The needler in the haystack.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Plainfield mayor's YWCA proposal raises hackles



1920s view of Plainfield's historic YWCA.



Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who seems to have outrun her headlights, has stirred up a hornet's nest with her surprise proposal to have the city float $5.5 million in bonds to buy the historic YWCA building on East Front Street.

First off is the embarrassment she caused the YWCA's leadership staff and board, who thought conversations with the Robinson-Briggs administration last week were private and preliminary (see Mark Spivey's story in the Courier here).

Besides bringing a half-baked proposal to the Council, Her Honor's proposed largesse has drawn attention to other cultural funding in the community toward which she has been quite stingy.

Supporters of the Queen City's premier cultural institution -- the Plainfield Public Library -- which is more heavily used in the current recession than ever, wonder how cutting the library's appropriation can be justified when compared with such a vacuous proposal as that for the YWCA building.

Others who find the Mayor's proposal questionable include supporters of the city's Drake House Museum. The Historical Society of Plainfield, which operates the museum on behalf of the city, has been given the cold shoulder by the Robinson-Briggs administration over a $55,000 match needed to satisfy the condition of one of the grants used for renovations of the Drake House.

Lastly, a commenter on my previous post (see here), points out that the Armory, at the corner of East 7th Street and Leland Avenue, is a far more accommodating building -- with more parking -- than the YWCA would be for a 'cultural center'.

Assemblyman Jerry Green was featured in a large story on the Armory by the Courier's Mark Spivey back in September, 2008 (see here), where he was trying to broker a deal on behalf of Mayor Robinson-Briggs and the city to acquire the Armory building.

I modestly suggested at the time that the Armory -- which the state has been trying to peddle unsuccessfully for years -- should be turned over to the City for the princely sum of $1 as a fair deal considering the renovations that would need to be done.

Assemblyman Green subsequently picked up the $1 mantra, but we have heard nothing more in the past year and a half.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs, who did not avail herself of the opportunity to speak to the Armory purchase at the time, may now have a chance to explain why a $5.5 million (just for openers) deal is better than a $1 deal.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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9 comments:

Bob said...

As i said yesterday concerning the mayor's proposal, we once again have concrete evidence that our mayor is seldom firing on all cylinders. She is not organized and does not seem the be able to think things through. She also does not keep promises; such as, keeping things quiet as agreed with the YMCA people. I'm glad we won't be wasting money we don't have on another Robinson-Briggs hair-brained scheme.

Anonymous said...

And just when I though it couldn't get any worse. This is the most idiotic venture I ever heard of. Since when does the Mayor put fourth an item such as this without having staff review everything necessary for a presentation to Council. Oh that's right, what staff....

Anonymous said...

I think that buying the YWCA for $5.5 million is a bad idea, but buying the Armory for $1 might be worse.

The location of the Armory does nothing to help to revitalize downtown which presumably is the whole idea behind the Y purchase. Whether or not you think it will work at least there's a purpose. Let's say the Y costs $5.5 and we put $1.5 into it, that's $7.0 million. It's a gamble, but if that helps kick-start downtown, it will be well worth it in enhanced tax revenues and both residential and commercial property values, plus if done right (OK, a really big if) it will add a valuable cultural asset to our city. If Obama suggested the Y purchase it would be called stimulus and we'd think it was swell.

By contrast, the armory neighborhood needs no such revitalization, and a cultural center would be an inappropriate fit to the residential character of the surroundings. Despite what you write, the parking at the armory is inadequate for any large scale event. The building itself has major heating and cooling issues which I think you have enumerated in the past (well, someone has). The interior would need a complete makeover to be brought to any semblance of compliance; we're talking a million at least. And because the armory is located on the east side rather than in a central location, walking access is limited. So we can spend $1 million, but there's no long term payoff.

Why is that a better deal?

But to your other point I completely agree that the library is getting shafted. Perhaps the assemblyman, mayor and majority of the council don't use the library and so don't appreciate it. Maybe it's the lack of performance facilities, which is I think what the mayor has in mind when she thinks culture. Maybe it's the true diversity of the clientele (Latinos and white republicans don't count to the regular Dems in Plainfield). Maybe it's because you used to work there. Whatever the reason, a place that should be the heart of city cultural life is being allowed to wither on the vine.

Anonymous said...

The YWCA building is not worth 5.5M utilizing any valuation approach that a reputable appraiser would employ. It is absolute insanity for the Mayor and whomever is advising her to entertain paying 5.5M for the YWCA building. That building is not even worth 1M. It is time for us to start a recall movement against the Mayor so that we may stop the acts of stupidity that her and her advisor Mr. Green continue to engage in. Both of them are embarrassments to the City of Plainfield and unfortunately they represent us so everyone else who is observing Plainfield probably believe that we are idiots as well because we have elected them through our votes or lack thereof.

Rob said...

Since the Senior Center was "FREE" and it ended up costing the city lots of money..maybe the logic is if we spend lots of money we don't have it will actually become "FREE"...I mean if you are grasping for straws of "logic" that's about as good as it gets...

Anonymous said...

Isn't there some way the City Council who can force the administration to behave responsibly? Plainfield is becoming a real joke. Why can't we develop a "plan" for revitalizing rhe city, instead of all this piecemeal stuff? We don't need any more $1 stores, or C-Towns. And we don't need any more affordable housing - it seems that the whole city is becoming affordable housing. I vote in every election,but nothing seems to change.

Anonymous said...

Someone better look into that Armory deal and have some vision. The city can buy it for $1, but the renovations needed will be well over 1 million - at the taxpayer's expense. Another idiotic thought by the administration.

We can only hope that someone is in the wings to take over the reign in 3 years, otherwise I am afraid what will happen. Any comment Annie or Rashid?

Anonymous said...

Well the facilities at the Teppers building and the New County office building are FULL so we need more room .... oh yeah, that's right there is still room there .

Anonymous said...

maybe convert the armory to a new police station