Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, September 29, 2017

18th Annual FOSH Celebration of Animals Sunday at Leland Park


St. Francis preaches to the animals,
a contemporary work by Tatiana Grant.

 
The Friends of Sleepy Hollow's 18th Annual Celebration of Animals takes place at Plainfield's Leland Avenue Park on Sunday (October 1). Gathering time is 1:30 PM, with the blessing of pets to begin at 2:00 PM. The event is organized by the group's Animal Initiative Committee.

According to a press release --

The Friends of Sleepy Hollow (FOSH) Animal Initiative Committee is holding the annual Celebration of Animals on Sunday October 1.  The event is free of charge and open to everyone, with or without pets, to celebrate the importance of animals in the lives of human beings.

Anatole France’s quote ‘Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened,’ says it best,” said MaryEllen Chanda of the Animal Initiative Committee. Held in conjunction with the Feast of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, representatives of local religious and spiritual traditions will offer blessings for all animals. All are welcome to bring their pets to receive a blessing,” Mrs. Chanda said.

Birds must be caged; cats must be in carriers; and dogs must be on a leash or in a carrier. Pets that are uncomfortable around other animals should be left at home. A photo or toy can be brought to represent them for a blessing. Water will be available for the animals and light refreshments will be served after the blessing. For more information about the Celebration please call (908) 256-3858 or visit www.foshnj.com.
The Animal Initiative Committee (AIC) is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to increasing people’s awareness of their responsibility for the well-being of all animals. The Committee was formed in March 2000 after Plainfield’s contracted animal control kennel was closed due to over 600 counts of animal cruelty.

The AIC has always focused on the problem of overpopulation of dogs and cats, especially community cats. It implemented a very successful trap, neuter, and return (TNR) program for the latter. “We continue to emphasize the importance of the use of available spay/neuter programs in controlling dog and cat populations, but we can only succeed with the active support of both the community and City Administration,” Mrs. Chanda stressed. “We welcome volunteers to help with this important effort”, she concluded. For more information about the Animal Initiative Committee, please call (908) 256-3858.
The Friends of Sleepy Hollow (FOSH) is a neighborhood association created by and for all citizens and taxpayers of Sleepy Hollow and surrounding neighborhoods in the City of Plainfield, New Jersey. FOSH was founded to --
  • Foster neighborhood awareness, camaraderie, participation and image
  • Create and maintain secure neighborhoods
  • Promote neighborhood issues and concerns to city officials
  • Organize neighborhood activities for the benefit of the citizens of our community and Plainfield.
There are no membership requirements, dues or formal joining process for The Friends of Sleepy Hollow.  The group believes that all the neighbors in Sleepy Hollow are its "members". Having the support, participation and suggestions of our members is critical to FOSH's success.  Anyone is welcome and encouraged to join any planned activity that we host.  For more information about FOSH, please visit: www.foshnj.com



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Plainfield Library hosts Tri-County History Fair Saturday


A view of the Plainfield Public Library's
Carnegie Building, ca. 1920s.

 

Following up on last year's successful event, the Plainfield Public Library will once again host the Tri-County History Fair this Saturday (Sept. 30) from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM in the pool courtyard on the Library's ground floor.

One of the big draws last year was the workshop on African American genealogy. Those who found it useful will be pleased to learn that Eugene Armstead, NJ chapter president of the Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society, will present this year on "Pushing Through: Dealing with Roadblocks and Family Lore." African American genealogical research is often made difficult because of the historical impact of slavery on destroying families and snuffing out memories of an African past. Mr. Armstead will share tips learned through his long experience.

The day opens with a workshop by Seton Hall history professor and author Maxine Lurie, who will present on "Tri-County Images from Envisioning New Jersey: An Illustrated History of the Garden State".

Between the two presentations, there will be an antiques appraisal by Winterhill Antiques of Scotch Plains. Registration is requested, but not required. The appraisers will take up to two items per person as long as time permits. To make a reservation contact the Library's Local History Department at (908) 757-1111 x136 before 4 PM Friday.

Raffles will be drawn throughout the day, including a grand prize of an AncestryDNA testing kit valued at $100.

A special bonus is a photography exhibit in the Anne Louise Davis Gallery titled "Plainfield Wildlife" by local photographer Carl Monopoli. Visitors may also want to take a peek at the award-winning Rain Forest-themed Children's Room.

The event is free and open to the public. The Plainfield Public Library is at Park Avenue and 8th Street and is an accessible facility. Parking available in the 8th and 9th Street lots and on the street.

Confirmed exhibitors include: The Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society-NJ Chapter; 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; Metuchen-Edison Historical Society; Miller-Cory House Museum; Morristown/Morris Township Library; New Brunswick Free Public Library; Plainfield Historic Preservation Commission; Plainfield Symphony Society; Proprietary House; Somerset County Historical Society; Somerset County Library System; South Plainfield Historical Society; The Duchess Bookstore; Van Wyck Brooks Historic District; and Union Township Historical Society/Caldwell Parsonage.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Vision 2025: Public Safety session at PHS Wednesday evening


Participants in the Youth & Education Listening Session.
 
 
Wednesday evening will see the first of three "listening sessions" on Public Safety scheduled for the Plainfield Vision 2025 project.

Wednesday's meeting follows Monday's session on Childhood & Youth Education. Education was considered broadly -- from pre-school concerns through 12th grade, and post-secondary education opportunities.

In that session, participants broke into five table groups to look at education from several perspectives --
  • Accesss to education
  • Educational leadership
  • Curriculum
  • Programs
  • Support systems
Reporting out from the table discussions, some of the emphases included --
  • Just getting to school safely
  • Develop a curriculum for parents on preparing children for school
  • Getting to a 100% graduation rate
  • Providing post-secondary pathways for students not pursuing a college education
  • Boost the school board election turnout rate
  • Hiring a strong Superintendent and developing an effective Board
The purpose of these sessions is for community members to brainstorm ideas for action items in the subject area -- both large and small -- as well as to identify stakeholders, resources (including funding sources) and next steps.

Each session follows a similar pattern: Attendees are invited to jot down one idea on each of three Post-It notes provided when they arrive; the action team then sorts the notes into groups with a similar theme, and participants gather around tables (one theme to a table) to further discuss and refine the suggestions on the Post-It notes. To close the evening, each table reports out its ideas to the whole group.

Records are kept of all suggestions, which will then be incorporated into a public presentation to be made on November 4 at Plainfield High School.
Wednesday evening's session will be held at the PHS Cafeteria starting at 7:00 PM. (The other two Public Safety sessions will be October 12 at Cook School, and October 16 at Washington Community School. All start at 7:00 PM.).


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Vision 2025: Listening sessions this week on Childhood & Youth Education; Public Safety


Participants in last week's first "listening session"
on Access to Healthcare, Seniors and Recreation.

 
The "listening sessions" that are the foundation of the Plainfield Vision 2025 project continue this week with two separate opportunities.

Monday evening will see a session on Childhood & Youth Education at the Plainfield High School cafeteria, getting under way at 7:00 PM.

On Wednesday evening, the first of three sessions on Public Safety will be held, also at the PHS Cafeteria and also starting at 7:00 PM. (The other two Public Safety sessions will be October 12 at Cook School, and October 16 at Washington Community School. All start at 7:00 PM.)

The purpose of the sessions is for community members to brainstorm ideas for action items in the subject area -- both large and small -- as well as to identify stakeholders and resources (including funding sources).

Each session follows a similar pattern: Attendees are invited to jot down one idea on each of three Post-It notes provided when they arrive; the action team then sorts the notes into groups with a similar theme, and participants gather around tables (one theme to a table) to further discuss and refine the suggestions on the Post-It notes. To close the evening, each table reports out its ideas to the whole group.

Records are kept of all suggestions, which will then be incorporated into a public presentation to be made on November 4 at Plainfield High School.

This week's sessions are in the PHS Cafeteria, facing the Kenyon Avenue parking lot, where there is ample parking with entry directly off the lot.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Expansion of former Abbott Nursing Home as veterans' housing on HPC agenda Tuesday evening


The Abbott Manor Nursing Home, 2007.

 

Andre Yates, owner of the former Abbott Nursing Home at 810 Central Avenue comes before the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) on Tuesday evening in connection with his proposal to build a 3-story addition at the rear of the now-vacant building and  convert the building to 25 apartments for homeless veterans.

The matter was referred to the HPC by the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which held that the proposal must pass muster with the HPC before it can come before the zoning board.

From a bulk viewpoint, this sounds very much like the proposal of a previous owner to build an addition and convert the building into a nursing home for sixty residents.

Folks will recall that the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District and Grace Episcopal Church (whose rectory abuts the property in the rear) fought a long and expensive -- though ultimately successful -- court battle over the proposal (see my 2007 post on the case here).

Union County Superior Court Judge Walter R. Barisonek's ruling in the case was hailed as groundbreaking, setting a precedent in New Jersey on the importance of historic districts and that "an inherently beneficial use" may cease to be so at the wrong location. (See my post here, which includes a link to attorney Bill Michelson's summary of the ruling, which had been given orally.)

Yates quietly purchased the property in 2012 from Reynaldo and Maria Lapid for $100,000 (see my post here). Since owning the property, Yates has not been diligent about maintaining the structural integrity of the building until pressured to do so by the City.



The city has had to keep after Yates about
maintaining the building's structural integrity.

In 2013, he incorporated a non-profit (Yates House for Military Veterans, Inc.). A search for the organization's 990 filings with the IRS turns up no public reports on the finances and officers ever filed (this does not mean they were not filed with the IRS, but only that they don't appear in publicly-used websites -- for example, see here).

In June 2013, then-Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and GOP Assembly candidate John Campbell, Jr., backed Yates' bid to turn the former nursing home into veterans' housing. In September of that same year, TAPinto published a story (see here) on a golf outing fundraiser for the nonprofit at the Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth, which was billed as the group's first fundraising event.

Yates also came under scrutiny in the demolition of a fire-damaged building in the 100-block of North Avenue in March 2015 (see post here). The demolition was done on an emergency basis and then-Director of Public Works and Urban Development Eric Watson awarded the no-bid contract to Yates, who sub-contracted the work (see post here).

The subcontractor was negligent in tearing down a parti-wall between the building and its neighborhood, causing debris to crash through the roof of a restaurant next door (Mi Buenaventura), damaging equipment and forcing the restaurant to shut down immediately.

It seems that wherever Mr. Yates goes, controversy follows in his wake.

Note that the City is renovating the former Dudley House on Putnam Avenue, which served for years as a substance-abuse halfway house, into apartments for homeless veterans, a fact which Mr. Yates may not bring to the fore in discussing the need for veterans housing.

The HPC meeting is scheduled for 7:30 PM, Tuesday, September 26, in City Hall Library. It is item (4) on the agenda, which means it will not be taken immediately the meeting gets under way.

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



Plainfield Today --

Guidestar:  "Yates House for Military Veterans, Inc."
TAPinto:  "Golf tournament benefits veterans"
  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, September 22, 2017

As Lesniak's sun sets, he burns his political bridges


Sen. Ray Lesniak and Mustapha Muhammed.
(from Facebook video).

 
InsiderNJ's Max Pizzarro ran a story Wednesday (see here) on Sen. Ray Lesniak's endorsement of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's independent opponent in the November general election, Mustapha Muhammed.

As Lesniak's political sun sets, it is sad to watch him burning his bridges
.

Once one of the four or five most powerful figures in the Legislature, and widely known and respected for his advocacy of liberal causes, he now seems to be sinking in a sea of self-pity and vindictiveness which ill becomes him.

In the run-up to the June primary, politics watchers were puzzled by his on-again, off-again behavior towards running for the governor's nomination. By the time he exhausted everyone with his coyness, Union County's important Democratic players had moved on: Chairman Jerry Green, Sheriff Joe Cryan, and Sen. Nick Scutari had followed the lead of most other North Jersey counties and lined up behind newcomer Phil Murphy.

Cryan and Green were quoted in the media making kind comments about Lesniak, but indicating that their choices had been made and were firm. Lesniak pouted: he allowed as how he didn't think Cryan's statement was satisfactory.

Now, he's endorsing Mapp's opponent in the mayoral race (see the Facebook endorsement video here).

The video, posted to Muhammed's Facebook account on Sept. 15, is mostly taken up with Muhammed running through a stump speech patter, with Lesniak's brief endorsement tucked in at the end.

I was curious about the venue. It appears to be on a play area of sorts (there is a view of a macadamized basketball court) and on the periphery of some other event that is happening off screen.

Someone told me they saw Muhammed with Lesniak in tow, along a with a camera crew, at the summer concert at Milt Campbell Field on August 9. That would explain the background of the video.

To my knowledge, Mayor Mapp has always had good relations with Lesniak, so why this apparent attack? Is it really about Mayor Mapp? Or is it about taking a swipe at Jerry Green, toward whom Lesniak is still bitter over the way the June Primary election worked out.

But who does he have to blame for that?

In the meantime, Muhammed may just be an opportunist, hoping that Lesniak will toss some of his considerable campaign cash into Muhammed's Plainfield campaign.

Will bitterness and betrayal be Lesniak's final legacy?


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Plainfield Vision 2025 gets off to a good start


Volunteer Diane DesPlantes explains how the 'Listening
Session' works.


Attendees wait for session to start.


The 'Access to Healthcare' table hard at work.

 

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's Plainfield Vision 2025 project got off to a good start Wednesday evening with a "listening session" on health, human and social needs.

Chief of Staff John Stewart Jr. welcomed approximately 50 attendees and explained the goal of the "Plainfield Vision 2025" project -- for citizens to propose things to be done in various focus areas to improve the city and explore new initiatives.

Volunteer Diane DesPlantes explained how the evening would unfold and Jeff Spelman explained the first part of the process -- brainstorming with Post-It notes.

Everyone had been given a handout explaining the ground rules for the "listening session" when they arrived. Attached to the sheet were three Post-It notes. Participants were invited to jot down one idea for discussion on each note and hand them to volunteers for posting on a blackboard.

Afer the exercise was completed -- the hubbub in the room increased measurably as folks got into the swing of it -- the group was then invited to break up into five tables to dicuss the ideas that had been generated.

The tables were --

  • Access to healthcare
  • Food stability
  • Senior concerns
  • Childrens' concerns
  • Recreation

Participants were invited to sit at a table that interested them; in the end, tables ranged from 7 to a high of 16 participants.

The table worked their way through the ideas that had been generated on the Post-It notes and kept notes on ideas as they developed.

At the end of the exercise, one person was selected to report from the table to the entire group.

Ideas ranged from a "universal event calendar" for city activities to more lighting for recreation facilities and a reassessment of policies regarding hours, to a grand plan to turn Park Avenue into a "medical mall" (recalling the "doctor's row" which used to be its nickname near Muhlenberg Hospital).

John Stewart took care to record the table reports and told me they would be posted to the city's website, so you can check there for complete details.

One thing the organizers could do to improve the experience is give more explicit details about exactly where in the building the event will take place.

Several people were parked in front of Hubbard School when I arrived, but the doors were all locked. Someone finally figured out we were supposed to meet in the cafeteria, which is in the back on the Stelle Avenue side of the building. It would have been much easier if we had known in the first place.

The next two sessions are --

  • Monday, Sept. 25, at Plainfield High School (Childhood & Youth Education;

  • Wednesday, Sept. 27, also at Plainfield High School (Public Safety; this is the first of three sessions on Public Safety).

For more information on Plainfield Vision 2025, check the city's website here or call John Stewart at (908) 226-2509.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Plainfield Democrat Committee potluck picnic and meeting Saturday


If using the back entrance at Milt Campbell Field,
take George Street to Chelsea Blvd. to the gate.
Mind not to block neighbors' driveways.

 
Plainfield Democratic City Committee chairman Adrian O. Mapp has called a meeting of the Committee for this Saturday (Sept. 23) at Noon at the picnic area at Milt Campbell Field.

The meeting is being held in conjunction with the annual end-of-summer potluck picnic, to which everyone is invited.

The business meeting will be conducted by Chairman Mapp and will give an overview of the fall campaign, including opportunities to volunteer for Phil Murphy's governor's campaign, the mayoral and council campaigns, and headquarters operations.

The business meeting starts at Noon and is scheduled to wrap up by 12:45 PM.

The potluck picnic is open to all -- committee members and friends and supporters of the candidates on Line A in the November general election.

Please bring a dish to pass (it is always amazing the tasty food that folks bring). Per the announcement, the permit for the day allows for wine and beer. The picnic and socializing will continue until 3:00 PM.

Milt Campbell Field is at 1322-64 East Third Street (near Terrill Road), with a parking lot off the street. The meeting and picnic will be in the picnic grove.

The back gate near the picnic grove will also be open. That gate is at the end of Chelsea Blvd. (take George Street to Chelsea). If you decide to use that entrance, mind not to block the neighbors' driveways.

See you Saturday!


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Missing child notification shows improvements in Plainfield Mass Communications System (PMCS)


From the Plainfield system's vendor's website.

 
After an August post (see here) on issues with Plainfield's emergency notification system, Mayor Mapp forwarded to me a portion of an email from the vendor suggesting a 'workround' for the problem: the City would simply broadcast two copies of the notice at the same time.

If the first message is clipped, the immediately following copy will be played complete.

Mayor Mapp advised the City would use the workaround pending the vendor's being able to provide a better fix.

Immediately after the Mayor's email, I noticed a definite improvement in the messages that came from the (908) 251-9137 number.

With today's notice of a Missing Person Alert for an 11-year-old girl last seen leaving her house for Maxson School Monday morning, I witnessed the full benefit of the workaround.

The first part of the notice was clipped and I only got the "last seen leaving for school" portion, but at the end the full message was repeated, with all details included.

Somewhat after 10:00 PM, there came another message from the alert system that the girl had been found and was safe.

Congrats to the Police Division for straightening the glitch out (and Thank You, Detective Green).

If you are not currently getting the city's emergency alerts, you should go at once to the city's website (here) and sign up for the PMCS. You will be glad you did.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Monday, September 18, 2017

Mayor Mapp's 'Vision 2025' project launches this Wednesday


City Hall cupola under restoration, 2001.


... And today.



 

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's ambitious 'Vision 2025' project launches this Wednesday (September 20) with the first of nine planned 'listening sessions' in which residents are invited to share their thoughts and ideas on ways to improve Plainfield in seven focused areas of concern and opportunity.

"We are in the midst of an economic renaissance." said Mayor Mapp, "In order to sustain our momentum and provide a city filled with opportunity and promise for our youth, we need a strategic roadmap."

The process provides an opportunity for every member of the community to be engaged in charting the best future for Plainfield.

The seven focus areas are (Note: three sessions -- in different locations -- will be devoted to Public Safety; and Arts & Culture and Connecting Community will be combined into one session) --

Public Safety
  • Crime prevention, safety, fire protection, and natural disaster preparedness and responsiveness.

Health, Human & Social Needs
  • Community access to health services, outdoor spaces, and recreation.

Economic Development & Vibrancy
  • Creation of new economic development projects, attracting new businesses and industries, helping existing business thrive within community, and fostering destination opportunities for neighboring communities to visit and spend money in Plainfield.

Workforce Development & Adult Learning
  • Creation and support of local employment opportunities, access to workforce training and continuing education opportunities (i.e. English as a Second Language).

Childhood & Youth Education
  • Improving the local educational system to provide a quality education that will prepare our youth for continuing education and to succeed in the new economy.

Community Arts & Culture
  • Development, encouragement, and continued support of Plainfield based cultural organizations, programs, and activities for those involved in the arts.

Municipal Government & Essential Services Performance
  • Ef ficient, productive, and responsive services for Plainfield residents through municipal services as well as independent agencies and corporations, including but not limited to, PMUA, NJ Transit, New Jersey American Water, and PSEG.

Connecting Community
  • Creating a culture that breaks down barriers and shares community expertise across multiple dimensions such as socio-economic, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and political a liation. The goal is to celebrate our rich diversity and connect community groups and assets for the strengthening of Plainfield.

The first Listening Session is this Thursday (September 20), and gets under way t 7:00 PM sharp at Hubbard School, 661 West 8th Street. (There is no indication of what room; I am guessing the Auditorium and will check and update this post.)

The topic of this first session is 'Health, Human and Social Needs', including community access to health services, outdoor spaces, and recreaton. Note this is the only session scheduled to take up these specific topics, so if you have concerns or ideas in these areas, best to make plans to be there!

Mayor Mapp has charged his chief of staff, John Stewart, Jr., with spearheading the project, with a final report to e delivered to the Mayor on January 15, 2018.

Stewart advises that an online survey will be posted to the city's website by the end of September for resident input, and also that there will be a 'community playback' on November 4, as a mid-point checkup on the process.

Look for more information and updates on the city's website here as the project progresses, or contact John Stewart, Jr., at (908) 226-2509.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Urban League collecting for Hurricane Harvey relief



There is a collection box in the rotunda
at City Hall for your convenience.

 
Though Hurricane Harvey has passed, the damage done in the Houston area is tremendous and recovery will take a long time.

Meanwhile, people who have lost their homes and all their possessions are still desperately in need of assistance.

The Young Professionals section of the Urban League of Union County is helping with a continuing collection of needed items through next Saturday, September 23. There is a collection box located in the rotunda at City Hall.

The organization's wish list includes --
  • Men's/Women's/Children's clothing
  • Toothpaste/Toothbrushes
  • Towels/Washcloths
  • Toys
  • Shoes/Socks
  • Blankets
  • Diapers/Baby Wipes
  • Baby formula
  • Deodorant/Lotion
  • Feminine Hygiene products
  • Phone chargers
  • Batteries
  • Cleaning supplies
This collection is accepting clothing, which is often not the case.

Donations may be dropped off Monday through Friday, between 9 AM and 5 PM.

City Hall is at Watchung Avenue and East 6th Street. Parking and access in the rear of the building.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Friday evening celebration kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month


Flag-raising Ceremony kicks off Plainfield observance
of Hispanic Heritage Month.

 
For more than twenty years, Plainfield residents have joined with their Hispanic friends and neighbors in the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15.

This year's celebration will take place at City Hall Plaza at 6:00 PM on Friday (Sept. 15) with a flag-raising ceremony recognizing the seven countries which celebrate their independence in September -- Mexico. Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.
Though these countries are highlighted for their September independence dates, the month celebrates Latino culture, history and contributions throughout the hemisphere.

Council President Rebecca Williams said, "We are very excited about this year's flag raising event. Flor Gonzalez, Chairwoman of the Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs (PACHA), has worked with the rest of the commissioners to create a wonderful evening of celebration."

"During these tumultuous times, Williams continued, "it is important that Plainfield, as a welcoming city, stands with our Latino residents to honor their contributions to our city and our country. As the Plainfield City Council liaison to PACHA, it remains my honor and privilege to work with my fellow commissioners."

Plainfield City Hall is located at Watchung Avenue and East 6th Street. Parking is available in the parking lot at the rear of the building.

The ceremony will be followed by a reception and entertainment in City Hall Library.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sears: Requiem for a Heavyweight




Is forlorn a word? I think it's forlorn.

 

(With apologies to Rod Serling.) The Sears store on Route 22 closes September 17 forever. The Watchung location was built in the post-WWII boom era to replace a much smaller store at West Front and Grove Streets in Plainfield. The closing marks the end of more than a hundred years of Sears, Roebuck & Co. presence in the Queen City.

From its storied beginnings as a mail order company, Sears was adept at keeping its finger on the pule of consumer needs and wants.

As America became more urban, Sears planted stores in choice downtown locations. Their merchandising tactic was simple: offer goods in three quality levels (good, better and best), buy from leading manufacturers but apply a Sears brand name (Kenmore appliances, Craftsman tools, DieHard auto batteries).

As the suburbs mushroomed after World War II, Sears quickly caught on to building huge stores on major highways, with everything under one (or two) roof(s). Sears offered credit for large purchases. Many GI families furnished their new suburban homes completely with Sears purchases.

When I moved to Plainfield in 1983, a friend who was an executive with Macy's told me that the Sears Watchung store was then the most profitable per square foot in the whole Sears empire.

But nothing lasts forever.

Demographic changes led to shifts in the market structrure. Specialty retailers sprang up with which Sears could not compete (for instance GAP, Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, etc.) for depth of offerings.

Then there was the disastrous merger with Kmart. Sears' response to the Internet was clunky at best.

Amazon is knocking the stuffing out of bricks & mortar retailers everywhere, including Sears. Ironically, however, Amazon just bought Whole Foods supermarkets -- because in order to epand their tentacles to the grocery business they need to have a bricks & mortar presence.

I took a tour of the Sears store last Sunday. There were throngs of people, but the showrooms were mostly empty.

There were displays of expensive Craftsman toolboxes, a fair assortment of treadmills and step machines, and a few racks of clothing items.

Sears itself has not given up the ghost -- yet. But it seems only a matter of time.

If you want to see one of America's great mid-20th century marketing marvels, go take a look. It'll be something to tell the grandkids about.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Plainfield Now's 2nd Annual Golf Invitational October 2



The spectacular Hole 5 at the Watchung Valley Golf Club.


 
Plainfield Now, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to the residents and youth of the Queen City, invites you to its Second Annual Golf Invitational on Monday, October 2 at the Watchung Valley Golf Club (formerly Twin Brooks Country Club) in Watchung.

According to Executive Director Ayisha Mapp, proceeds of the outing will allow the addition of a scholarship program for Plainfield High School seniors who will be going on to higher educational opportunities.

The day begins with golfer check-in at 10:30 AM, lunch at 11:00 AM, with Tee Off at Noon sharp. There will be a cocktail hour at 5:00 PM, with dinner and awards at 6:00 PM.

Player fees are $350 for an individual golfer and $1,350 for a foursome. Dinner only is $150. A tow-hour instructional session with the Club's pro is $300.

A variety of sponsorships are available, from a single hole ($250) to Premier Invitational Sponsor ($7,500). See the complete schedule of sponsorships below.


Here are the Sponsorship opportunities.
To print, set your printer page to 'Portrait'.

Nestled at the base of the first ridge of the Watchung Hills, Watchung Valley traces its history to a group of Plainfielders who formed "The Park Club" in 1890. The golf club was an outgrowth of that social club and was incorporated in 1895. See more on the club's history here.

For a brochure, more information or to make reservations or become a sponsor, contact Plainfield Now executive director Ayisha Mapp at (908) 477-5735 or by email at plainfieldnow@gmail.com.
  More information on the organization and its mission are on its website here.

Watchung Valley Golf Club is at 600 Mountain Boulevard, Watchung, NJ.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A no-drama Council meeting? Read on.


Hmmm... Are we getting closer?
   
Thinly attended, Monday evening's Council meeting approached what one Councilor once quipped to me would be the ideal: a polite, uneventful Council session.

With 27 resolutions and 12 ordinances, it isn't as if nothing was going on, but there were no contentious outbreaks at all.

As expected, Councilors Rivers and Toliver voted "no" on the ordinances to create a "Manager, Motrs" position and set a salary range for the new job. Despite this, the two ordinances were carried 4-2 (Councilor Storch was absent).

The only other bump in the road was "no" votes by Rivers and Toliver on R 307-17, designating a contractor for the Rushmore Playground upgrades.

The film ordinance (MC 2017-27) generated some questions from residents, particularly concerning non-commercial filming on public property. Corporation Counsel David Minchello pointed out that the proposed fees had been scaled back, nonprofits would only face a one-time charge of $25, and that the ordinance was intended more for large-scale, commercial productions.

Representatives of PRAAR, Plainfield's animal welfare activists, spoke against the proposed renewal of the city's contract with Associated Humane Societies for animal control services.

The point was moot, as the Mapp administration had withdrawn the proposed contract (R 121-17), and Corporation Counsel advised the Council members against a public discussion of the contract's details.

Congrats to all for a no-drama event.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Monday, September 11, 2017

Netherwood Bridge: Update, Friday, 9/8







Crew at work deconstructing the Netherwood Avenue bridge.

 

Crews wasted no time starting the deconstruction of Plainfield's Netherwood Avenue bridge.

Beginning the day after Labor Day, the had knocked down and carted away the upstream face of the bridge and were busy breaking up the roadway when I stopped by on Friday afternoon.

The road is closed to through traffic and will remain so until the project is completed.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

9/11 Observance at Plainfield City Hall Monday morning


Dust and ashes gave Trinity Church's cemetery
a ghostly appearance.



Plainfield residents and officials will gather at City Hall Plaza Monday morning to observe the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, including the plane that went down in a Pennsylvania field after passengers struggled with the terrorists who had taken it over. The observance begins at 8:30 AM.

Come early. The ceremony is brief. Parking available on the street and in the City Hall parking lot at the rear of the building.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, September 8, 2017

PMUA Environmental Fair at Library Park Saturday



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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