Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Sights

Five stories! This was the former site of the Romond Jeep building that was demolished last year. The new building will have 20 apartments and an entertainment center.

On the right is a complementary project with 12 apartments and commercial space on the ground floor of the former Mirons warehouse. Frank Cretella is the developer. See a January 2014 view of the projects.

Pigeons have once again taken over the cupola at City Hall. When it was refurbished a few years ago, netting was placed on the cupola to prevent birds roosting there. The netting blew away in a storm and the pigeons rule the roost once more.

This Purple Coneflower is in serious denial of the season. It is almost ready to bloom, while we are getting ready to change the calendar to December. Click to enlarge and see the complex structure of this flower, also known as Echinacea.

In case you missed it, please take a look at Saturday's post that has a list of public meetings coming up next week


Tree Lighting on Friday

Get Involved, Attend a Meeting

Next week is full of public meetings, for anyone who can spare the time to attend.

Here is some information, not in chronological order:

The first Wednesday of each month is when the Zoning Board of Adjustment meets, so that meeting will be 7 p.m. Dec. 2 in City Hall Library. The board only meets once a month. The agenda is not usually available until a couple of days before the meeting, either in the Planning Division office on the second floor of City Hall or online

The Planning Board usually meets on the first and third Thursday of each month, also in City Hall Library. Check here for more information on the Planning Board

With all the development starting up, these two boards can be very interesting. When possible, Plaintalker publishes previews, such as this one on a proposed new Dunkin Donuts on Terrill Road.

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp is holding two meetings next week, one on Thursday and one on Saturday. Click for more information on Saturday's "Listening Session."

The Thursday meeting notice was in the mayor's weekly online newsletter:
Mayor's Town Hall
Please be advised that the Mayor will be hosting a "Town Hall Meeting" on Thursday, December 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 pm at the Plainfield Senior Citizens' Center.
  • Mobile Technology: The Mapp App
  • Economic Development: Updates  
  • Planning Division: Updates

Plainfield Senior Center Address:  400 E Front Street, Plainfield, New Jersey
Phone: (908) 753-3506

On Dec. 1, there is a school board meeting. See the agenda here

Dec. 1 is also World AIDS Day and the public is invited to an event at the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield. See a flyer here

If you want to become more engaged in the city's civic life, next week sounds like a good time to start.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Facts vs. Politics

If I understand a comment on my "He Said, She Said ..." post, the writer seems to think Board of Education member David Rutherford did the schools superintendent a disservice by posting a video he made of her remarks at Monday's council meeting.

I would've believed David Rutherford posted this video in support of the Superintendent, since he did run as a school board member on Wilma Campbell's slate and he did campaign for Republican candidate John Campbell Jr., who ran on the Independent line.

However, David "assassinated her character", which is what the Superintendent says the Mayor did to her. The Superintendent, with her notes in her hand, stated she wanted to move the date to November 13. Huh?

The writer assumes support for the superintendent because David ran for a school board seat with backing from Board President Wilma Campbell. I hope this is not a suggestion that David would be just a rubber-stamp for the Campbell faction, which now includes Mrs Campbell's husband, John Campbell, on the board.

The video also captures the superintendent making a blunder by citing the wrong date for the Youth Summit. So should David have not posted the video on that account?

Some might ask why does an anonymous comment deserve consideration in the first place. I think this one points to issues of free speech and censorship for political reasons. David has added a valuable voice to discourse on Plainfield, and also brings technical abilities that other bloggers don't have. The superintendent's remarks and responses from others will be broadcast on the local cable channels at some point anyway. Posting this segment of the meeting brings immediacy in the same way that a news story would, with the added value of seeing and hearing the speakers. Viewers can draw their own conclusions.

The comment reminded me of an incident when I was still a reporter. The wife of a prominent political figure called me at home on a Saturday to harangue me about a news story involving her son, who got in trouble by cutting off a security guard while entering his college campus.

"We thought you were our friend!" she huffed.

Her expectation that I would cover it up surprised me. Reporters don't play that. The attempt at brow-beating went on for some time, and now that she herself is a public figure, I see her pulling the same tactic on others.

Political solidarity in lieu of the facts is a losing proposition. Politicians may try to cover for each other, but journalists and activists operate by a different code.

To borrow a phrase from that great sage Stan Laurel, "Honesty is the best politics!"


To Anonymous who submitted a lot of questions regarding David Rutherford, either sign your name or ask him directly.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

for what you have
 for what you can share
for those you love

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Taxi Woes Raised at Council Meeting

Drivers for an out-of-town taxi company are racking up $500 fines and being harassed, a driver and a company representative complained Monday.

Their pleas for relief met with a firm recital of the law from Corporation Counsel David Minchello: Companies not licensed in Plainfield cannot pick up passengers here.

But one speaker alleged police are stopping and ticketing drivers who are just passing through from North Plainfield to South Plainfield. A driver said her Soria taxi was once surrounded by three police cars even though she had no passengers, embarrassing her and making her feel like a criminal.

Part of the pressure to exclude outside taxi companies is coming from the Plainfield ones that hold a total of 53 licenses.

Representatives of Soria Taxi have complained in the past that they want a city license, but cannot get one because Plainfield has reached or exceeded the number of licenses that can be issued. The number is based on population, City Clerk Abubakar Jalloh said.

The city's taxi ordinance has not been updated for more than a decade, as noted in this 2008 Plaintalker post on taxi rates.

No matter how the speakers Monday framed their concerns, the bottom line was that unlicensed companies or drivers are not allowed to pick up passengers here.

The taxi industry in Plainfield declined after passage of the ordinance that set rules for drivers' apparel, colors of taxis, rates and many more aspects of service. Latino-owned companies led a resurgence about 10 years ago, as described in this post.

Also in public comment Monday, Chamber of Commerce President Jeffery Dunn asked how the city is going to deal with Uber and related companies. Minchello said the city has not yet been approached by Uber.


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 

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 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.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Mayor's Town Hall

Inspiration is failing to strike after yet another day of repairs in the apartment. Mau and I camped out on the enclosed porch while the workers toiled. I am reading Orhan Pamuk's new book, "A Strangeness in My Mind," about a street vendor's life in Turkey. The story follows his personal transitions as Istanbul itself undergoes changes. I just tore through Margaret Atwood's new book, "The Heart Goes Last" and recently read Patti Smith's "M Train" and Carrie Brownstein's "Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl" while deterred from my usual activities.

Monday will be the big day for news, with a 47-item special meeting at 7 p.m. in Municipal Court. Most people will then be in holiday mode for the next few weeks, but December will start with a flurry of public meetings. 

The Zoning Board of Adjustment meets on Dec. 2 and will hear an application to convert a large South Avenue industrial building to a self-storage facility. The Planning Board meets on Dec. 3, the same night as Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's Town 
Meeting. That is a bit of a quandary for me.

The last time I had to choose between a Planning Board meeting and one on economic development, I ended up picking the one within walking distance. Being unable to guess which one will yield the most news, I may have to go for proximity again on Dec. 3.

Here is the mayor's notice:

Mayor's Town Hall
Please be advised that the Mayor will be hosting a "Town Hall Meeting" on Thursday, December 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 pm at the Plainfield Senior Citizens' Center.
  • Mobile Technology: The Mapp App
  • Economic Development: Updates  
  • Planning Division: Updates
Plainfield Senior Center Address:  400 E Front Street, Plainfield, New Jersey
Phone: (908) 753-3506

The Planning Board meets at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

If by any chance repairs are still going on here, I may simply end up at home with a good book.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Night Club Owner Proposes Apartments

When I was growing up, my family lived in an apartment building with commercial uses on the ground floor, including a deli, barber shop, and a store with newspapers and magazines, penny candy and a soda fountain.

A legal notice published this week offers the possibility of living over a Plainfield night club.

Edison Garcia, owner of Faraones night club in the former Plainfield National Bank at 111 East Front Street, proposes converting the third and fourth floors to residential apartments.

The matter will be heard at the Planning Board's Dec. 3 meeting, 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library. Garcia needs several variances for the conversion, including one for parking. According to the legal notice, he will provide no parking when 247 spaces are required. The lack of parking is listed as an existing condition, although there is a city parking lot behind the building. The number of spaces listed in the legal notice may be a typo or may be inclusive of all uses. We shall see on Dec. 3.

Documents related to the application are on file in the Planning Division.

Meanwhile, we are still looking for action on the nearby West Second Street Commons, which is another mixed-use development with 12,300 square feet of commercial space at ground level and 148 residential apartments on four upper floors. Click the link to see a chart of all downtown development proposals as of March 2015


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Very Special Meeting.

Without a City Council meeting since Oct. 13, I was running out of hyperlocal topics. A combination agenda-fixing and regular council meeting had been scheduled for Nov. 9, but was rescheduled by Council President Bridget Rivers to Nov. 23. Today the City Clerk's office issued notice of a "Special Meeting" on that date with 47 items listed. 

All of a sudden the lack of news became a surfeit of possible blog posts, but there was no background information. I'm told there will be a regular packet available maybe on Friday, but meanwhile some of these topics are just too interesting to ignore. So I will venture into guesses and speculation while waiting for some facts.

Here are eight items off the list:


This sounds like a "pocket license," one without a location. It is not the one currently in use at the former Richmond Beer Garden, now called Express Night Club. The Richmond Beer Garden closed several years ago. There is a limit on how long an inactive license can be held without renewal. A license can lapse and cease to exist if not renewed within state Alcoholic Beverage Control timelines.


See my post about why Plainfield needs representation on this commission.


Never mind the typos, it will be interesting to find out what projects got all the way through the process, but did not materialize. The city had several million dollars in its Urban Enterprise Zone account, but had to submit requests and get approvals from the UEZ Authority to use the funds.Actually, one of the problems with the program was that in 2011 the council could never get an answer from the administration on the status of projects, so maybe we still can't find out which ones didn't make it.


Now this one is really curious. The Houston Galveston Area Council is a resource for municipalities on all sorts of topics - in Texas. But it also has a cooperative purchasing plan. Need to see the contract to find out how Plainfield would be involved.


I did not attend the conceptual meeting on this, but South Second Street Revelopment information was included in Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's weekly newsletter. The city owns the land, which could help expedite development.


Deja vu all over again, if this is the same "payment in lieu of taxes" agreement. Or maybe it is a new one. Have to see the details.


This goes with the Sleepy Hollow Developers Urban Renewal LLC Agreement.


After a fatal accident, residents called for four-way stops at several intersections. Need to look at the ordinance to find out which ones are designated.

If you are planning to attend the Nov. 23 Special meeting, please note the starting time is listed as 7 p.m., in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.


Taking A Day Off

Monday was a day of household disruption and we have a couple more to go while workers do interior repairs, therefore no blog today.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Mixed Season

It's hard to feel joyous when there is so much hurt in the world. Let us at least be kind to each other where we live.

Update on North Avenue Demolition Site

So this must be the "mafia wall" that we heard about. (Please, no jokes about it being crooked.)

It is made of very heavy blocks and the purpose is to hold fill at the North Avenue demolition site. The building that was demolished had a shared "party wall" with the building next door, so filling the excavated hole might place pressure on that wall (or so I understand it). The mafia wall will now take on the weight of the fill, sparing the wall from possible collapse.

The demolition took place on March 21 and caused damage to the building next door.

This story began in December 2011 with a fire in the vacant three-story building. There was talk of demolition at the time, but nothing happened.

Three years later, Plaintalker called attention to the damaged structure and asked what it would take to resolve the situation.

On March 21, the ill-fated effort to tear down the building created even more problems which are still being worked out.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Iziah's Take on Plainfield

Iziah Thompson is a young Plainfielder who has written a piece about the current situation in the Queen City. I am a 77-year-old retired reporter. My blog is usually limited to my own content, but Iziah has offered to share his thoughts. If you want to see what he has to say about Plainfield,

Photo Exhibit Today

Plainfield: Taking Care of Business
Exhibition Opening Reception and Awards Presentation
The Plainfield Public Library will open its 10th Annual Plainfield Photography Contest Exhibition with a reception and awards presentation on November 14, 2015, from 10 am – noon in the Library's Anne Louise Davis Gallery room on the lower level.  This year’s theme is, “Plainfield: Taking Care of Business.” The images present businesses and people working around the city of Plainfield.
The 2015 competition met with the enthusiastic response of 17 contributors who submitted 79 images of Plainfield. The photographs help build our local photograph collection.  All entries have been digitized and  added to the Library's historical photograph archive, which consists of over 50,000 area photographs taken from 1865 to date.  Winning photographs and selected entries will be on exhibit through December 31, 2015.  Images from the first nine exhibits may be found at:
The reception and exhibit are free to the public.  The Library is located at 800 Park Avenue, between 8th and 9th streets.  Call 908-757-1111 for hours of operation. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Word for Family Dollar

My favorite cup, from Family Dollar

When the CVS moved out of the plaza at Park & Seventh, I was so annoyed that it took about a year before I set foot in the Family Dollar that replaced it. Some of the local "dollar stores" were stocked with such cheap gew-gaws and gimcracks that they had given any store with "dollar" in the name a stigma.

Eventually I went in and was surprised to see some of my favorite household products at lower prices than I was paying at the supermarket. They also had curtain rods, notebooks, potholders, kitchenware and other things that the old five-and-ten stores used to have, except now they are a dollar or so.

Downtown dollar stores of the cheaper ilk have failed, but Family Dollar now has three sites in Plainfield and with many brand-name goods, they are are good for quick shopping or some inexpensive "retail therapy." Call them variety stores if "dollar store" still sounds like an insult.

The Family Dollar website has a history of the business as well as information on its social and sustainability policies. I'm told the new store on South Avenue hired several Plainfielders. Keep it in mind when you don't want to trek to the mall.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hoops Hooray?

I hope it's true that the basketball controversy has been resolved.

My after-school activities leaned heavily to hanging out at the library, ineptitude at sports got me laughed off the field hockey team, and I have no knowledge of baseball, football or basketball. The thought of an hour or so of sports controversy tacked onto a double City Council meeting was giving me dyspepsia.

The initial situation seemed to devolve into a bunch of side issues, power plays, political attacks and surmises. I came to the conclusion that there was nothing I could or should say about any of it. The whole thing became, to borrow a term from the late Arlene Francis, unattractive.

Let's hope there was enough sportsmanship at the end that the main parties could shake hands and get on with things. Others who piled on will have more work to do to restore their standing or credibility.


Happy Diwali

Happy Diwali
to all who are celebrating

Missed Veterans' Day Ceremony

Mau claims the drop cloth
I missed the Veterans' Day ceremony this morning because I was waiting for workers who were supposed to arrive at 9:30 a.m. to repair ceilings in my apartment. We had moved everything around for access and had drop cloths over everything.

The workers did not actually get here until almost noon. They never came to our apartment today.

Mau was very puzzled to find all his stuff moved around. He sniffed everything and meowed the cat equivalent of WTF all day. As evening came without any workers showing up, I took one drop cloth off the computer desk. Mau explored this new item thoroughly and somehow made a cozy nest for himself.

He was spared today, but will probably spend some time under the bed freaking out whenever these workers show up.

As some readers know, we lost the use of about one-third of this very small apartment after a squirrel invasion that began in December. The situation was not fully resolved until mid-August. We had a month of peace until mid-September, when workers began scraping and painting the exterior. That work is now complete except for removal of debris around the building.
Now workers have begun interior repairs involving this building and two adjacent ones. More disruption. I hope it will not affect my ability to attend meetings, but that remains to be seen. We do not like to leave workers unattended in the apartment.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

PMUA Seeking to "Re-Brand," Launches New App

The Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority is looking to "re-brand" its identity in the community, Chairman Charles Tyndale said Tuesday, and Executive Director Daniel Mejias announced an informational outreach campaign that includes an app for both Apple and android phones.

The authority has provided solid waste and sewer services to the city since 1995, but Tyndale noted a "negative stigma" that developed a few years ago. (See Plaintalker's report on the "ratepayer revolt" of 2009). The protests have subsided, but Tyndale proposed a "special committee" to rebrand the PMUA. Commissioner Carol Ann Brokaw called it an excellent idea, though suggesting that Tyndale leave it up to the executive staff and not get involved as a commissioner.

Tyndale said residents may pay $200 a month for cable television, but only $300 per quarter for the authority's services.

"You get a clean city, working sewers and recycling," he said.

Mejias urged residents to use the new MyWaste app for personalized collection schedules, to report issues and to learn how to handle various kinds of waste. He mentioned an incident where someone brought muriatic acid to the transfer station, causing a HazMat incident last week. The authority is now spot-checking loads and anyone caught bringing improper materials there will be made to leave and banned from future use of the transfer station, he said.

Commissioner Michelle Graham-Lyons said she is now using the MyWaste app and recommends it.

PMUA officials also hope to sort out for the public the difference between the authority's services and those of the municipal Division of Public Works. Mejias mentioned a misunderstanding over street-sweeping operations.

Among other items in the director's report, Mejias said the Rock Avenue transfer station passed a DEP review for renewal of the transfer station permit and final approval is pending. The authority will be looking for new outside municipal contracts with a promotional effort at the League of Municipalities conference next week.

The authority will soon have a new technology system that will allow for creation of routes and cut back on redundancy and paperwork, Mejias said. The $41,020 cost will be spread over four years, he said.

A new urgent care provider has also been chosen, after the former provider changed hands. Doctors Express in South Plainfield will take care of workers injured on the job, among other services.

Duane Young, back as chief financial officer, said the authority is awaiting more data to make budget projections more accurate and expects the 2016 budget to be introduced in early January. The budget will be used to determine user rates. The board and staff gave Leanna Walcott a round of applause for serving as interim acting CFO.


No Third Ward Meeting Thursday

FYI - The Third Ward Town Hall Meeting has been rescheduled once again






         NOVEMBER 10, 2015.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Good, Bad, Ugly

The Good 
I went downtown about a week ago looking for the mural that was recently approved by the City Council, thinking it was going to be in the Queen's Courtyard off East Front Street. The alley behind the former First Atlantic Bank (now headquarters for Mario Camino's Arkad Group) was damaged in Hurricane Sandy but has been refurbished with a new sidewalk and landscaping. The adjacent wall had no mural, just signs of painting over graffiti.

Visiting City Hall later, I saw the mural on the side of the maintenance building and here is a photo:
 It is a very nice tribute to people who keep the city going. If I got it right, the images are an EMT, firefighter, police officer, utility worker and educator. I didn't see any artist attribution - more investigation needed.

The Bad (or at least Naughty)
No sooner does school start each year than some students start cutting or hanging out after school in, shall we say, inappropriate ways. I have seen groups of 10 come down the driveway in mid-morning to gather behind the garages next door.
These guys like to be up on the roof of garages that belong to apartment buildings on Crescent Avenue. They scattered when they saw my camera, thereby avoiding the patrol car that came down our driveway a few minutes later. Someone else had spotted them and called the police.

The Ugly
The closest market does not always have the best produce. I have seen moldy lemons, brown broccoli and bagged salads that look like compost, but the worst might be the celery that often has what look like baby slugs on the stalks. It makes me think the once-a-year Health inspection is not enough.
Hoping to have more of the "good" and less of the other to show you in future images.


Official Election Results

Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi has posted final results from the Nov. 3 general election and no local outcomes have changed.

In the City Council races, Barry Goode won the First & Fourth Ward at-large contest with 1,072 votes to Norman E. Ortega's 320. Incumbent Second Ward Councilman Cory Storch won a fourth term with 937 votes to John Campbell's 564. Both will be sworn in for four-year terms on Jan. 1.

School board final results were 1,831 for John Campbell (the elder), 1,797 for Emily Morgan, 1,641 for Richard Wyatt and 1,291 for Jackie Coley. Campbell and Wyatt are incumbent appointees who will begin three-year terms on Jan. 1. Morgan will become a new board member for three years beginning Jan. 1. Coley will complete her three-year term on Dec. 31 and must then leave the board.


50 Years Ago

My son was only 2 years old and was listening to a story on the Wollensak tape recorder when the power went out all over the Northeast. He was afraid he had broken the tape recorder.

Contrast that machine to the iPod Nano or a smartphone!

Maria, Back in Charge

On my way back from the open house at Gavett Place Properties LLC, I stopped at Mi Buenaventura for some empanadas, having heard they were the best.

The place was packed with customers eating all kinds of specialties. One man had a whole fish on his plate, eyes and tail and all, exotic to my American upbringing on tuna casserole and such.

I went up to the counter and saw the owner directing waitstaff. Maria Rosa looked regal, not for her attire, which was simple, but for her air of competence. This was her domain, restored at last. Her customers' pleasure was evident as well.

I asked for some empanadas and a gentleman eating at the counter helped me out, explaining they were either filled with beef or chicken, never pork. A waitress gave me a bag with two beef empanadas and handed me a small container of something green.

"Picante sauce, for dipping the empanadas," the man explained.

At home, just a taste let me know it is far too spicy for me. The empanadas alone are excellent, with a fine crispy crust over shredded beef.

But the real takeaway Saturday was having been in the presence of someone adept at giving people so much more than food - a nourishment of the spirit as well. All the best to Maria in her new location!


Sunday, November 8, 2015

No Council Meeting Monday

The big double-header City Council meeting scheduled for Nov. 9 has been rescheduled for Nov. 23.

If you find yourself suffering from meeting withdrawal, on Tuesday you have a choice of the school board, PMUA or an update on the flood study.

Here's the agenda for the Nov. 10 Board of Education Work & Study meeting.

The PMUA meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday at 127 Roosevelt Avenue.

The flood study update is 7 p.m. at the Plainfield Public Library. Pennoni and Hatch McDonald will make a presentation on the Flood Study Assessment and will answer questions, according to a notice on the city website.


Train Bridge Photo Gallery

Click images to enlarge

Four-Star Maxson?

The first print edition of the Plainfield School District newsletter arrived in city mailboxes last week and included a message from Board President Wilma Campbell, with her email address and phone number.

I must say it  sounded just like Wilma, which is not always the case with public figures, especially the ones who have speech writers. 

One part sent me to Google for enlightenment.

"Our Maxson Middle School had a facelift, and our students boasted their school rivalled the beauty of four star hotels. That is a huge complement coming from middle school students. They are taking pride in the appearance of their building, and that is wonderful."

Four star hotels? I'm glad these students knew enough to make the analogy, because after nearly eight decades on the planet, I do not know what constitutes a four-star hotel.
Here is one definition of four-star hotels.

Maxson does look very nice, as this photo gallery attests. I leave it to my dear readers to decide whether the analogy is apt.


Election Addendum

Official results of the Nov. 3 general election will be released sometime next week by Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi, but meanwhile here are some sidelights.

The City Clerk's office gave the total turnout in Plainfield as 3,947. After the last day to register, the Board of Elections listed the total number of registered voters in Plainfield as 21,776, so it looks like only 18 percent of voters bothered to go to the polls. (See the City Council and school board results here.)

Local candidates may benefit from a larger turnout next year due to the presidential election. The City Council seats up for election in 2016 are the Third Ward, now occupied by Gloria Taylor, and the Citywide at-large seat now held by Rev. Tracey Brown. Filing will be in late March or early April.

In Plainfield, Assemblyman Jerry Green received 2,398 votes to James Kennedy's 2,721, a 12 percent difference. Unofficial total results for District 22 were 11,098 for Green, 11,399 for Kennedy, 7,684 for William "Bo" Vastine and 7,284 for William Michelson.

In the school board races, normally winners would have to wait until Jan. 1 to serve, but two of the three winners  - John Campbell and Richard Wyatt - are already on the board as appointees. Incumbent Jackie Coley did not win, but will finish out her term until Dec. 31. Emily Morgan, a first-time winner, will take office on Jan. 1. Next year, the seats currently occupied by Deborah Clarke, Frederick D. Moore Sr. and Board President Wilma Campbell will be up for election. Campbell is serving her fourth term. The filing date for school board candidates will be in late July.

Saturday's mail brought a Board of Education newsletter with messages from Campbell and Superintendent Anna Belin-Pyles. Read the BOE newsletter here if you didn't get one in the mail.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Snow Fooling!

Two Slate-Colored Juncos arrived in my yard this week, normally a sure sign of cold weather as they migrate from northern forests. It must have been confusing for these little "snowbirds" to encounter 70-degree weather. And then on Park Avenue, what should I see?
Another reminder that the seasons are all mixed up right now!

Transfer Station Closed Friday for Hazmat Incident

The PMUA transfer station was closed Friday afternoon for a Hazmat response.

The authority posted a notice saying the transfer station had closed "due to unforeseen circumstances," but would reopen at 8 a.m. Saturday (Nov. 7).

Union County Communication Director Sebastian D'Elia said the incident began at 1 p.m. and the county Hazmat team responded within minutes. The problem was a chemical reaction inside a garbage container. The Hazmat team found "multiple bottles of Muriatic Acid," which were removed. There were no injuries or exposures.

Muriatic acid, also known as hydrochloric acid, is used to clean masonry and also in pool maintenance. See more about muriatic acid, including disposal advice.

South Second Street Redevelopment Unveiled

From Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's newsletter:



This is the project discussed at a conceptual meeting Thursday. The location is 662-758 South Second Street. The city owns the 4.97-acre site. It is on a brownfields list.

TD+Partners are the developers. They will have to apply to the land use boards for any variances or redevelopment approvals. Stay tuned!

Open House on Gavett Place Saturday

Want to live half a block from the main train station?
The Landmark Developers site known as Gavett Place Properties at 130-140 East Second Street is having an open house tomorrow.
It has 12 apartments and is across Gavett Place from another Landmark project, Art Lofts II, which is under construction and will have 20 apartments and an entertainment center.

See this map of downtown development for more information on various projects. Gavett Place Properties is No. 8.


YMCA Apartments Gets Site Plan Approval

The Planning Board has approved creation of 30 studio apartments in the YMCA for young people aging out of foster care.

The building at 518 Watchung Avenue will be remodeled with an addition on the third floor and a separate elevator for access to the apartments. The new units will have full kitchens and baths and will replace 60 single rooms on the two upper floors. Programs and facilities in the basement and on the first floor will not be affected, President and CEO Ravenell Williams IV told the board.

Williams said the YMCA has had a foster care program for 29 years, but once children reach 18, they "age out" of foster care. He expects the new apartments to provide homes for the young adults as they go to college, start working or take part in training programs.

"I see it filling up the first day we open," Williams said.

Aged-out youths comprise one of the largest homeless groups in the state, he said. Occupants of the new apartments may take four years or more to achieve independence. There will also be a two-bedroom apartment for live-in staff to assist the residents, who will have full access to YMCA facilities in addition to whatever counseling they may need.

Williams said the YMCA has raised $12,000 toward a $30,000 goal to provide each resident with a computer that they can keep when they leave

The YMCA is a non-profit organization, but will join with a private company, Plainfield Genesis Affordable Housing LLC, for the project. The City Council  last month approved establishment of a $25,000 escrow account which will be used in part to cover negotiations on a "payment in lieu of taxes" plan for the apartments.

Board members remarked on the size of the apartments, which fall below the square footage required by the city. But architects Rick Regan and Dan Nichols said they meet requirements of other accepted standards.

Planning Director Bill Nierstedt said the YMCA officials will have to check with the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority regarding sewer connection fees.

As for the former occupants of the single rooms, only three out of 45 are left. The YMCA covered the cost of relocation for them, Williams said.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Crowd-sourcing, Anyone?

I didn't feel well tonight and decided I would rather be half a block away from home at the Planning Board meeting than more than a mile away by taxi at the Community Meeting. So maybe it's time for some crowd-sourcing - I am inviting anyone who went to the meeting on South Second Street Redevelopment to give impressions, thoughts, opinions on what you heard.


Council Meetings Rescheduled

Monday's joint agenda-fixing and regular meeting
 has been rescheduled