Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday's Council Topics: Roads, Taxis, Cleanups, Crime

The city's capital improvement plan for 2017 will consist solely of $5 million for road repair, Planning Director Bill Nierstedt said when called upon Monday to explain a resolution that will be up for a City Council vote on Dec. 12.

Capital improvement plans can include equipment for long-term use and major improvements to municipal properties as well as infrastructure, as described in this 2006 post.

The city 's 2005 five-year plan for road repair faltered several years ago. In 2008, the governing body declined the administration's request to pay an engineering firm $1 million to assess and re-prioritize road repair needs. The current administration has been attempting to revive a program of road repairs.

 In other matters at Monday's agenda-fixing session, Norman Muhammad of the Plainfield Anti-Violence Coalition thanked Police Director Carl Riley for his efforts to reduce violent crime, but challenged Councilman Barry Goode to be more active in combating violence. Goode, who represents the First and Fourth Wards at-large, said he forgave Muhammad for "your lapse of memory" regarding his involvement and added Muhammad can call him at any time.

"I am approachable," Goode said.

A large group attended the meeting to support out-of-town taxi drivers who are facing the possibility of having their vehicles towed after final passage of an ordinance next week. Speaking in English and Spanish, supporters said the owners and drivers, mostly based in North Plainfield, are just trying to make a living. Several alleged it takes an hour or more for city-licensed taxis to answer calls, so they have to call the out-of-town taxis to get to medical appointments and such on time.

Resident Timothy Priano, whose Queen City Pride group has held numerous cleanups, said city Code Enforcement needs to be stepped up to address derelict buildings he has seen along the cleanup routes. Priano alleged courts were not helping and no one was obeying rules or codes.

Council President Cory Storch said Code Enforcement has been an ongoing concern and asked City Administrator Rick Smiley to comment. Smiley said the city will soon have a new director for abandoned property.

"I'm not going to blame it on the courts," Smiley said.

"I just don't find that response acceptable," Storch said.

Muhammad also asked whether a South Avenue developer was hiring minority contractors, as promised when the project was approved. Economic Development Director Carlos Sanchez said the project is in the demolition phase and a local contractor is doing the work.

In the absence of Chairwoman of the Whole Gloria Taylor, Councilwoman Tracey Brown filled in and rapidly received council approval to move all 35 resolutions and four ordinances to the agenda for the regular meeting at 8 p.m. Dec. 12 in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Dan Damon's Blogs Temporarily Off Line

Dan Damon, author of Plainfield Today and aggregators of news on CLIPS, will be having surgery soon and so will not be blogging for a while. He called to ask me to let readers know.

Let us wish him the best and a speedy return to blogging.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing all a happy holiday!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Walking Around on My Break

Click any image to enlarge
What a surprise to see this paisley-painted signal box on Park Avenue as I walked downtown!

I had written about Union County's "Art Outside the Box" initiative and other public art in 2015 and thought this was  a continuation, but an online search turned up nothing new, Finally, I contacted a county spokesman who said there was no new art this year. The artwork is signed, so maybe the artist will come forward to collect compliments. I saw another signal box design by the same artist while I was taking a taxi home from the Stop & Shop, but I can't recall the exact location.

It was a bit of cheer in an otherwise gloomy week for me, so thanks, Pedro Baez!

After doing my errand downtown without any mishaps, I decided to walk further. A vacant lot on West Front Street reminded me of its unfinished story. First cleared for construction of 12 condos, it became a "pocket park" in 2008, cleaned up and beautified by Lucent volunteers (top photo). Later, it was supposed to become part of another project with office space and an adult day care center, but it's still a bit of green space sans benches (bottom photo).

October 2008

November 2016

The much-painted-over west wall featured a scary monster and a flamboyant tag. I recently bought a fountain pen and was trying not very enthusiastically to brush up on my cursive writing skills, but the tag made me realize that creative is better than cursive.

On West Second Street, I thought about the 148-unit development project proposed for the PNC parking lot area. It was approved in 2010, with preservation of the Titsworth-Sutphen building discussed as a goal. The building is (correction: one of very few) the only pre-Civil War structure in Plainfield.

The sign on the building was hanging down and rear windows were boarded up. I had heard about vagrants getting in recently. One hopes action on the building's relocation will happen sooner rather than later.
December 2013
November 2016

On East Second Street, I saw new black fencing installed at Municipal Parking Lot 6, with complementary fencing at the  corner of East Second and Gavett Place, where an entertainment center is planned.

Municipal Parking Lot 6

New venue on Gavett Place

Glancing up at a window, I recalled some of the many improvised window treatments I have seen around the city. This one looked like a sheet. I have also seen black contractors' bags, cardboard, contour sheets, newspapers, blankets and towels (scroll down here to see an example).

Across Gavett Place, the other part of the envisioned entertainment center is getting the final details. It has 20 apartments and commercial space along with grounds for gatherings across from the main train station.
Art Lofts I

I ran into two very interesting people on North Avenue, both with vital interest in Plainfield, and we dished for a while on city topics. It reminded me of what I used to call "journalism by walking around," because the conversations were revelatory and only needed a little more work to produce stories.

The colors on this building were brighter than I remembered. Turns out it was just re-painted. The aqua details really stood out. I was telling one person about a theater that had been on the block, in the spot that is now just a vacant lot. If you weren't here in 2010, check out these demolition images.

Back home to the six-family building that was once the home of Joseph Yates, a member of Plainfield's first council. The Oak tree out front might even date back to those days.
The current City Council will not meet again until Dec. 5, when an agenda-fixing session is scheduled. The regular meeting is Dec. 12 and on Dec. 19 there will be an agenda-fixing session for the council reorganization in January. By the way, official results of the Nov. 8 election show 11,224 votes for Rebecca Williams, currently representing Wards 2&3 at-large but starting a four-year term as the Citywide at-large representative in January. Charles McRae won the Third Ward seat with 2,544 votes to 995 for former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. The council will choose an appointee to serve in Wards 2&3 at-large until the next general election.

Hope you enjoyed coming along on my walk!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Taking A Break

Some of you may know I was a reporter for 16 years before retiring in 2003. Recently I was taking a look at my old assignment books and couldn't help noticing all the vacation and personal days I had to use or lose every year. By contrast, as a blogger since June 2005 I have posted daily for more than 11 years with hardly a break. Early on, Barbara Todd Kerr also posted, but most of the 2,343 Plainfield Plaintalker posts were mine, as were all of the 3,550 Plaintalker II posts.

Seeing all those vacation days made me think I should assign myself a few, so here goes! The blog will be on hiatus for a while. Feel free to browse the archives at or if you wish. Here's an example from 2008: Plainfield and How It Got That Way. 


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tuesday Wins Give Mapp A Council Majority

Councilman-elect Charles McRae, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp

City Council victories Tuesday mean Mayor Adrian O. Mapp will finally have a supportive majority on the governing body.

With the election of Charles McRae to the Third Ward seat and Rebecca Williams to the Citywide at-large seat, plus an appointee to fill Williams' unexpired Second & Third Ward term, Mapp will be able to count to a friendly five on the seven-member council in January.

Williams was unopposed Tuesday for the Citywide at-large seat and received 10,494 votes, according to unofficial results posted by Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi. In the Third Ward, McRae won with 2,364 votes, overcoming a challenge from former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who ran as an Independent and got 952 votes. Official results are expected Monday.
Supporters applaud Mapp's remarks

"I'm very pleased that after having to struggle over the last three years with a majority of City Council members that was not supporting my vision, it's very heartening to have a total of five council members that will be supportive of my vision," Mapp said as his team celebrated Tuesday night.
Councilman Barry Goode, Citywide at-large Councilwoman-elect Rebecca Williams.

Williams called McRae's  win "clearly a mandate for fresh, responsive leadership in the Third Ward" and said, "I'm gratified that the voters had enough confidence in me to vote for me as their citywide representative."

She said a lot of voters know her from her 15 years of walking across the city for various campaigns. She helped several people run and win off the line and finally did so herself twice before getting the line this year from the Democratic City Committee chaired by Mapp.

Mapp displaced Assemblyman Jerry Green as city committee chairman in June 2015, though Green retained the Union County Democratic Committee chairmanship. All the elected officials are Democrats, but they are split between Green and Mapp. Green opened campaign headquarters on Park Avenue, even though Mapp had Democratic headquarters on Watchung Avenue. Both urged support of Column A, but Green omitted the council candidates from signage and from a handout to voters at the polls. The handout had Green's photo and an image of the ballot that left off the council line.

Mapp recalled Tuesday that when he took office, he had only two supporters on the council.

"Just imagine what I am able to do with five," Mapp said, but quickly named the challenges ahead.

"I am in the third year of a four-year term," he said. "I have to run for re-election in seven months."

Mapp said his name will be on the June primary ballot, along with candidates for the Fourth Ward and Second & Third Ward at-large seat.

"I want to ask each and every one to be supportive of my re-election, to make sure we get the right results," he said, announcing a "birthday bash" event on Dec. 2 to launch the re-election campaign.
Not only will Mapp have to run for re-election in 2017, the 68 City Committee seats will be up in June and winners will choose the chair for the following two years. The appointee replacing Williams in the Second & Third Ward at-large seat will have to run in the June primary, as will Fourth Ward candidates. If unsuccessful, the appointee would have to yield in November to the winner of the general election.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Vote Today

By this time tomorrow, we will know who won the election. The pundits will give way to the analysts and between now and January the election chatter will just take another form.

Make sure you take part in this historic election. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. This year, there are unprecedented tools to find your polling place and help you vote. Facebook has one  and news outlets are aiding turnout as well.

In Plainfield, 2017 is already looming large. There will be a mayoral race and one for the Fourth Ward. It will be the Democratic City Committee's turn to fill 68 seats and choose a chairman to serve for two years. Statewide, voters will choose a governor (though the Democratic candidacy seems to be already resolved). By the time of the primary we shall also have an indication of how the new president is doing on the world stage.

But one thing at a time - just get to the polls and vote today. It's crucial!