The needler in the haystack.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Volunteers will build new playground at Queen City Academy Saturday

The nonprofit KaBOOM! will lead volunteers in building a playground Saturday. You can help.

Parents, friends and community supporters of Plainfield's Queen City Academy charter school will rally Saturday in an all-day volunteer effort that will result in a brand-new playground for the school's 400 students.

The project gets under way at 8:30 AM at the school's location at West 7th Street and Grant Avenue and concludes at 2:30 PM with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The project is part of 'Basketball in the Boroughs and Beyond', a Knicks community outreach program sponsored by Chase Bank that works to deliver playgrounds with balanced and active recreation on a safe and accessible site to at-risk students.

Volunteers registered with the nonprofit KaBOOM! program will be supervised in constructing the playground which will be ready to go by the time of the ribbon-cutting. You can help by volunteering -- just go to the KaBOOM! website (here) to register.

Queen City Academy is Plainfield's oldest charter school, established in 1999 through the efforts of my late friend, Deputy Commissioner of DYFS and Plainfield resident, Paula DiVenuto and others. It is housed in the former Temple Sholom complex and serves students in Kindergarten through 8th Grade. For more information visit the QCA website (here) or call (908) 753-4700.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Special meeting on one-seat ride to NYC Monday

A special public meeting to discuss the ONE-SEAT RIDE is set for Monday.

Plainfield commuters who use the NJ Transit Raritan Valley Line to travel back and forth to New York City each day will be interested in Monday's special evening meeting of the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition.

The meeting has been called specifically to deal with the surprise news from NJT that it will not be rolling out the extension of the one-seat ride as previously outlined.

The use of combination diesel-electric engines on the line has been a goal of the Coalition for years in its bid to ease the daily commute and shorten the ride.

A trial of the one-seat ride on off-peak hours that began last spring has been hailed enthusiastically by commuters from towns along the Raritan Valley Line -- including Plainfield's two stations, downtown and Netherwood.

The meeting is set for 6:00- 8:00 PM October 27 in the Cranford Community Center, 220 Walnut Avenue, Cranford (see map here). For more information, check out the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition website (here) or its Facebook page (here).

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green absconds

Hand-lettered sign on door of old office advises Jerry has moved.

Has Plainfield Assemblyman and Democratic Party chairperson Jerry Green absconded?

A reader asked me at an event this past Saturday if the Assemblyman had moved his office from the Watchung Avenue location where he has been for dogs' years.

I was stumped, but a visit cleared things up. He has indeed absconded (to leave quickly and secretly).

So, is the move a secret? Here's the address on Jerry's blog.

According to a handwritten sign posted on his former office's front door, Jerry has indeed absconded -- to the County Office Building at West Front and Park Avenue.

Jerry has a ground floor suite (number 102) in the signature building -- which has been unable to keep its ground floor spaces filled since it opened nearly a decade ago. (I am told prospective tenants consider the rents very high -- but then, that's not a problem to agencies using taxpayer dollars to pay them.)

The only real questions for me are whether Jerry is getting a space inside the parking deck -- which is supposed to be available for resident use, but for which access is still denied -- and where visitors are supposed to park.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Plainfield Recreation's fall/winter activities announced

Fall/Winter 2014 Recreation Activities for
Young People, Adults and Families are planned.

The Plainfield Division of Parks & Recreation's Fall/Winter 2014 schedule of activities has been released. The lineup includes more adult and family-related activities than ever.

can view and/or print out the complete schedule here.

Through an arrangement with the Plainfield Public Schools, several swim programs are being offered at the PHS pool, including classes for ages 6 - 17, adult lap swims, water aerobics and parent/child swim classes.

Basketball is offered in a series of five age-graded groupings in various elementary and middle school gyms, as well as a wrestling program for ages 5 - 14.

Zumba classes will be offered from December through May at two locations: Cedarbrook and Evergreen Schools.

Free Yoga classes offered at the Plainfield Public Library are scheduled to run through the end of November.

Dance (ages 5 -14) and an Intergenerational Community Choir (grades 3 and up) round out the programs. Each of these will end with a public performance -- the choir will sing at the Community Tree Lighting on Friday, December 5.

Special events in the fall/winter season include a Halloween Trunk or Treat event at the City Hall Parking Lot on October 31, and a Kwanzaa Celebration on December 27.

You can see from the lineup that Roni Taylor, the Division's new director, is expanding offerings to include more adult and family activities and at locations throughout the community,

For more information with times, locations and fees, print out the complete schedule (here) or call the Recreation Division at (908) 753-3097.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Blast from the past: Victorian Accents

An envelope, addressed to a business we shut down in 1986, arrived yesterday.

You can't imagine my surprise yesterday when I found the envelope pictured above among the bills and circulars in the mailbox.

It's an order envelope addressed to Victorian Accents, which is the reason we moved to Plainfield
from Brooklyn back in the early 1980s.

Victorian Accents was a mail-order business we had started and operated out of our small apartment in Brooklyn Heights. It sold books and technical materials for folks interested in restoring and/or renovating vintage homes -- Victorian, but also other homes that were built before World War II.

The timing had been just right. Clem Labine had turned his mimeographed restoration tips newssheet into the glossy and upscale Old House Journal.

San Francisco's 'Painted Ladies' -- outrageously colored Victorians in the Haigh-Ashbury and Castro neighborhoods -- were everywhere in posters, TV shows and movies, and in a book of photos by Mike Larsen and Elizabeth Posada.

Young Bruce Bradbury had persuaded his father to invest in his hand-screened wallpaper venture and Bradbury & Bradbury wallpapers was born in Benicia, California.

Using my experience in the bookselling business, we launched Victorian Accents as a mail order catalog. Our first ad was a tiny classified in the back of Smithsonian magazine, which turned out to be an excellent conduit to interested customers.

By the early 1980s we were faced with needing to find a space for the business as it had completely taken over our apartment.

A friend from Plainfield invited us to a house tour in the Van Wyck Brooks District and the rest is history.

A realtor lurking on the edges of the tour (no, it was not John DeMarco) latched on to us and showed us around. The Cones, who eventually became our next door neighbors, invited is to relax on their back porch with gin and tonics after looking at the wreck next door (which we eventually bought).

Plainfield seemed a perfect match -- a town with a lot of history, a lot of charm and friendly people.

We moved in and tackled restoring the house and growing the business at the same time.

By Christmas 1985, we were mailing half a million catalogs at a time, four times a year. The business was generating about $1 million in sales and had three employees (Evelyn, Tina and Patty) plus me.

There was no internet, no Amazon, no Borders bookstores. Barnes & Noble was still selling used textbooks and academic press remainders. We had a corner of sorts on this little niche market.

Then the bottom fell out.

Our 1985 Christmas season catalog had been printed and labelled at the bindery in Brooklyn and delivered to the USPS regional center in Deer Park, Long Island to be dropped into the mail stream.

But the orders never came. Weeks passed and no orders. Frantic calls were made and everyone in the chain showed they had done their part.

Finally, after Christmas, word came from the bindery that the USPS folks had found our catalog in a parked trailer in the back of the huge lot.

It was too late, we had lost the season and could not recover. We learned customers have no recourse against the postal system in a situation such as ours.

We shut the business down, laid off the employees and I went to work selling real estate. Gradually, Victorian Accents receded into the past.

But every once in a while, as yesterday, one of those order envelopes will arrive. It is now twenty-eight years since we closed the business and a customer had kept a catalog all that time!

The nice lady from Ansted, West Virginia is asking for an updated catalog.

I shall write her a note thanking her for her interest but suggesting that her best bet is to check or Google whatever she is looking for.

How the times have changed!

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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