The needler in the haystack.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Looking for unique last-minute gifts?

Unique jewelry, alpaca items and calendars...

Plainfielders looking for last-minute gifts for the holiday season! Here are a couple of choices --
Reader Gayle and friends support an Ecuadorian women's cooperative by selling their handmade items to U.S. buyers.

Today and tomorrow (Saturday and Sunday), they are offering some 100% alpaca sweaters, alpaca felted blankets, a wide assortment of Tagua jewelry, and other colorful items. (Tagua, also known as 'vegetable ivory', comes from a South American tree.)

Here is an opportunity for last minute shoppers who are still looking for that unique gift, or who find driving or parking a hassle.

At: 512 Stelle Avenue (between Field and Plainfield), 1:00 - 5:00 PM, December 20 and 21.
You can still get copies of the brand-new Netherwood Heights 2015 wall calendar, featuring Plainfield's four railroad stations, along with historical information. The calendars are $20/each and available for pickup locally.

For more information, see my previous post here, or call Harold at (908) 668-0388.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Dave Beck, founding New Dem, former BOE member, PMUA commissioner, dies

Dave Beck
Democratic activist, Board of Ed member,
PMUA Commissioner.

Dave Beck, longtime Plainfield activist and a founding member of the New Democrats political club passed away Monday from complications of myelodysplastic syndrome after a long struggle (see the full Ledger obituary here).

Dave was first elected to the Democratic City Committee (PDCC) in 1978 for Ward 2, District 10 and served in that capacity continuously up to his death. He was a supporter of Mayor Al McWilliams' first run for mayor and joined with him and many others in the founding of the New Democrats political club in the early 2000s.

New Dem candidates for City Committee, April 2003.
Dave Beck is tallest person in rear row, center.
Dave served as Sergeant-at-Arms for the PDCC during McWilliams' term as chair from 2003-2005.

After serving as president of the Cook School PTO for several years, Dave was elected to the Plainfield Board of Education, serving two terms from 1987-1993.

When the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) was created in the late 1990s, Dave was appointed a commissioner by Mayor McWilliams and served for two terms -- one of them as treasurer.

Dave is survived by his wife of 41 years, Terri Moroney and sons Richard and Andrew and their families. Terri retired as a much-beloved English teacher at North Plainfield High School. For several years after retiring, she fulfilled a dream by operating a used bookstore on Watchung Avenue (at which I spend many pleasant hours and found countless interesting books).

Terri and family are inviting friends to join with them in celebrating Dave's life at a brunch this Sunday (December 21) from 11 AM to 1 PM at the Netherwood Bar & Grille, 1370 South Avenue.

The family suggests donations to the Plainfield Symphony (see their website here) as a way to memorialize Dave for those who wish to do so. Condolences may be sent to Terri and the family at 1120 Helene Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07062.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Artificial turf, night lights set for Hub Stine

Original Hub Stine Complex proposal. Areas in dark green
were to be artificial turf. In the revised plan, all the fields
in the upper left corner will remain grass. Night lights
are now proposed for the football field. (Image courtesy Maria Pellum.)

Plainfield's school district looks to finally be ready to do a makeover at the Hub Stine Athletic Complex.

Superintendent Anna Belin Pyles and business administrator Gary Ottman brought representatives of their engineering firm to Thursday's Planning Board meeting for a 'capital project review'.

The Board of Ed in 2012 voted against moving forward with the project as originally conceived (and approved), putting the $3.5M project on the shelf. At the time, Maria Pellum posted about the original plan on her blog (see here) and I weighed in (see here) on the apparent confusion and disarray among the Board members and between the Board and the district's administration over the plan. Funding for the project has been held in reserve since that time.

The review given last night revealed changes to the proposal -- primarily restricting the artificial turf to the football field only (it had originally been proposed for the lower fields also); installing new stone drainage at several points; and installing four large night lighting poles for the football field.

Planning Board attorney Michele Donato noted that the Board review was one where the applicant (the school district) was 'required to sit but you do not have to listen' -- suggesting it was a courtesy review.

Board members zeroed in on the proposal for night lighting -- new to this version of the plan -- and asked many questions about the level of lighting, its control and whether there would be  low-level option for community use for walking or jogging in the evenings.

Two of the proposed light poles would be 70' high and two at 80' high, with banks of high-powered metal halide lamps rated at 1500 watts. This would bring Hub Stine up to the measure of other fields at which night games are played. That is a good thing.

When the board asked if the neighbors had been notified of the change, the engineer seemed stymied. Business Administrator Ottman said that their had been no opportunity for neighborhood input since 'the last time'. Board attorney Donato pointed out that it was not necessary for this particular review, but that the Board of Ed should conduct a public hearing on the proposal.

There was also some discussion of improvements in artificial turf that have become standard since the original proposal, with the suggestion by Planning Board chair Ron Scott Bey that the district look into the turf issues carefully.

Asked about the timeline, the District responded that it expects to begin work immediately after graduation (which takes place at Hub Stine) and to have it completed in time for the first home game in September 2015.

In the end, the Planning Board voted 4-1 to approve the review of the plan, pending receipt of the report from the city's engineers. Attendance was light, perhaps because of the holidays but also because this was a pro forma review of a previously thoroughly discussed project.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Codey, Kean oppose proposed Pilgrim Pipeline

Proposed pipeline would pass near environmentally sensitive
Cushing Road Retention Basin.
The proposed Pilgrim Pipeline controversy continues to ooze toward Plainfield as Senators Richard Codey (D-West Orange) and Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) jointly propose a resolution opposing the building of the pipeline (see Ledger item here).

Their effort would block the pipeline (about which I wrote earlier here) planned to connect a Linden refinery with an Albany, NY distribution terminal.

If allowed to proceed through Somerset and Union counties, the pipeline is expected to make use of the right-of-way under the PSEG high tension lines that run parallel to Terrill Road.

That would put the Cushing Road Retention Basin in harm's way in case of an environmental incident. The retention basin is a natural wetlands area and gives rise to the Robinson Brook, one of the headwaters of the Rahway River, as I also have noted before (see here).

In a globalized economy, even out-of-the-way Plainfield is no longer disconnected.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Good news for American nuns is good news for all

Sister Sharon Holland, IHM, current head of the Leadership Conference of
Women Religious at Tuesday's Vatican press conference. (Vatican image.)

Catholic and non-Catholic Plainfielders alike can rejoice at the conclusion of a Vatican investigation into America's women religious that was marked by Tuesday's release of its final report (see US media coverage here and here).

Some 57,000 women are members of U.S. women's religious congregations, serving in every kind of profession and ministering among some of the country's most vulnerable populations -- the very poor, prisoners, the sick (especially those with HIV/AIDS) -- and struggling for economic and social justice.

Catholic or not, there is probably not one among us whose life has not been touched -- and benefited -- in some way by these dedicated women.

It was a shock to many when, under Pope Benedict XVI, an investigation was launched in 2008, led by conservatives in the male hierarchy who have long resented changes in the Church brought about by the reforms by the ecumenical council known as Vatican II.

The orders of American nuns, and the Leadership Group of Women Religious (the umbrella organization which represents about 80 percent of American women religious) were accused of being too independent and failing to uphold Catholic teachings, especially on birth control, sexuality and other hot button issues.

Yesterday's report (see the official Vatican English version here) mainly lauds America's nuns, and brought a wave of relief to tense relations between the sisters and the Church. For an overview of the investigation from the sisters' point of view, see the website The Power of Sisterhood here.

Benedict's successor, Pope Francis has brought a breath of fresh air to the Church and the report may be a sign of his influence on the investigation. It also points the way to the possibility of a greater role for women in the leadership of the Church -- though even Francis has shied away from discussion of women's ordination.

Good news for America's nuns is good news for all of us.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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