The needler in the haystack.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Plainfield residents eligible for gun buyback this weekend

Plainfield residents are eligible to participate
in this weekend's gun buyback program.

Plainfield residents are eligible to participate in a no-questions-asked gun buyback program this weekend.

Cash payouts of up to $200 per firearm are being made available to members of the public, according to acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park, Freeholders Chairman Bruce Bergen, Sheriff Joseph P. Cryan, and Union County Public Safety Director Andrew Moran.

The event is being held from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM on Friday, July 28 and Saturday, July 29. One of the three locations for the buyback, being coordinated by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark, is the Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church on Lyons Avenue in Newark. The other locations include Antioch Baptist Church in Camden and Friendship Baptist Church in Trenton.

New Jersey residents can turn in up to three firearms of any type, no questions asked, and receive payouts of $100 for a rifle or shotgun, $120 for a handgun or revolver, and $200 for an assault weapon. Police officers and law enforcement firearms experts will be on hand to assist with the valuation and securing of turned-in weapons. 

Pursuant to New Jersey Statute 2C:39-6g, all weapons being transported to the gun buyback locations must be carried unloaded and contained in a closed and fastened case, gun box, or securely tied package, and locked in the trunk of the vehicle in which it is being transported. Also, pursuant to the statute, driving to and from the locations must "include only such deviations as are reasonably necessary under the circumstances."

Since 2013, two law enforcement-run gun buybacks were held in Union County-- including Plainfield-- resulting in the collection of nearly 1,500 firearms.

"We were extremely pleased with the results of our previous events, and we recommend and encourage that any resident of Union County seeking to dispose of a firearm or firearms participate in this program," Prosecutor Park said. "One of this Office's top priorities is investigating, prosecuting, and preventing violent crime - and reducing the number of dangerous weapons in Union County neighborhoods is a simple, effective way to work toward that goal."

"It's an imperative for us in law enforcement to do everything in our power to take as many guns off our streets as possible, and buybacks such as these are useful mechanisms through which many hundreds of firearms are collected at once," Sheriff Cryan said. "These are weapons that are out of the picture for good - they'll never be a factor in an intentional or accidental incident that results in an injury or death - and all of us are a little safer because of it."

The Attorney General's Office is paying for the gun buyback with forfeiture funds obtained by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey State Police, and the three participating County Prosecutors' Offices, in Camden, Essex, and Mercer counties. Payouts will be made on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The gun buyback has also been promoted through radio, newspaper, bus transit, social media, and other advertising throughout the month. Any resident with questions about the buyback effort can call the Attorney General's Citizen Services unit at 609-984-5828 or visit; frequently asked questions and answers can also be accessed online at

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

GOP asks for a helping hand on killing Obamacare

Cartoonist Matson, for
The Hill.

Shifting our gaze from Plainfield today.

From time to time, Politico magazine publishes a roundup of editorial cartoons. The toon above is from the most recent collection (see here), featuring the Obamacare repeal drama and assorted Trump activities.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Plainfield gets nearly perfect score on audit

Mayor Mapp's insistence on dealing with the city's
auditors' recommendations has paid off.

Plainfield's CY2016 audit was released on Friday, revealing a near-perfect score on the questions of Recommended Actions.

Thanks to the persistence of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, himself a Certified Municipal Finance Officer, Plainfield has gotten its act together big time since he became mayor in 2014.

In addition to missing cash problems that affected the Health Division, the Tax Collector's office and the Recreation Division in past years, there were longstanding problems -- noted in the audits' Recommendations sections. Among the perennial process and record-keeping issues in Plainfield have been failure to deposit cash on time, purchases circumventing the purchasing procedures, and sloppy record-keeping.

As I pointed out in reviewing last year's audit (CY2015, see here), in his third year in office, Mayor Mapp had reduced the flagged items in the Recommendations section from 34 findings (filling five pages) in Mayor Robinson-Briggs' final year, to seven findings in 2015 -- four of which concerned infractions of purchasing rules.

This year, there is only one recommendation, and that concerns the outsourced animal control program:

Monthly animal control reports filed with the state were not filed on a timely basis and were not always filled out accurately, resulting in paying the State incorrectly.

RECOMMENDATION: That monthly animal control State reports be reconciled with license fees collected.
The audit document should appear on the city's Municipal Finance web page (see here) within the next day or two.

Congratulations to Director of Administration & Finance Ron West and his crew for their hard work. We can practically see the Promised Land from here.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Plainfield Car, Truck & Bike Show this Thursday

This vintage car exhibited at a 2012
Latin Rides show produced by G-Wiz.

Plainfield's Special Improvement District (SID) hosts the FREE 2017 Plainfield Car, Truck & Bike Show this Thursday evening from 6:00 to 9:00 PM.

The show is produced by George Withers of G-Wiz Auto Entertainment and will offer for your  delight a show of classic, muscle and vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles. There NO VEHICLE REGISTRATION CHARGE for this show, but exhibitors must register with G-Wiz in advance of the show -- call (908) 482-8132.

Many Plainfielders have seen G-Wiz shows at various venues throughout the city and won't want to miss this one.

Also performing as part of the evening fun will be Party of Five, an a cappella doo-wop group, who will entertain with classic doo-wop songs.

The Plainfield Car, Truck & Bike Show will be in the Fine Faire parking lot, 1405 South Avenue. (Rain date: Thursday, July 27 -- but the forecast is hot and clear for this Thursday).

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Monday, July 17, 2017

Back to School Book Bag Drive under way

The annual Book Bag and school supplies drive
is under way.

Plainfield Action Services is conducting its annual Book Bag Drive through next Tuesday (July 25).

Residents are asked to donate book bags and school supplies for the upcoming school year. The donations will be made into book bag kits that will be distributed to students at this year's National Night Out celebration on Tuesday, August 1.

The book bag giveaway is a popular component of the city's annual National Night Out celebration.

The deadline for donations is Tuesday, July 25. Plainfield Action Services is located on the first floor of City Hall Annex, 510 Watchung Avenue. For more information, call PAS at (908) 753-3519.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sunday, July 16, 2017

FREE Youth Basketball Skills Camp is this week

Free Basketball Skills Camp offered to
Plainfield youngsters this week.

The Plainfield Division of Recreation is offering a FREE Basketball Skills Camp this week at Hannah Atkins Playground.

The Camp is free to young Plainfield residents ages 8 to 14 and runs from Tuesday (July 18) through Thursday (July 20), 9:00 AM to Noon.

Young people may register on site with Coach Wayne or Coach Hasan.

The Camp is part of a series of programs offered by Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and the City Council in an effort to blanket the city with summer recreation and cultural opportunities while school is out.

Hannah Atkins Playground is at West 3rd Street and Plainfield Avenue. For more information, contact the Division of Recreation at (908) 753-3097.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Neighborhood Health Center is NOT closed

Logo developed for the Neighborhood Health Services
Corporation after its name was changed from
the Plainfield Health Center.


That is a direct quote from a well-known Plainfield political figure, and it fits my note on the Health Center posted on CLIPS at 1:17 AM on Saturday morning.

I went over to the Center a little past noon on Saturday, to find the place hopping with activity and 33 cars parked in the staff and patient parking areas.

Late this evening, I got a blistering email from retired police captain (and former Public Safety Director) Siddeeq El-Amin, who is also chairman of the Neighborhood Health Center's Board, which I am reprinting below --

Today I saw your Clips and was completely astonished at what I read.  You have known me for decades in the City of Plainfield.  You have known me for my employment with the Plainfield Police Division, known me as a former Public Safety Director, known me a member of the Planning Board, and known me as the Board Chairman for the Neighborhood Health Center.  And you certainly know my personal cell and home numbers.  Good investigative reporters would know how to obtain them.

So why in hell couldn't you just call me, or email me, when you received that initial "rumor" of the Health Center allegedly closing?  But no, you decided to post a tantalizing tidbit on your Clips that you were "chasing down a rumor the Neighborhood Health Center has been shut down. Check back for more on Sunday
."  Are you now trying to be like FOX News?

Fact:  the Neighborhood Health Center is NOT SHUT DOWN OR CLOSED!   But you would have known that if you had bother to contact someone in authority at the Health Center.  This is the very reason why so many Plainfielders don't take your utterances with any form of seriousness.  You major in gossip and speculation and minor in facts.  Writing titillating "rumors and speculations" in attempts to get readers to return for more may work in the "National Enquirer" environment but Plainfield citizens deserve better.  Unfortunately, you are not able to deliver better.  And the damage you have caused to the Health Center, the only major health provider for the uninsured and underinsured populations in the Plainfield area is unspeakable.

Siddeeq W. El-Amin, BS (RU'68), MPA (RU'97)

Siddeeq is right. I do have his numbers, though I decided 1:00 AM was really too late to call -- anyone. My bad judgment was to print the "tantalizing tidbit" -- out of fear of being "scooped" if the story was in fact true.

Thankfully, it is not, as my trip to the Center Saturday mid-day confirmed.

I have written over the years about both the Neighborhood Health Services Center (see here) and its predecessor, the Plainfield Health Center (see here).

Siddeq is correct that the Neighborhoord Health Center is the "only major health provider for the uninsured and underinsured populations in the Plainfield area."

Its loss would be tragic indeed.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Friday, July 14, 2017

'Taming of The Shrew' at Cedar Brook Park Sunday


Crowd watching a 2015 performance of
Romeo & Juliet at Cedar Brook Park.


An abridged version of Shakespeare's comedy The Taming of the Shrew will be offered in a FREE presentation at Cedar Brook Park this Sunday (July 15) at 1:00 PM. The play will be offered on the county's portable stage near the cricket pitch next to the Shakespeare Garden.

The annual Shakespeare performances are funded by the Union County Freeholders and feature the NJ Shakespeare Theater's Next Stage Ensemble, a summer touring program of students working toward professional careers in the theater.

The group has presented annually at Cedar Brook Park for several years now, and attracts a sizeable audience.

Bring chairs or blankets. Parking on the Park Drive next to the Shakespeare Garden. Accessible restroon facilities available.

The weather is expected to be sunny and warm.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Steve Gallon case shows why getting Superintendent search right is critical

Campaign photo from Gallon's 2016 run for Miami-Dade
Board of Education.

Dr. Steve Gallon, the Plainfield school superintendent who left amid scandal in 2010, was sanctioned and lost his teaching and administrator's certifications in Florida on Thursday (July 13), according to a story in the Miami Herald (see here).

His story is a sober warning to Board of Education members and the rest of the community -- including teaching staff, administrators, union leaders and community stakeholders -- how important it is to get the Superintendent search right. Thorough vetting and taking no shortcuts are the lessons we can take from the Gallon experience.

Gallon was charming and manipulative, which should have raised red flags.

He brought along with him from Miami two females who were unqualified and uncertified for the top administrative positions he carved out for them. More red flags!!!

What really brought the house of cards tumbling down was the discovery that Gallon allowed the address of his condo in South Plainfield to be used as the "home" address for the two women's children. (The women were actually living in Perth Amboy, and the children should have attended Perth Amboy schools.)

(In a recent case of tuition fraud, a parent living in South Bound Brook owes the Bridgewater-Raritan school district more than $38K for one year's tuition for the out-of-district child.)

In today's story, the Miami Herald reports the youngsters in the NJ case as Gallon's "godsons" -- a reference I do not recall ever having been made in the New Jersey matter. The story also notes that the decision of the Florida Education Practices Commission does not affect Gallon's service on the Miami-Dade Board of Ed, to which he was elected last year.

In any event the Plainfield Board of Education, which chooses the Superintendent, must be ever-vigilant against doing an incomplete or shallow vetting of candidates.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Annual Council-PMUA exhibition match highlight of Monday meeting

The world according to the PMUA.
(Cartoon courtesy Mark Anderson)

Once again, the Plainfield City Council and the PMUA put on their annual exhibition match at Monday evening's Council double-header. That, plus one agenda item, made for the only items of note for the evening.

The questions raised by the Councilors are always the same: Why are rates so high compared to other municipalities? Why does generating more revenue by expanding services to other communities never seem to put a dent in Plainfield's rates? Why can't the PMUA rates be folded into owners' property taxes so they can claim a deduction?

Executive Director Daniel Mejia and CFO Duane Young answered questions on behalf of the Authority, while most of the Commissioners sat in the front rows of the audience.

As the proceedings wore on, it became clear that the Authority did not wish to get into any detail on any of the questions, closing off most discussion with the ever faithful "but Plainfield is different" argument, meaning the PMUA asserts no comparisons can be made.

After an hour, the sides called in quits -- until the next time.

If the Council really wants to get to the bottom of their concerns, they are going to have to shell out for professional assistance in analyzing the PMUA's books. Will they do it? Your guess is as good as mine.

The agenda item that caused some note was R241-17, a proposal to renew the city's contract with Associated Humane Societies to provide animal control services for another year for $121,890.

This had been tabled at the June business meeting after several residents questioned some of AHS's practices, including excessive euthanization of cats and dogs, and difficulties retrieving and returning lost pets to their owners.

When the agenda came to this item, Council President Williams noted the resoltuion's purpose and asked for someone to move the resolution.


The meeting moved on to the next item.

Not taking up a resolution at the next meeting after which it has been tabled means that the resolution has died. To proceed, it will have to be offered as a new resolution at a future meeting.

This means the Administration must address the concerns which caused it to be tabled in the first place, and then try again.

The City Council meets again on August 14 for a combined agenda/business meeting. Time will probably be 7:00 PM, at the Council Chambers / Courthouse, East 4th Street and Watchung Avenue.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Council takes up proposal for online street openings permit system Monday

Utilities must get (and pay for) permits to open streets.

Plainfield City Council will take up an interesting and innovative proposal at Monday evening's combined Agenda/Business meeting -- which starts at 7:00 PM in the Courthouse. This will be the ONLY Council meeting in July.

The matter to be taken up (R 238-17) would have the City contract with Savory Technology Partners of Newark to provide an online street openings permitting process.

According to Director of Public Works and Urban Development Orrin Dabney, the city receives about 600 requests for street and sidewalk openings each year. These are submitted on paper forms and a written permit is issued which must either be mailed to the applicant or picked up by the applicant with a second visit to the Division's offices.

Dabney estimates that the requests and backup materials (including plans and drawings) generate 12,00 pages of paper files that must be maintained by the Division. He says that as of 2016, the Division has run out of physical space to store more documents, necessitating a new approach to the problem.

The inferene in the proposal is that customers (residential or business -- including utilities) would be able not only to fill out the permit form online but would be able to add the plans and drawings necessary for the Division to make an inormed decision.

Fees would be $5/opening for resident requestors and $10/opening for businesses and utilities.

Dabney estimates that the City would save considerably in staff time needed to search and retrieve paper files and to answer customer inquiries about the status of permits.

Additional benefits to the City will include quicker acess by the City to the funds and minimizing human error associated with manually processing payments.

The only question I can see that might be raised by the public is whether the applications and permits will be available for online inspection by the general public. In fact, that would be a perfect question for Councilor Toliver, who has made a point of keeping a sharp eye on street openings.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Friday, July 7, 2017

Jesuit writer addresses LGBTs and the Catholic Church at Sunday talk

Fr. James Martin, SJ, who is on the editorial staff of
the Jesuit magazine, will speak at Sacred Heart Church Sunday.

Jesuit priest and author James Martin, whose new book (Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into A Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity, more here) is gaining a wide reading in both Catholic circles and LGBT community, will speak about his new book and the possibility of building bridges with the LGBT community in a talk at South Plainfield's Sacred Heart Church Sunday (July 9) at 3:00 PM.

Gay Catholics have often been treated shabbily by the Church in the past, and while there has been much change in recent decades, Fr. Martin presses for the Church to move beyond tolerance to inclusion.

That is a big ask, but Martin seems to be in good company -- all the way from Pope Francis himself ("Who am I to judge?") to Newark's newly appointed archbishop, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, and many parish priests in New Jersey, who labor quietly to build parishes that are inclusive and show respect to all who enter.

Sunday's talk is being sponsored by "In God's Image," a ten-year-old LGBT group that meets regularly at Sacred Heart.

Fr. Martin will be available for a Q&A after the talk, and the book will be availalbe for purchase through Little City Books of Hoboken, which will be on site. Fr. Martin will sign copies purchased that day.

Sacred Heart Church is at 149 South Plainfield Avenue, South Plainfield, NJ (see map here) or visit the parish website here.

Many thanks to old friend, longtime Plainfielder and RSVP charter member Bruce Zehnle who tipped me off the event was coming.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Assemblyman Jerry Green brings home the bacon for new YMCA program

The upper floors of Plainfield's historic YNCA
would be converted into 31 studio apartents for
young people aging out of the foster care system.

Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green, who is also Speaker Pro Tempore of the New Jersey Assembly, has brought home the bacon for the YMCA, putting together a financing package that will allow the Plainfield YMCA to move forward on a multi-million dollar renovation of the YMCA building that will replace SRO rooms with studio apartments for young people 18-24 who are aging out of the foster care system.

The Assemblyman's office released details on Thursday, July 6 --

Assemblyman Jerry Green announced today that a portion of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Plainfield will be rehabilitated into affordable housing for youth, ages18-24, who are aging out of foster care.

The developer, Eastern Pacific Development, LLC, anticipates construction to begin in December 2017 with an anticipated completion date of May 2019.

The $9.5 million project includes bridge financing recently committed from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Financing Agency (HMFA) during their June 27, 2017 board meeting. The financing includes a $4.86 million permanent bridge loan from revenue bond financing and approximately $3 million in permanent financing from the Sandy Special Needs Housing Fund (SSNHF). Additional sources of income include $6 million in construction financing from New Jersey Community Capital and $500,000 in capital funds from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. The borrower is also applying for 4 percent tax credits.

“I would like to thank the State of New Jersey and congratulate YMCA President Ravenell Williams and YMCA Board President Kieran Anderson, for working with my office on these efforts. This is a unique housing project in Plainfield that many state residents will benefit from.  We will be home to only the second facility in the state to provide housing for youth aging out of foster care. I couldn’t be happier than to know that our Queen City is leading the way in providing these life-changing services,” said Assemblyman Green (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union).

The existing vacant and dilapidated units located on the second and third floors of the YMCA property will be demolished and substantially rehabilitated to include the new construction of 31 units, at an average of 413 square feet per unit. The building will be also expanded by approximately 5,000 square feet. Thirty of the efficiency units will be designated for youth aging out of foster care and one rent-free unit set aside for the superintendent. The first and fourth floors will remain YMCA facilities.

All units will have private kitchens and bathrooms and Energy Star appliances.  Elevator service, a secured entrance, common laundry facilities, office space for property management and support service functions, on-site parking, and access to all YMCA facilities will also be offered. Additional items in the scope of work include the installation of an elevator, replacement of roof, renovation of downstairs lobby entrance, and new security camera system.

Case management services will be available to the residents, including skills development, housing, education/vocational training, physical/mental health and employment.

The project, located in a Smart Growth Area and a Metro Planning Area, is within walking distance to a grocery store, pharmacy, restaurants, Union County College, social services, buses, and a train station.

Vanguard Realty will provide property management services, with the Plainfield YMCA providing onsite management and maintenance personnel. Security will be staffed 24/7 with the existing security staff that presently services the building.

The proposed net rents, set at Union County Fair Market Rents, are $1,007 per month. The project will provide Section 8 Rental Assistance Vouchers through the Housing Authority of Plainfield.

The developer, Eastern Pacific Development, located in Vineland, specializes in high quality housing, assisting municipalities in meeting their obligation to provide affordable housing, often with the added benefit of renovating older, deteriorating buildings into modern housing complexes. Brookfield Construction will serve as the General Contractor. 

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Board of Ed sets special meeting for Thursday, action may be taken

Seal of the Plainfield Board of Education.

The Plainfield Board of Education has set a special meeting for Thursday, July 6 at 7:15 PM in the Plainfield High School Conference Room. Mind the time! -- It is not the usual hour.

The agenda is online here.

The two resolutions to be presented appear to cover one (or more?) transfer/reassignment, and a resolution of thank acknowledging retiring staff. The agenda shows that the public will be given time to make comments.

Parking is available on the street and in the Stelle Avenue lot.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Pre-parade breakfast kicks off long day for officials

For elected officials, July 4th is perhaps the longest working day of the year.

Their day gets under way at 9:00 AM with a breakfast at City Hall. As the officials and parade dignitaries assemble, it is time to put on the sashes that are dole out, grab a bit to eat, chat with fellow officials and get a ride to the staging area off East Front Street.

After the parade, there is usually a luncheon for elected officials and parade staff.

At five o'clock, the concert begins -- and runs non-stop right up to the start of the fireworks display at dusk.

After the last spectacular shell bursts, officials and July 4 staff can finally call it a day -- somewhere around 10:00 PM.

Thanks to Nat Singleton, Director of the city's IT shop, for this footage of the morning breakfast event.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Shutdown over, Beaches and State Parks will be open July 4

Christie and family enjoy beach closed to the public.

Word came shortly before 11:00 PM on Monday that the budget impasse between Gov. Chris Christie and state legislative leaders had been resolved.

The best news is that state parks, beaches, and recreation areas will be open to the public on July 4.

Christies had the beach all to themselves, because -- Christie
said -- "I'm the governor and they (the public) are not."
(Photo, CNN)

Christie has been scorched by criticism and mocked on social media when he and his family were spotted enjoying the beach at the state's beach house for the governor at Island Beach State Park -- which the governor and his family enjoyed whule the public was barred from entry.

Meanwhile, the public had its own ideas. (Photo, Inquirer)

Christie is making sure that every last person in NJ will be glad to see his butt leave office. January cannot come too soon!

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Thursdays in July are Outdoor Movie Nights

The Lego Batman Movie screen this Thursday at Hannah Atkins Playground.

Thursdays in July in Plainfield are the Division of Recreation's Outdoor Movie Nights. These free showings of top line flicks are scattered throughout town at various locations, all on Thursday evenings. Movies beging at dusk (approximately 8:30 PM).

July 6: The Lego Batman Movie
This 2017 computer animated action comedy in which Batman attempts to overcome his greatest fear in stopping The Joker's latest plan.

The film screens at Hannah Atkins Playground, West 3rd  Street near Plainfield Avenue.
July 13: The Queen of Katwe
This 2016 biographical sports drama features Madina Nalwanga as Phiona Mutesi, a young girl living in the Katwe slum of Kampala. She becomes interested in the strange game of "chess" at a missionary program. Her curiosity and her skill grows until she becomes a figure in the World Chess Olympiads.

You can catch this feature at Aristacare at Norwood (behind United Presbyterian Church, 515 East Front Street), which is convenient to both Richmond Towers and Covenant Manor.
July 20: Finding Dory
This 2016 computer generated action story is a sequel to Finding Nemo, and features the anmesiac Dory trying to return to her parents.

The film shows at Seidler Field, corner of North and Netherwood Avenue.
July 27: Fantastic Beasts
This is a 2016 fantasy film, a spinoff of the Harry Potter series. It is full of the wizardry which was the Harry Potter series attraction.

This film, concluding the series, will be shown at Library Park, on West 8th Street and College Place.
Thursdays in August will feature a series of community concerts. Look for a separate post on these soon.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Plainfield hosts 94th Central Jersey July 4 Celebration Tuesday

Local artist Bindi Liebowitz is among musicians
featured at Plainfield's 94th Annual July 4 Celebration.

Plainfield will host the 94th Annual Central Jersey July 4 Celebration on Tuesday, with a traditional parade, an afternoon concert and fireworks at dusk. All activities are free and open to the public.

"When we talk about Plainfield Pride, it is intrinsically tied to the diversity in the makeup of our residents, and it's something we like to celebrate every chance we get," say Mayor Adrian O. Mapp. "Plainfield is a microcosm of the United States of America, and what could be more fitting than celebrating our independence with a program showcasing the very thing that makes our country unique around the world. I am very proud to be Mayor of a City that understands that our diversity does not make us different, it makes us special."

The parade steps off at 10:00 AM from the staging area at East Front Street and Johnston Avenue and proceeds west along Front Street to its end point at the reviewing stand at Front and Park Avenue.

The 2017 Parade's Grand Marshal is PAAAS student Alexis Morrast, who recently took First Place at "Showtime At The Apollo".

Promising to be Plainfield's biggest and best parade ever, groups will march under the theme "Plainfield United, Plainfield Strong." In addition to floats, step groups and marching units from Plainfield organizations, elected officials from Union County and nearly local communities join the parade. Kids of all ages are thrilled by the displays of fire equipment from various area fire departments, including Plainfield's own. The parade will also showcase Plainfield High School's Marching Band.

Awards will be given to floats and marching units for creativity and innovation.

The festivities continue with the Annual July 4 Concert in Cedar Brook Park. The concert gets under way at 5:00 and concludes at dusk with the fireworks display.

Local talent featured in the concert include Alexis Morrast (first place at "Showtime At The Apollo") and Bindi Liebowitz (of "The Voice", season 11).
Latin star Sandra Rey, who has performed several times in the Queen City, will also be featured.

Two groups will bring the house down in closing the concert:The Mambo All-Stars and the contemporary band SoGo.

The Mambo All-Stars features native New Yorker Tito Puente, Jr., the youngest of the Puente children, who has become an audience favorite worldwide, performing more than 2000 shows over the past 10 years.  Tito has performed as musical guest in "Dancing with the Stars" on ABC.

Teaming up with Puente is Melina Almodóvar, also known La Chica Del Bling, she is a Puerto Rican salsa singer, songwriter, dancer, and entertainer. Known for her high-energy performances and salsa dancing skills, she combines old-school salsa moves with contemporary styles of dancing and singing.

Melina and Tito will join a group of talented Latin musicians on July 4th for a one-time salsa performance in the Queen City.

SoGo is a contemporary band covering over 5 genres of music including Jazz, Funk, Rock, R&B, Soul and many rhythms from over the globe. The band was formed in 2001 and the musicians have since worked around the world with artists and producers such as Wyclef Jean, Shea Taylor (Beyonce, Rihanna, Frank Ocean), gospel sensation Tye Tribett, and many more. SoGo has received over 100,000 views on YouTube and continues to be a force in their unique approach to multiple genres of music. They will be joined by Mikaelle for the July 4th concert in Plainfield.

The concert concludes at dusk (about 9:15 PM), when the traditional fireworks display will close the day's festivities. The display takes place in the area near the soccer and ballfields. Parking is at a premium so come early. Bring chairs or blankets for sitting on the ground. Food vendors will be offering treats throughout the afternoon into the evening.

"We've worked hard to put together an all-inclusive parade and program," said Superintendent of Recreation, Veronica Taylor. "We recognize the fantastic blend of cultures we have here, and it's a pleasure seeing how well they complement and work in tandem with each other. The parade and concert present just another opportunity to let our Plainfield unity shine!"

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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