The needler in the haystack.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Free showing of 'Selma' rescheduled for tonight


Plainfielders get a special summer treat with a FREE showing
this Thursday at 8:30 PM.

NOTE: Thursday's evening showers prevent the FREE showing of the movie 'Selma', and it has been rescheduled for tonight (Friday) at 8:30 PM at Aristacare on Norwood Avenue.

Plainfielders will have a special summer treat with a FREE showing of the movie 'Selma' this Thursday evening as part of the Recreation Division's Thursdays at the Movies series. This comes after a twisted path in bringing the movie to Plainfield viewers. You can view Mayor Mapp's promotional annoucement here.

Nominated for an Oscar as 'Best Picture', the film tells the story of three dangerous months in 1965 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the push for voting rights for Blacks.

In the face of violent opposition, Dr. King led an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama's state capital, to advocate for equal voting rights.

After being attacked and having the attack broadcast nationally on TV, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (a significant section of which was set aside recently by the Supreme Court).

The film features a remarkable portrayal of King by Nigerian-born British actor David Oyelowo as well as a strong supporting cast. With four Golden Globe nominations and two for Oscars, the movie won an Oscar for Best Original Music.

The strong supporting cast includes Oprah Winfrey and rapper and actor Common.

Mayor Mapp originally planned a special free showing of the movie for March, in cooperation with the Plainfield Public Schools, which offered the Plainfield High School Auditorium as the venue. The auditorium, which seats 1,300, would have been ideal for an expected large community turnout.

Arrangements were handled by the Recreation Division. An employee contacted the distribution company and negotiated a detailed agreement on date, price and a showing to as large an audience as could be assembled, but one time only.

Plans went ahead to work out arrangements with the school district for the auditorium and a ticket distribution scheme was devised which woul have given residents and District students fair access to free tickets. Tickets were even printed up.

Then, at the last possible moment, just as the Mapp administration was about to issue a press release on the event, word came that the 'suits' in Los Angeles had put the kibosh on the project.

Business people at the L.A. studios advised the New York distribution folks that they would not allow a community showing in Plainfield. Specifically, their marketing rollout included a period during which the movie would only be allowed to be shown at college campuses.

So, Plainfield was the loser.

Or was it? We are getting to see themovie -- even if somewhat delayed -- but the studio forfeited invaluable publicity which a timely showing to an audience in a largely Black community would have generated.

You tell me who was the real loser.

'Selma' will be shown at 8:30 PM (it needs to be fairly dark for outdoor movies) this Thursday, July 30, outdoors at Aristacare Rehab Center, on Norwood Avenue. Aristacare, formerlyknown as Norwood Terrace is located directly behind United Presbyterian Church which is across the street from Richmond Towers.

Entry to the parking lots can be from Front Street at the church, or Norwood Avenue, which is well-posted with signs.

Be sure to bring lawn chairs or blankets -- the movie is being shown outdoors. Popcorn will be provided.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Union County Dem campaign expenditures


Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green
is also chair of the Union County Democratic Committee.

ELEC has released campaign expense figures for county party organizations for the 2015 Primary Election (see story here).

Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green is chair of the Union County Democratic Committee, which weighed in as follows --


Funds Raised
$72,954
Monies Spent
$109, 567
Cash on Hand post-election
$59,717
Net Worth
$51,163

The difference between Cash on Hand and Net Worth reflects any unpaid bills or loans outstanding.

With a little over 31,000 Democratic votes cast in Union County, this means the party spent an average of $3.51 for each vote.

These figures do not reflect the election of County Committee members (same a municipal committee members), which are outside the purview of ELEC -- hence Jerry Green's mailings from "Union County's Committee" -- and constitute an entirely separate campaign cost structure.

Ain't cheap, this politics business.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Free showing of the 'Selma' movie Thursday


Plainfielders get a special summer treat with a FREE showing
this Thursday at 8:30 PM.

Plainfielders will have a special summer treat with a FREE showing of the movie 'Selma' this Thursday evening as part of the Recreation Division's Thursdays at the Movies series. This comes after a twisted path in bringing the movie to Plainfield viewers. You can view Mayor Mapp's promotional annoucement here.

Nominated for an Oscar as 'Best Picture', the film tells the story of three dangerous months in 1965 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the push for voting rights for Blacks.

In the face of violent opposition, Dr. King led an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama's state capital, to advocate for equal voting rights.

After being attacked and having the attack broadcast nationally on TV, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (a significant section of which was set aside recently by the Supreme Court).

The film features a remarkable portrayal of King by Nigerian-born British actor David Oyelowo as well as a strong supporting cast. With four Golden Globe nominations and two for Oscars, the movie won an Oscar for Best Original Music.

The strong supporting cast includes Oprah Winfrey and rapper and actor Common.

Mayor Mapp originally planned a special free showing of the movie for March, in cooperation with the Plainfield Public Schools, which offered the Plainfield High School Auditorium as the venue. The auditorium, which seats 1,300, would have been ideal for an expected large community turnout.

Arrangements were handled by the Recreation Division. An employee contacted the distribution company and negotiated a detailed agreement on date, price and a showing to as large an audience as could be assembled, but one time only.

Plans went ahead to work out arrangements with the school district for the auditorium and a ticket distribution scheme was devised which woul have given residents and District students fair access to free tickets. Tickets were even printed up.

Then, at the last possible moment, just as the Mapp administration was about to issue a press release on the event, word came that the 'suits' in Los Angeles had put the kibosh on the project.

Business people at the L.A. studios advised the New York distribution folks that they would not allow a community showing in Plainfield. Specifically, their marketing rollout included a period during which the movie would only be allowed to be shown at college campuses.

So, Plainfield was the loser.

Or was it? We are getting to see themovie -- even if somewhat delayed -- but the studio forfeited invaluable publicity which a timely showing to an audience in a largely Black community would have generated.

You tell me who was the real loser.

'Selma' will be shown at 8:30 PM (it needs to be fairly dark for outdoor movies) this Thursday, July 30, outdoors at Aristacare Rehab Center, on Norwood Avenue. Aristacare, formerlyknown as Norwood Terrace is located directly behind United Presbyterian Church which is across the street from Richmond Towers.

Entry to the parking lots can be from Front Street at the church, or Norwood Avenue, which is well-posted with signs.

Be sure to bring lawn chairs or blankets -- the movie is being shown outdoors. Popcorn will be provided.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Assemblyman Bramnick's excellent idea


In the center, native grasses; on the left, wild fox grapes
which the critters in the back yard love. Here on busy
West 7th Street, we have rabbits, raccoons and a buck.

So Plainfield hometown kid and GOP Assembly leader Jon Bramnick is sponsoring legislation to help homeowners who want to create native vegetative habitats in their yards get around local zoning rules that generally prefer oceans of green grass as front yards.

I suspect that the power behind this thrust is actually coming from his wife, Pat Brentano, a painter whose work features landscapes and nature.

A Ledger story over the weekend (see here), profiled Bramnick's effort to team with AudubonNJ to help homeowners who wish to provide habitats for pollinators and wildlife and do their bit to help manage water runoff and pesticides leaching out of chemically-treated lawns.

My brother and his family live in Arizona. In Tucson, where he and his wife have a home, green lawns are a rarity. Folks are very sensitive to water issues (they get their water from the Colorado River) and their yards are basically desert with occasional wild flowers or a Saguaro here or there.

Farther north near Phoenix, where one of his daughters lives, the scene is quite different. There, many people have extensively -- and expensively -- cultivated green grass lawns, which are not only unnatural for the area, but indefensible in light of waste of water resources.

Closer to home, here in Plainfield, lawns may not be as much a threat to our water infrastructure, but they are costly and demanding in other ways.

We have long planted native grasses and other critter-friendly plants (such as butterfly-bush) in our very large back yard. Maybe this legislation will give us a reason to think about converting the front yard, too.

One thing about this bill strikes me as ironic, though.

I always thought Republicans were the party of less government, not more. Yet Bramnick and his GOP co-sponsors are falling back on the old Democratic practice of using more government activity to achieve a social good.

Mutatis mutandis.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mayor Mapp hosts community forum Tuesday



Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp will host a community forum on Tuesday at Rose of Sharon Church. The evening's event is sponsored by the City of Plainfield and the Central Jersey Clergy Association. View a brief public service announcement here.

Titled 'Restoring HOPE in Our Community', the forum will feature presentations on four themes: Healing, Opportunity, Possibilities, and Education.

Bishop LaVerne Lattimore Ball, host pastor, will deliver the invocation, after which there will be a welcome and remarks  by Mayor Mapp, and introductions and presentations by several clergy and community leaders. The event will be moderated by Diane Keel-Atkins.

Among those making presentations are the Rev. Gary Kirkwood, president of the clergy association; Carl Riley, the city's Director of Public Safety; the Rev. David Rodriguez, pastor of Emanuel Assembly of God Church, and community advocate Carlos Ponton, a member of Plainfield's Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs.

After a break, attendees will address their questions to a panel composed of the presenters.

The event is free and all are invited. Refreshments will be available. The forum gets under way at 7:00 PM sharp.

Rose of Sharon Church is at 825 West 7th Street, just past Grant Avenue. There is ample on-site parking.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Kissin' Cousins: Relationships that may surprise you: Lettuce


Lettuce is a kissin' cousin of . . . those?

Trying something new and casual for Plainfield Today's weekend readers.

I had a high school biology teacher who would occasionally try to interest students in the subject matter by asking if we knew which plants in a list were related to each other.

The little game always fascinated me, and I thought Plainfield Today readers might enjoy some of these plant pairings, so I'll call them 'Kissin' Cousins" and if the idea clicks I may do more in the future.

For today, did you know that Lettuce and Sunflowers are kissin' cousins?

Both are members of the Asteraceae, or daisy, family.

The resemblances become more obvious if we understand that, like dogs and cats, these plants have been bred for certain characteristics, which tends to mask their similarities.

What to you think of when you hear the word 'Sunflower'? Most likely, the 8-foot tall monsters with giant flowers. These are specially bred to be grown for their seeds, which are pressed for sunflower oil.

But doing this masks the fact that original sunflowers were smaller and more obviously daisy-like.



Sunflowers are an important commercial crop, grown for their
oil...



...which has led them to be bred into giants reaching as high as ten feet...



...but in their wild form, they much more resemble the daisy family
of which they are an important member.


Lettuce is a different story. Far from being bred to develop huge flowers, lettuce has been bred for its succulent leaves.

What we actually eat is immature lettuce, lettuce that has been harvested before its flower stalks, which can be as much as four feet high, develop.

Add to that the pressures of commerce, and you have Iceberg Lettuce, engineered to develop in a tight ball that would ship over long distances and still maintain its crispness.

Lettuce first appealed to the Egyptians, who grew it for its seeds, which produced an oil they found useful.

But along the way, they also found the immature plant's succulent leaves tasty. Food historians suggest that the most ancient lettuce cultivated for its leaves closely resembles what we today call Romaine Lettuce.

 


Iceberg lettuce is a marketing monstrosity...


...and hardly resembles its most ancient cultivated form,
which is today represented by Romaine lettuce.


You can begin to see its relation to the daisy family when
lettuce's flower stalks are allowed to develop...



...and the relationship becomes even more obvious
with the full flowers.

Hope you enjoyed this little weekend side trip!



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Dem power players pay court to Plainfield party chair Mapp

Mayor Adrian Mapp on Primary Day 2015, as word comes
in that his team has won control of the Democratic City Committee.
(Image courtesy David Rutherford at plainfieldview.)

Democratic Party power players gathered at Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's home Thursday evening to pay court to the city's new Democratic City Committee chair.

About a hundred people filled the spacious home, St. George's Manor, as the mayor and his vivacious wife Amelia mixed and mingled with the crowd, which enjoyed a liberal spread as well as cooling beverages.

It was great fun to see grassroots workers who have been with Adrian since the beginning of his long road to the mayor's office mingling comfortably -- and sometimes sparring with -- some of New Jersey's finest political leaders.

Among those spotted enjoying themselves in animated conversations with attendees --

  • Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, with whom Mayor Mapp has very cordial relations. Though not formally announced, he is considered among the front-running candidates when Gov. Chris Christie finally shuffles off the stage;

  • Christie tormentor Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who represents Middlesex County, was also there. We had a lively conversation on one of his favorite topics: How to fix the Transportation Trust Fund and NJ's disintegrating roads. Along with Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Wisniewski is responsible for bringing Christie and his administration to the bar of public opinion over the Bridgegate mess;

  • Union County Sheriff Joe Cryan, a man whose career move from the Assembly raised eyebrows but may make him THE power to be reckoned with in Union County in the long run; and

  • Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr, whose star I think will continue to rise despite the sharp elbows of her erstwhile friend (and former Assemblywoman) Linda Stender and UCDC chair Jerry Green.
Assemblyman Jerry Green, who lost the Plainfield Democratic party chairmanship to Mayor Mapp last month was also present.

After warmly greeting Mayor Mapp, Green took a chair by himself in the dining room, where a few people came up to greet him. Several of the guests remarked on how exhausted and unwell the former chairman looked. After about twenty minutes, I noticed that he had left.

Plainfield City Council members Cory Storch, Rebecca Williams and Diane Toliver were also there, as well as Wards 1/4 Council candidate Barry Goode. Among the missing were Councilors Bridget Rivers, Gloria Taylor, and Tracey Brown.

I noticed how different the tone was from twelve years ago, when the late Mayor Al McWilliams also won the city committee and displaced Jerry Green as chair. That time it was by a slender majority of the 68 committee seats.

This time around, Mapp's forces stormed the citadel and captured the prize with a commanding majority of 48 of the 68 seats.

While Al McWilliams was a remarkable man with a great vision for Plainfield, he absolutely detested the game of politics and it hampered his ability to push his vision forward.

Mayor Mapp, on the other hand, relishes the sport of politics and it has been evidenced in how the tone has shifted even in the short month since he won the chairmanship as well as the conviviality of Thursday's event.

An augury of better things to come.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

North Avenue update: Demolition, Mi Buenaventura


There's a reason why the fill at 117-25 North Avenue
doesn't meet the adjoining parti-wall.


Even casual drivers through Plainfield's historic North Avenue commercial district have probably noticed an odd sight: the apparently uncompleted cleanup of the demolition debris at 117-25 North Avenue.

Yannuzzi's equipment is neatly parked, most of the lot from the left toward the right is packed down with clean fill, and -- then it stops.

The fill tapers neatly down to the basement of the former building where a strip of the former basement a few feet wide runs along the parti-wall from back to front. Why?

I ran into City Administrator Rick Smiley and DPWUD Director Eric Watson the other day as they were inspecting the site, and learned that the reason is fears that the parti-wall of the adjoining building is perhaps unable to withstand the pressure of having the fill pushed up against it.

So, here we sit. The city must wait for the owner of that property to settle the issues around the damage done to his buildings by Yates and his subcontractor. How long that will take is anybody''s guess.

Meanwhile, the investigation the Council ordered into the demolition seems to have gone into a sort of limbo.

To add to the situation, rumors are floating among the merchants that the owner of the corner property facing Park Avenue (where Assemblyman Green had his campaign headquarters during the primary election) has bought 117-25 and is going to turn it into parking.

Not likely any time soon, city officials say. First there is the question of the liability issues with the damaged property, then liens on 117-25 North Avenue, all of which stretch into the future.

Not that some sort of parking expansion would be a bad idea. Any time you drive through this particular block, the diagonal parking on the right side of the street is completely taken, with a car or two idling, waiting for a space to open. On the left, the no-parking side, there are usually two or three vehicles illegally parked at the curb, narrowing the passage through the street.

All of this was unthinkable when the District was created and many of the stores were vacant. How times have changed!

MI BUENAVENTURA



May 20 has long come and gone. What's up?

Meanwhile, there is news to report on Mi Buenaventura's move to new quarters down the block at 175 North Avenue, directly across from the train station.

While a sign in the window proclaims the restaurant's reopening about May 20, the date is long past without the restaurant opening.

Turns out that Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development Carlos Sanchez moved heaven and earth to find a Small Business Administration loan program for the restaurant.


Having done that, the restaurant's owner must finalize some details with the state before the loan can be executed and the project can move ahead. In the meantime, there is activity at the site, where new kitchen equipment will have to be installed.

Besides this, on April 7 the Tri-County Latino Coalition of NJ started a community fundraising project for the restaurant on the GoFundMe website (see here). When I checked a few weeks ago, contributions had peaked at $265. Checking today, the link is gone -- evidently GoFundMe considers the campaign closed. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I contributed, though I never received any kind of acknowledgment.)

I wonder how many other downtown businesses are in a similar fragile situation -- with margins so slim that insurance is considered an expense that can be eliminated in order to stay open.


Is this a problem looking for a solution?


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Library board aims to continue excellence with new director


Library Director designee Mary Ellen Rogan in the library's
main reading room. Public access to the Internet has transformed
user expectations of public libraries, including Plainfield's.

Plainfield Public Library board president Anne Robinson says the 123-year-old institution aims to continue the library's tradition of excellence under newly appointed director Mary Ellen Rogan.

"The Library's trustees aim to continue the Plainfield Library's long tradition of excellence with this appointment," said Robinson in a phone interview. "The bar has been set very high by Joe Da Rold's excellent management over the past twenty-one years, and we are looking forward to Ms. Rogan's continuing and extending that leadership."

Rogan, who has been the library's Assistant Director since 2009, was selected from a field of about a dozen candidates who were considered for the job. The pool included candidates from as far away as Michigan and Florida as well as New Jersey, and many had extensive library management experience. Several applicants made it to a final round of visits to Plainfield and face-to-face interviews.

A Phi Beta Kappa honors graduate of Brooklyn College, Rogan got her master's degree in library science from Columbia University, magna cum laude. She pursued her career in the New York Public Library (NYPL) where her final position was Assistant Director of Special Formats Processing. In that role, she was responsible for processing and cataloging of maps, rare books, photographs and other special formats. She was also a  member of One NYPL, the team responsible for reorganizing the New York Public Library system. While at the NYPL, Rogan was responsible for developing and executing multi-million dollar budgets.

Along the way, she gained a significant background in the historical and cultural importance of New York's theatrical world as Senior Archivist of the NYPL's Billy Rose Theatre Division. Among her publications are studies on performing arts libraries, processing the New York Shakespeare Festival archives and the impact of the AIDS epidemic on performing arts archival collections.

Rogan is a member of the New Jersey Library Association's Urban Libraries Section as well as its History and Preservation Committee. She also serves on the LMxAC technical services committee and is the Director's Designee to the Libraries of Union County (LUCC).

She is an often sought out presenter on archival and genealogical topics, offering advice on such topics as the care of family Bibles and their records, as well as organizing and preserving personal papers.

Her work on the Shakespeare Festival Archives led to invitations to present that story to both the American Library Association convention and the Theatre Library Association.

Her personal and professional interests intersect in her service as the state vice-chair of Lineage Research for the Daughters of the American Revolution and as New Jersey registrar for the Daughters of 1812.

Rogan assumes the directorship of the Plainfield Public Library on September 1. Retiring Director Joe Da Rold will be honored for his distinguished career and service to Plainfield at an event at the Plainfield Country Club set for October. I will be posting more on that later.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I served as a Trustee of the Plainfield Public Library at the time the search first began, but had left the Board before any candidates were reviewed or interviewed by the Board of Trustees.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

SID sets summer concert, car show series




The annual summer concerts always draw a crowd.


Plainfield's SID (Special Improvement District) has set its 2015 summer concert and car show series for 2015.

The concert series runs on Thursday evening, from 6:00 - 8: 00 PM at the Fountain at Plainwood Square Park.

Here's the rundown --

  • July 30 - Classical music by the Plainfield Symphony Brass Quartet

  • August 6 - Doo Wop music by Party of Five

  • August 13 - Jazz by the Millgate Brass Quartet
August 13 will also feature a Car, Truck & Bike Show in the Fine Fare parking lot (across from Plainwood Square Park), from 6:00 - 9:00 PM.

The summer series concludes with a Family Fun Night on Thursday, August 21 from 6:00 - 9:00 PM at the Park-Madison Plaza, Park Avenue and West Front Street.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Council may extend grace period for tax bills tonight

 


Plainfield City Council may extend the grace period for 3rd Quarter tax bills at tonight's business meeting. The item may be added at the end of the regular meeting, which begins at 8:00 PM at the Council Chambers/Courthouse, Watchung Avenue at East 4th Street.

A new item has been put forward, Resoluion R 270-15, to extend the grace period owing to the late mailing of tax bills.

The online agenda includes no backup information about how much time is proposed to be added.

New items that are added after the Council's agenda-setting session must first be added to the business session agenda at that meeting, by a super-majority of five votes. Then, if added, the new item is deliberated and a vote taken in which only a majority of four is required for passage.

If you want to know more about the grace period extension, you can call the Tax Collector's office Tuesday at (908) 753-3214.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Plainfield political fundraising in the summer


Anyone running for public office knows it takes real money.
 

Politics in Plainfield continues during the hot summer months with some fundraising efforts. Three have recently come to my attention.

As anyone who hasn't been living under a rock understands, it costs money for those mailing pieces and lawn signs and TV ads. So, candidates are driven to passing the hat.

Here's the rundown --
Mayor Mapp
Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, newly elected chairperson of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee is hosting a Meet & Greet Cocktail Reception at his home, St. George's Manor, 535 Weat 8th Street.

Thursday, July 23, 6:00 - 9:00 PM. The invite says $250 minimum, but Mayor Mapp has a longstanding tradition of welcoming anyone who wishes to make a contribution.
Assembly Candidate Bill Michelson
Republicans will have an opportunity to meet one of the two candidates for the 22nd District's Assembly seats.

Bill Michelson, longtime resident and activist who currently chairs the Historic Preservation Commission is part of a slate challenging Democrats Green and Kennedy.

Also Thursday, July 23. From 7:00 - 9:00 PM at Michelson's home, 556 Belvidere Avenue. The ask starts at $50. Snacks and refreshments will be served. RSVP to (908) 889-5200.
Assemblyman Jerry Green
Incumbent Assemblyman Jerry Green is hosting a cocktail reception fundraiser for his re-election.

Wednesday, August 19, 6:00 - 8:00 PM. At Spain Inn, 1707 West 7th Street, Piscataway. The ask is $500. RSVP to (201) 457-9028.
Whatever your persuasion, the candidates can't get it done without your help.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Annual duCret Student Showcase and reception at Swain Galleries today


Plainfield's distinguished duCret School of Art.

Plainfield's historic Swain Galleries will host an opening reception for the annual duCret Student Showcase this Saturday (July 18) from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.

Thirty-one students' works selected from the annual Juried Student Exhibit at the school will be on display. Pieces include oils, watercolors, stained glass, jewelry, photography and more. The Student Showcase will run through August 15.

duCret has been preparing young artists for careers in fine and commerical art for more than eighty years. The school is housed in the former Wardlaw Country Day School complex, a historic mansion on Central Avenue.

Students in the exhibit reflect duCret's wide reach throughout the Garden State, including Rachel Witschen from Caoe May Courthouse in the south to Judy Kang from Old Tappan on the New York State border.

Area students from Fanwood, Scotch Plains, Piscataway and South Plainfield are included as well as three Plainfield students: Livi McNulla, Ally Washington and Angel Soto.

Swain Galleries is at 703 Watchung Avenue (corner of East 7th Street, parking off Watchung Avenue). Hours are: Tuesday through Friday, 10 AM - 5 PM; Saturday, 9:30 AM - 4 PM. More info at (908) 756-1707 or www.swaingalleries.com/.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Friday, July 17, 2015

PACHA engages Latino business owners' concerns


PACHA members (at table, L. to R.) Nelson Santana, Maritza
Martinez, Flor Gonzalez (chair), and Carlos Ponton.
NOTE: The post has been corrected to reflect the fact that some of those from the 6th Street Block Association who originally pushed for street cams are indeed still with us.

Plainfield's Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs (PACHA) continued its groundbreaking activities with an informal session with Latino business owners at Wednesday evening's regular meeting.

About twenty five business owners, most from downtown, attended and expressed their issues and concerns in a frank, earnest and amiable discussion. Business cards and promotional handouts from the various businesses were available on a table at the rear of the room.

The meeting was conducted by PACHA chairperson Flor Gonzalez, founder and president of the Latin American Coalition. PACHA member Maritza Martinez, owner of Maritza's Boutique and an officer in the SID, graciously provided translation in both Spanish and English of the discussion.

After a brief round of introductions, participants jumped right in with several concerns. Public Safety Director Carl Riley and Economic Development Director Carlos Sanchez were both present and fielded questions from attendees.

The concerns focused on six main areas --

Communications

As might be expected, many of the business owners were concerned that the City of Plainfield could do a better job in communicating with its Spanish-speaking residents.

While everyone was appreciative of the efforts by Mayor Mapp's team, which far surpass those of previous administrations, there are still areas that need to be addressed.

One in particular was having more bilingual staff for the 9-1-1 system. Another was more bilingual officers on foot patrol downtown during business hours.

A suggestion was also made that emergency messaging systems the City is using should be broadcast in Spanish as well as English.

Public Safety Director Carl Riley took notes during the discussion and promised to do what he could, but noted that the Police Division is down on active officers. Recruiting bilingual officers is one of his top priorities, he said. He also indicated the PD would look into the suggestion about emergency communications.

Police-Business Community Relations

The communications issues were closely linked to concerns with relations between the police and the business community.

Once again, the need for more truly bilingual officers was stresses. Director Riley pointed out that on his watch, the City has for the first time devised a screening process whereby police recruits who claim to be bilingual are engaged in a structured conversation to demonstrate their facility in both Spanish and English. Though Riley did not say so, there was a slight suggestion that some officers in the past "puffed" their bilingual chops.

Another concern was what may be characterized as a certain gruffness or abruptness by the police toward Latino business people, especially if they find English more difficult for them to communicate in.

I wondered to myself whether there wasn't an opportunity here for the Police Division and the business people to try and boost recruitment among young Latinos. Wouldn't that be an ideal partnership?

Lighting and Security

Concerns were expressed as well about lighting and security issues. Riley was able to report that the street cams -- so long awaited -- have been mounted and will be activated once PSEG has everything hooked up, probably by mid-August.

Riley pointed out that the cams would relay real-time images to a contral center at police headquarters, where officers would monitor them and be able to direct responses to trouble spots as soon as they are spotted.

This system was the dream of leaders of the East 6th Street Block Association more than 15 years ago. It is reassuring to see it will finally be realized, but it is sad to note that some of the original advocates are no longer with us to celebrate the progress.

Drug Dealing

Another concern was drug dealing. Several shopkeepers expressed frustration at how openly some dealers and dealing are. They also expressed the dilemma of one the one hand, being frightened to notify the police because of fears of retaliation and. on the other hand, reluctance to call the police because of unsympathetic reactions when they do call.

Clearly, more work remains to be done on this issue.

Parking Issues

Parking issues were also discussed, including, once again, police and meter maid interactions with the business community.

One thing that was NOT discussed was the complaint I have heard from many shoppers that quite a few shopkeepers park in front of their stores all day long, restricting access to easy parking on the part of shoppers.

Clearly, these issues would benefit from the parking study that was promised by the Administration some time back. What ever happened to that?

(In this vein, I have noticed the disappearance of several parking meters in the downtown shopping area, as well as "No Left Turn" and "Do Not Enter" signs that have gone missing without being replaced.)

C.O.P. Presence

Latly, there were several speakers who implored the city to bring back the satellite station and C.O.P. (Community Oriented Policing) program of several years ago, which it was felt made downtown shoppers feel more secure.

It made me recall the great buzz about the City's acquisition of a Segway capability. Seeing the officers zip up and down the sidewalks head and shoulders above pedestrian traffic was a dramatic visual sight and certainly enhanced a feeling of security and watchfulness in the shopping district.

Director Riley told me we still have the Segways, but no one is currently trained to use them.
Economic Development Director Carlos Sanchez wrapper up with a presentation that highlighted ways in which the City stands ready to help the Latino business community.

He pointed out the advantages of active participation in the SID (Special Improvement District), which works to market our retail districts -- Downtown and South Avenue -- to a wider public, and the advantages of the Urban Enterprise Zone, which include our well-regarded Sign & Facade program.

Sanchez also highlighted opportunities for small business loans and grants and noted that his office was ready to help, urging people to call or stop in.

While PACHA is an advisory group, this meeting clearly indicates that its current panel of volunteers are eager to connect with the business community. The presence of high level staff from the Mapp administration gives an indication of how seriously Mayor Mapp takes the necessity of developing a mutually beneficial working relationship between the City and the business community.

PACHA meets monthly on the third Wednesday at 7:00 PM in City Hall Library. The public is always welcome and has an opportunity to participate in the meeting. City Hall is at Watchung Avenue and East 6th Street. Parking and entry are available in the lot behind the building.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.