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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Plainfield Zoning Board takes up daycare expansion at former Armory Tuesday

HOPES Head Start is constructing new quarters on
the former Armory site.

Plans call for the complete renovation of the old Armory
building, including accessibility requirements.

Satellite image from Google shows parking areas
on the site at East 7th Street and Leland Avenue.

Plainfield's Zoning Board of Adjustment is set to take up once again the proposed expansion of the HOPES Head Start program at the former Armory building at East 7th Street and Leland Avenue at its meeting Wednesday, August 1.

The matter was carried over from July when board members began to question parking and traffic concerns with the expansion.

HOPES is asking for the following expansions from its original proposal --

  • Students: From 270 to 362

  • Staff: From 76 to 95

  • Classrooms: From 20 to 26
The plan calls for only 86 parking spaces and HOPES is not asking for an expansion of that number, telling the board that no more than 70 employees would be parking at any given time.

HOPES attorney Marsha Moore told the board at the July meeting that she would order the requested traffic study "the next morning."

The Plainfield Zoning Board of Adjustment meets at 7:00 PM Wednesday, August 1, in City Hall Library. The public is able to speak on any matter before action is taken.

City Hall is at Watchung Avenue and East 6th Street. Parking and entrance to the building are in the rear.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Free Concert In The Park at Milt Campbell Field Thursday

The annual free concert has become more popular
than ever since moving to Milt Campbell Field.

Our own Pat Fields will present the 2018 Music In The Park concert this Thursday (August 2) at Milt Campbell Field.

The event gets under way at 4:00 PM with a DJ.

The Plainfield Idol competition gets under way at 5:00 PM. The contest is open to Plainfield youngsters ages 8 to 18.

The concert starts at 6:00 PM and features the following lineup --

  • Master of Ceremonies: CP Lacey ("The Executioner" - An Apollo Legend)
  • Blue Magic ("Spell", "Sideshow", "Tear It Down")
  • Soul Generation ("If I Had a Million Dollars")
  • Winfree (Kevin Owens and Larry "Ice" Winfree of Ray, Goodman& Brown)
  • Eban Brown (Former lead singer of "The Stylistics")
  • King Barton ("Without You In My Life")
  • Kimena Ibarra (Ecuadorian Sensation)
  • Retta Young & Company ("Sending Out a SOS")
The free summer concert, which began a number of years ago at South Avenue's Plainwood Square Park has grown to a huge event since it was moved to Milt Campbell Field because of construction on South Avenue.

Be sure to bring your own chair.

And please be courteous when parking and see not to block the driveways of neighbors in the area.

Milt Campbell Field is a city-owned recreational complex on East 3rd Street near Terrill Road.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Chinese water torture of 4-way STOP signs continues

The next one up is in the First Ward.

The Plainfield Police Division has announced yet another new 4-way STOP sign intersection, this one at Leland Avenue and George Street, set to take effect Friday, August3.

Maybe the public would be less annoyed if the complete list of planned 4-way stops were published all at once, with the schedule of effective dates.

The Division could continue the release of news updates a few days before each one is to become effective, but at least the public would know there is an end in sight.

On another front, why doesn't Plainfield adopt a "Don't Block The Box" ordinance like many other cities have?

There are numerous intersections where piggy drivers line up behind cars and leave themselves blocking the intersection when the light changes. West Front and Central, West 5th and Park, and East Front and Watchung come immediately to mind.

A fine of $250 for blocking an intersection would help improve traffic flow immensely.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Services for Gordon Fuller

Gordon Fuller, longtime Planning Board
member, has passed away.

Gordon Fuller, longtime Plainfield resident and active in community affairs passed away Tuesday, July 24, at University Hospital in Newark.

Gordon was a familiar figure to many for his thirty-plus years of service on the Planning Board.

Many will also know his wife Barbara for her many years of service in Union County's Office of Arts and Culture, as well as her longtime involvement with the Historical Society of Plainfield and the Drake House.

Visitation will be Sunday, July 29, from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM at Memorial Funeral Home in Fanwood.

A funeral mass will be celebrated Monday, July 30, at 10:00 AM at the Church of St.Bartholomew The Apostle, 2032 Westfield Avenue, Scotch Plains.

Interment will follow at Hillside Cemetery in Scotch Plains.

Barbara and the family invite friends to a lunch following at the Fuller home.

You may read the obituary and sign the guestbook on the funeral home's website here.

In lieu of flowers, the family is suggesting contributions be made to the duCret School of Art, 1030 Central Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060. Gordon served on the school's Board of Trustees.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Perfectly painless parallel parking

My grandmother Effie Mae with her surviving children,
Christmas 1946. Front row (l to r) Blanche, Grandmother Damon,
Marjorie and Irene. Rear (l to r) Lloyd (my dad), Deward,
Howard and Norris.

I can't tell you how many times I have seen people struggling with parallel parking downtown, especially on the block of East Front between Park and Watchung avenues.

Oftentimes they end up backing in at an awkward angle and obstructing the flow of traffic in one or even both directions while making their attempt.

Sad, because it's really not that difficult to do it perfectly.

Let me share with you how my Aunt Irene taught me to parallel park perfectly in one easy lesson.

Aunt Irene (I never dreamed of calling her anything else) was an older sister of my father and lived in a tiny brick house about a half mile from us that had been a stagecoach stop in the 19th century to change horses on the route between Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

Irene's husband, Uncle Ben, was a very quiet man who worked at the local sawmill.

Aunt Irene was sociable and independent-minded (she had come of age in the 1920s and learned to drive on her father's Model A).

She earned her own money by wallpapering various rooms for people, transporting all her papers and tools (except for a stepladder, which the client was expected to provide) in her sedan.

She had been a Ford girl all her life and rather disdained my father's Dodge sedan.

But she was quite frank about her Ford's shortcomings. She had a manual choke (winters in the Buffalo area are quite frigid) installed on her 1955 Fairlane so it would start in zero degree weather and jokingly referred to "Ford" as an acronym for Fix. Or. Repair. Daily.

The year was 1956 and I was preparing for my NY drivers license test.

In those days there were no driving schools or driver ed classes; you learned with a family member or perhaps an older sibling or cousin who already had a license.

Aunt Irene had agreed that I could take the test with her Fairlane.

My father, whom you might have expected to pitch in, had left the family a few years before and was essentially unavailable.

So Aunt Irene and I practiced on country roads until I was quite comfortable.

However, she knew that one of the tasks I would have to complete successfully was parallel parking.

So one day shortly before the fateful day, we drove into the village of Fredonia which actually had some parallel parking marked off with painted lines.

"Ok," she said, "watch this."

"The trick is to pull up as close as possible and perfectly parallel to the car you are going to park behind."

"Line your car up even with the front of that car."

I looked out my window. We were close indeed. It seemed the door handles of the two cars were only a couple of inches apart.

"Then put it in reverse. You can look over your shoulder for the test, but I usually don't bother (she was a bit ballsy too)."

"Back up slowly until your front wheels are even with the other car's rear wheels and then give the steering wheel a hard crank to the right as you continue to ease backward."

"You will begin to slide into the parking space."

"As you clear the other car's rear bumper cut the wheel hard to the left and watch through the rear view mirror not to bump the car behind you."

"You will ease in behind the car in front of you and should be perfectly parallel to the curb."

"That's all there is to it, and you should be just six inches from the curb, which is what the test requires."

"Ok, now you try it."

We switched seats and I drove around the block returning to the same space.

Then she talked me through each maneuver.

Though I was very nervous I did get in the space, but Aunt Irene was not satisfied.

"We'll do it a couple more times until you're really comfortable."

On the third try, I felt like a pro and aced it to her satisfaction.

A few days later, we drove into town once more -- this time to take the REAL test, which I passed with flying colors, thanks to Aunt Irene.

The only additional thing I would suggest for today's driver is to put your blinkers on when starting the maneuver as a matter of courtesy so that other folks can have some idea of what you're up to.

Maybe some day I'll tell you about Aunt Irene's made-from-scratch lemon meringue pies, which were to die for.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Dan gets a digital warning

Detail from electronic ticket I got today.
Are you aware the chemicals used to treat the paper
(and supermarket receipts) are su
spected carcinogens?

I was going to the Stop & Shop in Watchung Square Mall Wednesday afternoon to replenish the house supply of Polar adult beverages.

As usual, I drove down Mountain Avenue in North Plainfield parallel to Route 22 and then turned left at North Drive to get on the highway at the red light so as to avoid the merge hassle at the Watchung Avenue intersection.

Suddenly, I was aware of red and blue lights flashing in my rear view mirror. I pulled over, thinking the officer wanted to pass, but he did not pass me. He stopped directly behind me.

What on earth?!

I was sure I hadn't done anything. I certainly wasn't speeding and the light at North Drive was green the whole while I turned.

So what was it?

Fortunately, I had my registration, insurance card and license out by the time the officer got to my open passenger window.

"Papers please," he said.

I handed them over.

"If everything is clean, I'll be right back," says he.

And he meant it.

Within ten seconds he was back with my papers and a ticket printed out on the computer in his prowl car.

"Wow, that was fast," I said.

"All I had to do was put in your plate number."

"Your brake light is out," he said. "I'm giving you a warning; you better get it fixed right away or you'll get a summons if I see it again."

With that he handed me my papers and the ticket.

Then he did a most unusual thing, he stuck out his hand and shook mine.

And then he walked away.

An image of the ticket is above (click on it to enlarge). It shows my name, address and drivers license number, the make, model and year of the vehicle and the insurance information, as well as the offense, and the officer's name and badge number. (But there is one error: my RAV4 is royal blue, not black as the ticket indicates.)

All of this information is now available to the authorities digitally from databases maintained by the state. It is really simple and probably cuts down on many errors made in writing tickets out by hand.

If any of the personal information had not checked out, it would have  become a serious matter. Thankfully all was OK.

Nevertheless it is a bit creepy.

P.S. Got the lamp fixed immediately at my garage at 2nd and Church. (They are excellent and I recommend Binder to anyone looking for good -- and honest -- mechanics.)

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Yet another 4-way stop takes effect this Friday

Yet another 4-way stop coming Friday.

Yet another 4-way stop takes effect this Friday, this one at Plainfield Avenue and Randolph Road.

While the 4-way stop at West 9th and Arlington seemed quite appropriate given that there was a fatal accident at that corner, many of the others in recent months just seem annoying and seem to lack the same justification.

One other thing that I have noticed is the seeming disparity in how these are being apportioned: Most of the new 4-way stop appear to be in the 3rd  and 4th Wards,  with a few in the 2nd Ward.

So why has the 1st Ward escaped attention on this front. Surely there must be stretches of Front, Second or Third Streets that could benefit from 4-way stops.

Fair is fair, no?

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Saturday, July 21, 2018

David's dream house is nixed

Since ancient times, Cedars of Lebanon
have been treasured for luxury projects.

Another thing I love about worship in the Episcopal tradition is that we follow what is called the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).

This is a three-year set of prescribed readings -- Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament epistles (or Revelation) and Gospels -- for each Sunday of the liturgical year (which begins with the season of Advent in November).

In this way, worshipers are exposed to hearing much of the Bible as the writers intended.

The three years are organized primarily around the Gospels: Matthew (Year A), Mark (Year B -- the current year), and Luke (Year C). The Gospel of John gets its due at certain seasons during every year (Advent, Lent, Passiontide, Easter) and in Year B when Mark -- the shortest Gospel -- runs out of steam.

This is radically different from the tradition (Methodist) in which I grew up and which had no such thing. Instead, readings were left to the discretion of the preacher.

This often resulted in preachers who got stuck in one-note-Johnny mode and just preached on the same theme no matter what lesson they chose. On the other hand, there were those who dragged the congregation into the weeds with them in 33-part sermons on an exhaustive (and exhausting) topic.

Episcopalians (and Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians and many Methodists) are now spared all that.

And for all this the universal church can be thankful for the Second Vatican Council, which led to the revision of the Roman lectionary on which the RCL is based. You can read more about the RCL here, and also check out the RCL website here, which gives access to the complete series of readings plus other useful tools.

Another gift of the Second Vatican Council is the restoration of the ancient office of lector to lay readers. Lectors read the Old Testament and New Testament lessons and also lead the Prayers of the Faithful.

Early Christians carried forward the Jewish tradition of reading from the scriptures and then the letters of Paul and others during services and lectors developed very early on (there is a reference from 155 CE) and were a sign of honor in the congregation.

After the fall of Rome, as literacy declined, the office of lector became restricted to those who could passably read from the Latin scriptures (St. Jerome's Vulgate translation was used right up to modern times). Eventually the office eroded away altogether except in certain rare occasions.

The Protestant Reformation evidently was ignorant of the ancient tradition and carried forward the late medieval practice of having the presiding minister read all the lessons.

(One respite from all this in my Evangelical United Brethren youth was the responsive readings included in the back of the denominational hymnal -- actually a very faint recollection of the responsive readings of the Psalms by monks and nuns reciting their daily offices -- and continued today in the Episcopal and Roman churches.)

I am honored to be one such lector at Grace Church and tomorrow I have a reading from the Old Testament book of II Samuel (7:1-14).

In this reading, King David -- who is now installed in a magnificent palace of cedar (remember the Cedars of Lebanon?) -- decides that God's tent dwelling is a bit on the shabby side and he is going to replace it.

While many public officials become obsessed with their perks and prerogatives -- and David certainly was among them -- he did take time to reflect on the Lord of Hosts who had made all his successes possible.

However, God trashed David's dream.

If you want to know how and why, you can join us at Grace Church at 10:30 AM and hear the answer. Or you can check it online at the RCL website here.

Grace Episcopal Church is at East 7th Street and Cleveland Avenue. Worship on Sundays is at 10:30 AM. Parking available in the street or in the public parking lot across from the front of the church. You will also enjoy the weekly playing of our 46-bell carillon, one of only four in the state of New Jersey.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Friday, July 20, 2018

Tree trouble?

A number of years ago, this tree on private property fell
toward the street and was only kept from landing on passing
traffic by the utility wires. Liability? Who do you think?

If you are like half of Plainfielders, you live in a single family home.

And the likelihood is your property is shaded by trees -- perhaps quite a few of them.

Trees are valuable for cleansing the air -- my back-of-the-envelope calculation is that there are probably half a million or more trees shading, cooling and refreshing Plainfield.

Like most of us, you probably enjoy them for their shade, hate them for their falling leaves in the autumn, and don't give them much thought the rest of the time.

Well, maybe you should.

Trees along your boundary line with your meighbor may overhang their property and a diseased or rotten tree that falls on your neighbor's property can be a liability for you insurance-wise.

Likewise trees that are not properly attended to and need to be removed can hit you in the wallet to the tune of $1,000 or more.

So, maybe you would like to take a little time to learn more about your trees --

  • how and when to care for them
  • how to maintain them
  • when and how to prune them
  • and more
Plainfield residents have an opportunity this coming Monday (July 23) to attend a TreeKeepers workshop on trees presented by the NJ Tree Foundation.

This event is FREE for Plainfield residents and will take place in the Anne Louise Davis Meeting Room of the Plainfield Public Library between 6:00 and 8:00 PM.

If you plan to attend, please be courteous and RSVP to (609) 439-1755, leaving your name, email address and the fact that you are from Plainfield. (Residents of other communities may attend for a $25 fee.)

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Union County Dems host funder for Millennial candidates -- including Plainfield's Ashley Davis

Plainfield's own Ashley Davis, candidate for the Ward 1
Council seat will benefit from a fundraiser
next Thursday by the Union County Dems.

Union County Democratic chair Nick Scutari gets it. Millennials represent a new generation of public service and leadership in the Democratic Party. (Are you reading this Nancy Pelosi? Are you reading this Diane Feinstein?)

In a fundraiser set for next Thursday (July 26) in Berkeley Heights, the UCDC is giving the nod to seven Millennial candidates who are running for local office in communities across the county.

Among the honorees is Plainfield's own Ashley Davis who has the Democratic line on the November ballot for the Firt Ward council seat.

Davis, who was the choice of a majority of the members of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee at the candidate selection meeting, bested incumbent Diane Toliver in the June primary election.

Though running without any financial support from either the local Democratic committee or any candidate campaign committee (the terms which Chairman Mapp set for the primary candidates when they were chosen -- see my posts here and here), Davis was able to put together a team that successfully raised enough money for her to run a full-fledged primary campaign.

Tickets to the UCDC fundraiser are $20 per person and can be reserved by emailing the UCDC at Checks should be made payable to the UCDC. Proceeds will be split evenly among the seven candidates. (Please be considerate and reserve ahead so the hosts can plan the food and beverages. Thank you!)

The other candidates being honored are --
  • Stephen Yellin, for Berkeley Heights Council
  • Sarah Todisco, for Garwood Mayor
  • Brandon Bernier, for Roselle Council
  • Joseph Signorello, for Roselle Park Mayor
  • Alex Keiser, for Springfield Townsip Committee
  • Greg Vartan, for Summit Council

The event is being held at the home ofthe Starling family, 107 Chaucer Drive, Berkeley Heights.

See map for directions here.

I hope as many as possible will take this opportunity to show support for our own Ashley Davis and this emerging generation of public servants.

That's Thursday, July 26, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Plainfield prepares to celebrate its 150th birthday

Plainfield's city seal acknowledges its
incorporation in 1869 -- 150 years ago in 2019.

Under Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, Plainfield is beginning to make preparations to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its incorporation as a city in 1869.

Shep Brown, soon to become Director of the to-be-created Department of Social Services (yay Shep!) has been tasked with putting together a committee of community representatives to make plans for the 150th years' celebrations.

I am pleased to have been asked to serve on the committee.

Since I will be unable to attend the committee's first meeting, I thought to outline some of my hopes for a celebration of Plainfield's sesquicentennial.

I would hope that a celebration of our sesquicentennial would engage the whole community --
  • Businesses
  • The Professions
  • The Religious Communities
  • Educational Community
  • Non-profit, Community and Cultural Organizations

Too many celebrations like this become sugary and sentimentalized. I would hope that a sesquicentennial celebration of the Queen City would honestly portray the community history "warts and all" including the following dimensions --
  • Race
  • Class
  • Gender
  • Immigration Status
  • Religious affiliation
-- examining how far we have come and how different (better?) we are on these fronts today.
Lastly, I would hope that some of the aspirations and insights of the Plainfield Vision 2025 project could be taken into account by way of pointing toward a future Plainfield's promise.

While chartering Plainfield as a city was a positive move, given the temper of the times in the "Gilded Age," we did not get from there to here along a straight line.

Change did not necessarily come easily and I hope we are able to give a (relatively) full account of how we got from the founding of a city which privileged a few and excluded many to the much more inclusive community we live in and love today.

Mazel tov!

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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