Friday, March 28, 2014

Study Team Takes Muhlenberg Comments

Whatever else may become of the 17-acre Muhlenberg site, city residents were clear on what it must not become - a 600-unit luxury apartment building proposed by the property owner, JFK Health System.

Activist Dottie Gutenkauf led the crowd in the Plainfield High School cafeteria in voicing a loud "No!" to 600 apartments, but speakers varied on what should occupy the site of the former Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, which closed in 2008.

"The only thing we really need in Plainfield is an inpatient hospital," Dr. Harold Yood said.

Saying non-profit hospitals are a thing of the past, he called for a commercial facility with specialty practices and short-term inpatient care.

Other suggestions included an acute-care emergency room, a birthing facility and a medical mall.

Councilwoman Rebecca Williams raised the issue of competition among medical facilities and pointed to legislation backed by Assemblyman Jerry Green that would offer tax breaks to a developer who would "repurpose a former health care facility" but would not "destabilize the supply and delivery of acute health care services in its market." JFK Health System operates JFK Medical Center in nearby Edison.

Williams recalled that Green said recently he has a developer for the site.

The comments pointed up the swirl of possibilities floated for the site since the hospital closed. JFK Health System presented the governing body with a proposed ordinance to rezone the site and all other documents needed to proceed with its plan, which was based on its study showing a demand for rental housing. Two prominent clergymen claimed broad community support for the JFK proposal. The legislation and Green's talk of a developer does not indicate a specific plan, but Green did suggest new uses on his blog in 2012.

Meanwhile, the city-sponsored six-month study now underway is supposed to yield the best use for the site as envisioned by residents and the planning firm's findings. The firm, Heyer, Gruel & Associates of Red Bank, will hold two more community sessions in April.

The shuttered hospital used to serve many communities besides Plainfield, and speakers urged the firm to publicize the upcoming session to include all of them. Gutenkauf, who has been campaigning since August 2008 for the hospital to be restored, called for  "standing-room only" crowds at the April sessions.

Regarding the 600 apartments, residents said the high number of foreclosures and the inability of a downtown condo development to sell units proved the fallacy of adding more housing.

Several who called for a full-service hospital noted the travel time and expense to reach hospitals in Edison or Somerville. One longtime resident said she had to move her ill mother to Baltimore for quick access to the care she needed. Now back in Plainfield, she said she feels insecure for herself without a hospital in the city.
The discussion was taped for local cable viewing. The next sessions are Thursday, April 24 at Washington Clinton School and Tuesday, April 29 at Emerson School, both at 7 p.m.



  1. Hello Bernice, I understand Dottie is a friend but I hope you can print this. First let me just say, whatever I do or say in respect to JFK’s proposal for a 600 unit apartment complex in my neighborhood is only because I am so passionate about maintain the of quality of life that I now enjoy and the reason I purchased my home in this neighborhood. Truly, I don’t need praise or glory, that’s not my purpose. I just want to stop JFK and whoever sides with them in their efforts to destroy my neighborhood. I want to make clear one thing and not to take anything away from Dottie and her efforts to keep Muhlenberg open, she certainly should be applauded for that; however, let us not forget she was on the committee with our last Mayor when JFK initially presented their plan to build a 600 unit apartment complex on the Muhlenberg site and she made no effort to send out emails informing the community or show any opposition to JFK’s plan. That was, until I and a few of my neighbors stated informing the community by knocking on doors, handing out flyers and organizing a community meeting. The fact is, when JFK starting having community meetings presenting their proposal Dottie appeared to be in favor and sided with Adam Beader and other JKF representatives . Let’s not confuse the two, yes she was very instrumental in her efforts to keep the hospital open, but initially, not so much when it came to speaking out in opposition to JFK’s plan to have the property developed into 600 unit apartment complex. Also, her long and faithful relationship with Jerry Green is always questionable.


    1. This is total fabrication. Dottie has always made it known she is opposed to JFK's plan, and her Save Muhlenberg mailing list speaks for itself about her dedication to keeping the hospital going. Jerry should step up to the plate himself. His absence, and the absence of the 'No' wing of today's City Council at last night's meeting, shows an indifference that should be noted by voters in June. But calm down Robin, you don't have to make stuff up too.