Saturday, February 28, 2015

Housing Headache for "Head of Housing"?

Who hasn't heard from Assemblyman Jerry Green that he is "head of housing"?

Last year, he told residents of Liberty Village that he is "head of housing in the whole state of New Jersey." His point was that any decisions regarding housing need his sign-off.
So how embarrassing is it when his running mate in recent years hits the headlines with what the press dubs a "scandal" over housing funds meant to rebuild homes after Hurricane Sandy. She has since stepped out of the 2015 Assembly race, leaving Green to seek a new running mate with the March 30 filing date looming.

The situation led to speculation by PolitickerNJ that Legislative District 22 may now be in turmoil.

March is indeed coming in like a lion as far as the political climate is concerned. Will Green's leadership shepherd it to an "out like a lamb" finish by March 30?

Meanwhile, the housing ploy is now the subject of an investigation by the state Attorney General's office, according to a press report.

The residency issues in this case bring to mind similar questions that came up in 2006 regarding a former mayor's status. A judge ruled that the questions came up too late and anyway the mayor, a Green protege, met the four-year residency requirement by living in Plainfield at various times over eight years.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Muslim Program Draws Large Crowd

Wednesday's program on Islam in American History attracted a full house, mostly Muslims, and was very well organized. I decided to be there not as a blogger but as someone enjoying a cultural event. Much of the information had to do with the origins of the Nation of Islam and the transition of many to the Islamic faith observed worldwide.

Maxine Salaam, a primary organizer of the event, said she hopes to bring other such events to the community in coming months with the goal of increasing awareness and understanding of the Muslim community in Plainfield.

I learned a lot about the Muslim community as a reporter covering Plainfield from 1987 through 2003. I knew many of the individuals whose names were called Wednesday for their accomplishments. Plainfield's diversity is one of its main attractions for many residents and programs such as the one Wednesday help us get to know our various communities.

Please take a look at the two lists below - maybe you know some of these names as well.


First Plainfield Muslims (Posthumous)

As part of a program Wednesday presented by Masjidullah, Muslims in Plainfield were honored for being first in their fields or making significant contributions to the community.


Mr. Frank Ware & Mr. William Anderson were both of the first African American Muslims to help establish as a business the “Steak - N –Take and a Grocery Store on Plainfield Ave and W. 4th St. in the early 1970’s.  It has been stated that there was an Ice Cream Parlor within that business which was also a first among AA Muslims to be established.
Mr. James Robinson aka James Ali is revered as the” vessel” through which Islam came to the city of Plainfield” as early as 1957.  Documentation in a booklet authored by Mr. Jaami Sharif indicated James Ali as working in partnership with an Auto Service Station called, The Hyway Esso and later on named, Exxon located on the corner of South Ave. and Scott St.   James Ali later relocated from that business and in 1982 set up his own auto repair operation.

Mr. James Anderson aka Saleem Shakir is referred as the 2nd of the first earlier AA Muslims to help spread Islam in the Plainfield community in the late 1950’s.  He is also known to be responsible for bringing many newcomers into the teachings of the Nation of Islam within the Plfd.  area.
It is noteworthy to mention at this time that the late Malcolm X aka Minister Malcolm/ Al Hajji Malik Shabazz  from the Nation Of Islam named;  James Robinson, James Anderson and James D.Laws as the 3 James Brothers; King James, Jesse James and Frank James.

Mr. John Roney and Mr. Robert Bailey are also known as early trailblazers starting up as Barbershop owners in Plainfield as first AA Muslims.  Mr. Roney’s located on Grant Ave between S. 2nd and 3rd St. and  Mr. Bailey’s shop located on ????

Mr. Brad Reed aka Rasheed Abdul-Haqq is stated in a blog; Plainfield Today of 2/2015; He is remembered for operating a limo service which made runs within the NY and NJ airports.  Fortune 500 companies utilized his services for many of their visiting executives.

In the blog, Doc’s Potpourri posted, Rasheed as a true citizen and civic servant interested in its youth and general betterment of the city.  He forced the city to repaint and refurbish the railroad bridges in Plfd and served diligently on the Board of Ed.

The Plaintalker II , another blog stated the words of Rasheed Abdul Haqq as being posted on the Cafeteria Walls of P.H.S. which sums up our program presentation this evening.
   His words read “Every Journey Starts With The First Step.  Fulfillment Of  A Wonderful Destiny     Must Have A Beginning – So…….Start Now!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

"First" Muslims in Plainfield

As part of a program Wednesday presented by Masjidullah, Plainfield Muslims who were first in their fields or made contributions to the community were honored. Please also see a posthumous list in a second post

Plainfield Community Muslims Setting a Historical Precedent

Ms. Deborah Celestine

First African American Muslim Woman to serve as Vice Principal of Plainfield High School (2007-2012)

Mr. Ernest Wiggins, aka Ernest Shakir
 First African American Muslim having established an auto body repair shop known as Wiggins Auto Body and also 1 of the 3 first AA Muslims to set up Temple #80 on 4th and Grant Ave., now known as Masjidullah

Dr. Asayah Aquil aka Elaine Thomas
First AA Muslim from Plainfield and of the Graduation Class  of P.H.S. 1972 to establish a Chiropractor Office in Newark.

Mrs. Faheemah El-Amin
First AA Muslim to be elected Councilwoman in Plfd. (1990) and also established Faheemah’s Childcare Center in 1984

Mr. Guy Wallace
One of the 3 first AA Muslims to manage and establish a Steak N Take Out on the corner of 4th and Plfd. Ave. (1973-1977)

Mr. Hassan Abdur-Rashid aka Salaam
First AA Muslim in 1987-2006 to establish and own a Fresh Fish  and Fish Take Out called, The Salaam Fish Market once located on Grant Ave. and S. 2nd St.

Mr. Herman Austin
First AA Muslim to serve in the Plfd. Fire Dept in 1980.

Ms. Jamillah Curtis aka Ernestine Evans
First AA Muslim Woman to acquire a license and certification as
a Black Seal Fireman (1983-2001) as well as establishing Quamarah’s Natural  Hair Care business located on Pearl St. and Watchung (2001)

Mr. Jaami Sharif aka James D. Laws
One of the 3 first AA Muslims to establish the Temple#80 (NOI) in 1970 now known as Masjidullah located on 4th and Grant Ave.

Mr. John Muhammad aka John Austin
One of the first of 2 AA Muslims in 1980 to serve in the Plfd. Police Dept. for 28 yrs and also from the 1974 Graduating Class of PHS

Mr. Linward Cathcart

One of the early first of AA Muslims serving to help establish Temple #80 in The Nation of Islam in Plfd.

Ms. Mahasin El-Amin
First AA Muslim Woman to join and serve as a Police Officer in this Plainfield community (2005)

Dr. Maryam Suluki
First AA Muslim Woman to establish a Dental Office/Practice in the city of Plfd located on 8th and Crescent Ave. and also on 9th just around the corner from this Public. Library

Mr. Mustapha 
First AA Muslim to be nominated as a candidate for the Plainfield Office of Mayor in 2013

Mr. Rashad Porterfield aka Rashad Shabazz
First AA Muslim to establish a transportation service in Plfd. in 
1980 with the business name Amaker&Porterfield Transporta-
tation Service. In 1994 established a Medical Transport Ser-
vice and the owner of the A & P Driving School in 1998

Mr. Siddeeq El-Amin
One of the first 2 AA Muslims to serve on the Plfd. Police Force in 1980 and then in later years promoted to Captain of the

Mr. Yusuf Bilal aka Joe Tucker
First AA Muslim of Plfd. to be inducted as a Martial Arts Black Belt of Tae Qwan Do Hall of Fame in Korea. He is also one of the early members to help establish Temple#80 in 1970 now Masjidullah

Mr. Yusuf El-Amin

First AA Muslim and a former resident of Plfd. 1979-1988 to be a member of the N.J. Highway Patrol in 1977 and then on to serve as a State Trooper in 1981 and promoted as a Captain of the N.J. State Police in 1997.

Taking Off

Taking a Mental Health Day today!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Panel Discusison Tonight on Islam

"Islam in African American History" is the title of a panel discussion presented by Masjiullah tonight.

The discussion begins at 7 p.m. in the Anne Louise Davis room of the Plainfield Public Library, 800 Park Ave. Admission is free and attendees are urged to bring a friend. 

For more information contact Maxine Salaam at (908) 337-0889 or Sherrie Umrani Muhammad at (609) 784-5689.

Speakers Urge Action on Prison Issues

Rev. Charles Boyer's quest for justice may have begun with the frequent traffic stops he suffered as a young man crossing the border from Plainfield into one of its suburban neighbor towns. Other than some overnight stays in holding cells, he escaped the fate of many other young black men - prison, where he told an audience Tuesday there are more blacks now than were enslaved in 1850.

"It's the civil rights issue of our day," he said.

Boyer, pastor of St. James AME Church in Somerset, was among speakers at a "Decarcerate the Garden State" event aimed to encourage both awareness and action on the plight of prisoners. He cited racial disparities in drug arrests and harsh sentences to keep prisons full, so companies that furnish food, clothing and transportation could profit in what he called "a multi-billion industry."  African-Americans are only 13 percent of the general population, but 50 percent of the prison population, he said.

Sabrina Lytlleton, a co-founder of Keeping Youth and Streets Safe in Plainfield, said she wants to keep her son, 4, from entering the "school-to-prison pipeline."

Schools nowadays resemble detention centers, with armed police officers, metal detectors and uniform-like dress codes, she said. To young people she said, "Why should you get involved? It's your responsibility to yourself."

Steven Hatcher of People's Organization for Progress took issue with church members whose only response to the issue was prayer, and in comments from the audience, two speakers agreed. Boyer also agreed, calling on the church to be both "prophetic and priestly." When Moses said, "Let my people go," he was being prophetic, Boyer said.

"Moses did the prophetic first and then he gave the law."

Father Gideon Uzomechina of Grace Episcopal Church said in his prison ministry he finds young people are lacking love.

"That's why we have the gang issue," he said.

Mark Williams, president of the board at First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, warned that decarceration "brings on problems itself," and said the church will hold an expungement workshop on March 21. Former inmates have a better chance at employment with recent legislation banning questions on criminal background early in interviews, but expungement clears a person's record.

Bob Witanek, leader of DecarcerateNJ, called on those present to sign a petition, join the group, contact state and local legislators, and take part in upcoming events and demonstrations. The group's outreach includes print and online newspapers and various forms of social media.

The evening included many other announcements of rallies, marches and discussions. David Rutherford recorded the event for his Plainfield View blog, so check it for postings later.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

HPC to Choose New Consultant for 2015

The Historic Preservation Commission will interview four applicants in closed session tonight  for the position formerly held by Gail Hunton since 1983.

The meeting is 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

The four applicants are BRS Brownfield Redevelopment Solutions Inc., Dennis Bertland Associates, Barton Ross & Partners LLC and McCabe  & McCabe LLC.

Hunton served as the city preservationist from the inception of the historic preservation movement in Plainfield. She resigned in December.

The reorganization meeting will include swearing-in of new members and election of a chairman and vice chair before commissioners adjourn to closed session, which is expected to take about 45 minutes. Appointment of the consultant for 2015 will take place when the commission reconvenes. The commission will also choose a secretary, set a meeting calendar, designate official newspapers and adopt by-laws as part of the reorganization before moving on to business.

To learn more about the commission and its work, click here.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, Dr. Yood!

Happy Birthday

to our

favorite blogger!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Does Plainfield Need More Taxis?

Sunday's afternoon sunshine inspired me to try for an outing before the next onslaught of frigid weather. The wind and cold had damaged my skin, so I figured I could take a taxi to Walgreen's for some remedies and be back within an hour.

Wrong. I called a taxi company at 2 p.m. and the dispatcher gave me the standard, "Right away," so I stood outside and waited. And waited. I called back and got another "right away," but in taxi time it was 40 minutes before a cab showed up, with a man in the passenger seat and a mom and two children in the back.

After dropping everyone else off, the driver took me to Walgreen's, a four-minute ride according to Google maps but now much longer than that.

I enjoyed browsing the products for dried-out winter skin and after some eye-rolling at the prices, made my selection. Oh yes, my other mission was to pick up batteries for my "Breezy Singer" mechanical bird, a Yellow Warbler whose jaunty song makes me forget my troubles.

Outside the store, I began dialing for a taxi. After six calls to one company and 11 to another yielded only busy signals or no answer, I had to face the fact that I was just not going to get a taxi ride home. So off I set on foot, sloshing through melted snow and defying some still-icy mounds at corners until I got to Block 832. I did not quite match Google's estimate of 27 minutes for the 1.3 mile trek, but considering the conditions, it was close enough.

Adding this event to my December 22 incident (45 minutes for a taxi, just too late for the medical appointment I had scheduled four months prior) and fellow blogger Jackie's recent Facebook anecdotes about taxi problems, I came to the realization on my trudge home that maybe there just aren't enough taxis here.

The number of taxis is governed by an ordinance that says there can be one for every 1,000 residents as counted in the most recent Census. From the Plainfield Municipal Code:

Sec. 9:15-14.  Limit on number of licenses issued.

    (a)     The number of taxicab licenses issued and outstanding at any one (1) time shall be no greater than the proportion of one such license to each one thousand (1000) of population of the City, as shown by the last official United States census, but in no event more than sixty (60).
(MC 1988-6A, §1, April 25, 1988.)

The formula may work for places where most residents own cars, but the difference here is the large Latino population that does not have cars. Many get to work in vans and buy groceries at stores that offer transportation, but by and large they need taxis to get around. The driver today asked me whether I lived in Plainfield, as he said he seldom gets a "white" passenger.

"They are mostly Latinos," he said.

I have lived here since 1983, but had a car until 2008, when I decided to do without one. I walk or take public transportation mainly and, like many others, also counted on the late Rasheed Abdul-Haqq to take me to the airport or far out of town for medical appointments.

After the fiasco in December, I wanted to find out how many taxi companies and taxis are operating here, but the bad weather has held me back. I heard that two had shut down, though one is back on the streets. 

But if the population in 2010 was 49,808 and it was 40 percent Latino, that is close to 20,000 people. There were 16,621 households, with presumably more than 6,000 being Latino. Even assuming a large percentage of car owners, can others with travel needs really make do with 49 or fewer taxis? Holidays, bad weather and other factors intensify the demand. I am retired and have only a few places I must go, but Jackie has described increasing problems getting a taxi to the train station this winter to go to work.

This issue needs more fact-gathering and discussion, but it does warrant examination. The local ordinance dates back to 1988. In 1980, the population was 45,555, with 27,420 black, 18,135 white and 3,291 Spanish-speaking residents. Times have changed. I thought I had been told the taxi formula was mandated by state law, but just now I found it is up to the municipality, according to legislation Gov. Christie signed in 2011.

In 2014, Hoboken, with a 2010 population of 50,005, set the number of taxis at 70.

People who agree that the city needs more taxis should speak up. The next City Council meetings are 7:30 p.m. March 2 and 8 p.m. March 9, both in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.


Police Exercise Caution Over Fallen Debris

If you noticed yellow tape around the northeast corner of Park & Seventh Thursday, it was due to precautions taken by police officers on walking patrol who noticed debris that may have fallen from the Masonic building.

Public Safety Director Carl Riley answered Plaintalker's inquiry Friday, saying the officers continued to monitor the location between 6 and 10 p.m. and did not discover any additional debris. He said the building manager was notified to follow up.

Besides the Masonic Lodge, the building also contains offices on upper floors and several stores at ground level. The four-story building with its distinctive shell motif at the roof line might be considered the anchor of the Park & Seventh business district.

Having seen a drastic outcome from falling debris at another location in Plainfield, Plaintalker commends the police officers who investigated this incident.

Readers may recall the March 2010 demolition of a North Avenue building after partial collapse of a parapet. Given the high winds Thursday, it may have just been some loose debris from the Masonic building roof that blew down.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Panel Discussion on Decarceration

Here is a press release on Tuesday's event:

"Decarcerating Plainfield and NJ Youth" will be the theme of a panel discussion at the Plainfield Free Public Library on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 6 p.m. in the Louise Davis meeting room.

Several local and statewide organizations are joining forces and inviting the public to participate.

Plainfield Keep Youth and Streets Safe (KYSS) which was formed to call for an end to street violence in Plainfield, the statewide Decarcerate the Garden State, Plainfield Peoples Organization for Progress and the Plainfield View blog site edited by David Rutherford who is also a newly elected school board member are joining ranks to bring this discussion to town.

According to a Facebook event announcement, they have joined forces to co-sponsor a panel discussion on the impact of mass incarceration on the city of Plainfield and on the youth of New Jersey.  They plan to also discuss "the need for a unified movement to bring about the end of the destructive system of mass incarceration and the need for youth to be at the forefront of that effort."

This event is absolutely free and open to the public.

Sabrina Lyttleton, a co founder of the Plainfield KYSS organization along with Steven Hatcher, a representative of the Peoples Organization for progress, and Bob Witanek of Decarcerate the Garden State, as well as other possible speakers, will be addressing the audience and explaining their involvement and educating those in attendance of "the heart breaking and astonishing injustices that are the reality today." Ms. Lyttleton states that explaining why and how Plainfield citizens, especially the youth should and can get involved is a priority of the evening.

The organizers also hope to use the event to launch a survey of the youth of Plainfield and beyond about the attitudes, fears, and understanding of the mass incarceration issue.

KYSS founders sound off:

“This fight is personal” says Sabrina “I’m raising a son in a society that is designed for him to fail. What kind of mother would I be if I didn't fight for his rights? It’s every mother’s responsibility to protect their child the best they can. My involvement in this struggle is me protecting my child.

Nia Ali who previously spoke at the Tour de Decarcerate says “Learning all that I’m learning now….I feel like so much has been kept from me. ….it’s my responsibility to share with the generations after me so they aren’t kept in the dark”

Amanda Garcia passionately explains “The Decarceration of NJ is of great importance and has essential relevancy to Humanity. As humans who still exist in society, we should be aware of the negative attributes that have been created before us to deter us from prospering yet to be prosecuted and expressing the magnitude of inequality amongst the uneducated minorities.”

KYSS has a facebook group at:

Decarcerate the Garden State has an active blog site at and a website at and a group on Facebook

Plainfield view blogs regularly on Plainfield issues at:

For more information,s please call David Rutherford, (201) 637-3575 or e-mail
Sabrina Lyttleton at
More information on the event is at the Facebook event page

Friday, February 20, 2015


The development application I wanted to hear - the one proposing 153 residential units with 155 parking spaces at East Third & Richmond - was postponed until March 5, so I didn't have to go out in the bitter cold. However, it also meant I didn't have anything to report from the Planning Board meeting. So here are some miscellaneous items for your amusement and edification.

Snow Blowers
So during one of the recent storms, two guys show up with leaf blowers to attack the snow. I guess there's a skill involved in any activity, because one guy had the knack and the other one didn't.
I kept waiting for Hapless Dude to check out Mr. Clean Sweep's method, but it never happened.

Vulture Culture 
For a couple of years now, Black Vultures have been visiting Block 832. Unlike the Turkey Vulture which eats carrion, these birds will rifle through a Dumpster for food.
Maybe sensing they were on camera, they got in formation, the better to show off their spiffy white legs that remind me of tube socks. They teeter when they walk, with comical effect.

Sometimes those clipboards just don't work out. Did somebody really schedule two PMUA trucks to show up at the same time?

Flash from the Past

Tossing old papers and came across some anti-JG fliers from 1997. Since then he's won eight more terms - must be doing something right.

Mirons Warehouse
I'm curious to know what those four bays will become. Developer Frank Cretella plans to have a restaurant on this side of Gavett Place as well as an entertainment center facing it on the other side. The former furniture warehouse has a new roof and exterior repairs, with 12 apartments planned upstairs.

Mau and Grumpy Cat
I bought Mau a Grumpy Cat to play with, as most cat toys are too small for him to grab and bunny-kick. But Grumpy Cat's irascibility seems to have has worn off on Mau and mostly they just ignore each other.

Jersey Mayhem
Well, if this counts as mayhem, I guess things are looking up in the Soprano State - unless it was the fashion police.

That's all, folks!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lunar New Year 2015

Wishing happiness
to all
who celebrate
Lunar New Year 

Developer Welcomes New Restaurant Downtown

Look up "Itzayana" and you may find references to a Mayan rainbow deity. The meaning Orlando Espana prefers is "gift from God," an apt one for his new family-run restaurant on Park Avenue.

"It was like a dream come true," Espana said.

With his sister Mildred as manager and his wife Blanca helping out, Espana said the restaurant will be open seven days a week, offering a wide range of Latin American specialties. All the food, including baked goods, is made on the premises, he said.
Mario Camino, Orlando Espana
Itzayana Restaurant occupies a ground floor portion of a former bank building that is the downtown pride of developer Mario Camino. Getting to the restaurant's grand opening Wednesday took only six months, Camino said. His company, Arkad Group, is based in the building and on Wednesday Camino brought his team down to the restaurant for lunch after a grand opening attended by Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and other well-wishers.
Arkad Group team
Espana said the restaurant will be open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and longer on the weekends.
Items on the menu include traditional yellow and white rice, empanadas, chicharrones, chiles rellenos, chorizos, tacos and various combinations of beef, chicken and vegetables. The restaurant is located at 117 Park Avenue and the phone number is (908) 462-1778.

Espana said the restaurant grew out of his desire to "start something of my own." 

Camino said the building is about 85 percent occupied, with a pediatrician due to open offices on March 15 and a martial arts and mentoring organization expected to open on March 1. Camino's interest in Plainfield even led him to purchase a home in the Queen City and he said he expects to move in by Sunday.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Whatever Happened To ...?

Being housebound in icy weather tends to make my mind wander. As a reporter, I kept a list of "stories to folo," journo-speak for items with a beginning and middle but no end. Here are a couple that I thought of while enduring the most recent polar vortex.

One long saga with an unwritten final chapter is the Dornoch case. I found myself wondering whatever became of the arbitration process that was authorized in September 2014. The developer of The Monarch condo project - you remember, 63 residential units over a new senior center and veterans' center at 400 East Front Street - submitted a rather large bill for fitting out the senior center. It was apparently one of those "no cost to you" deals that had a tab after all. The City Council authorized Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill to proceed with arbitration, but I don't recall hearing of any outcome.

Another incomplete story involves the parking deck for the Union County Improvement Authority's downtown office building. Does the public have access yet as promised in a settlement? The last we heard, terms of use were still being negotiated. Plaintalker's July 2014 inquiry aroused the wrath of a certain politician.

That's all I have today, folks. Something (maybe those five shots of Novocaine at the dentist yesterday) made me very itchy and too distracted to come up with a longer post.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Paid Sick Leave Bill Heading for Final Passage

Plainfield may soon have its own paid sick leave bill that will require city businesses to let workers earn time off for illness or care of ill relatives.

The driving force for the legislation here is public health, although proposed state legislation with similar terms appears to be more based on workers' rights. The city legislation (MC 2015-07) passed unanimously on first reading Feb. 9 and will be up for final passage on March 9.

Similar bills in other cities and proposed state legislation is being watched closely by the legal community, as there will be ramifications for employers who do business in several cities with such laws and there are other issues including medical confidentiality.

The city ordinance is prefaced by 16 points regarding public health concerns, including spread of disease in the workplace and parents' need to care for sick children. Both the city and state legislation propose a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employers of more than 10 workers would not have to provide more than 40 hours' paid sick time in a calendar year, while those with fewer than 10 workers would not have to provide more than 24 hours.

The laws would protect workers from retaliation for exerting their rights for paid sick time. Employers who violate the city law would be subject to a fine "not exceeding $2,000" and each instance of violation would incur a separate fine at the discretion of a Municipal Court judge.

The ordinance does not prevent an employer from being more generous with paid sick time and does not affect employees covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Commentary: Plainfield businesses include mom-and-pop operations, nationally franchised food outlets, professional offices, industrial plants and lots of child care companies. All face the issue of employee absence due to illness, but each category has its own workforce needs. How will these be balanced? And if it is a public health issue, will the Health Division be able to handle complaints and investigations? Just getting 330 food inspections done was a tremendous challenge. There were 737 retail outlets in the Urban Enterprise Zone and the 2010 Census counted 2,672 businesses overall in Plainfield.

A copy of the ordinance may be obtained at the City Clerk's office in City Hall, 515 Watchung Ave. The public may speak on it at the March 2 agenda-fixing session and, if it is placed on the March 9 agenda for final passage, at a public hearing before the vote.

Residents and business owners may also contact City Council members by phone or email as listed here


Taxi Stand and More Up for Council Approval

Park Avenue (Google screen grab)

Taxis will be able to wait for passengers on Park Avenue between West Front and West Second streets if the City Council approves.

The council gave initial permission for a new taxi stand there on first reading Feb. 9. It will be considered on March 2 for possible final approval on March 9. The busy north-south artery has some parking space alongside the Park-Madison office building, indicated on the Google satellite image by two white vehicles.

Other authorized taxi stands are on North Avenue alongside the main train station and at four locations on Watchung Avenue. 

Another taxi-related amendment would permit passengers to occupy the front seat. The rules currently prohibit a front-seat passenger unless the back seats are filled. The new rule would allow the driver to authorize the passenger to sit in the front seat.

As someone who often takes taxis, I have heard recently that police were issuing tickets to drivers for having front-seat passengers. I also heard that prospective new cabbies learn how to get around by observing as front-seat passengers. The new rule would make things easier for drivers.

However, as a frequent passenger I must say there are several rules on the books that drivers do not always honor. A passenger is supposed to be asked whether they mind having an extra pickup, but drivers frequently pick up others without asking the first person. Drivers do not always take the most direct route. Most of my destinations are medical offices along Park Avenue, but some drivers go from my block at Park & Seventh all the way to Woodland Avenue and pick up Park in South Plainfield.

I realize that car owners probably never take taxis, but they are in high demand for those without cars. I decided in 2008 not to get another car for a number of reasons and usually mostly walked or used public transportation to get around until recently needing to get to various doctors. It was very eye-opening to see the taxi business from a passenger seat instead of just watching them zip around the streets. If all the proposed new rental development happens, there is likely to be even more of a demand and maybe even a cry for better taxi service. Many of the cabs still have New York City rules posted inside and are obviously retired from use there.

As for rates and the consistent disregard of the rate chart, don't get me started.


Saturday, February 14, 2015


For Valentine's Day, I am offering a post from 2007.

And in light of our complicated relationship with PMUA, here's a post from February 2008.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Black History and Plainfield

Call it Black History Month or African-American Heritage Month, either way February is the month to recognize both the struggles and victories of people of color.

In Plainfield, the "white flight" of the 1960s left the city a predominantly black community. Since then, black leadership has emerged to the point where blacks dominate all the city's major agencies - school board, City Council, PMUA. This even though between 2000 and 2010, the black population dropped from 60 percent to 48.3 percent at the same time that the Latino population increased by 67 percent to 40.4 percent. The white population, formerly the contrast to the black community (or, as Jay Jefferson Cooke liked to define it, the brother man and the other man) dropped to 8.3 percent in the 2010 census.
 The black majority is not without its internal strife. In the bitterly fought 2013 mayoral race, the incumbent expected to benefit by a visit from Rev. Al Sharpton, who predictably drew a line within the black community to separate blacks from "Negroes," those who did not agree with him in supporting the incumbent. Well, she lost, but the battle goes on in a constant stream of attacks on the winner.

A year has passed since Mayor Adrian O. Mapp took office and yet in January some anonymous person posted this comment to the blog : "Mapp doesn't recognize the black population 55 percent and we will make sure they know that." Besides the odd allegation against a black mayor, one wonders who the "we" is. Might it be one of the speakers who regularly harp on race and class at the public microphone? Maybe one who just can't stand the thought of "One Plainfield, One Future" for Plainfield but would rather have each group off in its own corner?

Notwithstanding the present political battles, the history of Plainfield is replete with figures to celebrate during Black History Month. There are sports champions, scientists, authors and many who struggled for equality and black rights. The late Rasheed Abdul-Haqq campaigned to have the high school named for James West..When I first came to Plainfield in the 1980s, I was impressed by Rev. Frank Allen, a Garveyite who had great ambitions for the local NAACP branch.
Given the political enmity that some would foster in the city, it might be a very long time before there is one Plainfield and one future, but meanwhile the community can still celebrate Black History Month - maybe starting with the city's own history makers of the 20th Century.  Marshall Brown, Freeman Whetstone, Westry Horne, M. Elizabeth Chitty, George Clinton, Joe Black, Vic Washington, Bernie Worrell, Everett Lattimore and Ernie Scott are among those who come to mind.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fleet Manager Title, Salary Nixed

Two ordinances creating the position and salary for a manager of all city vehicles were rejected Monday despite initial passage just two weeks earlier.

The two measures passed on first reading at a special meeting on Jan. 26 and were up for second reading and final passage Monday. But in an agenda-fixing session preceding the regular meeting, a majority on the governing body declined to move the two ordinances to the agenda.

The agenda-fixing session was to have taken place on Feb. 2, but was rescheduled due to bad weather.

On Monday, Vera Greaves, Cory Storch, Gloria Taylor, Diane Toliver and Council President Bridget Rivers said "no" to putting the ordinances on the agenda, while Rebecca Williams said "yes" and Tracey Brown abstained. At the special meeting on Jan. 26, Taylor, Toliver, Williams and Brown had voted "yes" to pass the ordinance creating the position, while Storch and Rivers voted "no." Greaves was absent. See Plaintalker's coverage here

As for the accompanying salary ordinance, it initially failed on Jan. 26, with Rivers opposed; Taylor, Williams and Brown saying "yes" and Storch and Toliver abstaining. Once it was explained that the new position and salary went together, Toliver changed her abstention to a "yes" vote.

Storch had voiced several reservations on Jan. 26 and requested more information from the administration.
He indicated he would be in favor on second reading if his questions were answered.

The job and title were first brought up in January at the Jan. 12 agenda-fixing session. Resident Kim Montford asked in public comment whether someone was being considered for the job and if so, who it was. City Administrator Rick Smiley said the job would be posted.

The council members had several questions Jan. 12 about the need to create the position, but they became moot when there was no consensus to put the ordinances on the Jan. 20 agenda. Why the council then favored the measures at the Jan. 26 special meeting but dropped them again on Monday remains a mystery.


Commentary: Branches Need Collegiality

When I was a reporter, I used to joke sometimes that you really didn't need a newspaper in Plainfield, you could just lean out a window and hear the latest gossip.

An example of how news travels came out at Monday's meeting when the former mayor's pal Kim Montford asked whether a forensic audit is going on without council permission. The ensuing fuss took up a large portion of the meeting as the finance director and the council president went back and forth in a Clintonesque exchange over what the meaning of "is" is.

Not much can happen in City Hall or the Annex without someone taking notice. The explanation that an auditing firm was "doing some work around the city" eventually led to the revelation that there was a partial forensic audit from 2010 through the present at a cost under $17,500 and that a $41,000 misuse of public money had already turned up.

One might conclude that the small-scale probe for waste and fraud had therefore proven to be worth the expense, which did not need council approval as it was under the bid threshold. But it was perceived as a dodge and caused the self-proclaimed "strong leader" of the council to flip out.

Nowadays a plot turn such as this might be called a "reveal," as in that noxious modern misuse of verbs for nouns (the "ask," the "tell," etc.). In the highly politicized urban center.that is Plainfield, there is nothing so juicy as the drama of a power figure seemingly crossed, even legitimately.

The new administration is dealing with staff that knew another one for eight years. Individuals may be leaking information to their former leadership, especially since the party chairman has turned on the current mayor and appears now to be cosseting the one he dumped two years ago. The former mayor's near-constant presence at public meetings and her revisionist speeches signal a wish to reclaim the power she lost in June 2013.

I don't know what can be done about spies and tipsters in the ranks. When I was a reporter, a local "Deep Throat" type kept a close eye on things and shared information that helped me break many a story. I leave it to the public to decide what the intent is in the present situation. The nuances may be lost in the spectacle that was captured Monday on camera, which at least one observer has deplored simply as a "circus."

There will always be some tension among the branches of government, as we unfortunately have seen at the national level. When collegiality is lacking, leaders try to exert their will by whatever means necessary. At least in Plainfield there is the notion of an administration/council retreat coming up. Let us hope the branches will find a way to work together more amicably, for the sake of the city.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tyndale Named PMUA Chairman

L-R: Commissioners Henry Robinson, Carol Ann Brokaw, Harold Mitchell, Charles Tyndale, Michelle Graham-Lyons

The Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority held a rate hearing Tuesday, followed by the annual reorganization where the board, including new Commissioners Henry Robinson and Michelle Graham-Lyons, chose Commissioner Charles Tyndale as chairman for 2015.

At the rate hearing, the board approved a 3 percent decrease in sewer rates and an increase in sewer connection fees from $2,130 per unit to $2,300.  Before the vote, Tyndale asked whether the connection fee increase could be put off for a year for the benefit of developers, but others said the increase was not a lot and the fee was comparatively low.

At the reorganization meeting, other new officers named for 2015 were Graham-Lyons as vice chair, Robinson as secretary and Carol Ann Brokaw as treasurer. Alternate Commissioner Charles Eke took part in the meeting by telephone, though his vote was not needed with the full board present.

Five professional contracts, for general and labor counsel and consultants for sanitary sewer engineering, solid waste engineering and financial services, were put off until next month to allow new commissioners to review them.

The board approved two settlements, one for $20,000 in security for former office space at 203 Park Avenue and another for $200,000 to settle former chief financial officer James Perry's lawsuit over severance pay.

Among other things, the board and administration discussed having joint meetings with the City Council as well as plans for a study to evaluate rates.

Rate relief was on the minds of commissioners, staff and speakers in public comment. Both Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and Councilman Cory Storch spoke of the need for reductions to rate payers. Storch suggested having written questions at the proposed joint meetings "so nobody's blind-sided." He said he was very happy about the sewer rate reduction, as ratepayers, especially seniors, "carry a very heavy burden.".

Mapp said further relief could be achieved "by having Plainfield as a customer instead of 15,000 households." He said quarterly bills could be sent out with property tax bills, though he said the state would have to be involved to make his suggestion a reality.


Finding the Facts

A lot of half-baked information was tossed around last night, one item being an allegation that the current Plainfield representative to the Plainfield Area Regional Sewerage Authority brought back $1.5 million to the city.

It turns out the amount was $1 million and it was divided among the eight municipalities served by PARSA and it happened in 2013. The sum represented savings achieved by the Middlesex County Utilities Authority, which ultimately treats sewage from the municipalities after passage through the PARSA system.

The same speaker pooh-poohed the nomination of a city resident to serve on PARSA, saying the individual is an attorney and no attorney would work for $4,000 a year, which he then said was the $4,700 stipend PARSA commissioners receive. Actually, the nominee has a full-time job as director of a parking authority and like other commissioners would attend monthly PARSA meetings as a representative of his municipality.

The speaker Monday also characterized PARSA as having its "own little clique" and said of the proposed commissioner, "He will sit there like a dummy."

The other commissioners include mayors and professionals who know how to be collegial, so the idea of a new commissioner being ostracized as an outsider is ludicrous.

The speaker's comments will go out to the public on the local TV channels. Let the viewer beware.

P.S. The council declined both the nomination and the corporation counsel's explanation of a correction to the current nominating legislation, which she said is in violation of the city's special charter. It is unclear how any future commissioner can be nominated due to this circumstance.



Some of the many Latinos who came to the City Council meeting Monday night may have gone home thinking politics can be muy peligroso to newcomers.

It was obvious that there were factions, both on the dais and among speakers in public comment. The smiles, the glares, the anger and the honeyed words made a puzzle that was hard to decipher. What was true and what was chismes? It was like meeting for the first time a family with long-standing feuds.

One of the first skills necessary to operate in such a climate is to observe and reflect on the behaviors before deciding who is a true friend to one's cause.

Buena suerte!


Audit Talk Spurs Outburst from Council President

Furious over finding a partial forensic audit was underway, Council President Bridget Rivers threatened to have Mayor Adrian O. Mapp escorted out of Monday's council meeting by police.

As Police Director Carl Riley called in vain for a "time out," Rivers banged her gavel and called the meeting over.

First proposed late last year, the forensic audit was to uncover fraud and waste, in contrast to the annual audit that relies on information provided by the administration and may result in recommendations for better fiscal practices. A forensic audit can produce evidence to be used in court.

Perhaps because it would include the two terms of former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs as well as the first year of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's term, some saw it as an attempt to embarrass the former mayor, who in 2013 lost her bid for a third term to Mapp, her rival also in 2009. A council majority rejected the forensic audit in December, when it was proposed at a cost of $60,000.

In public comment earlier on Monday, Robinson-Briggs supporter Kim Montford asked whether a forensic audit was taking place without council approval. Rivers asked Finance Director Ron West whether that was true. West said there was no audit taking place, but the the firm Baker Tilly was "doing some work around the city" at a cost under $17,500, which the administration authorized. It had uncovered the fact that $41,000 was unaccounted for in one division, he said.

"Is there a forensic audit going on?" Rivers pressed.

"There is auditing going on," West said.

"There is no forensic audit?" Councilwoman Vera Greaves asked.

"We do have an audit firm in house taking a look at operations," West said.

"That's so disrespectful," Rivers said.

Councilman Cory Storch said he applauded the administration for taking a look, but Rivers said, "We do an audit every year."

She suggested maybe a probe should go back 16 or 20 years, not just eight years.

"That's a true forensic audit - let's go back further," she said.

This is as far as I got last night before the FiOS failed again.
David Rutherford has posted a video of the early discussion regarding the forensic audit. The part where Rivers became angry at Mapp occurred after 10:30 p.m. and was probably captured on the official tape for the local cable channels for broadcast on PCTV..

Latinos: Support State Driving Privilege Card

It was standing room only at Monday's City Council meeting as Latinos came out in force to support driving privilege cards for undocumented state residents.

The council resolution, which passed unanimously, is in support of Senate Bill S1696 and Assembly Bill A2135 proposing the issuance of such cards.

In public comments before the vote, El Centro Hispanoamericano Board Chairman Randy Schaeffer said, "A driver's license is essential to life in the 21st Century."

Speakers said undocumented residents need driving privileges to access employment and medical appointments, among many other things.

Rob Weldy, a retired attorney who is involved in ESL classes, said he knew of a Latina woman with no license who was "scared to death" when she parked a borrowed car inadvertently in a fire zone.

"All they want to do is go about their business," raising children and getting a job, he said."Please consider supporting this bill."

Flor Gonzales, president of the Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs, called attention to the large Hispanic turnout for the cause, which Councilman Cory Storch later acknowledged as "the most Hispanic faces ever seen at a council meeting" over his 10-year tenure.
Pastor Damaris Ortega of United Church of Christ Congregational called the legislation "giving people a personhood" and "a matter not of compassion alone, but of justice for our Latino brothers and sisters."

Richard Lear, president of the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District, said he is married to a Latino and "offering them the right to drive is the right thing to do."

Carmen Salavarietta of Angels in Action said some Latinos believed the city was going to issue the licenses, but PACHA Commissioner Christian Estevez said, "We are very intelligent people" who understand the legislative process.

He said of the campaign for passage of the legislation in Trenton, "This isn't something we are doing for somebody else, we're doing it for ourselves."

Lenin Aguirre of Mayan Mobile Marketing announced a new organization, the Tri-County Latino Coalition of New Jersey, including Middlesex, Somerset and Union counties, created "to give Latinos a voice," inspiring some in the audience to chant, "Si, se puede!"


Man's Best Friend Friended Back Over Tethering

A dog named Butch garnered more than 400 friends on social media over his plight of being chained outdoors in bitter weather, and many of them showed up at Monday's City Council meeting to urge passage of an anti-tethering amendment to animal laws on the books.
A stream of animal activists came to the microphone to urge support of legislation forbidding extensive tethering and leaving dogs exposed to bad weather without adequate shelter. Brenda Gromek, who said she discovered Butch's plight, called on the council to "put Plainfield on the map" for animal welfare and praised City Council President Bridget Rivers for "moving so quickly" to come up with the legislation, which passed unanimously on first reading Monday. It will be up for final passage on March 9.

"Let the light of Plainfield shine forth," animal activist Maryellen Chanda said. "We don't need this negative publicity."

Chanda said, "Butch is our reason" for an outcry to the governing body for action.
Scott Crawford, assistant director of Associated Humane Societies, added his support to the effort.
The new rules limit the duration of tethering as well as the means, and make it unlawful to leave an animal "outdoors and unattended" for more than half an hour when storms are forecast or the temperature is below 32 degrees or over 85 degrees. It mandates adequate food, water and a dry, shaded place to stay. Violations may result in the animal being seized and put up for adoption and the owner may be fined between $100 to $1,000 for infractions.

A recent news video portrayed Butch's plight and attempts by activists to help. At Monday's council meeting, a News 12 crew captured the good news of the community's outpouring of support for Butch and all other animals in distress.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Attempting to Post

Tonight's City Council meeting was by turns dramatic and contentious. I hope the FiOS will let me report.

A large crowd came out in favor of a new anti-tethering animal ordinance which even drew a News 12 video team, and an even larger crowd of Latinos jammed Municipal Court in support of a resolution backing state legislation to allow a driving privilege card for undocumented residents.

There were also some political fireworks, with Council President Bridget Rivers on the verge of calling a police officer to remove Mayor Adrian O. Mapp from the meeting.

And much, much more.

If I can't post, expect stories to follow as FiOS allows.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Uninvited Guest

Spotty FiOS

My internet connection keeps going on and off randomly - will try to post as possible. Two big double meetings are coming up. The City Council rescheduled its canceled Feb. 2 agenda-fixing session to 7 p.m. Monday, with the regular meeting to follow at 8 p.m. in Municipal Court. No agenda has been posted for the regular meeting as it probably depends on what the council moves to the agenda from the 7 p.m. meeting.

On Tuesday, the PMUA is holding a rate hearing at 6 p.m. and rescheduled its annual reorganization to 7 p.m. at the PMUA office, 127 Roosevelt Ave. This is the first meeting with two new commissioners who were approved at a special meeting last month. Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders are off and Henry Robinson and Michele Graham-Lyons are on the board of commissioners.

Wish the bloggers luck with wintry mix and wish me luck with the spotty FiOS!

The Struggle Continues for Latinos

A new blog,  is devoted to increasing Latino civic engagement. It notes that only one Latino has served on the City Council in the past 20 years. That was the much-revered Ray Blanco, who died in office as City Council President

After Ray Blanco's untimely death in 2006, a move to appoint Christian Estevez was blocked by Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green.

It would appear that Latinos need not only to come out and vote, but to garner seats on the Democratic City Committee and also mount independent campaigns for elected office. Effort is needed on all fronts in a city where politicians try to herd people through a chute of their devising. I agree that whatever is keeping more than 40 percent of the city population from representation must be overcome. 

La lucha continua!


New Plan for East Third/Richmond

A very interesting legal notice caught my eye Saturday morning, as I was reading my e-newspaper back-to-front (sometimes the legals are more newsworthy than the front page stories). Those who have been around a while will remember when there was a plethora of redevelopment projects on the table. This notice concerned the East Third/Richmond redevelopment site.

The notice describes a proposal for the site that includes 153 residential units in a four-story building, with 155 parking spaces, 110 of which "will be located in the basement level underneath the proposed building."

I do not recall any other application that included underground parking.

The number of parking spaces is one of the variances requested, as 306 spaces are required.

Between now and the Feb. 21 Planning Board meeting where this application is scheduled to be heard, anyone interested can look at the application, plans, etc. in the Planning Office on the second floor of City Hall. As soon as the wintry mix allows your pedestrian blogger to get around, I will take a look myself.

If you want to read the entire notice and missed its publication, you can look it up at the New Jersey Press Association's legal notices site. You have to choose "Somerset" as the county, then Courier News as the newspaper, then put in a keyword and a date range that includes Feb. 7. I just put in "Crown," for the applicant, Crown Real Estate Holdings, Inc. and it came right up when I clicked on "Go."

This site has some history, which is on the original Plainfield Plaintalker blog. A total of 352 units was once proposed, but the developer asked to be excused in 2008. In the successor blog, Plaintalker II, you can find a look back at the site.and a hope for future development. Maybe this new plan is it.


No Internet Connection

Last night our FiOS connection went out, for the second time this month. I tried troubleshooting, but it didn't work. It came back on by itself later. Hmm. I did not have any burning blog topic in mind, so I dropped back to reading a book and going to sleep early. I'm hoping this is not typical of FiOS.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mayor Tells His Own Story

In these days of thin news coverage, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp is telling his own story in a weekly online newsletter.

My Google gmail account puts it under "promotions," along with Nordstrom and JetPens ads, but maybe it is fitting, because the mayor is promoting his administration and the city. The latest one describes a new bakery, lists cultural events, updates the public on the police accreditation process and urges Affordable Care Act registration, with assistance available, among other topics.

I have come to look forward to receiving these communications. I did not go about it in the proper way, which is to call the mayor's office at (908) 753-3310 and leave your email address, but I guess my email address is out there and I got signed up anyway.

I urge all residents also to poke around the city web site. It has a lot of new features, including online permit access, which I used to see in Westfield and Scotch Plains when I made my a reporter years ago. You can also fill out Open Public Records Act requests online at the same site.

The current web site can be obscure. For example, to see the Municipal Code, you have to click on the City Clerk's link, then on "All downloads." Once there, click the other links. "Forms" is where you will find the application to serve on boards and commissions. Other listings are important for business owners and professionals who want to provide services to the city.

If you are a property owner who needs to know more about the land use boards, you must click "Departments," then Public Works & Urban Development, then Divisions, then Planning and you will finally reach information on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, Planning Board, Historic Preservation Commission and Shade Tree Commission. Any or all of these boards and commissions may be involved in new development or changes to existing properties.

A new web site is on the way, but meanwhile look around and see what is there.