treated by members of the Wayne Memorial Volunteer First Aid Squad, the captain said.

    As an officer handcuffed Lopazanski, he found several zip-ties in the pocket of her sweatshirt that police allege were to be used as temporary handcuffs.

    Detectives later arrested Niedle at Terminal C in Newark Airport as he waited to board a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, police said.

    Public records show Niedle lived in that area of Florida as recently as 2015.

    Niedle, who now lives in Mountainside, and Lopazanski, of Fords, were both charged with aggravated assault with a weapon, robbery with injuries, and weapons possession. Niedle was also charged with conspiracy, police said.

    Police were not saying if Niedle got away with anything from the store.

    The couple was held pending a court hearing.

    The store was open on Wednesday, but the owners did not return a call seeking comment.

    Police said they would not be releasing video of the robbery to the public anytime soon.

    "The video is of evidentiary high value and we are holding onto it for further examination and investigation," Martin said in an email.

    robbery2.jpgA woman police allege is Emily K. Lopazanski can be seen near the counter as accused accomplice Marc Niedle waves a shotgun, cops said. (Wayne PD) 

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

     

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    The officer, Romulo Meneses-Alvarez, pleaded guilty to third-degree vehicular homicide earlier this month in the death of Jairo Alexander Lozano.

    The mother of a 29-year-old motorcyclist who died following a Halloween night crash is suing the former-Elizabeth police officer who caused the accident and the bar where the officer had a drink.

    Maria Lizarazo of Elizabeth claims in the civil suit that under the state's Wrongful Death Act the off-duty officer, Romulo Meneses-Alvarez, and the owners of the Central Park bar in Roselle are responsible for funeral expenses and other damages caused by her son's death.

    Lizarazo also says the defendants are responsible for all medical costs for Lozano, his total estimated future earnings from the time of his death to the end of his natural life expectancy, loss of retirement, social security income and damages related to the loss of enjoyment of life. 

    Staff at the bar, owned by Amikle Restaurant Inc., knew the officer was drunk, yet continued to serve him drinks, the suit claims. By doing so, the bar and its employees "grossly regarded the duties of Tavern Keepers for the safety of the decedent and the general public," according to the suit.

    Meneses-Alvarez admitted he was under the influence of alcohol when his Jeep Wrangler turned left in front of Lozano's motorcycle on Elmora Avenue in Elizabeth, causing the collision. 

    He pleaded guilty to third-degree strict liability vehicular homicide, fourth-degree tampering with physical evidence, and driving while intoxicated in the death of Lozano.

    Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Keith Abrams, who prosecuted the case due to an undisclosed conflict of interest with the Union County Prosecutor's Office, has recommend that Meneses-Alvarez serve 364 days in county jail, the maximum sentence for a third-degree felony.

    The ex-officer is scheduled to be sentenced July 13.

    Many details of the Halloween crash and the investigation remain unclear, but according to police documents and indictments Meneses-Alvarez left the scene after the crash and hindered the investigation by preventing police from checking out his vehicle, a Jeep Wrangler.

    Joshua McMahon, an attorney for the Lozano's family, said a witness and body camera footage revealed that another Elizabeth police officer told Meneses-Alvarez to leave. NJ Advance Media was unable to confirm this because an open public records request for the video footage was denied.

    Lizarazo's civil complaint was filed May 11, but according to McMahon, the defendants have yet to answer to the complaint in court officially. 

    A manager on duty at Central Park declined to comment about the lawsuit Wednesday morning. 

    Central Park was one of two bars where former Linden cop Pedro Abad was drinking in 2015 before he drove the wrong way on a Staten Island highway, leading to a head-on crash that killed two people and critically injured a third. Abad was sentenced last year to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison after he was found guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide. 

    The surviving victim of the crash and the families of the two men who died received a $2,085,000 legal settlement from Central Park, a Staten Island strip club, Abad's insurer and an uninsured motorist policy. The plaintiffs had alleged the bars served alcohol to Abad when he was visibly drunk.

    On Tuesday, former Newark officer Joseph Macchia was convicted of manslaughter after he got into a fight at a Union Township bar, drew his service weapon and shot a man to death two years ago. 

    Editor's note: This story has been edited to correct details of Abad's crash and the related legal settlement. 

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at tharris@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyo.

    Find NJ.com on Facebook.  


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    A vow of silence? The church offers little detail over Cardinal McCarrick abuse settlements in New Jersey.


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    If you can't find something good to eat in New Jersey, you aren't hungry.

    As if we needed to be told ... 50states.com tells us that "New Jersey has the most diners in the world and is sometimes referred to as the diner capital of the world." According to nj.com's own Pete Genovese, we have more than 600 diners to choose from.

    The Cornelius Low House Museum in Piscataway hosted an exhibit on diners in 2015, and Mark Nonestied, the museum's division head of historic sites and history services, cited Michael Gabriele's 2013 book, "The History of Diners in New Jersey," to explain why New Jersey rules when it comes to diners.

    636312477998277301-diner3.jpgThis classic diner table scene was part of the Low House exhibit on diners.

    "Gabriele pointed out that New Jersey had a very early, highly developed transportation system. When people drove, they needed to stop and eat," he said. "Diners filled that need -- and our location between New York and Philadelphia along with this road network through New Jersey becomes part of the reason why there were so many."

    The book also noted that the diner's success in New Jersey also had to do with people who lived in the state. That is, "Initially, when diners became popular, they were places where working class communities could get a good, cheap meal to eat at any time of the day. And New Jersey had a very diverse working-class population--and diners became that go-to place to get a good meal."

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    As for the future of the diner, Nonestied remains optimistic: "I think there will always be a need for them. Diners reinvent themselves as society changes, and each time, they seem to find a way to keep up with the new pace of things--and flourish."

    Just like the residents of the state that they call home.

    Here's a gallery of vintage photos diners and eateries around New Jersey; if you don't see one of your favorites, check the links below to earlier galleries. And if you still don't see it ... send in a photo for our next gallery!

    Vintage photos of N.J. diners

    Vintage photos of diners in N.J.

    Vintage photos of diners and eateries in NJ

    Vintage photos of eclectic eats in N.J.

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


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    John Mudry and his family visited Bally's Atlantic City Tuesday to fulfill one of the 71-year-old man's wishes to have one last big day at the casino

    A terminally ill New Jersey man says he got one of his last wishes fulfilled this week: to drink a cold beer and play a few more hands of blackjack at his favorite casino in Atlantic City.

    John Mudry and his family visited Bally's Atlantic City Tuesday to fulfill one of the 71-year-old man's wishes to have one last big day at the casino. The Press of Atlantic City reports Mudry visited the casino with help from his hospice caretakers and health care providers.

    When Hard Rock Casino opens in Atlantic City, expect celebs and glitz

    Mudry's niece Kelly Smentkowski says her uncle has a rare form of non-treatable bladder cancer, and that he "didn't want to stay in the hospital anymore."

    Mudry, of Monroe in Middlesex County, ended up winning a few hundred dollars on the casino floor.

     

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    Seniors at John P. Stevens High School received their diplomas during a commencement ceremony at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway.

    John P. Stevens High School held its commencement ceremony on Wednesday at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway.

    The 636 seniors waived to family and friends as they marched into the athletic center.

    The ceremony started at 8:00 pm and featured speeches by valedictorian Elisha Rose Zhao and salutatorian, Grace Wang.

    MORE PHOTOS

    Graduation season is here, and NJ.com is capturing the moments for many New Jersey high schools. Check back at nj.com/middlesex for other local high school graduation coverage. Be sure to check out our complete graduation coverage at nj.com/graduation.

    BUY THESE PHOTOS

    Are you one of the people pictured at this graduation? Want to buy the photo and keep it forever? Look for a blue buy image link below the photo.  You'll have the ability to order prints in a variety of sizes, or products like magnets, keychains, coffee mugs and more.

    Patti Sapone can be reached at psapone@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Instagram @psapo,  Twitter @psapone.  Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Highlighting the state's top players after a busy spring full of softball action.


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    A pre-game "pooch parade" starts at 6:30 p.m. on the field.

    sm0617pet02.jpg 

    BRIDGEWATER -- The Somerset Patriots will host three "Bark in the Park Nights" during the 2018 baseball season.

    The special promotions are scheduled for June 26, July 23 and August 28. Fans can obtain $5 upper box tickets for the games by using the promo code WOOF when purchasing tickets online at somersetpatriots.com.

    Individuals bringing dogs will need to bring proof of vaccination and have their dog's ID tag checked prior to entry. A pre-game "pooch parade" starts at 6:30 p.m. on the field, and water bowls will be available throughout the game.

    In addition, a special "Yappy Hour" happens in the third inning behind section 214 with canine ice cream treats. More information can be found at the team's website or by calling 908-252-0700.

    The Patriots play at TD Bank Park at 860 E. Main St. in Bridgewater.

    Shelters interested in placing a pet in the Paw Print adoption column or submitting news should call 973-836-4922 or email union@starledger.com.

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


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    Where is the best place to see fireworks in New Jersey? What time does fireworks start? Fourth of July 2018 fireworks events and displays near you. This complete listing includes all 21 counties.


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