Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Has JFK overplayed its hand on Muhlenberg?

At issue is the future of the Muhlenberg Hospital campus.

From the beginning of its relationship with Plainfield, when it first created Solaris Health System as the umbrella for Muhlenberg and JFK, JFK's administration and board have had a tin ear for how to approach the community and matters of mutual concern.

Now, with the era of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs drawing to a close, one has to wonder if JFK has not made another blunder in having the Rev. Dr. Gerald Lamont Thomas be the messenger in its tussle with the City over the future of the Muhlenberg campus.

When it first closed Muhlenberg, Solaris (JFK) proposed a 'Community Advisory Group' that would monitor the conditions of the closure agreement. While they acceded to the demand that Mayor Robinson-Briggs chair the group, that has turned out to be pretty much a disaster with Robinson-Briggs being erratic in calling meetings and apparently rudderless with regard to any policy position.

JFK has not been happy at not being able to get its way over the property, after having had Jeffrey Otteau draw up a 'plan' for developing the six-acre campus into so-called luxury apartments, at one point even touting the proposal as 'transit-oriented development'.

In a move meant to  mobilize forces more friendly to JFK in the community, it formed a group of three preachers over a year ago (Dr. Thomas, Bishop Herbert Bright and the Rev. Gary Kirkwood) to ostensibly help resolve the issues.

The principal result to date was for Dr. Thomas to present what was in effect an ultimatum to the Council on Monday evening: submit to the JFK rezoning and construction proposal or face the withdrawal of JFK's services at the Muhlenberg campus.

This is no way to conduct negotiations.

With the certainty of a change of administrations in Plainfield's City Hall come January, JFK is faced with the likelihood of having to deal with a new mayor intent on salvaging some healthcare-related functions for the Muhlenberg campus.

That, combined with pressure from the City for tax revenues since JFK has abandoned the use which justified its tax exemption, will combine to change the landscape under which negotiations will now move forward.

While Dr. Thomas referred to a letter to the Council, and implied an ultimatum, the actual letter itself is less forceful.

First, it is not from JFK, but from their attorneys Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, which is well connected to powerful Democrats. It was hand-delivered Monday afternoon.

Second, it is addressed to the Mayor and the Council, and asks for rezoning of the Muhlenberg campus as 'the most appropriate and feasible opportunity for redevelopment of this site'.

JFK would be hard-pressed to withdraw services from Plainfield (and certainly not without one year's notice, as already agreed), but is absolutely being faced with a new team on the Plainfield side come January.

What is the point of this kind of inappropriate and bullying communication?

Far from causing the Council and a new mayor to quake, it may firm the resolve to find a solution which JFK has to date been unwilling to consider.

It seems highly likely JFK once again overplayed its hand, missing an opportunity to work for a win-win resolution of the outstanding issues between it and the City.

In that regard, JFK has learned nothing in its dealings with Plainfield.

Come January, there will be another opportunity. Will JFK make the best of it?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Bob said...

I think we need to put a private medical facility like we have all over the area. Why is a JFK related emergency room necessary? Let's just drop JFK from the picture and put in Offices and facilities that will serve Plainfield the best. Park Ave. would need to be a four lane road to handle the extra traffic from 600 condos.

Anonymous said...

Find a solution to keep Muhlenberg , and bring it back to full operation.

Anonymous said...

Withdrawal of their services isn't much of a threat and it certainly won't convince me to accept high density housing in a town that needs jobs a lot more than bedrooms.

Anonymous said...

Today is 9/11 as well as Benghazi where our ambassador as well as those who ran to the gunfight instead going to sleep like dear leader did.

Have none of you have shame?