The needler in the haystack.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Plainfield Symphony After-Dinner Dance tonight


Hop on over to the Symphony After-Dinner Dance tonight!


Plainfield partygoers have an opportunity to shake things up tonight at the Plainfield Symphony's After-Dinner Dance slated for the FUSP Parish Hall and getting under way at 8:00 PM.

This annual event is turning into a midwinter must, with a friendly crowd, savory and sweet refreshments, an open bar and plenty of good music -- this year with DJ Michael Roselli. There is also a silent auction.

Tickets are $50/person and may be paid for at the door, but please let the planners know you ae coming (call 908.561.5660).

The Symphony has really lucked out since a storm is expected for Super Bowl Sunday night -- so ifyou want to get out of the house, tonight is the time to do it!

FUSP (First Unitarian Society of Plainfield) is at 724 Park Avenue. Parking is available in the municipal lot across Park Avenue. For more information on the Plainfield Symphony and the 2014-15 season, visit the website here.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Friday, January 30, 2015

PMUA service mystery


Does the PMUA need a new Magic 8 Ball?
 

A Plainfield Today reader notes two experiences with the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) this week.

Wednesday, the day after the non-storm, was supposed to be a recyclables pickup in this reader's neighborhood. They put out the recyclables but no PMUA truck came.

Here's how the reader tells it --
Wednesday was my pick up date for my recyclables. In the past the week of a snow storm, they picked up within 2 days. Since they did not pick up by today (Thursday), I called them and they said it will be picked up on the next cycle in 2 weeks. When I asked what am I supposed to do with my then overflowing recyclables they said to put them in a clear plastic bag and put them along side the blue can in two weeks. I told them I don’t own clear garbage bags and never saw them in the store, the lady instructed me to go to Walmart or Target to buy them. I still don’t understand why I have to wait 2 weeks when Wednesday was a nice day and the state and the city ‘was back in business’.
I don't understand either, since Wednesday was a beautiful day. Checking the website, I didn't see any notice of service difficulties, though there are plenty of alerts.

Further, the ratepayer is supposed to go out and buy clear plastic bags because the PMUA failed to perform a scheduled pickup?

Can anyone understand why ratepayers get frustrated?

This morning, the reader reports that despite snow last night, the PMUA made the regularly scheduled pickup of garbage this morning!

Go figure.

Meanwhile, you should check out the PMUA website (see here), where you can now register for ISAs (Important Service Announcement) and/or an e-newlsetter. These can be delivered to your email or cellphone. The PMUA follows correct opt-in procedures and you will have to supply an email and confirm your opting into the alerts by clicking on a link they sned your inbox. Try it and give them feedback.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Plainfield Today breaks the 4,000 mark


Just the kind of gizmo a blogger can use?

Just noticed the Plainfield Today blog has broken the 4,000 mark in the past couple of days. Maybe bloggers could use a toy like that above to remind them just how far down the road they've gone?

To Anonymous: Posts, of course. Pageviews clocks in at 1,903,292, but that doesn't count because Blogger only started tracking pageviews in June, 2008, by which time both Bernice and Dan had been blogging for years


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Depressed at Sears


What's missing from Sears? The everything? The excellence?
 

What a depressing place the Sears store on Route 22 has become. When the Plainfield Sears at West Front and Grove Streets was closed after WWII, the new location reflected the trend to the suburbanization of shopping that drove retail in the third quarter of the 20th century.

The luster is long gone, as my foray on Tuesday confirmed.

My first experience of Sears was being taken as a youngster of 5 or so to the store in downtown Buffalo by an aunt and having my first -- tearful -- experience of an old-fashioned wooden escalator.

While my mother and her friends would window shop the upscale fashions at the Adam, Meldrum & Anderson department store, purchases were more likely to be made at Sears -- if not from the genormous Sears catalogs that came in the mail to our home several times a year.

My parents were the generation that was pleased to satisfy its needs from Sears' "good-better-best" selections of ranges, refrigerators and washers in the days before SubZero and home-sized restaurant ranges.

Sears always had everything, and the quality was excellent in its reliability if not in its style.

But I was astonished at how much shopping at Sears has changed in just the past few years.

Coming in off the lot near the menswear department, I walked past rack after rack and table after table of merchandise along the main aisle all marked "Clearance" or "50% - 60% Off".

Checking the tag of a cotton polo shirt, it was marked 50% off a $44.00 SRP -- at $22.00 just about what one would expect as a normal retail price. The pricing gimmickry wears thin after a while.

It was actually hard to find goods that were simply put out at full price.

When I did take my couple of pairs of Everlast sweat pants to the counter -- already marked down -- the sales clerk offered me a further $15.00 off if I would apply for a Sears credit card. (I had also needed to find galoshes, but was told the store doesn't carry them.)

After the Plainfield store moved to the vastly spacious Watchung location, the new store is said to have been the highest-grossing store by square footage in the Sears empire. Hard to believe now.

But Sears faces steep competition from chains that have grown fat off nibbling at its market through niche targeting -- just think of Sports Authority, Old Navy and P.C. Richards, to name a few.

As Sears struggles along and times change, a fair question is "Did Sears change, or did we?"



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Special Council Meeting: A lesson in compromise?



Plainfield's special Council meeting went ahead as planned Monday evening, with little snow falling and no fireworks.

It was a model of what government can be about -- compromises in which all sides get something, but none gets everything they want.

For instance, Mayor Adrian Mapp was finally able to replace Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders (they of the $1 million giveaway) as PMUA commissioners. It is not clear if both the candidates approved were Mapp picks or whether one was a compromise candidate.


One person whom Mapp had repeatedly put forward on several occasions was not mentioned, indicating there was some backroom back-and-forth to get a resolution. In any event, the stage has been set for possible reform of the PMUA. The vote was 4-1-1, with councilors Storch, Toliver, Williams and Rivers in the affirmative; Taylor voted no and Brown abstained. (Councilor Vera Greaves was not present at the meeting; Taylor and Williams participated by phone.)

Some saw significance in the arrangement of the items on the agenda -- with the PMUA nominations coming first, then the confirmation of Eric Watson as Director of Public Works and Urban Development. In the event, Watson was confirmed by a 4-2 vote, with only councilors Storch and Williams voting no -- as they had said they would when he was first appointed as acting director back in September 2014.

Readers will recall that Council President Bridget Rivers led Council opposition to previously suggested DPWUD directors. Some have thought there was some horse-trading here. Well, hello!

Personnel Director Karen Dabney did a much better job of explaining the Mapp administration's rationale for proposing a manager for the city's motor vehicle pool than when the proposal was originally brought up.

She explained that a police lieutenant and a fire lieutenant each had responsibility for managing those divisions' vehicles and that Superintendent of Public Works John Louise was responsible for the rest of the city's vehicles. According to Dabney, the city is currently spending over $300,000 on salaries for this jerry-rigged management situation and having a single person responsible would ensure better management of procurement, maintenance, insurance and disposition of used vehicles.

Public Safety Director Carl Riley spoke to the issue, saying that creating the new position would allow him to re-assign the public safety officers to more pertinent functions within their divisions; he also noted that under his leadership the Police Division has implemented a planned maintenance schedule as opposed to simply waiting to fix something when it's broken, which was past policy.

Councilor Storch was not convinced, however, remarking that the Mapp administration hadn't even given the Council a number for the total of vehicles in the city pool.

When finally brought to a vote, the proposed ordinance passed 4-2 on first reading, with Council President Rivers and Storch opposed, and Brown, Taylor, Toliver and Williams voting yes.

A lighter moment came during the passage of the accompanying salary ordinance, in which Councilor Toliver -- who had voted for the creation of the job -- abstained. When City Administrator Rick Smiley pointed out that one ordinance was connected to the other, Toliver asked to switch her vote to a 'yes', which was duly recorded.

The final piece of business was an ordinance renewing the Comcast cable franchise. Director of Administration and Finance Ron West summarized highlights including an increase in the franchise fee from 2% of the basic cable subscriber rate to 3.5% (amounting to about $100,000 per year); an additional $5,000 grant per year for equipment and training; plus new lines for the school district and all city-owned buildings.

Councilor Storch pressed West for clarification on street openings -- pretty much a non-issue since all the Comcast lines in the residential portions of the city are aerial, and the City provided conduits under the sidewlaks downtown under the McWilliams administration.

The Comcast ordinance was passed unanimously on first reading and the meeting adjourned without further comment.

The compromises may not have been pretty, nor totally satisfying to either the Council or the Mayor, but the only questions to be answered are "Did the city move ahead?"
and "Can we do this again?"



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Monday, January 26, 2015

Tonight's special Council meeting still on


Neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night stays us
from the quest for just and capable government...
 

As of 10:00 AM this morning, the Plainfield City Clerk's office reported that tonight's special Council meeting, called by Mayor Adrian Mapp for 6:00 PM, is still on.

The agenda includes only five items (and nothing more may be discussed or acted on, since it is a special meeting) --
  • Appointment of an (unspecified) slate of nominees to the PMUA;

  • Advice and consent to the appointment of Eric Watson as permanent director of DPWUD;

  • Salary ordinance amendment to include a Motors Manager;

  • Ordinance creating the position of Motors Manager; and

  • Comcast cable franchise renewal ordinance.
The special meeting is set for 6:00 PM in the City Hall Library at 515 Watchung Avenue. Parking available in the lot behind city hall.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

The UCA and the whore's lesson


The usefulness of the Union County Directions magazine
was lampooned in this 2009 photo by the CountyWatchers website
(see here) captioned "Please don't squeeze the UC Directions".

Plainfield households are among 200,000 in Union County to receive free copies of a newsmagazine called Union County Directions twice a year, usually just days before the primary or general election.

The magazine is published by the Union County Alliance (UCA) -- see their website here -- a nonprofit that is now in the spotlight thanks to an investigation by the New Jersey Comprtoller's office.

The Comptroller's report, issued this past week (see here), cataloged issues with the organization from it support through no-bid contracts from Union County (to the tune of $1.5 million) to a failure to keep receipts or financial records to potential abuse involving meals, travel, liquor and hotels.

The report further details that the primary "advertisers" have been the County itself and Kean University, and that the Alliance's salaried president -- initially a former Union County official -- also got a 15% commission on the ads placed with the magazine.

The mission of the magazine was originally supposed to be promoting economic development for Union County, but it is hard to see how that goal is met by telling county residents about Sen. Lesniak's successful knee surgery or the joys of summer in Union County's parks.

The county could certainly grind out the contents on its own, within its own budget and using its own personnel and for free. So, why not?

Several reasons come to mind.

One is that the issues always seem to promote individuals who are candidates in the upcoming election -- how convenient!

And state law frowns on elected officials using their office to promote their candidacy immediately before an election.

A second reason is that taxpayer monies can be funneled off to support "friends" -- such as former county employees who now work for the nonprofit in question.

Which brings me to the point of the whore's lesson.

While in college, I wrangled baggage at the Trailways bus terminal. Across the street was a bar frequented by the local hookers.

One of them was different, however. She was a knockout and very businesslike -- she never drank, never got in fights with the other girls, and was very independent.

She stopped by the Trailways station on a daily basis, making her rounds. After getting to know her, I asked her once about how she got into hooking. She told me she had run a beauty parlor for some time but found the hours demanding and the work grueling, and she was always being hit on by her customer's husbands.

Her solution? "Why give it away when you can sell it," she told me.

Seems to me like Union County poobahs came to the same conclusion.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Two Plainfield treats Saturday: Library exhibit, DQ sale


Gospel singer Donnie McKlurkin is among the Gospel performers featured
in a photo exhibit opening today.
 

Plainfielders have two treats in store today --
RHYTHM & PRAISE: Black Gospel Artists Photo Exhibit
Thirty years of Gospel groups and performers are profiled in an exhibit opening today at the Plainfield Public Library.

Professional photographer Brian Branch-Price, an area resident, has been photographing Gospel musicians in performance and backstage for three decades. This show brings 90 of his most striking photos to the attention of Gospel music aficionados and Plainfield residents.

Among the singers pictured are Cissy Houston, Shirley Caeser, The Dixie Humming Birds, the Clark Sisters, Donnie McKlurkin (shown above) and many more.

The exhibit opens today with a reception from 1:00 to 3:00 PM in the Anne Louise Davis Gallery of the Plainfield Public Library at 8th Street and Park Avenue. The exhibit is free and open for viewing during regular library hours through March 28. The Plainfield Public Library is an accessible facility. Parking is available in the 8th and 9th Street lots.
DAIRY QUEEN HALF-OFF SALE
Once you've seen the Gospel music exhibit at the Library, you'll need a treat -- so why not toddle over to the Plainfield Dairy Queen, where the Albanese-DeMair family will be welcoming all for a Customer Appreciation Day.

Everything in the store will be half off -- from cakes to sandwiches to cones to Blizzards. Besides the treats, you never know who you'll run into at the DQ!

Plainfield Dairy Queen is at 1367 South Avenue, with plenty of parking on site.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, Olddoc!

 

Plainfield Today and all its readers wish Dr. Harold Yood -- a.k.a. Olddoc -- a very happy birthday!


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

JFK in court Friday to void Muhlenberg Foundation purposes

 

Plainfield's former Muhlenberg Hospital will be in the eye of the storm again on Friday. JFK, parent corporation of the shuttered hospital, will argue in Union County Superior Court that it should be allowed to modify the purposes for which monies were given to the Muhlenberg Foundation.

In its 130-plus year history, the Plainfield
hospital was the recipient of millions of dollars in donations and bequests to be used for providing healthcare-related services. Some of those monies were earmarked or restricted to designated uses and purposes.

One of the suspicions of Muhlenberg activists in the process of Solaris Health System's shutting down of Muhlenberg was that the Foundation was effectively plundered by the purchase of equipment for Muhlenberg which was later relocated to JFK after the Plainfield facility was shuttered.

It is that suspicion, plus a general lack of transparency in the conduct of its affairs that makes this effort to modify or redirect the terms of those funds of particular interest to Muhlenberg Hospital activists.

According to local Restore Muhlenberg coordinator Nancy Piwowar, Friday's hearing will be perhaps the only opportunity for members of the public to weigh in on the proposal.

JFK is asking the Superior Court, which has jurisdiction through its Chancery Division, to allow Muhlenberg Foundation's remaining assets to be used in the relocation of the Satellite Emergency Department from its current relocation to a new unit to be installed in a remodeled Kenyon House (which will continue to house the DaVita Dialysis Center on its second floor) and to support the JFK Snyder School of Nursing at the Muhlenberg campus location.

The hearing will take place in the Chancery Division of Union County Superior Court, located on the first floor of the New Annex Building behind the main courthouse on Broad Street. Chambers are open at 8:30 AM. Court session begins at 9:00 AM; the JFK matter will be addressed in course, with no stated time.

Parking is always a concern in Elizabeth. I suggest if you are going, you plan to park in the lot used by the jury pools at Jefferson and Dickinson. This is a short three-block walk to the Annex. Plan on at least an hour from Plainfield to Elizabeth and walking to the courthouse if you are going.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Baseball supporter stabbed in the back at Council


Beware!

Evidently believing she was making a consensus report on the continuing baseball saga, Plainfield recreation activist Nancy Jordan took the floor at Tuesday's Council meeting to report that there would be a combined league for the 2015 season, with an executive committee with co-chairs and co-treasurers.

Jordan reported that while they had not been able to resolve the funding issue, she wondered if there was still money in a "Kid's Trust Fund" that might be used, and whether qualifying for the free school lunch program might be the measure of which children should get aid.

While she spoke, the Rev. Jason Greer rose to stand beside her -- I think the audience thought in a sign of support.

When Jordan finished, Greer stepped to the mike and said his group, the Negro League, would not go forward as Jordan had outlined, but would sit out this season and use the time to plan for a re-launch with November registrations for the 2016 season, effectively stabbing Jordan in the back.

Council President Bridget Rivers asked if the Mapp administration would find the funding to go forward, and City Administrator Rick Smiley reiterated the administration's position that there was no funding available, but that the city would provide and maintain the fields as well as offer free meeting space to the league(s).

A wrangle ensued between Council President Rivers, Rev. Greer and his supporters on one side and the administration on the other. The rest of the Council members sat mute throughout most of the discussion.

"We need to find some funding," Rivers declared several times.

Greer and his supporters said that "subsidizing" the Negro League was "the main issue" but that volunteers were also a problem. (Hint: Does that mean someone is looking to get paid?)

Roland Muhammad made rambling remarks about how the children in his league were unable to pay to participate and stated outright, "When I was in the League, I paid for half of my team". No such offer was made for the current circumstances, though.

Which brings us to another question: Why are we having this discussion at all?

It was clear from the get-go last April -- before Recreation Superintendent Veronica Taylor was hired -- that Greer & Co. could not (or would not) get along with the other league.

So, why didn't the Council fix the money issue then, when it could through amending the budget?

In the nearly one year that has lapsed since the last baseball season, the Negro League supporters have not organized as a nonprofit (which funders will want to see), have made no plans on how to move forward, and have not raised one red cent on their own behalf toward their expenses. Not a penny!

Council President Rivers, who seems to be in cahoots with Greer & Co., appears ready to put money into the 2015 budget for the Negro League, even though the season may be well under way before a budget is adopted.

Even if the Council follows her lead, there should be a real -- and transparent -- budget for the Negro League, and not just a vague "$30,000" figure waved around by Greer with no detailed backup information.

Secondly, there is the question of which children should be eligible for aid. In response to Jordan's suggestion that qualifying for the free school lunch program could be a mechanism, Greer stated that that wouldn't be acceptable because he knew of families that didn't qualify for the free lunch to whom he would want to give aid.

Lastly, the Council could find itself on treacherous ground if it decides to give money to the Negro League without any conditions and not to give an equal amount of money to the other league.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid we haven't heard the end of the matter.



P.S.: The Council actually took a few minutes to conduct its official business. All votes were unanimous and in the affirmative.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hot time in the old town Wednesday night?


Bessie! Where are you when we need you?
(Get a load of that backup group.)

There'll be a hot time in the old town Wednesday night. The question is, which old town -- Plainfield or Mountainside?

Some folks will gather at PNC's main branch at Park Avenue and Second Street to share in the Chamber of Commerce's Taste of Plainfield event, which gets under way at 6:30 PM.

On tap will be delicious samples of specialties from around the world prepared by Plainfield restaurateurs. The event is free and the public is invited.

Paking is available in the bank parking lot on West 2nd Street, just past Ted's Appliance-a-rama.

While that event is taking place, members of Plainfield's Democratic City Committee will be gathering with representatives of other Union County communities at L'Affaire in Mountainside to select a replacement for former Assemblyman Joe Cryan, who stepped down the first of the year in order to become Union County Sheriff.

Though UCDC chair Assemblyman Jerry Green has said he is open to considering anyone who is interested, the only name that seems to be floated is that of Roselle mayor Jamel Holley, a protégé of Elizabeth's Sen. Ray Lesniak.

So, which town will see the real hot time?



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Monday, January 19, 2015

King legacy reinterpreted by new activists


Dr. King at Calvary Baptist Church in Newark in 1968.
 

When one considers that more than two in every three Plainfielders were born since Martin Luther King Jr. led the American civil rights struggle, and more than one in four since the Internet was popularized, it can be no surprise that younger people have found new ways to address America's still-unresolved problems of racial justice.

While I am no fan of USAToday, noted for its boiling-down of complex news and issues to mere soundbites, I would like to recommend a story by Rick Hampson in today's issue.

Titled "King's legacy respected, reinterpreted by new activists", Hampson's piece takes up some of the younger activists who have arisen around the #blacklivesmatter hashtag.

I hope you will take the time to reflect on how these younger activists are both honoring and advancing Dr. King's legacy in an era that offers new tools to advance the cause of justice that Dr. King could hardly have dreamt of.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Plainfield dis·ha·bille


City Hall Library at Thursday's Planning Board.
Plainfield's City Hall Library is a mess.

Above is a picture taken at Thursday evening's Planning Board meeting, showing drapery thrown over a chair and flags inappropriately displayed.

The French, as always, have a word for it -- dishabille -- noted in this post's title. Our English word disheveled is a rough equivalent. Or more casually, sloppy or messy.

City Hall Library is one of the most used rooms in the building. Not only do various boards and commissions use it for their meetings, it is used by city administrators and community organizations (like the Shut-in Council) for their meetings.

Many people feel free to adjust the drapes and blinds and move the furniture about as they see fit --often enough without putting the room back as they found it.

The flags seem to be quite another matter.




Flags properly displayed -- in the White House briefing room (top)
and behind Sen. Cory Booker (bottom).
If you look closely, you will see the red City of Plainfield flag directly behind Planning Board chairperson Ron Scott Bey and the U.S. flag to its left, behind board attorney Michele Donato.

The proper position for the flags when behind officers presiding at a meeting are: the U.S. flag should be behind the right shoulder of the presiding officer, and any other flag behind the presider's left shoulder.

Looking at the picture, it would appear the flags had been taken out of the room for some other purpose and then just plunked down when brought back. They aren't even centered on the presider's end of the table.

My mother used to say that when something is everyone's responsibility, no one takes care of it.

Point proven.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Saturday, January 17, 2015

MLK Potluck Dinner and Food Drive tonight


Congressman Frankl Pallone and 2-5 leader Carol Bicket
at 2012 MLK Potluck Dinner.


Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp and First Lady Amelia are welcoming the community into their home this evening for the 7th Annual MLK Potluck and Food Drive.

Begun by the New Democrats club, the event has been sponsored by the Adrian Mapp Civic Association in recent years. The must-be-there event provides an opportunity to socialize over a potluck dinner, honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and pitch in to help fellow Plainfielders experiencing rough times.

Donations of non-perishable food items -- canned goods, pasta, beans, rice, etc. -- will be gathered for delivery to Shiloh Baptist Church's food bank. Items may be brought along to the potluck or left ahead of time on the mayor's porch at 535 West 8th Street.

Any kind of dish will be welcome for the potluck, which always includes an amazing variety of tasty foods plus a dessert table.

Note that this year's event gets under way at an EARLIER HOUR -- 5:30 PM.

Come along and have a good time!



7th ANNUAL MLK POTLUCK & FOOD DRIVE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 17
5:30 PM

The home of Mayor Adrian and Amelia Mapp
535 West 8th Street


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Friday, January 16, 2015

New Mosque approved for South Avenue


A good resource that would help head off cringe-worthy questions
at land-use board meetings.
Plainfield's Planning Board on Thursday evening unanimously approved -- with conditions -- the application of Al Bazeera International Institute to convert a former daycare center on South Avenue into a mosque.

The building is between the White Tower location and the former Larry's Deli, which now houses a daycare center.

The group's president, Zahid Rashid, told the board it is a small, independent startup organization and that he had been seeking a location and came upon the Plainfield site, which was available. The group is under contract to purchase the building in the commercially-zoned area.

A longish discussion of reconfiguring the parking on the property took up most of the time devoted to the application. There will be a total of twelve (as I count them) spaces -- including one handicapped space that will "eat up" another parking slot in the current configuration, which does not meet ADA requirements). Revamped exterior lighting was also discussed, and the applicant was advised they will have to conform to Shade Tree Commission requirements for street trees in the front, as well as seeking approval for signage.

I had been interested in this matter in particular because of other similar situations in central New Jersey -- namely Bridgewater and now in Sayreville.

In a long-running case, a mosque wishing to locate in Bridgewater Township, was given the run-around by the township's Planning Board, which made changes to zoning regulations to exclude the mosque after an Internet hate campaign (see a sample here).

The Al Falah mosque, represented by New York University's prestigious Brennan Law Center (and others), sued the township. Bridgewater finally agreed to pay the mosque $5 million for damages, costs and attorney fees, while the mosque agreed to a land swap (see Brennan case file here). The whole affair was sordid and ugly and reminded me of Plainfield in the time when we had neighborhoods restricted to Blacks, Jews and Italians and restrictive covenants to enforce the segregation.

Meanwhile, a Hindu temple is suing Sayreville, claiming that it has been discriminated against and dragging Assemblyman John Wisniewski into the fray (see Sergio Bichao's Courier story here). If the temple's allegations are true, it is an ugly scene in Sayreville, too.

While I was prepared to pat Plainfield on the back for our tolerance of diversity last night, I was caught short by some of the cringe-worthy questions and statements made by some board members.

Mr. Rashid did seem a little surprised at the line of questions about membership and attendance. This is germane however because there is a correlation between attendees and parking provisions. But he seemed a little stumped at first, saying that there were about five families. When pressed about how many attendees that would mean, the conversation finally got to the acknowledgment that the parking configuration allows for a maximum number of about 52 and Mr. Rashid said that would be the upper limit.

What surprised me was that one board member asked if their would be chairs or pews. On the one hand, it doesn't seem to me to be germane to the board's purview.

On the other hand, it suggests that board members need to get out a bit more and see how differently groups can worship. (I wondered if the board was cognizant that men and women are segregated, as in many Jewish and Amish congregations; or that it is customary to remove one's shoes upon entering the mosque. Thankfully, no one asked).

The other surprise was a board member's comment that while approving the application conformed to the "reality" of the situation, it "goes against the vision for the area".

While that statement may be true about the Planning Board's (and the neighborhood's) vision of the South Avenue corridor, the law is quite explicit.

One of the legacies of the George W. Bush presidency is the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 which provides that land use bodies may not impose a "substantial burden" on a person or group seeking to practice their religion.

Notwithstanding its lapses in taste, I hope the Board and the community will join in welcoming the new house of worship.

RECOMMENDED READING: Planning Board members (and others) would find How To Be A Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook a useful read. Organized by religious groups, it discusses how groups worship and the etiquette of being 'a perfect stranger' when visiting (see Amazon listing here); the book is now considered a standard reference.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Neighborhood Health Center files Chapter 11 bankruptcy


New Jersey's reimbursement policy has hurt FQHCs such as Plainfield's.
 
Plainfield-based Neighborhood Health Services Corporation (NHSC) has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to multiple sources.

Like other federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) throughout New Jersey, the NHSC -- which has operations in Plainfield, Elizabeth, Philipsburg and Newton -- finds itself between a rock and a hard place, with demand for services on the increase and longstanding reimbursement issues with the Christie administration.

Still known locally as "The Plainfield Health Center", the agency's patients are primarily uninsured or covered by Medicaid. Medicaid patients are insured by managed care organizations (MCOs) who make the actual payments to the health centers, with the difference between the MCO payment and the Medicaid entitlement to be made up by the state.

However, New Jersey's MCOs have for years now used tactics of underpaying amounts requested and delaying payments -- the health centers say for unreasonable periods of time. This combination of factors puts New Jersey's FQHCs -- including NHSC -- in a cash flow bind.

Since 2011, New Jersey has changed its payment policy and was only paying the difference between an MCO payment and the full Medicaid-entitled payment where the MCO had paid a claim. No MCO payment, no state payment.

The situation got so bad that in 2012 the health centers' umbrella group, the NJ Primary Health Care Association, took the state to court. Though the state was told to change its payment practices and the judgment was sustained on appeal, the state evidently has simply continued to ignore the mandate. (See detailed coverage by NJ Spotlight from last September here.)

The Plainfield Health Center has its roots all the way back in 1969, with the inception of a well-baby clinic on West 4th Street under the auspices of the Model Cities Program (part of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty"). It has grown over the years into an agency that now serves more than 22,000 patients in multiple locations (see more on their website here).

The agency has become even more important to healthcare delivery in Plainfield since the closing of Muhlenberg Hospital in 2008. Its demise would be catastrophic to the Plainfield area.

Under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, an entity seeks court protection to remain in control of its operations and assets, while working out a restructuring of its debts in order to continue in business.

Plainfield's YWCA is currently operating under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the city of Detroit has recently emerged from the largest municipal Chapter 11 bankruptcy in US history.

While the courts may help resolve the immediate issues of cash flow and holding creditors at bay, the long term sustainability of the Neighborhood Health Services Corporation, and other FQHCs like it, will only be achieved with the resolution of the Medicaid reimbursement situation with the state -- and that may have to wait until a different governor is sitting in the NJ statehouse.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

MLK Potluck Saturday at Mayor Mapp's home


Great food, great company, great cause!
Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp and First Lady Amelia are welcoming the community into their home this Saturday for the 7th Annual MLK Potluck and Food Drive.

Begun by the New Democrats club, the event has been sponsored by the Adrian Mapp Civic Association in recent years. The must-make event provides an opportunity to socialize over a potluck dinner, honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and pitch in to help fellow Plainfielders experiencing rough times.

Donations of non-perishable food items -- canned goods, pasta, beans, rice, etc. -- will be gathered for delivery to Shiloh Baptist Church's food bank. Items may be brought along to the potluck or left ahead of time on the mayor's porch at 535 West 8th Street.

Any kind of dish will be welcome for the potluck, which always includes an amazing variety of tasty foods plus a dessert table.

Note that this year's event gets under way at an EARLIER HOUR -- 5:30 PM.

Come along and have a good time!



7th ANNUAL MLK POTLUCK & FOOD DRIVE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 17
5:30 PM

The home of Mayor Adrian and Amelia Mapp
535 West 8th Street


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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