Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, December 14, 2018

(Link updated) Demolition of Muhlenberg Hospital has begun


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



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




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

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

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

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

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

Muhlenberg Hospital - Summer Series (31)

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

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

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

R.I.P., Muhlenberg Hospital.





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Storch boldly votes "no" on South Avenue Redevelopment Plan


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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

So, just where did the slippery slope begin?


A LITTLE BACKGROUND

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

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

But soon that may all be just fading memories.

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

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


WHATEVER HAPPENED TO 'RESTAURANT ROW'?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


WAWA. REALLY?

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

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

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

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

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


COLLATERAL DAMAGE

And what of fine dining?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Free PAAAS Winter Concert at Grace Church Thursday


The PAAAS Jazz Ensemble will perform Thursday.



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

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

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

The concert is at 8:00 PM.

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





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Monday, December 10, 2018

Cleveland Avenue becomes two way Tuesday morning


Two-way traffic on Cleveland Avenue begins Tuesday.

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

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

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

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

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





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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


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


...the North Avenue store closed recently.


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Having a little fun at Individual #1's expense


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




WARNING: Salty language ahead.


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

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

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

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

Here goes --


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



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

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

A reminder the Mueller clock is ticking. (Maine)

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




 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Friday, December 7, 2018

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


Even George seems curious.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Sale of YWCA building raises more questions than answers


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, all the effort just was not enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Pleasant surprise at Council's agenda-setting session


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


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

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

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

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

UNION COUNTY INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENTS

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

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

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

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

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

PSEG 4TH STREET REMEDIATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAKING UP A GOOD IDEA?

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

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

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





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Mayor Mapp to honor gift of FUSP building at Council Tuesday


The exterior of the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield.



The Robinson Window bathes the sanctuary in light.



CORRECTION TWO: Mayor Mapp will present the proclamation to FUSP at the Council's business meeting, Tuesday, December 12.

CORRECTION
: The last service has already been held in the Park Avenue building; the congregation now meets in the Fanwood Presbyterian Church.


Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp is slated to present a proclamation to the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield (FUSP) at the City Council agenda-setting session set for Tuesday, December 4. (Note the day.)

The Unitarians are donating their building and grounds on Park Avenue, just off 7th Street, to the city, which intends to use the property as a cultural center.

The congregation has worshiped in Plainfield for more than 120  years. The church was built on land donated by Job Male, the principal driver behind Plainfield's incorporation as a city in 1869.

The congregation's president, Melissa Logan, gave a moving presentation to the City Council in November, officially recognizing the offer of the property by the congregation to the City.

As she said, the congregation came to the realization as its membership grew smaller that its mission was not the building, which had become more than the congregation could care for.

So, the congregation will be gathering for worship at the Fanwood Presbyterian Church. The last service in this building will be on Christmas Eve.

As to Job Male's role in the growth of Plainfield, the city was formed out of Plainfield Township, leaving behind the Township of Scotch Plains, from which Fanwood was later created.

A Unitarian himself, Job Male was Plainfield's first real real estate developer, acquiring the land between Watchung Avenue and Park Avenue, bounded on the north by Crescent Avenue and on the south by East 9th Street.

Shrewdly, he donated the choice land on which Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church sits in order to entice the congregation to build near his planned development. He then constructed the "mansionettes" in the Crescent Avenue Historic District (the world's first "McMansions" -- though the term did not exist at the time).

Male also donated the property on which the Plainfield Public Library stands, completing his vision of a self-contained neighborhood, which influenced the development of the city for decades and signaled the turn away from the large mansions that originally lined East Front Street as his development became more fashionable and desirable.

City Council meets on Tuesday, December 4, at 7:30 PM in the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street. Parking available on the street and in the lot across from Police Headquarters.





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Friday, November 30, 2018

Advent Lessons and Carols at Grace Church Sunday afternoon


Christ in Glory, from the Wheel Window, Grace Church.


2018 marks the 100th year since Eric Milner-White, a World War I British Army chaplain, introduced the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Kings College, Cambridge.

The tradition continues today in Anglican churches worldwide and will be observed at Grace Episcopal Church in Plainfield this coming Sunday, December 2, at 5:00 PM.

This quiet service of short lessons recalls the story of salvation from the fall of humanity through the promise of the Messiah to the birth of Jesus.
The brief lessons are interspersed with carols sung by the choir or hymns sung by the congregation and the choir together.

Though more than a hundred years old, as the newest of Anglican services it reflects the ancient tradition of respectful silence and awe before the Divine Majesty.

The quiet traditional hymn "Once in royal David's city" opens the service. Among the high points is the singing of "O come, O come, Emmanuel" based on the great "O antiphons" of the ancient liturgy.

All are invited to this quiet time apart from the beginnings of the busy Christmas rush to pause and reflect on the new thing for which the season of Advent (which begins this Sunday) is a preparation.

The warm and welcoming evening candlelight make Grace Church a perfect spot to pause and reflect on this season of expectation.

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





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Plainfield icon Robert H. Wilson passes


Robert H. Wilson, known to all
as "Bob" has passed.



CORRECTION: Services for Bob are of course THIS Saturday, December 1, and not November as I mistakenly wrote. -- Dan

Robert H. Wilson, known to all as Bob, passed on Tuesday, November 20.

Bob was a beloved figure in Plainfield and deeply active in the community.

A lifelong Democrat, he served for many years as a commissioner of the Housing Authority of Plainfield.

He also served on the boards of the Drake House and of Faith Bricks and Mortar, the housing advocacy organization.

In addition, he was a longtime trustee of Calvary Baptist Church.

Always the nattiest dresser in the crowd, he was in regular attendance at City Council meetings until recent illness prevented him.

He was warmly supportive of the New Democrats in their heyday though his style was never to clash publicly with the late Assemblyman Jerry Green, no matter how much their perspectives diverged.

In declining health in recent years he nevertheless summoned the strength to have his family take him -- in his wheelchair -- to the polls on November 6 so he could take part in the Blue Wave that will make Democrats the majority of the House of Representatives in the next Congress.

It gave him great satisfaction as one of his last civic and political acts to play his part in this national rebuke of President Donald Trump.

Many were surprised to learn recently that Bob was nearing his 90th birthday. His quiet demeanor and ready smile and greeting always seemed like that of a much younger person.

Services are set for this coming Saturday (December 1) at Calvary Baptist Church, West 4th Street and Monroe Avenue.

The family will receive friends from 9:00 to 10:00 AM and the funeral will begin at 10:00 AM.

With Bob's passing, another Plainfield icon is no longer among us.

We will miss you Bob.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Condolences may be sent to the family at 903 Central Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060. Arrangements have been entrusted to Brown's Funeral Home.





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Dan discovers an unheard of Democratic SIG (special interest group)


USAF drill sergeants turn raw recruits into airmen.


So I'm at the supermarket Tuesday afternoon and this older woman in front of me is paying for her groceries with a credit card.

She swipes the card and then turns the box slightly to use the stylus to sign for the purchase. And she curled her left hand over the signature space so that she was actually writing upside down to sign her name. Aha! She's a leftie!

Then it hit me all at once -- a special interest group the Democrats have not taken into account. (You know the rap by Republicans is that ALL the Democrats ARE is a party of SIGs.)

Full disclosure: I am a leftie as are about ten percent of the human race.

And the world is quite uncaring about lefties. Let me share a couple of stories.


READIN', WRITIN', AND 'RITHMETIC



How Miss Cumro had Dan starting to write. Not!


In the 3rd Grade, Miss Cumro began our lessons in the cursive script known as the Palmer Method. It consisted of learning to make loops, ovals and swirls by practicing them over and over on specially lined worksheets. I was enthusiastic and brought worksheets home to practice.

Which is when my mother noticed me writing upside down (like the lady in the supermarket and the gentleman above). What was that about, she wanted to know. The answer wasn't far away.

Turns out Miss Cumro would check our work as we practiced  by walking up and down the rows of desks, eyeballing each student at work. As everyone else was right-handed, she had me turn my paper at the same angle as they did -- meaning in order to write in that position I had to write upside down, with my hand and pen above the letters instead of below them.

Mother put a quick stop to that. She said to Miss Cumro, "I don't care what's easier for you. I want him to write like a normal person so you let him put the paper the way it's comfortable for him." And that was the end of that. I'm left-handed but write like a normal person.

My next challenge as a leftie came at the end of my Junior year in high school.


FINAL EXAMS

Just before the final exams I had fallen going over a gym horse and broken my left (writing) wrist.

Now New York State finals in those days were the dreaded Regents Exams -- highly guarded, state produced tests delivered and kept secure by the local schools under lock and key until administered. They were a timed test, at the end of which you turned in your test book and worksheets. Period.

With my arm in a cast I could not write with my left hand. But I could write with my right hand -- slowly and laboriously, meaning the clock would beat me before I could finish.

The school asked for and got special permission from the state for me to continue on after all the others had their test papers collected for as long as I needed to finish the exams. Whew!

My third leftie story is from my time in the United States Air Force.


AT THE RIFLE RANGE

The Air Force was not yet 15 years old when I enlisted and much of its basic training showed its ancestry as a part of the US Army. This included being issued and having responsibility for an M14 rifle and attaining marksmanship proficiency.

There were about forty guys in my barracks and the drill sergeant marched us to the rifle range one day for live ammo practice. Airmen would lie in a long line on the ground, separated by a couple of feet or so, with a slight embankment against which they rested their weapons to take aim at the targets about 20 yards away.

As there were several lefties, the drill sergeant had the right-handed airmen line up from the right end of the firing line toward the center. And then the left-handed airmen started from the left end of the firing line and filled in toward the right. I was the right-most leftie and there was about 3 or 4 yards or so between me and the left-most right-handed guy.

The sergeant first instructed all the right-handers on the proper procedures.

Then he came over to the left-handers and tried to give the same instructions from a left-handed perspective. (We lefties were already ahead of him, as we had spent a lifetime "translating" right-handed things to left-handed use and could do it without batting an eyelash.)

The drill sergeant instructed all the airmen to keep their weapons pointed toward the targets at all times. If they had a question or a malfunction, they were to keep their weapon pointing at the target and raise their free hand and he would come over to address the situation.

Well, the right-hand guy nearest me had a malfunction, and he raised his hand and turned toward me as he did so -- with his weapon pointing directly at my head. The drill sergeant sprang over to him and in one motion kicked the M14 out of his hands and into the line of fire. Then he proceeded to viciously kick the airman, pull him up from the ground and send him to the barracks to await discipline.

We continued our practice. I don't think I took it all in as that serious, but while marching back to the barracks, I suddenly fainted. First and last time in my life I ever did so.

Everything from mayonnaise jars to bowling balls, from toothpaste caps to the computer mouse is designed for righties.

So, why doesn't the Democratic Party start a "lefties caucus"?

Actually, I don't think that would be a good idea.

In fact, I think what the Democratic Party needs is less identity politics and more getting back to its roots as the party of  working people.

Part of the reason for the Trump win and the Democratic loss in 2016 was the Democrats' drift away from the base, which can be traced to as far back as Bill Clinton in the 1990s if not further.

In order to make sure Donald Trump is a one-term only president, we Dems need to get it right the next time around.

The 2018 mid-term elections were a dress rehearsal for 2020, and I sure hope the experience means we WILL get it right next time around.

Our small "d" democracy depends on it.





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Plainfield Symphony house tour Saturday promises "fresh meat"


The meticulously restored Marsh Mansion is on the tour.


"Home For The Holidays" is the theme of the Plainfield Symphony house tour this Saturday (December 1st).

Seven homes -- including some that have never been on tour before -- will be open to the public between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM.

Homes are being decorated by some of New Jersey's finest interior designers.

Tickets are $35/person in advance and may be picked up at Swain Galleries.

Day of tour tickets will be available for $40 per person and may be purchased at duCret School of Art, 1038 Central Avenue, which is where the tour starts.

In addition there will be a boutique offering hand-crafted holiday items and a cafe with coffee and other beverages plus light refreshments.

Both will be at duCret and will open at 9:00 AM and will run throughout the tour.

This is the first Plainfield house tour in a while and you won't want to miss it -- especially since there is the promise of "fresh meat".





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Monday, November 26, 2018

Anyone else feeling ripped off by Checks Unlimited?


My repeat order contained surprise charges.

I've been banking at the Bank of America branch at East Front Street and Sanford Avenue ever since it was Crestmont Savings & Loan (now how many banks ago was that!).

And ever since I began, the banks have used Checks Unlimited to fulfill customer's check orders.

Today I noticed I was running low on checks and decided to reorder online.

The
Checks Unlimited site is pretty straightforward if a little clunky (you can visit it here).

You pick your design. Add any frou-frous you may want.

Enter your transit code (this identifies your financial institution and branch location) and your account number and you're good to go.

Or at least you should be.

When you get to the order review page, the company tries to hustle you with "check and identity protection".

Even though you decline, the additional fee continues to show on your order total, until you decline the offer two more times!

This may be intentionally designed to play on fearful older customers, but I am not one such. And it annoyed me.

But wait, there's more (as they say on late night TV)!

After getting to the order total page and giving my credit card information, the final order total page (see above) shows on screen.

That's when I noticed a $13.80 "handling fee" that appeared nowhere before in the entire order process.

So, let's review --

  • I am a repeat customer of many years;

  • All the information is already in their system, including the last check # they printed for me;

  • The printing and binding is automated;

  • The finished checks plus a register and a popup storage box are machine-inserted into a pre-addressed plastic mailing sleeve -- all automated
And the customer is charged a "handling fee" that is a whopping 26% of the merchandise total (it's a bigger bite if your order is smaller).

But it gets worse.

Checks Unlimited has the nerve to include the "handling fee" as a taxable item, meaning the State of New Jersey gets an extra little bite out of you though I would dispute that this is a "service" in the "goods and services" definition the state uses.

A thoroughly distasteful experience, but this is a business that has the customer by the short hairs, so to speak.

Like AT&T used to tell angry customers: You can always use the other phone company.

Other phone company? What other phone company?

I'm not a happy camper.




 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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