Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Sign of Past Times

After last night's long Historic Preservation Commission meeting, I went off on a tangent regarding a sign I saw on the Titsworth-Sutphen House, the pre-Civil War structure on the PNC parking lot off West Second Street. In public comment during the hearing on the bank's plans to subdivide the parking lot, I asked about disposition of the sign. At first the bank people drew a blank, but the project manager called up an image on his smartphone and saw it.

Here's how it looked before apparently being vandalized. I looked online for Brunson S. McCutchen and found out his sister Margaret had donated her residence in North Plainfield to be a home for the elderly. Brunson donated $10,000 toward the cause, a large amount in those days. See a history of "The McCutchen." 

Brunson S. McCutchen was educated at Princeton University and lived in Princeton. He was an engineer and held several patents, one for a washing machine. His office at 209 West Front Street was for his work as an investment dealer, according to a 1967 city directory.
Sign is loose, door boarded up.
Can this sign be saved?

A fragment from the 1967 city directory

INVESTMENT SECURITIES
DEALERS
 FAMILY INVESTORS COMPANY, 266 North av cor Martine (Fanwood), Tel 322-1800 Hammond Wm J 209 W 2d Investors Diversified Services Inc 120 W 7th McCutchen Brunson S 209 W 2d Mergott Rappa & Co Inc 240 W Front

(I will be doing a blog post later on the meeting, which HPC members called the longest one ever. )

--Bernice

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Residents React to Muhlenberg Plan

After the Planning Board methodically reviewed the updated Muhlenberg Redevelopment Plan Monday, residents let loose with their fears and feelings about the 10-acre former hospital site's future.

Planning Board Chairman Ron Scott Bey emphasized the fact that many steps remain before anything rises on the site, but in public comment resident Rowand Clark launched into a diatribe against group homes, especially subsidized ones for veterans.

"Plainfield is inundated by homes for persons who are incapable of independent living," Clark said, claiming there are currently 44 such homes now, mostly tax-exempt. He said "50 years of wars" are the reason why there is "no shortage of veterans" for whom landlords can get $3,000 a month in VA and HUD money. Clark differentiated between a vet wounded in action and one with minimal service but having alcohol or drug abuse or "mental problems."

"Is that what we want for Plainfield?" he asked.

Clark described a process that he said would invite an "endless stream of homeless veterans" and was followed by Robin Bright, who insisted "vets with PTSD" were anticipated for the redevelopment site.

Scott Bey rejected the notion as having "no hard relationship to the plan that was written."

Bright, perhaps the most outspoken challenger to redevelopment of the Muhlenberg site, earlier probed the proposed number of residential units, which Scott Bey said was 120 market rate apartments.

"Do you have a developer?" she asked.

Scott Bey said the owner has the right to say whether there is a developer. Plainfield Economic Development Director Carlos Sanchez said the property is under contract, but there are a "multitude of conditions" to be worked out before approvals.

Other concerns Monday  included placement of driveways to avoid opening onto Hillside Avenue, environmental remediation, preservation of historic medical implements left at the site, how development would affect property values in the neighborhood, whether Planned Parenthood might locate there in light of the city's pre-natal and HIV issues and how to save an auditorium still inside the shuttered hospital. Board members and residents also corrected typos and unclear language in the redevelopment plan.

Historian Nancy Piwowar suggested establishing a medical museum on the site, noting Philadelphia's Mutter Museum draws 130,000 visitors a year.

Scott Bey said the public will have a chance to comment when the City Council holds a hearing on the Muhlenberg Redevelopment Plan.

The redevelopment process has many steps, starting with an "in need of redevelopment" study which may eventually lead to establishing a plan. The Planning Board and governing body work in tandem through the steps. After a relatively fallow period, the city now has dozens of projects in various stages of approvals. See the highly detailed final redevelopment plan for the largest development so far, a 212-unit, $50 million development on South Avenue that is now under construction.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Yom Hashoah
A time to remember
the 6 million Jews
who perished

How Did Candidates Do The Last Time?

Five of the June 6 primary candidates ran for office previously within the past four years. So how did they do the last time? Let's take a look.

Among the mayoral candidates, then-Councilman Adrian O. Mapp ran in the 2013 primary for a four-year mayoral term. He won with 2,793 votes over incumbent Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who received 1,756 votes. Preceding the primary on May 17, the Union County Board of Elections noted 12,617 registered Democrats eligible to vote. Mapp faced unaffiliated candidates Mustapha Muhammad and D. Scott Belin and Republican Sandy Spector in the November 2013 general election, receiving 5,234 votes to 1,061 for Muhammad, 765 for Spector and 392 for Belin. He took office on Jan.1, 2014.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Bridget Rivers is running for mayor. In 2013, she was unopposed in the June Democratic primary and received 384 votes of a possible 2,346 ward total as of May 17, 2013. She received 806 votes in the general election, defeating Republican Barbara Johnson, who had 133 votes.

Former Citywide at-large Councilwoman Tracey Brown is running for mayor. In 2016, she sought re-election to the Citywide at-large seat but lost the June Democratic primary to Councilwoman Rebecca Williams in a 2,993 to 3,127 vote. Williams went on to run unopposed in the general election, receiving 11,224 votes. She took office as the Citywide at-large representative on Jan.1, having vacated her former Second & Third Wards at-large seat.

(The fourth mayoral candidate, Dr. Henrilynn Davis Ibezim, has not previously run for office, but according to his Facebook page ran for governor of Nigeria's Imo State in 2015.)

Among City Council candidates, Alma Blanco was Brown's Third Ward running mate in 2016 but lost the Democratic primary to Charles McRae with 718 votes to his 1,016. The total number of registered Democrats in the Third Ward before the June 2016 primary was 3,785. This year, Blanco is running for the unexpired Second & Third Ward at-large seat vacated by Williams and is running with Rivers.

Steve G. Hockaday ran in the June 2015 Democratic primary for the First & Fourth Ward at-large City Council seat. He lost, 522-548, to Barry N. Goode. The total number of registered Democrats in the First and Fourth Wards for 2015 was 5,278. In the November 2015 general election, Goode defeated unaffiliated candidate Norman Ortega, 1,072 to 320, and took office on Jan. 1, 2016. This year, Hockaday faces primary challenges from Elliott Simmons, who served as the Fourth Ward councilman several years ago, and from first-time candidate Terri Briggs.

Here are the local slates with slogans:

REGULAR DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION OF UNION COUNTY
Mayor, Four-year term: Adrian O. Mapp
Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Joylette E. Mills-Ransome
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Steve Hockaday

DEMOCRATIC PARTY UNITY CANDIDATES
Mayor, Four-year term: Dr. Henrilynn Davis Ibezim
Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Cameron E. Cox
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Elliott Simmons

DEMOCRATS OF PLAINFIELD 
Mayor, Four-year term: Bridget Rivers
Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Alma Blanco

PLAINFIELD DEMOCRATS FOR CHANGE
Mayor, Four-year term: Tracey L. Brown
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Terri Briggs

--Bernice

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A New Chapter for the Arts?

In the early 1980s, it was not uncommon for New York Times art critic Vivien Raynor to travel to Plainfield for an exhibit at Tweed Gallery, an ambitious enterprise of artists Kim Blackburn and Maria Mijares.

In this 1983 review, Raynor also delves into a controversial (and ultimately failed) plan to move the gallery from its Front Street location to the main train station building on North Avenue. Its final location before disbanding was a second-story space on Watchung Avenue.

My daughter, her roommate and my future son-in-law were all involved in Tweed Gallery. It was exciting when a new show opened, but behind the scenes there was the ongoing challenge to raise money, schedule gallery sitters, garner publicity and broaden support from the community.

My entry into local reporting began with art reviews in Plainfield Today, a weekly newspaper created by Jan and Henry Johnson. It had offices on North Avenue in two storefronts, one of which later became an art gallery. I think it was the same location as the pop-up gallery at 144 North Avenue that just opened Friday and will continue through May 19.
Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and indoor
Another new gallery is Obras Art Gallery at 107 Park Avenue, a venture of developer Mario Camino.

These are all good signs for Plainfield's cultural life.

Through all the changes, Swain Galleries has been a constant, now at Watchung Avenue and East Seventh Street but also with beginnings downtown. Its history dates back to 1868 and spans four generations. Newcomers especially should get to know it.

Creativity has always been a prime family value in our household, and Plainfield abounds with creators of art, music, literature, design and more. Those who lovingly restore its architectural treasures pay homage to the original creators. It's heartening to see new support for artistic creation emerging now.

Both Union County's Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs and Plainfield's own Cultural And Heritage Commission are resources for those involved in creative work. Partner up!

--Bernice

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Quick Take on Revised Muhlenberg Plan

Picture this: My printer needs ink, so I can't print out the draft and revised copies of the Muhlenberg Redevelopment Plan. So I set up the netbook alongside the laptop to compare them. Mouse problems cause me to use the trackpad on the laptop and the screens are two different sizes. I keep reaching for the missing mouse and I have to take notes with a pencil on changes I see.

For all those reasons and more (exhaustion and exasperation in general) I did not make a comprehensive list of changes. I invite anyone who did a page-by-page examination to send over findings on changes.

The redevelopment plan was to have been discussed at last week's Planning Board meeting, but the meeting has been moved to 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 24 at duCret School of Arts, 1030 Central Ave.

Because the most vocal public comment has centered on housing, I looked for changes in that category but did not find many.  One item seemed unusual to me:
.
"Any structure, or portion of a structure containing dwelling units (as defined in this plan) shall not be connected to any other structure or portion of a structure containing a non-residential principal use by an internal passageway that enables movement of people or goods."

An addition in permitted uses stood out:

"Building Mounted Wireless Communication Facility - A building mounted installation that facilitates personal wireless services as defined in the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 which includes FCC licensed commercial wireless telecommunications services such as cellular, personal communications services (PCS), specialized mobile radio (SMR), enhanced specialized mobile radio (ESMR), paging, and similar services that currently exist or may be developed in the future. Such installations may include, but are not limited to antennae and satellite dishes."

This reminded me that on April 5, T-Mobile Northeast LLC was listed on the Zoning Board of Adjustment agenda as "requesting an interpretation" of a section of the Plainfield Land Use Ordinance. The location was Park Avenue and Randolph Road and the ordinance cited has to do with parking. As I recall, the agenda item was not discussed. Here's a possibly related paragraph in the new Muhlenberg Redevelopment Plan:

"Parking on the site shall be designed to maximize efficiency and promote shared parking between uses. A parking management plan shall be submitted as part of any application for site plan approval that describes the mix of uses on site, their respective parking needs, hours of operation, number of employees, and any other information that may be requested by the Planning Board and its professionals"

Two other interesting items in the revised document:

"Any portions of the building with historic significance that cannot be retained as part of the redevelopment of the site shall be documented in a report prepared by an architect or other qualified professional specializing in historic preservation. This report shall be provided to the City and kept in the collection of the Plainfield Public Library. 5. A plaque or similar installation commemorating the history of Muhlenberg Hospital shall be provided onsite in a location deemed appropriate by the Planning Board."

"A traffic impact assessment report shall be submitted as part of an application for site plan approval. This report shall include existing conditions assessment, projected traffic generation, a level of service assessment for streets and intersections in the vicinity of the Area, and any other information requested by the Planning Board or its professionals"

This is such a busy weekend that I doubt many people will sit down and delve through 34 pages of the draft plan and 37 pages of the revised plan, but if you do and form any opinions, please share.

--Bernice

Famous Plainfielders!

Thanks to Tim O'Connor for viewing the George Clinton/Killer Mike post and reminding us that famed photographer Irving Penn, the subject of a Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit starting Monday, is also from Plainfield.

If you have not seen the post with that other famous Plainfielder, George Clinton, please take a look. It has a video and some music as well as a transcript of the NPR segment. It's pretty funny when George Clinton talks about some coffee-stained currency that helped him launch his career.

Plainfield has many notables in diverse fields (click the link to see)..

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Happy 420

Happy 420
... if you know what I mean

George Clinton & Killer Mike

Listen 
to
George Clinton
and
Killer Mike
on NPR
(click the link)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Commentary On The 2-6

As an observer of Plainfield politics since 1983, I can attest that things can get as wild and woolly here as in any major city across the state. The size of the prize doesn't even matter sometimes, as witness the recent kerfuffle over a single voting district containing less than 3 percent of the city's registered Democrats.

A resident who agreed to fill in a vacancy on the Democratic City Committee duly filed petitions to be elected this year for a full two-year term. Cue the theme from Jaws here as a state official who lives in the district (one of 68 citywide) decided he wanted the seat and put the strong-arm on the local chairman to make it happen.

The incumbent resident was asked to step aside. He agreed, but then felt aggrieved. After all, he was quite active on the local level, so much so that he and his wife were being honored this month for their support of a major cultural institution.

He asked this blogger for space to tell his story. No sooner did it hit the blogosphere than it got more page views than the total of registered Democrats in the voting district in question. It went on to garner nearly triple that number of page views.

For whatever reason, the state official withdrew himself from running for the district seat. Maybe he thought the reaction over his move would reflect badly on his run for re-election to state office this year. Maybe his action made the slate, with a gubernatorial candidate at the top, look bad. Perhaps the threat of a write-in landslide by the wronged person's friends played a role.

As in most political brouhahas, it's not over until it's over. What is the status of the original filer now? Will his friends write him in to show their distaste, or skip voting for re-election of the state official in his own hometown?

I conclude with the words of the person who was asked to step aside, yet forgave the local chairman and even pledged support to his re-election campaign:

"I am convinced that side deals will only continue to erode our already fractured and fragile system. I am taking the opportunity of what has transpired with me these past few weeks, to once again ask for a more civil political discourse where we honor and respect differences as a bridge to a better future for all of our citizens."

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tenants and Landlords, How's It Going?

Plainfield's housing stock is still its main source of tax revenue and half of its households are renters.

Most of the upcoming development hinges on attracting more renters.

Where there are tenants, there must be landlords, and some are mostly here for the money (think of the now-departed Connolly).

Plaintalker is interested in hearing from tenants and landlords on what is working and not working about their relationship. The issue of parking has come to the fore, with the city trying to get cars off the street and landlords imposing rules that make tenants try to get away with parking on streets.

There are other items of concern. Tell us what is on your mind!

--Bernice

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Daffodils Reign At Shakespeare Garden

Garden Club Centennial Daffodils

On Saturday I checked the Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park and found lots of daffodils, including the very special ones planted in 2010. See the work of the Plainfield Garden Club here.

The Shakespeare Garden in Plainfield is one of several across the world that features flowers mentioned in the Bard's works. The Plainfield Garden Club maintains it in conjunction with Union County parks staff, opening it in Spring and closing in Fall.
This early, various kinds of daffodils dominated the garden.
I also saw Peony shoots coming up, and some small Primroses.
Hellebores were blooming.
More Hellebores.
Had to look this one up - Pulmonaria (Lungwort).
The Shakespeare Garden is on the state Women's Heritage Trail. is a great place to visit or to bring visitors, especially when it is at its peak in early June. The Plainfield Garden Club usually schedules an event the first week in June, with a plant sale, music and guided tours of the garden. Put it on your list of Plainfield highlights!

--Bernice

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter
to all our
Christian friends

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Plainfield's TaxMarch/Community Unity Rally

"I showed you mine, now you show me yours"

Demonstrators across the nation demanded to see President Donald Trump's tax returns on the traditional April 15 tax-filing deadline. Union County residents gathered in Cedar Brook Park to express their outrage and hear candidates for local office, who echoed the public's desire for No. 45 to do as his predecessors have done and make his tax returns public.
"Trump Whatcha Hiding?"
"Grifter In Chief"
"What Are You Hiding?"
"Dump Trump Now - Help"

I am recovering from a dental emergency and only attended part of the event. I didn't take notes, but somebody said a reporter from the New York Times was there, so maybe we can read about it there. Check the TV news for a perspective on the national turnout.

--Bernice

Draft Muhlenberg Redevelopment Plan Is Online

Before you go to the April 24 meeting on Muhlenberg, make sure you check the 34-page draft redevelopment plan (click the link).Four of its pages cover permitted uses, with definitions. The report has several maps, one of which shows where a residential portion is proposed (page 13). At a July 2016 meeting featuring William Colgan of Community Healthcare Associates, LLC, the residential portion drew the most concern.

The draft report by Heyer, Gruel & Associates was reviewed by the Planning Board on April 6 before being made public. (Click the last two links to read blog posts.)

--Bernice

Friday, April 14, 2017

Legal Notice on Muhlenberg

Muhlenberg Redevelopment Plan To Be Discussed on April 24


Attention!

The JFK Muhlenberg redevelopment plan will be discussed at a Planning Board meeting, 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 24 at duCret School of Art, 1030 Central Ave. The public is invited to attend and participate.

The Planning Board meeting previously scheduled for Thursday, April 20 is canceled.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Rally Saturday At Cedar Brook Park



The location is the cricket field near the Shakespeare Garden.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Challenge Knocks Out One Council Candidate

City Clerk AJ Jalloh has found one Democratic primary slate's slogan improper and one City Council candidate's petitions invalid as of Wednesday, the last day to challenge April 3 filings for the June 6 primary...

In addition, one City Committee candidate's petitions were found to be invalid, though eight other challenges failed.

The City Clerk's office received petitions on April 3 for four mayoral candidates, four candidates for the unexpired Second & Third Ward at-large City Council seat and three for the Fourth Ward City Council seat. A slate using the slogan "Plainfield Democratic Organization" was not entitled to it, but cured the problem by changing it to "Plainfield Democrats for Change." However, the slate's candidate for the unexpired term, Ellen Carter Haygood, submitted petitions with 53 names but fell short of the required 50 names after Jalloh found 10 duplicate names and signatures.

Stanley Haygood's petition was found to be invalid because he did not state what office he was seeking, and Dematra Wallace's petition for the Ward 3, District 9 City Committee seat was deemed invalid because she is unaffiliated, and only a member of the same party can circulate a petition for a seat in a primary contest.

Here is the new slate list for mayor and council:

REGULAR DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION OF UNION COUNTY
Mayor, Four-year term: Adrian O. Mapp
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Joylette E. Mills-Ransome
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Steve Hockaday

DEMOCRATIC PARTY UNITY CANDIDATES
Mayor, Four-year term: Dr. Henrilynn Davis Ibezim
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Cameron E. Cox
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Elliott Simmons

DEMOCRATS OF PLAINFIELD 
Mayor, Four-year term: Bridget Rivers
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Alma Blanco
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: none filed

PLAINFIELD DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION
Plainfield Democrats for Change
Mayor, Four-year term: Tracey L. Brown
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Ellen Carter Haygood
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Terri Briggs

All the challenges were submitted by Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, in his role as chairman of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee.

--Bernice

Peter Price Sets 2-6 Record Straight


Peter Price

Hi Bernice,
To set the record straight, I wanted to take the opportunity to explain what occurred in the 2-6 Democratic City Committee race where my petition was removed and replaced with Assemblyman Jerry Green's petition as the male 2-6 candidate in the June 6 primary.  On March 25, my running mate Jeanette Criscione and I filed our notarized petitions for re-election as the male and female candidates for the Democratic City Committee in the 2-6. 
As a reminder, in 2016, I was appointed by Mayor Mapp to fill out the 2-6 male term that became available when an apartment fire caused the male 2-6 member David Rutherford to relocate his home out of 2-6. 
After our petitions were filed on March 25, the Mayor called me and told me that he had been in touch with Assemblyman Jerry Green who said Mr. Green wanted the 2-6 male seat for himself and that the Mayor should secure this for him and have me step aside.  
The Mayor told me that he was deeply saddened by Mr. Green’s request but had no choice but to ask me to step aside and let Mr. Green have the seat – thus his name and not mine would appear on the June 6 ballot.  How this squared with my signed petition and that of Jeanette Criscione’s filed hours earlier was unclear to me and even now I am not sure who physically removed it.  What was clear to me based on the phone call was that my petition was being removed or voided or both – in order to accommodate Assemblyman Green to make way for him to submit his own petition in time for the April 3 filing deadline.  I should also add that after this move my running mate Jeanette Criscione gathered signatures on a second petition of her own fearing that the first petition having both of our names on it would be considered invalid.
It is important to state that I took the Mayor at his word (and still do) that this was a difficult and sad move that he needed to take.  My wife and I have been staunch supporters of the Mayor and his team for many years – and consider him, his wife and family, friends. 
While I could fill up this blog post with many reasons why I find this move by both the Mayor and Assemblyman as troublesome and unfair, I choose not to do this.  However, I can tell you that this decision has upset many of my neighbors and friends not only in the 2-6 but across the City of Plainfield. Despite this, my wife Libby and I continue to support the reelection of Mayor Mapp and his running mates Joylette E. Mills-Ransome and Steve Hockaday because we believe they will continue to make the important strides we need to move Plainfield forward.
I also want to make it clear that I have not mounted any formal write-in campaign.  If my neighbors and friends choose to do this, I am deeply honored and if I should win through such an effort, I am happy to serve. 
On a final note, I have on many occasions both on your blog and in public, voiced my concern over the tone of politics in Plainfield and the lack of civility and respect we show each other when expressing our hopes and desires for a better Plainfield.  I am convinced that side deals will only continue to erode our already fractured and fragile system. I am taking the opportunity of what has transpired with me these past few weeks, to once again ask for a more civil political discourse where we honor and respect differences as a bridge to a better future for all of our citizens.
Thank you for all you do and allowing me space on your blog.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Brown Mounts Challenge To City Committee

Initial filings for Plainfield's 68-seat Democratic City Committee reveal plans for a palace coup.

In 2015, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's team won enough seats to wrest the chairmanship away from longtime Chairman Jerry Green. Running off the line and winning meant Mapp's "Progressive Democratic Organization" candidates became members of the Regular Democratic Organization, kind of a play on the old "we have met the enemy and it is us" joke.

Fast forward two years and the RDOs are now seeing a challenge from another PDO, mayoral candidate Tracey Brown's "Plainfield Democratic Organization."

As all good political observers in the Queen City know, there are 34 voting districts within the city's four wards, with male and female seats in each one for a total of 68. Every two years, Democratic voters get to choose city committee members in each voting district and the winners become a subset of the county committee. In 2015, Mapp won 48 of the 68 seats and became the new chairman.

The 2017 filings presently show 68 RDO candidates but also what looks like 32 Tracey Brown PDOs (two are in red, whatever that means). The factions can challenge each others' candidates and the tally is not yet final. So it looks like a PDO takeover may be out of reach, but the effort was strong compared to another one this year. Councilwoman Bridget Rivers is running with the slogan Democrats of Plainfield, and there were two DOPs in the First Ward, namely the Tolivers; one in the Third Ward and four in the Fourth Ward, including Rivers and her boyfriend.

Challenges to candidates' petitions should be resolved this week. Voters will see slates on their primary ballots that include the City Committee candidates in each district. On the Monday following the primary, the winners of City Committee seats will meet to vote on a chairman to serve for two years. The Regular Democratic Organization oral of Union County, comprised of all the municipal committees, meets the next day to elect a county chairman for two years, Jerry Green is the current RDO county chairman.

Primary Day (June 6) is also when any independent candidates file. Former mayoral candidate Mustapha Muhammad has already declared on Facebook that he intends to file for mayor this year as an independent, noting that the primary will whittle the Democratic field down to one for the November 7 general election.

--Bernice

Happy Passover

Happy Passover
to all our
friends and neighbors
of the Jewish faith

It is important that all of us know more about each others' holidays and significant dates. Click to learn more about Passover. 

Looking Forward to Bicycle Races and Fireworks

With so many worrisome things to think about now, maybe we can look forward to some fun things coming up.

Among items up for City Council approval at Monday's meeting, for the second year the State Bicycle Race Championships will take place in downtown Plainfield.

The races in several categories will start at City Hall, go north to Front Street, then down Park Avenue and across East Seventh back to Watchung Avenue.

The event, on Sunday, May 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will include a free bike giveaway and a "Taste of Plainfield."

Initially on my block of East Seventh the races were a surprise to many apartment dwellers, who then came out with friends and family to watch the fast bikes speeding past in packs. I recall one young boy who was thrilled at the sight of these highly trained athletes and their many-colored bikes. He waved excitedly and I'm sure went to bed that night with exciting memories.

It's Resolution R 137-17, if you want to talk about it in public comment

Another memorable event will be the annual July 4th fireworks display at Cedar Brook Park. The governing body will be asked Monday to authorize payment of $14,000 to Garden State Fireworks for the event, which will actually be on July 4th this year. Another resolution up for approval, R 165-17, is for fees in the amount of $8,305.71 to Union County for use of Cedar Brook Park.

Projected expenses for the 2017 Independence Day parade are listed in the introduced budget as $54,000. Monday's agenda includes a public hearing on the $81.5 million introduced budget, which has a local tax for municipal purposes of $55,520,325.72.

A reminder: Budget deliberations start Tuesday with the City Council and the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee reviewing the Department of Public Affairs & Safety budget for Police and Fire divisions. Wednesday's deliberations will be on Administration & Finance and Thursday's will be on Public Works & Urban Development. All three will be held at 7 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Whirlwind Week Ahead

Meeting mavens will be busy next week.

On Monday, the City Council holds its regular meeting at 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

Tuesday has three meetings:

--Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, 6 p.m. at 127 Roosevelt Ave.

--Citizens Budget Advisory Committee reviews the Department of Public Affairs & Safety budgets (Police and Fire), 7 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

--Plainfield Board of Education Work & Study (action may be taken), 8 p.m., Plainfield High School Cafetorium, 950 Park Ave. Agenda includes transfer of Anna Belin-Pyles.

On Wednesday, CBAC reviews the budget for the Department of Administration & Finance, 7 p.m. in City Hall Library.

Thursday's meeting is also CBAC budget deliberations, on Public Works & Urban Development, 7 p,m,, City Hall Library. 

Repairs Dragging On

Displaying IMG_0712.JPG

Where is everything? I don't know. We had to move stuff out of the kitchen for repairs and the front room is next. The super has missed several appointments he made, due to other demands on his time. I keep reminding myself that millions of people are worse off than my first world self, but it's still annoying not to have my stuff at hand when I need it.

This all came about, as previously mentioned, on Friday, Jan. 13, when a deluge from the apartment above mine wrecked the ceilings, soaked paperwork and household items and generally added to the misery around here.

Meanwhile, I have some daffodils in a plastic cup and my Breezy Singer warbler to cheer me up!

--Bernice

Friday, April 7, 2017

Spring Has Sprung in the PNW

The PNW is in bloom and I'm envious!


Cherry blossoms, photo by Audrey

Seattle is in Zone 8, similar to the U.S. South, so the growing season begins earlier than ours in New Jersey. They can also grow Calla Lilies and Camellias, which are too tender for the Northeast.

This weekend should give our flowering crops a boost, though we will never catch up to the Pacific Northwest - unless climate change really kicks in.

The seed catalogs are now upon us. I am grateful for the growing space behind the building and will be looking through the seeds I saved from last year and deciding where to plant. Good luck to all gardeners, whether seasoned or just getting started!

--Bernice

County Plans Netherwood Bridge Repairs

Union County officials gave the Planning Board a "courtesy review" Thursday of a $3.2 million project to replace the Netherwood Avenue bridge over the Green Brook.

County Supervising Engineer Paul Leso said the center pier will be removed in the new bridge to prevent build-up of debris, otherwise it will mostly similar to the present design. The project includes $1 million in state funds and Leso said there should be no cost to the city.

The Green Brook divides Plainfield from North Plainfield and four properties in all will be affected by the work, Leso said. Traffic will have to detour for the duration of the project, which is expected to start in late summer. Completion could take nine months to one year.

Resident Nancy Piwowar asked for traffic notifications to include cautions around Barlow School to watch for children, as detours will lead to Farragut Road where the school is located.

The board also received an update on plans for intersection upgrades on West Seventh Street at Central, Grant and Plainfield avenues. County Project Manager Ray Sullivan said the intersections will receive new curbing, ADA ramps and "brand new signals." The intersections were identified as having high incidences of vehicles striking pedestrians and presently have antiquated systems dating back to the 1970s. The goal is to increase safety, Sullivan said.

Resident Brian Price asked whether any bike lanes were proposed for the bridge or intersection projects. Sullivan said bicycles were cited in the intersection study, but lanes were not dedicated. He said he saw all kinds of traffic at the intersections, from trucks to motorized wheelchairs. Bey suggested use of "Complete Streets," a concept the board explored in 2014.

The intersection work is expected to start in the Fall. One or two parking stalls may be eliminated, Sullivan said.  Planning Board member William Toth asked for drawings, but Nierstedt said the discussion was informational and not a capital plan requiring approval. Sullivan said a public informational session was held in April 2016, but he could provide a Power Point summary to the city.

--Bernice

Read Federal Joint Statement on Group Homes

Regarding concerns over possible uses of the Muhlenberg campus, Nancy Piwowar has provided a link to a Joint Statement of The Department of Justice and The Department of Housing and Urban Development. Click to read in its entirety.

No group home is proposed for the Muhlenberg site. There will be more discussion on April 20 at the Planning Board meeting.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Draft Muhlenberg Report Raises Questions

Planning Board members took a five-minute recess Thursday to review a draft document on redevelopment of the 10-acre Muhlenberg site before half a dozen residents peppered the board with concerns, the main one being any residential uses at the site.

Both Planning Board Chairman Ron Scott Bey and Planning Director William Nierstedt stressed the preliminary nature of the report by Heyer, Gruel & Associates and said it will be further discussed at the board's April 20 meeting. Nierstedt said the report will be available to the public Friday, possibly on the city website.

Although medical-related residential uses are mentioned in the draft plan, resident Robin Bright objected to having a facility for veterans with PTSD, but Bey said it was "very possible." He said housing occupants will have to "be able to maintain themselves." He said there would "not in any way or fashion" be a group home and he did not want residents "walking down the street in their bathrobes."

Although the report included a long list of medical-related permitted uses, resident Elizabeth Faraone said, "We need a real hospital."

Faraone cited shootings and maternity care as needs that a hospital could serve and called it "criminal" for JFK Health "to say we can't have a hospital."

Bey said the only restrictions for the site are on "things currently provided" on the campus adjoining the 10-acre site, which include an emergency room, a dialysis center and a nursing school.

Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center closed in 2008. Resident Rowand Clark recalled it as the city's largest employer, offering valuable medical services and having many doctors nearby. He said it was "taken over by a for-profit" who decided to close it. (Resident Nancy Piwowar said later it was not-for-profit.)

Clark further characterized JFK as accountable to shareholders "to make as much money as possible" but said the starting point in future plans should be "what's best for Plainfield." He said there is a "woeful lack" of small single-family homes "because builders can make more money on Mcmansions" and suggested building 120 affordable new single-family homes on the 10-acre site.

Nierstedt said the lots would be below the required size for a single-family home and Bey said developers are shying away from building homes of that size.

Piwowar, one of the original "Save Muhlenberg" activists and a close watcher of JFK's actions, stressed the need for caution in setting restrictions on future use of the campus. She cited expensive litigation when the city tried to bar a home for recovering alcoholics on Evergeen Avenue and also mentioned recent attempts to bar a mosque in Bernardsville.

"We follow the land use laws, which are federal laws," Bey said.

Piwowar also mentioned a possible "non-compete" situation, but Bey said the only non-compete issue is with "just the things that exist there now." She also suggested inclusion of holistic medicine, saying alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra did his internship at Muhlenberg.

The news that Heyer, Gruel & Associates would be writing the redevelopment plan for the Muhlenberg site came out at a joint meeting of land use boards last month.

Anyone interested in attending the April 20 meeting should check closer to the date to confirm the location. Meetings are normally held in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave. After the meeting adjourned, Bey and Nierstadt were discussing how best to handle an anticipated crowd on April 20.

--Bernice

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Mudslingers Desist!

Blog comments can be enlightening, but in campaign season too many people get all derogatory and attack fellow Plainfielders personally. Please make your point without calling folks names. Ultimately, we are all in this together and dismissive, demeaning remarks do not advance the conversation.

--Bernice

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Homicide Under Investigation

Here is the Union County Prosecutor's Press Release on today's homicide:

Plainfield homicide under investigation

The fatal shooting of a Plainfield resident is under investigation, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Tuesday.

The victim has been identified as 17-year- old Kassim Hayes.

Plainfield Police Division patrol units responding to a report of shots being fired on the 600 block of West Fourth Street found Hayes at that location shortly after 4 a.m. on Tuesday. Hayes was pronounced dead at the scene a short while later.

This matter remains under active joint investigation by the Union County Homicide Task Force, Plainfield Police Division, Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, and Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit.

Anyone with information about this matter is being urged to contact Homicide Task Force Sgt. Johnny Ho at 908-403-8271 or Detective Melissa Plum at 908-418- 2817.

Filings, One More Time!

A candidate was inadvertently omitted from the City Clerk's list of those who filed Monday. Here is the updated list, by slogan and slate:

REGULAR DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION OF UNION COUNTY
Mayor, Four-year term: Adrian O. Mapp
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Joylette E. Mills-Ransome
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Steve Hockaday

DEMOCRATIC PARTY UNITY CANDIDATES
Mayor, Four-year term: Dr. Henrilynn Davis Ibezim
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Cameron E. Cox
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Elliott Simmons

DEMOCRATS OF PLAINFIELD
Mayor, Four-year term: Bridget Rivers
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Alma Blanco
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: none filed

PLAINFIELD DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION
Mayor, Four-year term: Tracey L. Brown
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Ellen Carter Haygood
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Terri Briggs

--Bernice

Monday, April 3, 2017

Filing Yields Large Primary Field

Even though I made a special reminder for myself to check on primary filings, the distractions of the day won out.

The super missed two previous dates to start repairs for the Jan. 13 water damage in my apartment, so once again I spent many hours moving stuff so could start today. Time passed. The cat napped until he heard someone arriving around 1:15 p.m., and then he went into hiding.  The super noticed a suspicious bulge on the kitchen wall over the sink and began knocking out all the plaster. This wasn't even part of the job as discussed previously, though probably necessary. What wasn't necessary was most of my work moving stuff, it turned out, because he was just doing the kitchen today.

I extracted my copy of Bruce Springsteen's book, "Born to Run," from under one of the plastic drop cloths and alternated between reading and making forays outside to rake leaves and sift compost while the repair work proceeded. The work halted before 4 p.m., but I didn't remember the filing deadline until I was sitting in the City Council meeting tonight.

So here I am bringing up the rear with filings.

As expected, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp filed to run for a second term, with Steve Hockaday as running mate for the Fourth Ward seat. Hockaday previously ran for the First & Fourth Wards at-large seat. Mapp's slate includes Joylette Mills-Ransome running for the unexpired Second & Third Ward at-large seat. This slate has the endorsement of Union County Democratic Committee Chairman Jerry Green, who is running for re-election to the District 22 Assembly seat.

Fourth Ward incumbent Bridget Rivers filed to run for mayor with Alma Blanco as her running mate for the unexpired Second & Third Ward at-large term. Blanco ran last year for the Third Ward seat.

Former Councilwoman Tracey Brown filed for mayor, with Terri Briggs as her Fourth Ward running mate.

A surprise slate is headed by Dr. Henrilynn Davis Ibezim for mayor, with former Councilman Elliot Simmons for Fourth Ward and Cameron Cox for the unexpired Second & Third Ward at-large term. This slate has a campaign poster on Facebook with the slogan, "Bringing the world to Plainfield." Ibezim ran for governor of Imo State in Nigeria in 2015, according to another poster on the site.

The primary is June 6. Winners of the three contests - mayor, Fourth Ward and the unexpired term - will be on the Nov. 7 ballot along with any independents who file on June 6.

--Bernice

Filing Day!

Today (Monday, April 3) is filing date for Democratic and Republican June primary candidates. The primary election is June 6 and winners will have the party line in the November 7 general election.

Local seats up for election this year include Mayor and Fourth Ward for four-year terms, an unexpired term for the Second & Third Wards at-large and 68 two-year terms on the Democratic City Committee.

On the larger stage, Democratic and Republican candidates for Governor, State Assembly and State Senate must file today.

Independents file on June 6.

--Bernice

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Peter and Libby Price To Be Honored





Peter and Libby Price will be honored on Saturday, April 29 "for their generous and continued support" for the Plainfield Symphony.

Click here for full details on the concert and the Conductor's Circle party at which the Prices will be honored.

ABC Board Nominees Revealed

Nominees for the new Alcoholic Beverage Control Board will be considered at Monday's City Council meeting for possible approval at the April 10 meeting.

The April 3 meeting is 7:30 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

Licenses for bars, restaurants, liquor stores and social clubs were formerly approved or denied by the seven-member governing body, but the three-member board is expected to review annual licenses starting this year. License holders are subject to inspections by the Police Division and several other city agencies and must be up to date with city fees and sales tax due to the state. The City Clerk's office handles much of the preparation for renewal, including correspondence with licensees and verification of  compliance. Most licensees conform with all requirements, but police sometimes recommend denial for infractions such as sale of liquor to minors. The process may then involve hearings.

The three initial nominees have staggered terms. Successors will all have three-year terms. The ordinance also requires one of the three to be of the opposite political party. They are:

- James Perry, who cites extensive board service on his resume in addition to being the founding Chief Financial Officer of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, serving from 1996 to 2013. His board affiliations include 23 years with Union County College,and 28 years with King's Daughters Day School. He was former chair of the Plainfield Redevelopment Authority and a founding member of the Plainfield Business Development Corp. A Democrat, he is nominated for the initial three-year term.

- David Graves, a repairer with the State of New Jersey, having previous managerial and technical positions in entertainment and manufacturing. Though not noted on his resume, Graves is well-known for community activities as well. He is a Democrat and is nominated for the two-year term.

- Oscar Riba, who is now vice president of Two Sigma Investments, LLC but who gained knowledge of ABC regulations as owner/operator of a New York bar for a decade ending in 2012. According to the resolution, he is a Republican and is nominated for a one-year initial term.

See more details on the ABC board in my January preview.

License renewals are supposed to take place by June 30, but may be held up if licensees have not paid fees or taxes or if hearings are involved.

See the April 3 meeting agenda here.

--Bernice

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Unused Back Pay Impacts Municipal Budgets

Today nj.com is featuring an NJ Spotlight article on  NJ municipalities and school districts owing almost $2 billion in unused sick and vacation pay.

Plaintalker pointed out Plainfield's situation regarding Compensated Absence Liability in 2008 ("The Big I.O.U"). The past administration was not putting away anything toward the cost of payouts, but this one has been doing so. Last year, $150,000 was allotted for accumulated absence and $67,300 was paid. This year, the administration wants $75,000 set aside.

As of 2010, new employees can only receive a maximum of $15,000 in unused sick or vacation pay. For a municipality with a mature workforce at the top of the pay scale, a bunch of retirements can cost a bundle in payouts. By contrast, some towns don't allow carryover of sick and vacation pay and so have no problem.

I could not find a page in the 2017 Municipal Data Sheet that showed Plainfield's total liability. In past data sheets, it was spelled out by categories and stated both the number of days and the amount owed. Update: Finance Director Ron West says the amount is in the User Friendly Budget and it is $3,882,593.35.

I was surprised to see this article, because the topic might be considered a bit arcane. Perhaps there is a new interest in how public money is spent, or maybe a wish for even greater reform.

--Bernice

Repairs May Cause Spotty Blogging

Finally some action on the Friday, Jan. 13, leak that wrecked the kitchen ceiling!
The super scraped the ceiling in the kitchen and living room, but said repairs will take a week, starting Monday. This is a very small apartment and we can't move everything out, so it will be Dropcloth City until things are fixed.
Blogging will be impacted by this situation. Unfortunately for me, it is one of those weeks with several meetings - City Council agenda-fixing Monday, Zoning Board of Adjustment Wednesday, Planning Board Thursday.

Mau the cat spent most of Wednesday in hiding. He's a pretty tough guy, except when it comes to having strangers in the apartment. After much cajoling, he emerged and became his usual bossy self instead of being a fraidy-cat.

The leak that went on for more than an hour starting at 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 13 came from a broken pipe in the apartment upstairs. We used every receptacle possible to catch the leaks, but water was coming through in so many places that it was impossible to avoid the damage. The super was in transit from somewhere and could not immediately respond. A lot of our stuff got damaged and had to be thrown out, even though we tried to cover things with plastic drop cloths.

.A new property manager took over at the end of February, so maybe things will improve. We hope so! This location is perfect for us and we really don't want to move.

--Bernice

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Checks and Balances

Image result for checks and balances chart

It's this time of year that politicians tend to be focused on checks and balances - no, not the ones you learned about in Social Studies, the other ones: How many checks are being written and how big a balance there is in the campaign war chest.

Some local candidates have been holding fundraisers for months already, but Monday is filing day for the June 6 primary and candidates will strongly urge you to put your money where your mouth is.

In Plainfield, a Democratic primary win highly correlates with success in the November general election. This year the field is crowded and voter backing means a lot on the way to the primary as well as at the polls. So check your bank balance and see whether you can spare your favorite candidate a few bucks for fliers and buttons. Voter apathy may have played a role in the 45th presidential election. Don't let it happen here!

--Bernice

PNC Bank Sets Round Two With HPC

A inconclusive  haggle Tuesday over how much green space to put around the Titsworth-Sutphen House will mean PNC Bank representatives must return to the Historic Preservation Commission next month.
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The pre-Civil War structure sits on a portion of the bank's parking lot on West Second Street. Plans to subdivide three lots to create two new ones include adding some green space around the building, but commissioners wanted more and suggested reconfiguring the proposed lots to allow as much as 20 feet of "greensward" around it.  Commissioners also suggested relocating two proposed ATM machines to make more room around the building.
Attorney Diane Hickey of Riker Danzig said the plan included a "facelift" for the building, mainly a new coat of paint. The suggested changes in lot lines led to Hickey asking for two recesses to confer with engineer Robert Streker and project manager Joseph F. Haley.
At times the discussion veered off into what might become of the former Appliance-Arama building adjacent to the parking lot, now that a proposal for 148 apartments on the lot is defunct. On another topic, Larry Quirk wanted the bank's proposed ATMs to look more historic.

"The drawings look rather futuristic," he said.

It was revealed that the bank will relocate to the large office complex across West Second Street and close the ornate building that once was the headquarters of United National Bank, Developer Frank Cretella had in 2010 proposed retail use for the bank's first floor, with nightclubs above

Cretella's 148-unit apartment complex was to have required use of eight parking lot parcels, while the bank wanted just three melded into two for the ATMs. The PNC Bank team hinted Tuesday at possible development on the rest of the sprawling parking lot, but gave no details.

"The ultimate vision is a viable development on the property," Streker said.

After more back-and-forth over how much green space was sufficient, HPC Chairman Bill Michelson suggested that the team "articulate or come back" next month. Hickey first raised the issue of having to meet April 5 with the Zoning Board of Adjustment, but later said she would ask for the matter to be carried to the Zoning Board's May 3 meeting. The HPC agreed to carry the matter in turn to their April 25 meeting for further discussion and possible approval. 

--Bernice

Monday, March 27, 2017

CBAC Schedule Released

This year's schedule for budget deliberations is a tight three-session review of the city's three charter-mandated departments, with one extra session if necessary.

The 2017 budget prepared by the administration is expected to be introduced was introduced at the March 13 regular council meeting. A public hearing on the introduced budget will be held at the April 10 City Council meeting, 8 p.m. in Municipal Court. Once it is introduced, the governing body can modify it before adoption. The largest portion of the budget, for Public Affairs & Safety, covers the Police and Fire divisions and will be reviewed by the council and CBAC on Tuesday, April 11 at 7 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave. On April 12, it's Administration & Finance and on April 13, Public Works & Urban Development,. same time and location. Click the links to see all the divisions in the latter two.

The additional deliberation date, if necessary, is Tuesday, April 25, also in 7 p.m. in City Hall Library. The CBAC Presentation/Recommendations will be part of the City Council's May 1 agenda-fixing session, 7:30 p.m. in Municipal Court, followed on May 8 by possible adoption of the budget and/or any amendments at the regular council meeting, 8 p.m. in Municipal Court. If necessary, the adoption date may be May 15, at 7 p.m. in City Hall Library.

Past deliberations have been drawn out over several weeks and were sometimes confrontational, but with a council majority favorable to the administration of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, the process will likely be smoother.

Each council member named a person to serve on the CBAC, They are Siddeeq El-Amin, nominated by Council President Rebecca Williams; Geraldine Agurs, nominated by Councilman Barry Goode; Sean McKenna, nominated by Councilwoman Joylette Mills-Ransome; Alsan Diouf, nominated by Councilman Cory Storch; Robin Bright, nominated by Councilman Charles McRae; Ray Edwards, nominated by Councilwoman Bridget Rivers; and Jane Peterson, nominated by Councilwoman Diane Toliver.

The CBAC usually names a chairman who delivers the group's recommendations after the deliberations are finished. The public is welcome to attend any of the meetings.

--Bernice

"Tax March" on April 15

https://www.taxmarchplainfield.org/


Tax March - Community Unity Rally - Voter Registration Drive
Plainfield, NJ - Union   County

Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield, NJ will be the site of the Tax March & Community Unity Rally on Plainfield.  The event will take place Saturday April 15th from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

The rally is being organized by an all volunteer, grass roots committee. The event is nonpartisan. The vision of the all volunteer, grassroots committee is to offer the residents of Union County an opportunity to come together and meet one another.  We hope to have a diverse slate of speakers and entertainment - to provide a day of education, peaceful activism and enjoyment for all.  Originally Westfield was considered as a possible location, the committee decided on Plainfield in the hopes that people will cross the suburban/urban, racial and socio-economic lines people often do not cross. 

We hope to offer a program which includes a slate of politicians and thought leaders who can speak to the importance of transparency and accountability in government, a responsible federal budget, the programs funded by our federal budget that Union County citizens rely on and other topics such as the importance of civic engagement and free press.

Scheduled speakers to date include:
Mayor Adrian Mapp of Plainfield, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Jim Johnson, Assemblyman Jerry Green (D22), a representative from the Andrew Goodman Foundation and Gubernatorial Candidate Ray Lesniak.

Invitations to speak have been issued to all gubernatorial candidates as well as organizational leaders in the arenas of transparency in government, freedom of the press, social justice, education, healthcare and immigration.