Sunday, April 30, 2017

Council Meets on May Day

Monday is May Day! Do your Maypole dancing, marching for workers' and immigrants' rights and anti-war demonstrations early, so you can come to the City Council meeting.

A May Basket for you!
Among items of interest at the council meeting, the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee will present recommendations for the 2017 municipal budget,

The agenda-fixing session starts at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave. (according to the first page - inside pages list Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. as the address). The regular meeting, at which agenda items will be voted on, is 8 p.m. May 8 in Municipal Court.

I was pleased to see that two young people, Daionna Taylor and Khahriyyah Muhammad, have applied to serve on the Plainfield Youth Commission. There are two youth commissions established when Linda Carter was on the City Council, but they have lacked members for a long time. The city needs a youth perspective, so we wish them the best and hope they get some others to join.

There are numerous applications for events, late Spring through Fall, promising fun and education for all.

Under Administration & Finance, one item concerns a proposed feasibility study "for the preservation and rehabilitation of the historic Firehouse No. 4.

The Department of Public Works & Urban Development section includes resolutions for roadwork, a contractor for the long-awaited skate park on Madison Avenue, continuation of the Sign & Facade Program, three resolutions to accept grants for hazardous discharge remediation, a new redevelopment investigation in the West End and a resolution regarding possible redevelopment of the Enterprise Zone.

See the entire agenda here.

Happy May Eve!

Happy May Eve
to all our 
Pagan friends!

Primary Forums Coming in May

The Plainfield League of Women Voters usually holds a forum before the November general election, but this year will also hold one in advance of the June 6 primary.

The date will be Wednesday, May 31, at Emerson School, 305 Emerson Ave. There are four mayoral candidates and six City Council candidates. Plans call for the mayoral segment to run from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. with the council candidates following from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The nonpartisan forum is conducted by an out-of-town LWV-trained moderator and usually has opening statements, written questions collected from the audience and presented by the moderator, followed by closing statements. The Plainfield LWV also prepares candidate information sheets. Each candidate is asked to submit brief background information, along with answers to three questions from the Plainfield LWV. The candidate sheets will be available at the forum and will be posted online at the Plainfield LWV website.

The website will also be updated with the information above regarding the forum location and format.

The Plainfield Area NAACP has also announced a forum on May 21 on its website. The forum will be held at 5 p.m. at the Plainfield Elks, 1357 W. Third St. Check the website (at NAACP link above) for any updates.

Once again, here is the roster of candidates, with their slogans:

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

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

Mayor, Four-year term: Bridget Rivers
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Alma Blanco
(no Fourth Ward candidate filed)

Mayor, Four-year term: Tracey L. Brown
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Terri Briggs
(Second & Third Ward candidate filing was ruled invalid)

No Republicans filed for the primary.

Tuesday, May 16 is the last day to register to vote in the primary and Tuesday, May 30 is the last day to apply by mail for a Mail-In Ballot for the Primary Election, according to Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi.

The Union County Board of Elections publishes updated affiliation statistics in May. As of April 3, 14,754 of Plainfield's 23,643 registered voters were Democrats. The Second & Third Wards had a total of 8,570 and the Fourth Ward had 2,641.  To check in May, click UC Affiliation Statistics and scroll down to page 14 for Plainfield.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Taking A Day Off

No blog post today, maybe I will catch up tomorrow.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Downtown Plainfield Alliance Cleans Up

A note from Ron Johnson of the Downtown Plainfield Alliance:

 I just wanted to let you know that Downtown Plainfield Alliance's first cleanup event was very successful! On Saturday we got around 25 people to come out and help clean up the Train Station area. We also planted ornamental grasses on Roosevelt Avenue and E. 3rd Street.

This was a team effort between the Downtown Plainfield Alliance, PMUA, City of Plainfield DPW, Community Development Office, Planning Office, Queen City Pride, the Plainfield Seventh Day Adventist Church, The Great Swamp Nursery and Angels of Action. Also, all the plants were paid for directly from donations. We actually doubled our donation goal in less than 4 days on GoFundMe. We thank everyone who donated tremendously! We all united together, at one point in the rain, and did Plainfield's part for Earth Day this year. We hope to keep the beautification efforts going by starting another GoFundMe soon.

He sent along some photos:

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See more about the Downtown Plainfield Alliance

Arbor Day At The YMCA Today

In my travels this week, I noticed these beautiful plants outside the YMCA.
It turns out they are harbingers of an Arbor Day planting today (Friday, April 28) at 11 a.m. The large planting beds were created several weeks ago. Can't wait to see the finished project! Public Works and the Shade Tree Commission always put together a very nice Arbor Day program. Stop by if you are able.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Coriell Mansion Fate Raised At HPC Meeting

In an "after-the-fact" application Tuesday, the Historic Preservation Commission attempted a probe of changes to the Coriell Mansion, but after some testy exchanges decided to try again in May.

The application listed the owner as "Joshwa Money School. LLC" and the items at issue included front double wooden doors, hanging light fixtures on the porch, removal of second story French doors and outdoor floodlights.

Jon Steingraber, who posted a video about the mansion he bought four years ago for $85,000, told the commissioners he replaced the doors after several break-ins, and gave his rationales for the other items. The discussion quickly became contentious, with Steingraber insisting he gave proper notice of the meeting to neighbors, though some in the audience said they never got notice.

HPC Chairman Bill Michelson asked Steingraber about rumors that he intends to lease the mansion for some sort of rooming or boarding house and said, "A great many people in the neighborhood are very unhappy with you."

Steingraber said the lease was for single-family use, but Michelson said, "We have been concerned that the tenant is going to move a bunch of people in there."

Michelson said the city will "seek an injunction" if so.

The mansion at 957 Central Avenue is said to be the largest residence in Plainfield. In the video, Steingraber says it has 26 rooms, including 10 bedrooms and 10 baths. As mentioned in the link, it was once on the way to becoming a bed and breakfast before Steingraber acquired it. On Tuesday, he said he had spent $500,000 on the house already.

Commissioners gave Steingraber advice on correcting the work he did without consulting the HPC, but in public comment resident Rowand Clark returned to the issue of the mansion's future. Steingraber said he didn't want a new tenant to do anything against the law, but also made some off-topic comments such as saying he had been in three relationships but was now getting married. Although the discussion had mellowed a bit as commissioners gave helpful advice, Michelson said there was probably no action to be taken that night.

Steingraber soon swung back to defensiveness, saying it was a "gossipy neighborhood" where someone alleged the mansion would become "a whorehouse."

Commissioner Larry Quirk told Steingraber to "tell the truth," but he replied, "I have so many haters."

He said he was approached by the unnamed company and added, "At the end of the day, I don't have a choice."

Quirk called him a speculator and a flipper before the commission voted to carry the application to the May meeting.


HPC Clears Plan For Pre-Civil War Building

PNC Bank and the Historic Preservation Commission agreed Tuesday on what must be done to a pre-Civil War structure known as Sutphen House to gain a "certificate of appropriateness."

Among its duties, the commission advises the Planning and Zoning boards on applications involving historic sites.

The company wants to subdivide a parking lot behind the bank, but was subject to HPC review for the portion containing the historic building and two proposed ATMs.. The subdivision application itself will be heard by the Zoning Board of Adjustment on May 3.

The small building will be re-painted white, with "PNC Blue" shutters. A damaged stoop will be repaired and brick pavers matching the adjacent streetscape will be installed, along with two carriage lights. If PSE&G allows, a modern "cobra" street lamp will be replaced with a decorative one to match those on the Park Madison complex across West Second Street. The commission had wanted the ATMs to look historic, but were told the proposed canopies cannot be fabricated because they would not withstand high wind.

It was the company's second session with the HPC. A March meeting was inconclusive and the company rescheduled its Zoning Board date from April to May in order to meet again with the commission.

As noted in Plaintalker's previous post (at the link above), the bank plans to vacate its ornate building at Park & Second and relocate the branch to West Front Street on the Park Madison block. The proposed subdivision would merge three lots into two, one for the Sutphen House and the ATMS and the other for an undisclosed development. The bank building and several lots at the rear had been the proposed Landmark Developers site for 148 residential units and commercial space, but the "West Second Street Commons Urban Renewal" plan dating back to 2010 has apparently expired.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Sign of Past Times

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

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

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

A fragment from the 1967 city directory

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

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


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Residents React to Muhlenberg Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Do you have a developer?" she asked.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Holocaust Remembrance Day

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

How Did Candidates Do The Last Time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the local slates with slogans:

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

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

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

Mayor, Four-year term: Tracey L. Brown
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Terri Briggs


Sunday, April 23, 2017

A New Chapter for the Arts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Quick Take on Revised Muhlenberg Plan

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

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

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

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

An addition in permitted uses stood out:

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

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

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

Two other interesting items in the revised document:

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

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

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


Famous Plainfielders!

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

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

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Happy 420

Happy 420
... if you know what I mean

George Clinton & Killer Mike

George Clinton
Killer Mike
on NPR
(click the link)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Commentary On The 2-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tenants and Landlords, How's It Going?

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

Most of the upcoming development hinges on attracting more renters.

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

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

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


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Daffodils Reign At Shakespeare Garden

Garden Club Centennial Daffodils

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

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


Happy Easter!

Happy Easter
to all our
Christian friends

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Plainfield's TaxMarch/Community Unity Rally

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

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

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


Draft Muhlenberg Redevelopment Plan Is Online

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

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


Friday, April 14, 2017

Legal Notice on Muhlenberg

Muhlenberg Redevelopment Plan To Be Discussed on April 24


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

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Rally Saturday At Cedar Brook Park

The location is the cricket field near the Shakespeare Garden.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Challenge Knocks Out One Council Candidate

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

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

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

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

Here is the new slate list for mayor and council:

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

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

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

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

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


Peter Price Sets 2-6 Record Straight

Peter Price

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Brown Mounts Challenge To City Committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Happy Passover

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

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

Looking Forward to Bicycle Races and Fireworks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Whirlwind Week Ahead

Meeting mavens will be busy next week.

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

Tuesday has three meetings:

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

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

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

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

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

Repairs Dragging On

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

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

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


Friday, April 7, 2017

Spring Has Sprung in the PNW

The PNW is in bloom and I'm envious!

Cherry blossoms, photo by Audrey

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

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

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


County Plans Netherwood Bridge Repairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Read Federal Joint Statement on Group Homes

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

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Draft Muhlenberg Report Raises Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Mudslingers Desist!

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


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Homicide Under Investigation

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

Plainfield homicide under investigation

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

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

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

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

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

Filings, One More Time!

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, April 3, 2017

Filing Yields Large Primary Field

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

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

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

So here I am bringing up the rear with filings.

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

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

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

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

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


Filing Day!

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

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

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

Independents file on June 6.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Peter and Libby Price To Be Honored

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

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

ABC Board Nominees Revealed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the April 3 meeting agenda here.