The needler in the haystack.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Plainfield's War Memorial Flagpole


The placing of a bronze plaque in 1922 in the rotunda of City Hall honoring those who served and died in World War I seems to have been the genesis of the idea of a monument honoring Plainfielders who had given their lives in all past wars.

In June 1925, the Common Council organized a War Memorial Committee with the purpose of drawing up a proposal for such a memorial, to be submitted to the Council at a future date. A number of town notables, as well as several Councillors and veterans of past wars were appointed.

The War Memorial Committee made its report to the Common Council in January of 1926, and in May of that year, a contract was awarded for the construction of a flagpole to be mounted above a bronze sculptural base, the whole sited on a granite plaza.

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, which owns the triangular plot at the intersection of East Seventh Street and Watchung and Crescent Avenues, drew up an agreement permitting the city to "erect and maintain" a War Memorial on the site, providing only that the city "keep the plot in good order," and indemnify the church against any liability.

Although the contracts were let, and the manufacture and construction appeared to get under way in a timely fashion -- with dedication set for Armistice Day, November 11, 1926 -- an enormous brouhaha broke out between the central council of the veterans' organizations and the Common Council, dragging into it the minister and trustees of Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church.

The source of the controversy? The inscription.

The inscription proposed for the sculptural base is the underlined portion of this selection from the prophet Isaiah:
Isaiah, Chapter 2
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
The controversy engendered considerable acrimony among some of the veterans organizations, leading to a much-belated dedication of the monument, all of which has now faded into the remote mists of Plainfield history.


The Memorial Day series--
-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Shootout reported at Green Brook Park Sunday evening



Site of police activity at Green Brook Park.


Plainfield's Memorial Day weekend has been marred by a reported shootout at Green Brook Park.

As of 9:00 PM, no one seemed to have taken themselves to the Muhlenberg ER, so it may be that no one was hit.

A resident preparing to decorate the Revolutionary War monument in preparation for the holiday observance tomorrow reported seeing swarms of Union County and Plainfield police vehicles in the area of the parking lot by the playground, with yellow crime scene tape roping off an area including the marshy ground at the bottom of the hill to which Myrtle Avenue homes back up.

I am told police found members of the Libside Bloods set on the scene when they arrived.

I drove by at 9:45 P.M. to find the U.C. crime scene investigators at work and multiple prowl cars parked in the area. There was also another unmarked car driving along the path that winds along the fence perimeter of the park between the playground and Clinton Avenue.

More when I learn more.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Moving day at the Monarch



Bronx firm's truck moving someone into the Monarch.


Sales at the Monarch, Plainfield's attempt to enter the market-rate condo world, have been sluggish but there is progress. Yesterday found this bright blue truck from 'The Padded Wagon', a Bronx moving firm, unloading someone's earthly possessions at 400 East Front Street.

I have recently noticed a few more lights on in the building at night. Hopefully this real estate market will begin to pick up at some point.

A warm welcome to the new Plainfielders!




-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Plainfield Library children's room moves to improve



Children's Room librarian Janice People shows of the temporary quarters.


The Plainfield Public Library is soldiering on amid difficult conditions with its planned renovation of the children's room, which is essentially unchanged since the modern building replaced the much-loved Carnegie building that faced Library Park.

This has involved compressing the spacious children's rooms stacks, reading tables, computer terminals and staff accommodations into the Anne Louise Davis Meeting Room for the interim.

Janice People, one of the affable and welcoming staffers, advises that users are becoming accustomed to the new quarters and are eager to peek through the windows of the old room to note progress.

The work, which has not yet started, is expected to take about a year once it begins.



The
Children's Room is in temporary quarters in the Library's public meeting room.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Blanco would frown on Robinson-Briggs' half steps



The late Council President Ray Blanco
with the late Mayor Al McWilliams.



It was welcome news when I read Mark Spivey's piece in Wednesday's Courier that Plainfield Mayor Robinson-Briggs was finally making nominations to the Hispanic Affairs Advisory Commission. Better late than never, I say (see story here).

It was a nice touch of Mark to put the late Council President Ray Blanco in the story's lede, since the ordinance was crafted and advanced to adoption by him.

There were, however, a couple of eye-popping items in the story.

The first was that Mayor Robinson-Briggs would nominate a non-resident to the Commission.

I can just hear my old friend and neighbor Blanco (we lived just doors from each other for over twenty years), "With an estimated 16,000-20,000 Latinos in Plainfield, you mean to tell me you can't find folks who live in Plainfield to nominate?" And he would not have been smiling.

The non-resident, of course, is Ms. Salavarrieta, who lives in Piscataway. Mr. Ortega used to sign himself in letters to the editor in the Courier as from Plainfield, though he lived in North Plainfield. I am told he has more recently moved to Plainfield. If he is a resident, well and good.

I certainly hope the Council reviews the resumes nominees must file with their nominations and gets clarity on any issues that have before they cast their votes.

The other eye-popper was to read that Mr. Ortega 'co-wrote the legislation that established the commission with Blanco'.

Anyone who knew the Emmy-winning documentary film producer Ray Blanco also knew that he was perfectly capable of doing the job himself and would hardly turn to anyone else for that kind of help.

So, while Ray surely would smile at the final starting up of the Commission, I doubt he would be as pleased over the half steps and self-aggrandizement that accompany the good deed.

Not to mention the bad karma they could incur.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Plainfielder finds profanity ain't what it used to be



'Profanity' complaint forcing loss of B-I-O-C-H vanity plate.


This Plainfielder has been alternately amused, bemused and confused about the flap over a Manville woman's B-I-O-C-H vanity plate and the state's determination that it should be recalled after a so-called 'retired cop' complained it was 'profane' (see Courier story here; it was also previously reported in the Ledger here).

In the hellfire-and-brimstone conservative culture in which I was raised, PROFANITY had an exact meaning -- taking the name of God or things associated with God in vain. (I even remember a Sunday School class in which Elmer Thies, self-appointed patriarch of the congregation, inveighed against taking an oath that involved swearing 'so help me God'.)

Now this was farming country and vulgar language and cursing abounded, though in general profanity as defined above was not heard.

Wherever men congregated, whether at the feed store, the blacksmith's or the saloon, rough language was heard. In those days, women generally forbade it in the house, and we kids picked up and adopted the difference without ever a question as to whether we were caught in a situation of 'double standards'.

That was a much simpler time.

How PROFANITY has changed!

The poor woman is being forced by the state to give up a plate that the elders of my youth would have considered only 'vulgar' and not rising to the level of 'profanity'
since the Lord's name is not being taken in vain (though they would have been utterly nonplussed about what a 'vanity plate' is).

Checking with my online fallbacks -- Wikipedia (here) and the Free Dictionary (here) -- I was disappointed to find that all the distinctions have been conflated. All the definitions -- vulgar, profane, irreverent, 'adult language' -- are now considered interchangeable.

Poor old Elmer Thies must be spinning in his grave. Even among the workers in his welding shop, I frequently (from the tender age of 7 or so) heard the 'S' bomb, the 'F' bomb, the 'SOB' bomb and worse -- though no 'profanity' as I knew it.

But the travails of the Manville motorist gave me an idea.

Perhaps the state's screening software could still be got around, as she had done.

So, I went to the online vanity plate ordering section (see here), to find that you had to register online -- including lots of ID -- after which the MVC would MAIL you a 'user ID number' (for security reasons, they say), which you could then use to log on and order the plates.

What century are these folks living in? Did I have to use a quill pen? Everyone gives secures passwords online these days. So, New Jersey is behind the tech curve? Who knew?

Turning to Google, I quickly found a bunch of sites that help you design your vanity plate, including MySpaceProDesigns (see here), which has a fun tool to design a vanity plate for any state you wish.

Where I was able to design for myself the TRULY PROFANE vanity plate below --




Zounds is an archaic profane oath.


ZOUNDS is a conflation of 'by God's wounds', a mild -- but profane -- oath rarely heard these days, but once common (see here) and used by Shakespeare in Othello and Romeo and Juliet.

Can it sneak by the state's software?

Someone else will have to let me know, I haven't got time to wait for them to mail me back a username.

Zounds!


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Judge upholds firing of cop for visiting dating sites on work computer




A Plainfield Today reader spotted a judge's ruling that a cop could be fired for visiting dating services and viewing porn on his work computer.

The Bergen Record reported the story on its NorthJersey.com website on Sunday
(see story here).

In the May 11 ruling, an administrative law judge ruled that the Park Ridge police department had met the burden of proof on charges the captain viewed pornography and visited online dating sites on his work computer, and that his termination was 'an appropriate penalty'.

There are two points to observe here --
  1. There was a policy in place, whether municipal or the police department's itself; and

  2. The municipality was willing to press the case.
The dismissal was made in July 2009, retroactive to January of that year. The ruling was issued May 11 this year. The Civil Service Commission has 45 days to adopt, modify or reject the judge's ruling.

As Sextus Empiricus said, 'The wheels of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine' (see here).

Of course, something for the gods to grind must be given in the first place.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Relay for Life, yet another shooting Saturday night share more than one connection




Hundreds walked in hope against cancer at the overnight Relay For Life.


The overnight 'Relay for Life' event rallying people in the fight against cancer literally rubbed against another side of Plainfield on Saturday night when the victims of three violent events -- a shooting, a slashing, and a beating -- all drove themselves to the Muhlenberg Satellite ER for treatment about the time the cancer walk's huge candelaria display** in the bleachers at Hub Stine Field was scheduled to be lit. The ER is literally across the street from the site of the overnight event.

The shooting makes the fifth in about a week. Though I am told the shooting, the slashing and the beating all occurred in the area near Liberty and West 3rd Streets, it was not known last night if the incidents were related to each other or to the week's prior violence.

What I was able to find out is that the three who betook themselves to the Muhlenberg Satellite ER are all known to the police to be gang members.

It struck me that besides the physical proximity, the Relay For Life event and the three incidents share a connection that is important to keep in mind: violence.

For cancer indeed is a violent assault on the lives and bodies of those who have it, as well as on the lives of their families and loved ones.

Relay For Life represents a response to this violence in the form of a plan -- a well thought out attack on the violence that cancer wreaks on lives and relationships. It is highly focused on supporting those struggling with cancer, honoring and remembering those who have passed, and raising funds to support continuing medical research as well as such services as transportation for cancer patients.

Gang violence, on the other hand, simply represents violence.

There is no 'point' other than the violence itself.

My favorite radio interviewer, Terry Gross of WHYY in Philadephia, conducted an absolutely riveting interview the other day with Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest in Los Angeles who has spent twenty years working among that city's gangs (see story here, listen to interview here).

Boyle was riveting for several reasons, but two in particular stuck with me. First, he explained that he had given up on a strategy that he spent years working out -- getting gangs to make 'truces'.

When asked why by Terry, Boyle said he had concluded that gangs are not like countries at war, that they do not have long-term strategic goals, but only short-term and immediate interests -- resolved by violence -- and that working 'with' gangs only served to legitimize them.

He decided that the best way forward was to work with gang members who wanted to get out of the gang life. That insight led to the founding of his jobs program for ex-gangbangers, Homeboys, Inc.

The second insight that Boyle shared was the one which is his foundational motivation in the first place -- that gang life essentially does not offer HOPE to those caught in it.

And
HOPE, Boyle believes, is at the heart of his ministry as a priest and the only way forward out of gang life.

And that is what came to me as I learned of the incidents last night, with the image of Relay For Life candelaria spelling H-O-P-E in my mind's eye.

What Plainfield's gang members are waiting for is someone who devotes his or her life to valuing their existence and offering them
HOPE.

Boyle observed that cops on the street (and some enlightened police higher ups) are well aware that gangs can never be 'busted' out of existence.

So, something else must be tried.

There are some I know in Plainfield who have been concerned over the years about how to address this issue.

But it seems we are still waiting for the person (or persons) who will devote their life to offering
HOPE.

Whether in fighting cancer or gangs, it is
HOPE that we need.


**The photo illustrating this post is from a prior year's event (taken with a 'real' camera, not my cellphone); this year's candelaria spelled out C-U-R-E, as a sharp-eyed reader pointed out.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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House tour, FOSH Garage Sale, St. Mary's Flea Market wrap weekend



FOSH Garage Sale draws thousands.


Plainfield's busy weekend draws to a close today with the 'Maidens in May' house tour, and the wrapup of the annual
FOSH (Friends of Sleepy Hollow) garage sale.

Those who need a booster shot for their bargain cravings should check out the giant Flea Market at St. Mary's Church, which benefits the community through the parish's St. Martin de Porres organization.


You may be torn between two pleasant options for ending this glorious feast of a weekend: the 'Maidens in May' house tour (with reception) from 2-5 in the afternoon, or the Crescent Singers' 'Oldies but Goodies' concert of 1920s and 1930s hits from a turbulent time in America's history.

Whatever you choose, you will be delighted with the wonderful weekend spent at home in Plainfield.

See complete details below.


  • Today - May 23. 9 AM - 4 PM. FOSH Garage Sale. Thousands of people descend on Plainfield annually for the FOSH garage sale -- for some of the best 'stuff' in New Jersey. This year, for the first time, the sale will run TWO days, Saturday and Sunday. Rain or shine. A good place to start is Watchung Avenue. Look for balloons. Lists of locations will be available at each participating home.

  • Today - May 23. 10 AM - 4 PM. St. Mary's Flea Market. Giant flea market sponsored by Grupo San Martin de Porres at St. Mary's Church. In the parking lot, Liberty and West 5th Streets. All welcome.

  • Today - May 23. 2 -5 PM. Maidens in May House Tour. The United Way of Greater Union County's 2nd annual house tour features homes of historical and architectural significance in the Queen City. The tour concludes with a reception at the Tree Lawn Estate. Tickets: $20/advance, $25/day of tour. Advance tickets available online here or at Swain Galleries (703 Watchung Ave.), The Pillars (922 Central Ave.), Plainfield Music Store (120 North Ave.), Queen City Diner (1326 South Ave.), The Burney Group (1320 South Ave.) and The Town Bank (328 South Ave., Fanwood). Day of sale tickets available at Tree Lawn Estate (1038 Central Avenue and at 1401 Evergreen Avenue. Proceeds benefit the Plainfield Area Medical Transportation Fund (Red Cross and Plainfield Rescue Squad). Info online here, or call (908) 353-7171 x138.

  • Today - May 23. 3 PM. Crescent Concerts: Oldies But Goodies. The Crescent Singers revisit the 1920s and 1930s. Oldies but goodies abound in this nostalgic return to a turbulent time in our history. Tickets: $20/$25 at the door, Seniors $15, Students $5. Info: (908) 756-2468 or crescentconcerts.org/. At Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue (parking in lot on First Place or at Swain Galleries).



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Big weekend kicks off today with FOSH Garage Sale, Ric-Charles Concert



FOSH Garage Sale draws thousands.





Celebrating a 'find' at the FOSH Garage Sale.


Thousands of visitors will be in Plainfield this weekend for the 'Maidens in May' house tour (Sunday) and the annual
FOSH (Friends of Sleepy Hollow) garage sale, which is being offered on both Saturday and Sunday this year, and the weather is expected to be glorious. Some garage sale locations are devoted to raising funds for organizations like the Plainfield Symphony, the Plainfield Garden Club and animal welfare organizations.

But that is far from all.

Saturday evening features a reprise concert by our all-time favorites the Ric-Charles Chorale commemorating the legacy of founder Charles E. Evans, with guests artists pianist Richard Alston and soprano June Townes.

The weekend kicked off last evening -- and continues tonight -- with the musical comedy 'The Wedding Singer' featuring Plainfield's favorite Girl Scout supporter (and former SALT program director) Tiffany Wilson.




Relay For Life overnight event at Hub Stine.


Overnight Saturday, from dusk until dawn, 35 teams have organized in support of Plainfield's Third Annual Relay for Life event in support of cancer survivors, research funding and remembrance of those who have passed. The event at Hub Stine Field, to which the public is invited, is stunning with its candelaria display on the bleachers in the fading sunset. Consider coming out.

Saturday morning kicks off with a workshop at the Plainfield Public Library on the 'Care and Keeping of Family Treasures', offering tips on spotting, preserving, caring for and displaying and sharing keepsakes ranging from family Bibles and records to quilts and unusual items.

On Sunday, garage sale buffs can expand their options by dropping by St. Mary's Church's parking lot for a monster flea market sponsored by the parish's St. Martin de Porres group, and then shuttle back to finish the FOSH garage sale.

You may be torn between two pleasant options for ending this glorious feast of a weekend: the 'Maidens in May' house tour (with reception) from 2-5 in the afternoon, or the Crescent Singers' 'Oldies but Goodies' concert of 1920s and 1930s hits from a turbulent time in America's history.

Whatever you choose, you will be delighted with the wonderful weekend spent at home in Plainfield.

See complete details below.


  • Today- May 22. 9 AM - 12:30 PM. Workshop: Care and Keeping of Family Treasures. Old photos? Family Bibles? Quilts or other textiles? Learn how to spot, care for, store and display your valued family keepsakes and heirlooms. Presenters include: Cynthia Harris of the Jersey City Public Library, and Mary Ellen Rogan, Jeff Wassen, Sonja Sekely-Rowland and Mary Della Sala of the Plainfield Public Library. Bring an item for which you have questions (no appraisals). $10/person (checks payable to 'Union County'). Info: (908) 558-2550 or (908) 757-1111. At the Plainfield Public Library, Park Avenue and 8th Street.

  • Today/Tomorrow - May 22/23. 9 AM - 4 PM. FOSH Garage Sale. Thousands of people descend on Plainfield annually for the FOSH garage sale -- for some of the best 'stuff' in New Jersey. This year, for the first time, the sale will run TWO days, Saturday and Sunday. Rain or shine. A good place to start is Watchung Avenue. Look for balloons. Lists of locations will be available at each participating home.

  • Today- May 22. 9 AM - 3 PM. Yard Sale Benefiting Animal Support Groups. This is the 5th annual multi-household yard sale to benefit a variety of groups and organizations supporting animals. Clothing, kitchen/household, antiques/collectibles, books, furniture and more. At 1326 Watchung Avenue. Saturday only.

  • Today- May 22. 9 AM - 4 PM. FOSH Garage Sale [Plainfield Symphony]. All sales at this location benefit the Plainfield Symphony Orchestra, which begins its 91st season in September. At 900 Charlotte Road (corner of Watchung Avenue). Saturday only.

  • Today- May 22. 9 AM - 4 PM. FOSH Garage Sale [Plainfield Garden Club]. Sales at this location will benefit programs of the Plainfield Garden Club, which maintains the Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park as well as other gardening and outreach activities in the community. At 1734 Sleepy Hollow Lane. Saturday only.

  • (RESCHEDULED) Saturday - May 22. Noon - 4 PM. 'Sabor Latino' Food Tastings and Cultural Celebration. The annual fundraiser for Latinas en Accíon and Venture & Venture. Info: (908) 397-5849 or (908) 561-9600.

  • Today/Tomorrow - May 22/23. 6 PM to 7 AM. Relay for Life Overnight Event. Plainfielders will gather in the 3rd annual overnight fundraising walk to honor cancer survivors, remember those who have been lost to the disease and raise funds for continuing research. 39 teams have been organized to walk through the night. Members of the community are invited to participate and/or visit the site. A Luminaria Ceremony will be held at 9:00 PM. More info at www.relayforlife.org/plainfieldnj. At Hub Stine Field, Randolph Road (near Woodland Avenue).

  • Today - May 22. 7 PM. Ric-Charles Choral Ensemble in Concert. A musical celebration to commemorate the legacy of Charles E. Evans. Featured artists include Richard Alston, pianist, and June Townes, soprano, with accompaniment by Wendell Woods and Kenneth Brown. Tickets: $20/person. At the door, or call Deborah Burke at (862) 215-7421. At Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue (parking in lot on First Place or at Swain Galleries).

  • Today - May 22. 8 PM. Musical Comedy: The Wedding Singer. Take a ride back to the 1980s, and the budding romance between a wedding singer and a waitress. A 2006 Tony nominee for 'best original score'. Tickets: $20, $18/seniors/Students. Box office: (908) 276-7611. At CDC Community Theatre, 78 Winans Avenue, Cranford.

  • Tomorrow - May 23. 10 AM - 4 PM. St. Mary's Flea Market. Giant flea market sponsored by Grupo San Martin de Porres at St. Mary's Church. In the parking lot, Liberty and West 5th Streets. All welcome.

  • Tomorrow - May 23. 2 -5 PM. Maidens in May House Tour. The United Way of Greater Union County's 2nd annual house tour features homes of historical and architectural significance in the Queen City. The tour concludes with a reception at the Tree Lawn Estate. Tickets: $20/advance, $25/day of tour. Advance tickets available online here or at Swain Galleries (703 Watchung Ave.), The Pillars (922 Central Ave.), Plainfield Music Store (120 North Ave.), Queen City Diner (1326 South Ave.), The Burney Group (1320 South Ave.) and The Town Bank (328 South Ave., Fanwood). Day of sale tickets available at Tree Lawn Estate (1038 Central Avenue and at 1401 Evergreen Avenue. Proceeds benefit the Plainfield Area Medical Transportation Fund (Red Cross and Plainfield Rescue Squad). Info online here, or call (908) 353-7171 x138.

  • Tomorrow - May 23. 3 PM. Crescent Concerts: Oldies But Goodies. The Crescent Singers revisit the 1920s and 1930s. Oldies but goodies abound in this nostalgic return to a turbulent time in our history. Tickets: $20/$25 at the door, Seniors $15, Students $5. Info: (908) 756-2468 or crescentconcerts.org/. At Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue (parking in lot on First Place or at Swain Galleries).



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, May 21, 2010

NJ Newsroom caught by Dan in an ethical lapse?



NJ Newsroom is a highly-respected online news source.


When NJ Newsroom posted an item yesterday on the recent outbreak of gang violence in Plainfield, it caught my eye while preparing the daily CLIPS blog (see here).

The highly-respected website devoted to New Jersey news -- featuring some of the state's best journalists as well as wide-ranging OpEd opinions -- has not previously, to my memory, ever done a story on Plainfield, nor can I recall a story of such 'street-corner' detail.

It is far more likely you would find a carefully thought out piece on an initiative by the governor or the Legislature, with its implications statewide carefully laid out.

But a run-of-the-mill gang story (after all, Plainfield is hardly the only town with gang issues)? Most unusual.

Scanning the story before putting the link up on the CLIPS blog, it did not seem to add anything to previous coverage in the Courier (see here) -- in fact, it had an identical quote from Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig as reported by Mark Spivey in his original Courier story --
From the Courier: "They don't seem to care," Hellwig said of the gangs' attitudes toward the increased presence of law enforcement. "We've been trying to keep the peace down there, because there's certainly been some things brewing." (see story here)
and from NJ Newsroom --
"They don't seem to care," said city Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig. "We've been trying to keep the peace down there, because there's certainly been some things brewing." (story archived here)
It is not unusual for different media outlets to cover the same story (in fact the Ledger covered this one also -- see here), however competing media take great pains to strive for a slightly different perspective, or additional telling details, and there certainly wouldn't be word-for-word identical quotes unless all the reporters had been in a press conference or group interview.

What caught my eye about the NJ Newsroom piece was that it DID NOT have any additional information or distinctive angle. So, I decided to quickly reference the Courier article alongside it and move on, leaving this entry --
Gangs: "Bystanders caught in middle of Plainfield gang feud" -- Story makes NJ Newsroom website; contrast with original Courier article here.
When I got back to my computer yesterday evening, I had been tipped that the story was taken down. The page I had left open all day without refreshing displayed the story as originally posted.




Screenshot of NJ Newsroom's original posting of the story.


This allowed me to capture the original text as posted on the NJ Newsroom site, which I have archived here.

Upon refreshing the original page, I got this error message --




Screenshot of error message when reloading original page.


Now, I have a high regard for the NJ Newsroom folks and dropped them an email early this morning suggesting they create a 'corner' on their website where they could post corrections or clarifications for the reasons stories are either modified or taken down altogether. I hope they take my suggestion seriously.

Here is the text of my email --
Good morning,

NJ Newsroom ran a story yesterday AM on recent gang activity in Plainfield.

I aggregate links to news stories of interest to Plainfield readers on my blog CLIPS, and posted a link to the story in my usual fashion.

As I scanned the item preparatory to putting up a link, it seemed very similar to my recollection of the Courier News item "Three injured in Plainfield shootings as gang feud escalates" of 5/17/2010, and I put a link to their story alongside the one to yours. (The story was actually broken on my local news blog, Plainfield Today, early Monday AM as part of a roundup of police news --
"3 shot over weekend, pedestrian struck, plus unremarked bias incident")

I was told by someone yesterday afternoon that your story had been taken down, and that Plainfield police director Martin Hellwig had confirmed that no one from NJ Newsroom had contacted him about the story, though there was a direct quote in your piece.

As a news junkie (and retired public information officer for the City of Plainfield), I have had the highest regard for NJ Newsroom since its inception and admire both the news stories and the wide variety of opinions expressed on issues of concern to New Jerseyans.

This experience, however, has left me feeling uneasy. In print media, there might be a correction or a small notice about what had gone awry. Scanning your site, I don't find somewhere that a reader could turn for clarifications or corrections or admissions that a mistake or ethical lapse had been made.

I hope you will consider a little 'corner' for such, so that your deservedly good reputation will remain of the highest order.

Sincerely,
Dan Damon

Meanwhile, a Google search for a text string from the NJ Newsroom story shows that it is still online in its original form on at least two other websites as of the time of this writing: Hoboken City Guide (see here) and The Black Urban Times (see here).

We'll see what happens.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Two (teacher?) blogs keep an eye on Plainfield schools




Understanding Plainfield's school situation takes all the help one can find, and there are two blogs (by teachers?) that should be on the check-out list of those who want to understand what's going on with the institution whose fiscal bite dwarfs the Plainfield taxpayer's usual pet peeve, city government.

Plainfielders are ever in the debt of Maria Pellum who, despite classes of her own, still finds time to weigh in on issues of deep concern to the community about the schools (as well as matters at Evergreen School, her particular corner of Plainfield's educational universe).

But it certainly helps to find that there are folks at work within the school district who are trying to assess what is going on, where good things are happening and where they are not,
what games are being played and what is at stake.

For these kinds of insight, you will want to check out these two blogs --
  • Dr. e = mc² (see here)

  • An eye on Plainfield schools (see here)
I believe they are done by two teachers, perhaps at PHS. You may find some of the discussion a little oblique (as contrasted to Maria or myself), but you can understand that there are reasons.

Among those reasons can be that the politics of being a district employee can be just as volatile and dangerous as anywhere else in the real world, and the typical rewards-and-punishments mindset has plenty of room for play in hierarchical, command-and-control organizations like school districts.

I hope you will check them out, and give the authors feedback through your comments to encourage them.

A NOTE TO THE SCHOOL BLOGGERS: If you want to make it a bit easier for folks to find your posts, there are two simple things that can be done. Since many folks find Plainfield-related items by Googling 'plainfield' plus with or without other search terms, it definitely helps to --
1) find a way to use the word 'Plainfield' somewhere in your blog description (Blogger allows a tag line called 'blog description' -- as in my 'where Plainfield turns for news' -- and other blog platforms have options for such descriptive lines that can be either shown or hidden). These help Google's search bots to find and tag you as they crawl the Web; and

2) find a way to work the word 'Plainfield' into the opening 15 words of each post. It may sound limiting, but it also helps Google to find and tag stuff for searchers interested in the topic 'Plainfield'. I hate it sometimes, because I have clever opening lines that this tactic just kills, but then I ask myself which is more important -- folks finding the posts, or me getting off a good line.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Muhlenberg debt collection abuse?



Has there been any abuse in debt collection efforts for Plainfield's former Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center?

Rubin & Raine, the collection agency that pursued thousands of outdated or already-paid bills of former Pascack Valley Hospital patients, settled a complaint with the state's Attorney General (see here) last June, but Restore Muhlenberg activists are asking whether former Muhlenberg patients have been pursued by the same bill collectors in an unjust manner more recently than that.

The news story points out that there is a statute of limitations involved and Rubin & Raine agreed not to pursus Pascack Valley bills that predate September 19, 2002.

The Attorney General's settlement letter is posted online (see here).

If there are former Muhlenberg patients who are being pursued over bills incurred before 2002 or that have already been paid, they are encouraged to get in touch with Restore Muhlenberg activists Deborah Dowe (email her here) or Nancy Piwowar
(email her here).


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Plainfield has something for everyone this weekend



FOSH Garage Sale draws thousands.





Celebrating a 'find' at the FOSH Garage Sale.


Thousands of visitors will be in Plainfield this weekend for the 'Maidens in May' house tour (Sunday) and the annual
FOSH (Friends of Sleepy Hollow) garage sale, which is being offered on both Saturday and Sunday this year, and the weather is expected to be glorious. Some garage sale locations are devoted to raising funds for organizations like the Plainfield Symphony, the Plainfield Garden Club and animal welfare organizations.

But that is far from all.

The weekend kicks off Friday (and Saturday) night with the musical comedy 'The Wedding Singer' featuring Plainfield's favorite Girl Scout supporter (and former SALT program director) Tiffany Wilson.

Saturday evening features a reprise concert by our all-time favorites the Ric-Charles Chorale commemorating the legacy of founder Charles E. Evans, with guests artists pianist Richard Alston and soprano June Townes.




Relay For Life overnight event at Hub Stine.


Overnight Saturday, from dusk until dawn, 35 teams have organized in support of Plainfield's Third Annual Relay for Life event in support of cancer survivors, research funding and remembrance of those who have passed. The event at Hub Stine Field, to which the public is invited, is stunning with its candelaria display on the bleachers in the fading sunset. Consider coming out.

Saturday morning kicks off with a workshop at the Plainfield Public Library on the 'Care and Keeping of Family Treasures', offering tips on spotting, preserving, caring for and displaying and sharing keepsakes ranging from family Bibles and records to quilts and unusual items.

At noon, culture mavens can have a crack at the annual 'Sabor Latino' festival at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church. The event, a fundraiser for Latinas en Accíon, features Latin American food prepared by Plainfield's many Latino restaurants as well as musical and dance performances and information from community organizations.

On Sunday, garage sale buffs can expand their options by dropping by St. Mary's Church's parking lot for a monster flea market sponsored by the parish's St. Martin de Porres group, and then shuttle back to finish the FOSH garage sale.

You may be torn between two pleasant options for ending this glorious feast of a weekend: the 'Maidens in May' house tour (with reception) from 2-5 in the afternoon, or the Crescent Singers' 'Oldies but Goodies' concert of 1920s and 1930s hits from a turbulent time in America's history.

Whatever you choose, you will be delighted with the wonderful weekend spent at home in Plainfield.

See complete details below.


  • Friday/Saturday - May 21/22. 8 PM. Musical Comedy: The Wedding Singer. Take a ride back to the 1980s, and the budding romance between a wedding singer and a waitress. A 2006 Tony nominee for 'best original score'. Tickets: $20, $18/seniors/Students. Box office: (908) 276-7611. At CDC Community Theatre, 78 Winans Avenue, Cranford.

  • Saturday - May 22. 9 AM - 12:30 PM. Workshop: Care and Keeping of Family Treasures. Old photos? Family Bibles? Quilts or other textiles? Learn how to spot, care for, store and display your valued family keepsakes and heirlooms. Presenters include: Cynthia Harris of the Jersey City Public Library, and Mary Ellen Rogan, Jeff Wassen, Sonja Sekely-Rowland and Mary Della Sala of the Plainfield Public Library. Bring an item for which you have questions (no appraisals). $10/person (checks payable to 'Union County'). Info: (908) 558-2550 or (908) 757-1111. At the Plainfield Public Library, Park Avenue and 8th Street.

  • Saturday and Sunday - May 22/23. 9 AM - 4 PM. FOSH Garage Sale. Thousands of people descend on Plainfield annually for the FOSH garage sale -- for some of the best 'stuff' in New Jersey. This year, for the first time, the sale will run TWO days, Saturday and Sunday. Rain or shine. A good place to start is Watchung Avenue. Look for balloons. Lists of locations will be available at each participating home.

  • Saturday - May 22. 9 AM - 3 PM. Yard Sale Benefiting Animal Support Groups. This is the 5th annual multi-household yard sale to benefit a variety of groups and organizations supporting animals. Clothing, kitchen/household, antiques/collectibles, books, furniture and more. At 1326 Watchung Avenue. Saturday only.

  • Saturday - May 22. 9 AM - 4 PM. FOSH Garage Sale [Plainfield Symphony]. All sales at this location benefit the Plainfield Symphony Orchestra, which begins its 91st season in September. At 900 Charlotte Road (corner of Watchung Avenue). Saturday only.

  • Saturday - May 22. 9 AM - 4 PM. FOSH Garage Sale [Plainfield Garden Club]. Sales at this location will benefit programs of the Plainfield Garden Club, which maintains the Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park as well as other gardening and outreach activities in the community. At 1734 Sleepy Hollow Lane. Saturday only.

  • Saturday - May 22. Noon - 4 PM. 'Sabor Latino' Food Tastings and Cultural Celebration. The annual fundraiser for Latinas en Accíon and Venture & Venture. The event features samplings of foods of Latin America prepared by local restaurants, entertainment by local music groups and dance troupes, vendors and representatives of non-profit organizations. The event is dedicated in commemoration of Ms. Pepsi Charles, founder of 'Plainfield Cooks'. At Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue (parking in lot on First Place or at Swain Galleries). Info: (908) 397-5849 or (908) 561-9600.

  • Saturday/Sunday - May 22/23. 6 PM to 7 AM. Relay for Life Overnight Event. Plainfielders will gather in the 3rd annual overnight fundraising walk to honor cancer survivors, remember those who have been lost to the disease and raise funds for continuing research. 39 teams have been organized to walk through the night. Members of the community are invited to participate and/or visit the site. A Luminaria Ceremony will be held at 9:00 PM. More info at www.relayforlife.org/plainfieldnj. At Hub Stine Field, Randolph Road (near Woodland Avenue).

  • Saturday - May 22. 7 PM. Ric-Charles Choral Ensemble in Concert. A musical celebration to commemorate the legacy of Charles E. Evans. Featured artists include Richard Alston, pianist, and June Townes, soprano, with accompaniment by Wendell Woods and Kenneth Brown. Tickets: $20/person. At the door, or call Deborah Burke at (862) 215-7421. At Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue (parking in lot on First Place or at Swain Galleries).

  • Sunday - May 23. 10 AM - 4 PM. St. Mary's Flea Market. Giant flea market sponsored by Grupo San Martin de Porres at St. Mary's Church. In the parking lot, Liberty and West 5th Streets. All welcome.

  • Sunday - May 23. 2 -5 PM. Maidens in May House Tour. The United Way of Greater Union County's 2nd annual house tour features homes of historical and architectural significance in the Queen City. The tour concludes with a reception at the Tree Lawn Estate. Tickets: $20/advance, $25/day of tour. Advance tickets available online here or at Swain Galleries (703 Watchung Ave.), The Pillars (922 Central Ave.), Plainfield Music Store (120 North Ave.), Queen City Diner (1326 South Ave.), The Burney Group (1320 South Ave.) and The Town Bank (328 South Ave., Fanwood). Day of sale tickets available at Tree Lawn Estate (1038 Central Avenue and at 1401 Evergreen Avenue. Proceeds benefit the Plainfield Area Medical Transportation Fund (Red Cross and Plainfield Rescue Squad). Info online here, or call (908) 353-7171 x138.

  • Sunday - May 23. 3 PM. Crescent Concerts: Oldies But Goodies. The Crescent Singers revisit the 1920s and 1930s. Oldies but goodies abound in this nostalgic return to a turbulent time in our history. Tickets: $20/$25 at the door, Seniors $15, Students $5. Info: (908) 756-2468 or crescentconcerts.org/. At Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue (parking in lot on First Place or at Swain Galleries).



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Fences: Are Council members above the law?



Councilor Burney's property is an anchor of the Putnam-Watchung Historic District.


Plainfield taxpayers become outraged at the thought that some property owners get a pass when it comes to city regulations while those without political clout must adhere to the finest points of the codes and procedures.

There have been many incidents (I recall one in recent years when a then-sitting council member was said to have renovated a house without a permit), but one involving Councilor Rashid Burney caused my phone to ring off the hook late Friday afternoon.

Work was under way to erect a new fence on the Kensington Avenue side of Councilor Burney's property, which faces the corner of Watchung Avenue and is an 'anchor' property of the city's Putnam-Watchung Historic District.




Councilor Burney's property is an imposing presence on Watchung Avenue.


When I arrived at the scene, workers could be seen in the yard behind a scrim, painting plain-vanilla stockade fencing a dark green. Stakes had been driven along the sidewalk line from the rear corner of the property some distance toward the front.

The complaint?

It was said that while Councilor Burney had applied to the Historic Preservation Commission for a review and approval of his fence plans (it would involve a determination the proposed fence was 'appropriate'), the approval granted had long since expired.

Checking at City Hall, the historic preservation specialist was out of the office, but I was told the approval had indeed expired, and that Councilor Burney would have to go before the Historic Preservation Commission once again.




Stakes are in place for fencing along Kensington Avenue.


It should be noted that Burney has for a long-time been a preservation activist, having served both on the city's
Historic Preservation Commission and as a board member of Preservation New Jersey, the statewide preservation advocacy organization. In fact, Burney takes pains to point the facts out on one of his blogs (see here).

So, TWO QUESTIONS arise, which so infuriate other taxpayers and residents of historic districts who must abide by the rules:
  1. Why doesn't Councilor Burney have to abide by the rules and get the proper approvals before having work done?; and

  2. Can the stockade fence being erected in any way be found 'appropriate' for this property, given its integral importance to the Putnam-Watchung Historic District?
Does being an elected official give one privileges to which others -- mere taxpayers -- have no access?

One has to wonder.




Is this 'appropriate' fencing for a historic property of such grand character?


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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3 shot over weekend, pedestrian struck, plus unremarked bias incident




Plainfield's law enforcement and emergency services personnel were kept busy over this past weekend with three shootings and a pedestrian struck by a vehicle.

Overnight Saturday, two females were shot during a barrage of gunfire -- said by one person to involve 'scores of shots' -- in the Elmwood Gardens vicinity on West 2nd Street. (A score, if your memory fails you, is TWENTY.)

Sunday night, another individual was shot near the intersection of Liberty and West 3rd Streets, just a block away from the previous night's shootings.

Is it a gang turf war? Drug deals gone awry? Let's hope we find out.

Meanwhile, Plainfield and North Plainfield police had blockaded Watchung Avenue in the vicinity of the bridge over the Green Brook at daybreak today. The street was completely closed off with incident tape and crime photographers were on the scene shortly before 6:00 AM.

I was told that a pedestrian had been struck by a vehicle and was medevaced to RWJ.

BIAS INCIDENT

An incident of Black-on-Hispanic assault and robbery with bias intimidation also took place about two weeks ago, but has gone unremarked to date.

An adult and a juvenile beat and robbed an Hispanic male, while reportedly yelling ethnic slurs at him. Police arrested the pair and documented the bias aspect, charging them with first degree bias intimidation, robbery and aggravated assault.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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