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Monday, April 30, 2018

Has Spring sprung in Plainfield?

The trees in Al McWilliams Park at the corner of
Park Avenue and East Front Street burst forth Thursday.

It has been an unusually cold April and every tantalizing taste of Spring has, it seems, been followed by days of overcast and drizzle -- if not outright flash flooding from storms.

So this past Thursday, it was nice to see some signs of the invincible march of the seasons -- new leaves popping out, and flowering bulbs and trees in Cedar Brook Park.

Jaunty Jonquils in Cedar Brook Park's
Shakespeare Garden...

... as well as these golden Daffodils, which be seen
from a great distance.

This magnificent tree along the brook in Cedar Brook
Park is always an early bloomer.
I am posting this on a chilly Sunday evening in hopes the weather gods will heed our supplications.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Stunning close to Symphony's 98th season is Mahler's 9th

The Plainfield Symphony Orchestra performs
in Plainfield's historic Crescent Avenue Presbyterian
Church, shown here from the roof of City Hall.


With conductor Charles Prince at the podium, the Plainfield Symphony Orchestra (PSO)  closed its 98th season with a stellar performance of Mahler's 9th Symphony. The after-party honored John Stewart, former chief of staff to Mayor Adrian Mapp, and his partner Craig Bowman, both of whom have been generous supporters of the PSO.

Under Prince's tenure the PSO has broadened its repertoire and taken on more challenging works as Saturday evening's concert demonstrated. A student of both the fabled Leonard Bernstein and former Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Seiji Ozawa, we are indeed fortunate to have him as musical director and conductor of the PSO.

PSO Treasurer Mary Burgwinkle, board member Beki Perkins and PSO executive administrative assistant Carolyn Wellington were busy as one-armed paperhangers checking in the crowd who were either purchasing or picking up reserved tickets.

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church was literally filled to the rafters with a full house in the nave and the balcony and the side aisles filled with folks sitting in pews along the walls (removed from the front of the nave to make room for the very large orchestra Mahler symphonies demand).

The final concert was dedicated to the late Albert (Al) Jorgenson, who was the Orchestra's percussionist for more than 50 years and recently passed away. Following tributes by both Prince and PSO board president Peter Lomanoco, Prince led the PSO in an orchestral tribute performance of Jose Serebrier's arrangement of Tchaikovsky's "None But The Lonely Heart." (Serebrier is a former conductor of the PSO and a renowned composer.)

From the outset, Mahler's 9th sets about breaking traditions. The first movement is slow, with a syncopated rhythm that Leonard Bernstein suggested referred to Mahler's irregular heartbeat (which would eventually lead to his death).

The second movement's lãndler (folk songs) are eventually so transformed as to be unrecognizable except as a bitter comment made striking by the extreme orchestration.

The third movement, which Mahler calls a rondo-burlesk, is another departure from the standard orchestral format, as is his notation that he wanted the movement played "with defiance".

The fourth and final movement is slow and seemed to me hymn-like (some people say they can hear the hymn tune for "Abide with me" in the movement's opening. As with much of Mahler's late music, it seems preoccupied with death (there is also a quote from the Kindertotenlieder, his song cycle concerned with the deaths of children), and the movement ends in the faintest whisper of the violins -- and then silence.

The audience sat spellbound for some time after the music stopped, then burst into standing applause when Conductor Prince finally lowered his arms and turned around.

The after-party, which was mobbed, was at the Prospect Avenue home of Natalie Chermak and Elliott Beneroff, and honored longtime volunteers and supporters John Stewart and Craig Bowman.

The 99th season, whose schedule was announced on Saturday, will include a Wagner concert (which should also be mobbed) as well as a Brahms and Beethoven evening, and closes the season with a performance of Scriabin's ferociously difficult "Prometheus: The Poem of Fire" (Symphony No. 5).

Another challenging and exciting year to look forward to with the PSO.

As an aside (I am a compulsive program booklet reader), the large number of full- and half-page ads, and the wide variety of advertisers, are a mark of the success by hard working board members at twisting arms.

Bravo to all!

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Should Assemblyman Jerry Green's public memorial be in Plainfield?

Assemblyman Jerry Green with his longtime
legislative aide Maria Del Cid.

I think most Plainfielders have been content to observe the wishes of Assemblyman Jerry Green's family regarding the privacy of his funeral. However, many have expressed disappointment to me personally over the lack of a public opportunity to remember and celebrate the man while his passing is fresh in everyone's mind.

After all, he was not only the third most powerful person in the Legislature, he was a familiar figure in Plainfield and supported many worthwhile organizations and activities in the Queen City.

So I think folks must have been pleased on Tuesday to learn that Sen. Nick Scutari, the senior legislator in the 22nd District, announced that he was putting together a public memorial for Jerry.

I hope that he is in conversation with Mayor Mapp about Plainfield being the perfect location.

Not only was Plainfield Jerry's hometown, it is the rock slid foundation of he Democratic base in the 22nd District as well as being at its approximate geographical center.

Perhaps the PHS auditorium, with its great acoustics, generous parking and convenient location would make it a good choice.

In any event, we may look forward soon to hearing further details.

I only am sorry that the UCIA never got around to putting signage on the Park-Madison office building proclaiming it the "Gerald Green County Office Building," which the commissioners resolved to do a couple of years ago.

I asked him about a year ago when some signage might appear and he answered with a grin, "Please don't put anything in the blog, I don't want to jinx it."

I'm sure he would have been both pleased and proud to see it as a recognition of his public service. Can we expect to see something soon?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Assemblyman Jerry Green's obituary

Assemblyman Jerry Green, on the floor of the Assembly,
where he was Speaker Pro Tempore.


I had heard through a source that Assemblyman Jerry Green's arrangements were not being entrusted to a Plainfield funeral home, but to the Woody Funeral Home in Roselle.

That makes sense when you consider that Jerry, after all, was a Roselle native.

Checking Sunday evening, I find that the funeral home has posted a lengthy obituary to its website (see here). As of late Sunday no obituary had appeared online on either the Ledger or Courier websites.

Plainfielders will no doubt be disappointed to learn that there will be no public viewing or service. That also fits well with Jerry's intense sense of privacy.

The obituary does say, however, that a memorial service is being planned.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Two Earth Day events in Plainfield this weekend

The five R's of responsible care for the planet.

Plainfielders have two opportunities to observe Earth Day this weekend --
The First Unitarian Society of Plainfield (FUSP) will host an Earth Day Fair and Craft Show on Saturday, April 21, 2018 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm in the church’s Parish Hall. Admission is free.
The growing list of eco-info vendors include Food and Water Watch New Jersey, Plainfield Animal Adoption and Rescue, Rutgers Extension Master Gardeners, Plainfield Municipal Utility Authority (PMUA) and Wagner Farm Arboretum.
One-of-a-kind upcycled crafts such as jewelry, purses, hair accessories, glass totems and rain barrels will be available for purchase. Natural skin care products, nature photography, essential oils, flower bulbs and hand-crafted holistic snacks will also be on sale.
Guitarist/singer-songwriter Elan Varner and the Marafanyi Drummers will perform live. Chef Brian Bunton of Comfort Kitchen will be selling healthy gourmet wraps and sandwiches as well as signature coffee and teas inside the church’s Stevens Lounge.
Children are invited to join retired educator Judy Fisher in the church’s early ed classroom for a fun-filled day of Earth Day-centric crafts and activities.
FUSP is at 724 Park Avenue. Parking is available across the street from the church. For more information, contact the First Unitarian Society at (908) 756-0750.

The Animal Initiatives Committee will be hosting an Earth Day celebration in Leland Avenue Park (adjacent to Cook Elementary School) on Sunday, April 22nd, at 1pm.
The event will feature a nature walk with a member of Plainfield's Shade Tree Committee who will discuss the animals and plant life that call the park home.
Shaman Ellie Campoli will lead the group in a Native American blessing for the earth.  Seeds for milkweed plants, which attract and help to sustain Monarch butterflies, will be planted in the park and distributed to attendees.  Information about veganism, as well as a list of deer-resistant plantings, will also be available.
Lastly, light vegan refreshments will be served after the blessing.  For additional information, please see the attached flyer or call (908) 256-3858.
For more information, call Shannon Pacheco at (917) 204-2112.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Assemblyman Jerry Green dies

Jerry Green, Speaker Pro-Tem of the Aseembly and
its longest-serving member passed away Wednesday evening.


Word came about midnight Wednesday that Assemblyman Jerry Green passed away that very evening.

The longtime Plainfield Democratic legislator -- who also served for many years as chair of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee (PDCC) -- has been ill for months, and was spotted twice while I was in JFK by visitors as a patient on my same (cardiac) ward.

A long, well-researched story just this last Friday in the Union News Daily (see here) went into great detail about his long absence from the Assembly and questioned many party and legislative officials about his status -- but without any responses.

Jerry was always very private about his personal life (including his health issues) and even in his final illness was able to pretty much fend off scrutiny -- even though he was a highly visible public figure whose absence mattered.

The matter of Jerry's succession became a side issue in the contest between Sen. Nick Scutari and Fanwood mayor Colleen Mahr this past February, after Jerry resigned suddenly as the Union County chair.

At that time, there were media reports of Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp as a possible replacement should Jerry's Assembly seat become vacant.

Chairman Mapp disclosed his desire to fill the seat if and when the time came during a meeting of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee at which both Scutari and Mahr made their pitches for the county chairmanship.

Now that Jerry has passed, the Union County Democratic Committee will have to convene to select his replacement, who will serve until the November general election, at which time the balance of Jerry's term will be filled by the District's voters.

In the event that Mayor Mapp gets the nod, the Plainfield mayor's seat will be vacated, and that vacancy will have to be filled as per the city's special charter.

I will post details on services for Jerry and his obituary when they become available. In the meantime,my condolences go out to his family.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Community Forum on Islam Saturday

The mosque is where Muslims gather for prayers.
This is the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
To view Five Marvels of Islamic Architecture,see


Our friends at Masjidullah are sponsoring a community forum this Saturday (April 21) from 1:00 to 4:00 PM at Emerson Community School.

Titled "What Is Islam and Who Are The Muslims?", the forum will feature presentations on Islam in general and the evolution of Islam in the African-American community.

Individual speakers will make presentation on "Growing Up As A Muslim" and "Discovering Islam in Newark, NJ".

There will also be a roundtable discussion focused on the theme "We Are More Alike Than Different".

Worldwide, Islam counts about 1.8 billion adherents, or nearly one in every four persons alive on the planet today. In the US, there are an estimated 3.3 million Muslims, according to a Pew Research Institute study (see here).

Plainfield's Muslim community has grown over the years and many have found careers in public service, as well as small business owners.

While many Plainfielders may know Muslims as friends, workmates or public servants, there are probably few who know much about Islam itself.

This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about another strand in Plainfield's celebrated diversity, and I hope readers will take advantage of it. It would be a pleasure to see you there.

For more information, contact Community Outreach chairperson Maxine Salaam at (908) 337-0889.

Emerson Community School is at East 3rd Street and Emerson Avenue and is an accessible facility. Parking is available on the street or in the school lot. (Mind not to block neighbors' driveways, please!)

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ashley Davis kicks off First Ward Dem race Monday

First Ward Democratic candidate Ashley Davis
with Councilor Rebecca Williams...

... and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman
at the 2018 "Ready To Run" conference at Rutgers.


Ashley Davis, the Democratic Party's choice for the First Ward Council seat will kick off her primary campaign Monday, April 16, with a rally at Plainfield Democratic Headquarters. The event gets under way at 7:00 PM and everyone is cordially invited. Light refreshments will be served. Be sure to check out her campaign Facebook page here.

A Plainfield native (Evergreen School, under Mrs. Doris Williams) and Rutgers graduate with a master's degree in management, Davis has already racked up considerable experience in retail politics working on Democratic campaigns in other states.

Ashley works for the City in the Division of Parks and Recreation, where she is preparing for her second season of coordinating the city's summer feeding program, which guarantees those who receive school lunches during the school year of regular daily meals over the summer.

Taking nothing for granted, she took part in last month's annual "Ready to Run" workshops at Rutgers, sponsored by the school's Center for American Women and Politics.

Part boot camp and part educational experience, the participants included women from all political parties interested in running for public office -- including school boards and municipal governing bodies.

Plainfield was well represented at this year's event, thanks to scholarship aid provided by Sen. Nick Scutari. In addition to Davis, other Plainfield attendees included Gail Smith Alexander and perennial opposition candidate Alma Blanco.

Our own Councilor Rebecca Williams was a presenter at the conference, which energized Davis and others to pursue elected office this year. Among other things, Ashley got to spend some quality time with our own Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Davis' nomination came about in a rather unusual way.

While in previous years Plainfield Democratic Chairman Adrian O. Mapp had used a screening committee to make a recommendation to the Plainfield Democratic City Committee (PDCC) from among interested potential candidates, Chairman Mapp did not choose to go this route for 2018.

Instead, he invited the two persons who had spoken to him of their interest in the First Ward seat -- Davis and Gail Smith Alexander -- to speak to a late February PDCC meeting (see my post here). Both gave brief presentations on their background and reasons for wanting to serve.

After the presentations, Chairman Mapp opened the floor to nominations and both were nominated. He then called for a vote by raised hands, in which Davis received 23 votes to Smith Alexander's 17, whereupon the Chairman declared her the Plainfield Democratic nominee for the First Ward seat.

Davis faces competition from incumbent Diane Toliver, who chose not to come before the Plainfield Democratic City Committee. Democratic voters will decide in the June Primary on the candidate for the November general election. If elected in November, Davis will resign her city job on being sworn in as Councilor.

Incumbent Wards 2/3 Councilor Joylette Mills-Ransome -- who was elected last November to serve the balance of Rebecca Williams term when she was elected as citywide at-large -- is also on the June Primary ballot for a full term of her own. Her opponent is school board member Cameron Cox, who word has it is being backed by the Campbell forces.

Plainfield Democratic Headquarters is at 35 Watchung Avenue (next to Antojito's restaurant). Parking is available on the street and in the lot adjacent to the building.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Plainfield jazz icon Ernie Scott passes

Famed Plainfield jazz musician Ernie Scott
has passed.

Word comes my longtime neighbor and Plainfield jazz icon Ernie Scott passed away this past Saturday.

Ernie and is wife Donna were among the very first people we met when we moved into the neighborhood in 1983, welcoming these two New Yorkers with open arms.

I especially remember Ernie's generosity toward the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library.

When I was Community Outreach Coordinator for the Library, Ernie was always willing to lend a hand with the group's fundraising efforts. Sometimes he would solo and occasionally his trio would put on a special show. No matter what the event, he couldn't refuse the Friends' persuasive volunteer (and president) Belinda Smiley.

A lifelong educator and champion of music education, nothing gave him more pleasure than to inspire young people with a love for performing and enjoying music.

My condolences to Donna and the family.

Services are Friday morning (April 13) at Sharon Baptist Church in New Brunswick. Read the full obituary here.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Monday, April 9, 2018

A spot of really good news tucked in the Council agenda?

One hundred years on, still at it...

There is one surprising item of good news tucked away in Monday's Council agenda -- Resolution 164-18, calling for an increase in billing of $620,000 owing to a state tax appeal ruling.

The owner and the properties are not specified in the resolution.

It has been depressing over the years since the banking crisis to see when has appeared to be an unstoppable avalanche of successful tax appeals.

I realize this is a two-sided question, but the tax burden does not go away when an ratepayer wins a case; it is instead shifted to all the rest of the ratepayers, who must make up the difference.

You can appreciate it if the Mapp administration hesitates to blow its horn too loudly on this, but it is a significant moment. Perhaps it marks a turning point.

There is another item of interest. Resolution 154-18 calls for a contract with three law firms to pursue opioid-related matters. Since last Fall, both the state of New Jersey (as well as other states) and local government (including Newark) have sued opioid manufacturers.

Plainfield appears to be getting on that bandwagon.

My only question is that the resolution contains no term of contract, nor contract amount.

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

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Back from another stay at JFK

View of the former soccer fields between Randolph Road
(foreground) and Stelle Avenue (rear) after a flood.
The County's new artificial turf field will open this year.

You have to wonder if Someone is trying to send me a message.

Breathing problems led my doctor to admit me to JFK (again) on March 27. It was to be a two-day observation, but dragged out until Friday evening, when I was finally tossed out.

(Once again, Assemblyman Green was seen to be a patient on the same cardiac ward where I was.)

As always, I have nothing but good words for the medical care and the nursing staff at JFK -- competent, thorough and caring, with plenty of good humor and even a little sass. Perfect for recuperating. I can only apologize that my readmission counts as a mark against them in their annual evaluations; it's not their fault.

Now that things are  in better shape, I'll get back to blogging.

Speaking of blogging, what HAS happened to blogging in Plainfield?

Olddoc gets a silver star for plugging away and Councilor Williams puts up some timely posts, but most everyone else seems to have faded into the background.

Have we reached the Promised Land in Plainfield? Is there nothing to comment on, nothing that needs improving? Is everything being done and said that can be done and said?

Or is Facebook becoming the outlet of choice?

I'll be exploring some of the questions, so stay tuned.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Friday, April 6, 2018

Former First Ward Councilor Bill Reid passes

Longtime Plainfield Democratic player Bill Reid passes.

One of Plainfield's most astute and long serving political players, former First Ward Councilor Bill Reid, passed away Easter Sunday.

Reid was one of Assemblyman Jerry Green's most dependable assets, serving as the longtime treasurer of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee and as treaasurer for Green's personal political campaigns.

He was also a founding Commissioner of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities  Authority and served most recently as the First Ward City Council member.

Bill and I always had a cordial personal relationship and he held my partner Nat, who served with him on the PMUA, in high esteem. This in spite of our often sharp differences in Plainfield politics.

Bill was a devoted family man and kept a sharp eye on his little neighborhood as well as the interests of the First Ward in the overal scheme of Plainfield progress.

I was quite surprised when I was at Aristacare last fall to find him also a rehab patient in the facility. At the time he was having trouble walking.

We are witnessing the passing of a political generation in Plainield and Bill was an important part of it.

The full obituary is here. Services are Saturday morning, April 7, 10 am at Covenant United Methodist Church on East Front Street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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