Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rutherford Posts on Spriggs Matter

Last night I was too tired to report on the Joy Spriggs matter, but today I see David Rutherford has done so and even has a video of John Campbell Sr.'s remarks. See his blog post and video here.

If you are not yet familiar with Plainfield View, it is the newest Plainfield blog. Bookmark it!

All the current bloggers are beyond retirement age, so it is good to have the perspective of a much younger Plainfielder in the mix.

I may post later on the Spriggs issue, but having John Campbell's rhetoric verbatim gives people a good idea of how he has maintained his political influence over the decades.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Gloria Taylor is Third Ward Appointee

Rev. Gloria Taylor, a retired educator and widow of Mayor Richard L. Taylor, won council approval Monday to replace Mayor-Elect Adrian Mapp in the Third Ward council seat.

Mapp, who takes office as mayor on Jan. 1, resigned from the council Friday.

Taylor was one of three nominees chosen by the Democratic City Committee to be offered for council approval to fill the vacancy until the Nov. 4 general election. The others were former Third Ward Councilman Don Davis and teacher and former school board member Roni Taylor.

All three were interviewed Monday by the council in closed session. In the public meeting, Councilwoman Rebecca Williams nominated Roni Taylor to fill the vacancy, but the motion failed, 4-2, with Williams and Cory Storch voting "yes" and Rev. Tracey Brown, Vera Greaves, William Reid and City Council President Bridget Rivers voting "no."

Next, Vera Greaves first said she nominated Roni Taylor, but quickly changed it to Gloria Taylor.
The vote was 5-1 for Gloria Taylor, with only Williams voting "no."

There was then no need to vote on Davis.

Gloria Taylor stayed after the meeting was adjourned to be sworn in by City Clerk Abubakar Jalloh. She will assume the seat at the Jan. 6 reorganization meeting, to be held at 6 p.m. in Plainfield High School.


Projects in Gear on Gavett Place

Industrial lights inside the former Miron's Furntiure warehouse signal a pickup in in converting the building to 12 apartments and commercial space on the ground floor. 

 After windows were installed a couple of years ago, the project on East Second Streets known as Gavett Place Properties showed little sign of action for months.
On the other side of Gavett Place, I spotted workers last week demolishing the roof parapets at the former Romond's Garage. Today they must have been on break when I came back with my camera, though the results of their labor were in evidence.
 The Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority must be glad to be making money renting roll-off containers for the demolition.
 The big door to the right opens to a ramp left over from the Jeep business. This project is called Art Lofts I and will have 20 apartments, a courtyard and an amphitheater across from the main train station.
 The project received approvals three years ago and this is the first sign of action.
 The ramp to the second floor.
 The permit is for partial demolition of the building. Click to enlarge any image or see a slide show.
This view is from an alleyway behind the buildings on North Avenue. You can glimpse the train station through the space where a building was demolished.
On the right-hand side of the alley, here is a rear view of the Romond's building, showing the progress of that demolition.

Plaintalker will try to bring you updates on these long-awaited projects as information becomes available.


Political Change in Plainfield

As much as people complain about city politics, there are ways to create change.

Individuals have gotten petitions signed and successfully won seats on the Democratic City Committee. That is how the late Peter Janis took Jerry Green's seat on the committee some years back. More recently, Jim Spear ran as an independent and won in his district.

Candidates have run off the line and taken council seats many times in the past, mainly through hard work and efficient campaigning.

Republicans are now outnumbered 12 to 1 by Democrats here, but some have garnered votes across party lines and brought a bipartisan message, even if they did not win.

The clinker in the process for Democrats is that winning a primary contest means you get the Regular Democratic Organization line, no matter how much you differ ideologically from the perceived "machine." Retaining your own stance is risky once you are subsumed by the RDO, as Adrian Mapp and other "New Democrats" can attest.

Still, a well-organized campaign can get results and even the chairmanship of the party once in a blue moon.

The best way for an ambitious candidate to learn the ropes is to work on a few campaigns, either within the party or with a group that has a track record of wins. Deciding that you are the deity's gift to Plainfield and that influence from on high will guarantee your success is a fantasy. You need to raise money, identify your support, win over a lot of the others and make sure they arrive at the polls on Election Day.

Back in the day when there were three powerful Democrats with followings, one could look at the City Committee and trace the political DNA of each person. It took a lot more horsetrading and even machinations to win when there were more than 80 committee seats.Now there are 68, a male and female in each of the 34 voting districts, so the challenge is slightly more manageable..

The committee members elected in June 2013 will serve until June 2015, so if you want to try for a seat, you have plenty of time to make yourself known to your neighbors as a possible candidate.The committee will pick a chairman at the reorganization after the 2015 June primary.

So if you really want change in the political landscape, take the advice of social activist Florynce "Flo" Kennedy: "Don't agonize. Organize."


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Council Considers Vacancy, Appointments Monday

Mayor-elect Adrian O. Mapp has resigned from his Third Ward City Council seat, the Democratic City Committee has selected three possible appointees to fill the vacancy and now it is the governing body's turn to take action.

The council will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall Library to consider the candidates: former Councilman Don Davis, campaign activist Roni Taylor and retired school principal Gloria Taylor. The appointee to succeed Mapp will serve until the November 2014 general election and will then have to run for the balance of the term to Dec. 31, 2016.

Davis had served as Third Ward councilman from 2004 to 2008, but lost his chance at a second term when Mapp beat him in the June 2008 primary and won the general election. Davis also ran for the Second & Third Ward at-large seat in 2010, but Rebecca Williams ran off the line to beat both Davis and incumbent Rashid Burney in the June primary and also won in November.

Roni Taylor ran off the line for the citywide at-large seat in the 2012 June primary, but Rev. Tracey Brown won the primary and general election and gave up her PMUA seat to serve on the council.

Gloria Taylor has not sought public office previously, but was an ally to her late husband when he served as a councilman and later as mayor. She recently launched an inspirational radio show  along with another former first lady, Darlene McWilliams, who is the widow of former Mayor Albert T. McWilliams. 

Although the mayor and seven-member council have all been Democrats for many years now, factions within the party do not always agree. As Gloria Taylor's late husband, Mayor Richard L. Taylor, often said, a mayor has to be able to "count to four" to get council approval for initiatives. Council watchers will be paying close attention at the Jan. 6 reorganization to see whether collegiality or confrontation will prevail. 

The special meeting agenda also includes mayoral appointments to the African Caribbean Commission and the Plainfield Community Emergency Response Team. These appointments were offered previously by outgoing Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, but had errors and were not moved to the agenda at past meetings. According to library staff, there was no packet for Monday's meeting  on hand for public review Saturday, so Plaintalker cannot confirm whether errors and discrepancies were cleared up. Click here to see more about the problems.

There is also a closed session at 6 p.m. Monday for the council to deal with personnel matters.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Dems Pick Three for Mapp's Council Seat

Democratic City Committee gathers at the YWCA
In one voice, 50 members of the Democratic City Committee approved three nominees Friday to succeed Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp in the Third Ward City Council seat.

They are former Third Ward Councilman Don Davis, veteran Democratic campaigner and community activist Roni Taylor and retired principal Gloria Taylor, widow of the late Mayor Richard L. Taylor. Their names will be presented to the City Council at a special meeting Monday for a vote to select one as appointee to serve until the Nov. 4, 2014 general election. The seat for the balance of the term to Dec. 31, 2016 will be on the November ballot along with the First Ward and the Second & Third Ward at-large seats.

Each candidate addressed the committee before the vote.

Davis stressed his prior service as a councilman and mentioned as an accomplishment a shared services agreement with the Plainfield Board of Education.
"That was done on a handshake," he said, adding that with resources currently strained, "That's what we have to do now."

Davis pledged loyalty to the city and its residents, saying, "I will always be here and never let you down."
Roni Taylor described her community and campaign efforts, noting many people have seen her putting up signs at election time. Based on her political involvement through many campaigns, she said, " I know what needs to be done and how to get it done."
Gloria Taylor spoke at length about her past experience as a city committee member and at the side of her husband throughout his political career. She said she was disturbed by "what seems to be the power-play mentality" among officials who may have lost sight of what public service means. She praised Mapp, saying, "I believe he wants to take us back to the place where we want to be."

Alluding to her late husband's maxim that a mayor must be able to "count those votes" on the council to get measures passed, she said, "I have no agendas" and would listen to the citizenry.

Before the vote to adopt the slate of three, Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green said anyone with objections could change it if they had 26 votes. The committee approved the names unanimously.

Green called on the mayor-elect to speak.

Mapp described plans for his "People's Inaugural" on Jan. 1, which will include ceremonies at City Hall and then a move to Plainfield High School for a feast. The procession will be accompanied by a bagpiper and music at the feast will include a Latino band, jazz, rhythm and blues and steel pan.

Later in the meeting, committee member James Spear objected to seeing the three names on a blog before the meeting and asked how the names were released. Green said the candidates were the only ones who showed interest and quipped, "You have a blogger who knows things before I do," referring to Dan Damon.

Green then launched into a speech about his many obligations as both Union County and Plainfield committee chair in addition to representing District 22 in the state Assembly, and said he was not going to be a "'referee," as he has to deal with 500 mayors.

Spear persisted, asking why Green called out the committee when the names had already been published.

Green said again Spear could have run for the slate if he could "count to 26" and finished by opining, "In this city the grapevine is stronger than the newspapers."


Consider Latino Holidays in 2014

My 2014 planner has a full-page list of holidays, including Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Eastern Orthodox religious dates. In addition, there are special days for people of Irish, Italian, Asian and African-American heritage. What I didn't see was any mention of holidays important to Latinos.

Now, maybe it's just an oversight on the part of the company that created this  particular planner. After all, we do hear a lot about Cinco de Mayo and Hispanic Heritage Month. But how about Three Kings Day?

At the Dec. 16 agenda fixing session, when the Jan. 6 date for the reorganization was announced, I thought I heard Rev. Tracey Brown react by noting it is Epiphany, which is when the Magi came to the infant Jesus. Latinos celebrate it as Three Kings Day. It is important in the liturgical calendar, but some sources call it the most important Hispanic family holiday, with feasting and gifts.

The City Council calendar for 2014 takes into account conflicts with other significant dates, but at present this Latino holiday has apparently not entered the broader consciousness. It may not even be any practical kind of conflict, as family celebrations may be held over the preceding weekend. It is just something to think about going forward, if we are to be fully inclusive and sensitive to our city population, which according to the 2010 Census is 40 percent Latino.

If you are interested, click here to see more information. In many Latino countries, religious holidays include processions of the kind you may have seen on West Eighth Street for Good Friday and Dec. 12, the feast day of the Virgen de Guadalupe.

Given the high number of Latino nationalities in Plainfield, it might be difficult to acknowledge all the holidays important to each country. But maybe we can give it a try in 2014.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Been Naughty? Be Nice in 2014

If you were naughty in 2013, you can start redeeming yourself in 2014 by taking part in Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp's "Week of Service," which includes a coat drive, a Senior Appreciation Day, a call to support local businesses and restaurants and an opportunity to thank those in the military for their service.

Click here for details.

Meanwhile, 2013 will conclude with Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs also serving as acting city administrator, as she did in September following the departure of former City Administrator Eric Berry. Al Restaino, who served from Oct. 7 as both acting city administrator and director of Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services, recently resigned with a couple of weeks left to go in the mayor's second term.

The mayor was nice enough not to veto ordinances important to formation of Mapp's cabinet, or so we hear. Mapp, the Third Ward councilman, is now stepping down from that title as of late Friday and the Democratic City Committee must offer three names for an appointee to serve until the Nov. 2014 general election. The governing body will choose one of the three to serve. Will it be someone of the Regular Democrat or New Democrat persuasion? We shall find out at a special meeting soon, no doubt.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs has stated she will still be serving Plainfield in another capacity after she leaves office on Dec. 31. We await her announcement.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

All the best to you and yours
on Christmas 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Eve Re-post

Click here for a December 24, 2009 post.
Enjoy the holiday!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Holiday Bits

City Hall's 2013 tree
Sunday was another yard work day for me, thanks to Mother Nature's gift of warm weather.

While I was raking up the last of the leaves from our towering Oak tree, a small plane flew over, trailing a banner. What did it say? Not Joyeux Noel or Feliz Navidad or Merry Christmas. No, it was advertising ground pools. Would someone order a backyard pool as a holiday gift? Many pool companies also have "Christmas village" offerings, so maybe while getting LED lights for the tree, one might think about a pool for the back yard. Someone on our block had one installed last year, along with a pavilion, and we got to enjoy the ambiance vicariously by hearing all the swim party noise. Sounded like big fun.

On my way to the bank Friday, I was surprised to see Santa sitting on the porch of a Park Avenue chiropractic office. A father had just had his son pose with Santa when I pulled my camera out of my pocket. Santa is seen here trying to get the child back on his lap for my photo. But I was in a hurry and moved on.

In the spirit of the holiday, Plaintalker will try to displace those mundane political issues dancing in my head with visions of sugarplums. The mayoral veto, the Third Ward appointee, the questions about cabinet nominees will just have to take a back seat to Christmas until ... uh, Thursday.

This year marks the emergence of what Wired calls the Yule Log video that invalidates all others: Lil Bub, the cat, wheezing and dozing and purring by the fire for one hour. Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing featured it for "Happy Caturday" on Dec. 21 and it seems to be featured on many geek web sites. Sounds like just the thing to watch while resting after your tofurkey feast


Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Welcome Breath of Spring

Winter hats, for when winter returns
If it's 64 degrees at 7 a.m. today, what will it be later on?

My indoor-outdoor thermometer just tells the facts, but I suspect people are shaking their heads in disbelief that the weather has turned so warm on the second day of winter.

I hope it hits 70 today, just for the novelty. Yesterday I was able to sit outside in the sun and make some cell phone calls after doing garden chores. I had to get some oxalis corms out of a window box for planting indoors and I marked all the praying mantis egg cases in the forsythia bush with bits of yarn, the better to spot them in the spring.

It was only a few days ago that I was housebound due to sheets of ice all over. My family is so small that I did not have to be out shopping for presents, so I had plenty of time to finish off another batch of hats to give to the church for distribution.

When we lived up in Passaic Township many years ago, even before the name was was changed to Long Hill Township, I remember a warm spell in winter that woke up the spring peepers in the Great Swamp. It was quite incongruous to hear their their song and realize it was not jingle bells, but a chorus of tiny frogs roused too early by the unusual weather.

Soon enough the temperature will drop again. Walking around will become an adventure (or horror) for us older pedestrians. Indoor chores such as tending house plants and windowsill pots for spring crops will prevail. Online shopping will obviate struggling with weather and traffic at the malls.

I just hope we get to spring without anything like the 17 snowstorms a new mayor encountered 20 years ago. Meanwhile, I'll be out in the yard again today or off on a frost-free jaunt somewhere, enjoying the brief respite from winter.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

City Posts Job Ads

A check of classified ads at the League of Municipalities reveals five titles for Plainfield, including police director and director of the Department of Public Affairs & Safety, both held by Martin Hellwig in the outgoing administration of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

Hellwig took only one salary for both titles. If a separate police director is hired, it could mean a salary of up to $131,310 will be added to cabinet costs.

The titles listed also include chief financial officer, deputy city administrator in charge of Economic Development and director of the Department of Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services. Click here to see the ads (scroll down).

The city has not had a full-time, in-house chief financial officer since 2007. The City Council recently approved increasing the maximum salary for the title to $155,000 to attract candidates. The outgoing administration never filled the post of deputy city administrator, formerly held in the administration of the late Mayor Albert T. McWilliams by Pat Ballard Fox .

Mayor-elect Adrian O. Mapp has already announced his choice of Ron West, another former McWilliams staffer, to head the Department of Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services. He has also named Rick Smiley for city administrator, a title that was not advertised at the League site.

Mapp will be sworn in Jan. 1, but the annual reorganization, at which appointments may be confirmed by the council, will be held on Jan. 6. Asked at the Dec. 16 meeting about the gap, Mapp said, "I will have a staff from day one," suggesting he may appoint his cabinet in acting capacity for 90 days. Robinson-Briggs did just that in 2006, avoiding the need for council approvals (and possible rejections) at the reorganization.


Five to Get City Vehicles in 2014

A council consensus agreed on Dec. 16 to authorize use of city-owned vehicles for five officials.

The governing body will vote approval at the annual reorganization on Jan. 6.

The five officials are the mayor, city administrator, public safety/police director, fire chief and superintendent of public Works.

The mayor, city administrator and public safety.police director will have 24-hour use of city-owned vehicles for 2014, if the council approves on Jan. 6. The fire chief and superintendent of Public Works will be given 24-hour use of marked vehicles for the year.

No objections were raised at the agenda-fixing session, although such use has been contentious in years past.

In 2009, Councilman William Reid offered $5,000 of his own money to settle a dispute over authorization of city-owned vehicles. Here is an excerpt from Plaintalker's post:

The big fuss about 24-hour use of city cars may be over with tonight (Feb. 2, 2009), if the City Council heeds William Reid.

The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

On Jan. 26, Councilman Reid called for a vote tonight to allow cars to be assigned to City Administrator Marc Dashield and Police Director Martin Hellwig for the balance of 2009. If a policy change is warranted, it could then take place in 2010. Reid went so far as to offer $5,000 of his own money to cover costs of car usage for this year.

The issue came up at the Jan. 1 reorganization when a council majority voted to allow yearlong city car use for the mayor and fire chief, but limited use for the city administrator, Public Works supervisor and police director only through January pending further talks on how the perk fit into compensation packages. All had previously received permission without question.

On Jan. 15, the council approved yearlong 24-hour city vehicle use for Public Works Supervisor John Louise and extended car use for the other two just through February.

But the Jan. 26 discussion broadened into exactly what went into contract talks for top city officials and how costs for use of 24-hour cars were documented. If permission for yearlong use is granted, council members said they still want more facts on how it actually works. 


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mapp Announces "A Call to Serve Plainfield"

Here is a press release from the Mapp for Mayor team:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013, Plainfield, NJ – Plainfield Mayor-Elect Adrian Mapp has announced his first community-wide initiative, “A Call to Serve Plainfield,” beginning on Wednesday, January 1, 2014, with his inaugural celebration.  The People’s Celebration will take place at noon on January 1 on the steps of Plainfield City Hall, beginning with a ceremonial swearing in.  Following a brief ceremony, attendees and all Plainfield residents are invited to “The People’s Feast,” an event with food and music at Plainfield High School from 1-4 p.m.  Plainfield’s restaurant community will donate food tastings for the event, which is free of charge.
“The city of Plainfield is known as a caring community, and rightly so,” said Mayor-Elect Adrian Mapp. “I want to build upon this by offering opportunities to all of our residents to serve our city and our larger community, beginning with our Inaugural Week of Service from January 1-January 7.”
The Inaugural Week of Service will feature these highlights:
  • January 1 – Ceremonial Swearing In, noon, City Hall, and People’s Feast, 1-4 p.m. at Plainfield High School.  The People’s Feast will have opportunities for residents to sign up for membership on Plainfield Boards and Commissions.
  • January 2 – New and gently used men’s, women’s, and children’s coats will be collected at City Hall from 9 am – 5 pm.  The coats will be distributed to service organizations throughout Plainfield.
  • January 3 –Senior Appreciation Day.  Mayor Adrian Mapp will visit senior centers across Plainfield.  Plainfield residents are asked to perform acts of kindness and gratitude for Plainfield’s senior citizens.
  • January 4 and 5 – Plainfield residents are asked to “Shop, Eat, Support Plainfield” by patronizing local stores and restaurants throughout the weekend.  The Mapp Administration is focused on economic development and revitalizing Plainfield’s downtown.
  • January 6 – Thank-you cards and letters to our military will be collected at City Hall from 9-5 p.m. and distributed through the organization, “A Million Thanks.”  Guidelines can be found on the organization’s website at www.amillionthanks.org. The  City’s reorganization meeting begins at 6:00 pm in the auditorium at Plainfield High School.
  • January 7 - Mayor Adrian Mapp and other city officials will participate in “Read Across Plainfield,” an initiative designed to highlight the importance of education in the Mapp Administration. This will be done in partnership with the Plainfield Board of Education.
In the coming weeks, Mapp said he plans to introduce a “Plainfield Volunteer Corps,” an initiative that will match city residents with volunteer opportunities.
“The days ahead must bring positive change for Plainfield,” said Mayor-Elect Mapp.  “We have incredible resources in our city, and we will all be called upon to give our best to our city, so that we can secure its future.” 

About the Cabinet

In 2006, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs appointed cabinet members who came from Jersey City, Nutley and Rahway, among other locations. Little was known about them, other than what could be gleaned from online sources.

Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp has chosen several cabinet members who live locally and have history in Plainfield. People are looking up their credentials and giving anecdotal information as well, based on their prior service.

Plaintalker has received several comments about the nominees, some of which remain unpublished. At this point, readers certainly are free to share their opinions about these individuals with members of the City Council, who will have to vote on them, but there does not seem to be any point in putting these anonymous comments up on the blog. If you feel strongly enough, submit comments with your name.

Mapp declared on Dec. 16s, "I will have a staff from day one," after someone questioned the gap between Jan. 1 and the annual reorganization on Jan. 6, at which time the governing body will vote on his nominees. So he is committed to these individuals, regardless of any history, and he can name them in acting capacity for 90 days, with another 90 days if the council approves.

If his chosen cabinet members are not up to the job, it will soon become evident. If they prove to be effective and competent regardless of past issues, Mapp will be vindicated in selecting them. On this one, "wait and see" appears to be the operative stance. Plainfield has been waiting for good governance for some time now. Let's hope it will be manifest in 2014.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dottie Speaks on Muhlenberg

If anyone is qualified to talk about Muhlenberg, it is Dottie Gutenkauf, who has persevered through illness and loss to stand up for Plainfield. Dottie has given me permission to share her letter on the subject.

Don’t rush JFK plan for Muhlenberg
When I read Rev. Gary Kirkwood’s letter about Muhlenberg published in the Courier News on Dec. 12 (“Plainfield should unite behind Muhlenberg plans”), I was, I must confess, shocked.

I have no doubts about his good intentions or those of Rev. Thomas, but I can’t help wondering why they are now trying to circumvent the actions of the City Council and the wishes of the Plainfield community, and w here have they been for so long.

For the record, I have not made any “unfounded untruthful online attacks,” nor do I know anyone who has “slandered” Rev. Thomas. And I reject the notion that no one has the right to “criticize” a local p astor.

I have been a member of the Muhlenberg Community Adv isory Group (CAG) throughout its existence, and I’m sorry to say that to the best of my recoll ection neither Rev. Kirkwood nor Rev. Thomas has ever attended any of its meetings.

If they had, they would know that since its inception, the CAG has pressured JFK about an additional ambulance, and has praised JFK for its initiative in working with Plainfield High School.

I should point out, however, that JFK has never invited the CAG to join in any of its visits to health care organizations in other cities, as I believe it should have done. After all, the CAG was established by the state Health Department as one of its conditions for allowing the closure of Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center — in my opinion and experience, one of the best hospitals in the state.

Rev. Kirkwood speaks of “community meetings.” In fact, there were many meetings, led by Plainfield citizens, before and after Muhlenberg’s closure. There were demonstrations, marches, rallies, and testimony before the state Health Department — all of which received substantial coverage from the Courier News — and I do not recall either Rev. Kirkwood or Rev. Thomas having participated in any of them, although many other local pastors did.

A few years after Muhlenberg’s closure, JFK held a number of community meetings which I attended, and at every single one, their proposal for a 600-plus apartment project was resoundingly rejected.

One of those meetings was the City Council’s Third Ward community meeting in May of last year, where a gentleman introduced as JFK’s “planner,” made a presentation complete with slide show. His main point was essentially that since Plainfield and New Brunswick have approximately the same population (about 50,000), what would work in New Brunswick should work in Plainfield.

But let’s look at the facts. New Brunswick has Johnson & Johnson, which has in large part provided the impetus for the city’s downtown renewal. New B runswick is the Middlesex County seat — which in addition to housing the county office buildings and courthouse, also has a plethora of attorneys and other business offices.

New Brunswick has one-seat train service to Newark and New York, and direct train service to Trenton and parts south. New Brunswick has easy access to Route 18, Route 27, Route 1, and the New Jersey Turnpike. Let’s not forget that New Brunswick has Rutgers University and its several campuses. Oh, and by the way, New Brunswick has two full-service, acute-care hospitals.

Just how is that like Plainfield? Sensible people will draw their own conclusions about that comparison, but that’s the analysis on which JFK’s plans for the Muhlenberg campus are based.

Now that the Plainfield City Council has approved hiring a planner to look at the property, get community input, work with the city and its planners, and come up with recommendations for the Planning Board and the council to consider, a few local pastors are urging immediate approval of JFK’s proposed project.

And while for many months the JFK representative at CAG meetings has stated that JFK “has no plans” to close the emergency room, when asked directly at the Dec. 5 CAG meeting if JFK was going to close the ER after Jan. 1, when Plainfield’s new mayor takes office, he said he “didn’t know.”

It’s time for JFK and its supporters to sit back, take a deep breath, and wait for the legal process to take its course. Anyt hing else would be a disservice to all of Plainfield’s citizens, who have since 2008 been deprived of the high-quality medical services our community had for so many years.

JFK waited for a number of years to submit its proposal to the city — if indeed they really have — and now they can and should wait for the city to do its job. Hopefully the process will produce outcomes that will benefit us all, JFK included. As a long-term colleague of mine used to quip, “There’s never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over.”

Let’s do this right the first time. Plainfield can’t afford to do it wrong and have to do it over.

Dottie Gutenkauf


Most Memorable in 2013?

What will you remember about 2013?

Cicadas? ShotSpotter? Al Sharpton's visit?

In no particular order, here are some items:
- Mark Spivey left journalism to become director of communications at the Union County prosecutor's Office.
- City Hall got a makeover, thanks to Eric Jackson.
- A Head Start program won approvals to occupy the Plainfield Armory.
- The Charter Study Commission report was published.
- Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs was a no-show at LWV candidates' forum.
- Councilman Adrian Mapp won the June mayoral primary and bested three challengers to win the November general election..
- Activists marked the five-year anniversary of Muhlenberg's closing.
- Clergy push for 600 apartments on Muhlenberg site.
- Cecil Sanders was named PMUA chairman.
- UC Democratic Chairman Charlotte DeFilippo resigned.
- Multiple fiestas frayed some residents' nerves.
- Coriell Mansion got new owners.
- Former city landlord David Connolly was sentenced to nine years.for Ponzi scheme.

Click here to see the post that drew the most page views in 2013.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Mayor-elect Mapp Names Cabinet Members

"A Mapp for Plainfield's Future" in 2008
Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp revealed some of his cabinet nominees Monday at a council meeting preceded by closed-door interviews with candidates.

Mapp named Rick Smiley, a former director of Community Relations & Social Services for the city and most recently chairman of the Charter Study Commission, as his choice for city administrator In Plainfield, the city administrator is in charge of day-to-day operations of the city and is the person to whom its three department heads report.

Mapp has selected Ron West as director of Administration, Finance, Health and Social Services, a position he held previously in the administration of the late Mayor Albert T. McWilliams. Mapp's choice to head the Department of Public Works & Urban Development is Eric Jackson who has held the post since September 2011.

No name was offered for the position of director of Public Affairs & Safety Monday, although interviewees included Siddeeq El-Amin, a retired city police captain who headed the department in the administration of Mayor Mark Fury.

Other nominations included current Corporation Counsel David Minchello, City Clerk Abubakar Jalloh and Treasurer Diane Sherry to stay on in the new administration. Mapp also named numerous court nominees and said he will be presenting additional names over the next several days.

A new post, chief of staff, was approved by the governing body but may face a veto by outgoing Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, in which case five council members can vote to override it. Ordinances for the position and salary band as well as for an increase in the salary band for chief financial officer are pending a possible veto and override.

The council agreed to move all the nominations to the Jan. 6 annual reorganization agenda. Mapp said he is looking for a larger location than Municipal Court for the reorganization, possibly a school auditorium, and will announce it soon.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Monday's Meeting Features Reorg Plans

Some details of the Jan. 6 reorganization meeting are spelled out in the agenda for Monday's agenda-fixing session, but not the ones of highest interest - Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp's cabinet selections.

The meeting is 7:30 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. See the agenda here

The annual reorganization will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 6 in Municipal Court. in a location to be announced. Mapp is expected to offer cabinet appointments at that time, including city administrator, three department heads, corporation counsel and, if Dec. 9 ordinances are in effect, a chief financial officer and chief of staff. Between now and then, the outgoing mayor may veto the ordinances and a super-majority of the City Council would then have to overturn the veto for the ordinances to stand. There might be other issues of timing that delay the appointments.

Cabinet appointments generally are made to be concurrent with a mayor's four-year term, although past mayors have started out with 90-day acting appointments. Mapp is currently a councilman representing the Third Ward and will have to step down as of Dec. 31. He has not yet resigned from that post, but when he does, the Democratic City Committee must offer the council three names from which the governing body will choose an appointee to serve until the Nov. 4, 2014 general election. Again, depending on timing of the process, the council could go into January with only six members, lacking a Third Ward representative and making confirmation of Mapp's appointees more likely to encounter tie votes.

Regardless of possible complications at the reorganization, Mapp has announced celebratory events on Jan. 1, including a ceremonial swearing-in at City Hall and a "The People's Inaugural," where he will greet the public and host  a "people's feast" in heated tents in the parking lot.

A resolution up for council approval on Jan. 6 appears to have public comment on resolutions and ordinances at both agenda-fixing and regular meetings. Council mavens have complained that in 2013 they were not permitted to speak on proposed resolutions and ordinances at the beginning of agenda-fixing sessions. Their concern was that they wanted the council to hear their views before deciding whether to move items to the agenda for regular meetings. The 2014 resolution would give citizens three minutes to speak on resolutions, motions and ordinances to be introduced on first reading prior to council deliberations. The other public comment portion allows five minutes per speaker at the end of the meeting.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Restaino Resigns

Plaintalker has confirmed that Acting City Administrator Al Restaino has resigned, effective Monday.

Restaino was director of the Office of Community Development under Mayor Albert McWilliams and
retained his position in 2006, when Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs took office. The office is responsible for carrying out the Community Development Block Grant program. In November 2010, Restaino was named head of the Department of Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services.

The City Charter call for all divisions to fall under three departments and social services were removed from Public Affairs & Safety during the administration of Mayor Mark Fury and placed with Administration and Finance. More recently, the new divisions of Information Technology and Media were added to the department. So Restaino was in charge of the offices of tax collector, tax assessor, audit & control, purchasing and Municipal Court as well as Health & Social Services, which included the Women, Infants & Children nutrition program, Vital Statistics, Bilingual Day Care Center, Animal Control, Communicable Diseases, Personnel, Plainfield Action Services and the Senior Center in addition to IT and Media.

In September, City Administrator Eric Berry resigned and Restaino added acting city administrator to his other titles. See Plaintalker's post here.

Restaino was the fifth person during Robinson-Briggs' tenure to serve as AFH&SS director and the eighth to sit in the city administrator's seat.

The cumbersome arrangement of three departments and many divisions was explored by a Charter Study Commission this year. To see its report and recommendations, click here

2014: Boom!

After many years of stalled projects, it appears that 2014 will be the boom year Plainfielders have long anticipated.

For the past several years, Frank Cretella provided the only visible progress in redevelopment, although his Park Avenue projects on the PNC Bank block represented just two of more than a dozen the Planning Division has been tracking through various stages of approval. Now his Gavett Place plans are picking up, and newcomer Mario Camino is also promoting his plans for projects on Park Avenue and North Avenue.

As a freelancer for the Courier News in 2008, I covered Steven Chung's proposal for 80 senior apartments behind his block-long building on East Front Street. Chung successfully rehabbed the former senior center site and attained full occupancy of all the new spaces, with the popular Pollo Campero and other restaurants and a Neighborhood House satellite facility. But the apartment proposal did not take off. Now there is talk that it is ready to go.

Add in the Union County College acquisition of former Thul property for an expansion and things look bright indeed.

Even the seeming duel over Lot 9, with the Housing Authority proposing 84 apartments and Cretella floating the concept of a brew pub and distillery, is a good sign of increasing interest in development. And then there is the long-awaited transformation of Elmwood Gardens from public housing with a poor reputation to low-income affordable townhouse-style construction.

It's only a twinkle perhaps in someone's eye, but the former National Starch property in the West End has been rezoned from "light industrial" uses to permit a shopping center or entertainment venues and more.

Of course, one hopes the new construction will provide jobs for city residents, even though a proposed local hiring ordinance was deemed problematic.

The new administration may have to find a way to beef up the Planning Division, which lost personnel in recent years, in order to deal with this new interest in the city. The key to making it work is to ensure developers have a full understanding of Plainfield's land use requirements and are willing to meet them. This means increased demands on city staff to explain and enforce the city's master plan, zoning ordinance (including two new Transit-Oriented Development zones) and historic preservation considerations. With all that in mind, it might be a very Happy New Year for Plainfield.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Landmark Advancing Two Projects

Two Landmark projects are nearing construction, company Planner and Assistant Project Manager Gabriel Bailer confirmed Friday.

Bloggers had noticed new fences on parking lots at the sites, both on corners at East Second Street and Gavett Place. One is the former Mirons Furniture warehouse and the other includes the former Romond Jeep Garage and a shuttered car rental business.

Landmark Developer Frank Cretella plans to rehabilitate the former furniture warehouse for 12 apartments. In a 2000 redevelopment plan, the building was to be demolished to make way for 96 residential units, but in 2010 Cretella received approval to rehabilitate it instead. On a long list of proposed Landmark projects, the warehouse is known as Gavett Place Properties LLC. See Plaintalker's 2010 post here.

Gavett Place is between East Second Street and North Avenue, across from the main train station in the North Avenue Commercial Historic District. Across from the Mirons building, Cretella plans Arts Loft I, with three stories added to the two-story Romonds building. It will have retail space on the first floor and 20 apartments above. Proposed in 2009, Arts Loft I received approvals in 2011.

Cretella has other projects on North Avenue and entrepreneur Mario Camino also has plans for North Avenue. In 2005, the McWilliams administration had a roster of more than a dozen redevelopment proposals, and Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs added a few more, but the recession and other factors stalled many projects. If the pace is indeed picking up, Plaintalker looks forward to reporting on the projects' progress.


"Bad" News Taken Down

A reader alleges that a link I posted yesterday contains malicious code. I did not receive any warnings from my security program about this. Conspiracy theorists might say the warning is to deter people from reading the linked article, as it is unflattering to a political figure. Go figure. I will be pursuing this issue, but meanwhile the link is off the blog.

Muhlenberg Issue Resurfaces

Schematics for a potential luxury residential and retail development at the site of the former Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in Plainfield, as envisioned by a study commissioned by JFK Health Systems.
A letter to the editor in Thursday's Courier News urged support for the proposed mixed-use, residential and commercial redevelopment of the Muhlenberg campus, citing the backing of clergy and community members after about a year of discussions. In the letter, The Rev. Gary Kirkwood also deplored some of the reactions to public comment by The Rev. Gerald Lamont Thomas at a Sept. 9 City Council meeting regarding the proposal by JFK Health Systems. Thomas had warned that if the governing body did not accede to the plan, JFK would leave. Since the hospital closed, the site has had a satellite emergency system with transportation links to JFK's hospital in Edison.

Shortly after the council's lack of action on the proposal, the web site "Moving Muhlenberg Forward" went dark and the council endorsed a city-sponsored planning study of possible uses for the campus. The letter is the first signal since September that those who support the 600-unit apartment proposal are reopening the debate.

The project was announced in a February 2012 news article and then at a town meeting in March 2012. Residents in neighborhoods surrounding the campus objected strongly to having such a large development in their midst and those who rallied against the closing of Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in 2008 insisted they will settle for nothing less than a full-service, acute care facility on the site. Activists rallied again in August to mark five years since the closing.

In October, residents cheered the council's decision to launch an independent study of the site and numerous candidates weighed in on the move. See post here.The study has a six-month timetable including four community meetings, but there has been no public update on its status. Some opponents of the JFK proposal have also urged the city to look into assessing taxes on the site, since its primary use has changed.

The city will have a new administration once Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp takes office on Jan. 1 and it looks likely that the Muhlenberg issues will come to a head in 2014.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Queen City Sights

It all depends how you look at things - and whether you are dealing with 19th century glass or modern plate glass. (Click to enlarge any image.)
 A pile of leaves makes a cozy nest for a feral cat.
This sprightly fellow came from Enchantments in Fanwood, all the way from Zimbabwe, and now sits in Plainfield. Check out this gift shop across from the Fanwood train station for unusual items.
Tuesday's snow bedecks this graceful tree behind the old Elks building downtown.
New fences around two Landmark properties on Gavett Place make one wonder whether construction is coming.

PMUA employees hung their stockings with care on the commissioners' dais.
Keep away! It's a possum, and he's not playing!
Hookahs! Seen in Lot 9, the new hot spot for development.
Throwing gang signs - in cement.
Gang rivalry.
Another view of that tree. I hope it doesn't get knocked down if Lot 6 becomes a parking deck.
Lavender instead of blue and gold - hmm.
A solemn remembrance at the Quaker Meeting House.

Hey, everybody! Celebrate walkability in Plainfield! Take a walk and bring a camera!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

UCIA Director Presents $1.09 Million Check

It wasn't a huge photo-op check, but the one Union County Improvement Authority Executive Director Daniel Sullivan presented to city officials Monday will still put $1.09 million in Plainfield's coffers.

Sullivan, Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22) and Union County Freeholder Chairman Linda Carter made a surprise visit to the City Council meeting for the presentation. The check represents proceeds of a settlement the authority made with the city in August over disputed payments in lieu of taxes and certain costs incurred when the authority was in charge of redevelopment projects. Sullivan was named executive director of the authority in August, following the May resignation of former director Charlotte DeFilippo. Sullivan expressed hope that the settlement will "signal a new era" for the authority and the city.

The UCIA developed the office building on the downtown Park-Madison lot, but years passed without the authority carrying out conditions imposed by the Plainfield Planning Board. See Plaintalker's 2006 post here. The settlement provides for resolution of several issues, including use of the building's parking deck and relocation of  a street clock. See Plaintalker's August post here

Green, who succeeded DeFilippo as chairman of the county Democratic organization, told the council the settlement was better than having wasted eight years and then incurring $1 million in legal costs.

Carter, a former City Council member, said, "This was an issue when I was on the council."

Carter said she hoped the two entities would be "able to move forward with a clean slate."


Monday, December 9, 2013

Mapp Initiatives Final, Barring SRB Veto

Legislation that Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp has called key to his new administration passed Monday, but may still be vetoed by outgoing Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

The City Council approved final passage of a salary increase for the title of chief financial officer, as well as creation of the title of "chief of staff" and a salary band to go with it. The city has only had a full-time, in-house CFO for about two years of Robinson-Briggs' eight years in office and is currently relying on a part-time CFO who gives the city five to seven hours per week. The council increased the maximum salary to $125.in 2012 and now has increased it to $155,000.

Regarding the chief of staff, Mapp has a full-time job in another municipality and tried in November to convince the council that he will need someone in City Hall who can handle communications, policy and intergovernmental relations. In November, opponents argued that the city administrator handles day-to-day operations and there is no need to have a chief of staff.

The three ordinances were defeated, 4-3, on Nov. 12 but brought back and passed on first reading at a special meeting on Nov. 26. They  passed, 6-1, on second reading Monday and will take effect in 20 days. Councilman William Reid cast the lone "no" vote, calling creation of the chief of staff "premature."

The remaining hurdle for Mapp, if the mayor vetoes the ordinances within 10 days, is to have the council overturn the veto with five votes.

Although the mayor's position is part-time, Robinson-Briggs claimed she devoted 60 or more hours a week to the job. She defeated Mapp in 2009 to win a second term as the city's first female African-American mayor. But Mapp defeated her in the June primary and beat three challengers won with 70 percent of the vote in the November general election. Despite the clear mandate from the electorate, Mapp faced opposition from a faction favoring the mayor on Nov. 12 and depending who fills his Third Ward council seat when he vacates it to become mayor on Jan. 1, could face further opposition in 2014 for his initiatives.


Wishing for a Watchdog

The late Councilman Robert Ferraro liked being called a "watchdog" and was always on the alert for proper use of the taxpayers' money. One of the things he found fault with was a road repair project several years ago that included handicapped ramps. He pointed out that the ramps and the road were not aligned correctly and so anyone using them in bad weather would encounter puddles or ice at the bottom of the ramps.

As someone who crosses Park & Seventh almost every day and sometimes more than once a day, I have often had to pick my way around deep puddles and slippery ice often at the corners.

Now Union County has a new project to repair the street and of course there are new ramps. I wish Bob was still cruising around in his blue van to check up on this project and to make sure the grading will be an improvement over the last time the ramps were done.
The workers who did the paving patched the edges with asphalt. I am looking forward to a nice, smooth Park Avenue soon, with no puddles at the corners.


HAP Appointments on Agenda Tonight

A Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority.official and a former school board member are nominees for seats on the Housing Authority of Plainfield.

PMUA Purchasing Agent Dollie Hamlin, who formerly worked in the City Clerk's office and ran for the school board in November 2012, is nominated for an unexpired five-year  term ending July 1, 2016. Joylette Mills-Ransome, a former Plainfield school board member  and retired Director of Science for the Newark Public Schools is nominated for a five-year term ending July 1, 2018.

The packet for tonight's meeting unfortunately has identical resolutions for the two, saying both are replacing Hattie Williams, whose term expired this year. However, the roster on the city web site lists a vacancy caused by the resignation of Owen Fletcher, which appears to be the unexpired term for Hamlin to fill, leaving Mills-Ransome in line to replace Williams.

Both are direct council appointees.The Housing Authority is empowered to have seven members, five appointed by the council, one by the mayor and one by the Commissioner of Community Affairs.

Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs has previously offered the name of Rickey Williams to succeed himself as the mayoral appointment, but the resolution has never been moved to the agenda. Rickey Williams was appointed in March 2006 to a term that expired July 1, 2006 and has remained on as a "holdover" ever since.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Condolences to the Hicks Family

A sad addition to Monday's agenda is a resolution honoring the life of Dawud Hicks, 21, the city's latest loss to gun violence.

A life of promise cut short - all too common a story in urban communities and made even more poignant by the fact that the elder Dawud Hicks had brought to the City Council his concerns about the fragile passage of young men of color through adolescence and early adulthood.

In her role as pastor at Ruth Fellowship Ministries, Councilwoman Tracey Brown has officiated at many funerals of young victims of gun violence. Her message to the community Saturday, as reported in the Courier News, was for those who loved Hicks not to seek revenge, but to find ways to help others.

Much is made of spikes in crime and times when the crime rate falls. An official with many decades in law enforcement once said a mayor cannot be blamed for the former nor take credit for the latter. But in whatever way possible, the new administration will have to take up the battle against violent crime that is disproportionately affecting Plainfield's young people.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Mayors Share Tree Lighting

Dan's blog post today notes that outgoing Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs will light the holiday tree for the ninth time tonight despite serving an eight-year term. Click here for a very early Plainfield Plaintalker post on the matter.

Planners Urge Standards For New Elmwood Gardens

The Elmwood Gardens housing complex was declared in need of redevelopment in October 2011, but how it will be done is still under discussion.

The Planning Board heard Thursday from Michael Sullivan, lead planner for Clarke, Caton and Hintz, on issues regarding a redevelopment plan. The firm is preparing the plan and the discussion included parking strategies, density and possible expansion of the site as well as ways to make the project "green."

The talk soon became a polite tug of war between Sullivan, who cast things in light of what a developer might or not be willing to do, and the board, with members holding out for desired design standards.

"The developer is not first here," acting chairman Ron Scott-Bey told Sullivan.

On parking, the board specified 1.1 spaces per dwelling unit, but Sullivan said in other places, low-income housing developments calculate .9 or 1 per unit. He also suggested that because West Second Street is 45 feet wide next to the site, on-street reverse-angle parking could be employed. But the board did not want any parking on the street and asked whether the site could be enlarged through acquisition of adjacent properties.

Reverse-angle parking is where drivers back in to a space. Asked whether there are any studies on its use, Sullivan said studies show it is much safer than face-in parking and is easier than using a 90-degree space. Board member Horace Baldwin asked for examples of its use in New Jersey.

"Flesh it out a little more," he said, asking whether its use in Plainfield would be a pilot project..

But Sullvan said the only example he had seen was in Pottstown, Penna.

The Elmwood Gardens site formerly had a density of 31 units per acre, but the board wants 18 per acre for the new housing. Sullivan repeatedly cited how tight it made the plan, necessitating trade-offs. For example, the plan calls for a community room for tenants' use, but as far as adding open space, Sullivan said residents could walk to a nearby park.

Board member Willliam Toth raised a concern about inclusion of green initiatives, such as solar panels, bike routes and personal outdoor space. Sullivan called it a "tough proposition" to fit the latter items into the proposed grid pattern for the new complex..Solar panels would trigger other compromises, he said.

Toth also inquired about LEED certification, but Sullivan said developers say they want LEED standards without the $50,000 certification.

Board member Gordon Fuller asked whether the Authority would still be the landlord at the new complex and Executive Director Randall Wood said it would come back to the Housing Authority after 15 years.

The meeting adjourned with some questions still unanswered, such as comparative density and parking allowances in other low income housing complexes.

Meanwhile, at a Nov. 26 special City Council meeting, Wood said all the Elmwood Gardens tenants have been relocated. At the Nov. 12 meeting of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, officials said the authority has a "memorandum of understanding" with the Housing Authority to dispose of debris when Elmwood Gardens is razed and they hope to have a contract once the demolition begins.

The concerns about conditions at Elmwood Gardens go back many years (see 2008 post here), but notable figures, including the late Mayor Richard L. Taylor, grew up there and urban fiction author J.M. Benjamin based his book, "My Manz And 'Em," on his experiences there. On Thursday, Planning Board member Sandra Chambers recalled growing up there. She wanted to know how it will be decided which relocated tenants can go back and whether there will still be a basketball court.

"People have nice memories," she said.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tour Van Wyck Brooks District Sunday

Take part in one of Plainfield's signature events on Dec. 8, a holiday house tour in the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District!

Historic house tours showcase the city's most opulent housing stock, featuring architectural details that delight the eye and cause visitors to marvel at the workmanship of the Victorian era. Many of these homes have been lovingly restored to their original elegance.

For full details, click here and share with friends and relatives around Central Jersey and beyond. Visitors will remember the tour for years to come.

The Van Wyck Brooks Historic District is fortunate to have not only an eclectic array of architectural styles, but one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic historic district associations. If you have never been to a Plainfield house tour, attend this one and you will be sure to anticipate future tours.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Landmark Eyes Lot 9 For New Project

More than one developer wants to turn an ugly-duckling parking lot into a swan.

Plaintalker previously wrote about a conceptual hearing on erecting 86 apartments on Municipal Lot 9 and another city-owned lot. Now Gabe Bailer, planner and assistant project manager for Landmark Developers, tells us about another concept.

"We envision these properties as a green market center comprising of a food incubator, a brew pub and artisanal distillery. The food incubator will be a shared kitchen and restaurant space to develop food products for production and to supply local and surrounding restaurants," Bailer said in an email.
While both Landmark and the Housing Authority want to use the parking lot that takes up most of the block bounded by Madison Avenue, West Second Street, West Front Street and Central Avenue, Landmark's plan also encompasses two existing buildings. Both plans include a small parcel at the corner of West Second and Madison, across from a city playground. (Click image to enlarge.)
Sketch of the brewery as envisioned by Landmark
At present, neither proposal has an application before city land use boards. A group including representatives of the Housing Authority of Plainfield and the Plainfield Community Development Corporation met with the Planning Board in October, but Chairman Ken Robertson told them to settle with the city first over land ownership. At a special meeting on Nov. 26, an ordinance to convey the land to the Housing Authority was deemed "not legal" by Corporation Counsel David Minchello, as it lacked a price and proposed redevelopment where no such designation was in place.
Lot 9 off West Front Street
Lot 9 at West Second and Central
The city parking lot has 113 permit-only spaces, but when Plaintalker surveyed all city parking lots in 2009, only 10 permits were sold  Monthly permits are $25 for businesses, $30 for residents and $35 for non-residents and must be obtained from the Parking Bureau. 
Pueblo Viejo Bar and Restaurant, West Front Street
The portion of Lot 9 opening onto West Front Street is flanked by Pueblo Viejo and a fish market.

Bailer's announcement was the first Plaintalker heard of Landmark's new proposal. Developer Frank Cretella already has about a dozen projects in the city in various states of completion, including plans for residential units, restaurants, an entertainment complex, offices and other facilities. While dealing with various land use boards and commissions in Plainfield, Cretella has renovated the Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station and has another major hospitality project in New Hope.

The Jersey City-based firm has been seeking one or more liquor licenses in Plainfield to further its hospitality ventures here, but so far has not acquired any.

According to state Alcoholic Beverage Control regulations, a brew pub would require a manufacturing  license as well as a "plenary retail consumption" license. From the ABC Handbook:

A brew pub, referred to in the A.B.C. law as a Restricted Brewery License, is a manufacturing license that 
permits the license holder to brew malt alcoholic beverages in quantities not to exceed 3,000 barrels per 
license term. This license can only be issued to a person or entity that identically owns a Plenary Retail 
Consumption License which is operated in conjunction with a restaurant regularly and is principally used for 
the purpose of providing meals to its customers and having kitchen and dining facilities. The restricted 
brewery licensed premises must be immediately adjoining the retail consumption licensed premises. The 
holder of this license shall only be entitled to sell or deliver its product to that restaurant premises. The 
purpose of this type of license is to allow the holder of the license to manufacture product and to sell it at its 
retail licensed premises. No more than two Restricted Brewery Licenses shall be issued to a person or entity 
which holds identical interests in two plenary retail consumption licenses, used in conjunction with 
restaurants, as previously discussed. 
Since this is a manufacturing license, it will also need certain approval from the federal Alcohol and 
Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and may also require additional approval from the municipality in which it is located. 

The proposed distillery would benefit from a new law effective Dec. 1 that allows production of up to 20,000 gallons of distilled alcoholic beverages annually.
Titsworth-Sutphen House
Landmark's concept also includes relocation of the Titsworth-Sutphen House to the other block, adjacent to the brew pub. The pre-Civil War structure is now on the PNC Bank lot on West Second Street and is being used by Angels in Action Foundation as an education center. As part of the approvals for Landmark's West Second Street Commons project in September 2010, Cretella pledged to relocate the historic building.
Historic sign on the Titsworth-Sutphen building
Regarding the "green market center" concept, Bailer offered this article by way of explanation of how it might work.

As with all Cretella's proposed projects, there is a strong sense of innovation and excitement involved in these ideas for the Lot 9 block. It is now part of the new Transit-Oriented Development-Downtown (TOD-D) zone and land use boards will have to determine how the brew pub/distillery/green market concept fits in with permitted uses. As details emerge, Plaintalker will endeavor to keep readers informed.