Tuesday, November 24, 2015

PPL Opens Business History Exhibit

Credit: Plainfield Public Library

Plainfield: Taking Care of Business, A Glimpse into Plainfield’s Past
The Plainfield Public Library announces our latest Local History Department exhibit.  The Library is displaying a variety of materials from our special collections of records from local businesses that date back to 1863.  The 50-piece exhibit consists of three display cases on the main level of the Library.  The oldest items on exhibit are a two dollar bill from 1863 from The Plainfield Bank and an area merchant’s account ledger from 1855-1856.
The display presents a variety of materials across several collections. Included are historical photographs and vintage postcards, as well as paper records and a variety of ephemera and artifacts, including business cards and promotional materials, Beverly Millinery and Tepper’s hat boxes, an M. Farina & Son wall thermometer, and the 1904-1906 signature book from the Dime Savings Bank. This ledger documents and physically describes bank customers from a time before photo ID was in use.
The exhibit presents 19 photographs and postcards, 17 pieces of paper ephemera and documents, twelve artifacts, and two handwritten ledgers.
The display will run through January 2016 and is free to the public.  The Plainfield Public Library is located at 800 Park Avenue.  For hours of operation, call 908-757-1111 or check the website at plainfieldlibrary.info 

He Said, She Said ...

The mayor said the schools superintendent shut down a long-planned Youth Summit. The schools superintendent says the mayor was wrong to use a citywide robocall to say so.

Schools Superintendent Anna Belin-Pyles made the charge on camera at Monday's City Council meeting and called it libelous. She said the summit needed to be held a day later because the district was making a change in class scheduling. Pressed by Councilwoman Gloria Taylor to respond, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said Belin-Pyles made an "executive decision" to cancel the Youth Summit.

Belin-Pyles spoke in public comment, saying she was "here to discuss a personal attack on my character and reputation" and "misuse of city equipment and resources." She said she had told City Administrator Rick Smiley that due to circumstances the Youth Summit could not take place on Nov. 12, and "respectfully asked" to have it take place on the 13th.

According to an event announcement, the scheduled date was Nov. 13:

On November 13th, Plainfield youth will unite for facilitated conversations among their peers about education and employment.
This youth summit is a collaborative effort of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and The School District of Plainfield.
  • Keynote: Dr. Marc Lamont Hill
  • Boys Convocation: Felipe Luciano
  • Performances by New Jersey's own DJ Lil Man
  • To better understand youth's educational and employment needs and hopes
  • To develop strategies for meeting youth's educational and employment needs
  • To connect each youth to a youth-serving resource and organization
Special thank you to Comcast, Municipal Alliance/GCADA, and Union County Board of Chosen Freeholder for their support of this event.

As for a special Board of Education meeting Belin-Pyles mentioned, that was held on Saturday, Oct. 31 - the weekend before the general election and the same day as a picnic for independent City Council candidate John Campbell, son of school board President Wilma Campbell and board member John C. Campbell. The board had given permission to use a park on Cook School grounds, but Mapp had allegedly ordered city staff not to issue an event permit for the picnic. As chairman of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee, Mapp was backing incumbent Democratic candidate Cory Storch for re-election.

While Belin-Pyles did not mention the politics, the now-disputed canceling of the summit was regarded by some as political retaliation.

Belin-Pyles insisted Monday the summit was not canceled and that she had only requested postponement for one day.

Mapp made no response Monday until Taylor, a retired school administrator herself, said she was very concerned about the superintendent's remarks. She called the dispute a "riff" and deplored the use of robo-calls "in a somewhat demeaning and political way."

"I really would like an explanation," she said, adding the city attorney could be consulted "about legalities."

"I'm not going to accuse the honorable, since he's here tonight," she said referring to Mapp.

 Taylor said the robo-call "turned into .. I don't want to say." Looking at Mapp, she queried him by just saying, "Honorable?"

Mapp said the Youth Summit was canceled by the superintendent of schools by "her executive decision."

"Even if that was the case, why did you use the robo-calls as if you were angry?" Taylor said.

At that point, BOE President Wilma Campbell stepped up to the microphone, even though public comment had been closed.

"Why use an instrument of communication to get your feelings out?" Taylor said.

Storch interceded.

"We could spend a lot of time about what happened or what should have happened," he said, asking all parties to commit to positivity.

After a bit more rehashing from the board president, the meeting was adjourned, but on her way out Taylor stopped to keep talking to the mayor.

See the original Youth Summit flyer here. Mapp has announced it will now be held in early 2016.

Click to view David Rutherford's video on this topic.

Monday, November 23, 2015

East, West Get Council's Best

Two major developments - one each for the East End and West End - received unanimous initial approvals Monday from the governing body.

Each has many more steps to go, but the City Council's welcoming tone Monday stood in sharp contrast to the brush-off one developer suffered in August.

The South Second Street Redevelopment LLC, made public only this month, would bring a mixed-use project to a 5-acre city-owned property in the West End. It includes expansion of ABC Supply Company in Plainfield and creation of 90 units of mixed income housing over covered parking. The resolution approved tonight leaves execution of an agreement in the hands of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, but Patrick Terborg of TD+Partners said the city will receive a minimum of $250,000 for the land and the company will spend $1 million to clean up the brownfields site.

For the East End project, Sleepy Hollow Developers Urban Renewal LLC must acquire and clear 11 properties to make way for 212 apartments with many amenities, including a fitness center, indoor and outdoor fireplaces and a meditation room. The council gave initial approval Monday to an ordinance for a "payment in lieu of taxes" (PILOT) plan for the $50 million project. The ordinance will be up for final approval next month.

Both projects would create jobs for city residents and provide work for minority tradespeople. In addition, Sleepy Hollow Developers promise $10,000 annually for events in nearby Plainwood Square Park, as well as year-round maintenance of the park. The West End developer offered to pay for improvements at Hannah Atkins Community Center.

Sleepy Hollow Developers received Planning Board approvals in August, but the West End proposal needs land use approvals as well as amendment of a redevelopment plan that includes the site.

After the meeting, Terborg told Plaintalker he sees a better climate now for development that he finds very refreshing. Good collaboration "bodes well for developers," he said.

Two council members raised challenges. Councilwoman Vera Greaves said there were proposals for both ends of the city, but asked, "Is there anything for the downtown, for the middle of Plainfield?"

Although there is no single project of the same scale, a map of downtown development shows a lot going on.

Councilwoman Gloria Taylor pointed out the Sleepy Hollow Developers PILOT ordinance still has to pass on second reading.

"It's not over yet," she said.

The next City Council meeting is an agenda-fixing session at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Avenue. The regular meeting is 8 p.m. Dec. 14 in Municipal Court.


Sunday, November 22, 2015


My FiOS is out, along with some power. No blog unless we get help tonight. Sorry!

Some Details on South Second Agreement

Deeming it a royal pain in the derriere to download each and every resolution and ordinance on the Nov. 23 agenda, I went to the Plainfield Public Library to look at the printed packet. Alas, there wasn't one. I was told it is electronic and paperless now.

There is a hard copy in the clerk's office that is made available at the meeting, but as far as giving a comprehensive preview over the weekend, fuggedaboutit.

I did try to plow through the Second Street draft agreement. It is over 60 pages long, with lots of legalese.
Among the proposed terms:
The developer will pay the city $250,000 for the five-acre plot and the city is selling it "as-is."
The developer will have to deal with any environmental issues.
The developer can terminate if there is no PILOT agreement within 90 days.
There will be a $50,000 donation to Hannah Atkins Community Center
A 20 percent goal for minority employment is part of the deal.
The identity of those behind the LLC has to be disclosed at some point.

The resolution that will be up for a vote has a lot of background about the 1999 redevelopment plan for 197 city-owned properties. and the "New Redevelopment Area" that includes 662-758 South Second Street. South Second Street Redevelopment LLC proposes a 44,000-square foot commecial building and 130 units of residential housing in two five-story buildings. The resolution, R 446-15, authorizes Mayor Adrian O. Mapp to execute the redevelopment agreement.

Please note that Monday's combined agenda-fixing and regular meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Municipal Court, following a City Council executive session starting at 6 p.m. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dunkin Donuts, Gas Station Proposed on Terrill Road

A company called Plainfield Gas Realty LLC is applying to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for variances to build a Dunkin Donuts restaurant and gas station on the site of a former plant nursery on Terrill Road.

A legal notice published today (Nov. 21) lists a slew of variances needed, several due to the site's proximity to residences. The site bordered by Terrill Road, East Third Street and McCrea Place is in a Neighborhood Commercial zone, but abuts a low-density residential zone.

The vacant one-story building on the lot would be demolished to make way for the 1,785-square-foot restaurant with a drive-through. The automobile service station is not a permitted use where it is proposed and is also not permitted within 100 feet of a residential zone, but 60.9 feet is proposed.

The city currently has Dunkin Donuts restaurants at three locations, Clinton Avenue and West Front Street, 215 West Front Street downtown and also East Front Street and Terrill Road. None are connected to automobile service stations.

To see the complete notice, go to njpublicnotices.com and key Plainfield Gas Realty into the search box.

All property owners within 200 feet of the site should have received notice of the proposal. Documents related to the proposal should be available for inspection in the Planning Division office in City Hall at least 10 days before the Zoning Board meeting, although City Hall will be closed Nov. 26 and 27 for the Thanksgiving holiday. The meeting is 7 p.m. Dec. 3 in City Hall Library.


Nine Four-Way Stops Proposed

Heeding concerns of residents about speeding and other infractions, the administration is proposing four-way stops at nine intersections.

Though a longtime concern, speeding and disregard for stop signs came into sharp focus last month when a girl, 10, died due to a collision at Arlington Avenue and West Ninth Street. She was ejected from a van that was struck by a driver who went through a stop sign. Seven other children were injured.

Resident Maria Pellum said at last month's First Ward Town Hall Meeting she had asked for four-way stops at dangerous intersections, only to be told no one had died there.

"Well, today someone died," she said at the Oct. 26 meeting.

At Monday's combined agenda-fixing and regular meeting, the City Council will consider on first reading an ordinance establishing four-way stops at the following intersections:

 Belvidere Avenue and Ravine Road
Grant Avenue and Sherman Avenue
Watchung Avenue and Kensington Avenue
West Third Street and Monroe Avenue
West Fourth Street and Monroe Avenue
West Eighth Street and Field Avenue
West Eighth Street and Hobert Avenue
West Eighth Street and Spooner Avenue
West Ninth Street and Arlington Avenue 

All the intersections are heavily traveled and may have stop signs, but the four-way stops are expected to force drivers at all sides to slow down.

The cost will be between $500 and $1,000 for material and labor through the Public Works Division.

The combined City Council meeting is 7 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.