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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hidden Plainfield: First in Preservation

Vintage image by Paul Collier of Plainfield philanthropist George Babcock's home.
(courtesy of Plainfield Public Library).
Today's Hidden Plainfield is a reminder of an old saying that a certain kind of business is always first to see the benefit of historic preservation.

The home shown in the vintage photo from the Plainfield Public Library's collection of Paul Collier photographs belonged to Plainfield tycoon and benefactor George H. Babcock.

Babcock was an inventor whose name and fortune were made along with his partner Stephen Wilcox in the development of explosion-proof steam boilers (see more

The Babcock Building was on the site now occupied by McDonald's
(image courtesy Plainfield Public Library)

He built an elaborate five-story terra cotta decorated office building at West Front and Madison Avenue, which suffered several fires and was finally demolished in 1970 (see more here).
But he was also interested in the arts and architecture and was a benefactor of the Seventh Day Baptist Church on Central Avenue, whose spectacular terra cotta tilework and decorations were made by Babcock's terra cotta factory (see more in Old House Journal article here).

Terra cotta angels atop Seventh Day Baptist Church
summon all to the Judgment Day.
(Photo by Dan Damon)

Do you know where today's property is?

Answer tomorrow.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

FOSH Celebration of Animals Sunday

Pets and their owners are welcome.

Animal lovers and pet owners and their friends will gather Sunday for the annual Celebration of Animals at Leland Park, starting at 1:30 PM.

Friends of Sleepy Hollow,
a local all-volunteer civic group, has held what was initially called a Blessing of Animals for almost twenty years on the Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (whose feast day is October 4).

Local clergy and spiritual leaders offering blessings have in the past included the Rev. Carolyn Eklund, rector of Grace Episcopal Church; Rev. Frank Rose, pastor of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Stanislaus Kostka Church; Ellie Campolei, who provides a Native American perspective; and Dr. Jim Handlin, a Buddhist.

The event is free and open to the public, although contributions to FOSH's effort to help animals are accepted.  There is no rain date.

Leland Avenue Park is next to the Cook School Pond, adjacent to Cook Elementary School.

Further information is available on the FOSH website,

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Entries due today for Library photo contest

Fair food is always tempting, as here at the Central American
Independence celebration in 2010.
Today is the due date for entries in the Plainfield Public Library's 7th annual photography contest. This year's theme is one close to my heart -- Plainfield: Eating Out / Eating In.

It's all about food, preparing, sharing and eating it. Yum!

Be sure to get your pictures in before 5 PM today and watch for the opening reception and awards ceremony later this fall.

(Dan is skipping this year; between mobility issues and managing a camera and crutches at the same time, it just didn't come together -- but I'm looking forward to seeing others' shots.)

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dan steps off -- for real

Long pants are now on the agenda.
Thanks to Plainfield Today readers who inquire how things are going with the peg-leg. I have been reluctant to tempt the fates by saying much lately, but here's a brief update.

After months of monkeying around with little fixes and workaround for the blister problem -- which seemed like it was going to last forever -- we have made a breakthrough.

The solution is a 'stump sock' that is an inner layer of a jelly-like polymer substance permanently bonded to an outer Spandex-like nylon sheath. The difference was noticeable to me at once, and the results have been nothing short of miraculous.

The blistering problem went away -- almost literally overnight. This means not only that I have been able to increase time on the prosthesis to about 8-9 hours per day as of now, but that I can walk and perform ordinary daily activities at will.

Things have been so dramatic that I progressed from using two crutches (to keep pressure on the peg-leg to a minimum) to using one crutch only to sort of steady me. My therapy coach Susan expects to present me with a prescription for a cane on Friday, meaning end of crutches.

On Monday, I had the pleasure of wearing long pants and dressing up for the YMCA donors' reception, at which I mingled and moved around without incident.

We passed the escalator test on Tuesday and I'm fine on grass, gravel and lumpy lawns as well as up and down slopes. Stairs need more work and are on my list.

And then we are working on my gait, so that I look more like a human coming down the hall rather than a Lego man.

It's amazing the progress that is being made now that the 'Mister Blister' phase appears to be behind us!

Many thanks to my coach Sue, prosthetist Lou, and Dr. Heikki Uustal -- wizards of rehab all.

No wonder JFK is consistently recognized for rehab excellence.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

YMCA thanks donors, supporters

Plainfield's YMCA has served the community for more than a hundred years.
Board members and staff of the Plainfield Area YMCA hosted a thank you reception for donors and supporters this past Monday evening at the home of board member Bobby Gregory and his wife Jennifer.

Executive Director Ravenell Williams and board president Kieran Anderson tooks turns highlighting the agency's programs and the growing financial response from members of the community.

In the three years since Williams assumed day-to-day leadership, financial gifts as a result of board outreach increased from $14,000 in the first year to $77,000 as of September this year. This is heartening since urban Y's such as Plainfield's find themselves in competition with larger and better financed suburban Y's as well as commercial gyms and wellness centers.

The Plainfield Y prides itself on sticking to some of the oldest YMCA values -- including services geared to strengthen families in the Y's service area -- as well as innovative programs meeting new needs.

The Plainfield Y is rare today to be found offering residential services to men, a traditional program that has fallen by the wayside in many places. The Y also offers shelter services to Plainfield's homeless population, many of whom are families in need of shelter while trying to get their lives back together after dealing with issues such as fires or eviction.

Youngsters flock to the Y's afterschool program, and the foster care outreach works to find families willing to be foster parents to the many kids who need a stable, nurturing environment.

Plainfielders will have an opportunity to offer further support for the Plainfield Y and its programs through the Send-a-Kid-to-Camp Bike Ride set for Sunday, October 7. The ride will start and end at Library Park, where there will be food, vendors and entertainment at the ride's end. For more information, call the Plainfield YMCA at (908) 756-6060, visit the YMCA website here, or download the Bike Ride flyer here.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Plainfield Library's Da Rold wins librarianship award

Library Director Joe Da Rold and Trustee President Anne Robinson
at opening of redesigned Children's Room.

Plainfield Public Library Director Joe Da Rold has been selected to win the 2012 Roger McDonough Librarianship Award.

The New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance presents the award annually to a librarian, archivist or manuscript curator 'for excellence in service in advancing New Jersey Studies'.

The award is cosponsored by the New Jersey Historical Commission, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference New Jersey Caucus, and the New Jersey Library Association History and Preservation Section.

The award will be presented during this year's Archives Week celebration on October 13, 2012, at the Monmouth County Library in Manalapan.  The award is named for Roger H. McDonough, New Jersey State Librarian from 1947 to 1975.

Congratulations to Joe for all he has done for the Plainfield Public Library and the positive attention it draws to the community from the rest of New Jersey.

If you haven't been over to see the latest accomplishment, drop in to see the new Job Opportunity Center and the completely rearranged main floor, which now gives users stunning views across Library Park.

And while you're there, stop downstairs to visit the wildly popular new Children's Room.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Hidden Plainfield: Hardly Hidden ID'ed

The mansion is an integral part of the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District,
whose new sign is displayed to the City Council by member April Steffel
in this April 2012 photo.
Yesterday's Hidden Plainfield was a tip 'o the hat to John Stewart and Craig Bowman, whose detailed restoration of the 1893 Marsh mansion on West 8th Street is the subject of a profile in the Ledger this past Thursday (see here). The house stands on the north side of the street, between Madison and Central Avenues.

As a bonus, the
Ledger story included a two-page photo gallery of photos of details of the house and its restoration (see the Gallery here).

In addition, John serves as president of the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District association and in the story discusses how active the group is in Plainfield preservation efforts. For more about the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District, visit their website
here. For more about historic preservation in Plainfield, visit the City's Historic Preservation Commission website here.

Where shall we go next week?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hidden Plainfield: Hardly hidden on West 8th

Getting ready for its closeup, the Marsh Mansion
gets a new roof, August 2008.
Today's Hidden Plainfield is a tip 'o the hat to John Stewart and Craig Bowman, whose detailed restoration of the 1893 Marsh mansion on West 8th Street is the subject of a profile in the Ledger this past Thursday (see here).

The house has been years in restoration (my picture was snapped in 2008), which was greatly needed.

John and Craig have also been generous in opening their home to the community -- it was featured on a Van Wyck Brooks District Christmas Tour, among other opportunities. If you missed a chance to see what they have done, keep your eyes peeled for future opportunities.

Meanwhile, dig in and enjoy the story of this magnificent home's rescue.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Demolition of old Grant Avenue Community Center makes way for parking

New BUF2 preschool will now have dedicated parking.
Plainfield's BUF Health & Human Services agency rounds out its long-term plan for the development of its preschool facility at Grant Avenue and West 6th Street with the demolition of the original Grant Avenue Community Center building at West 5th and Grant.

The Victorian mansion was where Plainfield's once-premier Black social service agency got its start, as an outgrowth of the 1960s War on Poverty. Eventually, under the leadership of the late Mayor Rick Taylor, the agency took over the Jewish Community Center at West 7th and Central Avenue.

That building and its programs eventually came under the umbrella of the Black United Fund of NJ (known to all simply as BUF), headquartered in East Orange. Now known as the African American Fund of NJ, the Plainfield facility is now known as BUF Health and Human Services.

It was this agency which secured funding through a bond issue of the Union County Improvement Authority for the construction of the new facility, dubbed BUF2, at the corner of West 6th and Grant Avenue.

That facility, which opened in September 2009, is in a state-of-the-art 'green' building that was partly exceptional for its nearly entire coverage of the lot on which it was situated.

At the time, BUF2's staff parking needs were accommodated through an arrangement with Greater Refuge Church of Christ, whose church parking lot is across the street from the new preschool.

However, the agency had agreed with the city that eventually the old building at West 5th and Grant would be demolished to make way for new and permanent parking for BUF2.

That demolition has been taking place over the summer and the new parking lot will soon be in place.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Should anyone care if the mayor has a boyfriend?

In matters of politicans' personal lives, the French are so sophisticated.
Here President Mitterand's wife (left) and mistress (second from right)
are shown together at his 1996 funeral. The young woman between
them is Mitterand's illegitimate daughter, Mazarine.

Should anyone care if Plainfield mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs has a boyfriend?

The question arises in the wake of my post this past Wednesday (see here) on turmoil among line workers at the PMUA over the hiring of a manager who rankles them.

The post garnered its share of comments, including a couple who thought the unnamed hiree was Dave Wynn, who recently resigned under a cloud as longtime Superintendent of Parks and Recreation. (It is not Wynn.)

And one commenter who suggested the hiree is the 'boyfriend' of Mayor Robinson-Briggs.

Now, I have to confess that this is not the first time I have heard rumors of the Mayor's having a special friend, and from many sources inside and outside City Hall. But as this is a blog about politics in Plainfield and not the personal lives of Plainfield politicians, I haven't thought it germane.

And I still don't, with one big caveat.

My personal opinion is that we could learn a lot from the French in matters of politicians' personal lives -- think of French president Fran├žois Mitterand's 1996 funeral, where his wife Danielle and his mistress Anne Pingeot were photographed side by side. Wife Danielle even hugged Mazarine, Pingeot's illegitimate daughter by Mitterand (read the whole story here).

Ze French, zey are -- how you say? -- soooo sophisticated!

The big caveat is getting jobs for those in personal relationships, which I consider over the line.

But perhaps I cavil. This is New Jersey, after all.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Work begins on North Avenue Historic District properties

Long-boarded North Avenue building is being gutted
as Frank Cretella continues downtown projects.
Slowly, and evidently without much leadership from the Robinson-Briggs administration, Plainfield's downtown is being reshaped.

Latest signs are the evident gutting of two buildings on North Avenue in the city's only commercial historic district.

The buildings are among several acquired by developer Frank Cretella, who recently completed apartment and retail conversions of two buildings on Park Avenue and has two more in the works on the corners of East 2nd Street and Gavett Place.

The North Avenue buildings will follow the pattern Cretella used on Park Avenue to such success (the apartments are completely rented, I am told), with mixed use retail and residential.

Looks like Plainfield will actually BECOME a transit-oriented development town before it ever gets a formal TOD designation -- if that day ever even actually comes.

Question for you: How much could Cretella get done if he actually got some cooperation from Robinson-Briggs?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Williamson hire bringing turmoil to PMUA?

When Plainfield learned that former Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson was to take over leadership of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) this past July, one of the first questions asked was what experience he had that would justify his appointment to head the embattled quasi-governmental agency.

As executive director, Williamson would be responsible for the agency's long-term strategies in both providing services and managing ratepayer expectations. He would be responsible for the overall structure of the agency itself. He would not have to be an expert in solid waste.

In the short time the affable and approachable Williamson has been in the driver's seat, there have been signs that he would move the agency in a good direction.

After years of foot-dragging and muddling through, the PMUA appears to have gotten serious about marketing its services to surrounding communities, with rate cutting done to make the PMUA competitive.

This year's Environmental Fair, the first over which Williamson has had any sway, was probably the best attended ever, with new twists (such as the VIP tent for Seniors) and plenty of environmentally-themed tables that promoted the agency's mission.

But the question arises whether Williamson has been able to escape one of the perennially negative pressures that come with the job -- using the power of hiring to take on people whose chief recommendation for a position is that they KNOW SOMEONE, rather than having the skill set, qualifications and experience for the job.

Now I am told that Mr. Williamson has hired someone
into a manager's position who is said to have a variety of connections to Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

There are questions of the person's qualifications for a manager's position, and front line workers are said to be disturbed -- to the point of threatening a walkout.

Has Williamson made a serious misstep?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dueling Festivals twice as good for Plainfield?

'Herencia' (Maree) or 'Independencia' (Garcia), the dueling Festivals
appear to have been great successes.
Plainfield was jammed wall-to-wall Saturday and Sunday for the dueling Festivals celebrating -- take your choice -- Hispanic Heritage or the Independence of Central America (and Mexico).

For Edison Garcia, proprietor of Los Faraones nightclub, it was his fourth annual outing celebrating Central American Independence.

Rodney Maree, owner of Chez Maree, had pitched a 'multicultural event' to the Council earlier this summer that contained not a hint that it would take direct aim at Garcia's theme and constituency.

In the days leading up to the festivals, as carnival rides began to go up and signs and banners were posted, it looked as if it were going to be Heinekens (Garcia) vs. Corona (Maree). That turned out not to be the case -- beer of several brands flowed freely at both events.

But the banners surrounding Maree's sound stage gave a clue to the broader dynamic. Where Garcia has organized and run his festival by himself, Maree's festival seemed to pull together many of the bars and restaurants competing with Garcia's Los Faraones as sponsors of the musical offerings.

Whether or not Maree and his compadres had been a little sly in just what was being planned and executed, the throngs testified that Plainfield certainly was up to handling two competing festivals (and carnivals) at the same time.

The open areas in front of the sound stages of both festivals were mobbed with swaying, occasionally shouting, music fans. Long lines with parents and little ones queued for the rides and vendors happily hawked everything from grilled corn to highly ornate cowboy boots.

On-street parking took over the area for blocks and blocks, including North Plainfield, and attendees happily trudged great distances to the Festivals. (I was fortunate both days to happen on a space near the YWCA, reducing my walk on my peg leg, but I still put probably two miles on the pedometer between the two days.)

For those trying to use Watchung Avenue to get out to Route 22, it was a challenge (blocked off at Front Street). For those who live in Plainfield but never venture or visit the downtown, it will all remain a mystery. But for those who are paying attention, we witnessed one more sign of great changes taking place in Plainfield.

Money was made and that's not a bad thing in tough economic times.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Hidden Plainfield: Disheveled Disgrace ID'ed

Kenyon Avenue it is.

Yesterday's Hidden Plainfield was indeed on Kenyon Avenue, 991 to be exact.

Popular former Plainfield mayor the late Paul O'Keeffe raised his family a few doors away.

The DPW will eventually get around to cutting the grass, for which a lien will be placed against the property. That lien will have to be satisfied at the closing table when the property eventually (let's hope) sells.

And yes, there is a boarded property in the next block as one reader noted.

Where shall we go next week?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dem rally the real McCoy

Plainfield Democrats turned out en masse for the rally opening the fall election season -- and the local party headquarters -- on a glorious late summer Saturday afternoon yesterday.

I admit to being somewhat skeptical of the 'central Jersey headquarters' hyped in the Courier's advance writeup of the event, but the lineup Assemblyman Jerry Green put together was all that he promised.

Maybe even more, as PolitickerNJ's Max Pizarro opined in his online review of the rally (see here).

Allowed by my PT coach to venture out publicly on my peg leg for the first time, I was warned to keep it to half an hour so as not to be sorry for it later, so I missed the high spot of Cory Booker's remarks (which Bernice did catch as she mentions in her post--
along with a photo of Booker and Green -- though she points out she did not 'attend' the rally -- see her post here).

Nevertheless, I got an earful from locals Freeholder Linda Carter, Councilors Rebecca Williams and Bridget Rivers (I was a little late for Adrian Mapp's remarks) and Board of Ed president Renata Hernandez. Then there were the big kahunas -- Congressman Rush Holt and Senator Bob Menendez spoke while I was there (Menendez reminding all that Rush Holt really IS a 'rocket scientist').

Green was resplendent in a campaign T-shirt with a spangly 'Obama' on the front and his own name on the back as he proudly emceed the event, which seemed to surprise him with how smoothly it was all going.

The other headliners must have spoken after I left -- including Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who called Mapp up to the stage for a big unity hug.

Look for Courier and Ledger coverage later (I spotted both photographers there).

Meanwhile, as far as I could tell, the rally was 'the real McCoy' -- taking into account Pizarro's thought that next year's Democratic contenders were duking it out in proxy yesterday while all rallying for President Obama's re-election.

The Hatfields and McCoys come later.

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Hidden Plainfield: Disheveled Disgrace

Disheveled, to say the least.

Recently I saw Jack, a reader who had been a fellow-member of Plainfield's Cable TV franchise renewal committee out working in his yard. As we chatted, my attention was drawn to the shabby estate of the home next door, the subject of today's Hidden Plainfield.

Always a bit pretentious looking with its formal columns for the neighborhood of neat and tidy 1920s and 30s Colonials, the home has been vacant for years and is in foreclosure. Jack says the property maintenance service says that the bank holding the mortgage claims no responsibility for the property's upkeep.

Though the taxes are paid up according to the Tax Collector, the DPW seems not to have scheduled a haircut for the overgrown lawn, though neighbors were told that Inspections had reported the property to the DPW.

Resident Bob Darden took his few minutes at City Council's mike last Monday to bemoan the number of foreclosures he had documented over the past year in the Ledger and Courier. A quick check of the online foreclosure-tracking service RealtyTrac today shows 578 properties in Plainfield in foreclosure proceedings (see complete list here).

Imagine what the community could look like if mortgage holders took the position of the one featured today!

A small clue: the house is just doors away from the home where a popular former Plainfield mayor raised his family.

Do you know where today's property is?

Answer tomorrow.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hispanic Heritage exhibit opens at Library today

The Plainfield Public Library opens its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month today with dual exhibits by local artists.

Honduran-born Julio Ortiz, who works in oils, has a show of his recent paintings in the Anne Louise Davis Gallery. Two of Ortiz' paintings are in the Library's fine arts collection.

Photographer Paola Rached, who teaches Visual Arts at the PAAAS Academy, is featured in an exhibit of her recent photography in Room 2, off the courtyard.

The two artists will be honored at today's opening reception from 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Booker speaks at Dem HQ Saturday

Sign at corner of Supremo Market on East Front points to Dem HQ
on Roosevelt Avenue in background.

Though it has been unofficially open for weeks, Plainfield's Democrats will formally kick off the 2012 campaign season with a grand opening of its headquarters on Saturday afternoon.

Newark mayor Cory Booker -- who some think may challenge Chris Christie next year -- will be the keynote speaker.

Owing to the lack of alignment between Legislative and Congressional districts, the event will also be host to officials seldom, if ever, seen in Plainfield.

Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula is running against incumbent Leonard Lance for the Congressional seat which include much of the 22nd Legislative District -- though distinctly not Plainfield -- and will be present and speaking.

State Dem chair Assemblyman John Wisniewski will also be featured, as well as Sen. Barbara Buono -- who is also rumored to be interested in a run for the governorship.

The rented office is being styled as 'Central Jersey Democratic Headquarters', and will be the focus of Obama efforts in this area. (Though Obama's victory in NJ hardly seems in doubt, with an FDU/Public Mind poll today showing him leading Romney by 14 points.)

The Dem headquarters is in what was formerly the arts/ceramics studio of the Senior Center when it was located at 305 East Front and uses the same parking lot as before.

Speaking of parking, attendees will be well-advised to come early, as the two festivals in Lots 1 and 8 taking place at the same time will put public parking space at a premium.


3 - 5 PM

18 Roosevelt Avenue
(Behind Pollo Campero)

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

ShotSpotter misses (another) shooting

The 500-block of West 3rd has been the site of numerous shootings
over the years.

Plainfield witnessed another shooting missed by ShotSpotter, I have been told.

Overnight Tuesday, a man was shot twice, in the hand and an arm, in the 500-block of West 3rd Street.

I am told by police that the shots were not picked up by the vaunted ShotSpotter technology. This follows the failure of ShotSpotter to identify a double shooting across from the Drake House in early August (see my post here). The city is paying $169,000 for a year's coverage, and the system was supposed to be up and operational July 1st. However, the wrinkles are evidently still being worked out (see my post on issues with ShotSpotter here).

The 500-block of West 3rd Street is where Hannah Atkins Playground faces West End Gardens. The block has been the site of repeated gun incidents over the years, and one would expect it to be precisely and correctly covered by the ShotSpotter technology.

Meanwhile, the cops also tell me that the victim, who apparently was targeted and whose wounds are not life-threatening, has refused to cooperate with authorities.

Reminds me that I read somewhere recently of a police department that routinely jails uncooperative victims in 'protective custody' until they decide to cooperate in the investigation.

Wasn't Plainfield.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Weekend festival preparations under way

Details from banner advertising Garcia's
Independence Festival (note use of social media).

Preparations are under way for dual festivals slated for Plainfield this weekend.

Trucks with carnival rides have begun to squeeze into non-parking areas of Lot 8 behind Assemblyman Green's office in preparation for setting up for Saturday and Sunday's festival in celebration of Central American and Mexican Independence.

This is the fourth year that Edison Garcia, owner of Los Faraones, will be staging the weekend festival. Booked up with musical groups that perform on a stage in Lot 8A, the festival features food vendors, carnival games and rides and a variety of merchandise offerings from toys to clothing and handcrafted 'cowboy' boots.

As always, entry to Garcia's festival is free to the public, and his redoubtable security staff strictly enforces the ban on carrying beer away from the tents provided in the Lot 8A area.

The well-managed event is becoming a regional draw, bringing thousands of visitors into Plainfield for the two days.

Across Watchung Avenue, in Lot 1, Rodney Maree of Chez Maree is readying the lot for his first multicultural festival, also slated for Saturday and Sunday.

Crews of private landscapers have been busy over the past week or so cutting down weeds and overgrowth and removing rubbish from the expansive lot, which runs from behind the Watchung Avenue businesses eastward to the lot behind the Supremo supermarket.

Though one of the largest of the city's parking lots, it is little used and suffers from general neglect, with huge sunken patches and faded striping.

Hopefully, Maree's event will be successful and generate interest in the lot as deserving of some investment by the city -- especially since the Barack Obama Green Charter High School has located in a nearby building.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The stinging difference between Plainfield and Trenton

Envelopes of cash, a time-honored method.

Several Plainfield Today readers who have been following the corruption saga involving Trenton Mayor Tony Mack asked  after his arrest yesterday (see stories here -- Ledger, PolNJ, Courier) why there has been no comparable FBI interest in alleged corruption in Plainfield.

The answer is that we don't know if the FBI has a similar interest in Plainfield ... yet.

Certainly, suspicions of wasteful and fraudulent expenditures go all the way back to Mayor Robinson-Briggs' first term, especially the QuadTech information technology deal -- in which over $153,000 was spent ($36,000 without Council knowledge or approval), there were questions about 'deliverables', and evidence of an illicit notarization suggesting the bid had been changed after submission -- (see my series of posts from 2007 in the right-hand column

More recently, there have been stories circulating in which the Recreation Division figures large -- including the alleged diversion of funds away from the City coffers by a scheme involving the soccer field at Rushmore Playground (see my posts
here and here) and a golf-related event in which participants were said to be offered the choice of making checks personally payable to a public official.

The difference between Plainfield and Trenton is a 'stinging' one, as it has become clear that Mayor Mack was tripped up through an elaborate 'sting' operation that took place over a period of time, with many meetings and several exchanges of cash.

This also involved people wearing 'wires'.

Though the buzz in the street in early 2011 was that the FBI was conducting 'interviews' in Plainfield (see my post
here), nothing has come to fruition yet -- suggestions were they were possibly interested in ARRA money that went to The Incubator though unqualified to operate a jobs program, or to a possible ripoff in the sheetrocking of Tepper's basement paid for with a grant secured by Sen. Lautenberg that was about to be lost, or to the WBLS matter.

Though there were 'interviews', I did not hear anything about Plainfield folks wearing wires (as they had years before, when there was said to be an FBI investigation of the administration of Mayor Mark Fury -- see my post

The thing to remember about a successful 'sting' operation, though, is that you don't know about the sting until the arrests are made and the story hits the papers.

So, who knows?

Maybe the FBI will yet hatch a Plainfield story.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Plainfielders remember 9/11

Plainfielders remembered September 11 with a moment of silence at Monday's City Council meeting.

Residents throughout the city silently show their remembrance through displays of flags.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Hidden Plainfield: Plainfield On The Move ID'ed

The project, as it finally panned out many years later,
complete with skateboarders' paradise plaza.
Yesterday's Hidden Plainfield was indeed the office building and parking promised for the vacant Park-Madison site.

Over the years there were many proposals for development of the bulldozed business district that had once been at the heart of Plainfield's commercial downtown.

The Courier News ad must have run in 1980, as that is the year that Angela Perun was both a Council member (Ward 3) and Council President. The late Rick Taylor, who would later serve as Mayor, was Council President in 1979.

An amusing, if not ironic, sidelight of the long struggle to develop the Park-Madison parcel is that the plaza in front of the Union County Office Building has become a skateboard slacker's heaven. Who would have guessed?

Plainfield 'on the move' indeed.

Where shall we go next week?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hidden Plainfield: Plainfield On The Move!

Courier ad said Plainfield was 'on the move!'
Today's Hidden Plainfield takes a break from looking at residences. The mystery is the office building and parking promised in this 1980 (or was it 1979?) ad from the Courier News.

The legendary  Paul O'Keeffe was mayor -- Plainfield's last Republican mayor, and a two-termer at that. Firebrand Angela Perun was City Council president. James Allen was chair of the Downtown Development Corporation.

Plainfield was 'on the move'. Was it fact or bravado?

Do you know where today's property is?

Answer tomorrow.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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