Thursday, December 18, 2014

Planners Approve Hub Stine Improvements

Professional Engineer Bernard Lamm 

Planners approved a $3.5 million renovation plan for Hub Stine Field Thursday with the proviso that the Board of Education must hear from neighbors regarding new lighting.

Renovations were originally proposed in 2012 and school Board Secretary Gary Ottmann said the funds have been held in reserve.since then. He said plans call for starting the project in June and having it ready in time for the first football game of 2015.

The multiple-use athletic field will have athletic turf on the football field only. A new stone drainage system and four new lighting poles will be installed. 
Planning Board member William Toth asked whether neighbors had received notice of the new lighting plan, but board attorney Michele Donato said no notice was required for a capital review. Planning Director William Nierstedt raised a concern over who was going to approve it first, the planners or the school board. Asked whether any hearings had been held with neighbors, Ottmann said, "Not since the last time."

Nierstedt said what happens in such situations is that "neighbors come out in force" and say they weren't told. He also asked how the lights would be controlled. Testifying for the school district, Professional Engineer Bernard Lamm said there would be two levels of lighting, one for events and a lower one for community purposes. (The track is heavily used by local residents, as noted in Dan Damon's 2012 post on the issue.)

Planning Board Chairman Ron Scott Bey said he wanted the lighting to be locally controlled, as opposed to timers.

"I've been in situations where events go 45 minutes longer than the lights are on," he said.

The planners also discussed some of the pitfalls of artificial turf. Board member Gordon Fuller cited a situation where players had to get off the turf because the sun made it too hot. Scott Bey said an older form of artificial turf was believed to lead to more injuries, but a newer form did not. He said he hoped the new field would "emulate Rutgers."

Donato asked about "toxicity" and Scott Bey said any cuts suffered on artificial turf had to be treated promptly.

"The quicker you deal with it, the better," he said.

Toth returned to the lighting issue and said he thought it would be "a big disservice to neighbors" to install the new lights without discussion. Nierstedt asked Ottman and Schools Superintendent Anna Belin-Pyles to let him know when a hearing was scheduled.

In public comment, Dan Damon asked where the funding was coming from, the state or the taxpayer. Ottman noted the district receives 80 percent of its funding from the state and said one could "extrapolate" on the source.

The Planning Board was still awaiting a report from its own engineer, but approved the capital review plan pending receipt of the report and with the understanding that neighbors will be able to comment on the lighting and that it will be controlled locally. Donato asked whether the plan conformed to the district's mandated "long-term facilities plan" and Ottmann said it did. Donato said Planning Board approval on land use elements did not really mean the plan would happen "whether the neighbors want it or not." She said it has always been held by the court that the board could consider "legitimate local concerns."

 Planning Board member Ken Robertson traced the history of the case and said, "It seems to me we can approve of this and let it go, and (the school board) will do the right thing."

Toth voted "no" and Fuller, Robertson, Horace Baldwin. and Scott Bey voted "yes."


Muhlenberg Foundation Hearing Documents Available

My online version of the Courier News today contains a legal notice regarding a proposal for Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center to use funds held by the Muhlenberg Foundation to help pay for the new satellite emergency room. The hearing will be held on Jan. 23, 2015 in Union County Superior Court. The amount cited is "less than $250,000," although Muhlenberg activists Nancy Piwowar and Deborah Dowe have said they believe it to be more.

The notice includes an offer for a free copy of the pleadings filed in support of the Order to Show Cause. Anyone desiring a copy by email can email and a copy of the pleadings will be emailed back.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Memories of Holiday Cookies

My son and I were recalling the days when making holiday cookies was a favorite activity in our house.

From my Fanny Farmer cookbook of the 1960s, I made date-nut bars and gingerbread cookies, among many others. With my cookie press, I made dozens of shapes with cream cheese dough, including wreaths decorated with bits of candied fruit for leaves and berries. Dough made with lots of sugar and butter made star or flower shapes to top with icing or sprinkles.

I think my son found this recipe for stained glass cookies, because Zoom was one of his favorite childhood TV shows. The recipe involved making quarter-inch rolls that could be shaped to enclose the crushed hard candy "glass." The more modern way is to use cookie cutters, as seen here
I always made some Fanny Farmer peanut butter cookies for my father, to present along with some of his his favorite Jack Daniels.

My old cookbook became so worn that I finally dumped it. Our family eating habits had changed a lot and even though I learned much about cooking from it, a lot of the recipes seemed out of date. My tiny kitchen in this apartment precludes major baking, though for a time I made the Fanny Farmer Allspice Orange Nut Bread to use as

My children are now middle-aged and there are no grandchildren for holiday baking adventures, but I hope some of you are enjoying the fun of making and decorating cookies with youngsters. It's also educational - reading a recipe, measuring, following the steps, watching the timer, all teach valuable lessons. And you can eat the rewards!

Happy holidays to all and good luck with your baking!


City Preservationist Resigns, Feted by HPC

Gail Hunton, the city's historic preservation consultant since 1983, has resigned and a search is on for her successor.

Members of the Historic Preservation Commission thanked her Tuesday night for her years of service.

Hunton said she came here initially due to the enthusiasm of some city residents for preserving Plainfield's historic housing stock. As she leaves, the city has ten historic districts and 19 sites with local, state or national designations. The HPC was formed to uphold a land use ordinance on preservation and can issue a "certificate of appropriateness" for changes to historic buildings. The commission has also developed design guidelines, all with the help of Hunton's expertise.
Historic Preservation Commission and Gail Hunton (center, rear)
Hunton credited local activists including Rosemary Haness and the late William Hetfield for work in the late 1970s and early 1980s that resulted in designation of the North Avenue, Hillside and Crescent Area historic districts. Besides consulting on new designations and legislation, she has traveled from her Monmouth County home monthly for the HPC meetings, where she provides guidance as the members hear applications for certificates of appropriateness.
Detail of cake for Gail Hunton's farewell at the HPC
As Hunton noted, many of the early preservation advocates have moved from Plainfield or passed away. She expressed hope for a new generation of activists for the cause.

As someone who arrived in Plainfield in 1983 and began writing about the city soon after, I can say that with all the changes in the historic preservation movement, Gail Hunton has been the constant. Her service has been invaluable to Plainfield, where interest in its eclectic Victorian housing stock has drawn hundreds of visitors, many new homeowners and much positive attention.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah 
to all our
Jewish friends
and neighbors!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Watson Gains 90 More Days

Eric Watson

When Eric Watson was director of Public Works & Urban Development 20 years ago, he had an assistant director, four superintendents and a complete, in-house engineering division. The staff is thinner now and engineering is outsourced. So when he says there are more people to deal with, he is referring to the many new cab drivers and commuters who rely on the condition of the city's 110 miles of roads and developers who are keeping the land use boards busy with plans for new buildings.

Watson left City Hall in 1995 to become executive director of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority.for the next 16 years. He came back to his former job in acting capacity on Sept. 15, succeeding Eric Jackson, who resigned to became mayor of Trenton in July.

City law allows the mayor to name someone to an acting role for 90 days, after which the individual can serve another 90 days with consent of the governing body, or the mayor can seek confirmation for a permanent term. Mayor Adrian O. Mapp chose the former and Watson will stay on in acting capacity until March 15 after a 4-2 vote at tonight's special meeting. Council members Tracey Brown, Vera Greaves, William Reid and Council President Bridget Rivers voted "yes" on the appointment. Cory Storch and Rebecca Williams voted "no" and Gloria Taylor was absent for the vote.

Besides coping with busy and crowded roads and an estimated 1,000 housing units in the works, Watson says he has his fingers crossed on the weather. Some may recall the winter of 1994, when Mayor Mark Fury and Watson no sooner took office than they had to deal with 17 snowstorms in a row. This year's storms created an inordinate number of potholes and Watson said the department now has new road repair equipment for whatever may come in the next few months.

The department has eight divisions, including Inspections and Recreation, both of which are being revamped. Phil Izzo, who has city roots in the historically Italian East End, is the new director of Inspections and Roni Taylor, most recently a teacher and coach in the Plainfield school district before becoming superintendent of Recreation, are both looking to serve the city's changing 21st Century population. Inspections activities will soon be modernized and correlated with other services. Taylor has already implemented new programs and more up-to-date registration and money-handling practices.

Watson says he is trying to make the department "more user-friendly' for Plainfielders, developers and business owners. Just as he spoke to this writer, a resident in the room called out to thank him for taking care of a tree problem, which made it seem he's on the right track.


"People Against Killing"

A frequent commenter, "Mr. X," asked last week why a group called "People Against Killing" was not invited to last Thursday's community forum. Maybe he or someone else can give an update, as the group's information online seems to date back to 2011. See the agenda for a People Against Killing event here.