Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor, Underground

Some of the hardest-working people in Plainfield don't have jobs. They don't belong to unions and they don't show up in analyses of the economy. They toil among us in an alternate world.

People tend to complain about the day laborers who loiter downtown waiting for work to come their way in the form of a driver who pulls up and whisks them away, maybe for pay but often just to get ripped off for their labor. The workers I'm talking about are the scavengers, who sift the leavings of the employed for any valuable scraps of metal.

They arrive on my block in trucks, on bikes, on foot in increasing numbers. Picking through garbage, they pluck out soda cans. They rip wires off castoff appliances and smash old television sets for the innards. Even the metal part of a mop is harvested, and old metal shelves become a bonanza.

One person who lives on Block 832 has turned his yard into a mini-transfer station. He diligently smashes up objects with a sledgehammer for a full 8-hour day or more, saving the salable bits.

Even when I don't see them, I can hear, at any hour of the day or night, the crunch of cans underfoot and the clink of bags being filled.

They compete for this work, sometimes making their rounds after midnight to be first in the Dumpster, but also rifling through trash receptacles downtown while the general population is shopping.

What does this say about the state of our local economy? These workers are trying to do for self in a way that only the desperate would embrace. What stands in the way of their getting paid employment here? That is a question I am pondering on this Labor Day weekend.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Labor Day a Tradition in Neighboring Borough

While Plainfield's biggest annual celebration is on July 4th, in neighboring South Plainfield it's the Labor Day Parade.

The borough's motto is "Vision, Family, Industry" and its Labor Day event reflects pride in the working class that made the country great. It usually attracts a lot of politicians who want to acknowledge labor's importance. For those who just love parades, it's a good one. See details here.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Let Us Prey

The Praying Mantises that were so tiny in May are now almost full-grown. This one was hanging out in the sunflowers to catch unsuspecting bugs. They grab their prey with their powerful forelegs and eat them up.

We had a lot of egg cases this year and I saw dozens of small mantises every day in May, but they have lots of enemies and only a few survive.


Hooked on Crocheting Snowflakes

As previously reported, I took up a new interest this summer, crocheting snowflakes with No. 10 thread and a size 7 steel crochet hook. Having completed a couple dozen, I moved on to the next step, stiffening them with a white glue and water mixture.

I pinned the first four onto templates and waited for them to dry overnight. Unpinning the now-stiff snowflakes, I realized each one was flawed. Instead of symmetry on six points and all in between, I found mistakes that made them worthless as ornaments. They weren't as bad as the famous spiders on drugs results, but missing picots and chains ruined them.

Today I pinned four more which seem to be error-free. Here are two of them skewered with the special glass-head pins I bought.
This may be one of the dumbest projects I ever undertook, even though it appeals to my OCD tendencies. At least it's an inexpensive way to while away the time between council meetings and political skullduggery.


Council Plans Veto Override

Tuesday's agenda contains a resolution to override Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's veto of the ordinance to convey two city-owned lots to the Housing Authority.

Mapp's letter giving reasons for the veto was posted by Dan Damon yesterday. At the  Aug. 18 meeting, Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill also gave several reasons why she deemed the ordinance flawed, but Council President Bridget Rivers dismissed her opinion as "a bunch of statements" and the council voted 5-1 for final passage.

Five of the seven council members must agree to override the veto. Given that it passed 5-1, it seems the votes are there. (Cory Storch was absent on Aug. 18.)

The ordinance may have to be amended, as one of the errors discovered by Tax Collector David Marshall and pointed out by Mapp in his letter is that one of the sites named for acquisition is privately owned and is actually across the street from the lots in question.

Plaintalker has published several earlier posts on this issue. Here are links:

Developers Seek 86 Apartments Downtown

City Land Sought for Development

HAP Wants City Lots, Council to Discuss

Council Passes Ordinance despite HAP Withdrawal Request

Speculations on GOP/RDO Relations

 Democrats have set up campaign headquarters on Park Avenue for the November 4 general election and it's officially time for solidarity. But Plainfield politics are not always straightforward. The elephant in this year's back room is Bill Michelson, who says he will be the new Republican candidate for the Second & Third Ward at-large City Council seat.
In June, incumbent Second & Third Ward at-large Councilwoman Rebecca Williams overcame being way off in Column E to win a place on the ballot for the general election. In effect, her primary win makes her a part of the Regular Democratic Organization, though she is not likely to change her progressive New Democrat outlook. The anomaly puts party boss Jerry Green in danger of choking on words of support for her as part of  the RDO team. The cure apparently will be to secretly back Michelson in hopes of knocking Williams off the council.

Williams is a veteran campaigner and will be a formidable opponent to Michelson. His backers will also have to overcome years of Green's painting Republicans as evil incarnate, in fact using the appellation as a swearword to condemn detractors.

But suppose he wins. Further, suppose he wins and then quits before his four-year term is up. The Republican City Committee, all 15 of them, get to submit names of three Republicans to the council to choose one as his replacement, because the seat will belong to the GOP.

In the past decade or so, the Republicans have had a thin bench, to say the least. Which brings us to another scenario. Republican candidate Randy Bullock originally filed to run for the Second & Third Ward seat. Word is he will switch to the Third Ward race, which could be seen as giving incumbent appointee Gloria Taylor less competition in her bid to win the balance of  Adrian Mapp's unexpired term.

This gambit is not without its possible hazards. Since assuming the seat as an appointee in January when Mapp became mayor, Taylor has gained followers but also put some people off with her unrelenting harshness toward Williams. Some say they would rather vote for Bullock than chance Taylor's council presence till Dec. 31, 2016.

More likely is an easy Taylor win. When he ran against Mapp for the Third Ward seat in 2012, Bullock only got 7 percent of the vote..

So the GOP/RDO game appears to be to put Michelson in to play hardball against Williams and switch Bullock to be the softball against Taylor, the goal being to give Green six biddable council members in 2015.

Unfortunately for this plan, Williams will now be solidly on the Democratic line, with Cory Booker and Bonnie Watson Coleman at the top. In May, Republicans numbered 868 to the Democrats' 13,105, so Democrats for Michelson would have to deviate from their party's line and search him out on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Republican Party Chairman George Gore promised an announcement by the end of the week, which is right about now, so the new lineup shall soon be revealed. If the GOP really wants to do Green a favor, the party could just leave the Third Ward candidacy vacant and not risk a progressive Democrat backlash against Taylor.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Overcoming Violence

What will stop violence in the community?

It's a question I have heard for about 30 years now in Plainfield, and it is often linked to the question of how to get a young African-American male from late childhood to early adulthood without his becoming a victim of violence. I remember when at least one sorority gave up its cotillion in favor of supporting young males with special recognition. For a while when things were more Afrocentric in the city, rites of passage were held to mark a boy's transition to manhood. And many of us remember Larry Leverett's infusion of social and emotional intelligence training into local education so that the developing youth could learn to express their feelings and make good choices of action.

Regarding the last thing, here is more on social and emotional learning.

Maybe it is is still used in the Plainfield district. I regret that I have not been able to cover the school board in recent years along with municipal government and development.

After leaving Plainfield to become the superintendent in Greenwich, Conn., Leverett became the executive director of the Panasonic Foundation, where he continues his work in education. This article on "Eliminating Inequity for Black Males in Oakland" illustrates some of the strategies that can help create a brighter future for young men of color.

There are many organizations today in Plainfield that are working on the goal of equipping young people with the tools for personal success, despite the pressures and troubles of urban life. Mayor Adrian O. Mapp has promised a Youth Summit within the next few weeks. Either a resource directory or formation of a coalition would be a good adjunct to such a summit.


Church Seeks LED Sign for Fast Notice

A procession arrives at St. Mary's R.C. Church

With 12 Masses a weekend and 5,000 parishioners, Father Manoel Oliveira of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church needs a quick way to communicate when changes take place.

To that end, he and engineer Raj Sookhu met with the Historic Preservation Commission Tuesday to discuss what he had in mind - an LED signboard that could be updated in seconds, say, when a Mass was unexpectedly  relocated from the church to a chapel. Sookhu said the sign might only change once an hour if needed and would not have moving letters. It would be used "just for something we didn't plan for," he said

The church is on the National Register of Historic Places, so at some point the pastor would have to get a Certificate of Appropriateness from the HPC if its sign was modified to add an LED board. But that point right now is somewhat distant. A 2010 sign ordinance currently prohibits LED lights, though a draft ordinance permitting them is under discussion.
Meanwhile, the city recently erected a signboard outside Municipal Court that shows the date, time temperature and displays messages about events.

A commissioner asked whether church officials had considered use of plastic letters placed by hand on a signboard, but Sookhu said public signboards have all switched to LED technology.

The city zoning officer denied the use for St. Mary's, so the church has not yet applied to the Zoning Board for relief. Sookhu said the zoning officer suggested having the discussion with the HPC, as it might be a problem there too.

The revised sign ordinance may come up for approval this fall, Scott Bauman of the Planning Division said Tuesday.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Preservation Rules Unheeded, More Education Needed

2008, film making in the Crescent Area Historic District

For a dozen years now, the Historic Preservation Commission has upheld rules for the city's historic districts, yet on Tuesday three of five cases had to do with "after-the-fact" approvals for changes, meaning the owners did not know or care about historic preservation requirements.

One owner, who did not wish to be quoted by name on the blog, said she bought a property in a short sale and obtained permits for needed repairs. She only learned it was in a historic district when the work was stopped and has since spent five months trying to meet requirements for a "Certificate of Appropriateness" from the HPC. Commissioners Tuesday advised her that the work done so far did not meet Historic Preservation Design Guidelines.

Preservationist Gail Hunton, who advises the HPC, told the applicant, "Your contractor did not serve you well. Don't pay him."

Problems included porch floorboards that were "cupping," causing a tripping hazard, and spindles improperly nailed onto railings. The applicant was advised to go back to the construction official and zoning officer before returning to the HPC, possibly adding another two months to the process.

A case of after-the-fact approval of a fence in the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District was resolved because the owner made the changes required by the HPC. No one showed up nor was proper notice given for the third case, so it was carried to the September meeting.

The Historic Preservation ordinance and the Design Guidelines are posted on the city web site, but as the first applicant said outside the meeting, people who are new to the area may not have any idea that they are purchasing homes in a historic district. The commission is working on having the designation added to real estate listings and is in the process of having the design guidelines printed in Spanish. While hundreds, if not thousands of people have come to Plainfield for historic house tours like the one coming up Sept. 14 in the Netherwood Heights Historic District, it seems that any one of the more than 700 homes in the six residential districts can change hands without the buyer realizing the historic significance.

While the city has some specialists in restoring historic properties, it also appears that contractors need to know the guidelines. For example, to meet the requirement of replacing like with like, the porch floor in the first case should have had tongue and groove construction, not just boards side by side.

To learn more, visit the Historic Preservation Commission link on the city web site.


Monday, August 25, 2014

JG Needs Election Law Review, Dems Currently Unopposed

It is amazing that Jerry Green, a state Assemblyman since 1992, chairman of the Democratic party in Plainfield for many years and more recently chairman of the Regular Democratic Organization of Union County, still does not understand the purpose of the June Primary.

On Jerry Green's Page, he insists that Gloria Taylor was elected to the Third Ward in the June primary.

Here is what the state election law says: "Primary election for the general election" means the procedure whereby the members of a political party in this State or any political subdivision thereof nominate candidates to be voted for at general elections, or elect persons to fill party offices."

The last part refers to city committee members, who are elected in June to serve for two years and on the Monday after the primary meet to organize and choose a chairman.

If winning the primary meant getting elected to a council or mayoral seat, Adrian Mapp would not have had to wait until November to be elected, but could have claimed the mayoralty in June 2013. (Maybe Jerry was referring to the Plainfield's RDO stranglehold which means a primary win to get the party line is tantamount to election in November, but the primary is a nomination, not an election.)

Meanwhile, withdrawal of two Republican contenders for City Council seats mean all three Democrats are running uncontested, at least for today. I received word from the Union County Clerk's office this morning that no new names have been submitted by the Plainfield Republican City Committee.

Democrat Diane Toliver is unopposed in the First Ward and, lacking any action to fill the GOP vacancies, as of this writing Gloria Taylor is unopposed in the Third Ward and Rebecca Williams is unopposed for the Second & Third Ward at-large seat. But bipartisanship is on the way. Republican Chairman George Gore says tonight the vacancies will be filled "before the end of the week.".


Au Revoir to the Butterfly Bush

Mantis in the Butterfly Bush

Siler Spotted Skipper on the Butterfly Bush

Katydid in the Butterfly Bush

Alas, the Butterfly Bush is no more for this year. Some workers cleared the good, the bad and the ugly alike from an overgrown plot and the Butterfly Bush was among the collateral damage.
.I am hoping the praying mantises found another hangout, as they all seemed to gather in the Butterfly Bush at the end of the summer to fatten up on insects drawn by the flowers. It's sad to see the Swallowtails float over and not have any place to sip nectar. My regret is not having been able to keep up the pruning and trimming this year due to poor health. The Butterfly Bush will regenerate in the Spring, so that is some consolation.



As one might have said in Victorian times, I was "indisposed" over the weekend and did not do much of anything, let alone blogging.

After a busy week where I even had insomnia a couple nights from the overstimulating news and politics, I had to abstain from coffee for a medical test. Well! Let me tell you, without caffeine, I folded like a cheap tent and spent almost all of Saturday sleeping. A myriad of aches and pains that may have been masked by the insidious drug came to the fore, topped off by the classic caffeine-withdrawal headache.

I would pick up a book to read and put it down, open Blogger to file something and then just close it, and so on. Without caffeine I found it hard to focus, obviously. I couldn't wait until this morning, when I would be able to take up my bad habit again.

Looking back, I realized I had accumulated a burden of stress from visiting a dentist Monday and covering a council meeting at night, then seeing a new doctor Tuesday (my roster of medical experts is growing). Incidentally to the reason for my visit, this doctor reminded me that I am old and could injure myself carrying groceries or opening the garage door myself. Like many an oldster, I may be a septuagenarian on the outside but my inside age hovers around my mid-thirties or younger, and this notion of limitations offends me.

I had in fact lugged about five bags of groceries up two flights on Wednesday and also had pushed up the heavy wooden garage door. My garage has no car inside, just a lot of garden tools, and gardening just happens to be my favorite escape from the travails of the world.

On Thursday, I hustled on foot over to Plainfield High School for the forum and stayed up too late afterwards listening to Radio Unnameable on WBAI with Bob Fass. It's on from midnight to 3 a.m. There is nobody quite like Bob Fass to mellow a person out. Well, maybe Hapte Selassie, who is on at 2 a.m. Saturday. (You see where the insomnia gets started.)

On Saturday, without caffeine, I was totally willing to concede that I am old and incapable of heavy lifting and probably a lot of other things that I still cling to, like sitting on a hard bench for four hours to cover the City Council.

But now I can once again take up the two-tablespoon coffee scoop and the Melitta one-cup apparatus and indulge in my petty vice. Hey, things are looking up!


Sunday, August 24, 2014

FOPPL Offers Trip to Grounds for Sculpture

The Friends of the Plainfield Public Library
 are sponsoring a
 Community Bus Trip
Hamilton, NJ
Saturday, Sept. 13
$20 per person
Limit 15
Departure 10:30 a.m.
9th Street Parking Lot
Tickets may be purchased
at the Circulation Desk
Make checks out to "FOPPL"
Lunch is on your own
at any of three restaurants
on the grounds

Green's Disregard of Committee is Old News

This year was not the only one where Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green chose candidates without a vote by the City Committee. I came across this news clipping from 1990 where the same thing happened.

Green states he has the right to choose candidates and endorses Elizabeth Urquhart for First Ward, Robert Brown for the Citywide at-large seat and Rupert Crawford for the Second & Third Wards at-large seat.

The article notes that Brown was unaware of Green's selection and Crawford said he was not interested in the seat assigned to him.

And so it goes.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Carillon Concert and Peach Festival Sunday

Maybe it's because I live so close to Grace Episcopal Church and can hear the carillon often that I feel it is one of the most interesting things about Plainfield.  It is one of only four carillons in New Jersey. What adds to its distinction is that it is a gift to all from the Pittis family. Each August, Grace Church invites the community to hear a concert on the prestigious Pittis Carillon in conjunction with a Peach Festival. There is no charge, just bring a lawn chair to Cleveland Avenue and East Seventh Street and experience one of the Queen City's cultural treasures.

Here is the notice as posted on the church web site.
Carillon Concert & Peach Festival

Sunday, August 24 - 12:00 PM
Join us for delicious peach desserts and a carillon concert performed by Lynnli Wang.  
Lynnli is a rising senior at Yale University and recently passed her Guild of Carillonneurs of North America's carillonneur exam.
The event is free.  Bring a blanket or lawn chair.This year the concert will be dedicated in memory of Walter and Betram Pittis.  The Pittis brothers engineered the expansion of the carillon and maintained the instrument over many decades.

GOP Primary Winners Withdraw

According to the official candidates' list for the November 4 general election, the Republican candidates for City Council seats have withdrawn.

Does this mean the Democratic line is unopposed? Maybe not. If I may take the Hedda Hopper hat off Dan and put it on myself, the gossip is that  Randy B. will be running against Gloria instead of Rebecca and the GOP will run Bill Michelson against Rebecca.

The last date to fill a vacancy of Primary Election nominees is Sept. 11. (See all Election Dates here.) Stay tuned here or check the official list on Sept. 12.


USPS Job Fair Draws Throngs

A United States Postal Service Job Fair at City Hall attracted a crowd Thursday with the promise of 750 openings. Job seekers who could not be there between 4 and 7 p.m,. can still file a candidate profile online at and can then apply for one or more positions.

Witnesses, Information Needed to Aid Homicide Investigation

Crimes like the shooting that took the life of Dearn Marcano will not stop until the community joins law enforcement in identifying the killers, Acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park told "Stop the Violence" marchers Thursday.

Park and other officials spoke at a forum at Plainfield High School, where more than 150 people, including families of Marcano and three shooting survivors, converged after a march across the city.

"Please spread the word," Park said. "We need help."

Acknowledging the fear of retaliation, Park gave out an anonymous tip line, 908-654-TIPS, for those who know anything about the circumstances of the crime Sunday at West Third Street and Manson Place. She said the investigation had already taken up 775 man-hours, but she said even putting hundreds of officers on the case might not solve it without the cooperation of the public.

Acting Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan recounted the early morning phone call he received about the crime and, saying he wanted to "put a face" on the 20-year-old homicide victim, described how the young man held three jobs, did charitable work and was devoted to his family and his mother's love.

Later his mother, surrounded by relatives wearing T-shirts with his photo, gave the same account of a hard-working, ambitious only son who came to Plainfield from Trinidad for a better life. Her life revolved around his, she said, with phone calls to make sure he got back and forth safely to his jobs and just waiting for him to be back home.

"When you go home, you go home to your family," she said. "I go home to an empty house."

The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information about the matter is urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Sgt. Kevin Grimmer at 908-447-3777 or Detective Barry Kaplan at 908-418-2817.

At the forum, authorities promised more police patrols and future citywide camera surveillance, but residents called for more youth activities and employment to steer young people away from crime. Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said he expects to hold a Youth Summit within the next two to three weeks.

The homicide was the city's first this year, in contrast to eight by the same time last year. Park said two of Sunday's shooting victims have been released from the hospital and the third is now in stable condition.

Plainfield Police Director Carl Riley said police have recovered 41 guns this year, including one on Monday and three Wednesday night, one of which was linked to a shooting at West Fourth and New streets. Johnpaul Martin, 20, was charged with attempted murder and weapons charges in addition to numerous drug charges when arrested Wednesday at his East Ninth Street home. Besides the guns, police found nearly an ounce of cocaine and five marijuana plants at the home.

Initially announced for a cross-city route nearly five miles long, the 5 p.m. "Stop the Violence" march was modified so participants could reach the high school for the 7 p.m. forum.

"We had an energetic, spirited group that was motivated to continue the process of peace, prosperity and progress here in the city of Plainfield," activist Norman X. Johnson said as the group entered the auditorium. "This is not a march, this is a movement."


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

SRB Defends Constable, Probes City Matters

Among her many topics at Monday's City Council meeting, former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs took to the microphone in public comment to speak in support of a city constable who, she said, was suspended from the auxiliary police for an alleged infraction.

Calling him a "volunteer" and "a wonderful, wonderful man." Robinson-Briggs said it was a "sincere tragedy" that Frank Rokins was suspended from the auxiliary police for six months for writing a letter of support for someone and being told not to do it.

She alleged the suspension was ordered by Police Director Carl Riley and said she felt Rokins should be reinstated.

It was unclear what the governing body could do about it, but it was among several revelations the ex-mayor made during the evening.

The naming of Rokins and two others as constables was one of the oddities of 2011, but nothing much was heard about them until Monday's comments. They were supposed to file monthly reports on their activities, including any fees they received, but an inquiry a few months later turned up no reports.

When the nominations first came up, Plaintalker had to look up the role of a constable in the state statutes. The local PBA chapter objected to their nomination. Two names were put up in March 2011, then withdrawn and the resolution was tabled. In April 2011, the council approved Rokins and two others as constables. Their terms were to run to March 2015.

Officials could not respond on the alleged disciplinary action in the public meeting as it was a personnel matter.

Among other remarks, the former mayor commented on the naming of Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren as Plainfield's municipal prosecutor, noting that Mayor Adrian O. Mapp reports to Warren as he is the finance director in Orange. Earlier, SRB ally Kim Montford had characterized Mapp as Warren's "boss" here while Warren is his boss in Orange, but Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill explained that the municipal prosecutor reports to the state.

The former mayor also asked who the new assistant municipal clerk is, and whether the title of chief of staff is still in effect. The governing body cut funding for the chief of staff position earlier this year, but City Administrator Rick Smiley said Monday the chief of staff was transferred to the assistant municipal clerk position.

The council allowed Robinson-Briggs two five-minute comment periods, but she remained standing at the microphone. Mapp, who was defeated in his 2009 run for mayor by Robinson-Briggs but thwarted her bid for a third term in 2013, said Monday, "She had her time as mayor. She is the past - we are the future."

Robinson-Briggs refused to sit down and Mapp continued, "The mayor had her time. We will move the city forward despite the negatives we keep getting from the former mayor."

As Mapp said there had been full transparency on the Warren matter, Robinson-Briggs chuckled.

Earlier, Mapp had challenged Robinson-Briggs' remarks on fees for a community event. She said it was "ridiculous to have a fee," though Smiley said the fee was already waived through a municipal ordinance.

Mapp confirmed there was a "built-in exception" to waive the fee, but alleged that in the past Robinson-Briggs had illegally waived fees.

"The mayor does not have the ability to waive fees, only the governing body," Mapp said.

From her seat, the former mayor said, "I'll be back."


Thursday March, Forum Details

 for details on Thursday's
march against violence
and forum at Plainfield High School

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Regarding the Third Ward Vacancy in December

Was Gloria Taylor appointed or elected to her seat?

Both, actually. In December the Democratic City Committee chose three candidates to fill the Third Ward seat soon to be vacated by Mayor-Elect Adrian O. Mapp. The names were presented to the City Council and Taylor was selected as appointee until the next general election.

In March, Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green named a primary slate that included Taylor as the Third Ward candidate.

Candidates including Taylor met a March 31 filing date for the June 3 primary..

In June, Taylor beat Rasheed Abdul-Haqq and Charles McRae to win the Democratic Party line in the upcoming Nov. 4 general election. Her Republican opponent is Charles A. Jones Jr.

(Click on the links to see the full Plaintalker II posts)

Invidious Comparisons

Maybe I should have been flattered to be singled out at Monday's council meeting as a "professional" among city bloggers for having previously been a reporter, but I think anyone who takes the time to sit through meetings and offer reports and/or commentary to the public is doing a great service.

Dan, Dr. Yood and David all have more professional education than I ever had. Dr. Yood has nearly a century of perspective on Plainfield. David has the modern video and recording skills that the rest of us lack. And most of all, among 30 bloggers that have come and gone over the past decade, we are still here.

The odd thing is that as a reporter for 16 years, I regularly caught hell from Plainfielders. Rick Taylor tried to get me fired on more than one occasion. I was told only a black reporter should cover Plainfield. Heck, at a church brunch, a resident tore into me because the Courier News dropped young people as carriers and began having adults deliver the paper overnight. The minister joked that he was going to make me an "off-duty" button to wear.

I got blamed for papers being thrown in the bushes and for the Courier News moving out of Plainfield. Once the uncle of a notorious murderer-rapist accosted me on Park Avenue to complain I hadn't given him credit for turning his nephew in to police.

Anyway, as a blogger I am just one of a hardy band that tries to let residents know what their elected and appointed representatives are doing (at least in public). Such coverage is largely a thing of the past in today's journalism world. Please take us as we are, and appreciate all  of us for our efforts while they last.


Residents to Rally Against Gun Violence

In response to a recent spike in gun violence, residents plan a meeting tonight and a march and forum on Thursday.

Tonight's meeting is 6 p.m. at Visions of God Family Worship Church, 350 Leland Avenue and focuses on the East Second Street corridor near Garfield Avenue, where residents said there have been two recent shootings. On Thursday, Councilwoman Vera Greaves said, a march is planned from Rock Avenue and West Third Street to Leland Avenue. A forum will follow from 7 to 9 Plainfield High School.

Tonight's rally is sponsored by the East Second Street Revitalization Committee, led by Rev. Paul Dean, Councilman William Reid said.

The city's first homicide this year took place over the weekend. Police are investigating the fatal shooting of Dearn Marcano, 20, and the wounding of three others at West Third Street and Manson Place Saturday. Police Director Carl Riley said by this time last year, there had been eight homicides.

At Monday's City Council meeting, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said although violent crime is down in the city, there was an uptick in the last six weeks.

"This is not something we will tolerate," he said.

Sarah Cadogan, the mother of shooting victim Spencer Cadogan, tearfully recounted the loss of her son in 2010 and said "My heart is aggrieved" at the latest shooting. She said she doesn't know what brought about the recent "barrage of shootings," but said the city must "make our children a priority."

In memory of her son, she founded a group called "Young Men of Resilience," which is among sponsors of a back-to-school event Saturday featuring vouchers for haircuts and school supply giveaways, among other supportive activities.

HAP Ordinance Passes, 5-1

In a 5-1 vote, the City Council approved an ordinance Monday to convey two city-owned lots to the Housing Authority despite reservations expressed by Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill.

Sias-Hill said the process should have included a title search to make sure the city owned the land "free and clear" and the Housing Authority should have had a resolution on the authority's intent to acquire the property. In addition, she found two provisions of the ordinance in conflict, one referring to sale or lease of the property and another calling for a memorandum of understanding for action to be taken in the future.

Further, she said a state statute cited in the ordinance did not apply to the circumstances of the transaction.

After Sias-Hill spoke, Councilwoman Rebecca Williams said she felt the ordinance should be tabled.

"We can't pass an illegal ordinance," Williams said.

But Councilman William Reid made a motion to move the ordinance and Councilwoman Gloria Taylor seconded it.

Councilwoman Tracey Brown, who initially asked Sias-Hill whether the ordinance was legal, moved to amend it based on the corporation counsel's recommendations, but Council President Bridget Rivers said Sias-Hill really didn't make recommendations, "She just gave a bunch of statements."

Williams raised the issue of needing a complementary resolution from the Housing Authority and said the action was not being taken legally. She said she felt the governing body should listen to the corporation counsel.

"This council would not do anything illegally," Rivers said, and with a bang of the gavel called for the vote.

Reid, Taylor, Rivers, Brown and Vera Greaves voted "yes" and Williams voted "no." Cory Storch was absent.

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp can veto the ordinance within 10 days, but asked how he would proceed given the corporation counsel's advice that clarifications should have been made first, he said he would seek a thorough review with legal counsel.

"Her opinion in my mind was very clear," Mapp said, calling the vote "very sad."

"She provided information to the governing body that should have been used to come to a decision," he said.

The land in question consists of a municipal parking lot located at West Second Street and Central Avenue, with a portion extending to West Front Street, and a second parcel at the corner of Madison Avenue and West Second Street. The Housing Authority's interest in acquiring the land became public at an October conceptual hearing before the Planning Board at which Chairman Ken Robertson advised HAP Executive Director Randall Wood to "cut your deal with the City Council first."

A prior ordinance presented to the governing body in November was deemed "not legal" by then-Corporation Counsel David Minchello and redevelopment counsel Robert Renaud. Wood gave the revised ordinance to the council in July, but he asked for it to be withdrawn before the vote on first reading. Rivers said the ordinance was in the council's hands and Wood had no further say over it. Monday's vote was for second reading and final passage.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Council Faces Two Tangled Issues Tonight

Try as I might, I could not make enough sense of either the Housing Authority ordinance or the Health  Officer residency controversy to write about them over the weekend.

I do think those who have found fault with MC 2014-16 are warranted in being suspicious, if only because of all the twists and turns associated with it. It has been brought forward and rejected in one form in November, put forth in July, withdrawn in a letter from Housing Authority Executive Director Randall Wood, endorsed by Wood in a last-minute conversation recounted by Councilman William Reid, held to be out of Wood's purview by Council President Bridget Rivers, deemed worthy of passage by HAP Acting Chairperson Pamela Dunn-Hale, found problematic by redevelopment counsel Robert Renaud and Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and described as illegal by citizen watchdog Alan Goldstein.

Councilman Cory Storch, the council's longtime liaison to the Planning Board and a strong supporter of economic development, said of the ordinance in July, "The only thing transit-oriented about this proposal is that it's being railroaded."

Tonight (Aug. 18) it is up for second reading and final passage, but there are large unanswered questions such as when the conveyance of the property will take place and at what price. Because the proposal was not submitted to the administration for vetting, Mapp has vowed to veto it if it is passed, but the council can override a veto with five votes.

The other issue may be decided tonight when the council goes into closed session to interview Health Officer Denise Proctor. The presumed issue is whether or not she has met or will meet the residency requirement. Residency waivers were the rule rather than the exception during the previous eight years and some waivers have been granted for cabinet members in the Mapp administration. The city is supposed to search first for candidates who live in Plainfield, but if no qualified person is available the search may broaden. According to the Municipal Code, without a waiver a new hire has a year to take up residence in the city. Proctor has only been on the job since May.

Obviously, the residency question is masking other considerations on Proctor's status. The problem is that obligations of the Health Division were not being met through a contractual arrangement with Elizabeth to furnish services and inspections of food establishments fell way behind, according to Ron West, director of the department that includes the Health Division. The dilemma became front-page news, with more emphasis on the lapses than on the attempt to set things right.

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

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fix the City Web Site, Please

I must concur with Dr. Yood when he calls for improvements on the city web site.

The current site represents an upgrade from the original, but such a site needs constant monitoring for correct information as well as prompt deletion of outdated notices. The person who maintains it should have enough awareness of city schedules to know, for example, that the Planning Board does not meet on Sundays.

In 2010, Chris Payne set forth a number of goals that are noted in the Plaintalker post "Just DoIT," a play on Payne's acronym for the Division of Information Technology. Many have been accomplished. The web site address now has the proper domain, .gov instead of .com and there is a citywide telephone notification system. The web site was overhauled, tested and refined with additions such as listings of Agencies, Boards & Commissions and links to the Charter and Municipal Code. However, with a new administration and different titles in play, the web site needs another overhaul.

For example, the title of Deputy City Administrator is a cabinet-level position and, especially because it is the link for economic development, deserves prominence. Currently, someone looking for this person has to know enough to choose "Departments," then follow a link to "Public Works & Urban Development" then go to "Divisions" and finally look under "Economic Development."

People have complained about the television schedules not being current and under "News About Plainfield," there are several notices dating back to May. The erroneous calendar under "Notice of Special Meetings" was picked up by the new website, Sunday Planning Board meetings and all.

The Mapp administration has announced an intention to change the web site to make it more user-friendly, but as with other initiatives it needs City Council support. The branches seem increasingly at odds and casting blame will not bring about the collegiality needed for positive change.

Last week, City Council President Bridget Rivers announced a council-administration retreat. If it can smooth out relations between the branches of government and create more middle ground on spending for such things as better public communication, it would be a good thing. Residents want information and will use public or private online means to get it. But unless it is consistently accurate, it will be discounted and ignored.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Muhlenberg Study Next Steps

The last page of the  Muhlenberg Hospital Study by Heyer, Gruel & Associates details the recommended next steps to implement it. I don't remember seeing it Thursday night, but I was walking around and maybe just missed it. However, for some reason I don't see it on the link tonight on the city's web site, even though it was there earlier. FYI, here are the recommended next steps on page 11:

To support the development and reuse of the Muhlenberg Hospital site, the City of Plainfield should:

- Amend the City’s Master Plan, where necessary, to ensure consistency with this Study.

- Adopt the zoning consistent with the parameters outlined in this Study.

- Consider designation of the Muhlenberg Hospital site an area in need of redevelopment. Designation of the area as an “area in need of redevelopment” or an “area in need of rehabilitation” can provide tools and incentives for the proactive reuse of the site. Access to certain funding programs, prioritizes redevelopment areas. Long term and short term tax abatements are also possible

- Evaluate funding opportunities to incentivize the redevelopment of the site.

- Prepare and conduct an expression of interest RFP/RFQ process to solicit potential redevelopers for the site.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Union County Repairs Park Avenue

At long last, the road repairs to Park Avenue from Ninth Street to Front Street got underway last week. Here are some images. Park Avenue, aka Route 531, is a heavily traveled road that links South Plainfield, Plainfield and North Plainfield.  Kudos to Union County for a job well done!

Muhlenberg Study Results Draw Large Crowd

Proposed zoning for the Muhlenberg site (click images to enlarge)
Nearly 300 residents came out Thursday to hear preliminary results of a city-funded zoning study on the site of the former Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center and many remained adamant that there should be no residential uses at the site.

The hospital closed six years ago and in 2012 a real estate expert said the best use for the site would be construction of 600 luxury apartments. At three community meetings conducted earlier this year by the Red Bank firm Heyer, Gruel & Associates, most residents said only a medical use would do. On Thursday, the firm recommended "Health Care" zoning for the largest parcel on Randolph Road, with medical and educational zones flanking Park Avenue.
The recommendation was partly based on findings of the Greater Union County Community Index that Plainfield was a "community of concern" for health issues, including the highest birth rate in the county in 2008, but the lowest rate of prenatal care. In subsequent years, the city also had second-highest rates countywide for substance abuse admissions, HIV-AIDS cases and child maltreatment.
Regarding hospital closings, the study found that Muhlenberg was one of 26 in New Jersey that closed between 1992 and 2008. While 90 percent retained some form of health care after closing, a third reopened or remained hospital facilities. Only 10 percent were redeveloped with residential units after closing.
The study's vision for the campus now features "restoring a productive asset to the City with healthcare and complementary uses on the site."
Conceptual Plan
More than 20 residents commented on the study. Some objected to having housing of any kind on the site, including 100 units of veterans' housing and 36 apartments indicated on a conceptual plan.

"We said we didn't want housing, so you gave us a different kind of housing," resident Robin Bright said.

"No residential uses of any kind?" Fred Heyer asked.

The crowd shouted "Yes!" and applauded.

Former nurse Vivia Henry said a rehabilitation facility is needed in Plainfield and would create jobs.

"Put people back to work in Plainfield," she said.

After the audience nearly doubled with late arrivals, resident Douglas Woodson said he thought the mayor did a good job of getting the message out, but he said, "I think the presentation was done poorly."

He said people couldn't see the images on a screen and even though Heyer and Gruel promised the information would be on the city web site, Woodson said not everyone could access the web site. He said printed copies should have been made available.

"It is your obligation to make sure everyone in Plainfield gets good and correct information," Woodson said.

UPDATE: See the presentation on the city web site

Resident Dottie Gutenkauf reminded the attendees that there will be a commemoration of the hospital's closing at 3 p.m. Saturday at Park Avenue and Randolph Road. When she told the audience she was thrilled to know she wasn't the only one opposing 600 apartments, people applauded.

"You've been listening to us," she told Heyer and Gruel.

The presentation will be televised on local channels 96 and 34 and Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said copies will be available at City Hall.

One woman said she was getting ready for work when she received a 7 a.m. phone message about the meeting. She called it "an excellent way to get the word out." The meeting began with about 150 people filling half the Plainfield High School cafeteria, but as the crowd grew, workers opened a partition and set up more seating.
 Mapp said he refused to give the study to JFK Health officials, the press or individuals who asked for it ahead of time.

"I wanted an open forum so the information wasn't compromised," he said.

As for the 7 a.m. robocall, Mapp said, "I take full responsibility. It was deliberate. It was effective."

Initially set for Wednesday night, the widely publicized meeting was rescheduled due to a conflict with a county-sponsored concert. Use of the city's new means of mass communication apparently overcame the glitch.

The meeting was last of four for community input. Mapp said the final report will be released before the end of the month.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Commenter: Don't Follow Blogs:

An anonymous commenter at 8:23 a.m. says of local bloggers, "All of them seem to be on the same team. My reason on speaking out is because I’m tired of seeing the kids of Plainfield paying the price by being led by a supposed community of bloggers."

Also on the topic of bloggers, "Wake up Plainfield! This is what you have as your respected elected officials?"

Kids led by bloggers? Bloggers as elected officials? This lengthy comment is right out of the playbook of the person(s) who created the scurrilous flier. It is made up of allegations and innuendos while incidentally vaunting Assemblyman Green. 

Good try, 8:23 a.m. Your 538-word comment somehow comes across as a paid political announcement. Hope you got a good price per word.

Gee, if blogging is so insidious, maybe you should start a blog and beat the enemy at its own game.  

Council Pushes for Health Officer Residency

Moldy lemons at local supermarket

The recent startling revelations about lack of restaurant and market inspections may not be enough to save the city's new health officer from pressure to move to Plainfield.

In April, Finance Director Ron West West said the city has 330 retail food establishments, but only 106 got inspected last year, leaving 224 that were not inspected. Municipalities are mandated to have health officers, but Plainfield had been relying on a contract with Elizabeth for coverage that did not include "managerial oversight," West said.

A resolution in April seeking a residency waiver for health officer candidate Irene Hunte was denied. Denise Proctor was later hired to serve in the post. A proposed resolution to give Proctor a residency waiver was put off Monday in favor of allowing the council to interview her before the Aug. 18 regular meeting.

 "The six months is up, so we are asking her to be interviewed by the council," City Council President Bridget Rivers said Monday.

Someone else said they thought a non-resident employee had a year to move to the city, which is correct according to the Municipal Code. Since the city was still seeking a health officer in April, it is unclear how a six months' tenure for Proctor was calculated.

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said Monday he agreed she should be interviewed, but asked to have the resolution moved to the. 18 agenda pending the interview.

Councilwoman Rebecca Williams said the health officer was not only responsible for restaurant inspections and such, but also for dealing with communicable diseases and other concerns, "so the residency waiver is very much in order."

(See the Health Division's responsibilities here.)

Rivers acknowledged the need for a health officer but said she did not meet the residency requirement.

"I'm willing to interview her," Rivers said.

Councilwoman Gloria Taylor agreed that having a health officer was a"major issue," but said she felt the law on the books for residency was "really, really necessary," particularly for "high-level" officials. She said she thought the ordinance allowed a year to meet the residency requirement, but she was "not sure."

Councilman William Reid, acting as chairman of the whole, said the matter would not be on the agenda.

"We'll talk to her and consider," he said.

During the past administration from 2006 through 2013, 10 individuals serving in the top four city posts lived out of town and one even moved out of the state while a department head.

The regular meeting is 8 p.m. Monday (Aug. 18) in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ulrich: Cancel Old Grants, Track New Ones

A resolution to cancel 125 dormant grants is just a start, Chief Financial Officer Al Steinberg told the City Council Monday, as there are many more to be cleared up.

The grants are no longer viable and the money cannot be be spent or reimbursed to the city, so they need to be cleared from financial records.

"This is really the beginning of financial housekeeping, if you will," Steinberg said.

Steinberg explained after Councilman William Reid questioned the item, saying, "This is the first I'm hearing that we have dormant grants."

Reid said the problem should have come out in city audits. (It was a finding at least in a 2011 audit report posted on the city web site and all council members had to sign a Corrective Action Plan.)

Ulrich, who was appointed by new Mayor Adrian O. Mapp in January, said the council approved two resolutions last year on dormant grants, but they were done incorrectly and had to be rescinded. He said of Monday's resolution, "This isn't half the grants you have."

Cities seek grants to augment property tax revenues and the League of Municipalities advises having a "strategic master plan" for grant management, as noted in this article.

Ulrich suggested Monday that the city consider naming an individual to be responsible for grants.

In 2010, a part-time employee who was responsible for more than $5.6 million in grants for tree planting, brownfield remediation and other programs was laid off, over protests from Shade Tree Commission members. In another past situation, a division head could not provide information on use of Urban Enterprise Zone grants to the council for several months. Grants have also been quickly spent just before they run out, as in the Tepper's basement fit-out.


Muhlenberg Study Meeting is Thursday

It's Thursday!!
7 p.m.
PHS cafeteria

Check for New Muhlenberg Study Date

The highly publicized meeting on the city-funded Muhlenberg study is being rescheduled, but the new date is still not finalized. Meanwhile, the city web site and the message board in front of Municipal Court still have the original date. I realize it is not much help to say the date is being changed without giving you the new date, but at Monday's City Council meeting, Dottie Gutenkauf urged people not to show up on the wrong night. Please double-check before you go out.

Soccer League Alleges Injustice

The 8 p.m. appearance of a large crowd turned heads at the City Council meeting, especially for those who learned earlier about a scurrilous flier urging residents to come out at that hour "to address your support for African Americans and Latinos Community Development."

Though badly worded, that wasn't the scurrilous part. But more about that later - it turned out the crowd was present to plea for soccer teams' use of city playing fields. Council President Bridget Rivers allowed representative Walter Ramos Jr. of the New Jersey Soccer League to speak, although the topic was not on the agenda. Ramos said after 35 years, the fields were "taken away from us" and blamed the decision on "a gentleman who by political favors is in charge of parks now."

It was unclear who he was talking about, as there was no superintendent of Recreation since Dave Wynn left city employment in 2012. Veronica Taylor only became the Recreation superintendent in mid-April. Public Works Director Eric Jackson was in charge in January, when Ramos said he initially applied for use of the fields. Jackson took a leave of absence in March and made a successful run to become mayor of Trenton, resigning as director on June 30.

Although Ramos alluded to a "big incident" that may have affected the league's use of fields, he said he felt the decision was made "because of race."

Rivers said she knew Ramos and the league maintained the field at their own expense and asked City Administrator Rick Smiley to address the problem, though Ramos said earlier he called Smiley and "all of our calls were ignored."

Smiley said he had looked into the issue, but said, "Obviously they were not happy with the outcome."

Rivers asked the administration for a record of permits and how they are processed.

When Councilwoman Gloria Taylor asked who made the decision regarding use of the fields, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said it was made collaboratively by members of the administration.

Rivers noted high demand for use of the playing fields and also asked how the decision was made.

"Oftentimes when people don't like the outcome of a decision, there is noise," Mapp said, explaining there had been a fight at one of the fields, resulting in an expulsion.

Mapp said he did not think the meeting was the right forum for the discussion, but Rivers again pressed for answers on the permitting process.

Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill called a halt to the discussion, saying she needed to investigate some of the issues further.

The flier calling for an 8 p.m. demonstration targeted two City Council members as well as two bloggers, a frequent commenter on the blogs and a well-known campaign donor for good measure. Even though one council member is Caucasian, both were described as African American and "tea party supporters." The writer claimed the councilwoman was going to "put forth a bill to reinstate slavery in Plainfield" and that Mapp agreed with her.

The rhetoric failed to bring out a crowd, but may be a harbinger of things to come as the political season heats up. A current flashpoint is an ordinance to convey city-owned property to the Housing Authority, which will be up for second reading and final passage at the Aug. 18 council meeting.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Council to Mull EMS, HAP Deal Monday

Proposed legislation up for discussion Monday (Aug. 11) would make Union County the "primary first due agency" responding to and providing all emergency medical services to Plainfield for the next five years.

The City Council's agenda-fixing session is 7:30 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

According to the agreement, the emergency medical technicians will be county employees using a county-owned ambulance and the cost of services will be billed to those using the services. The agreement anticipates "the full cooperation of the City's first responders," namely police and fire personnel and the Plainfield Rescue Squad.

The agreement follows the recent announcement of additional EMS services for western Union County with an ambulance stationed at the Plainfield Rescue Squad building.

Another item of note is an ordinance up for second reading that would convey a city parking lot and another parcel to the Housing Authority "by sale or long term lease." The ordinance itself was not in the council packet, so bloggers could not verify whether it was the same as MC 2014-16, which was passed on first reading in July. A previous version, MC 2013-21, was deemed "not legal" by Corporation Counsel David Minchello at the Nov. 26 council meeting and was tabled. A revised ordinance was submitted by HAP Executive Director Randall Wood for the  July 7 agenda-fixing session, but at the July 14 meeting, officials said Wood wanted to withdraw it, as per a July 11 meeting with the administration.. But as seen on David Rutherford's video, Council President Bridget Rivers said Wood did not have the right to withdraw it, as it was the council's ordinance. Minchello has since resigned and new Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill will now make any legal determinations on the matter.

A puzzling item to the layperson is a five-page list of grants that the administration wants to cancel as they "no longer represent monies available for either spending or reimbursement to the city of Plainfield." The dates and amounts - $99,185 in 2007, $50,172.12 in 2009, $92,852.94 in 2006, among 126 grants - call for some explanation and maybe assurance that better attention is being paid to grant timetables. It brings to mind the 2007 "Tepper's Empty Box" situation. (By the way, it's still empty.}


Saturday, August 9, 2014

South Avenue Redevelopment Study Sought

Click to enlarge

City Council approval this month could launch an investigation of a large swath of South Avenue on whether it is suitable for redevelopment.

The process involves the governing body asking the Planning Board to conduct the study, make findings and hold a hearing, after which the board may ask the council to take action. The study area includes Old South Avenue and the adjacent park, as well as businesses, and may be broadened to adjacent lots.

(Click on links below for more information)

While no mention is made of any future use, the site appears to match the topic of a July merchants' meeting where a Cedar Knolls developer unveiled the concept of two 4-story buildings with more than 200 market-rate apartments. 

The lots were designated last year as a high-density residential zone as part of the Transit-Oriented Development District - Netherwood. The rezoning permits more intensive development near the Netherwood Train Station.

The resolution authorizing the Planning Board to conduct an investigation will be up for discussion at the agenda-fixing session, 7:30 p.m. Monday in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Avenue. If moved to the agenda, it will be up for a vote at the Aug. 18 regular meeting.


SED Wins Final Site Plan Approval

This post was inadvertently not published Thursday. Sorry for the lapse.

Planners gave final site plan approval Thursday for the relocation of a satellite emergency department from the former Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center to Kenyon House.

The new location is at the northeast corner of the 17-acre campus. Preliminary site plan approval was granted in May, with 11 conditions to be met before final approval. Planning Director Bill Nierstedt said six had been resolved before the meeting. Of the remaining five issues, signage and community outreach generated the most comment from board members and the public Thursday.

Despite the fact that there is no longer a hospital at the site, engineer Matthew Robinson said the blue-and-white "H" symbol was standard throughout the nation could still be used to direct drivers to the SED. The proposed new sign was to have "JFK Muhlenberg" over "Satellite Emergency Department" below the H symbol, but speakers asked for the sign to be modified to emphasize the SED. All current "H" signs in Plainfield and nearby towns will be replaced with the revised one.

Commenters on the sign included Anna Belin, Tom Kaercher, Nancy Piwowar, Dr. Harold Yood, Dottie Gutenkauf, Cheryl Bullock and Deborah Dowe. Several called the "H" misleading. Piwowar suggested adding the new information separately. Gutenkauf called for an emphasis on "emergency" rather than "satellite," saying, "The signs need to be extremely specific," but experts for Muhlenberg said they had to use the terminology dictated by state regulations.

Another signage issue, a listing of community services offered at the SED, will be resolved by posting them near the entrance. They include outpatient testing and imaging and certain medical and social services.

In answer to board member Emmett Swan's questions about community outreach, JFK Health System Vice President for Corporate Facilities Frank Tsemberlis said it is done in a number of ways. Swan suggested linking to the Senior Center, developing bilingual information, publishing a newsletter and holding health fairs.

Tsemberlis had already sent the Planning Division a letter detailing community outreach services and copies were made and distributed to board members and the public Thursday. According to the letter, marketing efforts for the SED will include direct mail cards to all Plainfield households, print ads, cable TV notices and information to be posted on the city web site.

Board Chairman Ron Scott-Bey suggested linking with the Plainfield Health Center. For a city liaison, Nierstedt suggested Health Officer Denise Proctor.

The SED relocation will leave the largest of three parcels on the former hospital site unused. In 2012, a real estate expert said the best use for the site would be a 600-unit apartment complex. JFK Health System later put up a web site called Moving Muhlenberg Forward, with images of the complex and a new SED. But it went dark after city officials rebuffed a pitch from Rev. Gerald Lamont Thomas to accept the apartment plan and launched their own study of the site.

The city-funded study included three community meetings and, now complete, will be the topic of another public meeting at 7 p.m. on Aug. 13 in the Plainfield High School cafeteria.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Public Meeting Aug. 13 on Muhlenberg Study


A city-funded study of the 17-acre Muhlenberg site has been completed and a public meeting on the findings will be held at 7 p.m. on Aug. 13 at Plainfield High School, Planning Director Bill Nierstedt said Wednesday at a Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting.

The City Council approved hiring Heyer, Gruel & Associates of Red Bank last October to make the study at a cost not to exceed $48,000. The firm held public meetings on March 27, April 24 and April 29 to gather comments from the community. After the Aug. 13 public meeting, final steps will include a presentation to the City Council, which may refer the matter to the Planning Board. The board may then make a recommendation back to the governing body for rezoning.

The city-backed study was sought after a real estate expert hired by JFK Health System testified in March 2012 that the best use for the former hospital site was a 600-unit luxury apartment complexThe concept met with an intense outcry from residents who objected to its size and from those who want only a medical use at the site.  In December 2013, some members of the clergy came out in favor of the JFK proposal and said they had the backing of many residents.
The Muhlenberg site at Randolph Road and Park Avenue includes the former Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, which closed in August 2008. A nursing school and dialysis center are also on the campus. JFK Health System operates a satellite emergency department on the site and is in the process of seeking final site plan approval to move the SED to Kenyon House at the corner of Park and Randolph. The site was divided into three parcels in 2007 and the SED relocation will leave the largest parcel unused.

The Planning Board gave JFK Health System preliminary site plan approval for the SED relocation in May. Final site plan review is on the agenda for Thursday's Planning Board meeting7 p.m. in City Hall Library.

Please note: The Complete Streets item on the agenda has been adjourned to the Aug. 21 meeting.


Camino Takes the Challenge

This building on the southwest corner of Park & Seventh has been vacant for about 10 years. It has been a major attraction for squatters and vandals. Cheers to Mario Camino for taking it over and best wishes for a positive result. Clean-up is the first of many steps to restoring it to usefulness.


Planners to Review Muhlenberg's Final Site Plan

Thursday's Planning Board agenda includes a review of the final site plan for the Muhlenberg Satellite Emergency Department. The meeting is 7:30 7 p.m. in City Hall Library.

For background, see Plaintalker's post on Muhlenberg's preliminary site plan approval.


Photos from National Night Out

I walked over to City Hall Tuesday to take some photos of the 2014 National Night Out and found a very diverse crowd enjoying the crime prevention event. Click images to enlarge or see slide show.
Plainfield Police Bike Patrol members show off their distinctive uniforms.
Public Works Superintendent John Louise mans the grill.
Remember the Yew project? Progress could be seen at the event.
The weather was fine, despite predictions of possible thunderstorms.
Danny Dunn and Council President Bridget Rivers are on the scene.
Face-painting is always popular.

Councilwoman Vera Greaves and the National Night Out Committee organized the event.

See Facebook for photos of the Netherwood Heights Neighbors National Night out event.

Former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs has appeared at many events since leaving office on Dec. 31 and Tuesday's event was no exception. Here she is with political sidekicks Carmen Salavarrieta and Kim Montford and Councilwoman Gloria Taylor.