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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Community meeting on redevelopment spotlights a necessary conversation that Plainfield has never had

Many were disturbed at learning of the City's plan for a
'condemnation' redevelopment area.

CORRECTED: The correct actor/professor is Matt McConaughey. The City of Plainfield is sponsoring a community meeting on redevelopment on Tuesday evening (October 1) at the Plainfield High School cafeteria. The meeting is set to run from 6:00 to 8:00 PM.

Economic Development Director Valerie Jackson and Planning Director Bill Nierstedt will explain what redevelopment is (and how it differs from development), current and proposed projects, and the various tools available to the City in pursuing redevelopment.

The meeting is in response to the unexpected large turnout at the last Planning Board meeting, where many who came out had the impression that the Planning Board was going to vote on a redevelopment plan for 120 properties the City has identified in what is called the TODD South area -- roughly from East 4th Street to East 7th Street between Park and Watchung Avenues. That meeting was shut down at the suggestion of fire department officials because of the size of the crowd (though not until after one applicant had been heard).

The area contains a number of vacant and under-used buildings. Some are on the National Register of Historic Buildings (the YMCA); some are freighted with significant historical associations to the City (the original Police Station at 4th and Cleveland); and some are buildings that would be adaptable to current needs (the former Earl & Al's Restaurant Supply is in a building with -- as an owner told me -- about 150 parking spaces on the upper floors. (Malcolm Dunn's building on Park Avenue, though not in this area, also has indoor parking.)

In addition, there are buildings in which a significant investment has been made to upgrade them for new uses (the former auto dealership at 5th and Cleveland, which now houses Social Services).

There are of course dilapidated buildings that everyone would like to see something done with, but business and property owners and residents of the area clearly were alarmed at what they feared was happening.


On Saturday afternoon, I happened to listen to an NPR quiz show on the car radio. They were making gentle fun of the the actor-turned-professor
Matt McConaughey's recent appointment as the 'cultural ambassador' of the University of Texas at Austin, the flagship campus.

Austin is undergoing explosive growth and economic development. In response to the ribbing, he offered an explanation of why he was given the (I think) non-salaried position.

McClanahan said the University and the City asked themselves this question: How do we embrace and keep the core everything we love about this city (Austin) and at the same time embrace progress?

I nearly drove off the roadway. Of course! THIS is the conversation Plainfield needs to have but has never had.

We have been involved in the many efforts at strategic planning and visioning ever since the late Mayor Al McWilliams pushed Plainfield's first strategic planning process back in the late 1990s.

We also have had various charettes focusing on selected areas of the city, and finally the Vision 2025 exercise which, under the leadership of Mayor Mapp's former chief of staff, mobilized hundreds of people to consider what would make Plainfield a better place to live, work and shop in by 2025.

But there is one glaring thing we have never done.

We have never had a conversation about what are those things about Plainfield that we love as they are and do not wish to see changed?

It would be easy to get so caught up in the rush of projects coming at us, that we neglected to say 'this we love, this helps us define ourselves as a city, this stays as is'.

That is the conversation that we need to start having now, before the wrecking ball obliterates stuff the community considers essential in the name of economic development.

Hopefully, Tuesday evening's discussion can open the way to a Plainfield conversation about what we all agree we love about this city and don't want to see changed.

The Plainfield High School cafeteria is on the Kenyon Avenue side of the school between West 9th Street and Stelle Avenue. Parking available in the Kenyon and Stelle Avenue lots.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman holds Plainfield Town Hall Monday

Plainfield's beloved Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman
Is holding a Town Hall Monday evening.

Bonnie Watson Coleman is practically a rock star celebrity to Plainfielders. She always was from the beginning when she first ran for the House of Representatives, and now even more so after successfully battling a health issue that seems to have involved chemo and radiation.

So I think we can expect an overflow crowd when she holds a Town Hall meeting this Monday evening at the Plainfield Senior Center.

Like all members of the House of Representatives, Watson Coleman is up for election this November, but she is a shoe-in. However, since there are Republican voters in the district, we may expect some to show up. We should all be on our best manners.

I believe this is her first Town Hall appearance since last Thursday's bombshell House hearing when a whistleblower's complaint was released and President Donald J. Trump is now facing a real impeachment inquiry.

Plainfielders will no doubt have questions for her on how she thinks things should proceed and other matters.

Also, since this is her first impeachment-season outing, it is reasonable to expect a lot of media presence. (So if you want to impress your mom, be sure to dress up a little.)

The event is slated to start at 7:00 PM. My guess is the doors will be open by 6:30 PM. Come early if you want a seat.

The Plainfield Senior Center is at 400 East Front Street (intersection of Sandford Avenue). Parking on the street or in the Bank of America lot. Do not park behind the building as these spaces are reserved for tenants.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, September 27, 2019

Third Annual Tri-County History Fair at the Plainfield Public Library Saturday

The original Muhlenberg Hospital on Muhlenberg Place
between West 3rd and South Second Streets, ca. 1880s.

The Plainfield Public Library is hosting the Third Annual Tri-County History Fair this Saturday (September 28) from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

The well-organized event draws history and genealogy organizations from Union, Middlesex and Somerset Counties, and includes activities for the whole family.

Attendees will receive a free raffle ticket upon entering. This year's Grand Prize is a Publishers Extra subscription.

In addition, there will be two free lectures. At 11:30 AM, author and storyteller Carol Simon Levin will present 'Reclaiming Our Voices: New Jersey's Role in the Fight for Woman Suffrage', in which she portrays Plainfielder Lillian Feickert.

The afternoon lecture is at 1:30 PM, when Union County College emeritus history professor Dr. Lawrence Hogan will talk about "The Best Kept Secret in American Journalism: The Associated Negro Press".

From Noon to 2:00 PM, "Find Your Family in 1940". There will be one-on-one lookups in the U.S. Census in Room 8. Staff genealogists will help you discover your family history. Free, but registration required the day of the event.
Past exhibitors have included the following --

  • Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society
  • Central Jersey Genealogical Club
  • Elizabeth Public Library - Local History & Special Collections
  • Genealogical Society of New Jersey
  • Genealogical Society of the West Fields
  • Green Brook Historical Society
  • Historical Society of Plainfield/Drake House Museum
  • League of Historical Societies of New Jersey
  • Metuchen Public Library
  • Metuchen-Edison Historical Society
  • Miller-Cory House Museum/Westfield Historical Society
  • North Jersey Genealogy and History Center
  • Plainfield Historic Preservation Commission
  • Plainfield Symphony
  • Proprietary House
  • Somerset County Historical Society
  • Somerset County Library
  • South Plainfield Historical Society
  • The Dutchess Bookstore
  • Ukrainian History & Education Center
  • Union County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs
  • Van Wyck Brooks Historic District
  • Virtual Genealogy Club
Join your friends and neighbors at this free, marvelous event.

All activities take place on the lower level of the Plainfield Public Library at Park Avenue and West 8th Street. Light refreshments will be available for purchase, or bring a lunch and stay all day.

The Plainfield Public Library is at Park Avenue and 8th Street. Parking available in the library's two lots and on the street. The Plainfield Public Library is an ADA-accessible facility. For more information, contact the Local History Department at (908) 757-1111 x136.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Plainfield scores near perfect on 2018 audit

This year's audit of the city is near perfect.

City Clerk A-Jay Jalloh released the CY2018 auditor's report a few days ago.

The city came in with a near-perfect audit -- as noted by the number of "findings" or matters needing correction, which are always posted at the end of the report.

It has been a long struggle -- led by Mayor Adrian O. Mapp (who is himself a certified municipal finance professional) -- and a struggle that shows improvement every year.

But it was not always thus. Under Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs for eight years, Plainfield's finances were in disarray much of that time --

  • In 2010, $41,000 in cash was found to be missing from one division -- see here;

  • The 2012 audit found severe problems in the Tax Collector's office (this was before David Marshall took over and has fixed things) -- read more here;

  • By 2015, Mayor Mapp and his team had whittled the "findings" down to only 7 -- of which four concerned the Purchasing Division (things there have been straightened out with the arrival of Cythia Blake as the city's Certified Purchasing Agent) -- see here;

  • In 2016, there was only one finding --  concerning the reporting required of the city's outsourced animal control program -- see more here.

This year (CY2018), there is once again only one "finding" -- having to do with the timely deposit of monies received by Planning, Fire and Engineering/Public Works, which deposits are supposed to be made withing 48 hours of receipt.

Given the enormous strides that have been made over the past decade, this one small finding is rather like being stopped for having a turning signal not working.

You will want to have it fixed.

Within 60 days of receipt of the audit report, the Council must adopt a "corrective action plan" proposed by the Chief Financial Officer to address the findings.

Mayor Mapp and his entire team deserve our thanks for the tremendous progress all have achieved on behalf of the City. Makin' us look good, guys!

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Fr. Peter Manzo, priest out of Grace Church congregation, dies

The Rev. Peter Manzo distributes ashes on Ash Wednesday 2015
outside his church in Cherry Hill. (Image, Philadelphia Inquirer.)

Word came to parishioners of Grace Episcopal Church Sunday morning (September 22) that the Rev. Peter Manzo, a son of the congregation, had passed away last Sunday, September 15 in High Point, North Carolina.

I remember the day in the early 1990s when I first met Peter and his wife Joan.

It was the Saturday of a Mother's Day weekend and fellow Grace Church member Lois Mattson and I were managing the parish's Mother's Day plant sale in front of the church.

Though Grace Church is on busy East 7th Street, it turned out not to be the best location for a sale because it was hard for people to pull over on 7th without jamming traffic. As a consequence, we did not have droves of sales.

But it was a beautiful sunny afternoon and quite enjoyable. Somewhere during our time, a couple we did not know evidently parked across 7th Street in the public lot and crossed over. They were mildly interested in the plant sale, but noticed the church door was open and asked if they could go inside.

"Of course," we said. And they did.

After a few minutes they came out and engaged us in conversation. They were impressed with the church's beautiful windows and asked about services. We gave them the information and said we would be glad to see them on a Sunday.

The very next day, they showed up at Mass and never left until Peter was ordained a priest.

As we got to know Peter and Joan, we learned that Peter had been ordained a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church but that his clerical career had come to an abrupt end when his first wife divorced him.

He and Joan became regular attendees and soon had joined the parish and were received into the Episcopal Church.

They were a gregarious and fun-loving couple, and shortly had begun a monthly fellowship supper for the parish. Joan did all the cooking and she and Peter put on the meal, usually for 70 or 80 parishioners in the parish hall.

I remember one October meal in particular, with an Oktoberfest theme with German-inspired food and a wide selection of beers to sample throughout the evening. (I still think pumpkin beer is weird, though.)

After a few years, the priesthood began to tug at Peter's heart. Being divorced and remarried was not an insurmountable obstacle in the Episcopal Church.

Accordingly, a parish discernment committee was appointed of which I was the chair. Six or eight of us met with Peter on a regular basis over several months to read, study, pray and do faith-sharing as a means to discern if there was a call to the priesthood.

There were frank and probing discussions in an effort to make sure the life-changing nature of ordained ministry was understood. In the end, the committee arrived at a consensus that Peter should be recommended for the next step, which included evaluation at the diocesan level and then a period of mentored service in another parish than his home church.

Peter passed muster and eventually was admitted to General Theological Seminary in New York for his Anglican theological studies.

He was ordained by Bishop Joe Morris Doss in 1999. He went on to serve as an assistant at St. Luke's in Gladstone and then was called as the rector of St. Bartholomew's Church in Cherry Hill, from which he retired in 2016.

I remember in particular many sharp discussions around Anglican history and theology -- especially the role and importance of Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII who is most responsible for the translation and adaptation of the Latin "Sarum" service books which we now know as the Book of Common Prayer.

Peter was an almost unbridled Cranmer enthusiast. I, having recently been beaten about the head and shoulders by the author Eamon Duffy, argued for a less Calvinist and more Catholic view. (Perhaps in part it was also my coming out of the Methodist tradition, which never was big on Calvin.)

After Peter and Joan moved to South Jersey, we lost touch although I did hear occasional news through the church grapevine.

Over the years, Peter became more and more conservative theologically, aligning himself with those who could not envision same-sex marriage as anything but a communion-breaker.

Although the Diocese of New Jersey did not have many clergy in this camp, Peter was fearful after 2008 that the Episcopal Church would break up over the issue.

Fortunately -- unlike in other dioceses -- a wise and moderating Bishop Councell avoided bringing issues to a fever pitch and Peter never broke communion with the Episcopal Church.

Peter Manzo was born February 16, 1947. His best friend in high school was a Jewish student, Mort Gati, founding director of Bridgeway House in Elizabeth. Mort Gati was gay, something I don't think Peter knew until he was told by his Plainfield friends who new Mort -- Lois Mattson and her husband Cory Storch, Mort's successor at Bridgeway House.

Peter was a graduate of Georgetown University (B.A.), Columbia School of Business (M.B.A.), and Cornell Law School (J.D.). His Anglican studies were undertaken at General Theological Seminary in New York City.

Peter leaves behind his beloved wife Joan and their three children Larisa, Andrew and Lucia.

A funeral service officiated by Bishop William H. Stokes will take place Sunday, October 13 at 2:00 PM in St. Bartholomew's Church, 1989 Route 70 East in Cherry Hill.

Condolences may be left on the funeral home's website here.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Why I love Facebook: Funny posts from some of my FB friends

FB friend Jeromy Dunn spotted this clever
marketing callout to shoppers.

There are plenty of reasons to be suspicious of Facebook -- making a gazillion dollars off our personal information and trolling us with relentless ads 'tailored' to our interests are two big ones.

But I also love Facebook, because that where lots of my friends not only vent -- about politics and life in general -- but also post some very funny images and memes.

Today, I want to share a few from this past week. I'll give credit where I remembered to note (a couple I forgot, so whoever posted -- please forgive me).

1920s cartoon character Felix the Cat
was recalled by FB friend Vicky Blasucci.

A visual pun caught the attention of
FB friend Bob Cashill.

Sage advice was noted by FB friend Ken Joy.

Though not funny, this photo is striking. The gown and accoutrements
are all made from plastic cups and dinnerware.
Spotted by FB friend Terri Slaughter-Cabbell.

Sometimes classic film scenes are repurposed, as in this
one spotted by FB friend Mark James Luzzi.

Hope you enjoyed this little selection. I'll keep my eye open for more. Use Facebook, but wisely.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Plainfield Symphony gala Saturday kicks off 100th anniversary season

The Plainfield Symphony's gala at the Plainfield Country
Club Saturday kicks off its 100th season.

A grand evening of entertainment is planned for guests of the Plainfield Symphony's Centennial Showcase Gala Saturday evening (September 21).

The event formally kicks off the Plainfield Symphony's 100th season and is being held at the Plainfield Country Club, where attendees will dine and dance to the music of Peter Duchin and his orchestra.

Duchin is an heir to the big band tradition and has been entertaining audiences since 1962 -- having logged well over 6,000 performances.

Attendees will also enjoy cocktails with a silent auction and a live auction with comedian Joey Novick as auctioneer.

But the high spot of the evening will be the honoring of people and organizations for their contributions to the Plainfield Symphony's continued success.

This year's honorees are --

  • Andrea and Ron West for support from the Community;

  • Bobby Gregory's NJ Galvanizing & Tinning for its Corporate support; and

  • The Plainfield Foundation for continued support by a nonprofit.

The event is black tie and runs from 7:00 PM to Midnight. Tickets are $165 per person, with premier seating (near the dais) at $750.

Music Director Charles Prince has planned an exciting year of music for the PSO's centennial -- including a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (The Resurrection) at the season's closing concert and John Philip Souza selections at the season's first concert. (Souza's first performance after leaving the United State Marine Corps was here in Plainfield in 1892.)

For more on the PSO's 2019-20 season, to subscribe or purchase tickets, visit the Plainfield Symphony Orchestra website here.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Netherwood Heights House Tour fast approaching

This 1909 Spanish Revival mansion is on the tour.

The house tour starts at the registration tent
at 551 Belvedere Avenue.

551 Belvedere is the third house in from East 7th Street.

Plainfielders have always loved house tours and visitors do, too. In fact, Plainfield is famous for the quality of its house tours. (We chose to move from Brooklyn to Plainfield after attending a house tour.)

Netherwood Heights Neighbors is hosting a house tour of outstanding examples in their neighborhood on Sunday, September 29.

The hotel was featured on the group's 2016 Calendar.
Each year a new one is produced and it always sells out.

The neighborhood takes its name from the Netherwood Hotel, which was a famous 19th century resort formerly located in the heart of the neighborhood. (I have always been told the neighborhood's characteristics winding streets were built on the hotel's bridle paths.)

Though the massive red-brick Victorian hotel was destroyed by a fire, that disaster made possible the residential development which has given us this gem of a residential neighborhood -- complete with its very own train station.

Seven homeowners will graciously open their residences for the tour -- ranging from a 19th century farmhouse to an early 20th century Spanish Revival mansion; from a classic 1920s Tudor Revival to a fairytale cottage with magnificent landscaping.

People love to tour these homes, both to see what the owners have done with them, and to gather design and decoration ideas to use in their own homes.

The tour is from Noon to 4:00 PM on Sunday, September 29 -- rain or shine. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 the day of.

Tickets may be purchased in advance by check (payable to "Netherwood Heights Neighbors") or cash ONLY, at the following locations --

Netherwood Heights Neighbors is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Proceeds of the tour will help Netherwood Heights Neighbors continue its community outreach, educational programs, and artifact preservation.

The tour starts at the registration tent at 551 Belvedere Avenue (see map above), where attendees will receive a program booklet and map.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, September 16, 2019

More on the "white privilege" meme I shared on Facebook

I shared this meme on Facebook recently, It got some notice, and I got a phone call about it.

The meme above came up on my Facebook feed a couple of days ago and I immediately shared it because I thought it made a legitimate point about the American justice system.

I got a call from a reader who lives in Plainfield and happens to be white. Their concerns were (1) that sharing the meme would heighten racial distrust in Plainfield; (2) that the McDowell case was older and more complicated than the Huffman case, and (3) that Huffman got a lighter sentence because she had expensive and better lawyers.

Let me take the points up in order.

(1) I shared the meme because the comparison of the two cases underscores the inequities in the way that people of color are treated in the criminal justice system.

If you want a different comparison, how about petty marijuana purchases and distribution, where commentators have observed that whites are prosecuted much less often than perand receive lighter penalties and sentences when they are.

In my experience, people just want to be treated fairly and equitably. If a fact is a fact, why should it not just be laid out there?

(2) It is true that McDowell's case was more complicated (you can read an in-depth story here), but the bottom-line is that the 5-year sentence she received was for the "theft" of educational services. The fact that it is older is not relevant. You can read about Huffman's case and sentencing here.

(3) The argument that Huffman had expensive and better lawyers, rather than excusing her brings in the relevance of class in the criminal justice system. All my life, I have been aware that wealthy people get different justice from poor and working people. I am sure each reader can think of their own examples. (Epstein comes immediately to mind.)

But it is even worse, because understanding the kind of prison Huffman is going to experience will make readers even angrier. Check out a couple of stories here and here. Maybe we could arrange for her to spend her two weeks at the Edna Mahan facility?

I had a professor in college who said metaphors are like 3-legged dogs. They look like a dog, they bark like a dog, but don't try to get them to run like a dog.

You could say the same about Internet memes. They are a kind of shorthand. Of course, you could go on and on about the matter at hand and make distinctions of all sorts. But, bottom line, they are a quick way to communicate an important point in a condensed and memorable format.

Listen carefully to the Democratic candidates on criminal justice reform. Who do you think has the better plan?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Want to stop complaints about noise from downtown festivals? A simple suggestion.

Mr. Garcia's configuration to date has been to have the
bandstand along Somerset Street, facing eastwards.
The purple lines show how this becomes a 'megaphone'.

Edison Garcia, the owner of Los Faraone's nightclub, is hosting a festival this weekend (Sunday is the last day) in celebration of Latin American independence.

Though he has done it for ten years now, it is not quite annual -- and this is the second time for this year.

Suffice it to say, though, that these are familiar events -- with familiar complaints. Most notably about noise.

There was quite a stink and a lengthy Council discussion a couple of years ago, resulting in limiting the hours and volume of the music for these events.

I have often pondered those complaints and the lack of them when it comes to concerts in Cedar Brook Park (and today, at Milt Campbell Field).

Today, thinking about those other concerts and this event, the REAL problem -- and a solution -- suddenly dawned on me.

Driving up Somerset Street from Route 22, I noticed when passing the venue that the stage had no backing this time and was completely open to Somerset Street, though the performers faced into Lot 8A.

Then it hit me: The Teppers building in the back and the backs of buildings on either side of Lot 8A turned the space into a giant megaphone, projecting the music eastward as far as Leland Avenue (from which there were previous complaints).

I am no sound engineer (though I play one on this blog), but it seems to me the simple solution to this is to relocate the spot from which sound is generated.

Here are two simple suggestions --

Suggestion A: Move the bandstand to the rear of
Los Faraone's, avoiding east-facing sound.

Suggestion A is to relocate the bandstand to the rear wall of Los Faraone's nightclub. This would have the advantage of only projecting the sound against a one-story building. It would also leave the Lot 8A area for attendees the same, with the added benefit of easy pedestrian access from Somerset Street.

Suggestion B: Moving the bandstand into Lot 8 might
reduce sound complaints the most.

Suggestion B is to relocate the bandstand to the rear of the window company next to the Green Brook in Lot 8. This would leave the sound pointing to a broken multi-story structure much farther away than in Lot 8A. In addition, the reflected sound would be baffled by the lush trees along the brook.

Either of these placements would allow for an ample audience to enjoy the performances up close (in example A, in the exact same space) and at the same time reduce the spread of the noise eastward toward the residential areas of the First Ward.

All that would have to be done is for the Police Department to make that a condition of their approval of any permit.

This weekend's festival seems to be doing marginally better attendance-wise than the one in July (I'm sure that's a relief to Mr. Garcia), but the Plainfield police could be more attentive to the details.

I went by after dark, and there were two prowl cars with lights flashing parked on Somerset Street behind the bandstand, with officers stationed by the cars and watching the crowd.

On the Watchung Avenue side, all the street lights in the area were non-functional, leaving it pitch black. Since most attendees park in the lot behind Punto Peruano restaurant, those with small children were left to try and navigate crossing Watchung in the dark. A police van was parked athwart the driveway but there was not an officer in sight to guide pedestrians across the busy street. We can do better.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Chairman Mapp sets Democratic fundraiser for Wednesday

The PDCC fundraiser is at the Tavern at Ashbrook,
Union County's newest entertainment venue.

Mayor and Plainfield Democratic chair Adrian O. Mapp has set a fundraiser reception for next Wednesday (September 18).

The event will be held at the recently opened Tavern at Ashbrook at the Ashbrook Golf Course on Raritan Road in Scotch Plains
from 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM.

The venue is one of the newest entertainment venues at Union County golf courses and is set in a new building with ample views of the course through floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

The event is a fundraiser for the Plainfield Democratic City Committee (PDCC). Tickets are $300/person. The invitation does not says if the event is "open bar".

Though the invitation says reservations are wanted by September 13, you can probably reserve past that time. Contact is: Use the email to confirm your attendance or for questions.

Checks should be made payable to PDCC and can be sent to PDCC, 535 West 8th Street, Plainfield, NJ 07060. (Checks can also be dropped off at the door, but please RSVP in advance so organizers can know how many to plan for. Thank you.)

A WORD ABOUT THE VENUE: The Tavern at Ashbrook is a restaurant and bar open to the public seven days a week. I have been there for dinner several times. The restaurant menu is interesting and well executed. The wait staff are friendly, efficient and knowledgeable. The bar (I don't drink) is well-stocked with a selection fine wines, spirits and specialty (some rare) whiskies. The menu is reasonably priced; drinks cost a bit more than elsewhere. The ambience is modern and can be a little loud as there are no sound-absorbing carpets or hangings. The terrace offers an excellent view of the golf course as the sun goes down. The course is on Raritan Road between Rahway Road and Terrill Road and has ample parking.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Councilor Davis honored by Mohawk Lodge for community service

James Spann, head of the Mohawk Lodge, presented
Councilor Ashley Davis an award for community service.

First Ward Councilor Ashley Davis and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver were among those honored by Plainfield's Mohawk Lodge of the I.B.P.O.E.W. on Sunday (September 9) at a banquet at Spain Inn.

Davis, who is completing her first year of service as the First Ward's representative on the Plainfield City Council, has long been supporter of Girl Scouting.

She is active in the Heart of New Jersey Council, which serves 18,000 Girl Scouts from Hudson to Hunterdon counties in central New Jersey, including Plainfield (see the Plainfield Girl Scout website here).

Davis was also recognized for her outstanding efforts in constituent support and noted for her active promotion of activities and events on social media, and effective and modern way of staying in touch with constituents.

Besides Davis and Lt. Gov. Oliver, the Mohawk Lodge honored the Hon. Michele Delisfort, mayor of Union Township, and Pamela Travis, retired guidance counselor in the Piscataway public schools and Sunday School Superintendent at Mt. Olive Baptist Church.

The event was held at the Spain Inn and presided over by James Spann, leader of the Mohawk Lodge and a committee that included longtime Plainfield activist George Gore.

Congratulations to Councilor Davis and the other honorees.

Mohawk Lodge #307 of the I.B.P.O.E.W. is located at 1357 West 3rd Street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Plainfield City Council gets new wardrobe fashion item

Usually outfitted in windbreakers with the
City seal, this Tee may be more appropriate
now that their redevelopment role is clarified.

My curiosity piqued by the previously unannounced discussion of "Redevelopment - Roles and Responsibilities", I managed to arrive just as Economic Development Director Valerie Jackson began her presentation.

Instead of taking issue with Planning Board attorney Peter Vignuolo, she agreed with him and underlined the point he made -- that the Planning Board's role is to determine if the state's criteria for declaring an area "in need of redevelopment" have been met.

The responsibility for deciding whether a plan is "condemnation" or "non-condemnation" lies elsewhere.

Communities may designate an organization as its redevelopment agency. Plainfield once had a Redevelopment Agency. It also at one time designated the Housing Authority as its redevelopment agency.

But, as Jackson explained it, the responsibility now devolves on the governing body. Without another designated agency, the City Council becomes the responsible party.

In effect, this puts the bulls-eye on the backs of the Plainfield City Council.

It means that those concerned about the proposed TODD South "condemnation" plan -- property and business owners and residents -- need to refocus their thinking.

While it will be important to attend the Planning Board hearing(s), its limited responsibility means those who have concerns need to address them to the body which has ultimate responsibility: Plainfield City Council.

While the City had only engaged in non-condemnation plans up to this point (where the developer buys the properties from individual owners to assemble a parcel), a condemnation plan shifts the focus entirely.

As the Mapp administration moves to place almost all of the downtown business district in the path of the wrecker's ball, a distinct shift is taking place.

Plainfield has never used condemnation before (where the City can used Eminent Domain to force the sale of private property to the City).

Previously, redevelopment projects have concerned themselves mostly with vacant or abandoned properties (Muhlenberg, Quin Sleepy Hollow, South Second Street, the Paul Building, etc.).

This began to shift with the West Front/Central Avenue and Richmond/3rd Street proposals, which included some active businesses and residences.

The focus now shifts in a major way to include 120 properties between 4th and 7th Streets -- many with thriving businesses benefiting the community. (You may want to read the take by Downtown Plainfield Alliance board member Ron Johnson in TAPinto -- see here.)

Jackson clearly delineated the Council as the responsible agency.

While the Administration may request a study or proposed a plan, it is the Council which is on the hook for taking action.

The City Council --

  • Authorizes redevelopment studies;
  • Designates redevelopment areas (by resolution);
  • Directs the Planning Board to create a redevelopment plan (then enshrined in an ordinance); and
  • Finally, works with the developer(s) in executing projects.
Like it or not, this puts a bulls-eye squarely on the backs of the City Council.

We'll see how that works out once the pressure is on.

Meanwhile, everyone awaits notice of the to-be-relocated and rescheduled Planning Board hearing on the matter.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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