The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Council moves some stuff forward, some not

Unfortunately, pizza was not served.

Plainfield City Council moved some stuff forward, some not at Monday evening's evening agenda-setting session.

Among the stuff going forward to next week's business meeting --

  • Appointment of Siddeeq El-Amin as an alternate to the Planning Board;
  • Ordinances regarding cab passengers, taxi stands, the Emergency Management Council, and tethering animals;
  • 30 resolutions on the agenda, plus 10 add-on settlement resolutions by Corporation Counsel; and
  • A new ordinance concerning the budget and a 'cap bank'.
What didn't go forward --

  • The sick leave ordinance
  • The Mapp administration's 'Manager, Motors' proposal.
A discussion of appointments to the Citizens Budget Advisory Commission didn't even get a nibble -- and we have yet to hear of Council's schedule for its budget deliberations.

Once it got down to business under committee-of-the-whole chairperson Tracey Brown, the Council moved at a clip that almost left them breathless (and with the audience chuckling at one point), clearing the entire agenda document in less than 30 minutes.

Getting there was the hard part.

The  bulk of the evening was spent discussing the proposed sick leave ordinance. Public comment, with more than 20 speakers, lasted about and hour and ten minutes, and Council comments carried that up to about 9:15, when Councilor Storch moved for a five-minute recess.

Supporters and questioners of the proposed sick leave ordinance took to the mike passionately, politely and in earnest -- and several were granted time extensions.

Resident Danny Dunn, originally denied the mike by Council President Bridget Rivers because he was off topic, even managed to find a topic in the sick leave discussion and make an extemporaneous comeback speech toward the end of public comment.

Merchants from downtown, Plainwood Square, the SID and the Chamber of Commerce were united in questioning the manner in which they felt the ordinance was being put forward, revealed their ignorance of its actual details, and worried about its impact on their businesses.

Supporters attempted to address each of those concerns. Businessman Lenin Aguirre even acknowledged that the sick leave ordinance had been discussed at February's standing-room only doubleheader Council meeting. Speakers representing the Working Families Party and NJ Citizens Action, a good-government group, cited reports that the cost impact to small businesses was nearly nil and post-adoption satisfaction rates among businesses was high.

Bernice Paglia of Plaintalker made a pitch for common sense when she suggested that the business organizations could put a member in charge of 'legislative affairs' -- just like large organizations do -- to keep an eye on upcoming ordinances and resolutions that may have a business impact.

And now that Municipal Clerk 'AJ' Jalloh's crew has gotten to putting the agendas and backup material online and offers signup for an email blast, there is simply no reason for these business organizations to feel left out of the political process.

If you're a Mae West fan, you'll understand when I say the City provides the grapes, you'll have to do your own peeling.

As the evening wore on, it became obvious that many of the Council people had no real grasp of the ordinance's details or even the process in which they were involved.

Councilor Taylor, who seems to be channeling former Councilor Bill Reid, offered a lengthy merde meringue (a confection of BS with a lot of hot air mixed in) attempting to put the blame for the evening's distress on the Mapp administration. She waved her hands by way of emphasis and repeated the words 'disturbing' and 'supportive' in various combinations. Whether she was 'disturbingly supportive' or 'supportively disturbed' I'll leave for viewers to figure out when PCTV posts its tape.

Taylor's performance was disturbing enough that Council President Rivers felt called upon to remind her that the ordinance was proposed not by the Mapp administration but by Councilor Williams. Taylor did not address the distinction.

After the break, Council President Rivers announced they had decided to bring the sick leave ordinance up in April, which would give everyone an opportunity to weigh in before further Council action.

I didn't stay for The Bitter End, but on the way out I noticed the boo-hoo brothers sitting at the back of the room and wondered if there was to be another baseball harangue.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Stendergate: There's more?

Do those 'poor' Stenders own this juicy Fanwood real estate
on South Avenue, from the Dunkin' Donuts to the Post Office?

Yes, Plainfielders, like those late night commercials for zircons and magic knives -- there's more.

A commenter on the Plainfield Today original post "Stendergate?" (see here) evidently has done some homework and writes --
...[t]ax records show that the Stenders sold their house at 154 Herbert Place in Fanwood for $514,000 on December 8, 2010. Richard Stender bought their house in Manasquan for $465,000 two years earlier, on October 2, 2008. Therefore unless they took a reverse mortgage on their Fanwood house or had a sizable downpayment socked away from another source of income, they would have needed a pretty hefty loan for the second property. The Stenders also own considerable property in downtown fanwood, including the land that the Dunkin Donuts, Post Office, and Scotchwood Florist sit on. Finally, Linda Stender has claimed that she lives with her mother on Highlander Drive in Scotch Plains. That house is in her mother's name...
So, if this is true, is there even more reason to ask how Habitat's criteria could have been truthfully met?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Remembering Mike Wroble

Mike Wroble, preservation enthusiast.

Word came from Plainfield Today reader and Van Wyck Brooks Historic District activist Vicki Blasucci this past Monday evening that Mike Wroble had passed away unexpectedly that day.

An obituary for Mike has been posted online in the Courier today (see here).

Mike was among the very first people we met after moving to Plainfield in 1983, first at a party at the Questover mansion on Central Avenue hosted by then-owners Alan Mintzer and Randy Phillips.

Later, because we had no workable kitchen in our 3-family wreck, we spent a lot of evenings dining at What's Your Beef, a popular steakhouse at 3rd and Roosevelt (later ruined and closed after being bought out by the corporation that owns the Charlie Brown's franchise).

What's Your Beef was a remarkable watering hole -- absolutely packed to the gills every night with all sorts of folks from Plainfield and surrounding towns. (It was also a favorite haunt of then-mayor Rick Taylor, who always stopped to chat when he and his entourage came in almost nightly.) There has been nothing like it since.

Mike was part of a circle that included John Grady, Chris Larew, Jerry Clark, Jim Eberle, Don Sobieski and others -- many of whom had bought and were restoring vintage Plainfield homes and all of whom were involved in the city's historic preservation efforts.

Mike was deeply involved in the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District, which had been recently formed, and served as president of the group as well as organizing the District's annual Twelfth Night Dinner, a progressive meal that has become a sold-out favorite activity every year since it started.

Mike was one of the photographers for the famous Blue Book, the 1985 publication that celebrated the 300th anniversary of Plainfield's settlement. With a blue velvet cover, the yearbook-style volume contained photos and descriptions of hundreds of Plainfield homes as well as vignettes of various periods of Plainfield history. For many years, Swain Galleries had a small reserve and I used to give them to homebuyers as a keepsake, but there are no more copies available. Too bad.

The Fitz Randolph House on Randolph Road, which
Mike spent many years restoring.

One of Mike's passions was the Fitz Randolph house on Randolph Road next to the Muhlenberg Hospital campus and across from Hub Stine Field. This 18th-century home is one of the oldest dwellings in Plainfield and preserves much of its original style -- low ceilings, small windows and small rooms -- typical of early settlers' farmsteads.

Mike was also a great wit and one of the (quietly) smartest people I can recall knowing. He would regale friends at dinner parties at the Larew-Clark home on Evergreen Avenue. Though he had an unlisted telephone number, he freely gave it to everyone and it was easily recalled as the numbers translated on the old rotary dials to: SLOE GIN.

Those were grand days, Mike, and we remember them, and you, fondly.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Four organists in 'French Connection' program at Crescent

Organ program will highlight symphonic capabilities of
Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church's Adams organ.

The 97-rank Adams organ at Plainfield's Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church is slated for a real workout next Sunday, March 8.

In its annual "Festival of Organists", Crescent Concerts will present four exciting organists in a program titled "The French Connection". Crescent Avenue's organ is particularly well-suited to show off the French organ repertoire, which displays the instrument's symphonic possibilities to full effect.

The participating organists this year are --
Archer is a noted activist for women organists and their music. She is director of the music program at Barnard College and serves as college organist for Vassar College.
Dr. Entriken, professor organ performance at New York University, is the organist and choir director of First Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and founder of that church's Guilman Organ Recital series.
Domecq will be familiar to many Plainfielders as the former organist and choirmaster of Grace Episcopal Church in Plainfield, where he also led the Plainfield Girlchoir. He is currently organist and director of music at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Orange, and a doctoral candidate at Rutgers.
Kennedy is a third year student at Juilliard in New York, studying organ under Paul Jacobs. He is currently organ scholar at the Morristown Presbyterian Church.
The program gets under way at 3:00 PM, Sunday, March 8. Tickets are available at the door: $20/person, $!5/seniors, $5/students (ID required). For more information, call (908) 756-2468 or visit the website at

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church is at East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue and is handicap accessible. Parking in the church lot on First Place, on the street, or in Swain Galleries lot.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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