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Thursday, March 31, 2011

PHS Assembly: District's responses raise more questions

The flap over the assembly program at Plainfield High School last week that included local representatives of the Nation of Islam continues.

Courier reporter Mark Spivey has a story in today's print and online editions (see here), in which PHS principal Brian Bilal, BOE president Lisa Logan-Leach and BOE member Renata Hernandez defend the program.

Maria Pellum thinks that better communications by the District would have helped avoid misunderstanding (see her blog here). Olddoc is spurred by the incident and the reporting of it to ask plenty of questions (see his post here).

After reading the Courier story, I have even more questions.

Why are we just now being told that the program was put together by the guidance department? Both Ms. Belin-Pyles and Principal Bilal left us with the impression at the Board meeting Tuesday that the Assembly was in the principal's bailiwick and of the principal's doing. So now it's the guidance department? (NOTE: The commenter at 9:08 AM says Dr. Bilal did say the guidance department put the program together; I do not have that in my notes. I stand corrected on the commenter's say-so. -- Dan)

Spivey writes --

...several schools officials all described the assembly as a secular anti-violence program coordinated by members of multiple religions...
This is not exactly what was conveyed at Tuesday night's board meeting, at which Minister Muhammad spoke as though he was the sole organizer of the project. It was only later mentioned in passing by Board member Rasheed Abdul-Haqq that Chamber of Commerce president Jeff Dunn was a presenter. If it was indeed broadly based, why wasn't that brought out clearly at the Board meeting?

Lastly, the matter of whether boys and girls were separated for the Assembly has not been addressed at all. As I said in my previous post (see here), that seems to have been the matter that set off the wave of rumors, confusion and misinformation in the first place.

It still needs to be addressed in a straightforward manner.

Were the boys and girls separated during the Assembly or were they not?

If they were not, why not just say so outright?

If they were, please explain the basis for doing so.

As I said in my previous post, better communications would have shortstopped the matter.

They are still lacking.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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POP, Angels in Action set anti-violence rally for Saturday

Route of Saturday's march shown in red.
Stephen Hatcher, chair of the Plainfield chapter of Peoples Organization for Progress (POP0 advises that the group is being joined by Angels in Action for an anti-violence march and rally this Saturday.

The event will begin at Grant Avenue and West 3rd Street at 2:00 PM and proceed to the convenience store at West 3rd and Monroe, the site of the shooting death of Nelson Santos, Plainfield's fifth homicide of 2011.

Plainfield's fifth homicide of 2011 happened outside this convenience store.

A rally against the violence, with speakers, will be held at the site of the shooting, according to Hatcher. The rally will conclude at 4:00 PM. For more information, contact him at (908) 731-1518.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Better communication by schools could have prevented 'Nation of Islam' kerfuffle

The Plainfield High School complex. (Google)
An event last week at Plainfield High School that caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the community was discussed at Tuesday's Board of Ed meeting, leaving more questions than answers and highlighting how better communications by the District could have avoided the confusion and rumors that were spread.

At the privilege of the floor, Minister Mustafa Muhammad told the audience briefly of an outreach to high school students made last week in an effort to engage them in a discussion about gangs and street violence, making good choices and what could be done to help. He thanked the District's administrators for the opportunity to hold the program and said he was anxious to build a citywide effort including all sorts of organizations to help address the issues of gangs and violence plaguing our youth.

In responding, Acting Superintendent Anna Belin-Pyles alluded obliquely to building principals' having considerable latitude in setting up assemblies for their buildings' students. But that was it.

Maria Pellum related concerns that had been shared with her, especially that she had been told boys and girls were separated for the event.

PHS principal Dr. Brian Bilal offered more clarity. Saying he didn't often take the floor in this manner, he added he felt it was important to clear up some misconceptions.

It was not in any way a 'religious' event, Bilal said, but was an attempt to meet and talk with 10th grade students about stopping the violence on Plainfield's streets. Attendance was voluntary (one girl chose not to attend, and was accommodated in another class instead). Board member Rasheed Abdul-Haqq and an unnamed City Council member were said to be in attendance.

All of this helped settle things down, as far as I was concerned.

However, there are still unanswered questions, and it strikes me that the District could do a better job at communications by giving some thought to programs like this in advance and at least preparing a fact sheet that could answer any questions the public may have instead of letting rumors circulate for days before addressing the matter.

Unanswered questions include: Was a written proposal for the program submitted? How was the decision arrived at to have the program? Were the students given advance notice? Did it take the place of any scheduled instruction that will have to be made up? How many students were involved? Where was it held? Did anything emerge from the session that will involve followup or creation of some task force, etc.?

Board member Renata Hernandez asked the District's attorneys if the law had been violated and the Board was reassured that it did not appear to be the case, based on what had been discussed.

Board member Abdul-Haqq praised the program as one of the best he had ever witnessed in his twenty years of involvement as a parent and advocate, saying he was unaware of the boy-girl separation question, and adding that while he was there the principal speaker was Jeff Dunn of The Incubator -- a Christian, as Abdul-Haqq pointed out.

The possibility exists that some of the confusion and rumors arose because STUDENTS themselves weren't clear about exactly what was going on, and why boys and girls were separated.

That last seems to have been the key, as I had received a couple of phone calls after school that same day from folks who could only have gotten bits and pieces about what happened from those who could only have gotten it from students. I suggested these folks call the District administration and not just assume that they had gotten the facts straight as they had heard them.

How much simpler if there had been a one-pager put up on the District's website. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.

For an institution whose mission includes teaching young people to communicate clearly and effectively, you'd think the adults would want to model best communications practices for the students.

The report card on this one has to read 'Communication: Needs improvement'.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Board of Ed's proposed rent to charter school raises eyebrows

Plainfield's Lincoln School occupies the entire block
of Berckman Street between East 2nd and East 3rd. (Google)
Plainfield's Board of Ed is proposing to lease the now-vacant Lincoln School at Berckman and East Third Streets for a rent that is an absolute steal, given what Plainfield's other charter schools are paying to rent their spaces.

A resolution to lease the property for FOURTEEN months for $122,000 ($104,571 for TWELVE months), exclusive of utilities, was presented at Tuesday's Board of Ed meeting.

Despite the building's age (it is over a hundred years old), it has been thoroughly updated and is spacious, airy and well-maintained throughout. The only negative I can think of is that there is no elevator (as I recall, having not been inside for a couple of years).

It has had various uses over the last decade or so, the most recent being to house the Barack Obama Academy. Moving that school to the old Jefferson School building on Myrtle Avenue has left the Lincoln School vacant.

This may be a win-win for the district (income from an empty facility) and the Barack Obama Green Charter High School (room to grow), but the rental fee should cause raised eyebrows.

Maria Pellum recently posted the annual rent figures (for 2010) for three of Plainfield's four charter schools (see her post here).

Barack Obama Green Charter High School only opened this year and its report is not yet available.)

Here is what she found --

School 2010 Rent
Central Jersey Arts CS $655,319
Queen City Academy CS $329,000
Union County TEAMS CS $475,274¹
¹ Includes $62,401 for building maintenance.

I know this is just a raw comparison, which should be fine-tuned with comparisons of number of classrooms, square footage, and amenities; nevertheless, one has to wonder how the Board of Ed arrived at the proposed rent, and if it is supposed to be 'market rate', who did the rent comparisons.

Seems to me this will be hard to justify given both the fiscal constraints the District is facing and the actual going rents for charter schools in Plainfield.

Or am I being unfair? And if so, to whom?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You will now pay for the NYTimes online, even if it is garbled

Plainfielders who read the New York Times online will be face with a paywall that went into effect on the newspaper's website yesterday (see letter from the publisher here).

The new paywall had a 'soft launch' in Canada a couple of weeks ago -- presumably so wrinkles could be ironed out before hitting the much larger U.S. readership, which began yesterday afternoon.

Basically, readers will be allowed access to TWENTY stories per month at no charge. They are also supposed to be able to read stories which are sent to them as emails or links by others (meaning, hopefully, that any links I send you in CLIPS would give you access to a free article).

We'll see how all this goes; this is the second time the Times has tried a paywall. The last was abandoned ignominiously when execution problems cropped up and readership plummeted.

Meanwhile, as all this was simmering, I was reading the Sunday Times (which I make last most of the week -- think Chinese takeout as the metaphor) yesterday, and came across a bit of garbled journalism that I will now be asked to pay for digitally, as well as dead-tree.

In a story by Ben Zimmer on page 2 of the 'Week In Review' section about the tussle between Microsoft, Apple and Amazon over who can 'own' the word APPSTORE, the author, who is chairman of the American Dialect Society's 'new words' committee, overreached for a metaphor, with amusing results.

Noting that Microsoft had quoted Zimmer in announcing 'app' the Dialect Society's 'word of the year' for 2010, he added --

"That ended up being another quiver in Microsoft's bow, demonstrating how widespread the terms 'app' and 'app store'  had become." [Emphasis added, DD]
How's that again?

Anyone who, even in high school gym, has ever slotted the notch of an arrow onto the bowstring before shooting at the target knows that the ARROWS are kept IN THE QUIVER, which is slung over one's shoulder and not kept 'in the bow'.

Which only goes to show that the fee you will be paying does not include having copy editors on the staff, a breed which seems to have died out about a decade ago.

Or, as they say, 'Get used to it'.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Courtesy of a reader, a Google map of Plainfield wards

Tinted Google map is zoomable to highest magnification.
Plainfield Today reader 'YBA' posted a link to a Google map showing Plainfield's FOUR WARDS, with contact information on Council representatives.

The map, which can be found here, uses tinted overlays, which you can see through up to the highest magnification level. It was created in August 2010, by Google user 'PGS' and still needs to be updated for the new Council members since that time.

Also, for those with an interest in the breakdown of VOTING DISTRICTS within the Wards, I have posted the ward-with-districts maps online (
Ward 1 | Ward 2 | Ward 3 | Ward 4 ).

Note that all this will change over the next few months, with a process that kicks in after the new LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS MAP is unveiled next Sunday.

Thanks to 'YBA' for the link; let's hope the author updates the maps as the process goes along.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, March 28, 2011

FBI in Plainfield investigation?

Word in the street is that FBI investigators are conducting interviews in Plainfield with an eye to at least one possible criminal prosecution.

What could this be about?

I propose that you, dear readers, weigh in on what you think is up.

Here are some thoughts that come to mind as far as the City goes --

  • $20,000 WBLS payment (the Feds are interested in what banks do with their money, especially since the 'contribution' came within a month of the City depositing $29 million with the bank);

  • Sheetrocking Tepper's basement (paid for with Federal money; the world's most expensive sheetrocking?, which neither the Council nor the public has yet to lay eyes on);

  • ARRA Jobs Training Program (Federal grant awarded to The Incubator, despite not being certified to conduct such programs).
But that's just a few thoughts that come to mind regarding the CITY.

There are, of course, other possibilities -- the PMUA, the Housing Authority, the Board of Ed -- though I've not heard any rumbles about these.

What do you think?

Vote in the TOTALLY UNSCIENTIFIC poll in the right hand column.

(I'll keep it up until Sunday; poll jocks need not comment about its validity. Thank you.)

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Plainfield library director Da Rold receives state history issues award

Library Director Joe Da Rold and Board member Beverly Calland
at Friday's award ceremony.

Plainfield Public Library Director Joe Da Rold received the 2011 Gail F. Stern Award at Friday's 18th Annual New Jersey History Issues Convention, held at the NJ State Museum in Trenton.

The award, which recognizes outstanding achievement to New Jersey community history, honors Da Rold for his contributions to the Plainfield community through the library's emphasis on cultural diversity. These efforts have resulted also in Da Rold's having been honored in the past by the NJ Black Issues Convention and the RAICES Hispanic Cultural Association.

Named 2010 Librarian of the Year by the New Jersey Library Association, this latest award helps cap a career at the Plainfield Library which began in 1994.

Besides overseeing program and collections development as library director, Da Rold is currently working with the library's architect and contractors to complete the redesign and outfitting of the Children's Library, expected to be completed by early summer.

Joining in celebrating Da Rold's achievement at the Trenton affair were Library Board president Anne Robinson and Board members Carol Anderson and Beverly Calland.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Hidden Plainfield: March 27 home ID

Plainfield's architectural heritage includes this elegant postwar ranch.

Sunday's Hidden Plainfield home is on Field Avenue, as one commenter nailed. And yes, it has beautiful wisteria when in bloom.

There are many interesting 1950s and 1960s 'ramblers' in the Queen City. And interest in them is growing, which a Google search for '1950s home plans' shows. Maybe another house tour in the waiting ... 'Preludes to Happiness'?

A new home was the 1950s 'prelude to happiness'.

Where shall we go next week?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hidden Plainfield: Classic Postwar Elegance

Plainfield's architectural heritage includes elegant postwar ranches.

Plainfield may be most frequently cited for its neighborhoods of magnificent Victorians and other grand homes, but to be found in the mix are a large number of elegant postwar homes, such as today's Hidden Plainfield example.

This single-floor classic, often referred to in marketing literature of the time as a 'rambler' rather than the more prosaic 'ranch' was a spacious, upscale example of the millions of ranches that helped ease the significant post-World War II housing pressures.

A new home was the 1950s 'prelude to happiness'.

Though mature plantings somewhat obscure the facade, there are the signature broad front facing the street (here with a covered walkway to shade from the sun, and a massive stonework chimney which contained flues for both a fireplace in the living room and the furnace in the basement.

Most of these homes, regardless of expense, were selected from planbooks, which provided complete architectural drawings for the builder. As can be seen from a 1952 National Plan Service offering below, customers were given many options, including roof type and exterior wall treatment --

Buyers were given options to help individualize the plans.
The fireplace wall in the living room of today's example might originally have resembled this 1957 beauty as imagined by the Armstrong Cork & Tile designers --

A living room with fireplace wall, as imagined by Armstrong Cork & Tile designers, ca. 1957.

Do you know where this home is?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Congratulations to Canon Leroy Lyons

Fr. Lyons was honored for his contributions to ministry among Anglicans
of Caribbean descent at a conference organized by St. Stephen's Church, Toronto.
Congratulations to Plainfield's longest-serving pastor, the Rev. Canon Leroy Lyons of St. Mark's Episcopal Church.

Fr. Lyons has had an exciting ministry over the last four decades, with St. Mark's, under his leadership, becoming a leading parish in the Plainfield community and in the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey.

I first came to know Fr. Lyons about twenty-five years ago, when helping coordinate the efforts of our two parishes (I was at Grace Church) to house the homeless of the Plainfield area in our church buildings for a week at a time on a rotating basis in the days before HomeFirst was formed.

St. Mark's parish has prospered and grown under his dedicated leadership, for which we all give thanks as he enters his 41st year as its rector.

His ministry will be honored at a special Mass at St. Mark's at 10:30 this morning.

You can read a profile by Courier reporter Mark Spivey

Congratulations, Fr. Lyons, and every best wish for the future!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, March 25, 2011

On the Board of Ed race

At last, Plainfielders are becoming aware of salient information for the Board of Education race.

Olddoc posts a comment from Alex Edache about his relationship with John Campbell (see here), which had previously gone unmentioned in posts on the candidate by various bloggers.

In a community like Plainfield, with so many political operatives, prowling about, it is of course germane to know the connections of candidates to various of the political heavyweights -- if there are any.

Hence it strikes me as a little disingenuous for Mr. Edache to express surprise at the interest. As for being limited by a word count, one decides first what MUST be included and works from there -- as any editor will tell you.

Ever since Assemblyman Jerry Green put up a slate that first brought Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and current BOE president Lisa Logan Leach to public office, knowing where the political powers-that-be stood has been a touchstone for understanding the campaigns and what (money, and jobs) was at stake.

I was first introduced to Mr. Edache a number of years ago at a social event, as a business associate of John Campbell, so it has certainly not been a 'hidden' fact, though unremarked until now in the current BOE campaign.

It is also known that Ellen Carter-Haygood, who dropped out of the race, is BOE member Wilma Campbell's sister. In fact, someone pointed out to me that she is memorialized in the BOE minutes for having congratulated her sister Wilma at the Board's reorganization meeting in 2007.

If Ms. Surgeon or Mr. Hurtt have connections with the Campbells, it would probably be just as well if these were put out in the open.

That having been said, I am far less of the opinion that there is some nefarious plot by John and  Wilma Campbell to 'take over' the Board of Ed, than by the sad realization that there is no burning interest among the public to serve on the Board of Ed this time around.

Which is surprising, given the intense public interest during the struggle over removing Dr. Steve Gallon as superintendent. Then, we had multiple candidacies and slates, and a robust debate over the
direction in which the Board should go.

This time around there is barely a yawn.

Assemblyman Green has publicly stated he is staying out of the Board of Ed race 'one way or the other'. This is good all around as the Assemblyman's name is 'box office poison', as they say.

Which is something that Tony Rucker will want to weigh in considering a run for the Ward 2 council seat.

An endorsement by Jerry would be the kiss of death, which causes one to wonder why John Campbell was so busy at last summer's Hillside Area street party/picnic trying to persuade Owen Fletcher, then presumed to be Jerry's choice to run as the Democratic machine candidate, to step aside in favor of Rucker.

There will be plenty to watch during the coming political season.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and lessons for working people today

To the 146 locked in to the 9th floor workshop,
the choice was whether to die by burning...
Many Plainfielders will today mark the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, in which 146 immigrant workers, mostly teenage girls and young women, died in an inferno that swept through their locked 9th-floor workshop.

The only choice given these workers by their employers was whether to die by burning or by jumping.

...or by jumping.

A wave of reform of workplace safety and working conditions was sparked by the tragedy.

One hundred years later, working families are again under assault, this time blamed for conditions which are not entirely of their creating.

Public employees are now blamed for the outcomes of decisions made by their public employers decades ago. Time was when public service meant lower-than-competitive wages, sweetened by the public employers with pension and benefits promises.

The fact that those promises were made and relied on is not the fault of the workers, nor is the fact that Legislatures and governors of both parties failed to adequately fund the obligations they undertook.

Working families across America are paying attention once again as their jobs and their social contract come under attack, from the very people whose obligations have been mostly ignored.

Once again, are the only choices left to them to die by burning or by jumping?

Cartoon from the collection of the Tamiment Library, New York University.

Condolences to Ron Lattimore's family and colleagues

Plainfield has lost a member of a storied family with the tragic passing of Lt. Ron Lattimore of the Police Division.

My condolences along with those of other residents go out to Lt. Lattimore's family and his colleagues. The extended Lattimore family has a tradition of public service to the Plainfield community which Ron proudly shared, both as youth director of the YMCA and later as a sworn officer in the Police Division.

Ron and his family and colleagues are in the thoughts and prayers of many in this time of need.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Plainfield and Route 22 overpass: A clarification that makes things worse?

Sometimes there is static in the communications.
Here's a clarification on yesterday's Plainfield Today post about Plainfield as the site for WASTE from the upcoming Route 22 overpass project in Bridgewater (see post here).

It is not WASTE that is being considered for Plainfield, it is the supplying of TRACK BALLAST for NJT's operations.

Track ballast support rails and ties, drains away moisture.

TRACK BALLAST, which looks like ordinary stone, but is specially sized to optimize its uses in supporting railway ties and rails and in draining water away from the right-of-way (see here and here), is supplied for the Conrail lines on which NJ Transit operates its trains by the quarry located on Chimney Rock Road, just north of Route 22.

The rail spur which serves the quarry will be out of commission during the overpass construction, which has been quoted in the newspapers
(see here and here) as being expected to take two years.

The need for the track ballast will not be abated, so the stone will have to be shipped via another means.

Hence the dump trucks, hence Plainfield.

The likely staging area for the track ballast
would be adjacent to the Reinco building (upper center).

If the daily output from the quarry is 12-13 rail cars (spotted by a commenter passing Netherwood Station) and it takes 5 dump trucks to fill one car, the math says that would be about 60-75 dump trucks pounding the streets of Plainfield four or five days a week for two years (or more if the construction falls behind, as often happens).

Wear and tear on the streets. Increased risk of pedestrian danger. Noise.

Would a siding have to be constructed adjacent to the Reinco lot? How would the trucks gain access? What construction and equipment would be required to get the stone from the trucks to the rail cars? Would an enormous pile of ballast be built up there? Would everything be restored to the status quo ante after the Route 22 project is finished?

And the large question remains: Is Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs party to discussions on using the Plainfield site to store and transfer the track ballast on a large scale, or is she out of the loop.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Flood zones among concerns residents air at Town Hall

Emerson Community School's cafetorium was the site of City Council's first Town Hall meeting in a series of four set over the next few weeks.

The point of the meetings is to get participants' views on their concerns and what the Council can do to address them. Council President McWilliams conducted last night's in an informal manner which invited good back-and-forth between both the audience and the Council and among audience members.

Topics of perpetual concern came up -- teens hanging out late at night, drug activity,
taxes, speeding, street plowing, pothole filling, taxes, police presence (or lack of it), the PMUA, taxes, break-ins (including an attempt at Freeholder Carter's home), and more. (You can read Tony Rucker's account of the meeting here. He and I were the only bloggers there.) Did I forget to mention taxes?

Prospect Avenue resident Tom Kaercher kicked off a lively discussion about the PMUA, and suggested a local attorney who had experience in shutting down two local utilities authorities, saying it was not as difficult to do as folks make it out to be. This is likely to continue to be a lively topic.

Among the issues unique to First Ward residents is the matter of FLOOD INSURANCE, which also generated a lively discussion.

The vast majority of residential property owners who must have flood insurance are in the First Ward, with many fewer in Ward 2, a sprinkling in Ward 3 and practically none in Ward 4, where the Green Brook tends to flood the North Plainfield side of the brook (with the exception of Green Brook Park).

Councilor Storch held out the prospect that some of those with flood insurance -- where annual policies range from $2,000 upwards -- could get rebates when the City finishes submitting its revised plan to FEMA.

It became clear from the comments of several in the audience that it would be useful for the Council to provide a variety of handouts at these meetings: meeting schedules (Council, Board of Ed, PMUA) and contact information (phones, emails, websites, addresses) for the various bodies. It was pointed out that some do not have access to computers, and the handouts would be convenient.

There was also some back-and-forth over what number should be used to report incidents to the police. Councilor Williams reported that attendees at a recent block association meeting were told to use 9-1-1 to report all problems; Freeholder Carter and others advised folks had been told before to use the non-emergency number (753-3131) to report incidents that were not emergencies.

Sounds like something that should get public clarification, especially if the message is being changed or is unclear.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs' confidential aide, Barbara James, answered several questions addressed to the Administration, and advised that the Mayor had a schedule conflict and was at a meeting at Hubbard School.

It would be nice to have Public Works and Public Safety leaders at these meetings, as many of the questions are addressed to them, but this is in the Mayor's bailiwick to designate attendance.

The next Town Hall is at Cook School on Wednesday, April 6. See full information below.

Council Town Hall Meetings:  Ward 2
Wedesday · April 6
· 7:00 PM

Cook School
Leland Avenue at Berkeley Avenue
Parking on the street, with very limited parking in in the school lot.
Council Town Hall Meetings:  Ward 3
Wedesday · April 20 · 7:00 PM

Cedarbrook School
Central Avenue
Parking in the school lot and on the street.
Council Town Hall Meetings:  Ward 4
Wedesday · May 11 · 7:00 PM

Clinton School
West 4th Street at Clinton Avenue
Parking in the school lot and on the street.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Plainfield as waste storage site: Mayor in the game or out of the loop?

Construction waste will have to go someplace. The question is where?
Is Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs party to backroom deal-making on using a Plainfield site to store construction waste on an enormous scale, or is she, as seems to be increasingly the case, out of the loop?

Rumors are beginning to circulate that one plan for the huge amounts of rubble and construction debris to be generated by a planned overpass on Route 22 in Somerset County would be to truck it to a site in the Queen City, where it would be dumped.

That would involve, it is said, seventy (70) giant dump trucks full of debris and spewing clouds of dust, rumbling through the city, pounding the streets of Plainfield mercilessly at least five days a week for the duration of the project.

Plainfielders may be forgiven if they have not been following the Route 22 proposal closely.

Here's the gist: The Courier (see here) and the Ledger (see here) began reporting last June on the proposal by the state's Department of Transportation and Somerset County to build an overpass over the busy Route 22 at the Chimney Rock Road crossing in Bridgewater. Part of the project would also eliminate the current -- and dangerous -- turnaround from the westbound to the eastbound lanes, as well as relocating a lightly used freight rail spur to the new overpass.

The project is estimated to cost $60 million, of which $15 million is in the form of a Congressional earmark set aside by Rep. Rodney Freylinghuysen (see here), and included in NJDOT's 2011 Capital Expenditures plan (see here, PDF).

The project, which is expected to take two years to complete, was originally thought to get under way in 2010, but has been delayed.

Rumors are beginning to circulate that part of the reason for the delay has been figuring out what to do with the rubble and construction debris that will have to be removed as part of the project.

And that is where Plainfield comes in. One of the options hoped for by some involved in the project is said to be for Plainfield to be willing to accept the mountains of rubble that will be generated by the removal of the existing roadway, soil and other debris to the former Plainfield rail freight station at North Avenue and Richmond Street.

There is a large tract of vacant land along the Conrail
right-of-way adjacent to the Reinco building (upper center).

The former Railway Express Agency building is currently occupied by Reinco, which sells to the landscape contractor and soil erosion control industries. An aerial view of the property shows a large, unoccupied tract adjacent to the Reinco building along the Conrail right-of-way.

As Plainfield struggles with attracting transit-oriented development along its rail corridor and gaining a coveted 'Transit Village' designation from the State, the prospect of condos gazing out on mountains of concrete rubble are apt to cause potential developers dyspepsia.

But for now, the question remains whether Mayor Robinson-Briggs is in the game or out of the loop?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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