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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Armory: Opportunity or Flim-Flam?

Opportunity...or flim-flam?

[And Jesus said to them] ...which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
-- Luke 14: 28-30 [King James Version]

Plainfielders once again are finding the Armory at the center of jostling by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, Assemblyman Jerry Green and others, with the suggestion there is an opportunity which must be seized now ere it is lost.

The latest dust-up, in which Assemblyman Green attacks Councilor Williams as being 'clueless' (see here), centers around whether or not the City will be on the hook if it is party to the deal being proposed by READS. Green claims Williams is misinforming the public, but avoids the crucial question: If READS is an economically viable operation, why does it have to 'partner' with the City at all?

Assemblyman Green was pursuing an Armory project when Al McWilliams was mayor and it was fraught then (as it is still) with questions concerning a fair price, and the cost of remediating and renovating the building for another use (I reviewed the history and issues with the building in 2008, see here).

Back in the late 1990s, when I was part of the AT&T-funded New Audiences for Plainfield project, a cultural inventory, assessment and plan were developed for the community under the leadership of consultant Andrea Olin-Gomes. That project included an assessment of the Armory as a potential cultural facility. At that time, Ms. Olin-Gomes felt it had enormous cost disadvantages (estimating $3-5 million 1996 dollars to bring it up to snuff) as well as nearly incurable site liabilities (limited parking and being in a residential neighborhood) which made it compare poorly against a venue such as the Strand Theater.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs has offered nothing but 'gush' about the building's usability as either a charter school or a cultural facility, and certainly has not convened a task force to judge the merits of the idea.

Assemblyman Green also seems to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth. In January, he and the Mayor were both were cited in a Courier article as advocating for the combined charter school/cultural facility use (see here). I challenged it at the time (see here) as harebrained on several grounds: the notion that it would be 'cost-free to the taxpayers', and with questions about both the proposed developer and the charter school.

At the Plainfield Democratic City Committee meeting on March 11, Assemblyman Green completely reversed himself. After giving Mayor Robinson-Briggs the floor, which she took as an opportunity to plump for the Armory project, Chairman Green then quietly slipped her the shiv, saying that he had spoken with Council President McWilliams and had been assured the Council was not in favor of any CITY INVOLVEMENT in an Armory project and that he was not pushing for the Mayor's proposal (see my post here).

Bernice Paglia, writing at Plaintalker II has weighed in two days in a row on the matter (see here, and here). Bernice cites chapter and verse about why it is wise to proceed with caution and with full public disclosure.

Tony Rucker also writes about the Armory project today (see here), urging its use as a 'resource for the community'. Unfortunately, he is long on froth and short on critical analysis -- in addition to totally avoiding the 'little stuff' of the hard issue of costs and being fiscally responsible.

Meanwhile, the unnamed charter school (it is actually the Barack Obama Green Charter High School) is not waiting on the kindness of all these strangers -- it has negotiated a lease of the District's Lincoln School property on Berckman Street for an eyepopping rate better than any other charter school in the city (see my post here).

As for Jerry, Sharon and Tony Rucker, I'm sorry but I'm siding with Jesus.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Is this the same armory that was going to be an Asian food distribution center/restaurant? If so, what happened to that?

Anonymous said...

Assemblyman Green must long for the days when the only access to the media , the newspapers, television and the radio were controlled by gate keepers who gave the public very limited access, if any. He could say what he wanted and attack who he wanted with impunity knowing that his victims would unlikely be accorded the same access that he was given because they were just ordinary citizens.

Wow, 2011, times have changed. Today, everyone has access, everyone has a soapbox and who gets heard is more a function of their argument then who they know or what position they have. too bad Jerry.

Your whining innuendos carry no weight. You imply that people have benefited because they are related to an elected official. Jerry before you go down that road shouldn’t tell everyone how many of your relatives and who they are, work for the State, the County and the City. Was it a coincidence those jobs just fell into their laps?

And Jerry was it a coincidence that Union County just had to have your property in Linden for economic development from which you profited handsomely?

Jerry cleanliness starts at home. Don’t you think it’s time you came clean?

Pat Turner Kavanaugh said...

Dan: you and Jesus on the same side during Holy Week?

Anonymous said...

Froth? Just look at the way you start this post if you want to get a good look at froth. Jeez!

Rebecca Williams said...

I am unsure about why the assemblyman has decided to attack me on this issue when all I was attempting to do was provide clarification on Bernice's blog post about the armory. He basically reiterated what I said about the armory project--that the council didn't express any interest.

I was as puzzled as anyone else when the mayor oddly resurrected at the last council meeting what I thought was a dead issue. Also, no FORMAL proposal has been brought forward to the council--just a brief overview by the charter-school building execs at READS. If the state is dealing with others on this, why is the mayor bringing it up at council meetings, and why is a private citizen like Mr. Rucker suggesting some sort of urgency on a project that his benefactor, Mr. Green himself, has said is a non-issue for the council?


Rob said...

I can answer Rebecca's question for her...She's intelligent, thinks for herself and isn't begging for Jerry's approval.

I think even Jesus couldn't forgive you Dan for mentioning Jerry and him in the same post.

Anonymous said...

You know what Rob if you knew anything about Jesus which it appears you don't you would never make such a statement about Green or anyone else. Jesus could be in the same sentence with anyone and if you don't know that you don't know Jesus. Green for all his faults is a human being, a American, not some kind of Hitler or something. That's what gets people like you in trouble you speak amongst yourselves and believe that's how everyone else thinks. Dan, your mission as well as Rebecca's is just to piss people off. You don't care that all it does is continue the downward spiral the city is in. In the meantime nothing changes but at least you got your jab in. Thank God Lincoln didn't have you guys attitude or we wouldn't have a country.

And you anonymous commenters are the worse at least Rob has the balls to put a name up there. Say this crap in public session. Won't happen. No guts. If you don't like the Assemblyman or anyone else don't become as nasty and vitriolic as you say he is. You're all hypocrites with no ideas just hate.