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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Disturbing news about The Monarch condos

By 2010, marketing had faltered completely.

The Plainfield Tax Assessor's office confirmed Wednesday that the rumor mill got it right: Glen Fishman and Dornoch LLC are history at The Monarch condos and Senior Center at 400 East Front Street.

A single corporate entity, LGP Capital Plainfield LLC, has bought and closed on Fishman's unsold units in the building.

At an average price of $87,804 per unit.

This is devastating news for the twenty or so owners of units in the 63-unit building, several of whom paid in the mid-200s (though none were ever sold at the original $350,000 asking price set when the units first went on the market).

My first question was whether there would be tax consequences as a result of the low sales price -- a little more than a third of the previous sales prices.

The answer: Probably yes. The new owner has appealed the tax assessments (they are individual, for each unit) and a ruling is expected by the end of June.

The ruling will affect all owners, but that is small comfort to those on the losing end of this sad experience.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Jerry Green blinks?

Jerry Green's version of one-stop shopping?

... wonder what goes on here...

Has Plainfield Assemblyman and Democratic chair Jerry Green blinked?

Could be.

Green, who has used a storefront in the Masonic Building at 7th and Park as campaign headquarters for the past several election cycles, has pulled up stakes after Mayor Adrian Mapp's cheeky Plainfield Democratic Organization rented a headquarters just a few doors away, in the former Park Hardware location next to Rapp's Pharmacy for this Spring's Democratic primary campaign.

Perhaps Green wanted to avoid the likelihood of being caught on camera in another of his famous "I run this mother****er"  tirades (see here).

In any event, he has opted for a much less primo location in the former bank builiding at 221 Park Avenue, at the corner of North Avenue. With high, curtained windows and parking at some distance, he has picked a real "winner" -- though, knowing what a penny-pincher he is, the rent is probably low.

Looks like you can get mental health and spiritual help at the same location  -- it's a perfect one-stop shop.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mapp administration gears up for demolition derby

Screen shot shows latest series of documents posted
by Mapp administration concerning North Avenue demolitions.

Getting ready for the Council's demolition rumble, Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp's administration has posted a further batch of documents concerning the North Avenue demolitions.

A link to the latest batch is on the city's website here.

At issue is the Council's refusal to pay for the emergency demolition of 117-25 North Avenue, which took place in March. The tab is about $220, 000 and the contractor has not touched the rubble, awaiting at least partial payment for the work already done.

Council has hired its own attorney to "investigate" the matter, citing as a precedent Council's hiring of an attorney to investigate former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' misappropriation of a $15,000 check from Investors Bank designated for July 4 Parade expenses to instead pay for a radio broadcast in which the Rev. Al Sharpton made a cameo appearance.

Mapp is loaded for bear.

This second batch of documents includes files covering the demolition of 187-91 North Avenue (under Robinson-Briggs' watch): Planning division files, Engineering division files, and two sets of Inspections division files.

One of the amazing findings concerning this Robinson-Briggs demolition is that Corporation Counsel Dan Wiliamson never filed a lien against the property to attempt to recover the city's demolition expenses.

But that's not all -- I'll write more on these two demolitions later.

Suffice it to say that Robinsn-Briggs does not come off well in the demolition derby -- with a history of dawdling, suspicions of contract-rigging and failure of fiduciary responsibility.

This kind of transparency leaves Mapp more than enough ammunition to handle whatever stink bombs the Council may throw.

Let the games begin.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, April 27, 2015

FOSH Garage Sale signup deadline nears

Some participants know how to lure shoppers...

Plainfielders wanting to take part in the annual FOSH garage sale need to get cracking. This is one of Plainfield's most visited events, with scores of participants and thousands of visitors each year.

Yard sale junkies galore will be on the prowl. So, if you have stuff and want to sell it, here's your chance.

For registrations received on or before May 2nd, the fee is $25; after that there is a $10 late registration penalty. The drop-dead deadline is Sunday, May 10. This year's sale is on Sunday, May 17 -- rain or shine.

Proceeds from this favorite community event go toward a FOSH scholarship to a graduating PHS senior and art classes for elementary schools students at duCret School of Art.

FOSH has posted the registration forms online here.

There are two ways to register: you can print out the forms from the abnove link (or below) and mail them with your check (payable to FOSH) to

P.O. Box 2711
Plainfield, NJ 07062
or register and pay online via Paypal by clicking the "Pay Now" link on the bottom of the FOSH website here.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Water main break snarls downtown for days

Park Avenue is open once again on Sunday morning.

Park Avenue in Plainfield is finally open to traffic between Second and Fourth Streets after a burst water main Thursday closed the road, snarling traffic throughout downtown.

With work by New Jersey Transit crews on the Watchung Avenue overpass keeping that street closed for the next few weeks, drivers were left to cope on their own Thursday while emergency crews tried to deal with the water main break on Park Avenue.

The abrupt shunting on northbound Park onto West 4th Stret left blocks-long lines of vehicles stretching back from Central Avenue all the way to Park Avenue at peak hours.

Those heading southbound were shunted east or west at Second Street. The beak appears to have occurred in front of the Grove BBQ between Depot Place and 4th Street.

Thousands of vehicles per day use Park Avenue (County Road 531) as an access road between towns south of Plainfield and Routes 22 and 78 and points north of the Queen City.

I got a Nixle alert and an emergency phone call on Thursday afternoon giving notice of the situation. There was a further alert on Friday. Crews were still working on the situation Saturday evening and Park Avenue was barricaded. But this morning, all was clear.

Wachung Avenue will be closed for several weeks while NJ Transit works on that overpass as part of its program of repairs and maintenance to all Plainfield's rail crossings -- the most numerous of any community on the Raritan Valley Line.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Budget hearings set -- at last

Will this year's budget be a matter of 'give and take', or just 'take'?

The Plainfield City Council has finally set up a schedule of hearings for the proposed 2015 municipal budget (see table below).

While not every division is slated for a rake-over, the council has set aside a whole evening for reviewing the budget of the Office of the Mayor. One has to wonder if there will be some political showboating.

Councilor Gloria Taylor, Assemblyman Jerry Green's latest lackey, aims to step into the shoes of former Councilor Bill Reid as the Council's financial whiz. We will see how Taylor handles the assignment.

An ominous note was sounded when Bernice reported last week (see here) that Council asked for a list of "employee names and salaries".

Takes me back to the days when Councilor Bob Ferraro insisted on discussing me by name and lobbying his colleagues to have me laid off. Though Council is not allowed to discuss employees by name, but only by job title, that didn't hold him back and he only backed off when I threatened to sue.

Let's hope this Council will not revisit those "good old days".

The schedule leaves open the possibility that amendments could be adopted and the budget passed in a special meeting on Wednesday, May 28. Stay tuned.



Public Affairs & Safety:

Police Division
Fire Division
Wed. May 6th
7:00 p.m.
Plainfield Senior Center
400 East Front St.

General Government:

Office of the Mayor
Thur. May 7th
7:00 p.m.
Plainfield Public Library
Anne Louise Davis Room
Economic Development
Wed. May 13th
7:00 p.m
City Hall Library
515 Watchung Avenue
Administration & Finance:
Information Technology/Media
Health Division
Purchasing Division
Thur. May 14th
7:00 p.m
City Hall Library
515 Watchung Avenue
Public Works & Urban Dev.
Public Works Division
Inspections Division
Recreation Division
Mon. May 18th
7:00 p.m

City Hall Library
515 Watchung Avenue

Council/Citizens Budget Advisory Committee/ Consultant
 Feedback & Other
 Public Hearing & Possible Budget Amendments

Wed. May 20th
7:00 p.m.
Plainfield Senior Center
400 East Front St.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Playing hooky today

Early morning meeting -- playing hooky today.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Plainfield Symphony closes 95th season Saturday

Evelyn Estava and Jameson Platte are featured Saturday.

The Plainfield Symphony closes its 95th season this Saturday (April 25) with a Brahms and Haydn program highlighting two of its principal artists.

Concertmaster Evelyn Estava and principal cellist Jameson Platte will be featured as soloists in Johannes Brahms' Double Concert for Violin and Violoncello, op. 102. The program includes Haydn's Symphony No. 88 in G Major.

Estava, principal violinist of the Madison String Quartet (see their website here), is recognized as one of the top performing artists in her native Venezuela, and is active as a soloist and orchestral musician as well. You can read a profile of this adventurous musician on the website (here).

Jameson Platte concertizes as both a soloist and orchestral musician throughout the Northeast, and has a busy career teaching the cello (see his website here).

You can hear a sample of the pair's artistry in this YouTube video of a Handel Passacaglia (see here).

The Brahms is a masterwork blending the ranges and tonalities of both the violin and the cello. Composed in 1887 for violinist Joseph Joachim and celist Robert Hausmann, the demanding piece is an audience favorite.

Plainfield Symphony concerts, under the baton of music director Charles Prince, get under way at 7:00 PM sharp at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, Watchung Avenue at East 7th Street.

Tickets: $50/Reserved, $30/General admission, $20/Seniors/Students; under 12 free. For more information, call (908) 561-5140 or visit the PSO website:

Crescent Avenue church is an accessible building. Parking available in the church lot, at Swain Galleries and on the street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Entrepreneurship workshop cancelled


An entrepreneurship workshop slated by Plainfield's Office of Community Development for Thursday evening (April 23) in partnership with Kean's Small Business Development Center and funded by Bank of America has been cancelled.

Check the city website (here) for details on the rescheduled event.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Plainfield Garden Club celebrates Earth Day Wednesday

2015 marks the club's 100th year.

Earth Day will be marked by the Plainfield Garden Club with a free event Wednesday evening (April 22) at the Plainfield Public Library.

The club has invited experts to discuss three topics of interest to those who garden -- Why choose a rain garden? How are pollinators important in my yard? and Why are native plants helpful to the environment?

2015 marks the 100th anniversary year of the Plainfield Garden Club (visit their website here). Most of us are familiar with the club for its care of the Shakespeare Garden at Cedar Brook Park, which they have been tending for nearly 80 years.

But the group has also worked with the school district and residents over the years, helping to develop community gardens and an attractive pocket garden at Plainfield High School.

Wednesday's event begins with light refreshments at 6:30 PM on the Library's lower level. The program gets under way at 7:00 PM in the Anne Louise Davis Meeting Room.

Come early so you can browse the club's rain garden exhibit in the lobby of the main floor.

The Plainfield Public Library is at Park Avenue and West 8th Street and is an accessible facility. Parking is available in the 8th and 9th Street lots. For more information about library hours and programs, visit the library's website at

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Media: Changes come to Plainfield and NJ

Masthead of the new Plainfield Latino site ... reaching for the stars.

For news junkies, it's time to note that changes are coming -- both to Plainfield and to the New Jersey news scene.

In Plainfield, the Plainfield Latino blog, which only got under way a couple of months ago has adopted an ambitious new format (see its new iteration here).

The new site has four sections: news, editorials, letters and events and much more resembles a newspaper than the humble workaday blogs that Bernice, Olddoc and I produce.

In addition, the core group of several writers produce every item in both Spanish and English versions. For the moment, Plainfield Latino seems to be more reactive to events around it than advocating for a well-thought out and consistent set of issues.

That may change, however, as the group settles in and targets issues in such a way that the City Council feels it must take their point(s) of view seriously into account.

On the New Jersey front, there are some interesting changes brewing, too.

In case you haven't noticed, the Star-Ledger has become a tabloidy shadow of its former self. Gone are in-depth coverage of local, county or state news -- supplanted by endless accounts of shootings, stabbings, DUIs and other crime. The Bergen Record (see its online version here) now does a much better job, though its focus is mostly North Jersey. Still, its statehouse coverage is often earlier and more incisive than the Ledger's.

The Courier isn't even a serious contender in the news business anymore. With only a couple of (excellent) reporters covering its extensive service area, it too tends toward tabloid-itis (think how the Immaculata teacher rant has been flogged). State news is woeful and national stories are cribbed from USAToday.

The other day I was appalled to pick up a Courier print edition (I only read it online now, by paid subscription) and see how tiny and thin it has become. The last print circulation figures I am aware of were somewhere in the neighborhood of 13,000 copies daily -- down from the mid-40's a dozen years or so ago.

In the past few years, as the media business has changed and folks began to get much of their news online, two sources emerged to cover New Jersey politics and policy.

PolitickerNJ (see here) is now the go-to site for political news junkies and NJ Spotlight (see here, whose editor is an old friend and fellow Plainfield resident) covers New Jersey news from a public policy perspective.

Now, the national political news powerhouse Politico (see here) has announced it is expanding into state coverage and will be starting up a New Jersey news site.

This past fall, Politico acquired Capital New York (see here) and has broadened and invigorated its coverage of New York politics -- both the state and the city.

In a news brief (here), we learned that the new efforts will all carry the Politico brand. Though no date has been mentioned, look for Politico New Jersey to hit the boards soon. It will be interesting to see how that affects the coverage of both political and policy news.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Budget ferhoodle


Plainfield Municipal Clerk 'AJ' Jalloh sent out an email blast Friday giving public notice of City Council's hearing on the 2015 proposed budget to be held on Tuesday, May 5.

The $78 million budget proposal is up from 2014's $76.8 budget. A full copy of the detailed budget proposal is on file for public viewing at the Clerk's office in City Hall, 515 Watchung Avenue, during normal business hours.

The verhoodle (a Pennsylvania Dutch term I learned in college meaning roughly tangled or confused) comes from the fact that the hearing is a little more than two weeks away and there is no public word yet of when Council will conduct its own hearings on the budget prior to the adoption of same.

The amount of time spend by the Council in review has declined sharply over recent years, and last year Council hired Lawrence Caroselli -- a former Union County financial official -- to recommend cuts to the Mapp administration's proposal, which it then adopted with little discussion.

The same consultant has been hired this year, though we can hope that the embarrassments of last year's recommended cuts (and subsequent fiscal problems) will be avoided this time around.

The Citizens Budget Advisory Committee was appointed (six members only, Councilor Greaves did not submit a nomination) this past week. The CBAC complained last year of communications problems. We have to wonder if things will be better this year.

The public hearing will commence at 8:00 PM in the Council Chambers ' Courthouse, Watchung Avenue at East 4th Street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Pancake breakfast at Veterans Center Saturday

Help support Plainfield vets!

Plainfield's recently-opened Veterans Center will host a pancake breakfast Saturday morning (April 18) from 9:00 AM - Noon at the center, 400 East Front Street (same building as the Senior Center, but they have their own entrance).

Sponsored by the American Legion's Johnson-Jeeter Post #219, proceeds of the event will help support veterans' activities.

Donation is $10/person for adults, $8/seniors and children under 10.

For more information, contact Cornell Hawkins (908) 447-8158, James Hill (908) 834-7984 or Lamar Mackson (908) 377-6026.

Be sure to check whether guests may use the Senior Center parking spaces in the Monarch's lot. Park with care and consideration -- parking in the Monarch residents' spaces subjects your vehicle to being towed.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Pat Turner Kvanaugh memorial Sunday

Longtime YMCA board member Pat Turner Kavanaugh
at the 2013 Y Bike Ride fundraiser for its summer camp program.

A memorial service for the late Plainfield activist Pat Turner Kavanaugh will be held this Sunday at the Wardlaw-Hartridge School on Inman Avenue from 1:00 - 3:00 PM. See a full memorial service obituary in the Courier here.

I posted this remembrance of Pat when she passed last October --

A 'Hartridge girl', Pat was resolute in her support of organizations and activities that showed Plainfield's promise and better nature.

We had been friendly acquaintances for many, many years and crossed each other's paths on a regular basis. A longtime YMCA board member, Pat was also active in the League of Women Voters and most recently served as the president of FOSH (Friends of Sleepy Hollow) as well as sitting on the Historic Preservation Commission.

Pat often regaled me with tales of roguery at City Hall during her tenure as Plainfield's first public information officer and we would commiserate over the foibles of the Queen City's political players over the years.

A staunch Republican but a committed pragmatist, she looked for ways people of different persuasions could work together. She had little patience, though, with fools of any persuasion and her comments could be quick, acerbic and cutting.

And we both shared a love of words and their proper use -- she often referring to herself as 'the grammar grouch'.

You might say she was the quince in Plainfield's fruit bowl, and she will be sorely missed.
Donations in her memory may be made to the Children's Room of the Plainfield Public Library (800 Park Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060), or to her alma mater the Wardlaw-Hartridge School (see the obit for details).

To check the exact location of the service and for parking information, call Tamica Lloyd at the school, (908) 754-1882.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Finding the owner of the demolished North Avenue property

After a suspicious fire in December, 2011,
a partial demolition permit was issued in January, 2012...

...but the Robinson-Briggs administration never followed through.
Here is the view after emergency demolition in March, 2015.

When the administration of former Plainfield mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs dropped the ball on the North Avenue property severely damaged by a December 2011 fire, one of the excuses given was that the owner, Dexter Humphrey, could not be found.

Deciding to do a little sleuthing, it took me less than five minutes to locate a Dexter Humphrey in Chino Ridge, California (ZIP: 91709).

A California employee database (see here) lists him as a Senior Development Engineer at the University of California-Riverside, which is not far from Chino Ridge. His LinkedIn profile (see here) gives the same information.

The name is rather unusual and says there are only seven in the US, and only one person with that name in California.

So, if Robinson-Briggs really wanted to track the owner down, how hard was that?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Paid Sick Days affair a lose-lose for everyone?

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop signs their paid sick days
ordinance in a supportive business location.
No such scenario for Plainfield, for now anyway.

It's hard to see how anyone comes out a winner in Plainfield's bruising brush with the latest fad in social legislation.

City Council failed to approve a paid sick days measure last night in a 3-3 standoff. Councilors Williams, Storch and Brown voted for the ordinance; Rivers, Taylor and Toliver withdrew their support and voted "no". Councilor Greaves was not present. See coverage by the Courier (here) and Bernice (here).

The law would have mandated private employers to provide some paid sick days to employees through a formula based on how many hours they worked. Enforcement was to be complaint-based and violators would face penalties (up to $2,000 for the obdurate) and shaming by having their names made public.

Plainfield would have become the tenth community in New Jersey to enact the legislation, which is also being pushed -- far less successfully -- at the state level.

I sensed danger right from the start when the ordinance was introduced in February.

There was almost no discussion before the Council passed it unanimously on first reading. There was a noticeable lack of groundswell from employees who would benefit from the legislation, which was pitched from a public health perspective (sick employees shouldn't come to work and make others and the public sick). There was no crowd of business people speaking out, for or against.

That was to change dramatically.

After being mobilized by Dairy Queen's Donna Albanese, merchants in the SID and the Plainwood Square Merchants Association came out in droves in March, complaining they hadn't been consulted.

Supporters in the form of labor unions and advocates, almost all from out of town, pushed back with well-reasoned arguments in favor.

Council put the brakes on and tabled the ordinance until last night's April business meeting.

Here we have a case of advocates helicoptering in without having a noticeable ground game, the key to success in the long haul. Will they abandon Plainfield's low-wage workers now that the easy victory has eluded their grasp?

Thinking back to the pay-to-play ordinance of a few years ago, I wonder if there's a parallel. A do-good organization sent some shock troops in, pumped up the discussion, got the resolution passed and then disappeared, after notching one up on their holster.

On the other hand, local businesses don't come off looking very good in this, either. Consider their primary goals: reducing the penalties and avoiding public naming.

While some do offer sick days to employees, most don't. Which means that these low-wage workers are faced with the lose-lose options of coming in to work sick, with all the risks to themselves, their co-workers and the public; or staying home without pay and trying to figure out how they're going to feed the kids and pay the bills, and whether they might lose their job.

For now, everyone loses. But Plainfield can do better. Let's hope that if the ordinance comes back a second time, there is more advance work, that forward-looking businesses that see the benefits are recruited in advance to be supporters of the cause and that the Council thinks things through before moving ahead.

Those could be the preconditions for a win-win outcome for everyone next time around.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Help reopen restaurant damaged in demolition

The damaged and closed Mi Buenaventura restaurant.
(Image courtesy David Rutherford, see his coverage of the demolition here.)

Plainfield restaurant owner Maria Rosa's Mi Buenaventura was damaged by falling debris during the North Avenue demolition on Saaturday, March 21, and has been closed ever since.

She is planning a move to a new location on North Avenue, directly across from the train station, and expects to open in early May.

In the meantime, she needs help financing the move.

The Tri-County Latino Coalition of NJ (TLCNJ) has stepped up to the plate by organizing a fund drive at the online funding site gofundme (see here). They are promising that all funds raised will go directly to Maria Rosa. A confusing sentence at the end of the pitch seems to indicate that contributions will not be tax-deductible as TLC is a "non-profit & not an official charitable organization".

There has been some "blaming of the victim" that I have heard because Maria did not have business interruption insurance. As someone who started a business from scratch, I can sympathize with her situation.

In the first place, no one knows what kind of advice she was given when setting up her business over thirty years ago, in a location that probably look that promising but was undoubtedly inexpensive to locate in.

What we could use, instead of finger-pointing, is some sign of assistance from the business community -- the SID, the Plainfield Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations. To date, there has been noticeable silence from these "friends". Why?

As a community that has always prided itself on supporting one another, I hope to see the business community step up to the plate and offer some help.

In the meantime, you can help. Take a moment to go to the website (here) and make a donation of whatever size to see that Maria Rosa can get back up and running.

I hate to end on a sour note, but I wish that Norman Ortega, who sent me an email on Sunday to advise this effort, would learn to stick strictly to the facts and not "spin" everything. In his email he opened with the line "after the city's destruction of Mi Buenaventura..."

The restaurant was damaged by falling debris. The demolition was done as a result of a declared emergency. Could it have been done better? Who knows? Was the damage a conscious act of destruction? How does Ortega know that? The insurance companie(s) will -- eventually -- parcel out the various portions of responsibility between the parties and make a settlement and life will go on.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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