The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mapps host event for Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman Wednesday evening


Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Goleman recently met with City
Council candidates Rebecca Williams (r.) and Charles McRae (l.).

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman will be the guest of honor at an event Wednesday (June 1) being hosted by Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and First Lady Amelia Mapp.

The host committee includes Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr; Scotch Plains Mayor Kevin Glover; Freeholders Linda Carter, Bette Jane Kowalski and Sergio Granados; and Chief of Staff John Stewart.

Mapp gave a big boost to the political fortunes of Watson Coleman when, as Plainfield's mayor, he was the first in Union County to endorse her for the 12th Congressional District seat that became open when Rush Holt chose not to run again.

Watson Coleman has close ties to Plainfield, where her husband Bill served as interim pastor at First-Park Baptist Church a few years ago.

The event is from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at the Mapp home, St. George Manor, at 535 West 8th Street.

Suggested contributions range from $100/individual to a maximum of $2,700 and may be made online here.

There are whispers that a mystery special guest will make an appearance -- but you didn't hear it from me.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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BREAKING: Bill Clinton campaigns for Hillary at Union County College Wednesday


Bill campaigns for Hillary Wednesday at UCC Cranford campus.
 

Former President Bill Clinton will be at Union County College in Cranford on Wednesday to campaign for Hillary Clinton for President as we draw close to next Tuesday's Primary Election.

Bill and daughter Chelsea have made several appearances in New Jersey recently stumping for the former Senator and Secretary of State.

Bill will discuss Hillary's plans to break down the barriers that hold too many New Jerseyans back.

The rally is being organized and sponsored by the Union County Democratic Committee. This is the closest event you are likely to find for Hillary in our area.

While the event is free and open to all, you should RSVP (here) before going. UCC's Cranford campus is at 1033 Springfield Avenue. Doors open at 2:30 PM.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Mayor Mapp leads simple, dignified Memorial Day ceremony


Mayor Mapp and veterans placed a wreath at the War Memorial
at the flagpole.


Mayor Mapp is joined by Schools Superintendent Anna Belin Pyles (l.)
and Freeholder Linda Carter (r.) in recognizing
Plainfield Buffalo Soldier Donald Van Blake.


Plainfield High School ROTC cadets formed the color guard.


Councilor Barry Goode delivers the invocation.


Mayor Adrian O. Mapp led Plainfield veterans, residents and friends in a simple and dignified observance of Memorial Day Monday morning.

The mayor and veterans present marched from City Hall to the War Memorial at the flagpole in front of Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, where a wreath was placed.

After returning to City Hall, the remainder of the observance was conducted in front of the Veterans Memorial there.

The began with the national anthem, sung by Blessing Babayemi, and an invocation by Councilor Barry Goode.

After recognizing elected officials, Mayor Mapp singled out Donald Van Blake, Plainfield's only surviving Buffalo Soldier, for special mention.




PAAAS student Matthew Branch plays "Taps".

Brief remarks by Cornell Hawkins of American Legion Post 219 and Mayor Mapp were followed by a rendition of "Taps' by PAAAS student Matthew Branch, bringing the commemoration to a close.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Plainfield cemeteries on Memorial Day


Plainfield's Civil War veterans are buried in a circle known as
the 'G.A.R. Bivouac' at Hillside Cemetery.



Plainfield will commemorate those who made the supreme sacrifice for their county at Monday's annual Memorial Day Commemoration, which gets under way at City Hall at 10:00 AM.

It is a longstanding custom to decorate the graves of fallen service members with small American flags, placed there by veterans and community service organizations. In fact, Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day, from the custom of strewing flowers on the graves which grew up after the Civil War (it was still known by this name when I was a child).

I visited Plainfield's cemeteries on Sunday and photographed some of the displays.



A grave in the Methodist Cemetery on Plainfield Avenue.


...and one in the adjacent Baptist Cemetery. Both cemeteries
suffered from vandalism and neglect in the 1980s and 90s.



Gravesite in the Presbyterian Cemetery on Brook Avenue
in North Plainfield. These three cemeteries hearken back
to a time when denominational sensibilities were very strong,
and each major denomination had its own cemetery.


The Friends cemetery, adjacent to the Meeting House has no flags.
Quakers, who are pacifists, do not serve in the armed forces.
However, one Friend told me there is a Civil War veteran
buried here who served in the military, much to the scandal
of the local Meeting.


A grave at St. Mary's Cemetery on Berckman Street. Like the
other cemeteries (except for Hillside), it is surrounded by a
chain link fence and is not open for the public to visit.

Plan to bring an umbrella in case of showers, which have been predicted. The Ceremony will take place in front of City Hall.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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[Date corrected] Groundbreaking for South Second Street development Thursday


Rendering of the new warehouse facility for
ABC Supply Company on South Second Street.

Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and city officials will gather with principals of J. G. Petrucci and tD+Partners on Wednesday for the groundbreaking on the South Second redevelopment project.

The five-acre site between Grant Avenue and Muhlenberg Place, known to many as "the Oliver Brown site" has been vacant since a 1983 fire destroyed an indstrial building on the site.

While the site will accommodate a residential complex and a new warehouse for ABC Supply Company, it is expected that work will begin on the warehouse building planned for the Muhlenberg Place end of the site immediately, as ABC wants to be in the new building by the end of the year.

[NOTE DATE CORRECTION] The groundbreaking will take place at Noon on Thursday and the public is warmly invited. Catering for the event is by The Gumbo House and LiVay Sweet Shop.

Parking on the street.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Friday, May 27, 2016

Saturday is goddaughter Alexa Storch's wedding day


Alexa Storch and Pete Montenaro will wed today.
 

Saturday afternoon my goddaughter Alexa Storch will wed her sweetheart Pete Montenaro at Christ Episcopal Church in Newton, New Jersey.

Alexa, a budding artist now living in Chicago, is the daughter of Lois Mattson and Council President Cory Storch.

Fr. Robert Griner, formerly rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Plainfield, will officiate.

My best wishes to the newlyweds.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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City pool opening; Community Cookout set for Saturday


Hannah Atkins pool opens Saturday!
 

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of "summer" and this year is no exception in Plainfield.
HANNAH ATKINS POOL OPENS
The city's public pool at Hannah Atkins Playgroudn opens Saturday (My 28) for the summer season. Youngsters may swim from Noon to 5:00 PM. With temps in the high 80s, this will be a real treat!

Kids will meet Finn the Dolphin and enjoy free popcorn and popsicles. The first fifty to arrive will receive a free pair of goggles.

Hannah Atkins Playground is at 508-52 West 3rd Street, corner of Plainfield Avenue.

5th AVENUE SOCIAL CLUB COMMUNITY COOKOUT
The 5th Avenue Social Club is sponsoring a community cookout, also on Saturday -- from 2:00 to 8:00 PM at Bryant Park.

There will be food and fun for all. Music by DJs Fatt Rodney and Raheim, face painting for the kids, and free health screenings.

Fire Division trucks will be on hand for kids enjoyment. the Police Division will offer public safety tips and the Red Cross will offer smoke detectors.

Bryant Park is between East 5th and East 6th Streets, near Richmond Street.

There will be an after party at Club Cosmos on South Second Street from 9 PM - 2 AM.
Be sure to check the City of Plainfield Recreation Division's web page (here) for complete information on summer activities.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

(Board of Ed) Agenda for tonight's special BOE meeting posted, at last


Screenshot shows tonight's agenda was only created
late Wednesday afternoon. Not acceptable! (Click to enlarge)
 

The agenda for tonight's special Board of Ed meeting was posted -- finally -- late Wednesday afternoon (see here).

Two items will be taken up --
  • Roof repairs and replacements for Cook, Evergreen, Maxson and Plainfield High Schools, and

  • Out of District travel for Board members Morgan, Jeffers and Bellamy to Board-related conferences.
The meeting is being held -- inexplicably and annoyingly -- in the PHS Auditorium at 7:00 PM (note the time!).

The agenda was only posted to the District's website late in the afternnon. The screenshot above shows it was created at 4:25 PM on Wednesday (and which is not the fault of the person who created it).

I certainly hope Board President Morgan snaps the Superintendent to attention in the matter of public notices.

The call for special meetings must include the items to be acted upon and only those items may be taken up at the meeting. This was not done in this instance.

And the District could take a lesson from Municipal Clerk "AJ" Jalloh, who manages to get the Council's agendas online and in an email distribution by 72 hours before the meeting in the case of regular meetings and at least 48 hours before special meetings.

There is simply no excuse for the District to be so sloppy about such matters.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

School employee pleads guilty to defrauding Plainfield District of $20,000 in Bayway Lumber case


The US Attorney is working his way through the Bayway Lumber frauds.

The shoe finally dropped on the Bayway Lumber-Plainfield School District fraud case Wednesday.

Robert E. Banks, a carpenter and locksmith for the District, pled guilty Wednesday in federal court in Trenton to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

According to information from US Attorney Paul Fishman's office (see here), Banks conspired with employees of Bayway Lumber to defraud the District of nearly $20,000 over a period from 2007 to September 2015.

This was done in a variety of ways, including inflating invoices and billing for items never actually shipped. Banks, who had purchasing authority, then signed off on the fraudulent invoices.

As a reward, Banks received more than $9,000 in goods, including a laptop, a lawnmower, and a dishwasher.

Not mentioned in the US Attorney's press release is the fact that Bayway Lumber lost its certification as a state contract supplier as of January 2015. Since this fraud went on until September of that year, one wonders what kind of controls exist in the District's purchasing routines.

When I raised the question in February of whether any employees or Board members knew of the fraud (see post here), then-Board President Wilma Campbell took fright and had a questionable walk-on resolution passed at the Board's March 1 meeting authorizing the District to lawyer up to defend her from any accusations in the matter (see more on that matter here).

Banks will be sentenced in August and faces up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

See media coverage here -- Ledger | Courier | TAP | PolitickerNJ |


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gabby Giffords to open Hillary's Union County campaign office Wednesday


Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly will be featured guests
at the opening of Hillary Clinton's Union County HQ Wednesday.

In an email late Monday afternoon, Plainfield Democratic chair Adrian O. Mapp advised that former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly will be featured guests at the opening of Hillary Clinton's Union County headquarters Wednesday.

Mapp forwarded the news at the request of Union County Democratic Party chairperson Jerry Green.

Giffords, who represented Arizona's 8th Congressional District from 2005 until 2012, stepped down after a failed assassination attempt at an outdoor constituent event left her severely wounded.

She has since become an advocate for stricter gun control measures, and with her husband Mark Kelly, has formed Americans for Responsible Solutions to promote tougher gun laws, including stopping gun trafficking, and limiting the sale of high-capacity magazines and assault rifles.

Clinton's New Jersey presidential campaign will operate out of the Union County Democratic headquarters, which is where Wednesday's kickoff will take place at 2:00 PM. The headquarters is at 77 Brant Avenue, Suite 303, in Clark (see direction here).


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Monday, May 23, 2016

Mayor Mapp to recognize PAAAS achievement Wednesday


PAAAS will be recognized by Mayor Mapp at a Wednesday ceremony.

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp will recognize students, faculty and staff of the Plainfield Academy for the Arts and Advanced Studies (PAAAS) on Wednesday evening for the honor they have bestowed on the Queen City by being named a Bronze medalist in the annual US News rankings of "Best High Schools in the US".

I wrote about the award previously (see here). PAAAS was among those selected from nearly 20,000 high schools nationwide, based on their 2015 graduating class' performance in a variety of measures.

"This is the first time that I can ever remember a Plainfield public school receiving such distinguished recognition," said Mayor Mapp.

The news is especially gratifying since this was only PAAAS' second graduating class.

Mayor Mapp will present a proclamation to Principal Angela Bento on behalf of the whole school and staff. Board of Education members, as well as the Superintendent of Schools and the president of the Plainfield Education Association have been invited.

The ceremony, to which the public is invited, will take place at 7:00 PM Wednesday in the Rotunda of City Hall. Light refreshments will be provided.

Plainfield City Hall is at Watchung Avenue and East 6th Street. Parking and access are in the rear of the building.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cook School students to present The Lion King Jr.


Cook School students have been working for months
on a Disney musical for families and the community.


A group of Cook School students gave the audience a sneak preview of their production of the Disney hit The Lion King Jr. at the May 17 Board of Education meeting.


Cook School students gave a sneak preview
at last week's Board of Ed meeting.
 

Cook School students have been working for months to learn the script and songs to this 60-minute, one-act reduction of the full-scale Broadway show. The junior version features 17 roles and includes the complete storyline of the popular musical.

In addition to the production for school families and the community, the accompanying curriculum introduces these grade school youngsters to the behind-the-scenes skills needed in thatrical production -- including staing, props and lighting.

The ensemble includes students from the second to the sixth grades.

Cook School's production of The Lion King Jr. will offer TWO performances, both at the Hubbard School Auditorium --
  • Friday, June 3 - 7:00 PM
  • Saturday, June 4 - 2:00 PM
Tickets are $10/VIP seating, $8/adult, $4/children (12 and under). For ticket information, call (908) 731-4210.

Hubbard Middle School is at 661 West 8th Street (bertween Irving Place and Spooner Avenue). Parking available in the lot on Stelle Avenue side or in the street.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Plenty of things to do in Plainfield this weekend


Hip Hop aficionado Kurtiss Jackson's collection of
memorabilia goes on exhibit at the Library Saturday.
 

Whatever the weather, Plainfield will be busy with several things to do this weekend.
PLAINFIELD RESCUE SQUAD OPEN HOUSE
Saturday, May 21 - 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Rain or shine

In honor of EMS Week, our own Plainfield Rescue Squad will be hosting an Open House on Saturday, giving residents an opportunity to get a glimpse of the squad in action.

There will be skits, a blood pressure station and demonstrations, with free goodies for the kids.

The Plainfield Rescue Squad is at 700 West 7th Street, corner of Spooner Avenue. Parking available on the street.

HIP Hop EXHIBIT AT THE LIBRARY
Saturday, May 21 - 11:00 AM

Plainfield resident Kurtiss Jackson is curating an exhibit of his extensive collection of Hip Hop memorabilia covering the past 25 years at the Plainfield Public Library's Anne Louise Davis Gallery.

Jackson will be joined by Kurt Nice, a behind-the-scenes pioneer in Hip Hop who has published two books on the subject. They will make a brief presentation along with Library Director Mary Ellen Rogan at 11:30 AM. Jackson will be on hand throughout the day to explain items in the collection and answer questions.

The extensive collection is being donated by Jackson to the Library and will become part of its permanent collection, available for research by students and professionals interested in the history of Hip Hop.

The exhibit will be on display through the end of July. The Plainfield Public Library is at Park Avenue and 8th Street, with parking in its two lot or on the street. The Library is an accessible facility. For more information, visit the Library's website here.

NJ YOUTH SYMPHONY SPRING CONCERTS
Saturday, May 21 - 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM

Members of the New JerseyYouth Symphony will present two Spring concerts on Saturday at the Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church.

The young performers are in several groups, depending on age and level of performance.

Among the works featured are the theme from Mahler's Symphony No. 1, Four Japanese Folk Songs, Thre Bach Chorales for wind ensemble, and Bizet's Carmen Suite No. 1 and No. 2.

Tickets are $15/adult, $10/students and seniors and are available at the door.

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church is at East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue. Parking available in the church lot on First Place, on the street, or in the Swain Gallery lot. The church is an accessible facility.

23rd ANNUAL FOSH GARAGE SALE
Sunday, May 22 - 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Rain or shine

The Firends of Sleepy Hollow (FOSH) are hosting the 23rd annual community-wide garage sale on Sunday.

This popular event annually draws thousands to the Queen City to hunt for bargains and unique items ranging from furniture to appliances, from art and books to tchotchkes of every description.

Maps indicating the location of participating homeowners are available at each location. I suggest starting along Watchung Avenue and explore outward from there.

CRESCENT CONCERTS: LOVE IS A MANY-SPLENDORED THING
Sunday, May 22 - 3:00 PM

Crescent Concerts will present the Crescent Singers in its season finale concert title "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Billed as a concert of favorites with a theme of "love", both sacred and secular, the audience will be treated to the superb choral artistry of the Crescent Singers.

Tickets: $20/adult, $15/seniors, $5/students are available at the door. Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church is at East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue. Parking available in the church lot on First Place, on the street, or in the Swain Gallery lot. The church is an accessible facility.
NOTE: The Ward 2 Family Fun Day originally slated for Saturday at Leland Park is being rescheduled. I will advise as soon details are available.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Plainfield's most prominent Trump supporter?



Burning Question: Is Plainfield's newest Republican
a Trump supporter?

Is Plainfield's most prominent Trump supporter also one of the Queen City's newest Republicans?

Could be.

Word travels slowly uphill from Elizabeth to Plainfield, but it eventually reaches the county's reliable Democratic stronghold.

And the word is that longtime Democratic ward heeler, Dem City Committee member, and Housing Authority commissioner Hattie Williams has switched her party registration to Republican.

So, as Donald Trump clinches the Republican nomination, can we expect to see the formidable Ms. Williams campaigning for him?

Or is there some other reason for the switch of political allegiance?

Politics, as they say, certainly makes for strange bedfellows.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Rihanna thanks Plainfield Good Samaritans


Pop star Rihanna thanks Plainfielders for help with flat tire.
 

In an item on Daily News 11, pop idol Rihanna is said to thank Plainfield
Good Samaritans for coming to her aid when she had a flat tire while passing through the Queen City (read the story here). My thanks to reader JB for the tipoff.

The Barbadian-born superstar considers Madonna her idol and biggest influence, though she recalls as a child going around the house singing Whitney Houston songs and using her hairbrush as a mike.

Rihanna graciously thanks the several drivers who stopped -- without knowing who she was -- to offer her help with the flat.

The story warmed the hearts of several readers who posted positive comments about Plainfield to the article's Facebook page.

The only problem is that Daily News 11 is a fantasy news site, with most of its articles being fantasy or satire.

Pity is wasn't factual, since Plainfield's Barbadian-born mayor, Adrian Mapp, would surely have given her a key to the City and offered some of his fabulous homemade rum punch.

Maybe next time, Rihanna!


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Facing Foreclosure? City offers help


Free workshop for those facing foreclosure.
 

Though the nation's housing bubble collapse is nearly eight years behind us, many Plainfield homeowners are still facing foreclosure.

The City of Plainfield and Shiloh Baptist Church are sponsoring a FREE workshop for homeowners facing foreclosure this Thursday (May 19), from 6:30 to 8:00 PM.

The Sun Foreclosure Prevention Program will discuss what options are available to homeowners in distress, including new and innovative programs.

If you are facing foreclosure, you may not have to lose your home.


Though the program is free, reservations are requested as space is limited. Call (908) 753-3610 to make your reservation.

The free workshop is being held at Shiloh Baptist Church, West 4th and Liberty Streets. Parking available in the West 5th Street lot.

If you're having trouble with your mortgage, you owe it to yourself to check out the help this program offers.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Tuesday is last day to register for June Primary


Final opportunity to register for the June Primary election.
 

Plainfield
residents get one last chance to register for the June 7 Primary Election.

Whether you want to weigh in for The Donald, Bernie or Hillary or any of the other offices on the ballot, if you are NOT registered, you will miss out unless you take advantage of this last-minute opportunity.

Municipal Clerk "AJ" Jalloh announced that the Clerk's office will be open Tuesday, May 17, from 6:00 AM to 9:30 PM for in-person registration.

If you are not sure about your registration, you may check it online here (and also find your polling location).

For your convenience, you may download a voter registration form from the City's website here.


The City Clerk’s Office is located on the first floor of City Hall, Watchung Avenue at East 6th Street. Parking and entry available at the rear of the building. For more information, call the Clerk's Office at (908) 753-3222.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

PEA seeks input on lunches in Plainfield schools


With Sodexo contract expiring, PEA seeks input.
 

The Plainfield
Education Association (PEA), the union representing the school district's teachers and support staff is seeking input on the school lunch program.

Sodexo is the current contractor for food services to the District, and its contract expires June 30.

PEA has put up an online survery (see here), seeking input from District employees, parents and the community.

Though there is no due date mentioned in the survey, if you are going to take it, please do so as soon as possible.

If you are a community member and you wish to make suggestions, please note that you must answer each of the questions in order to complete the survey. If you have no first-hand experience of the individual questions, use the "other" line, which allows you to do type a short string o text (I suggest "N/A" or "not applicable").

School lunches have been in the news lately, with lawyers Kirk Nelson and Frank Capece coming to trial over allegations of abetting misuse of the Federal free lunch program in the Elizabeth school district.

As a result of that investigation, the Elizabeth Board of Ed reimbursed the lunch program for $182,000 in meals to the Board itself and another $90,000 for meals to prinicpals and administrators (see story here).

While I have never heard even a whisper of such abuse in Plainfield, it would be fair to ask how the Board's meals are paid for and how that vosts.

The next regular business meeting of the Board of Ed is Tuesday, May 17, at 8:00 PM.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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