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Monday, December 31, 2018

Pair of kittens looking to start 2019 with a furever home

Ferdinand (above) and sidekick...

... Marmalade, must find a new home pronto!

Plainfield Today reader and PRAAR founder Lilas Borsas shared with me the photos of these two fetching kittens who are desperately in need of a permanent home.

ou can learn more about their unfortunate circumstances and how you can help from Lilas' note below --

Meet our Bonded Dynamic Duo - Batman and Robin‼️ 

When not saving the world, they go by Ferdinand and Marmalade.   #Ferd and #Marm came to us on October 26th, when we received word that they were reported as “strays” and picked up by AHS-Newark.  Our ACO knew better, and put them on our radar - they were too friendly and too lovey-dovey to have been strays.

Long story short ... through some investigative work, we discovered that the “original” owner adopted them from a shelter, and after three months, moved and left them with the next tenant.  The original owner has yet to try to get them back and has not responded to our texts.   The next tenant had agreed to hold them for a while, but apparently changed his mind, so he them outside, and called animal control.

So ... here they are with us and in desperate need of a furever home.  Their current foster had hoped she could adopt them, but her other older cats are not adjusting well to Ferd and Marm, and the old kitties have taken to hiding in the closet.  So even though they’ve done nothing wrong, Ferd and Marm must find new digs.

A little about these babies:  They were born in March 2017.  They were adopted from a local shelter in June 2017, and they were about seven months old when their original owner left them.  

They are FELV/FIV negative, have been dewormed, defleaed, and and are up-to-date on their vaccinations.  They are also both fixed, so no kittens to worry about.  They are in very good health and are total LOVEBUGS.  They seem to enjoy watching TV, and love to just curl up in someone's lap.

If able to foster or interested in adopting, please call us ASAP at (973) 868-5939, or email us at

Thank you, as always, for helping us help them.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Friday, December 28, 2018

Getting keyed up in Plainfield

Plastic on the original key had split open.

Central Paint & Hardware (formerly Park Hardware)
to the rescue.

When the key pictured above slipped off my keyring and bounced underneath my car and out of reach while leaving church the Sunday before Christmas, I took it as a sign that it was time to get a replacement.

The heavy black plastic into which the key was embedded had split, making it easy for the key to slip off the ring.

So, on Thursday I headed over to Grove Lock & Safe on Grove Street just off West Front Street.

Closed. Gate shuttered, and the building next door as well, which they had also been using. A passerby said they had been closed for more than a month.

In the age of Google this was hardly daunting, or so I thought.

Googling "locksmith" and Plainfield, I turned up a list of three -- including Grove, another on Park Avenue in South Plainfield and Walmart in Watchung Square Mall.

Since I was right around the corner from the South Plainfield address, I toodled on over (it was near the city line).

To my surprise, the storefront in the Google listing was vacant (it had been an auto supply store; I guessed that the locksmith worked at a booth inside).

That was OK, I had the company's phone number, which I dialed.

A young man answered and when I told him I was sitting outside the address given online but there was nothing there, he said they were undergoing renovations (the sign I was looking at in the window clearly said "For Lease") but that they were offering mobile service and could come to me.

Then he quickly asked me what key I needed. When I said for my old Toyota, he asked what year and model.

Then he said, "I can come to you right now, but I have to tell you beforehand that the service will start at $140 minimum."

"No thanks," said I (thinking to myself, WTF? for copying a car key?).

OK, so my fallback now was to go the the Walmart.

After Walmart Customer Service fumbled my initial question (they didn't know what a "locksmith" was), a young man was called to the counter who said, "Oh, you mean you want a key!" Yup.

After getting directions I headed to the key counter in the farthest rear corner of the store in the sporting goods section.

A very pleasant and chatty middle-aged woman took my key, chucked it into a couple of slots that evidently gauged which blank to use (smart idea), and decided on the blank that was needed.

When she pulled out the little bin in which the blanks resided, it turned out to be empty. Foiled!

"They'll be in in about a week to ten days," she said.

"OK," says I, "I can come back."

Driving back into town, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps
Home Depot could cut a replacement key.

But by this time I was turning onto Front Street and decided not to go all the way back out -- just in case.

While calling a friend about an entirely different matter, I told her of my little "key" adventure. She confirmed that in fact Home Depot does do keys, but she thought that the hardware store on Park Avenue near 7th Street also made keys.


Park Hardware started out near Rapp's Pharmacy and had been there for years -- we had used the store when we first bought the house in 1983. After the owners (a father and two sons) died a few years ago, a new owner took over and moved the store up the block into the Masonic building.

Since then it was recently bought by George Piahaleos, and the name was changed to Central Paint & Hardware, joining his stores in Jersey City and Paterson.

Looking them up on my phone, I called and a helpful young woman told me they indeed made keys -- providing it was a key with no chip in it.

"No chip," says I, "my car is ancient."

Within minutes I parked in the lot by Ferraro's Pizza and whizzed across the street to the hardware store. Once inside, I spotted the racks of keys immediately.

A pleasant gentleman behind the counter quickly picked out the right blank and put my key in the duplicating grinder. Cost: $4.95.

While the key was being cut, we talked about the store and its new owner and the expanded offerings -- including Benjamin Moore paints.


I left with this shiny new key. Cost: $4.95.

With Young's in Fanwood having closed, this is the now only paint store for miles around.

Joking, I said, "So you can match any color someone brings in?"

"Absolutely!" he and the young woman said uno voce. To prove it, he held up a strip of purplish plastic that looked like a baseboard or a counter splash and said he was custom-mixing a paint to match it.

So, whether you need a key, custom paint or any other hardware need (including kitchen cabinets), Plainfield has you covered!

623 Park Avenue
Plainfield, NJ 07060
(908) 754-9137
Cindy Figueroa, Manager
Check them out online here.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Friday, December 21, 2018

(Updated) Has Priano's "Mapp" video exposed him to a lawsuit?

Screenshot of video from Priano's "Queen City Pride"
Facebook page. This ... is a smocking gun?

Priano also posted this photo ... but
what does it "prove"?

NOTE: Post updated at 9:46 AM to include the photo from the Facebook page.

It is no secret that Timothy Priano is not a fan of Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp.

Priano is a regular at City Council where he berates the members over an old performance bond issue with the duCret Art School property.

(First, duCret has no claim or standing in relation to the performance bond put up by a developer who went bust; and second, the Council has no authority or role in settling the dispute. Oh, did I mention that his comments are captured and broadcast by PCTV? Silly me.)

Priano's latest escapade, though, seems to have crossed a line that would leave him exposed to a lawsuit should Mayor Mapp wish to pursue one.

Apparently on Sunday (December 16), he posted to his "Queen City Pride" Facebook page (see here) a photograph and a brief video (6 seconds long) with the tag --

"Mapp's house using a DPW worker to decorate his house!"

The grainy, low-quality video is shot from a car driving by the mayor's house, in the rain. The quality is so low that all that can be made out is a person with their back to the street futzing with something near the shrubs at the front of the house.

You cannot tell if it's a man or a woman, nor see a face or any identifying features. It appears the person is wearing a yellow rain slicker (it was raining, after all).

The photo, though of better quality, shows a person obscured by a ladder -- I could not even tell if they were facing the camera.

That is all that can be said with any certainty.

So, for Priano to allege that the Mayor was using a DPW worker to put up Christmas decorations is waaaaay over the line.

Using city workers to provide services to an elected official on the city dime is an indictable offense.

Joey Torres, the former mayor of Paterson, went to prison for using city workers -- who were paid overtime -- to perform work at his home and the business of a relative (see more about Torres here).

That was after NBC Channel 4 ran an exposé based on camera footage obtained by a private investigator.

It seems that Priano may have followed his usual ready-shoot-aim mantra, where he jumps to conclusions before investigating matters thoroughly.

If you're going to accuse Mayor Mapp of breaking the law, you damn well better offer better video and photo than this and identify an employee by name.

Further, if the video was shot on a Sunday, as the Facebook page suggests, you would also have to prove that the person was not only an employee, but was on the clock at the time.

All this seems a bit too much for Priano to bother with.

And Mayor Mapp has to suffer an unjust accusation based on flimsy "evidence" -- with more than 600 views of the accusation.

This is hardly a confidence builder in Priano, someone who puts himself forward as a champion of the community.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Cultural consultant congratulates Plainfield on FUSP gift

The FUSP building has been donated to the City
for a cultural center.

In the late 1990s, Plainfield applied for and won the largest grant given by AT&T at that time to do an arts and culture plan for the community.

The consultant who developed that plan for Plainfield worked for more than two years in the process and I have remained in touch with her over the years since.

When she heard of the gift of the FUSP property to the city for a cultural center, she responded with the following in an email --

I am very excited to hear that a building has been set aside for use as a Cultural Center in Plainfield.

I remember fondly my several years of work in Plainfield and the report full of recommendations for the development of a thriving cultural life in the City.

I hope that the New Audiences report will get revisited as the building goes through its re-use and business planning stage.

I have been working on a new inner city arts park in Boston for almost a year, and the project is already in the final design phase with fundraising well underway.

If the City of Plainfield needs some guidance in developing a sustainable plan for the project, it would be my pleasure to work with the arts community  and local government to support its successful launch.

Thanks for letting me know the good news.

Sincerely, Andrea Kaiser

The grant application was put together by the Central Jersey Chamber of Commerce (then headed by the late Barbara Ballard) and a volunteer committee that included Ballard, Nellie Dixon, Vicky Griswold, Barbara Fuller, Helen Rodriguez, Amelia Andrade and myself.

The project was entitled "New Audiences for Plainfield" and involved an exhaustive inventory of arts and culture groups and individuals active in the city (more than 400 were discovered).

Face-to-face interviews were conducted over a period of several days and the needs and desires of those interviewed were assessed and helped lay the foundation for a cultural action plan that was delivered at the end of the process.

At the time, Assemblyman Jerry Green was politely supportive but had his energies focused elsewhere, and local officials were preoccupied with other matters, so the report's recommendations were not put into effect.

However, the gift by the Unitarians of their building to the city for a cultural center, along with the development of a budding Plainfield Arts Council suggest that the time is ripe to revisit the New Audiences report (which is on file at the Plainfield Public Library) and consider what lessons might be drawn from it going forward.

Thanks again to the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield (FUSP) for their generous gift and the window it has opened on the possibilities for a rich cultural future for Plainfield.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Need a last-minute Plainfield-themed Christmas gift?

The 2019 Netherwood Neighbors calendar
is available now.

Need a last-minute Plainfield-themed Christmas gift?

Netherwood Neighbors 2019 Calendar is now available and would make an excellent gift for the holidays that will last throughout the new year.

The theme for this year's 12-month spiral-bound wall calendar is "Imagine Netherwood (1880 - 1930)".

The calendar is printed on heavy glossy stock and there is room for important notes and reminders on the calendar pages. Dimensions are 8½" x 17" (opened).

It features a background on every page of a section of the neighborhood as represented on period property maps (you will be interested in some of the names of owners and property delineation lines of the 1880s).

In the upper portion of each page are photographs of various Netherwood Heights properties -- some no longer in existence, and some then-and-now comparisons.

The photos are supplemented with text supplying information about the properties, their architects, owners and business and Plainfield connections.

Whether you are a fan of Plainfield history and architecture or are just looking for a one-of-a-kind gift that will become a collectible -- look no further!

The calendars are $20/each and may be bought at The Coffee Box (1359 South Avenue) or Swain Galleries (Watchung Avenue at East 7th).

They can also be ordered online on the Netherwood Heights website here; note that postage is extra, and Christmas delivery cannot be guaranteed if ordered online. Questions? Call: (908) 668-0388.

Congratulations are in order to this year's calendar team: David Beverly, Marianne Kehoe, Harold Spingarn, Susan Tomljanovic, and Mary Wacholtz.

And to Netherwood Neighbors and its 2018 officers -- Louise Colodne (president), Phil Schafer (vice president), Jeff Spelman (treasurer) and Jack Freudenheim (secretary) -- for starting and maintaining this project.

Job well done!

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Friday, December 14, 2018

(Link updated) Demolition of Muhlenberg Hospital has begun

View of Muhlenberg from the Van Blake Tennis Courts
on Wednesday. Fence in the foreground is the old Lot B.
Arrows indicate demolition in progress. Height of
fence makes it difficult to see exactly what is going on.

Pastor LaVerne Ball at a mass rally at PHS Auditorium
in 2008 to protest the closing of Muhlenberg Hospital.

NOTE: I have deleted the bad link that does not work. There is now only one link. Following the directions below should let you view the pictures.

On Wednesday morning I came down Randolph Road from Woodland Avenue and as I passed Muhlenberg Hospital I noticed that the entry pavilion had been half-demolished.

Since I was not able to get a picture because I had an appointment, I put up a brief note on Facebook. It drew considerable interest.

Retired Plainfield High School teacher Jo-Ann Bandomer posted a series of photographs of Muhlenberg from this past summer -- intact, but vacant for ten years -- to her Facebook page.

You may follow the links below to her series of photos --

Muhlenberg Hospital - Summer Series (31)

Clicking on the link takes you to Jo-Ann's Facebook page where the photos are posted. Clicking on the "+26" will open the album where you can browse all the pictures she posted. This should work even if you are NOT a Facebook user. Note: If you click on one of the images on the front page you will only see that image and cannot get into the album from there. You must click on the "+26" to view the entire album.

Even though the hospital has been closed for ten years and we have known that it cannot be rescued, it is still an emotional moment for us all as we see this wonderful institution -- which cared for Plainfielders for over a hundred years -- reduced to rubble.

Say a prayer for all those who came into and left the world there, for all those who were healed by its ministrations and all who worked and practiced there.

R.I.P., Muhlenberg Hospital.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Storch boldly votes "no" on South Avenue Redevelopment Plan

Storch took exception to a "convenience store
with fuel services" in the area in red.

Gone forever would be classic watering hole Giovanna's...

... as well as the popular Tex-Mex Freppe's.

In a bold and perhaps fateful move (considering his seat is up next year), Ward 2 Councilor Cory Storch voted at Tuesday's Council meeting against the ordinance (M 2018-28) put forward by the Mapp administration adopting what is known as the South Avenue East Redevelopment Plan.

At the time of the vote, Storch read a prepared statement registering his objection (which he has posted on his blog, see here).

While he said he found "much good in the proposed redevelopment plan", he objected to language that would allow a "retail convenience [store] with fuel services" when there are already two 7-Elevens in that one block stretch of South Avenue.

The redevelopment plan covers the properties from FineFare to Wendy's on the north side of the roadway, and from Freppe's to the 7-Eleven on Terrill Road on the south side. The 7-Eleven is to remain untouched, but the residential property next to it on Terrill is included in the plan. (See map above for the use to which Storch objects.)

Storch pointed out the irony of allowing a new gas station in a "transit-oriented development (TOD)" zone -- the very point of which is to encourage pedestrian-friendly
residential and retail development.

However, to be fair, it must be noted that the Gateway apartments project that is now well along in construction already abused the TOD designation by NOT including any retail.

So, just where did the slippery slope begin?


For some time now it has been rumored that Giovanna's restaurant was for sale.

The legendary Plainfield watering hole has been around as long as anyone can remember and has been the site of countless gatherings ranging from birthdays to retirements to celebrations by organizations such as the Rotary and the YWCA.

But soon that may all be just fading memories.

The hottest rumor of late -- emanating from the cozy bar at Giovanna's itself ---  is that the new redevelopment plan is tailor-made for a new Wawa convenience store to occupy the space from Freppe's to the 7-Eleven on the corner of Terrill Road. (See map above.)

That is a sizeable assemblage of properties, so such a proposal would dwarf the 7-Eleven.


Once upon a time all the talk was of turning South Avenue into a fine dining destination, something Plainfield sorely needs and which would fit perfectly with the kind of apartments now going up across from the Dairy Queen.

That would have included Giovanna's, discussed above, and others.

From the day it opened, Freshwaters was that kind of restaurant. Even without a bar, the place was always mobbed and became a favorite dining spot for Newark's political in-crowd, immediately putting Giovanna's somewhat in the shadows.

Then along came the (renamed) Netherwood Cafe which -- with a bar -- became the New Democrats' unofficial "clubhouse."

And when Cliff and Sharon Freshwaters decided to move to a warmer climate, Freshwaters was replaced with the popular Tex-Mex restaurant Freppe's.

This tranquil little scene was shattered when the Netherwood Cafe was gobbled up for the large Gateway residential development now going up.

The Netherwood Cafe relocated to Fanwood as Sheelen's Crossing and is going gangbusters thank you very much though you will not spot many Plainfielders there.


When my sister and her husband lived in Browns Mills, we used to stop regularly at the Wawa near Ft. Dix for snacks and drinks for the drive back to Plainfield.

Even 20 years ago, that store was monstrous and very busy.

The closest comparison I would make is to QuickChek and they are in fact natural competitors. However, this would be less like the store tucked away in the Somerset Street strip mall and more like the new super-sized store on Route 22.

I always thought of Wawa as a redneck store from the number of Confederate flags in the rear windows of pickups in the parking lot.

That may be unfair and their target demographic may be more similar to Plainfield's profile but if so I have never heard of it.


And what of fine dining?

The way a "restaurant row" really works is to offer a variety of dining experiences in the same neighborhood.

So, if the City is saying "no" to a "restaurant row" and is intent on installing a monster convenience store that will change the character of the area completely, what of the other businesses in the area?

To use the inelegant language of war when describing innocent victims who are killed, what of the "collateral damage"?

How will The Coffee Box, Plainfield's only upscale coffee shop, be affected?

Who then would even venture to open another fine restaurant on South Avenue?

The thought had occurred to me that Family Soul Spot, the restaurant on East 7th near Park Avenue might really strike it rich if they were to open their second location on South Avenue in a "restaurant row" rather than Scotch Plains which, as the recent Courier story pointed out (see here), is not doing well.

But that would have meant the City being plugged in to the restaurant community and heading off a potentially disastrous business decision before it was made by offering a little judicious counseling and help. (Can you say "economic development"? -- this is not meant as a dig at the City's ED director, who is new.)

Of course diners will have choices like Punto Peruano, Antojito's (which recently took over the churresqeria on Park Avenue) or GuateLindo and other popular restaurants -- but they are all downtown, which does South Avenue no good.

Will Wawa become the high end of fine dining on South Avenue, with the low end defined by one of the existing fast food chains?

All this just illustrates the old saying: when you don't know where you're going, any road you take will get you there.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Free PAAAS Winter Concert at Grace Church Thursday

The PAAAS Jazz Ensemble will perform Thursday.

The Plainfield Academy for the Art and Advanced Studies (PAAAS) will present its free Winter Concert to the public Thursday (December 13) at Grace Church.

The renowned Jazz Group will perform along with students from the piano, vocal and dance studios.

The community is invited to see and hear these talented Plainfield young people who are working towards careers in the performing arts in this FREE concert.

The concert is at 8:00 PM.

Grace Church is at East 7th Street and Cleveland Avenue and is an accessible facility. Parking available on the street or in the public lot across 7th Street from the church.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Cleveland Avenue becomes two way Tuesday morning

Two-way traffic on Cleveland Avenue begins Tuesday.

The ordinance passed by Plainfield City Council in November restores the single block of Cleveland Avenue between East 4th and East 5th Streets to two-way traffic. The change becomes effective Tuesday morning at 9:00 AM, per an email notice from the city to all residents.

That single block has been one way northbound since before I moved here 35 years ago, but old-timers tell me that it used to be two-way and that traffic from the train station would exit what is now thought of as the entrance and use Cleveland Avenue to get to 7th Street and beyond.

So it will now become easier for those on 4th Street to get onto Cleveland Avenue.

As to whether and how it will impact the traffic into and out of the train station and whether it will lead to more accidents, we will only have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, revel in being able to make that left onto Cleveland from 4th.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Mayor Mapp honors FUSP, Griswold and Waters at Tuesday's Council meeting

Vicky Griswold of the Plainfield Music Store
is to be honored...

...the North Avenue store closed recently.

Judy Waters and her husband Steven operated the French
School of Music, founded in 1927...

... and based in this gracious West 8th Street home.

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp is slated to offer three proclamations at Tuesday evening's Plainfield City Council business meeting. (Note the day: Tuesday.)

The first (really, this time) is to honor the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield (FUSP) and the gift of its building to the City of Plainfield. You can read my earlier tribute to FUSP on their history and generous gift here.

The second is to honor Victoria (Vicky) Griswold for her years of service to the community and the wider music world through the Plainfield Music Store, which she operated on North Avenue for many years before closing at the end of October.

On a personal note, I have worked with Vicky on various cultural and civic projects beginning about twenty years ago. She is a sharp thinker and has a droll wit that I very much enjoy.

While it is sad to see a landmark business close up shop, the internet has made retail difficult for many businesses. It is just a fact of life.

Vicky, however, is a sought after classical keyboardist -- piano and harpsichord -- and will now be able to devote more time to her professional career. Thank you Vicky, and best of luck!

Judy Waters of the former French School of Music on West 8th Street will also be honored with a proclamation.

Judy and her husband took over the school that was founded in 1927 by concert pianists Yvonne Combe, Heléne Pfeiffer, and Michelle S
éguin, and continued its fine tradition of decades of excellent musical training in Plainfield.

I particularly remember a glorious evening years ago -- when I worked for the Library -- and Judy pulled off a marvelous Black History month coup by bringing her friend Judith Anne Still -- daughter of the famed African American composer William Grant Still -- from Los Angeles to Plainfield for a special program.

What a glorious evening of music and reminiscence about this great -- and neglected -- American composer and cultural treasure.

More recently, Judy was instrumental in the founding of the Plainfield Arts Council, which intends to act as an umbrella for Plainfield artists and arts organizations.

Thank you Judy for all that you have done for the community and the arts.

City Council meets at 8:00 PM in the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street. Parking available on the street and in the lot across from Police Headquarters.

(Carolyn -- I see your hand in some of this. Thank you!)

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Having a little fun at Individual #1's expense

Someone used Jaws catching a Trump plane as a background
image. (Sorry, I lost the source of this one.)

WARNING: Salty language ahead.

While the focus of Plainfield Today has always been Plainfield, I too find myself often incensed and sometimes mystified by Donald Trump's behavior and always hopeful that we will survive this national nightmare.

To vent and discuss, I find Twitter to be a great national conversation (even international as some Canadians, Brits and French chime in -- least on my feed).

Folks from every walk of life and every nook and cranny of the country are keeping The Donald under a magnifying glass -- sometimes with guffaw-inducing humor.

I wanted to share a few of the laughs I got in the last couple of days at the expense of "Individual #1" -- as Robert Mueller's filing in the Cohen case at the end of this week identified Cohen's unindicted co-conspirator.

Here goes --

An answer we all wish we had gotten away with. (California)

Here's one inspired by the season. (Arizona)

How about Individual #1's New York residence? (French)

A reminder the Mueller clock is ticking. (Maine)

If you're on Twitter, check out the #resist hashtag. It's where all the action is.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Plainfield Mayor Mapp's REAL ranking among high-earning mayors

Even George seems curious.

Americans are always curious about how much money other people make.

Companies go to great lengths to keep the differentials in pay from being too well known (though there are websites where folks share the information).

Public service though, is another ball of wax as they say. Salaries of public employees -- municipal, county, state, or school district -- are public information.

In addition, public officials (including volunteer appointees to local boards and commissions) must fill out an annual financial disclosure form.

So, when the Asbury Park Press did its recent story on 43 New Jersey mayors whose income is over $100,000/year (see here), folks eagerly checked out the list (just like I used to have real estate customers who would look in the seller's closets and then talk about what they saw after we got in the car).

And of course, Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp is on the list.

The problem though, as several readers pointed out to me is that the story fails to take into account his third public source of income -- the NJ Local Finance Board, which pays him $12,000 a year as noted in a TAPinto story by Bernice Paglia from March 2018 (see here).

Mapp  was a "lame duck" appointment by former Gov. Chris Christie on his way out the door.

With that third "job" in mind, Mayor Mapp's total income from public service is $202,020, making him the #2 top-income mayor -- behind only North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco, who tops out at $269,428.

This puts him well ahead of such other mayors of note as --

  • Steve Fulop of Jersey City (#37 - $114,000)
  • Ravi Bhalla of Hoboken (#33 - $117,000)
  • Ras Baraka of Newark (#23 - $130,722)
  • Jim Cahill of New Brunswick (#16 - $139,736)
  • Ted Green of East Orange (#15 - $141,552)
  • Reed Gusciora of Trenton (#13 - $146,061)
  • Chris Bollwege of Elizabeth (#7 - $169, 262)
  • Jimmy Davis of Bayonne (#4 - $191,880)

It must be noted that the actual mayoral remuneration of most of the mayors on the total list is much smaller than Plainfield's ($75,000).

The other thing to keep in mind is that Mayor Mapp -- like many other of these mayors -- has legitimate professional employment in government (a few are retired teachers or public servants drawing pensions). He makes the bulk of his income as Finance Director for the City of Orange, an essential government position.

Those that want to think these incomes from public jobs are somehow undeserved need to go sit in the corner. It may be arguable what is acceptable pay for part-time mayors -- which most of them are -- but that is another matter.

Much more questionable is legislative hanky-panky with public employee pensions -- as with a law tailored just for former Camden Mayor Dana Redd which boosted her pension significantly.

The one thing you can say is that if government pay ever was measly (and it was at one time), that word no longer is a fit description.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Sale of YWCA building raises more questions than answers

The YWCA shortly after its opening in 1924.
(Postcard image courtesy of Nellie Dixon.)

The sale of the YWCA building at East Front and Church Streets was announced in a press release on the NJBIZ website Wednesday afternoon (see story here).

According to NJBIZ, the sale was for $1.335 million.

Like other downtown YMCAs and YWCAs, the Plainfield YWCA struggled over the last twenty years to keep its head above water. (Full disclosure: I worked as a volunteer on the YWCA's capital campaign in the early 2000s -- which was successful in getting a new early childhood center built, but ultimately led to throwing in the towel.)

The demise of both the YWCA and the YMCA had much to do with factors beyond their control.

These old-line organizations found it challenging to maintain the physical facilities they have inherited from past glory days and at the same time to provide relevant programming for new membership populations in the face of commercial competitors who have cherry-picked the traditional income and program mainstays.

The mobility brought about by automobiles since World War II has led many to seek newer, grander facilities that are far away from downtown locations with their parking hassles and other issues.

Commercial gyms (Plainfield now has two -- the 24/7 Acero on Park Avenue and the new Blink Fitness across from the YWCA) have made it impossible for YWCA and YMCA fitness programs to compete, whether on equipment, hours or cost -- thus undercutting the traditional mainstays of not just programming, but organizational stability.

For it was from the ranks of those deeply involved in the organization's programs that Board members were drawn, giving both fundraising clout and endowment potential.

Scrappy organizations like both Plainfield's YWCA and YMCA countered by reorganizing themselves, refreshing their board structures, re-imagining their target audiences, re-inventing their programs and reaching out to the community in new and exciting ways.

However, all the effort just was not enough.

The YWCA Board resigned en masse in 2012, allowing a new board organized by the Rev. Gary Kirkwood of King's Temple Ministries to take over the building and the operation of the organization.

There was some buzz at the time as Kirkwood decided to keep the YWCA affiliation -- one condition of which was that the executive director's salary needed to stay within the national YWCA's guidelines.

With Kirkwood as the executive director and a salary base rumored at $135,000, the financial future of the YWCA was troubled indeed.

Once Kirkwood took over, there was a publicity push announcing vigorous programming efforts but by July 2013 the YWCA had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (see Ledger story here).

At the time, the YWCA had liabilities of $4.6 million -- the largest chunk of which ($1.2 million) was owed to the NJ Economic Development Authority for three separate loans. Its assets at the time were primarily the building, which was valued at a little more than $2 million.

There has been little sign of activity in the building in recent years; there are never lights on after 5:00 PM. And snow removal during the winter has been spotty at best, with a pathway cleared through the spacious plaza as opposed to the complete snow removal when the legendary "Mr. Bill" was the facilities manager.

So, you can see that the sale price represents a true distressed sale.

The commercial real estate broker in the transaction, Marcus & Millichap (see their website here) is famous in the industry for having developed the "exclusive listing" strategy meaning it handles (and profits from) both sides in a transaction; this practice has now become the industry standard.

What caught my eye was the mention in the story that both the seller and the buyer are private investors.

If that is so, it would be interesting to know how the now-defunct YWCA got from being in Chapter 11 bankruptcy (and having to answer to a creditor committee) to being owned by a private investor able and willing to make the sale.

There's always more to what's going on in Plainfield than meets the eye. It would also be interesting to know if any person profited from the YWCA's distress.

And of course we wait to hear what use the historically landmarked building will be put to.

(As an aside, I am also waiting to hear more about the sale of the YMCA, which has seen a lot of activity in recent days with the windows being boarded up and workers cleaning out the building, clear signs of a new owner in possession.)

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Pleasant surprise at Council's agenda-setting session

PSEG will be remediating the area outlined in white.
(Image courtesy PSEG.)

The Lord knows I am not a particular fan of "discussion items" at Council sessions (they are often hastily prepared and poorly delivered), nor am I fond of Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, so it was a pleasant surprise on Tuesday to witness two excellent presentations -- where PowerPoint was properly used.

PowerPoint, which I consider the most-abused software ever devised, is often used by unimaginative people who simply recite the contents of every slide (as you are scanning it to yourself). Boring!

Both presenters on Tuesday used the tool the way it is meant to be used -- to provide a visual hook for other information which the presenter is going to give you in a conversational manner.

Representatives of Union County and of PSEG presented to the Council (and the handful of members of the public present) two projects of interest to all Plainfielders that will be unfolding over the next year or so.


Union County will be making safety and other improvements to four East Front Street intersections -- Watchung Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue, Sandford Avenue and Richmond Street/Norwood Avenue.

The project is in the design phase now, with actual work expected to begin in Fall 2019 and continue through the summer of 2020.

The most interesting elements of the plan are to move the New Jersey Transit bus stop on the southeast corner of Watchung Avenue at East Front Street to the northeast corner, alongside the Payless Shoe Store.

This will free up Watchung Avenue to allow unimpeded flow of traffic northbound at this intersection -- particularly easing the way for those making right turns onto East Front Street.

The other improvement of note will be an ADA-compliant crossing in front of the Plainfield Senior Center at the tee with Sandford Avenue. A new pedestrian-activated crossing mechanism will cause a red light and full traffic stop so that pedestrians may cross.


PSEG made a presentation on the remediation that is to be done on the public/police parking lots behind Police Headquarters and across 4th Street against the NJ Transit tracks.

Once upon a time (from the 1860s to the 1950s) this had been the site of the Plainfield Manufactured Gas Plant. Decommissioned in 1926, it was the site of PSEG's regional offices until the City of Plainfield acquired the property in the 1950s.

Beginning in January 2019 and continuing for 12 to 16 months, PSEG will be removing contaminated soil -- to a depth of approximately 14 feet -- and replacing it with clean fill.

Folks may recall that about 15 years ago, New Jersey Transit asphalted the lot between the tracks and 4th Street as part of its renovation of the main train station. Though the lot was supposed to be entirely set aside for commuter parking, the eastern half or so was soon taken over for police vehicles, some of them "retired".

This project is being required by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and will follow strict guidelines so as to avoid air, odor or particulate contamination during the entire process.

Not only this, PSEG has set up a website where (they say) they will post weekly updates on the work's progress. You can see the website -- which has been up for a while -- here.

The website is already loaded with background information and FAQs so most questions are probably already answered. But in the event there are more questions, PSEG has a Project Information Line at (888) 970-1006 and you can email them at


The idea of a project website is really so good, that I wonder whether the Council may not make such a move a requirement of other projects in the future.

Council meets for its business session next Tuesday, December 11, at 8:00 PM in the Council Chambers / Courthouse, Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street. Parking available on the street or in the lot across from Police Headquarters.

Mayor Mapp will present the FUSP proclamation at next week's meeting.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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