Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Church Seeks LED Sign for Fast Notice

A procession arrives at St. Mary's R.C. Church

With 12 Masses a weekend and 5,000 parishioners, Father Manoel Oliveira of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church needs a quick way to communicate when changes take place.

To that end, he and engineer Raj Sookhu met with the Historic Preservation Commission Tuesday to discuss what he had in mind - an LED signboard that could be updated in seconds, say, when a Mass was unexpectedly  relocated from the church to a chapel. Sookhu said the sign might only change once an hour if needed and would not have moving letters. It would be used "just for something we didn't plan for," he said

The church is on the National Register of Historic Places, so at some point the pastor would have to get a Certificate of Appropriateness from the HPC if its sign was modified to add an LED board. But that point right now is somewhat distant. A 2010 sign ordinance currently prohibits LED lights, though a draft ordinance permitting them is under discussion.
Meanwhile, the city recently erected a signboard outside Municipal Court that shows the date, time temperature and displays messages about events.

A commissioner asked whether church officials had considered use of plastic letters placed by hand on a signboard, but Sookhu said public signboards have all switched to LED technology.

The city zoning officer denied the use for St. Mary's, so the church has not yet applied to the Zoning Board for relief. Sookhu said the zoning officer suggested having the discussion with the HPC, as it might be a problem there too.

The revised sign ordinance may come up for approval this fall, Scott Bauman of the Planning Division said Tuesday.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Preservation Rules Unheeded, More Education Needed

2008, film making in the Crescent Area Historic District

For a dozen years now, the Historic Preservation Commission has upheld rules for the city's historic districts, yet on Tuesday three of five cases had to do with "after-the-fact" approvals for changes, meaning the owners did not know or care about historic preservation requirements.

One owner, who did not wish to be quoted by name on the blog, said she bought a property in a short sale and obtained permits for needed repairs. She only learned it was in a historic district when the work was stopped and has since spent five months trying to meet requirements for a "Certificate of Appropriateness" from the HPC. Commissioners Tuesday advised her that the work done so far did not meet Historic Preservation Design Guidelines.

Preservationist Gail Hunton, who advises the HPC, told the applicant, "Your contractor did not serve you well. Don't pay him."

Problems included porch floorboards that were "cupping," causing a tripping hazard, and spindles improperly nailed onto railings. The applicant was advised to go back to the construction official and zoning officer before returning to the HPC, possibly adding another two months to the process.

A case of after-the-fact approval of a fence in the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District was resolved because the owner made the changes required by the HPC. No one showed up nor was proper notice given for the third case, so it was carried to the September meeting.

The Historic Preservation ordinance and the Design Guidelines are posted on the city web site, but as the first applicant said outside the meeting, people who are new to the area may not have any idea that they are purchasing homes in a historic district. The commission is working on having the designation added to real estate listings and is in the process of having the design guidelines printed in Spanish. While hundreds, if not thousands of people have come to Plainfield for historic house tours like the one coming up Sept. 14 in the Netherwood Heights Historic District, it seems that any one of the more than 700 homes in the six residential districts can change hands without the buyer realizing the historic significance.

While the city has some specialists in restoring historic properties, it also appears that contractors need to know the guidelines. For example, to meet the requirement of replacing like with like, the porch floor in the first case should have had tongue and groove construction, not just boards side by side.

To learn more, visit the Historic Preservation Commission link on the city web site.


Monday, August 25, 2014

JG Needs Election Law Review, Dems Currently Unopposed

It is amazing that Jerry Green, a state Assemblyman since 1992, chairman of the Democratic party in Plainfield for many years and more recently chairman of the Regular Democratic Organization of Union County, still does not understand the purpose of the June Primary.

On Jerry Green's Page, he insists that Gloria Taylor was elected to the Third Ward in the June primary.

Here is what the state election law says: "Primary election for the general election" means the procedure whereby the members of a political party in this State or any political subdivision thereof nominate candidates to be voted for at general elections, or elect persons to fill party offices."

The last part refers to city committee members, who are elected in June to serve for two years and on the Monday after the primary meet to organize and choose a chairman.

If winning the primary meant getting elected to a council or mayoral seat, Adrian Mapp would not have had to wait until November to be elected, but could have claimed the mayoralty in June 2013. (Maybe Jerry was referring to the Plainfield's RDO stranglehold which means a primary win to get the party line is tantamount to election in November, but the primary is a nomination, not an election.)

Meanwhile, withdrawal of two Republican contenders for City Council seats mean all three Democrats are running uncontested, at least for today. I received word from the Union County Clerk's office this morning that no new names have been submitted by the Plainfield Republican City Committee.

Democrat Diane Toliver is unopposed in the First Ward and, lacking any action to fill the GOP vacancies, as of this writing Gloria Taylor is unopposed in the Third Ward and Rebecca Williams is unopposed for the Second & Third Ward at-large seat. But bipartisanship is on the way. Republican Chairman George Gore says tonight the vacancies will be filled "before the end of the week.".


Au Revoir to the Butterfly Bush

Mantis in the Butterfly Bush

Siler Spotted Skipper on the Butterfly Bush

Katydid in the Butterfly Bush

Alas, the Butterfly Bush is no more for this year. Some workers cleared the good, the bad and the ugly alike from an overgrown plot and the Butterfly Bush was among the collateral damage.
.I am hoping the praying mantises found another hangout, as they all seemed to gather in the Butterfly Bush at the end of the summer to fatten up on insects drawn by the flowers. It's sad to see the Swallowtails float over and not have any place to sip nectar. My regret is not having been able to keep up the pruning and trimming this year due to poor health. The Butterfly Bush will regenerate in the Spring, so that is some consolation.



As one might have said in Victorian times, I was "indisposed" over the weekend and did not do much of anything, let alone blogging.

After a busy week where I even had insomnia a couple nights from the overstimulating news and politics, I had to abstain from coffee for a medical test. Well! Let me tell you, without caffeine, I folded like a cheap tent and spent almost all of Saturday sleeping. A myriad of aches and pains that may have been masked by the insidious drug came to the fore, topped off by the classic caffeine-withdrawal headache.

I would pick up a book to read and put it down, open Blogger to file something and then just close it, and so on. Without caffeine I found it hard to focus, obviously. I couldn't wait until this morning, when I would be able to take up my bad habit again.

Looking back, I realized I had accumulated a burden of stress from visiting a dentist Monday and covering a council meeting at night, then seeing a new doctor Tuesday (my roster of medical experts is growing). Incidentally to the reason for my visit, this doctor reminded me that I am old and could injure myself carrying groceries or opening the garage door myself. Like many an oldster, I may be a septuagenarian on the outside but my inside age hovers around my mid-thirties or younger, and this notion of limitations offends me.

I had in fact lugged about five bags of groceries up two flights on Wednesday and also had pushed up the heavy wooden garage door. My garage has no car inside, just a lot of garden tools, and gardening just happens to be my favorite escape from the travails of the world.

On Thursday, I hustled on foot over to Plainfield High School for the forum and stayed up too late afterwards listening to Radio Unnameable on WBAI with Bob Fass. It's on from midnight to 3 a.m. There is nobody quite like Bob Fass to mellow a person out. Well, maybe Hapte Selassie, who is on at 2 a.m. Saturday. (You see where the insomnia gets started.)

On Saturday, without caffeine, I was totally willing to concede that I am old and incapable of heavy lifting and probably a lot of other things that I still cling to, like sitting on a hard bench for four hours to cover the City Council.

But now I can once again take up the two-tablespoon coffee scoop and the Melitta one-cup apparatus and indulge in my petty vice. Hey, things are looking up!


Sunday, August 24, 2014

FOPPL Offers Trip to Grounds for Sculpture

The Friends of the Plainfield Public Library
 are sponsoring a
 Community Bus Trip
Hamilton, NJ
Saturday, Sept. 13
$20 per person
Limit 15
Departure 10:30 a.m.
9th Street Parking Lot
Tickets may be purchased
at the Circulation Desk
Make checks out to "FOPPL"
Lunch is on your own
at any of three restaurants
on the grounds

Green's Disregard of Committee is Old News

This year was not the only one where Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green chose candidates without a vote by the City Committee. I came across this news clipping from 1990 where the same thing happened.

Green states he has the right to choose candidates and endorses Elizabeth Urquhart for First Ward, Robert Brown for the Citywide at-large seat and Rupert Crawford for the Second & Third Wards at-large seat.

The article notes that Brown was unaware of Green's selection and Crawford said he was not interested in the seat assigned to him.

And so it goes.