The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Amelia Mapp's father passes


Mayor Adrian Mapp and First Lady Amelia Mapp.
 

I learned yesterday that Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's wife Amelia's father passed away over the weekend. I will post the obituary and arrangements on CLIPS as they are made available.

Those wishing to express their sympathy may send condolences to the Mapp family at 535 West 8th Street, Plainfield, NJ 07060.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, March 30, 2015

City issues first-ever complete directory of services

 


Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp is to be congratulated for delivering the city's first-ever directory of services.

This is a project close to my heart, as we began to gather the information during the administration of the late Mayor Al McWilliams, when I worked with Pepsi Charles and a collective of service provider volunteers to begin to gather this sort of information.

The 64-page directory is grouped in eighteen sections, ranging from education, cildren's and youth services to arts, economic empowerment and housing.

Whatever you are looking for in Plainfield services, this is now the go-to source.

The booklet was prepared by Jensine Wright, a Rutgers intern in the School of Public Affairs and Administration. Congratulations go to Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development Carlos Sanchez and his team: Elaine Dunn-Brown, Donna Morris and Jeanette Aparicio who all worked so hard to deliver the project.

The booklet also contains complete phone and email listings for city government, a listing of Council members and a street map of Plainfield as the centerfold (you will need a magnfying glass, though).

This is a great resource and is being made available in Spanish as well as English. Though it is available online (see here), I recommend picking up a printed copy at City Hall as the online layout replicates a printer's requirements and cannot be easily navigated onscreen. However, if you have the paper and patience, you can print it out and make your own booklet.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

As political season starts, Jerry Green goes it alone


Plainfield Dem chairman Assemblyman Jerry Green.

Plainfield Democratic City Committee chair Assemblyman Jerry Green seems to have assumed dictatorial powers as the 2015 political season approaches.

With defections to the Mapp-led Plainfield Democratic Organization -- notable among them Dem stalwart Dottie Gutenkauf and former Councilor Elliot Simmons -- Green has had trouble organizing a full slate of candidates for the City Committee, which is up for election in June.

Evidently Green's solution will be to avoid the possible humiliation of a meeting of the Democratic City Committee to nominate a committee slate and candidates for the Ward 2 and Wards 1/4 council seats that are also up this year. All nominations are due by 4:00 PM on Monday.

Though he has never been too finicky about abiding by the PDCC's bylaws requiring a five-day written advance notice of a meeting, submitting candidates on his own say-so would be a sign of weakness rather than strength.

Meanwhile, the Plainfield Democratic Organization, under Mapp's leadership bids fair to submit a full slate -- far surpassing the 45 candidates that the late Mayor Al McWiliams ran in the 2003 race that saw Green lose the Plainfield party chairmanship.

Since Green is playing his cards so close to his vest, we have only rumors about who his candidates will be. Whispered as possibles for Ward 2 to oppose incumbent Cory Storch are Charles Eke and Jeff Dunn.

Eke, a former Green appointment to the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA), lost to Rebecca Williams in the most recent Wards 2/3 at-large contest.

Dunn, head of the struggling Plainfield Chamber of Commerce, is the son of former Councilor, PMUA Commissioner and longtime Green ally Malcolm R. Dunn. The younger Dunn has been most visible in regular appearances during the public comment section of Council meetings, where he usually engages in rambling and sometimes incoherent rants against the Mapp administration.

As for the Wards 1/4 at-large seat, currently held by Vera Greaves, who was handpicked by Green, word in the street is that she will not get the nod. For one thing, Greaves had the temerity to oppose Green when he decided to dump former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. In addition, even Green has been embarrassed by her apparent inability to fully grasp the Council's business, often betraying that she either hasn't read or doesn't understand the materials in the agenda packets.

But who will Green pick?

One thought is that questions about Councilor Bridget Rivers that were asked in his two recent push polls (for one of them, see my previous post here) hint at Green running Rivers for the Wards 1/4 at-large seat in the primary and then appointing her successor to the balance of the Ward 4 term if she were successful.

This is an interesting hypothesis, but one wonders whether the Ward 1 voters would find the volatile Rivers an attractive candidate. Meanwhile, Mapp's Plainfield Democratic Organization has recruited an energetic candidate who will be revealed at Monday's filing.

In his most recent push poll, conducted on Friday, respondents were asked to rank both Jerry Green and Mayor Mapp on a scale of five from most favorable to least favorable. In addition, they were tested on their inclination toward a recall of Mapp.

That last becomes laughable when set against the news that Moody's has bumped up the city's bond rating to A-1 (see here), removing the negative outlook that it has given Plainfield since 2011 under Green protege Robinson-Briggs.

At any rate, your 2015 election questions will have their answers Monday afternoon.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Drake House offers program on Madam C.J. Walker Sunday


Learn about America's first self-made Black woman millionaire.
 

Plainfield's Drake House Museum will host a program on Madam C.J. Walker, civil rights activist and America's first self-made woman millionaire this Sunday afternoon at 2:00 PM as part of Women's History Month.

Born Sarah Breedlove in 1867 in Louisiana, she was one of six children. the only child of her parents born free.

Hard working and indomitable, she married at 14 to escape an abusive brother-in-law. Eventually, she arrived in Denver where she met and married C.J. Walker (hence the name of her company) and they developed her cosmetics and hair care business.

Throughout her business career, Madam Walker stressed civil rights, political engagement and philanthropy. And she encouraged the same in her army of sales agents.

Dr. Daisy Century will present a highly researched, dramatically intense portrayal of Madam Walker's life and contributions.

The program is in the Drake House's second-floor ballroom, which is NOT handicap-accessible. Seating is limited, so be sure to come early. Refreshments will be served.

The Drake House Museum at 602 West Front Street (at the foot of Plainfield Avenue) is open to the public Sunday afternoons from 2:00 - 4:00 PM, and at other times by appointment. For more information, call (908) 755-5831 or visit the website at www.drakehouseplainfieldnj.org/.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Plainfield Symphony's 'Bernstein on Broadway' Saturday


The dashing and energetic Leonard Bernstein
composed for Broadway as well as the concert hall.
 

The Plainfield Symphony expects to pack them in for Saturday night's "Bernstein on Broadway" concert.

Under the baton of music director Charles Prince and with special guest Jamie Bernstein, the evening will feature symphonic dances and vocal selections from West Side Story, On The Town, Candide and Wonderful Town.

A large crowd from New York comes out for these Bernstein extravaganzas, so locals should plan on arriving in good time for the concert.

An added feature will be a post-concert gala reception at the home of John Stewart and Craig Bowman, 308 West 8th Street. The reception will feature catered hors d'oeuvres and an open bar. Proceeds will benefit the Plainfield Symphony.

The Plainfield Symphony performs at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, Watchung Avenue at East 7th Street. Performances begin at 7:00 PM sharp. Tickets: $50/Reserved, $30/General admission, $20/Seniors/Students; under 12 free. Visit the PSO website: www.plainfieldsymphony.org/.

The After-Party is a separate event, $50 per person. Payment can be made at the door.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tums time for Jerry Green?


Bad night, bad day, bad season ... whatever!
 

For Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green spring is the season of flowers, fundraisers and fretting.

Well, for Jerry, maybe just fundraising and fretting. You can see a picture of Jerry and his best buddies on his blog (here) at a recent fundraiser. But all this political activity in the Spring gets Jerry's stomach upset. Time to reach for the Tums!

As for the fretting, a Plainfield Today reader reported receiving a phone "survey" last evening that sounds like one of Jerry's fretful push polls.

Conducted by a firm with the caller ID of Portab Insights with the number (908) 248-5371, the poll asked the respondent's opinions about Plainfield, Mayor Mapp, Asm Green and City Council candidates -- including incumbents Cory Storch (who is running) and Bridget Rivers (who is NOT running this year).

The reader noted the survey also covered the current investigative audit, portraying it in a negative light.

Were you lucky enough to get a call, too? Folks would be glad to hear of your experience.

A quick Google search turned up a Rhode Island marketing research with the name Portable Insights (see their website here), which does political polling and sounds like it could be the firm in question.

Rhode Island? Does Jerry even know where Rhode Island is?



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Online registration drives Recreation programs


Online registration is boosting Easter Egg Hunt participation
to levels never seen before.
 
Online registration is driving participation in Plainfield recreation programs to numbers never before seen.

Recreation Superintendent Veronica Taylor reports that as of Tuesday forty-five youngsters were registered to participate in Saturday's Easter Egg Hunt at Cedar Brook Park. According to Taylor, this far exceeds any previous year's registration as far as records show.

The reason for the uptick?

Families are taking advantage of the Division's new online registration system, Community Pass, which allows families to register participants in a variety of recreational activities and pay fees online, thus cutting out a trip to the Recreation office in City Hall Annex.

The program went live in January and will continue its rollout as seasonal activities advance. You can check out the program on the city's website here -- note the button on the lower left side of the home page.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Council questions capsize demolition agenda


Council balked at funding demolition of this fire-damaged North Avenue building.

Unanswered questions by Plainfield City Council members at Monday's special meeting caused the Mapp administration's agenda for the North Avenue building demolition to capsize.

In a notice for the special meeting sent out by Municipal Clerk 'AJ' Jalloh on Friday, the administration laid out three resolutions to be adopted on Monday: one to authorize the emergency procurement of demolition services, another to fund a $250,000 appropriation, and a third to award n emergency contract to Yates Real Estate to perform the demolition.

An email from Mayor Mapp about 4:30 PM Monday contained a PDF file of documents associated with the demolition which I have posted online (see here) and also embedded at the bottom of this post.

As the meeting unfolded, it seemed from various Council comments that they had not been given the backup documentation in advance and only received it late in the afternoon along with the bloggers.

The room was relatively full, with a cross-section of residents and business owners affected by the "accidental" dislodging of debris that fell on an adjacent roof, causing the businesses in that building to be ordered closed at once.

During the public comment section, several people challenged the manner in which Yates Real Estate was selected, their qualifications, the timeline of the whole process and the necessity to knock the building down before the Council meeting. Resident Alan Goldstein asked the Council to table the whole business.

Realtor John Campbell, who knows a thing or two about making money, asked how the cost for demolition went up from an estimate of $90,000 he heard just after the fire to the current figure of $214,500. He brought chuckles from the audience when he declared that if all that was needed was a real estate license, this was a business he would like to get into.

When asked by Council President Bridget Rivers to respond, DPWUD Director Eric Watson pulled up a chair and sat cozily amongst the Council members, where he remained for the balance of the meeting.

Councilors seemed incredulous that the actual demolition took place before their meeting. Councilor Toliver asked why, if it was so urgent, Mayor Mapp had not summoned them on Friday evening as he has the power to do. Councilor Greaves said not informing the Council of the impending demolition was "outrageous". Councilor Taylor, after a long peregrination, finally arrived at her customary olfactory trope, saying "I don't know what's going on, but I smell a rat".

When the Council finally got to voting on the three resolutions, this is the way it went down --

  • First, to authorize the procurement of demolition services. The resolution failed with Rivers, Brown, Taylor and Toliver voting "no", Storch and Williams voting "yes" and Greaves abstaining.
  • Then, to appropriate funds, the vote was 6-1, with only Williams voting "yes" after Councilor Storch pointed out the last two resolutions were pointless if the first was not passed.
  • Lastly, to award a demolition contract, the vote again was 6-0, with only Williams in favor.
Council President Bridget Rivers led into a further discussion about having the Council hire its own attorney -- no disrespect to the Corporation Counsel, she said -- to investigate the whole demolition process.

In the course of the back-and-forth Rivers cited the Council having hired an attorney to look into former Mayor Robinson-Briggs' misappropriation of money donated by Investors Bank for a July 4th Parade to pay for the Rev. Al Sharpton to appear at a town hall on gang violence. Robinson-Briggs, who was sitting in the audience, kindly corrected Rivers when she misspoke of the amount involved.

A whispered conversation between Rivers and the municipal clerk resulted in Mr. Jalloh reminding Council that they could not undertake any action on items except for those on the notice of the call for the meeting, and suggested that the matter be taken up with Corporation Counsel separately.

How things will be resolved now is anybody's guess. The work is done, but when Yates will be paid is unclear. Stay tuned.








  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Monday, March 23, 2015

Park Avenue closed for NJT overpass construction


Electronic noticeboards have been in place
for several days -- the closure starts today.
 


Beginning Tuesday, March 24, Plainfield's Park Avenue will be closed between North Avenue and Fourth Street for reconstruction work on the New Jersey Transit overpass. The work is expected to be completed on or about April 19, according to notices delivered by the city's emergency communications outlets to subscribers. (If you are not on the notification list, go to the city's home page here to sign up -- they are very useful.)

The Park Avenue project is one half of two projected by NJT for this year. The other will involved the Watchung Avenue overpass, which is being planned for later in the summer and will involve an innovative construction technique never used before in New Jersey, according to NJT officials.

Plan now for alternate routes -- Central, Watchung, Grant/West End, Richmond, or Leland are all good altenatives if your object is getting through to Route 22.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Mapp administration sure to be quizzed on demolition tonight


A suspicious fire ripped through the North Avenue building
in December 2011.


  The administration of Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp is likely to face a lot of questions at tonight's special Council meeting about the emergenvcy demolition of a North Avenue building over the weekend.

The building, part of the city's only commercial historic district, was deemed in danger of imminent collapse -- hence the emergency Council meeting called for tonight.

However, many were surprised to see the demolition being undertaken on Saturday, and I got a host of questions from residents, business owners and taxpayers over the weekend --

  • Why now? If the building needed to come down, why wasn't it taken down immediately after the fire three years ago?

  • How was the decision made to award the demolition contract?

  • Why was a sub-contractor used for the actual demolition instead of the firm [being] awarded the contract?

  • Who is Yates Real Estate, Inc. and is there any connection to the Yates who owns the former Abbott Nursing Home in th Van Wyck Brooks Historic District?

  • Where did the city find $250,000 to pay for the contract?

  • Are the taxpayers out the money or can the city recoup it? If so, how?

  • Why was the adjoining one-story building damaged, causing the businesses there to be closed? Could it have been avoided? Was carelessness or neglect involved?

The fire-gutted building was not boarded up for over a month
after the December 2011 fire.

After the building was gutted by a suspicious fire in December 2011 (see my posts here and here), merchants were dismayed when the Robinson-Briggs administration failed to have the property boarded up for weeks afterwards and even told shop owners they were in violation for being open.

So, it is not without reason that folks have some mistrust of government's motives. Let's hope the Mapp administration puts taxpayer suspicions to rest this evening.

The emergency special meeting of City Council is set for 6:00 PM today at City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Avenue. Parking available in the city hall parking lot.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Novel promotion of Plainfield Rec Easter Egg Hunt

 

Colorful in-house produced "video flyer" is a new outreach tool.




For years, Plainfield's Division of Recreation has sponsored an annual Easter Egg Hunt for youngsters.

Under its new Superintendent, Roni Taylor, this year the Division is trying something new. In addition to the usual flyers available in several pickup locations, the staff has produced an in-house "video flyer" for the event and posted it on YouTube (see here).

Mayor Mapp enthusiastically approved the new outreach method after viewing the video. Watch for a link on the city's website and/or view on PCTV shortly.

Meantime, you can also view it on Plainfield Today below.





Congratulations to the city staffers who put it all together, Nat Singleton and Carmencita Pile.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Friday, March 20, 2015

Another one of life's mysteries solved: Toilet Paper


Indisputable proof: Some must win, some lose.
(Click to enlarge.)

Wake up, Plainfielders! Another one of life's mysteries has been solved.

My very clever niece, Sue Foust, who lives in Tucson (where it seldom snows on the first day of Spring, or any other day for that matter) gets the credit for tipping me off.

HuffPost has run a story (see here) on the old over-under toilet paper controversy which seems to put an end to the question for all time by including the inventor's illustration filed with the U.S. Patent Office.

So, I'll 'fess up. I've been wrong all these years.

Can I be the only one?



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Plainfield Garden Club: Think rain gardens for Spring


The Conservation Committee (L - R):  Gail Sloan, Ginny Dughi,
Margaret Chowdhury, Kathy Andrews (Chair) and Janet Burchett.
Missing from the photo are Brenda Anderson and Diana Madsen.
Even though snow is dusting Plainfield as I write this and Spring is due at 6:15 PM, the Plainfield Garden Club would like you to think "rain gardens" as we start to think about getting outdoors and working in the yard.

The club's Conservation Committee has mounted a clever and instructive display at the Plainfield Public Library, illustrating what rain gardens are, how to set one up, what kind of flowering plants might be considered and the uses of a "rain barrel". You might be surprised to learn that a rain barrel can save you up to 1,400 gallons of water a year -- conservation of both natural resources and your wallet!

Times have certainly changed.

When we moved to Plainfield thirty years ago, I remember being slightly hassled by the city about our driveway, which is graveled.

An inspector actually wanted us to pave it over. We were able to get the demand set aside -- not because encouraging rain runoff to be absorbed by the ground was a good thing, but because the gravel drive was "grandfathered".

Since then, folks have become intensely more aware of what we as homeowners can do to help conserve and better the environment in which we all must live.

Stop by the Library and check out this great exhibit, which will be sure to inspire you. And keep an eye out soon as the ladies (and gents) begin to spruce up the Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park.

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.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Library celebrates Women's History Month with Anne Louise Davis exhibit


Library exhibit highlights benefactor and activist
Anne Louise Davis, shown here in a 1990 portrait
by Plainfield artist Gerri Heydt.

The Plainfield Public Library is celebrating Women's History Month with an exhibit on Plainfield civic icon and library benefactor Anne Louise Davis.

Ms. Davis had a long career as an editor in the publishing business, commuting every day to her office in New York City. Among the many interesting items on display are two autographed books, one by Langston Hughes and J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" -- whetting my curiosity about whether she edited either or both of these.

But the rest of her time was devoted to community service. Not only was she active in many civic and business groups, she was a longtime volunteer at Muhlenberg Hospital.

Most significantly, however, for all of us is that she was the motive force behind replacing the original Victorian library building and its later Carnegie extension with the new and striking modern structure which we enjoy today.

The exhibit is in display cases next to the Reference Desk and in display cubes in the adjacent reading area. The display may be viewed during regular library hours.

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 www.plainfieldlibrary.info/.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Kean offers historic preservation workshops


View from the roof of City Hall toward historic
Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church
during restoration of City Hall cupola.
 

Plainfielders interested in historic preservation should check out the "Preservation in Practice" workshop Kean University has scheduled for Saturday, March 28 at its Ocean County campus.

The well-organized program is intended as a primer for Historic Preservation Commissions as well as planning and zoning board members and elected officials who are concerned about the stewardship of a community's historic resources.

Plainfield can be particularly proud of the number of historic districts (including commercial and civic as well as residential locales), but the workshop looks like it could benefit even those who have been involved in the preservation movement for a long time -- as have many Plainfield activists.
Two of the topics to be covered caught my eye in particular --

  • One concerns the need to update surveys and using the ordinance to make informed decisions that will withstand legal challenges;

  • The other guides commission members through the necessary protocol for conducting a fair and effective open public meeting.
The program gets under way at 8:30 AM and runs to 4:00 PM. The $75 registration fee includes lunch. See the program website here for more information and registration details.

I was a bit mystified by the location information: clicking on the link for Kean's Ocean County Campus in Toms River takes you to the Ocean County Community College website where there are both a map and driving instructions. However, none of the buildings is identified by name as a Kean building and the building number Kean gives on the event website doesn't seem to square with the map. You may have to call for clearer info: (908) 737-0258 or email jmercant@kean.edu.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Plainfield charter school must close


Work was stopped at the school's site for several months
in 2010 over the proper remediation of asbestos in the building.

One of Plainfield's four remaining charter schools must close at the end of this academic year.

Central Jersey Arts Charter School (CJACS), which has been on probation since January 2012 for fiscal and organizational reasons, has been ordered to close its doors on June 30. (I noted in a 2010 post -- see here -- that the school was cited for deficiencies in language arts and math.) The school serves grades K-8 in its building at 1225 South Avenue (the former ARC building, across from the Burger King). You can view its website here.

The news came in an update on charter school news posted on NJ Spotlight (see here) on Monday. In a four-page letter (see here), David Hespe, the NJ Commissioner of Education, outlines the reasons for non-renewal of the school's charter.

The letter reviews CJACS's performance in student achievement -- which it finds "remained dismal" -- as well as a thorough financial assessment and the results of on-site visits.




The state's review shows academic deficiencies.
(Click on image to enlarge; see state's full letter here.)

What is surprising to me is that after three years of being on probation, which should warn the school's leadership of serious consequences, the state's assessment shows academic performance had actually declined.

Not only that, the site visits revealed that the school's leadership does not have "a comprehensive curriculum across all grades and subjects", students were not "engaged by rigorous instruction" and a "lack of clear plans in place to address issues [at hand]".

The state's conclusion: "there is a lack of evidence that the school is providing its students with a quality education or that it has the capacity to dramatically improve student achievement in the future".

For those who are not familiar, charter schools in New Jersey are public schools chartered by the state, funded from a portion of the local school district's resources, and governed by a board independent of the elected Board of Education. The argument has always run that they are to be centers of educational innovation and excellence that will enable their students to surpass performance levels of students in the host district's public schools.

I found the state's review of CJACS's fiscal situation disturbing. The school has been troubled with incomplete records, weak internal controls and failure to receive an Unqualified Opinion from its auditor for several years.

The 2014 financials noted there "can be no assurance [the school] will be able to generate sufficient cash flow to achieve or sustain operations in the future".

All of the above only caps a troubled history that reaches back nearly to the school's beginning in 2006.

Originally located on the upper floors of 7-9 Watchung Avenue (above Assemblyman Jerry Green's old office), the school started in space that had been the original home of the Queen City Academy Charter School.

By 2010, the school was planning to move and expand and had hired a local architect to draw up plans for the renovation of the former ARC building on South Avenue as the school's new home (see my posts here, and here).

Then something funny happened on the way to completing this project.

Erick Torain, a mysterious figure who seems to have been an agent of then-executive director of the Union County Improvement Authority, Charlotte DeFilippo, became involved in the project.

Suddenly, the CJACS board was replaced with a new non-profit board known as the "Friends of CJACS" handpicked by Torain, and this board sought bonding from the UCIA to purchase and renovate the South Avenue property. (The architect, who had testified before the Planning Board on the school's behalf up to this point, was suddenly sidelined. Payment for his services was denied until he finally sued and the matter was settled out of court.)

This was not the first time that the mysterious Mr. Torain had "facilitated" a UCIA bond issue in Plainfield.

In 2007, Torain was active in securing the $7 million bond issue -- it started out at $5.5 million; the increase was never explained -- for the construction of BUF's new early childhood learning center at Grant Avenue and West 6th Street. (A most unusual circumstance was that permission was granted for the project even though the site plan did not allow for on-site parking for employees.)

The CountyWatchers blog has a file of Torain's correspondence concerning the BUF bond issue online here. It is interesting to see the firms represented in the emails list (is charlotte@aol.com DeFilippo's email address?).

I wrote about that project twice (see here, and here) noting that Mayor Robinson-Briggs had pledged the city's support (though the Council was left in the dark) and that in the likelihood of a default by BUF on the bonds, the County's position was that the city would "in all probability" be on the hook.

Mr. Torain then turned up again in July, 2013, to offer his assistance in the matter of buying and restoring the Lampkin House, an historic property on Terrill Road (see my post here). The proposal for forming a nonprofit to purchase, stabilize and restore the house looked like it could be destined for the same UCIA treatment -- except that there was no nonprofit ever formed nor a revenue stream posited. Mr. Torain has not been heard of since.

Aside from the difficulties facing the CJACS students and their families with scrambling for seats for the fall 2015 term, I am concerned about what happens about the outstanding bonds if/when the school closes.

Though CJACS technically has the right to appeal the state's closure decision, prospects of an override by the courts look exceedingly dim to this humble observer.

Which then leaves the question: Who is on the hook for the bonds on the South Avenue school property?



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Monday, March 16, 2015

Who POWed that tree?


Skid mark visible in the foreground indicates the path
of the vehicle that knocked this tree and its cage down
alongside MdDonald's overnight Saturday.


Sometime overnight Saturday, a street tree alongside downtown Plainfield's McDonald's was struck and knocked down -- see the picture above.

As a toddler, my baby sister once asked her mother as they drove by a tree that had been knocked down, "Mommy, who POWed that tree?" She had it exactly right, for it must have made a great "POW" when the vehicle struck it.

I have driven by this corner a thousand times and not really paid attention to the three street trees planted on the Madison Avenue side, with their iron-strap tree cages and metal tree grilles around their bases.

Seems I'm not the only one.

The tinted concrete fake red brick sidewalk indicates this was part of the $1 million+ downtown streetscape project undertaken near the end of a Mayor Al McWilliams' second term.


Notice the tree cage was long ago bent or pushed over
and the original tree replaced by suckers that have
never been attended to.

The condition of the tree and the tree cages also indicates no one has paid attention to them since they were planted a decade ago.

So, here's a question: Once the planners and the land use boards have approved of such street trees, who is responsible for tending to them and removing the cages as they become unneeded and enlarging the openings in the tree grilles as needed?



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

City Committee contest key to Jerry Green's future?


Stressful days ahead for Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green.


2015 is shaping up to be a very challenging year for Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green.

Green faces not only a November race for his Assembly seat but a contest in June for control of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee that could determine his eligibility for continued chairmanship of the Union County Democratic organization.

Whether or not you think it's right, in New Jersey members of local Democratic and Republican committees in communities with partisan elections (such as Plainfield) are chosen at the public's expense during the June primary elections. The two parties choose their committee members in alternate years. 2014 was the Republicans' year and 2015 will see Democrats make their choices.

While the contests are part of the primary election ballot, those running are members of private political organizations. Got that part?

In Plainfield, there are a total of 34 voting districts spread through the four wards (8 in Ward 1, 11 in Ward 2, 10 in Ward 3, and 5 in Ward 4). Each district selects a male and a female representative to the Plainfield Democratic City Committee.

These 68 people reorganize every other year on the Monday following their June election by electing the PDCC chairperson and other officers. This year's primary election is on Tuesday, June 2 and the PDCC will reorgaize on Monday, June 8.

What makes this year especially perilous for Assemblyman Green is that it looks like he will be challenged by a FULL SLATE of 68 reform candidates put up by the Plainfield Democratic Organization under the leadership of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp.

As of this week, Mapp advises that the Plainfield Democratic Organization has 60 candidates signed up and is closing in on a full slate. Petitions for city committee members are due on March 30.

Word in the street is that Assemblyman Green is having trouble filling his bingo card as several longtime committee members have declined to run at all. Worse than that are defections from his ranks.

Key among these is the candidacy of longtime Democratic activist Dottie Gutenkauf for the Ward 3 District 1 seat on the Plainfield Democratic Organization slate. Gutenkauf, a highly respected and visible figure, has been an advocate of fiscally and managerially responsible government.

Why all this matters to Jerry Green is that his chairmanship of the Union County Democratic Committee is essentially a "chairmanship of the chairmanships" of the 21 communities comprising the county organization.

If, after the reorganization, he is no longer chair of the Plainfield committee, can he remain as chair of the Union County committee?

The stress Assemblyman Green faces in the upcoming campaign season is sure to bring to the fore his penchant for ad hominem politics, of which we all have seen more than enough.

Not only that, if Green does survive the challenge of keeping control of the Plainfield and Union County Dem organizations, he still must face a contest in the November election in which the Republicans are mounting two credible candidates -- Bill Michelson of Plainfield and William "Bo" Vastine of Scotch Plains -- against Green and his new running-mate.

Not only that, rumors continue to swirl that Green is in increasingly ill health. Observers note that he no longer has the stamina to stand for more than a few minutes at a time, presiding at meetings seated at a table and in a voice that can hardly be heard by all in the room.

With his 76th birthday coming up at the end of April, Green is not only the longest serving Assembly member, he is among the oldest in the Legislature.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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